Forgotten Memories, Slumbering Thoughts
Here is a description of how each race fits into the setting. After the race descriptions, there are links to homebrew races.
Aasimars are humans with a significant amount of celestial or other good outsider blood in their ancestry. Aasimars are not always good, but it is a natural tendency for them, and they gravitate to good faiths or organizations associated with celestials. Aasimar heritage can hide for generations, only to appear suddenly in the child of two apparently human parents. Most societies interpret aasimar births as good omens. Aasimars look mostly human except for some minor physical trait that reveals their unusual heritage. Typical aasimar features are hair that shines like metal, unusual eye or skin color, or even glowing golden halos.
Born of mysterious origins and raised by unknowing foster parents, changelings are the children of hags and their tricked lovers. Most do not know of their monstrous origins, but there comes a time in every changeling’s life when these roots begin to call out to their host, urging the confused girl toward some end she cannot identify.
Changelings are always female, tall, and slender. A changeling’s hair is typically dark and her skin abnormally pale, but she otherwise looks for all practical purposes like a member of her father’s race. A frequent but not universal trait of changelings is their mismatched, different-colored eyes. Upon reaching puberty and adulthood, the average changeling stands approximately 5-1/2 feet tall and weighs about 110 pounds.
Cursed from birth, dhampirs result from the rare and unnatural union of vampires and humans. Although not driven to consume blood for survival as their undead progenitors are, dhampirs nonetheless know a lifelong desire for blood that nothing else can truly sate. Those who survive their early years face a life of fear and mistrust, their unnatural beauty and incredible reflexes marking them as scions of the night just as surely as their sensitivity to light. Although polluted by undeath, dhampirs do grow old and die, aging at a rate similar to elves.
Although related to the elves, the drow are a vile and evil cousin at best. Sometimes called dark elves, these cunning creatures prowl the caves and tunnels of the world below, ruling vast subterranean cities through fear and might. Worshiping demons and enslaving most races they encounter, the drow are among the underworld’s most feared and hated denizens.
Drow are shorter and a bit more slender than their surface-dwelling kin, but they are otherwise physically similar. Drow have dark skin, ranging from black to a hazy purple hue. Most drow have white or silver hair and white or red eyes, but other colors are not unheard of.
Drow society is ruled over by powerful nobility, themselves governed by sadistic and dangerous matriarchs who constantly plot and scheme against rival houses and lesser kin within their own families. The majority of drow are the common soldiers and decadent citizenry, with base stats as presented here—drow nobles are more powerful and dangerous, and are detailed below.
In combat, drow are thoroughly ruthless, with little regard for fairness or mercy. They prefer to attack from ambush or to lure enemies into situations where they clearly have the upper hand. If things turn against them, drow are quick to flee, leaving slaves and minions to cover their escape.
Dwarves are a stoic but stern race, ensconced in cities carved from the hearts of mountains and fiercely determined to repel the depredations of savage races like orcs and goblins. More than any other race, dwarves have acquired a reputation as dour and humorless artisans of the earth. It could be said that their history shapes the dark disposition of many dwarves, for they reside in high mountains and dangerous realms below the earth, constantly at war with giants, goblins, and other such horrors.
Dwarves are lovers of history and tradition, and their long lifespan leads to far less in the way of generational shifts in attitudes, styles, fashions, and trends than shorter-lived races exhibit. If a thing is not broken, they do not fix it or change it; and if it is broken, they fix it rather than replace it. Thrifty as a rule, dwarves are loath to discard anything unless it is truly ruined and unable to be fixed. At the same time, dwarves’ meticulous, near-obsessive attention to detail and durability in their craftsmanship makes that a rare occurrence, as the things they make are built to last. As a result, buildings, artwork, tools, housewares, garments, weapons, and virtually everything else made by dwarves still sees regular use at an age when such items would be relegated to museum pieces, dusty antique shelves, or junkyard fodder by other races. Taken together, these traits create the impression that dwarves are a race frozen in time.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as dwarves are both thoughtful and imaginative, willing to experiment, if always keen to refine and perfect a new technique or product before moving on to the next one. Dwarves have achieved feats of metallurgy, stonework, and engineering that have consistently outpaced the technological advances of other races, though some non-dwarven races have used magic to supplement and perfect their own creations to achieve the same ends through mystical rather than mundane means. They are also a race typified by stubborn courage and dedication to seeing tasks through to completion, whatever the risks. These traits have led dwarves to explore and settle in extreme environments that would cause other races to quail and retreat. From the darkest depths of the underworld to the highest mountain peaks, from rusting iron citadels along desolate rocky coasts to squat jungle ziggurats, dwarves have established their enclaves and redoubts, holding them against all comers or perishing to the last and leaving only their enduring monuments to stand as their legacy. While it is said that dwarves are not venturesome or inventive, it would be more accurate to say that they maintain a focus on and dedication to each task they undertake and every change they adopt, vetting such changes thoroughly before adopting them wholeheartedly. When faced with new circumstances and new needs, they react by applying tried and true tools and techniques systematically, using existing methods whenever possible rather than trying to invent novel solutions for every situation. If necessity requires, however, they throw themselves with equal vigor into developing the next perfect procedure for demolishing the obstacles that get in their way. Once their desired goal is obtained, they focus on consolidating each new piece of territory or conceptual advance. Dwarves thus rarely overextend themselves, but they also may miss opportunities to seize the initiative and maximize the advantages they create.
The long-lived elves are children of the natural world, similar in many superficial ways to fey creatures, though with key differences. While fey are truly linked to the flora and fauna of their homes, existing as the nearly immortal voices and guardians of the wilderness, elves are instead mortals who are in tune with the natural world around them. Elves seek to live in balance with the wild and understand it better than most other mortals. Some of this understanding is mystical, but an equal part comes from the elves’ long lifespans, which in turn gives them long-ranging outlooks. Elves can expect to remain active in the same locale for centuries. By necessity, they must learn to maintain sustainable lifestyles, and this is most easily done when they work with nature, rather than attempting to bend it to their will. However, their links to nature are not entirely driven by pragmatism. Elves’ bodies slowly change over time, taking on a physical representation of their mental and spiritual states, and those who dwell in a region for a long period of time find themselves physically adapting to match their surroundings, most noticeably taking on coloration that reflects the local environment.
Elves value their privacy and traditions, and while they are often slow to make friends at both the personal and national levels, once an outsider is accepted as a comrade, the resulting alliances can last for generations. Elves take great joy in forging alliances with races that share or exceed their long lifetimes, and often work to befriend dragons, outsiders, and fey. Those elves who spend their lives among the short-lived races, on the other hand, often develop a skewed perception of mortality and become morose, the result of watching wave after wave of companions age and die before their eyes.
Fetchlings are descended from generations of humans trapped on the Plane of Shadow. Infused with the essence of that plane, they are more and less than human, and often serve as middlemen in planar trade and politics. Other than their yellow eyes, their flesh has no color—it is either stark white, midnight black, or a shade of gray. On the Material Plane, they conceal themselves with heavy clothing or dim light so they can work without prejudice. The name “fetchling” is a human word; their own name for their race is kayal, meaning “shadow people.”
A fetchling stands 6 feet tall, but is generally lithe and wiry of frame, weighing only 150 pounds. Fetchlings live as long as half-elves.
Gnomes are distant relatives of the fey, and their history tells of a time when they lived in the fey’s mysterious realm, a place where colors are brighter, the wildlands wilder, and emotions more primal. Unknown forces drove the ancient gnomes from that realm long ago, forcing them to seek refuge in this world; despite this, the gnomes have never completely abandoned their fey roots or adapted to mortal culture. Though gnomes are no longer truly fey, their fey heritage can be seen in their innate magic powers, their oft-capricious natures, and their outlooks on life and the world.
Gnomes can have the same concerns and motivations as members of other races, but just as often they are driven by passions and desires that non-gnomes see as eccentric at best, and nonsensical at worst. A gnome may risk his life to taste the food at a giant’s table, to reach the bottom of a pit just because it would be the lowest place he’s ever been, or to tell jokes to a dragon—and to the gnome those goals are as worthy as researching a new spell, gaining vast wealth, or putting down a powerful evil force. While such apparently fickle and impulsive acts are not universal among gnomes, they are common enough for the race as a whole to have earned a reputation for being impetuous and at least a little mad.
Combined with their diminutive sizes, vibrant coloration, and lack of concern for the opinions of others, these attitudes have caused gnomes to be widely regarded by the other races as alien and strange. Gnomes, in turn, are often amazed how alike other common, civilized races are. It seems stranger to a gnome that humans and elves share so many similarities than that the gnomes do not. Indeed, gnomes often confound their allies by treating everyone who is not a gnome as part of a single, vast non-gnome collective race.
Elves have long drawn the covetous gazes of other races. Their generous lifespans, magical affinity, and inherent grace each contribute to the admiration or bitter envy of their neighbors. Of all their traits, however, none so entrance their human associates as their beauty. Since the two races first came into contact with each other, humans have held up elves as models of physical perfection, seeing in these fair folk idealized versions of themselves. For their part, many elves find humans attractive despite their comparatively barbaric ways, and are drawn to the passion and impetuosity with which members of the younger race play out their brief lives.
Sometimes this mutual infatuation leads to romantic relationships. Though usually short-lived, even by human standards, such trysts may lead to the birth of half-elves, a race descended from two cultures yet inheritor of neither. Half-elves can breed with one another, but even these “pureblood” half-elves tend to be viewed as bastards by humans and elves alike. Caught between destiny and derision, half-elves often view themselves as the middle children of the world.
As seen by civilized races, half-orcs are monstrosities, the result of perversion and violence—whether or not this is actually true. Half-orcs are rarely the result of loving unions, and as such are usually forced to grow up hard and fast, constantly fighting for protection or to make names for themselves. Half-orcs as a whole resent this treatment, and rather than play the part of the victim, they tend to lash out, unknowingly confirming the biases of those around them. A few feared, distrusted, and spat-upon half-orcs manage to surprise their detractors with great deeds and unexpected wisdom—though sometimes it’s easier just to crack a few skulls. Some half-orcs spend their entire lives proving to full-blooded orcs that they are just as fierce. Others opt for trying to blend into human society, constantly demonstrating that they aren’t monsters. Their need to always prove themselves worthy encourages half-orcs to strive for power and greatness within the society around them.
Optimistic and cheerful by nature, blessed with uncanny luck, and driven by a powerful wanderlust, halflings make up for their short stature with an abundance of bravado and curiosity. At once excitable and easy-going, halflings like to keep an even temper and a steady eye on opportunity, and are not as prone to violent or emotional outbursts as some of the more volatile races. Even in the jaws of catastrophe, halflings almost never lose their sense of humor. Their ability to find humor in the absurd, no matter how dire the situation, often allows halflings to distance themselves ever so slightly from the dangers that surround them. This sense of detachment can also help shield them from terrors that might immobilize their allies.
Halflings are inveterate opportunists. They firmly believe they can turn any situation to their advantage, and sometimes gleefully leap into trouble without any solid plan to extricate themselves if things go awry. Often unable to physically defend themselves from the rigors of the world, they know when to bend with the wind and when to hide away. Yet halflings’ curiosity often overwhelms their good sense, leading to poor decisions and narrow escapes. While harsh experience sometimes teaches halflings a measure of caution, it rarely makes them completely lose faith in their luck or stop believing that the universe, in some strange way, exists for their entertainment and would never really allow them to come to harm. Though their curiosity drives them to seek out new places and experiences, halflings possess a strong sense of hearth and home, often spending above their means to enhance the comforts of domestic life. Without a doubt, halflings enjoy luxury and comfort, but they have equally strong reasons to make their homes a showcase. Halflings consider this urge to devote time, money, and energy toward improving their dwellings a sign of both respect for strangers and affection for their loved ones. Whether for their own blood kin, cherished friends, or honored guests, halflings make their homes beautiful in order to express their feelings toward those they welcome inside. Even traveling halflings typically decorate their wagons or carry a few cherished keepsakes to adorn their campsites.
Humans possess exceptional drive and a great capacity to endure and expand, and as such are currently the dominant race in the world. Their empires and nations are vast, sprawling things, and the citizens of these societies carve names for themselves with the strength of their sword arms and the power of their spells. Humanity is best characterized by its tumultuousness and diversity, and human cultures run the gamut from savage but honorable tribes to decadent, devil-worshiping noble families in the most cosmopolitan cities. Humans’ curiosity and ambition often triumph over their predilection for a sedentary lifestyle, and many leave their homes to explore the innumerable forgotten corners of the world or lead mighty armies to conquer their neighbors, simply because they can.
Human society is a strange amalgam of nostalgia and futurism, being enamored of past glories and wistfully remembered “golden ages,” yet at the same time quick to discard tradition and history and strike off into new ventures. Relics of the past are kept as prized antiques and museum pieces, as humans love to collect things—not only inanimate relics but also living creatures—to display for their amusement or to serve by their side. Other races suggest this behavior is due to a deep-rooted urge to dominate and assert power in the human psyche, an urge to take, till, or tame the wild things and places of the world. Those with a more charitable view believe humans are simply collectors of experiences, and the things they take and keep, whether living, dead, or never alive, are just tokens to remind themselves of the places they have gone, the things they have seen, and the deeds they have accomplished. Their present and future value is just a bonus; their real value is as an ongoing reminder of the inevitable progress of humanity.
Humans in many places are fascinated by older races and cultures, though at times they grow frustrated or even contemptuous of ancient and (to their mind) outmoded traditions. Their attitudes toward other races are thus a curious mix of exoticism and even fetishism, though usually with a very superficial level of understanding and appreciation of those cultures, alongside a deeply rooted arrogance that means most humans have a hard time regarding themselves as anything other than the default standard of society. Human scholars engaged in the study of other races—who might be assumed to be the most cosmopolitan and well versed in their nature and culture—have often proved no better than the less-learned members of their race when it comes to genuine closing of the social distance. Humans are gregarious, often friendly, and willing to mix and interact with others, but their sheer obliviousness to their off handed marginalization of others is what so chagrins other races when dealing with them.
Of course, well-meaning, blundering ignorance and numerical superiority are not the only things that make other races suspicious of humans. Entirely too many examples can be found throughout history wherein human xenophobia and intolerance has led to social isolationism, civil oppression, bloody purges, inquisitions, mob violence, and open war. Humans are not the only race to hate what is different among them, but they seem to have a susceptibility to fear-mongering and suspicion, whether about race, language, religion, class, gender, or another difference. More moderate human citizens often sit idly by while their more extreme compatriots dominate the political and cultural conversation, yet there are also many who stand in opposition to extremists and embody a spirit of unity across the bounds of difference, transcending barriers and forming alliances and relationships both large and small across every color, creed, country, or species.
Ifrits are humans whose ancestry includes beings of elemental fire, such as efreet. Ifrits have pointed ears, red or mottled horns on the brow, and hair that flickers and waves as if it were aflame.
All ifrits are at some level pyromaniacs. Adoring fire in all its forms, they tend to be passionate and quick to action, with a predilection for striking first in any conflict—a trait which keeps them alive but doesn’t make them a lot of friends. Ifrits generally seek out the company of either less-powerful minions who can be browbeaten into following orders, or calm, cool individuals who can balance the ifrits out.
Kitsune, or fox folk, are vulpine shapeshifters known for their love of both trickery and art. Kitsune possess two forms: that of an attractive human of slender build with salient eyes, and their true form of an anthropomorphic fox. Despite an irrepressible penchant for deception, kitsune prize loyalty and make true companions. They delight in the arts, particularly riddles and storytelling, and settle in ancestral clans, taking their wisdom from both the living and spirits.
Quick-witted and nimble, kitsune make excellent bards and rogues. It is not uncommon for one to pursue sorcery, while those few born with white fur and pale eyes usually become oracles.
Mysterious humanoids with pale blue flesh and transparent blood like the waters of a trickling brook, samsarans are ancient creatures even in their youth. A samsaran’s life is not a linear progression from birth to death, but rather a circle of birth to death to rebirth. Whenever a samsaran dies, it reincarnates anew as a young samsaran to live a new life. Her past memories remain vague and indistinct—and each new incarnation is as different a creature and personality as a child is to a parent. Samsarans appear similar to humans, with dark hair and solid white eyes with no pupils or irises. Skin tones are generally shades of light blue.
Capable of recalling the lessons and failings of their previous incarnations, the samsarans seek to live lives of balance and enlightenment in order to ensure they are reborn upon death to continue their trek through history.
Sulis (or suli-jann) are minor offshoots of the jann that live among humans. They are tall and look like ordinary men and women but for their abnormal beauty and the occasional flash of elemental light in their eyes. Though physically superior to and more attractive than normal humans, some suli-jann remain unaware of their genie heritage until later in life, when contact with a full-blooded genie draws forth a portion of their elemental power.
While all sulis can trace their lineage back to a janni ancestor, very few have an immediate janni parent. In most cases, this legacy lies fallow in the blood for generations, only to emerge decades or even centuries later. Those whose powers become apparent early on usually lead troubled lives as youths, as the question of a child’s origins tears some families apart; few of these unfortunate sulis grow up knowing anything of the peace of a happy home.
Sulis age at the same rate as humans and are physically identical to humans in terms of height and weight. During their youth, sulis tend to be slightly smaller than their fully human peers, but grow quickly to their full adult height upon reaching their teenage years. Sulis are impulsive and passionate by nature, and even those sulis who know nothing of their genie blood possess a measure of personal pride.
Tieflings are humans with demonic, devilish, or other evil outsider blood in their ancestry. Often persecuted for their strange appearance and unnatural mannerisms, most tieflings disguise their nature or are forced to live on the fringes or underbelly of civilized society. Though they are not born evil, it is an easy path for them to find, especially as most suffer at the hands of “normal” folks while growing up. Tieflings look mostly human except for some physical traits that reveal their strange heritage.