Ethnology

This chapter outlines the various biologically diverse Human species that are common to this area.

It may be D&D, but I’m a science-y person, so I’ll do my best to impose biological rationale. Humans, “humanoids” and “demi-humans” are all different species of “human”. Now that we know that homo sapiens co-existed, and even interbred with homo neanderthalensis (and Denisovans!), I’m just building on that idea. Elves and goblins are just different human species, that in some cases can interbreed. Their offspring, like with Neandertals and Denisovans, are fertile (not like mules).

Also, as noted on the Cosmology page, humanoid species have cultural biases, and people act in ways that are noble or selfish, caring or demeaning.  There's little intrinsic "good" of "evil" that exists independent of the perceiver. That said, some cultures are more developed, and others are less. Just like on Earth, where more developed and less developed cultures existed in proximity to each other. So, we can think of elves as a very developed culture, being as they have been around a little longer than the others. All elves are “civilized”, but may still (and frequently do) act in selfish or evil ways. Humans have a less developed culture than elves. There are some “uncivilized” humans, and some act in barbaric ways, and some in evil ways. Orcs can be thought of has having a yet less developed culture. It’s focused on war and survival. There are few “civilized” aspects – art is still all about blood and skulls. This more feral level of development leads to obvious friction, hence the racial animosity that we’re used to in the traditional D&D setting.

Inter-species Social-norm Reactions: Read as "the species down the left reacts to the species across thusly". It's not always a reciprocal reaction. F = Friendly, I = Indifferent, H = Hostile.

 ElfDwarfHumanHalflingGnomeHalf-elfHalf-Orc
ElfFIIIFIH
DwarfIFIIIIH
HumanF (awe)I (distrust)IIIIH (fear)
HalflingFIFFFFI
GnomeFIIFFIH
Half-elfIIIFFFI
Half-orcHHIIIIF

Elves

Elves are the original children of the Seelie. They are the longest-lived of the Seelie children (but only to 500 years max in this world), and have the oldest continuous civilization (Argiliath). Any hominid that lives for centuries certainly has a different worldview and morality than a hominid that lives for a few decades.  The counter-point to their longevity is that elves have incredibly low birth-rates. A newborn elf is a maybe-annual event.  The result is a really long view of things coupled with a low tolerance for risk – after all, if your birthrate is one per year, losing a dozen members in a battle is a blow to the species! While Elves are generally “good” in that they don’t actively plunder or enslave their neighbors, they are also reclusive, haughty, and arrogant. Their society has rules, and they abide by them, but they do not subscribe to a “greater good” - from their perspective, their self-interest and self-preservation is their greater good. They believe that their longevity is a sign of their superiority, and so what they want must be the best thing for all others as well.  For many of them, that also appears as an obliviousness that borders on negligence for others around them - a kind of uncaring self-absorption that would often be called "chaotic neutral" or "chaotic evil".  Their low risk tolerance manifests itself also as an inward, reflective lethargy that seems to be overcoming the species - they are simply unplugging from the world, as many living elves recall their loved-ones dying in the last Goblin War.  They tend to avoid engaging in the squabbles that pepper the faster-reproducing groups like humans or goblin kin. It also makes adventurers much rarer in those cultures.

Elves ARE longer-lived than Humans, but not the 1000-year thing. Elves that don’t die of disease or violence may live for up to 500 years, but that’s a really old Elf. The goal is to make things a little more mundane and help the timelines be more sensible. Also, how can you have very long-lived races (like Elves) and not have them have dominance at some point? Obviously, they’ve had much longer to develop society and technology.  But, an interesting counterpoint is that they haven't actually had very many generations.  So, there is not very much "foolishness of the young" that species with higher generational turn-over have, and there isn't as much opportunity for generational evolution - the elves of today are much like the elves of 4000 years ago.

The Fair Elves (High and Wood) and Dark Elves (Drow) are bitter enemies, each blaming the other for a litany of sins. The Fair Elves blame the Dark for treason in their actions to continue to fight the goblins. The Dark Elves blame the Light for abandoning their duty and cowardice. Dark elves are more militaristic and more prone to adventuring than their Light cousins. As is common in this world, there is little common good/evil - there are different views of the same events leading to these two groups despising each other. Dark elves assume that the rest of the surface dwellers side with the Fair, and treat them accordingly (until proven otherwise).

Dwarves

Dwarves are actually Unseelie children that were so cantankerous/contrarian that they actually broke from their parent’s ways and are generally more honorable (or, at least, rule-following and commitment-bound), if greedy and selfish. As with the elves, their longevity lends them a certain selfish arrogance and a reluctance to get involved in other races’ affairs - unless it’s knocking on their door, like the Bonegate Blight. Under all the bluster, arrogance, and honor-theater, however, dwarves are deeply insecure.  Sometimes this manifests as as bluffing arrogance, other times as a failure in a pinch, and sometimes avoiding taking leadership when it's needed. As commonly portrayed, they are master masons, stonecutters, and smiths.

Dwarves are very long-lived, but (like elves) they have a lower birth rate.  A newborn dwarf is a thing that happens a few times a year.  A dwarf that doesn't die from disease of violence may live up to 250 years.  Like the elves, their long life gives them a peculiar view, and their low birth rate makes them shun danger.  While the elves are unplugging, the dwarves are working industriously as ever, as another aspect of their insecurities lead them to delve ever deeper to "find safety" for their people - searching ever for the feeling of safety from external factors.

Humans

Humans and halflings are very close kin. Humans, however, form the standard norm. Variant humans (with a feat) are permitted at first level.

The various human sub-types of the world - Havis, Ahros, Valros - all share the same game stats, but they have different ethnologies.  For quick cultural reference, think of the Ahros as Roman, the Havis as Celtic, the Valros as Anglo-Saxon, and the Frost Reaches Giantkin as Nordic. The Havis and Valros are starting to inter-marry, creating complexities for their ethnic identities. Basically everyone but the Frost Reaches thinks of the Frost Reaches as savages and reavers.

Halflings

These quiet folk are kind of a mystery as to when they appeared, but are speculated to be Seelie children that preceded Humans (prototypes, perhaps?). Their own legends suggest that they were too good, and that is why they were cursed with small stature.  Others aren't sure how being enamored of food and drink makes anybody too good ...

Gnomes

Like the elves, Gnomes are of fey descent and frequently are found with elves or other fey creatures.  An aspect of their fey ancestry is their affinity for illusions and pranks, which makes most other races tend to give them a wide berth, despite their small stature.  Gnome populations are concentrated in the Cold Oaks, the Killat Hills, and foothills of the Skywall Mtns, on the northern edge of Argiliath.

While Deep Gnomes are generally kind, industrious, and gentle, they do share a kinship with the Dark Elves, whom they welcomed and helped to settle in the deep tunnels below the southern end of the Spine of Ahros. This alliance is notably different than in normal D&D canon.

The Forest Gnomes, unsurprisingly, share a stronger kinship with the Fair Elves. Rock gnomes are often in the company of dwarves, as their making and tinkering is highly respected among the dwarves.

Half-elves

Half-elves, like most worlds, are both-and-neither.  They do not fit in the isolationist lassitude of the elven world, as they are too restless with their human blood. Likewise, they look like elves to most humans, which causes significant cultural distance given that humans were nearly chattel in the days of the elven empire.  This in-between-ness makes them frequent recruits of archfey and archfiends, who capitalize on their outsider feelings to get (warlock) agents in the world.

Given that elves and humans don't frequently co-locate, there are relatively few geographic sources of half-elves, but the watch-tower of Delis is one such place.  Jointly staffed by elves and humans, the inevitable happens, and half-elves are the result.  So, the Duchy of Havis (and specifically the Lake Ård area) is a frequent home of Half-elves.

Half-orcs

Half-orcs rarely have a happy parentage.  As a result, they have to be tough from day 1.  Gaining their human parents creativity and mental agility is the trade-off for not having as much of their orc parent's size and strength.  Its a trade-off that is often worth it as they can rise to positions of power, as demonstrated by the current king in Rakat, Varkol Splatterfist.

Goblinkin

Goblinkin are a diverse group of humanoids that range from actual Goblins (the most numerous) to Hobgoblins (the most organized), to Bugbears (being the largest). They are usually found grouped in bands that reflect the lead-by-force nature of the largest of them in the group – it is common to see Goblins lead by Hobgoblins, with (unruly) Bugbear shock troops

They tend to have short lifespans, reproduce frequently, and do not have a sophisticated world view. They are loosely organized, and make a living by raiding and banditry. They are essentially hunter-gatherers, but they hunt other humanoids and “gather” by stealing. Despite numbers (and sometimes real savagery) they are generally repulsed from the centers of human civilization due to their inability to organize into groups of more than 30 to 50 at a time.

Orc Kind

Orcs are more structured and formal than goblinkin. The goblin kin are more clans and tribes that make a living by raiding. By contrast, orcs are organized and have a culture like ancient Sparta – honor comes from war and martial valor/accomplishment is the only success worth living for. Orcs are large, powerful, and organized. Maybe they don’t reproduce as often as the humans and thus able to, generally, be kept back from human lands. And they certainly don’t reproduce or mature as fast as the ravening goblin kin.  Orcs are building nations, however, in both Rakat and the Hrachek Cantons.

This article was updated on August 2, 2022