Thursday, December 17, 2009

World Building: Other Races

Shifters - Shifter blood runs thinly throughout rural communities in some parts of the world. Occasionally a child is born who displays some of these shifter traits. Usually, unless someone intervenes (often the Church) he or she can live a normal life. These shifters are drawn to solitary lives as shepherds or fishermen.

Gnome - As Tieflings influence finances, Gnomes influence Academics. Gnomes are sought after by the wealthy as tutors of utmost quality. The University has several tenured Gnomes, and Gnomes are scattered the world over in schools and research houses. Gnomes have a singular interest in knowledge, and the power that comes with it. Extensive study of archaeology and history has allowed the Gnomes to corner the market on ancient magics, and to introduce some technological marvels as original creations. Gnomes are almost always independently wealthy, and live in large (for them) estates with many generations sharing a compound.

Deva - Although quite rare, Deva do exist in connection with Divine events. Often a Deva will claim to be the Avatar of their God and create a highly devote cult of personality that follows them without question. Whether these actions are sanctioned or not is unknown, but Deva have garnered a reputation as Cult leaders and mystics.

Goliath - These stubborn individualists are perhaps most well known for their rebellion. Goliaths make their home in the high mountain passes, and every generation or so their extreme distance from civilization emboldens them to declare independence. After a hastily gathered army of city guards and wardens is gathered and dispatched, the Goliaths usually back down and see reason. Once in awhile a rebellious young Goliath will leave his home to make his name in the city. These Goliath are highly prized in combat arenas and mercenary troupes, and rarely return home.

Half-Orc - Called Orcs, these brutes are ubiquitous in the more dense urban areas. Their strength makes them ideal for some of the jobs Halflings can't do, and their prolific nature means they breed like rabbits. Bouncers, bodyguards, builders, and other non-skilled professionals in the inner city are often Orcs. Occasionally one will learn a trade and rise to become a genuine artisan, but stigma against buying from a non-Human will always keep them second best in this regard.

Gnoll - Some segments of the world do not regard Gnolls as thinking beings and deserving of the rights that such beings have. As a result, Gnolls are secretive and self serving. Most Gnolls adopt nocturnal behavior to further limit their contact with the public, and crime is common among them. When Dwarves are accused of theft, it is usually a Gnoll that is truly guilty.

Warforged - Occasionally recovered in old ruins, Warforged are without exception very, very old. They are considered property of the state, and kept apart from society in general. From time to time, when a show of force is needed, a squad of willing Warforged will be deployed, and they generally do their job without needing to lift a finger. For most, however, their needs are met, and they are free to spend their days in whatever leisure activity they desire. As a result, there are quite a few very powerful magicians, historians, and physicians among their ranks.

Changeling - Official word is that they do not exist. The truth is that a small population of Changelings does exist. For all of recorded history a clan of Changelings has followed the powerful, shadowing and influencing them subtly. Their goals are unknown, as is their true number.

Drow - The only colony of Drow is under the mountains. Most of their efforts are bent towards excavating and attempting to find their Underdark. While the rest of the world view it as a religious or racial obsession, the Drow are convinced that somewhere under the world lies a second world, and their home is there. While they are nominally citizens, most officials don't bother with them, as they can be extremely deadly on their home turf.

Kobold - Kobolds are commonly considered to be to Dragonborn what Halflings are to Humans. Lesser in number than Halflings, they have also avoided the traps of slavery and poverty.

Goblin - These cunning beasties are found in civilization's garbage piles. Subsisting on scraps and hand me downs, Goblins, like rats, have carved out their niche in the sewers of mankind. Commonly viewed as pests, most civilized people have no desire to associate with Goblins.

Minotaur, Shadar-kai, Revenant, Kalashtar, Genasi - Unknown in the world, if you want to play this race you are from another world, and need DM permission. That goes for MM races, too.


World Building: PHB Races

Races may or may not have a different flavor in this world. I will include relevant PC races and some MM races.

Human - The dominant race in numbers and influence. Essentially flavorless, a blank slate for you to imprint your character on.

Half-Elf - This true breeding race is labeled Half-Elf almost as a slur. They appear mostly human with some elfin qualities that give them their name. Half-Elves are not numerous, and exist mostly in the shadows, functioning as conmen and grifters. Honorable Half-Elves exist, often rising above their brethren to work in law enforcement, or occasionally as entertainers.

Tiefling - Possessing a reputation as superb bankers and money managers, Tiefling have risen above many of the other non-human races to several positions of power. A loose network of family and professional ties have made them one of the more powerful factions in the world. While certain criminal elements do exist, a majority of Tieflings operate entirely within the law. This relatively recent surge in power has allowed them to dig into their past. Discoveries made there indicate that not only are the Tiefling not native to this world, but they are changing over time to a more 'human' appearance. Who knows what more digging will uncover...

Dwarf - Rather than attempt to integrate themselves into Human society, most Dwarves spend their entire lives in one of several Dwarven enclaves. Living on the outskirts of society, they have earned a reputation as tinkerers and occasional thieves. While it is true that a Dwarf is almost always an opportunist, propaganda and racial tensions are mostly to blame. Dwarves also have a rich cultural heritage, with songs and poems without equal in the world. Their oral history is particularly rich considering they are among the longest living races in the world.

Halfling - The most human-like of races, Halflings are also most numerous (besides Humans, of course). They thrive in urban areas where space is at a premium, and are often exploited for cheap labor. River barges and other small vessels are also filled with Halflings, generally, as their quick feet serve them well on the water. They are, as a whole, a poor and dirty race, with little cultural history of their own. Common belief is that they are descended from humans, and are slaves as their birthright.

Eladrin - The most beautiful race in the world, or so they would have everyone believe. The most visible Eladrin function as attractive escorts for politicians and businessmen. Their dirty little secret is that they are able to use their innate fey powers and their affinity for weapons to function as very effective bodyguards. Eladrin society places high value in martial prowess, and Eladrin boys and girls learn quickly or are weeded out. Children unable to participate in this training are taught in segregated schools, instructing them in Arcane and other mystical training. Like Dwarves, they keep to themselves, but they give the appearance of aloofness, rather than being cast off.

Elf - Feral cousins of Eladrin, Elves are so rarely seen that they are viewed as myth by some members of the population. Almost all Elves live in wooded areas, surviving by hunting and gathering what they need. The few elves that choose to live in society are often mistaken for Eladrin. Elves are fanatical about ancestry, and have genealogies that go back a millenia. These records end abruptly at a time the Elves are reluctant to talk about. Whether this reluctance is due to fear or lack of knowledge is unknown.

Dragonborn - Called Dragons by the populace, Dragonborn are feared for there size and ferocity. Their relative rarity is compensated for by their presence. Dragonborn dominate wherever they tread, and are seen as military commanders (under Human supervision, of course), performers, artisans, and criminals. Their numbers remain small most likely due to their wanderlust. Dragonborn are natural travelers, and rarely settle down. When an opportunity to mate presents itself, they often do, but Dragonborn have a poor reputation as caregivers, and most eggs don't hatch.


World Building Again

I still have an actual play to write. Motivation is low since I missed that session, and I'll miss two more because of the holidays. I'm not alone in this, I think holidays muck up *everyone's* gaming.

I've been spending my down hours, like driving, showering, and falling asleep, thinking about trying my hand at a real, honest-to-goodness homebrew world. My, that was a lot of commas. I don't have a chance to DM in my future, but honestly. . .that is the best time to work on this kind of thing, right? No pressure? No outside influence regarding PC choice or players or anything? I will be sticking with 4e though, so not an edition neutral build (though that is mostly to accommodate player choice regarding race and class).

This was all spurred by this enworld post on campaigns. I tried to do this with the couple of small attempts on world building in my recent past, and realized they were very, very derivative. Not that derivative is something new for me, it is a major reason I don't write much any more. I get this bug in my brain to write something, and it turns out to be a reflection of some earlier book/story. We'll see if this turns out like that.

For my starting point, I'm taking a theme or trope that I really like and building on it. One of my favorites is the post-apocalyptic world. This is not Mad Max (though Mad Max does exist in this space, as does Fallout), this is more generally a fallen world. One where the glory days have passed. Some good fantasy literature does this, like the Shannara books or the Wheel of Time books. What really got me thinking about it was Lord of the Rings. The book doesn't emphasize this, and the movies don't show it, but at the tail end of the third age, most of the glory days are behind Middle Earth. Relics like Narsul and Glamdring are beyond the ability of man to create, and ruins like Weathertop are all that remain of a great civilization.

I'd like to emulate that, but focus it more. I initially went to far and started in on a Logan's Run style place, where the entire history of the outside world was unknown, and everyone was gathered to one small place. While that might make for an interesting story or one-shot, it has an implicit level of player cooperation. I'd like for this world to be as house rule free as possible, and the smaller I made it the more that became difficult.

So, I have four areas I am working on, with a fifth I try to keep in mind as I go:


This is one of the simpler questions to work out. In keeping with my original Logan's Run (and The Island, and Aeon Flux) inspired idea, I want the landmass to be small. A single continent. The historical clues point to emigration from elsewhere, but details are lost to the sands of time.

I don't want to get too fancy or crazy with the geography. Ideally the world will have no wilds left, with only the fringes having any sort of mystery. While most or all of the possible races have a home, fantastic beasts like Dragons and Medusas are legend.

One country accomplishes this. No Eberron-like fracturing of the continent. My current plans in this regard are to take an existing map, whether real or fantasy, and work it over to my satisfaction in Gimp. Not far out of the planning stages here.


The most developed section of my world. I'll save a full individual writeup for another post. I worked on races first with the understanding that knowing how so many races fit in a small amount of space helped me to visualize the shape and current state of my world. For example, in this campaign, Tieflings are viewed with a cultural bias as being excellent managers and bankers. Since most non-humans are faced with some amount of discrimination, intelligent Tieflings often exploit this bias as route to power. This results in an old boys network of Tieflings that aid each other in this line of work, and an underground that assists in siphoning off assets from their masters.

Little insights like that help me to guide the rest of my thoughts, and hopefully the end product is better for it.


The makeup of the world has meant that classes are viewed differently. In a traditional medieval fantasy world, there is plenty of room for fighters and their derivative classes. In a world without a meaningful standing army, and with no wilderness to speak of, ruffians who like to stab things are almost always criminals. The integration of Primal classes also impacts this, but I am making headway there. I think this section will get put on hold until I finish my work on. . .


I struggled with this, since it is likely the largest amount of work, and will have the smallest payoff. I am tempted to go with Core here, and save myself trouble, and make it easier for Divine PC's, but that feels like a lazy move to me. I still have some thinking to do here.


I do not want to make an adventure path. I will likely not get to run this world for a long, long time, if at all. Putting work into something like that is folly. However, I do want to consider where the plot can go. This means placing interesting hooks and things throughout the fluff. It means building with an eye towards interesting changes, not making a static world and standing back. It is also the thing I am itching to dive into, but won't waste my time with.