Thursday, June 19, 2014

Races in the Colonies Part One

I have given a lot of thought to the intelligent creatures of The Colonies.  The twin influences of J.R.R. Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons on the fantasy genre in our hobby have made certain races default in many fantasy games.  Certainly there are plenty of exceptions to this, but I have seen a great number of "systemless" systems that contained the standard races and even included the relatively recent additions of Tieflings and Dragon Men.  Still, the traditional fantasy races are ubiquitous because they allow the players an immediate familiarity with the world. One of the most jarring experiences I have ever had was trying to read a fantasy game in the past where the races were so alien that I had trouble imagining them in the world the author was trying to create.  A middle ground is in order then.  

Nasty Hobbitses! We hates them.
No wait.  Hobbitses are cool. Nasty
Gnomeses!  Yeah, that's the ticket!
The first thing to do is to determine which traditional fantasy races are not a part of The Colonies.  There are no hobbits  halflings in the world of The Colonies.  I have nothing against halflings.  In fact, some of my most beloved NPCs over the years have had furry feet.  Halflings, however, are the most tangible link to Middle Earth, and I am trying to distance this fantasy realm from that source material.  I have no such love for Gnomes.  Gnomes suck.  Gnomes are the Aquaman of the standard fantasy races.  No Gnomes in The Colonies.  No Tieflings or Dragon Men either.  Tieflings have always struck me as a bolt on race for players that want to be "cool" and "evil" without actually being evil. Or cool for that matter.  And Dragon Men, well... there is a reason that there are no Dragon Men that will be revealed in time.  A final change will round out the exclusions:  The various races are not interfertile.  No Half-Elves or Half-Orcs running about.

Of the traditional fantasy races, that leaves Humans, Elves, and Dwarves.  Not a bad start.  In fact, a pretty diverse game could be made from these three races alone. To make them somewhat less than the standard fantasy fare, however, I am going to put a substantial twist onto each of them.  Humans are the baseline race and will have several sub-categories that will be the subject of a later post.  Dwarves and Elves are instantly recognizable.  Their roles in The Colonies are going to be very different than most fantasy worlds.  

There are six sentient races of consequence in The Colonies.  It is important to note more than six sentient races are present, but only these six races possess the numbers and resources necessary to make a significant impact on the land.  Other sentients include both adjunct races (Ogres that live among the orcs, and the Goblin's meaner cousins the Hobgoblins) and smaller tribes of barely organized creatures (the Gnolls of the Thesalian Plains).  The intelligence of some monstrous entities in The Colonies is suspected by certain scholars, but rejected by most of the populace.

The most prolific race in The Colonies is the humans.  The human population stems from two sources:  the descendants of the small indigenous population that lived in small tribal units on the continent before the arrival of the Old World castaways, and the much larger number of immigrants that have come from the old world since.  The immigrant contingent is further divided to a certain extent by their Old World nationality.  These divisions, while often quite serious in their native lands, have largely gone by the wayside in the The Colonies.  The prejudices of color, culture, and nationality that pervaded the Old World were significantly trivialized when the humans immigrants came into contact with the other races in their new home.  Indeed, one of the few real divisions that remain in the human population is between first generation immigrants and humans of Old World stock who were born in The Colonies.  The newcomers do not understand how old rivalries can be so easily cast aside.  The Colony natives do not understand how their society can survive if humans of all stripes do not work together.

The Dwarves were not the first natives of the continent to encounter the humans, but they share, by far, the closest ties with the newcomers.  The Dwarves of The Colonies spent most of the century before the coming of the Old Worlders in a disastrous war with the Elves.  The war went so poorly, in fact, that the Dwarves were driven from their underground homes by an Elven ritual curse.  To this day, any Dwarf who tries to enter one of their former homes or mines falls incapacitatingly ill.  Worse,  many of their former homes have been infested by giant ant-like creatures.  As a result, the Dwarves have reluctantly resorted to surface dwelling.  They still practice their mining and metalworking crafts by open pit mining.  This scarring of the land ensures the continual enmity of the Elves.  When the human immigrants began coming to The Colonies, the Dwarves quickly began crafting tools and weapons for the newcomers and traded these superior wares for a protective alliance.  Today, humans and Dwarves live together if not in complete harmony, at least in a series of relationships that benefit both races.

 When the castaways arrived in the continent, it was a Goblin tribe that welcomed them.  Lack of communication and misunderstanding almost led to violence in this first encounter.  The intervention of the Goblin magician and scholar Tovak (and a spell which allowed him to speak with the newcomers) prevented bloodshed.  The Goblins initially sheltered the humans, introduced them to representatives of most of the other races of the continent, and provided whatever assistance they could in the repair of the merchant ship.  All the while, they watched the humans and learned from them.  By the time the merchant vessel was repaired, the Goblins had learned enough about ship building to create their own.  This is the Goblin way.  They Goblins of The Colonies are the most adaptable race on the continent.  Their scholars can learn virtually any subject.  Their warriors can learn any tactic.  Their workers, any task.  The Goblins watch, learn, and adapt. Frequently, they combine their adaptability to surpass the craftsmen and scholars that they have learned from, a trait that made most of the other races treat the Goblins with suspicion.  There is only one thing preventing the Goblins from becoming the dominant race of The Colonies: they are extremely fragile.  Goblins are very susceptible to disease, and their slight frames are ill suited to the rough nature of life on the continent.  The life expectancy of a Goblin is only 30 years.  It is not uncommon for the best and brightest Goblins to perish just as they are about to complete their greatest accomplishment.  This is so common, that most Goblins of ability attract a number of apprentices, both to assist them in their work and to carry it on when the inevitable disaster strikes.  

This post is becoming a bit long.  In the interest of not losing too many readers with verbal bloat, I think  it best to break this up into two posts.  In the next entry in this series, we will take a look at the remaining three major races of The Colonies: the xenophobic elves, the crafty, tribal Orcs, and the venerable Reptilians.

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