Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Races: Halflings

“Oh, don’t look so glum. After all, it’s not every day a man gets to be immortalized in prose. How many “e”s are there in “disembowel” again? You’re right, it doesn’t matter. I guess I’ll be going- arrgh! Doesn’t anyone clean up after their pets anymore? Oh! How *very* nice of you to sop that mess off my shoe. I guess ma was right- a knife across the kidney always improves an elf’s disposition.”

Temperance Elfgutter, making someone famous while living up to his name

At first glance, halflings are an open, gregarious people. Natural traders and travelers, halflings are genteel in the extreme and have a collection of traditions and customs that most find charming. While conventional wisdom would dictate that due to their diminutive size, they would be a natural target for thugs, only the most bloodthirsty of ruffians are willing to go out of their way to harm the charming wee folk. Of all the peoples on Wune, halflings are the least obtrusive, and some go so far as to believe them beneath notice.

This is exactly what they want others to think.

Untold millennia ago, when the naked avarice the gods bore for the true elves matured into the desire for a servitor race, of all those created, halflings were the first not thrown away in disgust. To hear them tell the tale, the remainder of the Second Races were created only in a vain attempt to improve upon their already perfect design. As a people, they cherish the finer things in life- heady wine, passionate music and salacious company- but they are not as hedonistic in their appreciation of it as some believe. They learned a hard lesson in pragmatism during their time as the darlings of the gods, when they faced disorganized but regular hostility from the rejected First Races. While they had no problem defending themselves, the damage these skirmishes were doing to their homes was disheartening. Scouts took a survey of the land, but found they were hopelessly outnumbered. Since direct confrontation would be suicidal, they decided to take passive steps to avoid attrition. Borrowing divine magic from their creators, halflings created a series of rituals that transformed mundane beasts of burden and watchdogs into magical creatures powerful enough to serve as both guardians and a form of transportation. Though supernaturally durable, these now dire animals retained the need to eat and drink, and their increased mass meant that they would have to rely on bodies of water and foliage large enough to be landmarks. The expatriate halflings agreed to meet up at these landmarks to share tales, handfast and perform important ceremonies that would bring them together as a people and provide a brief sense of community before answering the call of the road once more. Even the most skeptical have to admit this is the origin of the caravan that exists today, and to halflings this is but one example of the world made better through their experience. The small folk claim responsibility for everything from shoemaking to the distilling of spirits, it appeared that the innovators would be leading the Second Races in cultural development for a long time.

The Divine War changed all that. The astute halflings were as surprised as any when the First Races displayed uncharacteristic levels of cooperation and cunning. Their slow-moving caravans were no match for marauding armies, so they took refuge wherever they could find it, primarily among their long-time dwarven and gnomish allies. Although they lead the world in terms of exploration, they took a back seat when it came to the bulk of the fighting- their chaotic natures lead to trouble when it came to working with the highly regimented dwarf infantry and disciplined gnome battle-wizards. They excelled as unorthodox cavalry and skirmishers, and put generations of halfling knife-fighting to good use, but ultimately lost alongside the dwarves. When the smoke cleared and the dwarves retreated to their mountain empire to lament their defeat, halflings went with them. Lacking their appetite for mourning, the halflings constructed new caravans to determine what their role in this new world would be.

True Elves, who ignored the halflings both before and during the Divine War, were content to do the same now, and the halflings returned the favor. Humans, known to halflings as a people almost as prolific as they, were EVERYWHERE now and running around like chickens with their heads cut off! Still, they needed the exquisite arms and armor that only the dwarves could provide, and so halflings began a very profitable trade industry (which the dwarves would eventually join them in as soon as they ended their period of mourning). Some humans could be trusted, but they also occasionally spawned fell things such as Half-Orcs and Half-Dragons- ugh! While finding the Third Races distasteful, they saved their true ire for the Common Elves, who halflings claim slaughtered the gnomes and stole their magic.

Halflings retain the height and look of “wise children” as described in the PHB, but their eyes are slightly larger, which lends an angelic air to their features- even more corpulent specimens lean more toward cherubic than unappealing. These eyes vary in color as do humans, but they are of one hue, with irises and pupils only becoming visible at extreme proximity. While they are not particularly prone to emotional outbursts, their haunting eyes make their cheerful moods seem euphoric, and their darker ones unsettling at the very least. Their clothes are brightly colored, but fall well short of being garish.

Even the most humble of halflings has a hint of a smug, superior air about him- after all, so much of what makes the civilized world civilized came about because of their trials and tribulations! Still, they are a genuinely polite, cheerful people who do their best not to flaunt this fact. After all, to do so would be uncivilized! They are quick to make friends with anyone larger than they are (which is to say everyone), eat, drink and be merry- but they do not plan to die tomorrow on anyone’s account. While those who do not return smile for smile and laugh for laugh are well tolerated (i.e. dwarves), any who return such overtures with even the slightest whiff of violence are dealt with quickly if fortunate, and painstakingly slowly if not. “Never cross a halfling” is a surprisingly common epitaph.

Naming Conventions:
Halfling names are a complicated affair because they can grow quite long over the course of their lives. A halfling’s first name is a virtue (such as Patience or Courage) given to them by their parents in an elaborate naming ceremony at birth, while their last names are a collection chosen by the halfling that immortalizes their adventures. For example, a halfling named Charity who saves two children from drowning in a river may call herself Charity Riversgrace and go by that name for several years before besting a cunning sorcerer in a battle of wits and changing her name to Charity Riversgrace Swindlespell. A few years after that, she marries and adds the name of her husband to the mix, becoming Charity Riversgrace Swindlespell Thistlekiss.

All halflings have a burning desire for freedom, which causes them to prefer chaos over law. Their lethargic attitude concerning good and evil often justifies their bad reputation as hedonists and con artists.

The halflings’ preferred class is rogue, as the vast majority of halflings not only seek to exploit their naturally quick reflexes(and light fingers), but also the fact that most of the larger races underestimate them as a gaggle of cheeky souses who wear their daggers for ornamentation. Those that have sharp wits to match can become wizards, although sorcerers are the rule when it comes to magic in halfling society. Religion is a serious issue in halfling society, so many leaders are clerics. Bards are usually the caretakers of the innumerable artifacts that the gnomes left behind in addition to their more mundane roles. In contrast, druids, paladins and rangers are not trusted in that they gain their powers from a divine source that has yet to reveal itself. Reavers, fighters, and monks are rare among halflings that grow and develop amongst their own people, and coming about due to extended exposure to other races. Halfling barbarians are rare enough that the very idea of one is enough to make most people burst out into fits of laughter- until they actually come across one…

Halfling Traits:
As Halflings in the PHB except as follows:

-2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution, +2 Wisdom. Halflings are small-bodied in almost every sense of the word, but their reflexes and minds (their detractors would say their hands and tongues) are swift.

Wunian halflings do not have a +2 bonus to Listen checks, instead gaining a +2 bonus to Spot checks.

All halflings may ignore the class and level prerequisites for the following feats- Weapon Specialization, Greater Weapon Focus, and Greater Weapon Specialization- provided it is being applied towards daggers that are made to their scale (i.e. Small). Halflings are infamous for their skill with this humble weapon.

The Races: Half-Orcs

“Yeah, I can read. And yeah, I saw the sign. My tusks don’t block my eyes. If you want to make something of it, I’ll see to it they more'n block yours.”
Ugreth, a fighter and wanderer disputing a tavern’s exclusivity with its bouncer.


Born of the union between a human and an orc, half-orcs are the disputed eldest of the Third Races. Despite their age, they have very little history as a people. When the world was young, they were few and far between, considered “different” members of their parent’s race, and accepted with differing degrees of shame. Humans saw them as bastards who more often than not killed their mother in childbirth and were destined for a life of hardship. Among orcs, they were the children of thralls- a sign of status for the orc parent- and accorded a thin veneer of respect over the general feeling of contempt that full-blooded orcs felt for these “runts of the litter”.

Then the Divine War broke out.

Orcs died in droves, but with the aid of their First Race brethren and draconic patrons, they eventually brought down the nascent human civilization of the south, sent dwarves running back to their western mountains, and kept the elves contained in the Great Forest. Gnomes disappeared from the face of the world, and halflings kept in perpetual motion to be as far away from the fighting as possible. At the signing of the Covenant, the orcs reveled in the lands that were their prize, and half-orcs became a common sight in as humans went from defeated foes to second-class citizens.

Then the Yggdrasil opened.

The tenuous empire the orcs had created was now under siege. Using powerful forest-magics the likes of which no one had ever seen, the orcs were broken down back into the individual tribes they once were and were scattered to the winds. The half-orcs that had survived the fracas had a decision to make- honor their human parent and fight the orcs, or stand with the might-makes-right culture that had nonetheless been all they knew. No matter what their choice, half-orcs faced suspicion due to those who did not make the right choice as defined by those they interact with regularly.

The distrust still lingers on to this day. It has turned half-orcs into socially stunted people who only interact with others when forced to. Otherwise, they are content to be ignored by true elves, ignore the cruel japes that halflings aim their way, and endure the fear and loathing that humans and orcs heap on them respectively. Their parents usually provide food and shelter, but genuine acceptance comes from other half orcs, or from those who place value on a person’s deeds, not their race. Dwarves and common elves form a sizable amount of this population, as do other half-breeds.


Half-orcs are usually born to human women after a hard labor that often kills the mother.  It is the rare half-orc that is born to an orc or half-orc mother, in which case birth is a small litter of three to four.  Regardless of the circumstances of their birth, half orcs grow quickly, and tower over their human parent by the time most of their peers are halfway through puberty; fully grown half orcs average 6.8 feet in height.  They are robust in build and lean towards the hirsute as well, so a 16 year old half-orc male can easily pass himself off as a male human of twice that age, at least when his features are obscured.  It is important to note that although their lower canines or “tusks” are not as large as their orcish parent’s, they do have very well-defined philtrums, extra molars along their lower jaw and the facial muscles to support them, which leads to a pronounced underbite for many or jutting jaw in the worst cases.  Their hair, eyes and skin color favor the non-orc side of the union, so their appearance can run the gamut from swarthy to pale, eyes of clearwater blue to the deepest brown, and hair from blond to black.

While regularly slandered as angry, hateful, and violent, the truth is that half-orcs are simply a very passionate (but not necessarily sensitive) people. They are capable of just as many acts of genuine kindness as they are of horrific brutality. Unfortunately, they rarely have the opportunity to show themselves to be something other than a stereotype.

Naming Conventions:
Like half-elves, half-orcs are named through the society they grow up in, but they rarely change or alter their names. Names are usually the only gift that full-blooded orcs give to their children, and those who share their heritage treat their birth name with surprising reverence.

Like anyone, half-orcs adopt the values of those who raise them, but they usually overdo it in their perennial search for acceptance. As a result, few are neutral with respect to law and chaos.

Their preferred class is barbarian- no other class would welcome the tumult of emotion that flows in a half-orcs veins nearly as much. This is not to say that there are no half-orc fighters, rogues or reavers, just that as the ones who embrace the stereotype of the bloodthirsty savage are accepted more readily by society. Half-orcs rarely become sorcerers or wizards, however, those that become bards draw second looks, for they perform with such emotion that onlookers are inclined to forget their obvious ancestry even without the aid of beguiling magic. Perhaps due to their primal natures, half orcs feel the call to become rangers and druids quite often, much to the dismay of true elves. Paladins, clerics and monks are rare.

Half Orc Traits:
As described in the PHB, save as follows:

While not as fearsome as their orc parents’, a half-orc’s tusks are an effective natural weapon when brought to bear. Should an orc win a grapple check, they can choose to make a bite attack that does 1d4 points of lethal damage plus their Strength modifier.

The Races: Half Elves


“Care to repeat that, friend? Because if you said what I think you did, you should know that I’m no frailblood- my da romanced a REAL elf, and I know how to fight just like one. Care to test me? I need a few more ears for my necklace. Well, that’s unfortunate. Be sure to call upon me any time you want to walk along the path of the ancients.”

Eosh 'Drassilborn, a wizard bluffing his way out of a fight

The first half-elves were born not long after the Divine War, conceived during short, passionate encounters between humans who were lost in the Yggdrasil and true elven guides who fell into something close to love. Due to differences in fertility cycles, this rarely resulted in pregnancy, but on occasion, a child showing the best features of both races was born to a surprised mother. The mothers usually raised these children alone, as both the human and true elven communities took a dim view of illegitimacy and racial infidelity. The children would likewise have a hard time fitting into their respective societies. A half-elf raised among true elves lacked their dexterity and proved inquisitive and loud, while a half-elf brought up among humans was a daily reminder of the horrors of the alien forest they stumbled through on their way to freedom and ostracized as a result. Still, these unfortunates were left to their own devices, as they were also indicative of things their adoptive society lacked- logical thought among elves and effortless grace among humans- and their exotic appeal soon rivaled their unsavory origins. They grew comfortable in their place on the fringe of society, but the Divine War created a new wrinkle: half-elves born of the intermingling of humans and common elves.

Although to half-elves the differences between the two sub-races are as clear as night and day, they look identical to dwarves, halflings and even their human and elven parents. This lack of distinction often drags half-elves from the fringes of society into the spotlight without a loss in disdain. Is the half-elf in question a barely-contained savage or a dragon-worshipping magic user? Whatever the answer to that question, true elves and many humans view their bastards with thinly veiled disgust, although their feelings are sometimes softer if they have sired one of these “accidents” themselves. Halflings and dwarves judge the individual half elf, believing the human blood in them may make up for the other half of their ancestry. Half-orcs and half-dragons are more willing to give half-elves the benefit of the doubt as they share in the stigma that is the birthright of the Third Races. Regular familial love only seems to come from common elf parents, who eagerly protect their child from the unpleasant realities of life for as long as they can.

Half-elves, regardless of heritage, resemble petite humans with slightly pointed ears and almond-shaped eyes. Their hair and skin coloration favor the human component of their conceptual union, while their movements and body language have an elven fluidity that make them a wonder to behold even while performing the most mundane tasks. Unlike elves (and even a few humans), males are capable of growing silky facial hair. Half-elves of both sexes build muscle slightly faster than humans can, which lends them a toned, impressive physique.

Hotheaded, competitive, and stubborn, half-elves seek acceptance the least out of the Third Races. This is not to say they are loners- they prize true friendship as much as any. However, a lifetime of scorn and neglect causes half elves to look down upon casual acquaintances and those who find value in such relationships. Most half-elves have some kind of wall put up around them to protect their true selves, be it one of hostility, modesty, or impetuousness. Penetrating this wall is rarely enough to earn a half-elf’s friendship, although it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Naming Conventions:
Most half-elves use the naming conventions of the culture they grow up in, although it is not uncommon for the rebellious to abandon that name and choose one from their complementary heritage. These secondary names are often exaggerated, confused or mispronounced by the half-elf, which can cause embarrassment when in the company of their more distant kin.

Half-elves have a reputation for willfulness and decisive action that makes neutrality on either axis rare.

Half-elves are determined to walk their own path in the world, whether they seek to achieve acceptance through fame or anonymity through fear. The first class they gain a level in is considered their preferred class.

As described in the PHB, except as follows:

Half-elves are usually acerbic until they get to know someone better. They gain a +2 bonus to Intimidation and Sense Motive checks as opposed to Gather Information and Diplomacy checks.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Races: Half-Dragons

“No, I’m not going to eat you. I may rake my claws across your hamstring, bring my knee into your stomach, introduce the knife of my hand to the back of your neck and tear your throat out with my fangs, but I’m not going to *eat* you. That’s just barbaric.”

Ventorix, a monk and prince-in-exile, putting a new acquaintance ill-at-ease

Arcane might. Unmatched strength. Half dragons are born to these things, and they often get the chance to flaunt both. Of all of the Third Races- and some would even go so far to say all the peoples of Wune- half dragons have the most formidable natural gifts, but this power comes at a price. The vast majority of half dragons are brought into this world in the harems of cruel dragon monarchs who mate with any number of women (and men), willing and unwilling, First, Second and even Third Races, to bring a loyal warrior-whelp into the world. Raised in luxury and isolation, they are trained in combat both magical and mundane at their leisure. While the lack of true friends and a loving family often hardens them and turns them into a living extension of their draconic parent’s cruel will, there are times when their lives can take a different path. Perhaps they grew too strong-willed to listen to a distant, domineering mother. Maybe in their isolation, an insurrection that slew their father overlooked them. Still maybe they were on the wrong end of succession, and found themselves discarded in favor of siblings that were more potent. Whatever the reason, there are a few half dragons that have more control over their life than most.

Still, even the most unfettered half dragon has no control over how others view them. They are hated outright- even more so than the most stereotypically savage elf, thieving halfling, or brutal half-orc. One need only point to their origins to find a reason to distrust them, and their alien appearance strikes fear into the bravest souls. Unlike with other members of the Third Races, half dragons trust each other least of all. After all, they are one of the few creatures on Wune that are a match for them, and the draconic side of their psyche gnaws at them to establish dominance before exchanging pleasantries. In social situations with other peoples, they usually attempt the reverse, being civil at the very least. Only the most compassionate or sensitive worry after the disdain of their lessers- the rude are painfully reminded of their place, those who become hostile rarely get the chance to learn from their mistake.

One of the reasons why half dragons are so feared due to the astonishing variety of forms they can take. Few half dragons look alike, but they are all combinations of reptile and humanoid, with the humanoid features coming from the non-draconic side of the union. The aesthetic result of this combination runs the gamut from sensuous to grotesque.

Half dragons lack appreciable social skills due to the nature of their upbringing. Those that provide services that half dragons cannot provide themselves are appreciated, but are little more than servants in their eyes. They save their respect for those whose ability eclipses their own and their admiration for those who are willing to share the fruits of their knowledge with them. The concepts of love, family and friendship are known in theory, not practice. This can result in an innocent, child-like view of the world outside magic and combat, or a dangerously naïve individual who views others as little more than test subjects for novel spells and insidious weapons.

Naming Conventions:
Half-dragons generally prefer Draconic names to those of lesser creatures, although they may go by a nickname or alias when traveling or striking out on their own, particularly one that is popular the non-draconic side of family.

No matter what race has had a hand in their conception, the blood of dragons runs thick through their veins. They always share one aspect of their alignment with their draconic parent, and may emulate their alignment completely in an attempt to garner attention or affection.

While the preferred class of half dragons is sorcerer, they almost never remain in this class. The discipline of fighters and monks is available to them from before they can walk, and they usually gain levels in both of these classes before puberty. Half dragon clerics are disturbing in both concept and frequency, as they eagerly proclaim the divinity of their parent and of their own as well, if they are paladins. Among half dragons that seek to survive on their own, the ways of the barbarian and reaver are natural choices, especially if they would prefer to avoid the ‘civilization’ of the weaker races. Rogues apply the arrogance of the previous within the city walls, and make a bloody climb to the heads of thieves’ guilds. Wizardry is uncommon, as a half dragon would rather rely on internal magic than external. Half dragon druids, rangers, and bards are rare.


As presented in the Monster Manual I.

The Races: Common Elves

“A flawless rose of the deepest crimson for my charm *and* my company? M’lord is much too gracious...and too hasty. This one was plucked too soon, I fear- see how tight the petals are? Worry not, though, it will look as good upon my dress as I do on your arm tonight...but I fear a headache after dessert will force me to retire somewhat earlier than expected... alone. Crossbreed it with another rose? M’lord jests. I may be that kind of girl, but I am not that kind of elf.”

Silkentongue, a sorceress bartering a spell component for a banquet while forgoing the night’s entertainment

Common elves are the other side of the sylvan coin. They are a noticeably pale and small-bodied people who survive through charm, subterfuge, and the magic that flows through their veins. While it is a known fact that common elves and true elves were once the same people, no two sages can agree how they diverged from one another. Unfortunately, the most popular theory paints an unflattering picture.

When the borders to the Yggdrasil closed, the elves that were traveling the land found themselves dispossessed- all attempts to enter the Yggdrasil simply deposited them somewhere along its borders after a few hours or days of travel within. Angry and confused, they quickly blamed the Interlopers for their troubles. The zealots took up arms with the dragons and lent their eldritch might to their armies. As a result, they were responsible for the deaths of deities both great and small, and the most powerful of the Shining Ones cursed those responsible with their dying breaths. When the smoke from the Divine War cleared, they were changed. They had become pale and prone to the sun’s fury due to the curses of Denoth. Usharia, Goddess of the Seas, cursed them to be as fertile as humans. Haloush, the Winged One cursed them to be frail, and Wune himself twisted their magics to reflect their inner darkness. Thus, they became a race all their own- among the first of what would come to be known as the Third Races. That they were a new and different people was lost on them at first, as in the months following the Divine War many common elves simply believed their physical peculiarities to be a side effect of being away from the Yggdrasil for so long. A group of refugees eager to return home rushed into the forest ahead of their fellows. Upon entering however, they found that the plants and animals did not respond positively to their presence, shying away from them as if they were dangerous. This chilly reception turned into unease and lethargy as the hours wore on, and by the end of the day, it was as if the forest was sapping away their very souls. The sun rose the next day to find that the expatriates had died, their bodies turned into dried, withered husks not unlike the last leaves to fall off the tree at the start of winter. The true elves who had been quietly observing these visitors looked on with horror, and quickly circulated the story around Wune: The common elves were no longer welcome in the Yggdrasil- by the will of the Yggdrasil itself.

Relations: Their role in the war earned them the favor of the dragons, and ensured that the north would be forever open to any common elf that swore fealty, but made acceptance hard to find elsewhere. Today, common elves are despised by dwarves, mistrusted by humans, and outright hated by halflings, who see even common elf children as something worse than murderers. Most distressing of all is the fact that common elves are unable to return to the Great Forest. The forest drains the very life force of any common elf that dares enter, turning them into withered corpses within a day. Their true elven forbearers look upon this phenomenon with great sadness. To be rejected by the Yggdrasil as they were would mean that they had given up their elven soul, and they treat them with the same disregard they have for all non-elves as a result. Despite this, common elves are not completely alone in the world. Their physical beauty is almost always reinforced with a strong personality that helps to win over the less prejudiced among the Second Races, while half-elves are a source of love and support by the very nature of their being. The other Third Races- half-orcs and half-dragons- find themselves to be outcasts from polite society as well, and misery always loves company. The fertility of the common elves has proven to be as much a blessing as a curse, as over the span of a few generations common elves have grown as a race into a force to be reckoned with, although their numbers remain behind humans and halflings.

Although they retain the same height, Common Elves are even smaller bodied than their True Elf predecessors are, and look outright gaunt when placed next to a human, weighing no more than 90 pounds on average. It is important to note that although their skin is pale, it is not quite as white as snow or milk- albinism occurs as rarely here as in other races. Blue veins that sometime appear on their face or their extremities increase their pallor. Both eye and hair come in two extremes- either so dark as to appear nearly black, or as fair and bright as the sun on a summer day. Exceptions do occur, and infants with red or brown hair or purple or deep blue eyes are prized. These extreme physical features are rarely unbecoming, as they come together to lend common elves an otherworldly beauty.

Although they have an easier time finding their place in the world when compared to half elves and other Third Races, common elves are still a broken people. They have adapted to their situation as best as possible, honoring their past while coping with the realities of the present with a bizarre dignity that makes even the most maladjusted common elf seem more a noble eccentric. They do not return the hatred that the other races heap upon them so eagerly (although the suspicion of their elven cousins wounds and even angers them), as they have survived by being indispensable to their few friends and a mystery to their many detractors. Their frailty lends a vulnerable air to their beatific features, but they are far from defenseless waifs to descend upon at the first opportunity. Some use the pause it so frequently gives their aggressors to defuse and charm, while others match it with whip-quick reflexes to strike first and last. While many common elves actively work to find a way to return to the Great Forest and survive within it, there is a growing minority within their community that is considering severing emotional ties with the Yggdrasil- and temporal ones with the dragons- to become a people all their own.

Naming Conventions:
While many common elves retain the naming conventions of their true elf ancestors, there is a growing population that chooses names with no small amount of irony or bitterness. For example, a lame common elf may refer to himself as Longstrider, while a hothead with a penchant for brawling may go by the title of Peacekeeper.

Common elves prefer chaos over law, with neutrality in respect to the two a distant second- as a people in exile, they are willing to do anything and everything in order to survive. Much like their true elven cousins, common elves are disinterested in the vagaries of good and evil, often choosing neutrality.

Their preferred class is sorcerer- the arcane magic that the common elves used in the Divine War lingers in their blood and is passed down from generation to generation due to Wune’s curse. Most common elves are painfully aware of the stigma their magic bears, and multiclass as a way to fit in, although there are those who either do not care or turn their sinister reputation to their advantage. Some become wizards, attempting to add potency and an ersatz legitimacy to their arcane might. Others become fighters or monks, attempting to deny or transcend their inborn magic respectively. Common elven barbarians are surprisingly common, and model themselves after the true elves they yearn to be. On the other end of the spectrum are common elf rogues and reavers, who are of the mind that they should find a new home, wherever it may lie. Common elf clerics are by and large of the draconic bent, although there are a few who seek forgiveness from the gods- or feel that they inherited their power when they slew them. Common elf paladins are both frighteningly powerful and exceedingly rare. Although there are common elves who live in rural and even forest communities (outside of the Yggdrasil of course), to date there have been no instances of common elf druids or rangers. The birth of one would be a cause for celebration for their people.

Common Elven Traits:
As Elves in the PHB except as follows:

+2 Charisma, -2 Constitution. Common Elves are beautiful and strong-willed, but are quite frail.

Common Elves receive the feat Spell Thematics free at first level, but the theme of their magic must be one of a particularly unsettling nature. It applies to ALL spells they cast- even divine ones or ones from other classes (Warlock, Hexblade, etc.). The PC should work with their DM to come up with something suitable to the campaign. Perhaps cantrips are accompanied by the wail of a mother for her stillborn child, or healing spells take the form of the cleric’s long-lost wife, who tears strips of cloth from the wedding dress she was buried in to tend to wounds with decaying hands.

The Races: The Shuu/True Elves

“You seem surprised that I know your tongue, human. Or perhaps it is because your...prayer...did not work? It does not matter. Neither you nor your friends belong here. What’s this? You cry out to your sky-mother for succor? Here, allow me to send you to her...”

Sunset’s Daughter, a ranger escorting an uninvited guest across the border between this world and the next

The Shuu, more commonly known as True Elves, are the original sylvan race of Wune. They are a reclusive people who reside in and viciously protect the pristine forest at the center of the continent they call the Yggdrasil. They claim not be created by the gods but to have sprung forth directly from that very same forest- born from its desire for companionship, no less- millennia before the deities that would comprise the Shattered Pantheon discovered this plane of existence. The Shuu served as the hands of the Great Forest for an age, living off its bounty, tending to the needs of its inhabitants, and searching for threats that lay beyond the tree line. It was on one of these excursions that a scouting party encountered humanoid-shaped beings of light they immediately dubbed the Shining Ones. Bearing these creatures no ill will and divining that they were strangers to this land, the elves introduced themselves as emissaries from the Yggdrasil, and wandered the plains with these for a time to observe them and determine their intentions. The Shining Ones made eager, friendly overtures towards their companions, and worked many impressive magics and a few genuine miracles in an attempt to awe and impress, but the elves remained distant, taken aback at their zeal. In the end, the Shuu determined that these strange creatures were of little threat and decided to return to the forest. Wroth at the idea of being dismissed, the Shining Ones attempted to press the elves into service through sorcery, but their will proved to be too great and they escaped slavery. Their pride stung, the Shining Ones (who the Shuu now referred to the Interlopers) decided that if they could not have the elves as servants, they would have to make their own, and created the other races, who worshipped them as gods. Few outside their race believe this creation story; partially due to its blasphemous nature, but also because it justifies the territorial nature of true elves, which has claimed more than a few lives in Wunian history.

During the Divine War, the Shuu reacted with characteristic indifference, preferring to keep their distance from the gods and their creations. When war began to spill into their beloved Yggdrasil, they used powerful magical rituals to close its borders. The enchantment caused any who entered to become terribly lost within a hallucinatory and terrifyingly bizarre landscape, wandering for hours and sometimes days until they returned from whence they came... assuming, of course, they survived the various pitfalls and snares set by the elves and the often deadly flora and fauna of the forest that lay underneath the illusion. Incensed that violence had come so close to their home, they avenged themselves upon the errant orcs, goblins, giantfolk, and even dragons that wandered into their protectorate. Initially halflings, humans and dwarves who found themselves trapped within the Yggdrasil were given no quarter, but after a few skirmishes the majority of this latter group proved to be backward, yet benign. Sympathetic elements among the Shuu showed these unfortunates how to survive in the woods until they could find their way to the egress, but by that time the Great Forest was rarely disturbed, having earned a reputation as no-man’s-land haunted violated only by fools and the desperate. However, this ersatz peace would be shattered at the end of the war as legions of undead, immune to the effects of the barrier by the very nature of their being, marched on the Yggdrasil. The undead proved to be more than a match for the elves, as they were invincible to the toxins that coated their arrowheads and undeterred by all but the most debilitating traps. The portion of the Yggdrasil they tainted by their passage turned into the Greywood: a cursed forest-within-a-forest where trees neither grew nor died, but remained a sickly grey year round, nourished by brackish rain in the summer and spring, and decorated with a light ash that fell from cloudless skies in winter and autumn. Eager for revenge, their war council dispatched scouts to track and assess this new threat. They returned with wild tales of draconic empires, dead things presiding over empty courts, and thralls of the Interlopers fighting to the death to determine who would hold the chains now that their masters were dead.

Unsure of how to proceed, yet just as angry as any of her people, the Matriarch of the elves decreed that in order for the Yggdrasil to be truly safe, its people would have to become involved in this new world. However, she stopped short of declaring actual war, leaving it up to the individual to define what role they would play in the lands outside their home. Some view the lesser races as nonentities and prefer to continue as they always have, with an eye towards protecting the forest proper. Others interpret this dictum to mean that they should educate and enlighten the naive to the truth about their so-called gods. Still others- particularly the young and hot-blooded- walk the path of war, citing the ancient belief that all forests on Wune are reflections of the original Yggdrasil, and eagerly raid rural areas, both cleansing and nourishing the land with blood.

Relations and Personality:
In the exceedingly rare social encounter with non-elves, True Elves are an awkward and distant people who cannot help but to view the other races with no small amount of contempt- after all, this land was their home long, long before these so-called gods spawned their minions. Perhaps a handful among the Second Races can be domesticated enough to be considered palatable, but the First Races have proven to be little more than rabid animals that need to be put down at the earliest opportunity. True Elves consider the Third Races abominations, even the half elves they bear, although they temper their feelings for common elves with pity: once they were elves, but now they are forever separate from the Yggdrasil and have become Something Else. That said, the average true elf does not draw undue pleasure from passing judgment upon their inferiors, nor do they slay them out-of-hand (although evil specimens hunt them for sport [and meat, if chaotic] on occasion). Their strong druidic traditions demand that they treat all living creatures with a modicum of respect.

Naming Conventions:
Before they reach the age of majority, Shuu children are referred to as their mother’s child in a fashion similar to that of the dwarves. Upon adulthood, an elf chooses a title, a combination deed name and declaration of their life path. It is normal for an elf to go through many titles in their considerable lifetime, but leaving one title behind to choose another is akin to dying and being reborn, and is always a moment of gravity.

For example, Sunset’s Daughter has decided to purge the Yggdrasil of outsiders once and for all. She takes the up the title of Farslayer, honoring both her skill with a bow and her attitude regarding non-elves. She serves her title well for many years, and when she feels the time is right to take her crusade beyond the forest’s borders, she takes up the title of Slavescourge to represent the harsh judgment she brings to those born of the arrogance of the Interlopers. This title strikes fear in the hearts of all who hear it until an axe blow almost shears her leg clean from her body, and her career as a raider comes to an end. She passes her title on to a more able-bodied warrior, and takes on the title of Arrowtongue, reflecting her advocacy for decisive and deadly action both at home and abroad.

True elves are usually neutral with respect to good and evil, as their primal (but not primitive!) lifestyle at one with nature makes moral speculation flippant. Law, chaos, and neutrality with respect to the two are important parts of the natural order and roughly equally represented within the true elf community.

True elves are lithe, small-bodied people with deeply tanned skin. They range in height from 4.5 to 5 feet tall, and weigh a little under a hundred pounds. Their hair worn long varies in color from yellow-blonde to honey-red to dark brown- much like leaves in autumn- and adorned with all sorts of trinkets, heirlooms and other prized possessions to tell their life story. Eyes are usually dark, but flecked with other brighter colors. They dress as nature provides and the weather demands, which has lead to lethal duels with bawdy humans in the summer months.

While the true elven preferred class is druid, as each true elf believes herself a child of the Yggdrasil in spirit if not body, not all take this path where defending the forest is concerned. Rangers are obviously of a more martial bent, while fighters, barbarians, and rogues are often individuals who are seeking vengeance against the First Races- and if they are evil or chaotic, the Second Races as well. Wizards and sorcerers are an important part of society not only for the magic they wield, but also because they serve as lore keepers and storytellers, respectively. Bards perform both of these services even better than the previous, but can also double as diplomats to the outside world due to the secret magic that all bards share. Paladins are rare, but tolerated as bizarre yet useful aberrations, especially where the undead are concerned. The respect that the former would enjoy in other societies is instead found with monks, who are seen as true champions- fighting with ancestral weapons in the Old Way. A true elf that deigns to become a cleric of any stripe has turned her back on her people.

True Elven Traits:
As Elves in the PHB except as noted above and follows:
+2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence: True elves are quick in body, and prefer instinct over reason as a result.

The Races: Dwarves

“ ‘Course you’ve never seen anything like it. Pure griefsteel’s been folded into that blade, and the handle’s orc ivory wrapped in silver and bronze- a deal at 90 thrones. Outlandish, you say? Tell you what, twig- I’ll shave off an empty for every goblin skull you bring me. It’s a deal. Now don’t make me sell this to you for anything more’n half price...”

Stonewise Morunsun, a merchant about to make a killing

Dwarves were originally a race of gruff miners and determined warriors known for their weapon craft and expansionist attitude, which was only kept in check by the incessant civil wars between the many clans that made up the dwarven civilization. Eager for plunder, as a people they were rivals primarily with humans for resources, since they rarely ventured into the Yggdrasil. However, they got along famously with the nomadic halflings (which many believe is because they had no lands to conquer) and considered the reclusive and arcane gnomes kin despite their own distaste for magic.

When the Divine War broke out, the dwarves were initially neutral, being of staunch faith and firmly believing the gods invincible to any mortal threat. They paid the price for their piety when a skirmish between a clutch of dragons and a god resulted in the destruction of one of their great mountain-halls. The few survivors related the horror of seeing their home torn asunder and watching the lifeblood of their clan leak out from the broken rock like molten lava. Out of that tragedy, the dwarven clans put together a massive army called the Blood of the Mountain in honor of the fallen, and marched to battle as one people. They took to the front lines against the armies the dragons had amassed with zeal. Although they decimated their orc and goblinoid foes, they simply could not contend with the raw power of the dragons and took great losses.

When the dragons finally won their war, they turned their claws to the dwarves’ gnome charges, who had incurred the wrath of the dragons with their magical prowess. Despite a lack of numbers, the dwarves defended the gnomes as best they could. They failed in the end, and the race of the gnomes went into extinction. Bloodied, disheartened and twice defeated, they retreated to the seat of what remained of their empire and began a centuries-long period of mourning. It was during this time that dwarven society began to change.

The clan system, which had been temporarily set aside during wartime, was now completely discarded. Far too much blood had been spilt and subsequently mingled to return to such a society. Instead, they adopted the idea of the Oneclan, which stressed that all dwarves were related in some way (with marriage occurring exclusively between extremely distant cousins). They became more likely to work and refine the precious metals and gems they mined instead of simply hoarding them. They tempered their gruffness with gregariousness, their determination with patience, and their arrogance with confidence- for the most part.

This period of mourning ended only recently, and mainly at the behest of the halflings, who grew weary of being their go-between in dealing with other peoples. Dwarves have emerged from their self-imposed exile with a taste for trade, and a burning desire to avenge their fallen and rebuild their kingdom. To this end, they will do business with almost anyone, save perhaps for anyone known to have positive dealings with dragons, and elves of any stripe, who simply “aren’t good for business”. They are stoically neutral toward half-breeds, giving individual members of the reviled Third Races the chance to prove themselves before judging them. However, should a stranger prove to be an enemy, a wronged dwarf can be quick to violence and single minded in pursuing vengeance, as the goblins and other subterranean members of the First Races have discovered.

Naming Conventions:
In youth, a dwarf goes by their clan name (which have been retained even though the system is no longer in use) and their family name, with the suffix –sun (for men) or –dottir (for women) added. Nicknames, occasionally unflattering to non-dwarven ears, are used to provide individual identity. When a dwarf has become adult in the eyes of their people, they then choose a personal name, only known to immediate family. Traditionally, a dwarf has to marry someone who successfully guesses his or her personal name, although chance has very little to do with it in practice. Dwarves who are courting drop hints or craft riddles as to the nature of their personal name, while dwarves who are less amorous may be surprised to find out that a mischievous aunt “accidentally” let the name slip around a member of the opposite sex they deemed suitable.

Dwarves favor shades of neutrality for the flexibility (or unpredictability, if chaotic neutral) it gives them in business dealings, but lean towards good in times of crisis.

Dwarves are a short, stocky people, averaging about 4.5 to 5 ft. in height, and their hair varies in color from honey-gold to earthy reddish-brown to black as a starless night. Regardless of their original color, a dwarf’s hair turns to steel gray overnight when they enter middle age- an important moment in a dwarf’s life. Eye color is dark, but the unusual colors of stone grey and blood red appear about once a generation and are considered good and bad omens respectively. Dwarven males grow their beards long, but keep them well manicured, while females grow equally long and luxurious sideburns.

Class: Their preferred class is fighter- ages ago dwarves bought the retreat to their empire on the bodies of their brave warriors who turned aside orc and goblin spears; today dwarves who traverse the land as merchants rely on their battle prowess as much as their financial acumen. Those who mourn the passing of their gnome cousins study the way of the wizard, while those with dubious bloodlines may be sorcerers. Dwarven rangers are almost universally reavers, and are ruthless in their hunt for the First Races, dedicated to giving the gnomes the company in the afterlife. Dwarven merchants and caravan masters are usually rogues. Dwarven barbarians are often little more than the bloodthirsty warriors they appear to be at first glance, but they can also be those rare individuals with strong bloodlines who wish to return to the old ways in the times before the Divine War when the dwarves were a race of conquerors- and usually have the aforementioned red eyes. Dwarven paladins, in contrast, have grey eyes more often than not and their abilities make it easy for them to become respected pillars of the Oneclan. Dwarven bards tell tales of clans long gone to keep their memories alive. The piety of the dwarven people seems to have died along with the gods, so clerics are a rarity, as are druids. Dwarven monks exist in even smaller numbers.

Dwarven Racial Traits:
As in the Dwarves entry in the Player’s Handbook, except as follows:

Dwarves are on the threshold of founding a new empire, one based on trade as much as on warfare. Dwarven characters increase their bonus to Appraise and Craft checks on items made out of stone or metal to +4 and enjoy a +2 bonus on Appraise checks to items made out of other materials.

Dwarves are preternaturally tough. They gain an extra hit point whenever they gain a level, and add their Constitution modifier to any hit points recovered whenever they heal through non-magical means.

The Races: A Primer

The people of Wune are divded into three categories: The First, Second and Third Races.

The First Races are were created when the gods first attempted to populate the world. They count ogres, harpies, dragons and all manner of savage humanoids and magical creatures among their numbers, but also the Shuu- more commonly known as True Elves- who insist that they existed on Wune long before the gods ever walked upon it.

The Second Races comprise the bulk of the player character races, and are generally seen as those who were most favored by the gods. They include Halflings, Dwarves and Humans, although the race of Gnomes was eradicated by the dragons in the aftermath of the Divine War.

The Third Races are those born of intermingling between the First and Second Races(or non-homogenous couplings within either), as well as strange beings new to the land. Distrusted by their predecessors, they nonetheless have strange abilities that their forebearers must respect. Half-Dragons, Half-Elves, and Half-Orcs are the most populous of the Third Races, but they also include the despised Common Elves and the enigmatic Doppelgangers.

What you will need to play, redux

Freehold uses the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 rules. You will need a copy of the 3.5 Player's Guide, Dungeon Master's Guide, Unearthed Arcana, and as many Monster's Manuals as you can get your hands on. The Rules Compedium, Magic Item Compendium, and Spell Compendium are highly recommended, although not required. The previous works are all copyright Wizards of the Coast.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Once more, with feeling...

Well, it's been forever and a day, but the blog is active again. So many things have happened in my personal life that have been keeping me from updating for YEARS, but that's no excuse to keep from working on my magnum opus. So, here's what you can look forward to over the coming weeks.

This will be the last glib post on this site- the blogspot page will be solely about the homebrew and as "in character" as possible. Any comments or questions should be directed to my rpgbomb account, a link to which has been placed in the About Me section. The blog will be updated every Sunday, and should things go as planned, playtesting will begin in the summer. Finally, if you want to playtest or help out in some other way(artists are especially needed), please contact me at