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Contemplating a Setting

03 May 2012, 08:59

I've been working on some setting variations for a D&D (4e) game I will be running. One of the main differences will be in how the more standard races are presented. Here are some preliminary ideas.

Dragonborn - solitary (in regards to their species) beings, rather draconic in their mindsets. While they have the same range of emotions and motivations as any other race, they tend toward a spectrum that includes avarice, territoriality, and arrogance at one end; nobility, courage and tenacity at the other. Meetings between dragonborn are uncommon, but are the source of new generations. Rarely do dragonborn couples stay together.
If there was ever an empire for the dragonborn, it was millenia ago and more likely an empire of dragons of which they were simply part.
Dragonborn tend to be craftsmen and merchants, and their dragon-like concern over wealth leads them to have a reputation as types you do not want to cheat. They may not murder one who takes their money, but they will certainly hold a grudge until reparations (repayment, with interest) are made.

Dwarf - chiefly a culture of mariners. Dwarves may once have lived in the underdark, but since their emergence to the surface they have taken to the sea with enthusiasm. With natural endurance and resistance to poison (and poor food), proficiency with hammers and axes (common ship tools), vision that allows them to see much better by the light of stars and the moon, the ability to shrug off pain and minor wounds to keep working, a strong work ethic and powerful bonds with close allies, and a stable stance that allows them to naturally resist falling over or stumbling about on a swaying deck... dwarves were born for work on the waves.

Elf - prefer high places, whether high in trees of a forest, on the cliffs and peaks of mountains, or atop lonely wasteland mesas, elves like to take advantage of their sharp eyes and natural coordination. They are adept at survival in any climate, and train with weapons (bows) that give an advantage to high ground. These are fey, and no one should forget that. Mercurial and unpredictable to most other races, it seems equally likely upon entering elf territory that they will: escort you out, slay you on the spot, or take you in and offer you a meal. Maybe the cycle of the moon or position of stars or tide of the feywild has something to do with their shifting thoughts. No sage could say.

Halfling - roma, wanderers, gypsies. One can fit many halflings in a large covered wagon, which generally houses an entire extended family. They have a (perhaps) undeserved reputation as thieves, and a well-deserved reputation for mysticism. The halfling people have traveled across the world and its mirrors (feywild and shadowfell). They know paths between worlds. Little frightens them, as they have seen much since a young age. The racial power, second chance, is not a matter of size and luck, but instead represents a racial capacity for precognition and prophetic insight. They are just not where they knew you would swing.
In essence, they are the Vistani.

Human - I've toyed with the idea that humans are not a clearly defined separate race. Instead, as is typical of fantasy, most races can interbreed. Humans are the result of such cross-breeding, which accounts for their versatility. A human who claims mainly dwarf and elf blood might be tall and slender with a great deal of hair (finer than a dwarf's) and favor dexterity or constitution as a racial stat bonus. A human who has a child with an elf will not make a half-elf, but instead a human who very likely favors dexterity and perception or nature as a bonus skill.

Tiefling - most often gathering in small groups, tieflings are not trusted by anyone but their own... and sometimes not even then. Not loners, unlike the dragonborn, they tend to group up with anyone like them, or who is willing to work with them. Clever, manipulative and often charming, folk wisdom holds that a devil can not be dealt with safely They do not face direct persecution in most regions, but instead are kept at arms length and always second-guessed. Think scorpion clan from Legend of the Five Rings. The mask says "do not trust me."

* * *

What'ya think?
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Re: Contemplating a Setting

03 May 2012, 09:37

dorfs as a race of mariners?

...well, dwarven pirates is a cool idea - but all of them living on boats and whatnot?
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Re: Contemplating a Setting

03 May 2012, 11:00

webkilla wrote:
...well, dwarven pirates is a cool idea - but all of them living on boats and whatnot?

Or near the coast. More of a racial focus on sea-going than an absolute rule.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Mei Yu Lian
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Re: Contemplating a Setting

04 May 2012, 02:30

better than many settings ive seen


dwarves are probably the one big change here


i like the mixed blood humans :)
 
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Nizkateth
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Re: Contemplating a Setting

05 May 2012, 10:48

Mei Yu Lian wrote:
dwarves are probably the one big change here

I may not have explained the elf change well enough, these aren't "flighty, emotionally impulsive, but otherwise good" types... more like fiercely unaligned, with whims that can change from minute to minute. An elf might welcome you as a friend and give you food and shelter, then hobble you with a knife in the back of the knee and sell you as a slave, then give half the earnings for your sale to your allies.

Less Orlando Bloom as Legolas, more David Bowie as the Goblin King.


I'm kinda enjoying the idea of humans not as a race but as the general interbred types too.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Mei Yu Lian
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Re: Contemplating a Setting

06 May 2012, 04:44

thats entirely some of the elf concepts ive seen

dwarves are just so stereotyped
 
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Re: Contemplating a Setting

08 Aug 2012, 09:48

Contemplating a 27-point alignment grid. Basically, adding a Z-axis to it. In addition to good - evil, law - chaos, having strong - weak. So you could be Lawful Good, or Strong Lawful Good, or Weak Lawful Good. Weak basically means you won't take any real risk for your alignment, normal means you'll take acceptable or moderate risk, strong means you'll take major risk. So True Neutral tends to be generally balanced ethically, not strongly taking sides in many things. Strong True Neutral will specifically not take sides in things, and will seek a balance in everything. Weak True Neutral is basically unaligned, with no strong views toward anything morally or ethically and probably just doing their thing and wanting to be left alone.
Neutral Good helps the weak or helpless, weak good generally is kind and probably gives some spare coin to beggars, strong good dedicates themselves to helping the oppressed and gives greatly of themselves for others. Weak lawful evil will gladly benefit from a slave-owning culture, lawful evil will gladly own slaves personally, strong lawful evil would be willing to enslave others actively for their benefit.
That kind of thing.

Continuing race revision:

Dragonborn
The dragonborn are a nearly amazonian society. Females run all aspects of the culture: owning and operating businesses, managing government, military and guard service, etc. Females have a strong connection to community and organization, and a strong lawful streak in alignment. Males, by contrast, have a strong leaning to chaotic alignment. Males tend to be wanderers, vagabonds, and are generally considered unreliable by the females.
This is not a form of discrimination, but a species-wide fact. While there may be exceptions, the vast majority of dragonborn fall into these definitions. This may be due to the way the species lives and procreates. Females lay eggs, and generally select a passing male who they find promising (or at least unoffensive) to fertilize the eggs. The male then moves on, with no connection to the young he sired or the community he is in.
Egg-cycles are not fixed across the race. Some females are especially fertile, and may lay a half-dozen eggs every year or two. Others are, more commonly, slower and may lay 2-3 eggs every 3-5 years. A small few dragonborn females are barren, or egg-less. Contrary to what humans may expect, there is no social stigma to being egg-less, and in fact is generally seen as a sign the female is intended for greater things. Many egg-less end up as priestesses, military commanders, politicians, and sages.
Females tend to develop strong yet wide connections to other females as close friends. Males tend to be solitary or form into loose groups of a few other males, often no more than two or three. Romance is an alien concept to dragonborn, who do not feel sexual attraction unlike most humanoids. It is not that they reject or vilify such concepts, simply that they cannot truly grasp them.
Dragonborn society is religious, but also in a way unusual to humans. The great dragon-god, Io, is revered most highly as the progenitor of the race. Io, being genderless, is seen as impartial and having both feminine (lawful) and masculine (chaotic) aspects. Io is a figure more of divination and insight than a moral compass. Cults to Bahamut and Tiamat also are not uncommon, though their priests tend toward neutrality as they see both as merely aspects of Io.

Dwarves
Ever practical, dwarven society is egalitarian across gender and wealth lines. While varied by region and nation, the core of dwarf society is typically run by a combination of a monarch and a council. The council is generally made of high priests, sages, and clan leaders. Monarch is an appointed position, chosen by the council from the best young (no more than 50 years usually) candidates. The appointed king or queen then reigns, with the guidance of the council, for as long as they are able and willing. It is expected that the monarch will marry, and the married-monarch generally serves in positions of public relations and morale.
Dwarf society is highly religious, revering the Soul-Father Moradin. As a whole, dwarves believe in reincarnation. This is a dwarf-focused belief and they do not necessarily believe, or care, if non-dwarves reincarnate. The belief is that at death the dwarf soul returns to the forge of Moradin and is remade then sent to be reborn. This reforging can change a dwarf completely, including across social and gender lines (possibly accounting for much of the egalitarianism). Statues of great heroes and monarchs are built, but as a remembrance of great deeds and as an example of behavior, not to commemorate something they feel has long since been reborn.
By extension, dwarves believe in fate. But fate is person-specific and not world-wide. The Soul-Father made them for a certain task or role, and grants them a certain span of life. A dwarf's fate does not interfere with others or the world as a whole. This ties also into egalitarianism. If a female dwarf seems suited for war, who is to argue with that? If a male dwarf seems disposed to take care of children, well then he should tend to children... the Soul-Father doesn't make mistakes
The only real gender-splits in dwarf society are: high priests (always male), and town guards (hearth-guard, always female). High priests of Moradin the Soul-Father must be grand-parents, and the stronger the family they have raised the better. This is seen as a connection to Moradin. While the dwarf military has both genders, only women are in the town guard as it is seen as rightly the privilege of women to be the last line of defense against evil.
Dwarf culture otherwise varies quite a lot based on area. Dwarves tend to live in places most races find difficult or rugged: mountain-sides, deserts, islands/coast, swamps, tundra. Whether dealing with a pitching deck of a ship, shifting sand of a dune, changing tide of a salt-water marsh, or slickness of a glacier... dwarves are stable on their feet and durable.
The only mechanical variation is dwarven weapon training. The default represents mountain dwarves. Sea dwarves (islands and coast) instead have short sword and hand-axe. Desert dwarves have scimitar and falchion. Swamp dwarves have battleaxe and longsword. Arctic dwarves have longspear and war pick.

Eladrin/Elves
Elves, both high elves and wood elves, are exclusively male. In time immemorial, they lived in immortal peace in the feywild. When violence shook their peace they came into contact with mortal races. Of those races, most useful to them were humans.
Elves can breed with nearly any humanoid (dragonborn are a notable exception). The result is always a male child and an elf. The exception to this is with humans. With humans a child may be male or female. If male, the child is an elf. If female, it is a half-elf.
Charming, alluring, passionate, artistic, lithe, athletic, mysterious... there are many attractive qualities of elves. This is one reason, despite lacking females of their race, they manage to preserve their numbers so well. This, combined with incredibly long lives (many say they are technically immortal still), has kept the elven races alive since the dawn war.
Elves are passionate, and frequently take lovers of their own race or males of other races. Though no children can come of this, that just makes the elves feel more free. In truth, most elves would find the idea of stifling their desires due to any social stigma attached to homosexual pairing to be confusing or downright insulting. Flighty as they are, elven flings can still sometimes go beyond one night of passion to months, years, or even decades of romance.
Culturally, the chaos of the fey leaves most mortal races confused. Their rulers change frequently, often over challenges brought by other elves, or simply boredom with the position. This is perfectly natural to the elves, who seem often to hold court in Eladrin cities purely for the spectacle and ceremony with no real concern as to laws or governance.

Half-Elves
A exclusively female race. Half-elves are the daughters of elves and human women. They are as varied as the humans who birth them, but always with a mercurial touch of the fey to them. Half-elves may only bear children by elves or humans. If the father is human, the child is human; if the father is elf, the child is elf. As such half-elves are always the direct off-spring of a human woman and an elf, they are not truly a growing race of their own.

Halflings
The halflings are a race that lives by travel. Halfling communities, if they can be called such, as generally a few extended families living on a large river-raft, on a boat (where they often join forces with sea dwarves), in a caravan, as mounted nomads, or some other form of transit. This could be seen as simply racial wanderlust, and often is by non-halflings, but is actually part of the halfling connection to fate.
On an instinctive level, Halflings have a sense for destiny and the tides of fate. They often let the stars guide the travel of their family. Divination is seen as semi-sacred. But destiny is not an unmoving thing. One's fate is never set in stone or restricted to one place and time. It is ever-flowing and shifting, the threads of many fates weaving together over the fabric of the world to tell the tale of all. So it is only natural that the halfling people should move with it, letting fate and chance carry them to greater things.
Halfling society is matrilineal, one traces ancestry through the mother. This is a matter of practicality more than anything: it's easier to keep track of who your mother is, even on the move. Marriage, as humans know it, is uncommon with halflings. Fate rarely puts two people together for a lifetime. Instead, relationships and lovers are fluid over a halfling's life.
Similarly, halfling culture tends to be slightly matriarchal. But this is really just that clan-leaders tend to be the eldest grandmothers. The wise crones of halfling society are well-respected by all, men and woman. Otherwise, there is little difference seen between men and women in the culture.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Re: Contemplating a Setting

13 Oct 2016, 18:51

I adore your alignment grid. I don't think it's strictly speaking necessary to add a z axis, but the way you've used it does make sense. Perfect sense in fact. 
I love the dragonborn. I love it. Seriously, like, every bit of advice I was gonna give you for them you'd already come up with. 10/10. Question; are dragonborn cities full of badass hatchling warrior children?
Also, purely male elves? I don't know if I like that or not, but I'm very impressed by it. I've genuinely never heard of elves working that way, yet it doesn't feel contrived or forced. Nicely done.
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