I love strange fantasy races. The more bizarre the better. The grognards may shake their heads at shardmind, kalashtar, and dragonborn, but I say bring them on and keep them coming!
So needless to say I was a little disappointed, though not wholly unsurprised when I saw this list of Player’s Handbook races tweeted out by Wizards of the Coast last week.
Time to Steal
I’ve written about my good habit of stealing ideas from those smarter than I. My favorite fantasy races are not the elf and dwarf (though I do enjoy a playing pointy eared or bearded PC from time to time). My favorites are the warforged, mul, genasi, and other races of setting specific campaigns. So I say, why not steal them for my own game if I love them so much? Yeah! Why not?
Well, many of these races are specific D&D licensed property, meaning they are the original intellectual property of the company, meaning they were made by D&D for D&D (unlike elves, dwarves, orcs, and more which existed before D&D came along). That means they most-likely won’t be covered in the forthcoming OGL. That means I probably shouldn’t put them in products I’m planning on selling, like the Exploration Age Campaign Guide.
However, it does not mean that I can’t incorporate these races into my home game or include them in a FREE supplement for folks who want to play a game in Exploration Age… Hmm…
Incorporating the Bizarre Races
Here’s my way of incorporating some of the more unusual PC races into the story of Exploration Age. I’ve already written about the shifters and warforged, but here are some others. Their behavior and ecology may differ from their original settings in order to bring them into Canus, but I tried to keep the heart and soul of the races intact. I want a thri-kreen to still feel like a thri-kreen.
At some point, I’ll be creating mechanics for these races, but this post is all about making the races of other settings work in your story. This is just a taste.
Like their githzerai parents, kalashtar are calm and contemplative, and like their human parents, inquisitive and curious. Such a combination marks these rare humanoids as ripe for a life of adventure.
Kalashtar serve a vital role in the tribes. Often they act as emissaries, carrying a chief’s message across the neighboring lands, or as neutral mediators, negotiating peace between two warring tribes. Kalashtar often break off on their own when they come of age, hoping to see all that Canus has to offer. More than any other race, they are willing to travel to West Canus. The furtive stares and pointed questions of the locals do not bother them, since the Kalashtar are just as eager to stare and question them back.
Kalashtar adventurers could be druids wandering the wider world cataloging all manner of flora and fauna, mages studying the origin of magic, paladins who believe all life is beautiful and worthy of protection, or anything you dream.
If half-elves are rare in Exploration Age, then muls are practically unknown. These half-human, half-dwarves are met with pity, fear, and disrespect across West Canus. Mul struggle and often fail to find belonging among either their human or dwarven kin. Like half-elves, this not-so-subtle poly-ethnic persecution is at the heart of their racial identity.
In Bragonay, muls are not brought into the caste system. They are treated as outsiders and have no access to the services of the region. Unlike Kalashtar, these half-dwarves, do feel the burn of the many eyes that glare at them with suspicion. As a result, they speak little and do all they can to blend into the crowd. However, muls are not pushovers. They end conflict swiftly, usually with a harsh word or solid hit to the mouth.
The life of a mul is usually one of lonely wandering. They are occasionally accepted by bands of half-elves and could live a more stable life in Marrial or somewhere in Verda. For the most part muls serve as self-taught mercenaries and thieves, making their living off their strength and resilience.
Mul adventurers could be wandering thieves, battle-hardened professional fighters, demolitions experts, or anything you dream.
Amongst the rare races of Canus, sharmind are the most uncommon. These crystalline beings were created long ago by the chromatic dragons of West Canus. No more have been made since the shardminds rose up against their creators. Despite their infinite life-spans, many met their ends in that uprising, and throughout the millennia others have fallen admist adventures and battle. This dying breed is made up of wandering hermits, secluded scholars, and nihilistic daredevils.
The shardminds alive today have forgotten more years than most other humanoid races have lived. Some shardmind let their long lives fuel them, diving into research and training to hone their abilities and become the best they can be at a particular discipline. Others have given up and now seek a glorious death in an adventure. They want to go out of this meaningless life in an explosive finale, often battling against their most hated foe – chromatic dragons.
Contemplative, quiet, and patient are the virtues of these crystalline people. Shardminds are often loners, and many members of other races go their entire lives without ever seeing one. Unless they are adventuring with a party, they tend to avoid populated areas and make their homes in the wilderness so they might be alone with their thoughts and projects.
Sharmind adventurers could be scholarly mages unlocking the secrets of the universe, fighters seeking their glorious end, hermit clerics who have tapped into the power of the divine, or anything you dream.
Deep gnomes, or svirfneblin, live with the drow and duergar of Quatus. They share the same brotherhood and loyalty of these peoples but they have something the too-practical duergar and devil-may-care drow lack – a sense of hope. While duergar have accepted their war with the aberrants as eternal and the dark elves bury the issue with partying, the deep gnomes believe that someday they could beat the aberrants. The svirfneblin have not lost sight of what makes life worth living.
Deep gnomes work hard; they are tinkerers and inventors who love working the stone and metals of The Underdark. They take great comfort in spending time with family and friends, drinking good tea, and eating good food. They understand the complex and take joy in the simple. The gray dwarves would say the svirfneblin are naive, while the drow would say they are too boring, but there is a reason all three of these races live together. In the darkest hours of Quatus, the hope that the svirfneblin provide is infectious to the other races of the war-torn country.
Amongst the people of the surface, svirfneblin are met with kindness. They are honest merchants and well-mannered diplomats, but they do not often serve in these rolls since they can be easily pushed around since they are too willing to trust. A deep gnome merchant is usually a good thing for a consumer looking to make a dishonest deal.
Svirfneblin adventurers could be crafty rogues, curious tinkerers, mages out to end the aberrant threat for good, or anything you dream.
Thri-kreen tribes have been stalking The Sprawling Jungle of Verda for as long as humans have been on Canus. These bellicose humanoids answer almost any threat or annoyance with battle. Thri-kreen are bitter toward enemies, suspicious of outsiders, and take extreme all-or-nothing solutions to most problems. However they are also loyal allies and friends.
Thri-kreen enjoy battle and take pleasure in the thrill of placing one’s life on the line. To them, the best and most honorable death is one that comes from an enemy blade. The strongest warriors are always the chiefs of their tribes. Thri-kreen are taught the ways of battle from the time they are little. Even when a thri-kreen tribe isn’t at war, it trains with other tribes and within its own people. Thri-kreen warriors and mages fight one another for entertainment, an activity which guests of the tribe are expected to join. Other than battle and the study of war, thri-kreen take pleasure in nature. They find it peaceful to commune with plants and animals after a long battle and are taught the names and behaviors of all the all that lives within the jungle.
Thri-kreen treat most other races suspiciously, particularly folk foreign to Verda. Their trust is hard to earn and usually won through battle. Once that relationship is earned, thri-kreen will die for their friends.
Thri-kreen adventurers could be honorable barbarians, wise druid shamans, fierce rangers defending the jungle, or anything you dream.
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