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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pellatarrum: The Elder Races (an overview)

A capsule review of the elder races of Pellatarrum. More in-depth articles for each race will follow.

The most important thing to know about Pellatarran dwarves is that they're happy. This doesn't mean they're cheerful and whistle all the time, or that they can't be cranky bastards (they frequently are), but they aren't the pointless, doomed race that so often crops up in fiction. They live in a paradise of their own making, an unassailable continent-sized city-state of endless crafting, filled to the brim with other dwarves who know everyone else's business. They have a purpose to their lives, and that gives them joyful hearts. If they are not mining, crafting, or building, they are exploring the depths of the Underdark, which is where most of their warriors learn the art of combat.

Fully 90% of all dwarves live in the Dayspire. Of the rest, 5% are either colonists or splinter sects who have set up a home in other places of rich mining. 4% are either traveling merchants or diplomatic representatives of some kind. The remaining 1% are criminals, exiles, adventurers, or insane (sometimes all of the above.)

The best way to imagine dwarves in Pellatarrum is to compare them to ultra-orthodox Jews of Germanic descent who are now living in Israel. Think Fiddler on the Roof, but with mining and battleaxes.

If anyone on Pellatarrum has invented gunpower, it is the dwarves, and that technology would be considered a state secret and guarded with fanatical jealousy.

"Fey" does not mean "nice". This is an important distinction, as is the fact that a chaotic society is held together not by laws or tradition, but by force; either force of arms or force of personality. For the elves, it's the latter, as their various kings and queens are able to play the political game with such skill that they are able to direct feuding houses in productive directions rather than allow the kingdom to be torn apart. However, with each new monarch, there is always a period of instability that ranges from "violent upheaval" to "savage internecine warfare."

Elves live in undeveloped areas of great wilderness, typically forests. They eschew both plains ("too open") and coastlines ("too close to the sea"), though jungles, mountains and valleys are acceptable to them. They never, ever, live underground or close to human cities. Most new elven cities are formed through mass exodus of exiled families after a political coup or failed assassination.

The best way to envision elves in Pellatarrum is to imagine the Picts and/or Celts amalgamated with the various South American cultures such as the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayans. They are highly educated and "civilized", though they are bloodthirsty and violent. (Blood sacrifice is not necessarily off the table.) They aren't whimsical; they're fickle. Consult the old, old tales of the "fair folk" for more ideas.

Instead of horses, elves ride exotic mounts such as Terror Birds.

Orcs are the other end of the chaotic spectrum, held together through savage violence (or threat thereof) by the strongest, scariest, most violent warlord. Orcs live in what is, to them, a post-apocalyptic world: their capitol is obliterated, their civilization shattered, their people scattered. They are not stupid, however; they are simply ignorant because so much of their racial knowledge has been lost. They are a people hungry to rebuild and reunify, and if it take the slaughter of every living thing on Pellatarrum, then so be it.

Orcs live in the roughest and deadliest parts of Pellatarrum: deserts, crags, badlands, and underground. Their technology is primitive but effective: bronze armor, wickedly sharp obsidian blades, and whatever arms and armor they are able to find through raiding. Occasionally a tribe will discover a piece of lost knowledge and will attempt to use that edge in conquest of neighboring tribes; often as not, that tribe is set upon by all the others and the knowledge lost in ensuing massacre.

The closest historical allusion to orcs would be ancient civilizations, such as Pharaonic Egypt or Gilgamesh-era Babylon. Play up the antiquity and sheer amount of knowledge lost (such as the burning of the Library of Alexandria), and a thirst for knowledge that rivals thirst for conquest.

Orcs are the only race to have "domesticated" fire elementals, and maintain them without fear of dissolution.

Reclusive, powerful, obsessive: These are the key personality traits of all dragons. Being exceedingly long-lived, slow to reproduce, and intolerant of other dragons except during mating season, there is no draconic culture to speak of. Dragons just want to be left alone to indulge their passions without interruption, interacting with others only when necessary. For everything else, they have their servants, the kobolds.

Dragons live... wherever they want, honestly, and good luck getting rid of them if you have a problem with that. Fortunately for the other races, they have extremely slow metabolisms and an intense dislike of personal interaction (unless their passion is for that kind of thing.)

There is no historical comparison to dragons, obviously. The closest cultural equivalent would be to imagine an apex predator who is also an enormous geek and a nearly unlimited source of funds. Yes, this makes the stereotypical destructive red dragon into the person who enjoys "pwning n00bs" online, calling them obscene names and teabagging them.

Dragons frequently have their kobolds steal infant children, for reasons to be detailed later.

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