Monday, 30 September 2013

The Races of Fold

Well, a world needs lifeforms to populate it, right?

And having just one kind of being would be boring, right?

It's a staple of the fantasy genre to have different kinds of sentient being living in a world. Most famously and most obviously, we have Tolkein's Middle Earth; populated by the proud and noble elves, the burly dwarves, the bucolic and cheery hobbits or halflings and the vile and warlike orcs. China MiƩville's interesting and offbeat Perdido Street Station had the stoic and reclusive Catacae, the matriarchal Khepri, the froglike Vodyanoi, bird-headed Garuda and the impish and puerile Wyrmen. These two series are both fantasy, but both are so very different. Tolkein's masterpiece is seen by some as very much a product of its time; a "boys' own fantasy" if you will, and deals very much in blacks and whites, the questing heroes and cruel villains, while the other seeks to cast off that coat and make a grimy, urban sprawl of a tale, with seedy underbellies and moral ambiguity.

Dungeons and Dragons was originally not unlike Lord of the Rings. Men, elves, hobbits (referred to specifically as halflings to avoid legal problems) and dwarves fighting orcs, trolls, ogres, dragons and evil wizards. In recent years this can still be the case, as players take their elven ranger, dwarf fighter, gnome illusionist and human druid to fight an evil vampire lord and his cabal of minions in some forgotten tomb, or go traipsing through a cavern to fight evil beholders. Some players and Dungeon Masters (DMs) try to go against this grain and emulate political strife and intrigue, or encourage urban-based investigative games, with their half-orc sorcerer trying to fight his brutish heritage or a halfling trying to prove that not all of the wee folk are tricky thieves. Again, I'm going to reference Eberron; this setting caters for both schools of playing. The continent of Khorvaire (the main landmass of the setting) is highly urbanised in places, and there's plenty of room for industry, politics and investigation (there's even a class that makes you not unlike a private investigator), but there's also this wonderful sense of a world still to be explored, as other continents still hold artefacts from the ancient past, during times when Eberron was overrun by nightmares and demons, and even a mystery continent that is ever-changing and holds relics of the ancient giant empire. Many of the standard D&D races in Eberron have been altered slightly to fit. The elves are largely the same, but also there are a secluded nation of elves who worship their dead ancestors, many of whom still walk and hold council over their people, or another who raid sections of Khorvaire, as the shamanistic orcs try to hold them off. Gnomes are ace shipwright, halflings live a tribal life on grasslands that are rife with dinosaurs and hags and ogres maintain a savage, impoverished society where humans are subjugated.

So, over these last few years, the ideas of Eberron and Bas Lag (China MiƩville's setting), I've re-fluffed the races to suit the feel of the setting of Fold. So, with that in mind, what is the feel of Fold? There's a big emphasis on industrialisation and urbanisation, as well as a lot of influence drawn from mythology and folklore.

Humans: Well, what's to say? Humans are humans. They get everywhere, breed quickly and are impossible to get rid of!
Dwarves: They fit very easily into the setting. Industrious workers with a knack for stone and metal? Perfect.
Elves: Haughty and proud tree-huggers? Noble aristocrats? Savage hunters? Elves were tricky.
Gnomes: Sociable and magically-inclined? This seemed perfect, but I've had some trouble getting these guys right.
Halflings: Small and agile, halflings seem very fitted, but their fluff also has a lot tying them into a nomadic life, so these guys took a little working.
Orcs: I've gotten rid of 'mundane' half-breeds, so there are no half-orcs or half-elves. The orcs have become a prominent and populous race, though mostly through raiding and stealing the technology of other races for their own.
Goblins: Originally savage nuisances, I wondered how I could make them believable as a culture in such a setting. I'm pretty pleased with the results.
Warforged: An Eberron race; artificial lifeforms in constructed bodies, crafted for war. They fit the Eberron setting, what with its 'magitek' and recent 'world war'. But they also suited the flavour of my setting, and I've been working on making them similar to Eberron, but with a twist.

Each race will get a spotlight soon.

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