I’ve been brain storming about this setting, and I think I’m going to extend it into three or four parts. In this part, I was trying to come up with ways to incorporate the typical Dungeons and Dragons races into the setting. I could leave them out and make it very system neutral, but I had some neat ideas (in my own humble opinion), so I decided to make them their own separate post. If you want to use a system and make this setting human only beyond the nasties in the world, then simply leave this part out.
Let’s just jump right into it, shall we?
Ghartha, The Tomb-World II
The typical denizen of the city-states of Ghartha are human beings. Other races, however, are known, and some approach commonality. The opinion of non-humans (or sometimes referred to as demihumans) varies from city to city, but mistrust is quite common for various reasons depending on the race in question.
The dwarrow is the collective name of the dwarfs. In Ghartha, dwarfs are very secretive, and border on xenophobic. They’re dealings with the other races is almost exclusively through trade of items or knowledge. Dwarf knowledge is in particular highly valued, for they are famous for having an almost empathic link with stone itself.
Dwarrow society is based around clans, with many clans inhabiting a single known ‘kingdom’, which is similar in size to the human city-states, called Daelia. One of the most important parts of dwarrow society is the Stone Hymnal; their religion. The dwarrow believe that the very rock, stone, and earth is the body of the true god, who lies sleeping. They see themselves and other races as maggots and worms who exploit it for personal gain, and seek to become closer with the stone in order to divine the will of their sleeping god. The main way they attempt this is through the singing of the Hymnal in the main temple in Daelia.
The singing of the Hymnal is a constant singing and chanting from the Tome of the Stone, the holy book of the dwarrow. At all times, there are priests in the temple carrying the song, and throughout the day priests come and go about their business, but the hymn is always being sung. The hymn can be heard throughout the temple district, and has a calming and serious tone that can be calming or suffocating, depending on the person.
The dwarrow completely reject magic in any form beyond through the holy rites of their priests, which they say isn’t magic at all but the will of the sleeping god. Wizardry of any sort is banned within the halls of their home, and they mistrust and dislike magicians of other races intensely, for they believe that above all else magic is exploiting the natural energies of the sleeping god of stone. They also reject the use of magic items that weren’t created through the blessing of their priests, and will typically attempt to destroy any that come into their possession.
Not all dwarfs follow the beliefs and society of the dwarrow of Daelia, and some even leave to live in the city-states. Some do so to gain freedom from the complex traditions, still others leave because they practice magic and do not want to get punished. Often dwarfs who have left Daelia hire themselves out to help explore tunnels and ruins, having a knack for stonecraft.
Halflings in Ghartha are generally referred to as Mascedians, a title derived from an ancient word for slave. The entire race, according to their cultural lore, comes from a massive city that now lies dead somewhere in the places below. They were kept as slaves for nameless overlords. Nothing is mentioned of who these overlords were, or how they looked. All that is known is that both their power and evil were unfathomable. Many people believe the halflings were bred by these overlords from humans and also perhaps dwarfs. Whatever is the truth is shrouded in the mystery of the past.
Today, these halflings live on the fringes of human society, usually in the poorer sections of the city-states. They are very family oriented, but not unfriendly to strangers. Many become adventurers to try and make a quick fortune, for poverty seems to be rampant among halflings. A lot of them resent humans in power, for they feel they are being pressured to remain on the fringes, and no halfling has ever made it very far up any ladders of power.
They have their own dialect of the common tongue with a lot of words that seem almost nonsensical, which they claim comes from when they were slaves and had to speak in such a way to not be understood by the overlords. Many also seem to reject the religions of humans and instead are either atheistic or simply uncaring.
Elves are a very rare race, and their origin is the most mysterious of all. The name ‘elf’ is derived from an ancient word ‘eldst’, which means lost or wandering.
One thing is common of all elves: they awake as if from a dream wandering the dark tunnels and cavernous halls of Ghartha, not knowing who they are, or where they come from. Many times they are found by travelers. How many do not come across help, but rather wander out of their mind into some danger is not known.
The only memory many of them seem to have is a shard of a thought, almost like a dream from long ago, of waking in a place of glass and crystal. Shattered images of towers of clear crystal that glow a dull blue and green, of passing thousands of beds of glass upon which sleep pale skinned elves, of a city haunted with a deep feeling of sadness. Where this place is, or if it even exists, they do not know.
Elves cannot procreate, and have very long lifespans, so many find themselves wandering from city-state to city-state as loved ones and friends grow old and die. Always the haunted glowing city is at the back of their minds, and many elves dedicate their entire lives into finding information, any scrap of scroll or any strange relic that might point the way. Any such thing, however, if it exists, seems to not be known.
Gnomes are a rare race that live on the move. They are nomads, moving slowly upon their beloved orlabs in caravans between cities or ruins. They are known for their abilities of stealth and silence, and when trying to avoid the Maturka many adventurers find great help in hiring a gnome scout.
They are very spiritual, and seem to worship or at least pay attention to spirits that they say live in the stone. The leaders of their tribes are called Stone binders, who can communicate with these spirits through the use of ritual, meditation, and psychoactive herbs and mushrooms. It is rumored that very powerful stone binders can call the spirits out of the stone, as elementals. Others are said to be able to take the shape of animals. Such things have never been verified, however.
Gnomes have friendly dealings with the dwarrow, who respect them and feel that they are at least closer to the sleeping god than other races. They typically trade rare herbs, mushrooms, or artifacts found on their journeys. Due to their lives being on the move in the darkness between cities, their lives can be short and violent, but they typically feel the danger is worth not having to settle down.
Not all the typical core races of DnD were mentioned above. Here are just a few ideas for them if you want to allow players to use them:
Tieflings: This one is easy. Trafficking among dark powers is quite common, so a tiefling might be the result of a strange dark ritual, or the curse or price that a dark power requires.
Half-Orcs: You could fluff the Half-Orcs as half-maturka, making them more lizardish than orcish. They could be cast out from Maturka society, either because they do not want to slay one who is half their own, or even as a form of psychological torture on the races of the City-states. Either way they will be outcasts wherever they are, and are destined to live hard lives.
Other races could be added in easily as exotic denizens of the lost cities of Ghartha. Got any ideas? Post them in the comments! Maybe even come up with a race of your own!
(to be continued…)