Saving Princess Shamio
A basic overview of the races of this world and how they see each other.
Humans are the dominant people these days; most major cities are primarily populated by humans, and humans more-or-less control the world’s trade routes. In general, few intelligent races regard humans suspiciously, often treating them with at least cautious welcome. They’re considered, in general, to be mostly harmless.
The average human, in good health, can live for about 3/4 of a century, though some have been reported to reach much greater ages. They “come of age” in their early teens, taking up the crafts, apprenticeships, or roles in the family business that will become their careers, and often choosing a mate and establishing a family sometime between their 16th and 30th year.
In ages past, the elves commanded a world-spanning empire, and even now many places are called by their Old Elven names. Nowadays, elves are few and scarce among human-dominated settlements, preferring more secluded, wild lands. They see themselves as the Mother’s First Children, and strive to live as close to nature as possible; they are comfortable in a variety of environments, and can be found living off the land anywhere from icy mountains to thick forests to broad planes to the darkest depths of caves. In general, other races are awestruck by elves, regarding them with reverence and an fearful respect. They are seen as the epitome of grace and beauty, and it’s often said that any craft adopted by an elf will be made more finely with elven hands. They often regard other races suspiciously, and see them as lesser – mere mortals, made clumsy by the influence of death.
An elf will not die unless he is killed, though the longer an elf lives, the more ethereal he becomes. It is possible, over the course of many ages, for an elf to draw so much on the Mother’s power (by using natural magics and performing exceptional feats of grace) that he becomes fully one with Her, his separate body disintegrating and his consciousness dissolving into Hers. An elf is considered physically mature at age 20, and socially mature at age 100; most elven adventurers are in the “middling” period between these ages, where they are expected to get all the silliness and pettiness out of their systems before fully joining elven society as an adult. Most elves are fluid in their sexuality, especially as middlings. Because they live eternally, they find the idea of mating for life preposterous.
Occasionally, an elf will come down into human society and live a human-like lifetime, adopting a career and taking a mate. The children of such a union are raised as humanly as possible, though they’re regarded as uncommonly beautiful and are often a bit sharper than their strictly mortal peers. If they’re exposed to elven society, they’ll feel inferior, as they lack the absolute grace of the ancient race.
Half-elves are mortal, but long-lived; their age depends on how close to their mortal side they are, with half-elves that adopt very human habits (building, farming, arcane magic, etc.) rarely reaching six centuries, and those who behave more elvenly (engaging in natural magic, hunting, arts, etc.) often exceeding a millennium. Because they usually see themselves as “less than immortal,” they often adopt a philosophy of “The candle that burns down quickest also burns the most bright.”
More common are elf-blooded humans – mortal men and women who carry a lesser spark of the elves in their bloodline. These are often descended from half-elves who have taken humans for mates, though some of the oldest lines can be traced back to humans who were kept as “pets” in the Old Elven empire. An elf-blooded human will be exceptionally beautiful, but her ethereal grace will be more greatly diminished the more fully human she is. She would be regarded as simply a human among elves, though may be regarded as elven in human societies with little elven contact. Often, an elf will keep in contact with his human-blooded descendants even long after his original mate has passed on.
Dwarves as a whole are notoriously secretive, with very few outsiders ever welcomed into dwarven cities or strongholds. Their society is built on a structure of debt and favors, and information about families and trades is seen as the most valuable currency. Dwarves are cordial to other races but never too trusting, and other races generally regard them as friendly and well-meaning. In human-dominated environments, they’re seen as boisterous convivial, if somewhat mysterious. They’re greatly respected for their adeptness at crafting beautiful, intricate works from metal and stone.
Dwarves live, on average, for three to four centuries, though they reach physical maturity around their 25th year. A dwarf is confined to dwarven lands and expected to apprentice until he reaches the age of 50, at which point he is more free to travel and make connections outside of his clan.
Existing on the fringes of human society, hobbits are regarded with friendly suspicion at best and outright scorn at worst. They’re often cool and businesslike, but other races see them as shrewd and untrustworthy, some even going so far as to proclaim that all hobbits are greedy and thieves. There is a grain of truth to this stereotype, as the more selfish and conniving hobbits will use their natural adeptness at hiding and sneaking to act as thieves and pickpockets, or masquerade as children to deceive the “tallfolk.” Hobbits themselves see paramount importance in looking after themselves and their own, as often it feels like the whole world is out to step on them. They abhor the word “halfling,” and regard it as a racist slur; after all, they aren’t half of anything – they’re whole people themselves!
Hobbits live slightly longer than humans, the oldest reaching well into their second century. They mature at the same rate as humans, and are considered adults around the age of 20.
If anyone can slip (literally) beneath the notice of the taller races, it’s gnomes. While not as actively taciturn as dwarves, gnomes generally prefer to keep to themselves, preferring a quiet domestic life and scorning those who thirst for adventure and travel. They are skilled craftspeople, though because of their reservedness, their aptitude for crafting fine and complex devices that don’t rely on magic is little known. Most other races don’t have much of an opinion on gnomes; often, they don’t even notice they’re there.
Gnomes generally live close to three centuries. While they are considered physically mature by their late teens, they are treated as adolescent until closer to age 50, at which point they’re expected to start a family of their own. Before then, they are expected to remain close to their birth-family, and encouraged to pick up a craft to help contribute to their village. The rare adventuresome gnomes are usually in this adolescent stage, and are traveling in search of knowledge that can further their craft or help their families.
Wild and brutish, orcs live a primitive, naturalist lifestyle, preferring to hunt and gather rather than farm and build. Some tribes tend to resent other races for encroaching on “their” land, and see no problem running the weaker people out; others treat the more delicate races as friendly neighbors, often tolerating their company but rarely integrating with them. These opinions are reflected by other races with regard to orcs, some even going so far as to declare them animals, and not among the “speaking peoples” at all.
Orcs reach physical maturity around their first decade, and generally live for about half a century; they are expected to contribute as hunters or craftsmen as soon as they’re physically able, and play childhood games that mimic adult activities to prepare them for the real thing. Except for revered shamans, most orcs are killed in either hunting accidents or tribal warfare before they die of old age.
Rarely, a child will be born of “mixed spirits,” often as a product of rape when orcs raid a human settlement, or when humans provoke a tribe of orcs with whom they share the land. Half-orcs raised by their orcish parents will be seen as weak, and their lives will be made difficult from constant bullying; those raised by their human parents will be raised with quiet shame, and often treated as an abomination.
Even more rarely, a human and an orc will choose each other as mates, andn will live normally in one or the other’s settlement or tribe. Half-orc children raised in this environment will be treated like any other child in their society, though their parents may have to defend them (and themselves) from outsiders who would judge them harshly.
Half-orcs generally live about as long as humans, though they mature physically more quickly. They are often bigger and stronger than their human peers, but small and sigkly compared to full-blooded orcs.
The dragonborn are a proud people, and though they consider themselves ancient by including the lineage of true dragons in their own, as a separate race, they have existed for barely a few thousand years.
Perhaps the greatest catalyst for the fall of the Old Elven Empire was the involvement of dragons with the mortal races. As the might of the elves began to encroach on and threaten the dominion of dragons, many dragons in secret took in humans, dwarves, orcs, and occasionally members of the small races and taught them their ancient arcane magics. Now able to wield a mystic power to rival that of their divinely gifted masters, mortals revolted and rebelled until at last the Empire succumbed to their might and rage.
The first mortals to be taken in by dragons, meanwhile, sometimes saw their bodies corrupted by exposure to and adoption of raw draconic magic. They might sprout shining scales, or their faces might elongate into fearsome snouts, or they might find in their breath the power to expel elemental forces. Moreover, the children of these altered mages unfailingly carried on these traits, often even displaying them more strongly.
Feared and revered by mortals, and hated and hunted by elves, these dragon-formed mortals and their families took to banding close together, often keeping close to the remote territories of their draconic patrons. After a mere two or three generations, a consistent set of “dragonborn” traits began to breed true, and the race as we know it was established.
Dragonborn generally live for between 500 and 600 years before succumbing to old age, having inherited the longevity of their draconic ancestors. Though most often secretive and haughty, Dragonborn will occasionally come down from their illustrious remote villages into the lands of the more common races, where they will tend to behave boisterously and selfishly, with little regard for the laws and customs of their “lesser” mortal cousins. Nevertheless, the role of dragonborns in the toppling of the Old Empire has survived as legend, and mortal races tend to regard them with reverence and some fear, while elves meet them with scorn and hatred.