The Races in Kirth
The races in Kirth have come together in a few ways, the transportation that magic allows, and the readiness with which they adventure allowing for a certain amount of cultural exchange. Fringe cultures with different languages and gods do pop up occasionally, but in general, humans long ago created a patchwork culture and witnessed their gods grow together into a common core pantheon with thousands of small gods on the peripherals, as have the elves and orcs. Halflings, a race which was relatively non-religious until a few that would become hero-saints were swept up in the events of history, had a common religion from it’s first days.
All the same, there are cultural differences across the 8 inhabited continents of Kirth. Though the major inhabitants of Betracht are ancient wild elves, and the ever more ancient beholders, there are human, gnomish, halfling and even dwarf inhabitants in scattered tribes throughout the ever-darkened forests, and the dry continent of Liuwe has it’s share of wood elves, humans and deep halflings that the downder elves and lightfoot and deep halflings must occasionally contend with.
The humans are an industrious people, striving to live and grow and improve. They consider themselves to be self-made people, teaching themselves and living on their own worth. They, even more than gnomes, have a strong experimental streak. They do tend to adventure only rarely, given that many of them are quite content to make a quiet living, or tend to their own affairs in their own cities and homes. It is thought that it was a human who codified the astrology of Kirth.
They have a strong tendency to neutrality, and when they do produce adventurers, those people are often bards, monks, rogues or wizards.
Dwarves are an exceedingly traditionally minded people, slow to change, and patient to a fault, so long as everything is going the way they think it should. They have an inordinate fondness for gold and gems, digging deep into the desert and mountains for such treasures. They are not exactly religious, instead performing a form of ancestor worship which is fueled by the ability of many dwarves to talk to deceased ancestors and expect an actual ancestor at any given time. It is believed that a dwarf was the first to divine through stone casting.
Dwarves are usually lawful, and produce a surprising number of adventurers for such a tradition-bound race, usually members who do not fit into the traditions, who nonetheless are often clerics, monks, rangers or rogues.
The elves are a race descended from true fae. They live deep in densely foliated environments, such as forests and jungles. Elves are capricious and playful, even mischievous, especially towards outsiders. Their gods are almost entirely powerful fae, and are much more frequently neutral or evil than good. Elven settlements often have callous, bizarre laws, such as stating that taking food proffered by a merchant is to be punished with “Anti-exile,” where in the person is made a member of the community and not allowed to leave. Elves possess a deep wanderlust, even compared to modern halflings, and almost every single one could be counted as an adventurer.
The almost entirely chaotic elven race produces many barbarians, bards, druids, rangers and sorcerers.
Gnomes are a people who are known for good humour, a love for gems that is second only to that of dwarves, and a talent for illusion magic and alchemy. As one might expect, the home of a gnome is almost unfailingly furnished with illusions and kept clean through prestidigitation or special alchemical products. At the same time, if the illusions and opulence is striped away, one will often find at least one surface covered in the stains, scratches and scorch marks that are a trademark of accident prone alchemists. Gnomes are a very curious, exploratory people, and more than one has wound up a bird feeder in his own yard after deciding to look into strange eggs they found (or creating strange eggs as the case may be).
The gnome race tends towards the freedom of chaos and produces many bards and wizards, but also a number of craftsmen.
Take a race known for experimentation and a surprising ability to find beauty in anything, and a race of charming, long-lived, capricious, adventurers, and put them within five miles of each other. Eventually, a few dozen of each will start going off in twos, threes, or even larger groups and nature will take it’s course. From this comes the half-elf. They either grow up with a parent whose mental adventurousness isn’t enough to nourish the child’s physical adventurousness, or a parent who is quickly bored and soon relies on the community at large to raise the young child. Either way, all to often half elves know one parent only in the loosest of terms, and the other not at all. Following this, many half-elves are distant, and have serious trust and commitment issues to match a chip on their shoulder the size of Eingeweih, and a short temper that is only mollified by a hereditary short attention span.
Whether the result of the brutal spoils of war, the mingling of two races in a rare moment of peace, or the aforementioned human ability to find beauty in anything, half-orcs often grow up even more frustrated than half-elves. While half-elves are only unable to connect with their parents due to personality conflicts, half-orcs all too frequently mentally outshine one parent, and feel they can never measure up to the other. This is soon mingled with an exclusion from their peers, as they are either too weak and intelligent, and thus loathed and feared, to join their orcish kin, or too ugly and dumb, and thus found laughable, to join their human kin. This leads to a person who knows how to survive when the whole world is against them, but not entirely certain how to respond when they are actually welcomed. They are adept at social manipulation, but not social interaction.
Halflings were once a peaceful, unambitious race, content to farm, smoke their pipes, make mead and let the world move around them and their quiet homes. Then, the enigmatic mage now know only Gorthaur, raised an army of orcs and goblins and other fell beasts. An artifact of great power, sought by Gorthaur’s hordes, fell into the hands of a halfling, and the wizard Falndag called upon him to destroy it. As the halfling and his friends journeyed, they were joined by other heroes, even as some were lost covering retreats, or were tempted by the power of the artifact. Those halflings found a bravery and wanderlust they had never known, and tales of their journey quickly spread.
Then, as they neared the nexus of great power that alone could destroy the artifact, the power reached out to them, using them as a conduit for their entire race. The adventurous spirit that had laid dormant in halflings was awakened. They grew weary of their plowshares and hill dens. The easy existence, full of assured meals and drinks, never having to worry, grew tiresome, and young halflings began to leave home, seeking their own adventures. Some slew dragons, others forged their own mighty artifacts, and others still left lasting impressions on the very land itself, and with each halfling’s accomplishment, the race as a whole awakened, blinking in the harsh light of the calling to do something important.
Halfling Lands: There are still halfling lands, for the race is quite long lived, and a life of wandering and peril does not suit all. Their lands are usually found in rolling hills, each hill being home to as many as three or four halfling families, and their gardens sprawl over the crests of the hills. Their small stature makes crops go remarkably far, and thus they can support large communities on only a few acres of land.
These lands are not quite as peaceful as they once were, however. As the small race has found destiny, so has destiny found them. It is not uncommon for monsters to wander into halfling communities, forcing the people to fight them off, or, failing that, raise or hire a party of adventurers to deal with it.
The orcs were feral, subterranean, nocturnal predators when the elves were arboreal, diurnal, eusocial prey animals that lived on insects and plants. The orcish mind isn’t stupid, it’s just slightly bestial, which many humanoids regretably consider the same thing. To the orcs, there is nothing wrong with tearing into a freshly caught, still kicking rabbit without it even touching a cooking pit, raising their children in pods of minimally supervised peers from the entire tribe, or rutting in the open beside the fire at which others tell stories, clean blades, or tear into freshly caught lagomorphs. They even see no problem in thinning the weak and sickly of their own tribe through brutal games and cannibalism (though they do have a keen awareness of what diseases are transmittable and how, and take proper precautions).
Even more than the elves, every single orc is an adventurer, and many are, at least functionally, evil. The simple fact is that there is no such thing as an orc who does not know how to kill by the time it’s four years old. Almost every orc by the age of five has had to do so to stave off starvation. By the age six, most have killed simply because there was something they wanted. Orcs do try to teach their kits to share, however, if only because killing a fellow for a warm blanket causes needless attrition in the combat ready force that is the orcish race.
The orcish people possess a stange inherent magic that many think is a simple cultural custom. If one knows how, they can find the nature of an orc written on it’s skin. What appears to be a series of scars and intricate tattooing is in fact an entirely natural phenomenon that only the rarest of orcs do not experience by the age of eight. Around the time of physical maturity, many orcs will experience a life defining event. They will either perform a great deed, or find within themselves a defining characteristic. As the events transpire, markings will appear on their skin, through colouration and raising or lowering of the flesh, forming a pictographic glyph representative of the task. The meanings of these markings are written on the orc race as a whole, and two orcs can get a good idea of each others’ deeds or talents even if they come from completely different continents, simply by studying the markings.
Orcs are commonly evil, and they produce many barbarians, rangers and fighters.