Tuesday, December 10, 2013

World Building with a List of Races: The Dominant Ones

Continuing on the setting creation kick from the previous post, I mentioned using the setup of rolling five times on a d100 to pick out that number of races from this list of races on a Paizo forum discussion: Worldbuilding Exercise - Get 5 Random Races, Build a Setting, Build a Setting. Mind went blank starring at the races that came up, I had trouble making anything of them with just a list of five names. I didn't put myself in the mindset of treating it as a simple exercise and indeed wanted something more elaborate. Also, the some of the races happened to be the weird ones from Wizard's later 3.5E output. I would have to reinterpret them.

For now the list consisted of:
* Ratfolk: Probably the most interesting choice. Also, a fan of the Nezumi/Ratlings from L5R/Rokugan.

* Darfellan (powerfully build, seafaring humanoids with the coloration of orcas): Never liked them even though I found Stormwrack useful. In my opinion they fall into the biggest misstep of race creation, the humanoid/anthropomorphic animal race. Yes, I find this worst than humans with pointy ears or forehead lumps. Plus they look silly, it's hard to pull off the black & white color scheme.

* Dragon-based Humanoid (Wildcard, make your own): So these aren't Dragonborn, which are a separate entry (and partly why the draconic races appear so often in my rolling frenzy, they had two related entries which I conflated together).

* Illumian (human-like beings infused with sorcery with glowing sigils floating around their heads): Another weird one from Wizards, this time from Races of Destiny. This one is going to take some work.

* Dwarf: Simple enough of a start, perhaps even a bit too standard compared to the others.

Since I had the list and the dice roller up, they were handy tools to keep the momentum going. Refusing to settle with the first batch fated to me by the dice gods (what a cheat I am), I opted for a "best 2 of 3 mentality". The rule was the first five races to make it to three repeats become the power players of the setting, those with the dominant empires and most prevalent populations. This took many rolls and by the time I reached five dominant races, I had a handful of secondaries with two appearances or three if I considered similar races together. More rolls later I finished up and had a rough narrative of who's who based on who came up more often, when they arrived, who dropped out, and combining similar races together as offshoots, subraces, or successors. Much of it was arbitrary and spontaneous based on the scant information interpreted from the rolls, but as the web of connections grew, richer details and conflicts emerged.

At this point, of the original five races, three emerged firmly as dominant races while the other two were close runner-ups. Interesting interactions arose due to the order they appeared in the rolls. I decided to enshrine the original 5 as major movers & shakers of the setting, either currently or in the past, regardless of their present status.

The total result formed into this:

***The Dominant***
- Dwarves: The primary power of the setting, they are an ancient races who dwelt upon the world since the first of days and their influence has scarcely waned in that time. Their culture and civilization is older than most races have been active. Since they appeared four times in the Grand Roll before most races could get to two, "At the Four Corners of the earth" is a common phrase used to describe the staunch ubiquity of the dwarves. Duergar are also present in significant number.

- "Orcs": Actually Darfellan, but orcs and half-orcs came up more often after Darfellan peaked. Combining the concepts yields semi-aquatic orcs who are mighty seaborne raiders, activity which fuels their founding of sprawling and rowdy coastal and islandic empires. They are a weathered, hardy race whose fortune rises and ebbs like the tide. They have a longstanding rivalry with the dwarves and the ratfolk. Given their influence, half-orcs are not uncommon and act as intermediaries with humans and other races.

PFRPG, Paizo
- Humans: Actually Illumians, but after an early peak, Illumians never recurred in the Grand Roll where as humans did. They were the powerful Sigil-marked Ancients (now grown rare and reclusive) who gave way or degenerated into common humans. Humans took 13 sets to appear, the number may hold significance for the humans and their 'Sigilim' predecessors.

- Strix (dark winged humanoids with avian features): Counting their counterparts the harpies and their distant cousins the tengu they are even more prolific than they first appear. The avian races have always been a part of the world, but rose later than the others. For a time they were vassals or subjects but in the last few centuries their presence as equals to the other dominant races is unquestioned. The strix are mysterious and ambitious and have the tendency to walk alternative (some say dark) paths to achieve their goals. The harpies, possibly the same race, presents a more loquacious and familiar face in their interactions with the other races, but where as the strix have courtesy of offing you quietly and quickly in your sleep, the harpies are cruel fury incarnate when they require.

- "Wood Fey": Actually Treants, but after making the list they disappeared while Dryads, Elves and Uldra each appeared more often. To keep with the treant theme, might aim more for a plant-based humanoid (another choice that came up several times). This is the race requiring the most defining and elements might click into place as the other races are developed further.

Next will be the secondary races, those who don't quite have the continent-spanning influence of the dominants, but not due to being inactive. Indeed we'll see a few of the original races refuse to fade quietly into the annals of history and give the dominants a run for all they're worth.

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