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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Denizens of Finiens: Elves

At Finiens's dawn, after the Lost War, there were no Elves.

The Aspects forged the first races from the dust of the earth after the Schism, but long, long predating them, eons so in fact, the Elves came to be. There is no recording where they began, save to assume they were born at the beginning of creation. For at that time, the Elves were among the greatest of the Fey, and once ruled as a Court of their own in the realm of FaeReie, dwelling in the Infinite Forest of Sentara, which has existed since time began.

Most Elves do not call themselves "Elves", even amongst other races. Rather, they call themselves tuatha dé Danann, "the children of the Grand Queen Danu". In their height, the tuatha were among the greatest of the Fey Courts, and their queen Danu as mighty as her counterparts - Ophelia, queen of Winter; Miranda, queen of Summer; and Cernunnos, lord of the Wyld. The name "Elves" was concocted by the first mortal creatures to encounter the tuatha, the Kobolds; the name was initially rejected, but when the weaker, devolved, mortal members of their race began to appear in greater and greater numbers, the dwindling number of remaining true tuatha assigned this title to them.

Little is known of what exactly occurred with the tuatha in the end, or why they were cast from FaeReie. There is no written record of it - at least available to outsiders - and the Elves refuse to speak of it. Several theories have been presented though. Some say Danu managed to anger Miranda and Ophelia enough that Summer and Winter united against her. Some say that when the time came for the Queens of FaeReie to abdicate to their successors, as Miranda did to her daughter Titania and Ophelia to her daughter Mab, Danu refused to yield her throne to her own heir, Amaerallae, who later perished then was elevated to a position among the Avatars. Some say she and her people were defeated in a grand battle by their ancient enemies, the Fomor, who now stalk the dark pathways, deep seas, and endless voids between worlds in FaeReie. And some say the tuatha – or perhaps just a small faction within their number – had attempted to make contact with their predecessors in exile, the banished Lost Court of The World's Shadow, for either power and alliance or in a misguided attempt at redemption.

Whatever the cause, the tuatha were driven, all but a very few who were swiftly integrated into the other courts, onto Finiens from their homeland. Across the border of the Between, their grand forest of Sentara was shunted into the woodlands of eastern Stormwind. Cut off from the life of their homeland, the ravages of time took their toll on the tuatha, stripping their timeless nature down to a dreadfully-short (for them, though immensely long to most of Finiens's other denizens) mortality. In time, all that remained – save a dwindling few exceptions – were the Elves known today. They are now a race in decline, looking back on the eons of their once-ascended status, an ancient, wizened, and learned people watching over a world filled with young, growing, rising cultures.

They are not, however, a people who have given up. Even in their new, lowly status, the Elves have sworn to retain or regain prominence, if not in their original home then in this new realm in which they now must reside in exile. Sentara, cut off from FaeReie and exiled with its masters, now exists in seclusion deep within the woodlands of northern Stormwind, preserving Elven culture and, if rumor and legend be true, housing Danu herself - still alive, still possessed of some or all of her once-Queenly power and majesty, or so the few remaining tuatha claim - at its deepest heart, the hidden city of Abartach. Other clans, separated by the ravages of time, nature, and the Children of Perdition, roam strange new lands. A tribal sect of their kind, the Painted Elves, live a nomadic life in the sands of Denvushain, having once raised a sand kingdom of their own in times past, only for it to fade into dust like the Leoni before it, and many of their people are prominent and influential in the mingled-race regency that followed. To the north, in the evergreen Frozen Forest of the eastern Ice Claw, live the Frost Elves in their magnificent cities of ice and crystal glass.

Elves are, despite their troubles, an adaptive species. Though they strongly prefer the woodlands of their ancient home, Elves are capable of surviving in nearly any climate, and their fey nature allows them to adapt in more ways than one to the region they make their home in as short a time as a few decades, manifesting most noticeably in a change of their overall physical coloration. An Elf who dwells in woodlands or temperate plains will usually have skin the hue of pale wood and hair of earthy brown, gold, or green; however, should she relocate to a warm, dry region, her skin will darken, taking on the browns or reds of the Painted Elves, while her hair darkens to red, black, or rocky brown-grey. An Elf in tundra's skin turns pale, almost snow-white, and their hair becomes white-blonde, silver, grey, or one of many shades of blue. An island-dwelling Elf gains bronze skin and metallic brass or golden or pale green hair. Though exceptionally rare, Elves who choose to dwell in subterranean environs – within caverns, tunnels, mines, or other such underground demesnes – take on gemstone hues, obsidian-dark skin and pale hair in diamond white, topaz blonde, or ruby red. This metamorphosis is more than just changes of shade, however; their physique and physiology changes just as swiftly, adjusting their biology, their muscle mass, and their internal processes to best survive in whatever climate they find themselves in. The change is slow enough that sudden extremes can still drive an Elf to danger from exposure, so this ability is hardly protection against the fury of the elements, and more a simple biological imperative for comfort wherever an Elf chooses (or is forced) to reside.

Not all Elves have been willing to accept their exile and look to the future of their people, however. History reports at least one large segment of Sentara's population attempted to return to FaeReie, whether to reclaim their place as the tuatha or to carve out new lives for themselves in the land of wonders, or for reasons at which scholars – Elven and otherwise – can only guess. FaeReie, however, remembered their crimes in times past and executed swift judgement upon the infiltrators. These Elves were twisted, changed and malformed, many taking on alien or monstrous traits and scattering to the wilds, driven mad or horrified into seclusion by their new shapes. A large number of these wanderers, however, escaped with only minor and surprisingly consistent transformations: their forearms and lower legs transmuted into avian talons, birdlike wings grown from their backs, and their eyes enhanced to the precise vision of a raptor. These avianized Elves were then cast out of FaeReie en-masse, far from their homeland in Sentara, across the sea in Wachara in the mountains and forests of its southwestern lands. This new cousin-race of Elf-kind named themselves the Ael-Vari, and settled in the lands that would one day become the empire of Divus, where they crafted a new life and culture for themselves.

As for the Elves, other than occasional conflicts with neighboring Humans, Orcs, and Yuan-Ti, they have continued on their reclusive way and little more of their culture – what is left of it – has changed in the centuries since. And interacting with these species has led to encounters both hostile and friendly... and in some cases, more than friendly. Elves are capable of interbreeding with almost any other species whose physique is relatively similar to their own. This includes all three of the previously-mentioned species, Ael, the other races of the nagastrani – the original Naga and the cousin-races of the Yuan-Ti, the Rilkans and the Skarn – and even certain Goblinoid races, as well as fellow Material-dwelling feykin, such as the Glaistigs and Leanaí-Dubh. With the fey races and their Ael cousins, the offspring are usually full-blooded members of the mother's species, though sometimes bearing a few unusual traits of the father's; the exception to this rule is Ael, where the child of an Elven mother and Ael father will simply miscarry, while the inverse will produce a normal Ael egg. With the mortal races, however, the result is a blend of the races, a Half-Elf with traits of the other species. By and far, the most common Half-Elves are Half-Human; however Half-Orc and Half-Nagastrani (of at least three of the four subspecies) Half-Elves have been recorded. The Elves' fey nature is considered universally to blame, as many of these other species are not otherwise genetically compatible with one another without the aid of powerful magic.

Perhaps interestingly, Elves do not seem to be able to produce Half-Elves with Leoni, Fenrin, Gnolls, Ti'Larinn or other races of Lizardfolk, Tengu, or Children of Arachne, despite their basic humanoid shapes (or, in the case of Arachnes, their ability to transform into Human shape). And, like all other races, they are incapable of intimately interacting with Entomorphs due to their incompatible insectoid physiology. Half-Elves of all sorts will be elaborated on further in the future.

There is one further blight that has plagued their people in the time since their exile. Ever since their arrival on Finiens, a strange plague has tormented the Elven people. Its cause is unknown, its symptoms difficult to discern, and its cure nonexistent, at least for now. It has many names, the most common among them including "Cruel Madness", "The Lurking Traitor", and "Soul Plague"; however, by and far the most well-known epithet is "The Shadow Curse".

The most sinister effect of the Shadow Curse is its lack of visible symptoms. An infected or even simply carrying Elf displays no physical alterations, no visible deformities or mutations, and for all intents and purposes functions perfectly normally, save except the immense blessing that once the disease has taken root, its host is rendered completely infertile. There is no traditional illness, weakness, bodily malfunctions, or other traditional symptoms. The malady is, rather, nearly entirely mental. Over a course of time, from as quick as a few weeks to as long as several decades, the Elf undergoes a steady decay of their mental state, invariably beginning with their morality. Even the most goodhearted specimen will, within a short time after the infection takes root, turn into a psychopathic monster. Sadly, it is much, much later in the progress of the disease before logic, reasoning, planning, and other forms of mental aptitude are harmed, meaning that the Cursed Elf will have quite a long time to make use of their defunct moral compass while having full capacity of almost all their mental and physical capabilities. Cursed Elves, often operating incognito and keeping themselves well-hidden, as if aware that letting their Cursed state be discovered will put an end to their crime spree, proceed to do two things with their newfound state: cause as much chaos, harm, and sadness to Elven society (or, if incapable of that due to location or other situations, whichever civilization they find themselves in), and infect at least one other Elf or Elf-kin with the disease before they are noticed and neutralized.

Cursed Elves have no culture, no society, no hierarchy of their own. They are a feral, insane, chaotic subspecies, exemplifying the worst of disorder and disharmony, and are devoted to nothing but their own individual amoral id – there is no cult, no organization, no religion, and no unifying goal behind their actions. When they deign to work together, it is only under the mutual, innate understanding that at some point when it is convenient there will be backstabbing, and the self-confidence that each individual has the skill, intelligence, and remaining mental faculties to be the one to make the first move or to fend off the attack when it comes. The only positive note is that the disease strips fertility from the Elf at approximately the same time it destroys their morality, preventing Cursed Elves from creating progeny born with the infestation in their veins. In addition, Elven clerics have confirmed that something inherent in the Curse severs a portion of the soul from the body, allowing the immortal remnant of a Cursed Elf to pass on to an afterlife due its prior behavior and not damned by the immoral activity caused by the ravages of the Curse. It is, perhaps, this severing that causes the Curse to be incurable: all that remains of the person that Elf once was is its body, leaving nothing of its prior self to be truly restored. Resurrection and similar spells have variable chances of restoring the original personality after death, but many Elves are loathe to risk exposure to the Curse, even to restore a loved one lost to the plague of insanity.

The origin (and purpose, assuming there is one) of the Shadow Curse is unknown, though there are a few theories, mostly tying into the mysterious reason behind the exile of the tuatha in the first place. It could have been a plague used as a weapon in the war with the Fomor, a punishment crafted by the other Queens of FaeReie, or a side-effect of the illicit dealings with the Lost Court. Others theorize that due to the fey nature of the Elves, this is simply a reaction of being forced to adapt to living on Finiens, a biological immune-reaction of the Elves to their new environment, or of Finiens itself to the large-scale "invasion" of a fey species. However, this theory begs the question of why other fey and feykin creatures who have immigrated to Finiens, such as Gnomes, Glaistigs, and Leanaí-Dubh, do not suffer the effects of the Shadow Curse while Elves, Half-Elves (of all kinds), and Ael-Vari do. Interestingly, it is a closely-guarded secret whether a full tuatha can contract the Shadow Curse, or what would become of them if they did.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

So Yeah, I've Been Gone

From March to May without an update, not exactly the best track record here. So here's a quick update on what's been keeping me busy and preventing more updates.

Late March and April I mainly blame work. Things got very busy and, despite our mandatory overtime normally ending sometime in February at the latest, we got thrown into a very busy end-of-first quarter and had to spend a lot of extra hours working. Since I was also back to running my group's Kingmaker game and playing in our Monday night Council of Thieves (then later, Rise of the Runelords, as CoT went on hiatus, and soon to be taking a break from that and jumping into Age of Worms) game, the sudden time crunch was not exactly generous. Given the option between working on worldbuilding or working on prep for the game that week, the latter obviously took precedence.

That's not a full accounting, admittedly, but it's the majority of reason for the initial slowdown. My PbP games on Paizo and my general web presence declined as well, overall, for a variety of reasons. Worldbuilding isn't the only thing that's suffered - I have a handful of other writing projects, not connected to Finiens or other works, that I've had the desire but lacked the time or motivation to work on.

Overtime slacked up again and we went back to normal schedule in mid-April, but it was about that time that my health took a turn for the worse. Thankfully said turn was only relatively minor, all things considered, but it was an interference in my writing. A bad sinus infection hit me in the middle of the month, followed by a second just as that one was starting to clear out. Thankfully the treatment for the second held better, and I haven't gotten that particular illness again yet, though a new long-term allergy medication may be more responsible for that level of persistent health as well. Then however was my latest visit, about two weeks ago now, for a bad spell of vertigo. In addition to possible inner-ear damage from the two infections, my blood pressure was apparently way up, which forced me onto a diet change and yet more medication, which put me out of commission for anything involving intensive physical or mental work for a while, until I adjusted.

Then my grandfather passed away last Tuesday, and my family rushed down to Texas for the funeral and to help settle his estate. So while my health has improved greatly, the past week I've been an emotional wreck instead. Combined with the travel time itself, I've been in no shape to do any writing until today.

Thankfully, the chaos seems to be about over. I've got the next week off work, before I'll be headed back to Tennessee at the end of the week and resuming work next Monday. Since my head and my health seem to be settled now, that's a fair bit of time I'm hoping to fill with getting some writing done, and among that more worldbuilding. With the completion of the articles on Dwarves, the races of Paziou are finished; we'll be moving to the continent of Stormwind next, home of the fey Elves, the bold Orcs, the inventive Kobolds, the resolute Glaistigs, and the vagrant Leoni.

So yeah, that's what's been going on here. Hopefully further delays, if there are any, will be relatively short. Glad to be back.

Orthos's Observations: Dwarves

So yeah, Dwarves.

Dwarves always seem to be one of the greatest challenges of worldbuilding. The image of the stereotypical dwarf - short, stocky, bearded, Scottish, underground-dwelling, miners and craftsmen, armed with an axe if he’s fighting or a pick if he’s not (or sometimes if he is, depending on setting), fond of drinking, fond of fighting, fond of working, strenuously lawful, somewhat xenophobic, and staunch enemy of elves, orcs, goblins, and giants - is immensely, incredibly pervasive. To a one, I cannot think of more than a single exception to this characterization in every single campaign setting I’ve read about or played in. Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Golarion… all the Dwarves are the same. You could quite literally pull one out of one setting and drop them in another, and they’d fit in near-perfectly, or at least to the point where nobody would notice the difference. The one exception I’ve seen is Eberron - having never played it, I’m just going by hearsay here, but from what I’ve heard and read Eberron Dwarves are basically the racial stereotype of the Greedy Jewish Businessman. They’re running all the major businesses, running society a little behind the scenes, and profiting grandiosely off everyone else because there’s no way you can do any respectable amount of business without dealing with them. And since that’s apparently a racist depiction, let’s not delve too deeply into that. Like I said, I don’t know much about Eberron anyway.

So. You basically come down to three core concepts that Dwarfdom is tied up into in nearly every setting: they mine, they drink, and they fight. And nearly every single depiction of them uses these. Drift away from them, and their fans will complain you’ve changed them too much; change them enough to satisfy the people who don’t like Dwarves in the first place, and you have something that’s so different from the “standard” Dwarf that it might as well not be a Dwarf at all, both fans and detractors will say.

Normally, I wouldn’t give two beans what the Dwarf dislikers have to say about them in this particular context. Most people who don’t like Dwarves tend to be Elf fans, and I personally do not much care for Elves, so maybe that’s why I’m a Dwarf fan, more than anything intrinsic to the race itself. I do find them interesting, even at their most stereotypical, and I find them just plain fun. So why change them at all? I already enjoy them as-is, most people who would play one already enjoy them as-is, and despite the complaint that they’re very samey from setting to setting, there’s clearly success in keeping them the way everyone expects them to be. Why change it if it works?

I’ll admit, the reason’s a little flimsy, and very personally biased. It’s because there’s another race in Finiens that fits into the underground-dwelling, mining-and-craftsmanship niche - the Kobolds. And I really like Kobolds. They’re one of my favorite “monster races”, they’re the eternal underdog, I love their racial connection to Dragons, and I just plain think they’re cool. But put them as a major, “core” race in the same setting where you have underground-dwelling, mining-and-craftsmanship Dwarves, and you end up with two races whose racial niche is to do the same thing.

In standard D&D/Pathfinder/etc., it works out because Kobolds are not a core race. They’re a monstrous species, usually Evil-aligned, not usually a PC race, and if there IS a PC Kobold they’re somehow, one way or another, an exception to the rule. (They’re also typically low-level cannon fodder, but as any of us can probably tell you, they can be more than that. Huzzah for Tucker’s Kobolds and for the “advances by character level” tagline.) So Kobolds and Dwarves can hold the same niche because it’s implied they’re competitors, with the Dwarves on the good/PC side and the Kobolds on the evil/NPC side.

That’s not the case in Finiens. Kobolds are not a “usually Evil” race (Finiens Kobolds are typically Lawful Neutral, as I’ll explain when I get to the detailed elaboration on Kobolds) and they’re one of the core races of the setting, extremely widespread - even more so than Humans - and highly respected by nearly all countries and cultures for their craftsmanship. That’s the niche I wanted for them, and it was fairly imperative that I find a way to not have to share that with the Dwarves.

But that’s only one out of three. Dwarves are miners/crafters, drinkers, and fighters. Remove just the one and you still have the majority of what a stereotypical Dwarf is. So what other culture or archetype regularly gets drunk and starts fights?

Well, how about pirates?

Once that clicked, everything else came naturally. The Dwarves as a (possible) slave race in the Age of Ancient Magic was just logical - Finiens Halflings share the Human subtype, and are in many ways a subrace of Humanity, but Dwarves are strongly different from both; since they share a homeland, it seems that it would be inevitable that the other two races would gang up on the lone Dwarves, and their physiques and statistics make them excellent laborers. And when everything came crashing down, it was the Dwarves who had spent the last who-knows-how-many years working, serving, creating, building, and otherwise learning the skills they’d need to become the leaders of the resulting exodus. Combined with their longevity, it seemed inevitable - without the system to hold them in slavery, they were free to lead the charge into the unexplored world, and once they’d tasted that freedom, there was no turning back.

As a result, another Dwarven stereotype - their strong ties to Lawful alignments, rarely moving, and obsessive care for family and home - were either removed or put slightly off-kilter. Dwarves in Finiens are usually Chaotic, befitting of a freedom-loving anti-authoritarian society just on a eons-long high of escape from slavery, but they hold to a lot of Lawful traits. Family is still held in great esteem, but it’s taken less literally. Now Family is practically synonymous with Crew, regardless of actual connections of blood - and in some cases, even Race. Loyalty is less tied to personal or clan honor, and more to the hierarchy of a ship and the respect due a Captain. Dwarves travel all over the place, but at the same time they are strongly tied to their homes - it’s just that now that their home is a ship, they can take it with them wherever they go, rather than being bound to a single physical location.

And besides, pirates are cool! Can you think of any other setting that has a race whose culture and history are built around being ocean-bound? The only things that come to mind are actual underwater settings like Alluria Publishing’s Cerulean Seas. So many adventures take place almost exclusively on land, generally deep in the land’s interior, with only rare campaigns whose entire plot revolves around oceans - things like Paizo’s Savage Tide and Skulls and Shackles, or Nick Logue’s Razor Coast - ever break that mold. So I suppose I can see why it’s rare - in a lot of ways it’s impractical. It’d be tough to have a race like Finiens’s Dwarves and justify why they’d ever spend enough time on land to participate in a full-length campaign.

In this case however, I think cool factor and the opportunity to take Dwarves, one of my favorite core races, in a completely new direction without changing them to the point of being unrecognizable outweighs that restriction. You might not see a huge amount of PC Dwarves in Finiens campaigns, but the ones where they’re fitting, I’m fairly certain they’ll stand out. I’ll be able to get back to you in more detail on that when I actually run Savage Tide (again) in a couple of years.

And also:
And if you get that reference, consider yourself about 100% more awesome.

Denizens of Finiens: Dwarves

Like the Humans and Halflings, the Dwarves had their origins in the dark and ancient continent of Paziou, amidst the jungles and mountains and long-lost civilizations of prehistory. And even from those earliest eons, they were strange, stuck out from the norm, and somehow did not quite fit with their cousins in land. Dwarves were decidedly different in so very many ways from their neighbors. Taller than Halflings but shorter than Humans, yet they were clearly not of the same blood, the same kin. Magic treated them differently than it did the other two species - in fact, dwarves were greatly notable for the reduced effects many types of magic had upon them. They lived long, much longer than either other race, but reproduced very slowly, keeping their numbers limited. Powerfully built, their stocky frames and low height made them slow movers but capable of bearing great burdens… a fact that, or so it is theorized, did not go unnoticed by the powers that were in those ancient lands. It is suggested that in the Age of Ancient Magic, when Humans were clearly the ruling power and Halflings likely a broad citizenry, the Dwarves may have once been a servant caste or slave race. It would certainly explain many things, among them the great care and value placed upon freedom and liberty by the Dwarven culture of the modern day.

Despite - or perhaps because of - the likelihood of their subjugated status in ancient Pazioun civilization, the Dwarves are responsible for the vast majority of The Scattering that followed. When the Age of Ancient Magic came to an end, the Dwarves led the withdrawal, moving in droves out from Paziou’s heart toward its coasts, with the Humans and Halflings following behind. They made their way to the extreme ends of the continent, and when the oceans prevented them from moving further, they set to work. Clearly their prior occupation or culture had produced a great number of capable craftsmen, as Dwarven ingenuity and invention was responsible for the entirety of sea travel for many, many years. Dwarven ships were crafted, crews assembled, and - armed with nothing more than their own bravery - sent into the uncharted blue.

Dwarven culture took to the sea as swiftly as the fish that swam below them. Here, out in the endless ocean, something took hold of their people that had been missing for generations upon generations of life on land. When the first ships made their returns to Paziou, speaking of far-off lands, bizarre creatures, strange weather, and all the ocean’s wonders, more ships were built, more crew welcomed aboard, and passengers - Humans and Halflings seeking lives in far-off regions - taken on; yet when their destinations were reached, the passengers would disembark but the vast majority of Dwarves were content to remain, seeing no gain nor pleasure to be had setting foot on dry land again. Here, the only land they needed was the wood beneath their feet, the rocking ocean their horizon and the salty air their lifeblood. Aegir, Father Sea, had been found by his long-lost children, or so the Dwarves claimed, and now that they were home they would never leave.

And why should they? While the other races squabble and battle and die over chunks of land, Dwarven territory was unlimited. Wherever the ocean rolled, Dwarven land would be. Who could seize the sea? Who could strike claim on the ocean? Who could tame the tide? So long as water flowed free, so too would the Dwarves, until the depths ran dry.

Ever since, Dwarven life, culture, pleasure, and labor have been inextricably tied to the ocean. Many Dwarves are born, live their long lives, and die without ever setting foot on dry land (perhaps discounting the occasional island, which most Dwarves consider “not DRY land” and thus merely a rocky portion of the sea), the waves rocking their cradle as a child and welcoming them into Father’s embrace when they die. Those few who do spend time on land usually only do so as part of taking stock, resources, supplies, or cargo for their next journey into the boundless blue. Dwarves are sailors of all stripes, from merchants to nautical soldiers to pirates. Their loyalty is to captain alone, and the crew is as much clan as comrades - often a captain is an elder of the family, a powerful matriarch or patriarch whose kin and offspring serve as the majority of their crew, and it is not unusual for newlywed dwarves to select a handful of choice siblings and cousins to establish a new crew on a new ship shortly after vows are shared.

Dwarven control of the world’s waters is not uncontested, however. The Tengu and the Rilkans of Senkaku both host a capable seafaring culture of their own. The Tengu are, by and large, noble privateers and merchant-knights under the authority of the Naga, protecting the waters around the Senkaku Archipelago and the trade routes by which their neighbors make way to distant “outsider” regions to ply their wares; they are often distrustful or even outright hostile toward Dwarves, seeing the entire race as profiteering pirates who would gut any ship they could, seize its treasures, and send its crew to the black depths below, if not claim the ship for their own and overrun it with a new crew of their barbaric bearded kind. The Rilkans, on the other hand, are more akin to the Dwarven sensibilities, fond of drink and song and the occasional boisterous barfight, and it is not unusual to see Rilkan crewmembers on Dwarven ships, and while the reverse is far less common it is usually not frowned upon.

And if any word can sum up Dwarves singularly, “boisterous” would be it. Dwarven ships are never quiet, always active, the crew constantly in motion and in conversation or song. Dwarves are greatly fond of alcohol, and count brewing to be among the highest skills of their people; large stocks of drink are a staple of Dwarven journeys, and they have a well-earned reputation for being able to make a fermented version of almost anything.

Dwarven culture and history is stored primarily in song, and bards are a frequent sight on any ship, used equally as lorekeepers, researchers, information gatherers, and keeping the crew entertained and happy. Dwarven songs are often bawdy, inciteful, and excessive, much like the rest of their culture, which thrives primarily on its lack of restraint and restriction beyond the simple rule of “what the Captain says, goes”.

And if there’s one thing a Dwarf likes more than a good song, it’s a good fight. Brawls are common on Dwarven vessels, incited over what other races and cultures might consider little things hardly worth the effort of offense; however, just as much so they are often over swiftly, with minimal harm done. Dwarves are a tough breed and heal quickly, almost universally, and these little skirmishes rarely result in long-term injury or lasting deformities or disabilities. Unfortunately they also do not tend to recognize that other races are not quite as durable as they are, and brawls and fights inevitably draw all available participants from an area into the melee without much care for intent or personal well-being.

Even children are not immune to these turns of culture, though Dwarves are generally somewhat responsible about keeping them out of direct harm at the hands of reckless and haphazard adults. Children are kept below-decks for the first several years of their lives, and while they are encouraged to roughhouse and scuffle amongst themselves, they and their mothers or caretakers are generally kept out of the path of destruction created by the rougher-housing adults on the upper decks. Hardy Dwarven constitution kicks in as soon as a year after birth; after being weaned, young Dwarves are already capable of handling alcohol, and it becomes a staple of their diet almost immediately. Predictably, the majority of the rest of their sustenance comes from fish, though fruits are also commonplace, and are among the primary goods that Dwarves trade for - the dangers of scurvy and other malnutrition ailments are a well-known danger in Dwarven society, and they have as a near-whole learned that while they can thrive at sea, there are benefits to working with the “landlubbers” from time to time.

Politically speaking, Dwarves have little sway. They have no countries of their own, alliances are rarely larger than extended families’ agreements, and conflicts are more often between individual ships and crews (or even just individual captains) than anything large-scale. Yet, at the same time, their enemies are also very few. Very few countries wish to risk the dangers of alienating all Dwarves, as such makes them an easy target and severely limits their ability to make any use of sea travel. Dwarves are a raucous lot, but they are long-lived, tightly-knit in their crews and families, and prone to holding grudges. Nowhere is this more evident than Anhur, where Dwarven blockades against travel through the Gulf of Paziou are frequent and sea travel highly dangerous, due to numerous incidents of aggression and insult from the Humanistic denizens of the desert country. The only other notable foe the Dwarves face as a unified whole are the Tengu, who have served as rivals for the sea for eons, ever since their own race’s crimes struck the Tengu from the skies and sent them to the seas instead.

Most Dwarves, however, are happily ignorant or dismissive of both these opposed forces, especially if their particular routes of choice never near the shores in question. And the ocean is vast, more than large enough for many, many crews to find their own waves to crest.


Notable Edits: Mechanics
Dwarves in Finiens use the “Saltbeard” alternate racial package as their default racial stats. In addition, their list of racial weapons is expanded.