Most Humans and Demi-Humans believe in the Creator, the maker and source of all things on the face of Jorth. The relationship of Creator to Creation is poorly understood, even by the most wise theologists on Jorth. In general, the Creator does not have specific priests, and is honored and revered more than culticly worshiped.
The first creations of the Creator, before He put His will into the creation of physical form and energy, were the Greater Gods. The Greater Gods generally have portfolios of power that cover areas such as the four elements, light, energy, and other basic, fundamental forces and aspects of the physical and metaphysical world. The Greater Gods are powerful beings, and are worshiped (or at least honored and revered) throughout Jorth.
The Creator next made the Intermediate Gods, to serve the Greater Gods in their work, and support the ongoing life Creation. The Intermediate Gods generally represent geographical features like mountains, rivers, great forests, etc. They also represent the protective deities of the various forms of life on Jorth. Intermediate Gods are worshiped throughout Jorth, though some who have responsibilities of a regional nature may be unknown in places outside their influence. The god of whales, for instance, is not often worshiped by desert dwellers.
After making the Greater and Intermediate Gods, the Creator set to work bringing the world of Jorth into being. While the creation and ordering of the world were simple acts of will for the Creator, the gods who worked to advance, monitor, and support the world labored mightily to prepare their domains for the arrival of the myriad forms of life that would occupy the world.
When the first life awoke at the command of the Creator, He ordered the First Beings to spread across the world, occupy it, order it to their satisfaction, and enjoy it with his blessing. He gave them the commandment to always honor Him, themselves, and all other parts of Creation as His reflection. He gave them the gift of Apotheosis, so that those living being who exemplified certain arts, behaviors, and characteristics could become Lesser Gods, sharing in the ongoing Divine work of following the plans of the Creator. The Lesser Gods represent the many and varied aspects of everyday life, political, and economic power, and are worshiped throughout the world wherever activities concerning their areas of power take place.
Below the divine gods are the spirits of those who have lived before. Each plant, animal, and person that has lived has had a soul, a sacred spark of life implanted in them by the Creator, or the gods (even the wise don't know the exact process). When death comes to a living being, its soul passes on to the next level of existence. Some who have lived lives of exemplary dedication to once particular area or ideal are sent back to help sustain the world. These spirits, less powerful than the gods but more numerous, are the main focus of Elven religious practice.
Most people believe that the Gnomes are a race of hard working, dedicated craftspeople and small farmers. They mostly live in small communities with other Gnomes, holding property in common. A Gnome village will usually have 4-5 large houses, shared by several couples of Gnomes. Single Gnomes live in group houses, also, separated by gender. Gnomish children live in the same house as their parents until they reach young adulthood, when they move into a gender segregated house, and begin their lives as full members of the community. All of the adults of a Gnomish community have a role in raising the village children, and the children treat all of the adults, if not as equal parents, then as an extended family of aunts and uncles. Gnomes of both sexes are encouraged to find spouses from outside the Community, which helps keep their bloodlines fresh and binds the villages together in a network of mutual connections. Older Gnomes who, for one reason or another, may either find a new spouse inside or outside the community, or continue living as a single Gnome in the home kept in each village for unmarried adults.
The oldest male and female Gnome of each house (not including the Young Adult house) form the Council of Elders of the Village. This body acts as an executive committee, handling day-to-day business, and adjudicating the (rare) disputes between Gnomes. Every second week, the entire population of the village meets in Congregation in the village hall to worship, discuss matters of importance, socialize, and have a communal meal. The Council of Elders uses the opportunity of these meetings to bring decisions and suggestions before the village for discussion. There is no official voting process, though there is a lot of discussion. Once the village has reached a consensus, the matter is considered either approved, or not approved. As there is a great deal of respect for Elders ingrained in the Gnomish culture, there is usually very little opposition, and almost never any discussion that would approach the level of what other races would call 'debate'.
Some Gnomes leave their home villages, and settle in communities of other races, typically larger cities or towns. Often, these are young adult Gnomes who have just found their spouses, and feel it best to start a new community. They will go, as a couple, to all of their local Gnome villages to find like-minded associates, and will then settle in a city as a group, living in the same large building or group of smaller buildings, and handling their business just as they would in a Gnome village. These communities within cities are often the point of exchange between the outside world and Gnomish artisans, bringing the famously well worked items Gnomish craft to the world. Gnomes are well known for their woodworking skills, rustic handicrafts and long lasting cheeses, preserves, and smoked meats. The Gnomes who live in these city/villages are still part of the overall network of Gnome society, and intermarry with the residents of more traditional communities.
There are few outcasts from Gnomish society. No rebel Gnomes or bandit Gnomes have ever made a name for themselves in the world, and no notable rulers of Gnomish heritage have ever tried to conquer the world. In fact, Gnomes are known to be kind and helpful to everyone, and will provide food, shelter, and hospitality to anyone who comes to their village without bared steel or an intent to cause them harm. Gnomes will defend themselves if pressed, but would prefer to escape and hide than stand and fight. Gnomes, when under pressure from hostile forces, will most often simply abandon their villages and move along, rather than wage war.
Gnomes venerate all the gods in their quiet, unassuming way. Most villages, during their twice monthly Congregation, will have a silent period of reflection and contemplation. Any Gnome that feels moved to speak, pray, or sermonize during this time may do so. Gnome clerics, while not unheard of, are not at all common, and have no specific role in leading Congregational worship. Exceedingly rarely, Gnomes will be called to the ranks of Paladins. The Gnomish sense of community and devotion to others, combined with their reticence to engage in offensive actions has led some Gnomes to follow the monk's path. Several villages of Gnomes operate as monasteries.
Gnomes excel in the magical arts, especially in the field of Illusions. Gnome culture favors illusion and trickery over powerful offensive magics, and the heroes of Gnomish stories are most often smart, wise, crafty illusionists who use their skills and spells to protect their villages from harm.
Gnomes will defend themselves if attacked, though few become fighters. Gnome rangers are found in villages in wilderness areas, and Gnome rogues are frequently encountered in the role of scout, rather than thief or burglar. Gnome barbarians are unknown, and almost an oxymoron.
Gnomes, for all their peaceful, calm, hospitable image, do have a dark side. In the ancient past, over a thousand years ago, powerful Gnomish wizards helped bring about the downfall of the great Empire that controlled much of the eastern half of the continent. During the Empire's Last War, they worked on both sides, aiding and assisting the leaders with their magics. The Last War devastated the land, and pushed Humanity, indeed, most of the civilized races, into a dark age of barbarism and violence that they are only now coming out of. The Gnomes, feeling the guilt of having a hand in the Last War, formed their new ideal society, and swore never again to allow the world to be in danger of the fell magics they unleashed. The founders of the new Gnomish way of life instilled in their communities the knowledge of the Forbidden Arcanisms, those spells that would not, COULD not, be allowed to be discovered again.
The Elders of the first villages passed the knowledge to their successors, and they passed it to their successors, on down to the present day. Every Elder of every Gnome village knows the signs of the Forbidden Arcanisms, and is constantly on watch for them. If they discover that someone is too close to finding the key to the horrible magic, the Elders act. They send out an equal number of male and female members of their community to find the offending magic user, and observe them. If possible, they will try and capture the subject, and give him or her a choice: come with the Gnomes immediately, then and there, leaving behind all of their wealth, belongings, and personal attachments to come and live as a member of a Gnome village; or die. The Gnomes, while reticent to engage in hostility, see this as a defensive action, protecting all of Jorth, and will kill without hesitation if needed (though they will feel guilty, and probably stand to confess their actions in the next Congregation). Either way, the Gnomes will destroy all research materials related to the Forbidden Arcanisms. The ideal is for the Gnomes to complete their work in total secrecy, and leave no trace of their involvement. The most successful Gnome operations are those that leave no trace that an operation even happened, a magically adept person simply goes missing, and no one knows why.
The only things known by the outside world are: some Gnome villages have a small number of non-Gnome residents, who have taken up the Gnomish lifestyle and culture and live as fully accepted members of the community; and there are far more shallow graves filled with stabbed, poisoned, strangled, or burned wizards who mysteriously leave behind no spellbooks or notes than their ought to be.
Half Elves, who often struggle to find balance within themselves, are frequently outcasts from the societies of both their parents. They are thought of as too Human (rash, impulsive, emotional, violent) for Elven society, and too Elvish (detached, contemplative, cold, flighty) for Human society. While Half Elves may live in Elven and Human settlements, they are not really members of the community.
Many Half Elves, upon reaching adulthood, strike out to make their own places in the world. Many join the people known as "Roamers", who travel the highways and byways of Jorth, making the road their home. Roamers make their living by peddling small craft items, providing unskilled manual labor, and, most famously, the combination of entertainment and thievery. When a Roamer caravan is spotted nearing a town, the residents first decide what finery they will wear to browse the crafts and watch the entertainers, and second lock up their valuables. While most Roamers are not out-and-out criminals, enough of them are to keep the stereo type going.
Half Elves are not known for their devotion to the gods, and are not often found as Clerics or Paladins. Those Half Elves who choose a spiritual path to personal discovery tend to become Druids. Those who wield divine or spiritual power may be found among the Roamer caravans, tending to the needs of their wandering community, and providing guidance and help (for a price) to residents of the settlements they pass through.
Half Elves who follow the martial path in life tend toward Fighters and Rangers. Barbarian Half Elves are uncommon, and are usually only found among Half Elves who live with the Barbarian clan of their Human parent.
Half Elf Rogues and Bards may be the most common characters in stories and songs, especially those about Roamers. The penchant for individuality, the feeling of being apart from community, and the need to prove themselves to the world, leads about equal numbers of Half Elves to thievery or Bard-dom.
Wizard Half Elves are not unheard of, though Sorcerers are much more common. Every school and blood line is represented, and Half Elf arcanists tend to be flashy, showy, and entertaining. This applies equally to Roamer magic shows and arcane combat. The greatest Half Elf heroes in story and song are the classic "Fighter-Arcanist-Thief" archetype.
Martial Dwarf heroes are the most commonly encountered, especially Fighters. Cultural and economic pressures, and near constant genocidal warfare with Goblins, Giants, Orcs, etc., require a steady stream of Dwarven warriors. While the stereotypical Dwarf is a master of either the axe or the sword, Dwarf warriors utilize many different types of weapons, including pole arms, swords, maces, etc. Dwarven specialist archers are a rarity, but it is a foolish adversary who does not prepare for missile weapons when facing a Dwarf warrior.
Arcane magic is not as well respected among the Dwarves as is Divine. That being said, there have been some very powerful Dwarven arcanists throughout history, mostly Wizards. Dwarven Sorcerers do exist, especially in the urban Dwarf communities, but they are not looked upon with as much respect among Dwarf traditionalists or Fundamentalist Smithites.
The Halflings of Jorth are an introverted people, for the most part keeping to their farming villages and small market towns. The great majority of Halflings lead quiet, unassuming lives, growing fruits, vegetables, grains, and the most popular product of their culture, Pipeweed. Halflings live throughout the eastern part of Jorth, from the western banks of the Great River all the way to the coast of the Ocean of Storms, from the deepest south to as far north as they can have a good growing season for their crops. The highest density of Halfling population is in the County of the Halflings, part of the Cotton Lands. Drained by the Halflingwash, the County is a bountiful land of fields, farms, and orchards. The best (and most valuable and highly priced) Pipeweed comes from the County.
The Halflings of the County are governed by a council of elders, as the line of Counts has long since ended. The elders of each village and town send one of their number to Excellence, the County seat, to take up the business of the people. The actual day-to-day administration of the County is handled by a Governor (often, but not always, a non-Halfling) hired by the Elders. The Governor is the face of the County, handling all external relations, keeping the peace, and generally allowing the Halflings to get on with their work without having to worry overmuch about government.
While the Elves appreciate most the arts of painting, and the Dwarves find the utmost artistic expression to be sculptures in stone, and all people enjoy their own poetry and songs, Halflings have developed an unique form of expression (and favored pass-time) all their own: The Entertainment. An Entertainment is half feast, half performance, and all fun. There are features common to all Entertainments: dancing, music, tale telling, and LOTS of food. The central, and most engaging feature of the Entertainment, and what makes it unique to Halfling culture, is The Roast. The Guest of Honor of the Entertainment is the subject of The Roast. The finest, funniest, and most cunning humorists and raconteurs subject the Guest of Honor to jokes, jibes, and jests that poke fun at them, their position, their family, and anything else that can be used to get a laugh. It is considered a great honor to be Roasted, and the most excellent Roasters are hailed as heroes in the Halfling community. Each year, the Governor of the County is the Guest of Honor at the Autumnfeast Entertainment. The best Roasters from around the County and beyond are invited. The Roaster who outdoes the others in wit, humor, and slyness is named the Champion Roaster for the year. There is a tradition that Rollo Buttertub, the most famous Roaster in history, once made King Edfast the Grim laugh so hard at an Entertainment that he pissed the royal trousers. The king gave Rollo thrice his weight in coins, once in silver, once in gold, and once in platinum. In honor of Rollo, the Champion Roaster is given the value of his weight in pounds in copper, silver, and gold coins.
While most Halflings are homebodies, never going further from their farm or town than they absolutely have to, there is a group of Halflings who wander the world, tying together the far flung Halfling communities, and bringing news and tales back home: The Pipeweed Wagoneers. While most of the stolid Halfling citizen farmers look down on Wagoneers as wandering low-life rabble, most villagers will find some reason to pop into the local pup when a group of Wagoneers is in town, to hear tales of the road, trade local gossip, and arrange contracts for sale of Pipeweed in far-off markets.
The Halflings have no true gods of their own, and tend to worship the gods venerated by the Humans of the east. They venerate and make offerings to the spirit of Rollo Buttertub, especially on the eve of the Autumnfeast Entertainment, and there is some speculation among the learned of Jorth that Rollo may, one day, achieve a godly status. Halfling clerics are not rare, but aren't quiet common, either. They exist to provide pastoral care to their home area, and are not usually found spreading the cause of their god through adventuring. Halfling druids are found in smaller frontier communities, but are uncommon in the larger towns.
Halfling arcanists are rare enough to be almost unheard of. No great archmage of Halfling extraction has ever been seen, and none of the powerful political rulers of Jorth has a Halfling for his court wizard.
Fighters, rangers, and rogues are common among The Pipeweed Wagoneers. They use their martial skills to protect the Pipeweed caravans, and to engage in a bit of thievery along the roads, if rumor is to be believed. Halflings are almost never found among the ranks of barbarians, paladins, or monks.
Elves are an ascendant race in Jorth. The oldest tales among the Elves recount the Faded Years, when their life spans were shortening, and they had lost their intimate touch with nature. In the past few thousand years, Elves are once again becoming nearly immortal (the oldest living Elf is nearly 1200 years old, and shows no signs of age or infirmity). There are two distinct groups of Elves living in the world, the Gray Elves and the Green Elves. The Gray Elves are the most common type of Elf. They are noble in bearing, great in wisdom and intelligence, love the spoken word, music, and nature. The great Elven Kingdoms in the far west are governed by Gray Elves. Gray Elves are masters of all manner of knowledge and lore, and have preserved some tales of the Elder Days, before the Burning Plagues wiped the lands clean of the ancient cities of Men. The Elves know that in the days of the ancient Men they were a faded race, relegated to woodlands and wild places, and never wish to return to that life. The Gray Elves use their own language in everyday speech, but they delight in all forms of language, and most Elves are fluent in at least one other language (most likely the Common Tongue of Men). The Gray Elves conduct solemn ceremonies in High Elven, the language of the High Elves, who have joined with the Spirits of the world.
Green Elves are less sophisticated than Gray Elves, and are found in small family groups deep in the forest. Green Elves distrust Men, Dwarves and Halflings. They have cordial relations with Gray Elves, providing that the Gray Elves let the Green Elves live free and unfettered in the woods of the world. Green Elves that live within the confines of a Gray Elven realm will respect the King or Lord, and will not work against him, as long as they are allowed to live their traditional semi nomadic life in the forest. Green Elves usually speak Elvish, with some smattering of Common or another language. Marriage between Gray and Green Elves is not unheard of, but is uncommon. Usually the Green Elf spouse will go to live with the Gray, leaving the forest behind.
Both types of Elves worship the Creator, and venerate the Spirits. Elven Clerics are rare, and usually are Elves who have taken up worship of the gods after the Human fashion. The Elves believe in the same Creator that the majority of Humans do, and they honor the Gods, but feel much more connected to the spirits of the world, especially the wild places. The spiritual needs of Elves are most often met by Shamans and Druids.
Elves are equally excellent with both sword and bow, and are the sworn enemies of Orcs, Trolls, and vile creatures of all sorts and types. Elven Fighters, Rangers and Rogues are common, other martial types less so. Barbarians, Paladins, and Monks are rare enough among the Elven people to be almost unheard of. Those that are found are likely to have left their ancient lands as exiles, and thrown their lot in with a Human people.
As their power returns, strengthening with each generation, the Elves are beginning to discover new or forgotten talents. Various arcane spellcasters are common among the Elves, Wizards and Sorcerers being most common. The predominant Bloodlines for Elven Sorcerers are: Arcane, Celestial, Destined, and Fey (the most common).
Geography of Jorth
The World of Jorth is, in some ways, not much different from our own. In the warm months, hurricanes sweep in from the Ocean of Storms and drop massive amounts of rain, and blast the coastal areas with howling winds. In the winter, nor'easters roar along the coast, bringing blizzards, hail and ice storms. On Jorth, only a brave hero or a fool would attempt to sail across the Ocean of Storms to reach the fabled Eastern Lands across the deep. Aside from the stormy nature of the Ocean, there are also great icebergs that float down from the icy north to menace shipping; the Ocean of Storms and the Weed Sea are home to a verity of aquatic monsters that enjoy nothing more than snacking on ships and foolhardy mariners. Coastal shipping along the Ocean of Storms is not as dangerous as cross-Ocean voyages, and some large ports exist in the well protected harbor areas. Fishing is also excellent in most areas, with Blue, Fluke, Cod, Herring, Seabass, various Sharks, and all manner of crustaceans making appearances throughout the year.
The rivers of Jorth are important routes of trade, bringing goods, travelers, and news to far off points. The major rivers of the East are the River of Tears, the Eagle River, the Coal River, The Iron river, The Wheatwater River, the Pleasant River (also called the Halflingwash, by some Humans), the Cotton River, the Stoney Bed, the Seadrain River, the Moose River and, westernmost river of the eastern lands, but mightiest, is the Great River. The western rivers are just as numerous and important as their eastern counterparts. The Long River, Canyoncarver, Cactus, the High-King's River, and the Whale are some of the most important rivers in the west. The Freshwater Sea is the most important body of water in the central area. The kingdoms along the shores of the Freshwater Sea are prosperous. The southern areas grow great quantities of grain. The northern shores are forested with tall, strong trees, that fetch good prices as building materials, and the entire area is home to abundant game.
The Cotton Lands are the areas west of the Sea of Storms, south of the Halflingwash, all the way west up to the Great River. This land is particularly bountiful in cotton, corn, and fruit. This area is also home to the County of the Halflings, where the best quality of pipeweed is grown, and well known beers are brewed. There are other pipeweed producing regions (the Stoneybed and Coal river valleys are other well known sources) but the product from the County is considered superior.
Far to the south lies the Encircled Sea. The Encircled Sea is surrounded by long chains of islands, broken by narrow channels to the Ocean of Storms. The Encircled Sea is subject to hurricanes in the summer and autumn, but is relatively calm most of the rest of the year. The Encircling Lands are foreign to most northerners, and are known only as places of tropical paradise, beautiful and savage.
At some time, a series of plagues passed over Jorth. Different societies have different tales of this time, but the most common include: famine, pox, leprosy, magical war, wrath of the gods, monstrous invasion, fire, flood, and freak weather. After many years of being subject to these repeated plagues, Humankind, and their brothers, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, etc. were able to rise again and begin their return to greatness.
No one knows if, in The World Before there were Demi-Humans and Humanoids. Elves claim to have existed since long before the fall of Mankind, indeed, they claim to be the First Race. Their history is fragmentary, due to the Passing of the ancient world. At the time of the plagues, the Elves became subject to Death, their lifespans no more than two or three centuries. The wars and plagues took their toll on the Elves, and they retreated to their traditional homes, the deep forests of the world. After the dawn of the current age, the Elves quickly followed the revelations of their Powers, and headed west, to the coast of the Western Sea, founding their kingdom in the Land of the Great Trees. Now the High King of the Elves rules a great people, with sovereign domains along the densely forested far north western coast. All Elven lands, either on the coast of the Western Ocean, or on the coast of the Ocean of Storms, or in between, recognize the High King as their overlord, though in practice most of the realms in the east are independent, without much interaction with the High King.
The Dwarves claim to pre-date Humans also, and their tales tell that they have worked the Earth for as long as the Elves have walked the forests. Dwarven legends tell that during the Ancient Times they were less numerous, and hid among the Human population. After the Passing they began to increase in number. They founded new Dwarven realms, each with it's king and lords, and once again began thier ceaseless conflict with the Goblins and Orcs beneath the surface. In the eastern area, the largest Dwarf Halls are beneath the Coal Mountains and throughout the chain of low mountains that stretches north to south throughout most of the east. Dwarves also inhabit the Wyvern Spine Mountains,and other mountain chains of the west.
The Halflings don't have any tales that stretch back beyond the Passing. They consider themselves related to Humans, but more intelligent, wiser, more attractive, and, generally, superior in most ways to the clumsy big folk. For the most part the Halflings live in their County, growing pipeweed, brewing beer, and generally enjoying the Good Life. They tend to have good relations with the Human populations surrounding them, but prefer to be left alone. The Halflings that venture beyond their own lands (especially the pipeweed wagoneers) are viewed with as a bit suspicious, though the stories they tell in the pubs are enjoyed by even the most solid Halfling citizen.
Ok, I've decided to heed my wife and oldest daughter when they tell me "You should write down the ideas you have, and see what you can make out of them". This is the space where I will try to do that. Feel free to comment on anything here, or offer constructive criticism.
It is safe to assume that anything posted here that doesn't belong to someone else belongs to me. Don't steal my shit!
Read on, friends, and tell me what you think.
Thanks and Regards,