Half Elves of Jorth

The Half Elves of Jorth are now, and have always been, a small race with a large impact on the world. They claim to embody all the best qualities of Elves and Humans, though some claim that they are just as likely to embody the worst, as well.
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.


Dwarves of Jorth

The Dwarves of Jorth are a race in decline.  They have been steadily shrinking in population for centuries.  The combination of low birthrate and ongoing genocidal wars with Goblins and Orcs has led to diminishing numbers, social breakdown, and, in the end, vacant ruins where Dwarf kingdoms once stood.  The Dwarves of the current age are the inheritors of an ancient culture.  While they see themselves as the standard bearers of a civilization that values tradition, social order, religious devotion, and economic self sufficiency; outsiders tend to see them as a people who are hide bound, living in the past, rigid, overly pious, and greedy.  The Dwarves of Jorth are well known for their complex political/economic systems.  They have developed a wealthy and influential network of counting houses, money changers, mercantile banks, and money lenders, which help put the proceeds of the Dwarven mines to work in the world.  Most of the governments of Jorth have access to credit from Dwarven banks and hordes, in exchange, the Dwarves can exert political and financial pressure on the governments to help achieve their own ends.

Dwarves enjoy the company of other Dwarves, especially family members.  The stereotypical Dwarf kingdom, beneath a mountain, full of riches, is still found in many places across Jorth.  Over the last few centuries, another kind of Dwarf has been more common, the urban Dwarves who inhabit Human dominated cities and towns.  They tend to be outcasts among their own people.  Sometimes political or economic exiles from a great Dwarven city, other times they are the last remnants of a kingdom destroyed by war or disaster.  To outsiders, the Dwarves seem to be a single, monolithic culture.  To Dwarves, who are steeped in the historic and political differences, each Dwarf kingdom is as unique as a snowflake.

 Dwarves, on the whole, are a deeply religious race.  They honor many gods, including the Creator, but the main focus of their devotion is The Great Smith.  To the Dwarves, he is the ultimate pinnacle of Dwarfdom:  honorable, brave, strong, creative, and loyal.  Dwarf Clerics and Paladins are much more common than Dwarf Druids.  Dwarven spiritual practices also honor the Dwarf ancestors, though this does not rise to the level of true ancestor worship.  The ancestors are seen as intercessors with The Great Smith and Creator.

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.


Halflings of Jorth

Continuing our series of racial vignettes, today we will be taking a look at Halflings (by special request of my 12yo daughter Shannan).

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.


The Elves of Jorth

This post begins a series where we will look at the races of Jorth in a little more detail.  We will start with the Elves.

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).