The Six Kingdoms - The Races (Part I)

Copyright Roberto Suarez Soto © 2007

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"The orcs are a new tool in the dwarves' hands"

THE DWARVES

Description

Dwarves stand between 4 and 5 feet tall, very hairy and very stout of complexion. It seems they are all shoulders, arms and beards. Women are more slender (and not bearded), though they are corpulent compared to human women. Dwarven warriors carry armors so heavy that no human could move inside them; but to their enemies' misfortune they do with lethal efficiency.

The dwarves are the rulers of the Six Kingdoms. They own the power, the money and the land. Humans are their subjects: servants, soldiers and serfs. The gnomes live inside the dwarven strongholds as counsellors, magicians and priests. The dwarves' official government is the M'ranich Tzarb, the Council of Elders, which decides the fate of the Six Kingdoms and coordinates the clans' actions.

History

The dwarves were born on a planet far away from the Six Kingdoms, its location now lost. It was a place cold and barren that they call Itzinern. The land was permanently covered by ice and snow, and the dwarves huddled in caves that they left only to hunt; and even so, for little periods, for blizzards that could freeze a man where he stood blew frequently. Itzinern forged the dwarves as they are today: short but strong, with clever eyes covered by furry brows, packed with muscle and resilient as the stone. But the real strength of the dwarves was not their bodies, but their bond: all the dwarves that lived under one roof were of the same blood, a family, the Clan. The relentless howling breath of Itzinern killed all individualists; only the Clan could survive. Banishment, being thrown out of the Clan, out of the cave, meant death.

How the Jacheri Bjor enslaved them, we don't know. The dwarves were strong and brave, but the Bjor were strong too, and trained fighters, and powerful magicians. Strength and bravery weren't enough to counter them. And the Bjor hunted dwarves easily: once one of them was captured, most of the Clan was sure to go in aid of their relative, and the Bjor enslaved whole clans in a matter of weeks. When they had enough slaves, they left Itzinern leaving many fractured clans and families.

The Bjor used dwarves as masons, smiths and later, soldiers. In all these tasks the dwarves excelled, discovering talents that the dwarves themselves didn't know they had. The dwarves served faithfully until the Blight: a mysterious disease that infected only the Bjor, forcing them to return to their home world. It was the coup de gr‚ce for the Bjor, whose dwindling numbers forced the dwarves to further straits. Before the end, the dwarves deserted and the Bjor disappeared from the Six Kingdoms.

The dwarves were left to their own devices. They took shelter in natural caves as they had done before, and fought the wildings who threatened their lives and their food sources. In time, the dwarves extended their protection to their human allies. The Nimnali gave them the tools to reunite the dispersed clans and form a common force that would not only defend them, but also subjugate their enemies and establish the dwarves as rulers of the Six Kingdoms.

Culture

The basis of the dwarven way of life is loyalty to the Clan. The Clan Elders are the governors of each Clan, and their word is law. Though there are a few common laws, each Clan has its own inner rules and customs. Clans can be geographically dispersed, but they are still the same clan and all rules apply. Inter-clan marriage is highly discouraged, and even inter-clan friendship, though allowed, should be kept as a diplomatic gesture. Each clan has a list of affronts that other clans committed, and these are rarely forgiven and never forgotten.

Nowadays there are two currents in dwarven society: the "old timers" and the "decadents". The "old timers" are those who maintain the old dwarven customs and ethos of hard work and military lifestyle; the decadents are sybarites who like good food, fine wine and pretty women (especially human women), considering the old timers' ethos a relic of the past unsuited to current times. The old timers still control the majority of the Tzarb, but what the decadents lack in martial skill they have in political acumen, and the tide might be turning sooner than expected. The war of Sutharja is not only a war between the Tzarb and the rebel humans, but also a war inside the Tzarb, between old timers with their "iron ram" tactics and the decadents with their troops for hire.

HARP statistics

Dwarves in the Six Kingdoms have the same racial stat modifiers as "standard dwarves". The Blood Talents are the same, except "Stone Sense" is replaced by "Reduced Sleep Requirement".

Only a few clans maintain a way of life worthy of the "Deep Warrens" culture. By default, all dwarves should use the "Urban" culture. Any dwarf that lives in a "Deep Warrens" culture should be an "old timer", or have a very convincing explanation why he is not. Dwarves have long ago lost their edge as a warrior culture, though physically they're still the most gifted race and can make fearful fighters if they choose that job.

Dwarven characters know the dwarven language in varying degrees. Old timers should assign to their dwarven dialect (each clan has its own, though intelligible by other clans' members) their most proficient language, and to "Common" their least proficient one; Decadents should reverse this choice: they know the dwarven language enough, but prefer to use the Common Tongue.

The Dwarven Legion (Training Package)

This is the army that brought the Six Kingdoms under the Tzarb's rule. The dwarves' infantry is commonly known as "the iron ram", "the steel tide" and "the stone hammer". The legions are heavily armored, completely dressed in steel from head to toe, armed with 2-handed weapons (axes and hammers), and highly disciplined. They move like one man, have no fear and feel no pain - or that's what it seems, at least. The training of the Legion is known for its longevity (it takes several years to become a member of the Legion) and harshness, and only dwarves are accepted. The saying goes that even if other races were admitted, none would bear the training anyway.

Nowadays the Legions are reduced in number, their role taken by mercenaries; but they are still the elite of the dwarven warriors, and their appearance is sometimes enough to end battles.

Skills: Armor 4, Endurance 4, a 2-handed weapon 3, Chi Focus 2, Chi Strength 2

THE ELVES

Description

The elves look like humans, but more slender and, by all standards, beautiful. They are also very proficient magically, and have lifespans measured in hundreds of years. They were created by the Crosslords from human stock through selective breeding and other means, in their quest for a "perfect human".

History

The Crosslords tried to teach their human neighbors all their knowledge, and they partly succeeded: several of them learnt a lot, becoming privy to many Crosslord secrets. But when they were taught enough to be worthy for the Crosslords, they were too old. Besides, too often the humans learnt only a few things and used them against their kin or the Crosslords. This irated them, and the Crooslords eventually took unto themselves the task of ridding the humans of those undesirable traits. Teaching was not enough for that: the whole race must be redesigned, reworked, "perfected". Lacking all morality, the Crosslords did what they deemed necessary to achieve their end. And the fruit of "their experiment" were the KŠlaksi; or, as humans know them, the elves.

The first generation of elves was an ill-fated one. They were the spoiled children of the Crosslord, proud to a fault, aware of their talents but not of their duties. They believed themselves superior to every other rational being, be they humans or gnomes, the "adopted children" of the Crosslords. They despised everything and everyone. But they loved to learn new things, and in this they were the best pupils the Crosslords had. Long years passed, and the KŠlaksi surpassed all that the best humans had learnt, having still the best of their lives in front of them.

The exploits of the first KŠlaksi brought the betrayal of the Nimnali, that opened the gates for the invasion of the Six Kingdoms by the Jacheri Bjor. The elves fought alongside the Crosslords, but the Bjor had surprise and expertise on their side, and many were slain. The survivors fled and after the first strike a second war ensued, this time based on small attacks, ambushes and skirmishes.

The Crosslords depended on the KŠlaksi as soldiers (most humans in Crosslord service had been killed or had fled), and so bred them like animals, wanting more and more soldiers as soon as possible. While first generation elves were free of this exploitation, serving as generals and seneschals, the second generation suffered heavy casualties and soon whispered about rebellion. So it was no surprise when, little by little, the elves deserted the Crosslords to find freedom by themselves. In the end, the Crosslords were left only with the most loyal of the KŠlaksi, and had to abandon their plan of reconquering the Six Kingdoms.

The elves are now free to roam the Six Kingdoms, and that's what they do.

Culture

Today's elves are called "low elves", in terms of their genealogical proximity to the first generation elves, the "prototype" of elves. They are almost as varied as humans, with many different colors of hair, skin and eyes. Their trademark beauty and grace, however, are still unmistakable. Traces of "higher blood" are common among low elves.

Elves are, above all, lovers of freedom. They do not like governments, of any kind. They live alone or gather in small communities, anarchistic by nature, that increase or decrease according to their members' whim. Some have settled in permanent residences, but speaking of "kingdoms" would be an exaggeration. The elves had rulers once, and they still have the scars to prove it.

HARP statistics

Elves in the Six Kingdoms use the same statistic modifiers as standard elves, but they have additional blood talents not available to any of the other races. These blood talents reflect the heritage of the high elves that originated them. Though up to twenty high elven moieties existed, most of the elves can trace themselves to four of them. Each has the name of an animal that had a natural affinity with them. The elves still use this classification amongst themselves, commonly an elf will identify himself as "(someone), of the (moiety)".

The Ravens: the most mysterious and magical of the elves, they had deeply tanned skin and straight, jet-black hair. Their eyes, however, were the brightest blue. Silent and reclusive, they were the crossworkers and alchemists of the Crosslords. Few they were, and some say none lives today. Only in their descendants a spark of the old magic of those blue eyes can still be seen. The lesser Raven Blood talent allows a player to change one of the normal racial Special Abilities for "Sense Magic" or "Scholar". The greater Raven Blood talent allows two racial Special Abilities to be exchanged for two of "Sense Magic", "Scholar" or the option of +10 to Magic RRs.

The Eagles: tallest of all, with jet-black hair and cold grey eyes, they were the seneschals of the Crosslords, their lieutenants and most loyal servants. The Eagles were the utopians that headed the desertions, helping their brothers and hiding them from their masters' sight. In return, the Crosslords hunted and punished them with special ferocity. Only a few are left, second in scarcity only to the Ravens, but the rest of elves treat them with the utmost respect and admiration. The lesser Eagle Blood talent allows a player to change one of the normal Special Abilities for +3 to PR stat bonus or "Reduced sleep requirement". The greater Eagle Blood talent allows changing two racial Special Abilities for two of +10 to Will RRs, +3 to PR stat bonus or "Reduced sleep requirement".

The Foxes: also called "the spotted elves", they had red or auburn hair and cinnamon-colored eyes, and huge freckles of the same color save for their faces, palms of the hands and soles of feet. The smallest of the elves, they were awesome rangers, guides and hunters; and also the most child-like, being very fond of jokes and teasing their older brethren. The lesser Fox Blood talent allows a player to change one of the normal Special Abilities for "Lightning Reflexes" or "Extremely Nimble". The greater Fox Blood talent allows replacing two racial Special Abilities for "Outdoorsman", "Lightning Reflexes" or "Extremely Nimble".

The Falcons: golden eyes, golden hair and bone-white skin are the mark of the Falcons. They were the warriors of the Crosslords, said to be bred from the fearful Maab wildings of similar sickly white skin. Inheritors of the first generation pride, they were often boastful and reckless, being at odds with the cold and level-headed Eagles. Even now, the Falcons and the Eagles look at each other with distaste. The lesser Falcon Blood talent allows a player to change one of the normal Special Abilities for +2 to ST or +2 to CO. The greater Falcon Blood talent allows changing two racial Special Abilities for two of Ambidexterity, +2 to ST bonus or +2 to CO bonus.

Culture: the elves will rarely be found in a culture different from "Nomadic".

Languages: the elves spoke the Crosslord tongue, and (with more or less dialectal inflections) that's still their racial tongue (S6/W5). They also know at least two human tongues at S4/W3, due to frequent travelling.

THE GNOMES

Description

The Gnomes are little humanoid creatures, about 4 feet tall, with big bright eyes and wrinkled, leathery skin. To humans, even gnome children resemble human elders, and they have always looked at them with distaste. Their skin is usually brownish, though it has camouflage properties and can change color. They have only hair on their heads, black and straight (sometimes, rather spiky). Men and women alike wear it long, usually to their shoulders or further. Their ears, very long and pointy, like animals', sprout from their manes.

They are renowned for being great magicians, the official cross-workers of the Tzarb, and recently the priests of a new religion. They are powerful within the Tzarb.

History

The gnomes were born in the jungles of one of the Six Kingdoms, possibly Ksatharja, though the gnomes themselves have forgotten. They dug shallow shelters, preferring the ones below the roots of the biggest trees. They slept by day and hunted by night, relying on quickness, stealth and wits. An innate talent for magic served them also to fend off the attacks of bigger creatures and hide their shelters from predators.

The Crosslords used to hunt wildings, and that brought them to the gnomes' lands. Intrigued by the small humanoids, they captured a few for their experiments. Soon they discovered their magic abilities, and initiated a century-long systematic hunt in the jungles that ended, eventually, with every gnome in the Crosslords' camps.

The gnomes lost their freedom, but they gained knowledge. They learnt magic and science, because the Crosslords had been searching for years for gifted aides and the gnomes fit the role neatly. Soon most of them had forgotten the swampy and dark jungles of their homeland and embraced the new lifestyle that the Crosslords offered them. The humans still disliked them, but it didn't matter now that they were the Crosslords' favorites.

But then came the KŠlaksi, and they were displaced and mistreated. In revenge, the gnomes betrayed the Crosslords and brought the Jacheri Bjor, who waged war against the Crosslords and ended their rule of the Six Kingdoms. The revenge of the gnomes would prove to be bitter: before the Bjor could settle, a mysterious disease (the Blight) and the desertion of their best troops (the dwarves) forced them to retreat to their home planet, and the Nimnali were left out in the cold, among wildings that hated them almost as much as their previous masters.

Fortunately their paths crossed with the dwarves, and they understood how much they would benefit from an alliance. Thus the Nimnali became the dwarves' priests, crossworkers and magicians, and the dwarves the gnomes' protectors.

Culture

The gnomes are secretive and suspicious of other people, even the dwarves they're associated with. They have their own quarters in the dwarven cities, and don't allow anyone of a different race there. Unlike the dwarves, they don't employ humans; they hate them, and use them only when needed.

Magic is important among the gnomes. Frail of body, they know their wits and magical talents are their key to survival and success. Gnomes are ingrained in this belief since childhood: magic is might. Thus, they train and learn every spell they can. Gnomes are good at many trades, but magic permeates all them. They have huge libraries filled with grimoires, most of them written by gnomes, a few by others. A special corps of seeker-librarians is in charge of traveling in search of new knowledge about magic and new magical artifacts. The making of magical items is something that the gnomes excel at.

Having no trust in other races but sometimes needing servants and bodyguards, the gnomes rely on magical and mechanical creatures. Golem-like creatures guard their treasures, and they are suspected of summoning demons and elementals.

HARP details

Gnomes use the statistics of "official gnomes" in HARP. The only difference is culture: they have been living too long in cities to be of the "Shallow warrens" culture, and use the "Urban" culture instead.