One challenge that all fantasy authors face when they decide to write characters that belong to a different race or species than the stock-standard Human is how to keep track of the relative abilities and shortcomings of the different races. The disadvantage of writing designs for each race in one’s stories is that it involves a lot of homework and researching things about how other authors have written characters of similar or even identical racial traits. And if your characters are anything like the characters in my stories, one also has to figure out how one is going to depict how being born of parents from two different races is going to affect the resultant child. So the question to ask oneself first is how are the peoples of different stock-standard races designed, and why? Why, as a question, is an author’s best friend. When an author is struggling to come up with material, asking why Trór Gravewater should be noticeably taller and heavier than other Dwarrow can give them a few thousand words to divert into whilst thinking over the story’s next move.
In that spirit, I will show you a rough translation of all the notes I have in my collection about the different races of Kali-Yuga and how they differ. Differ both in function and abilities. Take note that these are only guide notes and not game design notes. None of the rules given here should be taken as absolute, especially since one of the spices of writing longform fiction is to turn characters into individuals.
The first race of Kali-Yuga we shall concern ourselves with in this writing is the Humans.
Humans are a very new race on Kali-Yuga. Although creatures of similar physical form and appearance have existed for as many as a hundred millennia, the earliest known contact between Humans and other Humanoid races has only taken place somewhere around two thousand years ago.
Humans are a great deal more variable in size than other races on Kali-Yuga, but average at six feet for women and six-foot-six for men. Part of this dimorphism can be explained by the use of role division as an early means of survival. Humans who have conferred with historians state that in the early days of the Human race, soldiery, hunting, construction, and other jobs requiring intense physical labour were traditionally assigned to the men. This role division has faded a great deal in more recent years, especially with the building of the city of Akhasei, and the expansion of potential roles for all kinds of Human to include science, engineering, and chemistry.
Humans also have no particular quirks in how they are built, move through the world, or see things. Every special advantage they have, whether it be one of perception or of upper body strength, has to be trained into them.
Humans will therefore not receive any bonuses in Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma. Whatever attributes one designs or rolls for the Human character, they have to be chosen and rolled well. A Human Warrior will need to have scores of at least 15 in Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. Especially if they plan to be out on their own or fighting in small groups a great deal. Needless to say, a Human Warrior who is in a leadership role needs to have very high scores in these attributes.
Humans do not possess any bonuses in terms of sensory input, either, but they do get bonuses in terms of hunting skills and negotiation. Being the newest race on the block, Humans have long recognised a need to ingratiate themselves with the powers that be within other races. This is reflected in the fact that they are able to gain the trust of persons from other races at a greater rate. They will also notice the tracks of animals and enemies more easily than others. An enemy that is trying to hide from a Human suffers penalties on all rolls to remain stealthed.
The next race of Humanoids on Kali-Yuga in terms of newness is the Halfling. Halflings are a Humanoid race that stand approximately four feet tall and weigh an average of sixty-six pounds.
(By the way, if you speak Italian and know a good word that Halflings would use to refer to themselves as a race, please drop me a line. I have been wanting to write something on this subject for a while.)
Halflings are, as you will have guessed, extremely small and light. This means that any attribute-based profile of an individual Halfling has a penalty of minus two (-2) to Constitution and Strength. Halflings are also extremely industrious, scholarly, and given to playing with small things that have a lot of fiddly bits (including themselves in some cases). Depending on what class the character is going to be, this means a bonus of plus two (+2) to Dexterity or Intelligence.
Not surprisingly for a people that their allies can pick up and throw around, Halflings are not particularly given to being soldiers. Instead, Thieves, Marksmen, and Mages tend to make up the majority of the Halfling armies.
Halflings, being such small and light creatures, are not easily detected, even when their opponent happens to know more or less where they are. They receive substantial bonuses to their camouflage and stealth rolls. Like Humans, they are also good at tracking targets, at least when they are in a rustic environment. If an enemy missteps in the scrub and breaks something under their feet, a Halfling is just as likely as an Elf to hear it. Or see the tracks if they come by later. In woodlands and small villages, Halflings receive bonuses on their detection rolls.
It is a matter of some debate as to which of the two elder races in Kali-Yuga is the eldest of the lot. Although the events that led to their creation occurred at more or less the same time, one seems to have had a longer “birthing process” than the other. So we will go with my favourite of all of the Kali-Yuga races first. The Dwarf.
Dwarrow are the craftsmen and builders of Kali-Yuga. The specific story of the origins of intelligent life on Kali-Yuga I have has it that the spirit energy that was originally used to create the Elves overflowed and ended up in the mountains. After years of struggle, the first Dwarrow burst through the side of the mountain, grumbling and growling about how bloody uncomfortable the birth has been. From most perspectives, this would mean the Elves are a slightly older race, but whether the Elves are older by a matter of minutes, months, or years is a matter of considerable debate, with the people best qualified to offer an answer preferring to remain quiet.
Dwarrow live longer than the previously mentioned races of Kali-Yuga by a considerable margin. The average lifespan of a Halfling is 133 years. The average lifespan of a Dwarf is 250 years. This, not unnaturally, gives Dwarrow a higher average Wisdom score than is the case for Halflings and Humans. Which comes in handy for Dwarrow that happen to be healers. Whilst Dwarrow are only as tall on average as Halflings, they are also much heavier in build, with Dwarrow of either sex weighing as much as a six foot Human. An average weight of 200 pounds for males and 160 to 190 pounds for women, roughly.
Dwarrow are not subtle, stealthy, or even mildly sneaky creatures. They vastly prefer to move up to a target and simply hack at them, trusting their superior armour and resilience to tip the battle in their favour. Dwarrow receive penalties to all stealth, hiding, and camouflage rolls. Dwarrow have extremely powerful circulatory systems, with veins that remain just as healthy when they are near to death from old age as the day they were born, and hearts that can recycle their entire blood supply in a matter of minutes. This has two effects that can be fun to write about in certain scenes. For one, Dwarvish men tend to be exceptionally well-endowed. (Footnote: When real-life Human men make claims of having manly parts twelve inches or longer in length, such claims tend to come into dispute very quickly. One writing by a nurse on this subject has stated that when one exceeds a certain length, erectile function gets more difficult to maintain. Dwarvish males tend to not encounter this problem precisely because they can pump blood to their bits in great quantities.) For another, all Dwarrow are highly resistant to poison. This is partly because of the silicon-based nature resulting from having originally grown out of mountains, but also because their circulation can easily filter poison out. When a creature successfully rolls a poisoning attack against a Dwarf, they have to roll it again. And even if they are successful with the second roll, the Dwarf gets a saving throw against the poison that he only has a one in six chance of failing.
Dwarrow also have a very high chance of resisting magically-based attacks, especially arcane ones (the other classes being nature and shadow). Not quite as high as is the case with poison, but enough to make trying to bring a Dwarf army down by flinging arcane powers at them a bad idea.
As for attribute scores, Dwarrow tend to be pretty straightforward. A minus two (-2) penalty to Charisma is the standard for Dwarrow. All that grumbling and telling of the truth rather than what people want to hear tends to have that result. Dwarrow also receive a plus two (+2) bonus to their Constitution. Dwarrow are the toughest, most enduring, and most hardcore of all the races in Kali-Yuga. Even the Ursidae have trouble competing. On top of this nice bonus to Constitution, any saving roll based on Constitution receives a bonus, too. Aside from the aforementioned saves against poisonous attacks, the healing process receives bonuses from Constitution.
Which brings us to the Elves. Elves are a tricky people to depict well in any fantasy canon. Unlike a certain group of films we will not glorify by mentioning here, one has to strike a tricky balance.
You see, Elves, unlike the other three Humanoid races mentioned here, have no real fixed limit upon their natural lifespans. This poses so many challenges to authors worth their salt that it is really the measure of a good writer how their Elves come across. If an Elf comes across as an arrogant, insufferable prick, then you have a bad writer. One of the key challenges is to differentiate between an old Elf and a young Elf.
For one thing, just because there is no fixed limit on one’s lifespan does not necessarily mean one will live to be an adult, a parent, middle aged, or old. It just means that the usual gripes of mortality can be forgotten. Young Elves still live under the fear of having their lives cut short, but elder Elves also have to live with the fear of what the world they have watched for so long will turn into when they are gone. A common psychological phenomenon with we mere Humans is that the older we get, the less we change or adapt to change. The same is true of Elves. After a certain time, say a thousand years, the Elf begins to notice more and more that whilst the world around them changes, they do not. And thus begins a long process of trying to comfort oneself in drives and processes or other external things.
Elves receive one major statistical penalty, a minus two penalty (-2) to their Constitution. They are light, fey, and tender creatures. Even the male Elves suffer from a certain lack of physical fortitude that does not merely result from being so naturally slender. One of the compensations for this is a plus two (+2) bonus to their Dexterity. Elves have a way of not being there right as an enemy is about to bring a hammer down upon them. Elves also have incredibly acute senses. Their hearing and sight make it difficult to sneak up on them. And one reason other armies fear the Elves is because their sight is so acute that when one tells an Elvish archer to aim for an attacker, the Elf will ask which part of which eye one wants them to hit.
One important point that I have written about in some novels is the endorphin effect. Essentially, when members of the other races (Human, Halfling, or Dwarf) engage in sex with an Elf, the close contact with the spirit component of the Elf triggers a release of endorphins. Under normal circumstances, this effect might only be noticeable to a small degree. If the Human, Halfling, or Dwarf engaging in sex with an Elf is still suffering pains from injuries, this endorphin release will make such pain go away, if only temporarily. Hence, a common discussion amongst young Human, Halfling, and Dwarf young adults of either sex is the idea of getting intimate with an Elf.
Obviously, designing characters from any one of these races poses a bit of a challenge to an author. But with all of these attributes, liabilities, and characteristics to play around with, mastering the basic fantasy races with one’s characters should be comparatively easy.
If you have read this far, then thank you for your time. If this text gives you some good ideas concerning your own writing projects, then by all means please drop me a comment letting me know how. It may help me with writing more things like this.
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