The world of Terra contains the “core” D&D races, minus Gnomes. The races retain their traditional flavor, but each one has a few tweaks to give added interest and a unique feel for the Terra world.
Races and the History of Terra
Humans: A short 200 years in the past, the humans of Terra were living in isolated tribes in the North, hunting and practicing simple agriculture, hedge magic and worshiping their ancestors and nature spirits. But during the War of the Dragons, when the great magics let lose on the world resulted in the Year of Summer, a small group of humans migrated South into Terra. Humans proved to be intelligent and adaptable, quickly picking up on the technology of the Dwarves and the magic of the Elves. Within 100 years they had the population and organization to be a political force to be reckoned with and the other races began to see the dark side of human nature – their ambition, arrogance and greed.
Alert to the growing anti-human sentiment among the two great traditional Empires of Terra, the humans forged an alliance with the other most powerful outcast race: the Orcs. Shortly after the alliance was finalized, King Josiah Reich began the Unification Wars. Fifty years later the Orcs had betrayed the humans, but not until after the humans conquered all of central Terra. The last two autonomous regions remained the hearts of the old Dwarven and Elven Empires: The Abkhaz Mountains, the entrance of which is guarded by the great Dwarven fortress of Abkhazia, unconquered after 50 years of continuous siege and the Elves woodland home Lemnos with its pathless forests and multitude of connections to the Feywild.
Over the last 50 years the human empire of Reichland has slowly been withering. Perhaps if the Orcs had never betrayed the humans it could have remained, but the loss of a huge portion of the Alliance military meant that outposts and territories quickly began slipping away; not to the Elves and Dwarves, both of which were war-weary and needed time to regroup and rebuild, but to darker forces including Lizardmen, rebellious Orcs and creatures of dark magic. The most prominent of the last is Lyrandra.
In the past 5 years however things have finally begun to improve. A group of adventurers have been fighting Lyranda, killing her lieutenants and driving her followers from human-occupied areas. The adventurers, now simply known as The Five have recently claimed to have tracked Lyranda to her fortress. . .
Meta-Game Information: Human culture in this campaign are somewhat modeled on the rise of Nazi Germany. Though humans aren’t as bad as the Nazis, the Reichland government is a monarchy with some facist leanings. Many names of people and places are germanically-inspired. However, humans have a fairly diverse culture and names can be taken from any tradition. “Wild Human” names (humans from outside Terra) have been chosen with an African feel to them.
Elves: The elves, along with the dwarves, are one of the two oldest and most powerful races on Terra. They stumbled onto Terra centuries ago from the Feywild and found it to be wild, beautiful and untamed. The Elves prefer it to remain that way. They allow no roads, bridges or dams to be built in areas they control. The fact they can use resources from both the Feywild and Terra means that they are able to easily survive without over-exploiting the land they use. The elven-controlled areas of the Lemnos Forest remain in a very natural state, and jealously protected by the Elves. They lack much formal religion but do pray to, pay respect to and ask favors of the personified spirits of animals and natural elements. Elves also brought the practice of magic to Terra, and are still the greatest masters of it. Other races see them as aloof and arrogant, as Elves generally keep to themselves and many scorn the other races as wasteful, shortsighted and destructive.
Meta-Game Information: Think of Elven culture as similar to the idealized idea we now have of Native American culture. However, Elves actually do live in harmony with nature. The elven religion based on animism and spirit worship is strongly Native American inspired. However, names of people and places generally have a Romance language root in deference to traditional Elven styles. French, Italian and Romanian are good places to start looking for names for elven locations.
Dwarves: The Dwarves, beside the humans, are the only other great empire builders of Terra. The Dwarven society is highly advanced and complex. They are the primary sources of non-magical technology in Terra, but also have an incredibly rich artistic and spiritual culture and the Dwarves have produced most of the greatest poets, musicians and theologians in Terra’s history. They also can be fearsome warriors and their culture has a strong martial tradition, with most young dwarves, both male and female, receiving at least basic training in unarmed and armed combat. Carving vast cities and monasteries in the mountainous areas of Terra, the Dwarves can thrive in any climate, rejoice in what other races would consider unbearably cramped living conditions and are resourceful, hardy and hardworking. If not for their fracuous society the dwarves would likely quickly dominate Terra. However, dwarven society is divided into a multitude of clans, each with their own traditions and often paying tribute to different Gods. The dwarven clans spend as much time fighting each other as their traditional enemies: Orcs, Kobolds and Ogres. Many clans have blood feuds reaching back for generations of such ferocity that two dwarves, upon their first meeting may be immediately required to fight to the death when they learn of the other’s clan. Outsiders view of Dwarves is mixed. Some see them as quarrelsome, dangerous and unpredictable, while others find that a dwarven friend, once made, is a valuable and steady companion. Dwarves, like most who live with an inflexible moral code, see the other races as dishonest, unorganized and untrustworthy.
Meta-Game Information: Dwarven culture here is a mix of medieval Scottish and modern Middle Eastern, specifically Afghani. They are very clan-ish, like the Scotts (and modern Afghans) but their spiritual and cultural roots are more Middle Eastern than European. The focus on poetry, music and religion, and strong monastic tradition, is more similar to traditional Turkish or Arabian cultures. As for names, Georgian has been used for the base of character names and places, as the hard consonants mirror traditional Dwarven names well.
Halflings: Halflings perhaps compete with Orcs for the title of most hated intelligent race on Terra. Halflings are a nomadic diaspora, ranging all across Terra and living in every imaginable environment. Halfling groups survive by foraging, hunting, trading and occasionally stealing as they travel. Most of the members of the other races see Halflings as lazy, dishonest, thieves. They are rarely welcome when they arrive, though many small villages and towns throughout Reichland couldn’t survive without the occasional Halfling trade caravan that brings much needed supplies and luxury goods. The Halflings, for their part, always recognize the value of their goods and drive a hard bargain, a fact that doesn’t help to ingratiate them with the villages they visit. Halflings that have settled down in cities are often seperated from familial and group structures that support them and often devolve into thievery or begging, further contributing to the bad reputation of Halflings as a race. Due to their association with crime, Halfling words are often used by the lower classes and young people as slang (most commonly the insults).
That said, Halfling culture is rich and varied. No Halfling group is complete without a few performers (another reason they are allowed places, even if they are hated). Halfling perfoermers are known for their dancing, music and feats of acrobatics. Halflings have a very insular society, and while most are notoriously gregarious, they are very protective of their secrets. Halflings don’t teach their language to outsiders, nor do they allow non-Halflings to travel with their caravans. They are not spiritual, like Dwarves, nor mystical in the same way as Elves, but they do have a strong sense (and healthy fear) of the supernatural. Halflings with small magical talents often use it for fortune-telling, and they are often sought out for making potions or powders to charm or curse.
Meta-Game Information: This one should be obvious – Halflings are based on Roma (gypsy) culture. Roma names and words are used directly for Halflings here.
Half-Orcs: Half-Orcs are the “youngest” race in Terra. The first half-Orcs were born during the Unification Wars, when the Orcs allied with the Humans and made up as much as 50% of the Allied army. Half-Orcs are often the children of “camp followers”, but sometimes the result of legitmate human/Orc unions. In the larger cities of Reichland half-Orcs have become unexceptional, if not common. Some people hate them, remembering the Orc betrayl of the Alliance forces, but at least as many see them as just another race in the Alliance. The army at Reichstadt even has a battalion of all Half-Orc troops, and it’s known as one of the most dangerous and feared units in the Reichland military. Half-Orcs lack much of a sense of racial identity though, and tend to shy away from others of their own kind, instead attempting to fit into either human or Orc society.
Meta-Game Information: The inspiration for Half-Orcs comes mostly from mixed-race African Americans after the Civil Rights movement. They have the same sense of “choosing a side”, to associate with either Orcs or Humans, and the same vague distrust and dislike, combined with a supposed cultural acceptance.
Half-Elves: Half-Elves tend to get very different reactions depending on the race they are interacting with. Dwarves and Elves see Half-Elves as glorified humans, as their short life-spans tend to give them the same sense of time and pace of life as humans. Humans and Half-Orcs see them more as elves. Their natural grace and beauty making them immediately noticeable and many humans are convinced that all Half-Elves can naturally do some magic. They are sometimes resented and often envied by “normal” humans, but never allowed to quite fit in. Half-Elves, unlike Half-Orcs, have a strong inner sense of community. This is partly due to the fact that Half-Elves cannot successfully crossbreed with humans or elves, but only with other Half-Elves. In larger cities Half-Elves build small but vibrant communities of artists, musicians and scholars, creating small enclaves of rich culture in often otherwise fringe areas of cities.
Meta-Game Information: The idea of Half-Elf culture most closely resembles the LGBT culture. Distrusted from all sides and driven into enclaves at the fringes of accepted society, they nevertheless thrive and produce vibrant culture. They have a strong sense of internal community, like LGBT’s.