Races of the Blighted World

So I spent some time thinking about 4e and the way there are so many different races a person can choose from. Maybe less than 3.5 (by the end) and maybe less than, say, Talislanta, but, about 25, if you include the three Player’s Handbooks, the Genasi, the Drow, the Eberron races, bladelings, and a smattering of Monster Manual races. With that in mind, I wanted to impose some differences, some hierarchy on the lot of them, but still make everything available to PCs. Now the trick was reflavoring it the way I wanted it…

This is a rough look at my current thinking and I’ll probably change it even more before we get around to playing, but this is a beginning.

Men and Sub-Men
When the dwarven races unleashed the Devastation on the world, the race of men underwent some changes. Some breeds of humans, untouched by the magic, remained pure and they are collectively referred to as First Men. But many were shaped by the powerful, chaotic magics and elemental disasters sweeping the world, shaped into new types of men, with strange differences, some subtle, some not so. The races that are now “human” are:
–Goliaths (whose appearance is still massive and strong, but not mottled anymore… I’ll explain their markings more later.)
–Genasi (and Genasi have more of their 3rd edition appearance. They have hair, don’t grow crystals on their heads, etc.)
–Kalashtar (these may need a new name)
–Githzerai (they are going to need some new fluff, but are still men)

— Tieflings are also included in this lot, because they are closely related to First Men, but they had already made their infernal bargains before the Devastation and so are uniquely tiefling.

Game Note: Despite being “human,” these races are still mechanically their own. This allows for feats and such to remain the same, and it just changes the flavor of these beings. Thus, a Goliath cannot take human feats even though they are, socially, a sub-race of man in this world.

The Blighted World is also populated by many strange hybrid beings. Some of these are proud and noble races, whose history goes back as long as humankind, but more are monsters, brought to life by the changes wrought when the magic of the Devastation touched them. Even among these monsters though, some stand out. These are the beastman races acceptable as PCs.

Dwarves (and Duergar)
The dwarves are responsible for the Devastation. They fled the world on flying citadels forged right out of the mountaintops of their homes. Now they ply the skies in skyships and a brisk trade is done between the dwarven clans and the surface folk.

The duergar on the other hand, are a bitter, frustrated lot. Left behind when the other dwarves headed for the skies, the duergar were at ground zero of the evil magics unleashed. Changed by these energies and left for dead they somehow survived. Now they lurk in the remnants of the ancient strongholds, grown strong on hate, a mockery of once-proud dwarven civilization.

Eladrin and Gnomes
Members of these two races are exceedingly rare in the world, living mostly in the Feywild. When the Devastation struck, the Fey Lords closed the gates between the natural world and the Feywild. Eladrin or gnomes in the natural world are most likely exiles, or explorers seeing what has become of the natural world, now that life is beginning to flourish again.

Elves, Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, Revenants, Shadar-Kai, Drow
These races work as written.

I’m dropping the “mind” part from the name of this race and just calling them Shards. Born 2,000 years ago in the Devastation, the shards arose from the wild magic released in the dwarven ritual, as it coursed through the gemstone veins of the mountains. In the long years since, they have spread across the lands of men, exploring, learning, and becoming a part of this new world.

The first Warforged were build by the dwarven clans as servants to the artificers, and soldiers to fight proxy wars to preserve dwarven life. But the Warforged proved to be far more than the dwarves could ever have predicted, and fought a revolution for their freedom. The dwarves lost, offering peace and giving the warforged the freedom they desired. Many Warforged set out into the world beyond the mountains, but others stayed with the dwarven clans. Those who left spread the secret of their creation and now they may be found in all parts of the world, from the Flying Citadels to the bazaars of Al’ara.

The deva presented an interesting idea to me, and an interesting opportunity for players. The first deva were not just angels who chose to take on mortal forms, but angels specifically chosen to take mortal form, walk among the dying civilizations of the Blighted World and help them survive. They were emissaries to show the gods had not forgotten their earthly followers. Since that time, these beings have constantly reincarnated in the world, always striving to expand past the cycle of death and rebirth, to become part of the celestial world once again. And some fall into darkness, ruined by their long memories of mortality, and turn to the way of the rakshasa.


So, that’s it for now. Let me know what you think and I’ll keep you posted as things change. Next time, I’m going to look at the way I want to use Monsters in this world. What’s staying and what’s not.


13 responses

  1. Gnolls!

    I approve.

  2. I like the way that you have categorized the races. I know you haven’t eliminated any, but grouping them (and re-flavoring a few) does make it seem simpler.

    Of course, I have a huge soft spot for genasi, and I think it’s interesting that they are a variant of humans. I’m also only familiar with the 4e version of genasi – I will need to look up how the 3e versions were different.

  3. The primary difference in 3.5 was that Genasi were more humanoid in appearance. They had hair, they didn’t really have radiant lines of energy pulsing over their skin… The modifications to their appearance for being plane-touched were more subtle. For example, an Air Genasi might simply appear to have white skin and white hair and blue eyes, but not have crystals growing out of their head…

    That kind of thing.

  4. Also, it solves the whole, my head is ******* on fire, but it doesn’t give off any light or heat, doesn’t modify my party’s ability to sneak, etc. It’s a small gripe, but it makes me crazy.

  5. This is similar to my beef with 4e Tieflings vs. 3e – 3e were pretty human looking, save for one or two demonic features – maybe they had small horns, or a tail, or cloven hooves for feet, or smelled faintly of sulfur…there was something a bit off about them, but as long as they could hide it, they could pass for humans. 4e Tieflings are…well, just LOOK at them.

  6. It is an interesting problem: I’m sure Wizards wanted to make the humanoid races very distinct from each other – maybe more so than in previous versions. So they made Genasi more elemental and Tieflings more demonic, etc. It creates interesting races for us players to play and gives a distinct flavor to the characters we play.

    However, it most medieval fantasy worlds, humans are the dominant race. Even in the 4e versions of D&D worlds (like Eberron), there are races that are VERY rare – but unless a GM imposes restrictions, parties can be whatever race makeup the players decide. In the games I’ve been in, we’ve had Drow, Minators, Genasi, Tieflings, Gnomes, etc. – We’ve never had more than 1 or 2 humans in the party. And none of the humans we encountered thought this was strange (now, I know Wizards has said that everyone at least knows about the different races, even if they haven’t seen one, but come on!)

    It was a little disheartening to play my Firesoul Genasi and not really be on fire – I mean that was the point! However, I do think I like the subtlety of the 3e Genasi a little bit better.

  7. Funny you should mention that – I have yet to make any blog posts of my own here because of school…finals end tomorrow. One of my upcoming posts, though, deals with the tendency for D&D parties to feature relatively few humans, although I think I’m basically going to be saying the same thing you did, but less concisely.

  8. Well, I think part of the issue is that 3.5 was still a human-centric game world. 4e is not. In 4e the default is more diverse. The humans had an ancient empire but so did the dragonborn and tieflings. With that in mind, it’s not just that the people know of other races, but rather, populations are meant to be more cosmopolitan. It should not seem all that unusual to see a genasi, dwarf, and a dragonborn walking down the street together. At least, it seems to me that this is what they were reaching for.

  9. That is probably what they were trying for, but that doesn’t really gel with their points of light game setting. If there really is a few towns spread out with tons of dangerous wilderness between, it doesn’t really work that each town has a diverse set of races living there. Yes, the large cities probably would have a good population of most of the races, with others visiting once and a while, but the small towns, which by Wizards’ ‘points of light’ campaign are isolated, are going to have relatively homogeneous race makeups (not necessarily human, just mainly all the same).

    However, I suppose it’s really not a big concession just to not make a big deal about multi-raced groups. Really, making it an obstacle for your group to overcome probably would add more work for both the players and the GM and not add any enjoyment.

    I was just thinking about it – I’ve never played a human character in 4e. Honestly, I prefer playing elven characters or other-than-human characters in general, but I also do not see much of a draw to play a human character over a non-human character. It’s just one of the races that I’ve read that I’m not impressed with the perks enough to play it. Maybe why you see so many multi-raced groups: humans just aren’t that interesting compared to the other races.

  10. Well, nothing says you have to use the default setting. I run DnD games in a very Planescape-y setting, so every self-aware critter in the multiverse shows up. Non-standard races are my favorites, and I try to get my PCs to play anything not from the PHB.

    Also, in 3.5, Humans are widely regarded as the superior PHB race, from a mechanical point of view. Maybe WotC over corrected for this in 4th?

  11. Like much else in 4e, Humans are pretty well balanced against the other races. Playing a human is good, but not, the best. I would submit that, once again in 4e, as was the case in 3/3.5, dwarves are the winners of the “holy *&^%! we’re awesome! award.”

  12. I’m a little late commenting on this, but can I tell you how chubbly I got when I read about the Feywild closing and having those races be all rare and mythological again? Unless I misunderstood what you are saying. That’s fucking sweet! That can lead to so many different story arcs and really does put a sort of awe I always yearned to feel when the eladrin showed up.

    I love these. I love them. Do the surface dwellers (obviously the dwarves left behind) know that the dwarves caused the devastation?

    1. I’ll get around to posting some more about the history of the world soon. Until then, the answer is no, the majority of those living in the world do not know the dwarves are responsible for the Devastation. It happened about 2,000 years in the settings past, and civilization is just beginning to properly recover.

      But some do know. And they hate.

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