The Races of Valgard
Humans: Humans make up the bulk of the population in Aritae. Though young compared to the elder races of elf- and dwarf-kind, humans nevertheless have inhabited Aritae for many millennia, having descended from the First Men of the mythic ages before the founding of the Bal-Shanaari Empire. The four major offshoots of humanity are as follows:
Braelings are the largest remaining population of humans today, found from the foothills south of the great mountains all the way to the forests of the Ardenwood. Braelings exhibit a range of complexions but tend towards fair or ruddy skin, with shades of brown and red being the most common hair colors. There is great diversity in height or build, as their population is large and spread across many different lands.
Tiguri hail from the swamps and jungles of Anatar to the south, and tend towards leanness and a more compact frame than their northern cousins. Dark hair is the norm, with tan or bronze skin dominating, though dark brown and ebon skin is not unheard of. Though Tiguri constituted the ethnic majority of the Bal-Shanaari empire, they most often occupied the lower strata of society, making up the bulk of Bal-Shanaari conscript armies and the desperately poor of overcrowded cities. Most Tiguri speak Common with strong accents due to the Bal-Shanaari dialects continued usage in the south.
Hyskians are a long-limbed tan- or olive-skinned seafaring people that originally made their home along the southeastern coast of Aritae; it is said their trading ships brought back wealth from distant lands east of the Sea of Wrath, and their once-majestic seaside cities lent credence to these tales. The lands of Hyskia were also said to be home to the most fearsome masters of the arcane arts; most of the ruling families of Bal-Shanaar came from Hyskian stock, as it was the Hyskian mage-lords that drove the Anatari giant-men from their ziggurats and built the great Bal-Shanaari capitol of Ulaaris amidst the jungle ruins. Hyskians are sometimes pejoratively referred to as “fig-eaters” by other cultures, who carry disdain for their perceived wealth and ostentation.
Norskans, as the people dwelling in the fjords and forests of the far north are known, are an exceptionally tall and hardy folk, fair of skin and hair, who make war upon eachother and the giants of the frozen wastes beyond. In ages past, Norskan chieftains routinely led raids against villages along the coasts and rivers, using their expert seamanship and swift dragonships to terrorize communities across Aritae. Norskans claim to be the most like the First Men owing to their relative isolation and lack of interbreeding with other cultures.
Elves and Half-Elves: The majority of elves in Aritae belong to nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes spread throughout the wooded wilderness, living off the land and preying on traveling caravans. Occasionally, elven hunting parties will raid human settlements, especially in the southern forests of The Ardenwood and Ebonheart Vale. Elves are aloof and have difficulty empathizing with humans. These tendencies make race relations between humans and elves understandably tense, and only a few human towns are home to elves. Half-elves are most often the product of rape, due to the elven sacking of human villages. They inherit many of the best features of both races, however, and humans find half-elves easier to relate to than the alien-minded elves.
Dwarves: The majority of dwarves in Aritae make their homes within the ancestral halls of Zarak-Thrum. Many clans make up a coalition of allied holds, stretching across the Mountains of Might and deep beneath the earth, where they mine precious metals from the earth and fight endless wars against the creatures of the depths. Dwarves are not commonly seen outside their mountain homes, though a few families have traveled abroad and settled in various areas and it is not unheard of to find individuals roaming the surface world on various errands.
Halflings: Halflings can be found in many of the larger human settlements, as well as in communities of their own in the wilderness, usually near rivers and other waterways. The only true halfling city is Asvarn, perched along the riverbanks of the Zehuar Valley. Halflings are nimble folk who enjoy natural places and have a strong connection to the earth. Most folk believe that halflings descended from elves. Most halflings end up in roving bands and nomadic extended family units that travel along the waterways, trading and engaging in other, less forthright activities. Those who insist on finding an honest wage commonly find work as guides, scouts and messengers, owing to their affinity for the wild.
Tieflings: During the death throes of the empire, the ruling families of Bael Turath, a powerful Bal-Shanaari city deep in the jungles of Anatar, had dealings with diabolic beings of vast influence. Tieflings are the descendants of these families who carry the cursed blood of their forebears today, though it has been diluted over the ages; while the offspring of two tieflings always produces a tiefling, interbreeding with regular humans often suppresses the manifestation of the tiefling curse, though fate occasionally produces tieflings from these unions or even from the pairing of two full humans if either carries even a hint of the blood. Children born of two tieflings (“purebloods” as they often call themselves) always appear devilish immediately, whereas those manifested by chance (“thinbloods”) are born seemingly human, only undergoing the change during adolescence and even then often appearing more human than purebloods. Tieflings typically exist on the fringes of society, usually as charlatans and cutthroats. Regardless of the potency of their blood, all tieflings possess some inborn arcane affinity, using simple glamours to conceal their true nature and allowing them to blend into human society. Most often, these folk are concerned with simple personal gain, though attitudes do vary on an individual basis.
Dragonborn: Not sighted in Aritae for millennia, the dragonborn of the mighty Arkhosian Empire invaded from across the Sea of Wrath during the early ages, establishing a fortress-city on the isle of Deshe’a. They were eventually driven from the continent after a cataclysmic war against the fledgling Bal-Shanaari Empire. They remain dire enemies in the collective memories of Aritaeans and are often the subject of children’s stories.
Eladrin: Ancient fey ancestors of the elves, the eladrin are rarely seen in the mortal world, mostly keeping to their magnificent cities in Feywild. Despite their reclusiveness, stories abound of eladrin settlements hidden in the deepest wilds, veiled from observation by powerful magics.