Friday, November 30, 2007

Godtouched Races: Humans

When I was originally designing the setting of Aarn, I found myself perplexed by the tendency of fantasy role players to avoid playing humans. They weren't as "exotic" or interesting as elves, half-elves, half-orcs, halflings or dwarves. It was a common trope that the most advanced civilization in a setting would be dragons, or reclusive elves, or some bizzare otherwordly race.

I figured that this may have had something to do with humans being portrayed as the "everyman" race. Young, plucky upstarts who, if you'll forgive me for using the expression, live fast and die hard. This could be considered an attractive archetype for heroes, but when the entire race is portrayed in this way, it gets stale rather quickly.

While my humans may be young compared to the other races, the lizardlike ardlins instead fill the role of the "new kids on the block," with humans having moved past their growing pains into the role of dominant world powers. In fact, the current human civilizations do not even represent their peak. As described in the "A Brief History of Aarn" post, humans once had a world-spanning empire that had dominated the entire habitable hemisphere. Brought down by their own folly, they left a scar on Aarn, changing a full fifth of habitable land into a large, shattered chain of islands.

In the world of Aarn, the eldest and most powerful spells, the ancient temples, and the distant, secret cities filled with wise, overly pragmatic and world-weary mages all belong to the human race.

To be human in the world of Aarn is to instantly have an advantage both cultural and racial. Humans make up the largest population out of all the godtouched, and they live in the farthest reaching areas. Compared to other godtouched, their average life span of 80 years is actually slightly above the racial average, especially when one considers extending ones' life with magic.

The population of humans on the planet numbers at around 30 million, split up over seven groups of distinct cultural and racial differences. The seven main human subraces are as follows;

Jerolan: Living primarily in Zenninfal, the westernmost subcontinent of Aarn, jerolans have pale skin that tans easily and hair that that starts dark but in some individuals bleaches crimson with over-exposure to sunlight. They have stocky builds, with an average height of five feet eight inches. Their current major power base is the kingdom of Cerenbaun, though in times past they politically dominated a much larger slice of Aarn than they do currently, being named after the collapsed Jerol Empire. Jerolans make up about 25% of the total human population.

Rensvaja: Living primarily at the tip of the southernmost subcontinent, Rensvan, the rensvaja have dark skin that ranges from chocolate to a deep and rich purple-gray. Their teeth, fingernails, and the whites of their eyes are amber colored, while their hair tends towards greenish and purple grays, like the color of tree bark. Their average height is six feet even. Isolated from the rest of aarn by thick, impenetrable jungle and treacherous seas, their culture has diverged greatly from that of other humans. Their society is governed by a rigid caste system based primarily on ones' aptitude for magic, which they consider holy. It can be argued that the rensvaja are the only human subrace who still worship Jennin in the "old way," their prime religion being a combination of monotheism and ancestor worship. They are quite populous, and make up 30% of the human population.

Yesshan: Living in the Yesshan deserts, these nomads are characterized by olive skin and dark hair. Their average height for males is six feet two, while their average height for females is five feet six. They do not gain weight easily, having high metabolisms. They are a proud and isolated people who have a rich history. More than a millenium ago, they had a wide and influential empire to their name, whose fall could mostly be blamed on the spreading Yesshan desert. From an earth-analogous standpoint, their racial characteristics could be considered a combination of middle-eastern and east-indian peoples. Yesshans represent a solid 10% of the human population.

Habrukan: The subrace of humans who live primarily in the snowy north of Aarn are named after their subcontinent of residence, Habruk. They are characterized by very pale skin, light colored hair that grays in their mid-teens, broad shoulders and body fat that distributes evenly under their skin as they gain weight, as protection from the cold. Their average height is six feet even. Culturally, they are fond of tattoos, drink, sailing and stone-cutting. Their largest kingdom is named Freshdan, which is geographically isolated by unforgiving mountain ranges and a rocky coastline. Habrukans represent around 8% of the human population.

Kaipu: Remnants of the original human civilization, Kaipu are primarily islanders who inhabit the eastern islands and the eastern section of Habruk. They have almond-shaped eyes, skin tones that range from pale to tan, and a wide range of hair colors, including natural pinks, greens and golds. They are noticeably short and spry, with an average height of five feet four inches, though those of their race who live on the Habruk mainland are noticeably taller and paler. Due to difficulties in regularly crossing the sea that separates the eastern islands from one another, they are highly conscious of hereditary and cultural divides, and do not consider themselves a single unified race. Kaipu represent approximately 6% of the human population.

Iga: A "mutt" race that can trace its ancestry to a mixing of blood from nearly every other subrace, the Iga live in and around the eastern coast of Aarn's supercontinent. The iga are named for their main kingdom of Igakari, which is a kingdom that rivals Cerenbaun in strength and resources. More a cultural subrace than a physical one, the features, builds, and hair colors of igas can vary widely from individual to individual, and it is their accent when they speak that makes them recognizable. Ascetics and believers in education and higher learning, the igan academies and mages schools are the best in all of the known world. Igas make up 15% of the human population.

Aledoran: Named after the secret hidden city of Aledor, these isolated people have lived in and maintained the only human city that survived the cataclysmic destruction of the first human civilization. Overexposure to magic over generations has led their skin to be iridescent and practically translucent. Their hair is usually pale yellow, and their irises milky white. They are quite reclusive and even legendary; most consider their existence to be a myth, and the city of Aledor itself floats on a cushion of magic over a long island-continent largely populated by dangerous dragons. With a small population of barely over 100,000, they are only worth mention due to their power and exotic appearance.

Everyone else: Those paying attention will notice that my percentages don't add up to 100; this is intentional. The livable hemisphere of Aarn is very wide and diverse, with many islands and isolated kingdoms where unique sub races of humans may develop. Consider the remaining 5-6% of the human population to be breathing room where I can insert small populations of exotic islander humans here and there in the future.

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