Cacklecharm once said something very interesting about humans. I forget exactly what post it was in (I lied, it's here), but it he said that he's fine with humans not having specific racial abilities in games like D&D, with them being the generic, assumed normal. The special things about humans is that they are humans, inherently normal and understandable, a known quality already and unavoidably familiar to the players.
I'm paraphrasing and being overly flowery, but that was the gist of his message. Dwarves and Elves can be weird and strange, but humans should be different. I disagreed with this perspective; I think that if humans were part of a world full of Wizards and Dragons, they would be different then the humans of our universe.
So if you want to make your Humans weird, roll on the table below and see what you get.
What is different about humans in this setting?
1- Humans are the oldest race. All other races are descended from humans. This may be common knowledge, disputed by some or all, or unknown. How this happened can vary, from genetic engineering, last-ditch attempts by humans to save their species from extinction, half-breeds created when the race of genetically cultivated concubines' birth control stopped working after an apocalypse, etc.
2- Humans are the race that discovered magic. Magic works off of human principles and humans are innately better at it than most races, barring creatures which are innately magical, such as Spirits, Elves or Dragons. For races without innate magic, they need some kind of "in" to use magic, such as making a pact with a Spirit, exposing themselves to Raw Chaos, throwing themselves into a Pool of Mother's Blood, etc. The one exception is humans, who can do magic without use of these tricks. Humans can still screw up their spells and must be trained, but they don't need an invitation to start learning magic.
3- Humans can adapt to any environment over time, no matter how hostile. This causes humans to change their phenotypical features based on where they live. Human populations that live in hotter climates develop darker skin tones, humans that live in colder climates develop paler skin, humans that live underground will find their children start turning into Morlocks, etc.
4- Human 1d3 (1= Males; 2= Females; 3= Both) go into heat during the full moon or at other pre-selected times. In human settlements during this time, things get very interesting for a couple of hours, before everything goes back to normal. Human culture has developed and altered around this specific biological quirk. During other times of the month/year, it may be harder or impossible for humans to sire offspring.
5- Humans are the only race that can produce viable offspring with other races outside their race. For all Half-X (Orc, Elf, Dragon) creatures, the other half is human.
6- Humans are the only race that reproduce via sexual intercourse. All other species reproduce through some sort of magical ritual or mystical process. These races might not have sex at all, or they might do it for purposes other than reproduction, such as maintaining intra-group harmony (see Bonobos).
7- Humans have tails. Bonus points if they're prehensile. Even if they aren't used for anything, a human's tail can be used to judge their mood as it betrays their emotions. Only an extremely disciplined human can control his tail.
8- Humans transform into a different type of creature or have their personality or behavior altered by certain astronomical event, such as the phases of the Moon causing humans to devolve into a more primitive mindset.
9- Humans are the only ones who can domesticate animals. All other races merely adopted animals humans already prepared for them.
10- Humans are the best horse-riders and have a natural bond with horses. All other races either cannot ride horses due to physical considerations such as being too big, frightening horses with their smell, etc. Other races may ride other beasts, but these are not as good as horses, or possess drawbacks that horses do not. Riding giant wolves is badass, until you look into the cost of feeding them, etc.
11- Humans are the only race that has dogs. All dogs have a natural bond with humans and they are almost always friendly towards humans, barring unusual circumstances.
12- Humans have no creator God or central religion. This is because, in ancient times at the beginning of the world, they joined their creator's chief servant in rebellion against him, overthrowing and destroying him. Now either that traitorous servant or his successor(s) rule over the humans, either openly or in secret. The latter fact is secret knowledge, hidden from almost all mortals. For humans whom this is true, their dominant trait, the one their race is known for, is ambition.
Elves exist at the conjunction point between animal, faerie and human. They are alike all, but belong to none. Elves are created through negotiations with representatives from the Animal Kings, the Faerie Courts and from the divine guardians of civilization and humanity. This negotiation process typically takes between 10 months to 2 years and while it can be done individually, usually involves anywhere from 3 to 20 elves as well representative Spirits from the Animal Kingdoms and Faerie Courts. The negotiators must balance the concerns of all parties, making concessions and demands as they see fit. Only when all parties agree can a new Elf be created. New Elves then emerge from under covers of leaves, wash up on the shores of creeks wrapped in aquatic plants, or are found half-buried in the mud of rice patties.
Depending on which side received more concessions determines what kind of Elf is created. High Elves emphasize their human side and can thus wield and wear iron without suffering any negative effects. Wood Elves have their animal side emphasized, and can talk to certain types of beasts such as creeping things, birds, beasts of the field, etc, as if they shared a language. Dark Elves have their Faerie side emphasized, so while they cannot use iron weapons or wear armor made of the same, but they start with the ability to cast spells.
Dwarves tell stories about their heroic ancestors to encourage reincarnation, or so they believe. If enough Dwarves tell stories about a specific person, that will create a new Dwarf and allow that spirit to reincarnate, or so it is believed. The new Dwarf will not necessarily have the strength or talents of the ancestor they might be a reincarnation of, but they usually share the same personality and temperment of the person the story is about.
For example, if everyone tells the story of Tourmond Goblinbane, who was a ferocious warrior and a serial womanizer with a heart of gold, someone similar to that might one day stumble into town. This new Dwarf might not have the skill at arms or in bed as the original Tourmond, but he might have other talents. He will, however, share some of the sentiments and character of Tourmound, having a similar mix of honor, valor and lechery.
Additionally, some Dwarven folklore has been corrupted by myths, fantasy and legend that has slowly become accepted as fact over the generations. As such, some of the ancestors who are supposedly reincarnating might not have ever existed in the first place. This doesn't really bother anyone, if they even know such a thing is a possibility.
Halflings are created from animals. Halflings adopt animals and slowly civilize those beasts, teaching them how to wear clothes, cook and clean, maintain houses and use proper table manners. Over a period of years or decades, depending on the animal, that animal becomes more and more human until it eventually gains the ability to shapeshift into a Halfling. The reason why most Halflings are short is because they usually choose small herbivores or omnivores, which usually are the easiest to train.
All Halfings also have the ability to shapeshift back into their previous animal form.
|by C. M. Koseman|