Recently some friends and I played Dawn of Worlds, which is sort-of a game, but mostly just a way of producing a world, in which the players have created races and written their history. It’s a bit wonky, and I think we ignored most of the actual rules, but it’s a fun way of making a world you all know, without the DM being forced to get the whole group up to speed in session zero.
So below is an abridged history of our world and its people. Or rather ‘people’.
One of the first races to arises on the world, the goat-headed, mole-clawed Capratalp colonised ‘The Gulf’. This massive, continent-splitting canyon extends so far into the ground that it is widely regarded to be bottomless.
The Capratalp are a pragmatic, industrious people, and used their head start on the other races to dominate The Gulf, and create wondrous (and terrible) technologies. Various alchemical compounds were found within The Gulf, and the Capratalp used them to fuel their machines, as create drugs to be sold to the other races. Their largest city – #### – sits at the end of The Gulf, and is now a marvel of the continent, with airships criss-crossing the ravines, and great machines powered by unknown mechanisms belching fumes into the air.
Not a race apparently concerned with morality, the Capratalp are content to sell their drugs and technology far and wide. They also discovered the Wetan people (see below) in the deserts near The Gulf, and immediately enslaved them to work in their refineries. While the Wetan have since been freed, relations between the people are cold, and few races trust the Capratalp.
Another precursor race, the Fog Crawlers inhabit one the Misty Isles, far removed from the main continents of Chineland. A mysterious and reclusive race, despite existing for so long little is known about them, and they have taken little part in events in the wider world. However they do seem aware of events on the mainland, and even launched an ill-fated assault on the corrupted humans (see below).
What is known is that they are a small, humanoid people, who generally keep their faces covered in large hooded cloaks. Despite their elusiveness, they have been known to be kind and helpful to travellers, who often seek out their hidden cities for their wisdom.
Not a race of people, but a corrupting influence in world, Nargu’othra came from the darkness beyond the stars and crashed into the mountains at the tip of the continent early in the world’s history. No-one knows its true form, or the extent of its power, but its influence is felt around the world. Cultists of all races come to the mountains to worship the ‘fallen god’, many of which are transformed into aberrations from the proximity.
In recent years the reach of Nargu’othra has increased, with holes cities falling victim to its corrupting touch. If the great old one should fully arise, the world will shake.
There are two subraces of dwarves in the Chineland, named for the way they decorate their hair and beards: the Iron-beards and the Mithril-beards. The Ironbeard dwarves are master forgers and craftsman, and while they do not stray far from their mountain cities, they trade with many other races and are respected as a neutral mediators in conflicts.
The mithril dwarves are an offshoot who dug deeper than their siblings, discovering new and more precious metals. Their pursuit ever deeper into the earth has isolated them from the surface dwellers, such that they are rarely outside of their dark cities. Based on what they know of other races, they consider seeing the sky a sin, such that diplomats who travel to the surface often blind themselves to remain ‘pure’.
The insectoid Wetan spent much of their existence enslaved by the Capratalp (some say they were created to serve as slaves, though Wetan have been known to attack any who say so in their presence). Their hard exoskeletons, extra limbs, collective mindset, and incredible constitution made them ideal workers for the Capratalp. It also made them impossible to control when they rose up against their masters and claimed freedom.
The Wetan now claim most the desert next to The Gulf as their territory, and while not hostile to travellers, they police and control their lands efficiently: always on guard in case another race should try to enslave them again. They also hunt the abominations that arise from the corruption in the mountains without mercy, and have been known to be over-zealous in the pursuit of their ‘greater good’.
A race of living rocks, the Gneissans live almost exclusively in their great citadel, defending the narrow, mountainous strip of land from constant demon assault. As creatures of stone, they do not reproduce like other races, but instead carve their next generation from sacred stones and imbue them with life. This means a Gneissan is ‘born’ as strong and capable as it will ever be, and is slowly worn down during its life, to be finally added to the great walls in death.
Master stonemasons (as you’d expect), and steadfast warriors, the Gneissans have not engaged with the wider world. Their entire culture is built around defending their city (and so extension, the world) from the ravenous demons in the frozen wastes. No-one really knows why they continue to throw themselves at the citadel, but the Gneissans have held them back since the dawn of history. However rumours now abound that the Genissans are running out of their sacred stones to create new offspring, and if their population dwindles the citadel may not stand…
The monstrous, winged gargoyles make their home in a grand, gothic castles in the mountains, not far from the Gneissan citadel. Long-lived, and shrewd manipulators, they have spent most of their history building, gathering treasure and recruiting mercenaries – even capturing some demons and ‘domesticating’ them! Other races feared they were building an army, but the Gargoyles have never attacked another race.
Instead they seem content to stay in their high castles, and invite travellers in. Those who have returned from a stay with the Gargoyles say that their castles are elaborate ‘dungeons’, full of traps and treasure, apparently meant for entertainment. Some are simply mean-spirited, but non-leathal obstacle courses before an audience; while others are far more deadly, which only the most brave or foolish attempt. What the Gargoyles gain from all this is anyone’s guess, but travellers of all races seek them out to test themselves in the gauntlets.
The trolls of Chineland live almost exclusively in the wastelands near the Gargoyle homes. They live in collectivist communes, struggling to understand other race’s concepts of trade and commerce, and their complex life cycle means that other creatures may be confused as to their ‘true’ form.
Trolls have more in common with fungi than other races, and spend most of their lives as very small humanoid creatures, distinguishable by their large tuft of grass, leaf, mushroom cap, or similar on their head. Entire communes then reach fertility together, growing enormously – to human size or greater – at which point they breed.
Trolls have 3 sexes: the ‘males’ fertilise the ‘females’ in great numbers, and die in the process. The third sex (the ‘hosts’) meanwhile undergo a transformation into woody, almost tree-like creatures, and become immobile. The females then implant their young into as many hosts as they can, who grow the young trolls until they are ready to hatch, at which point the hosts too die. The females then live a few more years, raising the tiny trolls, and protecting their commune, before the cycle begins again.
Trolls who reach maturity, but do not breed, live on. While some choose to do this, they are treated as abominations by their society, and exiled.
By far the largest, and slowest, of the races, the Grass Giants live in the hills and plains of their continent, though rarely building settlements, or even living together in large numbers. Other races find dealing with the giants difficult, as they prefer to ruminate on matters, and are impossible to rush. A simple question may take an hour or more to answer, and matters of importance are decided in years (if at all). The Giants similarly find other races rush about, and encroach onto their territory and build a town before the giants have decided how best to greet them.
The Giants do have one settlement, deep in the hills, at the centre of which is a massive colosseum. The giants gather to discuss important matters and share news, which watching giant snail races. As you’d imagine, these races are interminable for any other species, but exciting sporting events for the giants.
These bird-like people lived near the centre of the Chinelands, making their home city in the cliffs and pillars of the desert peninsular. Able to cover great distances in flight, the Accipiters made contact with all the other races of the world, helping spread news (and trade). Almost every city of the world holds an Accipiter embassy, and their monopoly on intercontinental communication made them powerful and respected. Kings and councils would ensure the Accipiters would well looked-after, as the knowledge they offered could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
However the Accipiter home was the first (and so far, only) city to fall to Nurgo’athra’s corruption. The once great cliff and nest city is now a ruin, inhabited only by aberrant, monstrous creatures. The Accipiter themselves are now a people without a home, living as ambassadors and refugees in the other cities of the world, guarding their precious secrets even more closely.
The most numerous and diverse species of the Chinelands, the humans of the world have divided into 3 distinct cultures.
These humans have settled into towns and cities around the fertile temperate lands where farming is easy. By no means a homogeneous group, they have divided into dozens of small kingdoms and nations, sometimes allying, but almost always at war with someone.
The constant political turmoil of these people makes it hard for other races to form a definite opinion, or live alongside them. However their industry and relative wealth means that many are keen to keep a cordial trading relationship open. Capratalp, Dwarves, Accipiters and Wetan may all be seen in human cities, although few reach full citizenship status.
In contrast to their brethren, the nomads rarely build permanent settlements, and instead move through the great plains of the northern continent. While the settled humans are happy to dismiss them as savages or barbarians, the nomadic humans are just as industrious and political. Their interests lie in the motion of the stars and celestial bodies, which their seers interpret to determine their tribe’s course of action. Master hunters and mounted archers, their tribes are (seemingly a trait for humans) constantly engaged in skirmish battles with each other, only to form an alliance against another group a moment later.
The nomads have only 2 permanent structures – the summer and winter cities. Not truly a ‘city’ as another human would recognise it, these are locations where almost tribes gather once a year to trade, feast and otherwise mark their festivals. During these times outright fighting is forbidden, but scores are settle in other ways, as champions compete in contests of riding, marksmanship and many others. The festivals are open to all, and creatures of all kinds often make their way to the nomad ‘city’ to join the festival.
The history of the humans who became the undying monstrosities that plague the southwestern continent is complex, but it is simply one of power corrupting.
Originally a great human nation, masters of magic, who found that the Capratalp’s compounds enhanced their abilities. Great sorcerer-princes sought to become ever more powerful, and turned to darker magics and greater amounts of the drugs, becoming something other than human.
Perhaps is was simply the gradual corrupting effects of the drugs and magic, or perhaps it was the hand of Nargu’othra, but something was unleashed that transformed all the people, almost at once. Their great cities now lie in ruins, the land overrun with the twisted, mindless forms of its former people.