Half-Breeds

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Xaossa

Half-Breeds

Postby Xaossa » Sun Apr 27, 2014 9:05 pm

So, I noticed that nobody made a thread based on Half-Orcs or Half-Elves or Mul or anything yet.

Consider this the opening page.



Actually, no. Let's talk about this for a bit: Why are their halfbreeds? Why are humans always a parent? Why aren't Elves the breed with everyone race if they were the first, and hence, suggesting that every genus was an off shoot from them?
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Trix2000
Location: California

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Trix2000 » Sun Apr 27, 2014 10:12 pm

Because min-maxers need a way to combine their favorite racial benefits?

More seriously, I've never been a huge fan of the concept except in very rare/specific circumstances. It's odd enough that completely different races are compatible that way, and perhaps more odd that, if they're common, there hasn't been significant mixing/merging beyond that. Could be explained away, but I feel like it shouldn't be exceedingly common.

Humans always being a parent's probably because of their usual stereotype as the 'jack of all trades' race.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Sun Apr 27, 2014 10:15 pm

Xaossa wrote:Why are humans always a parent?


I did present this as one of my problems with the humans.

Having a mix of a dwarf and an orc would be great.Or between an ogre and a troll.Or between a bear and a pig.Or an elephant and a pig.Or between a bear and an owl.Hey,that one does exist!And its such a nice monster to throw at your players.

And half breeds should give you ample opportunity to play an outcast,a child unwanted by both of his parent races,or regarded as a unification messiah for the warring races.Not just a bland "Oh,a human elf.How quaint.".
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Sun Apr 27, 2014 10:17 pm

Trix2000 wrote:It's odd enough that completely different races are compatible that way, and perhaps more odd that, if they're common, there hasn't been significant mixing/merging beyond that. Could be explained away, but I feel like it shouldn't be exceedingly common.


Its not really that odd,because plenty of such mixes exist in nature(horse+donkey,or lion+tiger),and they are all infertile.

EDIT:Huh...Ok,so while searching the links for cat mixing,it seems that such animals are fertile.Well now I know.
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Trix2000
Location: California

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Trix2000 » Sun Apr 27, 2014 10:54 pm

They definitely exist, but I can't help but feel like the aspect gets played up too much sometimes - like humans are compatible with EVERYONE for some reason. It's not completely out there, but it stretches my imagination at least slightly.

I certainly am not against the idea, though. But I will say if I character is going to be a half-breed, there should probably be some significance to that (story-wise, social-wise, background-wise... something like that).
Xaossa

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Xaossa » Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:36 am

Trix2000 wrote:Because min-maxers need a way to combine their favorite racial benefits?


You'd think that, but just about every half-something I've heard is disregarded as a sucky race. Half-Orcs in 3.x for instance, are the only race that get a +2 Str, but they have double the dump stats and precious little else going for them outside of Darkvision. Daemian seems to have the right idea as I could imagine a lot more powergaming if you could combine Elves with Halflings to get an extra-dextrous race or Orcs with Gnomes to actually play Gnasty Gnorc from Spiro the Dragon. (Seriously though, Brute Strength and spell like abilities make Gnorcs sound terrifying)

Humans always being a parent's probably because of their usual stereotype as the 'jack of all trades' race.


Yeah, and that's part of the point. That's an AWFUL choice for one of the parents. An Elf/Orc would be dexterous and strong, but an Elf/Human is....what, exactly? The halfway point between +0 across the board and +2 Dex/-2 Con is +1 Dex/-1 Con (and in latter-day D&D, you only get ability modifiers from even numbers, so odd numbered bonuses are terrible, while odd numbered penalties are at full strength.) so the 3.X Half elf is just a human who traded his bonus feat and skills for some minor, static bonuses which are vanishingly neglible at high levels that are themselves, lower than the pureblood elves.
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krellen
Location: The City in New Mexico
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Re: Half-Breeds

Postby krellen » Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:49 am

Xaossa wrote:Why are their halfbreeds?

This was the question that created the entire way I shaped my game world.

Why are there halfbreeds? Well, the answer I came up with "there aren't" - not really. If any cross-breeding happens, it happens because the participants are the same species, and may just have different inborn traits stemming from selective breeding. Elves, Orcs and Humans are all just humans that have, over time, favoured different traits. If an elf and an orc mate, a human is the result (usually*).

So I ended up with a grand total of four sentient species on my planet (mostly). Everything is one of those four species. Only one of those species is native to the planet - humans (who are the elder race; elves are a more recent subrace). The other species came from somewhere else - the gnomes blew up their planet in a catastrophe similar to Dark Sun's Athas, and split culturally into arcane-loving gnomes and nature-loving halflings; the dwarves came to the world from the planes beyond to fight dragons because it's their hobby; and the dragonkin are the stranded foot soldiers from a pre-creation war that were trapped on the world when the gods were sealed off from it.

Then I have goblins, who were formed from the other species by the corrupting influence of the dark dragon god - think something similar to Tolkien's orcs (or Dragon Age's darkspawn). The human-born goblins are just different humans, but the goblins of the alien races are all themselves new species as well.

(*Subrace is determined on a two-allele gene just like sex, so orc-orc yields orc, elf-elf yields elf, and orc-elf or elf-orc yields human. Human families often consist of humans, orcs and elves all. There's no such thing as a half-breed; you're either orc, elf, or human. Nothing in-between.)
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Lachlan the Sane
Location: I come from the land down under, where women blow and men chunder

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Lachlan the Sane » Mon Apr 28, 2014 3:29 am

In my Pathfinder setting, or at least in its semi-true mythology, the Elves came to the world from one of the fey planes and taught the basic arts of civilisation to the native humans (fire, literature etc.) as well as some magic. Some humans interbred with elves, and their half-elf children were much better at magic than pure-blooded humans, so they came to dominate their tribes, and later, their nations. The elves had since withdrawn back to the forests and gone all xenophobic on people, thanks to other problems in their society, but there was still plenty of elven blood floating around in the human gene pool. As such, half-elves with one human and one elven parent were extremely rare, but you would occasionally find a child born to two human parents who had pointy ears and was (usually) naturally adept at magic; such children were referred to as "half-elves" in order to dignify them. Half-elves were more common among noble families, thanks to good old royal inbreeding, but it happened in peasant families too, and was considered to be excellent for their social advancement potential (since they'd pack the kid off to a mages' school and expect them to send money home). Of course, plenty of "human" children were naturally adept at magic too, since elves were far from the only source of magic in the world, but all magic was generally credited as "elven" by non-magicians, regardless of its actual origin.

Orcs, meanwhile, were considered to be descendants of those humans who had failed to heed the civilising word of the Elves. I always thought of them as being what Neanderthals would be treated like if they survived well into the Iron Age. The orcs were enslaved en masse by my setting's Roman Empire equivalent, and used for hard labour, such as building the great canals which were the empire's cultural equivalent of Roman roads, and the world's main method of transportation. Half-orcs were a bit mysterious, but probably created as a combination of earnest attempts to improve the gene pool of the slaves and outright acts of rape (which would mostly be human men raping orc women). Half-orcs took leadership positions in the orc community, thanks to their somewhat greater intelligence, and pure orcs gradually became all but extinct. When the empire began to collapse, the orcs and half-orcs got the blame, and were killed en masse, so even half-orcs were very rare. Most of them were either throwbacks born to human parents (like the half-elves) or native to places well beyond the reach of the old empire (like the new Viking-esque lands, where they were celebrated for their strength).

Certain gnomes believed that their race came from half-elf, half-halfling stock, but as it was damn hard to get gnomes to ever agree on anything, this was never really confirmed. A very small number of half-dwarves existed, but those few who did were tied to the plot; they weren't a player race.

All of this was very much driven by the fact that Pathfinder is much nicer to half-orcs and half-elves than 3.5 original flavour is; all of them get "+2 to any one ability score of your choice" (which means that you can have an intelligent half-orc or a strong half-elf), and they both get a really sweet ability to compensate for losing the human's bonus feat (half-elves get two favoured classes, making them awesome for dual-classing, and half-orcs get Ferocity). I don't think that this would have worked in 3.5.

Also, I really, really want to play a fantasy game as a half-half-elf, half-half-orc, half-halfling.
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Trix2000
Location: California

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Trix2000 » Mon Apr 28, 2014 6:59 am

Xaossa wrote:You'd think that, but just about every half-something I've heard is disregarded as a sucky race. Half-Orcs in 3.x for instance, are the only race that get a +2 Str, but they have double the dump stats and precious little else going for them outside of Darkvision. Daemian seems to have the right idea as I could imagine a lot more powergaming if you could combine Elves with Halflings to get an extra-dextrous race or Orcs with Gnomes to actually play Gnasty Gnorc from Spiro the Dragon. (Seriously though, Brute Strength and spell like abilities make Gnorcs sound terrifying)

It was pretty much a joke anyways. It's just silly hearing about crazy characters with 5 halves that have a wide variety of traits that really shouldn't go together.
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michaelE

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby michaelE » Tue Apr 29, 2014 5:47 am

The question answers itself: non-human races breed with humans because it humanizes them. Pure non-human races are sometimes hard to relate to because they are so different. Enter the half-breed. Fine and dandy, I say. I can even accept that humans are the middle-of-the-road as far as DNA, and so can splice with other races. What's odd is that they only have certain mixtures allowed in D&D 3.5 - half-elf or half-orc. So, I introduced a half dwarf/half human strain to my world. Inhabitants of a ruin held sacred by the horsepeople of the plains, they are called the Unclean (primarily because of their association with their Dwarven ancestors, slaves to the humans). When I introduced a tribe of NPC Bullywugs in my first campaign, then aged my world 25 years for the 2nd campaign, it was a natural to offer half-bullywug as an available race. Nobody jumped at the chance, so I introduced a half-bullywug NPC. And, for the record, he was a product of loving inter-species parents. The rape explanation for half-orc parentage gets old fast, so I didn't want to go there.
Moridin

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Moridin » Tue Apr 29, 2014 8:10 am

michaelE wrote:The question answers itself: non-human races breed with humans because it humanizes them. Pure non-human races are sometimes hard to relate to because they are so different. Enter the half-breed. Fine and dandy, I say. I can even accept that humans are the middle-of-the-road as far as DNA, and so can splice with other races. What's odd is that they only have certain mixtures allowed in D&D 3.5 - half-elf or half-orc. So, I introduced a half dwarf/half human strain to my world. Inhabitants of a ruin held sacred by the horsepeople of the plains, they are called the Unclean (primarily because of their association with their Dwarven ancestors, slaves to the humans). When I introduced a tribe of NPC Bullywugs in my first campaign, then aged my world 25 years for the 2nd campaign, it was a natural to offer half-bullywug as an available race. Nobody jumped at the chance, so I introduced a half-bullywug NPC. And, for the record, he was a product of loving inter-species parents. The rape explanation for half-orc parentage gets old fast, so I didn't want to go there.


Half-dwarves are totally a thing, even if they're not as common as half-elves or half-orcs. See the aforementioned mul from Dark Sun.
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The Rocketeer

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby The Rocketeer » Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:38 am

The way I figure, humans as a parent of a half-breed is like putting mushrooms on a pizza or in a soup. They don't actually have much flavor on their own, but they have a peculiar quality of accentuating whatever stronger flavors they're put with.

Like, in theory, when you mix a human with another race, they function more as an empowered human than as a straight average between the two races, and get the upsides of the other race without its downsides, but also without the special advantages of purely human characters. Like, half-orc is a basic human but with superstrength and sweet tusks, but without being stupid and bellicose; half-elves are basic humans with magical prowess, charm, and lifespan, but without being bone-idle and culturally dead; muls are basic humans but built like a blockhouse, without the extreme back hair and sun-averse dwelling habits; and so on.

Yeah, in the hands of a bad designer, it works like a crap version of whatever the non-human race was, but ideally the mix acts as a broader boon, with the main downside being the opportunity cost of not picking a race that had more extreme pros and cons. Add that to the peculiar place in the world that a mixed heritage immediately inspires, and half-bred races have always held a kind of appeal to me.

But like others have pointed out, this functions best and most often with humans. Yeah, it raises obvious snarky objections ("Guess we know which race's women are the most 'gregarious,' fnar fnar") but using humanity as an automatic baseline is a gamey yet powerfully handy assumption that lets designers make races that seem reasonable to most players without actually having to dwell on the why and how, whereas mixing more exotic races, like an orc/dwarf hybrid mainly just opens a refrain of "why this way and not that way" that can't end in anything but an unsatisfying "because the designer liked it."

This will send my dork status through the max, but I always thought dhampyr were interesting. It just seemed to me like dhampyr, being what they are and being made how they're made, could only exist in interesting locations. A larger city cosmopolitan enough to accept half-vampires or just busy enough for a secret dhampyr to get lost in would inevitably see one rise to a position of authority or influence. A dhampyr living secretly or not in a small village would be exactly the kind of person a DM would have an adventuring party chance upon, and could believably be connected to any kind of shenanigans they get involved in, whether or not it has anything to do with undead at all. And while it would probably be extremely rare for a settlement mainly or solely of dhampyr to spring up, once word got around that there was an enclave where dhampyr could breathe easy, you'd end up with a place made of very powerful people from every culture and walk of life hanging around for a conceivably long, long time. And while that might attract a lot of negative attention, it would also be the kind of place you would NOT want to fuck with. A village of dhampyr doesn't need outsiders to deal with goblin or kobold problems, you know?

There's also something I like about the idea of a sleepy village with teenagers making eyes at each other over the well and old timers whistling on their front porches turns out to be holy crap they're all super-old, jacked-up undead, like the twist in a horror film, except the actual twist on the freaked out adventurers or travelers is that, no, it really is just a sleepy podunk town, and the old folks whistling on their porches are just REALLY old folks is all. And every now and then someone clamps down on someone else's neck and they have to shake hands afterwards and put a silver in the Bite Jar.

Trix2000 wrote:It was pretty much a joke anyways. It's just silly hearing about crazy characters with 5 halves that have a wide variety of traits that really shouldn't go together.


Oh, come on. Those kinds of jokes are for total hacks!
Adeon_Hawkwood

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Adeon_Hawkwood » Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:56 am

I always liked the way that David Weber handled it in the War Gods series. Humans were the first race with the other races being off-shoots from them. Interbreeding is possible between any race in theory but some cross-breeds are unlikely to come to term successfully and only Human/Elf and Human/Dwarf cross-breeds are fertile.
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michaelE

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby michaelE » Wed Aug 13, 2014 2:26 am

That would certainly work, but we have it ingrained in us that Elves are an ancient race - Tolkien again. The problem of having the other races come from humans is that either the racial differences are largely cosmetic, or they would have had to diverge from the human branch millions of years ago (or the change is due to something like magical radiation or powerful being interference). Having millions of years of evolutionary history is fine but it means explaining how the races managed to remain relatively distinct from each other - isolationism? Different continents? It could work, absolutely. In my game world, Elves come from another world, more technological than magical. Their long lives and physical traits are the result of their advanced knowledge of their own genetic manipulation. They came to the game world in a starship that crashed when the magical fields of the planet interacted unpredictably with some of their technology (this I stole from Gygax's Expedition to the Barrier Peaks). Stranded on the planet, the Elves began to learn about the magical sciences in addition to what remained of their technology. Being aliens, it's unlikely they could interbreed with the indigenous humans, yet they do. I'm not too bothered by this as it's a fairly common feature of scifi that alien and human DNA are similar enough. Or, maybe the Elves, greatly reduced in number, altered their DNA as a way of preserving their species through breeding with the more fertile locals. I'll decide that when it becomes necessary to the story.
Adeon_Hawkwood

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Adeon_Hawkwood » Wed Aug 13, 2014 3:40 am

michaelE wrote:The problem of having the other races come from humans is that either the racial differences are largely cosmetic, or they would have had to diverge from the human branch millions of years ago (or the change is due to something like magical radiation or powerful being interference). Having millions of years of evolutionary history is fine but it means explaining how the races managed to remain relatively distinct from each other - isolationism? Different continents?

That's pretty much how he handled it. The idea being that Dwarfs and Hradani (sort of like Orcs but nicer) evolved from humans a LOOOOONNNNGGGG time ago with the differences in the races being reinforced by magic (only humans and half-humans can be wizards but Dwarfs and Hradani have their own different forms of magic). Elves and Halflings were created artificially much later. Elves were basically sorcerers who gave up their magical abilities in exchange for immortality while Halflings were humans mutated by the fallout of a major magical war.
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krellen
Location: The City in New Mexico
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Re: Half-Breeds

Postby krellen » Wed Aug 13, 2014 5:55 am

michaelE wrote:they would have had to diverge from the human branch millions of years ago

Evolution might take millions of years to change species, but when you add intelligence to the mix, things go a lot faster.

We turned this
Image
into this
Image
in only a few thousand years.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Wed Aug 13, 2014 7:02 am

Especially when magic is added in that mix.
Ardis Meade

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Ardis Meade » Wed Aug 13, 2014 7:18 pm

One thing I've noticed is that in a lot of campaigns Humans tend to be the newest race. Also that a lot of fantasy has direct divine creation instead of evolution. Maybe Humans are just designed to be backwards compatible.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Wed Aug 13, 2014 9:54 pm

Ardis Meade wrote:One thing I've noticed is that in a lot of campaigns Humans tend to be the newest race. Also that a lot of fantasy has direct divine creation instead of evolution. Maybe Humans are just designed to be backwards compatible.


So what youre saying is that we need gods to create our consoles?
Ardis Meade

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Ardis Meade » Thu Aug 14, 2014 2:31 am

The console's fanboys already seem to think they are. They certainly act like they're in a holy war at least.
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Lachlan the Sane
Location: I come from the land down under, where women blow and men chunder

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Lachlan the Sane » Thu Aug 14, 2014 2:43 am

Hey, that gives me a great idea for a setting...

Some wandering gods come across a world where several species already exist (orcs, elves, dwarves). These species keep themselves to themselves, live in relatively small territories which are a long distance apart, and have almost completely separate cultures. The wandering gods decide to design a new species that will be able to take over the whole word; their species will be highly adaptable, very fast-breeding and comparatively long-lived, capable of a large amount of cultural adaptation and assimilation, and (most importantly) capable of interbreeding with the other species of the world to further these goals.

BUT: there is dissension among the ranks of the wandering gods, and they split off into two (or three) factions. Each of them has the basic "schematics" for their new species, and each faction makes a few small changes (so that they can tell one group apart from the others) and unleashes their species on the world. This leads to the humans owned by each faction going to war against the other humans while attempting to assimilate with the old species to improve their military prowess.
Steve C

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Steve C » Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:12 am

Humans will have sex with anything. That's the difference between them and the other races. Other races are the "half" while humans are the "breed".
ErichTWade

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby ErichTWade » Sun Oct 26, 2014 1:17 pm

In my campaign world crossbreeding between the various races is fairly constant, with various magics allowing things like cross-species children and children with more than two parents. Humans aren't one of the original races; instead, humans are what happens when a person's ancestry is sufficiently jumbled that you can't really figure out what they are any more. Essentially, they're mutts. There could be ANYTHING up that family tree.

This also means that a half-elf is so called because of the two halves, one of them - the elf half - has a definite identity.
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Cuthalion

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Cuthalion » Sun Oct 26, 2014 7:03 pm

That's an interesting approach, Mr. T. Wade. Humans are the ones whose race is unidentifiably mixed.
Xaossa

Re: Half-Breeds

Postby Xaossa » Mon Aug 31, 2015 8:06 am

On the subject of Humans being "in between" or "balanced" or "mushrooms" or whatever, I actually did contemplate a hypothetical setting explanation for why all the demihumans are cartoonishly overspecialized:

They were created to be servants of a strange, alien creator.

-Halflings were the many and surprisingly skilled farmers of the (Yondalla's holy symbol is a cornucopia, and the Hobbits' Shire is a fertile paradise of pastoral greenery that produces enough food for "second breakfast") who could flee into the night and steal from the enemy's stores of food when their land was invaded. Their fast breeding also helped them bounce back from a disaster. They had a reputation for being dull and meek, however.

-Dwarves were miners, stonecutters, toolmakers, and, most importantly, fortress builders. They actually weren't designed to be soldiers or weapon inventors but kobold raids and constant heavy labor in the mines meant that they were quite a bit more independent than the other races, even if they never did learn magic. ....They were the first to rebel, and form their own kingdom.

-Elves were the warrior race. (although the society had a very magic-oriented idea of "warrior." ....and now I'm imagining the ancient elf warriors as magical girl types...) Their "race-as-class" is a Old school "Fighter/Mage with some forest stealth abilities" archetype. 52 pages system makes their spellcasting work exactly like 3.x Sorcerers, which fits thematically for making them seem "naturally magical." They also could live in the woods for extended periods of time, and even regress to a hunter-gatherer society with ease, but once they get back to civilization they actually were loathe to scrub the floors and felt entitled to the best luxury goods. They are only happy in the woods or the palace but not, say, a cheap apartment building like every other working stiff. These traits most certainly won't lead to a race of forest bandits if some form of systemic societal failure were to happen!

-Gnomes....gnomes are always a little hard to figure out. Annoying pranksters don't sound very useful in a utilitarian sense. Every other aspect of their usual tropes are already taken by the other demihumans. (halflings are small, dwarves are underground and mine riches, and elves are magical), and they have something of an identity crisis. But, maybe you could re-model them after all the stories of "the little people" who make fancy toys and other goods (Santa's elves, Harvest Moon dwarves, "The Elves and the Shoemaker", etc.). They have natural magic like the elves, but they are illusion-oriented (because we are sticking to traditions of 2e and earlier). These illusions help them imagine their more abstract and ambitious projects (don't you wish you could create 3-D holographic blueprints on a whim?), and their masterpieces become magical items. Their magic is Intelligence-based, however, and their expansive minds lend them to being Inventors, Alchemists, and Philosophers. The catch is that gnomes are highly individualistic and specialized geniuses in their own field of item creation, and they get bored and distracted easily when forced to divert attention from their latest pet project. Gnomes....were the craftsmen.

Why have a farmer race that are naturally master thieves? Why have a warrior race that are themselves cripplingly overly-specialized for night raids and shit? Why have all of your stronghold maintenance depend on the race that is least dependent on the others, as well as being the most able to dig a tunnel into the strongholds they don't control and be the best at enduring sieges? Why breed your perfectly good non-multiclassed mage race to be limited to illusions and magic item creation? *shrug* Don't know, but once the system began to fray about at the edges, the whole tapestry came undone in quick order, and the demihumans all created their own nations in each one's ideal environment and haven't changed that much since.

Humans (and to no small extent, their half-breeds) tend to spread all over the world and adapt to the times, learning all kinds of jobs and skills, because they don't have all that baggage in their very DNA of being "supposed" to act as a particular cog in a machine that's been broken for ages.
Last edited by Xaossa on Wed Sep 02, 2015 10:04 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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