Races of Rastvel
Rastvel is a city made up of many races, many ethnicities, but despite this displays a marked homogeneity of culture. Indeed, the open practice of other cultures, whether they be from overseas or the villages within the Boundless Weald, is viewed with great distrust at best, and met with application of force from the government in extreme cases. Whatever the reason that they initially came together, humans, dwarves, and the city’s other sentient beings are all expected to practice Rast Worship side by side. A positive result of this insularity is that racism, whether based on skin color or species, is not widely known among Rastvel’s common races. All the energy that would normally go into biases of this sort is instead focused on the distrust of strangers or fear of the creatures outside the city, any one of which is far more horrible than one’s neighbor could ever be.
Humans are the most common sentient species in Rastvel, making up the majority of the city’s population. Members of this race are known to be level-headed, industrious, and passionate in equal measure, with a wide variety of temperaments in between. Indeed, their well-rounded physical capabilities and adaptability often bring Humans to be used as a basic template for comparison to other races.
Native Rastvellan humans are shortish, standing at about five feet and six inches in average for a man, with women usually slightly smaller. They often exhibit lean builds, pale skin, and dark hair with a tendency toward curls. This ethnicity is known collectively as “Ka-Tam”, indicating the true, or original subset of Humans to populate Rastvel.
One other major type of Human is also prevalent in the city’s population. These individuals tend to be taller, both males and females averaging at around five feet ten inches in height, and in some cases well over six feet, towering over the Ka-Tam. They have straight or wavy hair in various shades of golden hue, and ruddy or dusky skin. These Humans are known as “Ra-Tam”, from a shortened form of Ra’as, or People of the Light, and are theorized to have been integrated into Rastvel society as a result of whatever event caused Common to be adopted as the city’s official language.
Elves, or “The Warped Folk”, are the race held in most disdain by Rastvellans, feared even more than the murderous Orcs. Though they appear civil, kind, and quite beautiful on first meeting, this is inevitably a front to hide the Elf’s true nature, which is invariably cruel, malicious, and manipulative, seemingly incapable of viewing humans and other sapient races as anything more than playthings and outlets for their own amusement. Elves have been known to play “tricks” on human settlements, particularly Rastvel itself, stealing away children in the night and replacing them with crude bundles of leaves and twigs, or luring pets and livestock away from their owners only to return a mangled and tortured corpse the next morning.
Upon meeting a human outside of a city, Elves have been known to offer them deals. Power, wealth, fame, or even freedom from the oppressive rule of the Rastvellan Court. The presenter’s words are often so convincing, their features so beautiful, that the victim feels compelled to disbelieve all the fearsome legends about Elves, only to find afterward that they have somehow gambled away their own child for a small amount of trick wooden coins or a promise that never comes. The child in question is whisked away, and raised among the Elves for the express purpose of creating a Half-Elf.
To the Elves, Half-Elves exist for only one purpose: Amusement. They are an outlet for the race’s natural cruelty, an acceptable target for all of the frustrations, anger, or simple boredom that the Warped Folk feel and are unable to take out on their fellow Elves. Such half-breeds are often driven to suicide by repeated taunting, torture, and inventive psychological attacks; an outcome which is seen as a victory by other Elves, a great achievement on the part of the assailant, and one to be admired for.
The society of the Warped Folk itself is complex and based entirely on prestige. Unlike most civilizations, however, Elves have two entirely separate forms of status, and may hold two positions in society based on these relative ranks. The first, Power, is based on the individual Elf’s merit. Whether they are a skilled craftsman, a politician, or a cunning manipulator, Warped Folk who achieve some measure of wealth or influence in society are considered to be of Power, and respected as such. The second quality which determine’s an Elf’s relative rank is Beauty. Elves are officially ranked on physical perfection, and those who are thought to be the most aesthetically pleasing in form are given great admiration and almost worshiped by the others. Indeed, Elves who do not meet a minimum standard of beauty are forced to wear masks whenever they are in public.
The social rank which is most recognized in an Elf depends entirely on the occasion. In important political events, the buying and selling of wares, or any other industrial or practical meeting, the Elf with the most Power is considered to be in charge and deferred to. At the same time, during social events such as celebrations, banquets, or the Warped Folk’s infamous formal balls, the Elf with the greatest Beauty is put before all others. This creates situations by which an skilled craftsman or important politician may go through their day being regarded in high respect, only to bow before more physically attractive Elves at night. Notably, the Elf King himself is one of the Masked, and is known to serve the most perfect of the race hand and foot when not presiding over matters of rule.
As far as Rastvel and the Rastvellan Court is concerned, Elves are a serious and deadly threat. Though they are not, by nature, likely to launch any large assault on the city, the influence of the Warped Folk always proves catastrophic to all involved. As such, though the location of the major Elf settlements is known, such information is closely guarded, lest a romantic be drawn to their promises of beauty and nobility, and thus bring the attention of the Warped Folk to the city at large.
The Dwarves of Rastvel are split into two large, opposing groups. The Traditionalists, as they call themselves, take refuge beneath the city and operate large, fiery forges to smith and process metal and stone. This obviously sacrilegious behavior is overlooked by the Court both because of the undeniable usefulness of the tools produced there, as well as the fact that it takes place underground, away from the Weald and unlikely to anger the Rast. A long stretch of Embrace District has been converted into stone slats for the venting of hot air from below, and this area glows a deep red at night, accompanied by the constant ringing of hammers.
The other major group of Dwarves are those referred to as Spriggans. These are Dwarves who have forsaken their traditional ways and fully integrated into Rastvel culture and Rast Worship. Spriggans are known and valued for their intricate woodcarving skills, the detail and meticulousness of which surpasses even the greatest wood-warper. As such, they are received quite well by the city, and are often respected members of the community. The word Spriggan itself was originally a derogatory term, referring to a kind of cowardly wood spirit, but the integrated Dwarves have taken it as their own and now even refer to themselves as such.
As could be expected, both groups hate each other vehemently. The Traditionalists see Spriggans as traitors who have abandoned their Dwarvish ancestry, while the Spriggans consider Traditionalists to be hard-headed ignoramuses whose actions needlessly tempt the wrath of the Rast.
While the Spriggans have, of course, no governing body of their own, instead serving the Rastvel Court as all other citizens, Traditionalist Dwarves answer to the Lord Forgekeeper. This Dwarf among Dwarves is renowned for his metalworking skill as much as his leadership, and is generally accepted to be the best craftsman among those below. The current Lord Forgekeeper, Mesteka Blackplate, is thought to have a surprisingly good relationship with the Lord Overseer of Rastvel, who has granted him a controversial amount of leeway in the expanding of his forgeries and underground tunnels.
The Wyrwood are a race that was created quite by accident. Hundreds of years ago, or so it is said, the wizards of Ka Rant went about creating a series of small, wooden humanoid constructs. The intent was to animate these shells with magic, and use them as servants and helpers in their creators’ research. It came as a great surprise, then, when the little figures came to life themselves the next night, and immediately set about interacting with the wizards present, displaying about as much intelligence as a normal human, with a genial, excitable, and ultimately helpful attitude to go with it.
Further experiments to create more Wyrwood failed disastrously. Any humanoid effigies, left in the darkness at night, will somehow animate itself; this much is known. However, these new constructs are uniformly violent and bestial, completely without presence of mind or seeming sentience, seeking only to do as much damage as possible to their surroundings before being subdued. Because of these effects, and the possible loss of life as a result, the creation of such human-like effigies is both illegal and taboo in Rastvel.
The Wyrwood, however, exhibit none of these traits. As said, they are intelligent, friendly, and make quite pleasant company. Indeed, if it were not for the fact that they seem to be locked into a “helper” role, and have trouble taking initiative on any task themselves, there would be little stopping them from becoming full citizens of the city. As it is, they mostly keep to Ka Rant, each choosing a researcher to attach itself to and performing whatever tasks are asked of it.
Though they appear to be effectively immortal as far as age and time are concerned, Wyrwood can still be destroyed through violence or any other action that would break a normal piece of wood of the same size. They are, however, capable of constructing new members of their race given a minimum of time and materials. These new Wyrwoods animate in the same manner and are just as sentient and affable as their peers, though they have no knowledge of where they came from or why.
Unless there is a loss to replace, however, Wyrwoods are extremely hesitant to create any more constructs, and will indeed only do so under threat of violence. Any frame built in this way will animate properly, but will display insane, violent tendencies and little, if any, awareness or intelligence. It has been theorized by Reilum Kun Eld, Ka Rant’s only expert on the creatures, that there is a set number of “Sane Wyrwoods”, and any created above this number become of the twisted, insane variety. The number in question, however, has proven difficult to define, and seems to change arbitrarily over time. Wyrwoods themselves report that they are simply able to “feel” when it is the right time to construct a new one of their race, and that they should not do so without this prompting.
Special Note: Wyrwoods in the Rastvel setting can, unlike normal constructs, be healed normally by spells and other effects. In addition, they always have the Emotional optional trait. Stone Sentinel may not be chosen as an alternate racial trait for Rastvellan Wyrwoods.