Heroes of Greyhawk
Peoples and Races
Six major races of humanity share the vast Flanaess with numerous nonhumans. Unmixed human races exist in several enclaves, but for the most part the Suel, Flan, Oeridians, and Baklunish have mixed to form a variety of blended types.
Race is given little importance by intelligent folk, particularly in the central lands, though some royal courts promote particular racial types. Each race appears to have developed ages ago in isolation from all others, with its own pantheon of deities, language, and culture. In practical matters of exploration, trade, adventure, and war, color and race have little meaning.
The Baklunish have skin of golden tones, and straight, fine-textured hair that is universally dark, ranging from dusky brown to bluish black. Their eyes are usually green or gray-green; hazel and gray eyes are rare. They tend to be long of limb and facial feature, with high cheekbones.
The Baklunish once held a great empire on the western side of the Crystalmists and Barrier Peaks. The Invoked Devastation ruined their empire, for which the Baklunish retaliated with the Rain of Colorless Fire, burning the Suel Imperium to ash. Most surviving Baklunish moved north or west, to the borders of the old empire and beyond. The inhabitants of Ekbir, Zeif, Ull, and the Tiger Nomads typify the straight Baklunish strain, while the Tusmites and the Paynims show mixed ancestry. The Wolf Nomads are often darker from intermarriage with the Rovers of the Barrens. The Ketites are the least typical Baklunish, having pale yellow, golden-brown, or tan complexions as a result of Suloise and Oeridian ancestry.
The Baklunish, unlike the Suloise, retained much of their culture after the fall of their empire. Honor, family, generosity, and piety are fundamental virtues. Use of their classical language, Ancient Baklunish, in religious observances, higher learning, and the fine arts has preserved their ancestral traditions.
The Baklunish have many customs and taboos derived from their great knowledge of astrology, and their dependence on horses adds many beliefs and traditions regarding their honored steeds, particularly among the nomads. Singing and dancing are widespread in their culture, and trade and exploration are major pursuits.
Settled Baklunish favor bright patterns and gaudy colors in clothes, typically with gowns and robes or else long coats with short breeches. Lower classes use the same colors with a long one-piece garment supplemented with other garb. Nomadic Baklunish prefer clothes with several pastel colors, enjoying fancy garments enhanced with puffs, slashes on sleeves to show contrasting colors underneath, and superfluous trim. When traveling or making war, the nomads instead wear rough items of leather, hide, or cloth, bearing shields or banners indicating clan allegiance.
Many skilled mages are Baklunish, including experts in elemental magic, divination, and summoning and binding spells (used on extraplanar beings). Cooperative spellcasting is practiced by many of the clergy, particularly among the desert mystics. Baklunish make good clerics, invokers, paladins, and warlocks.
Pure Flan have bronze skin, varying from a light copper hue to a dark, deep brown. Flan eyes are usually dark brown, black, brown, or amber. Hair is wavy or curly and typically black or brown (or any shade between). The Flan have broad, strong faces and sturdy builds.
The Flan were the first known humans to live in eastern Oerik, and it is from them that the Flanaess gets its name. Although evidence exists that they once had settled nations, those vanished long ago. The Flan had been a nomadic people for many centuries when they were displaced by Suloise and Oeridian invaders. Large pockets of Flan live in what are now Geoff, Tenh, and the Barrens. The Tenha are pure Flan, and the coppery Rovers of the Barrens nearly so. The people of Geoff and Sterich also show strong Flan heritage, as do the Stoneholders, Palish, and certain Perrender clans.
The Flan have always been strongly tied to the natural world, as they were nomadic hunter-gatherers for so long. They see nature as an entity to be respected but not controlled, and this is reflected in their myths, legends, and culture. Many Flan believe the season of a child’s birth affects later life, and certain customs and taboos must be observed annually. Modern Flan still have a preference for the outdoors, and those who live in cities usually raise gardens and flower beds. A tree is planted at the door of a Flan home, and the health of that tree is believed related to the welfare of the family. Storytelling is a favorite pastime, and most families have ancient oral folklore and legends to pass on.
The ancient, nomadic Flan wore simple clothing of animal skins: belts, breechcloths, capes, robes, and footwear (boots and hard-soled slippers). Body painting and tattoos were common methods of personal decoration, and these traditions are still practiced by the Rovers of the Barrens (who prefer yellows and reds). Modern Flan tend to dress in what is currently fashionable, but they favor bright primary colors in solid arrangements.
Flan wizards normally work in harmony with nature, avoiding destructive magic. A few delve into the necromantic arts of the ancient Ur-Flan, but such practices are shunned by respectable folk. Many prefer protective and divinatory spells, a practice that stems from their traditional roles of guarding nomadic tribes and helping them survive. Like the sun god, Pelor, many Flan deities have strong “natural” aspects. Flan make good barbarians, druids, rangers, and wardens.
Oeridian skin tones range from tan to olive; brow and auburn hair are common, though some individuals have hair as light as honey or as dark as coal. Likewise, eye coloration is highly variable; brown andgray are seen most often. Oeridians tend to have square or oval faces and strong jaw lines.
After inhabiting what is now Ull for generations, barbaric Oeridians were driven east by orcs and goblin employed as mercenaries by the Baklunish and Suel. The migrating Oeridians were able fighters and battled their way across the Flanaess, driving the Suel before them and allying with the Flan, elves, dwarves, and other peoples. Nearly pure Oeridians are seen in Perrenland, Furyondy, North Kingdom, Sunndi, and Onnwal.
The most powerful empire in the modern Flanaess was created by a conquering tribe of Oeridians, the Aerdi, who subjugated and assimilated all who opposed them. Ancient Oeridians were fierce warriors, yet they also were self-sacrificing and loyal. These traits are not as evident today, but many Oeridians do remain temperamental and prone to violence. They have a preference for strict social order, usually fitting themselves at the top, and their military traditions are strong. Aggression is often channeled into political conflict and subterfuge. The Oeridian skill at warfare is unsurpassed, and many folk have a hard-learned respect for it. In peacetime, they are practical, hard working, and not inclined to intellectual pursuits.
Oeridian dress normally consists of a short tunic and close-fitting trousers with a cape or cloak, tailored for ease of movement. Aerdi and Nyrondal Oeridians favor plaids and checks, with ovals or diamonds in the south and west. Colors and patterns once showed clan allegiance, but this practice is fading in favor of personal color preference.
Following their warlike tendencies, magic-using Oeridians focus on battle-oriented spells, as well as the enchantment of magic items useful in combat. Spellcasters have a hard-nosed, practical attitude, and they are generally hawkish and outgoing. Many strive to be leaders or masters. Magic is often used for pragmatic purposes, too, such as construction, irrigation, and iron-forging. Oeridians make good clerics, fighters, sorcerers, and warlords.
The Suel have the lightest coloration of any known human race of the Flanaess. Their skin is fair, with an atypical proportion of albinos. Eye color is pale blue or violet, sometimes deep blue or gray. Suel hair is wiry, often curly or kinky, with fair colors such as yellow, light red, blond, and platinum blond. The Suel tend to be lean, with narrow facial features.
The Suel Imperium was located in what is now the Sea of Dust. Wicked and decadent, this empire was destroyed during a war with the Baklunish when the latter brought down the Rain of Colorless Fire. Suloise survivors fled in all directions, many crossing the Hellfurnaces into the Flanaess, where they met other Suel who had fled the long war much earlier. Some evil Suel were forced into the extreme corners of the Flanaess by invading Oeridians. The barbarians of the Thillonrian Peninsula are pure Suel, as are the elite of the Scarlet Brotherhood. The people of the Duchy of Urnst and places in the Lordship of the Isles are nearly so.
The Suel Imperium was governed by contesting noble houses, and the fleeing bands that entered the Flanaess were often led by nobles with their families and many retainers. The modern Suel retain this affinity for family, although they often use a very narrow definition of the word to include only siblings, parents, and children. A few Suel can trace their lineage all the way back to the days of their empire
The ancient Suel Imperium was exceedingly cruel. This trait surfaces in the modern day, for more than one Suel organization openly plots against other people of the Flanaess. Fortunately, most Suel have avoided this dark legacy, having inherited the relatively minor flaws of being opinionated, selfish, and blunt. Many also tend to be prideful and unwilling to admit flaws or personal hardships. They have a passion for study, especially in regard to magic, and many Suel wizards become incredibly powerful.
Traditional Suel dress includes wide-legged pantaloons and loose blouses (vests in the south), both in solid colors. Most individuals use one color only, with nobles using two or more as appropriate to their House. The style of clothing is adapted to the climate; Suel in the far north wear furs or thick wool, with capes, mittens, and furred boots. The Suel like large pins, brooches, emblems, and other adornments, a few of which are ancient heirlooms.
Heirs of a highly magical society, the Suel still have an aptitude for most types of spellcasting. Suel wizards often become masters of spells that involve transmutation. They also perfected a number of binding spells and created many items used for controlling and dominating other beings. For instance, it is thought that a long-dead Suel emperor made the ancient and terrible orbs of dragonkind. Suel make good avengers, bards, rogues, and wizards.
OTHER HUMAN RACES
Three other minor races of humanity can found in the Flanaess or at its verges: the barbaric Olman, the mysterious Rhennee, and the dark-skinned Touv. If you have any interest in playing a member of one of these races, let me know; you can either use the rules for mixed humans, or I can make original traits if I have the time.
The Olman originated on Hepmonaland, raising a number of city-states from the jungles of that land. Through centuries of warfare, they built an empire that spanned northern Hepmonaland and reached across the Densac Gulf to include the Amedio Jungle. What sort of culture the Olman originally had is obscured by their early adoption of the ways of alien gods. These beings made the primitive Olman their followers, encouraging them on the bloody path of ritual warfare and human sacrifice. Internal strife, wars with another human race, the Touv, and supernatural upheaval ultimately toppled their empire and caused them to abandon their old cities, and most Olman reverted to barbarism. They are now concentrated in the jungles of Hepmonaland, the Amedio, and their namesake Olman Isles.
Modern Olman have a tribal culture, with a cleric or hereditary chief leading each tribe. Many still practice annual human sacrifice to the dimly remembered Sky Gods. Their warlike nature is persistent but unrefined, colored by their harsh jungle environment. They still practice ritualized warfare, often collecting heads or animating corpses, but they prefer to use stealthy raids and ambushes against their enemies.
The Rhennee are not native to Oerth; rather, they are accidental travelers from another plane or world, citizens of a lost homeland they call Rhop. Their legends say that they appeared first in the Great Kingdom, in or near the Adri Forest. Pursued by monsters and hostile Aerdi, they fled west to the shores of the Lake of Unknown Depths, where they took to life on the water. They now expertly ply the great rivers that cross the Flanaess and migrate between the three great lakes (though Whyestil Lake is lately unsafe for travel). Rhennee are fairly common on the waterways of the central Flanaess and near inland shores and banks. A few secret, inland encampments are said to exist, and here may also be encountered their rare, land-dwelling cousins, whom they derogatively refer to as the Attloi. The mutual distrust and antagonism between the Rhenn-folk and other peoples of the Flanaess have kept the Rhennee relatively unmixed with other races, though the Rhennee do bring children of other human races into their families.
Little is known of the original culture of the Rhennee, as they were absent from the Flanaess before 450 years ago and entered their current lifestyle to escape persecution. The Rhenn-folk are masters of inland sailing and navigation, and they love their nomadic and adventurous life. Music and gambling are beloved amusements. Certain Rhennee say they are nobles and have great authority among their kind. Men nearly always become warriors; some women become sorcerers, “wise women” whose skills and knowledge make them the subtle masters of Rhennee society. Rhennee men can be quite chauvinistic, and their women manipulative. Rhennee have a wide reputation as thieves, and most do learn roguish skills as children, practicing them primarily upon outsiders. Their secrecy and bad reputation cause most people to dislike the Rhennee, and the feeling is mutual.
The Touv are a dark-skinned people from the southern reaches of the continent of Hepmonaland. Over a thousand years ago, the scattered tribes of the hills and savanna joined together to cast off the oppressive yoke of the Olman empire and drive that diabolical people from their homelands. From the ashes of war rose the great nation of Kunda and a legendary age of peace and enlightenment on the southern continent. What may remain of the kingdom of Kunda is a mystery to the scholars of the Flanaess, as the storm-lashed coasts of Hepmonaland have remained mostly impenetrable to northern explorers for centuries.
Very few Touv have ever found their way to the lands of the Flanaess, so their culture and history remain largely unknown outside of their own lands. Tales of seafarers speak of a society of peaceful city-states dotting the southern plains and jungles, a realm of noble savages and wise wizard-kings, but such accounts are difficult to trust with any certainty. The recent incursion of the agents of the Scarlet Sign onto Hepmonaland has done little to dispel or confirm any myths, and as long as war grips the southern straits and waterways, it is doubtful that much will change.
Long before the forefathers of men set foot in the Flanaess, great, flourishing kingdoms of dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings, and even orcs stretched across the verdant fields and mountains of Oerik. Though most those ancient nations have long since fallen, the cultures and society of these proud peoples remain strong and vibrant in modern times.
The dwarves have two main subdivisions. The more common hill dwarves have complexions of deep tan to light brown, with hair of brown, black or gray. Eyes are of any color save blue. They are solidly built, though seldom exceed 4 and a half feet in height. Mountain dwarves are somewhat taller, with lighter coloration. All dwarves are bearded.
The dwarves do not speak of their origins to outsiders, so little of their ancient history is known. However, it is understood that they once had great underground halls in the northern Crystalmist Mountains that were destroyed by the Invoked Devastation. Their last High King perished in the aftermath, and the clans have ever since been sundered. Led by lords and princes of differing noble houses, the dwarf clans allied with elves and gnomes during the Suel and Oeridian migrations, and even joined humans of reliable disposition to defend their territories. In the present day, dwarves are found in rugged mountains and hills, particularly in the Lortmils, Glorioles, Crystalmists, Iron Hills, Principality of Ulek, and Ratik.
Dwarves are perceived as materialistic, hard working, and humorless. They tend to be dour and taciturn, keeping themselves separate from other folk, but they are also strong and brave. In wartime they are united and willing to see victory at any cost, but prone to avenge old slights and reject mercy. They jealously defend the honor of their clans and families, and greatly revere their ancestors, building elaborate monuments to them. Yet, their chief love is precious metal, particularly gold, which they work with great mastery. Some dwarves suffer from an affliction called gold-fever, when their desire for the substance becomes so overwhelming that it consumes their souls. The tradition of dwarven honor demands that leaders dispense treasure to their loyal followers, and the inability to do this is a sure sign of gold-fever. Dwarves also place great value on their long beards, often braiding them and twining them with jewels and gold wire. It is a terrible dishonor to be shorn.
The traditional garb of dwarves is woolen trousers and a belted linen tunic, with a hooded cloak or cape worn over all. Their boots are of heavy leather, with or without buckles. Colors are a mixture of earth tones and loud, check-patterned hues. They also favor leather accoutrements, fitted with as many jewels and precious metals as they can hold. Females and males usually dress identically, except on certain ceremonial occasions when females wear a tabardlike overgarment, while males don their best embroidered work aprons.
Dwarven elders hold the secrets of their race’s magic, best exemplified by their magnificent armor, weapons and tools. They also oversee the construction of monuments and tombs, many of which have magical traps and curses of great cunning. Dwarves make good clerics, druids, fighters, and paladins.
The elves are slight of stature (averaging 5 and a half feet) and fair of complexion. Hair and eye coloration vary by kindred. The noble gray elves (commonly called faerie or fey elves) have either silvery hair and amber eyes, or pale golden hair and violet eyes. The hair color of wood elves ranges from yellow to coppery red, and eye color is a shade of hazel or green.
Elves were present in the lands east of the Crystalmist Mountains for uncounted centuries prior to the rise of the first human kingdoms there. Slowly driven from open country to more secluded and better defended strongholds by the growing strength of both human and nonhuman folk, elves still held a number of forest and upland realms at the time of the Twin Cataclysms. The invading humans, orcs, and others pressed them further, until some prominent elven realms made military and political alliances with dwarves, gnomes, and halflings, and even with certain major human tribes (usually Oeridian). Today, elves are dominant in Celene, Sunndi, Highfolk, the Vesve Forest, and the Lendore Isles.
Elves are concerned with life itself and spend long periods contemplating natural beauty. Long-lived and curious, they enjoy exploration and remember much. Their frolics are usually joyous events, though some gatherings have a melancholy tone. The fine arts are much appreciated. Elves measure kinship in terms of broad, ethnic divisions, though family bloodlines, particularly among the nobles, often cross these ethnic boundaries.
Wood elves normally attire themselves in pale forest hues, though they favor more intense colors in urban settings. Generally, males wear a blouselike shirt over close-fitting hose and soft boots or shoes, while females favor a frock with sash, or a blouse with an ankle-length skirt. Hunting garments are typically in neutral colors like shades of brown, tailored for silent and easy movement. Gray elves wear complex gowns and flowing robes of pure white, sun yellow, and silver and gold set off by polished leather of contrasting colors, accented by jewels. All elves favor cloaks, especially when traveling, typically gray or gray-green.
Elves are fascinated by all types of magic, especially illusions and charms. They also produce superior and elegant magic garments, weapons, and armor. Gray elves make good rangers, rogues, warlords, and wizards. Wood elves make good avengers, druids, rangers, and shamans.
Half-elves are the offspring of humans and elves. They are highly versatile but not always welcome in elven or human society. They are disproportionately represented among adventurers as a result. Half-elves make good bards,sorcerers, warlocks, and warlords.
Gnomes are solidly built and muscular despite their height. (Most gnomes stand a little over 3 feet tall.) Gnomes are brown-skinned and blue-eyed, and almost all adults have light hair with a tendency toward male baldness. Males are most often bearded, though not so much as their dwarven cousins. Their facial features are a bit exaggerated compared to human norms, with prominent noses and eyebrows and leathery skin.
Gnomes of the Flanaess have their origins as trappers and herders in the remote wooded highlands of the north. Their southward expansion began only a few centuries before the Invoked Devastation, bringing them into lands populated by other races. Their lairds and chieftains recognized the authority of elven or dwarven sovereigns, but discouraged any mingling of peoples until the Suel and Oeridian migrations encouraged cooperation between races. Most gnomes inhabit great burrow communities in the Lortmils and Kron Hills, and east in the Flinty Hills.
Gnomes are possessed of sly humor and earthy wisdom. Measuring the practical value of things as seen by the gnomes against the pretensions of other cultures, their wit is often revealed in inventive and embarrassing ways. Their creativity is not limited to practical jokes. They are fine craftsmen who appreciate precious stones and make beautiful jewelry, along with woodwork, stonework, and leatherwork of excellent quality; they invent and experiment often. Seldom avaricious, gnomes take equal pleasure in music and story, food and drink, nature and handmade things. Most gnomes are not prone to cruelty, though their lively jokes may sometimes make things appear otherwise.
Gnomes tend to dress in dark colors, favoring earth tones but enjoying stripes and brightly dyed hats, belts, and boots. Males usually wear high-collared shirts or blouses with trousers and boots, and a double-breasted coat worn over all. Females wear high-necked blouses with aprons or ruffled skirts, often with a matching jacket. Their hunting garments are colored with mottled greens and browns intermixed. Famed primarily for their use of illusions, some gnome magicians are also master toymakers and artificers. Others are superb weavers, dyers, or tailors, who can create clothing that will improve the appearance of the wearer or even alter it completely. Gnomes make good bards, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards.
Halflings, have three distinct types. The primary group is the lightfoot, the typical halfling found in the Flanaess. Lightfoots average almost 4 feet tall and are ruddy faced, with hair and eyes in various shades of brown. The next most common sort are the stouts, somewhat shorter than lightfoots and having broad features and coarse hair. Last are the tallfellows, who are taller, slimmer, and have fairer complexions than lightfoots. Most halflings have wavy or curly hair. Some, particularly stouts, also grow hair on their cheeks.
Halflings originally occupied small settlements in the river valleys of the west-central Flanaess. They spread slowly into other territories, so that by the time of the Suel and Oeridian migrations, few were north of the Gamboge Forest or east of the Harp River. They are common in much of the Sheldomar Valley, interacting freely with humans, dwarves, elves and gnomes. Historically, they prefer to dwell in stable nations ruled by stronger folk. Today, halflings are found in much of the Flanaess, but they still favor the central and western regions from the Urnst states to the three Uleks.
Halflings are clever and capable, whether they are hard-working farmers or tricky rogues. Most halflings are curious and daring, getting themselves into trouble as often as they get themselves out of it. They have great appetites for food, drink, and collecting things. They love fun, get along well with almost anyone who will at least tolerate them, and enjoy travel and opportunities for excitement.
Halflings prefer to wear knee-britches and tunics or shirts, often with vests. Males wear coats and high collared shirts on formal occasions, while females dress in a bodice-covered shirt and long skirts. Shirts and britches are often striped in alternating bright and dark colors. They dress themselves in gnome style when hunting or at war, wearing clothing of mottled greens and browns.
The best-known halfling magic is culinary. Many halfling foods are made to retain their freshness for lengthy periods, and they use herbs with healing and other medicinal properties. However, most halfling spells are defensive and protective in nature. Halflings make good rangers, rogues, sorcerers, and warlocks.
Evil orcs are all too common across the Flanaess. Undisciplined, bestial, and savage, orcs have severe tribal rivalries and do not cooperate unless controlled by a very strong leader. Orcs are frequently encountered as mercenaries in the Empire of Iuz, Pomarj, Bone March, and across North Kingdom. Orc-ogre crossbreeds are particularly dangerous and are known in several areas.
Half-orcs (the children of orcs and humans) are usually born under unhappy circumstances in border areas between orc and human cultures. They are distinguished by skin that tends to various shades of gray or green, broad jaws, and prominent lower canine teeth. On average, they are taller and stronger than humans. Their hair is usually black, though it grays quickly with age. Half-orcs don’t live as long as humans do. They mature quickly, reaching adulthood at about 16 years, and rarely live past the age of 60.
Dark of mood and nature, many half-orcs achieve renown despite their rejection by their parents’ folk and many others (in this regard, they are similar to the much rarer half-ogres). They combine the best qualities of humans and orcs, though some would argue that the good qualities of orcs are few and hard to find. From thier orc blood, half-orcs inherit great physical strength and toughness. They are fierce warriors, fleet of foot as they charge into battle. Their human blood makes half-orcs decisive and bold, resourceful and self-reliant. They are adaptable and able to make their way in almost any circumstance. Although half-orcs often live on the fringes of society in human towns and cities, they still find ways to prosper in a world to which they don’t fully belong.
For all their good qualities, many half-orcs exhibit characteristics that polite society finds uncouth or undesirable. Half-orcs have little patience for complicated rules of etiquette or procedure and find little value in hiding their true opinions in order to spare someone’s feelings. They enjoy the simple pleasures of food and drink, boasting, singing, wrestling, drumming, and dancing, and they don’t find much satisfaction in more refined or sophisticated arts. Half-orcs make good barbarians, fighters, rangers, and rogues.