View Full Version : [Races] Pale Masques Phase I

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2007-03-02, 11:26 PM
Pale Masques Librum I: Races

Greetings and salutations, friends; you look to be a likely group for stepping out of a tale, an old tale, one of blood and flame and ice- there's many and more of those to be had...blood flows free and snow blooms red, they say.
Of course, you've got to know that all broods and bloods and sorts abide here...some new, I suppose, but some...ah, some are older than you'd care to know, and more terrible, children of inimicable races best forgotten...
-Charodon Austerius, Storyteller

The following is a summary of those races available to a player in Pale Masques, my upcoming homebrew campaign, born and bred here on the GITP forums; this selection includes nine new races and three of the more unusual races presented in published sources- though even those previously published are re-cast to fit the mood and principles of the setting.

Principles guiding the races of Pale Masques
In the Pale Masques campaign setting, a few central principles inform each and every decision regarding both flavor and mechanics, as follows:
What sleeps should not awake; unlike most D&D adventures, where lost civilizations are more or less simply opportunities for capable adventures, this setting presents a world where ancient secrets are things to be feared and concealed- therefore, those races whose origins are shrouded in antiquity suffer a unique burden of suspicion and must exercise what resources they possess to overcome it.
Beyond the veil, there is the other; one of the primary features of the cosmology of Pale Masques is the mysterious and profoundly alien 'Far Realm', home to forces of profound power and terrifying, indifferent malice. All mortal (and most immortal) beings are childlike and vulnerable when compared to these creatures, if creatures they are...The Other is the final night of all beings, the primal and only true font of terror. In consequence...
Strange Bedfellows; in the face of The Other, all mortal creatures- even the most frightening, the most vicious, and the most cruel- are potential allies, fighting against the all-consuming dark. While those of irreconcilable philosophies still conflict, and war and death are as rife here as anywhere-indeed, perhaps more so, there remains a profound love and respect for...
Color and Life; the world of traditional D&D is a medieval one, a thing of stone and straw, of mud and rock and forest green. The world of Pale Masques is populated more densely- few wastes are truly unpeopled, and few cultures are anything but vivacious, varied, and even literally colorful. The conception of seperate communities of neatly boxed races is broken; a chaotic millieu, albeit with its own order, is in its place.Reading the Entries
The Race entries generally reproduce material I've already posted elsewhere, with some exceptions; each entry contains the Race's name, a short 'hook' describing the race and a short passage featuring an example of that race. Following this 'fluff' is all the standard information contained in a racial description per the PHB- including naming conventions, religious inclinations, etc.; following this are the crunchy racial characteristics of each.
Also included is a short section on 'The Race in The World', describing the typical (and atypical) position of members of that race in society, in an effort to aid DMs and players in developing character.

The Races

The Lordly Races
What is a lordly race?
In Pale Masques most nations, states, and cities- even those that belong, in name, to this or that imperium, monarchy, or protectorate- are ruled by the strong, the rich, and the canny; formal lordships, accidents of birth, are of doubtful use in a world of swift rises and swifter declines.
Why, then, call certain breeds 'lordly'?
The answers lies in the fact that, in a land of ever-shifting alliances and omnipresent doubt, a semblance of nobility, coupled with well-held title and good repute, won over centuries by the race, and exploited- for good or ill- by the individual, functions as well or better than a lordly name. The three lordly races, the Scyldingaer, the Clearn, and the Barahli, hold tight to their position as the heart of the people, a perception that may or may not be at all accurate...but nonetheless, it exists and must be acknowledged.
Thus, the "Lordly Races".


Descendents of the fey, the children of the earth roam it according to their capricious and various fates.

The big fool with the four-foot sword clutched at the slim blade emerging from his chest for a moment, just before he fell.
Oran brushed the scarlet stain he'd left- rapidly drying to an unappealing brown- out of his robes with one mottled hand, even as Dulsk gave a sour grin, toothy and sallow as only he could be.
"What, exactly, did you do to make this one angry with us?"
He hesitated, then gave a full-lipped smile, pouty and truculent.
"Nothing much, really. It's not as if I knew she was his daughter..."
Oran grinned, sapphire eyes twinkling as he gave a courtly wink.
The Returned wiped his blade and sighed, looking down a street littered with constricted and thunder-charred corpses...

The Claern, oftimes called the children, or sometimes simply 'the blue men', are humanoid creatures who carry the blood of ancient, unremembered fey, who long ago possessed the unborn children of men- the same way Claern reproduce today. Charming, often handsome, but as unreliable as anyone could possibly be, they are firm believers in getting by on a smile and a shoeshine- and in a pinch, they can do without the shoeshine. This is fortunate, as any given Claern is likely to be in some sort of pinch. Despite all this, none can deny the passion and purity of their ethos; and it's likely that this passion, as much as their looks, has won them a place among the noble class.
Personality: Claern are not a populous race, and those that do exist tend to form close ties to others of their race; therefore, almost all of the blue men fit a general mold. They are unpredictable, though seldom malicious, generous to a fault, and strongly passionate about their particular enthusiasms. These enthusiasms tend not to be anything so trivial as countries or even lovers; instead, Claern are wont to devote themselves to ideals, principles, and personal codes with a certain manic devotion. This does not, however, preclude their changing such codes and principles if there's no other way to get out of a jam. Claern also sometimes bother those around them with a certain blithe disregard for their surroundings; life is short, and they feel it should be lived for something one believes in, not frittered away in idle curiosity.
Physical description:Claern stand as tall or taller than a typical human, with a reedy, lithe body type and angular, comely features. Their ears are seashell-round and often dented, shaped as if by the grasp of collosal hands, while their eyes are clear, pale tones of green and blue. Their faces are expressive, with full lips, aquiline noses, and strong chins being the norm. Skin tones among the Claern range from a blue-white paleness to a gray-white mottle; most of the children fall somewhere in between, and the ash-mottled patterns they display are often subtly ornamental. Male Claern tend towards slimness, sometimes to the point of being nearly emaciated (though seldom do they look unhealthy). Female Claern are somewhat more rounded, and often very attractive by conventional standards, though they, too, have reedy, slim forms.
Relations: Claern get along well with members of most races. They are social enough to bring out the best in even the somewhat reserved peoples, and almost never outright state they dislike someone. In private, of course, they hold a spectrum of opinions, good and ill, regarding the various peoples and professions of the world. These opinions are as varied as their holders- one childe may abhor Paladins as 'half-crazed' while another may praise them as paragons of all anyone should be.
Alignment: Claern have no clear tendency toward good or evil. Most, though not all, tend to believe that a philosophical commitment of such magnitude requires a lifetime of thought- and most remain neutral to take this lifetime. A rare few, however, delve whole-heartedly into the heights of virtue and abysses of vice. In regard to law and chaos, Claern are seldom lawful. The adaptable, fiery race of the children finds it supremely difficult to maintain such an alignment.
Claern lands: The blue men (and, notably, women) hold a great many estates, vast tracts of farmland and other possessions as landlords and sometimes as outright rulers, by proxy or directly.
However, their homeland is a matter that cannot be stated as clearly. Claern mix with all the common races, courtiers and rogues alike, and few, if any, know from whence they come. Whispers among the learned men of the realm hold that the children do not know themselves- but in the meantime, they are content to be well-represented among those who rule.
Religion:Claern are seldom part of the sacred heirarchy of a church or temple, though many benefit such institutions in more secular roles. Those that do choose to call on divine power often- indeed, almost without fail - devote themselves to an abstract principle or cause. The source of the general Claern distaste for formal deities is not known.
Language:Claern speak common and sylvan, and have no written or spoken language of their own. Many of the blue men prefer to use the deep, animalistic language of the wild among their own kind, and the less developed patois of the trade language with outsiders.
Names: Names among the Claern tend to be euphonious, and, more often than not, selected by the Claern his or her self. Some take names resembling the tongue of the region, while others take more traditional monikers.
Adventurers: A given childe frequently adventures to get away from something. Whether this something is boredom, the long arm of the law, or the demands of family life, the road appeals to the Claern more than almost anything else. Some, of course, have more prosaic, mercenary goals in mind- and still others channel the well-known passion and fire of the Claern spirit into fighting evil, or simply fighting.

Claern racial traits:
+2 cha, -2 wis: Claern are charming, witty, and often beautiful, but few are particularly self-aware or spiritually minded.
Medium: As medium creatures, Claern have no special bonuses or penalties due to size.
Claern base land speed is 30 ft.
Low-light vision.
Add +1 to the difficulty class of all enchantment spells cast by a Claern; their fey bloodline grants them facility with this kind of magic.
Claern recieve a +1 racial bonus to saving throws against all enchantments; their familiarity with such magic allows them to recognize and resist it more effectively.
Child of The Earth: If a Claern is immersed to the neck in natural, still water or buried in natural soil while they sleep, they regain hit points naturally at twice the usual rate for the night they are so immersed or buried.
Are Not Born, Shall Not Die: Claern recieve a +2 racial bonus on checks to stabilize when reduced to below zero hit points.
Regardless of their class, Claern treat diplomacy, bluff, and knowledge (nobility and royalty) as class skills.
Latent Fey: Claern may take the Fey Blood feat when not first level; this ability represents their latent fey heritage awakening within them.
Earth's Womb: If a Claern fails to make contact with natural earth for a period of three days, he or she no longer heals damage naturally while resting. If this period extends to nine days, spells with the healing descriptor have only half their normal effect (rounded down) on the Claern.
Baneful Skies: Spells with the air descriptor that deal damage deal twice their normal damage to a Claern. Claern cannot cast spells with the air descriptor or use magic devices that duplicate such effects.
Favored class: Any.

Claern in The World

Rare in the wilds, ubiquitous in the cities, the Claern are perhaps the most overtly 'dandyish' even among the ragtag, multiferous aristocracy of urban Melnioch. It's unlikely that a casual seeker will meet more than a few bravos of the Claern in the wineshops and streets- though a visitor to the manses of the landed gentry will almost certainly meet a score.
Whether populous or rare to be seen, however, subtle signs of the Children's influence are frequent- the natural earth they require is a fixture in many public squares, and even most rural villages keep a pond or fountain at hand to recieve visitors of the mottle-blue breed.

Despite their trumpeting influence over civilization far and near, from center to rim, however, the actual number of lands ruled by Blue Men is small. Fiery and impulsive, they make better war-leaders, grand viziers, and banner lords than emperors or regents. Still, some few manage to temper their ways enough to rule- and on occasion, rule well. Most Claern are related (albeit on occasion distantly) to some Childe of noble birth or station, and thus form part of the 'core' of society- though it's worth noting that diplomats and warriors far outnumber merchants in their ranks.

Claern adventurers are welcomed, more often than not; in the cities because one never knows who might be related to a prickly Clearn lordling, and in the far-flung countryside because of their grace, beauty, and arcane abilities (sometimes rare in more rural regions). The twin exceptions to this general rule are the 'mere and wood' societies; these more stolid sorts view 'blueskins' as an unnecessary disruption. Pregnant women and midwives also avoid the Clearn, though few know the true reason why- popular superstition holds that a 'blue touch' during pregnancy will result in the babe's strangulation upon birth.


Iron-skinned and bone-eyed humanoids of sorcerous extraction, resolute and eerie.

"Why, precisely, must you always talk like that?" the pale, wild-eyed women breathed, exasperated. Worn would have pursed his lips, had he possessed any such organ; in the absence of that, he elected to pointlessly adjust the vambraces molded to his wrists, feeling the pull of them at his very flesh. Finally he looked down, slowly.
"Because that is the proper way to speak, dear lady," he finally replied, and quickened his pace as the sealwife hissed in displeasure in his wake.

Legend states that the first Scyldingaer were emigrés, travelers from some far and unknown land, perhaps even one beyond the known world entirely, and seen by those they met on the shores of their newfound homes as profoundly 'other'.
The truth, however, is somewhat stranger and far less definitive- it is known that the Scyldingaer, the 'shield men', were once human, but what changed them from men into the strange and (to some) grotesque forms they now inhabit is unknown. Most scholars speculate that forbidden magical experimentation is the answer- but they do so quietly, as the Scyldings are known more for justice than mercy, and have pushed aside any questions of their origins (and intentions) with a mailed and heavy hand in the process of gaining their present, more or less noble, place.
Personality: In times past, Scyldingaer were known as 'clockwork knights', a title stemming from the mistaken belief that they were constructs; however, the second portion of that title suits them admirably, as most Scyldings are courtly, companionable, and polite even to their worst enemies. While not 'friendly' in the sense of outgoing, Scyldings are even-tempered and slow to anger or judgment. They often strike others as being reserved as a product of their tendency to deliberation, and even to their closest friends they can be less than forthcoming. Still, while the more locquacious races may condemn their quiet gentility, others are more than willing to settle for an avuncular silence in lieu of a grating tide of noisy fellowship.
Physical description: Scyldingaer, for the most part, look like armored warriors, as a product of their race's unique relationship to their arms; very few can boast of having seen a Scylding without their iron shell, as such a state is profoundly uncomfortable (and ultimately fatal) to the breed.
Those who have, however, speak of deep blue-black skin with a dry, papery texture, seemingly incapable of sweat, and heavily muscled, androgynous physiques in members of either sex.
A Scylding's face is an unappealing sight, as they have niether lips nor eyelids- their teeth are continually bared in a disconcerting rictus, their eyes glistening and ever-staring. While they suffer no ill-effects from this lack of protective membranes, most Scyldings elect to wear a mask or helm and goggles or lenses of some sort to offset the inevitable distaste more ordinary humanity feels toward an exposed eye.
In moments of great exertion, a Scylding's veins and arteries may bulge forth; those who observe closely at such a time will note that they are not the usual red, but a glinting copper- indeed, actual metal. In the palms of the hands and at certain locations along the arms, legs, and chest, these veins break the surface, giving a Scyldingaer the appearence of being lightly wrapped in wire.
Relations: Scyldingaer are polite but cool to members of almost any race. They tend to react less well, however, to those flightier species that take exception to their literally plodding ways and their unabating commitment to rigorous debate and lenghty reasoning-out, and more favorably to those that share (or at least understand) their mannerisms. The reaction of a Scylding to any given profession is likely to be based on their first experience with a member of that profession- Scyldingaer have extremely long lives and long memories to match.
Alignment: Scyldingaer tend strongly towards law, perhaps as a consequence of the need to maintain their own bodies rigorously, perhaps simply as a reaction to the exigencies of the martial lifestyle most live and espouse. In terms of good and evil their repute is more mixed- a Scylding's inclination in that regard is more likely to be personal than cultural.
Scylding Lands: Given their courtly mannerisms, it is hardly surprising that Scyldings maintain quite a few literal 'courts' scattered throughout the land- most of these are strongly lawful monarchies, each ruled by a single individual known as a "Shield". Solid, long-lived, and difficult to assasinate, Scyldings make superb and reliable rulers, a fact that is not lost on those in their purview. Most Scylding lands are located near centers of travel and trade, places which could (In the view of most Scyldings) benefit from a steady, armored hand.
Religion: Scyldings are tolerant of, and often practitioners of, religion, though more often as soldiers of the sword than of the book. Almost any formal creed numbers a few such among its stalwart defenders.
Language: Scyldings speak common; most also speak the trade koine native to their place of origin. They have no spoken language of their own, and no written script- however, all Scyldings know a crude code of martial handsigns which they can use to communicate basic tactical messages to one another.
Names: More often than not, a Scyldingaer has no name, but merely a self-granted title or self-inflicted description; for instance, a Scylding with notably scuffed and dented armor might christen himself 'Worn'. Such names tend to change in the wake of particularly important events or escapades, or simply when the need to avoid notice arises.
Adventurers: Scyldingaer are given to adventuring by nature, for the most part as a reaction to their very nature- they are, quite obviously, built for battle, and most seek it out as a matter of course. Many also develop a fixation on providing for their 'shell', ornamenting, repairing, or otherwise improving their bonded armor with each new quest.

Scyldingaer Racial Traits:

+2 str, +2 int, -2 cha, -2 dex: Scyldings are forceful and rigorous of mind and body, but unsettling and reserved, and their bodies are stiffer and more ponderous than those of other humanoids.
Medium: As medium creatures, Scyldingaer have no special bonuses or penalties due to size.
Clockwork Knight base land speed is 20 feet; however, their speed is not reduced when wearing medium or heavy armor or when carrying a medium or heavy load.
Ironhand: At any time, a Scylding can mentally invoke the copper veins in their palms, causing them to fuse with any weapon they hold, rendering them very difficult to disarm; a Scylding using his Ironhand ability gains a +10 bonus to their opposed check to avoid being so disarmed. Activating or deactivating this power is a free action.
Ironbind: A Scyldingaer wearing any armor primarily composed of metal can choose to take six full hours to bind that armor to his body; the armor warps, splits, and shapes itself until it nearly forms a second skin, nigh-indistinguishable from a natural part of the Scylding's anatomy.
The base Armor bonus of Ironbound protections is increased by one; its armor check penalty is reduced by two, while maximum dexterity bonus is increased by two. The arcane spell failure chance of Ironbound armor is reduced by 10%.
Ironbound heavy armor does not prevent you from runing at quadruple speed, as ordinary heavy armor would.
If a Scyldingaer removes his Ironbound equipment completely, or if that equipment is destroyed or forcibly removed, they immediately take one point of constitution damage; for each hour they remain unarmored (whether in their initial armor, or a replacement) they take on additional point of constitution damage. A Scylding reduced to one point of constitution by this effect immediately drops to zero hit points and falls unconcious, and cannot be healed or revived until re-armored.
Ironbound armor can be enchanted, modified, or replaced, although doing so may necessitate removing it (and incurring the requisite damage).
Conductive: A Scylding has a 25% chance of ignoring electrical damage of any kind, grounding it harmlessly on his or her armor (roll d%). Any time he fails to ignore such damage, the damage recieved is doubled.
Favored Class: Fighter or Arcanist.

Scyldingaer in The World

Those philosophers who wonder (most likely not aloud) why an age of enlightenment and newfound grace still possesses an abundance of monarchial city-states and a nearly-unchanged system of civil service and noble peerage need look no further than the Ironbound men, the Scyldings.

Like the Barahli and the Claern, the majority of Scyldings are de facto aristocrats, if not de iure; whether their martial prowess and penchant for 'taking things in hand' created their prototypically chivalric demeanor, or the reverse, is a topic seldom debated.
Unlike the blue men, the Ironbound are well-adapted (at least physically) for privation and require little in the way of accomadation from the populace; as a result, they range farther than most of the upper classes. Whether this grants them a greater insight into the privation of the lower, however, is also a matter of debate.
Among the noble races, the Scyldingaer are second only to the Barahli in numbers, second only to the Claern in prestige, and second to the Barahli once again in wealth. The area in which they truly excel is the role of 'warrior-aristocrat'; the fundamental social contract must include defense of the people, and with their steely second hides and willingness to enjoy hell-or-glory scenarios, Scyldings win their titles on the field of ringing steel more often than not.

Sycldingaer adventurers are likely to gain a warm welcome on the frontiers and in any nation on the horizon- or in the thick- of open or secret war. Their prowess well-known, their gallantry assumed (though often covertly in question), the Ironbound wanderer has little trouble finding a hearth, a meal, and a bed, cold though meal and bed may be. In more established lands, and in larger cities, a warrior is at once respected and feared- constabulary authorities are on edge until peaceful intent is established beyond doubt, and commonfolk want little to do with swords and shields so long as the walls hold.

The men and maids of the central sea, famed for their acumen and chameleonic personal grace.

"What seems to be the trouble?" Ather inquired, flashing twin rows of very white teeth. Dulsk turned around, slightly, though he continued critically examining the blade before him.
"He wants too much for it, is the problem," the sallow deadman rumbled.
Ather elected to smile again, and slipped an arm around the merchant.
"Raspel, wasn't it? Of the Harelcort Raspels?" he led the man off, fingers digging into his shoulder...

Barahli are a subrace of humanity, for the most part native to the central sea. Unlike their fellow psuedohumans, they possess little in the way of spiritual or otherwise unusual abilities- but they more than make up for the deficiency by way of unmatched versatility.
Personality: Barahli, like all humans, are a mixed bag. Most, however, share the sunny disposition of their rainy isles; the central sea is the necessary gateway of all trade, and a surly merchant is a poor one. Their detractors are inclined to call them unctuous, their admirers are like to describe them as savvy- either way, it makes no difference to the Barahl. Worth noting (especially for those inclined to trust their genial facade) is the Barahli tendency toward debate- while usually intellectual, less peacefully inclined exemplars of the race may settle arguments with force.
Barahli women are particularly inclined toward such behavior; society among the Barahl is predominantly matriarchal, with most men serving as courtiers, tradesmen, and laborers.
Physical Description: Barahli usually fall well within human normal ranges; their most distinguishing features are deeply tanned skin, ranging from a relatively pale olive all the way to a deep nut-brown. Barahli tend toward orange or yellow-green eyes, and long lashes beneath ringleted hair.
Relations: Friend to few but enemy to none, Barahli society as a whole welcomes those of any race or creed, provided they have coin for passage, portage, and goods. Even outlier races, the Spriggans and Least Dragons among them, will find little prejudice to complain of among the Barahl. That being said, Barahl have a strong tradition of family- and such families often carry the burden of a deal gone sour far into the future, generation to generation, so any given Barahli may be on less than friendly terms with almost any other given group.
Alignment: As a general rule, Barahli are neutral- the freewheeling lifestyles of the island merchant, pirate, or landowner has little room for profound philosophies. Adventurers, however, are most likely to be those who rejected precisely such a career, and thus are more likely to hold views at the far ends of the spectrum of good and evil.
Barahli Lands: The Barahl possess extensive territorial holdings in the central sea, and nominally control trade enclaves in the inner lands. Their successes nearer the rim have been stymied by their rivals the Maatahl, however; and most Barahli lands are transient- bought, rather than inherited or held with steel.
Religion: Barahl priests tend to be the most common members of Barahli society, traveling from village to village, from isle to isle, spreading the words of whatever far-flung deity they serve. While this life of service and selflessness appeals to the higher-minded, those with a mind toward gain see little to appeal in religious life.
Languages: Barahli speak common and the languages most common in their ports of call; most Barahli know at least one other racial language.
Names: Barahl names tend toward the generic; it's often easier to simply describe a Barahli than to pick the one you need out of a crowd of similarly-named individuals. Some whisper darkly that this is intentional- after all, similarity is a form of camouflage, and not all merchants are scrupulous.
Adventurers: Barahli choose a life of adventure for the same reasons most humans do; the prospect of swift riches, great deeds, glory, or simply to escape.

Barahli Racial Traits:
Barahli have all the traits of humans as described in the player's handbook.
In addition, a Barahli gains Jack-of-all-trades as a bonus feat at first level (this is in addition to the bonus feat all humans gain).

Barahli in The World

Author's note: this is very much a work in progress- I'm still trying to articulate my ideas. If you have any suggestions/comments on either mechanics or flavor of these races, please let me know.
I'll try and post one 'category' of races each day/night.

Author's note again: The Barahli are not a previously posted race, so I'm leaving them out of spoiler tags for the nonce. It'll be a lot of text, but them's the breaks.