Friday, March 08, 2013

World of Samardan: Common Races, Part One...

Good Afternoon, Everyone:

Based on comments made earlier this week, I suppose I should take a moment to address the concept of races for the World of Samardan campaign setting. As we are looking at Planetary Romance for our inspiration, I suppose I should take a moment to list some examples of the various races common to a few series in the genre:

  • Barsoom (Edgar Rice Burroughs): Black Martians, Green Martians, Hormad (Synthetic Men), Kaldane, Red Martians, Yellow Martians and White Martians.
  • Gor (John Norman): Humans, Kurii and Swamp Spiders.
  • Green Star (Lin Carter): Humans.
  • Kregen (Kenneth Bulmer under pseudonym Alan Burt Akers): Kregen is home to well over 120 diffs, or distinct races. Among the most common in the stories are Apim (humans), Brokelsh, Chuliks (yellow orcs), Djangs (four-armed humans), Fristles (cat men), Gons, Hobolings (halfling pirates), Kataki (devil men), Mezhtas (gnomes), Ochs, Undurkers (dog men) and Womoxes (minotaurs).
  • Mars (Leigh Brackett): Anthropoids (ape men), Dhuvians (reptilians), Humans, and Sky Folk (winged men).
  • Mars (Michael Moorcock): Humans and Argzoon (blue giants).

The only consistent race are the human variants, so that the Earthling hero has someone to rescue, fall in love with and eventually marry. A multi-limbed race is usually common, as are a race that is larger than normal humans. (In some cases, such as the Green Martians, they are the same race.) My original version of the World of Samardan setting used a somewhat limited selection of Kregen-inspired races, including Humans (umani), Devil Men (kelshani), Four-Armed Men (chardirani), Minotaurs (volkani), Orcs (piljanani) and Tiger Men (nemani). Now I've got a chance to do things differently, and I think I should.

The various races in a Planetary Romance series are typically (but not always) used as the embodiment of a specific personality type or cultural archetype, so that the author can express an opinion about that human trait under the guise of story. In the case of a roleplaying setting, there's still an element of that, as the players choose a character race that reflect a specific mindset, which in turn informs their character portrayal. As I don't have a solid list of story archetypes I want to comment on, as a Referee, I think I'll look at the game system itself. Since I'm creating this for my free Sword and Planet ruleset, I note that there are three primary classes: the Warrior, the Expert and the Mystic. It seems to me that I should be fine creating races that represent each of those as their best-suited archetype, leaving Humans for the more open-ended option.

The Warrior Race

My initial thought is that the Warrior race should probably encompass the larger multi-limbed race concept that is often found in these stories. In the core rules, I've already created the Green Martians to fit this role, but I don't want my work to be wholly derivative of Barsoom. Inspirations from the sources I've listed above include the argzoon (blue giants), djangs (four-armed humans), green martians, kurii and womoxes (minotaurs). Looking also to my larger D&D minis, I have a lot of gnolls and ogres that could be useful in representing a larger race when running a game, so I want to consider that as a factor as well.

Looking at the Warrior professions, I feel comfortable describing the Warrior race as tribal, and are great riders often hired as mercenaries, particularly cavalry. That covers half of the Warrior professions, leaving the other half for exceptional members of the race, as well as the more civilized humans of the setting. Culturally, I'm getting an impression growing in my mind of a cross between native American Indian tribes and Mongol raiders. I can work with that easily enough, and it's a fairly common trope in Planetary Romance settings.

The Expert Race

When I consider the Expert race, I picture something on the smaller side, agile and nimble, with an almost insatiable curiosity. This isn't a common archetype for the Warrior-centric story lines of Planetary Romance, to be certain, but a few examples exist. Inspirations from the sources I've listed above include the dhuvians (reptilians), the swamp spiders (spider men), the mezhtas (gnomes) and ochs. The ochs are multi-limbed, as are the swamp spiders. Hmm.... perhaps I can make the Expert race multi-limbed, and leave the Warrior race as the large race option. This thought intrigues me. Of course, I look over my D&D minis for other options, and come up with halflings, elves and even dwarves as possibilities, in terms of representing this race on the table.

Looking at the Expert professions, I immediately notice that the diplomat, healer and sage professions lend themselves to a strong academic mindset. With that in mind, I'm picturing the Expert race as observers, academics and seekers of lore. Culturally, I'd want to write this race up as having a strong Renaissance flavor, with an emphasis on the Age of Reason. Sadly, on a dying world with civilization in collapse, they will be fighting an uphill battle, trying to recover and preserve knowledge that almost seems destined to vanish. In this way, the Expert race helps draw attention to another fairly common trope in Planetary Romance settings.

The Mystic Race

The Mystic race may be the hardest to contemplate, simply because it isn't as common an option for races in the Planetary Romance genre. This is a very spiritual species, capable of unusual psychic gifts and similar abilities. Inspirations from the sources I've listed above include the yellow martians and white martians. For some reason, I want this race to be blue, maroon or crimson, and I picture them as having oversized craniums, perhaps similar in appearance to classic grey aliens. I don't have many miniatures I can use for such a bold color choice, but that's okay. I'm not going to limit this concept or others by the minis I have available.

Looking at the Mystic professions, I am drawn to the thoughts of a society that supports the Adept, the Doxologist and the Pretender, because of their specifically mental abilities. I immediately picture a culture that focuses on the concept of transcendence, moving the mind out of the body and shedding the mortal shell without experiencing death. While the Warrior race accepts the dying of the world and the Expert race is attempting to forestall the dying of the world through science and knowledge, the Mystic race is attempting to preserve itself beyond the dying of the world. The general focus of the Mystic race on psychic abilities and out-of-body experiences brings attention to these classic elements of Planetary Romance stories.

So far, I know we're going to have four major races in the setting, humans and the three I've started describing above. I'm going to continue to think about what I want out of these races, and post my finalized thoughts in my next entry. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts you'd like to share on the subject, I'm open to your suggestions.

With Regards,

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