Monday, August 29, 2011

Sword & Sorcery Golarion - "Reskinning" Core Races (Part I)

"Reskinning" monsters is definitely fun, so I’m gonna try to do the same thing with the Pathfinder Core Races. There’s also a second reason: I just can’t forget the mention of Golarion’s Sword & Sorcery ancestry as a human setting. In this alternate version all character races for Golarion would be limited to different human cultures (Varisians, Ulfens, Chelaxians, Taldorans, Kelishites etc). It’s very faithful to the pulp roots of the genre and, while it may sound too radical to your traditional D&D, it presents an interesting “What If?” (or just a good alternate Material Plane to visit – for Gamemasters that use a more loose cosmology).

The idea then is to take each Core Race and remake it either as a human culture or a pulp half-human (or elder human) race. I’ll seek to keep mechanic traits intact (eventual alterations will be noted). In fact, most of the time my “reskinning” will be motivated by the race’s mechanical aspects. Please, note that the ideas below are my take on Sword & Sorcery – the genre is vast and it’s only natural that each Gamemaster has his own ideas about it (that’s part of the fun, after all).

These half-humans or subhuman cultures should be incredibly rare in most Sword & Sorcery Golarion campaigns.

Let’s do it:

(reskinned Elves)

These tall, gaunt and pale subhumans have bone-white hair and violet eyes. Long-lived, cold and erudite, Vrilians are great arcane masters, responsible for creating the tradition of the magus.

They’re an artificial race, created by the arcanists-kings of Sunken Azlantto act as servants (a fact that still enrages the proud Vrilians). With the destruction of their masters, a few Vrilians escaped to Avistan, founding a cruel and decadent kingdom at the northeast by subjugating the local Kellid barbarians of Sarkoris.

The Vrilians were renowned for binding and using demons as shock troops. Having fled from Azlant with the orbs of dragonkind, the Vrilian Lords used dragons as mounts. In the end such practices spelled their doom when the Worldwound was created.

Today, Vrilians are true exiles, a legacy from a former age, dying slowly and embittered. A few of the Eldritch Folk (as they’re also called) took residence within the old nations of the south, like Cheliax, Taldor or even distant Qadira.

Vrilians are arrogant, distant and melancholic, possessing a strange and dark humor. Their long lives make it hard for them to truly sympathize with other “lesser races” (their way of seeing most humans). Wandering Vrilians are usually adventurers and are known for their carefree and even reckless ways.

Vrilians elders guard a deep secret (and another reason for being hated). They know that some Vrilians escaped to the Darklands during Azlant’s Fall. Most degenerated and became Dark Folk (the same way that some humans became Morlocks). However, among the refuges was a yet rarer (and higher) servant caste of winged Vrilians – used as intellectual courtesans by the Azlants. Most winged Vrilians were killed by their own earthbound brothers during the Fall. The survivors that fled to the Darklands managed to prosper (some whisper that only thanks to demonic influence or even a pact with Rovagug), creating a cruel and beautiful empire, a dark shade of Fallen Azlant. Calling themselves Urvrils or “True Vrilians”, these winged bone-white demons are now returning to the surface to slave mankind and kill the remaining Vrilians.

Commentaries: Imagine if a Melnibonean and a Valyrian had a very nasty baby. That’s a Vrilian. Mechanically speaking, use the Elven racial traits (except the Elf subtype). The Urvrils are the new “drow”, and their mechanics are left to the Gamemaster (you can simply use the drow mechanics and add wings).
Elves now are just another denizen from the mysterious and insane First World. These Fey Lords are probably one of the most dangerous and heartless creatures from that realm that, for reasons unknown, come back to Golarion following strange time cycles – their ghost forest cities suddenly coming back to life with unearthly music and deadly vices. In game terms you could use Agathions and Azatas as a base creature, but removing any good spells and abilities, and giving them powers associated with illusion, chaos, madness and savage animals. Elves would be Chaotic Neutral feys in Sword & Sorcery Golarion and I suggest using them like the Fair Folk from Exalted or the Gentry from Changeling the Lost – alien beings with strange hungers and vices, guided by insane and unfathomable agendas.