Saturday, July 28, 2012

Infinite Earths Excerpt: Humans

Hello and welcome, and thanks again for reading!

We have some exciting news about our playtesting that I'd like to lead off with today:  we'll be starting our public playtesting the week of August 12th with sessions at local game stores in Raleigh and Cary, with a kickoff session at the Room 209 Gaming offices (who am I kidding, it's my house) the evening of Saturday, August 11th.  Invitations for the kickoff session will be going out later today via our Playtesters mailing list, and the gamestore-located playtest sessions will be listed on the appropriate Meetup groups.  More on those once we've nailed down and confirmed the exact dates and times with the store owners and operators.  Thank you for all your help!

This week has been spent writing the Race and Culture chapter, and it's been a lot of fun.  We're aiming to go a little more in-depth with the races, providing a kind of "Monster Ecology" article for them (if you remember those) to help players and GMs get the feel for what a race is, how it works, etc.  There are no stat bonuses for being a certain race.  Instead, races have certain Talents that they can pick up (up to 4 total right now, for Race and Culture combined) at the player's discretion that are race-specific.  Some races that have a biological necessity for certain traits (Darkvision for Dwarves, Small for Gnomes) have one of those talent slots already taken up by the physical trait.  And, because the race and culture you hail from profoundly impacts your character, the talents that open up to a character because of race and culture can always be taken in any talent slot.

The following entry, for humans, is indicative of the kind of detail we're putting into all of the races.  We're showing off this one first because, well, everyone who's reading this knows pretty well what humans are like!  And so, without further ado:


There is one phrase that encapsulates the spirit of humanity above all others: they are never satisfied with what they have, and are always seeking to attain more. Be it more land, more followers, more gold, more knowledge or more religious enlightenment, humans are incomplete so long as there is more of something that they do not possess. Pioneers, farmers, warriors, politicians, philosophers, holy men, diplomats and wanderers all embody the spirit of diversity that flows through the human race. Hearty or frail, milk-pale or night-dark, humans make their homes in all environments and within all types of societies.

                Personality: While humans are the most flexible of the [races], they are not always comfortable in the presence of those who are different from themselves. This includes not only other humans, but also members of other [races] for while they are eager to build communities, humans are also quick to shun those who are slow or unable to assimilate. Humans have a pioneering spirit, but also suffer an ambition that makes them all too easily destroy others to achieve their goals. For this reason, they can be very warlike. However, many humans are also extremely artistic, becoming widely-renowned masters of art or craft. In this way, humans shift widely between extremes.

                Roleplaying: Humans behave no differently in the Infinite Earths roleplaying game than they do in reality, and consequently can have the same complexity of motivations and behaviors that you can find in day-to-day life.

                Physical Description: Humans average between 5 feet and 6.5 feet in height and weigh anywhere between 100 and 300 pounds. Males are generally taller and heavier than females, with greater per-weight muscle mass and more prominent body hair appearing on the arms, legs and jawline. Human skin tone ranges in natural earth tones from a dark brown (nearly blue) hue to a pale cream-white. Hair spans a similar range, from black to white, with browns, grays and blonds common in-between. Hair texture ranges from thick and coarse to very fine, with straight, wavy, curly and kinky hair common. Darker skin generally results in darker, coarser hair. Human males frequently go bald beginning in their 30s from either the crown of their heads or their forehead (called, in the latter case, a "receding hairline"). Human eyes also tend to be blue, green, brown, gray or hazel, with unusual colors such as amber and violet occasionally appearing.

                As humans are the most generalized [race], physical capabilities in the Infinite Earths roleplaying game use human averages as the statistical norm. There are no tendencies toward any particular [attributes] among humans, and basic information (such as sight distance and jumping distance) is defined in terms of human capabilities.

                Diet: Humans are omnivores, and the consumption of animal proteins and plant nutrients is vital to their health. Some humans choose to be primarily carnivorous or herbivorous, though they must be careful with their diets to ensure that they get the proper nutrients they will lack from the food they shun.

                Reproduction: Humans have two sexes, male and female. Gender roles of these sexes are defined on a cultural level, though the trend is toward equality in gender roles. The male impregnates the female through sexual intercourse, and pregnancy is not a guaranteed result of intercourse as the female is only highly fertile for a period of approximately one week per month. Once impregnated, gestation occurs within the internal womb of the female over the course of nine months, becoming externally noticeable at around four months. The female generally has reduced physical capacity for the latter half of the gestation period. One child is usually produced per pregnancy, although twins, triplets and quadruplets can occur rarely. Human childbirth is a dangerous process and can result in the death of the mother once out of every twenty births.

                A human child is completely helpless upon birth and for the first two to four years of life. Cognition begins early and develops slowly, with multiword sentences becoming common only in the second and third year of life. Children are typically raised by the mother and often the father, though rearing is also frequently done by relatives or even trusted members of the community. Humans consider their children highly valuable and will fight and die to defend them.

                Aging: Humans take approximately twelve years to reach sexual maturity, though environmental factors may adjust this by up to four years in either direction. The age of majority (when humans are considered adults by their societies) varies by culture, but generally occurs within the teenage years following the onset of puberty. They reach their physical peak in their late teenage years to their early 30s, and afterward begin a slow decline wherein physical capability is diminished. Age may or may not indicate an increase of wisdom for humans after their 40s, as some individuals may allow their mental faculty to diminish as well. Humans who maintain high physical or mental activity can maintain their peak performance into their 60s. Humans will often reach infirmity between 60 and 80 years of age, and most will die within this timeframe. Exceptional individuals can live into their 90s and later, but life beyond 120 is unheard-of.

                Relations with other Races: Humans generally maintain friendlier relationships with the races that look more like them: dwarves, elves, gnomes and other humans. Human attitudes toward half-bloods are wildly divergent, even when dealing with half-humans, and must be considered on an individual basis. Even where human relationships are considered friendly, the other races will generally keep themselves guarded because of humanity's reputation for ambition and destructiveness.

                Relationships with draconid, goblins, orcs and half-bloods of the same have been historically strained. Humans largely consider members of these races "monsters," though some have more enlightened views. The relative power of the draconid has earned them a hard-won respect, while orcs are largely considered dangerous resource-competitors. Goblins are often used as slaves or considered pests to be exterminated.

                Homelands and Territory: Humans will live anywhere, and will modify their environment extensively to suit their needs. Humans are highly skilled at exploiting natural resources in places they settle in order to make their settlements more comfortable for themselves. Additionally, they are very territorial and will frequently expand their territory without warning.

                Humans generally live in groups of one hundred or more, and prefer to cluster together in villages, towns and cities of their own construction. Because humans are frequently at war, their settlements are usually walled for protection. Humans tend to unify their settlements in terms of nations, generally with one town being more important and acting as a center of government for all members of a nation. Nations compete for resources, generally trading with each other until one nation or the other finds the terms of trade unfavorable, at which time they will likely go to war.

                Religion: Humans hold to numerous gods and philosophies, and will often fight to the death over whose god or philosophy is superior. Humans also often choose to be irreligious, rejecting the providence of all gods. This is seen as particularly contentious among the devout, and such individuals are often shunned. Religion is a bedrock to most human societies, and common among all the human gods is a sense of cosmic justice that can be levied against those who have committed wrongdoing.

                Language: Because of the adventuresome and travel-focused nature of the humans, their common trade language is likely the most widely spoken language in the world. In addition to this common tongue, humans often have regional dialects that tend to correspond to national boundaries or tribal areas. Humans also readily pick up the languages of their neighbors and any other groups they entreat with. As a result, humans begin play with the common tongue and their regional dialect already known, and may select bonus languages (one per point of [Intellect]) from any language available.

                Names: Human names are as varied as their cultures, religions and skin tones. Any name found in the real world works within the Infinite Earths roleplaying game. The GM will be able to provide more guidance on names that are appropriate for your character's specific culture. Campaign Setting guidebooks will also be able to provide additional guidance.

                Human name structures are generally a first, or "given," name, followed by any number of middle names celebrating a character's family history or accomplishments, followed by a family name.  In some societies, the family name is discarded for a name, chosen by the individual or his immediate social group, that describes instead some great skill or achievement.

                Adventurers: Humans largely adventure because they are seeking wealth, fame or power. They may have a wanderlust that makes them incapable of staying within the walls of their cities and sends them instead into the wilds to seek their fortunes. Humans may also be driven to adventure in order to right some wrong, or because they are attempting to end some threat to their lands or people.

                Human adventurers might be youths in their late teens or early twenties just beginning their lives and adventuring careers, or they might be older and turning their eyes toward adventure for the first time after a largely uneventful life.

                Cultures: Humans can come from any culture listed in the Culture section.

Human Racial Talents

The [talents] listed below are available only to humans or half-blooded humans. Unless listed otherwise, each [talent] can only be selected once.

Adaptable Mind (Racial Talent)
You watch your companions sweating and grunting as they haul themselves up the cliff through sheer strength.  You scratch your chin, looking for the natural handholds, and have a much easier time of it.
                Mechanic: Choose a single [skill].  You may use [Intellect] or [Awareness] instead of the [skill]'s default [key attribute].
                Special:  Adaptable Mind may be taken multiple times.  Each time it is taken, it applies to a different [skill].

Animal Bond (Racial Talent)
The wizard's voice echoes with power as he commands your faithful hound to tear out your throat. As you stare at the animal, you see its eyes clear and its lips part in a snarl.
                "Good boy," you say as it lunges instead at the wizard.
                Mechanic: Your [animal companion], [beast] or [familiar] is bonded to you. Attempts to command your bonded animal to harm you or your allies automatically fail. If the command was the result of magical compulsion, the magical compulsion is immediately broken.

Community-Builder (Racial Talent)
"We have a mutual interest, you and I," you say to the man you hope will join you in the coming battles. "Together we can accomplish far more than we can separately. Let's put aside our differences and make a common cause." You hold out your hand, fully expecting him to grasp it. He does.
                Mechanic: Your [Speech] roles when attempting to create or grow organizations are [bolstered].

Competitive (Racial Talent)
"You know I can climb that cliffside faster than you, don't waste your time." The elf's manner is casually dismissive; he clearly doesn't think you capable of matching him. The slight sneer on his lips boils your blood.
                You reach down and dust your hands with the dirt and stretch your muscles. Challenge you, will he? "Care to put money on that?"
                Mechanic: When directly competing with another [character] in a [skill] roll, your [skill checks] are [bolstered].

Drawn to Power (Racial Talent)
Your fingers brush along the surface of the stone, feeling the thrum of the energy within it, pulsing in time to your heartbeat. You close your eyes and breathe in, feeling a tingle suffuse your lungs and spread through your entire body. This place is yours, now.
                Mechanic: You can [attune] to a [Place of Power] and use it to power [rituals] without having [mana] or being a Ritualist.

Fast Friends (Racial Talent)
"This boy's no great warrior," the dwarf says to his long-bearded companions in their rumbling formal language. "I say we leave him to his own devices and travel on."
                "Friend Dwarf," you reply in kind, raising their bushy eyebrows, "I may be no Blagorn the Hammerslinger, but I assure you that my blade by your side will not disappoint."
                The dwarves laugh together and invite you along.
                Mechanic: Choose a non-human [race]. You know the racial language of that [race], and treat members of that [race] as if they were members of your own [race] for [social tactics].

Gift of Gab (Racial Talent)
"I have to go," the guard says, "I've got work to do."
                "Oh, what kind of work?  I know I usually find myself working too hard, and then I can't easily get to sleep."
                "I'm a guard.  I need to go guarding.  Excuse me."
                "Oh, what are you guarding?  You know, this one time I did some guard duty, it was so boring.  I just wanted somebody to talk to…"
                Mechanic: When an opponent attempts to [disengage] from you in [social tactics], your parting words [speech check] is [bolstered].

Versatility (Racial Talent)
"H-how did you do that?"
                You shrug casually and smile. "It's one of my skills."
                Mechanic: Choose any [talent] from Chapter 8: Talents that you meet the prerequisites for. You now have that [talent].
                Special: Versatility may be taken multiple times. Each time it is taken, a different [talent] must be chosen.

We hope you've enjoyed this excerpt from the Infinite Earths Chapter 03:  Race and Culture.  If there are any errors or misspellings in it--well, that's my fault, that hasn't been through the hands of our editor yet.  Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

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