In most D&D worlds, human societies dominate much of the map, and human culture is standard by which other cultures are described. Despite other races' unusual powers and long histories, it is humanity and its related races that seem poised to control the future. This book focuses on these races whose destiny, for good or ill, is tied to the fate of the human empires of your world: humans, races that have some human blood within their veins, races that were once fully human, and the panoply of strange races that either live peacefully among humans or have successfully infiltrated human society. Players will find new feats, spells, and prestige classes for their characters -- and a new race that may be inspiration for the next character they create. DMs will find a wealth of building blocks for adventures. Whether you're looking for an oddball race to play or your players' next archenemy, you'll find something useful here.
Chapter 1: Humans
In a world filled with unusual creatures and bizarre races, humans stand on their own as a ubiquitous part of any fantasy campaign. Because D&D players are themselves human, the fictional humans of the game world describe a baseline that's easy to relate to. Humans don't have the special abilities or powers of other races, so they provide a contrast for the more exotic denizens of the D&D world.
But humans aren't boring. No other race has the same combination of ambition, aggressiveness, and energy. Those attributes have enabled humanity to spread far and wide, and in most campaign worlds, human nations cover most of the map.
Humans are interesting because they're so active. While dwarves are mining the depths of the earth and elves are contemplating ancient mysteries, humans are building empires, settling new lands, and fighting titanic wars with one another.
The average human isn't as hardy as the average dwarf or as nimble as the average halfling. The average elf has a greater knack for arcane magic, and the average orc is certainly stronger. But human adaptability and energy makes the concept of an "average" human pretty nebulous. Individually, humans are vastly different from one another. Two humans chosen at random have less in common with each other than two elves -- and if the two humans come from different cultures, they might have less in common with each other than an elf and a dwarf do.
Human societies are just as varied as the humans that comprise them. Some human nations are sophisticated and organized, while others are brutal and barbaric. Just by walking down the road in a human land, you can find yourself among humans who talk, work, play, and worship completely differently from the humans in the community where you started.
This cultural variety is why most campaigns have multiple human nations, each with its own culture. That's the way of humans -- to divide themselves up into different societies with different behaviors, customs, and aspirations. Elves, on the other hand, tend to have a single culture in most campaigns, even if their communities are spread across the campaign map and they're not politically affiliated with each other. Put simply, elves usually act like elves. But it doesn't mean much to say that humans act like humans.
Roleplaying Application: If you're playing a human character, realize that you've got to think more about your home culture, because humans don't have the same stereotypical behavior that other races have. If a player says, "I'm a dwarf," you know that he'll probably act gruff and taciturn, waxing eloquent about fine stonework and his well-forged axe. That player has some obvious hooks to hang his character's personality on.
But if you say, "I'm a human," you haven't said very much yet. You won't have clear character hooks until you decide what human culture you hail from and what your place was in that society. You might be an honor-obsessed swordsman who reveres his ancestors, or a streetwise gangster with a quip for every situation. Both characters are equally human. Once you get a little more specific about your human character's background, interesting character hooks will start to emerge from the decisions you make.
Humans are both more religious and less religious than members of the other races. They are less religious in that many humans do not care about religion, and no deity can claim the worship of more than a fraction of humanity. Yet they are more religious in that their variety comfortably supports dozens of faiths, each with adherents more numerous than those of many nonhuman deities.
Less Religious: Humans' drive and energy sometimes get in the way of religious matters. Some humans are too practical or too busy with mundane concerns to spend time praying to a being they cannot see, have never met, and receive nothing from. Humans generally demand tangible assistance from a deity's church before they offer their fealty in return. Humans naturally juggle multiple allegiances (to family, to country, to community, and so forth), and some just don't have room in their lives for a religious relationship.
Another barrier that keeps humans from embracing religion is that humans don't have a cohesive mythology and a set pantheon. The dwarves know that Moradin fathered them, and the gnomes know they're the creation of Garl Glittergold. Humans are not so certain of their origins, and no major deity demands their exclusive allegiance. Some humans claim that Pelor is the greatest of the gods, but others worship Heironeous or Kord with equal fervor. Because humanity has so many gods, no one deity can win the allegiance of the entire race.
More Religious: Many humans are adaptable enough to work all sorts of religious practices into their daily lives. Once a bond between deity and human worshiper is established, it quickly grows strong. "Pelor says I have to get up before dawn to pray to him," thinks the human. "But Pelor makes sure the fields around the city grow lots of wheat, so it's definitely worth it." In exchange for a benefit, whether tangible or intangible, a human is willing to change her routine and follow the dictates of a particular religion.
Some humans do worship a deity in a profound and deep way. In fact, those humans with faith are so staunch in their convictions that their singlemindedness frightens even dwarves. After all, dwarves know Moradin is their ultimate father, and that he watches over them -- it's an obvious fact that no one in dwarven culture would deny. But a deeply religious human has chosen a deity from among dozens of equally powerful gods, and she maintains that religious allegiance despite being surrounded with humans who don't agree with that choice.
Greater God (Lawful Evil)
Long ago, according to legend, Zarus was the first man, created by the world itself. No deity had a hand in his creation, because no deity could have conceived such a perfect creature. Members of the other races trembled to see him, for they knew that he was their superior in every way. His grace surpassed that of the elves, his sturdiness astounded the dwarves, his crafts were the awe of gnomes and halflings everywhere.
As long as Zarus was alone, the other races allowed him to live, secure in the knowledge that he could not reproduce. But Zarus was not content. He spoke with the world and begged for a mate -- and it created his wife, Astra. She was as perfect a woman as Zarus was a man, and the other races trembled yet again, fearing that this perfect couple would spawn a new race that would overshadow them all. To prevent this, the leaders of each race gathered in secret and plotted Zarus's demise. They brewed a poison and mixed it in fine wine, which they gave to him as a wedding present.
Zarus knew that the others plotted his death, but he could not honorably refuse the gift. He toasted their health, and drank. The poison worked swiftly, but as Zarus felt his life departing the world took pity upon him and elevated him to godhood. Now Zarus looked down upon the world, and he wiped away the tears of his wife Astra. "Do not weep for me, beloved," he consoled her, "for I am now a god, and set to watch over our people. You will bear me children -- they already lie in your womb -- and these will be the start of our race. All the other races will quake in fear, knowing that they cannot match us."
This is the story told in the Book of Zarus, the holy scripture of his church. Zarus is called "the true human god" and is considered the only god who places humans before all others. He cares nothing for the other races, only for humanity, and encourages his followers to prove themselves better than any nonhuman. Unfortunately, he also fosters the belief that humans deserve to rule the world, treating other races as servants. His priests teach that other races are inferior, in need of human guidance -- and human masters.
The clerics of Zarus encourage conquest and slavery. The worst sin a human can commit, according to the Church of Zarus, is to mate with a nonhuman and produce a child. This child is a taint on the race and must be removed.
Zarus appears as an incredibly handsome human male in his prime, suffused with a golden glow. Zarus encourages his followers and priests to become as perfect as possible, and to dominate other races.
Portfolio: Humanity, domination, perfection.
Domains: Destiny, Evil, Law, Strength, War.
Cleric Training: Zarus's priests look for attractive, healthy youths who show pride in their abilities and arrogance toward anyone weaker. They recruit these people by offering to make them the best they can be. These acolytes are subjected to strict training, honing their physiques, and at the same time they are taught that humanity is the superior race and deserves to rule the world. These young clerics learn both how to give rousing speeches and how to wage war. They begin preaching in villages and towns, spreading their message.
Quests: Zarus sends his followers to destroy enclaves of other races, kill their heroes and leaders, and steal their artifacts. He encourages human armies to conquer nonhuman lands and subjugate their people.
Prayers: Zarus prefers action to words, and his followers pray to him by exercising and by taking part in athletic competitions where they can demonstrate their superiority. Every morning they perform their exercises, vowing to be the best they can be and to demonstrate to other races that humans are superior in every way.
Temples: Zarus's temples are handsome structures, not elaborate but extremely well made and with tasteful decorations. The walls are covered with tapestries depicting mankind's talents: scenes of hunting, farming, weaving, and other occupations. The altar is always a gold statue of a perfect human male, a representation of Zarus himself.
Rites: Zarus's worshipers pray to him before a physical competition, before a war, and before entering the territory of another race. Ceremonies are short and direct, and require physical exertion.
Herald and Allies: Zarus has no herald -- he claims he needs none. He sends Medium, Large, and Huge elementals in response to planar ally spells.
Favored Weapon: Greatsword.
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