Races of Iona
Much like in vanilla DnD, the world of Pax Draconia features a menagerie of races. Some may be like you recall them, but others have much different roles than they occupy in the core setting. This guide will introduce you to the races of this world.
Heirs to a great kingdom and rulers of the land, the dragonborn are the essence of power, both martial and political.
Background and history
The dragonborn are the legacy of a visit to the lands of Avalla by the Great Dragons. Nearly 3,000 years ago, the Great Dragons arrived in Avalla from the Far Lands, and brought the humans they found there the gifts of magic and tempered steel. The dragons became their rulers for nearly a century, before leaving as abruptly as they came. In their wake, mothers found themselves birthing half-dragon, half-human offspring that came to be known as the dragonborn.
The dragonborn were given a high status, and it was said that a family that had a progeny of dragonsblood was to be lucky. It was in this way that the dragonborn rose to power, first socio-politically, and then martially. The dragonborn recognized that they were the true heirs of the Great Dragons, and that theirs was a lineage that must rule the weaker races, for their own protection, so that when the Great Dragons return, they shall be pleased with their progress and reward them all with the gift of life everlasting and power overwhelming.
Dragonborn are known to breed truly; it is rare that a coupling between a dragonborn and a human or elf breeds anything but a dragonborn. 5% of the time, a human is brought about, and generally this is seen as an unlucky omen for the family.
The dragonborn were once human, and therefore share the heritage of the norther part of Avalla, with their homelands on the Arkhosian islands. Their rule, however, extends further. They hold land on all the major continents on the Western side of the world, with major colonies in norther Sahelia, the Undren isthmus, and they hold at least one island in Celestia, albeit tentatively. Furthermore, they have recently conquered the Undren ithsmus, and taken the main country of Sha’lar under their protection.
The descendants of a tribe of proud eladrin, the drow are a spiritual people who live in a harsh, unforgiving desert and attempt to keep to themselves while the world bangs at their doors.
Background and History
Thousands of years ago, a civil war in Celestia broke out. Three leaders arose where there once was one. One of the leaders recognized his loss and lead his people away before they were massacred. Lolth, leader of her people, did not give up so easily. The war was bloody, but eventually she recognized her loss, and lead her people into exile. The land she led them to was a dry, unforgiving desert, but they made it their own. The drow soon became dark of skin, and their magical abilities waned as their connection to the wilderness of the forest dried up.
A tough and pious race, the drow made the Undren ithsmus their home, taming the desert and building colossal cities walled in ivory-colored sandstone that were twice as big underground as they were above ground. The standard of the spider, their holy symbol for Lolth, the once-leader they now worship as a god, flies across the land. The drow have the distinction of being the only matriarchal race in the Known World.
That is, until the Arkhosians came. The dragonborn came in their airships at daybreak, and bombarded their cities near the veiled mountains with weapons the drow could not even dream about. Strong elemental priests and shadowbinders attempted to fell the ships, but eventually the Arkhosians won out, and captured their capital city of Menzoberranzan, adding the ithsmus and the land of Sha’lar to their own. The drow are now members of the Arkhosian empire, with a transitional government ruling over them until a new ruler can be installed that is friendly to the Arkhosians. Dragonborn walk the pavilions in the sacred city of Sshamath, which was once open to drow and drow alone.
Sha’lar is the principal home of the drow. Bordered by the veiled mountains to the west, duergar lands to the north, tiefling lands to the south, and the expanse of Celestia to the east, Sha’lar is mostly a great desert full of a whole lot of nothing. The cities that the drow live in exist far more underground than above ground, where the air is cool and moisture can be found. They prefer these dark warrens to the harsh daylight above, and as such have a slight light sensitivity. Their lands are not rich in vegitation, but have many types of game to hunt and it is suspected that the lands underneath them are rich in rare minerals, causing a possible reason for the sudden expansion into the ithsmus by the Arkhosians.
Once rulers of an expansive kingdom, the dwarves are a race in their winter years, holding on desperately to a culture that the world has attempted to marginalize.
Background and History
The dwarves were once rulers of the Kingdom of Moradia, an empire that spanned from the eastern coast of Avalla to the western tip of Montos. They had an iron rule, with treaties with the Eladrin of Celestia to back up their power. One thousand years ago, during the peak of their power, a massive civil war erupted, with a large contingent of dwarves backing a new source of power, the arch-devil Asmodeus. This civil war lasted almost two hundred years, and when the battles were done, the mighty empire was broken into two lands; that of Moradia, and that of Duergia, where the faction loyal to Asmodeus settled.
After their decline, the dwarves centralized their power and fought to remain relevant. It wasn’t until the discovery of Mithril, a metal that was incredibly light but stronger than steel, that the dwarves became major players once more. Mithral made air travel a reality, for it was light enough to fly but strong enough to create massive armadas of ships. Since then, the dwarves have distinguished themselves as the premiere crafters of airships, and their floating armada has quickly become one of the largest in the world. They are not going to war, however, and what they are doing with such a fleet is unknown to all.
Their exceptional mining and crafting skills come from their ability to seemingly speak to stone, and shape it and other minerals such as Mithral as easy as another man would bend a reed. Dwarven stonespeakers are renowned for these abilities, and respected for their power. This makes up for the fact that very few have ever heard of a Dwarven wizard.
It is commonly known that all dwarves have three names. Their first name is the name that they give freely to any non-dwarf who asks of it. Their second name is their dwarven name, and they only allow other dwarves to hear it or speak it. The third name is their secret name. No one but the owner knows this name. This oddity stems from the dwarven outlook on language. The dwarves believe that words have immense power behind them, a notion backed up by the large amount of runepriests the dwarves have. Dwarves believe that if one were to know your name, they could take you over in spirit and even destroy your body. During war, dwarves spend much time attempting to divine the secret name of their enemies so that they may destroy them all the quicker.
Once, they ruled an expansive kingdom. Now, the dwarves hold their homeland of Moradia, and a tip of land in the Contested Lands. Decaying dwarven holdfasts and deep mines can be found all around the world as relics and ruins, and many adventurers hope to find new secrets down there, such as the secrets of stonespeak.
The other faction of dwarves, naming themselves the duergar, live in the northern territories of the Undren ithsmus, and are much more insular than their dwarven cousins.
Counting the territory of Celestia as their soverign territory, the eladrin are one of the most powerful races in Iona, and as the primary magic users, also the most respected, and envied.
Background and History
The eladrin have inhabited Iona for as long as any race, and have been insular for just as long. They keep to themselves, not leaving their territory unless needed. The eladrin are the masters of fey magic, and their wizards are some of the only wizards left in Iona. While other races have abandoned magic in favor of technology, the eladrin have eschewed technology and kept to the old ways.
A contingent of Eladrin took root in Avalla long ago, and founded the colony of Feyden. While these eladrin are more technology forward than their relatives in the old world, they still hold to the old ways of living in tall shimmering towers surrounded by the woods. Their cities glimmer and add a certain glamour to all nature around it.
Mostly peaceful, the eladrin have, in the past fifty years, begun a military program to take over lands in other countries. This has put them at odds with the Arkhosian empire. While both nations consider the other to be their allies, they also consider each other to be their greatest rivals. Eladrin have the magic arms and armament that the Arkhosians would love to have, but refuse to part with them.
Celestia is a large landmass and archipelago to the southeast of the Known World. All the lands belong to the eladrin, save for an island to the west claimed by Arkhosia, a claim hotly contested. Their lands are difficult to navigate, as they have not seen the technology and urbanization of the other countries. Many adventurers delve into the territories of Celestia, also known as the Lands of the Fey, for magical items and fantastic creatures, which are not found anywhere else in the world.
The other main colony of eladrin is Feyden, just south of the Arkhosian islands in Avalla. This colony was set up as their forward base of operations for their military campaign, and they have held the lands for the past 300 years.
The saying goes, “Every elf a king, and every king a pauper” because the elves of the Birelands all consider themselves soverigns of their own lands and territory, with no central hierarchy to speak of, making their relations strained with other races.
Background and History
Thousands of years ago, a civil war broke out in Celstia. One of the factions was led by Corelleon, who was first to realize his faction was losing. Rather than facing extermination, he led his people northwest, and ended up in the Birelands, a murky land of forests, bogs, and rivers. It was a hard land, but the people made it work. Now, they are their own race, the elves, a hardier people than the eladrin who have grown with their land. Their background of strong political leaders has influenced their development and the Birelands soon became devided into a hundred different kingdoms of varying sizes. Rich deposits of minerals left by the dwarves when their empire broke made the Birelands rich, and their ties to the eladrin gave them political clout unrivaled in the area.
The years have not been kind to the Bireland, however. The elves have always been strong and independent, and this has given them the thought that they are rulers, not farmers, and as such their lands have languished. Now, the elves of the Birelands are known as the Beggar Princes, each one a king of a square acre of unfertile land and stripped mines. Their political power has been waining, but their royalty is still as respected as ever, and as such many rich scions of industry in Arkhosia have realized that their daughters may be married to the begger princes for a perfect union. The elf king receives the money to make their lands profitable again, and the daughter receives a title.
The Birelands are a boggy land with old abandoned mines and unfertile lands. The lands have a hundred rivers which break the lands into several separated territories, which have made it easy to create a hundred different kingdoms. Traveling between kingdoms can be difficult, as each king must give consent for a traveler to enter their land, and depending on how much misguided pride an elf has, one may have to go many leagues out of their way to travel just twenty miles.
A small and quiet people renowned for their boats.
Background and History
Gnomes inhabit the southern islands of Celestia, and due to this are renowned throughout the continent for their seamenship. Gnome boats may be a bit smaller than others, but they cut the waves better than most, and none are safer. The gnomes are a fisher folk who are simple and quiet, not often venturing out of their home islands, needing only a ship beneath their feet and the salty breeze in their face to be happy.
Their ability to disappear when danger arises has made other races distrustful of them, not least of all being the rashaka. The elusive and secretive tigerfolk of Celestia are constantly at war with the gnomes for the right to inhabit the isles. The gnomes take the rashaka to be pure evil, while the rashaka take the gnomes to be nothing but deciet and duplicity. Their squabbles have thus far not yet left their islands.
When gnomes do leave their islands, it is usually to work for the good of Celestia as a spy or theif. This fact also hurts relations between gnomes and everyone else. Currently, gnomes require special authorization to officially visit Arkhosia. Few obtain it, but then, few require it, choosing to visit the island under their own power.
When the gnomes are allowed to visit other countries, they usually do so as merchants, bringing exotic wares from Celestia to Arkhsia and the Avallan mainland. This has often put them at odds with the halflings, who see themselves as the merchant boatpeople of Avalla. Turf wars have broken out from time to time, between the gnomes and the halflings. Due to their diminutive size, however, most people overlook these bloody scuffles and concern themselves only over who has the cheapest prices.
The southern islands of Celestia are home to the gnomes, and are generally jungle-filled and hilly. Gnome cities are often located in the heart of the jungle, and are difficult to get to. The most cosmipolitan of the gnome cities would be their floating capital of Anagoran, which is two miles square, and floats upon countless ballast tanks, and moves between the islands.
A crafty group consisting of a rigid caste structure, the goblins of Sahelia are loathed by most and liked by none.
Background and History
Sahelia has always had goblins, who have always been thought of as a nussiance by their co-habitators on the continent. The goblins are a crafty and war-fueled group who cannot go long without making war, be it on themselves or a neighboring group of half-orcs, changers, or even utangs. The history of Sahelia is full of these kinds of wars, fought for no truer reason other than without war, the goblins feel incomplete.
The goblin-folk live by a very rigid caste system. At the top lies the true goblins. These short, pale-green goblins have overlarge heads and even larger ears and noses. Huge yellow eyes crowd the bridge of the nose, and their teeth are filed to be perfectly pointed, and are capped in metal to show their status. A rich, powerful goblin may have gold-capped teeth, while a lower-class goblin, owning fewer than ten bugbears, may have his teeth capped in iron or bronze.
Hobgoblins are the warrior caste, and are in charge of defending the city-states and killing the enemies of the true goblins. They are as large as a tall human, with short, coarse light-brown hair covering their body and normal-sized proportions. Most hobgoblins make up the rank-and-file, with a few being generals and commanders of the army. Many goblins will sell the services of their hobgoblin armies to those who wish to have a formitable force at their backs. It is said that as many as 1,000 hobgoblins fought for the Arkhosians during the Sha’lar war. Recently, a large group of hobgoblins grew tired of their second-class citizenship and razed their city to the ground, leaving for more prosperous work.
Bugbears are the largest of the goblin-folk, and the least intelligent. These large black-haired goblins appear like savage bears with bug-eyes, hence their name. The bugbears occupy the lowest caste and are the slave labor force of the goblin city-states. What they lack in intelligence they make up for in brute force.
Goblin-folk live in huge city-states walled in thick stone, ruled over by rich merchant families. Goblins can be found in every corner of Sahelia, living in any climate the continent has. They have no centralized government, and most city-states are often at war with the other city-states. Some say this is to keep the number of hobgoblins low so they do not overthrow the cities.
Also called half-giants, the goliaths of the Highlands are a race of warriors and athletes who prize physical prowess over political power.
Background and History
Giants ruled in the highlands, terrorizing anyone daring to pass through, until the dwarves came with their urgroshes and their craghammers. The dwarves fought valiantly, and exterminated many of the giants. Bizzarly, the goliaths as we know them today are the descendants of the coupling of the dwarves and the remaining giants. Left to their own devices, the half-giants of the highlands formed their own society, one in which the strongest ruled the weakest. Influenced by the dwarven traditions of stonespeaking, the half-giants live in cities carved out of mountains, and refuse to build when they can instead take apart.
When the Arkhosians came, the half-giants paid them no heed. That is, until a general of the army managed to beat the former leader of the half-giants in a wrestling match. Since then, the half-giants have respected the might of the empire and became willing allies in the eyes of the half-giants, and willing subjects in the eyes of the Arkhosians.
Hostile and rugged, the rocky and mountainous terrain of the Highalands have bred a tough and individualistic people who see survival as a test of their prowess. Their cities ring large mountains, with a class of individuals that tend to cattle and goats down in the lowlands.
Half elf and half human, half-elves straddle society and bridge two very different cultures.
Background and History
Half-elves are not a people unto themselves, but are instead the children of elves and humans. The humans of Auldytha began marrying into the elves of the Birelands long ago, but more recently matches have been made between the rich daughters of industry in Arkhosia and the destitute but noble princes of the Birelands. Because of their unique position, the half-elves occupy a special place in society, a place where no culture finds them repulsive. The Arkhosians often find heritage binding them, as do the elves; the dwarves of Moradia respect the Arkhosian empire, although not so much the Birelanders; and the eladrin consider the Arkhosians to be their rivals, but for all their wars they still feel a bond with their elven cousins.
As the half-elves are the children of two cultures, they have many lands they would call their home. Many half-elves find themselves living in Sigyll, as it is the major metropolis and half-elves are notorious for wanting to be on the forefront of culture. They also exist in large numbers in the Birelands, progeny of heiresses and princes.
The least respected of that races of Iona, the halflings live in an inhospitable crust of land and the surrounding rocky islands, and are envied by no one.
Background and History
Called smallfolk by some, the halflings are a hardened people who have ever been trod upon. They hold the record for being conquered the most, ruling themselves only a tenth of their total history. They have been conquered by every major power at least once; first, by the dwarves, then by the elves of the Birelands during their brief Expansion Wars, and then conquered again and again by Arkhosia and Auldytha, with their independence never lasting longer than a generation.
Almost ironically, the halflings are intense and firm believers in fate and luck. Halflings are notorious gamblers and theives, and the biggest crime bosses are often halflings, to the surprise of the authorities. It is said The Lady perfers halflings to look after her dealings because she knows exactly how little she can trust a halfling, and therefore trusts them more than other finicky races.
Other halflings who take more to the seas than crime become consummate traders and merchants, sailing around Avalla and Sehelia, or transporting food from Auldythia to Arkhosia. At times they run into gnome merchant ships, and over the years the halflings and the gnomes have developed a bitter rivalry that has led to many ignored and bloody battles over the right to sell goods in port.
Some say that the halflings are a third tribe of humans, seperated from the main tribes for so long they have grown short and stunted. The halfling response is that they have been conquered by so many foes over the years that they are a mix of all the major races, and claim all to be their kin.
Hoventon is a thin crust of land to the west of Arkhosia. It is made up of large cliffs and hillsides, and rare is it to find a flat track of land longer than 3/4 of a mile. Because of this, they have become consummate fisherfolk and raisers of mountain goats. The hard land of Hoventon have made the halflings inured to many of the harsher climes in the world, making them ideal adventurers.
The half-orcs of Sahelia are tribal warriors with deep family connections and a deeper connection to the earth beneath them.
Background and History
The half-orcs believe that they are the children of the Matkva Sykva, the largest mountain in Iona, and the only large peak in Sahelia. They believe that they rose fully-formed from the ground, brushed off the dirt, and began to form the ground as others would form clay. The Half-orcs (or the Horuloks, as they call themselves, orkish for ‘Mountain People’) possess the stonespeaking abilities of the dwarves and the goliaths, however their abilities outclass many of the dwarves best stonespeakers. Even the commonfolk possess some innate ability to form rock with semminly only a thought. The best of them, however, are the Grymloks, a branch of their family tree that have adapted to live underground. The Grymloks are their best stonespeakers, and are often also their tribal leaders, and they never leave their underground caverns. Legend says, however, that one day the Grymloks will be forced to leave when the Darkness spreads over the land and the sun ceases to rise each morning. This apocalyptic believe, called by them the T’azby Druzyka, forms the cornerstone of their belief system, with all half-orcs working to one day fight back the T’azby Druzyka.
The Great Valley and the Giant Scar are the two places the half-orcs most frequent. They live in great societies ruled by powerful stonespeakers who read the fortune of the group in the geodes they find deep within the ground. They consider the entire Sahelia continent to be their land, and they let others live on it at their leave, and therefore do not fear fighting others who would attempt to claim the land for themselves. This belief has led to terse diplomatic conversations between the Arkhosians and the Halforcs, and colonies in Sahelia are difficult to hold. They are also at constant war with the goblinfolk, who they let live on their land as a courtesy, but allow no more expansion; a rule the goblinfolk often balk at.
A diverse and widespread people, the humans are found in many corners of the globe, ever adapting to the challenges the land gives them.
Background and History
Humans have been around as long as recorded history, at least as long as the eladrin and the dwarves. Throughout the years, they have splintered and spread themselves, and formed what their historians have called the Six Tribes of Humanity:
- The Arkhosians
- The Dragonborn
- The Auldythains
- The Halflings (contested by the halflings)
- The Changers (Peru’Bahan)
- The Tieflings (Children of Bael Dureth)
Many of the tribes have become so different that they are considered a new race, changed by their environment and their choices.
Of the six tribes, the two to still maintain their humanity through and through are the Arkhosians and the Auldythians. The Arkhosians are more war-like than their stubborn cousins the Auldythians, but both of them share the traits of being highly curious and very adaptable. They are willing to change their skillset to fit any duty, and tough enough to survive anywhere they can find enough room to live. While they are reviled by the eladrin, they are generally liked by all other races.
Arkhosia and Auldytha are the two main countries where humans still remain en masse, however there are humans that live with the Changers in Sahelia, and others that are born of elf/human marriages in the Birelands who choose to remain there. Humans will generally go wherever they can to find work, however, so they can be found in most all populations around the globe, save in Celestia, where the eladrin dwell.
The shifters are a primal offshoot of humanity, one of the Six Tribes who have fled to Sahelia and have taken up The Old Ways.
Background and History
Changers are an animist offshoot of humans who have picked up the ability to, when throughly angered, change into a more beastial version of themselves. Some of them are more feline, while other are more lycan. They believe themselves to be the children of the Wild (The Peru’Bahan, in their tongue), and worship the spirits that dwell within everything instead of the gods of their ancestors.
Not all of the Peru’Bahan can change, however. The Arkhosian Empire reports that the changers are the most powerful and rule the non-changers by force, while still other reports say that they live in harmony with one another. Each changer community is presided over by a single elected ruler, although how this ruler is chosen is a mystery; most Arkhosian scholars do not choose the rough life among the Peru’Bahan colonies as their focus of expertese.
The Changers, called Shifters by some, have a good relationship with the half-orcs, and it is not altogether uncommon to see a handfull of changers living in a half-orc community. Together the two races fought back the Goblin Plague, which has made them brothers in combat, an honor the changers believe to be in highest regard. They take no part in the squabbles of their other human cousins, and do not care about land conquering or who owns what. Because of this, the Arkhosian Empire claims that they have conquered much of the changers territory, while the changers believe that the Arkhosians live on their land in harmony, waiting for the Arkhosians to show their true colors so that they may make war against them.
Changers live in woven grass huts and sleep on the plains of Sahelia. The changers do not feel they own any land, and instead have territory in which they roam. They are not proper nomads, as their territory is limited and they stalk around only there, but there are no great cities or towns that belong to the changers.
A people of secrets, the Children of Bael Dureth live in a land of mystery and intrigue.
Background and History
The Tieflings are one of the Six Tribes of Humanity, moving to the Undren Ithsmus thousands of years ago. They now reside in Visthania, a land of jagged rock spires and low valleys. They are an aristocratic people who have closed off all entrances to their country, disallowing any foreigners entrance. They still travel to other countries, however, and move about in the highest of social circles when they do. They are very prideful, and carry themselves with the highest regard, and even the baseborn tieflings consider themselves to be the equals of the nobility of other races.
The appearance of the tieflings was caused, many say, by their over-endulgence of magic. They were once similar to their human cousins, but became so dependent on magic that it warped their very affect, and now resemble half-deamons.
It has been theorized that tieflings are soul-bound to their land by the powerful devils their ancestors made packs with. Tieflings are not allowed to be interred anywhere but Vistania, and when a tielfing is close to death, their last wish is to be brought back to Vistania as quickly as possible. This might account for why the teiflings are so unwilling to live for long periods of time away from a landscape most would call brutal and unlovable at the most kind.
The lives of the Tieflings are full of courts and intrigue. The Devils that have given them their power, some say, demand a certain level of intrigue from them, and if the Tieflings do not keep up their performance, their powers shall be taken from them.
Visthania is their homeland and the only territory they control. Passage inside Visthania is restricted to tieflings only, and the tieflings do not describe in great detail what their country is like. Reports from scouting missions and from the few who would talk about it describe Visthania as a harsh landscape with jutting stone spires, pools of sulpher, and gysers of acid and lava. The question of course is, if the land is as inhospitable as it sounds, why do the tieflings live there so proudly?