I've put together an eclectic set of PC races for my Fellhold setting, but I'm pretty happy with them. I've tried to follow Arnold's advice to avoid passive modifiers that lead to builds, but man, after decades of that being the way races get distinguished, it's hard to get around. Let me know what you think, and especially if you see anything that doesn't quite work. All art by the awesome Eric Koch.
- Crabmen were inspired by Yoon-Suin, but I've taken them in a very different direction. Artsy-fartsy merchants and intelligentsia
- Fiends are like the Kami in Princess Monoke, but they want your soul.
- Half Dwarves are the descendants of humans and dwarves interbreeding, and take on traits that you might find associated with dwarves or halflings in other settings. Most of them are bitter about their lost glory and are in the mafia
- Humans are humans, but in this cosmopolitan city, they're the most adept at getting along with all the strange shit.
- Ratmen are basically Skaven, but instead of being riven by internal factionalism and backbiting, they have the strongest mono-culture in town, are matriarchal, and happen to be the best cooks
- Tieflings have fiend blood. Yes, I need to find a name that isn't WOTC copyright. Everybody thinks they're sexy and clever and untrustworthy, but they mostly roll their eyes at that.
- I haven't decided whether Draugr (full or partial undead from selling parts of your soul) should be a PC race or something that can just happen to PCs if they sell bits of their souls - right now I'm leaning towards the latter
PC Races in Fellhold
Game Master Note
The races presented below are the default for Fellhold. Depending on how you place Fellhold in the world, you may have some changes. You might allow other races not included here or restrict some of these.
Generally speaking, if you want to stress the weirdness of Fellhold, start out with only human PCs and let players choose new races as they’re meaningfully found in play. Crabmen just don’t feel that weird if your buddy sitting next to you is one of them. On the other hand, if you want to stress the cosmopolitan, urban feel of Fellhold, allow all of the races below (or even more) - this will give a feeling that Crabmen are just another sort of folk you’re likely to run into daily.
Each race below includes a brief, general description of the race and its characteristics along with any special boons or banes that come with being a member of that race. Note also that race will be a factor in some other areas of the game not covered here, such as the ability to progress in, or even join, some of the factions of the city, the sorts of stereotypes NPCs will hold about you, and so forth.
Player Character Race Descriptions
Despite their large, hulking appearance and natural armor, crabmen tend towards philosophical and artistic temperaments. They make up a large number of the sages of the city, and of course their enormously wealthy Merchant Houses are known to all. Generally, crabmen are extremely cooperative with members of their own family, especially their own birthing group, and have a hard time helping out or even caring about anyone outside of it. Many crabmen have gotten around this through fairly widespread “adoption” of friends and business partners.
Crabmen’s natural exo-skeleton means that their unarmored AC is 2 better than a human’s. Armor is much harder to make for crabmen, as it is not much in demand by them and must be made larger, so any armor costs 2x the normal cost. Their reactions to anyone not in their “family” will tend towards apathy and ignoring them. Crabmen receive advantage on any rolls related to intellectual or artistic pursuits besides magic (study, crafting, and so forth). Their large size and rigid bodies means that they will have difficulty squeezing into some tight spaces, or in situations that require great flexibility.
Fiends are the warped and wicked results of the godsdeath. They vary greatly in both power and form from minor animalistic sprites of rocks and saplings to mighty humanoid powers worshiped as gods. A player character fiend is far more powerful than many of these minor beings, but is still pretty far down the ladder. Fiends thrive on souls and worship, and most turn all of their doing towards those goals.
Every fiend must have a stead, a place or thing that it is bound to. The fiend cannot move farther away from it than its level in miles (or level in districts, if more useful). Steads can be carried with fiends of the PC’s size and power, but if a stead is destroyed, the fiend truly dies. If otherwise killed, the fiend will reform at its stead in 1d4 urbancrawl turns (weeks). If a fiend swears an oath or signs a contract, it cannot willingly break that deal (but of course, the word of the deal, not necessarily the spirit). Fiends can also be summoned, compelled, and bound as NPC fiends. Fiends must have a Use Name, Greater Name, and True Name.
Half Dwarves are the mixed descendants of the original dwarf settlers of Fellhold and humans. They have become a stable race of their own, but still stubbornly refer to themselves as true dwarves, claiming the inheritance of the Dwarven Great Kingdom as theirs by right. Their society is organized by huge extended families, run by Forefathers and Foremothers, the Fathers and Mothers of member families, and so on. Formerly the masters of trade and craft in the city, their wealth has been surpassed by the Crabmen, and they are eternally bitter for it.
Half Dwarves are extremely hardy and gain advantage on any and all saves against poison, drugs, or disease and ignore their first pip of exhaustion in a day. Their reactions to crabmen will be generally negative, unless they know the person well and have come to like them. Their small size means both that they can more easily slip into tight spaces, but also that large foes can more easily knock them down, pick them up, or otherwise use brute force.
Humans are both the most numerous race within Fellhold and the least represented in its most powerful groups, unless you include the undead Witch Kings as still being “human”. Descended from every culture ever conquered by the Dwarves or the Witch Kings, humans are a varied lot made up of many groups, each with their own distinct look, belief, and way of living.
Humans by need have come to understand and live with wildly different groups of people of every race, and so reaction rolls with new or otherwise unknown people will always be one step higher when dealing with a human. Humans are also a remarkably stubborn race, and so may re-roll one failed saving throw to avoid death once per day.
Ratmen are one of the most insular races, living as one unified clan under the rule of their Queen and their Fiend God. Despite being seen as sneaky and not to be trusted by most other races, they are also regarded as the finest cooks in all of Fellhold, and most people don’t believe the rumors that they don’t care too much what or who goes into the cookpot.
Unless a player chooses otherwise, all Ratmen are presumed to belong to the Ratmen Clan faction to begin with. Ratmen are especially lithe and stealthy, and so receive advantage on any rolls where they are attempting to sneak. Their AC against ranged weapons is improved by one due to their keen senses and quick wits. Any other race besides fiends will have their reaction rolls reduced by one step unless they know the ratman from before. Their small size also means that their maximum hit points are one lower per hit die than normal (minimum of 1).
The descendants of the other races with the addition of fiend blood, tieflings are not quite a distinct society of their own, but instead largely integrate themselves into others, usually that of their mortal kin. That being said, they have some ties to one another, and others view them as a distinct group. They are regarded as sexy, clever, untrustworthy, and ambitious, but they tend to roll their eyes at this. How much of their look they get from their fiendish forebearers varies widely, with some having nubby little horns under their hair or a small tail, while others could pass for fiends themselves.
Tieflings’ fiendish blood makes them resistant to magic, so they gain advantage on any saves against magic. Their mysterious allure also allows them, once per week, to have an immediate Charm Person effect on anyone who makes a neutral or better reaction roll toward them. This effect lasts for a number of days equal to the tiefling’s level, but they might actually become your friend in the meantime. Also due to their fiendish blood, if a Tiefling’s true name is used in making a deal or contract, they cannot willingly violate that deal. Also, having fiendish blood themselves, they cannot believe strongly enough in another fiend to receive any benefits from magic gained by worship of fiends.