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Setting Design Report, Part 10: Playable Races, Part 3: The Counties

As always, the full series can be found here.

This post is the third part in what’s likely to be a four-part sub-series on the playable races of the setting. As with last post, this focuses on one of the specific categories of area found in the campaign world.

Like The Wilds, the classification of The Counties isn’t so much a specific location as a type of place. The Counties are places where things are generally good – people have enough to survive without having to work 12+ hour days, air and water are clean, communities care for each other, and authority isn’t tyrannical and crushing. Religion is charitable and kind, uncorrupted and practiced for its own sake rather than for some political end or as a means of power. Everyone has shelter and food.

The Counties aren’t perfect, but they are nice places to live. As I’ve mentioned before, my big touchstone for The Counties is Pelican Town from Stardew Valley. They have kind of an old-timey vibe to them, recalling an idealized past that’s really a patchwork of the best parts of many different eras. They also tend to be places where the mundane and the fantastic live side-by-side.

Ordinary People of Extraordinary Heritage

Many of the denizens of The Counties are familiar fantasy standbys like human, elves, and dwarves. However, these “mundane” fantasy races are joined by a number of more exotic and fantastical ones that nevertheless fit into the general feeling of benevolent civilization.

Aaracockra appear on page 4 of the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion. They’re a benevolent race of flying bird-people who remind me a bit of the Avens from various Magic: the Gathering worlds. They are described as valuing peace and solitude and also aren’t typically motivated by gold or glory. (Or, as I’d prefer to put it, Greed or Pride.) A bunch of trustworthy eagle-people living up on the cliffs by a settlement of land-dwelling races just seems too cool to pass up, though, and I don’t really consider a flight speed that doesn’t include hovering capability as that much of a problem in a game world with cars and planes.

Centaurs can be found on page 3 of Midgard Heroes by Kobold Press and they’re such a staple fantasy race that I was relieved that someone had come up with stats for them or I’d have had to do it myself. One thing that’s been a fun thought exercise for me is imagining what vehicle and building design looks like in an are where centaurs are a normal part of the population! That centaur farmer might be capable of pulling a plow on their own, but they will still want a tractor just as badly as a human does. What about cars, trucks, and buses? How do those look different to accommodate centaur physiology? And I’m enamored with the idea of a centaur postal carrier.

Aasimar show up on page 104 of Volo’s Guide to Monsters. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I’m going to handle them, lore-wise. I’m currently leaning toward Aasimar being creatures who are made, not born. Back in 3.5e, there was a supplement put out by Fantasy Flight Games that included a race called The Luminous that I completely re-skinned as a race of returned saints – people who had served a good deity faithfully in life but had died with a desire to do more and were sent back to guide more normal mortals after some time in that god’s realm. Since this is a more monotheistic setting, I am leaning more toward them being a sort of “anti-corruption” – lengthy, constant exposure to good magic, upright living, and acts of goodness may sometimes shape a normal person into Something More.

Tritons appear on page 115 of Volo’s Guide. They seem like they’d be fun in the same way as Aaracockra will be – good neighbors who live in an exotic environment somewhere nearby. Tritons bring up some similar questions to centaurs. With a common aquatic race around, how have vehicles adapted to accommodate them? Do buses have a “triton tank” in the back? Do Tritons have special areas in their communities for air-breathing vistors? Tritons also bring up the possibility of direct confrontation with Scary Things From The Deep, so there’s also that.

Feyblood can be found on page 47 of Xanathar’s Lost Notes to Everything Else. They’re kind of a faerie version of an Aasimar or Tiefling. The idea of fey intermingling (and possibly even intermarrying) with mortal races isn’t all that odd, and communities in The Counties will probably enjoy solid relations with good fey communities in their regions, so feyblood feel like about as much of a stretch as half-elves, which is to say “near inevitability” rather than “bizarre aberration.”

That’s it for the “exotic” residents of The Counties. Next time, I’ll discuss some of the races found primarily in the Grim Cities and that should cap off my setting’s playable racial options unless I pick something new up and it gives me more ideas that I don’t want to leave on the proverbial table. Until then, I’m always interested in feedback and discussion.


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