This chapter outlines the various biologically diverse Human species that are common to this area.
It may be D&D, but I’m a science-y person, so I’ll do my best to impose biological rationale. Humans, “humanoids” and “demi-humans” are all different species of “human”. Now that we know that homo sapiens co-existed, and even interbred with homo neanderthalensis, I’m just building on that idea. Elves and goblins are just different human species, that in some cases can interbreed. Their offspring, however, are sterile (like mules - unlike, apparently, homo sapiens-neandertal offspring).
One house-rule in my campaign - players must choose a hominid race. Dragonborn are definitely out. They are a feature of the Forgotten Realms only. Tieflings (and, I suppose, Aasimar) should also be out. A player would need to make a really good argument. Same for the weird ones in Volo’s Guide (no Tritons or Lizardmen). I think I’d allow Goliath, but I’d need to basically position them as descendants of Giants. Elementals are out. Firbolgs are in. Aarakokara/kenku/tabaxi are out. No PC should start with flying speed!
As noted in the Timeline section, elves and dwarves are VERY long-lived. The counter-point is that those races have incredibly low birth-rates. A newborn elf is a maybe-annual event. A newborn dwarf nearly as rare. The result is a really long view of things coupled with a low tolerance for risk – after all, if your birthrate is one per year, losing a dozen members in a battle is a blow to the species! So, they tend to avoid engaging in the squabbles that pepper the faster-reproducing groups like humans or goblin kin. It also makes adventurers much rarer in those cultures. Additionally, it makes them highly reclusive, as contact is a risk of conflict.
Also, as noted on the main page in the Cosmology section, humanoid species have cultural biases, but I’m not really into intrinsic good/evil. That said, some cultures are more developed, and others are less. Just like on Earth, where more developed and less developed cultures existed in proximity to each other. So, we can think of elves as a very developed culture, being as they have been around a little longer than the others. All elves are “civilized”, but may still act in evil ways. Humans have a less developed culture than elves. There are some “uncivilized” humans, and some act in barbaric ways, and some in evil ways. Orcs can be thought of has having a yet less developed culture. It’s focused on war and survival. There are few “civilized” aspects – art is still all about blood and skulls. This more feral level of development leads to obvious friction, hence the racial animosity that we’re used to in the traditional D&D setting.
Elves are the original children of the Seelie. They are the longest-lived of the Seelie children (but only to 500 years max in this world), and have the oldest continuous civilization (Argiliath). Any hominid that lives for centuries certainly has a different worldview and morality than a hominid that lives for a few decades. While Elves are generally “good” in that they don’t actively plunder or enslave their neighbors, they are also reclusive, haughty, and arrogant. Their society has rules, and they abide by them, but they do not subscribe to a “greater good” - from their perspective, their self-interest and self-preservation is their greater good. They believe that their longevity is a sign of their superiority, and so what they want must be the best thing for all others as well.
These quiet folk are kind of a mystery as to when they appeared, but are speculated to be Seelie children that preceded Humans (prototypes, perhaps?). Their own legends suggest that they were too good, and that is why they were cursed with small stature.
Humans and halflings are very close kin. Humans, however, form the standard norm. Variant humans (with a feat) are permitted at first level.
TBD. This race is weird. They are almost without a supernatural pedigree. They have no creation myth. They are absent from the other races creation myths. Are they a small elf? A scrawny dwarf? A twisted halfling? The Gnomes are the most mysterious of the common PC races, and their propensity for illusions does nothing to dispel that mystery.
Dwarves are actually Unseelie children that were so cantankerous/contrarian that they actually broke from their parent’s ways and are generally more honorable, if greedy and selfish. As with their elves, their longevity lends them a certain selfish arrogance and a reluctance to get involved in other races’ affairs - unless it’s knocking on their door, like the Bonegate Blight. As commonly portrayed, they are master masons, stonecutters, and smiths.
Goblinkin are a diverse group of humanoids that range from actual Goblins (the most numerous) to Hobgoblins (the most organized), to Bugbears (being the largest). They are usually found grouped in bands that reflect the lead-by-force nature of the largest of them in the group – it is common to see Goblins lead by Hobgoblins, with (unruly) Bugbear shock troops
They tend to have short lifespans, reproduce frequently, and do not have a sophisticated world view. They are loosely organized, and make a living by raiding and banditry. They are essentially hunter-gatherers, but they hunt other humanoids and “gather” by stealing. Despite numbers (and sometimes real savagery) they are generally repulsed from the centers of human civilization due to their inability to organize into groups of more than 30 to 50 at a time.
TBD. I may simply use the Goblinkin and not complicate matters. There’s enough of the world that is civilized that I’m not sure where I’d put Orcish nations, although, I do need more evil lands … BWAHAHAHA! There is an orc society of some kind in the Spine of Ahros that has centuries of antipathy to the dwarves of Galdurang. An orcish land of cantons …
I certainly see the orcs as more structured. The goblin kin are more clans and tribes that make a living by raiding. By contrast, orcs are organized and have a culture like ancient Sparta – honor comes from war and martial valor/accomplishment is the only success worth living for. Orcs are large, powerful, and organized. Maybe they don’t reproduce as often as the humans and thus able to, generally, be kept back from human lands. And they certainly don’t reproduce or mature as fast as the ravening goblin kin.