Friday, December 23, 2011

Races and Ethnicity in Garnia World Past & Present

Currently Canonical-


Celtic- Still divided between P-Celtic and Q-Celtic speakers, plus some that are mixed. I have given them enough time and space to develop in a bunch of different ways. Various clans, tribes and nations would probably consider themselves separate ethnicities or "races" of men regardless of how closely related they are culturally, or even genetically. That seems to be how we humans have historically seen ourselves, but I am, of course open to seeing the opposite argument of "There are many other actual sentient humanoid species here".

Saxon- These guys are the only non-Celts currently canon in Garnia World. They are the ethnic group in Wodanslund.


Dwarves in current canon come in two types Broken and Khazarak. All PC types are Broken Dwarves, ie. they come from Dwarven territories that have been lost to humanoid incursions and are effectively exiles in human lands. That's my current idea anyway, I guess it's open for negotiation. It's also worth pointing out that the Dwarves on Garnia World are also from another world, and they are kind of holding a grudge against the Elves/Sidhe for sealing their gate home. The Sidhe did it because the Dwarven homeworld was absolutely overrun by Trolls and Ogres, another product of the multi-planar war between the forces of the Light and the forces of the Darkness, but the Dwarves have never forgotten that they can't ever go home. This is also where all of the Trolls and Ogres in Garnia World came from, the Dwarven homeworld. There is a history in this of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Troll Wars, which occurred long before the coming of man.


Sidhe- are NPC uber-Elves. Immortal, Good, but unfathomably alien.

Dark Sidhe- Less well developed, but like a corrupted version of the Good Sidhe- NOT the Drow. They are tied into the idea that, even on a plane of "Good" there are pockets that radiate "Evil", and there are High Magic and Low Magic (and No Magic, Magic dead) areas, on Garnia World, the original Dark Sidhe were probably mighty Sidhe Sorcerers studying a magical phenomenon in an area that happened to be both High Magic and Evil, after a certain extended exposure they became corrupted.

Fallen Elves- These would be PC elves, they are the mortal descendants of the Ancient Sidhe, they are the ones that surrendered, or were captured and enslaved, or were cut off from the rest of Sidhe society somehow. Many of them have no real idea of the actual nature of their ancestors. They still have a natural affinity for magic and a sensitivity to it, they are extremely long lived, but not functionally immortal. Perhaps the cause is their adoption of iron tools, or perhaps it's just because they were cut off from some arcane source of their race's immortality. Maybe it's something else entirely, who knows?

That covers current canonical PC races.

Ethnicities Recently Canonical and up for Review-

Let me start by saying that this opens up a whole can of worms.


Romans- Let's not forget that the Romans were a multi-ethnic empire to start with, so this gives us not just actual Romans from Rome and it's immediate environs, but also lots of other Italians, Greeks, and lower classes (including slaves) from everywhere the Roman empire touched, depending on where and when we take the Romans from. I find it particularly amusing that this would include even more Celts. I have mentioned several times that I think the only way we're going to get a real, significant population of Romans is by taking them from the area of the Vesuvius eruption that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, that gives us two complete, if not really large cities, numerous villas in the vicinity and all of the ships in port at the time, plus whatever we can pull from the military rescue effort. The downside is that it is later in Roman history than I would have liked, being post-republican and it gives us the sticky problem of adding Christianity to the religious mix of D&D, which turns a lot of people off. Crypto-Christianity is OK, actual Christianity is not. Worse, it's a Christianity from when Christianity was an underdog religion, so that's something to think on too. We discussed multiple Celtic migrations lasting up into the Viking age and decided against it for the same reason, we didn't really want to introduce Christianity into a D&D campaign setting; although, for the record, I already had in old games and no one really cared, but if this is going to be marketed someday, I guess I can make this one little concession.

Han Chinese- I covered these guys briefly in my nations post, they exist pretty much just to give me some ethnic diversity and a chance to run Oriental Adventures games without leaving my own campaign world.

Japanese- Same as the Chinese.

Norsemen- Just because I love Vikings and I ran a couple of pretty cool Viking campaigns. Because I had a whole world to use and was using the same type of transported to a fantasy world background I thought I'd add them to Garnia. I am not married to the idea, but I do think it's cool if nobody is opposed on the grounds that it's a stupid idea to keep bringing over more human ethnic groups just because I think they are cool. From an agent of the Darkness perspective, most of these cool warrior type cultures seem like a pretty safe bet for destabilizing the world when they get brought over. Plus I have like a default naming switch for NPCs that sets to Norse as one of it's most common settings when I have to think of a name on the fly. Plus, Norse religion totally kicks ass. I know we already have a variant of it with the Saxons but for some reason Odin and Thor roll off the tongue easier than Wodan and Thunor; probably because of Marvel comics.

Turks & Mongols- Again, I didn't actually include these guys because of the Steppe Warriors and my often professed love for the Mongols, but because they actually featured in a campaign I ran during the late 1990s for Mona and the lads. I am actually not sure how Darryl ended up missing two pivotal Garnia campaigns back then, when John & Amy, Matt, Carl, Ted and Pat all got in on at least some of the action. Dude, you were living 25 minutes away. One of those campaigns ended because we left together to go to Truck Driving School in Indianapolis.

Aztecs- Solely because I thought they would be cool and I had a pretty big blank area on the map, clearly open for discussion.

Kung San- Mostly because I think they got a pretty raw deal here on earth, although instead of shitty desert territory they pretty much got shitty swamp territory. I guess they should have learned to work iron like the Celts and Chinese they got squeezed between.

Kushites- They were the "Black" conquerors of Egypt. They pretty much adopted Egyptian culture as best they could and took it home with them. They worked iron, their civilization eventually fell. I included them mostly so I'd be able to have Black people in my world so I wouldn't look like a racist douche, which actually probably has the opposite effect, since they are pretty much token Blacks, along with the Kung San. I remember wanting to use the Zulu so bad, but they were WAY too late on the scene, so I had to find the most ancient bad-ass black people I could and they were it.

Byzantine Greeks- If ever there were a people that needed to get out of dodge, it's the Byzantine Greeks. They spent centuries being the battered shield of Europe against the advancing forces of Islam. Sadly, they are a REALLY Christian empire, there is no hiding or denying it for them; if we keep the Byzantines we have got to really confront the Christianity issue. That said, I only really started developing them as a a trading partner for the Norsemen, none of them are "on map" so to speak. They were part of an entirely different campaign world before I added it to Garnia World, Darryl played Hrolf Black-Ear there. You guys only scratched the suface of what was beneath that burial mound. Andvari knew it all too, ask about the clan Korin Dwarves, and the Graveyard fights and Ghost-Cleaver; this all got way more explored in my Neverwinter Nights Persistent World- Norseworld, it was online (nearly, except for power or internet outages) 24/7/365 for over 2 years.

Hindu- Actually this is a religious designation for an ethnicity called Indo-Aryan, which has like dozens of sub-groups. I never broke it down because I just wanted an Indian people that were Hindu and spoke Hindi. Mostly because I wanted a Thuggee cult, like in the Temple of Doom.

Arab- I loved Sinbad movies as a kid I guess and the Tales of 1001 Nights book from the library. Arabic names are also one of my default switches, I don't know why. Additionally, the Necromancer was originally an Arab, albeit one trained in Frodia under the Frodian tradition. His name was "Al-Khalid" I believe, and I just Googled that and it is Arabic for "The Immortal", so that's pretty awesome for an adversary like the Necromancer. Back in the late 1980s I ran a campaign in Garnia where we had a party that had NPCs named Hakim and Abdul, an Ivar too but he was actually a PC.

Romany- Gypsys get a raw deal here on earth too, so I helped them out a bit on Garnia.

Basques- They are the pre-Indo-European people that the Sidhe saved some of, the stone age tool users that lived inside the Sidhe empire that I have been so secretive about for all these years.

Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis- The Sidhe saved a bunch of these guys too, as part of their preservation project. They still live in small bands scattered around in the really rough areas that human don't like to live. Some have been taken as bondservants by humans in the past but they breed poorly in captivity. Their numbers are dwindling here too now.

Non-Human ethnicities-

1/2 Orcs- I recently ranted that I was going to ditch all the 1/2 breed races altogether, but Darryl gave me a compelling reason to keep 1/2 Orcs, spies. They work for both sides really. But you have got to throw away the stupid idea that PC 1/2 Orcs are giant green skinned monster looking things and go back to the idea that they pass for human, like in 1st edition AD&D. The jury's still out, but my mind is more open to the possibility.

1/2 Elves- This one is actually in keeping with Celtic mythology since the Elves are really the Sidhe, so I am going to probably have to let it slide back in.

Halflings- I don't have any good reason to ditch them other than the obvious Tolkien comparison and the fact that they have become an expected D&D player character race, but I don't have any good reason to keep them in either, other than the outcry when I said I was thinking about getting rid of them. On the one hand little people are a staple of folklore worldwide, on the other, why should that make them a playable race? Dragons are a staple of folklore worldwide too, I am not going to make the a PC race based on that criteria alone.

Gnomes- I ditched Gnomes back in the 1980s. Nobody cared. I don't see any reason to bring them back now, they're just the "other" Dwarves.

Various Sub-Races of all the different PC Races, for example Hill, Mountain and Gray Dwarves or the High, Wood, Gray, Wild and Dark Elves. I am really torn on this issue, I used to be all about sub-races and their various differences. Now I am more of the opinion that an Elf is an Elf is an Elf, regardless of where he is from or what color his skin is, there shouldn't be a mechanical, game difference. I am not really sure I want to be playing AD&D at this point though, the simplicity of S&W White Box or Labyrinth Lord is so appealing to me right now and that would make an Elf really just an Elf, but that may just be because I am burning out on crazy Oriental Adventures late 1st edition AD&D weirdnesses right now. DM fiat has already killed two complete sub-systems in that campaign.


  1. a lot of stuff to read...more comments likely, but I can address at least one of those mongol campaigns - if it ended when we went to Indy I was in London for 10 weeks immediately previous to that...

  2. you know my thoughts on AD&D vs just about anything...I like keeping the place huge and letting in lots of cultures. These Sidhe preservationists love to pluck out these desperate tribes, and we are still mostly in an era where long distance travel and communication is still very difficult and sporadic. Plus the more little of everything there is the broader the long as it is done in keeping with the plot and not just to put some shit in there somewhere...I think most of these fit that bill.

  3. I forgot about that London trip, that does explain why you missed some of the pivotal Garnia gaming of the late 1990s anyway, we were playing pretty much everyday that summer because all the lads were either still in high school or just in college and I was teaching, so we all had the summer off.

  4. I know the Sidhe are whisking away different races of humans to their plane, or were, at one point, but depending on how many generations have past wouldn't there have been a natural societal progression in each different group of humans?

    You could argue to allow in any group of humans by having them trans-planarly linked (magic jargon here, I suppose.) to their race of origin, allowing for similar societal structures, splits and generation, this is kind of a way to half-assedly weasel any races you'd like to into the game, having the human population of Garnia progress culturally and scientifically like it's ancestry, working as a microcosm of middle earth.

    Magic in Garnia is wildly powerful compared to that of middle earth, correct? Where do the dead spot of magic come from, if middle earth's magic tends to be sort of consistent in it's almost absence?

    This wall of text is awful and I need to collect these thoughts and refine them.

  5. By Middle-Earth, I assume you mean our world, Earth, as opposed to Tolkien's Middle Earth, since we discussed our Earth being on the "Neutral" plane between Good and Evil. I just want to clear that up so it's not confusing to everyone else.

    I mentioned elsewhere, probably in a comment, that the Celts at least had enough time and space for some cultural diffusion. There are pockets of really culturally conservative Celts, and some wildly divergent ones too. The more or less democratic city-states of the far west are one example of a fairly different culture they formed. Frodia and it's Wizard-Priest mago-theocracy are another. The Wodanslunders are a good non-Celtic adaptation of their culture and society to their new environment, the steppe barbarian tribes are a Celtic example.

  6. Sorry about the confusion, then.

    What I meant to get at is that you could have cultural diffusion similar to what has occurred on earth, so that you could justify having nearly any group of people, so long as enough time had passed and their ancestral tribesmen or what have you had been collected by the Sidhe.

    You could do this by having a mystical transplanar link (or whatever you feel might explain this) between the collected humans and their plane of origin's corresponding race/tribe.

  7. So, I assume then that everyone is cool with adding in all of the recently canonical ethnic groups at least? Maybe I should put up a poll.