Chapter 3: Races of the Realms
Faerûn is home to many races, some of them immigrants from other worlds who found their way here in ancient times when gates and portals were more plentiful, and easier to traverse. Others are relative newcomers to the world, still finding a place for themselves among the long-established races. The civilizations of the elder races have declined, while those of the younger races are flourishing and spreading ever outward.
The character races described in the Player’s Handbook are all found in the Realms, along with some subraces unique to Faerûn. Each character race has all the traits of the primary race, as given in the Player’s Handbook, plus traits for each subrace that are unique to those individuals. This chapter provides racial traits for a subrace only when they differ from or replace those given in the Player’s Handbook. The information in this chapter is specific to the Realms, so if something stated here differs from what’s presented in the Player’s Handbook, this material takes precedence.
The Stout Folk are deliberate and steadfast, with a proud history as great artisans, builders, and warriors. Although the glory of their empires faded long ago, the dwarves still hold to their ancient ways and traditions. They stubbornly defend what remains of their old domains beneath hill and mountain, and some seek to reclaim what they have lost to the depredations of orcs, goblins, and the inexorable march of time.
According to their own legends, dwarves were formed from iron, mithral, earth, and stone on the Soulforge of Moradin. After the All-Father breathed life into them in the heart of the world, dwarves found their way to the surface and, from there, spread across each continent.
Thousands of years of settlement and separation divided the dwarves into distinct subraces: the shield dwarves, most common in the North and the Sword Coast; the gold dwarves of the southern lands; and the gray dwarves, or duergar, of the Underdark.
The Dwarvish language of Faerûn uses a runic alphabet called Dethek, whose characters are easy to etch into stone and metal, as evidenced by the runestones and way-markers found in ancient dwarven tunnels and mines.
The ancestral home of the shield dwarves is in northern Faerûn, where ancient dwarfholds exist in the North, Damara, Impiltur, Vaasa, the Vast, and the Western Heartlands. The most famous of the old shield dwarf cities is Citadel Adbar, north and east of Silverymoon. Many of these dwarfholds have changed hands over the centuries in a cycle of invasion by enemies, followed by reconquest by the dwarves.
Living in a near-constant state of war for generations, shield dwarves are a hardy people, slow to trust, with long memories and often an equally long list of grievances against their ancient enemies. The more conservative among them want to maintain the traditions and remaining holdings of their people, isolated from the influence of outsiders and safe from invaders behind thick walls of stone. Shield dwarves of a more adventurous bent are interested in exploring the world and seeing what lies beyond the bounds of their ancient dwarfholds.
Shield dwarves have the racial traits of mountain dwarves in the Player’s Handbook. Their skin is usually fair, eyes green, hazel, or silver-blue, and they have brown, blond, or red hair. Full beards and mustaches are commonly seen on male shield dwarves.
Shield dwarves are renowned artisans, particularly in metal and stone. They tend to focus more on sturdiness in their craft than on the artistic flourishes and gilding favored by their gold dwarf cousins. Shield dwarf crafters build to last, and each one’s signature mark placed upon an enduring masterpiece serves as a way of gaining immortality.
DWARF CLANS OF THE NORTH
All dwarves count their clan heritage as an important part of their lineage and identity. While in some cities a single clan dominates (or is the only one in residence), in other dwarven communities there is a complex relationship between family, clan, and the larger society.
Some of the dwarf clans in the North are Arnskull, Battlehammer, Blackbanner, Blackhammer, Bucklebar, Darkfell, Deepaxe, Deepdelve, Eaglecleft, Foehammer, Gallowglar, Hillsafar, Horn, Ironshield, Jundeth, Narlagh, Orothiar, Quarrymaster, Rockfist, Sstar, Stoneshaft, Stoneshield, Stoneshoulder, Trueforger, Watchever, Worldthrone, Wyrmslayer, and Yund.
Some dwarves hail from the family that founded or rules a given clan, and so they use the clan name as their family name. Others are simply “of” the clan, but bear the clan name with as much pride as their own surnames.
Gold dwarves are common in the lands to the south and east. They are formidable warriors, proud of their long traditions, with strong ties to clan. They are gruff and haughty and have a love of fine craftsmanship and an eagerness to trade.
Significant settlements of gold dwarves exist in the Great Rift, the area surrounding the Dragon Coast, as well as in the Old Empires of eastern Faerûn. Smaller communities are found in the Smoking Mountains, in the Giant’s Run Mountains, and the Western Heartlands.
Because they have not endured the same cycle of invasion and displacement, gold dwarves tend to be more optimistic than their shield dwarf cousins, but they’re still standoffish and prideful as only a dwarf can be. They believe their race’s stable history is the result of their attentiveness to tradition, and have little doubt that the future of the gold dwarves will be just as peaceful, if they remain true to their customs and principles.
Gold dwarves have the racial traits of hill dwarves in the Player’s Handbook. They are stocky and muscular, averaging about 4 feet tall, with brown skin, black or brown hair, and brown or hazel eyes, with green eyes rare (and considered lucky). Males grow full beards that they keep oiled and well groomed, and both genders wear their hair long and often elaborately braided.
Gold dwarves are best known for crafting beautiful objects. According to them, all the natural resources of the world exist for mortals to turn them into objects of great beauty. Gold dwarves don’t want the most of everything; they want the best. Their artisans toil over items for years, getting their etchings and fine details just right before being satisfied with their efforts.
That deliberate, perfectionist approach is a reflection of gold dwarf culture, in which there is a right and proper way to do everything. Tradition dictates every aspect of a gold dwarf’s life, from one’s place in society, to prospects for marriage, to what careers are acceptable. Gold dwarves who take up a life of adventuring, away from the clan, rarely forsake their traditions when doing so. Even though they might have to live as outsiders for a time, they hope to ultimately improve their standing in their society.
Gray Dwarves (Duergar)
The gray dwarves, or duergar, live deep in the Underdark. After delving deeper than any other dwarves, they were enslaved by mind flayers for eons. Although they eventually won their freedom, these grim, ashen-skinned dwarves now take slaves of their own and are as tyrannical as their former masters.
Physically similar to other dwarves in some ways, duergar are wiry and lean, with black eyes and bald heads, with the males growing long, unkempt, gray beards.
Duergar value toil above all else. Showing emotions other than grim determination or wrath is frowned on in their culture, but they can sometimes seem joyful when at work. They have the typical dwarven appreciation for order, tradition, and impeccable craftsmanship, but their goods are purely utilitarian, disdaining aesthetic or artistic value.
Few duergar become adventurers, fewer still on the surface world, because they are a hidebound and suspicious race. Those who leave their subterranean cities are usually exiles. Check with your Dungeon Master to see if you can play a gray dwarf character.
Duergar Subrace Traits
The duergar subrace has the dwarf traits in the Player’s Handbook, plus the subrace traits below.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1.
Superior Darkvision. Your darkvision has a radius of 120 feet.
Extra Language. You can speak, read, and write Undercommon.
Duergar Magic. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the enlarge/reduce spell on yourself once with this trait, using only the spell’s enlarge option. When you reach 5th level, you can cast the invisibility spell on yourself once with this trait. You don’t need material components for either spell, and you can’t cast them while you’re in direct sunlight, although sunlight has no effect on them once cast. You regain the ability to cast these spells with this trait when you finish a long rest. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.
Forge Father and Revered Mother
Moradin, the Soulforger, leads the dwarven gods. Known as Dwarf-father or All-Father, he is the god of the dwarf people as a whole, as well as the god of creation, “dwarf-crafts” (smithing and stonework), and protection. His wife is the Revered Mother, Berronar Truesilver, goddess of hearth and home, of honesty and faithfulness, and of oaths, loyalty, and honor.
Gods of Battle
Clangeddin Silverbeard is the dwarven god of war and valor. Gorm Gulthyn, also called Fire Eyes and the Lord of the Bronze Mask, is the god of defense and vigilance, the protector of dwarves. Haela Brightaxe is the goddess of luck in battle, and the patron of dwarf fighters.
Gods of Craft
Dumathoin, the Keeper of Secrets under the Mountain, is the patron of the shield dwarves, as well as the god of buried wealth, mining, gems, and exploration, and the guardian of the dead. Sharindlar, Lady of Life and Mercy, is the goddess of healing, romantic love, and fertility, often associated with the moon.
Gods of Far Places
The god of invention and discovery is Dugmaren Brightmantle, called the Wandering Tinker or the Gleam in the Eye. Marthammor Duin is the traveler’s god, patron of expatriates and guides, and deity of lightning and roads.
Gods of Wealth
Vergadain, called the Merchant King, is the god of thieves (who commands his followers never to steal from other dwarves), luck, and chance, as well as commerce and negotiation. Abbathor is the god of greed, sometimes portrayed as a dragon filled with envy of the wealth of others, who jealously tends his own hoard.
Gods of Evil
Laduguer is the patron of the duergar, god of magic and those crafts not governed by Moradin. Also worshiped among the duergar is Deep Duerra, a goddess of conquest and of the powers of the mind.
Skilled in both magic and warfare, the Tel’Quessir — “the People,” as they call themselves — came to Faerûn ages ago, building vast and powerful empires long before the rise of humans. The days of the great elven nations are now long past, and many elves have withdrawn from the world into isolated sylvan realms, or set sail across the Trackless Sea to the isle of Evermeet.
Unlike dwarves, who developed subraces in the world, elves brought their divisions with them, settling into separate kingdoms by type. Beings of immense power, the first elves explored and settled the world, bringing about a golden age of art, magic, and civilization. At the height of their power, the elves performed a High Magic ritual intended to create the ideal homeland. They succeeded, but the spell sundered the land in a terrible cataclysm at the same time that it caused the distant isle of Evermeet to rise from beneath the sea.
Then came the Crown Wars, a series of conflicts between the great elven kingdoms lasting three thousand years. These battles devastated much of the world and resulted in the dark elves’ flight into the Underdark.
Reeling from these calamities, the elven empires went into a long, slow decline, and many of their kind took part in the great Retreat to their refuge on Evermeet. As the elves increasingly withdrew from the world, other races and civilizations rose to prominence in Faerûn.
The Elvish language used across Faerûn — sometimes called the True Tongue by elves — is written in the graceful script of the Espruar alphabet. Seldruin, the ancient language of elven High Magic that uses the Hamarfae alphabet, is all but forgotten nowadays.
Also called silver elves, or Teu’Tel’Quessir, moon elves are more tolerant and adventurous than elves of other sorts. In ancient times, the dissolution of their empires dispersed moon elves among other races, and since then they have traditionally gotten along well with their non-elf neighbors. They mingle with other people while their kin remain in hidden settlements and secluded strongholds.
Moon elves are sometimes seen as frivolous, especially by other elves. But it is the easygoing, fluid nature of their culture, philosophy, and personality that has enabled them to survive and flourish during and after tragic times in elven history. While communities of moon elves can be found in mainland Faerûn, many moon elves live in the settlements of other races, staying for a few seasons or several decades before moving on.
To a moon elf, home can be among the members of one’s family, clan, or other friends and loved ones. Moon elves who temporarily take up residence in or near sun elf communities aren’t shy about expressing the opinion that their kin need to be less serious. In turn, the sun elves pretend to be more annoyed by their moon elf neighbors than they truly are, provided that the moon elves’ whims and adventuresome urges don’t cause serious disruption. Given that the moon elves usually move on before wearing out their welcome, such unrest rarely occurs.
Moon elves have the racial traits of high elves in the Player’s Handbook. They have pale skin with a bluish tint. Their hair runs the gamut of human colors, and some moon elves have hair of silvery white or various shades of blue. Their eyes are blue or green and have gold flecks.
Given the race’s love of travel, exploration, and new experiences, many moon elves become adventurers, utilizing their talents for warfare, woodcraft, and wizardry in different measures.
Sun elves, also known as gold elves, or Ar’Tel’Quessir, have a reputation for being arrogant and self-important. Many of them believe they are Corellon’s chosen people and that other races — even other elves — are subordinate to them in skill, significance, and sophistication. They claim the title of “high elves” with pride, and indeed their race is responsible for great, and sometimes terrible, achievements.
Recalling and emphasizing the glorious aspects of their history, sun elves subscribe to the principle of “elven excellence” — no matter how interesting, exceptional, heroic, or noteworthy other races’ accomplishments might be, there is an inherent superiority to all things elven. This attitude colors sun elves’ relations with other elves, whom they see as diluted or diminished representatives of elven culture. Some sun elves reject this way of thinking, but it is common enough that when most folk of Faerûn see a sun elf, they see arrogance personified. Their haughty attitude can overshadow the fact that most sun elves are also tirelessly compassionate and thoughtful champions of good.
Sun elves have the racial traits of high elves in the Player’s Handbook. Sun elves have bronze skin. Their eyes are black, metallic gold, or metallic silver, and their hair is black, metallic copper, or golden blond.
Sun elf culture and civilization is highly magical in nature, thanks to the race’s many accomplished wizards, sages, and crafters. Not every sun elf is a skilled practitioner of the Art, but each one has at least a bit of inherent magic. Many sun elves mix magic with other art forms, which produces the complex dance of the bladesingers as well as the enchanting music of their bards and the meticulous craftwork of their artisans. Sun elf adventurers often bring a feeling of noblesse oblige to their profession: they venture out into the world to challenge its dangers because someone must, and who could be better suited?
Also called copper elves, or Sy’Tel’Quessir, wood elves are the most common elves remaining in Faerûn. Their ancestors left behind the strife of the Crown Wars millennia ago to found strongholds and settlements deep in the forests. Today, most wood elves stand guard over the ruins of the past, believing it their duty to preserve their fallen glory as an object lesson of the dangers of hubris.
Wood elves tend to be hardier than other elves, more solid and grounded than their cousins. This attitude is reflected in their culture and traditions; wood elves tend more toward physical pursuits than do other elves, and they view ancient elven history with a more critical eye. To the wood elves, the “great” elven kingdoms were responsible for many equally great mistakes. They look upon the Sundering, the Crown Wars, the descent of the drow, and other calamities as the result of acts of arrogance on the part of their ancestors. Living around and amid the reminders of this arrogance, and standing witness to the rise and fall of many elven empires, wood elves see the place of elves in the world differently than moon or sun elves do. Wood elves seek a quiet harmony, not domination, with the wider world.
Sylvan counterparts of the sun elves and moon elves, wood elves eschew the cities and strongholds of their kin in favor of living close to nature. Wood elves have not claimed a large realm of their own since the kingdom of Eaerlann was destroyed millennia ago. Instead they maintain a number of smaller settlements, the better to keep those communities hidden or protected. Wood elves claim territory in the High Forest, the Great Dale, the Western Heartlands, and beyond. Some wood elves live in other elven communities and territories, where they serve as scouts, rangers, and hunters.
Despite seeing themselves as part of the world, wood elves don’t commonly emerge from their homes to encounter non-elves. Likewise, in the deep woods and forests of the world, most wood elves don’t come across members of other races. Adventurers, diplomats, couriers, and those who pursue similar professions are the exceptions, traveling far outside their sylvan domains and meeting a wide variety of folk.
Wood elves in Faerûn have the racial traits of wood elves in the Player’s Handbook. They have tan or coppery skin, with hair of wood brown, golden blond, black, or a shining metallic copper, and eyes of green, brown, or hazel.
Skilled naturalists, wood elves often take up professions that allow them to remain close to the wild or to make use of their knowledge of woodcraft, wildlife, and forestry. Wood elves are more than capable in warfare, particularly archery. They are less magically inclined than their cousins, but have their fair share of practitioners of the Art, as well as clerics and many druids.
Dark Elves (Drow)
The drow are descended from the dark elves who retreated into the Underdark after the Crown Wars. They are infamous for their cruelty, evilness, and drive to dominate.
For much of history, many believed that all drow were beings of inherent and irredeemable evil. In truth, most drow do align with evil, engaging in torture, slavery, murder, and other nefarious activities in the name of their demon-goddess. Almost always, dark elves who reject the ways of their people are exiled, or executed for being rebels, heretics, and insurrectionists who have turned against drow culture and the will of Lolth. But the existence of noble and self-sacrificing drow such as Liriel Baenre and Drizzt Do’Urden suggests that the evil of the drow isn’t innate and can be overcome. The actions of these few heroic drow have tempered some people’s opinions toward the race, although the appearance of a dark elf on the surface remains a rare event and a cause for alarm.
Many drow in Faerûn hail from Menzoberranzan, the infamous City of Spiders, or one of the other drow city-states in the Underdark, such as Jhachalkhyn or Ched Nasad. Dark elves encountered on the surface are usually found near entrances to the Underdark, because they are harmed by the light of day, which weakens them and their magic. Drow who become adventurers often do so after fleeing the oppressive, cruel theocracy of the city-states. Most of these individuals live as outcasts and wanderers, though a rare few find new homes with another race or culture.
Drow have the racial traits of dark elves in the Player’s Handbook. Drow characters can come from any background, though most have a history that links to one of the drow city-states of the Underdark.
Inherent magical abilities and a preference for dark places make drow naturally adept as assassins, thieves, and spies. Traditionally, male drow are warriors and wizards, and female drow occupy leadership roles as warriors or priestesses of Lolth. Drow exiles tend to follow their own path regardless of gender.
RARE ELF SUBRACES
Other lines of descendants exist of the elves who originally came to Faerûn, but they are so rare as to be legendary, often considered mythical.
Avariel. The Aril’Tel’Quessir, or winged elves, were among the first to settle in Faerûn. They are famed for their feathered wings and ability to fly. Ancient conflicts with dragons nearly wiped them out, and today they are rarely, if ever, seen.
Lythari. The Ly’Tel’Quessir have the ability to polymorph into wolves. Unlike werewolves, lythari don’t have a hybrid form and aren’t afflicted by a curse. They dwell together in secretive packs, primarily in wolf form, living free in the deep wilds of the world.
Sea Elves. The Alu’Tel’Quessir (“water elves”) are an aquatic subrace of elves found in the oceans of the world, especially off the shores of Faerûn and Evermeet. Sea elves live along the Sword Coast in close-knit nomadic clans, but elsewhere sea elves claim kingdoms in sunlit shallows. They have been at war with the sahuagin throughout their history.
Star Elves. The star elves, or Ruar’Tel’Quessir, look much like tall moon elves. They dwell on the demiplane of Sildëyuir near the Feywild. A conflict with the nilshai, a race of wormlike sorcerers from the Ethereal Plane, forced some star elves to leave their home and come to Faerûn.
Wild Elves. The Sy’Tel’Quessir are considered by many elves to be the most strange of their race, having abandoned or lost much of their ancient culture.
The gods of the Tel’Quessir, collectively known as the Seldarine, have embodied the ideals of the elf people since time immemorial. They are believed to dwell in the realm of Arvandor on the plane of Arborea.
God of the Elves
Corellon Larethian is the wise leader of the Seldarine, the god of elves, magic, poetry, rulership, and warcraft. He is thought of as the father of the race, but he is depicted as female as often as he is depicted as male.
Goddess of Wisdom
Angharradh, triune goddess of wisdom and the fierce mother-protector of the elf people, is Corellon’s consort. Her three aspects are: Aerdrie Faenya, wild goddess of the winds and weather, as well as patron of the avariel; Hanali Celanil, the Winsome Rose, goddess of love, beauty, art, and enchantment; and the Moonlit Mystery, silver Sehanine Moonbow, goddess of all life’s mysteries, including mysticism, prophecy, death, and dreams. In legends, these goddesses are often separate entities from Angharradh, and frequently depicted as Correllon’s daughters or consorts.
Gods of Nature
Deep Sashelas is a sea god, lord of the sea elves and of dolphins. Labelas Enoreth is the philosopher god, deity of time and history, whose gift of trance is crucial to elven identity and survival. Rillifane Rallathil is god of the woodlands and the wild places, the father of wood elves and protector of druids. Closely allied with him is Solonor Thelandira, the god of hunting, archery, and woodcraft.
Gods of Shadow
Of somewhat darker bent, Erevan Ilesere is a deity of mischief, a trickster-god; and Fenmarel Mestarine is the moody and sullen god of outcasts and solitude, who has little to do with the rest of the Seldarine (except for Erevan, who uses Fenmarel as a scapegoat in his plots and pranks). And then there is Shevarash, a god thought of as embittered and obsessive, to whom elves turn when they seek vengeance.
Many elves worship deities in the Faerûnian pantheon, including Mielikki (and the unicorn goddess Lurue), Silvanus, and Sune. In recent years, some elves have found delight in the worship of Lathander, as well.
The gods of the drow are fractious and treacherous as their worshipers.
The Spider Queen. Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders, reigns supreme as goddess of the drow, ruthlessly eliminating all who would threaten her position. Her priestesses do likewise with the cults of rival gods among their people.
Other Dark Powers. Selvetarm is god of warriors, and therefore patron of male drow, although perhaps not so much as Vhaeraun, the rogue god of thievery and of drow males who rebel against the matriarchy. Kiaransalee, drow goddess of the undead, is served by secretive cults of necromancers. Ghaunadaur, known as That Which Lurks, is a subversive power, the mad god of oozes, rebels, and outcasts, occasionally revered by drow.
The Dark Maiden. Some drow exiles have heard the song of Eilistraee, urging them out onto the surface to behold the moon as it rises. The drow goddess of song, beauty, swordwork, hunting, and moonlight, she is the patron of drow who reject the evils of their society, offering them light and hope.
Folk think of elves as aloof and graceful, dwarves as fierce and hardy, and of gnomes — if they think of them at all — as clever and shy. Halflings, in contrast, have the reputation of being deft and plucky.
Halflings, or hin as they call themselves, exhibit a natural adroitness that often surprises larger folk. This nimbleness regularly comes in handy when their courage outruns their common sense, and tales about halflings abound with lucky breaks and narrow escapes.
Beyond these typical elements of the halfling character, halflings can be divided into two major subraces. Many aspects of the two groups’ cultures make them distinct, but even without such trappings they are distinct due to a divergence in what seems to be a primal drive: to go or to stay. Lightfoot halflings are travelers as a rule, with tongues and hearts as nimble as their feet. Whereas if strongheart halflings are on the move, it always seems driven by a desire to return to home or find and settle in a new one. As the saying goes, “Lightfoot, light hearted. Strongheart, strong footing.”
Although there are many halfling communities, particularly in the lands in and around Luiren, halflings frequently fit themselves into dwarven, gnomish, elven, and human societies. Lightfoots breeze into communities as they travel, make friends easily, and then move on as the wind or whimsy takes them. Stronghearts settle in, make themselves at home, and weave themselves so deftly into the fabric of a community that it becomes hard for folk to think of a time without them.
For lightfoot halflings, neither the journey nor the destination matters more; the important thing is to keep moving. The life of a lightfoot is one long exploration with each new horizon, new town, or new face a chance to find something delightful.
Lightfoot halflings typically travel in small bands, using whatever conveyance is convenient but just as easily striking out on foot. Bands consist of loosely related individuals, and when bands meet, membership frequently shifts. Lightfoot halflings typically excel at tasks related to travel — be it navigation, handling pack animals, foraging, sailing, and cartwright work — having tried their hand at all such things before or learned from other lightfoots met during their journeys.
Lightfoot halflings are highly social, often as curious about other people as they are about what might lie around the next bend. They characteristically possess an easygoing and open attitude, curious about others and willing to share of themselves, which enables them to make friends easily. Their facile friendships and ease with partings can make lightfoot halflings seem disingenuous to others. Lightfoot halflings get stereotyped as flighty, easily distracted, fickle, and unreliable. But their friendships and courtships, if brief, tend to be genuine. The staid and stable life that most other people desire just isn’t part of their character.
Lightfoot halflings have all the racial traits of lightfoot halflings in the Player’s Handbook. They share the skin, hair, and eye tones of humans, but most lightfoot halflings have hazel or brown eyes and brown hair. Lightfoot halflings don’t grow facial hair except that males and females typically grow short sideburns.
Creatures of the earth who love a warm hearth and pleasant company, strongheart halflings are folks of few enemies and many friends. Stronghearts are sometimes referred to fondly by members of other races as “the good folk,” for little upsets stronghearts or corrupts their spirit. To many of them, the greatest fear is to live in a world of poor company and mean intent, where one lacks freedom and the comfort of friendship.
When strongheart halflings settle into a place, they intend to stay. It’s not unusual for a dynasty of stronghearts to live in the same place for a few centuries. Strongheart halflings don’t develop these homes in seclusion. On the contrary, they do their best to fit into the local community and become an essential part of it. Their viewpoint stresses cooperation above all other traits, and the ability to work well with others is the most valued behavior in their lands.
Pushed from their nests, strongheart haflings typically try to have as many comforts of home with them as possible. Non-stronghearts with a more practical bent can find strongheart travel habits maddening, but their lightfoot cousins typically enjoy the novelty of it — so long as the lightfoots don’t have to carry any of the baggage.
While often stereotyped as fat and lazy due to their homebound mindset and obsession with fine food, strongheart halfings are typically quite industrious. Nimble hands, their patient mindset, and their emphasis on quality makes them excellent weavers, potters, wood carvers, basket makers, painters, and farmers.
Strongheart halflings have all the racial traits of stouts in the Player’s Handbook. Strongheart halflings are shorter on average than their lightfoot kin, and tend to have rounder faces. They have the skin tones and hair colors of humans, with most having brown hair. Unlike their lightfoot cousins, strongheart halflings often have blond or black hair and blue or green eyes. Males don’t grow beards or mustaches, but both males and females can grow sideburns down to mid-cheek, and both genders plait them into long braids.
Ghostwise halflings trace their ancestry back to a war among halfling tribes that sent their ancestors into flight from Luiren. Ghostwise halflings are the rarest of the hin, found only in the Chondalwood and a few other isolated forests, clustered in tight-knit clans.
Many ghostwise clans select a natural landmark as the center of their territory, and members carry a piece of that landmark with them at all times. Clan warriors known as nightgliders bond with and ride giant owls as mounts.
Because these folk are clannish and mistrustful of outsiders, ghostwise halfling adventurers are rare. Ask your DM if you can play a member of this subrace, which has the halfling traits in the Player’s Handbook, plus the subrace traits below.
Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Silent Speech. You can speak telepathically to any creature within 30 feet of you. The creature understands you only if the two of you share a language. You can speak telepathically in this way to one creature at a time.
The hin have a small but intimate pantheon of deities, which are honored primarily at household altars, roadside shrines, and wooded groves.
The Blessed Sisters
The hin mother-goddess and the head of the pantheon is Yondalla, the Blessed One, goddess of bounty and fertility, protector of hearth, home, and family. Sheela Peryroyl is the Green Sister of Yondalla. She is a nature goddess, the lady of fields, streams, and the wilds found in shire and glen, and the weather in such places. She is also a goddess of love, song, and dance.
Keepers of the Home
Cyrrollalee is goddess of the hearth and hospitality, as well as of trust and handicrafts. Arvoreen is a defender-god, a watchful protector who sacrifices personal comfort for the safety of others.
The Shadowed Gods
Brandobaris is the trickster-god of thievery and stealth, patron of many halfling adventurers. Urogalan is the silent, melancholy god of the earth and death. Accompanied everywhere by a great dark hound, he is saddened by his duties, and vigilant in ensuring that the dead are respected and protected.
Many halflings have taken to regular worship of Tymora, seeing her as a helping hand in their fortunes and a patron of the luckiness associated with the hin.
Humans dwell in every corner of Toril and encompass a full range of cultures and ethnicities. Along the Sword Coast and across the North, humans are the most pervasive of the races and in many places the most dominant. Their cultural and societal makeup runs the gamut, from the cosmopolitan folk who reside in great cities such as Baldur’s Gate and Waterdeep to the barbarians who rage throughout the Savage Frontier.
Humans are famous for their adaptability. No other race lives in so many diverse lands or environments, from lush jungles to burning deserts, from the eternal cold of the Great Glacier to the fertile shores along rivers and seas. Humans find ways to survive and to thrive almost anywhere. In locations where elves and dwarves have withdrawn, humans often move in and build anew alongside or on top of an earlier community.
It follows, then, that the most common feature of humans is their lack of commonality. This diversity has enabled human civilizations to grow faster than those of other races, making humans one of the dominant races in much of the world today. It has also led to conflicts between communities of humans because of their cultural and political differences. If not for their penchant for infighting, humans would be even more populous and predominant than they already are.
Human Ethnicities in Faerûn
Nine human ethnicities in Faerûn are detailed in the Player’s Handbook. Several other noteworthy groups of humans are discussed here. Some are significant minorities in regions or nations that border the North, while others are prevalent in parts of the world far from the Sword Coast.
Short in stature with tan skin and dark hair, the Arkaiuns dwell primarily in Dambrath as well as Halruaa and the Shar. Many Arkaiuns lived under the yoke of drow slavery centuries ago after a failed military campaign against the dark elves, which led to the eventual destruction of the Arkaiun kingdom in Dambrath.
Arkaiun Names: (Male) Houn, Rhivaun, Umbril, Xaemar, Zeltaebar; (female) Glouris, Maeve, Sevaera, Xaemarra, Zraela; (surnames) Lharaendo, Mristar, Wyndael
Dark-skinned and dark-haired, the Bedine were warriors and nomads in southern Anauroch. Once divided into over a hundred tribes, the clannish Bedine mostly kept to their desert lands and interacted little with outsiders, except for trading. Over the generations, more Bedine have become city dwellers, leaving behind their nomadic ways, and reducing the number of tribes that still espouse their traditional way of life.
Bedine Names: (Male) Aali, Rashid, Tahnon, Tanzim, Whalide; (female) Aisha, Farah, Nura, Rashida, Zalebyeh; (tribe names) Alaii, Bordjia, Clelarra, Desai, Dakawa, Dursalai, Goldor, Iriphawa, Kellordrai, Lalajar, Qahtan, Yethtai, Zazalaar
The Ffolk of the Moonshae Isles are descended from Tethyrian settlers who came to the isles a thousand years ago. The Ffolk have a deep respect for nature, and are primarily farmers, worshiping the goddess they call the Earthmother and keeping to old druidic ways. Ffolk shipwrights are well regarded, having proven their ability to build sturdy ships that are capable of weathering the tumultuous seas around their home.
Ffolk Names: (Male) Artur, Bern, Colin, Manfred, Tristan; (female) Alicia, Gennifer, Meridith, Elaine, Olivia; (surnames) Archer, Gareth, Leed, Kendrick, Morgan, Waters
Related to the Rashemi, Gurs are stout, dusky-skinned, and dark-haired. They consider themselves “children of Selûne,” and most of them revere the moon goddess. Gur communities live a nomadic existence wandering the Western Heartlands, leading others to refer to them as “the people of the highway.”
Gur Names: (Male) Boriv, Gardar, Madevik, Vlad; (female) Varra, Ulmarra, Imza, Navarra, Yuldra; (surnames) Chergoba, Drazlad, Tazyara, Vargoba, Stayankina
The people of the mysterious and magical kingdom of Halruaa, the Halruaans are touched by magic, and many of them are talented in the Art. They and their land vanished during the Spellplague, but just as mysteriously returned after the second Sundering. Most Halruaans have blond or dark hair and olive complexions. Black, brown, and green eyes are the most common.
Halruaan Names: (Male) Aldym, Chand, Meleghost, Presmer, Sandrue, Uregaunt; (female) Aithe, Chalan, Oloma, Phaele, Sarade; (surnames) Avhoste, Darante, Maurmeril, Stamaraster
An uprising of Mulan slaves brought about the ruin of Imaskar and its ruling wizards thousands of years ago, but some Imaskari survived and fled into the Underdark. There they changed, developing the pale, smooth skin and whitish hair now common among them. The Imaskari who dominated the region of Mulhorand have been forced into exile by a second uprising of those they dominated.
Imaskari Names: (Male) Charva, Duma, Hukir, Jama, Pradir, Sikhil; (female) Apret, Bask, Fanul, Mokat, Nismet, Ril; (surnames) Datharathi, Melpurvatta, Nalambar, Tiliputakas
More than a thousand years ago, the dark priests of Narfell amassed great power by treating with demons, but their actions eventually brought about a war that destroyed their civilization. The Nars abandoned their ruined and accursed cities and became nomads and traders. Nars have tanned skin, brown or black eyes, and black hair, often worn long and tied in a tail or topknot.
Nar Names: (Male) Avan, Ostaram, Petro, Stor, Taman, Thalaman, Urth; (female) Anva, Dasha, Dima, Olga, Westra, Zlatara; (surnames) Dashkev, Hargroth, Laboda, Lackman, Stonar, Stormwind, Sulyma
Dark-haired and tan-skinned nomads from southern Faerûn, the Shaarans are skilled hunters, archers, and riders who revere various nature deities. They are organized into clans under the direction of elders and chieftains.
Shaaran Names: (Male) Awar, Cohis, Damota, Gewar, Hapah, Laskaw, Senesaw, Tokhis; (female) Anet, Bes, Idim, Lenet, Moqem, Neghet, Sihvet; (surnames) Cor Marak, Laumee Harr, Moq Qo Harr, Woraw Tarak
A nomadic horde from the vast plains between Faerûn and Kara-Tur, the Tuigans once nearly conquered Faerûn under the great leader Yamun Khahan before being defeated by a coalition of armies. Since those days, Tuigans are sometimes seen on the Sword Coast and in other nearby regions, but not in great numbers.
The Tuigans resemble the Shou, with a bronze or golden cast to their skin and dark hair, but they tend to have darker skin and broader features. Each has only a single name (sometimes handed down from one’s parent); Tuigans don’t use surnames. No strangers to travel, Tuigan traders and adventurers are often familiar with many languages and cultures.
Tuigan Names: (Male) Atlan, Bayar, Chingis, Chinua, Mongke, Temur; (female) Bolormaa, Bortai, Erdene, Naran
The Ulutiuns are short, dark-haired, golden-skinned people who originated in northern Kara-Tur and migrated westward to Icewind Dale and other cold lands near the Endless Ice Sea. Hunters and gatherers, Ulutiuns live in small tribes that have managed to survive in one of the harshest environments in the world. Each has only a single name (sometimes handed down from one’s parent); Ulutiuns don’t use surnames.
Ulutiun Names: (Male) Amak, Chu, Imnek, Kanut, Siku; (female) Akna, Chena, Kaya, Sedna, Ublereak
OPTION: HUMAN LANGUAGES
Many human ethnicities and nations in Faerûn have their own language, in addition to Common. Most human languages are written in Thorass, the alphabet of Old Common, derived from the Chondathan language that traders used as their common tongue. A few human languages use other alphabets, including Draconic, Dethek, and Espruar. The languages of the ethnicities described in the Player’s Handbook and this book are as follows:
Arkaiun: Dambrathan (written in Espruar)
Damaran: Damaran (written in Dethek)
Gur: Guran (a patois of Roushoum and Rashemi)
Halruaan: Halruaan (written in Draconic)
Mulan: Chessentan, Mulhorandi, Untheric, or Thayan
Shaaran: Shaaran (written in Dethek)
If your Dungeon Master allows this option, then any human from an ethnic group that has its own language is assumed to know that language as well as Common. This ethnic language is treated as a free additional language for such individuals.
The breadth and variety of the human race in Faerûn is never more evident than in the diverse collection of deities that humans worship. The Faerûnian pantheon (detailed in chapter 1) includes gods of every stripe, and a number of deities whose spheres of influence overlap and compete, which seems to be just how humans like it.
Along the Sword Coast, most human communities have temples and shrines tended by priests who are devoted to various Faerûnian gods. In some of these places, the faithful of deities revered by rulers and other powerful individuals play a greater role in local politics than those not so favored. In the extreme, worship that is deemed heretical or dangerous is outlawed — for example, in a region where followers of Shar hold authority and power, the worship of her good twin and nemesis Selûne might be against the law.
Draconic humanoids from another world, the dragonborn of Faerûn are proud, honorable, and relatively rare. Slaves to dragons on their world of origin, they are now a free people looking for a place and purpose in their new world.
As with all stories of the ancient past, tales of the origins of the dragonborn are hazy and sometimes contradictory. Each reveals something about the dragonborn in its telling, however.
One story relates that the dragonborn were shaped by the ancient dragon-god Io at the same time that Io created the dragons. In the beginning of days, Io fused brilliant astral spirits with the unchecked fury of the elements. The greater spirits became dragons — creatures so powerful, proud, and willful that they were lords of the newborn world. The lesser spirits became the dragonborn. Although smaller in stature, they were no less draconic in nature. This tale stresses the close kinship between dragons and dragonborn, while reinforcing the natural order of things — dragons rule and dragonborn serve, at least according to the dragonborn’s former masters.
Another legend asserts that Io created the dragons at the birth of the world, but dragonborn did not yet exist. Then, during the Dawn War, Io was killed by the primordial known as Erek-Hus, the King of Terror. With a rough-hewn axe of adamantine, the behemoth split Io from head to tail, cleaving the dragon-god into two equal halves, which rose up as new gods — Bahamut and Tiamat. Droplets of Io’s blood, spattered across the world, became the first dragonborn. For some who believe it, this origin story supports the view that dragonborn are clearly inferior to the dragons that were made by Io’s loving hand, while others emphasize that the dragonborn arose from Io’s own blood — just as two draconic deities arose from the god’s severed body. So are the dragonborn not, therefore, like the gods themselves?
A third origin story posits that dragonborn were the firstborn of the world, created by Io before the existence of other humanoid races, which were pale imitations of dragonborn perfection. Io shaped the dragonborn and fired them with his breath, then spilled his own blood to give them life. The first dragonborn served Io as companions and allies, filling his astral court and singing his praises. The dragons he made only later, at the start of the Dawn War, to serve as engines of destruction. This view of dragonborn history is shared by those who believe that dragonborn are superior to other races and thus should be the masters of dragons and not the other way around.
Despite their differing conclusions, a common theme binds all these legends together: the dragonborn owe their existence to Io, the great dragon-god who created all of dragonkind. The dragonborn, all legends agree, are not the creations of Bahamut or Tiamat — and so they have no predetermined side in the conflict between those gods. Every individual dragonborn, regardless of one’s particular draconic ancestry, makes a personal choice in matters of ethics and morality.
The Fight for Freedom
Dragonborn hail from Abeir, the primordial twin of Toril. On that world most of the dragonborn are slaves to their dragon masters, though many won their freedom and formed nations of free dragonborn. During the Spellplague, the two worlds intersected and one of those free dragonborn nations, Tymanchebar, was transported to Faerûn. It displaced the nation of Unther, and out of the ashes of these two kingdoms, the surviving dragonborn formed Tymanther, a new dragonborn nation in Faerûn.
For a time, the dragonborn of Tymanther sought to integrate with their new world while maintaining their own traditions and culture. These efforts gave the nation and its people a reputation for being honorable and worthy of respect. Only a few generations later, however, the events of the Sundering returned Unther to Faerûn, and the formerly displaced land sought to reclaim all it had lost to Tymanther. Reeling from this disaster, the remaining dragonborn in Faerûn now find they must work even harder and with fewer resources to find their place among the people the world.
Honor and Family
Every aspect of dragonborn life is dictated by the race’s code of honor and strict adherence to tradition. Dragonborn society is highly ordered, with each member expected to do one’s utmost for family and clan. This loyalty and sense of duty sustained the dragonborn during their long history of enslavement and also enabled them to form communities and nations of free dragonborn.
In dragonborn culture, the family is made up of one’s direct relations, while a clan is a collection of families brought together by alliance, intermarriage, or shared history. Although they are rarely forced to choose one over the other, the clan’s welfare is more important to most dragonborn than the family’s. The promise of honor within the clan drives them to acts of heroism, daring, or excellence, all meant to bring glory to the clan first and the individual second.
The aftermath of the Sundering has tested these principles, leaving some clans fractured and decentralized. Some dragonborn in Faerûn seek to recapture the sort of connection they had with a now-lost clan or family by forging new relationships among their non-dragonborn allies and companions.
Dragonborn in Faerûn have the racial traits of dragonborn in the Player’s Handbook.
Philosophy and Religion
Their code of honorable behavior and unswerving loyalty serves the dragonborn as a kind of faith, and, according to the traditionalists among them, that outlook is all the religion they need. Because they were forced to worship their draconic masters in times past, dragonborn are generally skeptical about religion, seeing it as a form of servitude. The skeptics believe that no matter how their original god, Io, brought them into being, that ancient deity is either long dead or uncaring about their fate, and the dragon gods that supplanted Io seem primarily interested in amassing soldiers for their ages-old conflict.
Still, some dragonborn do hear the call of the gods of Faerûn and choose to serve them, and are as loyal in this faith as they are to any other cause. Bahamut and Tiamat have dragonborn worshipers, and both Torm and Tyr appeal to the dragonborn sense of honor and order. Similarly, Tempus and the Red Knight appeal to the warrior spirit in some dragonborn, and Kelemvor speaks to some of the inevitability of death and the need to live well in one’s allotted time. Religious belief is an intensely personal thing the dragonborn who espouse it, some of whom are as devoted to their faith as they are to their family and clan.
Small of stature and dwelling in the corners of Faerûn away from prying eyes, gnomes are one of the least populous and influential races in the world, called the “Forgotten Folk” by some. This appellation doesn’t bother the gnomes; they generally prefer their anonymity and the protection it affords them.
According to legend, the first gnomes in Faerûn sprang from mystic gems buried deep in the earth — an event that accounts for both the gnomes’ love of gems and the cozy embrace of their underground warrens. It is said that mystic diamonds became the rock gnomes, emeralds birthed the forest gnomes, and rubies turned into the deep gnomes. Since the time of their creation, gnomes have settled in hidden places away from other races, concerned that their way of life couldn’t survive wider exposure.
Gnomes gladly socialize and work with humans, elves, and dwarves, but they always keep in mind that, as a small and relatively insignificant race, their interests can become secondary even among their allies. Indeed, members of other races sometimes thoughtlessly treat gnomes as second-class citizens, perhaps thinking highly of their gnome friends but rarely giving credit to gnomes as a people. Gnomes are regularly underestimated, and they use that lack of esteem as both a defense and an offense, when need be.
Like dwarves, gnomes have long battled for territory with kobolds, goblinoids, and orcs, but gnomes and kobolds share a special hatred for each other. Both races believe in a legend that, long ago, the deity Garl Glittergold tricked the kobold god Kurtulmak, collapsing the earth and trapping him in an endless underground maze and earning his everlasting enmity.
The reclusive forest gnomes live simply in hillside dwellings deep in the woods. A neighbor could live only a few miles from a forest gnome settlement for a lifetime and never know it. In these communities, anonymity and stealth help to ensure protection, peace, and survival. If they are discovered and treated well, forest gnomes make fine neighbors, but they usually avoid contact even with civilizations that seem friendly.
Forest gnomes use their affinity with small animals and their knack for illusions to help them remain hidden. When necessary, a forest gnome community defends itself with all the resources at its disposal. Many settlements, however, simply vanish if they are discovered, retreating to some uncharted corner of the forest to begin anew.
The rare forest gnomes who leave their people to become adventurers often draw upon their closeness to nature and their magical gifts to serve as guides, scouts, or mystics. Living close to nature also makes forest gnomes likely to take up roles as druids, who serve various forest spirits and deities.
Forest gnomes in Faerûn have the racial traits of forest gnomes in the Player’s Handbook.
When most folk on the Sword Coast and in the North talk about gnomes, they mean rock gnomes. Unlike their shy forest cousins, the inquisitive and irrepressible rock gnomes interact regularly with individuals of other races, especially if those individuals have something to teach them. Rock gnomes prefer to live on the edges of other settlements in their own enclaves, though the occasional adventuresome rock gnome takes up residence in a human or dwarven city.
Rock gnome communities are most common in the Western Heartlands and along the coast of the Shining Sea, but gnome wanderers travel between communities across Faerûn in order to trade with or learn from outsiders, including members of other races.
Rock gnomes who leave their communities often find work by using their racial aptitudes to their advantage. Their heritage and their interest in precious stones leads many rock gnomes to become skilled gemcutters and jewelers. Rock gnomes also use their affinity with machines to work as tinkers, alchemists, and engineers. In human communities, gnome tutors and sages are popular, since their comparatively long life spans enable them to acquire and pass on knowledge for generations.
Rock gnomes in Faerûn have the racial traits of rock gnomes in the Player’s Handbook.
LADIES OF THE GOLDEN HILLS
A curious bit of gnomish lore is that the pantheon counts not a single female within its ranks. Legend has it that the mysterious Ladies of the Golden Hills went away together on some task in the most ancient days, and have not yet returned. The stories differ as to the Ladies’ task, from seeking to gather examples of all of the beauty and riches of Toril, to a secret plan to thwart the evils of the world using their anonymity as a shield, causing the world to forget even their names and identities for a time. Gnomes who wander far from home are said to have “gone looking for the Ladies.”
Deep Gnomes (Svirfneblin)
Also known as svirfneblin, the deep gnomes of the Underdark are a stark contrast to their surface kin, dour and serious compared to the cheerful and generally optimistic rock gnomes and forest gnomes. They share their cousins’ obsession with privacy, and their homes below the surface of Faerûn are well guarded and deeply hidden.
Owing to the hostility of their Underdark neighbors, particularly the drow, the settlements and kingdoms of svirfneblin are in constant danger of being relocated, conquered, or destroyed. Such was the fate of Blingdenstone, one of the grandest deep gnome strongholds, which existed for more than two thousand years until it was overrun a little more than a century ago by the dark elves of Menzoberranzan. The deep gnomes recently reclaimed their old home, and now struggle to rid it of malign influences that have crept into the tunnels and warrens in their absence.
Deep gnomes are lean with dark, earthen skin tones of gray. Males are bald and beardless, while females have hair on their heads. Both sexes have little or no body hair and a stone-like look to their skin.
Deep gnome adventurers are just as curious and daring as those of other races. Some find their purpose living among other subterranean races, and a few make their way to the surface. Those who study the arcane arts of illusion in particular often range far from home, seeking knowledge unavailable in their own lands.
Svirfneblin Subrace Traits
The svirfneblin subrace has the gnome traits in the Player’s Handbook, plus the subrace traits below. Unlike other gnomes, svirfneblin tend to be neutral, they weigh 80 to 120 pounds, and they reach maturity at 25 and live 200 to 250 years.
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
Superior Darkvision. Your darkvision has a radius of 120 feet.
Stone Camouflage. You have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks to hide in rocky terrain.
Extra Language. You can speak, read, and write Undercommon.
DEEP GNOME FEAT
If your DM allows the use of feats, your deep gnome character has the option of taking the following feat.
Prerequisite: Gnome (deep gnome)
You have inherited the innate spellcasting ability of your ancestors. This ability allows you to cast nondetection on yourself at will, without needing a material component. You can also cast each of the following spells once with this ability: blindness/deafness, blur, and disguise self. You regain the ability to cast these spells when you finish a long rest. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
Gnomes honor a small pantheon of seven primary deities, known as the Lords of the Golden Hills, plus two other entities.
The Watchful Protector, Garl Glittergold, is the king of gnomish gods, a deity of humor, gemcutting, protection, and trickery. His pranks serve to protect gnomes and to teach his victims humility and wisdom. Garl’s second, Gaerdal Ironhand, is the gnomes’ war god, who espouses vigilance and defense.
Baervan Wildwanderer is the gnomish god of forests and woodlands, accompanied by his companion Chiktikka Fastpaws, a great raccoon said to be the wiser of the two. Segojan Earthcaller is god of the wilds beneath the earth, rather than upon it, as well as god of burrows and the plants and animals found therein.
Shadow and Stone
Baravar Cloakshadow is the god of illusion and deception, given the respectful title of Sly One. Callarduran Smoothhands is the god of stone and the Underdark, patron of the svirfneblin.
Craft and Invention
Flandal Steelskin, the god of mining and smithcraft, is known as the Steelsmith. He is also the gnomes’ god of physical improvement and good health. The fearless Nebelun the Meddler is the god of invention and luck, revered by many gnomes even though he isn’t considered one of the Lords of the Golden Hills. “Nebelun’s head!” is a common gnomish exclamation of discovery.
The Crawler Below
The last member of the gnomish pantheon is Urdlen, which appears not as a gnome, but an elephantine, blind, pale mole. Urdlen is the great-clawed god of bloodlust and evil, of greed and uncontrolled impulses. Young gnomes are warned to “never let Urdlen burrow into your heart,” as a caution against giving in to wicked impulses.
An elf who looks upon a half-elf sees a human, and a human who beholds the same person sees an elf. Though this characterization is simplistic, it gets to the heart of what it means to be a half-elf in Faerûn.
To elves who have an extreme viewpoint on the matter, half-elves are emblematic of the decline of elven civilization, a dilution of the race’s heritage and culture that will lead to its eventual dissolution. To the humans at the other end of the spectrum, half-elves have an unfair advantage over their fully human peers, and are seen as privileged or favored regardless of the actual circumstances of their birth.
For most folk in Faerûn, the issue isn’t so cut and dried. Half-elves are generally tolerated wherever they go, or wherever they take up residence — with the proviso that a society that doesn’t look kindly on elves or humans is likely to feel the same way about someone who has the blood of both races. Conversely, a society that holds humans or elves in high esteem doesn’t usually bestow the same status on half-elves (though such individuals are generally not ostracized).
Young Race, Old Roots
In the distant past, half-elves were scarce because humans and elves came into contact only infrequently. The ancient elven kingdoms of Cormanthyr and Myth Drannor had significant populations of half-elves. It is only in the past thousand years or so, as the races have intermingled more and more, that the number of half-elves has increased so that they are now found throughout Faerûn.
Not surprisingly, half-elves enjoy the company of others of their kind, such that where half-elves congregate, they are likely to be joined by others. Most of the half-elves in the North and along the Sword Coast are of moon elf heritage mixed with Illuskan or Tethyrian blood. In other parts of Faerûn, half-elves have significant communities in the Yuirwood and throughout Aglarond. Aquatic half-elves are found along the coasts, including near Aglarond, the Dragon Coast, Impiltur, Sembia, and the Vilhon Reach. Drow half-elves are most numerous in the nation of Dambrath, which was conquered by the dark elves years ago, and in the Underdark, where House Ousstyl of Menzoberranzan is particularly infamous for having mated with humans.
Half-elves are a diverse lot, given the number of combinations of elf subraces and human ethnicities in their ranks. Most of them consider their dual nature a blessing more than a disadvantage, because it gives them a set of capabilities and a perspective on the world that full-blooded humans and elves can’t hope to match.
At the same time, the mixed heritage of half-elves dictates that they make an effort to fit in with humans or elves when possible. For instance, half-elves born and raised in human settlements tend to have human names, while half-elves in elven communities generally have elven names. In some places half-elf children are named according to the “other” parent, or with a mix of human and elven names, as a way of setting half-elves apart from the rest of their community.
Half-elves speak both Common and Elvish. In addition, half-elves from the Yuirwood commonly speak Aglarondan.
Half-elves in Faerûn have the racial traits of half-elves in the Player’s Handbook, although some variations are possible; see the “Half-Elf Variants” sidebar.
Some half-elves in Faerûn have a racial trait in place of the Skill Versatility trait. If your DM allows it, your half-elf character can forgo Skill Versatility and instead take the elf trait Keen Senses or a trait based on your elf parentage:
A half-elf of wood elf descent can choose the wood elf’s Elf Weapon Training, Fleet of Foot, or Mask of the Wild.
A half-elf of moon elf or sun elf descent can choose the high elf’s Elf Weapon Training or Cantrip.
A half-elf of drow descent can choose the drow’s Drow Magic.
A half-elf of aquatic heritage can choose a swimming speed of 30 feet.
The Gods of Two Peoples
There are no half-elven gods, so half-elves follow elven or human deities of their choosing — although just as many religious half-elves believe that their gods choose them. Half-elves often revere the gods of the culture in which they were raised, although some rebel against their upbringing, seeking out the gods of the other aspect of their heritage, or feeling a calling or need to do so.
As with any people, half-elves often choose a favored deity based on their calling or profession: Corellon Larethian, Azuth, or Mystra for wizards, Solonor Thelandira or Mielikki for rangers, Milil or Corellon for poets and bards, and so forth.
Many half-elves worship Sune or Hanali Celanil in appreciation for the love their parents felt for one another, and the two goddesses are seen as boon companions. Some half-elves are drawn to outsiders such as Auril, Eldath, Erevan Ilesere, and Ilmater, or to nature gods like Mielikki, Rillifane Rallathil, and Silvanus. Half-elves from Aglarond often choose Chauntea, Selûne, or one of the Seldarine as their patron.
Half-orcs have existed in the world since before the dawn of recorded history, when orcs and humans first came into contact. Yet, in all that time, they have found few places for themselves in Faerûnian civilization — or, perhaps more accurately, civilization has never made room for them.
Most of the common folk have an aversion to half-orcs based largely on their appearance: anyone who looks that much like an orc, they reason, must be like an orc and should be kept at a distance. Because half-orcs are typically stronger and hardier than their human peers, they can find employment in towns and cities, but their appearance marks them as outsiders. In response to being ostracized, half-orcs either embrace their otherness and take pride in their physical superiority, pull back and try not to draw too much attention to themselves, or give up trying to fit in anywhere and adopt a nomadic lifestyle.
Half-orcs in Faerûn have the racial traits of half-orcs in the Player’s Handbook. They speak both Common and Orc. The rare written examples of the Orc language use the Dethek alphabet.
Blood Will Tell
Half-orcs ultimately owe their plight to the deity Gruumsh, the creator of the orcs. Legend has it that when Gruumsh discovered all the territories of the world had been claimed by other races, he swore the orcs would avenge themselves by taking what they wanted by force. The great orc hordes continue to do just that today, appearing periodically from out of the wilderness to raid and scavenge.
As a result, the word “orc” has no pleasant connotation in the minds of other Faerûnians. At the same time, the word “half” is a mark of derision among orcs. Some half-orcs raised among orcs react to this stigma by being more brutal than others of their tribe, which can put them in roles of leadership, but outsider half-orcs aren’t welcomed into orc society because they aren’t of pure orc blood. And they aren’t accepted into other societies because of their orc heritage.
Half-orcs are seen as off-putting and intimidating by other people, which is both a blessing and a curse, because while they are often left alone by those who fear them, they also become targets of discrimination, or outright attacks, from those who feel threatened by them. This prejudice against the race makes half-orcs slow to trust even those who show them courtesy — because they all have stories of when they were tricked by such behavior. Their orc blood — the Mark of Gruumsh — makes them quick to anger and inclined to lash out at those who treat them unfairly.
Having grown up among orcs or under the shadow of their heritage, half-orcs rarely have experience with pleasant society, and they often come off as coarse, blunt, or rude in dealings with other people. With the directness of an orc, they speak their minds with no apparent concern for how their opinions are received. No matter where they live, half-orcs usually find themselves defined by others in terms of their usefulness as heavy laborers and soldiers. It is the rare and fortunate few who are judged by their character and their deeds rather than their ancestry.
In lands far from the Sword Coast, such as Thesk and Chessenta, there are large communities of half-orcs, where generations of them have lived as a people in their own right. Yet there are few such places in the North. A small community was growing near the Kingdom of Many Arrows, but the recent war with the orcs of that realm caused this burgeoning population to disperse.
Today no civilized place in the North has a significant population of half-orcs, although at least a few of them reside in or on the outskirts of any stable community. Ironically, it is among the largest and most civilized of these places that half-orcs are likely to find acceptance — in the great cities where people are often more cosmopolitan in their outlook.
In Waterdeep, for instance, half-orcs make up a tiny percentage of the population, yet even at that they still number in the hundreds. Half-orcs who call Waterdeep home appreciate the acceptance, or at least tolerance, they receive in the city, whether they were born there, arrived overland from elsewhere on the continent, or entered the city by way of ships bringing trade.
As befits their dual nature, many half-orcs revere deities from both the human and the orc pantheons. Alone or among themselves, half-orcs offer prayers to orc deities, particularly Ilneval, who is thought of as a patron of half-orcs and other orc crossbreeds.
Half-orcs trying to fit in with human society often adopt a human deity out of expediency (though rarely just for the sake of appearances). They favor Faerûnian deities of war and trickery, such as Bane, Mask, and Tempus.
The orc pantheon, known as the Tribe of He Who Watches, is a group of brutal and cruel gods, dominated by their father and chieftain, Gruumsh One-Eye. This god of conquest, strength, and survival is the hated rival of the elven deity Corellon Larethian. It is said that Gruumsh owes the loss of his eye to Corellon’s aim with an arrow.
The mother-deity of the orcs is Luthic, mate of Gruumsh, and the goddess of fecundity, caverns, and witchery.
Bahgtru, the son of Gruumsh, is the god of pure, brute strength, renowned for his power but disdained by some for his oafishness.
The patron deity of half-orcs is the war god Ilneval. He has the title of War Master in the pantheon, revered by those who believe in the wisdom of attacking with overwhelming numbers.
Black and White
The two most sinister members of the orc pantheon lie at opposite ends of the visual spectrum. One is Shargaas, the Night Lord, god of darkness, night, and stealth. The other is Yurtrus the White-Handed, Lord of Maggots, the fearsome deity of plagues and death.
Humans with the blood of fiends, most tieflings in Faerûn share a common connection due to the machinations of the archdevil Asmodeus a century ago.
The Mark of Asmodeus
During the Spellplague, Asmodeus consumed the divine spark of Azuth and thereby achieved godhood. Subsequently, Asmodeus and a coven of warlocks, the Toril Thirteen, performed a rite wherein the archdevil claimed all tieflings in the world as his own, cursing them to bear “the blood of Asmodeus.” This act marked all tieflings as “descendants” of the Lord of the Nine Hells, regardless of their true heritage, and changed them into creatures that resembled their supposed progenitor. The other folk of Faerûn, unnerved by the appearance of these devil-beings, became suspicious of all tieflings and occasionally hostile to them.
In spite of what some people believe, however, Asmodeus exerts no power over his “children,” and tieflings today are as free-willed — and willful — as they ever have been. Some do choose to serve the Lord of the Nine Hells and his schemes, while others align themselves with different fiendish factions, or none at all, doing their best to stay out of infernal politics.
Since the ritual that spread the curse of Asmodeus a century ago, tieflings have been born on Faerûn that belong to other infernal bloodlines, but those that bear the mark of the archdevil (and their descendants) remain the most numerous examples of their kind by far.
Tieflings in Faerûn generally have the racial traits of tieflings in the Player’s Handbook, except that those not descended from Asmodeus might exhibit different qualities; see the “Tiefling Variants” sidebar.
A Race without a Home
As offspring of the infernal, tieflings call no place in Faerûn their own, although some places and nations are more tolerant of them than most.
In the North, the largest population of tieflings is found in Neverwinter. Since the Ashmadai, a violent cult dedicated to Asmodeus, is also active in the city, mistrust of tieflings isn’t unusual even here, since folk never know if a tiefling is a member of the Ashmadai or was drawn to Neverwinter by the opportunity to blend in that a metropolis provides.
Small and scattered groups of tieflings are found elsewhere across Faerûn, particularly in cosmopolitan cities (where they can be anonymous to some degree) and in rough and poor settlements that welcome anyone who can help them survive and prosper.
Tieflings are common in Calimshan, to the south, where many of them fought for the djinn as mercenaries and now serve other masters with the coin to pay them. In the east, many tieflings dwell in Aglarond — escaped slaves from Thay or their descendants — and in Mulhorand, where tieflings are believed to carry the blood of the ancient Mulhorandi gods themselves.
Although many Faerûnian folk believe that all tieflings worship Asmodeus and the Lords of the Nine Hells, the truth is that only a fraction of them do so, but enough are devil- or demon-worshipers to lend the weight of truth to all the rumors and suspicion.
Tieflings who revere a god other than Asmodeus often worship deities who watch over and care for outsiders, including Ilmater, Mask, Selûne, Shar, and Tymora. Gods of knowledge, survival, cunning, and warfare are also common attractions for tieflings who value those qualities. Beshaba has tiefling worshipers who consider the accident of their birth as a kind of cruel joke they have chosen to embrace.
Equally intriguing and disturbing to followers of some faiths in Faerûn are stories spread by tieflings who claim to have visions in which the gods of Faerûn appear to them modeled in the tieflings’ own image. One such is the entity they call the “pale horned goddess of the moon” (Selûne); another is the “dark, devilish lady of fortune” (Tymora) — an indication, tieflings say, that one’s outward appearance and bloodline are less important to the gods than the heart and soul within.
Since not all tieflings are of the blood of Asmodeus, some have traits that differ from those in the Player’s Handbook. The Dungeon Master may permit the following variants for your tiefling character, although Devil’s Tongue, Hellfire, and Winged are mutually exclusive.
Appearance. Your tiefling might not look like other tieflings. Rather than having the physical characteristics described in the Player’s Handbook, choose 1d4 + 1 of the following features: small horns; fangs or sharp teeth; a forked tongue; catlike eyes; six fingers on each hand; goat-like legs; cloven hoofs; a forked tail; leathery or scaly skin; red or dark blue skin; cast no shadow or reflection; exude a smell of brimstone.
Feral. Your Intelligence score increases by 1, and your Dexterity score increases by 2. This trait replaces the Ability Score Increase trait.
Devil’s Tongue. You know the vicious mockery cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the charm person spell as a 2nd-level spell once with this trait. When you reach 5th level, you can cast the enthrall spell once with this trait. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells once again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for them. This trait replaces the Infernal Legacy trait.
Winged. You have bat-like wings sprouting from your shoulder blades. You have a flying speed of 30 feet while you aren’t wearing heavy armor. This trait replaces the Infernal Legacy trait.
A great many tiefling parents follow the naming conventions of the culture in which their offspring are born, such as using human names if they live in a human settlement (the better to seem like “normal” citizens). Others take names derived from the Infernal language that have been passed down since ancient times.
In addition, some Faerûnian tieflings have names drawn from the language of cultures where they are relatively common and generally accepted, such as Calishite and Mulhorandi, which are foreign-sounding to folk in the North and along the Sword Coast.
Al-Khem and Beni-Asmodai are two common Calishite tiefling surnames that proclaim the race’s heritage, along with first names such as Haroun, Ishaq, and Nizam (male) or Hania, Rashaa, and Zaar (female).
Mulhorandi surnames that begin with “Sia” or “Zia” followed by a god’s name indicate a bearer of that god’s bloodline, such as Zianhur and Siasobek. First names commonly seen among Mulhorandi tieflings include Aybtep (“horned”), Bahati (“wise soul”), Het (“smoke”), Kamen (“dark”), Katsu (“star born”), and Kohl (“dark eyed”).
The celestial opposites of the tieflings, aasimar are descended from humans of celestial heritage. Aasimar aren’t as prevalent in the Realms as tieflings, but common enough that some become adventurers. Dungeon Masters who want to allow their players to create aasimar characters can find rules for doing so in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.