There are four main races in the world of Adonthell:
Each have their own distinct styles, cultures and physical forms. This document is intended to clarify those aspects.
To be more specific, the styles, physical forms and societies of each race reflects where they fall in this spectrum. Dwarves, for instance, are very concrete and only trust what they can see and feel. They live by the stones of the earth and are extremely pragmatic. Their homes are very utilitarian being merely caves which are furnished with only what is necessary to fulfil the function of a habitat. At the other end of the spectrum are Elves, who are almost totally idealistic and theoretical. Elves live in a realm where magic is controllable and knowledge, particularly theoretical knowledge, is highly prized. Their homes are light, airy things filled with decoration and objects that have little, if anything, to do with practical purposes.
The following are breakdowns of each race, keeping this principle in mind:
Physical appearance: Short and sturdy, Dwarves have a large reserve of physical strength, if very little agility or speed. They are able to work for periods which would exhaust members of other races and are highly resistant to physical disorders. It is difficult to poison a dwarf, as its body will reject most foreign elements. Dwarves have dark hair, at the lightest being a dark brown. All adult males have beards, which is considered a sign of completing the rite of passage. Immature males are not permitted to grow beards until they have been declared adult by their peers. Females and males wear much the same garments and have similar physiques, although it is not difficult to tell them apart.
Architecture: There is little in the line of architecture in Dwarf culture. Every dwelling, public place, mine or other structure is simply part of the caves dug in the course of their mining, simply furnished to the needs of the individual space. For public places, Dwarves simply choose larger caves than domiciles, but otherwise the only difference between the two is the furnishings supplied.
Culture: Dwarven culture is based on work and practicality. Every member of adult society works in the mines, male and female alike. Mine work involves more than simply mining, of course, extending to such tasks as melting, refining and producing expertly crafted items ranging from highly durable armour to practical items such as cutlery and tools. No preference is given to gender, save that when females marry their duties expand to include food preparation for workers of both genders. Children and adolescents spend their time learning about the task ahead of them, including the rite of passage, a mock combat which marks the division between childhood and adult life. Dwarves are almost obsessively practical, but they do have emotion as well. Dwarven arguments can last for many years, and sometimes feuds can lead to violence. Dwarves are superb hand-to-hand fighters owing to their strength and toughness, although they distrust ranged weapons such as arrows and they despise magic. Dwarves dislike anyone who does not think practically, and so reserve most of their dislike for the Elves, who are their polar opposites. They will trade with Elves, though, because Elves pay well and it is practical, but they will not socialise with them willingly. Over the centuries since the war, the Dwarves have been becoming more and more marginalized as they move further from settlements of what they consider intolerably lazy Humans and Half-Elves.
An important side note is that among the races that one may find in this world, the Dwarves are the only one who place a critical importance on the rite of passage, a ceremony which marks the transition from child to adult. With its roots in a past distant even for Dwarves, this ceremony involves a mock combat which demonstrates the responsibility, courage, strength and respect for tradition of the youth who wishes to join the larger society. The rite of passage is a clear dividing line between the world of youth, which is comprised almost entirely of training and a certain amount of leisure, and the world of adulthood, when the aspirant will finally be able to use the skills he or she has learned over the past number of years. The ability to make use of innate talents and learned skills in a practical way is very much ingrained in the Dwarven mind, so there is understandably much eagerness on the part of youth to pass the rite and join the workers in the mines and refineries.
Physical Appearance: Most people should know what a human looks like. No need to deal with that here.
Architecture: As above, human architecture is well known. Very much like any human architecture appropriate to the level of technology.
Culture: In the world of Adonthell, humans are in an interesting position with respect to the other races. They represent a balance between the concrete and the abstract, but they lean more to the concrete. Humans aspire to lofty goals such as heroism and saintliness, but are almost always distracted by greed or other more base instincts. Humans are the dominant species in the world but as this is a result of their rapid breeding and acquisitive culture they do not harbour enmity for the other races. In fact, Humans look to Elves as near-deities, considering them the ultimate in beauty and intelligence. Humans consider Elves to be the best source for learning, art and law- making, whereas they appreciate the diligence and craftsmanship of the Dwarves. Objects created by either race are rare and highly prized in human culture and fetch high prices when sold. In large part humans do not realize that a plight exists for the other races, not realizing the numbers of the Dwarves in general nor the slow dwindling of the Elves. Rather humanity simply views itself as living in a golden age of receiving the benefit of living with such commendable neighbours. They do not realize that they are pushing both to extinction and desperation, and few beside historians remember the atrocities committed in the time of war.
It should be noted that the humans are by no means saints, but are characterised by a great deal of self-deception. Most humans view themselves as good people, and individually many of them are. But as a group, humans are characterised by the greed with which they conduct themselves in the world. Humans have, when confronted by knowledge or items that they desire, usually taken what they wanted and justified their actions by rationalising the "golden age" that they live in. It should be noted that this is a "golden age" for humans only, and only as a result of the losses of the other three races. The Dwarves having to move further and further from their trade routes, the Elves having their necessary solitude taken away and the exploitation of the Half-Elves all contribute to what the average human believes to be prosperity thanks to generous neighbours. In almost all cases humans will get what they want, if not by fair means than foul, and justify the results to themselves and their comrades. If an item or piece of knowledge cannot be bought fairly, humans will often undertake "adventures" to effectively steal what they desire under the rationalisation that it is a test of courage to do so. There is no consideration of the other race in such actions, nor is there when humans, seeing the wonders created by Elven magic, develop by means of alchemy copies of the creative works of the fine magicians. In this way, humans even manage to take creativity away from the Elves, a hard thing for Elves to accept. But humans think of this as ingenuity, not simply copying, and once again congratulate themselves on the wondrous times in which they live.
Humans are not evil. But they are dangerous.
Physical Appearance: Half-Elves are somewhat taller than typical humans and share a little of their strength and adaptability, but their beauty is much more of an Elven nature. They are quick and graceful, although not dramatically greater in these respects than a well-trained human. Their features are somewhat finer than humans and their hair colour more vibrant, tending toward fiery reds or intense blonde.
The similarity of Half-Elves to both Elves and Humans is the great mystery of the race. It is tempting to believe that they are simply the result of interbreeding between Elves and Humans, but there are no known cases of romantic interaction between members of the two races, much less sexual ones. Further, Half- Elves breed true with their own kind and do not produce children when paired with either Elves or Humans. So it is speculated that somewhere in the distant past, the Half-Elves were deliberately created by some unknown power. Who this power was, and when it was done, remain a mystery save for the fact that the creation of the Half-Elves must have been in the extremely distant past, as even the oldest Elven records contain no clues as to their origin.
Architecture: The homes of urban Half-Elves are usually built by humans, although they prefer to have green space about them. Such homes are usually filled with ornamental items, of Elven manufacture if possible, although often Half-Elves will make their own imitations of existing Elven art. Half-Elves who live in open spaces will tend to live in very naturalistic homes, often thatched and surrounded by gardens.
Culture: Like Humans, Half-Elves represent a combination of practicality and the abstract, this time falling on the side of the abstract. In an urban setting, this manifests as a strong ability for the arts. While Half-Elven art is not of the incredibly high quality of Elven art, it is very good in its own right, and Half-Elven copies of Elven works are nearly as highly prized as Elven works. Meanwhile, rural Half-Elves focus their attention into a strong connection with the natural world, often living as foresters or rangers. Conservation of the natural world is one of the rural Half-Elves' greatest ideals, and as such they view Humans as a direct threat and make great efforts to limit the damage done by human habitation and hunting. In the cities, Half-Elves are in a much different situation. Not seeing the direct threat of the Humans, they merely view them with some distaste, preferring instead to be as near to the Elves as possible. However due to the human "taint" they contain, they are never fully accepted by Elven society and are relegated to positions of servitude, acting as assistants to artisans or researchers and servants in large Elven homes. Often, though, young Half-Elves express rebellion against this arrangement by leaning toward Human society instead, with mixed results. Young humans assume that since Half-Elves are slighter and more beautiful than humans they are also more fragile, and that since they are swifter and more agile than humans, they cannot be fully trusted and must have a thieving instinct somewhere within. These incorrect assumptions cause much mistrust between the races, although humans tend to find the Half-Elves irresistible in many ways, leading to such ills as a thriving prostitution trade. Within the cities, it may be safely said that Half-Elves suffer greatly for being caught between two worlds, while outside of settlements they are among the more well-balanced races who are at home in the world as it is.
Physical Appearance: Elves tend to be quite tall, occasionally as tall as 6'6" or more. Their bodies are light and very flexible, but resilient as a willow. Their bones are quite resistant to breakage and their muscles are quite flexible. Elves of both genders tend to grow their hair long and with quite vibrant colours, sometimes augmented by various dyes. To Human eyes, Elves are the ultimate in physical beauty, and as such are considered untouchable.
Architecture: Elven architecture tends toward open, high buildings with many windows and high ceilings. Elves love the sky and as such build as high as possible, erecting towers and terraces in an effort to gain as unrestricted a view of the sky as possible. The interior of an Elven building is open and filled with light due to the proliferation of large windows which are kept open as much as possible. All buildings are generously decorated with objects d'art and other decorations, sometimes giving the impression of a lavish museum or a studio to what may in reality be a library or a home.
Culture: Elven culture is centered around knowledge. Intelligence and artistic ability are highly prized, as are the applications of same. Magic is considered the highest aspiration of the mind and is a popular field of study, although other fields such as law, medicine, sciences, art, literature and many others are also in great demand. The irony of the fact that this makes them idolised in the eyes of the very Humans who threaten their existence is not lost on the Elves, who consider the Humans to be dull-witted breeders who they would push back were it not for the fact that memories of the time of war were so fresh in their minds. So the Elves continue about their business, making laws and strategizing for their survival while human tide washes around them, stopping now and then to give a wry smile at the fate which prevents them from hating their rather limited neighbours. Generally, the lives of the remaining elves are comfortable, particularly in Cirdanth, as it is quite simple for Elves to amass large amounts of money from humans eager for their favour. But there is still an element of doubt as to their future as the Elves go about their daily lives of researching, practising magic and creating things of beauty.
A final note on elves is the large part creativity plays in the life of every Elf. Elves are creative creatures by nature and the act of creation, especially the creation of beauty, is as necessary as breath. As a result art is a central part of everything an Elf does, touching not only the fine works which are present in every Elven building, but to ordinary life and the workings of magic as well. The creation of new expression each time a task is done is so ingrained that the act of simple copying is not only an insult, but deeply hurtful as well. This fact is at the root of one particularly painful part of Elven/Human relations, as the Humans have made use of their technology in the form of alchemy to copy the magics of the Elves. It cannot be understated the damaging effect this has had upon those Elves who must by necessity deal with Humans regularly and witness what to them is a cheap imitation of real magic. But they say nothing, for in the face of the childish pride of the Humans at being able to imitate true Elven magic there is little that could be said. After their long history together, the Elves have long since realized that there is nothing that could be done. When Humans decide they want a thing, there is little that Elves may do to stop them. Even if it hurts.