Races

In general, any and every fantasy race may have presence. Races like Dryads which are tied to a specific natural item or place are generally considered ‘spirits’ instead of independent individuals/races. (And are therefore considered non-sentient, at least by most humans.)

There are also actual spirits, usually elementals of some sort, who are just semi-sentient manifestations of their element. Telling a fire spirit (semi-sentient) from a fire sprite (sentient) can be difficult. (And the difference between the two in some cases is nothing more than the amount of magic they have absorbed.)

Notes on specific races.

Dryad/Nymph

Nymph is the general term, and includes races linked to many different types of plants, not just trees. The most commonly encountered are the tree nymphs, and they are commonly called ‘dryads’, even though this is incorrect. (Dryads are oak nymphs.) They come in various sizes, depending on the standard size of the plant they are linked to. (Which is part of why in most minds nymphs are dryads: A tree nymph of a standard tree is human-sized.)

There is a rough hierarchy of nymphs in any particular area: The nymph of the dominant plant-life is in charge. Also there is not just one nymph per plant: it is per community, although most will think of one particular plant as their ‘home,’ and be specifically linked to that plant.

They are nature spirits, but they are ‘evolved’ nature spirits, in a sense. A nymph forms when a plant has access to a certain amount of magic in it’s growth, and there is a certain amount of ‘consciousness’ in the surrounding area. The magic forms the ‘mobile life force’ of the plant, while the consciousness of the area shapes that life force into a form that can represent the plant. Humans have been the dominant source of consciousness for a while, so their idea of what a life force should look like has become the most common. (To the point where deep forests will still have humanoid nymphs because the surrounding nymphs expect nymphs are humanoid.)

If there are enough plants of a specific type in a magical area (or an area that has absorbed enough magic) then they will tend to form fewer nymphs, each of which is fully independently sentient. Each nymph will care for their home plant, and an area around it, and will draw life-force from the entire area. They can range out of their area, to an extent. (Exact range is dependent on a large number of factors, including the amount of magic in their area, the age of the plants, the size of the plants, and the numbers of the plants in their areas.)

Nymphs live almost exclusively on the life-force of their plants, of whom they are really sentient extensions. As humanoid forms, they can generally eat and drink pure water syrups and other sap-like substances, but no more. Instead of eating they need to spend a certain amount of time ‘inside’ their home plants. (They don’t necessarily go dormant during that time, but instead just do not manifest any part of themselves for a time. If their plant goes dormant, they almost always go dormant with it, however.)

In magic terms, they are caretakers of their home; can talk to and control plants (especially their home plants or those lower in the hierarchy), as well as using other nature magic, especially that relating to plants. Appearance and size can vary widely, but it will almost always show traits of the plants they are linked to.

Meliae

A classical ‘dryad’, but of an ash instead of an oak. (Most have forgotten there is a difference. In terms of powers and personality, there isn’t. There are some slight differences in appearance: Both can only express the colors and textures of their respective trees. (With some human textures as well.))

They have a strong attachment to nature magic, in particular plant magic, but generally no other magic. They also have the innate power to talk to plants, and to enter/exit their ‘home’ plant.

Sidhe (Elves)

History: The Sidhe are decedents of an ancient group of humans who found a sub-dimension that was higher in magic then the main dimension. They realized they could use this magic to improve themselves, and to extend their lives.

Most, even among the Elves, have forgotten this. The only normal humans who would have even heard rumors of this would have heard it from the Elves themselves. And only the very oldest Elves would have ever heard of this, and only then as ‘Ancient History’. The King and Queen of the Elves have ruled them for time immemorial, but not forever: They were not of the original settlers, and they took power by unifying the Elves who were warring among themselves in clans.

For most Elves, that is ancient history, and the King and Queen have ruled ‘forever’. It was generations ago.

There are many clans and families, depending on how the original settlers opted to use the magic available to them. Some worked tried to improve the human stock directly, in various ways. Others tried to take on the aspects of animals, and meld them into themselves.

These magical experiments had long-term effects. First of all, they created actual new races of peoples; all the sub-races of Elves, as well as anything that makes the Elves distinct from Humans. Secondly, it created in those races a deep and necessary link to the magic of their dimension. No Sidhe can live indefinitely outside of Underhill.

Elves in general do live a long time: Average is around 150 years, with individuals greatly exceeding that on occasion. While living Underhill, they can extend that further both through direct magic and through the fact that time appears to flow differently in that dimension. (Leading to ‘normal’ lifespans of 300+ years in the normal world.) However extensive use of this (on Humans or Elves) means the individual can only live Underhill: Leaving that dimension will immediately age them to their ‘true’ age, usually resulting in death. (Notably: The King and Queen know this would be their fate if they ever stepped out of Underhill.)

Sidhe, as a whole, have a more direct connection to the natural flow of magic than humans, and live at a more sedate pace. They have the abilities and time to become skilled at whatever passes their fancy, and usually do. They also have an older and more developed understanding of magic. However, it is magic as it works in Underhill, which is not quite the same as how it works in the overworld. Also, Underhill is much more abundant with magic, which allows them to do much more magically than humans have ever done.

Between their long lives and their access and skill with magic, they have mostly ignored other technologies, and their society has stagnated somewhat. (Also partly due to the fact that they have had the same rulers for several generations.) One of the reasons they like contact with humans is the novelties that humans can present.

Elves have had off-and-on contact with the rest of humanity throughout the ages, as their pocket dimension has moved in an out of contact with our main dimension. It has also had contact with other dimensions, and has both learned from and imported from them.

Cait Sidhe

Cat-elves. They have most of the normal powers of elves, (although at low power), as well as an innate taste for fun, hedonism, and trickery. In general they are not evil, just chaotic and free-willed. (As well as somewhat selfish.) They will however follow their word to the letter, at the very least. Do not underestimate their honor.

They have a natural affinity for trap spells, both for casting and removing.

Natural shape-shifters, they have two base forms: ‘Elven’ and ‘cat’. Elven is mostly indistinguishable from other elves, although there are tell-tales if you know what to look for. ‘Cat’ is a large black cat with a white patch on their chest, in general forming a [[http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Kellas_Cat][Kellas Cat]]. (Although ‘large housecat’ is the base size, they can naturally adjust this to any size felines are found in.)

High Elves

From the outside, it would seem to humans that these are the rulers and aristocrats of Sidhe society. The King and Queen are both, and most of the high officials humans are likely to meet are of this race/clan.

This is not because they are considered the ruling class however. It is because humans relate better to them, and so any official that deals with humans on a regular basis will either be one or have one as their official face. (Not all Sidhe are equally represented in their government however: This is more do to with interest than with anything else.)

They are the result of the most successful attempts at direct-manipulation of the human base: They are smarter, stronger, tougher, more resilient, longer lived, and more attractive than humans. As well as having a natural affinity for magic. There is very little they can’t do better than a human, if they try.

Elementals

Elementals can be a fairly complex concept in this universe: They can be divided into both types and levels, with the two possibly intersecting at some points, and it can be hard to distinguish between the different categories.

And, of course, the specifics may well vary on an element-by-element basis as well. Consider the following as guidelines.

Flavors

There are basically two types of elementals: ‘Born’ elementals, and ‘ascended’ elementals. ‘Born’ elementals are the elemental spirit-creatures, and can come in a set variety of types and sizes for any specific element. As the description indicates, they come into being directly as the elemental, with their full power, abilities, and whatever levels of sentience they will ever have. Many types have sentience at the level of an animal, but a few are human-level sentient.

‘Ascended’ elementals start out as a common example of the element; they can even be created. Either through chance or direct action they become imbued with magic, becoming ‘more’ like their element than they were before. Once this happens, it becomes easier for them to absorb more magic, and eventually they become able to absorb life-force as well. However, this is not a sure thing: Their magic can dissipate, or they can be destroyed. The difficulty level of doing so is directly correspondent to the amount of magic and life-force they have consumed so far. However they are not fully elementals until they have reached some stable level of sentience, typically human-level. (Although it is possible to find wild elementals of this type with animal level sentience as well.)

Levels

Levels mostly apply to ‘ascended’ elementals, or more specifically to the elemental forces on their way to becoming elementals. The terms can be used as general indicators of the power levels of a naturally-occurring elemental, but they are more specifically tied to the ‘ascended’ forms.

Essence

An Essence is anything that has taken on the form of their element though being imbued with magic. As such it has a wide applicability, but the typical thought is of something that has absorbed a moderately large amount of magical energy. They will be ‘more’ than their natural forms, but will not act on their own. An Essence of Fire can be used to burn things that would not otherwise burn, and will continue burning without fuel or in places it should not, but it can still be used to start a normal fire, and won’t move or spread in any manner that a normal fire would not.

Raised Essence

A Raised Essence is an Essence that either has absorbed enough magic, or has started to absorb life-force, and is therefore is starting to form a mind of it’s own. This is the most dangerous stage, as a Raised Essence will typically try to absorb more magic or life force whenever possible. It can do everything an Essence can, but it also can move on it’s own without outside force.

The exact level of danger posed by a Raised Essence depends partly on what element it is, what element you are aligned with (if any), what exactly it has absorbed, and the environment. Fire is especially dangerous, as it likes to spread and attack. Opposing alignment will be attacked immediately. A Raised Essence in a place that favors it’s element will be stronger. (Fire would be weakened in the rain, while Water would be strengthened, etc.)

(Note: Typically a Raised Essence of Fire would not allow itself to start a normal fire. It would strengthen itself using the fuel, instead. It takes proactive action, instead of being passive.)

Sprite (Full Elemental)

A Sprite is a Raised Essence which has collected enough life-force and/or magic to become self-aware. As such it can be reasoned with, and bargained with. It can also focus it’s power, or hold it back. While they are not as dangerous to deal with as a Raised Essence, that is only because they can see that there may be advantages in not attacking. If they do decide to attack, they can deal far more damage.

Types

There are of course elementals for all of the four main elements. (There are also occasional rumors of ‘life’ elementals, but no one has ever managed to confirm their existence.) A selection of the forms they have is listed here.

Note that ‘Sprite’ is used both to refer to elementals who have formed by raising themselves from their element, as well as to generic humanoid elementals of all types. It is often hard to tell the two uses apart. (For that matter, it is often hard to tell the two types of beings apart…)

Fire

Phoenix, salamander, drake.

Water

Nixie, spout.

Earth
Air

Pixie, sylph.

Templates/Sub-races

These are ‘races’ that don’t reproduce normally (as in: either can’t have children, or their children may or may not be of the same sub-race), and are always based off of a main race, normally human. In more precise terms, these ‘races’ where each individual is an individual of some other race that has been subjected to a magical effect of some sort. Most common are Demonic deals: A human deals with a demon to either get power for themselves, or to inconvenience their enemies. However, anyone of sufficient power might be able to create such a change. (Although only in exceptional circumstances can they preform such a change on themselves.)

The deals available will tend to vary depending on the source of the deal, the abilities/persuasive power of the bargainer, and the situation they are in. Demons in particular like to make deals with the hopes of gaining power/influence, as well as a conduit to this world. This is why most such deals are with them: They are more willing to make these sorts of deals on regular terms, and offer a good deal of power to do so.

In all cases, it is ‘normally’ a human that is subjected to the effect. In fact, that ‘normally’ is common enough that it is expected to be the rule, and people can be very surprised by exceptions.

Vampires

Vampires are, or were, humans (usually: see above) who have made a deal with a demon for immortality and power in exchange for blood sacrifices. They are very powerful magicians in whatever form of magic they have trained in. They also have enhanced speed, strength, and senses. (Shapechange is not an automatic part of the bargain, but is not uncommon, and may be performed magically as well as via granted powers.) They have no specific danger from sunlight, other than the fact that both their skin and eyes are very sensitive. (Making sunlight extremely painful and blinding.)

They can heal from any wound quickly (more quickly when they can feed) and are basically immune from danger from most weapons. The exception is weapons still imbued with life-force of some type. (In most cases.) Also, fire can destroy their body faster than they can repair it, and once it is completely destroyed so are they.

Being found out to be a vampire is grounds for automatic execution: The rites (either form: directly from a demon, or from another vampire) to turn oneself into a vampire require a death (often a suicide, but can be a murder, and sometimes both), and they require periodic live sacrifices (in the form of drinking living blood) to maintain their existence. So, in the eyes of the law, Vampire == (Serial) Murderer.

On a more theoretical level: Vampires are one way for demons to gain (semi-)permanent entry to this world. A vampire is literally a human (or the base race) and a demon who have fused their life-forces. While they are in this plane of existence, the human is in main control, although the demon will be able to shade their thoughts. Once they are killed, the demon gets to take the human back to their plane of existence, and is in total control.

It follows therefore that a vampire can — in theory — preform any magical feat the demon bound to them can do. In practice, the demon will usually only grant specific powers, and limit access to others. This both allows them to maintain themselves as individuals, and means that their time in this plane is more likely to be limited. (As the vampire will not have the access to some to of the more powerful demon abilities, which will mean they get killed sooner.) The limits are set at bargaining-time, so they depend on how well the demon and the human bargain, as well as what the human is willing to offer.

Also, in terms of pure magical power, vampires are the best blood-path magicians in existence: They naturally pool the life-force of their victims, and can use it as magical power at any time, or store it indefinitely, while adding to it. (Although some of it must be used on a continuing basis to maintain the link between human and demon.) This has two notable effects: First off, it is impossible to know how much magical power a vampire has available to them at any one time, as they could have been storing it for decades. (Or centuries.) Secondly, they can vary the frequency of their sacrifices: If the vampire went on a killing spree in WWII, they may not have needed to kill another human since. They can therefore cast spells of immense power, or lie ‘dormant’ for decades.

There are two semi-broad sub-types of vampire: Undead, and Living. The difference is mostly in how they are created, but it does make some differences to powers and weaknesses.

Undead

The more common type. An undead vampire is someone who used their own death to power the conversion (or part of the conversion) to vampire. This means they are a dead body being animated by demonic and magical forces. The biggest advantage of this is that they don’t need to kidnap and murder another human before gaining the advantages of a vampire. The ritual is therefore fairly ‘safe’ from a mundane point of view. A secondary advantage is that they are immune to all forms of damage that do not involve magic, lifeforce, or fire. A sword is useless against an undead vampire, as any cut will heal as quickly as it forms. Fire can overpower this, and lifeforce or magic can disrupt it.

The major disadvantage is that you are walking around in a dead body. It will take magic to keep it looking good, and the body no longer needs to eat or breathe. (In fact, they can’t eat. They can chew and swallow, but no digestion occurs, and the only way to get the food out is by vomiting it back up. Most — obviously — avoid the situation.) Unless magic (or other forces) have been specifically used to make it otherwise, body temperature will feel cold, no breath will be felt, etc. This includes wounds: They can only be healed by magic. It is relatively easy to detect an undead vampire.

Living

Less common, to the point of extreme rarity. They are people who managed to get the power needed to fuel the conversion to vampire without using their own deaths. This typically will take several live human sacrifices. (Possibly just one, possibly more. Depends on the bargain and the circumstances.) This of course makes the vampire-conversion ritual much riskier. The biggest advantage is simply that they are not dead: They eat, breathe, etc. as normal, and can live as normal without any major effort. Detection is therefore much less of a concern, and they can use less magic on a daily basis.

The major disadvantage is that they don’t gain the vampiric immunities to mundane damage, unless they spend the effort to become so. (Many do.) This can be played as a strength, on occasion: The vampiric damage immunity is so well known that proving yourself vulnerable to mundane damage is a good way to disprove you are a vampire to most.

There is one type of damage they are more resistant to than an undead vampire: Fire. The undead’s actual body is a dry corpse, and therefore burns quite well. They gain some resistance from the demonic bond, but not enough to truly matter. A living vampire on the other hand gains the resistance, without the weakness. They are therefore much harder to burn than normal.

One other difference deserves note: a living vampire may be able to revoke the deal. If they do, they can live the rest of their life as a normal member of their race. The exact conditions for this will depend on the deal they have made.

(It should go without saying that a living vampire has bargained for immortality and youth as well. Nearly always.)

Werewolves

There are generally two forms of werewolves: Those under a curse of some sort, and those who have freely acquired for the state. In most respects they are interchangeable, although a good bargainer may have been able to avoid the ‘must change into a mindless beast on the nights of the full moon’ clause. Usually cursed werewolves will not be able to change voluntarily. (But will instead only change during the full moon, or whatever other trigger their curse is set too.)

Their healing is greatly accelerated (in magical theory terms: they shift form so the wound is gone), and may have greater or lesser control over their ability to shapeshift. Those with least control can just transform from one form to the other. More control allows transformations of just part of the body, then being able to pause those transformations midway, then the ability to pause the full transformation midway, then the ability to assume a hybrid man-wolf form. (That isn’t precisely between the two, but has strengths of both.)

They are tolerated, but occasionally looked at with suspicion. As long as they control their ‘mindless beast’ and follow the laws of the land, the law has no trouble with them.

The rite to create a werewolf is not easy: It is a several-day process, and heavily drains the caster. (Occasionally to death.) It also cannot be case upon oneself, but only upon others. It’s details can vary, depending on exactly the specifics of the powers of the werewolf being created. Generally, the more control they will have, the longer and harder to cast. Also, the more often and the longer the subject will change the more energy the spell will take. Lastly, while the curse is nearly guaranteed to last the life of the subject, it takes energy at the start to get it to carry to further generations - Generally it either is prohibited from doing so, or only goes to the firstborn (or firstborn son) for a couple of generations. It takes an exceptional caster to get the curse to last longer than that.

(The obvious end result is that the most common variant is that they only change under the light of a full moon, and have no control. This is a strong curse, but the subject will only change once a month, and then only if they are exposed to the moonlight, which greatly reduces the amount of power that has to be put into the spell.)

It should be noted: The ‘standard’ instructions for the rite includes the hair or blood of a wolf. This is academic. Technically, all you need is a representative part of the animal the subject will transform into; this can be any animal. Including human, or elf. (But not demon. It has to be an animal that naturally lives on this plane.) Wolves are common both because they are included in the standard instructions, and because they are both vicious and near human-sized. The viciousness means the ‘curse’ is despised more, the human-sized means the rite is easier to cast. It is rare but not unheard of to find other were-beasts.

Like any spell, the curse can be modified after it is cast by the caster (if they left themselves an opening to do so) or others (if they have the power and skill). Others being able to modify the spell is not common: it’s a powerful and complex spell.

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