This chapter lists the races available for player characters in Escarnum.
The people you are likely to encounter here are a little different to those presented in the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. Here, bestial races have dominated the land of Alm since ancient times, meaning many of the major populations are descended from more animalistic stock than their human-like counterparts. Where other settings have dwarven craftsmen or gnomish inventors, Escarnum has the crafty kobold clans; in place of halflings, one finds the cheerful and mercantile abilen. Instead of offering half-orcs or dragonborn to provide physical might, Escarnum presents the fey jotun, horse-like equitarn and bestial gnolls.
Other creatures are still present, but quite are different from their more traditional versions. Here, kobolds are small but proud warriors with a penchant for engineering. Gnolls are the descendants of a continent-spanning empire in sharp decline. Eladrin are an offshoot of the isolationist, feudal soratami society, rather than from nature-loving elves. And goblins are resourceful survivors, accustomed to living in the shadow of industrialised society.
This change may be jarring at first, but remember there are vast areas of Escarnum which are yet to be explored. Traditional kobolds or goblins may be just around the corner, so to speak. In other words, just because a race doesn’t have a pre-defined place in the setting, doesn’t mean there is no room for them.
Sticking to the races here will help to present Escarnum’s unique flavour, but adding your group’s favourite races from other 4th Edition D&D products is a great way to customise that flavour to your own tastes. For more about this, see the Non-Standard Races section.
Each race detailed here comes with several additional choices of background. These are designed to give you an idea of common archetypes for Escarnum characters, but they’re provided as an option only—there’s no requirement to choose these instead of those found in other sources. Indeed, there’s no reason to prevent a player from taking a race-inspired background for a character of another species, either. Use them to inspire characters, not restrict them.
Escarnum backgrounds differ from other backgrounds you may have seen, by offering an associated ritual in addition to other benefits. This is intended as a way to prompt groups who often ignore ritual casting. A character who chooses the associated ritual as their benefit can perform the ritual as if they had mastered it, without requiring a ritual book or ritual caster feat, though they must still pay any associated costs when the ritual is used.
Races which are not mentioned here can still have a place in Escarnum. Whilst Alm itself is fairly well-established, its neighbouring continents are largely unexplored, and even within it, wild places such as Kaath and the Barrens could easily provide new races a place to develop. Other races might be unique occurrences—magical experimentation with creatures was a common practice in the history of the Overseers, so they might well have created many magically-altered hybrids and offshoots of existing creatures.
Moreso than in many worlds, the playable “races” in Escarnum are intended to share much of their biology. Some combinations of ancestry are more common than others, to be certain—but this is a world where different species of humanoid are genetically compatible more often than not. (The brannyr, especially, seem to have bred with nearly every humanoid under the sun.) This commonality perhaps hints at some deeper secret about the origins of life in this godless world.
In other words, if you like the idea that your character may be a hybrid of two (or more!) species, you are more than welcome. Although you will ultimately need to pick a “race” to best represent the mechanical traits they have inherited, you should remember that this is an observation of your character’s ancestry, not a box to place limitations on their story.