“If you were wise, you would be afraid. Many races seek conquest or dominion. But the Gath alone control the one thing necessary to rule Xansai. We have iron. We alone mine it, we alone know how to make steel. If you have a steel weapon, it is of Midrin. And know that whatever paltry weapon you possess, we have many more, and of a far greater quality.” – Nightshadow, Gath warlord.
Like the Shadow Born, and Muls, the Gath were created by the Xhaur. And like Muls, Gath are built for power. They are tall, physically imposing beings. All Gath are aggressive, domineering creatures, obsessed with conquest, driven to dominate.
Always tall, and made of solid muscle, Gath skin tone, as well as hair and eye color, run along the same sides as humans. Were it not for their imposing physiques, they would very much resemble the humans of Xansai.
The Gath long ago broke free of their Xhaur masters, and migrated to the city-state of Midrin, killing off the dwarves that once held sway there. It is Midrin, with its vast reserves of iron ore, that make the Gath so formidable.
Gath are distinguished by their heavy suits of armor. Their physiology is such that the desert heat does not affect them, not even when burdened with metal armor. Their skin does not blister or burn. The Gath prize their armor, spending years crafting the suits. Gath are rarely seen without their armor, or a vast array of weapons on their bodies.
Gath are also possessed of natural gifts. As they mature, they undergo something known as the six steps of progression. At each step, they gain a new, natural ability. This ability is usable as often as the Gath in question is conscious and not in a fatigued stage.
The six abilities are:
- Shape shifting into any humanoid figure
- Line of sight teleportation
- Mind reading
- Telekinesis – the ability to move objects up to one’s body weight with their mind
- Mental Domination of any weaker willed victim
Progression through the six steps is a function of age and experience. They occur naturally, but at different rates among the Gath. The more experienced a Gath, the quicker their progression.
With these abilities, and their high level of organization, the Gath represent a great threat to Xansai’s future stability.
“Tonight, you will die. Tonight, we come for you. Whether nomad or city dweller, whether minotaur or Symian. We will make war upon you. We will conquer you. You will die, and you will die beneath the boot of a Hobgoblin.” – Ranthor, Hobgoblin general.
The Goblinoid races are centered in Halzak. A fierce conglomeration of militaristic races, the Goblinoids are unified under the Hogoblin Overlordship.
Society here is strictly militaristic and caste based. Life is knowing the chain of command, and working one’s way to the top. And no one can ever leave their caste for a higher caste (though downward movement is possible). The ruler of the Overlordship is known as the Grand Khan. Beneath him are a series of Khans, sub-Khans, arch-Khans, etc. The Hobgoblins fill the ranks of these Khan positions, providing the leadership of the Overlordship.
Beneath the Hobgoblins are the ogres. Ogres serve as special bodyguards to the Khan, and. as well, elite attack units. Their size and viciousness makes them perfectly suited to this role.
Below them are the orcs. Orcs are the sergeants of the Overlordship. While they can never be Khans, they can ascend to this mid-level of leadership.
And next come the goblins. The goblins are the rank and file of the army, read: cannon fodder. A goblin’s life is miserable, their only use is the fact that they are so populous that you can send thousands of them to die and not notice their absence.
Bugbears serve as scouts, their stealthiness proving to be quite adept at this role.
And, lastly, kobolds serve the Overlordship as assassins. The sight of a kobold is a fearsome thing, because anyone who sees one knows they have been targeted for death, and that death is just seconds away.
Life is determined by birth. No one ever transcends their caste. Half breeds like half orcs are not allowed to live past their first day of life, they have no place in the Overlordship.
Surprisingly, goblinoids do not try to escape to the Badlands. This owes to the deeply ingrained caste status and militaristic discipline of the Overlordship, as well as the fact that, because the Overlordship is such a menace to the other races, goblinoids are generally killed upon sight.
Humans are the most populous race in Xansai. They occupy all social classes and occupations, from slave to warlord, as befits their widespread presence.
All classes are available to the race of man, owing to their diversity.
In addition, only humans are eligible to become rangers. Theirs is the only race that is cooperative enough with the other races to allow such a thing.
“We are the Irindur, and we do not live in cities. We are the free people of Xansai, unburdened by the taint of civilization. Ours is the way of the horse and the whip. What we desire – we take. We are strong, and rule by the strength in our arms and backs. Cities fall beneath us, for ours is the true heart of Xansai, wild and untamed. Soon, all the cities will burn, and in the ashes, the Irindur will be the true warlords.” -Rhaekho, Irindur Chieftain.
The nomadic tribes of Xansai are all called Irindur though they are far from united. Ethnically, they share a language and common customs, but they are a divided people, split up into hundreds of wandering tribes, doing their best to scratch an existence out of Xansai’s harsh landscape.
Irindur eschew cities and permanent establishments. They are a wild people, and city-states represent a restriction to their freedom that they find abhorrent. No Irindur willingly settles permanently. The people are restless, and thus make poor slaves, usually dying quickly while in captivity.
Life as a nomad is understandably harsh. The desert is not the most welcoming environment, and without permanent cities to live in, a nomad’s life is doubly hard. The nomadic tribes value their independence, and often war with one another, which creates an even harsher existence. As there is no ethnic unity beyond the tribe, the Irindur cannot even count on other tribes to come to their aid.
Irindur do not recognize the value of currency. There are but two economic transactions in Irindur culture. The first is barter, which exists between members of a tribe, and occasionally, with traveling merchant caravans.
However, most of an Irindur’s wealth is accumulated through direct conquest. Raids and murder are the backbone of Irindur culture. The Irindur rule according to the maxim that might makes right. What you want you take. Power is defined as the ability to take what you want, and to keep what you have taken against the incursions of other Irindur who will come to covet a powerful man’s possessions.
Irindur culture is centered around the horse. Xansai horses are hardy creatures, adapted to life in the Xansai badlands. Captured in the wild and broken, they are the cornerstone of Irindur life. A man without a horse cannot raid, and cannot keep up with the tribe. As such, every Irindur grows up learning horsemanship. Irindur weapons are also all adapted for use from the saddle. These include the whip, the bow, and the spear.
As is the case in most of Xansai, the Irindur keep slaves, usually captured by raiding cities, or occasionally, from other tribes, though the freedom loving Irindur are poor slaves. For the Irindur, slaves are regarded as merely tools, existing only as property, to be driven harshly and used until death. As harsh as a free nomad’s life is, they live in the lap of luxury compared to the drudgery of a slave’s life.
Note that horses are afforded a status that is exponentially higher than a slave’s in an Irindur tribe.
Of the other races, the Irindur have a special enmity for the Thri-Kreen. As the mantis men are focused entirely upon the hunt, the fierce nomads are especially prized as prey. As such, Irindur and Thri-Kreen will always kill one another upon sight. No mercy or quarter are ever offered for the bug men of the wastes.
“If you come to Xansai, it will likely be in the slave hold of a minotaur ship. If you try to escape Xansai, it will be a minotaur ship that thwarts your effort. We are the gatekeeps of Xansai. We are the lords of Kelath’Seram. Masters of land and sea. We have the power, and you will serve that power. There is no other choice.” – Escalapius, Captain of the vessel Horned Fury.
Half man, half bull, the seafaring Minotaurs are the very stuff of legend.
These (literally) bull headed humanoids stand at a hulking seven feet tall, and weigh several hundred pounds. And all if it is sheer muscle. Their torsos and limbs are humanoid, with humanlike legs, arms, and hands. Their feet, however, end in a cleft hoof. Their whole bodies are covered in a layer of short hair. Minotaurs come in various shades of hide, with red, grey and black being the most common.
Minotaur horns are a source of pride for the man-bulls. They can grow up to two feet long. The length of one’s horns is a source of pride among the minotaur. A minotaur who can go his whole life without ever having his horns cut is a hero among his people. A minotaur who has been defeated is subject to having the tip cut off. When the tip grows back, a ring of solid, dense material grows beneath the tip. The number of rings determines the number of defeats a minotaur has suffered. A minotaur criminal suffers the ultimate indignity: their horns are cut at the base, never to grow back. Minotaurs rigorously wax and polish their horns to make them shiny and strong.
Minotaurs are an honor bound race. They believe strongly in preserving their honor. Without honor, they feel they have no life. They live by a rigid code of honor, developed into a complex coda of behavior over many long generations. This code is a way of life, no exceptions can be made. A minotaur will honor his word, no matter how painful the consequences might be. This is, of course, why no minotaur lightly pledges his oath.
Minotaurs also adhere strictly to the rule of might: might makes right. They believe that any problems they have can be solved through strength, cunning, and skill. The rule of might finds clear expression in the arena, where all minotaur legal cases are resolved. If a defendant can keep himself alive against the champions of the minotaur justice system, he has proven himself innocent.
The minotaurs are a sea faring race. And are possessed of a well developed navy. Minotaurs revere the sea as a source of prosperity, and a place to test one’s mettle. Minotaur ships are advanced and well built, able to withstand even the most violent of storms.
“Unlike the others, I will not bore you with the mul claim upon Xansai. We were made to be slaves, and we abhor the collar and the lash. We do not seek to conquer, only to live free. Xansai has made us strong, taught us how to survive. We live with the land, not against it. Made to serve, now, we seek only to find a way to live unburdened by shackles.” – Rykis, Mul of Strachmar
There are no more dwarves in in Xansai, and yet, they are represented by their half breed descendants.
Muls, or half dwarves, are an incredibly tough cross breed of human and dwarf. Bred by Xhaur, they are valuable as slaves, for their incredible strength, endurance and ability to absorb large amounts of physical punishment.
Muls retain the height and cunning of their human parent, plus the durability and raw strength of their dwarven heritage. Muls are usually found as slaves, though escaped Muls have now found their way to Strachmar and established their own city-state. All captive Muls seek to find their way to Strachmar, and the Muls of Strachmar seek to free all of their brethren.