Thursday, May 26, 2016

Apu: The Roar of the Earth (and some race design)

Born from the mountains of the southern continent of Thivola, the apu are a race of tall, earth humanoids said to have descended from the great mountain god, Etapu. Apu are very tall, averaging heights at 7', and have earthy colored skin tones. Grays, browns, dark greens, and blacks are very common among them. Their skin is rough, almost like touching shark skin, and their features are very angular and solid. They have straight hair that they wear at various lengths. Most apu keep their hair long and some tribes see this as a point of pride and prestige. Braiding is very common among the men and women. Basically, for looks, imagine goliaths from D&D with some Incan influences.
Source: D&D 5e Elemental Evil
Apu shamans tell of the birth of their race, as the progeny of their creator god, Etapu. In an era before time and people, the powerful mountain god slept beneath the waves. Aokah, the Celestial Caracara, saw the slumbering god under water and dove into the aether to pull him out and feast upon the god. Etapu was angered by this and went on a rampage, pulling out islands and rocks and even other sleeping gods. Each island and rock became a piece of the universe. When Etapu tired from his rage, he curled up and slept. His body became the world that we live on. As he slept, his dreams became reality. The birds, fish, plants... all creatures from his dream. The apu are the mightiest of his dreams, with the cunning and guile of the other mortal races as well as the brawn of their patron god Etapu.

Apu have a close relationship with the earth we walk upon. By simply touching the ground, an apu can gather rudimentary information about the area. What they see are simple echoes of who has gone by, and many times, the untrained apu doesn't have the focus to get more than a single piece of knowledge or two. Despite this, apus are often sought out to hunt down criminals and help with mysteries, as even the tiniest piece of knowledge can help with an investigation.

Apu are seen by other races as a bit emotionally reserved, but this is far from the truth, Apu experience emotions much like humans and elves and such, but extreme bouts of excitement, passion, or other emotional state causes the earth around them to erupt in a small earthquake. Given the destructive nature of this, many apu eschew the world and become aesthetics, trying desperately to seek discipline and calm to control their ability. For a strong race, a surprising amount of apu choose to become mages, clerics, or monks simply for the disciplined mind it creates. Despite any mental training, these earth shakes can still happen if the apu is hit with a powerful blow, though such a thing can backfire on the attacker if not careful.


Might of the Earth: Apu start with a +2 Strength.
Born Geomancer: The apu can make contact with the ground and roll a DC 15 Wisdom check to psychically see what has gone on in an area. These visions are muddled, but on a success can provide a single important piece of information about the area. A natural 20 adds another piece of information, painting the scene a bit more clear. This ability works on areas that touch the ground. Areas in the sky, on the sea, or a higher story of a building cannot be divined.
Earth Shaker: Whenever the apu suffers a significant emotional breakdown (failed moral roll, failed fear roll, GM discretion.) or is hit by a critical hit, the earth around them erupts. The apu and everyone adjacent to them roll a Paralysis roll. Failure means that you fail prone. For tactical maps, the apu's square and all adjacent squares are now difficult terrain.

On My Race Design Theory

I find that I prefer races as a beginning option, rather than as a class. I feel it allows more, cool options to play as, rather than restricting certain archetypes to a race (like a spellblade for elves) or restricting a race from a class (dwarven wizards are cool). Furthermore, I want to try and give races cool abilities that do more than just simple bonuses to rolls. This may not be completely balanced, which is fine by me, but I do try and have them at least somewhat comparable. I also don't want to put in something that will completely circumvent an obstacle. Darkvision is a good example of this. Level 1 adventures in the dark are completely negated by the ability to just see in the dark. Above, the apu's Born Geomancer doesn't circumvent investigation scenarios, but simply adds a new option for players to continue on with it. It's a nice little ability for what looks at first glance to be a more martial race. And Earth Shaker is a weird ability. I like weird abilities.

Finally, I want to stay away from what I feel are abilities tied to a culture. An example of this is in Pathfinder, you have the dwarf's goblin hatred ability, where they gain a bonus against goblinoids. It feels weird to me that no matter what, all dwarves in the world are just really good at killing goblins. I'd rather have something more biological or magic for them.

I think once I flesh out my setting more on the blogs here, I will give out some more cultural information about this race and the others in my setting. And hopefully, I've provided an interesting creature for DMs to use in their game. I made this with ACKS in mind, but I could see it working in 5e (maybe with some more bells and whistles, like a bonus to Athletics or something?).