Monday, September 12, 2016

The Meteorite People: Bjergfolk and Hulderfolk


Today, I'd like to start by getting a little personal and apologize for using the amazing artwork of eoghankerrigan to depict the first player character race I ever made for Dungeons & Dragons. It is the closest thing I have found to what I am going for with the Hulderfolk but doesn't quite match all the details. Still, this art is close and gets the feel/spirit that I've always imagined.

I created the idea for the Hulderfolk very quickly after playing Advanced Dungeons for the first time about 7 years ago. My first character was a dwarven cleric. I was so immediately smitten with Dungeons & Dragons that I went home and created my first fantasy world, The Wold, that was a combination of my various fantasy influences. One idea I included was a race of Half-Trolls. But we are not talking about the swamp dwelling regenerating stinky monsters that terrorize all low level PCs. We're talking about something more like:

I like the design of such a race and the ideas around them. In my head, such trolls are a large and mountain-dwelling race of warriors, pranksters and druids.  I combined this vision from the trolls of Discword, Ludo from Labyrinth, and various other media into my vision of what I wanted trolls to be like in that setting. Due to their size, I found it hard to conceive of them as PCs but, like half-orcs, I could see their hybrids being playable. I A few years after The Wold, I worked on a setting called Norse mythology setting Migard, and it is there where these ideas really came together into something...interesting.

Where do hulderfolk come from? To answer that, we must ask, where do bjergfolk come from?

It is important to not that bjergfolk are not a playable race but their human hybrids, hulderfolk, are playable. That doesn't mean bjergfolk don't play an important role in Sublanarya.

Bjergfolk are a friendly race of giant-like creatures that dwell in secluded mountain ranges, living and maintaining peace with nature, and serving as guardians to all their neighbors. It is difficult to rouse bjergfolk to act, especially in violence, but against evil few races are more determined.  When fifteen foot tall warriors coming rolling down the mountain side like boulders, literally with their stony skin, evil flees in the face of such determined power.

They are not only physically large, incredibly powerful but also tough: after all, their physiology is quite unusual. Rather than having soft flesh, their dermis and skeleton is composed of very dense mineral material, that provides them a natural armor. This comes from their unusual diet which is mostly consisting of some vegetation but mostly soil and rock. To accommodate this diet, their teeth are as tough as diamonds, and their unusual biology benefits by giving them bodies nearly as solid as rock. The reason for their biology is a mystery but the answer may lie in their strange origins.

Bjergfolk believe they are not from Sublanarya or even Narya. They believe that their race is from sky. Yes. Seriously. All bjergfolk believe that their ancestors came here when their homeworld was destroyed by an alien threat and that the remnants of their race crashed onto Narya like meteorites and that their ancestors colonized the world. There entire worldview is built around them protecting their new home... especially from old enemies from the sky.

It is said that when bjergfolk age, they get bigger and slower, and, eventually, they come to a halt. They usually will sit or lay peacefully against the side of a mountain before closing their eyes and falling forever silent. But their bodies do not rot. They slowly turn to stone, moss and earth covers them, and, eventually, their bodies become covered in a hill. It is from such hills that they believe mountains are grown. And it is from this belief that the bjergfolk believe that many mountains are their ancestors and, often, they seek guidance from such mountains. At the heart of every important mountain, a bjergfolk would say is the heart of one of their kin.

So, we know who bjergfolk are, I mentioned in a past article that they helped free the elves and dwarves from giant slavery, but we don't know about where hulderfolk come from.
The bjergfolk were cursed, long ago, before they ever came to Narya. The curse is a disease of the blood. It causes degeneration throughout the species. Each generation becomes more and more monstrous until an abomination is born. The abomination is monstrously dangerous even to other bjergfolk, a feral and psychotic cannibal, and winds up terrorizing an entire mountain range until it is put down.

The only way to stop this genetic degeneration? To bring in fresh blood. The way the bjergfolk achieve this is by interbreeding with humans. By arranging marriages or encourage them with neighboring human settlements, bjergfolk have managed to stave off the degeneration by mixing their blood with humans and creating hybrids called "hulderfolk". Hulderfolk resemble humans but stand about seven foot tall on average with the ram-like horns, a slight underbite, long cow-like ears and tail of their bjergfolk kin, and have a similarly exotic and earthy range of skin, hair and eye-colors ranging from cool blue and grey to warmer greens. They also inherent the ability to eat minerals as well as above average strength and toughness. Bjergfolk inherent from humans a sense of curiosity, optimism, and bravery. They are known for being notoriously friendly and outgoing. They are natural adventurers.

But how do they fit into the political and social scheme of the realm?

Bjergfolk are mostly neutral when it comes to political interests-- each tribes are allies with their kin, their human neighbors and anyone else that respects their territories. They have little in the way of interest when it comes to spreading their control of territory, increasing their wealth or forming any sort of formal nation. So far, their major contributions to history are helping others in times of great need, whether freeing those enslaved by giants or fighting off the demonic horde of beastmen and other threats from the east, and the occasional disagreement with their neighbors. Especially dwarves.

Despite the fact the hulderfolk and bjergfolk oppose giants just as much as dwarves do, dwarves dislike all giants, including bjergfolk. Furthermore, disputes over mountains become serious business when dwarves claim mining rights on a sacred mountain and, usually, sacred mountains are rich in valuable minerals. This conflict between profit and preservation has made these two races come to blows a few times over the centuries. Usually with dwarves being sent back to their families with broken bones and regets.

So folks, what do you guys think of the "mountain" and "hill" people? Pretty unusual but pretty interesting/unique right? Bjergfolk have a lot of interesting background due to their interaction with exterior threats (eldritch horrors!) and hulderfolk are an interesting alternative half-orcs in setting that don't have them. What do you think? And what do you guys wanna read about next?

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