A Race For 4e and FantasyCraft
It’s not really my intent to make this blog nothing but an exercise in "Lizard talks about how much he loved Arduin back in 11th grade", but when I start tracing back my inspirations and thinking about where my ideas come from, an awful lot of them follow a winding path back to those three tan booklets. So it is with the Cha’k.
The what, you say?
When I do worldbuilding, I tend to start with writing essays and overviews and I don’t really think too much about what I’m writing. That is, I will throw out names, places, events, terms, and what-not, and only later go back and try to figure out what any of them mean. Often, a lot remains undefined, which is deliberate — to my mind, it makes the world seem more real if not even the DM knows everything about it, and I can always go back later.
So when I began working on my current world, Cret, for my 4e game, I found myself scribing the following paragraph:
Over time, Cret gave rise to several native intelligences — the lizardmen, the insectoid Cha’k, and of course, the great dragons, who in turn created the kobolds as their servants. Of these, the Cha’k were the most prosperous for a time, and their city-hives covered dozens of square miles each. Then came a dark plague, its cause still unknown, and all but a handful of the Cha’k perished, their organic city-hives crumbling and rotting without the millions of drones needed to sustain them.
And, pretty much, that’s all I had to begin with. Later on, I wrote:
North of it is Glimdrang, a nation ruled by arcane bioengineers who, building off the old Cha’k hives, have bred all manner of mutant insects and strange human/insect hybrids. Dragonfly riders, etc.
At the time I wrote the first paragraph, I knew nothing about the Cha’k except that they were insectile and mostly extinct by the time of the campaign; the second paragraph told me, or at least implied, that the Cha’k were masters of bioengineering, and that these techniques had been learned by other races. (I later decided ‘lifeweavers’ was a good term for masters of fantasy genetics.)
And, really, at this point, that’s all I know. I did do an article on grafts based on the Cha’k, but that just reinforced the two traits already mentioned — lost race, organic tech. The only other data point I can glean is that they had some kind of caste system, hence the "drone" reference.
Some people, reading this, might think that this practice of reading my own writing and trying to learn something from it, as if I was studying another author’s text, is madness. I do wish to be clear — I’m not some weird hippie visionary who tokes up on the wacky tobacky and produces some rambling, incoherent scrawl I have to look back on when sober and struggle to interpret. I have, in the words of Londo Mollari, "cultivated sobriety as my only vice". I usually have some idea in the back of my brain as to what I’m referring to, though it often shifts and changes, and leaving things undefined lets me define them as needed later on. Once I’ve "published", though, whether it’s to a blog or just to my own notes, I tend to think of that as fixed, and everything else has to fit in with what has gone before. So when it’s time to define something more fully — such as the Cha’k — I look back at what I’ve written, the established "facts", and see what they inspire. Regardless of the ideas I may have had percolating in my brain when I first drafted my notes on Cret, my only obligation now is to make sure whatever I come up with fits what has already been written.
(At this point, you may be wondering where the Arduin connection comes in. ‘Tis simple. One of the more bizaare, and thus interesting, races of the original Arduin Trilogy were the Phraint, mantis-like beings who were aliens, the descendants of survivors of a crashed starship, with all sorts of sub-breeds and vague hints and very little hard detail, just the way I liked it. As a result, I tend to have some race of insect-people in most of my fantasy worlds, just because they’re cool. How much the Cha’k will resemble the Phraints is indeterminate now, but hopefully, not much, aside from drawing on them for the initial seed of inspiration.)
Anyway… on to the actual race building! Over the course of the next few days, I’ll basically work out the race in both fluff text and game mechanics, for both D&D Fourth Edition and FantasyCraft. We shall begin…. here. (After the break)