In a world of special para-species can you take absolutely standard humanity and make them interesting, specific and imbued with a sense of history?
Possibly not but I gave my best effort below. This is the current-draft entry for 'Somon' with Eldritch Foundry. What you get when you pick a standard human.
For such fragile, ferocious and short-lived creatures, their ambition burns like fire.
Somon are a people always running out of time, always doing, and to the other races of humanity, even the meditating mystics of the Somon seem a little frantic. Everything has to be done now, without thinking first.
Living for about eighty years, Somon have just enough time, in the opinion of the older races, to get really good at one reasonably complex thing before they die. Maybe two things if some level of genius is involved.
Unfortunately, they can get very good. The greatest Somon mages can challenge the 'High' Aeth, though their magic is an insane jerry-rigged mish-mash of concepts and methods from almost any tradition they can access, and the greatest Somon craftsmen can match the abilities of the Deoth, though they tend to produce objects and art of unusual aspect, without natural balance and with aesthetics seemingly pulled from thin air.
The usual response of Aeth and Deoth to these individuals is to remain broadly tolerant and simply wait for them to die, which they will do soon enough in most cases. Usually within three decades.
Very few Somon become truly great at anything, but there are a lot of Somon, and though the odds are against any particular one, sheer mathematics suggests that at least one of them will make it to any particular goal.
And almost ALL Somon believe, intutatively, that they are, or could be, this particular rare one. No matter how deluded that might seem in reality. It is a kind of racial imperative towards functional narcissism and may be the source of their famous refusal to give up, even when they definitely should.
When your life only lasts 80 years, you might be willing to bet it on some pretty long odds.
NUMBERS AND ADAPTABILITY
Their reputation for adaptability, diversity of thought and form and relentless hyper-focus on singular goals is partly undeserved. It is simply that there are so many Somon, millions at least, that it isn't hard to find an exceptional one, and so many that they almost cannot help but be diverse simply through weight of numbers.
They are adaptable creatures, (as a group, if not as individuals), and can find ways to live almost any environment, from great hive cities to agricultural settlements or as nomadic hunter-gatherers. They tend to be sociable creatures, it's rare to find Somon alone, they look for each other.
Somon look like nothing so much as a vertical, bipedal, nearly-hairless ape, and this is a name used for them amongst some other people. Ape-Men, or 'Speaking Apes'.
They vary in size from about four and a half feet to around six and a half feet tall and vary in skin colour along a single axis with most difference provided by a single biochemical element. Their narrow hips and vertical stance give them a remarkable persistence in travel. Though a Deoth will usually out-work a Somon, a Somon will always travel further. They move with less speed than an Aeth, but greater stamina. They can cover remarkable distances on very little food.
You are never really entirely safe from them. They can turn up anywhere, and though not usually exceptionally powerful as individuals, there are so many that if a group or large social structure becomes riled up, they can act almost as a tidal wave, a wall of armed and angry flesh which can tear down mountains and empty seas.
Thankfully for the other races, the main interest, and primary enemy of Somon, is other Somon.
"They spend nine hours out of every ten climbing hierarchies, declaring war on each other or trying to breed" - Vosis Fail, excommunicated sophont of Yga (and a Somon).
Somon can breed a lot, males are fertile from adulthood until death, females from adulthood into middle age. They remain sexually active all year round, with no breeding season, and even when breeding is impossible. Their intense and continual sexual interest in each other, or in pretty much anything, is a primary driver of Somon society, and also a primary threat to Somon society.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF 'HUMANITY'
The idea of 'Humanity' as being made of the conscious, bipedal and 'dreaming' races, is largely a construction of the Somon. Since they make up the vast majority of beings with which the other races must deal, and since this construction of 'Humanity' includes them, they tend to either go along with it or enthusiastically support the idea.
Somon can breed, occasionally, with Deoth and Aeth, but they can breed with Orcs as well, and with more reliability. They do dream, but the idea that 'Monsters' cannot do so is difficult to exhaustively prove. It certainly seems that some do not, but how exactly can it be tested? Often Somon cannot even remember if they dreamed at all, and victims of Yggsrathaals Dream-Thieves absolutely cannot dream, are they to be considered 'monsters'? Some Aeth prey on Somon in exactly the same way as 'monsters', should they be considered so? And of course Somon have been known to eat each other, and even wilder things.
Still, this basic concept of 'Humanity' continues, either because it is true, because it works or because no-one has had a better idea. 'People' are bipedal, can speak and think, come in physically coherent groups, are self-aware, generally don't try to eat you, or each other, and, crucially, they dream. And this means Aeth, Deoth and Somon are "in", and Monsters, the Children of Yggsrathall and crucially, Orcs, are very much "out".
Somon dreams are murky, incoherent, inconsistent and flee the mind upon waking. Though their awareness is coherent from day to day, in sleep, their minds seem to fly to a myriad of other realms "like glass breaking" (Usamah McKan, Deoth philosopher and Somon specialist), with no real consistency as to where they go, or why, before returning home to the skull.
To the other races of humanity this is deeply curious and strange.
The strangest element is that, while they are dreaming, Somon almost never realise that they are in a dream. It may be this veil of ignorance that allows them such diversity of possible experience.
"Amidst the kinds of Somon dreams, I have failed to complete even the most general map, plan or list, but even the shortest and most abstract must include; Prophetic Dreams, Symbolic Dreams, Dreams of Planar Travel, Dreams of Classical Travel, Scrying Dreams, Nightmares, Social Dreams, Dreams with Dogs in them, Sexual Dreams, Lucid Dreams, Divinely Inspired Dreams, Stimulatory Dreams, Dreams of Mental Stress, Ash Dreams, Reasoned Dreams, Psychopomp Dreams and Magical Dreams. And this is only a cursory look at the possible range." - Usamah McKan, Deoth philosopher and Somon specialist.
Those who claim to serve one or more of the Sleeping Gods of Uud say that they receive communion in dreams; "Sleeping With the Gods", and they do sometimes awake with specific magical powers.
More sceptical analysts point out that the powers gifted in sleep often seem inappropriate for the tasks brought to hand the following day. The faithful reply that this is due to their own failure to comprehend the Will of the Gods, the actions of evil powers, either monstrous or entropic, or just possibly the Gods timeless sleeping state which might cause them to deliver the right thing at an imprecise time.
The dreams of Somon magicians can be catastrophic, especially if their minds are occupied by high-powered and aggressive meta-concepts during unguarded sleep. Almost all schools advise that magicians scrub their minds of these paradigms before bed and re-learn them in the mornings.
Persistent failure to do this has destroyed a lot of Thaumaturges, as well as those around them, and sometimes nearby populations and environments.
It’s almost certain that Somon were once the dominant intelligent race of Uud.
Myths, legends, partial histories and semi-successful chronal scrying, imply an ancient world-system. All of Uud, if not united, then linked, primarily through vast Kingdoms or Empires of Somon.
All of that has passed away, eaten by Ash and hidden by mist.
The Blackwater culture must once have been a Refugee Empire. As the wastes closed in and ate the reminder of Uud, wiping much of it from through and memory, floods, caravans, crusades and cavalcades of Somon closed in on Blackwater, on the cities held by the High Aeth Emperors and on the Mountains of Reality. As they came they brought their food and faith, clothes and cultures, animals and agriculture, craft and magic, weapons and technology, with them
Several thousand years later, this semi-stable combination of feuding city-state and feudal mountain Queendoms is what remains, but cultural relics of all these can be found somewhere in Blackwater; a marginal village, forgotten valley, urban ghetto, of people who look different, sound different, carrying half-understood or time-changed relics of an ancient culture and perhaps with no clear memory of exactly where they come from.
Or it may be that they do remember, or claim to, and that a side-street or lean-to holds a supposed 'Emperor of the World' or King of a Nation forgotten for millennia, lost in the ash, sustained on the vaguest of tales and the slenderest of dreams.
It’s a largely unstated assumption amongst the Aeth and Deoth that the Somon, even if they don’t know it yet, are going to try to take back Uud. The Somon themselves, with their short memories and rapidly-churning generations, may not have consciously realised this, but the older races are convinced that the impulse is definitely brewing.
Whether this will be good or bad, lead to triumph or disaster, for the Aeth, The Deoth, or the Somon themselves, is yet to be seen."
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