It is a difficult decision to choose between what I like more: world building or character development. They are practically the same, if you think of the world as one giant character. I can’t wait to start fleshing out a few important characters. However, before I begin to define a few of the major personalities roaming the world of the Dead Wastes, I need to outline the races that inhabit Valtuus. I do not want it to be too alien, so I am not out to create revolutionary new breeds. I just want to reinvent a few.
Vampires, those sinister blood sucking creatures of the night are part of the mythology. In the Dead Wastes, however, not all of them subsist only on blood. Depending on lineage, a vampire’s may be able to substitute bone, arcane energy, intelligent thought, emotions, or even human souls as nourishment. While vampires are the ruling class in the dark city of Stragus, their numbers are limited. Before the vortex was closed, approximately two hundred vampires crossed over. About a third of their number was destroyed during the siege that followed. In-fighting, political intrigues and the rare human instigated assassination have thinned their number to a little more than one hundred vampires.
Vampires exhibit a wide range of supernatural powers ranging from super-human speed and strength to shapechanging, mesmerism, and the ability to manipulate blood and shadow. Some vampires have even developed a taste for the infernal and have sealed pacts with devils or worse.
Humans can be turned, creating more vampires, but this would diminish the amount of human stock they have to feed from while increasing the demand on that same stock. Besides, a freshly turned vampire is hardly more powerful than the average human and needs to consume inordinate amounts of blood as the vampirism metabolizes and transmutes the vampire’s newly dead body. On top of that, more than half of all attempts to create new vampires end in a bloody massacre as the fledgling vampire goes insane and murders everything in sight before succumbing to a horrifying seizure and dying, permanently.
Humans are very numerous in the known world. Their few kingdoms dot the landscape and lay claim to the majority of the territory, even if it is in name only. Humans of the area gravitate toward pale skin, dark hair, and brown eyes. Occasionally a red head is born, and most communities see it as a sign of prosperous times. Humans have several gods they pray to, most of whom are related to nature and magic. There is one god, Whirr, gaining prominence in Stahlhelm that is associated with mechanica. Magical aptitude among humans is rare, except maybe in the island city-state of Arcanicum. Depending on where you are, wizards and sorcerers are viewed either with respect and awe or open contempt. Priests are generally accepted everywhere, the undead rise in increasingly large numbers these days.
A race not mentioned yet is the dhampir. Dhampir are the misbegotten children of women ravaged by a vampire. Not every woman heavy with child that is bitten by a vampire with produce a dhampir. In fact the chances are more likely that the fetus will simply be aborted by the vampirism passed to its mother. Even so, there are about twenty known dhampir, and half of them serve the Blood Tyrant Karthisis, ruler of the city of Stragus.
Dhampir are gifted with the strength and agility of their progenitors, but lack many of the weaknesses. Many even develop some of the more specialized powers of the vampires, such as mesmerism and shape-changing. They can even gain nourishment through drinking blood, though they can metabolize normal food as well. Sunlight, sacred energy, and things that only affect undead leave no marks on a dhampir. They also regenerate at accelerated levels, but are still susceptible to standard injuries just any human is (a stake through the heart or beheading still kill them!).
The ingenuity of the grimlynn has only just been recognized by surface dwellers. This diminutive subterranean race has existed for many millennia without any human ever knowing. Grimlynn are very short compared to humans, standing only to the middle of the thigh on average. They have very long noses, ears, prehensile tails, and multi-jointed arms and fingers. Grimlynn tend to have light grey, black, or dark green mottled skin. They also have oviod lumps on their forehead that produce a greenish-yellow bioluminescent glow that allows them to work in complete darkness. This bioluminescence can be turned on and off at will.
Grimlynn have an aptitude for technology. Having discovered a cache of Nadori steamtech ages ago, they have been tunneling through the underworld with steam-powered mechs, known as steamhulks. Their spidery, multi-jointed arms and legs allow them to reach inside the most complicated machinery to fix things.
Once the vampires were aware of their aptitude, the warren of grimlynn that had dug into the caverns beneath Stragus was quickly pressed into service as developers of mechanica useful to vampires.
Strange tales of other races have been heard, but are considered nothing more than fairy tales meant to keep children from wandering too far from home.