I'll be more harsh than Devac in my review, in part because I've made several worlds of my own. Don't let this discourage you, however: my goal is to point out where things could be made better.
Thanks, I was hoping that somebody would poke what I thought I'd figured out full of holes, because otherwise it'll be my players who have to do it.
First of all, I think it might serve you well to add a list of non-playable races for DMs. This will not only allow for better master tools but also expand the world beyond what's player-necessary - that is, make it feel more alive and verisimilar.
I quite like the idea that what I've outlined is all that exists in terms of analogs to humanity. Monsters exist in the world, but in levels that are so low that they'd be in danger of going extinct. That is, if they weren't the result of enviornmental magic corrupting people and animals.
Your dwarves are, basically, alcoholics dozens of generations in - and it isn't an unfortunate conclusion so much as a fact. That they've incorporated alcohol into their metabolism serves to say as much - this is how addiction works; to say nothing of the deep withdrawal effects. All of which I presume because no species begins with such a necessity.
That being said, human beings experience similar, though perhaps not as drastic, effects from lacking essential nutrients, like vitamins. I'd like you to explore whether living as an alcohol-less dwarf is truly impossible as well as portray the chemical as a nurtient of sorts for the race.
Hmmmm. You are right, that's basically what I've written them as, but it isn't what I wanted. I was trying to keep the "dwarves love booze" template somewhat intact without having to deal with drunken roleplaying by half the party.
The change I'm now pondering:
Dwarves still aren't negatively affected by Dwarven Alcohol, due to their metabolism. Which I'm totally going to use as the reason why Gnomes are barren.
Dwarves didn't start out dependent on (dwarven) alcohol to stay alive. They were normal in this regard at one point. A wasting disease has, however, has slowly spread through the population. They can't cure it, but they can hold it at bay indefinitly with medication. Children under the age of 10 can't take the medication without fatally altering the developmental process. By which time the wasting disease is fairly advanced.
- Without regular treatment, Dwarves quickly fall back into the clutches of their illness.
- This disease is why dwarves are stunted now. They weren't in the past.
- The medication is colloquially known as "Dwarven Alcohol" by humans, orcs, and goblins because to them it is a hard drug.
- Dwarves (and Gnomes and Elves) now feel the affects of regular alcohol, but not the side affects of Dwarven Alcohol.
Orcs are awfully selfless with "the desire to give their children longer lives than their own", especially proud as they are. They should've disappeared from the face of the world years ago if they're so careless about the purity of their blood. Every species generally strives towards status quo, biologically, which is why we don't see many crocodile x hippo hybrids. How can a species remain proud yet so willing to share the blood with another? An answer to that question should prove really interesting.
Orcs are on the way out. They are the oldest race in the world, and at one point they populated all of it. Now they've been pushed back to the far north. They would have starved to death by this point if they hadn't found mineral wealth and managed to make their existance important to the Reformed Kingdom. Once that runs out...
How can a species remain proud yet so willing to share the blood with another? An answer to that question should prove really interesting.
Culture. They are proud of their culture. They see the Humans, Dwarves, and Elves as weak for being willing to accept a top down government (Dwarves don't have it but wish to restore it). Not for having different blood, but for having different ideals and traditions. Having children with humans doesn't mean they are doing so in situations where the children will be raised in another culture. They are ensuring that even when the last Orc dies, their ways have a chance to continue.
Which isn't to say that there aren't xenophobs and purists. Or that Orcs and Humans have a normal success rate at bearing a child.
How come goblins, with their extremely short lifespan and utilitarian political mind, have become known for their artistry of ideas? Seems to me that to obtain such mastery would require a breadth of experience or some form of mind transfer (so that the later ones could continue to improve upon the legacy). Besides, the goblin backstory nudges us carefully into the territory of...
The goblins actually have the highest capacity of intelligence in this setting, so it seemed necessary for them to have a way from them to cope with the bad hand they got dealt. When I gave them such short lives, I decided not to prevent them from reaching adulthood. So I robbed them of childhood. They mature within two years, and then only have thirteen to figure out what it all means. Their continued existance given that implies that they must have a deep artistic and philosophical rooting.
Individuals don't have breadth of experience, but the whole maintains one via an oral tradition.
Sounds really odd that among the things the first mage would do would be to create a sentient species. Unless they were somehow magically instructed to perform peacefully and/or not to attack the master species, they could easily become a danger not just to the mage drunk with power, but for the whole world (because I assume that their lifespan is offset by much higher rate of reproduction). Not to say that it would be impossible to do so - it's your kind of magic, after all, and you decide what it can do - just odd that the small people came to be so damn quickly and with seemingly so few precautions.
If my job has shown me anything, it is that safeguards only come into place after events that show why they were necessary. I assume that pretty much any mortal put on par with the gods would botch everything he touched until it bit him hard enough to learn caution.
I love the real reason behind magic's existence in your world. Can you elaborate on exactly what makes magic exist (how does the entity's presence allow for reality reconfiguration)?
The entity below the forest is asleep, but also omnipotent for all intents in this reality ( there are some that it is in where it is mortal). It is dreaming about the world above, and glimmers of that vision are seeping into reality. It can sense the effect this has on the world above, so its mind is reacting to that input and interjecting it into the dream.
What doesn't make sense to me is how can one become magically potent. You write that it's achieved through divine action, but it turns out that deities are merely condensed... "magic", however that works. This means that to allow for usage of magic, there must be deities to grant access to it, but for there to be deities, there must be high magic usage in an area... which implies that there has been such usage before the first human mage (the race which I presume to be among the earlier ones). Does this mean that other races had mages before humans? Who granted access to magic to those, then?
The chain of events that brought mages into the world:
1. An eldrich horror that exists in all realities created Lanthis while it slept.
2. Its dreaming mind started to project magic onto the world.
3. Where those projections become strong enough, they form an inteligence. To the eldrich horror, these are characters in its dream. To the races living above it, they are gods.
4. These gods can spark magic in mortals, like lighting a small candle with a bigger one. The eldrich horror starts to see the mortal as a character in the dream.
Does this mean that other races had mages before humans? Who granted access to magic to those, then?
If there was a first magic user, it was the eldrich horror.
I'll respond to your Politics section later, I'm running out of time right now. I'm ad libbing lots of this, as I realize the gaps. Thanks for all the prompting.