Humans of Innistrad
Innistrad is not a world of elves and dwarves and little people, it is a realm of humans and the monsters that prey upon them or spring from them. As such, most characters start human even if they become more (some start as multiple humans). Geists, skaabs and vampires are sufficiently different from the humans they were born as to receive their own racial write-ups, but humans are so common, so ubiquitous, that many characters in a given party will be humans.
Fortunately, the humans of Innistrad are divided into several provinces where different pressures, both natural and supernatural, have created different cultures and different strengths.
All humans in Innistrad benefit from the standard Dungeons and Dragons Human racial traits of +1 skill point per level and a bonus feat at first level. In addition, humans receive the following traits based on their province of upbringing.
Gavony is the heart of Innistrad's human population, and home to the plane's largest city, Thraben, itself the home of the church and Cathedral of Avacyn. Many small towns surround Thraben in rocky moors and between rolling hills. The province of Gavony is also the place of burial of more humans than any other, and while the church does it's best to assure the peaceful death of the people, nonetheless geists and other undead plague the land.
Thraben is also known as the High City, for it sits atop a gargantuan mesa which erupts from the center of the Lake of Herons. On a cliff jutting above an immense waterfall, from which the lake feeds a river far below, sits the actual Cathedral of Avacyn. The city is protected by both geographic features, and a series of walls and bulwarks. Gryff-mounted sentries and powerful gargoyles protect the city from those threats which fly. This extensive protective network sometimes skews the church's perspective on how dangerous life on Innistrad truly is.
Much of human life, especially in Gavony, is highly dependent on class and wealth. The clergy of Avacyn live long lives of up to 70 years, protected by and provided for the church. The titled live in fortified manor houses and live 60 years or so. The farmers of Gavony, however, are lucky to live beyond the age of 40, and must trust in wooden walls and the blessings which the church provides for small fees on top of its protection bought with tithes.
Gavony communities are strong and trusting of the members. They are frequently focused around parish churches which the people worship at regularly and frequently, and often provide daily blessings of safety.
Gavonian Human Racial Traits
- +2 to an ability score of choice. The people of Gavony live in relative safety, and this allows a degree of specialization and diversity that could be a liability in other provinces.
- 1 free class skill of choice. While many in Gavony are farmers, the relative safety allows them to spend at least some time pursuing new skills and passions.
The province of Kessig is primarily farmland and dark, dangerous forest. While the life of farmers is spartan, roughly pulled from the ground, the forests prove too dangerous to risk, especially when the moon is full and the werewolf packs roam, searching for prey.
The danger of the forest effectively isolates Kessig from other provinces, as travelers who are fortunate enough to avoid the werewolves must still evade spirits, wolves and myriad gargantuan beasts, such as kessig boars and gloomwidows.
The people of Kessig are what would be called "plain, simple folk." They are farmers and laborers who personally work for everything they have. A man from Gavony might have gold, know arithmetic, and be well-read, but a woman from Kessig forged her own plow and dagger, knows the harvest and which plants are edible, and cuts to the heart of a matter.
Kessigers are stubborn and plain. They believe fervently in Avacyn, but a lot of that belief is aided in the face-to-face reality of the angel. The believe in "the worked earth below us, the hand-hewn stone walls around us, and the angel above us," but don't have much interest in the high-minded, out of touch people who form the church in Thraben. Relations between the provinces are strained, all the more so since the church passed an edict known as The Curfew of Silver, under which any commoner out after dark must wear a protective silver amulet that can be used to ward away lycanthropes. The supply of these amulets is limited, and of course, some priests are giving them out based on favors promised.
The hard life in a world of supernaturals has born several peculiar customs in the people of Kessig- when meeting another for the first time, it is polite to show a worn item of silver—even though silver is easily counterfeited and must be blessed to hold protective value. Wreaths of living wood are common gifts, especially in the event of a birth—even though the wood dies within few days and there after ceases to be any use against vampires. Kessigers commonly eat sour root soup or fast for a day before travel, believing these customs to make them less appealing to the hungry beasts of the Ulvenwald.
Kessig Human Racial Traits
- +2 Con or +2 Wis. Humans of Kessig live a hard life, that hones their strength and faith.
- Survival is always a class skill. Everyone in Kessig has some experience tracking, foraging for food, holding out in harsh weather, avoiding natural dangers and predicting the weather.
While Gavony holds the hearts of Innistrad's people in the Church of Avacyn, Nephalia holds their minds and purses. The many port towns and trade routes of the province make for a more cosmopolitan and open minded populace.
While Kessig and Gavony are primarily collections of villages and townships, Nephalia's populace is almost solely housed in thriving cities where the law often stops at the end of the nearest honest Avacynian clergyman's fingers. Skaberan and ghoulcallers mingle with thieves and merchants, wizards and investigators in the geist-filled fog that covers so many of the cities. Though the cities are profitable for necro-alchemist and necromancer alike, they are not without danger, as the common man is frightened of skaabs and ghouls, even in the broad-minded cities of Nephalia.
The province is nearly treeless, its deforestation sponsored by the crafty progenitor of the Stromkirk bloodline, Runo. As only living wood is of particular danger to vampires, driving the artisanship of Nephalians profited the vampire in both physical wealth and safety for his childer.
The Church of Avacyn has a modest presence in Nephalia, it takes part in the trade that the province thrives on, and has a small fort called the Elgaud Grounds, where new cathars are trained in combat and evangelism. The cathars that graduate from the Elgaud Grounds are known as the Arms of Avacyn, and try to foster Nephalian trust in the church, but are watched by the people who do not trust the church to not attempt to exert control on them.
The Erdwal, also commonly known as The Ditch, began as defensive trenches in Nephalia's major cities, useful in the even of zombie and werewolf attacks. Over time, the cities' trenches were joined together into a defensible trade network and the trenches within the larger cities became bustling sunken marketplaces with a vibrant market of grey- and black-market goods. However, it's not uncommon for a skaberan's latest experiment to get loose and cause havoc, which is overlooked by the church so long as it stays in the "sinful" Erdwal.
Nephalian Human Racial Traits
- +2 Dex or +2 Cha. Humans of Nephalia thrive by being smart or convincing. Those who aren't become the pawns of those who are.
- One skill with Intelligence or Charisma as the key ability may be selected at character creation to always be a class skill.
Stensia is Innistrad's darkest province, literally. A heavy, oddly-coloured cloud cover hangs over the province, preventing the sun from every truly breaking through and hiding the moon from the ground and water ways more often than not. The province is ruled over by Innistrad's powerful and decadent vampire bloodlines, and its humans live in isolated valleys of the z-shaped Geier Reach.
While life is hard and often ends on the fangs of a vampire or under the pounding blows of a zombie, Stensians hold a strange loyalty to their homeland, but perhaps it's due to little choice. Leaving is difficult, often more so than is worthwhile.
Humans in Stensia, when they're not bandits, are primarily shepherds. Few crops will grow in the rocky soil and dim light of Stensia, so all life comes from the meat, wool, leather or milk of sheep. Vampires have little desire for the base blood of animals, but they dominate the land completely, and thus the sheep of Stensia are safer than anywhere else on Innistrad. Shepherding traditions run ancient and deep in Stensians, much like their stoicism.
Villages in Stensia are surrounded by moats, and often hold hawthorn groves in their center to aid in the warding off of vampires. When the moon is infrequently out, its light will reflect in the moats, barring vampires from entry, and the central hawthorn groves provide equal access to living wood. When villages become too large for such centralized access to be practical, the cottages themselves will be built around trees which grow through a common room and are tended by the eldest child. Every stensian cottage has a welcome mirror on the front door to dissuade vampires, who are unnerved by their true reflection.
Stensian Human Racial Traits
- +2 Str or +2 Dex. Stensian humans live hardscrabble lives, and strength and speed are the keys to survival.
- Profession (Shepherd) and Intimidate are always class skills for Stensians.