The world holds many sapient species. Even on the three human-dominated continents, numerous rival species exist. This article gives a brief description of three of them: yetis, trolls and cranium rats.
Yetis are large, furred humanoids, about 2.5 meters tall on average, that live in the forests and mountains of Altazia, Hsan and Miasina. The fur is commonly a shade of brown, though some of the tribes are black or white instead. They are clearly some sort of ape, albeit one that is every bit as smart as humans. Despite having greater physical strength and intelligence that compares favorably to those of a human, conflicts between humans and yetis have nearly always gone badly for the yetis in the past, and they have been driven deep into their forests and mountain homes by human encroachment. This is largely because yetis seem incapable of organizing themselves into social units larger than tribes of about 200 individuals – different tribes do not trade between each other, or even interact much with one another, instead fighting each other and vying for territory with one another just as fiercely as they do against humans. The situation has only gone worse as time went by, as humans have advanced both magically and technologically, while most yetis still exist as a stone-age culture. Some yeti tribes do have impressive magic, but the impact of this is limited, as these tribes do not trade their insights with other yeti tribes.
There are also persistent rumors of hidden cities in the deep wilderness, populated by yetis that are far more technologically and magically advanced than their common brethren. These rumors remain just that for now, but they occur with sufficient regularity that most scholars think there may be something to them.
Making sweeping statements about trolls as a whole is somewhat tricky, as the species is very diverse. There are many troll subspecies scattered throughout the entire world, surviving in all manner of environments, and most regions have their own regional variety. The reasons for this dizzying variety of different trolls in the world is unclear, but it is clear that the species as a whole is far more prone to mutation than most other creatures.
That said, all trolls have some things in common. They are all very tall humanoids (ranging from 1.8 to 3 meters in size, depending on the subspecies and individual) with sharp teeth, clawed digits, and lean, muscular bodies. Trolls never seem to get fat, no matter how much they gorge themselves on food, and most experts agree their metabolisms are probably set up in such a way as to disallow it. Coloration spans all the colors of the rainbow – green, blue, red, purple, pink, even metallic silver trolls have been spotted in the wild. Most species have very prominent noses, as well as a keen sense of smell. Finally, every troll species possesses the signature regeneration ability that gives them their feared and coveted powers of self-healing. So long as their tissue is not chemically altered (such as being burned by fire or dissolved in acid), they can regenerate wounds with startling quickness, to the point where they can reattach severed limbs by pressing them against the appropriate stump and holding it there for half a minute or so.
Although their regeneration is their most famous ability, a troll’s body is very remarkable in general. Most poisons are ineffective against trolls, and they appear to be immune to all but the most magical of illnesses. Additionally, they have an iron stomach that can digest just about anything and derive nutrients from it… although they greatly prefer meat when they can get it, and behave like carnivores most of the time. Finally, all trolls are supernaturally strong and tough, even accounting for their great physical size.
Although trolls are sapient, all known subspecies are quite dim. Stories of them being outwitted by small children exist in nearly all cultures. Most are also high solitary, only tolerating others of their kind during mating. Even the most social of troll subspecies only exist in small family units that never number more than 15 or so individuals – the alpha pair of such groups will not tolerate additions to the group that aren’t their own children, so any of their progeny that wants a family of their own must leave the group.
Trolls have no compunction about eating sapient prey, and regularly feed on humans in areas where their territories meet. As such, humans mercilessly hunt trolls back, usually with the intent of turning their blood and flesh into powerful healing potions. Sometimes, trolls are captured and enslaved instead. Trolls make awful laborers, however, being too dim to understand complicated instruction and prone to violent tantrums if left unattended for even a second – instead, these trolls slaves are usually used as slave soldiers, by giving them armor and melee weapons and sending in front of the real army to soak up blows. These ‘war trolls’ are generally viewed very dimly by most people, especially if used anywhere near populated areas – war trolls have even less concern for civilians than regular soldiers. The practice of employing war trolls has been banned throughout most of Altazia, but is still employed by some anyway. Ulquaan Ibasa is notable for their extensive use of troll slaves in their armies.
Trolls are all shockingly primitive for a sapient species – they employ virtually no technology in their daily lives, and they are not known to employ any form of magic other than their innate abilities. They sometimes appropriate human tools for their own use, but these tend not to last long – few tools take a troll’s strength into account when it comes to their tolerances, and trolls are not known for their restraint.
Cranium rats are hive mind organisms consisting of a swarm of normal-sized rats, which have a somewhat unique appearance – the top of their heads appear to have been sawed off, exposing the brain to open air. In reality, the brains are not nearly as exposed as they appear – there is a tough transparent film covering the brain matter, stopping dirt and such from entering the brain easily.
All individual cranium rats are telepathically connected into a single shared consciousness. The more rats there are in a swarm, the more intelligent the shared hive mind becomes. There is a limit, however, and a swarm that gets too big will eventually splinter into two or more smaller swarms, each with their own hive mind. It is rumored that bigger swarms are frighteningly intelligent, far outstripping the thinking power of a single human being, but this is hard to confirm – cranium rat hive minds are very alien in their thinking, and find humans just as bizarre, making communication difficult. Regardless, the average swarm is clearly comparable to a human in intelligence.
Cranium rat swarms are powerful mind mages, and can easily survive the loss of as much as half of their component rats. This, coupled with their ability to spread their rats over large areas, makes eradicating them difficult. Fortunately, cranium rats don’t have any special animosity towards humanity – though not exactly friendly, the swarms are content to live and let live most of the time. The swarms also largely view each other largely as competition, so it’s rare to see two or more swarms cooperating on a single goal.
Aranea and cranium rats covet similar territories, and both specialize in mind magic. This has led to frequent clashes between the two species, which have been steadily going worse for the cranium rats as time goes by. This is partially because araneas have gotten proficient in structured magic as well as their innate psychic powers, but also because the aranea have been far more adept into recruiting human mages to help them against the cranium rats. As a consequence, some swarms have actually begun to share information between each other and coordinate their anti-aranean activities.
It’s not quite a society yet, but it might be a beginning of one.