- Beneath the bough, eyes aglow, await the Arborian.
The Arborians are a minor, yet distinct, race of plant-animal-spirit hybrids. They are a tall, strongly built, and well-formed people as a rule, with a strikingly pale coloration, pale green to ash to platinum blond hair, white, grey, or green eyes, and sparse, pale body hair.
Even more unusual than their appearance, they are one of the few ethnic groups which is strongly matriarchal. Most other species maintain patriarchal cultures, meaning that the dominant sex in most political or social matters is the male. In Arborian society, the culture is dominated by the women.
Unlike many unique ethnic groups, the reason for the unusual nature of the Arborians is well known. Arborians did not develop slowly, over millennia, like most rare races. No, the Arborians arose in a single generation, due to the deliberate will of the people.
The reason for this turn of events is directly related to the brutal conditions after a long-ago war of frightful power. The isolated survivors of that long-forgotten war were driven out into the untamed wilderness. They were sickened by the terrible magic unleashed upon their race, their blood made thin, their seed weak, and all manner of monstrous horrors beset them in their time of weakness.
The only deities that came to the aid of the Arborians were the spirits of the forest, mighty entities who counted only a few sentient plants as true worshippers. For unknowable reasons, the primal forest spirits sent the weakened survivors help in their struggle to survive, mighty forest spirits to fight by their side. Over time, the women of the Arborians lay with these spirits and begged their blessing to beget children.
The Arborians thus drew the strength of the spirits into the bodies of the pale-eyed children sired of those unions. For this act of selfless courage, done for the survival of the culture, the women of the Arborians are venerated and respected to this day. The truth of this tale is impossible to determine, as the records of that time are understandably confused and fragmentary.
Whether their origin tale is true or not there is little doubt that the Arborians were severely affected by the struggle for survival after that long-ago conflict. Among the Arborians there is very little difference in the strength and hardiness of men and women, and Arborians are very hardy indeed. Tall, strongly-built Arborian women bear pregnancies easily, which they claim is a legacy of the spirits long-ago blessing. An Arborian woman is not impaired by a pregnancy all the way up to birth, and since Arborian babies are quite small and fairly self-sufficient even at birth, the birth itself is a matter of no great difficulty. As a result, many of the social pressures that tend to keep women of most non-plant races close to home and hearth do not exist for the Arborians.
Add in the enormous status accorded the matriarchs for saving their culture, and it is easy to see why the Arborians developed into a matriarchy. The women of the Arborians own most of the property and a Matriarch is the head of each household. Children take the mothers last name, and the identity of the father is of no import. The social structure is a structured polygyny, as each blooded War Wife is allowed to sleep with whichever man suits her fancy (assuming he is unattached, or an accommodation can be reached) and any children produced are raised by the entire community. In their native lands, Arborians live in huge longhouses in their fragrant pine woods, with as many as thirty adults all living together in a huge extended family. Clusters of these longhouses form villages and towns.
Arborian culture is a steady and contemplative one. They generally treat every day as a workday and rarely take a day off. They have only a few festivals and holidays, and those are mostly centered around activities in the longhouse. The longhouse has an earthen floor, so the Arborians can touch the earth that lends them strength, and they tend to rise with the sun and sleep when it is dark when they have no pressing reason to do otherwise.
Arborian women tend fields, harvest the forests, hunt and fish and forage. They also work mines, build longhouses, and tend their precious forests. All Arborians are expected to be able in battle, and many Arborian women serve in militias to improve their prowess with arms.
Arborian men do all the activities the women do, except that they do not serve in militias or fight. Instead, they spend that time raising children and seeing to the longhouses.
Growing Up Arborian
Young Arborians are doted upon by everyone in the longhouse. At birth, an Arborian baby is a sweet-natured fleshy seed with an adorable face and is about the size of a potato. Rather than nursing, Arborian babies are carefully planted in specially prepared nursery plots, usually inside a greenhouse within the most protected part of the long house. They need only sunshine, water and the attention of adult Arborians to grow, although they are rooted in place for the first three years of their lives. These nursery plots are traditionally prepared and tended by men, and the rich loam in these beds is remarkable stuff indeed.
Many men spend time trying to work out who is the father of whom, although officially it does not matter in the least. At the age of three Arborian children grow restless and their roots wither and fall off, leaving them no different than any other three year old child. Once their roots fall off, Arborian children begin a course of home-schooled classes that give all Arborians an equal education, although boys are not pushed nearly as hard on studies, instead being allowed activities to siphon off their energy, which is considerable.
Arborians are considered adults at age fifteen, and young men are given duties around the long house, while young women join a militia.
Before an Arborian woman is allowed to have a husband, she is known as a War Bride. A War Bride is required to remain a virgin, which in Arborian culture means she may not become pregnant and bear children. After she has participated in a battle of any sort a War Bride is known as a War Wife and is encouraged to enjoy as many husbands as she wishes.
Typically, a War Wife achieves her first pregnancy within a year or two. Once she is pregnant she is elevated into the Council of Matrons, the ruling body of the Arborians. Her rank in the Matrons is determined both by her prowess in combat, as recorded by her trophies and coup marks, and her number of children, as recorded by her braids.
A War Wife is allowed to braid her hair once for each child she has borne. War Wives must balance the number of children they bear, which bring status, with her accomplishments in battle, which bring status. The nuances and steps on the status ladder are numerous and arcane. In general, raids and battles are seen as the less potent status symbols, but they don't take nine months to achieve, either.
As a result, almost all War Wives will raid and patrol frequently and publicly. Young War Wives, eager for status, often get in over their heads in this process. The Arborians have taken steps to preserve these impetuous young ladies.
Thus, most raiding parties of Arborians will consist of several War Wives, including at least a few of the younger Wives, and an escort of the older men. Male Arborian warriors are known as Deathgrooms, and what they may lack in training and skill they more than make up with enthusiasm and very large weaponry. This is the only time Arborian men are allowed to enter direct combat in Arborian society, after they have reached the age of thirty and have served well as husbands, providers, and child-rearers.
Such escort duty is considered a mark of honor, and it is hugely dishonorable for an Arborian Deathgroom to survive a battle in which a War Wife is slain. As a result, the Deathgrooms strive to always be first into battle and will do all in their power to ensure the War Wives are given every opportunity to shine in combat...safely.
This cultural bias and the fact that there are often two to three times as many Deathgrooms as Warwives in roving bands led to the early confusion which led to the naming of the people as the Arborians (a male term) instead of the Arboreals (a female term).
Arborians prefer to live in forests and often own vast tracts of seeming wilderness. As a result, they sell timber, exotic plants, fruits, nuts, leaves, and every other forest product in vast amounts. Since Arborians have relatively modest needs, their income far outstrips their expenses fairly early in their lives, and they wind up quite well off.
A sizeable minority of Deathgrooms wind up leaving the Arborian forests, to serve as mercenaries and skilled labor in other, male-dominated societies. Indeed, many young Arborian males, chafing at the confines of the longhouses, will leave the forests and go adventuring well before they would be properly considered a Deathgroom. Despite their large size and slow vegetable reflexes, Arborians can be devastatingly effective warriors, the divine spark in their blood powering their prowess. Many Arborians are also expert woodcrafters, farmers, gardeners, and arborists, in high demand wherever wood or natural products are treasured.
Ethnic Arborian enclaves tend to stay in the deep forests and journey into the meadows to sell their products to other races, who in turn resell it in the cities, making a huge profit. The Matriarchs are moving to get more Arborian Matriarchs into other cultures, to cut out these middlemen, and in the process are enraging their competitors.
This situation is sure to lead to trouble, as the amazonian Matriarchs are openly contemptuous of their feeble male competitors and are often quite disrespectful to them. Even with the current situation the Arborian longhouses are more wealthy than they have ever been, but the Matriarchs look at the money that they are making, compare it to the money the meadow dwellers are making, and understandably feel a bit perturbed.
Arborians are hospitable hostesses, welcoming guests into their longhouses and blandishing them with delicacies and treats. Guests are expected to be respectful of the matriarchs and mindful of their manners.
The matrons are the ruling class, and there are many of them in Arborian society. As a result, the governance of Arborian life is accomplished in a sort of long, informal discussion among the matrons, which occurs right in among daily life. There is nothing secretive about this process, although there is much gossiping and whispering in corners and sly dealings as a matter of course.
Matrons value consensus, clever solutions, and chances to show off their skills, both in negotiation and in combat.
Arborian men have a complex system of dueling privileges, with most contests being resolved with bare-knuckle fistfights or wrestling matches. It is not unusual to see Arborian men brawling as they settle an issue among themselves, and the matrons tend to view such beefy roughhousing with an amused quirk of an eyebrow...unless something gets broken.
Arborian men frequently have favored War Wives, and many fights are settling whom will accompany a Wife on a trip, or will serve as her consort for a given time. The Wives and matrons, on the other hand, will gently 'wheel and deal' to see which of the husbands will spend time in whose bed.
It is a complex system but it seems to work well for the Arborians.
Lifespan and Burial
Arborians can live long lives, every bit as long as any humanoid race. Many War Wives fall in battle, and the resulting mortality among the Deathgrooms is severe. Indeed, the matrons are working hard to change attitudes among the men over the loss of a War Wife, but it is a slow thing, Arborian men are as stubborn as all other sorts of men.
When an Arborian falls in battle, they are interred in a mound of soil and stones, and a tree is planted over the mound. If an Arborian dies of old age, they are buried deep beneath the long house in which they lived their life, and the Arborians believe their spirit is added to the anima of the house, and from there to the forest itself.
Relations with Others
Arborians are generally well-liked when they leave their forests. They tend to be large, affable people with a gently cheerful bearing. Being out of the forests bemuses them, and many Arborians spend much time simply looking around at the novelty of being able to see long distances.
The strength of Arborians is well known, and as a result they are in demand as laborers and warriors. They tend to be well paid for these duties, and good at them.
On a darker note, some Arborian men are beginning to chafe at their subservient position in Arborian society, with the result that many of the most desirable young husbands are leaving the forest and seeking their fortune in the larger world beyond the forest. Even worse, some of the less martial of the War Brides are seeing merit in the ways of outsiders as well. With their height, shapely strength, and pale coloration (pale green to blond hair, blue and green eyes, and ivory skin are the norm,although skin of lavender and pale green are also not unheard of, and dark hair of deep emerald green and even black can be seen occasionally) many War Brides who do not enjoy battle find themselves ardently courted by men from other lands.
Starting Height and Weight
Arborians may generate random starting height and weight using the table below. Note that Arborians, even sedentary ones, are very rarely 'fat'. All the extra weight is in massive bones and rock-solid muscles. An 'average' Arborian man is 6'1" and weighs 275 pounds, while an 'average' Arborian woman is also 6'1" and weighs a delicate 180 pounds.
Gender Base Height Height Modifier Weight Weight Modifier Male 5 ft. 4 in. +2d8 in. (5 ft 6 in. - 6 ft. 8 in.) 220 lbs. +(2d10x5 lbs.) (230 - 320 lbs.) Female 5 ft. 4 in. +2d8 in. (5 ft. 6 in. - 6 ft. 8 in.) 125 lbs. +(2d10x5 lbs.) (135 - 225 lbs.)
Adulthood Intuitive Self-Taught Trained 15 years +1d4 years (16 - 19 years) +1d6 years (16 - 21 years) +2d6 years (17 - 27 years)
Arborian characters have no alignment or class restrictions.
Standard Racial Traits
All Arborians have the following Standard Racial Advantages:
- Attributes: Arborians may choose to gain one of the following ability score bonus sets when creating their character. No ability score may ever be modified above a 20 or below a 7.
- +2 to two different ability scores, -2 to one ability score
- +2 one ability score, and +1 to three different ability scores, -2 to one ability score
- +4 to one ability score, -2 to one other ability score
- Size: Arborians are Medium creatures and have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
- Type: Arborians have the Humanoid type, with the Spiritual subtype.
- Base Speed: Arborians have a Walk speed of 30 feet.
- Languages: Arborians begin play speaking Common and Sylvan.
- Bonus Languages: Characters with a positive Intelligence modifier gain one bonus language per +1 of their modifier, selecting from the following list: Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Halfling, Orcish and Tengu. Once the character's intelligence is high enough to have acquired all six of these bonus languages, they no longer gain bonus languages for increasing their Intelligence. Characters can also learn new languages by placing ranks in the Linguistics skill.
- Normal Vision (Ex): Arborians, like Humans, require bright light to see without penalty. Creatures in dim light gain concealment (automatically miss on a natural result of a 6 or less on the d20) against Arborians trying to target them.
- Unburdened (Ex): Arborians are not dramatically larger than any other humanoid, but their skeleton and ligaments are far larger than a normal human of their size. (An Arborian has very thick wrists and wide, powerful hands, for example.) Arborians with this racial trait can carry double the carrying capacity that their Strength score would normally dictate when determining encumbrance.
Major Racial Traits
Choose one of the following Major Racial Traits:
- Ancestral Wisdom (Su): The ancestral spirits sometimes actively guide an Arborian's path. An Arborian with this racial trait chooses one bonus natural talent at first level. At 16th level, they may choose a second bonus natural talent. When each of these skills become a natural talent, they are remapped to the ability modifier of the Arborian's choice, instead of the modifier normally used by the skill.
- Fortified Grace (Ex): Arborians with this trait can wear any medium armor and suffer no reduction in their movement speed. They still suffer reductions to their speed for carrying too much weight, and all other penalties for wearing medium armor such as armor check penalties and dexterity penalty to AC modifications still apply. At 11th level, the armor check penalty for any medium armor worn is reduced by 2. At 21st level, the dexterity penalty to AC of any medium armor worn is decreased by 1. At 31st level, the armor check penalty of any medium armor worn is reduced by an additional 2 (total of 4). Bonuses from this trait cannot cause an armor check penalty to go above a zero.
- Forest Roots (Su): An Arborian with this racial trait has been given superior senses by their Spirit ancestors. They gain tremorsense in their square and all adjacent squares (5 foot radius). At 11th level, the radius of the Tremorsense improves to 10 feet. At 21st level, it improves to 15 feet, and at 31st level, it improves to 20 feet.
- Spirit Ward (Su): Once per encounter, an Arborian with this racial trait may, as an immediate action, declare themselves immune to the effects of a single spell, spell-like or supernatural ability until the end of the Arborian's next turn. This trait can be activated even after an enemy ability hits the Arborean, as long as the damage or effects of the ability haven't yet been resolved. For as long as the trait is active, it protects the Arborian against all instances of this one spell, spell-like or supernatural ability, even if they are targeted multiple times or by multiple enemies.
- Steely Grasp (Su): An Arborian with this racial trait can use weapons designed for a creature one size larger than they are, reducing the size penalty to wield such weapons by 1. Arborians wielding size large weapons get the benefit of larger damage dice, though their space and reach remain that of a medium creature, even if they are wielding a size-large reach weapon. At 11th level, the Arborian can also reduce the handiness penalty by 1 for a weapon one size larger than herself. At 21st level, they reduce the size penalty by an additional 1 point, and at 31st level, they reduce the Handiness penalty by an additional 1 point. These penalty reductions stack with the reductions offered by feats such as Vice Grip and Iron Grip feats, though this can never cause the penalties to go above a zero.
Minor Racial Traits
Choose one of the following Minor Racial Traits:
- Acclimated (Ex): Arborians with this racial trait have a +2 training bonus on saving throws against any weather-based spells and spell-like abilities. This bonus also applies to spells and spell-like abilities which deal lightning (energy, common) damage, when a saving throw is allowed.
- Mighty Physique (Ex): Arborians with this racial trait gain a training bonus of +2 to their Maneuver Defense.
- More Than A Mouthful (Ex): An Arborian with this racial trait is considered to be one size larger when determining whether a creature's special attacks based on size (such as grapples or being swallowed whole) can affect her, even though their current size is not actually changed by this trait.
- Scree Runner (Ex): An Arborian with this racial trait gains a +1 training bonus to their Movement skill. This bonus improves to +2 at level 11, +3 at level 21, and +4 at level 31.
- One With The Earth (Su): An Arborian with this racial trait may reduce any forced movement by one square. At 21st level, they can reduce any forced movement by two squares. This ability can only be used when the Arborian is standing on the ground. Forced movement reductions stack, so if the Arborian has a means of reducing forced movement from another source, such as a class ability or magic item, this bonus stacks (adds to) with those sources.