Upheaval in Zhaltssom
Brief Description: Lemming-like creatures, made undead by their empire’s destruction
Physical Description: The arvicols are gaunt, rodent-like creatures with long fur and very short tails. Their fur coloration tends to be very conspicuous. Occasionally, their fur and underlying skin will have a slightly rotted appearance. Arvicol teeth tend to grow continuously, much like the teeth of the vermis and usagi, and must be regularly ground down or snapped off to prevent their jaws from puncturing each other, restricting mouth movement. (This is not outright fatal to the now-undead arvicols, but still a major annoyance.)
The cursed energy that now sustains the arvicols tends to last for several hundred years at a time, at which point the creatures decompose fully and their souls find their way into new bodies to continue the cycle. Arvicols do not properly procreate – instead, the new bodies into which their souls get placed tend to form somewhat spontaneously in areas near where they ‘died’, and mass ‘births’ (really just them bursting out of the ground) of arvicols tend to send other races into a full panic.
Preferred Habitat: Arvicols, still a shamed race in the eyes of most mortals, prefer to live underground or in ruined areas. To their credit, arvicols work to restore these areas to some form of beauty.
Culture and Society: Arvicols place the most value on discovery and the things that other races leave behind. For them, it is a species-wide goal to recover the vast knowledge that they lost with their empire and rebuild their civilization to a level that is even a shadow of its former glory. There is a culture-wide taboo on necromancy and magical construction due to the events that destroyed their empire, so arvicols place more value on physical crafts and knowledge. Alchemy, in particular, is a surprisingly common trade.
Arvicol society is technocratic (ruled by the smartest and most skilled), and deposed rulers still command respect from their communities for their abilities.
History, Myths, and Events: The arvicols were once a fully mortal race, a race nearly as old as the elves and dwarves and older than the gnomes. They in fact had a proud empire that lasted for a thousand years and ruled over all other races. (It is indeed the arvicols that established the Common language.) However, the arvicols became arrogant and tried to play the role of gods. Their efforts resulted in the race known as the odocoils – and drew the actual gods’ wrath. In the span of five nights, the arvicols were subject to divine plagues that wiped out every last man, woman, and child of the species. Then, the plagues brought them back to life – as undead abominations that were slaughtered en masse by the mortal races they had subjugated. The remaining arvicols fled their homelands and took refuge underground, hiding from the mortal races until their rage had escaped them.
Those events were 240 years ago. The arvicols only re-emerged in the last ten years to try and make peace with the mortal races. Some believe the arvicols have still not forgotten their old ways, but the new kingdoms warily accepted their terms. However, the arvicols are on a bit of a tight leash with these kingdoms – if even a few members of their species step out of line and the arvicols do not make enough of an attempt to police themselves, the whole race gets thrown out.
The arvicols refer to the above destruction of their race as the Grand Purging. They correctly believe the gods are still somewhat angry at them, and work to correct their mistakes at every opportunity. Arvicols thus universally forbid the use of necromancy and creation of magical constructs. The nature of their divine punishment also gives them a form of reincarnation, but the arvicols think it is disrespectful to try and associate someone with one of their past lives.
Relations: Arvicols tend to get a fearful reaction from the odocoils, who were once their direct servitor race. They also do not get along with most of the mortal races of Zhaltssom, as they have not yet completely forgotten the atrocities the arvicols committed that drew the wrath of gods. An arvicol’s best chances at friendship come from the shadow-attuned solenopsi and the law-aligned macropods, who best understand (respectively) the problems that come with living in darkness and the need to re-establish their civilization.
Preferred Classes: The loss of the arvicol empire and the effects of no longer being the top race in the realm has made the species somewhat lawless and chaotic. Many find themselves using their undead strength and force of personality by becoming barbarians, and those with magical talents tend to develop as sorcerers more often than not. The more respectable and established arvicols will work to placate the gods and train as clerics.
As Player Characters: (What do players need to keep in mind when playing a member of this race?)
Starting Ages: Between 35 and 80 years of age
Heights: Between 5’4" and 6’6"
Weights: Between 90 and 130 lbs.
Ability Score Racial Traits: Arvicols retain their strong sense of self and gain some unnatural strength from their undead state, but pay dearly with a severe lack of mobility. Arvicols gain +2 Strength, +2 Charisma, and -4 Dexterity.
Type: Arvicols are humanoids with the half-undead and rodent subtypes. This gives them the following traits:
Darkvision to a range of 60 feet.
+2 racial bonus on saving throws against disease and mind-affecting effects.
No penalties from energy-draining effects, even though they can still be killed if they accrue more negative levels than their hit dice. Negative levels accrued by arvicols disappear without the need for additional saving throws after 24 hours.
Arvicols are harmed by positive energy and healed by negative energy. The exception is revival – due to their strong force of personality and the nature of the gods’ curse on them, arvicols can be raised, resurrected, or reincarnated if willing, even though undead normally cannot be subject to these effects.
Size: Arvicols are Medium-size and thus suffer no bonuses or penalties.
Base Speed: Arvicols constantly suffer from some degree of rigor mortis and thus have a base speed of only 20 feet, but a combination of strong will and undead power means they are never slowed down by armor or encumbrance.
Languages: Arvicols start play speaking Common and any one other language (barring secret languages such as Druidic). Arvicols with high Intelligence scores may choose any languages they wish (still barring secret languages like Druidic).
Dark Presence: Undeath has given the arvicols some measure of elemental resistance. All arvicols have cold resistance 5 and electricity resistance 5.
Shards of the Past: Unable to truly die as a race, slain arvicols often wind up in new bodies in a forced cycle of reincarnation. As a result, every arvicol picks two Knowledge skills. The arvicol gains a +2 racial bonus on both of these skills, and those skills are treated as class skills regardless of what class the arvicol actually takes.
Force of Life: Few things can keep the arvicols down – not even the destruction of their empire extinguished their spirit as a race. Now being forced to accept undeath, the arvicols have found a way to circumvent the restrictions of their new form by sheer sense of self. Once per day, an arvicol may reverse its negative energy affinity, becoming able to be healed by positive energy but be harmed by negative energy. It may sustain this state for a maximum of 1 minute.