The second of my Summerlands races, for the June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM. The wildren were introduced in 3rd Edition D&D, and part of my goal was to rehabilitate them from their… problematic origins.
The wildren are the stewards of the Summerlands’ vast northern forests. Tribal and territorial, they care for little beyond their family and the forests that support them. Though they were once dwarves, driven out of their mountain holds by dragons and the minions, the wildren adapted to their new homes and now bear only a passing resemblance to their former selves.
Forests over Stone
Long ago, the wildren were mountain dwarves, toiling far underground. They built mighty holds deep in the earth, until the dragons came and took those vast undermountain domains for themselves. Driven into the woodlands, the wildren fought back, unwilling to give up their birthright, so the dragons used powerful magic to bind them to the forests, and prevent them for returning to the mountains.
Nomads with Homes
Although the wildren never remain in an area longer than one planting season, their cities remain: structures that stretch high into the enormous trees and descend deep into underground caverns. The race that built these great cities left no other trace, although the rooms and corridors are half-again larger than even the tallest wildren. These canopy cities and the subterranean tunnels are isolated, each a more than a day’s walk from the next, and each is self-sufficient. Whoever built them intended earth and sky to be connected, but the cities themselves to be isolated.
The tribal movements of the wildren are carefully negotiated, orchestrated every five years when the clans gather in Dragon Tyr, the largest of the forest cities. The lack of a permanent home is essential to the wildren: they believe that it keeps them from becoming more attached to any one city than to the forest itself. If every clan settled in one city, they say, there would be competition for resources and battles over pieces of land, as there was in the time before the dragon exodus. In their loose-knit society, violence against another wildren is the most serious crime, punishable by banishment from the forest. Should any clan make war on another clan, the entire clan is banished during the great moot at Dragon Tyr. The wildren take these taboos, and their stewardship of the forests, seriously, and consider other races’ obsession with permanent homes the source of conflict, both with other people and with the land.
While wildren are forbidden to engage in violence against other wildren, members of other races are not so protected. While hunting and logging rights can be negotiated at the great moot, any breech of those treaties, particularly poaching or logging done without the proper care, brings the wrath of the wildren down on the offender. Perhaps because they form no particular attachment to one city, the wildren see the entire forest as their home and treat any violence done to it as a personal attack. A wildren can survive outside of the forest, and banished wildren are powerful mercenaries, but some part of them always longs to return to their home.
The wildren worship no gods, revering instead the forest itself as provider and giver of life. While there are no divine powers, the wildren spiritual worldview does allow for demons, and those demons always take the shape of dragons.
Wildren names are usually short and often involve a grunt or howl that is difficult to for other races to reproduce and impossible to write down. When dealing with non-wildren, they frequently adopt a nickname based on a physical feature or obvious trait.
Wildren names: Chit-(high-pitched yipping sound)-klat, (fist-palm/snort)-Feh, (low-grunt)-Takchu-(palm-slap). Wildren nicknames: Arm-breaker, One-eye, Silverback.
As dwarves who have adapted to forest life, the wildren use many of the dwarven racial traits, with some modifications.
Ability Score Increase. Wildren spend much of their time climbing in trees and hunting with bows. Increase your Dexterity by +1.
Skill and Tool Proficiencies: Instead of the traditional dwarven tool proficiencies, wildren add their proficiency bonus to Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on scent and Strength (Athletics) checks made to climb.
Stability: Wildren are far enough removed from the mountains that their connection to the earth has been weakened. You do not gain the dwarven stonecunning ability. Instead, when an opponent attempts to shove or trip you, that opponent has disadvantage on the attack roll.
Brachiation: You gain a climb speed equal to your walking speed.
When creating a wildren character from the Summerlands, you can use the following table of bonds to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background’s bond or a bond of your creation.
|1||My greatest loyalty is to my clan. Whether I hope to lead it one day or only want to serve, keeping my clan safe and helping them prosper is the most important thing in the world, to me.|
|2||As a scout, my job is to protect my clan from afar. As wild as wildren society is, it is still too constraining for me. Nothing makes me happier than exploring the untamed forests on my own, or with a small group of companions.|
|3||While my people have foresworn vengeance for the wrong done to us by the dragons, long ago, I cannot forget the wounds, and will one day have my revenge. I may not long to return to the dark caverns under the mountains, but I will make the dragons pay for driving my people out, all the same.|
|4||I am the forest’s mighty hand, smiting those who would do it harm. I might guard the areas where logging or hunting are allowed to ensure that treaties are obeyed, or I might object to those treaties entirely and seek to punish non-wildren who encroach on the forest. Whether my calling is holy or practical, the northern forests are my home, and I will not see them defiled.|
|5||Most wildren look up, focusing on the tree-houses aboveground, but the forest extends below the earth, as well. My greatest joy comes from exploring the deep caverns underground, in the places where few wildren go. Whether I simply enjoy the solitude, or seek to satisfy some primal craving for connection to the earth, I look down while others stare at the sky.|
|6||I was unjustly banished from the forests, and must make my way in the world beyond. While I live in the southern world, selling my knowledge or my mace, I want nothing more than to prove my innocence and return to my home.|
Call of the Wildren
Requirements: Wildren, must undergo the Ritual of Evolution
You have undergone the Ritual of Evolution, gaining abilities that connect you to your dwarven heritage and abilities that will one day be common to all wildren.
- Increase your Constitution score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
- You gain a burrow speed of 10 feet.
- Your claws become more effective weapons. Your unarmed strike is considered both slashing and bludgeoning damage, and you are always considered armed.
- Wildren-rage: When you take damage, you may enter a rage for one round. While you are raging, you may make one additional attack when you take the attack action, and your attacks do additional damage equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum 1). If you gain the ability to rage or fury from any other source, class features that affect your rage affect this rage, including features that affect how your rage or fury ends, and your wildren-rage damage is added to attacks made during your rage or state of fury. You regain the use of this ability after a short or long rest.
Hacking the Wildren
The wildren were first introduced in the Planar Handbook (2004), and when I set out to convert content from that edition to 5th Edition, I really didn’t want to write them. In that edition, they’re the offspring of the souls of dead dwarves and celestial badgers, who spend their lives in their burrows and only come out to beat on people who annoy them. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “In our next game, I really want to play an anti-social half-celestial-badger.” The pseudo-bestiality angle is just icing on the cake of “races that never see play.” Sure, technically, it’s the souls of the dwarves, and not the dwarves themselves, mating with the badgers, but that’s a mighty fine hair to split.
Then came The Summerlands. If the dragons (and the aarakocra sub-races that serve them) own the mountains, where do the dwarves fit in? I could have left them out, like I did the elves (although it’s possible that the elves built the structures that the wildren live in), but I like having traditional races to anchor a world, and just the humans and halflings (and dragonborn, for some people) didn’t seem like enough. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to rehabilitate the wildren. If dwarves can be slightly different in the hills and the mountains, then it makes sense that dwarves driven from their rocky homes entirely would eventually become something else, a sort of mammalian equivalent of lizardfolk, particularly if they were helped along by draconic magic.
I set out to make the wildren an attractive race, or at least significantly less problematic, and dropped in a few story-seeds. These wildren could fit in to any world where the dwarves have been uprooted, and while they might not always be nomads, I think they’d take to the forests in a completely different way than elves. They might even take the place of elves in a setting (like this one) that wants a forest guardian without all the Legolas baggage.
As an added bonus, the Call of the Wildren feat synergizes with the Rage Warden ranger. More on that, later.
What do you think?