Races of the Korlian Empire
As in most of the Empire's neighbors, humans dominate the country both numerically and in terms of political power. The other humanoid races are all present in varying numbers in the Empire, but all must contend with virulent social and institutional racism. Those nonhumans who rise to positions of power in the Empire do so in spite of their race, and their talents must be considerable indeed to overcome the prejudice that runs through every facet of Imperial society.
The entirety of the nobility is made up of humans, and they comprise the vast majority of the civil and judicial posts as well. Divisions still exist among the human population, primarily in terms of class, but also in tribal origin--many people still think of themselves as Vulgs or Torovians or Polards first and citizens of the Empire second.
Hailing from the Fayenreich to the west, the elves are often held in the highest regard of all nonhumans. The long life span of their race means that many sons and daughters of noble blood will not find themselves inheriting their forebears' holdings for centuries. The more impatient among them see wandering as a promise of quicker, if riskier, rewards. Many sell their services to noble houses as fencing masters, training the lord and his children in the Mendoza school. Elves of less martial inclination find employ as dancing and singing instructors for rich daughters and sons. A few set themselves up as diplomats, helping the Imperial princes negotiate with the Fayenreich.
More than a few humans are seduced by the grace and physical refinement of elves, and so a fair number of half-elves populate the Empire. Many are bastard sons and daughters of nobles, who fathered them on elven servants. How they are treated depends entirely on the noble: some are made a fixture of the household, elevated almost to the status of legitimate children. At the other extreme, they are cast out and left to fend for themselves.
Reviled but tolerated, the halflings have a reputation for skullduggery and stealing anything not nailed down. Whether this is an unfair stereotype or a badge of honor depends on what halfling you ask. While there had always been a halfling presence in the Empire, the successive plagues after the Cult War had created a demand for cheap labor, and the halflings descended upon it in droves. They tend to form wandering communities, moving from place to place to take on seasonal work, only settling for a short time until the job is done.
Of special note are the halflings of Geldindarn. Extremely cultured and politically powerful, Geldindarner ambassadors in the Empire look down on their wandering cousins.
Hailing from the south, the gnomes of Giulterra are renowned worldwide as sailors and shipwrights. They have mapped the currents of the seas and the winds with startling accuracy, and gnomish rutters are used by navigators from almost every kingdom and nation to ply the seas. As a people, the gnomes are stoic and tight lipped, far more insular than most races, a product of the city state culture in Giulterra. Gnomish culture is permeated with vendettas and blood feuds, and they are extremely wary of those outside their kin groups and citymates.
Gnomes in the Empire are likely to be fugitives from the chaotic street fights of their country, or emissaries and merchants from the city-states that dot Giulterra.
Game Note: The Desert Dwarf environmental variant is the standard for the dwarf race in this world.
The dwarves hail from the desert lands to the southeast, where civilization sprang up around a few fertile river valleys, with outposts of order centered around oases. These isolated communities actually fostered a very cosmopolitan society, as the desert dwarves recognized the necessity of trading and communication to survive in their harsh environment. Their culture has flourished, accumulating great wealth and learning, at the expense of military power. The dwarves themselves rarely are fighters, preferring to hire the barbaric tribes of gnolls that wander the sands to fight in their stead.
Dwarves in the Empire are likely merchants, or misfits who find the decadence of their desert homeland suffocating. They rarely settle in the Empire itself.
Long before the Empire was founded, raiders from Orkmark often plagued the northern territories. In addition to bringing sword and fire, they brought the curse of half-breed orc. There is perhaps no race more despised in the Empire, and often half-orcs are considered worthy of nothing more than menial labor. Many turn to crime to make a living, while others are able to carve out something of an honest living as hired swords.