Regrettably, the tale of the arden is one of tragedy – a great calamity that could have been avoided if only the distress of a certain dwarf had not gone unnoticed. The story begins in the dwarven stronghold of Jord Maerson, at least in the land that is now Jord Maerson. It was recognized by a different name in that day, Jord Targa. This particular stronghold existed in a well-protected, remote location. Even today, it is quite difficult to access.
The Targa were world-renown for their discretionary practices. So it was here that Krulean began his secret experiments. A small contingent of Eluen-cuthpar wizards were granted an abandoned mine deep in the belly of the jord. Along with these human and elven guests was a short list of dwarves to be included in the arcane undertaking.
Balgar, a bright young student of the Targan people, was admitted with the dwarven contingent. Yet because of his age he was only granted access of a limited degree. Many in the leadership of the dwarves did not agree with his inclusion. They felt that he was too young and too brash to accompany his brethren into the depths of this dangerous magic. It was his uncanny ability to manipulate magic foreign to the dwarves that was the deciding factor. In the end, the decision was disastrous for the dwarves.
Balgar was not a particularly wise child. He lacked attention to detail and expressed a rather flamboyant hubris that often unnerved those around him. It was for these reasons that he was eventually removed from the team. Of course, this was not the first disciplinary action taken against him. It was simply the last in a long line of parental restraint.
Enraged by his removal Balgar decided to retaliate against his authority. He was hurt. He felt as if his family, his brothers, were excluding him on purpose. So he decided to punish the perceived clique by creating a strain of magic to temporarily change a dwarf into a rat-like humanoid. He included a particularly ingenious tweak to the magic that would cause dwarven mentality to embrace their family and to hold on tightly.
But for as intelligent as Balgar was, he was considerably unwise. He never tested the magic before putting it to use. Instead of using a controlled environment to observe his new magical strain, he chose to introduce it to the water supply of Jord Targa to surprise his brethren; and surprise them he did. The magic was remarkably successful. In fact, Balgar had discovered the key to transform humanoids into other creatures, the very thing that every wizard in Targa was trying to uncover.
Unfortunately, his magic was not as short-lived as he had planned. Regrettably, the effects were permanent. Furthermore, the strain was lethal to everything living thing beside the dwarves, including the other two races inhabiting Targa. The Eluen-cuthpar’s prized elven and human wizards were lost, unwittingly murdered by a young arrogant genius.
The arden were born; and they were furious. Many wished to punish Balgar with an extremely long and painful death. But in the end, it was Krulean who swept in to pluck little Balgar away with a promise to cure the arden disease. Krulean did not find a cure or he simply choose not to pursue it for the arden were never offered a chance to revert back into dwarves. In time, the “dwarves” of Targa left the jord for they were unsuited for survival in a mine. Today, the arden have split into thousands of packs and spread throughout the Kaer Desert. The race is quite prolific, infesting not only the desert but humanoid cities as well.
Arden generally stand between 2.5 to 3.5 feet tall and weigh between 30 to 40 pounds. They have short, brown or grey fur covering their entire bodies, though they often sport a lighter colored streak going down their chests. They have small, black eyes that tend to sparkle. Their fingers are long and very agile, allowing them to easily (if slowly) dig through soft materials. They also have a two feet long tail for balance. Arden have an acute sense of smell. Though they do not possess true scent, they do smell things that most humanoid races miss. Arden lifespan is short, 70-110 years, though they breed often so the race is in no short supply of members.
Personality (neutral evil)
Arden are cowards by nature. They only fight reluctantly, usually when cornered where there’s no escape. Their first instinct is to run away or otherwise avoid danger at all costs. They seek to survive and will do anything to ensure personal survival, even if it means abandoning a friend. Fellow arden understand this fear and hold no grudges if left behind.
Though they are generally out for personal survival above all else, arden understand the importance of being part of a group. This need to have others around as protection is so strong that arden will perform a brave deed to get in or stay in the group’s graces (all to better ensure personal protection). Arden will also do other things to stay in the good graces of a group, sometimes trying too hard to help out.
This desire for protection is coupled with a paranoid fear of being left alone and vulnerable. Indeed, the arden language completely lacks any word that means ‘exile’ – to be left alone and vulnerable is a fate worse than death. If left in the wilderness alone too long, an arden will eventually reduced itself to an animalistic behavior. However, an arden left alone in a jail cell or similarly small secure area does not suffer any ill effects.
Long-term planning is not an arden’s strong suit. They tend to only keep or carry whatever they happen to need at that moment and discard other items even if they’d likely come in handy later. This should not be mistaken for short term memory. Arden can remember things just as easily as anyone else. In fact, they have an eidetic memory of where things were placed; they are much more concerned about the present than the future or past and they believe that weighing oneself down leaves himself vulnerable. They are, however, practical about this quality. On an adventure, an arden will carry items he or she normally would not transport because he knows there is going to be little chance of easily retrieving a discarded item later on.
Arden families live in a system of underground warrens that are just big enough for them to comfortably move around (generally about four feet high). Entrances and exits to these warrens are much smaller (usually around a foot or two wide), allowing an arden to fit through while only on all fours. The warrens are maze-like and hard to navigate for anyone not familiar with them.
Among the tunnels in the warren are deposits of dropped items that the arden do not happen to need at that particular time. All arden in the warren can remember the exact location of any given item in one of these mounds and can easily find the item if it’s still there. If it isn’t, the arden will simply retrieve another item that is similar. Food, weapons, and tools are the objects most often found in these piles. The piles are massive and unorganized to any other creature, making finding any one thing impossible except to the arden that live therein. Many tunnels have dead-ends or various traps to persuade intruders from entering. There are also special tunnels designed specifically to attract various vermin as well as reptiles and other animals as to protect their stashes.
Arden are careful to keep their warrens clean. Anything that gives off a strong scent does not make it into the tunnels and rotten food is carefully discarded. Similarly, arden have specific tunnels leading out of the warrens to areas used for body wastes. Such areas tend to be near strongly-scented areas that would disguise the smell of their waste.
Clerics are the leaders of an arden community. They plan ahead for tunnel building and ensuring group cohesiveness yet are otherwise similar to other arden in matters of planning. One of the tasks the leaders must rule on is whether or not a group is getting too large for their current warren. If the count is determined to be in excess of what the warren should hold, the leaders select a young cleric to lead a group of similarly aged arden to establish their own colony.
Arden sleep in a large, communal area. Needing only four hours of sleep a day to be fully rested, they tend to sleep in unplanned shifts. No more than a quarter of the community is ever asleep at one time (usually the number is much less).
Shame is a foreign concept to arden, hence their lack of a sense of inappropriateness. When they are not scavenging, arden spend their time grooming or pleasuring one another. Being scavengers, arden also have a loose sense of personal property. Anything not actually in physical contact with a person is considered ‘abandoned’ and can be picked up. Items from dead bodies are always considered fair game since the previous owner will never be using them again.
An older arden understand he is no longer useful to the group and without the group he will die. This member generally has two options available: leave the community or sacrifice himself. He becomes willing to sacrifice himself for the betterment of the group if the opportunity presents itself (often times if it does not). Arden clerics have stories about heroic sacrifices that some arden have made in the past, though no younger Arden would perform this feat of “heroism”.
Different Arden groups do not usually cooperate, but they will allow movement through their communities. Arden tunnels systems are always connected, but there is always a buffer zone between communities made of tunnels that are easy to collapse and repair.
Arden generally do not expect much from other races — at least, no more than they expect from themselves. They are sincerely confused by races that put themselves in dangerous situations, particularly dwarves. Despite their confusion, arden are willing to go along with things as long as they feel protected by their group.
Amoraq: Arden love the smell of amoraq and will usually go out of their way to become friends with them, even to the point of doing something brave. The size of amoraq impresses them, and the scent the amoraq gives off when raging causes the arden to suppress their common fears, granting the them an unnatural courage.
Drow: Arden and drow do not to get along. Arden view drow as creepy. If the two live close enough to one another, the arden find themselves as the subject of drow hunts, a frightening prospect.
Duergar: Arden don’t understand duergar very well. Their laws and sense of ownership baffle arden to no end. They can, however, appreciate the seclusion of a duergar community and will often apply for citizenship, which is usually denied. Arden offer little more than the ability to burrow and such burrowing often compromises the security of a duergar city.
Dwarves: Arden tend to like dwarves. Their practices stir up old instincts but Arden cannot fully enter into dwarf life due to their severe differences; for instance, arden do not understand dwarven bravery at all.
Elves: Arden keep their distance from elves for fear of their lives. Most arden do not understand that elves have given up all contact with the arden. They simply consider this race a horde of pests that enjoy destroying their delicate elven gardens. And since clans do not typically converse, this small race will never gain an awareness of their actions.
Fenodyree: Arden want to like the fenodyree, trying their best to become friends. Unfortunately, their cultures are simply too different for the two to really get along. Arden can’t imagine wandering about like the fenodyree nor can they imagine having sentimental attachments to things.
Goblins: Goblins make arden nervous; they scent of wild animals. They don’t understand goblins at all and don’t even want to. They will be as friendly to a goblin as they can while looking for the quickest way to escape.
Humans: Arden are usually chased away by humans so they avoid making communities too close to human settlements. Unfortunately, humans tend to expand out almost as fast as the arden do so the two inevitably end up together. On occasion, arden and humans find some way of living together (usually with the arden working as diggers or early warning systems).
Kel: Kel scare arden. They scent like something fierce. Arden avoid them and never willingly make settlements anywhere near kel territories. Sadly, arden do find themselves as slaves for kel with an unfortunate frequency.
Kobolds: Arden dislike kobolds; they smell of snakes. Though they do not fear kobolds the way they do sobekites, arden keep a watchful eye on kobolds.
Nalu: Nalu usually live too far from arden holdings for the two races to interact. Arden can smell the difference between the two and give the nalu some distance from a sense of uncertainty.
Sobekites: Arden fear sobekites and keep a safe distance from them. No matter how kind a sobekite treats an arden, the arden will always suspect an ulterior motive. Food given to an arden by a sobekite is seen as meaning only one thing: the sobekite is trying to fatten the arden up.
Arden tend to be on adventures when they are going off to form a community or have somehow become separated from the rest of their group. They are not willing adventurers but they are also not willing to simply abandon a group either. Most often, an arden is part of an adventuring group by necessity rather than choice. In time, though, an arden can connect very strongly to a certain group and consider them his new family, abandoning his race all together.
Class Preferences: cleric, fighter, rogue
Religious Preferences: Baris, Ivaidin, Lugial, Tariav’ai, Vazuet, Xurialu
Racial Traits (PF)
When creating an arden character, a player uses all the base traits presented below; these traits are inherent to the arden and cannot be altered. A player then selects alternate traits to flesh out his arden character. The total number of alternative traits may not exceed 4 racial points (RP). Each alternative trait has its RP cost listed after its name.
+2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, -2 Strength: An arden is both agile and wise, but lacks brawn.
Small: An arden is a Small creature and gains a +1 size bonus to his AC, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, a -1 penalty to his Combat Maneuver Bonus and Combat Maneuver Defense, and a +4 size bonus on Stealth checks.
Normal Speed: An arden has a base speed of 30 feet.
Darkvision: An arden can see in the dark up to 60 feet.
Claws: An arden receives two claw attacks. These are primary natural attacks that do 1d3 damage per claw.
Minor Burrowing: An arden gains a burrow speed of 10 feet in sand, loose soil, and mud.
Scavenger: An arden gains a +2 racial bonus on Appraise and Perception checks to find hidden objects (including traps and secret doors), determine whether food is spoiled, or identify a potion by taste.
Skill Training: Perception and Survival are always considered class skills for an arden.
Languages: An arden begins play speaking Arden. An arden with a high Intelligence score can choose from the following: Amoraqi, Common, Dwarven, and Kelian.
Camouflage (1 RP): An arden gains a +4 racial bonus on Stealth checks within deserts.
Plagueborn (1 RP): An arden gains a +2 racial bonus on saving throws against disease, ingested poisons, and becoming nauseated or sickened.
Swarming (1 RP): An arden is used to living and fighting communally with other members of his race. Up to two arden can share the same square at the same time. If two arden that are occupying the same square attack the same foe, they are considered to be flanking that foe.
Bond to the Land (2 RP): An arden gains a +2 dodge bonus to AC when in deserts.
Desert Runner (2 RP): An arden receives a +4 racial bonus on Constitution checks and Fortitude saves to avoid fatigue and exhaustion, as well as any other ill effects from running, forced marches, starvation, thirst, and hot or cold environments.
Cornered Fury (4 RP): Whenever an arden is reduced to half his hit points or fewer and has no conscious ally within 30 feet, he gains a +2 racial bonus on melee attack rolls and to his Armor Class.
Racial Traits (DD)
Ability Score Increase: Your Wisdom score increases by 2.
Size: Your size is Small.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision: Because of your magical nature, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You cannot discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Dwarven Resilience: You have advantage on saving throws versus poison, and you have resistance against poison damage (explained in chapter 9, “Combat”).
Desert Dweller Subrace
Endure: Your race is use to warmer temperatures. Arden have advantage on all heat exhaustion checks.
Minor Burrowing: Your race typically builds its homes underground. You gain a burrowing speed of 5 feet, but only in sand, mud, or loose dirt.
Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
Pack Tactics: Arden have advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of its allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally is not incapacitated.
Artwork Provided by John Bridges
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