This week’s blog is brought to you by Tawen. She’s one of our designers and specializes in the geography of Terah. The Vykati are her creation. When Terah was still very much a free floating idea, I mentioned to her that I could see at least one animal like or anthropomorphic race. I was partial to werewolves, but they’d mostly be human and have control over when they changed forms. Those familiar with the old Greyhawk setting might remember Greyhawk dragons. I kind of pictured a wolfy version of that.
But I do make sure that I give designers a lot of leeway. If I kept Terah limited to just the ideas I came up with… well, lets say some dumb ideas, like trying to do half-elves in Terah, might have survived longer than they should have, and gnomes would not be the killer super spooky creepy things they are now.
I’m happy with the direction the manacot… er, vykati have taken: a race trying to find itself in a quickly changing world, with a leader that’s either an idiot savant or perhaps, maybe, might really know what he’s doing.
Other than the fact they’re amazing, you mean?
From an evolution view-point, it makes no sense. The amount of time it would take wolves to evolve into what we are now would be ridiculous.
It wouldn’t make much sense for Ahj to have made us either. Most of his sentient creations are pretty uniform. Hair on head, flat teeth, rectangular feet, oval head, no snout.
Our stories say that thousands of years ago they were human once. We obtained our form in order to avoid death from the diseases of the jungle.
There are two stories on exactly how it happened, one with a religious bias, and another from a druidic bias.
I’ll tell you whichever one you prefer if you will give me cake.”
As the previous blog stated, the Vykati are outcasts of sorts. That is starting to change, but many people still look down on them.
When I started working on the Vykati with the intention of them being outcasts, I had to ask myself, “Why?”
I always thought that hating a race because they look funny was a stupid reason. Sure, some people might do it, but the most likely cause is actually some sort of preconceived notion on how the race will behave. In Galarion, Teiflings are outcasts because they’re related to beings of pure evil and half-orcs are outcasts because they’re related to a race that frequently burns down villages. Applying that reason to the Vykati wouldn’t work very well though, since most humans are familiar with wolves (Only Rhidayar never domesticated them into dogs) and the Vykati aren’t into rampaging and actually have a fairly strict moral code.
So, why are they still outcasts? The first reason that came to my mind was their mouths.
No, they don’t swear an unusual amount, but have you ever watched a wolf (or dog) chew? They can’t do it with their mouths closed; it’s not physiologically possible. We don’t think about it too much because A) They eat on the ground, away from our eye level and B) They don’t grind their food into a grimy mess; they can’t do that either, since their teeth are built wrong. To make up for this, they can swallow an alarming amount.
So, what happens when you have a Vykati over and you offer them a dinner roll? The whole thing goes in their mouth. GLOMP. GLOMP. Gone.
Add in shedding, panting, drooling, eating rare and raw meat, and tending to speak very loudly, and you now have someone you don’t want in your house.
Of course, there are ways the Vykati combat this, and a Vykati ambassador will take steps to not gross anyone out. However, when a human commoner meets a Vykati commoner, the human is going to leave pretty weirded out. The higher class Vykati are working on educating the lower class Vykati about basic etiquette, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
And when I say ‘higher class Vykati’ I mean Benayle. (And Xuvhanni, but she isn’t important yet.)
Benayle is a (never would have guessed) Vykati barbarian who led his people and the surrounding human settlements into a rebellion that kicked the high elves out of Vykati lands; he helped spur the native races into the understanding of technology they have today, and helped restore the University of Vidava which is now the world center for technology, science, religion, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
So, we have a super-genius barbarian?
Well, no, not really. In some ways he’s actually kind of a dunce.
If you give Benayle a piece of broken technology and ask him to fix it, he’ll shake it a few times, bang it against his head, and ask if the manufacturer has a refund policy. His understanding of technology, while beyond that of the average Vykati, is still basic at best. He had an elementary education in math and science and is fluent in a few languages, but anything beyond that he’s not entirely sure on. The whole schpeel on the origins of the Vykati was memorized after the fifth time a student asked him about it.
The reason Benayle has done so much is because he has an innate desire to have the world, as a whole, become as strong and harmonious as possible. He sees technology as a good way to accomplish that. Also, he’s bullheaded, has the courage (or stupidity) to face down a charging rhino (or a charging war machine) and is an all around a good leader. He’s perceptive enough to pick up on a social faux paus before he commits it, adapts to other cultures easily, and can tolerate insults to himself and his race very well. (Most Vykati won’t stand for it. At all.)
Benayle isn’t the first Vykati leader to have attempted all this, and some of the previous ones met with more success when dealing with other nations. However, they didn’t meet with as much success at home. They attempted to enforce the human rules of etiquette and suggested that the way the Vykati acted was wrong.
While the Vykati had a lot of respect for these leaders, being told their way of life was wrong because the humans said so didn’t go too well.
On the other hand, Benayle continues to act like a Vykati when he’s home and encourages his people to do the same, but to be more careful when traveling in the human lands or when they have guests over. He also spends a great deal of time explaining Vykati practices to other races and extolling them to be more tolerant.
This approach goes over a lot better with the Vykati. As a matter of fact, in Drtithen (the Vykati capital city) there is a huge birthday celebration every year for Benayle. He thinks it’s a little extreme but he allows it to go on because there’s always lots of cake.
Benayle likes cake.