Chaerosh has six original races that claim they were created by the gods shortly after they formed the world: elves, humans, dwarves, halflings, gnomes and orcs. Each had their own particular patron deity, of the six creators – none of those gods' names are spoken anymore, but their people remember them and how they were shaped by their hands.
However, individuals here are shaped as much by the cultures of their homelands as by their race; for example, an elf from Tyaena has much more in common with the humans of Calaera than with their Aldasian cousins.
There are other races that cannot claim a unique divine ancestry or lands to call their own, but they are much fewer in number.
Dwarves have held the same land with nearly unchanging borders since the beginning of recorded history, though in truth, their borders aboveground matter much less to them than the world belowground – and no one topside is quite sure how far that stretches, down or across the continent. They do have some settlements above ground, but their greatest cities and the bulk of their population lie under the earth. They've never been known to wage a war on their own behalf, except for the occasional need to defend their borders against an overambitious neighbor, but dwarven mercenary companies are officially sanctioned by the government of Eni, and have been the deciding factor in many a battle over the course of history. Except for mercenaries, dwarven merchants are often the only examples of the race anyone ever sees outside of Eni, in small outposts in major cities.
Most dwarves are unnervingly pale, nearly translucent, often tinted faintly blue from the veins under their skin. Their eyes are similarly pale, often in shades of blue or gray. Sensitive to (and easily burned by) sunlight, when topside they're fond of full suits of armor including helmets with only narrow eyeslits, or hoods and veils, for both men and women. Dwarves whose families have lived aboveground for many generations are usually more normally colored, but still not terribly dark-skinned, and still with the same pale eyes. Hair colors can range from blonde to black, and all dwarves grow beards and significant body hair.
Many elves – particularly those of Aldasia and Iskaraya – claim they are the first to build a true civilization, that their first queen was crowned by their god herself, and that they alone can bring true peace to Chaerosh by bringing it under their rule. But the elves have always been divided among themselves, beginning when the growing high elf empire attempted to 'civilize' the wood elf tribes that stood in the way of their expansion, and never have been wholly peaceful ever since. Even now, no two elf nations are true allies with each other, and at this point they themselves may be what's really prevented elven domination of the continent – at this point, they're all too busy harrying each other to devote too many resources to war with other races.
High elves are very tall – notably taller than humans, on average – and slender, with skin that ranges from moon-pale to warm bronze to blue-black, all giving the faint impression of otherworldliness no matter what shade they are. Their hair and eyes are similarly striking: if their hair is black, it has the iridescence of raven feathers, and if red, it's as vividly colored as fresh blood; their eyes are often multicolored, with flecks of brighter and almost metallic colors on a darker background.
Wood elves are shorter and slightly stockier, though still slender in comparison to humans. They come in all shades of brown, some shading toward almost green, some slightly mottled or lightly striped, and their eyes are usually somewhere between deep copper, amber, and green.
Humans are incredibly diverse, more so than any other race – this is particularly notable given the relatively small size of Chaerosh and how readily humans mingle both within their race and with other races. Humans claim that their god simply created them this way, that their creator loved difference and flexibility and change more than anything else, and it seems as good a theory as any. There's a slight correlation between geography and physical features – people in Dolothland are likely to be paler, shorter and stockier than those in Philirin – but it's not a strict correspondence, and humans of any physical type can be found in all nations.
Humans are divided into more nations than any other race, even the elves, and their countries are far less stable, with governments rising and falling and rising in new configurations in what, to some other races, seems like the blink of an eye. That being said, all of those divisions are only among themselves – even warring human nations will call a ceasefire and unite if threatened by a common enemy, a hard lesson learned in the lands lost to the Aldasian Empire.
The smallfolk hold that the gods that created gnomes and halflings were siblings, and as such, they tend to treat each other as family. When the halflings were crowded out of their original homeland by humans – mostly without violence, but inexorably – the gnomes welcomed them into their lands without hesitation… and they now defend the borders of those lands fiercely. Other races are allowed in Viminn, of course, they're not unfriendly, but no people of other races are allowed to settle in Viminn outside of the cities, for any reason, and all of those cities are built to suit the smallfolk, with little accommodations made for the larger races.
Smallfolk cities are terribly impressive, though, bright gleaming things made of any metal the dwarves can mine, where nearly everything runs on steam and clockwork. They'll sell some small devices to other peoples, but most of the secrets of their technology they keep for themselves – give the bigfolk an inch and they'll take a mile, so they share nothing they can't afford to have turned against them. The smallfolk that don't live in cities either own large and very efficient farms, or in smaller and wilder settlements in the deep forests of the north, where humans rarely see them and even more rarely walk away to tell the tale. A small minority of halflings chose not to join the gnomes in Viminn, and instead took to wandering Chaerosh in comfortable, brightly painted wagons capable of tackling all but the roughest terrain, pulled not by ordinary livestock but by specially bred and alarmingly clever dogs the size of ponies.
Halflings tend to be slightly smaller and slightly softer than gnomes, with blunter features. They usually have a lighter coloration, and are more likely to have red or blonde hair and paler eyes. Gnomes are usually browner of hair, eye and skin than their halfling cousins, have longer and more slender hands and fingers, and have sharp, exaggerated features – large slightly upturned eyes, large and pointed mobile ears, large nose, sharp pointed chin. However, halflings and gnomes have been living in close proximity for so long that sometimes it's difficult to tell them apart – even for them, in some cases. Pure bloodlines of both races still exist, of course, but especially in their larger cities, it's common to meet people who have a tangled ancestry of both.
Orcs used to live on the western plains, a semi-nomadic nation of herders with a complex system of clan bloodlines and sworn loyalties. Several hundred years ago, though, a disagreement regarding the inheritance of the Aldasian throne left a large number of elven nobles looking for new lands to call their own, and they set their sights on the open and little-developed grasslands of Uludal. The war was swift and bloody, both sides suffering heavy losses, and when it ended, the elves held most of what had been Uludal, and the tattered remnants of the orc nation had been pushed north, into lands that technically belonged to the dwarves. Eni chose to let them stay, so long as they made no actual claim to those lands, and even offered them warriors to defend against further elven advances, but every orc dreams of the day they can turn their horses south and drive the invaders from their home.
Orcs are considerably larger than other races, with a jutting brow, pronounced underbite, and protruding lower canines. Their skintones range from very pale gray to deep green, and both hair and eyes tend to be dark. Their hair is often shaved into ridges and patterns, sometimes with small sections left long so that they can be braided and decorated. Orcs are surprisingly soft-spoken and reserved when not actively engaged in a fight, and follow very strict codes of honor that they have no interest in explaining to non-orcs.
Some races only began to appear in Chaerosh after the gods disappeared. For this reason, they're a) very rare and b) often blamed for killing the gods, or at the very least driving them away. Don't ask how. Terrified and confused people don't need logic when their world's been turned upside down.
Very few people have ever seen a person of these races. Very few members of these races have ever met another one of their kind. All of them can be born into a family of any of the older races with no history of anything strange in their bloodlines. There are some scattered reports of communities of these people living somewhere in isolated areas throughout Chaerosh, but that's probably just people's imaginations running wild.
Aasimar are far rarer than either tieflings or genasi, with less than a handful being born in a generation. They also have the easiest time passing as human (or elf, dwarf, etc.). They may have unnaturally bright eyes, or a faint golden glow about them, or a sense of stillness and peace that they carry with them even in the most chaotic battlefield. A rare few have extra eyes, or skin like bronze, but these are few and far between – the vast majority can pass themselves off as something special, maybe, but not necessarily otherworldly.
However, if people do recognize their lineage as being unnatural, they can face some difficulties – some believe they're the descendants of the original gods, and are inclined to worship them because of this, while others lump them in with tieflings and claim they are responsible for the death of the gods, in some way or other. Sometimes their abilities are mistaken for arcane magic or something monstrous, and they're persecuted for that. In general, most aasimar have realized it's best if they keep their true nature to themselves.
Often powerful entities – usually celestial in nature – will seek out aasimar and encourage to work for their causes, but some aasimar go their entire lives without ever speaking to anything that's more in human. However, nearly all feel at least some impulse to do good and help others, though they may not know where it comes from.
Genasi are the most common of the newer races – which still doesn't mean much, but a family that has a genasi child may also have some family lore about a great grandparent or distant relative who was also 'uncanny'.
They'd have difficulty hiding their natures, as all of them have a clear mark of the elements about them – skin that is paler or cooler to the touch than would be expected, or flesh like stone, bright hair that moves like flame or an unnatural fluidity of movement. Many have unnaturally colored skin, and they often carry their actual element with them, as a light breeze or faint mist, radiating heat or stones growing from their skin. However, their abilities are similar enough to natural magic that it doesn't alarm most people, and if people can get past their strange appearances, genasi may be able to find acceptance in communities of ordinary folk.
Tieflings are very clearly unnatural, and in a way that usually makes people wary of them from first meeting. The specifics of what sets them apart are different from one individual to another, but they're always a little… uncanny, and usually more than just a little. Many have unnatural skin colors – solid white, deep red, or very dark purples are common, but they can be any color of the rainbow. Horns or antlers are very common, as are unusual eyes – cat-slitted pupils, horizontal goat-like pupils, or eyes that are one solid color with no identifiable iris or pupil. Some have no shadow or reflection, some trail the scent of ash and brimstone, some have extra fingers or terrifyingly sharp teeth or prehensile tails or goat feet. Regardless, they cannot hide what they are.
Tieflings are singularly singled out by many people as the beings responsible for the death of the gods – or simply the enemy, something that has no place among ordinary folk. Often, parents who have a tiefling child will abandon it at birth… or a few years after, when the scorn of their neighbors finally sinks in. They tend toward more chaotic and selfish natures, but by no means is that representative of all tieflings.