Excerpts 02/04/2005

Races of the Wild Excerpt
By Skip Williams

Races of the Wild,starts by exploring a couple of existing races --- elves and halflings -- more deeply, and then adds a new one -- raptorans - the D&D game. Races of the Wild provides detailed information on the psychology, society, culture, behavior, religion, and folklore of elves, halflings, and raptorans. It also gives you new prestige classes, feats, spells, magic items, equipment, and guidelines for crafting adventures and campaigns using the material within this tome. Our sneak peek includes a look at the raptorans, an overview of the new prestige classes, an expanded skill description, new feats, a new spell, a new psionic power, and a new monster.

Raptorans: A Day in the Life

Bow Practice

Kalithi Nightwing stretched and yawned as she emerged from sleep. She could hear the melody of the moonsong drifting through her family's nest. Moonrise was a magic time -- the start of a new twilight, when all things were still possible. She leaped out of the cozy nest of unspun wool that served as her bed and rolled back the leather curtain over the T-shaped window in her cliff-chamber. The sunset to the west was already fading, and the moonlight was beginning to wash the eastern sky with silver.

"Mealtime!" called her mother. There was nothing like food to motivate a young raptoran, and Kalithi was no exception. She hurriedly donned a pair of breeches and pulled her tunic over her head, then carefully unfolded her wings through the openings in the back. She tossed her blanket over her bed and ran to the kitchen, where her parents were already seated at the table. Kalithi helped herself to rabbit sausage fried with apples, cider, and wild plum compote.

After the meal, Kalithi spread her wings and glided down from her family's cliff dwelling to join her age-mates Risili and Vangila in a favorite tree on the canyon floor.

"Tonight we practice with footbows," said Vangila. "I checked the roster."

"I do better with spikes," said Risili sourly. "Well, maybe they'll let us go out for a hunt afterward."

"Yes, berry-gathering and weaving baskets isn't nearly as much fun," agreed Kalithi.

The three joined their other age-mates on the practice tree and took up their footbows. "Shoot, then glide, then shoot again -- in pairs," said the instructor crisply. Risili and Kalithi paired off and took aim at two straw-and-stick targets thrown into the air. Then the two pushed off from the tree and spiraled around it, nocking new arrows and firing off nearly simultaneous shots at a second set of targets. "Too slow, Kalithi," called the instructor. Practice seemed to go on forever, but eventually Kalithi and Risili managed to coordinate their shots well enough to satisfy the instructor.

The three age-mates climbed rope ladders to the cliff dwelling, stopping briefly to watch Kalithi's aunt arrange prisms for a light display in a cave entrance. Flatbread baked from acorn flour topped with groundnut butter and some late raspberries made a tasty repast.

Just as they were finishing, the hunting chief came by. "Risili, bring your group to the Gathering Tree," he said.

"We get to hunt!" cried Risili, and all of Kalithi's age-mates dove out of the dwelling door and into midair, the remains of their lunches forgotten.

Descending back to the canyon floor, Risili, Kalithi, and Vangila joined three of the male age-mates of their hatching under the direction of an older leader capable of true flight. Taking up their bows, the young raptorans crept through the scrubby underbrush of the canyon floor while the leader soared overhead, indicating with a gesture whenever his keen eyes spotted game. Kalithi and Risili downed a rabbit each, and Vangila bagged a mole. No one got more than one animal, but it was a good hunt.

When I'm able to fly, I'll be a truly great hunter, Kalithi thought.

Returning to camp, they cleaned their kills and handed them off to the supply chief, who deboned and sliced the meat for drying. Their parents would take care of the game for the family's meals; the young raptorans' kills were considered excess and were stored as winter food.

After a supper of roast boar meat and potatoes, Kalithi and her family enjoyed the berry pie her mother had made for dessert. Then they adjourned to the Great Hall for a debate. The topic was whether to allow a party of human adventurers to pass through the west edge of the raptorans' territory. After an hour of discussion, the flock voted to grant permission.

Since it was still two hours before moonset and the weather was fine, Kalithi decided to practice using her wings. She leaped high into the sky from her perch atop the cliff and glided all the way across the canyon, descending gradually until she landed against the far wall just a few feet above the canyon floor. Clutching the cliff wall with her talons, Kalithi laughed, intoxicated by her longest glide to date. Then she hopped down from her landing site to begin the long walk back across the canyon floor. When she got to the bottom of the cliff where her flock lived, she climbed up a dangling rope ladder and found her way home.

Slipping into her room, Kalithi fell onto her bed, too tired even to undress. My wings are getting stronger -- I can feel it, she thought as she composed herself for sleep. Perhaps I'll find out soon when I can begin my walk.


Raptorans are unique among the common races for their ability to fly. In ancient times, the raptorans made a pact with the lords of the Elemental Plane of Air, gaining the ability to fly in exchange for pledging the finest warriors of their race to the service of the air elementals in various extraplanar battles. Although the elementals have not called upon the raptorans for assistance in generations, the pact entered into by those distant ancestors continues to shape raptoran society today.

To ensure that only the fittest and most capable raptorans are available to fill the ranks of these would-be warriors, the agreement with the elementals called for the raptorans to put their offspring through a test of survival and self-reliance called the Walk of the Four Winds. To this day, every member of a raptoran flock must undergo this trial before becoming able to fly. When the flock chief judges a young adult raptoran to be ready for the walk, that raptoran can leave immediately to start the test. Those who do not leave at their earliest opportunity are referred to by other members of the community as "gliders" (reflecting their limited capacity to use their wings).

The pact led to the creation of the skypledged, who draw their ranks from raptoran druids and clerics. By vowing to forgo earth, fire, and water spells, skypledged gain great flexibility in spellcasting as well as ever-increasing power over the wind. Skypledged are not structured in a single great organization but scattered among the tribes, each honoring the pact as he or she sees best. (The skypledged prestige class is described elsewhere in the book.) The pact also set out details regarding the creation of the stormtalons, the organization of elite raptoran soldiers who assist raptoran flocks that find themselves in danger. (The stormtalon prestige class is described elsewhere in the book.)

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