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Centaurs

To see a Centaur Fold galloping across the landscape is a truly magnificent sight, and one that you would think had run straight out of a tale of old. Having a Centaur on your side is always a good idea, though they can’t be counted upon to always be by your side, they will forever be a font of wisdom to you.
Extract from Ingrid Aevardottir's Corpus Animalium.   Though few people who live in towns or cities will have seen one, almost everyone knows what a Centaur is. As they still lead a nomadic life, they are confined in their ranges to areas where they and their Folds can wander freely as they wish, and they are widely renowned for their wisdom, as well as for their might and ferocity when they charge into battle.

Basic Information

Anatomy & Morphology

Centaurs are often described as being hybrid humanoid-bestial creatures, which is not surprising given the striking difference between the upper and lower parts of their bodies. The top half of a Centaur is a torso that is incredibly similar, if virtually indistinguishable to that of a Human, but the lower half is that of a horse, with the join being made where one would normally expect to see a horse’s head, around the area of the withers, and the hip area of the humanoid torso. In height, a Centaur will normally stand on all fours at a height of between 8-10ft/c.2.4-3m tall, with the height of their equine lower half normally being at least 5ft/c.1.5m in height. If a Centaur rears up on its hind legs they can appear substantially taller.   In terms of their facial features, Centaurs have pointed ears, like those of an Elf, but their faces tend to be wider and flatter than those of Elves, and are more akin to a Human face. Their eyes tend to be earthier colours, greens and browns, with blues and other colours being rather rare. Strangely, it is rather common for Centaur’s to have heterochromia iridium, where their eyes are separate colours, which is a feature that is generally quite rare in other species. A Centaur’s hair will generally match the colour of their equine tails in colour, and can vary greatly in colour from whites, greys and blacks, through to browns and blonds. Hair and tail colour will tend to be solid, but the colour of a Centaur’s equine body can be piebald. The skin of their humanoid torso can also vary in colour, and tends to sit in the colour spectrum that is represented in Humans.

Growth Rate & Stages

On the whole, Centaurs have lifespans of between 70-80 years. Once they are born they are go through various stages of life, outlined below, which are primarily used to describe their age and standing within their Fold:   Foals- A term for all Centaurs under the age of 10 years. Foals are the only age bracket of Centaur society that are not represented by a spokesperson on a Fold’s Council as they are deemed to be too immature. Foals are viewed in the same way that other species view children.   Yearlings- Between the years of 10-20, Centaurs are known as Yearlings, a term that has the same connotations as young adult. These Centaurs are represented on Fold’s Council and they are granted more freedom and responsibility than Foals, but they are still viewed as being under the direct care of their parents.   Stallions/Mares- A term that is used for any Centaur over the age of 20, with Stallions being the term used to describe males and Mares females. The term us applied to any individual over the age of 20, regardless of their age, and there is no other term above it for say an elder Centaur.

Additional Information

Social Structure

The vast majority of Centaurs live and travel in groups which are referred to as Folds. A Fold is a mixture between a Tribe and a family group, and a Fold is likely to be comprised of several different families, who work and travel together for their mutual benefit. Centaurs recognise that wisdom can come from both the young and the old, and that having a mixture of perspectives is good when it comes to making decisions that will affect all of the Fold’s members. To this end, a Centaur Fold will be run by the oldest living member of the group, who has the final say on all matters, who is advised by a council where an individual is selected to represent each generation of Centaurs in the Fold (Centaurs define a generation as being 10 years). Therefore A Fold Council will have representatives from all Centaurs in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s etc. Centaurs below the age of 10 are not included as they are not considered to be mature enough. Representatives for each of the generations are decided through a vote where all Centaurs of that age bracket can cast a ballot.   It is not unusual for Centaurs to spend time travelling on their own, especially if they wish to travel beyond the boundaries of the lands where their Fold can live their nomadic lifestyle. Centaurs are free to leave their Fold at any time, once they are considered adults, to go off and explore the world, and Centaurs that choose to do so are referred to as ‘running after life’. On the whole going ‘running after life’ is considered to be a good thing by Centaur elders, as they believe it makes their young ones stronger, wiser and less likely to disrupt the political balance of the Fold, but Centaurs who leave to travel in this manner are always expected to come back and re-join the Fold eventually.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

As Centaurs still prefer to live mostly nomadic lifestyles, rather than settling down in a particular place, they can theoretically be encountered in any place on the Material Plane, and communities of Centaurs live on all three of Ulskandar’s continents. However, on the continent of Turoza, the rise of nations states and the Settlement Era have greatly restricted the spaces in which Centaur Folds can move, unmolested by the authorities of this nation or that, telling them that they are trespassing on their territory. This means that Centaur Folds are generally restricted to more remote areas, or areas that are still held as tribal land, or where it is  still relatively common to encounter nomadic communities, and where they are accepted.   Therefore in Turoza Centaur Folds can be found  more frequently in the area of the ‘Free States’, the Bar-Dendra Forest in the Kingdom of Dazscor and Aramore, the Province of Stäpplandskap in the Kingdom of Kjörnsholm, the remoter areas of the Mountain Principalities, and the Kingdom of Sharisar. The Kingdom of Sharisar has a particularly large population of Centaurs as the nation has a lot of territory, and the nomadic way of life is still the norm there, meaning that Centaur Folds can move freely either in their own company, or in the company of other species who are the subjects of Sharisar. Because of the fact that they are very integrated into Sharisian life, Centaur Folds who live in the Kingdom of Sharisar view themselves as subjects of the nation, whereas Centaurs who reside in other areas are prone to view themselves as residents in a particular nation, and generally do not view themselves as being ‘subjects’.   Centaurs are not native to any of the other Planes of Existence in Ulskandar, but they can be found on the Idyllic Plane, as their generally favourable relationship with the native Fey creatures means that communities of Centaurs have been invited to dwell there in exchange for protecting important sites within the Plane.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

On the whole, Centaurs do not exhibit profoundly better sensory or perceptive capabilities than Humans, though their eyesight will tend to be slightly better, and they are more naturally adept at being able to survive in wilderness landscapes, thanks to their nomadic lifestyles. It is possible for Centaurs to be sensitive to Magic, though individuals who are able to wield Magic will tend towards being Druids, or Warlocks whose power is derived from Fey patrons.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

Centaurs will normally be given three names and will choose an additional one for themselves, which are their Paternal Name, Maternal Name, Fold Name and Nickname. A Centaur’s Paternal Name is taken from the Maternal Name of their Father, their Maternal Name is taken from the Paternal Name of their Mother, their Fold name is taken from the name of their Fold, and all Centaurs are free to choose their own Nicknames. Often Nicknames will be taken from natural features or phenomenon that a Centaur has seen in their lifetime, or certain traits that they find appealing about themselves, but could be based on anything. Nicknames are chosen when a Centaur reaches adulthood.

Average Technological Level

Centaurs are broadly accepting of most technology, but it is rare to find a Centaur that is equipped with the most technologically advances, weapons, armour, items or curiosities, especially if they are items that are designed to be worn, as most of these items are not created with a Centaur’s physique in mind. This restriction often leads them to only wearing clothing on their humanoid torsos, as it is hard to source clothing that covers their equine lower bodies, and given their lower bodies are covered in, essentially, horse hair, they feel little need to cover their lower halves, and those that do will often find that they are ridiculed by both other Centaurs and other species. However, Centaur’s do feel the cold more readily on their humanoid upper half, and the wearing of clothes on their upper bodies is widely accepted and deemed to be quite prudent for Centaurs who hail from warmer climates.   Many Centaurs are highly-skilled craftspeople in their own right, but they will tend to work with materials that they can gather on the surface of the Material Plane and from the landscape around them, as it is difficult for them to engage in mining activity due to their size, and they find being underground generally distasteful. As a result, most items crafted out of metal will tend to have come into a Centaur’s possession through trade, or as spoils, as opposed to being wholly Centaur made. On the whole, Centaurs will tend to prefer to not burden themselves with anything other than what is most necessary, as their primarily nomadic lifestyles require that they travel more on the lighter side.

Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals

There are a number of customs and views that are common to the vast majority of Centaurs, including:   Nomadic Peoples- Centaurs still prefer to hold onto a way of life that was more prevalent during the Nomadic Period, and be nomadic themselves. Whilst it is possible for Centaurs to settle down in the communities of other species, they never found their own permanent settlements, and those that do tie themselves to a village, town or city will often find themselves filled with wanderlust, that drives them to spend long periods of time away from their adopted homes.   Spiritually and Sagaciously Minded- Other species regard Centaurs as being particularly wise creatures, a racial trait that is not unfounded. Centaurs are very thoughtful creatures, and they may spend hours or even days pondering over problems, and they are very prone to debate matters with their peers for long stretches of time. This feature grows stronger with age as the hot-headedness of youth gives way to the deeper wisdom of old age. Centaurs honour all Celestial deities, regardless of whether they are adherents of a particular god or goddess or not, with the same great respect, and they are particularly in-tune and on the lookout for what they interpret as divine signs. Centaurs that pass through or settle in a permanent community will often find that they are approached by strangers to have their fortunes told.   Tend to Disregard Permanent Institutions- Because of their nomadic bent, Centaurs tend to be rather dismissive of permanent institutions such as countries, monarchies and even more economical bodies such as guilds. It has to be said that they are not dismissive of the people who live and work in such systems, but they will tend to err on the side of addressing a king or a queen as they would anyone else, and they will tend to try and disregard rules or laws that they believe are there simply to keep people in check, though the vast majority of Centaurs will abide by basic common sense laws such as not indiscriminately killing people.   Ritual Body Paint- Before Centaurs embark on something that they feel is going to be challenging or special, they will cover their faces, arms, upper and lower bodies with intricate swirling patterns depicted in body paint that is made from natural substances such as ochre. Events where this is considered to be necessary include prior to battles or duels, before weddings or births and any other ceremonial or pivotal occasion of personal or wider significance. In all of these situations, the body paint is applied before the event is undertaken, with the exception of funerals. At Centaur funerals, which are always conducted by cremation, the ashes of the deceased are used to make a special body paint that is worn by their family and close friends. The symbolism of this is that the other Centaurs are signalling that they will always carry a memory of the deceased with them, and hope to draw some of their strength into themselves.   Surface Dwellers- Unsurprisingly, given their physical size and build, Centaurs do not like being underground and do not cope well with confined spaces, especially when they are not sure of how to get back to the surface world. Centaurs who are forced into being underground for long periods of time will find themselves prone to serious bouts of melancholy and depression, which will only ease once they have returned to the outside world. This mind-set is extended somewhat to buildings and other non-natural structures, which do not generally tend to be built with Centaurs in mind, though the effects are far less serious and take much longer to manifest themselves if a Centaur is trapped indoors.

Interspecies Relations and Assumptions

When it comes to their relationship with other species on the Material Plane, Centaurs will generally find that they are the objects of curiosity, rather than fear or superstition. As most communities will not be familiar with them, Centaurs will often find that they attract stares and gawping looks and have to accept the fact that at best people will whisper about them, and at worst will openly discuss them. Their size and physique also means that they will be the objects of confusion and exasperation whenever they enter shops and taverns and the like, or whenever they are seeking lodgings. Centaurs who regularly visit settlements will frequently be asked if they are alright bedding down in the stables, as the proprietor is not sure that the bunk houses and bed chambers they have to offer are suitable for them. In addition, Centaurs are often sought out to give advice to members of other species, as they are viewed as being a particularly wise race who are not afraid to speak their mind or speak in more matter of fact terms to those that consult them. In this regard they have a much better reputation than Elf, who are prone to speak in riddles and turn their advice and thought into cryptic puzzles.   Centaurs will rarely have much dealings with creatures such as Halflings, Dwarves or Gnomes, not because they naturally dislike them, but because their much smaller sizes mean that it is hard for them to interact. It is rare for Centaurs to visit settlements and communities with a majority, or sole population of the above three races, as they would physically struggle to move around. As a rule, the only creatures that Centaurs cannot abide are Gnolls, Lupines and those affected and who give into Lycanthropy. This is because they view all three as having given into their more bestial instincts, and that they give a bad name to other species that are classed as hybrid humanoid- bestial creatures.   Fey creatures have a mutually favourable relationship with Centaurs, as Centaurs admire the care-free nature of Fey beings, who will tend to move and live where they want and are not restricted by academic notions such as nation states. Even though Centaurs are not themselves Fey creatures, they are automatically treated with kindness and respect by Fey who come across them, if nothing else than because Centaurs remind Fey of some of the sub-species such as Satyrs. Such is the relationship between Fey and Centaurs that communities of Centaurs have been invited to reside in the Idyllic Plane, an honour that is not lightly granted, but that is equally not without its consequences. In addition the strong relationship between the two means that Centaurs have adopted Sylvan as one of their primary languages, with it being the main language for many Centaurs, even over Common Speech.

Lifespan
On average 70-80 years of age.
Average Height
Between 8-10ft/c.2.4-3m in height.

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Cover image: by Chris Pyrah

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