While cultures are invariably shaped by the strengths and limitations of the species involved, the Veltine make this blatantly obvious.
- They lack any major inherent racial magic. Unlike the Thunder Dwarves, the Ikam, and even the Shadow Elves, their society requires physical solutions to its daily problems.
- They need a great deal of meat in their diet. While a solid majority of the Veltine have made the transition to a herding economy, a given area can’t support nearly as many meat-eaters as it can vegetarians or omnivores without massive use of magic – and if they bring in races which can provide that kind of magical power base, they will become a minority in their own lands.
- Their population density will thus always be far below that of the other major races – leading to a shortage of cities, a dearth of higher-order specialists, and a lack of the specialized services, products, and facilities such specialists provide. Importing workers is not a solution when there aren’t enough people to support a given speciality – so to obtain such goods and services, they must trade or raid.
- To trade you need to provide natural resources, services or slaves, or special products – and special products are usually the products of specialists. That leaves the Veltine with bodyguard and mercenary services, slaves, and resources. They can do some trading along those lines, but there limited population places limitations on all of those options.
- To raid, you need powerful warriors. Well, the Veltine have a lot of them, as well as powerful hunting instincts – so they do a good deal of raiding, and would do more if it wasn’t such a long trip. You can’t really expect a species that’s predatory, regenerative, clawed, fanged, strong, fast, and incredibly tough, not to take advantage of those attributes.
- They don’t need much in the way of tools or shelter to survive – or even to be quite comfortable. Thus they haven’t put much of what manpower resources they have available into developing such things.
As those factors pretty much make inevitable, the Veltine are relatively primitive by the standards of the other major races; their magic is inferior, their technology is relatively low, their architecture is basic (and mostly made of wood), their cities are small and loosely laid out, and their social systems are unsophisticated – although, to be fair, with their modest population their social institutions don’t have to be too sophisticated to work.
The Veltine, of course, make a virtue of necessity – seeing the other races as weak and decadent, dependent on tools, magic, and numbers to survive, subsisting on inferior foodstuffs, and ripe for conquest. All other beings are obviously inferior to the true Veltine and – doubtless – the day will come when the Veltine will assume their rightful place as the rulers of the world.
Fortunately for them, the Veltine understand that a direct assault would be suicidal, whether that fact fits into their ideology or not. They raid where they see weaknesses, serve as mercenaries where they see no weaknesses, and trade when they can find something to trade. (Yes, that does sometimes include enslaved opponents or wolf-form Veltine – making Veltine more common in other lands than might be expected. Unfair or not, their limited communications abilities and lack of hands makes even most normal Veltine assume that the ones born in wolf-form are seriously defective).
On a more personal level, it is unwise to forget that the Veltine have powerful canine-style instincts. They function best in packs, have little mercy for the weak, push their children hard (and don’t mourn much for failures), are extremely protective of their food, territory, and possessions*, are subject to intense personal loyalties, prefer to settle things by threat-displays rather than by serious combat (although they will gladly settle the local dominance-order by combat), and like to hunt. Territorial disputes and leadership positions tend to be determined by a combination of brute-force dominance-battles and recognition of competence, although they do have some fairly strong traditions about the appropriate procedures, places, and times, for dominance-challenges – and challengers may have to face defenders who think the current leader is going a good job. Competition is fierce however as – unsurprisingly – control of territory and social status is closely linked to reproductive success and advantages for children. They tend to be divided into competing sub-groups, although they will unite to fiercely oppose any outside intrusion.
*Note that, as a sapient species, “possessions” include social niches and roles, trade secrets, trade routes, and contacts. Industrial espionage can get you eaten alive in Veltine society.
Physically, the Veltine are fairly classic were-things – usually canine-styled, although quasi-feline and other exotic markings and traits are occasionally seen (such variations are cosmetic only, however striking they may be). They push the upper edges of the medium size category and have long, shaggy fur, digitigrade legs, short muzzles, fangs and sizeable claws, tails, large, pointed, and independently-mobile ears, broad shoulders, deep chests, strong sexual cycles, forward-slanting necks, long arms (they can run effectively on all fours), and a vaguely humanoid form. They’re most commonly black or brown, but white, red-brown, and a variety of other fur colors are not uncommon. Oddly enough, the eyes tend to be solid-color – most often green or red. Given their supernatural strength, toughness, and speed, they’re extremely dangerous in melee. They are, however, the shortest-lived of the major races. While they could theoretically – thanks to their regenerative abilities and ability to compensate for internal damage – match the one-hundred-plus years typical of the Ikam, so many die in childhood or in combat that their average lifespan is far below that limit.
The ones who use clothing and equipment (not all do) tend to prefer light armor such as breastplates to get as much protection as possible with as little restraint as possible, and usually simply fasten their equipment to straps and belts around their waists and limbs. Thanks to their exceptional – and inhuman – sense of smell, Veltine enjoy some rather odd flavors and odors, and are an excellent market for some rather exotic (and often noxious – at least to other races) spices, perfumes, and other concoctions.
The Veltine tend to view the Thunder Dwarves with a bit of envy and frustration. The Thunder Dwarves have so many things that would be convenient for the Veltine to have, but they bury them all in such massive defenses that they’re almost impossible to claim. They see individual Thunder Dwarves as a bit of a mystery; they’re so focused on things that don’t matter, and so uninterested in the things that do. Even worse, they’re virtually impossible to hang on to even if you do catch some – given a little time they’ll work up some magical trick that lets them escape. Sadly, the only effective way to deal with the Thunder Dwarves seems to be to make deals.
The Veltine generally view the Shadow Elves as property, prey – or (occasionally) as easily-dominated subordinates. It’s not the same as having a bunch of other Veltine deferring to you, but the Shadow Elves are generally more than willing to let the Veltine in the group take the lead in combat. (The Shadow Elves see this as only sensible; let the berserker melee monster charge in first. The Veltine see this as deferring to their leadership and awesome combat prowess). They actually get along fairly well on a small scale though; as long as the Shadow Elves heavily outnumber the Veltine, the Veltine will behave sensibly. When the Veltine outnumber everyone else, things tend to get a bit chaotic.
The Veltine view the Ikam with a good deal of respect. They aren’t as good as the Veltine of course (their need to hide in fortresses and refusal to make their young prove themselves in competition suffices to prove that) – but their fighting ability is quire respectable. Their martial arts skills (especially the ability to use Occult Techniques over and over again thanks to their Mana reserves) are impressive, their fierce loyalty to their Deza is quite understandable, and their organization – although small scale even by Veltine standards of nationality – is very good. Their alliances with the Thunder Dwarves are even better, and make it even more difficult to successfully raid either group than their fortifications alone would.
“Don’t be silly! My race is by the most advanced! We are superior and unmatchable by other mortals, whom we will surely soon (soon!) enslave as is properly due our majesty!”
To reprint their religious note:
The Veltine (oddly enough for such a species) believe (loosely) in a philosophy of self-discipline, self-development, and dedication to their ideals, holding up mighty heroes as examples of the ideal (and arguing over which one was best). Unfortunately, they don’t entirely agree on what the ideal qualities are. The Warrior Virtues – Honor, Ferocity, Duty, and Glory – are quite popular. So are things like Strength, Agility, Skill, and Tactics. Service, Compassion, Knowledge, and Peace are sometimes mentioned, but are rarely really in the running.
The Veltine often call on totemistic spirits for power, but don’t worry much about the ultimate fate of spirits. Those who truly embody their ideals will be ready to handle it. Those who aren’t ready were never really people to begin with.
Of course, even many of the Veltine don’t put much stock in their religion. They’re savage, lupine, killers, and their religion is primarily important in helping maintain a certain minimum of social order in a small, tense, society.