Most humans are the descendants of pioneers, conquerors, traders, travelers, refugees, and other people on the move. As a result, human lands are home to a mix of people—physically, culturally, religiously, and politically different. Hardy or fine, light-skinned or dark, showy or austere, primitive or civilized, devout or impious, humans run the gamut.
Humans are the most adaptable, flexible, and ambitious people among the common races. They are diverse in their tastes, morals, customs, and habits. Others accuse them of having little respect for history, but it’s only natural that humans, with their relatively short life spans and constantly changing cultures, would have a shorter collective memory than dwarves, elves, gnomes, or halflings.
Humans typically stand from 5’ to a little over 6’ tall and weigh from 125 to 250 pounds, with men noticeably taller and heavier than women. Thanks to their penchant for migration and conquest, and to their short life spans, humans are more physically diverse than other common races. Their skin shades range from nearly black to very pale, their hair from black to blond (curly, kinky, or straight), and their facial hair (for men) from sparse to thick. Plenty of humans have a dash of nonhuman blood, and they may demonstrate hints of elf, orc, or other lineages. Members of this race are often ostentatious or unorthodox in their grooming and dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, body piercings, and the like. Humans have short life spans, reaching adulthood at about age 15 and rarely living even a single century.
Human lands are usually in flux, with new ideas, social changes, innovations, and new leaders constantly coming to the fore. Members of longer-lived races find human culture exciting but eventually a little wearying or even bewildering. Since humans lead such short lives, their leaders are all young compared to the political, religious, and military leaders among the other races. Even where individual humans are conservative traditionalists, human institutions change with the generations, adapting and evolving faster than parallel institutions among the elves, dwarves, gnomes, and halflings. Individually and as a group, humans are adaptable opportunists, and they stay on top of changing political dynamics. Human lands generally include relatively large numbers of nonhumans (compared, for instance, to the number of non-dwarves who live in dwarven lands).
Unlike members of the other common races, humans do not have a chief racial deity. There are several members that make up the Faerunian Pantheon, but they have no specific claim like the central place that the dwarves give Moradin or that most elves give Corellon Larethian in their respective pantheons. Some humans are the most ardent and zealous adherents of a given religion, while others are the most impious people around.
Only known regional 'subraces' are allowed (Damaran; Illuskan; Mulan; Calishite; Chondathans; Rashemi; Tethyrian). No regional languages are gained this way.
Damaran – Damarans are of moderate height and build, with skin hues ranging from tawny to fair. Hair is usually straight brown or black, although sandy blonde is not unknown. Eye color varies widely, with brown being most common. In the aftermath of Narfell’s fall, scattered groups of Nars, Rashemi, and Sossrims struggled to survive as a wave of Chondathan immigrants settled in the lands of the Easting Reach. In time, these four populations gradually coalesced into a relatively new ethnic group now known as Damarans. Most Damarans make their living as farmers, loggers, or miners in a harsh and unforgiving land. They see life as a series of unending challenges to be overcome.
Illuskan – Illuskans were tall, fair skinned people. Most had blue or steel gray eyes. Those living on the islands in the Trackless Sea and Icewind Dale had more blonde hair, and slightly less red and brown. Those in the Sword Coast North and surrounding lands had more raven black hair, from their significant Netherese heritage. Illuskans regard themselves as a strong, proud people forged by the harsh environment in which they dwell. They feel they have earned, through strength in battle, the right to claim the lands they have settled. Illuskans regard most southerners as weak and decadent, two much-despised traits. However, they are fair-minded and always willing to make exceptions for those who have proven otherwise. Illuskans themselves are bold and impetuous, give to proud boasts, the consumption of prodigious amounts of mead and ale, and quick tempers.
Mulan – Mulan are typically tall and thin with a sallow skin tone and brown or hazel eyes. Lower class Mulan of Thay, Mulhorand, and Unther frequently have significant Rashemi or Turmish blood, resulting in darker complexions. Pure Mulan features are rare in Chessenta due to mixing with the nearby Chondathans. Mulan often have little body hair, ranging in color from black to dark brown, and all nobles and many other Mulan of both genders shave any hair they do have. Mulan generally prefer simple, unadorned clothing, particularly those that worship the god-kings, so as not to outshine them. Other differences in appearance vary by region; for example, Mulan Red Wizards of Thay are often heavily tattooed. Mulan are an arrogant, conservative group, resistant to change and convinced of their cultural superiority over all others. In Thay, many even believe they are above the gods. Mulan feel they are more civilized, inventive, and capable than other ethnic groups and believe strongly in the values of order and discipline. All upper and middle class Mulan receive at least some education and apprenticeship at a young age is common. Mulan follow the rigid class structures of their society and the practice of slavery is commonplace. They also have a strong tradition in the use of magic, but disagree over the pursuit of arcane versus divine magic. The arcane arts are lauded in Thay, but distrusted in Mulhorand and Unther.
Rashemi – Most are short (about 5’6” tall on average) and muscular, with a hardy physique. They commonly have dusky skin, dark eyes, and thick black hair. Men are especially hairy and may maintain a thick dark beard; baldness is virtually unknown in their culture. Women often wear their hair long and elaborately plaited. Rashemi think of themselves as inhabitants of a harsh and beautiful land ruled by spirits and rarely display the arrogance of other human ethnic groups. Children are expected to earn their place in the world, rather than having it handed to them, and they view life as a series of challenges to face and defeat. They place a high value on individual accomplishment and strength, physical in Rashemen and magical in Thay. Elders are respected for their wisdom and mental strength. Rogues are very uncommon as little value is placed in the accumulation of wealth. Most young adult Rashemi travel extensively for a year as part of a coming-of-age ritual called dajemma, resulting in a population with considerable worldly knowledge. Formal schooling is not emphasized because of the strong warrior culture in Rashemen and the subjugation of the lower classes in Thay. However, many Rashemi are still literate.
Calishite – Calishites usually had dusky brown skin, brown hair and brown eyes. They were also on average a little shorter and of slighter build than most humans of other ethnicities. Calishites were descendants of the slaves of the genies who ruled great empires south of the Marching Mountains. These ancestors were not native to the continent of Faerûn. After the djinni Calim's power dwindled, the Calishites were able to free themselves of the genies' yoke and founded the nation of Coramshan in 606 DR. Since this time the Calishite race has expanded and migrated to various regions. The prevailing Calishite view was that they were the rightful rulers of all the land south and west of the Sea of Fallen Stars. They had a tendency to look on the northern cultures as being short-lived barbarian cultures barely worthy of notice. This, however, did not prevent them from trading with these nations.
Tethyrian – Tethyrians are of medium build and height, although taller and broader in build than most Calishites. Their skins tends to have a dusky hue, although on average they are increasingly fairer in complexion the farther north one travels along the Sword Coast, reflecting a decreasing fraction of Calishite heritage and an increasing fraction of Illuskan and Low Netherese ancestry. Tethyrian hair and eye color varies widely, with brown hair and blue eyes being most common. Tethyrian culture is a melting pot of Calishite, Chondathan, Illuskan, and Low Netherese, Tethyrians are tolerant of and comfortable with members of other ethnic groups, with the notable exceptions of upper class Calishites. They are proud of their multi-ethnic heritage, seeing society as having defeated all would be conquerors through assimilation rather than empire.
Chondathan– Chondathans were usually slender with tawny skin and brown hair. They were often tall with green or brown eyes. Chondathans are hardy folk, not afraid to take risks, travel, or settle new lands, and are always looking to better themselves and their families monetarily. As Chondathan culture has taken root in so many distant lands, Chondathans are comfortable in most human societies. Many Chondathans are merchants of one sort or another, selling their skills and the fruits of their labor for coin. Although Chondathans make skilled mercenaries and cunning rogues, Chondathan culture has not encouraged study of Art or great religious fervor.
Just as readily as they mix with each other, humans mix with members of other races, among which they are known as “everyone’s second-best friends.” Humans serve as ambassadors, diplomats, magistrates, merchants, and functionaries of all kinds.
Humans tend toward no particular alignment, not even neutrality. The best and the worst are found among them.
Human names vary greatly. Without a unifying deity to give them a touchstone for their culture, and with such a fast breeding cycle, humans mutate socially at a fast rate. Human culture, therefore, is more diverse than other cultures, and no human names are truly typical. Some human parents give their children dwarven or elven names (pronounced more or less correctly).
Human adventurers are the most audacious, daring, and ambitious members of an audacious, daring, and ambitious race. A human can earn glory in the eyes of her fellows by amassing power, wealth, and fame. Humans, more than other people, champion causes rather than territories or groups.