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The goal of this section is to share vibrant species with unique physical and mental characteristics, while simultaneously depicting the diversity within each species. This is challenging. I don’t know of any model for doing this, especially one that makes room for the existence of disability within a species, so I’m figuring out how to do it as I go along.

Part of what makes it challenging is that I believe it is important for different fictional species to feel significantly different. To me, this is part of the joy of portraying a nonhuman character. It also creates space for diverse physical and mental experiences within the fictional world. The presence of this physical and mental diversity also emphasizes the role society plays in creating accessibility for its members.

One major reason that I’m using the word “species” here instead of “race” is because these groups of people are intended to be significantly different from each other with unique biology, not socially constructed groups within the same species.

At the same time that the differences between species are portrayed, it is also important to avoid racial essentialism. Racial essentialism is “the view that racial groups possess underlying essences that represent deep-rooted, unalterable traits and abilities,” and it affects how people think. There is long history of racial essentialism in the portrayal of “fantasy races,” with groups like orcs and goblins being used as villainous stand-ins for people of color. Using the word “species” instead of “race” might help, but it doesn’t remove this idea from people’s minds. That is why it is so important to oppose these ideas by separating morality from species and emphasizing the diversity within each species.

The challenge is to find ways of defining and describing each species that show what is unique about it, while simultaneously making room for the diversity within that species. Finding this balance is also important for disability representation. In the real world, disabled people have bodies and minds that don’t fit with what is considered “normal” by mainstream society, but disability is a normal part of humanity. If we want to make space for disabled people as a normal part of each species within this fictional world, we need to expand normal from a single type of body and mind to a diverse spectrum of bodies and minds.

A gold compass rose is surrounded by slices from eight different landscapes. Clockwise from the upper left they are: a rainforest, a desert with red stripped hills, a grassy plane surrounded by mountains, red mountains, a temperate forest, a lake with a rainbow, snow covered mountains, and an underwater view of a coral reef.

A gold compass rose is surrounded by slices from eight different landscapes. Clockwise from the upper left they are: a rainforest, a desert with red stripped hills, a grassy plane surrounded by mountains, red mountains, a temperate forest, a lake with a rainbow, snow covered mountains, and an underwater view of a coral reef.

 

 

Format

This is the general format in which each species entry is written. For individual species, some sections may be skipped or additional ones added.

Overview: A rough overview of what this species is, with a few key facts to provide useful context for the following discussion.

Physical Description: A description of what the bodies of most members of the species are like. Common variations are noted.

Senses: A discussion of the senses most common in the members of this species, and frequent variations in them.

Diet: The types of food that members of this species can eat.

Common Mental Characteristics: A discussion of those mental characteristics that are especially common in this species, their most frequent variations, and related traits like behavior.

Magical Affinities: The types of magic that members of this species frequently have a talent for. These types of magic may have connections to the species’ origin or its history. These affinities are listed from most to least common. None of them are universal.

Common Species Traits: A list of traits ranging from things most members of the species have to ones only a few have.

Common Vulnerabilities: A list of vulnerabilities ranging from things most members of the species have to ones only a few have.

A Few Interesting Facts: Any interesting facts about the biology of this species that don’t fit into other sections.

History: Important historical events that involved this species, such as their origin or historic oppression they experienced.

Prominent Cultures: The most noteworthy cultures that have a significant connection with this species or its history. While species and culture are separate, there sometimes are one or more cultures associated with a species—cultures that are heavily influenced by the species’ most common physical and mental characteristics.

Naming Traditions from Prominent Cultures: A description of any special naming traditions that involve this species.

Inspiration: A list of interesting facts, mythology, and other sources that inspired me or that I used to create this species.

 

 

Plasmodial Slime-People

Pronunciation: plaz-moh-dee-ahl

An illustration of pink slime filled with complicated, twisting currents and goopy bubbles.

Overview: Slime-people are sapient beings whose bodies are made from a gelatinous substance that is squishy, flexible, and elastic. Most slime-people have a roughly humanoid form and can change their shape at will.

Plasmodial Slime-people are a specific group of Slime-people descended from plasmodial slime-molds that were altered by powerful magic that infused them with amphibian and humanoid traits. They are the largest population of Slime-people in Crossroads.

Physical Description: Like most species with magical origins, Plasmodial Slime-people are physically diverse. Their gelatinous bodies are roughly humanoid, but vary greatly in size and shape. Some have significantly different body plans, including those with tails, gills, more than four limbs, no limbs, skin flaps, horns, and dangling appendages. While blue and green are most common, their colors vary so widely that they can be any color of the rainbow. Many are a single color, but others are a combination of colors, with a significant number displaying the striking patterns of the most vivid amphibians.

The internal structures of Plasmodial Slime-people also vary, but all have less structure than flesh and blood species. A few have no organ-like structures, while others have one or more organ-like structures that carry out key functions. For example, those without organ-like structures have bits of food floating throughout their bodies as it is digested, while those with a stomach-like structure have all of their food contained and digested in one place.

Like amphibians, most Plasmodial Slime-people are adapted for a life both in water and on land. Most breathe through their skin, which allows them to breathe underwater, but does require their skin to stay moist. Many also have basic lungs which allow them to breathe air and use verbal language.

Senses: Most Plasmodial Slime-people have excellent vision. Many of these have vision like a human. Others see like a frog, making them nearsighted with slightly blurry vision, but they have full-color low-light vision and such a wide field of view they can almost see directly behind them. A few others see like different amphibians. In all cases, these eyes are squishy and pliable, meaning that they aren’t harmed if their owner gets squished, molds their body into different shape, or squeezes through a narrow opening.

A good sense of smell, touch, and taste are also common in Plasmodial Slime-people, while hearing is more varied. Some have ears, some don’t, and some have internal structures similar to those of frogs, which allow limited hearing. As a result, a large portion of the Plasmodial Slime-person population is deaf or hard of hearing.

Diet: Most slime-people can eat nearly anything, but many have a special fondness for decaying wood and vegetation.

Magical Affinities:

  • Water Magic
  • Shapeshifting Magic
  • Animal Magic
  • Enhancement Magic

Common Species Traits:

  • Amphibious: Most breathe through their skin both on land and underwater. This is frequently combined with simple lungs and sometimes gills.
  • Malleable Form: Most Plasmodial Slime-people can reshape their bodies at will. In addition, those that also have stomach-like internal structures get Internal Storage, an expansion of the Malleable Form species trait that is unique to Slime-people.
    • Internal Storage: Those Plasmodial Slime-people with Malleable Form and a stomach-like digestion structure that keeps digestion contained in one place are able to store objects in the other parts of their body. For long-term storage, these items need to be moisture resistant, such as glass, ceramic, bronze, copper, pitch-coated wood, and beeswax-saturated natural fibers. Things that aren’t water resistant can be wrapped in oilcloth. The objects come out moist, but otherwise unharmed and slime-free. The main limitation that comes with this trait is that the size and density of the objects inside the character’s body will limit how small of an opening they can squeeze through.
  • Permanent Defense (for Physical Defense): Some have tough, rubbery skin that protects them like armor, causing physical harm to bounce off.
  • Permanent Defense (for Mental Defense): Some have magical items inside them, like crystal dust, carved pebbles, or enchanted copper disks, which protect them like a magical outfit.
  • Additional Limbs: Some of those with less common body plans have tails, or additional arms or legs.
  • Animal Talker (amphibians): Being part amphibian, some manifest the magical ability to talk to all amphibians.
  • Built-in Tool: A few have sticky skin, like the hands and feet of a tree frog, that can be used as the required tools for the Climbing skill. This sticky skin grants the special bonus that they can cling to surfaces that aren’t normally climbable, allowing them to climb on smooth surfaces and climb upside down.
  • Regeneration: A few can rapidly heal injuries by absorbing and digesting large quantities of food.

Common Vulnerabilities:

  • Moist Skin: Those who breathe through their skin need it to stay moist and will be harmed if their skin dries out.
  • Heat Sensitivity: Some are particularly sensitive to heat because it makes their internal goo too liquid, decreasing their strength.
  • Cold Sensitivity: Some are particularly sensitive to cold because it stiffens their internal goo, decreasing their dexterity.
  • Specific Damage Vulnerability (fire): Some are severely harmed by contact with fire because it boils the goo inside their body.
  • Specific Damage Vulnerability (freezing): Some are severely harmed by freezing cold because it creates ice shards inside their body.

A Few Interesting Facts:

  • Decoration with Dyes: Many Plasmodial Slime-people decorate the outsides of their bodies with edible dyes. These dyes are gradually absorbed into their bodies, where they trace out intricate internal patterns.
  • Decoration with Plant Arrangements: Those with separated digestion structures can decorate themselves internally by arranging flowers and leaves inside of their bodies, but outside of those digestion structures. In their moist insides, these flower and leaf arrangements can last for days. In contrast, those that dissolve food throughout their body find that flower and leaf arrangements are transient, as they are quickly digested.
  • Decoration with Sparkly Minerals: A more permanent internal decoration for those with digestion structures is the use of sparkly minerals inside their bodies, but outside of their digestion structures. These minerals don’t break down and are difficult to remove. In contrast, those that dissolve food throughout their body can decorate for a few days with sparkly minerals because those minerals slowly dissolve over time.

Prominent Cultures: Because there are many deaf and hard of hearing Plasmodial Slime-people, it is common for communities with large numbers of Plasmodial Slime People to use Amphibious Sign Language—a language designed to work both on land and underwater. In these communities, architecture and spatial design also center the needs of deaf people, and include other aspects of Deaf culture, such as the use of name signs.

Inspiration: I’ve researched slime molds, amphibians, and octopuses (squish-able organs) for various aspects of their biology.

 

 

Other Species

Two sapient plant species, Pitcher Crabs and Vine Collectives, are coming soon!

 

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