Dwarves form communities who usually live underground, in mine systems excavated by their workers. They are master blacksmiths and craftsmen. They use their metals and crafted goods to trade for food with surface races, most often gnomes, but also humans and halflings. Dwarven hunting parties sometimes venture forth from their caverns to hunt for meat, but the only agriculture they practise is fungus gardening.
Dwarves are well known for their love of precious metals and jewels. Most will go to great lengths (consistent with their personal morals) to acquire such items and will be hard pressed to give them up. Dwarves are often gruff and practical, and prefer a straightforward brute force approach to problems over subtlety or stealth. Most dwarves have a healthy respect or sometimes even fear of magic. The race produces very few wizards; clerical magic is more common. Dwarven master smiths, however, produce the finest weapons and armour suitable for enchantment and sometimes, perhaps through the working of their gods, produce magical items simply by working with great dedication.
Dwarves are one of the old races, having a history so long that much of it is now forgotten. Long before the appearance of humans and most of the other intelligent races, dwarves and elves shared the world. The long-running racial feud between the dwarves and the elves is legendary. The exact nature of the grievance is lost in the mists of time, but dwarves have very long memories and remain distrustful of elves to this day. Although they recognise that elves are often of kindred interests most dwarves would sooner cut their beards off than ask an elf for help.
Most elves are forest dwellers, though there are small communities who live on sea coasts or in mountainous regions. Often they live in treehouses, or homes combining natural rock and living trees as walls. They are respectful of nature and able to live in harmony with local flora and fauna indefinitely. Elves are well known for their wood and leatherworking skills and the fine and delicate pieces of jewellery they make. They hunt and gather food, being careful not to take more than they can use nor enough to unsettle the local ecosystem.
Elves are somewhat reclusive and aloof of all the other races, though they will meet and trade with non-evil races. Although usually skilled in combat, they prefer resolving problems through diplomacy if possible. The typical elven weapon is the bow. Elves are often sensitive to magic and many receive some magical training. A dedicated elven wizard can learn and master a lot of magic during his long life.
Elves are one of the old races, if not the original and oldest of all. Certainly there are ancient stories of a time before the arrival of the dwarves, who have been around long enough to see a world predating humans and most other intelligent races. Whether or not this is true is a mystery probably impossible to resolve. Generally elves would be happy to forget the feud with the dwarves, and will initiate trade or alliances with them, but the reluctance of the dwarves to trust them is often (but not always) a barrier to cooperation.
Gnomes generally live in farming communities on plains and amongst scattered temperate forests. They raise livestock for milk and wool only, preferring to fish and hunt wild animals for meat. Often they live near dwarven communities and trade food and clothing for raw and worked metals. They will not usually venture into the dwarven halls however, because of a preference for open sky above them. Their homes are built much like human houses, though light and airy in construction.
Gnomish communities are generally friendly to other non-evil races, although they like to keep somewhat to themselves. They are even more skilled than dwarves in crafts involving wood, leather, cloth, and precious stones, but tend not to work metal much beyond practical applications. Gnomes are not as averse to magic as dwarves, with the uncommon gnomish wizards often specialising in illusion magic.
Some scholars say gnomes are a now distantly related offshoot of the dwarven race. Whether true or not, the two cannot now interbreed. Whereas dwarves remember and bear grudges indefinitely, a gnome will never forget a good deed, gift, or favour, and will be sure to return it when the chance arises.
Half-elves fall in the gaps between elven and human society. Although they could live amongst either race (and some do so), many end up yearning to experience the other half of their heritage. This leads them to take up travelling and adventuring lifestyles more often than their parent races. So, although half-elves are relatively rare, it is not too unusual to see one on the road or staying at an inn somewhere. There are too few of them to form wholly half-elven communities, and they are usually found amongst companions of other races.
Half-elf attitudes are generally somewhere between those of elves and humans, so they get along with most other races. Depending on upbringing, a half-elf could be almost as skilled in traditional elvish activities as a true elf, or as broadly studied as any human. They are more attuned to magic than most humans, though not as much as elves, and often make good warrior-mages.
Obviously, half-elves did not exist before humans did. There is no evidence of elves ever having been able to produce offspring with any other species. Since they do not form a distinct race by themselves, half-elves are simply represented in the histories and lore of elves and humans.
Half-orcs are seen as puny halfbreeds by orc societies and often end up as abused slaves if they stay within them. Humans do not treat them much better and a bad reputation will follow any half-orc identified as such in human communities until such time as the half-orc can prove himself. Half-orcs sometimes form small villages of their own, but these are subject to raids by orcs and humans alike. Better options for non-evil half-orcs are to either be an inconspicuous lower class worker in a human community or become a well-known hero.
Depdending on upbringing, half-orcs can be either as nasty and brutish as orcs, or as good and kind as some humans. They normally take after the parent who raised them. The orcish side usually means they are not magically talented, though this can sometimes be overcome by an especially gifted human parent. Half-orcs can however make good shamans in orcish communities, if enslaved to a shaman as an apprentice.
Half-orcs have been around as long as humans have. The orcish race predates the appearance of humans, as revealed by elven and dwarvish records. The fact that orcs and humans can interbreed is seen as disturbing by some elven scholars for two reasons: It indicates a close relationship between humans, who currently dominate the world, and the evil orcs; and the existence of half-elves argues that elves and orcs may also be interfertile. If any orc-elf halfbreeds have ever existed, no record of such, or even of any orc-elf matings, remains in the elven histories.
Halflings most often form communities in hilly countryside or occasionally open plains. They prefer to live in homes set into burrows underground, most often dug into a hillside. Where no hill is available, a burrow will be a hole in the ground with steps leading down to the comfortably furnished living areas. Halflings farm crops and livestock; occasionally they hunt for meat but never fish. Their racial aversion to water extends to drink - most prefer beer or wine, and lots of it to go with their hearty meals. Racial skills extend more to sneaking around and if necessary attacking from a distance, rather that craft skills.
Halflings relate best to humans, since they share several of the same traits and desires such as curiosity and wanderlust, but are on amicable terms with all non-evil races. Amongst such races they enjoy a good reputation as fair, loyal, and hospitable neighbours. Halfling hospitality is well known, since no halfling will turn away a hungry traveller seeking shelter, though they do expect something in return, even if only stories of travel and far off places.
The origin of halflings is uncertain - they seem to have appeared around the same time as humans, well after most other races. Research is difficult due to the halfling habit of keeping only oral histories (although they are good at reciting genealogies stretching back hundreds of years), but elven and darven records show no sign of them in the earliest days of the world.
Humans form villages, towns, and even great cities nearly everywhere. They are currently the dominant race in The Demesnes, more by sheer numbers than anything else. Because they multiply more rapidly than any other technological race (orcs only border on technological) they have settled most niches not already populated by demi-humans. They farm, hunt, chop down trees, and trawl the seas for fish to support their large populations.
The rapacious nature of human communities sometimes puts them at odds with elves (in the forests) and dwarves (in the mines), though usually differences and ownership rights can be settled peacefully. Humans are generally non-evil, but in some places they have formed decadent towns catering to those seeking vice or a hiding place. For the most part, they will trade eagerly with other races for mutual advantage and ally against common threats.
Humans are one of the youngest races, appearing only relatively recently in the long elven and dwarven histories. Their origin remains a mystery. Whether placed on the world by gods or appearing spontaneously, nobody knows. Humans have recorded histories dating back nearly six thousand years - what preceded that is uncertain, though elven records contain debatable hints of their existence up to a thousand years earlier. A few recent scholars who argued that humans are the result of orc-elf crossbreeding have been persecuted for heresy.
Lizard men generally prefer to keep to themselves, forming semi-nomadic villages in warm to hot areas, including deserts, jungles, and swamps. They hunt and gather food, moving on when game is scarce or the seasons bring bounties elsewhere. They are masters of survival in their environment. Most of their technology is based on natural materials. Although they can work metal, they do not mine it and must acquire it by trade.
Although fearsome in appearance, lizard men are not by nature evil, and some communities have set up small trading operations with nearby humans and demi-humans. Lizard men are not fussy about who they deal with though, and will just as likely trade with orcs and goblins. Few lizard men leave their race willingly - most who leave have been exiled for tradition and taboo violations. Such violations often seem trivial to other races; exiled lizard men are not the equivalent of murderers or criminals, and are usually in demand as gladiators, bodyguards, and mercenaries. Among other races they exhibit strange customs, such as pausing briefly to pray before entering a door, or having an unsheathed weapon ready during meals - these vary between individuals.
The lizard man race has been around a long time. They appear early in the elven histories, though it is not clear if they existed even earlier and simply did not encounter elves for a long time. A handful of radical scholars suggest the lizard men, sahuagin, and thri-kreen had grand civilisations and fought terrible wars before the appearance of any warm-blooded races, though most believe the lizard man civilisation peaked around when the dwarves appeared. There are some very old ruins in the deserts and steaming jungles...