Irda

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An obscure race native to the Dungeons & Dragons setting of Dragonlance, the Irda, also known as High Ogres, represent the last survivors of a long-lost and unmourned race.

Say, way back in the mythic dawn of creation, the evil gods created an uber-race even more Mary Sue than the elves. Blessed with every advantage they could think of, from superhuman strength to immense longevity to a natural knack for arcane magic, ultimately, it all went terribly wrong for them: when the Age of Dreams ended, all these goodies were ripped away from them and they were reduced to the pitiful degenerate ogres who now plague the world.

Except... not all of them. See, some of the Irda had the sense not to fuck things up by embracing evil, and these small clans of isolationist uber-ogres still exist in the hidden regions of the world, relying on magic to go unnoticed and untouched by the other races. Although their backstory involves being shown the light by human slaves, the Irda of the present basically are super-elves, revering and protecting nature to the extent that they are presented as vegans and teetotalers in their AD&D monster writeup, although they lost this trait in 3e.

No, seriously; read this excerpt from their Races of Ansalon writeup, and then try to say that this doesn't basically remind you of old-school elves:

Tall, graceful, and slender, male and female Irda average six feet in height with some individuals growing taller. Their skin color varies from midnight blue to deep sea green. Their hair is most often black, though blonde, white, or silver hair is infrequently seen. By the standards of humans and elves, Irda are extraordinarily beautiful; their faces are as cold and lovely as sculpted marble. Irda eyes range from silver to a deep blue or emerald green. They have drooping eyelids, which make them appear bored or uninterested. Irda dress simply, accenting their clothing with handcrafted jewelry of elegant design. Irda do not wear leather, wool, or any material taken from an animal.

Most Irda seem aloof, cold, and unfeeling. Their mutable appearance, isolationist society, and mysterious association with arcane magic gives those who encounter them the impression that they are just as heartless and elitist as their wicked ancestors. In truth, the Irda are as emotional as any other race, but they have powerful control over these emotions and when they come to the surface. An Irda’s Charisma bonus represents this masterful control; they are both a physical and social chameleons.

Those who know of them consider the Irda more graceful than the elves. Irda move with poise and balance that come from a lifetime of cultural reinforcement; each individual movement appears to have been choreographed. This makes them seem incapable of spontaneity, and indeed, an Irda finds impulsive action to be distasteful and vulgar. Around each other, Irda are quiet and distant. Around members of other races, this is magnified one hundredfold. As graceful as they are, Irda can come across as awkward if their personal space is invaded.

If that's not enough, try their original lore, from the Player's Guide to the Dragonlance Campaign:

Irda, the high ogres of Krynn, retain the beauty that ogres had at their creation. In their natural form, Irda stand about 6’tall and are slender. They possess a dark loveliness that accentuates their cold beauty. Their drawn faces are regal and statuesque. Beneath drooping eyelids, they have keen eyes of silver. Their skin color ranges from midnight blue to deep, sea green. Most Irda have black hair, but some have tresses of white or silver. All keep their hair well-trimmed and combed. Irda dress in simple clothing-linen smocks and milkweed-silk gowns, primarily. They adorn these elegant garments with jewelry: pearl brooches, simple bracelets, and thin necklaces of steel. They will not don garments made of wool, leather, or any product from animals, and they eat no meat. Irda have deeply resonant voices, filled with rich melancholy. When they sing, audiences become immediately silent and listen tearfully. All Irda move with an innate grace. Their steps seem to be part of a silent dance. Rarely do they back into corners or step off-balance.

Why is it that the Dragonlance setting is so infested with Mary Sue races? Although, since the Irda basically released Father Chaos from the Graygem, resulting in the annihilation of their homeland and the near extinction of their race, well, it can kind of be argued that they paid for it.

Irda Culture[edit]

Irda culture actually varies between editions.

In AD&D, it's stated that Irda inhabit a tropical island paradise called Anaiatha, which is concealed by powerful magical protections from outsiders - however, those failed at a key point in their histories, and after the War of the Lance, many Irda families had been stranded in Ansalon for generations due to those protections wavering in the Cataclysm, allowing the forces of evil to capture many irda. These irda pursue a nomadic existence, hoping to find a way back to Anaiatha, guided by a telepathic calling that they can hear during the High Sanction (full moon) of Solinari; a period of nine days every 36 days during which they can find their way instinctively to Anaiatha, despite the shielding magic. Unfortunately, the journey lasts far longer than the duration of High Sanction, and few lost Irda are ever able to return to Anaiatha on their own.

Anaiatha is described as a tropical paradise, where the irda roam nomadically between the caves and valleys, reveling in the lush vegetation and friendly animals of their home. In this edition, they are governed by an absolute monarch who can trace his or her lineage to Igrane (or Igraine, depending on your source), the first High Ogre to turn from the evil of his culture and found the Irda movement. These kings can be either male or female, and rule until they reach the age of 400, at which point they must step down and allow one of their offspring to take the throne in their place.

In 3e, the name "Anaiatha" was stripped away, and the monarchy was changed into something that the irda used to have, but which they abandoned due to their disparate, individual-centered lifestyles. Instead, each irda group or community democratically appoints two life-long (unless they vote otherwise) designated figures; a Decider, basically a mayor-equivalent who makes decisions that affects the group as a whole, and a Protector, who is charged with defending their community. This is due to the novel "Dragons of Summer Flame", in which it's stated that irda are hyper-isolationist; even in their homeland, they basically avoid interacting with each other as much as possible, with everybody just doing whatever the hell they want and living their life how they see fit. Also, Races of Ansalon came out after the events of the War of Souls trilogy, so it had to address all of the post-War of the Lance stuff that'd happened in the novels.

One really weird thing that changed between editions was irda reproduction. In AD&D, all we know about it is their Monstrous Compendium writeup that says that irda "give birth to 1d4 children every 50 years", with "Tales of the Lance" saying they live for 550+5d10 years (so that's 555 to 600 years). Then the novels interfered. In "Dragons of Summer Flame", which introduced the rather creepy, yet also weirdly believable, idea of the Valin; a magical compulsion to mate inflicted by the elder irda on their race so their isolationism wouldn't drive them to extinction. This magical compulsion links the souls of a male and female irda - or, reputedly, on rare occasions, a female irda and a male of another race - and compels them to mate on pain of hideous physical torment and ultimately death, ending only when the two finally make a baby. Out of necessity, most Irda give into the Valin, decide what is best for the child, and then go their separate ways, but they still find the experience uncomfortably rapey, especially as it triggers without their consent; fortunately, it usually only happens once or twice in their life time.

...What? Don't believe us? Read the passages from Dragons of Summer Flame, later canonized by Races of Ansalon, and see for yourself:

Irda join with other Irda only once in their lives, for the purpose of mating. This is a traumatic experience for both male and female, for they do not come together out of love. They are constrained to come together by the magical practice known as the Valin. Created by the elders of the race in order to perpetuate the race, the Valin causes the soul of oen Irda to take possession of the soul of another. There is no escape, no defense, no choice or selection. When the Valin happens between two Irda, they must couple or the Valin will so torture and torment them that it may lead to death. Once the woman has conceived, the Valin is lifted, the two go their separate ways, having decided between themselves which would be responsible for the child's welfare. So devastating is this experience in the lives of two Irda, that this rarely happens more than once in a lifetime. Thus few children are born to the Irda, and their numbers remain small.

Irda PCs[edit]

Despite being the most isolated and xenophobic of the races in Dragonlance, they have actually been playable in it for a very long time, first receiving PC status in the original "Dragonlance Adventures" for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition, and then being coverted to 3rd edition in the 3e "Dragonlance Campaign Setting" and then "Races of Ansalon". Although irda adventurers are naturally cautious, seeking to avoid revealing who they are if they can avoid it, they also have an elf-like mentality; they are often given to flights of fancy and whim, and while they are rarely risk takers, they will imbibe in trickery and good humor, often placing their traveling companions on the receiving end. The most serious and sacred duty of any Irda adventurer is to recover Irda artifacts when any news arises, so that such powerful items do not fall into the hands of the servants of the dark gods.

AD&D Stats[edit]

Irda have two different statblocks, based on whether you're looking at the mechanics from Dragonlance Adventures, which is for AD&D 1e, or at the Tales of the Lance splatbook, which is 2nd edition. Regardless of version, Irda have no level limitations on their available classes, a very rare trait.

In "Dragonlance Adventures", Irda have the following stats:

Ability Score Modifiers: -2 Constitution, +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma
Ability Score Minimums/Maximums: Strength 12/18, Dexterity 8/20, Constitution 12/16, Intelligence 5/20, Wisdom 10/18, Charisma 15/20
Available Classes: Cavalier, Paladin, Fighter, Ranger, Wizard (Tower of High Sorcery), Thief, Thief-Acrobat, Cleric (Holy Orders of the Stars)
Gain Shapechanging as a unique racial proficiency. Exact mechanics on this aren't actually spelled out in the book itself! Their description states that they can "change their height by as much as two feet and can attain the features of any humanoid race (particularly elves, half-elves, and humans)", but that's all the info players are given in that splatbook.
Irda clerics and wizards gain +1 spell of the highest level they can cast.

Meanwhile, in "Tales of the Lance":

Ability Score Modifiers: -3 Constitution, +1 Dexterity, +1 Intelligence, +1 Charisma
Ability Score Minimums/Maximums: Strength 12/18, Dexterity 8/19, Constitution 12/15, Intelligence 5/19, Wisdom 10/18, Charisma 15/19
Available Classes: Fighter, Cavalier, Mariner, Paladin, High Sorcerer, Priest of the Holy Orders, Thief
Shapechanging: The Irda can, after several years of practice,

learn to shapechange into different forms. They can change their height by 2 feet in either direction and take the form of any humanoid race. They are most convincing as elves, half-elves, and humans. However, shapechanging requires quite a bit of practice and often drains the Irda for a time. A shapechanger usually practice assuming a specific form, which he can slip into and out of it with a minimum of bother. Then he only uses other forms in rare instances. Although an Irda can shift into a familiar form in 1 round, he must rest for 5 rounds (5 minutes) to adjust to the new form. For 2 rounds after this adjustment period, the Irda suffers a -2 to all rolls as he learns the nuances of his new body. If shifting to an unfamiliar form, the Irda must rest for 1d6+6 rounds, and then suffers a -2 to all rolls for 4 rounds. Irda bodies cannot be dispelled: they are solid and take damage just as other bodies do.

Irda clerics and wizards gain +1 spell of the highest level they can cast.

3.X Stats[edit]

In the original Dragonlance 3e campaign setting, Irda were given the following statblock:

-2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma
Medium
Humanoid (Shapeshifter)
Base Land Speed 30 feet
Low-Light Vision
Change Shape (Su): 3/day, an irda can assume the form of any humanoid type creature between Small and Large size. Equipment and clothing don't change. Natural attacks, natural armor, movemient modes and extraordinary special attacks of the new form are gained, but not special qualities. Retain original ability scores, hit points, saving throws, special attacks and qualities. Retain spellcasting ability (if any). This ability grants a +10 bonus to Disguise checks and the irda can remain in its chosen form as long as it wishes. Changing back does not expend a use. An irda reverts to its true form upon death.
Spell-Like Abilities: Dancing Lights, Detect Magic, Flare, Ghost Sound, Light and Mage Hand, all usable 1/day as if cast by a Sorcerer of the irda's character level (DC 10 + Cha modifier).
Favored Class: Wizard
Level Adjustment: +2

When "Races of Ansalon" was released, it tweaked the formula in a few ways...

-2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma
Medium
Humanoid (Ogre, Shapeshifter)
Base Land Seed 30 feet
Low-Light Vision
Change Shape (Su): An irda can assume the form of any humanoid, monstrous humanoid, or giant type creature between Small and Large size. In this form, an irda retains most of its physical qualities. An irda can be identified by a True Seeing spell. This power canot be used to take the form of a creature with a template. All gear that an irda is carrying/wearing shifts sizes so long as it remains in contact with the irda.
Spell-Like Abilities: Dancing Lights, Detect Language, Flare, Ghost Sound, Light, Mage Hand, all usable 1/day as if cast by a Sorcerer of the irda's character level (DC 10 + Cha modifier).
Favored Class: Any Arcane Spellcaster
Level Adjustment: +2

Mischta and Nzunta[edit]

Now, most would have thought that the Irda were magical proto-ogres enough. But Dragonlance's authors didn't think so. In 2nd edition, they released the splatbook "Otherlands", which details various less regions beyond the "core lands" of Ansalon and the more famous "foreign lands" of Taladas. Divided into three chapters, the second chapter detailed the coral reef island chain of Selasia, home to two branches of the irda family tree; the Mischta and the Nzunta.

The Mischta are a religious sub-culture of Irda, the only survivors when their High King, with incredible ironic timing, officially declared the renunciation of the gods at the same time as the Cataclysm struck, resulting in much of the mischta's former island home sinking into the sea - taking the High King with it. They cling deeply to their philosophy, which advocates seeking knowledge and tempering it with love and mercy, a pacifistic religion at heart that renounces violence except as an act of last resort and condemns evil.

Mischta in AD&D have the following stats:

Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 12/18, Dexterity 8/20, Constitution 12/16, Intelligence 5/20, Wisdom 10/18, Charisma 15/20
Ability Score Adjustments: -2 Constitution, +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma
Class Level Limits: Fighter 10, Ranger 15, Paladin 10, Wizard (High Sorcery) 15, Cleric (Holy Order of Stars) 15, [[Thief] 10
Ogre Strength: Mischta deal 1d10 damage on a melee hit and add +2 to their damage rolls.
Pacifist: Mischta suffer a -1 penalty to all attack rolls, and will never wear armor made from animal skin, bone, chitin or other body parts.
Poison Vulnerability: -1 penalty to saves vs. poison.
Shapeshifter: Mischta can transform into a human form at will. A mischta with 18+ Intelligence can, from the age of 100, spend 20 years to learn to become a Changer Adept, letting them shapechanger as per the 9th level wizard spell 3/day.

The Nzunta, on the other hand, are the dark reflection of irda and mischta both. They are the remnants of the original corrupt irda culture, somehow spared the karmic transformation that laid their kindred low, and still believing that it is their right to conquer all other races. Fortunately, the nzunta still struggle with the corruption manifesting itself through their blood; only 1d2 baby nzunta per century will be born as purebloods; all of the others will be born as "fallen" - ogres, ettins, trolls and hags. These imperfect babies are killed, to avoid polluting the bloodline further. They rely heavily on slaves, mostly the Orughi; a strain of half-ogre adapted for an amphibious life.

Nzunta in AD&D have the following stats:

Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 12/18, Dexterity 8/20, Constitution 12/16, Intelligence 5/20, Wisdom 10/18, Charisma 15/20
Ability Score Adjustments: -2 Constitution, +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma
Class Level Limits: Fighter Unlimited, Wizard (Black Robes) Unlimited, Cleric (Holy Order of Stars) Unlimited, Thief 15
Ogre Strength: Nzunta deal 1d10 damage on a melee hit and add +2 to their damage rolls.
Master Magi: Nzunta wizards and clerics gain +1 spell of the highest level they can use.
Shapeshifter: Nzunta can transform into a human form at will. An nzunta with 16+ Intelligence can, from the age of 75, spend 15 years to learn to become a Changer Adept, letting them shapechanger as per the 9th level wizard spell 3/day. Those with 18+ Intelligence and at least 150 years old can spend 75 years learning to become Changer Savants, who can use their shapechange spell-like ability at-will.

Both the mischta and the nzunta made a surprise reappearance in 3rd edition, through the Races of Ansalon splatbook. 3e nzunta use the same statblock as irda (see above), but are evil aligned. 3e mischta work by taking the irda statblock and tweaking it as follows:

+2 Wisdom instead of +2 Intelligence
No spell-like abilities
Alternate Form replaces Change Shape; this functions as Change Shape, but the Mischta only has a single humanoid, monstrous humanoid or giant alter-ego that it can transform into. A Mischta can swap the species of this alternate form by spending a week engaging in mystical practices under the light of Solinari.
Level Adjustment decreases to +1
Favored Class becomes Cleric or Mystic, depending on if your Mischta was born pre- or post-Chaos War.

"Otherlands" also introduces a species called the Bolandi; halfling-like mischievous humanoids with an innate knack for the art of the Illusionist, a strain of ogre-kin warped into small forms and childlike minds by the karmic punishment that created the other ogre strains of Krynn. Unlike the irda, mischta and nzunta, there are no rules for playing bolandi.

Publication History[edit]

Irda first appeared in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, with their lore and stats appearing in three different Dragonlance books; they debuted in the 1st edition splatbook "Dragonlance Adventures", which featured their PC stats and an abbreviated version of their fluff. They were then updated to 2e in "The Player's Guide to the Dragonlance Campaign", which provided an extensive detailing of Irda fluff; this would be repeated alongside new 2e stats in the boxed set "Tales of the Lance".

Stats for Irda as AD&D monsters appeared in the Dragonlance Appendix for the Monstrous Compendium.

Otherlands would flesh out the race further by introducing their cousins, the Mischta and the Nzunta.

They then returned in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition; detailed right from the start as a PC option in the 3e DL Campaign Setting, they were fleshed out as part of the Ogres chapter in Races of Ansalon.