Plainsrunners dance in fire. They live in the Scorched Plains, notorious both for its volcanic activity and for the wildfires that occasionally ravage the grasslands. The plainsrunners have lived apart from the rest of humanity for so long that the unique stresses of their environment have changed their physiology - they are quicker and hardier than their human counterparts, and as a result of their culture they have developed a unique relationship with fire bordering on obsessive. The raging flames of their home fill them with courage and determination; their hearts are strongest when touched by their element.
The plainsrunners have a tribal society divided into various clans which frequently end up competing for the scarce resources of the grasslands. Most clans are named for features of the grasslands, such as the Firepelt clan (named for the wild cats which roam the land), the Eagle clan, or the Yellow-grass clan.
Plainsrunners are first of all humanoid creatures, similar in appearance to a human. They tend to have tanned skin tones, and their culture features red, blue, and/or black tattoos on accomplished individuals; since individual tattoos have different meanings, an experienced plainsrunner with the opportunity to examine another's patterns can determine the other's status. A plainsrunner with few or no tattoos is generally of lower status, while one with many has greater status. In battle, plainsrunners sometimes wear paint on their skin, eventually to be replaced by tattoos.
Plainsrunners live in heavily tribal clans, led by a single elder who chooses an heir from among the clan. This choice is supposedly guided by fire spirits who lead the clan to good fortune. These spirits are consulted for many important decisions by means of secret rituals that vary from clan to clan. There is some debate among outside scholars as to whether these rituals are actually magical in nature, although plainsrunners firmly assert that they are, even those exiled to the outside world. Either way, they seem to work, as even naturally occurring wildfires never seem to catch the plainsrunners unprepared. The society itself varies somewhat from clan to clan, some are more warlike or aggressive than others, and leaders can be either male or female depending on the clan.
Plainsrunners are the definition of insular, trusting first their clan, then allied clans, and rarely outsiders. Outsiders are usually warned to leave the Scorched Plains before the fires consume them, with the rare exception of a few traders who are friendly with the clans. These traders carry wares and news between the clans, and provide most of the plainsrunners' information on the outside world. Other travelers who venture into the Scorched Plains usually find the plainsrunner clans indifferent, if not passively hostile. Some daring travelers barter for the good will of the plainsrunners; this can go well or poorly depending on the clan the traveler in question attempts to approach. While most plainsrunners will not leave even an outsider to die by wildfire, some will, and rescued outsiders are treated with a significant level of disdain or even contempt by their saviors unless they are already in the clan's good graces (in which case it is simply pity). All other races are equal in the eyes of the plainsrunners: they are outsiders.
Alignment and Religion
Plainsrunners do not usually follow the standard deities, instead mostly following a sort of ancestor worship in which the honored dead join with the fire spirits of the clan. There is some evidence that this is the case, but it can be hard to tell how much is reality and how much is deliberate fabrication or wishful thinking on the part of the plainsrunners. Clans who violate their own traditions and fail to provide proper respect seem to encounter worse luck than others, however, so perhaps it is not wrong. The desert-dwelling dragons also have a place in plainsrunner religion, so half-dragons of the appropriate colors are at once both respected and feared for their influence. Other dragons are dealt with respectfully, but are not encountered often in the Scorched Plains. Divine magic is usually found in the form of druids, oracles, rangers, or shaman, and is not uncommon; those with a domain usually have the fire domain. Arcane magic is less prevalent but regarded in a similar manner, usually coming in the form of bards, skalds, or sorcerers. Clerics and wizards do exist, but the study involved in becoming one is often more time-consuming than the clans are willing to support. For the most part, a plainsrunner won't care where magic comes from, only how it is used and whether that use benefits the clan.
At the age of 15, plainsrunners undergo a harrowing rite of passage known as the Flaming Sprint, in which they must outrun a raging wildfire in a test of speed, endurance, and will to survive. While most succeed, there are some who are unable to successfully complete the Sprint, and fall to the fires chasing them. Those that fail and survive are few, and are exiled from the clan; such exiles are dishonored and few ever attempt to return, forever treated as akin to outsiders by their own kin. Rarely, a cowardly (or rather, sane) plainsrunner will leave the clan voluntarily rather than face their trial by fire. Even more rarely, a visitor to a clan will be invited to take part in an upcoming Sprint in order to formally join the clan. This offer is considered (by the clan) to be a great honor, usually only made to those who have helped the clan in some grand degree, whether by providing food during famine or by protecting the clan from some dire outsider threat. Word spreads quickly among the clans about such individuals, and pretending to be one can have lethal consequences. Inductees are usually given a tattoo for whatever they did to help the clan, should they attempt (and survive) the Flaming Sprint. To complete the Flaming Sprint, an individual must keep ahead of the wildfire for three minutes, which requires moving at a rate that matches or exceeds the wildfire's speed of 125 feet per round. Even plainsrunners have trouble with it, and train for years before attempting the Sprint; for this reason it is common for someone "honored" with the opportunity to join a clan to politely decline until they are ready, and there is no shame in doing this.
Occasionally, the plainsrunners will send out a few of their own, usually individually, to investigate some great disturbance in the outside world, gathering information and reporting back on what they have found when the time is right, either in person or by courier. These plainsrunners are not exiled (and are still members in full standing), but some of them find homes outside the Plains to their liking, and do not return. Most plainsrunner adventurers are either of this type, or are exiled for one reason or another.
Standard Racial Traits
Ability Score Racial Traits: They are quicker and tougher than their human counterparts, but less versatile. They gain +2 dex and +2 con.
Size: Plainsrunners are Medium creatures and thus receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Type: Plainsrunners are humanoids with the plainsrunner subtype.
Base Speed: (Fast) Plainsrunners have a base speed of 40 feet.
Languages: Plainsrunners begin play speaking Common (plainsrunner dialect). This is functionally equivalent to Common. They can learn any language as a bonus language except secret languages (such as druidic).
Defense Racial Traits
Blazing Heart (Su): A plainsrunner goes into a spiritual frenzy when they are burned. When a plainsrunner is dealt fire damage (even if it is fully resisted) from a spell, spell-like ability, or supernatural ability, they act as if under the effects of a haste spell for 1 round. If the plainsrunner has at least 7 hit dice, it also acts as though under the effects of a freedom of movement for the duration.
Offense Racial traits
Wildfire Adept (Su): A plainsrunner who casts spells adds a number of fire spells to their class spell list; these spells are spark (0), burning hands (1st), flame blade (2nd), fireshield (3rd), wall of fire (4th), flamestrike (5th), fire seeds (6th), fire storm (7th), incendiary cloud (8th), elemental swarm (fire creatures only) (9th).
Feat and Skill Racial Traits
Reactive: Plainsrunners have a +2 racial bonus on Initiative checks and Perception skill checks.
Desert Runner: Plainsrunners receive the feats Run and Endurance as bonus feats.