Lapith are bipedal humanoids with the innate ability to assume a quadrupedal form very similar to a centaur. They are the result of arcane experimentation by centaur and elf sorcerers, who used powerful magics to blend the power of centaurs with the adaptability of humans and elves. (The race’s name is, in fact, the tribal name of the centaur sorcerers who first attempted this process.) The sorcerers undertook this dangerous project in the hopes of creating a race that was able to bridge the social chasm between the ancient centaur tribes, the isolated elven kingdoms, and the ever-expanding human frontier lands. Though the intent was born of noble motivations, the results have thus far been far more negative than positive.
In a few isolated communities, lapith are accepted by centaur, elf, and human alike. In these regions, they often act as go-betweens and diplomats among these vastly different cultures. Where they are trusted and respected, lapith often find ways to delineate the woods, rivers, plains, and urban borders in ways that satisfy and benefit the races co-inhabiting them.
The most robust lapith communities can be found in areas where centaurs have begun to trade with and even live among humans. Often in these places, lapith will have risen to positions of great respect and authority. Sadly, situations like this remain very uncommon.
However in most communities, elves consider lapith to be freaks, humans see them as centaurs with magic, and centaurs think of them as cripples with a horrendous weakness for becoming bipedal. While human settlements allow lapith to live among them, they don’t trust them or value their input, and often value them as little more than talking animals. Elves understand the lapith’s true nature better, but believe they are abhorrent violations of the laws of nature. They do not generally permit them to live in elvish enclaves and, in extreme cases, may think it is best to kill them, simply as a mercy. Centaurs accept lapith in their ranks, but treat them as second-class citizens. Faced with these unpleasant options, some lapith move to new lands and try to conceal their dual nature, but inevitably they are seen switching forms at some point and must reveal the truth about themselves.
Lapith can adapt to live among nearly any humanoid or monstrous humanoid race (though their size simply doesn’t lend itself well to predominantly halfling or gnomish communities). They often take the roles of scouts, their dual forms allowing them to pass through places larger creatures couldn’t and move faster than most Medium creatures could, when need calls for it. They slip easily into family and social groups that accept them, as lapith themselves don’t care much about the race of a potential friend, ally, or lover is. Lapith can interbreed with elves, half-elves, humans, and centaurs, and the resulting offspring is always a lapith.
Lapith can be presented as the natural result of interbreeding between centaurs and humanoid races, or as a totally separate species that simply has a shapeshifting ability. Also, rather than being the product of mortal arcane magic, lapith could be the result of some god or powerful angel’s efforts to bring together worshipers of differing races. Alternatively, lapith might just be a group of centaurs with a long tradition of arcane magic use or druidic religion, where the ability to change shape has over time bred into their bloodline.
Physical Description: In their bipedal forms lapith appear to be humans, half-elves, or (more rarely) elves. They often have thicker hair than the race they resemble, and are always broad of shoulder and hip with long, lean legs. In spite of these minor differences, they easily pass for one a natural member of the race they resemble.
In quadrupedal form, they retain most of the same appearance from the hips up, and gain a quadrupedal body (most often that of a horse) from the hips down giving them the same general appearance as a centaur. Those lapith with half-elven or elven features may instead gain the quadrupedal body of a deer or antelope (and may have the horns of that animal growing from their foreheads while in quadrupedal form). Human-looking lapith on rare occasions have the quadrupedal body of a moose, buffalo, or bison. The coloration of lapith skin runs the same range as the races from which they are drawn, and the coloration of their quadrupedal body roughly matches this.
Society: Even in places where they are well accepted, lapith stand somewhat outside whatever community they are part of. Lapith embrace their dual-natures and have no trouble seeing that other creatures, and even social institutions, may have more than one nature as well. Lapith do not accept the elements of their societies without question. They always seek to find what variations of form or function may exist within families, businesses, guilds, legal systems, and clans. A lapith often does not see himself as wholly part of a society, but rather as standing just outside it to act as an unbiased observer.
In some communities this constant observation and consideration is accepted and valued. In most, it is a source of friction. Lapith are often thought to be overly critical, insincere, untrustworthy, and flighty. They can earn grudging acceptance because of their willingness to work within systems even if they aren’t treated as equals (as lapith can see the value of the system even while they experience its failings), but are more likely to be treated as advisors hired for specific tasks than true members of a town or clan. While lapith are no happier than any other group to be abused by the prejudice and fear of others, they often willingly stay in lands that don’t grant them equal status, preferring to work for change than abandon the positive elements of a culture.
Relations: Lapith can get along with anyone, and do get along with everyone who treats them with respect and trust. Because of their origins, lapith are often mistrusted by elves, centaurs, and humans but find kindred spirits in half-elves and half-orcs. Oddly enough, many dwarves are accepting of lapith, though not generally at first contact. But a lapith’s willingness to work to earn respect, not to mention their appreciation of the practical elements of dwarven culture, allows dwarves to accept individual lapith after they’ve proved their mettle.
The down side of the lapith ability to see the benefits of any system is that they can be seduced by cultures of tyranny and oppression when they come to appreciate how efficient dictatorship and rule through fear can be. Lapith are sometimes found as agents of evil dragons, giants, and wizards who reward dedicated devotion to their despotic rule. As long as the lapith see there is a practical benefit in following a given system, they can be drawn into ways of life that promote abuse and cruelty, both as victims hoping to earn a better place and as overseers who see how oppressing certain individuals benefits the society as a whole.
Alignment and Religion: Their dual nature and open acceptance of many different ways of doing things makes most lapith neutral in at least one aspect of their alignment. Lapith frequently find themselves playing devil’s advocate for the actions of both their allies and their enemies, and sometimes talk themselves into a world view so different that their own alignment changes. Lapith are drawn to gods with two (often opposed) aspects, such as gods of birth and death, night and day, or farming and hunting.
Adventurers: As a race created to bring together opposing cultures, it’s unsurprising that most lapith spend at least some of their lives as adventurers. Some continue to seek to succeed at their racial purpose, seeking to gain the respect, power and contacts needed to forge peace between different cultures. Others simply spend lives as traveling mercenaries so they can find a place to settle down, comfortable with the idea of wandering to find a place to settle down. Lapith may also be drawn into a life of danger to protect the communities or friends they have come to trust and depend on, seeing no conflict with the idea of killing and existing with danger in order to preserve the lives and safety of others.
Male Names: Aberdal, Avussan, Banos, Galuss, Iscalas, Mastan, Oesalecs, Oxynt, Tabat, Zalesan.
Female Names: Agava, Baurbet, Dahla, Gaia, Gauda, Heimsa, Kahina, Mauret, Thabet, Umidia.
1 This category includes barbarians, oracles, rogues, and sorcerers.
The following feats are available to a lapith character who meets the prerequisites.