Strengths: Juniperan races are better attuned to the planet than foreign races. They heal from non-magical injuries and illnesses quicker than most. They need less food, and more importantly, less water than other races -- a useful trait on a planet where water can be hard to find. They have also built up better resistances to radiation, particularly Xi radiation. While it will still eventually damage them, they have all adapted in the years since the Great War (which is relatively quickly, truthfully) to have this resistance.
Weaknesses: Juniperans must be careful of their diet when in New Convergence. They often do not take well to Earth-based food, especially dairy products such as cheese or sour cream, which is foreign to them and tends to cause them to become ill. Milk does exist on Juniper, but it is a different consistency and composition, likely having to do with baby mammals needing more water from their mother. Additionally, Juniperans are allergic to the magical metal "quintradine", often used to enhance spells, which burns them on contact.
Lifespan: Approx. 80-160 years, even the Natha Erz.
For the most part, Juniper's history can be divided into two categories: BGW and AGW. Before the Great War, and After the Great War. Of course, there are many more subtle categories, epochs and ages of a planet that became extraordinarily advanced and then destroyed itself, but for the most part, these are the two best designations of time for the races of Juniper. Since the Great War destroyed most of the data files which recorded the history of Juniper, and since many of the languages of Juniper are now effectively dead languages, what we do know of the races there has been pieced together from the few races which remain, and through scholarly research into the artifacts left behind by extinct races.
Juniper is a vast planet. Over a hundred Earths could fit inside Juniper, and not ever touch. The landscape, climates, incredible variety of flora and fauna filling numerous biomes could support a large number of different lifeforms. The major problem on Juniper was the scarcity of water. Although not as scarce as it is now, water led to many conflicts throughout the history of the planet. The seas of Juniper are much smaller and more scattered than the oceans of Earth. Races which could find proximity to these freshwater seas, lakes, and rivers, or learn to harvest water from areas with the strangely porous ground known as "Wormrock" had a better chance of flourishing than others. Races that did not need water at all were especially fortunate, bypassing the problem altogether.
Nobody knows how long ago the races of Juniper began to form civilizations, but scholars believe that it was approximately 50,000 years ago that they began forming hunting/gathering tribes. The buildup of technology was slower than on Earth, simply because of the immense amount of dangers on Juniper, as well as the lack of water to fuel population growth. However, around two thousand years before the Great War, advancements in technology began to speed up when disparate clans, tribes, city states, and kingdoms began to form nations and empires.
Three particular empires are of note, known as the "Three Great Empires":
The Empire of Varduun
Varduun, encompassing the Great Cliff Ridge that runs along 1/4th of the surface of Juniper, is a harsh and unforgiving land. Its people are hardy and have a black humor, often living in caves or hollows, or they live in the vast grasslands beyond the ridge, where open water is hard to find during half the year, and many drink blood instead. The monarchs of Varduun have their palace in the mountain city of Craikar, where they worship Uul, god of the Unknown, and his three triplet children: Vestra, goddess of secrets, Agarr, god of blood, and Yemni, god (and sometimes goddess) of magic. It is said that the priestesses of Vestra became extremely savvy with either magic or technology when certain items were discovered in a huge cavern beneath one of their temples, and that this new prowess allowed them to make "copies" of the Varduun royal family, and extend the lives of Varduun nobles to many hundreds of years. The lower class of Varduuni lived in fear of those who ruled over them, however the Great Cliff Ridge is such a horrible place that they were kind of used to fear, and really often saw this power as the only way to keep Varduun from crumbling into warring factions.
The Argosian States
The Argosian States are the smallest of the three great empires. All situated around the sea of Argos, these small states banded together in order to form a democratic union. The Argos area may be one of the most temperate and safe lands on Juniper, great for farming, ranching, and fishing in the sea. They are known for their boats, which are capable of both traversing the sea, and the sky, through the use of Flywood, an extremely light but strong construction material made of wood pulp and a substance known as Whitelime found near and in the sea. Argosi people are multi-cultural, with each state being different from the next. Overall, they are seen as very open when it comes to sexuality and pleasure. They like to eat, drink, dance, and smoke Chaupa, an herb that causes relaxation, euphoria, and creativity. Unfortunately, the Argosian government was notoriously corrupt. Through bribes and trickery, a group of politicians came to power who sought to exploit the good-natured Argosi for their own benefit. This bred contempt among many of the Argosi states, and a civil war broke out.
Of the three empires, Vakrynalia was the most technologically advanced They had mastered space travel, had managed to solve most limitations on computing resources and had cured many diseases that plagued their people throughout the ages. Situated along the fertile Hundred River Valley (a place with more creeks and streams than actual rivers), Vakrynalians had access to a great deal of rare ores from the cliffs and outcroppings that the streams and creeks had created over time in the southern area of their lands. Their cities were said to be technological marvels. However, Vakrynalian society was very highly structured and restricted in order to maintain it. Vakrynalians were strongly xenophobic, both against the "crude" Varduun and the "excessive" Argosi. Their law code was exacting, and ruled over many aspects of their lives, such as reproduction. A series of tests, both of DNA and of skill and ability, determined a Vakrynalian's lot in life, what employment they could undertake, who they could easily marry, where they could live, and so forth. These tests, administered by SAI, the State Artificial Intelligence which ran much of the government, were often nerve-racking and grueling. Punishment for breaking the law, such as having more children than allowed, often ended with one having to go to the "Department of Social Change". While sounding relatively innocuous, DSC actually often performed experiments on lawbreakers in the name of science. With the related "Social Monitoring Agency" or SMA watching every move of the populace, the "utopia" created in Vakrynalia was viewed by some as more of a 1984-esque dystopia.
Nobody knows the exact details as to how the Great War began 500-700 years ago, but it is known that all three empires were all involved. The first year of the war saw many casualties, but not a complete breakdown of society. But subsequent years introduced a variety of technological and magical weapons which would eventually destroy all three empires and coat the upper atmosphere in a thin band of misty "radiation", known as Xi radiation. Much of the technological prowess that the native Juniperians had was lost in the aftermath of the war, and are collectively known as the "Lost Technologies". Most of the Argosi, Vakrynalian, and Varduun cities are now largely in ruins. Even those which still stand, to some degree, tend to be inhabited by violent and twisted versions of the races that once ruled and lived there, mutated, augmented, or otherwise changed by both war and time. No sane person enters these cities alone, lest they encounter "the Azhul", the general common Juniperian name for the violent and monstrous creatures now inhabiting them. Surviving since the Great War has been hard for many, who now reside in villages, or as wandering families, even loners. Occasionally, Juniperans show up and decide to take residence in New Convergence, where they are often prized for their knowledge of the planet, although that knowledge is often somewhat more limited, now that it has passed through several generations since the height of Juniperan civilization.
Juniperans tend to speak "Juniperan Common" as well as the language of their home nation, Varduuni, Argosi, or Vakrynalian. Natha Erz speak Erzhekan.
Cryptids: Insect-like in appearance, the Cryptids were citizens of the Empire of Varduun. Many hailed from noble families, as Cryptids were seen as strong and possessed of great endurance, and thus they eventually replaced the "Varda" race as the royalty and monarchs of Varduun with the line of the Great King Vrekar. Besides producing the royal family, the Cryptids often held important positions in Varduun society, such as priests or warriors. Nobody knows the true origin of their insect-like nature, though many believe they simply evolved in such ways in order to better survive on Juniper. Mantis, centipede, scorpion, spider (though truthfully those last two are arachnids), beetle, and wasp type Cryptids are the most common, with butterfly and bee Cryptids more rare, but occasionally showing up. The Cryptids who survived the destruction of Varduun are believed to have been in underground egg-sacs or hibernation, and only surfaced years later, after the Great War. Cryptids are proud of their heritage, and many hope to someday reclaim Varduun and in particular Craikar, which is said to be a place of immense magical power. It is not uncommon for Cryptids to claim that they are the true heir to the throne of Varduun, to the point where it's almost a joke about their race. Although several other "lower" races were represented in the Empire of Varduun, such as the Mekhai (orc-like artisans) or the Wekka (conquered humanoid slaves) it is not known if any of them survived. (Although Cryptids can't fly without buying that ability, many are indeed born with wings, and they can take flight for half as much XP. Crypids may take a single insect-like ability upon creation, such as being able to produce spider silk, having a venomous bite or sting, or control over their pheromones to induce interest or fear. These abilities may start out as minor, but can grow over time with the addition of XP.)
Vakrynalians: Often simply called "Vaks", the Vakrynalians are a tall, lithe people, with pale, sometimes opalescent skin. Earthlings who see them often compare them to Tolkien-esque elves, even having the pointed ears, but with shimmering skin. But to think the Vaks are anything like elves would be a severe mistake. The Vaks are an extremely practical people, who value detached logic over emotion. Though they see religion as an illogical waste of time, if there were one for the Vaks its centeral tenet would be the idea that perfection is achievable, but only for the rare few who work hard enough for it. Outward flaws are seen as a manifestation of internal imperfections that you should overcome. This mindset leads them to often harshly judge others on their personal abilities and achievements (which is almost always, in their eyes, lacking)—Many a Vak mother has completely disowned a child who did not live up to expectations. They are also often extremely hard on those who have visible flaws, or disabilities, picking apart anything that might need to be addressed in order to achieve the Vak view of "Perfection" with the cold, inexorable logic they are so (in)famous for. Like the Cryptids, the Vaks want to re-build their society, by and large, and are always interested in collecting pieces of the Vakrynalian empire. They have a high aptitude for technical ability, and see living under the thumb of ZetaCorp as completely normal, so 99% of Vaks who come to New Convergence end up in the Reach or working for the Exos League. The Vaks favor a simple style of dress, generally eschewing patterned fabric or overly revealing clothing. A common problem for Vakrynalians is infertility, as they have DNA which is programmed to make a certain percentage of their population unable to breed, something that was useful during the Empire days, but now is a bit worrisome. The Vaks who survived the war were, largely, in cryosleep, either in space, or having recently returned from it, or put away in the cryosleep vaults of the DSC for some crime. (Vakrynalians have a sort of hive mind ability. They can "put" a thought into another person's mind if they are looking at that person and have total concentration on them. This can not be done while in combat or casting. The thought "sounds" different within the person's head and they will know it is not their own thought. For an unwilling stranger, this thought can be up to 5 words long. For a close acquaintance, this thought could be up to 10 words long. And for someone who is a relative or mate, it could be 20 words long. This thought does not compel the other person to act, they simply hear a voice in their head. Nor can the Vakrynalian read any current thoughts. It is simply a placing of their own thoughts into the mind of another.)
Astori: The Astori are only one of a great many races who were members of the Argosian States. They hail from the Crystal Isles within the Sea of Argos, and are themselves creatures which have crystal bones, and often crystal outcroppings of horn or skin adornment. Although generally humanoid in shape, they have extremely thick blood which contains deposits of minerals that their body can consume instead of air. It is believed that the Astori were originally sea-faring-people, living under the water, but because of the dangers in the waters around the Crystal Isles, moved inland to the volcanic isles. The air quality being bad in the Crystal Isles due to the constant belching of volcanic gasses, they maintained their ability to go without breathing throughout their development, until eventually, they joined the Argosian States. Once they did, they were often put to work on Argosian Airships, which although not quite capable of going to another planet, could orbit Juniper at thin-air altitudes. Like most Argosians, the Astori love leisure, pleasure, and smoking Chaupa. Many of them worship Chaupahai, the god of bliss, and are in constant search of new highs and thrills. For this reason, they often join the Exos League. However, they also sometimes join the Thorns, as the Astori are good with crystals, which they must consume in small amounts every few days in order to be able to properly breathe. Many Astori who survived the war did so because of the remoteness of the Crystal Isles, or because they were beyond the exosphere. (Along with being able to go without external oxygen for 5 minutes easily, 30 minutes in a critical situation, the Astori also have the ability to grow incredibly tough crystal from their skin. This only lasts for a scene, but can be used in their defense. With two posts, they can grow a layer over their body which works to reduce certain kinds of damage. It's structured a bit like bark, not one solid piece (or else how would they move?). With three posts they can extend this crystal to be up to four inch spikes on a particular part of their body OR they can grow a crystal blade from the palm of their hand. All of these will crumble and shed off of them at the end of the scene.)
Natha Erz (Erzhekan Relatives): The Erzheka, known to have been present on Earth, were believed to have traveled there by spaceship, and either landed out of duress or crashed into Earth. It seems that the Erzheka who landed on Earth were not the only ones who were traveling through space, and that there were perhaps several different vehicles attempting to escape calamity on the Erzhekan homeworld. The Natha Erz are descended from Erzhekans who landed on Juniper, and bred with the Natha, a snake cult in the Red Desert. The Natha thought the Erzheka, with their scaled, snake-like or lizard-like appearance, were descended from the Great Snake. The Natha Erz took up the nomadic ways of their new people, who had long been sellers of handmade wares. But their reputation for being technologically savvy beyond the capacity of the original Natha, especially in the ability to repair almost anything, gained them access to all of the great Juniperan empires. The Natha Erz were welcome in Varduun, where they were seen as "children of Vesta" and knowers of secrets. They were welcome in Vakrynalia, despite it being a xenophobic nation, as being like-minded individuals with an eye toward progress. And they even lived among the Argosi, where many of them became famous shipwrights. The Natha Erz have the wanderlust of the Natha, and the cleverness of the Erzheka. Not many of them worship the Great Snake, however, and the cult which once drove the Natha has mostly died out as anything except a kitsch industry of snake charms and occasionally a bit of snake oil to be sold to the unwitting. Despite this, the Natha Erz are still seen as wandering teachers, tutors, and fixers-of-things. As they did not directly participate in the Great War the Natha Erz are one of the very few pre-war races with any real advanced technological skill, and they are known for their quirk of creating wacky inventions that probably don't fill any real niche. It is doubtful the spaceship which brought the Erzheka to Juniper still exists, as it is believed to have been disassembled and turned, piece by piece, into other inventions. (The Natha Erz start with level 3 (journeyman) repair, which counts towards no point or skill based totals. They may speak Juniperan Common, Erzhekhan, and the Empire language of their choice. They can choose to EITHER have a snakelike tail which is prehensile and can be used as a weapon, or to be able to completely naturally re-grow lost limbs like some lizards -- though this will take at least two weeks. Natha Erz have prehensile tongues, can secrete a tacky substance from their hands and feet, allowing them to climb walls like geckos, and can additionally change their scale color to camouflage themselves.)
In addition to their subracial, Juniperans may choose two forms of magic to utilize.