Genasi (pronounced: /dʒɛnˈɑːsi/ jen-AH-see) were planetouched humans, infused with the power of the elements. Along with aasimar and tieflings, genasi were the most common planetouched found on the world of Toril.
Technically speaking, the genasi were not a race but rather a general classification of humans who had a heritage (usually unknown) that included some planar being from one of the elemental planes, most often a genie, (dao, djinn, efreet, marid, or jann,) which is whence their name is derived.
Each of the four fundamental elements had associated genies, so the most common genasi were air genasi, earth genasi, fire genasi, and water genasi. Para-genasi were genasi who expressed a bloodline of two elements. These included the dust para-genasi, ice para-genasi, magma para-genasi, ooze para-genasi, smoke para-genasi, steam para-genasi, among other possibilities. Para-genasi were even rarer than the four standard genasi.
After the Spellplague, when the separate elemental planes coalesced into the Elemental Chaos, each genasi gained the potential to manifest the power of any of the elements, though only one at a time. After the Second Sundering, when the elemental planes were restored, so also the genasi were once again separated into the four major subraces of air, earth, fire, and water.
No two genasi were alike in appearance. Some could pass as normal humans, bearing the marks of their human ethnicity; for others, their elemental nature was impossible to hide. Their heritage was nearly always evident in one or two physical traits,[note 1] such as skin or hair color or an elemental aura. Some genasi did not have hair at all; for such genasi, the substance that appeared to cover their heads was actually a supernatural expression of their elemental nature.
Even after the Spellplague, no genasi could maintain a neutral, "non-elemental" state, and their physical appearance changed depending on the elemental soul that they were currently manifesting. Those genasi manifesting an "earthsoul" had brown skin and golden eyes. Those manifesting a "firesoul" had bronze skin and orange eyes, with flickering flames coming out of their heads. "Stormsoul" genasi had purple skin with glowing, crystal spikes of silver in place of hair. Genasi with the "watersoul" manifestation had skin the color of seafoam and were bald. "Windsoul"-manifesting genasi had silver skin with blue and gray crystalline "hair".
Genasi of the era between the Spellplague and the Second Sundering bore a unique physical feature not reported in earlier generations. Regardless of their elemental manifestation, the body of each such genasi was etched with strange lines of energy, called szuldar in Primordial, that glowed in a color associated with the element that the genasi was currently manifesting. The earthsoul manifestation had golden-colored energy lines; the firesoul manifestation had fiery orange lines; the stormsoul manifestation had silvery lines; the watersoul had bright blue lines; and the windsoul light blue. These lines appeared in a pattern that was passed along family lines, sometimes extending into small communities as well. Though the patterns could be similar between relatives in a general sense, the specific configurations were unique to each individual and served much the same purpose that fingerprints did amongst humans; the pattern of these lines remained unchanged even when a genasi changed their manifestation. Many genasi, especially adventurers, displayed these lines with pride, often wearing clothing that left a fair amount of skin exposed.
Though szuldar usually remain unchanged throughout a genasi's life it was possible to alter them through scarring. Some genasi did this deliberately for aesthetic reasons, or in order to disguise themselves. Most genasi, however, disapproved of the practice and saw it as a loss of self-awareness, valuing the patterns they were born with as a mark of their identity.
Like other planetouched, because of the strength of their elemental heritage, many spells that specifically affected humanoids had no effect on genasi. On the other hand, some spells that affected outsiders were effective against them, such as banishment.
Unlike many planetouched races, genasi generally took pride in their unusual features. Furthermore, because of their elemental power, most genasi felt a sense of superiority over other races and even over other genasi—including those of the same element. This was not so much a matter of prejudice as it was simple fact—a simple mortal could not possibly understand the mind of one with elemental heritage. In return, the genasi were perhaps the most distrusted of the planetouched races for being the most alien.
The personality of the typical genasi reflected her or his core element. For example, a fire genasi might have a "hot temper" and an earth genasi might take life slowly and carefully. Between the Spellplague and the Second Sundering, because of their roots in the powers of the Elemental Chaos, genasi were by nature changeable and contradictory. Nevertheless, the psychology of a genasi depended vastly on what element was currently manifested by the individual in question. Thus, genasi who could manifest in more than one way thought of themselves as possessing multiple personalities. Such genasi might even use one when dealing with one group of friends while using a another to interact with another set. Others were more picky and chose friends who could cope with their changing nature.
Many genasi philosophers believed that their race existed as a compromise between the chaos of the primordials and the divinely crafted world of the gods. A few genasi took this to heart and tried to eliminate one or the other aspect of their nature, either becoming agents of chaos or disciples of order, but these individuals were considered the exception rather than the rule. Most genasi were simply grateful for the innate connection to the elemental forces that shaped the world that they all shared.
Genasi had a strong ability to adapt, perhaps only superseded by humans in this regard, and embraced change as an inevitability or even something to be relished. Even lawful genasi embraced this change, and genasi of all kinds valued the possibilities the future might bring, such as new allies or new opportunities. In many ways, genasi were the most flexible of races, less stubborn and more willing to accept new ideas for better or worse.
One of the traits found commonly amongst all genasi was a strong sense of ambition. All genasi had a desire to better themselves and advance their status, either through pursuit of power, the acquisition of friends, or other means. Nearly all genasi had dreams and aspirations and would pursue these goals throughout their life and though few genasi were truly patient, so strong were their passions for these goals that they would often continue to follow them even long after individuals of other races would have given up and moved on. Simply put, they felt that they had a destiny and a calling to leave a name for themselves.
Genasi loved most forms of recreation, particularly competitive ones that allowed them to improve their standing amongst other races further. Most genasi preferred recreational activities that were active and physical, allowing them to release their impulses and wilder urges.
Because of their chaotic and spontaneous nature, genasi were not predisposed towards team athletics and preferred sports that favored the individual. Genasi were particularly fond of gladiatorial sports, which allowed them to bask in the attention of others while simultaneously releasing pent-up passions.
Genasi were exceptionally rare among the planes. They were more common on Toril, however, because of the many portals to other planes found on that world. Even so, until the time after the Spellplague, genasi were lucky if they ever met another one of their kind. In Faerûn, they could be found in isolated wildlands or in major cities, such as Waterdeep, where their strange traits would not arouse significant suspicion. Fire and air genasi were found in the deserts of Calimshan, and water genasi were found along the coasts of Threskel in Chessenta. In Thay, the wizards there intentionally bred their slaves with various outsiders, resulting in a higher population of genasi and other planetouched there as well. Earth genasi could also be found in Mulhorand, and fire genasi in Unther.
Genasi of Faerûn usually lived in isolation until the Spellplague. When genasi gathered together in any great numbers, such as in Calimshan or Akanûl in the time after the Spellplague, their social structures were almost certain to be chaotic and unstable.
Though genasi could be extremely passionate in a way that might seem violent, the race as a whole had a love for family and friends, to the point that few genasi marriages ended in divorce. Post-Spellplague, most genasi families were large, and the genasi as a whole looked upon another genasi as a potential relative to the point of referring to those they met as "brother", "sister", or "cousin". In the infrequent genasi society, family played an important role, likely in part because genasi found it difficult to form new friendships and bonds. To most genasi, family bonds were the only ones that were truly reliable and it was far rarer for genasi to become alienated or estranged from members of their family. This is not to say that internal feuds and disputes did not happen, but the vast majority led to only temporary divides, and family members spread over the world would eventually come looking for a reunion. Genasi parents went out of their way to ensure that their children had a chance to interact with genasi of other manifestations, thereby increasing their appreciation for the race as a whole. This was particularly true for families that were made of several manifestations rather than just one or two.
Genasi could be found in any climate. Water genasi could even make their homes underwater.
Genasi art was wild and exciting, similar to the race itself. Genasi preferred elaborate and bold designs, using bright and vibrant colors to express the wide range of emotions they felt. Sculptures were often explosive in appearance, resembling surges of power more than anything else. Even for relatively simple or functional items, the genasi poured care into giving it a flamboyant appearance, marking it with swirling patterns, gemstones, or elaborate carvings.
Genasi artisans often saw their craft as a means of obtaining prestige. These individuals desired nothing more than to be in high demand and so worked hard to please their customer base. For this reason, many genasi often substituted actual excellence for customization and individuality and while the average genasi swordsmith might not compare with his dwarven counterpart in terms of quality, the genasi would work much harder to tailor the blade to his or her customer's specific needs and wants. This could go so far as to make genasi-crafted items seem uncomfortable or unwieldy in the hands of those for whom they were not intended.
The child of an elemental creature with a human was a half-elemental. The child of a half-elemental and a human was a genasi. The child of a genasi and a human might show planetouched traits or purely human ones. Thus, overtime, the elemental bloodline was diluted until it was no longer obvious in most individuals. However, every few generations, a child might display his or her elemental heritage as a genasi.
If two genasi of the same element were to produce offspring, the child was always a genasi of that element; if the couple was of differing elements, the child would take after only one of the parents. However, both elements were still present in the child's blood and might manifest in future generations.
Para-genasi came about when a half-elemental of one type mated with an elemental creature of another type.
The genealogy of an individual genasi was extremely difficult to determine, as the elemental planes had many sentient lifeforms capable of interbreeding with humans. Moreover, most such races would never admit to such a coupling and would reject both the half-elemental offspring and any of his or her descendants.
Even after the Spellplague, a genasi child came into the world with only one elemental manifestation, the one passed on to him or her through the parents. By late adolescence or early adulthood, it was possible for genasi of this era to learn an additional manifestation. A few genasi were rumored to have learned several throughout their lives. Because the initial manifestation of a genasi was determined genetically, specific manifestations were most common in regions matching that element. For example, an underwater culture was not likely to produce many earthsoul genasi! Children reared in close contact with genasi of a different subrace were more likely to develop a second manifestation, as were those who were reared in areas where their manifestation's element was weak or nonexistent. Hence, a firesoul genasi raised in the middle of the ocean on an island was likely to develop a watersoul manifestation as well.
The initial development of a second manifestation could often be uncomfortable, even painful, and usually came suddenly and without warning. With practice, this transition became less discomforting, with those well-versed in the transformation experiencing little more than a mild and passing unease. The reason for this discomfort lay in the fact that the transition was more than aesthetic in nature and was actually a fundamental change in the physical makeup of the genasi, like replacing the sand in a bag with water.
Genasi possessed a lifespan comparable with that of humans, reaching 75 years on average barring accident or violence. However, like other planetouched, some genasi had life spans roughly 20 to 40 years longer than normal humans.
Calimshan had an historically higher population of air and fire genasi, because of its history of djinni and efreeti rulers. After the Second Era of Skyfire, the genasi of that land became engaged in a civil war over the Skyfire Wastes. When the Calimemnon Crystal shattered and the ancient foes Calim and Memnon were released, so too were many of their genasi servants. The two noble genies immediately began their epic war again, and the genasi took sides, joined by those genasi already living in Calimshan and even more from nearby lands of Tethyr, Amn, and the Lake of Steam. The Second Era of Skyfire ended suddenly in the Year of Holy Thunder, 1450 DR, when Calim and Memnon mysteriously disappeared again to their home planes. At that point, the power vacuum was filled by the genasi, who ruled Calimshan and enslaved many humans under them, reigning from the cities of Calimport and Memnon. The human slaves, led by a Chosen of Ilmater eventually overcame their genasi masters, restoring Calimshan to human rule and returning the genasi population once again to minority status.
Also after the Spellplague, when Abeir and Toril were merged again for a time, the lands that were once Chondath became the realm of Akanûl, which was ruled by genasi originally from the continent of Shyr. Prior to coming to Toril, these Abeiran genasi had been enslaved by the primordial Karshimis, but his citadel was not transferred with them to Toril, leaving them free to form their own kingdom. The majority of the citizens of Akanûl had the windsoul manifestation.
Members of the Burned, a group of Abeiran genasi, believed themselves to be direct descendants of original genasi crafted by the primordial Nehushta to be its slaves and that all other genasi "tribes" descended from theirs, but most other scholars refuted this local legend.
- Arathane, Queen of Akanûl, who had the stormsoul manifestation.
- Son-liin of Akanûl, who also had the stormsoul manifestation.
- 2nd, 3rd, and 5th edition of D&D were all in agreement that genasi displayed "one or two" signs of their elemental heritage. However, many artists chosen to depict genasi in the sourcebooks have shown them with far more elemental traits than described in the text.
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