More special than the oni, the half-orcs, the half-ogres, the voadkyn... one of the best things that PO: Skills and Powers did was to shift around the maximums so that most of the humanoids that got Strength and Constitution boosts could actually have both stats beyond human maximums. The minotaurs, of course, have always been riding the high life (Cue all-caps STRENGTH 20! with air horn blaring and minotaur bling).
The Complete Book of Humanoids Chapter 2: Humanoid Races
Okay, it's been a long long road, but we're finally here; the closing of the chapter with the Swanmay and the Wemic!
Swanmays are less a race and more of a class - well, a kind of prototype for 3e's Prestige Classes. These women are members of a magical sorority of female rangers and druids, who have learned to craft enchanted tokens that enable them to transform into swans. In these states, they share some of the defensive abilities of lycanthropes, which they use to assist them in battling evil. Such tokens can appear as a talisman, a ring, or even a feathered garment.
The sorority itself is very secretive, admitting only human females, and only after they have unknowingly performed a great service for an existant swanmay. Many new recruits apparently retire from casual adventuring to devote themselves full time to the sorority's calling. Even when a swanmay does travel with an adventuring band, she will rarely, if ever, reveal her true nature to them.
Swanmay cells live in communal lodges, constructed near bodies of water in various forests and wetlands. Their calling... really isn't that different to the standard ranger or druid; they dislike brash, noisy creatures, ferocious beasts, poachers, evil monsters, and anyone who disturbs the natural order of the land. They focus on battle such evil, and are usually persuaded to join forces with an adventuring party due to needing their help against some threat they can't take on on their own. They're much closer to sylvan beings and other forest-dwelling beings than they are to humanoids, and their closeness to nature means they tend to watch the natural world for signs and omens.
A swanmay PC gains +1 Dexterity and Wisdom at character creation, and can reach Wisdom 19. They can become either 14th level Rangers or 12th level Druids, and their choice of class affects their minimum stat requirements; Swanmay Rangers require 13s in Strength and Dexterity, 14s in Constitution and Wisdom, and 9s in Intelligence and Charisma; Swanmay Druids need 9s in Str and Dex, 15 Cha, and 12 in everything else.
Their natural armor class is 7. In swan form, they are immune to mundane weapons, have Magic Resistance 2% per hit die, and can fly at speed 19 with maneuverability class D. Their only weakness is that they need their swanmay token to transform; if it's stolen, then they're stuck in whichever form they were in when it was taken.
Wemics are a strange race of catfolk, which I believe originated in the Forgotten Realms setting. They have a centaur-like body-stature, combining the upper torso of a lionfolk (with faces that have been depicted as everything from "human with cat eyes" to "catgirl" to "anthropomorphic lion" to "hideously ugly take on that last one") with the body of a massive lion. A fully mature wemic is 10 feet long, reaching heights of six to seven feet. Like a true lion, their body is covered with dusky golden fur, paired with an underbelly of short white fur. The tail features a brush of long black hair, and male wemics sport flowing manes of black hair. The face is leonine, with slit-pupiled eyes that are usually golden in color. The claws on the forepaws are retractable, whilst those on the hindpaws are not.
The default wemic society is a Stone Age level blend of leonine and... eeugh, "aboriginal human" cultures. These "prides" are nomadic hunter-gatherers, but they know how to make and use fire, and craft their own weaponry, pottery and ornaments from stone. They do have human intelligence, and can learn more complex skills through exposure...providing they can overcome their superstitious nature. Oh, barf.
The book puts it in much more insulting terms, but wemics are an extremely spiritual people, with a deep animistic religion in which spirits govern all things, manifesting most obviously in the ongoings of nature, such as the weather, the day-night cycle, and so forth. This makes them quite superstitious, with a particular dread for obviously supernatural beings, such as the undead, and it also makes their witch doctors and shamans very important to the pride's culture.
Wemics are playful and curious by nature, but also proud and courageous - except against obvious agents of the supernatural, where their courage falters in the face of a foe that cannot be defeated with weapon or claws. They are honorable, compassionate, and loyal; once they ally themselves to a group or a cause, they stick with it to the end... oh, gross, they actually use the term "noble savage" in the book.
Worse still, whilst they are often hired for their skills as hunters, trackers and guides, as wemic prides regularly trade these skills in exchange for treasure, tools and magical items, they are also prone to being exploited by "more advanced societies", and so frequently taken as slaves, cheated into servitude, or tricked out of what is rightfully theres... ugh! Moving on.
A wemic PC gains +1 Strength for -1 Dexterity, which is consequently capped at 17. They need a minimum of 11s in Strength and Constitution, and 6 in Dexterity. They can become 12th level Fighters, 7th level Shamans and Witch Doctors, and 10th level bards. They gain +5 HP atr first level, have a natural armor class of 6, can make two claw attacks (1d4 damage each) per round in addition to their weapon attacks, and can leap 10 feet upward or 30 feet forward. Their only drawback is that they take damage as Large Creatures.
...I think these were two of the worst races in this book, hands down! The Swanmay is just so... boring! This could literally have been handled as a Kit for Rangers and Druids! And the Wemics! Gods! We have been up to our eyeballs in Evil Savages and Neutral Savages all throughout this chapter - did we really need an honest-to-gods Noble Savage race too?!
And yet, what may be the worst thing about wemics is that they're actually one of the more nuanced and interesting "primitive" races in this chapter, and I need a ****ing shower after having typed that!
Final Chapter Thoughts:
I have to say... this chapter was awful. I want to love this book. Though I tend to play humans, I love exotic races, I love D&D for the ability to plug 'n' play and homebrew all kinds of fantastical worlds brimming with strange cultures and weird civilizations, all without having to deal with all of the baggage that messing around with real world cultures get me. Hells, D&D 4th edition literally won my heart when it dedicated almost a whole page in one of its design preview books to assuring that the Nentir Vale setting would lack the humanocentrism of TSR's worlds.
And this... this is just a kick in the guts. Bland, derivative, boring, uninspiring, cookie-cutter tripe. There's hardly a damn interesting default culture to be found in this chapter, and... it's just such a waste of potential! I feel like the author who wrote this book actively didn't want to be writing this! The whole thing seems aimed at saying "you don't want to play a human like Gygax said you should? Then screw you!"
We've got... let's be generous and say 5 more chapters to this book. But I'mma be honest with you; already, I want my money back.
Yes, we played quite a bit. Much of it subverting* the material presented within. My Minotaur Wilderness Protector was a cursed human (as AD&D originally sometimes described them) instead of a separate race. The hobgoblin hedge mages and flind shamans we made were usually assumed by the human settlements to be savages but actually secretly highly sophisticated. We always had the 'translated speech' of their own languages be in some hobnobby accents like upper crust Bostonian or British or the like, and they all had this inside joke that the humans thought they were speaking a simplistic/doggerel language was simply because no human bothered to learn the humanoid languages very well. *Not for any noble reason, just late teenage rebelliousness.
Huh. The Dragaera novels (well, one scene in Taltos, mostly) have cat-centaurs in one region. I thought the upper part was more 'human' than leonine but I don't recall for sure. Dragaera has RPG roots, I wonder if those roots include wemics.
I like the idea of a feline centaur, but the wemics really aren't that great. I much prefer the liontaurs from the Quest for Glory video games : most of them are warlike, arrogant, very keen on rules and personal pride (though some individuals are exceptions), and they rule a powerful kingdom in which humans are second-class citizens.