At first blush, ritual scarring comes to mind. While this has a visceral quality to it, the minimalist in me is begging to take this idea in a completely different direction. I am already inclined to re-skin elves as Jews since they can use arcane magic in a way humans can’t (wearing armor) and are alien enough mechanically and physically to fill the role. The problem is that the whole arcane thing was meant to describe the priest-class, not the people as a whole. This is where my minimalism kicks in.
Let me first explain what I mean by minimalism: using the rules as is with as little mechanical fiddling as possible in order to emulate as many different campaign world concepts as possible. Since my default rule-set is B/X, this means finding roles within the campaign world that can be used to re-skin the extant classes of cleric, dwarf, elf, fighter, halfling, magic-user and thief. In this case, I believe I have a means if re-skinning all of the race-as-classes.
In the older editions of D&D, the three main demi-human races are all significantly shorter than humans. In B/X Dwarves average 4 feet, elves 5 to 5.5 feet and halflings only 3 feet. This can fit very nicely under the umbrella of “lessening of the flesh” especially if there were a religious ritual performed on an eight-day old child that would guarantee that it would grow up to be a dwarf, elf or halfling.
In Greek, the phrase “lessing of the flesh” can be roughly translated as μείωση της σάρκας which can be truncated to “meostarkas,” which will refer to the ritual which begins a baby’s journey to become a race-as-class.
Thus, I am not only re-skinning elves as Jews, but dwarves and halflings as well. Elves get to play the role of the priestly class. Dwarves get to be soldiers. Halflings get to be archers. All of the various racial abilities are no longer environmental evolutions, but rather gifts from God for His chosen people.
Since I am already skipping down the road of using Greek to find cool fantasy names for circumcision, I might as well do the same for naming the Jews as a whole and its three “tribes.”
- Hebrew in Greek is Εβραίος. Transliterated Evrayos, this can be contracted to Vrayos; however, for reasons you will see below, I am going to go with Vrayosi.
- Levite in Greek is λεβίτη. This can be transliterated as Leviti, but I am sore tempted to simply invert in ‘l’ and the ‘e’ to come up with Elviti, which conveniently sounds a lot like “elf.”
- Soldier in Greek is στρατιώτης. Transliterated this is Stratiotis, which I will just contract to “Strati.”
- Archer in Greek is τοξότης. This can be transliterated as “toxotis.” To rhyme it with “Vrayosi,” “Elviti,” and “Strati” this can be slightly contracted to Toxoti.
Thus, all demi-humans are called Vrayosi. Under this general term are three different tribes: the Elviti (elves), the Strati (Dwarves), and the Toxoti (Halflings).
Note: should a Vrayosi fail to go through the ritual of meostarkas, they will grow up to be human.