Recently I had thoughts on creating a race from scratch, and I wondered what you all think about the basic idea. Any thoughts or ideas could help me in refining it so it's realistic. I know it's long, but bear with me... I want to be as inclusive as possible on what I already have.
Ruaka are forest-dwelling creatures that reside in temperate/subtemperate climates. They are short of stature (perhaps 4 feet tall maximum) and lean with a ridged forehead, rounded face and thick hair over most of their body. They live in small, close-knit communities with their homes in burrows beneath trees, the roots often acting as part of the structure. Their society is matriarchal and passive for the most part, overseen by a quad of elders, one to represent each of the facets of life within society (hunting/gathering [which also covers their combat] , crafting/artifice, trade/commerce and a wise woman (shaman) that oversees those in society "blessed" with "magic". Above them is a Chief Elder who makes the ultimate decision on anything put to a discussion.
Deeply spiritual, the Ruaka believe in the circle of life much like a druid, and magic is extremely rare in Ruakan society and is similar in aspect to druids would have, intermixed with tales of old medicine men. Often magic manifests itself in allowing the "user" to summon creatures, interacting with things in nature "growing staffs from trees" or "moving silent through thick brush", going into trances to speak with their ancestors (requires a hallucinogenic medium). They also share a kinship with bears and unless a Ruaka is stupid, they are never prey for a bear. They can speak to bears empathically and often ride them in battle using special harnesses; when it becomes necessary to defend their homes.
Their typical weapons are spears, staves, slings/bolas, nets, javelins and small stone knives (flint/obsidian etc.) and use the skin of animals sewn with bits of stone for armor when they must fight. They don't have much interaction with outsiders and very territorial, killing most "invaders" without hesitation. They also don't trade with anyone not Ruaka, so have somewhat limited resources.
To avoid inbreeding, Ruaka have bi-annual gatherings at holy sites so the young males and females can meet/greet and potentially be chosen as mate to a Ruaka from a different "village". Also, it is typical for a craftsman or trader to visit other villages and when that happens; if they are caring for a young Ruaka of suitable age, they take them along as apprentice so they can see potential mates and be seen. When a mate is chosen, the Ruaka with a higher standing in their "village" is the one that takes the other home and the "marriage" is overseen by the elders of the village when they are both considered to be "adult".
Children from a union are only cared for 100% of the time by their biological parents for the first five years of life; when they learn to speak and to write in the Ruaka tongue. After that, they are raised by the community, studying with the different clansmen and overseen by the parents and by the elders. They are taught to hunt, trap game and how to identify the plants and animals around them. They also learn to grow crops and care for livestock (they herd goats and keep rabbits). They also learn the basics of all the crafts and as they grow, they are funneled into the skills they excel at. Once they are "adult" at around twenty (they live 200-230 years) they can choose their craft (usually what they had excelled in) and takes their place in society.
Crime among the Ruaka is almost nonexistant, but when something does occur, the penalties vary from a stern warning; for minor offenses or first time ones. Exile to the sour marshes for a length of time is for more serious crimes like betrayal, assault etc... more serious crimes like rape or murder is punishable by banishment to the "grove" where the shamans gather to transform the offender into a tree; a tree that can later be summoned to do the bidding of the shamans (pennance). Sometimes the sentence is for a set period (five years) and sometimes it's for all time; or at least until the tree dies.
If you have anything else or ideas to add, feel free to let me know as they are still a work in progress.