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Old 05-27-2009, 02:36 PM   #11
Johnny Angel
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Pennsylvania
Default Re: fantasy races

Originally Posted by The Colonel View Post
Be wary of having too many sentient species in your campaign - this is one of the many sins of D&D RAW ... the tendency to create a new race/species when a new culture for an exisiting species would do.

Plus it helps to figure out your campaign backstory before you start populating the place - or at any rate run the two concurrently.
Are you looking for a strict creationist world - in that case you will probably need a creator (or maybe a pantheon) for every species, for which you will need to develop a theology, portfolio and relationship to the other gods.
If, on the other hand, your race/species were all the work of some elder race, you need to establish what they created the various species for, and from what.
Some kind of evolutionary origin - Darwinian, post Darwinian or Lamarckian for example - poses other questions.

Plus, even 'standard' fantasy species can be given interesting twists - either by pulling them out of their normal niches (as in the old TSR 'Dark Sun' world) or by making them very different (perhaps your elves are Terry Pratchett style sociopaths (very authentic), or Tad Williams style dangerous enigmas, rather than Tolkein style ubermenschen or D&D humans with pointy ears).
I've spun up celto-amerindian orcs, dangerous canivorous centaurs and hobgoblins living as valued citizens in a human nation.
I am trying to avoid having too many as it concerns the campaign world I'm building. I'm not sure what amount is considered "too many" though. My eventual goal is to actually flesh out a whole planet. Well, no, let me backtrack on that statement real quick... I plan to have several continents and a lot of area which is fleshed out, but I still plan to leave some areas of the world grey and unmapped so that I have room to fit new things in.

When I ran this campaign world with D&D, I was somewhat limited by the constraints of that system. It's still possible to create races with D&D, but there's not as many pieces to tinker with as I have with GURPS, so my imagination is starting to be fueled by the freedom to be more creative.

What follows is a brief look at what I did in D&D. The setting is a bit more high fantasy than I would like, but that's mainly due to D&D 4E being fairly high fantasy (in total contrast to the 'Points of Light' setting which they have for the default products.) Aside from that, some of the race/monster choices were based upon what is already part of and what is assumed to be part of D&D. Some of this may or may not survive into my GURPS version of the world. I have more freedom to create my own material, so I've gone back and taken a look at the foundations of the world. That's not to say you can't create new things in D&D, you can, and I's actually rather easy to create monsters in D&D 4E, but the creation process doesn't have nearly the depth that I'm allowed to have with GURPS. Anyway...

The area of the world in which I based my D&D campaign in this world would have probably been on the verge of TL 4 (to use GURPS terminology), but it was starting to slide back toward the bottom of TL 3 and even TL 2 in some of the kingdoms due to constant war. It's a bit cliche, but the story was that the king who had united the land had recently died; the various nobles of the land disagreed upon who should take the throne. The majority of nobles in this area of the world were human, but there were three main factions/kingdoms who weren't/aren't (the campaign is still running.)

One of the non-human factions is a group of goblinoids (aside from hobgoblins, goblins in D&D tend to be little more than pests) who seem to be getting more organized and regimented. Unknown to the players is the reason why. The goblins worship and are lead by The Lord of Darkness (yes, it's somewhat based on the movie Legend.) His goal is to find a way to kill Pelor (D&D's sun god) and create a world in which darkness reigns supreme. Currently he's not fully in the world though. The goblins are searching for various artifacts and ritual knowledges with which they can bring their master fully into the world and allow him to take form. People of the continent are unaware of who or what is behind the goblins.

Another of the non-human factions is a group of undead. Mainly they are zombies and skeletons. Some of them are things such as death knights and mummies. The secret behind this is that they are actually typically good aligned. They are heroes and soldiers who died in the past. Around the time of the king's death something happened to cause them to rise and not be able to rest. I haven't decided what that something is yet. One of my ideas is to have it be something to do with the goblins collecting artifacts. The land in which the undead kingdom resides has a constant sort of darkness and fog covering it; this is somewhat designed as a way to make it seem as though -without further research- that the being behind the death of Pelor's priests and the increasing amount of darkness in the world is due to something here. The people of the continent know the lord of this land to be Lord Dhorkastle; all that is known about him is that "he commands strange powers and terrifying beasts."

The third main non-human faction is a group of aberrations (mindflayers, chuuls; basically anything weird which has a lot of tenticles and/or looks alien) who seem to be just randomly appearing through portals. The PCs encountered this group while they were clearing out a dragon's lair and her kobold servants. The PCs came across an already in progress battle between normal kobolds who were adorned with symbols of Tiamat (the evil dragon god in D&D - their shields were split into five sections with each section being the color of one of Tiamat's heads), and a group of what appeared to be mutated kobolds who were carrying different symbols; all of the symbols they were carrying seemed to be based on the number nine. Essentially these aberrations are a group of religious fanatics who worship an alien being from the Far Realm who is known as the Nine-Tongued Worm. This group is loosely based on the Covenant from the Halo games, the Flood from the Halo games, and the Catholic Church.

someone else mentioned this: I know that looks aren't the only thing which define a race, but I think having a good mental picture helps to figure out what things I would need to define a race.

Originally Posted by Landwalker View Post
Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved did what I thought was a reasonably good job of populating a fantastic world with non-standard races. There were no dwarves, or elves (depending on your view of the Alabastar, who weren't really a PC race anyway), or the like. Instead you had Giants (who weren't that big unless you started taking a lot of "racial levels"), Sibeccai (a jackal-like race that had been "raised" to sentience and humanoid form by the Giants), Litorians (feline humanoids), several variations on Faen (which were generally very short, slight humanoids), Verrik (a race that looked human with some major skin and hair coloration differences and a high degree of contemplativeness and supernatural attunement), and the Mojh (a genderless, sterile, pseudo-draconic humanoid race that is the result of usually-voluntary magically transformative modifications conducted by humans).

I like most of Monte Cook's work. The name of the product escapes me at the moment, but I remember he had winged elves, and a lion-based anthromorphic race.

The Eberron setting in D&D also gave some new twists to the traditional D&D races as well as introducing warforged, shifters, and a few other things to D&D.

One thing I actually like about D&D 4E is that it defined its elves better. Instead of having elves who seemed to be a mish-mash of fantasy stereotypes all rolled into one or a million elven subraces, you now have Elves who are the typical tree loving, longbow using creatures of the forest. Then you have Eladrin who are the more mystical and magical, yet somewhat snooty elven type.

In one campaign I ran back in D&D 3E, (and I might transport this idea to the world I'm building now) the elves were like Nazis. They believed in the idea that they were a superior race; as such, they felt they should conquer the world and -in some cases- exterminate certain races they viewed as being pests; there were no Gnomes in this campaign for that reason. A fairly sizeable population of humans were slaves to these Nazi Elves. These same elves were also somewhat based on ancient Egypt; the built pyramid like structures, but they were based in a relatively cold area of the world. Instead of chariots they had war-sleds and things of that nature. Also, pyramids were mainly a religious symbol, and not a tomb; these elves worshipped Set and had a thing for snakes. I suppose when I look back on it, they were a combination of Nazis, ancient Egypt, and Stygians from R. Howard's writings.

Personally, I think part of my problem right now is that I have too many influences. On the other hand, I don't think I have enough variety to my influences. With few exceptions, most fantasy stories seem to have elves, dwarves, and orcs. I don't have any problem with having those; I'd just like to see what else is out there and to see what isn't out there yet which could be a viable idea for a race, culture, or a creature.
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Old 05-27-2009, 03:06 PM   #12
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Location: Athens, GA
Default Re: fantasy races

If you want a nonstandard take on standard fantasy races, you'll probably like my Bantu-style ogres, the waZimwi:

waZiwmi - Ubantu Ogres

Note: This is for civilzeded Orges, Wazimwi wabantu. Backbush Orges are much scarier.

Males: Females:
ST+6 +54 ST+4 +36
DX-1 -20 DX-1 -20
IQ-1 -20 -
HT+2 +20 HT+2 +20
Total: +40 Total: +40

Males and Female:
SM+1 (-10% ST)
HP+2 +4
CF: Ukoka +1
CF: Waziwmi 0
Spoken Language: Kikoka, Accented 2
Written Language: Kikoka, Broken 1
Spoken Language: Kizimwi, Fluent 0
Total: +8

Advantages, All:
DR+1 5
Acute T&S+1 2
Fearlessness+1 2
Legal Immunity (Taboos) 10
Legal Enforement (Deals) 5
Resist Poison&Disease+3 5
Total: +29

Advantages, Female:
Pheromone Control 10
Appearance+1 5*
Total: +15
*Assuming age <25yo

Disadvantages, All:
Bad Temper 10
Code of Honor (Keeps deals) 5
OPH - Eat Other Sentients 10
Social Stigma - Amazimu 5
Obession - eat human flesh 5
Total: -35

Disadvantages, Male:
Appearance-1 5
Social Stigma 2ndCC* 5
Total: -10
*Applies only to other Wazimwi -50%

Total, Male: +28pts
Total, Female: +53pts

Wazimwi have jet black skin, straight or kinky black hair, which is usually in dreadlocks, red eyes and protruding lower canines. Males are 3m tall, females around 2.75, both sexes dense with muscle. Wazimwi traditionally practice ritual scarification, adding lines and chevrons on their cheeks and whorls on their foreheads. They are not as ugly as standard Ogres - their features are regular and they lack body hair, but they do have a distinct musky odor (the pheromones of young Ogresses can have a powerful effect on human males). Ogre-maidens are sometimes even beautiful by human standards, but the two races seem to be infertile. Their culture is deeply matriarchical and they are practitioners of polyandry, males being born in a 2 to 1 ratio with females.
The Wazimwi have their own villages in the hinterlands of Ubantu, often magically hidden. These villages are ruled by ancient Hags with powerful magic. These Hags gain power from eating Humans and other sentients - they are very fond of elephants. The Ogre Hags are wise and foresightful. They have no intention of being left behind or crushed by advancing civilization. There are long established Wazimwi families in all of the large cities throughout the Empire, where the males serve as prestige bodyguards and caravan escorts. Young females, while still beautiful, are highly paid dancers.
PC Wazimwi are usually Waziwmi wabantu, civilized Ogres who live in the cities of Milikyunjovu. The major cities, Mijimoja, are usually 1% Waziwmi, meaning 1,000 Ogres in Merumeru. Civilized Ogres are just that: civilized. They are well-spoken, immaculately clean and polite, and even courteous and respectful. They are known to sometimes eat people, but never at random. Their cannibal urges are satisfied by condemned criminals, and it has been found that the threat of being eaten alive by Ogres is a powerful deterrent. Wazimwi rarely lie, cheat or steal. They are not, in short, openly dangerous. On the other hand, one doesn't cheat an Ogre, and trying to steal from them is recklessly insane. Wazimwi are not interested in human justice - people who die from poison trials are foul tasting, and anyone stupid enough to wrong an Ogre gets when they deserve. Ogres are also fond of gambling with humans, and if at the end of the game the human can't pay up, the Ogre will cheerfully take an arm or leg.
Wazimwi are genetically predisposed to find human flesh extremely tasty. It can easily become an addiction for them. Other than humans, they prefer to eat the meat of carnivores and omnivores. They don't like beef at all, but accept sheep and goat. They prefer to eat cats and dogs in cities. Other than meat, they traditionally cook insanely spiced potgreens and mealie-bread. Fruits are eaten with peels, including types that make humans sick.
Male Wazimwi who commit crimes or somehow get lost or isolated go feral, turning into wandering monsters that terrorize the countryside until they are hunted down. Some are born as Atavisms - these mutants are even larger than regular Mzimwi and are forced to knucklewalk.
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Old 05-27-2009, 03:06 PM   #13
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Default Re: fantasy races

I am currently GM-ing an TL4 fantasy adventure (campaign, to be exact) by the name of Septanta. Septanta is not a planet, it is more of a space object unique in it's existence.

If anyone had ever played Septerra Core, this will sound familiar.

There is a core in the middle of the whole "structure". Around it, seven layers revolve on a regular basis (first in 32 days, second in 64, 3rd in 128 and so on). Around the layers revolve nebulae, which have the function of our Sun.

On the 1st layer, called Terg'Haron, are these races:

Arcanel (plural - arcaneli) - humanoid, bipedal race with 2 sets of wings on their back. They pretty much look like seraphs, with the only difference that they can't fly forever. Their wings are feathery, and their bodies are pretty slender and slim, but they are dexterous and can take a lot of exertion before they start to get tired of flying.
They are the main race, with three big kingdoms. Most of them are mages, due to their natural, inborn magery, although a lot of them make a good aerial fighters.

Garua - Lycan-like tribal race, living all around Terg'haron. They are pretty dexterous and make good hunters. They live with the nature and consider it sacred. There are many Garuan tribes, since not all of them live in the same place. There are desert, forest, plains, mountain, jungle and swamp sub races.

Iriman (plural -irimani) - reptile, bipedal race, and the only race that doesn't have their own country. They are like goblins, looking for a deal everywhere, and are social chameleons so they can fit almost anywhere. They have quite a social stigma, since most of them are considered to be crooks. They are small in size, but extremely agile and witty. They are something like Star Trek Ferengi race, with scales and cold-blooded.

Aelvor - Bipedal humanoid race, that have no hair whatsoever. Instead, their skin is far more harsh and thick on essential places (like eyebrows). skin is mostly light-colored, and their veins are very visible and orange (like their blood color) Instead "classic" hair, they have long, worm-like dreadlocks, which are actually reservoirs jelly material with a purpose to cool them, since Terg'haron is mostly deserts. Also, they have fangs, growing from the upper jaw. They don't have a real function, it's more of an atavism caused by evolution. Their culture is similar to Arabic one, so they dress similarly and have a similar religion. They are in constant war with Numelvor, race very similar in physiology.

Numelvor - Very similar in physiology. Main differences are the color of the skin (which is darker than Aelvor), color of the blood (which is purple) and overall strength and health. Numelvor are something like viking-arabic hybrid (however strange it may sound), and tend to give a lot of importance to their physical strength. In melee fight, they are almost invincible, but they lack in intellectual strength. They are in war with the Aelvor... over 200 years now ( about 1200 Terg'haron years, since the year there lasts 64 days).

Dunaroq - avian race, by physiology they look like crow-like humanoids. Their arms are actually their wings, but they can use them as a normal human when not using them for flight. Very charismatic and eloquent, Dunaroqs make their way trough life by making very plausible deals and developing a wide circle of friends. They are also quite revengeful and impulsive, making this their greatest disadvantages. Just like the Earth crows, they do have an obsession towards shiny things. ( :D )

Altaroq - also avian race, but they have appearance like humanoid owls. They lack in strength, but are extremely intelligent. However, they are pacifists, and have a philosophy similar to Buddhism religion. They have almost perfect night vision, and can live over 300 years until they actually start to age. They, like Arcaneli, have inborn magery, making them superb for healers, divination mages etc...

There are also many lesser races, mostly with low intelligence or completely aggresive, or ethereal (ghost race named Faerel).

EDIT: sorry for typos :P

Last edited by Cyratos; 05-27-2009 at 03:18 PM.
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Old 05-27-2009, 03:18 PM   #14
Join Date: Aug 2004
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Default Re: fantasy races

Incidentally, has anyone tried making a fantasy race generator like the one for aliens in GURPS Space (for 4E)? I understand that generally, one would have to be setting-specific, but even if you have a setting-specific generator, I'd be delighted to see what you did.
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Old 05-27-2009, 03:23 PM   #15
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Default Re: fantasy races

Have you ever looked at Talislanta?
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Old 05-27-2009, 04:08 PM   #16
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Default Re: fantasy races

Originally Posted by Cyratos View Post

There are also many lesser races, mostly with low intelligence or completely aggresive, or ethereal (ghost race named Faerel).
Wow, this sounds really cool. Mind giving a short description for the lesser/ethereal races too?
"Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared"

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Old 05-27-2009, 06:28 PM   #17
Johnny Angel
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Default Re: fantasy races

Originally Posted by arnej View Post
Have you ever looked at Talislanta?
I don't think I have.

One of the common fantasy race/creature ideas is the anthromorphic animal. Canine and Feline based folk seem to be the most common. Snake-people seem to be fairly common as evil creatures. Squid and Shark people are less common and than those based on canines and felines, but they are still among what I would consider the more common ideas of this type.

I was trying to come up with some different ideas for this type of creature in a world, and it lead me to the question of how silly a race or creature could be and whether or not certain creatures would fit into certain genres.

For example: For a brief moment my mind entertained the idea of a dragon modelled after a duck. The idea seemed very silly in my mind. My thinking was that it probably wouldn't fit into the type of campaign that I'm personally working on.

Do you feel that the types of races and creatures in a setting can impact the type of mood and the type of impression that it gives?

This question ties back into what I was saying about anthromorphic creatures because I am pondering which animals could be used to model a race on, and I'm also pondering what sort of feel those anthromorphic races would add and encourage in a setting.

An idea I once had for a small-folk race (and one which uses the canine idea) was to have a race based somewhat on Fennec Foxes.

Speaking of animals, there are some neat things here:
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Old 05-27-2009, 07:10 PM   #18
Vaevictis Asmadi
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Default Re: fantasy races

In my opinion, yes, the races in a setting do have a significant impact on the mood of the setting.

Originally Posted by Johnny Angel View Post
In one campaign I ran back in D&D 3E, (and I might transport this idea to the world I'm building now) the elves were like Nazis. They believed in the idea that they were a superior race; as such, they felt they should conquer the world and -in some cases- exterminate certain races they viewed as being pests; there were no Gnomes in this campaign for that reason. A fairly sizeable population of humans were slaves to these Nazi Elves. These same elves were also somewhat based on ancient Egypt; the built pyramid like structures, but they were based in a relatively cold area of the world. Instead of chariots they had war-sleds and things of that nature. Also, pyramids were mainly a religious symbol, and not a tomb; these elves worshipped Set and had a thing for snakes. I suppose when I look back on it, they were a combination of Nazis, ancient Egypt, and Stygians from R. Howard's writings.
If you like unusual takes on traditional fantasy races, you might check out the flavor and/or novels for the Magic setting Lorwyn. The Lorwyn elves are like this -- obsessed with beauty, and the conviction that non-elven races, and deformed or disfigured elves, are inferior and should generally be exterminated. They also look more like fauns than elves, having hooves and horns. Their society is a rigid caste system based on personal appearance.

Lorwyn also has its own versions of goblins, giants, merfolk, and telepathic halflings. Another recent Magic setting, Alara, also has strange, non-traditional goblins. They look like anthropomorphic rats, and they have been near the bottom of the food chain for so long that their culture revolves around the honor of being eaten by dragons.

Last edited by Vaevictis Asmadi; 05-27-2009 at 07:17 PM.
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Old 05-27-2009, 07:30 PM   #19
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Default Re: fantasy races

Most the races I've designed in my campaign that sort of spins a fantasy sway to the civil war conflict are mainly of human origin. Depending on your standing in society and where you originated from you gain certain attribute adjustments. Nothing game breaking but it DOES differentiate the races a bit more than others. Most all are human, but the differences might manifest in a way that one race, based on their region might be more athletic, but tend to be more zenophobic of other races. Some, due to their city life and standards upbringing might have a plus to intelligence but not as worldly wise. I usually like to start with the human base and go from there.

Oh there ARE Orc-like races, and high-born humans (my "elves" as it were) and gnome like fairies (since fairies and their appearance play a big part in my story) but for the most part its just the human being.
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Old 05-27-2009, 07:36 PM   #20
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Default Re: fantasy races

Off the top of my head, a few obvious candidates for anthropomorphic races:

Birds (birds of prey are probably the most common, but really almost anything could go here)
Canines (of the wild or domestic variety)
Felines (as above)
Reptiles (although an anthropomorphic alligator might have trouble with its head and nobody would take a turtle-based race seriously, so sticking to lizards (lizardmen) or snakes (a la the Yuan-Ti) might be best)
Sharks or Dolphins
Rats (see: Warhammer Skaven)
Goats (or possibly sheep, although I see goats working better)
Mice or Squirrels

I do think that races *can* have a significant impact on the mood of the setting, but I do not think that they necessarily do or even that certain types of races are necessary to set certain moods. Just because you have a race that is an anthropomorphic butterfly doesn't inherently make a setting one way or another. It's what you do with those races that really defines the setting's mood, and such things are rarely limited to certain races. You can have a canine race that places a high premium on loyalty and obedience, forming a rigidly stratified caste society, or you can have a canine race that embodies scavenging and bestiality, but you can also have groups of humans or elves or sentient potato-men that do the same thing.

Obviously some racial decisions will impact the mood of a setting, though -- a race of sentient potato-men or anthropomorphic butterflies will probably not give the player the suspicion that the setting is a world filled with conspiracies and shadowy evil. But by the same token, you don't need Races X, Y, and Omega in order to send that message, either. In my mind, races can be used to supplement the setting's mood, but they aren't necessary in order to define it, or even substantially shape it, while on the other hand the setting's mood isn't necessarily defined or substantially shaped by its races unless it's supposed to be.


P.S. Of course, a setting's mood and the setting itself aren't the same thing. If all of a setting's sentient races are aquatic, then that will obviously affect the setting itself (since the setting will almost have to be predominantly aquatic, itself), but it will not necessarily affect the mood of the setting. And so on.
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