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Article - 'Making New Races' by Angroth

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Nov 18, 2004

Blurb

A guide to making more interesting races for your games.

Body

Some Background Stuff

When talking about races in games we’re covering a broad spectrum. Basically you can split them into two types, significant and insignificant. The first being one where you’d need some background information on within the game or outside the game, as in your own notes; they are going to be of some importance. Whether they affect the storyline in a small way such as Beastmen attacking a village and you must save the village or more importantly like the race of the hero or the archenemy, they all fall into the same category. They are the races and creatures, which will inevitably have more attention and focus within the game, and unless worked on to some degree will seem lifeless and not as realistic nor cool as they could be.

The second category, insignificant races are just random creatures you might want to plant in your game with little explanation because it isn’t needed. Most often this applies to animals of regions that you might fight, such as wolves and bats. Why would you want to try and implement how they migrated there? I’m sure the player wouldn’t really care! So anything that just fits nicely into wherever you’re fighting it shouldn’t really any background, providing it’s self explanatory and obvious or just not interesting to know about.

Now, when creating a world for your game you’re probably going to (if you’re not making it as you go) create a bunch of dominant species within the planet. More than likely a ‘human’ type race will be in it, and it’s equally likely that this will be one of the hero’s, especially the protagonist. That’s fine because it’s almost expected; nobody cares otherwise and having humans to relate to makes it easier to relate to… If that makes any sense. But for your other races, do you really want orcs, goblins, elves, dragons and dwarves? Wouldn’t it be great to at least use a more original race and at best make one of your own? Well, that’s what this article is all about.

Make a Basic Race

If we look at other races we begin to get an idea of how to make a race of our own. The most simplest way to make a race would merely be to think of an animal, give it a larger, more human body and hey presto! Below is a list of examples of this:
- Frogmen = The Naboo, from Star Wars.
- Dogmen / Goatmen = Beastmen from GamesWorkshop, Beastmen from Dungeons & Dragons and some Kobold references.
- Lizardmen = Most games.
- Hawkmen = Flash Gorden, the bird men.
- Horsemen = The premise for your average centaur.
You get the general idea. Also, uncannily there are lots of interesting animals you could base a race around, here’s a small list of what I think could turn out nicely:
- Tigermen You cannot deny the greatness of this.
- Eaglemen Maybe they could have a beaked face.
- Sharkmen Blue guys running around with shark heads, awesome.
- Crabmen Not sure if I’ve seen this before…
- Bullmen Hoho minotaurs.
- Lionmen Big main, big muscles, big claws.
Notably the list goes on, until you run out of animals. The alternate way to creating a race is to draw a creature down on paper, looking exactly as you want (it might combine lots of animal parts or it might just be weird and… Different…) but personally I wouldn’t advice this, especially not for a small pixellated game. Anyways, after picking a not so commonly used animal-human hybrid you can then go about thinking of a name. I somehow imagine you wouldn’t want to call something a Crabman or Sharkman, just as a Horseman isn’t called a Horseman, it’s called a Centaur.

Give it a Name

Right, naming isn’t too hard. To start off not everyone calls Humans, ‘Humans’ these days. If you can think of something else, then it could turn out much nicer. Much like in The Lord of the Rings where they are ‘The Race of Men’. Personally I find this much more interesting than ‘Humans’. If you’re having troubles thinking of names for them you can always refer to them as ‘The Empire’, ‘The Resistance’ or ‘The Enforcers’ or something of the like. But it would have to apply to the situation if you’d use a name like that, they couldn’t be ‘The Enforcers’ if they were a peaceful civilisation now could they!

Right, now onto the names for your (more) original races. Here’s a few ideas I can offer:
1 – Merge a word with ‘taur’ and you’re all set to go. Much like the Minotaur or Centaur. If I’m not wrong in thinking the Minotaur basically go it’s name from the king being called King Minos, hence ‘Mino’taur. In this instance, surely you could make a Clataur, Strataur or something. Personally I’d recommend this for more bestial and mythical creatures, races with power.
2 – My next idea would be to fling off the ending into ‘os’ instead of ‘taur’. Much like Stratos from He-Man. If you could find out the latin names for some of your creatures this might sound cooler. You could have races of Minos, Harros, Tyros etc. As this is likely to be more of an elegant name (think Buteos, the birdmen) then you’re better off using this for more graceful races so as to replace Elves, Pixies or maybe just something quite mystical.
3 – You could be a cheap lamer and opt out for the Lord of the Rings approach and have ‘The Race of Men’, The Race of the Dead, The Race of Horned, The Race of Lizards, etc. Personally this is a bit over the top and I don’t like it but it’s always an option. It might work well in your game you never know.
4 – If in doubt you can always use that random name generator that’s floating around or just randomly make up a name without worrying about anything in particular. But you’re probably going to get names that don’t sound right or as good as they could be if you do this. I wouldn’t recommend this but do it if you really need to.

Give it a History

Yep, that’s the last part to making a race. Easy eh? At worst you should give it a rough, basic history outlining points of peace, war, migration, famine, great death, major advances (technology etc) or anything of interest. At best you’d write a few pages outlining a much more detailing background to the race. You don’t really need much to be honest, but you’d really best have something. To flick back at some notes and make your characters talk as if certain things have actually happened (because they’re meant to have happened in the game) no matter how minute, is a really great thing.

One last thing to remember when writing a little history of the race you’ve just created is to try as best to make them interact with at least one other race, and several locations in your world. If they interact with races and events took place in an actual area then it will significantly boost the depth of your game. It can help explain why certain cities are thriving, why there are certain rivalries and you could even have the hero walk to a town that is no longer there. (S)he doesn’t know it but when they get there they are surprised that the town is long burnt down and destroyed. This brings me onto my final little point that the characters have an age too. This means that things will have happened within their life time, make sure you’re writing your history of events and races right up to ‘current day’ (in your game). To just write the story up to when the hero’s are playing isn’t quite as good. I used to do this an really it’s a little silly.

The End

That’s it, that’s my simple little guide to making your game more interesting by spicing up your choice (or at least names) of your races. You could easily end up with some good and completely (almost) original races too. Be nice to your races, give them some love and they shall return the favour. ^_^