Creating fantasy races is probably one of my favorite parts of world-building. I talked a bit about this topic in the post Creating Unique Magical Fantasy Races. I love when authors deviate from the typical fantasy characters to create something new.
If you’re using known fantasy races like elves, you can probably find books or blog posts about their specific characteristics. I would suggest looking up the lore at the end of your process. Create your own characteristics then sprinkle in some things you find in your research.
Generally, fantasy tends to make the good races white-skinned and the savage ones black-skinned. I’d suggest you not do that. Those books often have an all-white cast so the only black and brown people are the bad guys. If you want to have black-skinned bad guys, make your main cast more diverse.
Similarly, I’d suggest not basing your fantasy race on an actual one outside of your own. Unless, you plan on doing the proper research and, potentially, having someone from that race read your story before publication. I avoid making things like locations and races recognizable. I draw from real-world inspiration but I mix a bunch of things together to make something new.
With that in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you populate your world.
What’s you race’s name?
What separates your race from everyone else? Location, belief, magic?
Do they have specific physical characteristics like hair and eye color? A tail?
Do they speak the country’s/town’s main language or do they have their own?
Environment and Culture
Where are they located? Do they live all over your world or in one specific place or type of environment like a mountain or forest?
If they’ve isolated themselves, is there a reason for it?
How is their community layout out?
What are the buildings made of? Read Creating a Fictional World for a guide about making a town.
What is everyday life like?
Do people have jobs? What kind?
Do they have their own governing system? If so, what is it?
What’s their history? Are they famous or infamous for something specific?
How do they dress? Do they wear clothes or walk around in their nature furs/scales, for instance?
If they wear clothes, do the fabrics, colors or the way they’re worn mean anything?
Do they eat only specific types of food? Why?
What does the family unit look like?
At what age are children considered adults? Does something special happen to them? Is there a ceremony?
Do they have an special holidays?
How do those apart of the race view their own people?
Is religion important to them? If so, what’s the religion called? Does it have a name?
What’s the history of their religion?
Does everyone apart of the race believe/follow this religion?
Describe their religion. What is their belief system? What are the rules, if any?
Do they have a specific location for worship?
How do they communicate with their deity?
How do outsiders view their religion?
Does you book have more than one race? Who are they?
How does your race relate to others?
Do people in your world know about this race?
How does the world view them? Good or bad? If it’s bad, do they have a good reason for it?
Fantasy races don’t need to have a human-like appearance. They could be dragons who don’t shift or magical wolves. If you have multiple races, you may not need to answer these questions for all of them unless you want to. Fully flesh out your main race(s). For the side ones, answer a few key questions that you think will help you finish the story.
Do you have anything you want to add. Comment below.
How to Create a New Race in a Fantasy Game