Custom race culture

I plan on making a fantasy type game and plan to have different races ( human, beastman, harpy, demon, etc). But an issue i have is their cultural differences. Any advice on making certain races have their own cultural names and accents. I really want to make the tribes races unique and not just a carbon copy of themselves. Any advice helps, thanks :slight_smile:


Could try basing them off of real-life cultures maybe?


Your harpy people could be vegetarians. No one would see it coming.


Here’s my question: are you asking about language, or simply getting a rough picture of a culture?


A good place I start with culture is what is their environment like? If they live in a frozen tundra it’s going to be different than a tropical island. What food do they have and how do they get it? Do they trade a lot or are they cut off from other cultures. If they interact with other cultures a lot have they picked up any of their customs? What’s their government like?


That is generally a bad idea.
Like, what does it look like when the humans are based on western cultures while the ‘vile animals’ are stand ins for black people, mnn?


I’d recommend finding “inspiration” from World Anvil.

Unless you know what you’re doing, of course.


Definitely didn’t mean it like that, and I was just thinking that Op could use it as a base and not like make Harpys straight up Polish or w/e, but they could use that environment/ mythos to grow a unique Harpy culture for the game


Well in Warhammer Fantasy the Lizardmen are based of of Central/South American culture, the Tomb Kings Egyptian, Kislev is Russian/East Slavic, Bretonnia is France, the Norscans are Norse, etc. I think that might be more what the author is looking for. There are ways to do it right and do it well. It doesn’t always devolve into racism.

As for an answer to the original question I think @Mewsly makes a good point. Environment does a lot to shape culture. In a frozen tundra or desert the people are more likely to be nomadic or scavengers while those who live in fertile territory will often be sedentary and agrarian. Perhaps they worship different gods based on their life style? The agrarian society worships a harvest god of sorts while the hunter tribe worships a god of the hunt. Maybe one group is patriarchal and one is matriarchal? Perhaps one tribe or group abhors violence and another relishes in it. You can also explore, say, a tribe of vampires that want to integrate in human society, or orcs who are farmers, or even demons who are deeply religious. The possibilities to distinguish your groups are endless.

edit: Happy Anniversary MeltingPenguins!


Another thing to keep in mind is that these different races (beastmen, Harpies, Elves, Dwarves, whatever) have presumably had what makes them different from humans as part of their society for centuries, so their society is going to fundamentally incorporate these differences from the get go.

Using harpies as an example, presumably they’ve had wings/flight since the beginning of their civilization, so just think about how flight would fundamentally change their culture from the start:

Their architecture would be completely different, probably building more vertical and building in inconvenient spots to reach because for them its not an issue.

What do their first flight ceremonies look like, if they have one? It might be a big deal when a young harpy reaches a certain age and they are ritualistically kicked off a cliff in a fly or die situation (because not being able to fly would set the whole society at a disadvantage perhaps).

What sort of weapons would come from this? Probably long spears held at the feet or maybe specialized throwing implements (assuming the harpies have wings for arms instead of wings on their back) but whatever they use/pretty much anything in their society would have to be light weight, since in order to fly they’d need to be as light as possible (and the harpies might have hollow bones like birds to this effect)

If they do have wings for arms but are still able to manipulate things with hands/fingers, they still would probably use their feet for a whole lot more because they have to use them when flying.

Another thing you could look at for inspiration is bird behavior/biology. Like, the harpy culture could be heavily based around the males having to try and look as pretty as possible to impressive the females, whose coloring and dress could be a lot more subdued.


I personally wanted something more simple than “even anatomically different races.”
You don’t need wings to make a new culture. There’s no need for pointy ears or foxtails. Heck, even I believe that all human races have their own shorter-but-stout people.

Just look to our world.
There’s Javanese with their strong custom to the elders (supposedly), Romans with their true-and-tested warfare and technologies, Japanese with their strong traditions and loyalties, Indians/Native Americans with their unique understanding of nature, Chinese with their broad mythology, cultures from the Middle East that are actually a peculiar mix-match of neighboring nations, and more.

Of course, I don’t mind with the classic elf/dwarf/gnome archetypes, but when you have humans in your game/story, why it’s just that, “Human”?

I’m so triggered by this “One Human Race” topic that the thought of a band of adventurers that is consisted of human from various races and backgrounds + some classic races excites me.

And finally, the best race-culture is the one that is written well. And to write well, you have to understand. To understand, you need to do research. But I think research is a must for all kind of writing stuff that there’s no need to point it out repeatedly.

But let me phrase it again.
“Do your own research.”

And there you go, my rant: Human Race and the Others.


To be fair a lot of fantasy stories portray humans as very diverse with different cultures and traditions. Lord of the Rings, Warhammer Fantasy, The Elder Scrolls, Game of Thrones, and many others all have very diverse groups of humans. They may be put under the umbrella of “human” but that doesn’t mean they are all the same. At least from what I’ve seen throughout the genre.


I took the OP as asking how to differentiate the non-human races’ cultures from each other, which is why I focused on that.


In case you didn’t notice, all cultures in the world developed out of necessity and adaptation to the surrounding environment.
So, whatever you decide to add into the culture, make sure it’s practical


Well, fantasy worlds will often have multiple cultures of humans; what’s more unusual would be multiple cultures of the non-human races. I guess elves luck out here (as there’s often things like dark elves and forest elves), pretty much all other non-human races will have a single culture. Dwarves? All of them are basically medieval mining Scots. Orcs? All a single barbarian culture.

And why is any one race always “the evil one”? And how are they evil? Do people from this culture just have no free will? Are they bound to the will of some dark god? If not then they’re not all evil. Even in a warlike, xenophobic culture, there will be people who disagree with their culture’s values. In fact, that goes for other cultures and races, too. Not every member of the culture will actually act according to the culture’s rules. There will also probably be members of some races living as members of cultures that are not usually associated with that race, which does bring up the question of whether the non-human races can interbreed with one another… :thinking:


I guess it would depend on the world they live in. Like for example, if it was a fantasy game set in a post apocalyptic world, then their cultures would probably be developed through how they’ve had to survive. how would magic be developed in such a world, or how did each of their cultures develop since magic didn’t exist anymore ect. Maybe it would completely be different then we’re used too like dwarfs live up too and orcs now live underground ect.

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I’ve always wondered why they don’t have, say, tundra orcs and steppe orcs and mountain orcs. Or why there isn’t a difference between harpies that live in mountains or harpies that live on seaside cliffs. Even then that’s still broad generalizations of an entire species, but it’s still a step in the right direction.

Even D&D setting ripe with cliché like Forgotten Realms at least differentiate between dwarves that live in hillside farming communities, dwarves that live on mountains, and dwarves that live in the Underdark. In a lot of D&D inspired setting there’s simply “the Dwarf Kingdom” or “the Elven Communes” or “the Orcish Horde.”

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Don’t make such rash assumptions.


I suspect part of it was laziness; in reality societies would change, etc. but they didn’t want to do this. I mean, even the elves didn’t really branch out much until later.

On to the main topic:
Something which can help is to decide just what races you want to focus on, and what physical characteristics they may have.

As many of the posters above pointed out, when you get down to it, elves/dwarves/halflings/etc. really aren’t much different than humans other than a few quirks (life span, quirks, etc.) Not that there is necessarily wrong with them, but these can and will show great diversity as well (once again, others have mentioned).

Of course, you can also give them other customs, etc. I mean, one thing I liked in Dark Sun was that the halflings were considered cannibals. Of course, if they were just eating say humans, but not other halflings, then they weren’t cannibals.

If you start including other races like Harpies, etc. and if they are in great numbers, then their towns/cities/etc. would be entirely different…or if they are present in say human cities.

So if you have creatures like harpies (or exalted eagles (intelligent ones, yeah, a bit of Tolkien here) then creatures like that would probably love high perches, etc. so you might have cyclopean towers (especially if supported with magic).

If you have creatures like centaurs in dominance, then they are more likely to have ramps rather than say stairs. A city with graceful curves would make for an interesting statement.

For that matter, don’t be afraid to include other changes which might make sense. If you are running a sea-faring campaign, and have something like the architelone (basically a giant turtle that acts like a moving islance)…well, if people inhabit it, they might make weapons/armor from the scales it sheds. They would perceive their home as a living entity since it would be.


It is a fair point about most traditional fantasy races not having many variants of each other except elves (who have tons - city, forest/wood, high, dark etc).