Fantasy Writers, how do you choose the races for your stories?


Um, I went with the standard fantasy races because my plot demanded that I have a “generic fantasy world”.

I really like dwarves and halflings, so when I was making my fantasy world, I thought it would be funny if everyone in it was short, and make most other living things (trees, animals) gigantic, then build a world around it. :stuck_out_tongue: So I added in gnomes and goblins. I usually hate elves, but I eventually put them in and made them short (you know, like those Christmas elves).

I have other races I’ll lump into “fairy folk”, but I don’t really touch on them very much, except for this one treant named Morgan Treeman. I mostly just wanted to add them in because of the above reason, and they’re there if I ever need them. I was also playing with the idea of adding in orcs and exploring their point of view, but I haven’t found a way to introduce them yet.

Technically, the five races I have were pretty much all humans, but they were punished by their gods and made them all really short and separated them from each other. But before I go off on a worldbuilding rant…

I’d say go with what you want to see. If creating new races is too much of an effort, then change the other ones to your liking, and as your story needs it, as long as you don’t make them a one-dimensional race (you’ve seen one, you’ve seen all of them), but you probably know that already.

Mine aren’t supposed to have a long screen time (because of my premise and story structure), but I ended up developing their culture anyway (mostly the dwarves and halflings) because it was very fun playing around with the tropes. They were also a nice contrast to my (human) children MCs who are from another world, since they suddenly meet all these people almost the same height as them but are actually much much older. They even mistook some of them as couples. :smile:

Also, just imagine dwarves and halflings riding griffins, dragons, elephants, raptors and ornithopters. It’s just not the same with a “taller” race, you know?

1 Like

Just don’t go overboard and infodump the player :"

My magic word is, “starve them off the infos.”


My story is Urban Fantasy - taking place in a modern setting -, but I wanted to branch out beyond vampires and werewolves and into species that are considered ‘fantasy’ like Fae species and other mythological species.

If I were to write a High Fantasy story, I’d probably branch out or twist the common tropes associated with Elves, Orcs, Humans, and Dwarves.

There’s a choice early in my demo where you can pick between four choices - Jorōgumo, Coatl, Church Grim, and Gorgon - of species.

Jorōgumo based on the Japanese Yokai under the same name. Coatls are from South America, based off of Aztec mythology with the deity Quetzalcoatl. Church Grim is another spirit that’s from Europe and Gorgon is from Greek mythology. I purposefully chose those creatures because they were probably weren’t as well known.

Plus, it’s a fun brain exercise to think of how these species would operate in modern day life - just to name a few:

Gorgons would have to buy specific shampoo - maybe specially made brands - that wouldn’t cause an allergic reaction to their snake hair and also not cause eye irritation. Instead of growing longer and longer, their snakes would just shed their skin over and over again - maybe getting more vibrant scale patterns as they age - and the idea of hair cutting would be a big fear of theirs.

Jorōgumo could donate their spider thread for a multitude of things: military, medical, clothing - just to name a few. Maybe they’d even donate their time to volunteer at haunted houses and be that big spider that drops down the ceiling to give a good scare to customers. I imagine them being good air yoga and developing a coffee tasting substitute (spiders get drunk on coffee) so they can taste it without the side effects.


Not quite related, but I’ve been thinking. You know what I would want to see in a game? Jiangshi. I don’t think we’ve had a COG that’s even mentioned them before.

But would these Jorgogumo(Lady Spiders) be spirits or a kind of goblin in your work? There’s a few different variations though most remains consistent across the board. Mind you, Japanese goblins aren’t quite the same as Western ones.

Seeing Coatl around would be cool. You don’t get to see much of them in stories and there isn’t even that much widespread information about them.

Would the Grim be a humanized version or in keeping with the normal versions of their guardian hellhound nature?

1 Like

I find the problem is that people include elves and dwarves because it’s a fantasy story, not because they actually add anything to the themes and narrative.


I had to google those XD Unless someone know about them lol you can’t write about something you never heard of .


well that’s all nice and true…but maybe in a codex ? don’t see how you can write about the smallest details in a choice of game story or even a game .


Ah the challenge I like to see is a story that has alien species but no human ! :grin:

1 Like


This doesn’t 100% fit it but check out The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov. 2/3 of the book is human-centric but the middle 1/3 entirely takes place on a purely alien world with purely alien characters.


yeah…human…right there lol no nono…it must be 100% alien!

I think I saw a WIP around here , that has no human…maybe wrong . if I find it…I link it lol


I mean you can just skip to the middle third, read it, and then not read the rest.


Ah…but that is like saying 'you can eat just this part…don’t have to eat hated vegetable .

Yeah found it…but it has human…boo! . It’s this one : Tales of Aurora (WIP)


Depends on what sort of fantasy setting I’m going for. I usually have some of the same traditional races, but I usually make them a little different.

For Eternal, which was more of a dark fantasy setting, the races were portrayed in a darker light in general. Dark elves (svelk) were more the norm and mostly worked as nomadic mercs, while the “regular” elves (sveld) were generally looked down upon and enslaved by everyone, dwarves were dero, orcs mostly worked as “civilized” soldiers and halflings were extinct.

While in Rogues which is a bit less of a crapsack world, the standard races are still there but since you’re mostly dealing with them in a civilized mostly human city environment, they don’t necessarily fit the mold all the time. For example, elves tend to be seen as flaky and lazy in human society though if they’re in their own society they tend to be a bunch of war mongering assholes against the other forest dwellers.

In any case, I do tend to add a few extra races that don’t get as much attention, but even with the traditional races written in I find I still focus more on humans in general.

I think though as long as you’re writing a good story over all you can still keep the traditional races in. Just might take a little more creativity to make them not seem as “boring” but not all readers are going to feel that they are anyway. Some people still enjoy the same character traits of the usual races.


I really love world building! Including terrain sculpting. So, I tend to base my fantastical races based on their geographical birthplace. Pretty easy to start with and gives room for further creation of their (agri)culture depending on their available resources.

For example, a race of hard working, stocky, people with large ram horns. They live near mountainous regions and as a tradition try break large rocks with their horns as a sign of physical maturity.

Fun stuff!

1 Like

A good writer can and will world-build while maintaining momentum.

I’m not saying that the writer has to sit down, stop the plot dead, and explain the eccentricities of Orcish philosophy—that’s not only foolish, that’s just bad (or at least, boring) writing.
You can however drop mentions of past philosophers, instances of contradictory thought, and examples normalized behavior here and there, and all of those together will build a picture of a nuanced and well-thought out race.

And just to clarify, I’m also not saying that you have to mention every minutiae of everything you’ve come up with in a book. You’re right, that is unnecessary in the narrative proper.
I am, however, a staunch proponent of the Iceberg Theory: only 10% (approximately) of what a writer knows or comes up with should ever be explicitly mentioned, the rest is there to serve the author in understanding what direction to go in.
This applies to characters as much as it does to fantasy races.

And trust me, you can always tell who thinks about those little things. Those worlds are often the ones with the most vivid and concrete descriptions, while writers who rely on prior expectations and knowledge generally have vaguer descriptions and undefined worlds.

All that said, as with every piece of advice for writing, what it all comes down to is the story itself. Some stories benefit from being vague and undefined, because their point isn’t to create a deep new world to explore, but rather to explore themes or character archetypes, and thus rely on prior knowledge so that the writer can focus on other parts of the story.
That is absolutely fine, there’s nothing wrong with not coming up with a tax system! But if your goal is to make these races feel real, then you have to think about those little things, you can’t just rely on Tolkein to do the heavy lifting.


Isn’t that just goat people?


Yes, and elves are really just people with elongated ears.
Most fantasy races we see are a derivative of something else because its just more recognizable that way no matter the viewers experiences with fantasy. Is that a detriment? Not always, but can come off as uninspired if not explored with the authors own perspective.

1 Like

That’s part of what makes them the options for a species selection to be so interesting!

People have an idea what sort of ‘life’ they’re getting their MC into whenever they’re offered options like “Vampire” or “Werewolf”. Branching out into ‘species’ that no one has heard of is offering something - hopefully - new and exciting.


Yeah most elves are pretty uninspired. I’ve read a novel where the protagonist was secretly an elf and didn’t know it.

In my opinion there should never be any doubt.

I prefer elves that lean into their fae roots and take on a more mystical role within the world. They should be more frightening than beautiful.

I mean that’s my own take on it. But just pointy eared humans don’t hold a candle to their potential.


Jorōgumo are a flesh and blood species, but they’re not looked down upon by the rest of the population (if you mean to say that goblins are regarded as stupid). Sure, they’re feared by the people who are terrified of spiders, but so far I haven’t really come up with a way that they’d be discriminated against - yet.

I’m thinking that Church Grim would be more neutral spirit-y (guards graveyards and chases off grave robbers) rather than hellhound-y (hunts down wayward spirits).