character species ogre

Character Species in Roleplaying and Creative Writing

Fantasy characters in roleplay or writing don’t have to be from the human race. Let’s face it, that’s one of the reasons we love genres like fantasy, steampunk, and sci-fi. We love to try out character species of all types. We covet the special abilities and mutations that would make us a little better than human; conversely, we enjoy the unique challenges of having to use echolocation because our sight-impaired half-bat ranger is trying to shoot an arrow at a moving target. It is so much fun to stretch the imagination and cre8opedia encourages such shenanigans.

With that in mind, we have brainstormed a whole pile of ideas to help you play with character species in your narratives and games. Use the writing prompts, tips, and menus below to add variety to your fictional society!

And if you’re looking for some straight-up, beastly MONSTERS, go here for a cre8opedia page dedicated to monster types and some tips on building your own monsters.

Character Species Tips and Notes

When we brainstormed for this post, we threw down so many ideas that it was getting out of control (hence the “storm” in “brainstorm”). Once we settled down, we withdrew a few gems from the pile that we thought would help out our visiting friends. Enjoy!

Constructing your Species

  • A good starting point is to build from the “human” structure out. In other words, consider how they’re different from humans. This is a solid approach because you have a strong reference point: you.
  • One easy tweak is to be a “half”. You can be a “half” anything like a half-orc or half-elf or a half-snake (insert lawyer joke here). In this same vein, you could have an eighth of anything in your blood or look back seven generations and find 1/128th hyena in your family line; maybe that’s where you get your good sense of humour!
  • You may want to try taking two different creatures and blending them into one. A turtle-hawk would be an interesting passive-aggressive combo indeed.
  • Alterations for species don’t necessarily have to be animal in nature either. After all, this is fiction. Try blending some machinery, plant life, mineral, or energy components into your beings. For example, you could have a Robosnail or a Uraniumbeetle to mess up the logic of an otherwise perfect story.
  • You can be full on monster or animal if you want as well, so if you want to play a total troll, go for it. Some monsters and animals lend themselves better to being characters than others depending on your world and their relative “intelligence.” Now, in fiction, you can always justify things with a line like: “She was a very smart mosquito.” A character generally should have some intelligence and emotional ability or they run the risk of being a meme in your story.
  • The list of tweaks to creating species is endless really, but there are a few categories you can consider here for your species-building adventure:
    • appearance such as: size, shape, appendages, facial features,
    • speech, communication
    • movement
    • behaviours such as: eating, going potty, mating, fighting
    • limitations, challenges
    • ethics, duty, alignment, moral code
    • family structure, societal hierarchy,
    • traditions, practices, religion, beliefs
    • preferred environment; for example: swamp, mountains, underground, forest

Naming your Species

  • When naming your new species, you can be “kin” to virtually anything; for example, you can be Lizardkin, which basically means humanoid with lizardy features like scales and the ability to sit still as a stone for 48 hours.
  • Similar to kin are the “folk” as in Faeriefolk, Ratfolk, the formidable dragonfolk (or Drakers in commoner parlance) or Lionfolk.
  • Likewise, you can be “born” from almost anything to create strange races like Oakborn (hardy barkskinned peeps), Starborn, or the ignoble Donkeyborn.
  • If you add “blood” to anything you also get cool sounding races like Orcblood or Catblood. Other body parts can be spliced onto names to title your neat creations, such as: Willowheart (part willow tree), the Hawkbone people of the Aerie, or the Lioneye hunter-folk of the savannah with their great shaggy manes.
  • Put a type of terrain in front of a species and you’ve got a more precise variant with new dialects, diets, habits, and customs. For example: Hill Gnome, Sewer Dwarf, Tundra Elf, or Aquatic Dog (also known as a dolphin).
  • Another naming suffix that is effective in certain combinations is the “-oid” as in: insectoid, android, barnacloid, raptoroid

Creating Species – Backstory

Take some time to consider your character species backstory. This is a really fun part of world-building. To help you out, following are some questions we would ask you in an interview if you were on our talk show, “The New Species Report.” It’s not yet airing, but use your imagination:

  • Where does your species come from? How did they originate? Evolution or gods?
  • How do they structure their unique society? Do they live in cities or dwell in caves? What’s the hierarchy? In other words, who’s in charge?
  • How do they interact with other species? What are their diplomatic and trade relationships like? Are they involved in conflict, such as war, espionage, trade embargoes?
  • What are some of their unique strengths as a people? Consequently, how does this shape their society?
  • What’s their lifespan? What is their life cycle like? How do they procreate?
  • What challenges do they face? What are some of their limitations?
  • What are some of their cultural hallmarks? For example: clothing, food, technology, art and music.
  • Finally, what traditions, rites, and celebrations do they observe? Do they have a religion? Do they celebrate birthdays?

The Menu of Character Species

Here, we’ve presented a wide range of possibilities for character species. Some are the more standard variations seen in classic stories, others are a little more out there. We had fun blasting out these ideas and hope you get an idea of your own from the mix.

  • human, humanoid, evolved human, mutated human, half-human, hybrid human, advanced human, regressed human,
  • wood elf, high elf, swamp elf, mountain elf, eolf, , deep elf,  faerie, faery, fairy,
  • mountain dwarf, hill dwarf, forest dwarf (dwarg),  cliff dwarf
  • halfling, hobbit, halfer, toddle-folk, shire-kin, 
  • gnome, kobold, imp, leprechaun,
  • pixie, sprite, brownie
  • orcblood, goblin, orc (ork, orch, oerk), troll, ogre, hobgoblin, bugbear, 
  • brownie, imp, leprechaun, city troll, pixie
  • desert gnome, sky elf, 
  • hill giant, jotunn, hulker,
  • deerfolk , elkkin, moosemen (all found in Northern Alberta)
  • insectoid, wormkin, buttermen (like butterflies, but human), 
  • lycanthrope, werebear, werewolf, wererat,
  • demonkind, nosferatu, night stalker (walker, crawler, lurker, etc.)
  • dragonkin, reptilian, lizardkin
  • feline, lionkin
  • canine, wolfkin
  • bovine, minotaur
  • monkeykin
  • angelkind, diva, protector, skyborn, heavensent, 
  • aquatic, waterborn, dolphinkin, 
  • undead, ghostkind, hellborn
  • golem, construct, animate, cybeing, created, biobuild, enchantment, 
  • ethereal walker, astralborn, 
  • psionic, mind weaver, thought-eater
  • djinn, genie, gifter, giver, 
  • elementalkind, fireborn, waternkin, earthians, airfolk,
  • avian, eaglekind
  • Weaselkin/Badgerkin Rodent/Ratkin
  • Spiderfolk
  • Toadkin
  • Hairy Gnome
  • Satyr/Faun
  • Centaur
  • Dryad, Nymph, Trow, Selkie/Merfolk
  • troglodyte
  • Stoneskin
  • Sasquatch
  • Sewerborn
  • Sky Dwarf
  • Woodkin/Treefolk
  • Cyclops
  • Stormkin
  • Mindfeeder
  • Hyenafolk
  • Manmoles
  • Dwarg (a dwarf but one letter better)

Writing Prompts/Exercises

Try some of these for fun. Spin one into a whole story or just use them to riff on the idea of a new character species and see where it goes.

  1. An expedition to an unexplored territory reveals a new type of being living there. The first meeting didn’t go well and now a communication bridge must be formed to prevent catastrophe.
  2. A character learns later in life that they have a special ability that comes from a distant relative. What is this unique “gift?”
  3. A baby is left at your doorstep. Cliché? Maybe a little, but you discover the baby is half-(insert species here). What happens as they grow up under your care?
  4. The last being of a particular species in an area must find their way to another land where resides more of their people. What hardships will they endure along the way and what happens when they get there (assuming they do)?
  5. A war has been waging between species in your world. Now, as prophecy has foretold, there is one who can heal the rift between these feuding peoples. Who is it and will the prophecy come true (world peace would be nice)?