Creating a race, part 1

22 maart 2017 Door Alexandra Hofman

As I wrote in one of my previous entries “writing a character, part 1, writing a background” I would be devoting an entry on how to create a race. So, here we are. This week’s focus will be lying on the first steps on how to create a new/your own race.
Happy creating! Alexjuh

  1. There are two different ways to create a new race:
  2.  Start from scratch.
  3. Alter an already existing race.

Then there are two ways of altering an already existing race:

  1. You copy the entire race and you alter some (minor) things.
  2. You take a race and create a (new) subrace.

I think it’s needless to explain these 3 options. But remember, to create a race from scratch is very difficult and takes a lot of time. Next to that, there is already so much out there; it’s hard to create something new and unique. The latter also applies when you’re going to alter an already existing race.

For example: you can create a new race of elves. The concept elves already exist but you can make a different type of elf.
You can try to alter a human. Give them a new environment and you trigger an evolution, like homo sapiens and homo erectus.
Or you can try to create a new subspecies of Xindi. Originally there are 6 different types of Xindi, but when going to a LARP event, a lot is possible.


The first thing you need is a lot of inspiration. The Internet, books, movies and talking to friends and/or acquaintances is a good start. Choose something you’d like to create and also like to play because when you don’t like what you’re going to play, it is a waste of time.

Do some research on your chosen race and write everything down that you think is awesome or helpful; don’t limit yourself yet. At this point there isn’t something like right, wrong, possible or impossible because everything is a trigger to something else/more and it’s part of the creative process.

For example: you like wings, write it down. You like hardware, write it down. You like something green with purple, write it down.
Put these ideas aside for a couple of days and only look at it to write down new ideas.This concept is called ‘mind mapping’ and you’ll find yourself doing this more often during the process, whether is it’s conscious or sub-conscious.

Photograph by: Robbert Bruggeling


With your ideas still aside you can start thinking about the goal of the race; both goals in-game as well as out-of-game. This is very important because it’ll affect any other action and choice you will make in the game. (You can create a goal by creating another mind map if you’d like.)

Some examplequestions you can ask yourself for out-of-game goals:

What do you want to trigger? Do you want people to fear you? Do you want people to ask your help? Do you want to unite something? Etc.?

How do you want to interact with other players? Do you want to be able and talk to everybody without being afraid? How do you want people from your own race to interact with each other?
What do you like? Do you like doing a lot of rituals? Do you like talking all day? Do you like sneaking around? Etc.? This goal actually is very important because you probably are going to play this race for a couple of years so you should create something you are comfortable with.

And then there are goals in-game. Does your race have a common goal? And how do they achieve that?
For example: your race wants to achieve that everybody is going to believe in your god. You can talk to everybody and try to convince them to believe in your god which gives a race that talks a lot and shouldn’t be afraid of others. Or are you just going to start a war to achieve this, resulting in a specialized fighting race.

And then there is always a goal within a goal.

Staying with the goal of in the previous example: you want to try to create a spell or potion you can cast or give to everybody so they will listen and follow you. This will give your a race need for magic or alchemical skills. Or you can try in one way or another to kill all the other gods so only your god is left. (Which probably results in a lot of mad/angry people, maybe even a war.)

The best in-game goal is a goal that is hard or nearly unable to complete. Also avoid a goal that isn’t there.

Example: ‘Kill all dragons’ is already achieved when dragons don’t exist in the world. (Yes, you can spend generations searching for dragons, being convinced that there áre dragons, but this will bleed out very fast when not given some breadcrumbs and a push in the right direction.)

Avoid clichés like ‘world domination’ (face it, who doesn’t want that?) or ‘kill all the greenskins’. Also make sure your in-game goal is something you’d like to work for. When you have a goal you don’t like, you’ll find yourself at the event not often thinking about it. And when you do think about it, you don’t want to further it because you don’t like the goal.

Getting the basics

The first basic you want to create is the general line that is common throughout the whole race. This contains their appearance, their goals, their believes, their habits etc.

For example: most elves have pointy ears and usually have something with the cycle of life. 5 out of 6 Xindi resemble animals. Demons and devils are generally evil and usually live in the Abyss or Hells. Most vampires drink blood and wander around at night.

Write these basics down and then write or search for the second basic.

The second basic is optional but these are the second general lines that form a race. This also varies from appearance to religion or habitat.

For example: the second basic of a hellhound is the doggish part. The first basic is the  demon-kind.
The second basic of a human is the skin-color whereas the first basic is the humanoid part.

When you’re going to alter some (minor) things in an already existing race, the second basics are also already given.
Then there is the last basic which forms the entire subrace before the individuals are formed.

For example: the last basic from a woodelf are the woods. The last basic of a human is their country/tribe. The last basic from the The Aquatics is that they are water-breathing Xindi.

When you’re creating a new race, you’ll have to create all those basics.
If you’re going to alter an already existing race, the first basics are usually given already.
And when altering some (minor) things in an already existing race, you only have to alter the last basic.

For each of these ways of creating a new race you’ll have to use the inspiration you’ve written down.
Pick up the paper you’ve written your inspiration on and start to cross off the idea’s that now seem silly to you. After your enormous outburst of inspiration there are always things you’ve written down and you think: “what the hell was I thinking?!”.

Take a look at your goals and cross off ideas that don’t seem compatible with your goals. Of course there can be some things that aren’t compatible but you still like the idea, then don’t cross it. Maybe you can still alter the idea or mix it in.
Also look at the ideas and briefly think about costume possibilities. When you’ve written down something but you can’t buy or make a costume for it, cross it off or save it for later so maybe you can alter it.

Then there are always the ideas that still are awesome, compatable ánd usable. Take a marker and highlight them because these ideas can strongly form your first and/or second basis.

Last you will have the ideas that are left in the middle, there is something to say for them, but there is something to say against them as well. Just leave them there because when you need a push or another rush of inspiration, they can help you.

Also, when crossing things off, don’t delete them fully. Don’t use a big black marker or delete them from the document on your computer. These things still can trigger new ideas even though they seem like bad ideas themselves.

Everything written in the paragraph “getting the basics” usually is a mixed process. You’ll always reach the point where you think you are done with one basic and then all of a sudden you get a great idea and you can start over again. Just go to where your inspiration leads you and what feels natural to you.

Photograph made by: Ork de Rooij

When creating or altering a race, don’t rush, give it time. Inspiration usually comes and goes and is triggered by the weirdest things. Create something you like to play. And remember, in the first stages of creation there is no such things as a bad idea. Every idea is a trigger to something new so don’t limit your creativity. In later stages you can start filtering your ideas but don’t throw them away, maybe you’ve written down a hidden gem.

Special mention for this entry:

  • Doomsday General. Thank you for reading the first draft and helping with translation, grammar and filtering out little mistakes.
  • Robin. Thank you for getting me past my writers’ block and pushing me not to give up.
  • Wilco. Thank you for helping me with some little things I know little about.

Next week’s entry: Creating a race, part 2.

Dit artikel is oorspronkelijk gepost op Alexandra’s blog (20 januari 2014) en is opnieuw beschikbaar gesteld voor LARP Platform.

Alexandra is momenteel actief met het organiseren van Dark Union, een unieke bad guy LARP in Nederland. Daarnaast is ze heel creatief meer leerbewerken onder handelsnaam Layers.

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