World Building for Game Devs and Writers 101 – Lesson 12 – Races

Hey there.

I’m Mark from Amazing Gaming Productions.

I am the creator of Tales from Trinity City. You can download the rulebook, lore book, and character sheet from the links. With the upcoming beta test, you may want to join the group and sign up!

Today, we’re going to talk about races.

While I’ve started to talk about races in the Fauna blog, today, we’re going to delve into into how races change the cultural makeup of our worlds. Every race is going to have it’s own values, and there may be conflicting values between them. Those conflicts can create stories, you know – what we’re all interested in telling.

There are important considerations to think about when it comes to how races change culture.

First, are they living in ethnostates? Many races may prefer to live only with members of their own races. Other races may create a Babylon 5 community, 100s of species working and trading with each other.

Second, what does different races consider art? What’s the common religions of this race? Do the religions of different races get along? Do they have a unique language? Is there a common language for all races in multi-cultural cities/regions?

Third, what is the relations between races like. Are there strong alliances? Are they on a tentative peace? Is it passive-aggressive – like Dwarves and Elves? What about outright War?

One of the best parts of the LOTR, this friendly rivalry!

How races interact with each other is important. You need to consider this when you are making a world with many sapient races. They will not be like their neighbours, so if every race is a carbon copy of each other, it’s complete shit!

Major cultures in speculative fiction have many differences in them. You should think about all the stuff when you’re working on your world.

Ethnostates are throughout Tolkein’s world of Middle Earth. The Hobbits live in their Shire, the Humans live in Mina Tirith and the Horse Lands, the Elves in Rivendell and the Dwarves under their mountains. Each one brings very different things to the table.

Since the advent of this cultural paradigm, many fantasy worlds have the same divisions. Every race sticks with their own kind, but will work together when the time comes for co-operation. Every race has their capitals, fortresses, cities and lands. There may be a few cities that cater to all the races though, where they trade with each other.

While ethnostates can become a strength, it does come with it’s own problems. The biggest is stagnation and decay. Once you believe you have the ‘perfect’ state, corruption sets in and everything will come down in a few generations.

The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov was all about a civilization that stop growing. There were no cultural or scientific advances for centuries. The series starts with the The Galatic Empire that is almost ready to collapse. Harry Seldon needs to work to prevent wide-scale chaos once it happens. So he sets up a Foundation that will bring back culture and civilization over a 1,000 years, instead of 30,000 years.

Another great example of an Ethnostate that destroys itself is the Man of Steel movie. The Kryptonians had the perfect Marxist world. Every single person was grown to be the perfect example of their job. And because of it, they stoped expanding. They killed their planet.

Stupidity of their communist ethnostate killed them!

So, are you going to create a ethnostates in your stories? If you do, what are the strengths and weaknesses within their culture? Is it on the rise, or is it on a decline? What is causing this decline? What is causing this surge of power?

And if you think these are only fictional examples of how an ethnostate can decline, it’s happening right now. Japan is expecting it’s population to drop by 50% by 2060 – with 2/3 of their population being 60+, so lets say 70% by 2100. They are very strict about their values, wanting to create a homogenous culture. That isn’t working for them, is it?

While there is many good examples of flourishing and declining ethnostates, what about multi-cultural civilizations?

A great example in recent history is Bright. The Netflix series is all about a world where Humans, Elves and Orcs live together in Los Angelous. But it isn’t a perfect union. There’s prejudice, mistrust and anger between all the races. But that doesn’t need to always be the case. The human and orc cops worked together to help prevent a major catastrophe.

Fairy Lives Don’t Matter Here

While races in multi-cultural cities may not be on the friendliest of terms, they can bring many customs, recipes and ideas. This will only help all the races learn more and more. They bring stories to inspire and art that amazes. There is always different ideas they can bring to the table.

Also, multi-cultural cities can have issues. It’s kind like the Internet. People migrating from one social media website to another need to unpack the reasons why they left. The same for races and peoples who left one culture for another. War forces many people to leave, because some people don’t know if they can stand against what is happening. Or the refugees a vanguard of an invasion to uproot an enemy by ‘being peaceful’.

Could a famine push refugees to migrate to this new city. They need to feed their families and this city is open to all. And if they are coming from an ethnostate, do others of their culture look at them as traitors to their people?

You need to decide what your races are all about. Do they like multi-cultural ideals? Do they want to keep their culture pure? Do they see a problem with an ethnostate? Do they have problems with multi-cultural cities?

Even in a multi-cultural city, there are going to be differences. Jews, Muslims and Christians live in Jerusalem. Each has its own holidays, religious practices and ideas. So, even if there is a relative peace, there is always going to be differences. Even if that does lead to violence.

It is important to look at how these influences change how people interact with each other. What are their religions based upon? What ceremonies do they have? Are their marriage customs different? What holidays do they celebrate? How did they celebrate those holidays? Have their religious customs changed since they created them? How do these religions interact with each other?

Also, how art can change from race to to race? Does dancing for elves involve ceremonial blades? Humans may consider paintings to be distasteful? Dwarves want their art to be permanent, like metal statues or engravings in rock? What kinds of art does your culture enjoy?

And like I said before, every race should have their own language. When it comes to the language, is it verbal or is it also written? Is it elegant, function, or guttural? Is it magical? Does any kind of supernatural aspect come with the language?

In the Death Gate novels, the two wizard races – the Patryn and the Sartan revealed everything they experience while they talked to the person they are talking too.

In worlds where different races work with each other, is there a common trade language? Is this different from any other language? Is it a mixture of common words in all languages? Are there rules for grammar for this language?

As I stated before, the orc race in the world I am building for this series, they are starting to develop arts and the foundations of a written language. Most of their art is simple sculptures and paintings. The humans outside the volcanic blast zone have a more advanced culture, which orcs on the border are trying to understand.

In speculative fiction, the different races may not have the best of relations. This is important to note when it comes to adding new races.

I know there is a push to ‘destroy’ racism in fantasy worlds. For instance, Some people have the idea that Orcs are representations of black people. But we can’t let that prevent us from looking at these ideas and talk about them.

Bright does a great job, yes, people look down on Orcs, but that was because of a choice their race made a millennium ago. Many Orcs want to make amends and do the right thing. Others wallow in the unfairness of the world.

Trying to remove racism out of your writing, you will allow it to flourish because we become blind to it. We should write how races interact with each other. And how members of two races can be confrontational but learn how to work with each other when there is a greater threat.

So, what kinds of relations does each race have with each other? Could Elves and Dwarves have a multi-cultural society where they are getting along. The Elves provide the magic that makes powerful Dwarven war machines that the world has never seen.

While Orcs have had a violent history in the new world I built, they are improving their relations with the human kingdoms surrounding their lands. The two groups are finally starting to cool down over the past few generations.

Races and cultures are an important part of world building. You need to know what makes each different. You need to know how they react with each other. You need to know how open they are to living with other cultures. You need to know what their languages, religions, art and ideals are. If you don’t, you have a flat world where every race is a carbon copy of humanity.

Thanks for reading my blog.

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Have a great day guys!

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