Questions for developing the biology of a new species or race
Something to remember when developing your new species or races: always remember that your unique race/alien race should not distract from the narrative. It is always fun to experience new and different peoples that can be so similar to humanity while being so different. But you don’t want to create a main species that is so utterly alien that it distracts from your narrative. The details of your race should enhance your story, not needlessly complicate it.
So! With that in mind…
Starting from scratch:
What about them says “other”?
How are their environmental conditions reflected in their biology?
What texture/color is their skin or outer layer? Why?
Do they have hair? If so, where and what color(s)? What texture(s)?
How many biological sexes are there? How many genders?
How many cones do their eyes have?
How many limbs do they have? How are they used?
How many fingers/toes do they have? How has this altered their number system?
Were they the only race on their home planet that evolved to “intelligent?”
For further development:
How would it describe its setting?
Do they have physical traits specific to their class or caste?
What traits do others of their species find attractive? Why?
Do they use special tools to enhance or repair damaged/failing physical traits or senses (glasses/contacts, prosthetics, wheelchairs)?
What unifying characteristics set them apart from humans? What do they have in common?
What dietary needs do they have?
Do they use special ornamentation (clothing, jewelry, tattoos) to show rank, occupation, heritage, etc.?
How do they relate to temperature or climate?
Do they have joints or tendons that move in a way that would seem unnatural to humans?
What is their sexual biology like? Is it analogous to ours, or something entirely different?
What recreational activities are healthy/positive for their biology?
How does their body respond to various types of excitement or emotion?
Creative exercises for species/racial development:
If someone were write a wanted poster for a criminal of this race, what features would the notice highlight? Why?
What are (or hypothetically would be) the most popular plastic surgeries among people of this species?
What is their average morning routine? How do their care for themselves, physically, on a daily basis?
Write a short story in which someone of your new species/race attempts to put on a set of human clothes or visa versa.
What is the most popular sport and how is it played? How do the species’ unique traits play into the game, if at all?
Unknown Number: [text] Good day your highness, this is Obi-Wan Kenobi. I would like to inform you that I have a new number, m’lady. Satine: All right, thank you for letting me know! Obi-Wan: Yes and also I am greatly interested in knowing how you are faring on this day my dear sweet Mandalorian flower. Satine: What? Obi-Wan: Mayhaps we could talk at length about the many times we’ve spent together and the reasons why we chose to part. Satine: Obi-Wan, this is strange. Are you all right? Obi-Wan: I am most well my dearest Duchess just wishing to reminisce about days long gone! 💐
Satine: Obi, I think I’d better go. Maybe you should rest?
[Obi-Wan Kenobi has sent an image.]
Satine: What is this? Obi-Wan: It is a picture of me on my last mission, where my hair was the color of a beautiful Mandalorian sunset much like the many we saw together all those years ago. Obi-Wan: You know I have heard that one of the other Jedi I know may be married in secret! Perhaps there is hope for us yet, my darling, and we could go on double dates and travel the universe together with them! Satine: Obi, can you please call me? I am worried about you. Obi-Wan: Alas I cannot for I am in a mission briefing, my dear one! I must speak with you another time. Satine: Are you absolutely sure you are all right? Obi-Wan: Most certain, though I will be in agony until I can see your face. Surely you have only grown more beautiful, for a Duchess. Satine: What does that mean?! Obi-Wan: I must go now, away to save the universe with my brave and handsome friend Anakin Skywalker The Chosen One, while my very soul remains in Mandalore! 🌹
Obi-Wan: Anakin, please pay attention to what Master Windu is saying. I can see you typing on your phone from here. Anakin: sorry master Obi-Wan: Who are you even talking to right now? Anakin: no one master sorry ill pay attention
We close off another special on races as we usually do, with
another core race!
And with this entry, we complete the trifecta of non-human
playable races directly derived from Tolkien’s work. For your consideration:
The exact specific origin of the idea of the elf is not
known, but it does have Germanic roots, with tales of mysterious and magical
forest people who can either help or harm humanity, depending on their mood
(Almost entirely harm in most of the Germanic tales, though the Norse also have
their stories of helpful elves.)
With a description like that, it only makes sense that they
would be conflated with the Romance-derived concept of the fey, and often the
terms are used interchangeably or categorically, with elves being classified as
a physically human-like variety of fey. However, the term elf has also seen use
in association with all sorts of descriptions, conflating them with traditional
diminutive fey, such as brownies, sprites, pixies, and the like.
The modern high-fantasy concept of the elf comes, of course,
from influential works like Tolkien’s, who returned to their Germanic roots
when describing them, painting them as an aloof forest people with incredibly
long lives that are distrustful and dismissive of other races, believing them
to be violent and short-sighted.
It’s that characterization that has held for most every
other fictional work they have been in, including many fantasy roleplaying
In fact, this has also led to a lot of stereotypes and
oversimplifications on the part of writers and players, similar to how “Dwarves
live underground and like gold” or “Orcs want to bash your face in” or “Halflings
really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things unless your story revolves
around being a thief who steals something important”. For elves, this means
they are assumed to be elitist forest-dwellers that think they are better than
However, like all stereotypes, your elves don’t have to be
that way. Do you think the local elf brewer is going to turn his nose up when a
dwarf noble rides up with entourage and offers coin to sample and purchase his
So what does being an elf in pathfinder mean? Well, unlike
Tolkien’s work, elves are not immortal unless slain, but rather, simply have
incredibly long lifespans. Furthermore, they are still very much creatures of
the material plane, though, like gnomes, they may indeed have some past
connection to the fey realms, however distant or close it may be.
Pathfinder elves are, however, not limited to forests,
appearing in virtually every environment, their bodies subtly changing to
reflect their surroundings over time. Indeed, an elf who lives in one location
long enough may pick up traits from it, even if it is nothing like their original
birthplace. Thus, while the long-eared, pale, lithe humanoid is a classic
image, you can see elves in a variety of skin tones including and beyond the
human range, as well as having the possibility of camouflage patterns, all
sorts of hair colors, and beyond.
Attitude-wise, while many elves do indeed feel themselves to
be the chosen children of the natural world, or at least feel wary around the
more short-lived races, elves run the gamut of behaviors just like any other
sapient race, they may be haughty or humble, fierce or gentle, depending on
their life experiences.
In the Golarion setting in particular, elves fall under a
few different categories of history. Some may have dwelled most of their lives
in elven communities, being from or descended from those who returned to the
planet from their colony on the neighboring planet of Castrovel. Others may
have been part of the xenophobic shut-ins of the Mordant Spire having spent the
long Age of Darkness preserving elven lore and civilization. Others, the
Forlorn, have lived among humans nearly all of their life, and while the
differences in rate of maturity and aging makes things difficult, they are
perhaps the most understanding of human ways and plight.
Agile in both body and mind, elves are, however, somewhat
They are, however, immune to magical sleep, and foes have
trouble bewitching them with enchantment magic.
The magical nature of elven society means that even those
with no spellcasting ability are at least familiar with many magical items, and
their spellcasters are especially good at overcoming spell resistance.
Conversely, most elves also train to be familiar with a
variety of cultural weapons, namely bows, longswords, and rapiers, and are at
least passingly familiar with other elven weapons.
Of course, not all elves are alike, with several subsets and
ethnicities, some of which warranting their own racial entries, such as Drow
and Aquatic Elves. Others, such as Arctic Elves, Dusk Elves, Savage Elves, and
Tower Elves, are simply variations of the core race.
Elves have one of the largest sets of alternate racial
traits I have ever seen. Some may have adaptations suited for the environment they
come from, or having special connection to their own magic, or to dragons or
fey, and so on.
Elves are at once ageless beings, but at the same time, time
itself is one of the major factors in their lives. Given how long they live,
they have difficulty identifying with other races, who seem like children to
them, yet find it startling how quickly they mature. Furthermore, their great
age means that their race is slow to change culturally, so social growth that
other races develop can seem like bizarre, dangerous thinking to older elves
that spent most of their lives simply persisting as they are. However, at the
same time, their long view of the world also means they have much to say about
sustainability and the fleeting nature of certain social dynamics.
Elves can be found in most any class, though those with an
association with nature, as well as arcane magic, are a strong contender for
their power. They also make for agile and precise members of martial classes.
However, they overall seem to have a preference for ranged combat over melee.
Elves can be so much more complex a choice than one would
initially expect, but a good one nevertheless. Consider creating one, and
delving into as much of the classic lore as you wish, or shaking things up with
elves that defy expectations, like having body types other than slender, and so