My latest PDF is a short race book detailing the Arcadians, a race of living video games. Building new races is probably my favorite part of game design, and today I thought I’d talk about my favorite races from my various campaign worlds, and why those races are my favorites
Races of the Tatakama
The Akaname are one of my favorites because they are just so fetishy and creepy. Being undead gives them some kick ass immunities, and fills a neat game niche. I always thought WOTC and later Paizo should of included an undead player race as a core racial option, and with the Akaname (not to mention the Ububme and Otherverse America’s Neverborn) I’m filling that niche. Plus, the fact these creatures lick up pee and poop and have a tendency towards voyeurism offers lots of opportunities for dark comedy in game- I designed these guys as sidekicks and comic relief characters, but when the rare Akaname steps up into true heroism or actual villainy, it makes the moment that much cooler.
Amanda’s art for this race elevated it to the ranks of my favorites. These guys make excellent dashing, swashbuckling thieves, and are just fun to play. Mechanically, they’ve got some kickass extrasensory abilities, which help cement their niche as one of the best Roguish races in the game.
As with the Dodoma, the art really sells the Kami. I designed the race to emulate Belldandy from Oh, My Goddess and Anthony took that advice to heart when he illustrated the race. Mechanically, I love how customizable the Kami are- they choose a domain that gives them powers and access to specific skills, and have an ability that makes them one of the best skill-based races in the game. I can see a lot of gamers building Kami bards, rogues or rangers and really shining in their area of expertise.
The Trius (From Free20: Threeway)
I originally presented the Trius as a free bonus race for the Galaxy Command setting, but I liked ‘em so much that I’m going to make them a core race in my upcoming Races of the Command Fleet sourcebook. The whole idea of the race was to create a homage species that was as sexy, competent and combative as Triad from the Legion of Superheroes. The Trius (and Triad, who inspired them) have the ability to split into three identical duplicates at will. Building that ability into something suitable for a +0 ECL D20 Future race was a huge challenge, and I think I did it pretty well. This one is a favorite both for the mechanics and high concept.
Basically, the Star Droids are a way for sci-fi gamers to play R2-D2 (or V.I.N.C.E.N.T or Old B.O.B. or the droids from Silent Running, or Wall-e) and still be effective around the gaming table. They’re quirky, fun to play and completely non-humanoid. That’s important- gaming needs more weird things to play as. Like the Akaname, the Star Droids are another kick ass sidekick race.
The Space Cases PDF is filled with random trait and alien culture builder charts, which makes it pretty kickass old school type gaming, stapled onto the very solid D20-based framework I prefer to build in. Plus, I managed to sneak in references to the entire Legion of Substitute Heroes roster in the racial feats section. Galaxy Command as a whole is filled with LOSH references and injokes, but I really took it to an extreme in Space Cases.
The Blooded Ghosts
The Ghosts are a race I haven’t done enough with yet. Inspired by Jim Lee’s Daemonites (from WildCATS and Stormwatch), these guys are creepy enough to hold my interest. I want to explore the culture in more depth, and sooner or later I’ll do a race book on these guys consolidating all the scattered information about them. The Ghosts are an interesting twist on a traditional shapeshifting race, with some neat body horror abilities and a nastily predatory mindset that makes ‘em fun to play.
Basically these guys are Jack Hawksmoor, from Warren Ellis’ awesome Stormwatch run. I like them because they have cool racial abilities, and some of the absolutely coolest racial feats in the game.
The Culture are cool mostly because of their rivalry with the Blooded Ghosts, and you really can’t have one race without the other. I added in a subplot for the race that they’re the distant, distant descendants of Otherverse America’s Coven of Bast. I love the idea of cross-planar campaigns and tying all my worlds into one fictional multiverse, and the Culture are a big part of that. Plus I enjoyed the fact that the Culture are the stereotypical ‘super-advanced but fully human looking aliens’ and I made them black, because most examples of that trope are usually pretty Caucasian, sometimes even verging on creepily Aryan.
Full Conversion Cyborgs
This race is a favorite for the mechanics behind it, and one that can be exported out of Otherverse America to any cyberpunk setting. Before coming up with the FCBs, I struggled with how to handle cyber-conversion- are cyborgs a template, a class, a feat tree, or just guys who purchased a lot of equipment? Making them a race solved a lot of the problem balancing heavy combat cyborgs with everybody else, gave the world a neat cyberpunk flavor, and was just generally a fun choice. The racial backstory of serious sexual abuse is one of the best justifications for racial ability score moridifers, and giving these guys Iron Will as a racial bonus feat really emphasizes their mental and spiritual strength.
The Neverborn became one of my favorite races right about the time I wrote Never Born Again, and added the Nuremberg AI to the Otherverse America campaign setting. I’d always intended the Lifers to use a communications protocol called Nuremberg, but in original drafts, Nuremberg was non-sentient, basically just the Lifer version of the Internet. Anyway, once I added Nuremberg AI as an overarching villain, the Neverborn really (pardon the pun) came to life. Kickass plot hooks, some interesting NPCs, and awesome racial feats make the Neverborn really fun to play, and ‘core’ to the Otherverse America experience.
The Ubasti are fun to play just because they are so physical- they’re awesomely strong, combative and quirky enough to be really fun to play. Basically, they are Battlecat from He-Man doing volunteer work as an abortion clinic escort, which is a concept that’s so nonsensical on the surface it brings a smile to my face. Their racial PDF does a good job, I think of really capturing the psychology of the Ubasti- they think more like very smart cats than dumb humans, and their racial feats really reinforce this.