253 World Building Prompts for Creating Races

These world building prompts come from 3000 World Building Prompts, which you can get at Amazon. This section is focused on creating species and races.

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  1. Will there be more than just humans in the setting?
  2. How long have people been here?
  3. Did they evolve here or come from somewhere else?
  4. Does your answer apply equally to all species?
  5. Are you using public domain races like elves and dwarves?
  6. What is the reason for your choice?
  7. What distinguishes your version of public domain races?
  8. Are you going to use the usual word (like elf) for them?
  9. Are you creating your own races/species?
  10. Do you need to invent your own or want to, and why?
  11. Do you want to mix yours with public domain ones?
  12. If you use the word “race” to distinguish between elves and dwarves, for example, what word are you going to use to distinguish between black and white humans, for example?

A Species or Race

These prompts pertain to inventing a species/race. Remember to avoid a monoculture, meaning they’re all the same; some of these prompts can be interpreted as making them all the same, but these are general questions to get us thinking, not a recommendation to create a monoculture. The words species and race are sometimes used interchangeably here, as the questions usually apply to inventing either.

  1. Is this a species?
  2. Or a race of a species?
  3. How many members of this race/species will appear in the work?
  4. If only one, do they represent the race very well or are they different from most?
  5. How many populations exist in different geographical areas?
  6. If you’re going to use them to comment on humanity, what trait allows this and what aspect of humanity are you commenting upon?
  7. Are you using an analogue to create them, and if so, what is it?
  8. How does your invention differ from the analogue in three key ways?
  9. Do you intend to use them as easy-to-kill inhabitants (think goblins)?
  10. Do you intend them to be more fully fleshed out (like elves)?
  11. What are they called?
  12. Do they have nicknames?
  13. What is their origin?
  14. Did gods create them? If so, which one(s)?
  15. Which gods do they often worship and why?
  16. Have they discovered anything?

World View

  1. Is their morality (good vs. evil) uniform or more nuanced like humanity?
  2. If uniform, what actions cause them to be viewed as good or evil?
  3. Are those actions indisputably bad/good or subtler and open to interpretation?
  4. Are they viewed poorly because of cultural differences that lead to misunderstandings?
  5. What are those differences and do they realize this is why others view them that way?
  6. Is there a “good” race (wood elves) of the species and an “evil” one (dark elves)?
  7. Do the good and evil versions look enough alike that they can impersonate each other?
  8. How can someone truly tell them apart if so?
  9. How skilled are they at impersonation?
  10. Can they only fool someone in certain situations, in low light, or for a few minutes?
  11. Is the race hostile to civilization?
  12. Is the race forbidden anywhere?
  13. How integrated with the world and other societies are they?
  14. How frequently do they travel outside their homeland?
  15. Are they found in great numbers elsewhere or just a few?
  16. What kinds of places attract them in higher numbers?
  17. Where they are welcomed, why is that?
  18. If they are unwelcome, why is that?
  19. What past incidents caused the response they receive?
  20. Or are they distrusted because of reputation, misunderstanding, or another factor?
  21. If they keep to themselves, why is that?
  22. Do they welcome strangers or even friends to their homelands?
  23. If welcoming, do they set aside areas to which other races are restricted?
  24. What happened and with who?
  25. How long ago?
  26. Do some within their lands rebel against any isolation?
  27. What effect has any isolation had on their world view and attitude toward strangers?
  28. How are uninvited visitors to their settlements greeted?
  29. If with hostility, are visitors killed on sight?
  30. Are they jailed?
  31. Enslaved?
  32. Are they prone to fears and prejudice about other races?
  33. What fears and prejudices do others express toward them?
  34. How do they feel about the fears and prejudices others have toward them?
  35. How tolerant are they of social diversity/issues?

Relationships and Family Life

  1. Do they marry and at what age is considered young/old?
  2. Is divorce possible?
  3. Do people have more than one spouse? Are both genders able to or only one?
  4. Do they have a written language?
  5. If so, what form does it take (symbols, letters, etc.)?
  6. What languages do they know?
  7. How often do they give birth?
  8. How long is pregnancy?
  9. Are young born like people or in an egg?
  10. Are twins, etc., common or uncommon?
  11. How long do parents rear the children (to what age)?
  12. Are both parents equally involved in child rearing?
  13. When are children expected to leave the home?
  14. What do children begin schooling and in what subjects?
  15. Do they have higher education (college, technical school) or must they get it from another race?
  16. Are children expected to take over a family business? What happens if they do not?
  17. Is the first/last born treated better than others?
  18. In combat, do they run or fight?
  19. Do they only fight when they outnumber their opponents by a wide margin?
  20. Do they engage in fights of honor?
  21. Do they have any preferred or unique weapons?
  22. Do they have calvary?
  23. Are there any typical battle formations or plans?
  24. What kinds of armor do they wear most often?
  25. Do they have any unique defenses, whether from equipment or abilities?
  26. Are they resistant to magic or supernatural o technological phenomenon (radiation)?
  27. Is there anything they are afraid of?
  28. If so, what is it and why?
  29. Which other races are their consistent allies?
  30. What other races are their consistent enemies?
  31. With which races do they have a more variable relationship?
  32. Are there any specific wars or battles in which they played a pivotal or memorable role?

Habitats, Settlements and Home Life

  1. Are they so welcoming of other species and people that they have furniture and even homes sized for other races?
  2. What is the typical floor plan for homes and other buildings?
  3. Are they distrustful or have they had poor experiences with others?
  4. Are their settlements hidden?
  5. Is anything done to erase an unwelcome visitor’s memories of this place before setting them free somewhere?
  6. Do they live in settlements others have built?
  7. Have they built any settlements with other races?
  8. If so, was it just because they lived in the same area?
  9. Or was it a peace-making joint operation?
  10. Was there another purpose behind it?
  11. Does it still stand?
  12. Are both still in power there?
  13. If it was an experiment, has that failed or been a success?
  14. Do they tend to be in positions of power, even in settlements or sovereign powers other species built?
  15. If so, what traits cause this?
  16. If not, are they often marginalized in another race’s society?
  17. Are there only specific races or nationalities that are unwelcome?
  18. Do they have a long-standing feud with another race or nearby settlement?
  19. What are their preferred habitats (forest, mountain)?
  20. Are they afraid of open spaces from living somewhere enclosed? Or the opposite?
  21. Do they dislike and avoid the sun or nighttime?
  22. Is there a terrain that they prefer (mountains, forests)?
  23. Why do they prefer that terrain? Does it give them an advantage and how?
  24. Are there terrains they dislike?
  25. If so, what causes this reaction and are they able to overcome it?
  26. Is there a climate they prefer or avoid, or which makes them [un] comfortable?
  27. What happens to their bodies or minds when exposed to it?
  28. What are their sleeping habits?
  29. How many meals do they need per day?
  30. What kinds of food do they prefer or avoid?
  31. Are they nomadic?
  32. Do they live in tribes?
  33. Do they farm?
  34. Are they able to build homes and to what level of sophistication?
  35. What sort of materials are homes and buildings constructed of (wood, stone, metal, glass)?
  36. Are there are rooms with a specific function inside homes or other buildings?
  37. Can they build towns and cities?
  38. How many days of the week do they work?
  39. How many hours a day do they work?
  40. What is considered “normal” work schedules for the average person, to the point of society planning around it?
  41. Do they take lunch breaks long enough to nap?
  42. Who do they do for fun?

Their Bodies

  1. Has their preferred habitat impacted their bodies via adaptation?
  2. Which adaptations have they made?
  3. Can they see in the dark?
  4. Do they have webbed toes and fingers?
  5. Do they have a tail?
  6. A forked tongue?
  7. Which senses are heightened from their habitat?
  8. Can they tolerate hot or cold temperatures better than humans?
  9. What skin colors are predominant?
  10. What in their habitat caused the skin color(s)?
  11. Which other races judge them poorly or favorably for their skin color(s)?
  12. How tall are they?
  13. Has their average height changed in the last hundred years?
  14. How fit are they?
  15. Are skinny or overweight ones common or rare?
  16. Has their average fitness changed in the last hundred years?
  17. How long can they live?
  18. How long do they typically live?
  19. Is the lifespan better or worse now than before?
  20. What hair colors are most common, or rare?
  21. Is there a posture common to them?
  22. Are they humanoid?
  23. If so, are their faces round, oval, square, heart-shaped?
  24. Are their brows prominent or shallow?
  25. Are their eyebrows rounded, arched (and to what degree), or a mono brow?
  26. Are their eyes round, slanted, deep set, up/down turned, wide/close set, hooded, protruding, or monoid?
  27. Are their irises a vertical/horizontal slit, round, a cat’s eye, or crescent?
  28. What are typical eye colors?
  29. Are their cheekbones sunken/indented, high/prominent, or low?
  30. Are their noses straight, long and wide, hawkish, snub, thin and pointed, bulbous, upturned, aquiline, broad with large nostrils, or the basic large nose?
  31. Are their mouths average, wide, small, full or thin lips (and are both the same?), rounded/pointed, or a Cupid’s bow?
  32. Are their teeth straight, crooked, missing, stained, pointed, serrated, poisonous, tiny, large, or multiple rows?
  33. Are their chins protruding, cleft, thin and pointing, round, square, jutting, receding, or long?
  34. Do they favor facial hair (and what type) or being clean shaven?
  35. Are their common beard and mustache styles?
  36. Do females also have beards?
  37. Do females shave their legs (or anything else)?
  38. Do males shave anything?
  39. If not humanoid, what animal(s) is their body and head based on?
  40. Are they capable of electro communication?
  41. Do they have magnetoception?
  42. Can they sense magical or supernatural energies?
  43. How strong/weak is their hearing?
  44. Can they hear things outside a human’s hearing range?
  45. Are they good/bad at distinguishing accents?
  46. Do they hear well/poorly in noisy environments?
  47. Are there any types of tastes they love or hate? Which ones?
  48. Can they identify the source of a flavor?
  49. Are they connoisseurs of food and drink?
  50. Or will they consume just about anything?
  51. What are they famous for loving?
  52. What are they famous for hating?
  53. Are their noses very sensitive?
  54. If so, are they frequently used in tracking?
  55. Are there any scents they find especially repugnant?
  56. What smells do they love?
  57. Do they sniff people as part of greeting them?
  58. If so, are they discreet or blatant?
  59. How do they react to those expressing discomfort with that?
  60. Which of their five senses are the strongest/weakest and most/least relied upon?
  61. What physical attributes (strength, agility, etc.) are strongest and weakest in them?
  62. Are they athletic?
  63. Do they have a higher or lower pain threshold than humans?
  64. Do they have any non-humanoid features (like a tail)?
  65. Do they have an innate supernatural abilities (like magic affinity)?
  66. What distinguishes their clothing?
  67. Are their items they typically wear (dress, tunics, kilts)?
  68. Is clothing bright or drab?
  69. Do they dress casually or formally?
  70. Is close ill-fitting or tailored?
  71. How stylized are clothes?
  72. Are slogans and images on their attire?
  73. Is clothing mismatched or a well-put together ensemble?
  74. How much jewelry and what kind do they wear?

Their Minds

  1. What mental attributes (intelligence, charisma, etc.) are strongest and weakest in them?
  2. How good is their morale?
  3. Are they scholars?
  4. Do they show a lot of skin or hardly any?
  5. Are they okay with public nudity?
  6. Do nude beaches exist?
  7. If so, how frequently?
  8. Do they act like the body is something to be ashamed of or proud of?
  9. What makes people feel shamed? Too much/little weight or something else?
  10. What forms of government are they capable of?
  11. What forms of government are most common?
  12. Do they have any sixth sense?
  13. Are they capable of telepathy?
  14. Clairvoyance?
  15. Telekinesis?
  16. Mediumship?
  17. Psychometry?
  18. Remote viewing?
  19. For each, how strong are they in the ability?
  20. How common is the ability?
  21. Are the abilities innate or can they be learned?
  22. Is there an age when the ability first manifests?
  23. Is there an age when they are expected to have mastered it?
  24. Do their abilities cause a fearful reaction among their own kind?
  25. Among others?
  26. Have they always had these abilities or are they recent?
  27. If recently, what caused them?
  28. What effect do these have on their culture?

Magic and Technology

  1. Are they technologically advanced or inferior to others in the setting?
  2. Can they invent technology and at what level of sophistication?
  3. Can they train others/themselves in technology or must they get training from someone else?
  4. Can they operate technology others have designed?
  5. What role does technology play in their society and lives?
  6. Are they capable of magic if it exists in the setting?
  7. Are they afraid of magic?
  8. How skilled with magic can they be?
  9. Are they able to invent spells?
  10. What role does magic play in their society and lives?
  11. Are they able to train others/themselves or must they get training from someone else?
  12. If there are different types of magic, which ones can/can’t they do and why?
  13. Is there a limit on how powerful they can become in magic?
  14. Have they invented anything?
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