Anyone familiar with gaming systems has seen a list of characteristics like intelligence, wisdom, charisma, strength, constitution, agility, dexterity, and morale. Each will have a number from one to ten, for example, and a species is rated in each category. The numbering isn’t needed for authors, but assigning one can tell us at a glance what we’re thinking. We only need a few sentences about each trait and these can be things we never tell our audience. The exercise gets us thinking, and as we write it down, more ideas can occur to us. This example, invented on the fly, demonstrates the kind of work that will be useful to do:
“They aren’t the smartest species, having no formal schooling and only learning by word of mouth; their grasp of history is poor. Their street smarts are better, as they can read situations, learning from experience. They lack wisdom, being unable to realize consequences until learning them the hard way. They also don’t understand psychology except for how to be menacing, and can be easily lured into traps. They lack charisma, their twisted minds being as repulsive as their bodies, though a certain gleam of excitement does come over them in battle, though only evil people find this attractive.
“Their strength is considerable, allowing them to wield two-handed swords with one hand without fatigue or loss of dexterity. Their constitutions are generally strong in that they have endurance, but they don’t heal well and catch sickness easily. Their agility is better than people expect, for they can jump farther and faster than anticipated, but they cannot do acrobatics due to their large size. Dexterity is excellent and they can not only fire all manner of bows with skill but are even gifted musicians, though their music is hideous to other species. Their morale is superior because they have little to no respect for life, whether theirs or someone else’s, and feel assured of their place in the afterlife, which is not to say they court death, but dying in battle is an honorable way to go.”