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What is the importance of using races in fantasy games?

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

Most strategy games and role playing games use various races (elves, orcs, dwarves, etc ) that could be played with. Each race offer various abilities, units or other gameplay features. Some games offer minor racial variation which is more like a variant of a race that already exists, they could be called subcultures. For example, in Skyrim, the Nords and the Bretons are just variations of humans. While the Argonian, the Orcs and the Elves are not humans at all.

There are alternatives to using a race system. The most common solution is using factions or subcultures, and making each of them have those special abilities.

The advantage of using races, is that they are known by most people, so when we introduce an Elf in the game, we do not struggle much in trying to figure out what it is. Another advantage is that some special power makes more sense. If you are playing Lizard mens, it makes sense that they can swim easily without using ships. It makes no sense as a faction ability.

There is some disadvantages when doing artwork. For example in RPG, if you want to make character portraits, you have to make it for every combination of race, class and sex. So if you have 5 class and 5 races, that is a minimum of 50 portraits. Sometimes, the connection might be very weak: "Oh! I am playing a Florentine, not really sure what it is, but the bonus are interesting". Also if your game includes arranging marriages like in Crusader Kings, it would be a pain to manage it via different races. Its also more complicated in a strategy game to handle population movement when races has a special abilities, If your territory is composed of 3 different races due to population migration, how to you handle the special abilities. On the other hand, if factions where used, the special ability is more tied to the type of government that the population racial feature.

What are your thought:

  • Do you prefer having races in Fantasy Games?
  • Is there alternatives to races besides Factions and Human subraces?
gamesomuch's picture
Joined: 06/01/2022
Back story

For an RPG I like to have a detailed back story for each character that explains how they came to have certain traits and abilities. Race and faction would factor into their characteristics, but ultimately they're individuals who've made individual choices and who continue to make them during the game. I guess this involves drawing more portraits and writing stories, but that can flesh out the game theme. An example of this would be Gloomhaven.
For a strategy game it's different because units are whole cohorts given typical or average characteristics of that race or faction.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
larienna wrote: What are your

larienna wrote:

What are your thought:

* Do you prefer having races in Fantasy Games?
* Is there alternatives to races besides Factions and Human subraces?

Where there is combat, there are always factions. There is no alternative to this. But when it comes to races, then there can be alternatives.

In Dune they got houses. Each house has their own planet, way of fighting and living. The factions are more or less combinations of houses working together. The most famous example are the Fremen, they fill the gap that the Atreides lack. And I intend to copy this as well. (But still, having the Fremen on the side of the Harkonnen or Ordos was a welcome change)

In Naruto they got clans (families). Where the special abilities are linked to the family name. And eventually recognised easily if they are strong.

In Starcraft they have different species.
Terrans have the sub-species with psi abilities. And of course several races.
Zerg consists out of different species put together.
Protoss are an advanced version of the Terrans, but simply a different species. They too have a sub-species using psi abilites. But self consious robotics are added as well, perhaps these are a different species? The terrans have spidermines in the same way. But are behind in this development.

If you think about it. In most medival games, the thing called classes, is present. From peasant to king. Each class has access to different materials?
Another thing you see, is magic. Being able to use magic is often considered to be a sub-species. Just like the psi soldiers from Starcraft.

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