Designing races for my own setting, any tips or ideas?

So, I’ve been working on my own setting using MGed Traveller for a while now, but aside for a few people I haven’t gotten many opinions on the races I’ve been designing for it. I figured it’s best to get as many as possible in order to make unique and interesting species, so I would really appreciate it if anyone would like to comment on these and add your opinions. Speak your mind, all criticism is good in this case.

Forgive the horrible pronunciation guides. I am, unfortunately, not a linguist.

The Atlanteans are just humans with a shiny name.

The Altered aren’t much different, but they do have to put up with the (unfortunately genetically dominant) fact that their eyes (thankfully still the one pair) look exactly like a Doltrine’s. the occasional spotty patches of mottled grey flesh do also come up but hey, thats what happens when you ask another species to splice your genes for you. Physically speaking they are about 10-15% larger all around, height weight, size of bones, etc.

The Reshathi [re-shah-THE]
Massive reptilians from the desert planet of Kraagspire, the goraks are snakelike beings that range from eight to twelve feet in length, and weigh around 250 lbs. on average. The goraks can ‘stand’ upright with the assistance of two fin-like appendages that protrude from the tail three feet from the end, these limbs take the place of feet and are not used in other ways. Their arrowhead shaped skulls are thickly reinforced, and their slitted eyes are set deeply in their sockets. Bone spurs grow from the heads and the backs of the hands of the male, and the females possess extremely sharp fangs capable of injecting a painful poison that acts as a paralytic. Their compact multi-jointed fine manipulators are usually held in a cavity in their chest, protected by flaps of skin and muscle. The fact that their arms are the weakest point of their body is the butt of many inter-species jokes.

The Doltrine [DOLE-treen]
Decidedly unattractive, the doltrine are as repulsed by other species as the other species are of them, more so in fact. Their triplicate sets of eyes give them a much wider range of vision than any other species. The doltrine are well known as masters of biotechnology and they reproduce by cloning. Their great intelligence has come at an evolutionary cost however; the doltrine race is arguably the weakest in the galaxy. Their mottled pale skin is rubbery in texture, and their limbs are thin and sickly, though their eight-digit hands are nimble enough. Their heads are flared at the back; and their mouths split apart widely. It is worth mentioning that the doltrine women are physically superior to their men, and make up the majority of their armed forces.

The Motenorans [moe-TE-no-ran]
The only Inter-dimensional race to date, the motenorans are seen as nightmarish to many of the galaxy’s inhabitants. They are often misshapen, never truly symmetrical, and their unnatural features don’t help either. Their skin is like oil and their eyes glow slightly, they possess no vocal chords and so they must communicate using their psychic abilities. The motenorans are hermaphrodites, needing only a partner to conceive. The motenorans move with a deceiving grace and their digitigrade legs allows them to leap short distances, a tactic that often surprises their enemies. All motenorans are capable of telepathy and telempathy, and those of them who are strongest in their psychic powers are said to be capable of attacking the mind directly.

The Kaasa’Quari [caa-SAA-qua-ree]
The Kaasa’Quari are smaller than most other races, coming to a mere 4’ on average, but their lack of size is made up for by their incredible agility and flexibility. Nearly hyperactive by nature, the Kaasa’Quari are always in motion and constantly check their environment for changes. They are covered in short fur that repels water, grease, and many other liquids. Their diet is almost exclusively raw meat or seafood, and their messy eating habits can offend on occasion. The nomenclature of the Kaasa’Quari has been grossly misunderstood by the galaxy at large, and the Atlanteans in particular; An individual is usually addressed by their last name followed by their clan/national affiliation separated by an odd whistling click that is usually represented in common writing by an apostrophe. The first explorers to find and attempt communication with this species asked who they were, assuming Kaasa’Quari to be their race when instead it was a family on vacation. The misuse of the name however is widely accepted as truth, and is used instead of their true racial name. One oddity of the species is their ability to grow back lost limbs, scientists are still unsure how a mammalian species is able to do so, but it serves the Kaasa’Quari well. Since the Kaasa’Quari do not have opposable thumbs, they wear wristbands with a protruding ‘tongue’ (akin to a shoehorn) in order to help them use Atlantean made items. They are one of only two known races in possession of digitigrade hind legs.

The Orno’Rai [or-no-RYE]
Perhaps the most curious of the galaxy’s major races (motenorans excluded), the orno’rai also have the most genders. A male and female mating pair, and a third gender whose purpose is to incubate the egg-sack after the female lays her eggs. This is the species that I have the most trouble visualising, but I think of them as part frog, and part crab. The ono’rai retain a high level of neuroplasticity throughout their lives, making education much easier on them. They live off of a diet of brine-dwellers and algae, and eat using a series of filter membranes in their mouth and throat, before expelling the waste-water from their gills.

Well, that's that for now. What do you think? please let me know.


Just my .02, but I think it's bad practice to make negative judgements about alien races such as them appearing "nightmarish" or "being slobs" and so on. Humans always judge by appearance and not character initially and this is the most important (and often only) judgement humans make about others. Aliens that look ugly will be considered to be inferior and bad in some way. They're seen as inept, clumsy, stupid, and probably evil. Aliens that look beautiful will be considered to be superior and good in some way. They're seen as skilled, graceful, smart, and probably kind.

That's very true, our perceptions of beauty and morality will certainly have an effect on how we view others. And nightmarish creatures would definitely be almost vilified as a result. In designing these species I've trying to make them truly alien and not just humans with a paint-job; in doing so I realise I've made them less relatable, but that's sort of been part of my goal. Each of these species will have different standards than each other (The Doltrine have no sex drive for example) and all will certainly have a differing mindset and morality.

You do bring up a good point though, I'll try wording it differently in the next draft to make them seem less 'evil', because that's not what I'm trying to accomplish, I'm trying to maintain their differences to humanity.

Thank you for the input though.


There's a funny thing about the whole rubbersuit <---> "alien" aliens continuum that a lot of people miss until it's too late. It's not always that rubbersuit aliens are written by "bad" writers, they're also written by writers who want aliens that people will be interested in.

The more we (as both in-universe humans and as players and GMs) cannot relate to a species, the more they become "random encounters" or "wandering monsters." If aliens are truly "alien" and cannot be related to, you don't really need to flesh them out at all except as self-entertainment; we as humans will only be able to understand them at the most basic of levels. Their needs, their perceptions, their motivations are so different from ours.

An example of a more accessible "alien" that is pretty rubbersuit-y but just alien enough to be difficult are the Kafers from the 2300 line. The original Kafer Sourcebook (published 20+ years ago) discusses their biology and psychology at some length to establish how alien they are to the (presumably) GM reading it. However, due to their "alien" psychology, there's not much latitude for humans to interact with them, except for war. Essentially, that entire sourcebook established they were "Neutral Evil Space Orcs."
I'm not disagreeing with you on that, but I've been angling from the start for a more 'hard' sci-fi approach, and aliens that are too human are pretty common, I'm not saying they are badly written, far from it in fact since you then get to explore cultural differences from a standpoint very close to our own, I can and do respect that. But I've been designing this setting to be more 'human-centric' and the oddness of the other species have the side-effect of discouraging too many aliens in one party.

I do realise though that some part of them must be human in order to be able to portray them. But in a universe where the various human factions are the majority, and are not newcomers to the cosmic stage I feel like the alien races would be made more alien from fear of the unknown.

Just my opinion on the matter, like I said before though it is a good point but I feel it's more about the psychology and cultures rather than the physical descriptions.

I'll be sure to check out the old Kafer sourcebook though, thanks for the tip!

I'm more looking for opinions on how they look right now, so I can revise the outward appearances if anything seems hinky.
So I've been refining my ideas for a few months now. I've had the help of the talented folks at AvatarArt in regards to the looks of the species.

However, I was getting them to do pictures of each one of the seven species, and now one of them has been reconned out. I don't really have any more ideas in mind for player races so I was wondering if anyone else would like to pitch an idea.

As its pretty much just a setting I'm writing for my own enjoyment the chances of it going anywhere are slim for now. But if your idea ends up being picked then you'll have my thanks, a design credit if it does go anywhere, and a really awesome drawing of your idea done by AvatarArt.

As an example, This is one of the Races they already drew.

These are the Doltrine, a Secluded race that has long mastered biotechnology, they live in their own few systems and hardly, if ever, leave. They have eight digits on each hand and foot. They reproduce by making clone copies of generated genetic models. The female of the species is notably more physically adept.

In any case, I realize this may be a weird request. But I'd appreciate any ideas or advice you guys can come up with.


So why are they Anthropomorphic?

A suggestion you might want to read up on some Sociology before finalizing any "Alien". Some of the best Aliens I have run into live on the same planet as I do.

The other bit is you might want to look at some of the emergent cultural studies of now primate species, their a bunch of interesting work going on there.

Nathan Brazil

Banded Mongoose
Tweak the races using the concept of alien traits in the main rulebook. From what you have described...

Atlanteans are just standard humans.

Notable Strength +1, Notable Endurance +1

Males: Armored (+1), Large, Natural Weapon (Claw)
Females: Armored (+1), Large, Natural Weapon (Bite) (poison damage defined by you)

Notable Intelligence +1, Weak Strength -1, Weak Endurance -1

Small, Weak Dexterity -1 (no opposable thumbs)

Notable Education +1
Thanks for the Replies!


While its true that humans by themselves can be more alien than anything, I'm trying to put together a group of core playable races, I just think it would be more interesting with more species. That said, the older post from may has been revised a few times; Three of the races are kind of analogues of animals on earth, in the current version the Reshathi are huge snakes with retractable fine manipulators, the Kaasa'Quari are based on Otters, and the Orno'Rai are inspired by crabs and frogs.

I'll be sure to check out Primate research. Any Links/studies in particular?

Nathan Brazil

Those are pretty similar to what I had planned stat wise. I was also thinking of altering the movement rate to account for the differences in stature and things like whether they are Bi-pedal or something else but I'm not sure.


ALIENinvader88 said:
ts true that humans by themselves can be more alien than anything, I'm trying to put together a group of core playable races, I just think it would be more interesting with more species. That said, the older post from may has been revised a few times; Three of the races are kind of analogues of animals on earth, in the current version the Reshathi are huge snakes with retractable fine manipulators, the Kaasa'Quari are based on Otters, and the Orno'Rai are inspired by crabs and frogs.

If you have access the journal: Nature's archives of articles is a wonderful source of articles both in Zoology and the Cultural area specifically. Nova/Nature the PBS science and nature shows have both touched on the topic as well, and they are mostly available on Netflix.

I would have pointed at the reading list I got from my regional studies of South Asia, but looking through that folder I find my citations for sources of articles is woefully incomplete.


The thing with rubbersuit aliens is also that they have to be portrayed by people. CGI is relatively recent and even so use of makeup etc is just still cheaper, and easier.

That said, the bipedal humanoid form does have the advantage that we know that it is used by at least one sentienent species - us. If it works once, it can work again, and there are some basic features any sentient race needs, especially if we are talking about ones that build tools and conquer the stars. An aquatic creature such as a squid will never go very far on account of not being able to build fires. And a dolphin or whale would not even have hands to manipulate its environment with.

When it comes to "realistic" aliens I'd go by the rule that "if it exists on earth, an alien species can have that feature". There's a LOT of stuff in the animal kingdom that would make a sentient race very strange indeed. And if you go Space Opera then you can just make it up as you go along anyway.

As for the "these aliens look ugly" thing, you can always put it into human perspective. Amend the statements to say, "to humans and several other races, their appearance is demonic, causing them a severe handicap in galactic society, and has resulted in them being the victims of xenophobic attacks".

Annatar Giftbringer

Cosmic Mongoose
Incidentally, all three of those you just posted (um, I mean, creatures kinda similar to those) have rules and are featured in "cowboys vs xenomorphs" :)


Tom Kalbfus said:
So you don't want any of these?

I see no issues whatsoever with the first two - Grays and Predators - and the main issue with the Xenomorph Aliens is the acid blood I guess.
Pretty much yeah, nothing wrong with them in theory. I just think they are overdone.

And yes, I agree that the best ideas are drawn from what we can understand of our own animal kingdom. Crazy stuff in nature.


ALIENinvader88 said:
Pretty much yeah, nothing wrong with them in theory. I just think they are overdone.

And yes, I agree that the best ideas are drawn from what we can understand of our own animal kingdom. Crazy stuff in nature.

Yes, I'm thinking of doing something with the Aye-Aye:
Definitely lots of features you could use on that thing. The uneven fingers are good ones in my opinion.

Hehe, good house rule. Having the right minis will probably be an issue, but I don't plan on much combat so it should be fine.