Worldbuilding races/ethnicities

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    Brie Donning

    I need a little world building help with races in my world. Or ethnicities. They’re all human.

    On one side of a mountain range I have the Dark skinned Boreus people in the north. In the south in Amray, historically there were a couple of groups. A mid to light brown group, brown and black hair, brown, green and hazel eyes. More centrally a paler group which included blue eyed blonds arrived. now they’re all quite jumbled up and mixed, with many of the Boreus also settled there. There’s a wide spectrum of skin tones.

    Racism isn’t a problem in general, but if you marry someone who looks to similar to you, especially if it’s happened in your recent family history, people think you’re stuck up, or against diversity. There’s also a superstition about blonde people being unlucky.

    Now on the other side of the mountain are the Dlinaati, islanders turned plains people. They’re genrally disliked by everyone else. and are trying to take over the whole continent. Black hair, mid brown skin tone, and subtly recognisable as different from a mixed Amrayen person of similar skin tone. Even a quarter Dlinaat, and some people will pick up on it. (Basically anyone who knows what to look for. It’s clear, but but not obvious.)

    The question I have is how do people tell? I know that skin tone, hair colour and eye colour are far from the only distinguishing characteristics of racial groups. But I don’t write detailed character appearance descriptions, and I’m just not sure how to work it in. It does matter, because the partial Dinaat lineage of a few characters is core to the story. Maybe the Dlinaati have some unique feature of a fantasy variety. Pointed ears, something else odd about the ears. Or some kind of aquatic feature because when they were islanders, they lived in the water as much as out of it. I’m open to ideas.

    Also, if anyone has feedback on the kind of reverse racism thing going on, that would helpful. It’s only touched on slightly in the story, but I know it could be seen as controversial.

    ENFP - Introspective extrovert

    Exploring reality, yearning for adventure.

    Brie Donning

    Another thing, they might not care about the colour of your skin, but if you’ve moved from another region and stick to your old traditions and clothing fashions you will be excluded. You might be able to keep using a few of your favourite recipes, but do not publicly remind people that you’re from elsewhere.

    ENFP - Introspective extrovert

    Exploring reality, yearning for adventure.



    Sounds like you’ve got quite an interesting setup. I am not sure if this is completely applicable but I live in a multiracial society where people tend to conduct themselves professionally in a Western secular manner but may adhere to cultural and religious traditions at home. Here are my thoughts:

    #1: Distinguishing characteristics
    Since it’s a fantasy world, you certainly can have such unique features to distinguish the races though I imagine there will be some ambiguity since there’s been a lot of intermarrying. Maybe you can use other aspects such as accents, language, fashion, food and beliefs to highlight the differences. Maybe the people will borrow words and terms from their own language or dialect when speaking, or will retain certain mindsets even after acclimatizing (some examples from the real world: emphasis on academic success by East Asians, adherence to the caste system by Indian families).

    Another point I think can be considered is beauty standards. Even though no one may really care what hair or skin colour a person may have, societies do tend to have preferences (e.g. fair skin was considered beautiful because it was associated with wealth until tanned skin became fashionable because it was associated with glamorous seaside holidays that the rich could afford).

    #2: Dlinaati hate
    Other than the Dlinaati trying to take over the continent, are there any other reasons why this group is disliked? Because I personally think that this is quite a cliche and there are many other interesting reasons as to why a certain ethnic group are disliked in real life societies without necessarily involving conquest or war.

    #3: Reverse racism
    I admit, this reverse racism thing bothers me. Not because I am a racial purist or anything but because I find it unrealistic and it sounds like something from a parody of the pro-diversity movement. Humans, like it not, tend towards tribalism and conservatism and will generally stick to the status quo and things that they are familiar with. While I have seen negative reactions about intermarriage, I have never in my life heard of anyone accusing another of being ‘stuck up’ or ‘against diversity’ just because they are marrying someone from their own ethnic group. Frankly, marrying within your own social group is still the norm even in a multiracial society. The only way I can think for it to be otherwise is if, say, the government wants to dilute the cultures (because they want to prevent one group from having too much power or something) and so encourages intermarriages by giving tax benefits to mixed couples and produces propaganda that glamorizes intermarriage and derides couples from the same ethnicity, saying that the children born from those unions would be horribly inbred or something.

    #4: Acclimatization
    I think it is realistic that the society expects immigrants to learn and adhere to the society’s customs, language and standards. It’s the great irony of the diversity movement, saying that you accept people from anywhere… so long as those people behave just like you.

    Brie Donning


    #1: Distinguishing characteristics

    I do have a lot of this figured out when it comes to the cultural side. What I was really looking for was a cool idea.  But after some other feedback (I asked the question else where), I realised the fact that one of my characters is a quarter Dlinaati can be figured out from the fact that her father is half and speaks the language. Except that the main person who figures it out doesn’t think he’s her father anyway, so I’m left where I was needing a non-cultural marker.

    #2 Dlinaati hate

    I put that really badly. It is how some of the Amrayens and Verlisi see it, but it’s in accurate. Mistrusted is probably a better term than hated.

    “They’re strange people who we do not understand, they sometimes come into our lands and when we defend ourselves blood gets spilled. Of course we don’t like them. They’re our enemies.”

    The generations long on-and-off war is significant to the plot.

    #3 Reverse Racism

    Probably a bad idea, and honestly doesn’t even work all that well with my plot. It’s one of those ideas that I came up with late in the process and didn’t think through that well.
    You’ve given me an idea of how I might hold onto a remnant of it, but for the most part I’ll throw it out. (Something involving colonisation and people being conquered centuries back. The government did strongly encourage ethnic mixing. There’s a few small groups who tried extra hard to hold onto their own identity, and even now resent those who tried to force the integration. They’ve caused problems. Those people in turn aren’t very well tolerated by everyone else. But it’s a minor background thing that won’t come up much.)

    #4 Acclimatization

    I only figured out how much that was going on as I wrote this, so I’m glad you like it.

    ENFP - Introspective extrovert

    Exploring reality, yearning for adventure.

    Leon Fleming

    First off I would recommend that you have different races (these being other than human) within your fantasy world. These being your own creations or others of consequence. Also, since you have many different races of HUMANS you may want more variation and distinction. With this, I mean not just outward appearance but also language as said above. You also may want to add different and somewhat separate histories for each different people group. It would seem like you’ve done pretty well so far, like I said, you may want some more variation.

    Leon Fleming

    <p style=”text-align: center;”>Just a Few More Things…</p>
    How did your world originate and how did your peoples end up where they are? What kind of writing habits do they usually do? Invent some? What is their culture like? How did they become that way?

    You want to always ask the questions when, what, how, where, why, and to what extent with any of your things within your world.

    Also, have you made any maps of the land?

    You want to find your own slang. Look to Mr. Lamb for that. He posted an article on that and it was quite interesting. Anyway, don’t use modern terms. After all, this is a fictional world, yes? There is not going to be things from Earth on your planet. For indeed, it is a planet, yes? But then, of course, one thing I would definitely keep in is the physical landscapes of the world because they are beautiful and are God’s creation. (Not like everything else isn’t.) There are extents to which you must go and limits to which you must stay behind. You must be creative and imaginative.

    What are your “governments” like? Do you even have them? Do you WANT them? What kind of leadership is there? You must make it your own and apart from the world. Be original.

    With acclimatization, I would firstly present you with an example. The Roman Empire. The Roman Empire expanded. And expanded. And kept expanding. Until it ceased and ultimately crumbled. But: wherever it expanded, its rules, laws, religions, and cultures spread with it. The Roman law moved with the Empire. So. It may be kind of the same reality with your thing you’ve got going. Except here it would be flipped. Whoever moves within their territory has to adhere with their laws and customs otherwise they will be excluded. Do I have it? So basically, they want to move in, they got to totally change their ideas and morals and traditions for something totally different. Otherwise, go away. Doesn’t seem like a nice place to go on vacation, but if that’s what you meant with it, then it could definitely present some interesting plot twists. And that’s just with the culture. Imagine everything else.

    Make your geography interesting and dangerous.

    You don’t want your “races” to be distinguished by their outward appearance.

    Why is there a superstition about blonde people being unlucky? How did that come to be and from what grounds did it originate?

    I’m sorry, but I need a clarification: you said in your second contingent that ‘on one side of a mountain range I have the Dark skinned Boreus people in the north…’ So in the north you have the Boreus people. Then ‘In the south in Amray, historically there were a couple of groups.’ So are these both situated on either sides of a specific mountain range? Because later on you said ‘Now on the other side of the mountain are the Dlinaati, islanders turned plains people.’ So is it a mountain or a mountain range? And where exactly are the peoples situated? ‘Maybe the Dlinaati have some unique feature of a fantasy variety. Pointed ears, something else odd about the ears.’ Why ears? Why not whole face? Physical build? Be original. Make it your own.

    ‘Another thing, they might not care about the colour of your skin, but if you’ve moved from another region and stick to your old traditions and clothing fashions you will be excluded. You might be able to keep using a few of your favourite recipes, but do not publicly remind people that you’re from elsewhere.’ So again, what is your leadership like? Do you have any leadership? Is your region of Amray just like a place of sanctuary where any person of any people group can come and live? But then they have to be like everyone else or be frowned upon? Again the question comes up, why?

    With skin colour, if there is anything with this, make it different from things of the real world. Invent. Expand. Experiment. Keep going.

    Something that I would encourage is imagination. You should definitely have this in creating your own world. If you are struggling with some issue or topic, try flipping it. Like you did with the racism. Unfortunately, some flips don’t work and I think that this may be one. I must agree with ?Miss/Mrs.? valtmy on that point. (Though that topic is already kind of void, huh?) Still.

    Why are the Dlinaati trying to take over the whole continent? For what purpose? What motive to they have? Was it something in the past? Is it revenge? Are they angry because somebody took away their land? And why did they leave their land? Where they unsatisfied? Was there some land-related catastrophe?

    Anyway, I hope this helps.

    Note: If you’ve already got practically most of these things down already, then whoops on my part, yes?

    Brie Donning


    I just came back and saw your reply. I do have a lot of this stuff down.

    About the geography, I do have a map. I don’t have the Boreus people, but they’re got pretty much everything that’s north of the map. The Dlinaat have the empty space in the east. (Which wouldn’t really be empty, but my Verlisi cartographer hasn’t explored it.


    Trying to take over the whole continent is just how some of the people in Verlis and Amray see it.  it’s a complicated situation. The Dlinaat people have a different view of land rights which does not respect national borders. They see it as perfectly okay to travel through and hunt on someone else’s land. So some of the these ‘raiding parties’ aren’t. That should have been solved by now, but other disagreements sprung up leading to some real raiding parties and now neither side will agree to change their ways.

    The border between Verlis and Amray is a bit of a weak point in my world building. And actually providing setting descriptions is a weaker point in my writing.


    ENFP - Introspective extrovert

    Exploring reality, yearning for adventure.

    Leon Fleming


    Nice map! I like it. Your ideas are great!

    Hope McClellan


    Hey, Brie, quick question. I saw your map and I think it is so neat! Did you make it actually on World Anvil? I mentioned that I wanted to look into this site on a different thread, but someone said that you have to use preexisting maps and that Word Anvil is just for pinning sites and adding notes. I wasn’t sure so I figured I could ask. 🙂


    "Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it."
    Habakkuk 2:2

    Brie Donning

    @hope-mcclellan I made my map with Inkarnate. I’m just discovered a new software called Wonderdraft which I’d really like to try.

    ENFP - Introspective extrovert

    Exploring reality, yearning for adventure.


    This sounds interesting! I like the reverse-racism concept (it’s very unique), and I don’t think it would be too controversial. Here are some ways to differentiate people of different races/ethnicities:

    – different accents & pronunciations

    – the specific words that someone uses

    – Color of eyelashes? (e.g., brown hair with blond eyelashes)

    – Mouth, nose, ear, or face shape & size

    – Lip size & color/shade

    – Size or shape of knuckles

    – Are some people two-toned? This could represent being of a mixed race. Maybe their wrists are light brown but the rest of their bodies are dark brown.

    – Clothing or tattoos/piercings that express their culture

    – Religion

    – Attitudes towards people of other races/ethnicities

    Have fun!


    • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Michaela.

    "May it be mercy I show for it is mercy I've been shown." - Written to Speak

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