5 Ways to Create Fantastical Beasts and Peoples!: Biology

Crab spider Xysticus spec. in Dresden, Saxony,...
Crab spider Xysticus spec. in Dresden, Saxony, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another way to create magical races is to take inspiration from nature. And not just animals! Where did Tolken get the Tree Ents, after all? Probably from different types of trees. A hidden benefit here is that most intelligent races are humanoid. If you are willing to stretch yourself, you can avoid this convention. Or you can bend to
convention and have a humanoid tarantula or canary. Or merge the two animals for something incredible! Biology mainly studies non-sapient animals so the focus is on how the species and individual shape (and are shaped by) their surroundings. Some factors to consider for realistic magical creatures are…

  • Structure: what it looks like; how it adapts to its surroundings; how males, females, and children differ and are similar; how it communicates

  • Function: what role it plays in the environment (hunter, producer, herbivore, scavenger); species with similar roles, its predators

  • Growth: time spent as a fetus, baby, child, adult, how likely it is to reach old age; the mental, emotional, and physical traits at each stage

  • Evolution and Taxonomy: is your griffon a cat or a bird? What did your pheonix evolve from? What races are closely related to your dragon?

  • Distribution: consider making your race into several sub-races or sub-species that vary by region. After all, as terrain changes, so do the plants, animals, and peoples.

  • Energy consumption: meat, veggies, sunlight, magic, emotions, blood, life force, an element, something else? Consider a blend so the race has more basic needs/motivations that can bring them into conflict with other races.

  • Requires from the environment: other than food, there are two tiers in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that address biological factors and may or may not apply to your race: Physiological (breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis) and Safety (security of body, resources, family, health, territory).

One thought on “5 Ways to Create Fantastical Beasts and Peoples!: Biology

  1. I went into this thinking I had all my bases covered, but I’d never really thought about the idea of subspecies or subraces. Thanks a lot for this; I’ll try to keep that in mind.


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