Brainstorming a Visually Unique RPG Race

A brainstorm session can be used as a tool to work through a problem when stuck. This brainstorm explores creating a unique visual feature for the playable RPG character race from Mars.

You Know You Need a Brainstorm

When planning out the plant and stone people playable alien race, I was getting stuck on creating a distinct visual aspect for the species. I needed something that set it apart from its inspiration, namely the sylvari of Guild Wars 2, the golems and the hamadryads of Camelot Unchained, and the hooved elves of the Lorwyn block. After realizing that I was struggling to come up with something, I knew that it was time for another brainstorm.

Setting the Foundation for All Creatures

The goal of the brainstorm is to come up with a visually distinct feature for the playable RPG race. However, it also has an impact on the rest of life on Mars. This element can be reused across the entire range of fauna, so any creature from Mars can be identified as coming from that planet.

Let’s say that the chosen idea is the One Shot RPG race features a large, segmented tail with a stinger on the end—like a scorpion. Every creature, from a lowly pack animal to a top predator could also feature this scorpion tail. Reusing the aspect across species makes the planet feel cohesive, as if all of the creatures came from the same evolutionary precursor.

An idea that changes the race’s body shape is more effective in this context than something that doesn’t. Earlier articles mention that members of the plant and stone people are covered in glowing fungus. Glowing fungus can be compared to a tattoo, which something that doesn’t change the race’s silhouette. A creature from another planet may have markings that can be confused as the glowing fungus, and players may mistakenly think that creature is from Mars. The glowing patch of fungus idea is being scrapped for something new.

Topic

The topic of this brainstorm is to create a visual feature that make the plant and stone people distinct. The feature should change the silhouette and will be incorporated into all Mars fauna. I decided to stop after I felt like I had enough ideas to be able to select one, and ideas were collected over a few days.

The Ideas

  1. Hole or depression on chest
  2. Horns
  3. Four ears
  4. Tail or multiple tails
  5. Elaborate pointed head
  6. Spikes on spine
  7. Mushroom or branch growing somewhere
  8. Gemstones embedded around body
  9. No nose
  10. No mouth
  11. Columns for feet
  12. Long wooden branch for nose
  13. Built in mystical high collar / High collar of doom
  14. Grown scarf or necklace
  15. Four arms
  16. Split legs
  17. Needles on head
  18. Small, non-functional wings
  19. Eight eyes, spider style
  20. Exposed ribs
  21. Mandibles
  22. Grown elaborate cape

Initial Thoughts

Hole or Depression

The idea could be as extreme as a hole through the whole body, like hollows from Bleach, or more like a depression, as if the organs were pushed around.

Horns

The playable RPG race would have elaborate horns, possibly multiple ones. This idea would make the race more similar to the animal people so probably won’t get chosen.

Four Ears

The race would have four ears. This would make them more like Guild Wars 2’s charr. I’m trying to make the plant and stone people less like the sylvari, so making them similar to a different race from the same franchise would not be a good idea.

Tails

Like the horns, tails are too similar to the theme of the animal people. I also don’t want a lot of One Shot RPG characters running around trying to cosplay as Ninetales or Ahri.

Elaborate Point

The race would feature a decorated stone or interwoven plants that formed a pointed head.

Spikes

Spikes are in the same thematic space as the metal people race of RPG one shot characters. This idea will get scrapped.

Extra Growth

It’d be interesting if each character had a mini tree or mushroom growing on them. It could be in a different location per character, and be styled to match their personality. It would cause some logistical concerns, such as how clothing interacts with it.

Gemstones

An inspiration from Steven Universe, the members of the race would have different gemstones embedded into their bodies.

No Nose

The playable alien species would have no nose. Perhaps they’d have holes where the nose should be.

No Mouth

This idea is similar to the above. It could add to the scary feel of the sci-fi and horror one shots if their face had an alien appearance.

Column Feet

Like the hooved elves used for inspiration, the race would have wide flat feet. The extra growth would extend to knee height, and end in ornament, like a Greek or Roman column.

Branch For Nose

This would create some logistics problems. The race would need their own helmets, visors, goggles, and the like due to their long nose.

Collars

The playable aliens would have naturally grown mystical high collars or high collars of doom. This could be used to give the RPG one shot race an air of snobbery.

Scarf or Necklace

The race grows an ornamental scarf or necklace.

Four Arms

Having more than two arms creates mechanical nightmares in game systems, so this would instead be an extra pair of small, unusable arms.

Split legs

Their legs would be split in two, perhaps meeting at the knees. They would be close enough and roughly the same size as a human’s so it would cause problems for clothing or game mechanics.

Needles

Could be more like small spikes the size and shape of an aloe, or go all out like Pinhead.

Small Wings

Wings would fall under the same theme as the animal people, so I’d avoid this idea.

Eight Eyes

Having eight eyes like a spider would channel some of the horror feel.

Exposed Ribs

This would make the race feel really grotesque. This could be an interesting choice.

Mandibles

Another interesting choice. Mandibles are often associated with ants and hive-mind behavior, which may confuse players who think that their characters are part of a colony.

Cape

What if every creature on Mars has a cape?

Throwing Out Ideas

Many of these ideas share the same thematic space as the animal people. Horns, wings, tails, and the like should be thrown out. If this RPG race ended up too similar to an already existing one, then players wouldn’t be excited about playing plant and stone characters. Any ideas that cause logistical nightmares should also be thrown out.

The Decision

I’m going to go with the naturally grown high collar. Long ago the precursor to contemporary Mars life had a mutation that caused them to grow a collar-like protrusion at the back of their neck. This had the benefit of protecting them from falling rock, which meant more of the species survived to pass down their genes. Fast forward and now every species on the planet has some sort of collar, even if it no longer serves its original purpose.

Naturally grown collars are simple in design, and are either made of plant material, stone, or a mixture of the two. They range in size from an inch tall to extending past the head. Some members of the race modify their collars, cutting them into elaborate designs or changing their color. Some also pierce them or add gems, making them look like crowns. The collars could be used as a status symbol, with wealthier individuals being able to afford more elaborate modifications.

I have to remember that when I get stuck on something that I can do a brainstorm and blog about the process instead of getting hung up on it. Progress can be made by writing down ideas and working through them.