(image credit: L5R LCG – Rakshasa General)
Anthropomorphism (making non-human things more human-like) is a pretty common thing in RPGs. Ignoring settings based around this concept (like Mouse Guard), creatures like Rakshasas and Dragonkin are essentially anthropomorphic creatures.
Why not take the concept and apply it using some non-traditional creatures? Here are a few ideas for anthropomorphic settings that you can use for your own campaigns.
Lizard World – The idea of a world inhabited by lizards could be taken in a few different directions. One approach would be to use dinosaurs, with castes formed between the carnivores and vegetarians (and perhaps striated within those groups by size). It’s also a good opportunity to pull out the Saurials from Forgotten Realms! Another approach would be to have humanoid snakes, split into races based on the various snake species. Perhaps venomous snakes are inherently more violent, with others forming worker or scientist classes.
Cat World – This month’s Dragon+ did a great job of building out a world based around humanoid cats that are based on domestic cats. But a setting based on wild cats could also be interesting. Given the territorial nature of cats, one could see nations split across racial lines, with tigers warring against lions and so forth. Although taking a single race of humanoid cats works equally well as with Larry Nivens Kzin.
Avian World – Birds are a common target for anthropomorphism. D&D has had the Achaierai since first edition. For this setting, I really like the idea of more generic birds, perhaps with specializations among breeds, but not strictly analogous to real-world bird species. This approach allows for a bit more flexibility without getting bogged down in details around the sheer number of species and the differences between them (like explaining how you have penguins and flamingos represented).
Mole World – I’m not a huge fan of the Fantastic Four, but the Moloids are iconic villains. What would an entire world of mole men be like? What the surface be like? Imagine an Underdark populated by moles instead of drow!
Obviously, you can apply this concept to any animal or animal family. Although I was thinking of the fantasy genre when putting these hooks together, there’s no reason they can’t work in a modern or scifi setting (re: Planet of the Apes!).