Well at least without traditional ones - how would you substitute elves, dwarves, gnomes, orks, bugbears, goblins. The idea is to get rid of cliche and make Borderlands feel less Tolkienesque typical dnd and more Hyborian age type of setting. Thrassians by the way are ok. Zaharan hybrids could be left almost intact by simply changing their appearance and giving them new names sounding like assyrian mumbo jumbo. Elves and dwarves, I don't know - maybe some disappearing human tribes? The ideal setting for me would be Borderlands without any playable demihumans at all.
I don't share your motivation. However, the end result you want sounds interesting.
"Beastmen" is the generic in ACKS, and that works for the different humanoids (orc, goblin, etc.) unaltered. Re-skin the specific types and leave the name generic. That way, you can pick and choose which stat blocks you want to use where without worrying about taxonomy.
As for elves and dwarves... Nobirans make a good stand in for "innately magical" (elves), if divine rather than arcane. Dwarves are tougher: what do you see as unique about dwarves that you want to keep, versus dropping them entirely?
I think dwarves can be easily removed from the setting, because they don't play any significant role in its history. As for the elves, especially considering the upcoming Secrets of The Nethercity which I plan to use, Nobirans are great heroes, which elves are certainly not. If I simply remove the elves, it would leave me with only two elder races - Zaharans and Thrassians, which is enough for my taste. But then again - the new module implies a third ancient race. Although I could say that Nethercity is of Zaharan preferential origin. Or substitute elves directly with Khepri, in that case Thrassians are no longer needed as overthrown masters, and become just another hybrid created by Zaharans.
Or, Thrassians would be the first race of masters, and Zaharans become the second variety which blends in better into human society. It means Nobirans are hybrids themselves and have their consciousness transplanted from planet Nobiru, to help humanity fight Khepri spawn.
"Well at least without traditional ones - how would you substitute elves, dwarves, gnomes, orks, bugbears, goblins. The idea is to get rid of cliche and make Borderlands feel less Tolkienesque typical dnd and more Hyborian age type of setting."
Elves -> I would simply replace elves with Zaharans. They're humans who made evil pacts, similar to the Acheronians in Hyboria.
Dwarves -> They can be replaced by humans of a hearty mountain stock who practice terrace farming and rock-cut architecture. I would model them off of Tibetans in appearance and if you want to make a custom race, give them climbing and mountaineering as powers.
Thrassians -> These were inspired partly by Hyboria's serpent-men so I think they'd fit in. I would make them not a playable race, however.
Beastmen -> A Hyborian setting affords numerous opportunities for beastmen. Here are some examples from Hyboria:
- Ghouls are mutated humanoids who are said to be a result of cross-mating between men and devils. They haunt the forests on the borders of Argos and Zingara, preying on any unlucky traveler they come across. The ghouls are described as being short, almost simian-like in stature, with pale gray skin that feels clammy to the touch. But it is their faces that causes Conan the most revulsion: soulless unblinking eyes stare out from misshapen visages, their monstrous dog-like jaws chomping at Conan's throat. Despite their somewhat short height, their limbs exceed the strength of most humans. With a charnel-house reek wafting from their bodies, the ghouls hunger for living flesh, whether it comes from beast or man.
- Grey apes are huge gorilla-like beasts with grey fur. They inhabit the shores of the Vilayet Sea, and are well-known for both their incredible strength and their ferocity. Even Conan, who himself is the mightiest and most savage warrior of the Hyborian Age, has had a few close calls with these creatures. Nhe being called Thak, himself a Grey ape, is able to manipulate complex booby traps, thus demonstrating his learning ability.
The Black Ones are a race of tall humanoids with glossy ebony skin and sharp claws like bestial talons on their long fingers. With eyes like fiery amber, their faces are inhuman, every feature stamped with evil. None can tell the true nature of the Black Ones; are they a race of hell-spawned devils, or an extraterrestrial brood from across the stars? Whatever the case, they represent a form of life far removed from the common earthly variety. Dwelling within a strange city made of translucent green stone, which itself lies on a lost island far beyond the normal trade routes of humanity's sea-faring nations, they practice a horrific religion involving a green pool.
Thank you for your advice. I think I will replace dwarves with Somirean metallurgists.
Cool! I'll look forward to hearing about your humano-centric campaign. Cheers.
You should look online about some of the descriptions the greeks and romans gave to different tribes and groups they encountered. If you cant differentiate the tribes by making them 'look funny' then giving them some outlandish cultures and customs is always a good idea.
Truth! It's really fun to read about how the ancients used to describe each other.
In my setting I switched the Elven and Dwarven classes for, essentially, Gnomes and Tieflings, respectively, inverting the size difference. So the Gnomes are small mischiefing spellswords and shadowblades, and Tieflings are large demon-people with high resistance to magic, but forbidden from practicing it. But they are just two factions on the background, all players preferred to play as humans when I told them the setting was Conan-like.
Huh, I'd never have thought of gnome shadowblades but I dig it.