Something I think about a lot in fantasy worlds with lots of different exotic races,(mostly DnD, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fantasy franchise any near as many races as DnD) is how their cultures would handle jewelry, make up, or just general self-decoration.
Like, we humans have come up with all kinds of ways to pretty ourselves up, tattoos, hair dyes, piercings, rings, etc. But all of that stuff is based on our anatomy, some of it isn’t going to work for some races. And besides, why would other races/cultures use beautification techniques solely pioneered by humans? Surely they have their own based on their own cultures and bodies! Think of the possibilities!
Like, maybe Tieflings put piercings in the fleshy bits of their tails, to glam them up with jewelry! Or maybe they drill little holes in their horns, and string ribbons or small chains through them!
Or what about the Kenku! They’ve got nice shiny beaks and talons, what if they painted little designs on them, kind of like henna? Plus, they’ve got lots of feathers, maybe they could dye them? Or if they were feeling particularly adventurous, they dye their feathers to resemble other birds, like Bluejays, or Peacocks!
Orcs are pretty humanish for the most part, but the big thing that sets them apart, (aside from, ya know, being green,) is their tusks. I feel like the Orcs would be really into decorating their tusks. Maybe they’d put little caps made of precious metal on them, or paint them in Clan colors. Heck, maybe they’d even carve little symbols or runes into them. It would probably hurt like the dickens, but somehow I can’t imagine that stopping them. Lol
Speaking of carving, Tortles! I bet they carve all kinds of stuff into their shells! Or at the very least paint them! They’ve got a big ol’ canvas right on their backs, why not use them?
Tabaxi are covered in fur, making things like tattoos pretty difficult. After all, the point of a tattoo is to pigment your skin, and unless you shave it off, fur kinda makes that tricky. So what if they tattooed their paw pads? It’s basically the only exposed skin they have, except maybe the inside of their ears, which might be a bit too sensitive to tattoo. Also, I like the idea of Tabaxi painting their claws. They’re retractable, so you can’t see them most of the time, but on the occasion that a Tabaxi does decide to relieve someone of their face, at least they’ll be doing it in style!
Ever since the Rabbitfolk/Harengon (their the same thing, don’t worry about it,) were announced I’ve been thinking about bunnies with earrings. I mean, they’ve got so much ear real estate! Why not use it? Also, I imagine that those big flippy flops get in the way when you’re moving a lot, so I bet Rabbitfolk/Harengon use something like a hair tie, or something to their ears from flying around all over the place.
Centaurs! A cross between a horse and human! You know what that means? Caparisons baby! (For the record, Caparisons are those big fancy cloths knights used put on their horses. If you’ve seen a horse wearing something like a dress or a big skirt, that’s a Caparison. At least, according to my limited horse knowledge. Lol) It’s always struck me as a little strange then Centaurs were okay running around naked from the waste down, so this my answer to that. Fancy horse dresses! Also, I like to imagine that Centaur hair grows more like a horse’s mane than human hair, so really long, and tending to fall to one or the other side of their head. So maybe some Centaur cultures are really into braiding?
Minotaur time! Maybe it’s a bit stereotypical to imagine a Minotaur with a nose ring, but honestly it just fits in my brain. Maybe it has some kind of cultural significance, like maybe it acts the same way as a wedding ring, or maybe it denotes rank in their community. Another important bit are those big lovely horns! I can imagine all kinds of decorations on those bad boys! You could go simple, and just slap a few simple rings on there, or could a little more complex and do piercings,(Does it count as a piercing if it’s a horn?) and hang a bunch of dangly stuff on em! You could paint the horns, carve designs in them, heck, you could even drill holes in both horns, and run a chord or chain connecting them! All kinds of possibilities!
Finally, let’s talk lizards, specifically Dragonborn. Honestly, I can’t imagine Dragonborn painting their scales, or even wearing too much flashy jewelry. The impression I get from Dragonborn is that they are immensely proud of their Draconic heritage, and tampering too much with their scales would probably be seen as either disrespectful, or maybe even shameful.(Because why would you want to hide your scales, the single most visible sign of your glorious draconic lineage, unless you were disgusted by them, ashamed of them?) What I CAN see them doing is trying every possible way to show off and enhance their scales. Dragonborn would definitely take meticulous care of their scales, and that includes shining them up to make shine like a dang mirror. They might even use some kind of wax, or something to protect them from damage.
My point is, with all this rigamaroll I just spouted, is self expression should not be not limited to human sensibilities. No matter what they look like, these are people, and people aren’t manufactured on a conveyer belt. Get creative with your characters looks, take things like species, background, and culture into account, have fun with it!
Moss the Kenku Ranger. Moss awoke alone, in the middle of a grand forest, with no name, no voice and no family. A curious creature, the young kenku set out into the woods to discover his voice, mimicking the sounds of the rivers and the trees and the animals that inhabited them. He ventured on for days and soon grew weary, stopping to rest at the base of a mysterious pool with a glowing blue light. Peering into the waters, the warmth of the pond’s glow drew him in and as he sank deeper in, he felt time and space fade away as he floated between realms. Just as he began to lose consciousness, he emerged from the waters into unfamiliar lands, lifted out by a strange being, a human. The man, a ranger, introduced himself and offered food and shelter. Although Moss couldn’t audibly respond, there was a gentle understanding between the two and agreed to go with him, eager to discover the sights and sounds this new world had to offer.
I have this head canon (or I suppose you could call it home brew rule, if you wanted to,) that as horrible as it is, the Kenku curse does come with a side effect that is actually quite helpful.
Namely, that they’ve had it for so long, and it effects them so completely, that it has sunk into very fiber of their being. So much so, that no other curses can effect them, making them more or less immune to all kinds of curses and magical ailments.
So to put it in layman’s terms: you can’t curse a Kenku, because they’re already cursed!
This little side effect has led to a few interesting developments:
Kenku get hired a lot by Wizards, Artificers, Museum curators, archeologists, and other folks who deal in potentially dangerous magical artifacts to handle said artifacts for them. A mummy’s curse doesn’t mean much if you physically can’t be effected by it!
A lot of Fae hate Kenku, especially Hags. Where’s the fun of screwing with someone if you can’t turn them into a newt?
On the flip side, Lycanthropes get along great with Kenku! If you live your life haunted by the eternal fear that you will accidentally inflict your loved ones with a horrendous magical disease, a best friend who is completely immune is a godsend! And on top of that, Kenku and Lycanthropes have a shared trauma bond of being treated like dirt for being cursed against their will. As a result, it’s pretty common to see a lot of suspiciously strong, suspiciously hairy people hanging out in Kenku neighborhoods. Side note: probably don’t cause trouble in Kenku neighborhoods, those aforementioned big strong hairy people tend to get a bit grumpy when people are mean to their bird friends...