Couple of things I do:
Three races, the dwarves, the halflings and the gnomes. The legend states they were a slave race of an earth-spirit. The dwarves and the gnomes both were artisans and miners but differed in philosophu. Gnomes did gems and precious metals, crafting things mostly of clever magic, dwarves did metals both precious and not and prefered reliability and strength, magic and not. Halflings were made to the surface, forced by the gnomes and dwarves below them to farm.
Halflings state they figured out they really didn't have anyone looking over their shoulders and simply took off. Their are colonies of farmies, caravans of constantly 'taking off' gypsies and only a few who take back to cities of stone and steel the bring up ancestral memories of their task masters.
Without food, the earth-spirit lost its grip upon the other two and they rebelled up to the surface. Gnomes, much more glib, made friends with every other race with their clever toys and integrated themselves into ever society. Dwarves, eh, not so much. They got the short end of the stick and they hated it. So rose a prophet who taught them life was miserable but if they can let go of wordly possessions and needs it won't seem so bad, the Enlightenment of Oblivion.
Some small but influential radical groups of dwarves took his words too far. They sought to spread to all others that life was misery, let it go, and waged a campaign of grandiose suffering. All other races rose against them and for it almost all dwarves were banished back underground long ago. Their still exists an underground society that rises up to wage war on the Delusion of Life
but surface colonies who shun their nihilistic kin and give themselves to quiet contemplation in mountain monasteries.
The basic form shared by most civilized races is called humanoid
. This word did not originate from humans, humans originated from it
. Humans arose later in history, during periods when other races were brought under a single banner and lived in coexistence. They are the mongrel race, a hybrid of every other humanoid race that eventually created stable populations of their own. What started as a slang word for a being with an indeterminable race became the official term for this new breed. They are so numerous simply because when they crossbreed, the result is not considered a 'half-orc'. It is a human closer to their orc heritage.
Elves state in their legends they are nature spirits made flesh. Indeed, their is a type of elf for every concieavable environment, their even exists elves that are underwater. Scholars postulate that the elven blood is inclined towards almost supernatural adaptation, transforming a transplanted people in just a few generations. The only elves not so suited to a particular environment are the high elves.
The history of the high elves particularly is marked with genocidal violence against non-elves and then non-high elves, resulting in the near extinction of the cavern dwelling dark elves who fleed deeper into the earth until about recently. This turned inward until they nearly killed each other. A philosopher, much like with the dwarves, led them to a new school of thought. An incredibly magically inclined race, the powerin their bodies inclined them to fits of madness, fits which became rigidly controlled by total focus on reason and emotional detachment.
>Tell me your face when you realize they are magic Vulcans
Every race of elf is marked by a tendency to regard their individual races as nations unto themselves, even when under a multi-racial banner. One vast empire has to deal with a dozen criminal empires, the Elven Mobs, characterized by a different sub-race of elf. Even the high elves.
Gods are ideas, philosophies and beliefs that have taken shape upon the spiritual realms and gained sentience. They enjoy worship, for indeed it feeds them directly but as long as the idea they embody is practiced they could live off of it indefinitley, albeit in a muted state. Those without worshippers constantly whisper into the ears of those close to their concept, trying to draw in devotees. In exchange, they may petition for powers of the god's 'domain'. These followers work to spread the philosophy of their god, feeding him passively, or incite direct worship, active feeding.