Over at Roleplaying Tips they're hosting a nice little blog carnival, centered on the concept of races. And… I must say that I don't normally play with race too much, or at the very least- not today. But it doesn't mean that I don't have anything to bring to the table. I did run a year or two of campaigns centered on races and our prejudices surrounding them, back in the day.
John asks for tips and ideas about making race an important factor in the game. For me, the number one trick, the first tip that I offer for GMs who come to me with the same question, is to lead by example.
Think about the GM-player relationship in most traditional games- the GM sets the stage, decides what is important and what not, and the players (at least to a certain extent) internalize those themes and ideas, and then bring their own versions of it. That's how we explore themes in RPGs.
But it also means that the GM has to set the stage. If the GM will make race an important factor in her games, like having some racist NPCs or handing a prejudices index (just like we can find in every WOD race book), sooner or later it will become a major factor in the game.
If, for the sake of example, I bring to the table a Dwarf NPC who hates Elves and think that they just stink, suddenly it is important to know if Lucy plays an Elf or if she plays a Halfling. If I'll continue this stage-setting and the next NPC will think that Halflings are not real men, Mr. Halfling will have to find a way to show his manliness.
In other words- making the concept of races important to you, as GM, and playing to this concept, will make it important for the whole group. Before you'll know it you'll have Dwarfs who don't like Gnomes and Orcs who want to be Elves.
And that's the whole truth, actually. Make it important to you, stress it through your portrayal of NPCs, through your descriptions ("you see an Elf. She…"), through handouts... If it is important enough for you to stress it, it will become important enough for them as well.
Or you can just go and play Vampire. I "heard" that they've done it right.
How about you? What tips and tricks do you have for making race an important factor in your games?