Face it, most of us in fantasy games (sci-fi is another matter) imagine humanity, and the various non-human races, as products of a special creation by their gods. Mankind has many competing deities, so it's easier to see them as them arising through natural processes and being fought over. But demi-humans, perhaps by virtue of their more homogenous pantheons, almost have to be specifically created beings. But do they really?
This week, we explore the idea of demi-humans as the products of evolution :
DWARVES arose well before humanity (but after the elves) from a species of cave-dwelling hominids (subterrapithecus) selected for survival underground. Their tool-making abilities were put to use expanding the natural caves they called home and shaping them into what they would become. Given their mining prowess and racial love of precious metals, they've excavated far from their place of origin, digging deep and going north.
GOBLINS/ORCS, like dwarves, are subterranean and probably evolved from a cannibalistic variety of cave-dwelling ape (the foul horridipithecus), although some speculate that their subsequent evolution was shaped by evil magic. This fact probably accounts for the many humanoid species inhabiting the underworld and their aversion to light.
HALFLINGS are a variant human species that are reproductively non-compatible, although in Pits & Perils, hill dwarves (i.e., halflings) are a completely dwarven strain.
Of course, the GM can flesh this out as their campaign requires, perhaps going so far as to introduce remnant populations of prehistoric demi-humans. But what about the supposed gods? Perhaps they, too, were the products of evolution who ascended over time and sought mortal worshippers for whatever reason. Worship has its benefits, after all, among them the fact that the soul, untethered at death, can reach the afterlife with surety. The possibilities are endless, and the GM can decide how to map the trajectory of their own setting's history...