Speaking broadly your typical elf is a poncy, poetry-loving, tree-hugging pretty boy with a noble disdain for the “lesser races.” He carries a bow, a rapier whit, and the rightful claim to some woodland kingdom or other. Said kingdom is generally waiting for his royal ass to finish adventuring so that it can sit on the throne of Brightbough or whatever the crap and continue the local dynasty for another thousand years. By the same token your typical dwarf is a bearded ball of bad Scottish accents, strong ale, and assorted cutlery. He is the drunken, money-grubbing, horny helmet wearing comic relief of the party, and generally needs to reclaim the lost halls of his ancestors from Dragon #424 or whatever the crap. It also goes without saying that the two of them hate the ever loving crap out of each other.

These are the tropes we’ve got to work with. Your options include using them, subverting them, or ignoring them. The first gets repetitive in a hurry, the second quickly becomes its own cliche (Warning – TV Tropes link), and the last might very well be impossible. There’s no denying that Gimli and Legolas have covered this ground pretty thoroughly, and the pair echo so strongly in our collective geeky consciousness that no two representatives of these staple fantasy races can enter the same scene without “That still only counts as one!” jokes popping up as well.

My solution? Play a grippli. I guarantee you that nobody’s got preconceived notions about a race of sentient frog people. Except of course for those freaky bug-eyed thri-kreen, but everyone knows they’re racist.