There was a time when my brother and I would roleplay in Azeroth, the World of Warcraft world. Those were fun games, and the lore and story constantly changed and was a great living campaign with many twists and turns, and lots of memorable characters.
And then, times change.
Azeroth and World of Warcraft no longer feels compelling. The weight of misbehavior in their parent company and the cash-grab nature of the game makes the world no longer feel compelling. I loved to lore and those who live in this world, but get the feeling it is time to move on.
So, what now? Go back to my traditional fantasy tropes and forget such a place ever existed?
Or do what all great writers do, borrow and become inspired?
As D&D halflings are to Tolkien's hobbits, there is a way forward while honoring the feel and heritage of these fantasy races in a setting neutral way. Perhaps, like the beforementioned halflings, there are "sister races" out there in the cosmos enough alike in the mirror of reality, but not tied to Azeroth in any shape, way, or form. Like humans in another sci-fi or fantasy world that are not from Earth, there could be some out there enough alike the version presented in the game I used to love that I can somehow take the good memories with me and leave the bad ones behind.
So how do we do this?
Simple enough, I hold up a mirror and start imagining what could be.
The Moon Elves
What feels like the most wasted potential in story and consequence on that one world could be just one version of the infinite tribes of Elves of the Moon. Now, Moon Elves were once seen in the Faerun setting, but nothing like their counterparts seen elsewhere. Blue hued with colorful hair, tall, graceful, with eyes which glow of moonlight, this race of elves could inhabit the deepest and darkest forests where they climb the highest trees at night to celebrate the Elven Gods of the Moon - and there may be one, or many, who knows?
If I did these in Mystara I would not challenge the existing Elves, but sprout a giant tree and forest on an Island, like Safari Island in Irendi, and let them rule it and have tribes all over the island kingdoms.
The Sun Elves
Graceful counterparts who worship the Elven Sun Goddess, we could find the Moon Elves sister race living in places of the sun, deserts and bright, cheery forests where the sun shines and they follow the dictates of the light from above. I would change their eyes to glow with sunlight instead of arcane energy to help them match their Moon Elf kin, but leave them the seekers of pleasure, civilization, and fine arts - much like a high elf in normal D&D style lore. If it were me, I would put them in the desert and make them a magically advanced society of art and culture, allowing them to worship the sun all day and build trading routes across vast seas of sand.
If I were doing these in the Mystara setting I would drop them in that desert area, perhaps on a coastal oasis island, and let them gradually expand inland.
Why not have a minotaur race named after the astrological sign? This is an easy one, and most of the native lore could be used, or you could go in a different direction with them that does not borrow so much from Native American tradition. Like their namesake astrological beast, the minotaur race could fit in a Greek style civilization with a maze motif, to a more high-plains tribe of nomads with camp cities as they move about the land, never really settling down but following the migrations of the beasts they hunt and live from the land with - never exploiting but always keeping the sacred balance of nature to ever sustain them.
If I did these in Mystara I am sure the far north would have the space for them to roam and follow the Great Hunt.
One could continue the voodoo and witchcraft culture of the Azerothian trolls, but I would drop the Jamaican accents and Aztec motifs. I feel you could do so much more with them once you cut those stereotypes free. Give them an allied race of frog people and lizardmen near the jungles and swamps they love. You could make their temples more reptilian with giant snake heads, log forts, and temples filled with jungle gold. I would make them more a sort of interesting lost civilization with great jungle cities and temples that the hangers-on to an Orc alliance they feel to be in other worlds.
Yes, break up the homogeneous Horde and give each civilization its own place to shine. In Mystara there is a huge swamp that would suite them fine.
They looked like Warhammer Orcs but are far more Shakespearean and militaristic. D&D's orcs always bugged me with that one hit die and never felt as epic as the Azerothian or even Warhammer variety of Orc. This one feels tougher since there are a heck of lot of built-in bias against Orcs in D&D settings. They are one thing and supposed to be that one hit die level one encounter list filler before we move on to bugbears and zombies.
I could do these as an evolutionary turn for the orcs, have them wipe out and send older tribes on the run, and these new civilized, magic-using, organized military and brutally diplomatic breed grew out of some pact with darker forces granting them great intelligence, cunning, strong tribal bonds, and ability to use magic. If I were doing these in the Mystara setting I would drop them in Thar and put them at war with the other tribes, only to eventually take it all over.
Humans and Dwarves
Humans and Dwarves are easy. Just make them however you want and put them anywhere. Mystara has plenty of theme park human and dwarf areas, take your pick and go. Just make them stocky and give them that Azeroth look and manner, and you are set.
Goblins and Gnomes
The goblins and gnomes, I would like these types of races honestly in a Steampunk setting so I may save them for that. If you did a lot of flying ships in the setting, let them have those and ally them with other flying races above the clouds. Maybe their home city is a huge floating island you can never really say where it is. This feels the easiest way to integrate them and get those fun flying ships that are sort of Spelljammerish into the setting while giving the crafty goblins and gnomes a home that is unique. Properly framed as sky-bound civilizations, they work a lot better and are easier to integrate.
I never liked playing a zombie corpse, but I do see the fun in playing vampyrs and semi-undead. You could make a "dead area" somewhere in the world and open up cool vampire-like races that were sophisticated and cool. I could see even adding ghost-people as a race option, and open up the spirits for play. On their own with some cool idea work, like an alliance between vampires, ghosts, Spirit Elves, and Frankenstien like reanimated you could have something cool that is not a Horde vassal.
Spirit Elves? Now they sound cool and could give you that banshee-like option as a character race within the Undead alliance. Perhaps they make their home on forests that are between the realm of the living and the dead, and they could be moody, brooding, and ultra-cool to play as PCs.
There are more races than that in the game, but this hits most of the majors and gives me a good start to keep the feeling and meaning these races had in that world, but get them the heck out of it and off on their own stories and paths through a fictional world I create. I could have all sorts of fun with a werewolf race, feline races, and some of the other standards roaming around here and there. Just give them a proper home, give them allies that support their central concept, and let them flourish and bloom on their own without sticking them on one side or the other.
Perhaps Orcs and Moon Elves could find a place in the world the cooperate against demons? The stories should be your guide, not a game that honestly you may wish to leave behind - and take the best parts from for inspiration.