I began my Whole New World Golarion series last week with a look at the characteristics of Golarion. Today, I’m continuing that series with a look at the races of the default Pathfinder campaign setting.
Of course, the races presented in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook are the most common that you will find in terms of both NPCs and player characters. These races have, for the most part, been staples of fantasy roleplaying since the first time a d20 was thrown to determine if an attack was successful or not. There are some interesting tweaks that Golarion presents, though. For humans, those tweaks come from that wealth of cultures that I mentioned last week. The various cultures really give variety to the otherwise bog-standard humans and if you’re playing in Golarion, you owe it to yourself to pay attention to those cultural differences. A wealth of roleplaying resides there.
Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, Half-Orcs and Halflings are a familiar set of races that have been around nearly as long as d20s were used to resolve combat actions. There aren’t any major changes in Golarion from previous iterations of these races, aside from that fact that, in Golarion, elves are tall and lithe, rather than being short and lithe. Little to see here: moving on.
Gnomes are a bit different, and I like th changes. When D&D 3rd Edition came out, I found it difficult to mentally distinguish between gnomes and halflings. Prior to 3rd Edition, halflings were the hobbit-style short people, with round bellies and hairy feet. In 3rd Edition, they became what I had always thought gnomes were. Gnomes became… happy, skinny, above-ground-living dwarf things? Yeah, a bit weird for me. Now, in Golarion, gnomes come from the First World, a Fey-type realm where everything is bigger and brighter. Gnomes have brightly-colored hair and have to keep experiencing new things, or they start losing their vitality. For me, this provides some great distinction between them and the halflings, so I support the changes.
A few new races appear in Golarion. Those are, namely, Gillmen, the Tengus and the Strix. Tengu were introduced in the first Bestiary and they resemble wingless humanoid crows or ravens. They make fantastic rogues and would be perfect for any type of secret society that you might have planned for a game in Golarion. Especially assassins. A raven assassin? Oh, yes, please.
Strix are winged, slightly demonic-looking humanoids who primarily live amongst the towers of the Devil’s Perch in Cheliax. Strix also hate humans in much the same way that dwarves hate orcs and goblins. No one knows why but the Strix. I think it would be a really interesting choice to have a party of all Strix characters and try to plot against the nearby humans in Cheliax. But, I really like Cheliax, as I will elaborate more upon when I get to my Highlights of Golarion post in a few weeks. You’ll find the stats for Strix characters only in the Inner Sea World Guide.
Gillmen are the ancestors of the remnants of a destroyed races known as the Azlanti. When an event known as Earthfall occurred, these people were driven into the water and were adapted to an aquatic life by aboleth. Not merfolk (no tails here), gillmen are secretive and no one (not even the gillmen) know why the aboleth chose to help them rather than destroying them, and the aboleth seemed to lose interest and the gillmen formed their own society. Gillmen are also detailed in the Inner Sea World Guide.
When the first Bestiary came out, it had the details to make a lot of races playable that were not normally used for player characters. The best part about these adaptations is that they don’t have any level adjustments (like some of them did in D&D 3rd Edition). All of these races have homes in in Golarion and all of them make really interesting options for play if your campaign is taking place in an area that supports them. Those races are: Drow, Duergar, Goblins (who are crazy in this edition. Nice!), Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Merfolk, Orcs and Svirfneblin (and I am so glad they kept that name for Deep Gnomes, it’s a ton of fun to say). Making these races non-level adjusted offers a lot of diversity to the usual allotment you can find in the Core Rulebook.
And Something… Blue? (Or red, or gold, or green… you get the idea)
Lastly, we have the Native Outsiders, or as many folks may know them: the Planetouched. These are the people who, by dint of an ancestor’s extra-planar dalliance or because some magic went awry, have the blood of planar beings flowing through their veins. They’re not fully Angels, Devils, Demons or Genie, but they have some of the aspects of those groups. If you’re familiar with D&D 3rd Edition, especially the Forgotten Realms, you’re probably familiar with these races.
Aasimars, found in Andoran and Varisia, are those who have the blood of angels or other celestial being in them. They are beautiful, but often shunned because people don’t understand them. Likewise, Tieflings occupy the other end of the divine spectrum, having infernal or demonic ancestor or tampering in their ancestry. Moreso than the Aasimars, Tieflings are almost always shunned because they look like they are obviously evil, regardless of their actual intent. They are mainly found in Cheliax or the Worldwound. Lastly, we’ve got the Genie Kin, Ifirts, Oreads, Slyphs and Undines. These are folk touched by the elemental planes of fire, earth, air or water. They are even more rare than Aasimars and Tieflings, and are most often found in Qadira.
All Together Now!
Golarion offers a huge range of races for character play. Of course, it is up the GM to say what goes in an given campaign. Also, much as with the human nationalities, the novels do a fantastic job of dealing with the intricacies of the different races. In fact, the first novel, Prince of Wolves, has a main character who is a Tiefling and it is really interesting to see how he deals with the sometimes blatant racism that gets leveled at him.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Paizo also has a series of books that give much, much more detail on the races of their setting. They’re titled, appropriately, the Races of Golarion. You can easily find them on Paizo’s website.
That’s it for my look at the Golarion races. Next week, we’ll be taking a look at the various countries and I’ll pick out some of my favorites and highlight them for you.