Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, I’m going to be discussing my Top 10 favorite non-kitsune races .
You know, when you fall into a character building “type” in PFS, the look on everyone’s faces when you bring something to the table that isn’t your usual type. For me, its kitsune. I have a healthy (and deserved) reputation for being, “The kitsune guy,” in Philly, but I actually like a whole lot of different Pathfinder RPG races. Today, I’m going to talk a bit about some of my favorite not-kitsune races and why I like them! Because variety is the spice of life. Or something like that.
#10 — Catfolk
This is pretty close to an honorable mention, but I like catfolk enough to put it on my list. The —only— reason catfolk are even on the list at all, however, are the khadjit, from Skyrim / Elder Scrolls. I don’t know, something about their accent combined with their role as shifty thieves and merchants is just plain appealing to me. As a result, the Bestiary 3-style “Chesire Cat” catfolk doesn’t appeal to me. Khadjit needs cat-like features or khadjit not happy. I totally get why Paizo would want to stray clear from such an iconic representation of the race—however, I am under no such compulsion. (Though the “defenders of reality” angle from Inner Sea Races is also cool, and I’m a big fan of that too.)
#9 — Samsaran
Wow, there’s just so much cool stuff you can DO with this race! The samsarans have a perfect mix of flavor and mechanics to back it up. I’m talking specifically about Past Life Skills and the motion that the samsaran lived a full life as someone else. There’s lots of great roleplaying opportunities there, and if I had a samsaran boon I would totally explore them! (Since I don’t, however, I’ll have to be content slipping them into my home games where and when I can.)
#8 — Orcs
I don’t like orcs because they’re powerful (which they totally are for Strength-based melee builds). I like orcs thematically—they’re cool, fun, flavorful, and have decades of awesome tradition, lore, and personality to draw upon. Sauron’s orc armies are very different from Warhammer’s orks who are in turn very different from Warcraft’s orcs, yet all three feel orcish. Orcs are a refreshingly vibrant race that is open for a lot of interpretation compared to most other races—provided you have the whole, “martial tradition,” and “shamanism / savage” feel going for them in at least a small capacity. (With Warhammer being ‘extreme savage,’ Warcraft being, ‘light savage,’ and Sauron’s army being somewhere in the middle).
#7 — Dhampir
So, I’ve never played a Pathfinder dhampir. But I did play a 3.5 “half-vampire template” human back in 3.5 for a couple of sessions, and man was he the best! That race was a LOT more restrictive then Dhampir—not only could I not heal from positive energy, but I started disintegrating in sunlight over the course of hours like a real vampire. It was painful, but a lot of fun. My first-ever bard was a dhampir, and that was the game where I discovered the power of the bard class, but that’s a story for a different time. At any rate, those memories of my former dhampir character are fun, and I would totally play one in PFS if the race was never made more available (currently, it was only available from one Beginner Box event). Maybe someday I ‘ll get my wish, or maybe I wouldn’t. Still, a man can dream, can’t he?
#6 — Ratfolk
Honestly, ratfolk wouldn’t have been on my list at all before Pathfinder. Someone at Paizo REALLY likes them (I’m thinking Sutter, Crystal Fraiser, Owen, and Wes—maybe more!), because ratfolk always get really cool stories and backgrounds and histories wherever they’re included. The thing that’s neat about ratfolk is that they really only seem to have a culture that’s build around “survival,” and somehow that works. Seriously, ratfolk culture basically amounts to, “Take rat behaviors and slap them on a humanoid,” and for some reason, I love it. Its great, fun, and exciting.
Man, I should try Mouse Guard. I bet I’d like that too….
#5 — Elf
I don’t really like playing elves in Pathfinder, but my first D&D character was an elf, and most of my World of Warcraft characters are elves. I like them. They feel human, but alien in a way that kitsune also feel (although kitsune are “more human” which is one reason I like them more). Usually the thing that holds me back from playing elves is a lack of direction—elves are sort of the opposite of orcs in that they all tend to feel the same, especially with the whole, “Our elves come in every color,” thing that fantasy LOVES to do to them. Tree elves, aquatic elves, tundra elves, desert elves, mana/magic elves, evil elves, you name it. Defining what an elf is becomes more about where they live and how they adapt to that terrain then what makes that culture different from others. (This was a major reason I didn’t like Faerun elves as much as others did.)
#4 — Skinwalker
I wasn’t kidding when I said that I like shapechangers. Skinwalkers are REALLY cool, what with their animal-based powers and abilities. I love how customizable the race is; not only do you have the standard skinwalker, but you have the shiny, more specific “were-variants” that are perfect fits for Golarion. It’s a race that you can easily mold with your GM’s permission based upon how common different types of lycanthropy are in your campaign, and I LOVE races that can blend into the campaign like that. To me, skinwalkers are like the “anti-kitsune” though. Kitsune change into humans to hide among them. Skinwalkers basically ARE human, but they can partially change into monsters / not-humans when they need to. It’s a very different dynamic that I’m looking forward to exploring with my Gen Con 2016 race boon at some point.
#3 — Human
… Yeah, okay. You got me. I like humans. Not really for the fluff or the flavor, but more for how easy they make character building. Non-fighter archers are basically a thing at low-levels because of humans (or at least they’re significantly less painful to play). They can also just fill out their niche and take powers and abilities they wouldn’t normally gain so EASILY because of their bonus skills, flexible ability bonus, and bonus feat. Like, if you are a knowledgeable player, you have to try to build a bad human and I like that about them. That said, they’re usually not my go-to race because I feel like a minmaxer when I take those crazy-powerful favored class options or that amazingly useful bonus feat. Also, humans are only as fun to play as the setting you’re playing in, in my experience. If your world’s humans have cool ethnicities and histories, they’re cool. If they’re cool, they’re not. But other races sort of come with cool pre-installed. Not so with humans, but I guess I shouldn’t hold it too much against them. (And usually don’t.)
#2 — Dwarf
Listen, I can’t even tell you why but I have a MASSIVE soft-spot for dwarves. Maybe it’s because of their bear fascination. Of their iconic-yet-easy-to-imitate accent. Maybe its just because they’re almost always portrayed as being super awesome in a brawl, or maybe its just because they’re AWESOME. I am a huge dwarf fan,
#1 — Halfling
I’m going to say something weird—Lord of the Rings really wasn’t a huge influence on me as a fantasy gamer, so I’m not really sure WHY I like halflings as much as I do. Maybe its because they’re small and scrappy. Maybe its because they’re not played often. I couldn’t tell you, but Frodo? Sam? Pippin and Merry? Yeah, those guys don’t really scream, “Cool,” to me. Personally, I like playing halflings that go against the racial stereotypes. One of my halflings, Alton, was a ladies man with a love of slinging stones and a bit of a gambling addiction. He always grew his beard out into a scruff and always wore shoes because he didn’t want to be talked down to. (BUT MOST PEOPLE DID ANYWAY BECAUSE HE’S A HALFLING!)
Also, the luck thing is fun. Especially adaptable luck—I REALLY like that.
So, there you have it. My Top 10 favorite races that AREN’T kitsune! What did you think? What are your “guilty pleasure races,” and what makes you like them so gosh-darn much? Leave your comments below or on our site Forums, and I’ll see you next week for another installment of Guidance!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.