Hey, Guidance fans! Welcome to Guidance. I’m Alex Augunas, the Everyman Gamer, and I’m going to do something today that I don’t do very frequently on my column; I’m going to give my opinion regarding something going on in the broader Pathfinder RPG community right now. As you may or may not have heard Owlcat Games has launched a Kickstarter for their second Pathfinder CRPG, Wrath of the Righteous. It’s a video game adaptation of Paizo’s Wrath of the Righteous adventure path, and it’s kind of a big deal right now. Whereas their first game, Kingmaker, adapted an adventure path that didn’t really have major repercussions for the Inner Sea region, Wrath of the Righteous completely reshaped large swaths of Golarion going from Pathfinder 1st Edition to Pathfinder 2nd Edition, so it’s very cool to see such an important part of the modern Pathfinder setting get a significant portion of its history immortalized in an easy-to-experience format like a video game.
So, you might be wondering what exactly I have to say about Wrath of the Righteous? Well, for those of you who haven’t been following the Kickstarter, the Kickstarter funded and Owlcat games is hard at work adding stretch goals to their Kickstarter. One of those goals was an addition of a new ancestry to the tabletop RPG, and if you’ve ever followed me for even a little bit you know where this is going. Owlcat announced that for the $845,000 stretch goal, backers will get to vote on adding a new race from a pool of three: catfolk, ratfolk, and kitsune.
I’ve had a ton of people message me about this as soon as the goal went live; after all, my fondness for kitsune is basically known throughout the industry now. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this story, but back when I was first introducing myself to then-Developer Amanda Hamon, now Starfinder Managing Developer Amanda Hamon, the very first thing she said to me was, “Oh, I know you! You’re Alex who writes all about kitsune!” So obviously I have some thoughts on this reveal, but they might not be what you’r expecting. And since I’ve been REALLY hard-core talking about game mechanics and mechanical aspects of different Tabletop RPGs for a few weeks, I felt like this week was a good time to take a break from that and gibber a bit about something different. Like a stretch goal.
Predicting the Ancestry Race
So, one of the questions I get asked all the time in regards to this goal is, “Who do you want to win?” The answer is, of course, kitsune. They’re super awesome and fun to play. The next question is usually, “Who do you think will win?” And I feel like everyone I’ve asked expects me to repeat my answer by saying, “Oh, definitely kitsune.” But, believe it or not, that’s NOT my answer. My name is, “It depends on what communities Owlcat Games attracted to their Kickstarter.” And this might seem like a cop-out answer to you (and I guess in a way, it is), but let me explain why this is my answer: each of these three races is popular with different crowds for different reasons.
Catfolk, the Internet’s Choice
Catfolk have a real shot at winning this contest because catfolk (as well as cats in general) are super popular with internet communities. Cats have been a dominating force on the internet for ages, moreso with modern Dungeons & Dragons fans. If you’re up to date on common Dungeons & Dragons trends, you’ve probably heard of the tabaxi. That’s the ancestral name for what’s essentially Dungeons & Dragon’s version of catfolk; they’re basically anthropomorphic cat people and they’re incredibly popular with Dungeons & Dragons fans right now, especially online. They’re so popular that Wizkids has two different sets of tabaxi minitures in their Deep Cuts line, which is more then you can say about Paizo’s line right now. (Author’s Note: Paizo’s Deep Cuts line is incredibly safe, picking mostly “traditional” monsters and ancestral groups whereas Wizards of the Coasts picks all the wild, out-there creatures and peoples.)
The tabaxi’s popularity is worth bringing up because CRPGs like Kingmaker and Wrath of the Righteous found their audience among fans of the Baulder’s Gate series, which was a CRPG for D&D’s Forgotten Realms setting. If we take information as meaning that there’s a ton of old-school fans in the Pathfinder CRPG community, then that could mean that the Owlcat fandom has a ton of people who would want catfolk (a Pathfinder equivalent to the tabaxi) in their game, meaning we get a ton of votes for that ancestry.
Ratfolk, Paizo’s Choice
Ratfolk have a real shot at winning this contest because ratfolk are super popular with Paizo’s developers, and therefore they’re popular with Paizo’s fans. Don’t believe me? Compare the amount of lore that Paizo’s published for ratfolk to the amount of lore they’ve published for kitsune or catfolk. Of the three ancestries listed, ratfolk are the only one that had a significant showing in a core Pathfinder RPG book outside of their inaugural publication: ratfolk had a full article in the Monster Codex, whereas catfolk and kitsune have only appeared in the Bestiary that introduced them (Bestiary 3 and 4 respectfully). Moreover, ratfolk are also a core race in the Starfinder RPG, where they appear under the name “ysoki,” whereas neither catfolk nor kitsune have even been mentioned in Starfinder. (There’s a catlike race in Starfinder race called the pahtra, but they’re not the catfolk from Golarion.) This means that its very possible that the Paizo community might be more predisposed to ratfolk than the other two ancestries; whether that’s because Paizo has accurately read the community’s interest and produced content for them or because Paizo’s developers are more personally interested in ratfolk than the other two and their popularity grew because of Paizo’s continued support of the race is up for debate, however.
Kitsune, Fandom’s Choice
Kitsune have a real shot at winning this contest because humanoid foxes are incredibly popular with fans of anthropomorphic animals. I’m talking, of course, about the furry fandom but as well as people in general that like that style of character. Without going into too much detail, tons of people who are *really* into this fandom have things they call fursonas, which is kind of like a tabletop RPG character but they all have to be a humanoid animal of some kind. From what research I’ve done on the topic, foxes are one of the top 3 most popular fandom characters, alongside dragons and wolves. Cats are usually top 10 and rats don’t usually make the cut, but the point is that both are behind foxes, and if we go by the fandom’s trends, we could see kitsune winning the contest. You know, if Owlcat Games’s fans count a lot of people in that extremely specific fan base among them.
So, as you can see there are pretty good reasons that any one of these three might win the contest. So, what do I personally think about it? Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of polarizing the community with this decision. I think I would have liked it more if the campaign promised that more pledges would unlock more ancestries from this list if only because your character’s ancestry is kind of the most defining choice you make about them. Like, your ancestry determines your general look and appearance, the core experiences you had growing up, and colors everything from your background to your class. And honestly, if Kingmaker had a flaw it was that it didn’t really embrace any of the stranger ancestries that make Pathfinder what it is; like, every game has humans, elves, and dwarves. Heck, even tieflings are common. Impress me by doing something new already! Stand out!
This contest does have some interesting components, however. For instance, Owlcat Games *did* post a tweet in January asking players to post their favorite Pathfinder race using only emojis.
That post didn’t explode by any stretch of the imagination. It has about 50 likes / comments and 4 retweets. VERY tame as far as Twitter explosions go. But at the same time, I find it interesting that their tweet’s emojis are essentially “bat grin,” which is a deadringer for dhampir (vampire bats + teeth). And huh, wouldn’t you know it about a week later they followed up with this:
So they used that post as a way to announce a new playable race for the upcoming game, and they even confirmed it prior on their Discord. Personally, this makes me wonder if the request for catfolk / kitsune / ratfolk is coming primarily from people in the community that they’re surveying. And if that’s the case, it’s interesting to see kitsune up there listed with two ancestries that are, for lack of a better word, more supported by Paizo in Pathfinder Second Edition. After all, we’ve already talked about how Paizo writes a LOT about ratfolk, but catfolk have been appearing in artwork fairly often in new books like the Pathfinder Lost Omens Character Guide, and both ratfolk and catfolk are printed as creatures in the Pathfinder Second Edition Bestiary and are slated to be playable ancestries in the Pathfinder Second Edition Advanced Player’s Guide. In fact, every single bonus race that Owlcat Games has noted for Wrath of the Righteous is already slated to be a heritage or ancestry in Pathfinder Second Edition; aasimars, dhampirs, and tieflings are all going to be heritages in the Advanced Player’s Guide, while catfolk and ratfolk are going to be new ancestries. And yet here are kitsune, who’s only appearance in Pathfinder Second Edition is a single NPC in a Pathfinder Second Edition Society scenario.
So to be completely honest, while I’m really hoping that kitsune win so I can play Kyrshin in Wrath of the Righteous, at this particular moment it feels pretty good to see kitsune put on the same level of importance as a bunch of ancestry options that Paizo thought were important enough to be in the Advanced Player’s Guide. Might mean that my buddy Mark’s finally going to have to acknowledge that I might have been right about the popularity of my favorite foxes after all!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas, the Everyman Gamer, has been playing Tabletop Roleplaying Games since 2007 after a friend pretended to be his father in order to smuggle him out of high school so his gaming group had enough people to run a module. Today, Alex is the owner and publisher of Everybody Games, a co-host on Know Direction: Beyond and RPG Design Club, and a player on Stellar. You can follow Alex’s exploits on Twitter (@AlJAug), on Facebook, or on Patreon. Know Direction fans are also welcome to “@Alex” him on the Know Direction discord server!