Guidance – Canon-Not-Canon: Catfolk

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be talking Not-Canon about catfolk.

I’ve done a few articles where I’ve mentioned that catfolk really bother me as a race. There are a couple reasons for that, but one of the big factors is that they’re NEVER talked about in Pathfinder. I mean, sure, if you’re not a Core race or don’t have the word “goblin” in your subtype, you’re not talked about, but catfolk are REALLY not talked about. Catfolk are talked about SO little that it took about four years to finally nail down what the race looked like. (Isn’t that a storied subject!)

That, and the fact that they tend to be played super creepy-like as fetish fuel, but you can definitely say the same about kitsune (I’ve been at tables with that sort of play ~shudders~), so I try not to burn catfolk for a problem that my favorite race in the game has too.

Catfolk and other races that lack a strong, established racial identity because of a lack of published material often are all over the place in terms of roleplay, too. So I thought to help with that (and to try and help me find something cool about them), I thought I’d start an all-new segment on Guidance: Canon-Not Canon. In this segment, I’ll tackle some player option that doesn’t have a lot of lore behind it in Golarion and see what I can do to make it shine like new.

Today’s Canon-Not-Canon, catfolk!

Brief History

So briefly, catfolk don’t have many bits of published lore in Golarion. They were first introduced in Bestiary 3 back in Fall 2011, and didn’t find themselves in any Pathfinder products until Summer 2012’s Advanced Race Guide, only to be featured again in Fall 2012’s Shattered Star AP where a single catfolk appears. (Note: they could be featured in a PFS scenario that I haven’t played, of course. I wouldn’t know that, however.)

Some small references and traits got mentioned here and there (like the catfolk content I wrote for the Dirty Tactics Toolbox in September 2015), but the most substantial bit of information we’ve seen about them comes from Inner Sea Races, which was released in the following month in September 2015. Inner Sea Races had a lot to say about catfolk and it took a rather elegant approach to fixing something that has been a HUGE problem with them prior: their appearance.

Most people have noticed, but in all of the products that I’ve mentioned catfolk were illustrated in dramatically different ways. I’ve commented about this in other articles, so I’ll summarize briefly: B3’s catfolk are mostly human-shaped, but they have some catlike features, like pointy ears and tails. They basically look like anime catgirls. The ARG’s catfolk, however, are full-on anthropomorphic animals. They have mostly cat features, including catlike heads, tails, and are digitgrade. ARG’s catfolk are also tiger-inspired whereas B3’s look like the Cheshire Cat, and are therefore more housecat-like. Then Shattered Star goes and makes everything confusing by making the catfolk look like the Thundercats; a stylistic mix between the two extremes. Body fur on mostly human bodies, claws, human-shaped faces and feet. The works. This was super confusing for most players until the Inner Sea Races rolled around. Like its predecessors, Inner Sea Race’s catfolk don’t match (one is more like ARG’s style, the other is more like a mix between Shattered Star and ARG). However, Inner Sea Races explains that this level of diversity between catfolk is normal; that they have drastically different appearances even within the same clan, so that one family might be nearly human (B3 style) while their neighbors across the street are full-on cat (like ARG). They also have their own nation hidden within the depths of the Mwangi Expanse, which is pretty neat.

I think that’s a safe place to start switching to the Canon-Not-Canon.

Where Are You From?

Inner Sea Races talks a lot about catfolk being from small tribes and communities located throughout the Mwangi Expanse and into southern Garund. One interesting thing to note about catfolk is how their society operates according to Inner Sea Races; men mostly wander around the world, either alone or with a few companions, while women stay back in their small tribes and tend to the children. Before we get to the whole, “catfolk PCs shouldn’t be women,” thing that I’m sure someone will try to argue using my article, its important to note that catfolk have sort of a, “If I don’t like, I should leave,” mentality about most things. Inner Sea Races notes that when a catfolk doesn’t approve of a new leader when someone rises to power, they typically just leave and go wander the world. This sort of reminds me of how actual housecats act; if they don’t like you, you’re not going to see them. Ever.

So with this in mind, it stands to reason that most catfolk end up leaving home either because they’re males and their society sort of expects them to, or because they’re females and they chose to leave because they didn’t approve of or agree with something. Strangely enough, catfolk don’t hold grudges (if something really isn’t resolvable, they leave or ignore the other person), so chances are whatever made them decide to leave “wasn’t much of a big deal,” to them. They’re noted as not having much of an emotional reserve for grudges, which means they might struggle at keeping up negative emotions in general. This might very well be a race where barbarian isn’t the best thematic pick for your average catfolk, as a result.

As a result, catfolk make surprisingly good adventures. Most are wanderers, and they don’t really “need” a reason to be anywhere other then, “here is good.”

What Motivates You?

Catfolk don’t hold grudges, but many of them have grown up hearing stories about how their kind was created to hunt the evil things in the world. Chances are that many catfolk have a bit of superiority complex, if not a full-blown hero complex. They’re all about gaining life experience and walking as many roads as possible, the journey, rather than the destination, is what motivates them.

Catfolk sometimes travel in small groups, and because they’re prone to outright leaving things they don’t like, chances are they like the people they travel with. Mercantile exploits seem like something catfolk would enjoy too, as long as there’s a lot of travel and unpredictability in the road ahead.

Class Concepts

Remember that you, as a PC or notable NPC, are always the exception to every rule. That being said, here’s some ideas for typical reasons catfolk might adventure/be PCs or NPCs.

Alchemist – “Mixing herbs and ingredients together is fun, especially when you’re trying something new. Who knows what could happen?”

Arcanist – “I’m on the frontier of the laws of magic, messing with the very fabric of reality and space, doing things no one else has dared to do before.”

Barbarian – “I mostly travel alone; I just get so angry sometimes, and the rest of my tribe doesn’t understand. I got tired of being ignored all the time, so I left.”

Bard – “I want to go out and experience as much as I can, and then share those experiences with whomever I can find by virtue of my muse. Performance is a universal language; no matter where I go, I know I’ll find someone I can speak to.”

Bloodrager – “My mother used to say that I have a little more of the great spirits of our people in them than most; when trouble starts, I feel … something surge up inside of me, and I just let go of everything. I’m convinced that there’s a grand destiny waiting out there for me, and I’m going to find it.”

Brawler – “I’ve been getting into scraps since I was a kitten; I loved ‘play fighting’ then, and I love it even more now. I just can’t help myself; I want to be the best, see all there is to see, meet all the fights I can, and then best them!”

Cavalier – “I belong to a secret order from our people’s ancestral home. With my trusty steed, I fight back against the dark forces that plague Garundi, be they the Gorilla King or our nation’s ancient enemies.”

Cleric – “My people tend to worship deities that value travel, heroism, and adventure. Shelyn is popular, as is Bast. I myself worship Cayden Cailen. He’s somewhat rare ‘round these parts, but I don’t mind much. I mostly travel places where I can see others of my faithful and spread the good word of my deity. New experiences and travel in the name of the one being I love more than anything else; that’s the life!”

Druid – “My people have always been close to the natural world, and the branches, the vines, the trees, everything in this jungle speaks to me. My Panther? In another life, she could have been my sister; why the great spirits chose to elevate my ancestors instead of her, I’ll never know, but we do everything we can to help our mutual interests: protecting this place.”

Fighter – “I’ve picked up my fighting skills on the road, traveling from place to place. I’m not like those human warriors I see here and there; they’re content to just stay put and fight the same people all the time. I want action! I want adventure! And yeah, maybe I want a little treasure every now and then too.”

Inquisitor – “I’ve never been able to sit still, so going out and defending the most beautiful places in the world from harm just seems like I good idea. That it pleases my goddess, Shelyn, simply gives meaning to my merriment.”

Kineticist – “I first realized that I had these strange powers, the ability to move the jungle vines to the beating my own very own heart,” when I was young; a kitten still supping my mother’s teat, really. Now that I’m grown, I want to go out and understand my power; find places where I can be nearer to it. To that end, there isn’t a forest, glade, or jungle in this world I won’t brave!”

Gunslinger – “Akenstar isn’t THAT far away from the Expanse, although it was a heck of a wander getting there. I doubt there’s another catfolk alive that can do what I do with my boomstick, and I’m A-Okay with that. I’ll just keep wandering on my merry way, making my own bullets as I go and shootin’ them into anything that tries to kill, rob, or eat me along the way.”

Hunter – “This animal is my most trusted companion; I know no bond stronger then it. Some among my home thought I was crazy for wanting to wander the world with Muska, my lion companion, but others just knew: you don’t really pick your companions so much as you earn them, and no one’s earned the right to travel with me more than Muska here.”

Investigator – “Some say that I’m just a trouble maker. I prefer to think of myself as being ‘dangerous curious.’ I want to see everything, know everything, and find everything. I love the thrill of adventure, the excitement of knowing that trouble could come from anywhere, but it doesn’t matter. No matter where I go, trouble ain’t besting me. Not today, not never.”

Magus – “Some said that I was crazy for trying to blend magic rites with my sick spear-fighting skills. I didn’t care much; I just wanted to see what would happen, if I could do it. Now I’ve done it, and I want to do more. I go around fighting warriors and scholars alike, learning what I can and experiencing what I can’t. I like to think I do pretty well for myself, in fact.”

Medium – “Our people’s stories have always talked about how the great spirits of the jungle came down and made use into what we are today, and I believe those stories. The spirits, they talk to me even now. Sometimes, on quiet nights, they whisper secrets to me about places I’ve never been. People I’ve never meet. Sights I’ve never seen. I want to see all those places, so maybe when I’m gone my spirit can one day lead some kitten out into the world to see the world’s most magnificent treasures too.”

Mesmerist – “Now, its not what you’re thinking. Honestly, I never really WANTED to leave home, but I didn’t have much say in the matter. My mother’s the head of the tribe, and she wasn’t thrilled when I tried to ‘persuade’ everyone in my tribe to let me stick around a little longer. Put me in charge. My older sister, she’s not a good fit for the tribe; she NEVER was. But now I’m the one in trouble, just because I tried to bewitch everyone or whatever. They’ll see, I don’t need them; life’s much better out here in the great, big world anyway. Most of the time.”

Monk – “Though we’re just as disciplined, I’m told that our monastery isn’t like those of other races. They’re content to just live confined in some crumbling temple or upon some secluded mountaintop. Not us. Our order is spread throughout the jungle, where we can fight evil and do good in the world. We move from monastery to monastery, honing our skills constantly and experiencing as much of life as we can. It really is the best way to let one’s ki flow freely, after all.”

Ninja – “I prowl the darkest places in the Valashmi Jungle, looking for my prey. Danger is ever-present here, and only the strongest of my people survive even here. Sometimes, the snakes of Nagajor ask us to do jobs for them. Sometimes we oblige, leaving our ancestral homes. But when we leave, its mostly because we choose to; the shadows are many, and I know I’ll never want for coin as long as people are scared of them.”

Occultist – “Sure, sure, the present is full of potential, but the past is just so EXCITING. Its just sitting around, waiting for you to go out and find it. Nothing makes me more excited when I find some rare object that no one’s ever seen before and I take my time trying to decipher just what, exactly, its supposed to do. Its enough to make a gal just want to comb the whole world over looking for its most unassuming treasures and trinkets.”

Oracle – “The spirits are many in the jungle, and they’ve opened my eyes to wondrous sights left unseen. The spirits can be mischievous at times, demanding at others, but the power they bestow is not to be rivaled. Some say I was destined to lead my clan, what with my power. I wasn’t willing to wait for that day to come; there are too many questions left unanswered, too many mysteries to solve.”

Paladin – “My kind aren’t exactly common among ‘catfolk,’ few have the discipline needed to follow the way of the paladin. It can be difficult to focus at times; discipline can be a struggle to maintain. But I am strong and Erastil is my greatest companion, my trusted hunting companion. He is my master, and I am his faithful companion, and I am will uphold and defend all that he stands for in the face of villainy and evil.”

Psychic – “I realized when I was very young that I had powers most others only dreamed of. I devoted my entire existence to unlocking those powers, but it became clear that I had only scratched the surface. Curiosity got the better of me, like it always does, and I left home to find myself; to experience all I could and return home a savant, worthy of admiration and praise.”

Ranger – “What do I do? Protect everyone in my home, of course. Me and others like me prowl the whole jungle, gathering food and hunting down those who would try to hurt us or our allies. We’re the absolute best at what we do; none can stay hidden from us for long, and we work almost effortlessly together. Demons of the Mwangi beware.”

Rogue – “ I simply couldn’t wait to get out and see the world; I practically bolted out of the jungle the moment the sun rose on my 13th birthday. I’ve been practically everywhere, seen a lot of things others never dreamed of. Had to pick up a lot of skills along the way; some less savory than others. But its fine; few can match my versatility or deadliness. And when trouble comes, you know what they say; every cat’s got nine lives.”

Samurai – “I left the Valashmi Jungle when I was young; I wanted to see all of Tian Xia. I didn’t get very far; I would have died if my sensei didn’t save me. I swore myself to him almost immediately, and as luck would have it the kind man didn’t say no to a 12-year-old wandering cat. He brought me home and trained me everything I know. Now I proudly serve my sensei’s order, the Way of the Kirin, and travel across the land to protect the meek and innocent.”

Shaman – “I’ve always known I was different. The spirits of my people’s ancestors speak to me, and I to them. They whisper visions of futures unseen and events that could one day pass. I do what I must to protect my people and honor my ancestors, and if that means I must leave everything behind, then so be it.”

Skald – “Mom never liked my singing. Said it wasn’t pretty enough. I disagree; I learned everything I know listening to the lions roar, the elephants stampede, and the rhinoceroses butt heads. My singing brings out the beast in everyone; perhaps its something people don’t like being reminded of. Well, forget them; the songs of the primal world are many, and I want to find and hear them all.”

Slayer – “I hunt not with brute force, but with the careful, calculated skill of a jungle beast. I don’t need anyone beside me; I hunt along, stalking through the shadows. My prey is many, and I am always on the move: seeking the thrill of the next kill.”

Sorcerer – “My powers manifested when I was young; swarms of fireflies followed my hands around for days like I was conducting a symphony of nature. My family begged me to say; told me that my magic was fantastic, and that one day I could lead them all if I wanted. Well, I don’t know if that’s what I will one day want, but for now the thing I desire most is to learn all I can about my heritage; where did my powers come from, and what am I destined to do with them? These are questions that I will never answer at home, so I must leave and find the answers myself.”

Spiritualist – “Most spirits are intangibles, but sometimes you get that one who’s a guardian angel who never left your side. Except, ‘angel’ might be a bit of a stretch in some cases. Certainly my family didn’t understand when my childhood friend came back. We were as inseparable as the living could be when she was alive, and now that she’s not, well, see for yourself….”
Summoner – “Oh, who’s this? This is my companion. No, I’m not quite sure why she’s with me, but she makes for a pretty wild time. She’s got some cosmic agenda or whatever that she needs done; I’m just along for the ride. I was always a bit of a wanderer; now my friend here gives some direction to that wandering.”

Swashbuckler – “I’ve always yearned for adventurer! A life on the open road without purpose or direction. No, I’m not aimless. I just go wherever seems most interesting. If that’s reckless, well, I manage just fine. My keen wit and rapier haven’t let me down yet, after all!”

Warpriest – “My devotion to my god is boundless. Callistra isn’t particularly popular among my people, however, and from a distance, I can admit that I might have brushed a few whiskers while at home. I was always the first to charge into battle against our agitators, and perhaps a little too gleeful to spill their bleed. Our people aren’t the grudge-bearing type, but Callistra knows the value of anger and resentment well-placed. I left to find others like me, and to give direction to that resentment.”

Witch – “The jungle hides many secrets, and the secrets of my power are just one of many. Vivo here came to me when I was very young, promising to teach me secrets beyond my wildest dreams. I was curious then, and he did not disappoint. I learned my first cantrips from him in minutes, and was enchanted with how magic felt as it coursed through my body. He offered to teach me more, if only I would leave home at the direction of his, now our, benefactor. I have never regretted my decision then for a single moment.”

Wizard – “I have spent many years studying my art, many of them surrounded by friends and family. But there is only so much you can learn from a book. Even in Garundi, we know of the great arcane places of learning: Magaambyan, Ledpidstalt, Absalom, and many others. I wanted to see all of those places, sip from the cup of their knowledge, and perhaps learn a new incantation or two along the way. Knowledge is out there, and its pursuit, both physically and mentally, is its own reward.”

And that’s over 30 different character hooks for a catfolk character! While I don’t think that all of my brainstorming as changed my opinion on catfolk yet, I think I’m certainly warming up to them. What do you think? What are your thoughts on the catfolk race; would you play one? Why or why not? If you have catfolk in your homegame, what have you added to make them cool and awesome? And since this is a new type of segment, what sort of topics would you like to see me cover on Canon-Not-Canon? Specific races, regions, or even details for specific races or regions are all things I’m looking for feedback on. Leave your answers below, and I’ll see you back here on Friday with another installment of Iconic Design! Take care.

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.

Alex Augunas

Alexander "Alex" Augunas is an author and behavioral health worker living outside of Philadelphia in the United States. He has contributed to gaming products published by Paizo, Inc, Kobold Press, Legendary Games, Raging Swan Press, Rogue Genius Games, and Steve Jackson Games, as well as the owner and publisher of Everybody Games (formerly Everyman Gaming). At the Know Direction Network, he is the author of Guidance and a co-host on Know Direction: Beyond. You can see Alex's exploits at, or support him personally on Patreon at

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  1. Carl Cramér

    Nice little capsule article. Noticed the lack of concrete appearance too, hadn’t seen the Race Guide notions about variable looks. The class ideas do bring flair and a sense of identity. The catfolk of Golarion are jungle-dwellers, mine are more civilized and often live among humans in metropolitan areas, but the spirit of freedom is much the same, making most of your acrchetypes work IMC.

    For additional races, the oriental ones are the least described, the Nagai and Samsarans most of all.

  2. Ketanest

    Alex this is just awesome!
    IMO one of the best articles you have written in the last couple of months.
    I’ve never played a catfolk before – my tables just tend to ignore non-core-races – but now I would love to!
    There are 35 Races in the ARG left, so feel free to cover them 😀

    Thanks for the article and greetings from Germany