The city was under siege. Undead creatures had swarmed the walls and were attempting to break through. The paladins, led by the elven king Sirus, were the last line of defense. They fought bravely, but it seemed victory would not be possible.
Then, a miracle happened. A group of adventurers arrived just in time to help turn the tide of battle. They fought with such skill and ferocity that the undead were soon defeated. The city was saved.
The adventurers were celebrated as heroes, but there was one who stood out above the rest. She was a half-elf, and she fought with the grace of a dancer and the strength of a lion. She was Sirus’s daughter, Lyrra.
Pathfinder allows players to create characters of many different ancestries and backgrounds. Your ancestry can have a significant impact on your character, shaping your appearance and your abilities.
In this piece, we will cover all the ancestries available in the core rulebook. We’ll explain how each affects your character and what you can expect from roleplaying them.
Then we’ll look at an uncommon ancestry, giving you a taste of what’s possible beyond the basics.
Ancestries of Golarion
The world of Golarion is home to many different nations, cultures, and creatures. When creating your character, it’s up to you to decide what your ancestry is. Do they come from a small village in the middle of nowhere? Are they the product of a union between two different cultures?
There are many possibilities, and each has its advantages and drawbacks. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common ancestries in Pathfinder:
Human: The most common ancestry in Pathfinder, humans, are diverse and adaptable. They have no particular strengths or weaknesses, but their ability to learn new things quickly is unmatched.
Elf: A long-lived race, elves are known for their beauty, grace, and athleticism. They are excellent archers and have keen senses. However, they are also notoriously arrogant and aloof.
Dwarf: Dwarves are hardy and known for their stout bodies and strong constitutions. They’re excellent craftsmen and have a natural affinity for stone and metal. However, they’re also short-tempered and suspicious of outsiders.
Gnome: Gnomes are small, wiry creatures known for their quick wit and boundless curiosity. They’re excellent tinkerers and have a natural affinity for magic. However, they’re also easily distracted and can be thought of as forgetful.
Halfling: Halflings are nimble people, famous for their stealth and agility. They make excellent thieves and are naturally lucky.
Goblin: Goblins are small, green-skinned humanoids. They’re known for their ferocity in battle and their love of mischief.
Not only are there many different ancestors to choose from, but each ancestry also has a variety of heritages that players can use to customize their characters further.
Most heritages reflect a lineage that includes inherited physiological features that may set you apart from your kin. A character’s heritage often reflects the environment where they grew up. Each bestows unique qualities.
When it comes to choosing a heritage, there’s no wrong answer. It’s up to you to decide what kind of character you want to play. Talk to your GM if you need some help choosing your character’s ancestry or heritage.
Every character starts the game with ability boosts and an ability flaw. These ability modifiers are dependent on players’ choice of ancestry.
In Pathfinder, your character’s starting HP is partially determined by your ancestry. Some creatures are tougher than others. A hardy dwarf, for instance, can usually handle a punch better than your average halfling, though this isn’t always the case.
All Pathfinder player characters have access to the common language in addition to their ancestral languages, as stated below.
|Ancestry||Hit Points||Size||Speed||Ability Flaw||Ability Bonus||Ancestral Languages|
|Gnome||8||Small||25 feet||Strength||ConstitutionCharisma||Gnomish, Sylvan|
Humans are the most common ancestry in Pathfinder. This makes them versatile and adaptable, able to learn any language and pick up any skill. They also have no ability flaw.
Players who choose a human ancestry start the game with two free ability boosts. This makes humans the perfect choice for those looking to make a well-rounded character.
It was a human civilization that made the first comeback after the calamity of Earthfall. In the millennia that followed, humans spread across all of Golarion, unraveling the secrets of their world.
Most humans live side-by-side with those of other ancestries, working toward the common good. As such, humans have made allies all across the world, forging deep bonds with those they consider friends.
But not all humans are kind-hearted. Many are downright wicked and corrupt. Some are pirates, some are rogues, and others aspire to become tyrants or worse. Because humans are diverse, you’ll meet humans of all alignments during your journeys.
There are many human ethnic groups in the Inner Sea region. Depending on where your adventures take you, there’s no telling who you might run into.
For instance, if you travel to the Golden Road, you’re likely to cross paths with the famously compassionate Garundi. And if you sail to the island of Jalmeray, you’ll find the swarthy and devout Vudrani.
Human characters don’t have different heritages to choose from. Instead, they often form bonds with those from other ancestries.
Half-elves are a combination of human and elf ancestry. They have longer lifespans than humans but age faster than elves. Half-elves often have difficulty fitting into human or elf society, but their versatility is a strength.
Half-elves have access to both elf and human ancestry feats, so they’re incredibly diverse in their talents. Because half-elves live longer than humans, they are reluctant to form long-lasting bonds with human characters. Half-elves know that having a longer lifespan than humans makes these relationships complicated.
While there are rumors of a half-elf settlement, you won’t find it on any map. Half-elves often choose to live among elves or live alone, avoiding trouble.
Half-orcs are born to a human and an orc or two half-orcs. They appear primarily human but have indicators of their orc ancestry.
Most half-orcs live among orcs, as they are not always welcome in human settlements. This is due to the fact that orcs have a reputation for being dangerous.
While half-orcs make powerful warriors, they are also capable of great compassion. Even so, half-orcs living among humans often find themselves on the outskirts.
Common Human Backgrounds:
- Street urchin
Elves are a long-lived ancestry with keen senses and sharp minds. They start the game with ability boosts to intelligence and dexterity. Elves have an ability flaw in constitution. They also have low-light vision, meaning they can see as well in dim light as humans can in bright light.
One of the unique things about elves is that they do not age. They reach adulthood at around 100 years old and can live to be over 700. This means that elves tend to be wise beyond their years, but it also means that elves generally outlive people from other ancestries.
Still, it’s not uncommon for elves to befriend outsiders, though they rarely do so without reason. Elves who take up adventuring often do so to explore the world or seek out new challenges, using their innate gifts to help their allies.
Elven society has been on the decline for centuries. Many of their cities never fully recovered after the events of Earthfall; many elves left Golarion to return to their home planet, Castrovel.
The elves that remained have adapted to their environment. This fact is reflected in the diversity of elven heritages. Arctic elves from the frozen north have a natural resistance to cold. And cavern elves can see in the dark as well as any dwarf.
Seer elves have an inborn magical gift that allows them to detect magic easily. Whisper elves have incredible hearing. Finally, no one understands how to move through a forest like a woodland elf.
Common Elf Backgrounds:
Gnomes are a small, sprightly ancestry with a love of creativity and magic. They start the game with low-light vision, which means they can see clearly even in dim light. They’re enthusiastic and generally good-natured, but they constantly fear the Bleaching, a condition that afflicts gnomes who don’t actively seek out new experiences and ideas.
The Bleaching causes gnomes to slowly lose their color as they sink ever deeper into depression, eventually passing away.
Gnomes have a natural affinity for magic and can latch onto a source of localized magic. The magic they latch onto is often primal magic. However, accessing and using magic simply isn’t enough to avoid sinking into the Bleaching. Instead, to avoid decolorization, gnomes must stay consistently innovative and involved in the world around them.
Fortunately, gnomes have nearly limitless energy and move, think, and speak quickly. They tend toward strong emotions and have large, expressive eyes. Gnomes reach maturity around 18 years of age. Those who can prevent the Bleaching can theoretically live forever. However, most gnomes only last about 400 years or so before the Bleaching catches up with them.
Gnomes can have any skin color before the Bleaching and often appear child-like to other ancestries due to their excitable personalities and small statures.
Common Gnome Backgrounds:
- Animal whisperer
- Fortune teller
Goblins are small humanoids known for their clever natures, voracious appetites, and love for tall tales. These creatures enjoy following their hearts and believing whatever whims seem enjoyable at the time.
Many people misunderstand goblins, and they sometimes find themselves at odds with others due to preconceptions about those with goblin ancestry. To prove themselves reliable, goblins have to work harder than most, but that doesn’t prevent them from remaining fun-loving and spontaneous.
Goblins are short, scrawny, and nearly hairless. They typically have red eyes and pointed ears, and their teeth are sharp like needles and tend to fall out often. No worries, however! Their teeth constantly regrow, which is good since they are big eaters with fast metabolisms.
Goblins often live in tribes. These small beings reach adulthood around the age of 8 and typically live to be around 50 years old.
As a goblin, you have Darkvision and can see in dim light and darkness as if it were bright light.
Roleplaying a goblin can be a lot of fun. They are known for being enthusiastic, creative, and adventurous, so feel free to play up those aspects of your character. Just be careful not to make them too annoying or one-dimensional.
Also, keep in mind that not all goblins are evil. Many goblins are neutral or good, depending on their upbringing and experiences. However, they’re seldom lawful and often tend toward a chaotic alignment.
Common Goblin Backgrounds:
- Street urchin
Dwarves are known for their stoicism and skill in combat. They hail from the mountains and underground and are often distrustful of outsiders. Dwarves are short and compact, and they usually have long hair. Dwarves of both genders often style their hair with intricate braids that represent specific clans.
They’re tough and generally trustworthy friends who may frustrate their companions with their stubbornness. It can be hard to befriend a dwarf, but once they let you in, they’re fiercely loyal.
Dwarves have a number of abilities that make them well-suited to adventuring. They can see in the dark, though their darkvision is black and white, and some are resistant to poison and disease. Another special thing about dwarves is that every dwarf is given a clan dagger at birth, so dwarves all own a dagger from the get-go.
If you’re playing a dwarf, you should be careful not to sell or trade the weapon you were given by the clan if you want to stay in good standing with other dwarves. They will not take kindly to the loss of the weapon they’ve entrusted to you!
Dwarves are usually strong fighters who perform well in the martial classes and may work as sellswords. But they can also be great druids and clerics.
While some dwarves cleave closely to their clan and become local merchants or artisans in their home cities, others have a lust for adventure and venture far from their local turf eagerly, searching for treasure or new and exciting experiences.
Common Dwarven Backgrounds:
Halflings are nimble, resourceful, and known for their courage in the face of adversity. They enjoy better luck than most and have keen eyesight, giving them a slight advantage when it comes to hunting treasure and discovering secrets.
These small humanoids have an inherent thirst for adventure but also appreciate comfort to a great degree. As such, many halflings struggle to find a balance between creature comforts and perilous but exciting undertakings, like glory-seeking quests, that quench their wanderlust.
Most halflings have thick hair on their feet and walk barefoot. They live all over the Inner Sea region, embedding themselves into other cultures with relative ease. Halflings usually use humor well and aren’t afraid to crack a joke during tense moments, which is useful for de-escalating potentially dangerous encounters!
They typically grow to about 3 feet in height and have varied hair colors and skin tones.
Roleplaying a halfling can be a blast! They’re known for being curious, cheerful, and determined. You get to decide your character’s alignment, whether you’re more daring or reserved, and how your halfling reacts in different situations. So, in the end, your halfling is yours to shape.
That said, the charismatic and inquisitive personalities many halflings display, combined with an abundance of courage, make many halflings wonderful bards, rangers, and rogues. Their helpful dispositions also make them incredibly useful as clerics and monks.
Common Halfling Backgrounds:
- Street urchin
Catfolk have a strong tie to the natural world. These characters, also known as amurruns, are quick and charismatic; their reflexes are top-notch, and just like real cats, they always land on their feet. Able to walk after only a few months, an amurrun typically lives to be 70 years old.
With their lithe and agile physiques, catfolk PCs make excellent rogues and monks. Though they’re rare in the Inner Sea region, those that are present are known to be quite friendly and inquisitive.
Catfolk get along well with other good-aligned races, such as elves and gnomes. And they have a natural curiosity, which often gets them into trouble! However, their curiosity is also what leads them to adventure.
Most Catfolk have short fur, which they take great pride in grooming. The colors of their fur range from black and white to more exotic shades like orange and brown. They have feline features, such as whiskers, a tail, and long ears.
Catfolk are an uncommon ancestry in the Inner Sea region, which makes them interesting to roleplay. You have the opportunity to explore what it’s like to be an outsider in a world that doesn’t always understand you.
A catfolk character may be a lot of fun for a skilled player who wants to showcase their curious nature by asking a lot of questions, solving mysteries, or delving into huge tomes to find answers. They’re also a good option for new players wanting a unique playing experience.
Common Catfolk Backgrounds:
Finding Your Path
Pathfinder offers a variety of ancestries for players to choose from, each with its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. With so many options available, there’s sure to be an ancestry that’s perfect for you.
Once you’ve chosen an ancestry, you’ll be ready to make your character. Then, get ready to embark on a new and exciting adventure! Who knows what treasures or danger await you around every corner. Pathfinder is a game about discovery, after all. So go out and explore the world to your heart’s content. The possibilities are limitless.