CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Breaking the Mold

Choosing to Play a Non-Standard Race

I know over the course of my career as a player I’ve played hundreds of humans, dwarves, elves, and all the common races. Sooner or later, if you’re like me, you want to open up your game by playing non-standard races. Some of these races aren’t so hard to fit into a world; aasimar, tieflings, and genie-kin are born to human parents and grow up in human cities. But what happens when you start wanting to go further afield maybe play a goblin, a kobold, or even an orc? This is where you start having problems.

Some GMs will outright tell you that playing these traditional monstrous races isn’t allowed in their games, and that’s understandable. I am a more flexible GM and I’m willing to work with players to get their concept to work in my games, within reason. But before you go pestering your GM about playing the creatures that generally raid the goodly races, let’s take a look at something you should keep in mind.

Alignment is a big thing, I know people hate it but it’s a game mechanic many still use so let’s talk about it. If you’re going to play a race whose general society is usually evil and you’re not playing an evil game, you’re going to have to reconcile how your gnoll is Chaotic Good. In a previous article (Un)Death in the Family, I talked about how any creature that isn’t from an aligned plane can be of any alignment. The alignment listed under a creature is simply the most common among the race and how their general society is set up. We still need a reason why your character breaks the norm.

Being adopted outside your race by a goodly people is probably one of the easiest ways to get around the alignment difference. Some people feel like they just don’t fit in, and being ostracized or left out by your own people is a good way to go the exact opposite path than your society. Divine intervention, although a bit ham-fisted, can easily explain an alignment change--enlightenment directly at the hands of a deity will do that to you.

Being good isn’t the only hurdle these monstrous races have to overcome. Although the occasional GM will just hand wave this, being a monster means not being easily accepted. An orc trying to walk into a small human town will be hard-pressed to even explain his good behavior before he’s either run out of town or killed on sight. You can cut back on this knee jerk reaction by already knowing one of your more standard party members, who can also vouch for you. That may not always do the job as natural prejudices and racial hatreds can run pretty deep.

If you’re going to play the oddball race you are also going to have to accept that certain things will be harder on you. Once you’ve been accepted in town that doesn’t mean everyone treats you fairly or at all. Being outright shunned by some is well within the roleplay that the GM might execute. Even those who will do business with you may not do so fairly. Jacked up prices and preferential treatment for others may plague your monstrous character wherever he goes.

The last thing to remember is that you still have to make a character for the game you’re playing. If say, you’re playing a game where the initial assault that kicks off the player involvement is goblins, now may not be the time to try and talk your GM into letting you play that goblin alchemist. Sure the game should be open to fun, but you need to work with your GM as much as he should work with you. I know I have thousands of characters that I want to play, and maybe my lizardfolk or grippli would fit this situation instead of the goblin.

You don’t need to worry too much though, at least not on Golarion. There are places where your non-standard race character can feel at home. The city of Kaer Maga is well known to have all types of creatures roaming its streets. Orcs, trolls, naga, and even undead can be found there alongside more common races. The bazaars of Sothis in Osirian are also known to play host to a wide range of monstrous races. The pirates of the Shackles are usually a bit more lenient about racial origin as well.

So don’t fret, it’s perfectly acceptable to want to go far afield with your choice of races. Just remember there is a time and a place for everything so pick your moments. Keep that kobold sorcerer in your back pocket for a game he’ll actually fit in. But when you find it, let loose with his dragon blooded fury.

As a GM do you allow oddball races in your campaigns? As a player have you gotten to play something particularly off the beaten path?

Just as uncommon races expand our options while roleplay I hope too that the CRB expands your horizons. If the content within has help at your gaming table please consider becoming a donor at my Patreon. If you want to check out the ever-growing social media presence of the CRB, you can find me on Facebook, Google+, Tumbr, and Twitter. My inbox is always open.


  1. Very nice article! I've always been a fan of more monstrous races myself, very rarely playing humans, dwarves or elves.

    Part of why I enjoy Pathfinder is the great diversity Golarion offers so that my party and I can feel justified in keeping teammates like the Orc Paladin who hides his face, the wandering lizardfolk who tries to keep quiet and asks teammates to speak for him, things of that nature.

    Just playing these races is fun, but having that deeper roleplaying experience, getting into the headspace of the character and the world makes it much more rewarding.

    1. I really like lizardfolk, I also like the way they've given Gnolls a desert nomad like culture.

  2. Well, of course I have to recommend wemics, aka liontaurs, above all others. Wemics are centaur-like creatures, but with lion parts instead of horse parts. Liontaurs allow you to play with many nifty archetypes: plains savages, wild herders and hunters, and gladiators/slaves are all common wemic tropes, especially for fighters and barbarians. Or you could emphasize the nature/fey link as a druid, ranger, fey bloodline sorcerer or nature oracle. Or you could be inspired by the Quest for Glory game and play a paladin liontaur. Another advantage is that wemics are not inherently evil, and depending on the campaign, may have a reputation as wise nature seers and expert guides, so you do not necessarily have the "orc walks into a human town" problem.

    Do not use the PF race builder to make your liontaur, however; that system charges a huge amount to make a Large PC, assuming you will be bipedal and have reach. A Large quadruped has no natural reach, and centaurs and liontaurs have the "Undersized Weapons" disadvantage to boot. I've fiddled with and collected lots of liontaur rules over the years, but the very best PF-specific rules are in my free PDF ebook you can find at

    1. Wemmics are unique and I remember them from 3.5 but they've just never been my thing.

  3. In the pathfinder game I'm in right now, most of the party is made up of pretty unusual races, all developed using the official Race Builder. It's definitely been interesting so far, even if the GM basically handwaved the whole weirdness aspect for the most part.

    1. I have yet to use homemade races in a game but maybe I should.