Pathfinder 2 Elves & Dwarves; Golarion In Core Rules, Playtest Process, & Ancestry Terminology

Today's Pathfinder 2nd Edition news update is a mixed bag covering Golarion's "infusion" (or "dusting") in the core rules, how the playtest process works, and the reasoning by the new Ancestry terminology. But, most importantly, we get our first introduction to the new elves and dwarves from the upcoming edition!


20180406-ElfDwarf_360.jpeg

Elf and dwarf by Wayne Reynolds


  • Elves & Dwarves! Paizo's latest blog update introduces the new versions of these two core races.
    • Dwarves get Con, Wis, and a flexible ability boost, and a Cha flaw.
    • Dwarves get 10 racial hit points, 20' speed, ignore armor penalties to speed, and see in the dark.
    • Dwarves feats include Weapon Familiarity, Ancestral Hatred, and Hardy (this one is called a "heritage" feat with can only be taken at first level).
    • Elves get Dex, Int, and a flexible ability boosts, and a Con flaw.
    • Elves get 6 racial hit points, see in dim light, move at 30'.
    • Elven feats include Keen Hearing, Ancestral Longevity, and Nimble.
  • How much Golarion will there be in the playtest book? "Book of the Damned and Adventurer's Guide are not great examples, as they contain WAAAAAAAAY MOOOOOORE Golarion lore than the Playtest Rulebook. We'll probably do a blog about this in the coming weeks, but I sort of regret the use of the word "infused" in the marketing speak for the playtest, as it's probably more appropriate to say "Golarion dusted." The upshot is that the Playtest Rulebook will reflect Golarion as the "platonic" version of the world in the same way that the AD&D 1e DMG sort of defaulted to Greyhawk. There weren't multi-page treatises on the history of various kingdoms or whatnot, but when you read about Vecna or the "cult of the Ebon Flame" or something in a throw-away reference in a magic item, you could assume they were talking about something you could find in the World of Greyhawk. Likewise, I think it'd be fair to assume that the core deities will get more than a line on a chart to give people something to dig their teeth into, roleplaying-wise. Also we'll be talking about Forlorn elves and the Bleaching in the elf and gnome descriptions, for example, but we won't be going into detail on affairs in Kyonin or explain what's up with why the gnome god Thamir Gixx has the same last name as the Lord Mayor of Absalom. We'll see how it goes, but if this is one of your primary concerns about the playtest rules, I think you should prepare yourself to be relieved." (Mona)
  • Vic Wertz on the playtesting process --
    • On "extreme" versions of rules in the playtest -- "When the designers want to test how far they a system can be pushed, they might put an extreme version in the playtest. But they're not going to put out a version so extreme that they wouldn't actually use it."
    • Playtesting the math -- "We've already said that making the math work better at high levels is one of Jason's key goals for the new edition. We are very aware that it's among the things that needs the most playtesting, and among the things that are most likely to be affected by playtest feedback, and among the things that are most likely to go through iteration during the playtest. That time has been planned for."
    • On playtester input -- "As has been said above, playtesting is not a democracy. Ultimately, your feedback is considered by our staff, who will determine what the outcome is. (This is also the answer to the "vocal minority/silent majority" issue.)... However, your feedback—like everyone's—will bear more weight after you've actually seen the game, and it will bear still more when you're actually playing the game during the playtest process. If you choose not to do that, of course, that's fine, but don't be too surprised when we listen more to the people who do."
    • On playtester selection bias -- "If everybody is only testing the parts of the game they like, that would be a problem. However, I have every confidence that there are plenty of people out there who are going to prioritize their efforts on the stuff they expect to dislike. (This is a good thing.)"
    • Mark Seifter -- "A series of questionnaires is definitely one of the tools we're planning to employ!"
  • Mark Seifter on Paizo's varied staff opinions -- "As Owen has mentioned before, during the Starfinder design phase, a key disagreement was resolved via rock/paper/scissors. There is no monolithic "Paizo" opinion. That's something I had thought was true before working here but really isn't (for instance, true story, I had gotten this idea that "all of Paizo" was obsessed with Lovecraft and that it might be a problem for me as a new employee that while I liked many of the Lovecraftian monsters, I found his stories disturbingly racist and didn't enjoy reading them, only to find out that it's a very few people at the office who are really deeply into Lovecraft)."

Vic Wertz weighs in on the Ancestry terminology --

"Look, folks, the terminology change has nothing whatsoever to do with politics. The problem is that the term is at best inaccurate, and at worst, limiting to design.
Let's look at the "Races" chapter from the Inner Sea World Guide:

Inner Sea World Guide:
The most expansive and populous of Golarion’s races are known as the core races—humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings. Half-elves and half-orcs, while technically not quite so common as many of the world’s other races, are also considered part of the core races because of their close ties with humanity.​

Okay, so far, so good, I guess...

Inner Sea World Guide:
On Golarion, humanity is further divided into many different, unique ethnicities. While each human ethnicity is identical so far as rules are concerned, they have wildly different appearances, histories, and customs.Wait a minute—human ethnicities have wildly different appearances, histories, and customs, but their rules are identical? That limitation is imposed by the definition of the term "race," but mechanically speaking, it's pretty arbitrary, isn't it? In the Bestiary, dogs have different rules based solely on whether you can ride them or not.​

And let's think about that passage another second—only humanity is divided into many different, unique ethnicities? That's arbitrary and limiting too.

The chapter—remember, it's entitled "Races"—then goes on to detail Azlanti, Chelaxians, Garundi, Keleshites, Kellids, Mwangi, Shoanti, Taldans, Tians, Ulfen, Varisians, Vudrani, Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Halflings, and Half-Elves.

At this point, I want to sing "one of these things is not like the others," but really, from one point of view, 12 of these things are not like the others... and from another point of view, none of these things are like the others.

Now let's go back to the Core Rulebook, and its "Races" chapter. We get nice little writeups on Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Halflings, Half-Elves, and Humans, detailing their physical description, society, relations, alignment and religion, adventurers, and names. Or do we? Let's look a bit closer at the writeup for humans.

Physical Description: The physical characteristics of humans are as varied as the world's climes...

Society: Human society comprises a multitude of governments, attitudes, and lifestyles...

Alignment and Religion: Humanity is perhaps the most heterogeneous of all the common races...

Adventurers: ...Humans hail from myriad regions and backgrounds, and as such can fill any role within an adventuring party.

Names: ...humanity's diversity has resulted in a near-infinite set of names.

Was any of that actually useful? Let's face it: it's largely two columns of "we had to put text here to follow the format." That's a symptom of the format being too restrictive.

Ditching "Race" in favor of "Ancestry" lets us slice-and-dice across, er... racial lines, so we could—for example—easily confer the same mechanical benefit to characters who came from the same place without regard to whether they're human or elf, or we could give different mechanical benefits to Azlanti and Shoanti even though they're both human."



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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Igwilly

First Post
So far so good.
The ancestry thing, I thought about the same way as here; never thought it was about politics, but rather broadening the mechanics. So far, so good.
The thing with Golarion-dusted... In the end, I just want to create my own setting and use it in my tables. PF2 doesn't need to be completely setting-neutral, it just shouldn't make this harder than it needs (like I've seen with a lot of other systems).
 


Ace

Adventurer
Choosing the term ancestor was smart since its free of political baggage, more suitable to mixed species characters and less ambiguous all at once.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Soooo, they got rid of the term "Race" so that they could mechanically differentiate ethnicities and human racial groups? Good luck with that...
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Their reasoning behind the use of ancestry is essentially my core complaint with the term: I'd like to see a diverse selection of humans in the same way we see a diverse selection of elves, dwarves and other critters.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So, I’m way into this. Heritage Feats are a great way to handle subraces, and since they’re making a clear distinction between the physiological, character creation only Heritage Feats and the cultural Ancestry Feats that can be taken at later levels, it will be easy to do the “elf raised by dwarves” thing by simply allowing players to take Heritage Feats from their race and Ancestry Feats from the race they were raised among. I had assumed they would be doing this by way of Backgrounds, but this will be even better, since it means you won’t have the awkward situation of locking in your Background choice if you want a certain race’s features. So you can both be a human raised by elves and have the Scout Background. Brilliant.

It does look like Ancestries might be a little nerfed compared to PF1 races, unfortunately. A lot of the features that used to come with a race at 1st level seem to be getting made into Ancestry Feats, so that’s a bit of a bummer. But worth the tradeoff in my opinion.

I have mixed feelings about base speed being reduced to 25. I get that the new action economy makes it much easier to double-move and opens the possibility of triple move, so making the base speed a touch slower makes some sense. But I do worry that battles will become a bit more static compared to what I’m used to. This is one of those things I can’t form an opinion on until I’ s tried it in actual play.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So, I’m way into this. Heritage Feats are a great way to handle subraces, and since they’re making a clear distinction between the physiological, character creation only Heritage Feats and the cultural Ancestry Feats that can be taken at later levels, it will be easy to do the “elf raised by dwarves” thing by simply allowing players to take Heritage Feats from their race and Ancestry Feats from the race they were raised among. I had assumed they would be doing this by way of Backgrounds, but this will be even better, since it means you won’t have the awkward situation of locking in your Background choice if you want a certain race’s features. So you can both be a human raised by elves and have the Scout Background. Brilliant.

On a side note, while I appreciate the reasoning for the switch to the word Ancestry from the word Race, and was in support of the decision... the above makes me think it would be much cleaner and less ambiguous to call the core set of racial features Ancestry, the character creation Feats Heritage, and the post character creation Feats Culture.

It does look like Ancestries might be a little nerfed compared to PF1 races, unfortunately. A lot of the features that used to come with a race at 1st level seem to be getting made into Ancestry Feats, so that’s a bit of a bummer. But worth the tradeoff in my opinion.

I have mixed feelings about base speed being reduced to 25. I get that the new action economy makes it much easier to double-move and opens the possibility of triple move, so making the base speed a touch slower makes some sense. But I do worry that battles will become a bit more static compared to what I’m used to. This is one of those things I can’t form an opinion on until I’ s tried it in actual play.
 

Shasarak

Banned
Banned
Maybe they could use a mechanic like "Traits" to differentiate Azlanti from Shoanti? Then you could also have an Elf from the same area that also has the same "Traits"
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I... think this is ill considered. So we are going to have a system where humans from certain part of the world are smarter than humans from other parts? (For example).
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I... think this is ill considered. So we are going to have a system where humans from certain part of the world are smarter than humans from other parts? (For example).

I doubt it. But maybe those from arctic regions have some skills and abilities related to that.
 



Koloth

First Post
Paizo did say early on that one of the goals was to clean up the terminology. Guessing this change is part of that effort. Have to see what the final result is to figure out if they just changed words or really did make it easier to understand how the differences between Dwarves and Elves are different from the differences between Mountain folk and Forest folk.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I... think this is ill considered. So we are going to have a system where humans from certain part of the world are smarter than humans from other parts? (For example).
I doubt that this would affect stats since that seems independent of the ancestral feats where the variation lies. It may be more along the lines of "your people grew up where it's hella cold, so here's some cold resistance."
 

DeaconBlues

First Post
I'm totally fine with Ancestry, I think it offers more options... and DM's can of course bring on the Ban-Stick for any racial feats that they don't feel fit into their world. (example: NO DROW!! or any other "tragic outcast from an evil race fighting for a world that hates and spits on him" kinda deal.)

I'm also okay with the Golarion flavor as long as it just remains "flavor" ... I'd prefer it if any Golarion references were easily converted to other worlds without losing the essence of the game. i.e., if you prefer to run your heroes through Greyhawk, or Faerun, or whatever world the Sword of Shannara comes from, I hope the rules don't have so much Golarion in them that conversion becomes overly tricky.
 

Rils

Explorer
What's wrong with sub-races? Using 5e for an example, Elves have common racial abilities for being elves, but then some different cultural abilities depending on whether they are wild elves, high elves, dark elves, etc. Dwarves have certain things that define them as dwarves, but then some variance in hill dwarves, shield dwarves, gray dwarves. etc etc. Why can't humans operate the same way? General human abilities, followed by cultural sub-races - feudal, "eastern", nomad, wild/barbarian (I know that's a class as well, would have to differentiate it), metropolitan, etc.

I dislike the idea of using world-specific terminology for ancestries/sub-races - saying I'm an Azlanti Elf or Shoanti Halfling only has meaning in one setting. The terminology needs to be broader.
 

Kobold Boots

Banned
Banned
I dislike the idea of using world-specific terminology for ancestries/sub-races - saying I'm an Azlanti Elf or Shoanti Halfling only has meaning in one setting. The terminology needs to be broader.


I'll agree with you on principle, but this is the least of our problems as GMs. If one is a aquatic elf or mariner and the other is from the fields, it's pretty easy to look at the source material, and change the name in your campaign guide.

If you're a GM that doesn't put together a campaign guide for your players and you're running homebrew, you should strongly consider it.
 

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