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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pathfinder RPG: Chapter 2: Races

The races chapter presents the seven standard races, which is no surprise.  If you're like me, you've read multiple incarnations of the standard races in various other roleplaying games or related editions ad nausem.  I must admit that I had a set of heavy preconceptions when I turned to read the chapter.  So, the decision to keep the descriptions here succinct was wise, because these preconceptions could have ruined the presentation before it began.  I suspect I wouldn't be the only one tired of reading yet another description of dwarves.  However, as with the first chapter, here's more skillful writing because the chapter manages to do the near-impossible: relay the iconic or traditional information about the races, without a total reinvention or "remaking" (in the hollywood sense).

The races do receive a tweaking, make no mistake.  But they receive tweaking without it being all about Golarion, the default setting for the Pathfinder RPG.  I'm loathe to spoil the surprises, except to say that they're all rather fitting.

This chapter also establishes several important things that aren't readily noticeable right away.  The first thing anyone coming to the chapter is going to notice is the artwork and, more to the point, the fact that a member of each race appears in his or her skivvies.  Yes, that's right.  You're going to see a green half-orc in his fruit of the looms.  I see this is a good idea because it does demonstrate the general physique of each race relative to one another.

I will say that the artwork is both hit and miss for me personally.  The gender of each race isn't represented evenly, so you're going to see one more male than female, rather than both genders.  Also, the only thing that seems to set a gnome apart visually, is shortness and crazy, punk hair, with the halfling coming in a close second on both scores.  Fortunately, the visual information isn't all that critical: we're not sending this information to an alien civilization via a Voyager probe to represent the people of our world, so it's okay.  I can ignore it.

(There is a reasonable explanation for the crazy hair, by the way, so I'm not discounting the explanation in the text.  I'm also incredibly grateful that the races aren't "total skin monkies," one of the things I absolutely abhored about 3E art.)

The next thing one might notice is the racial format.  Though it may not be obvious, or spelled out, this format also does two things: it makes for ease of reference and establishes a clear, concise format in which to document your own races.  So, as with the prior chapter, this one too encourages you to make the Pathfinder RPG your game.  This is, again, why the artwork doesn't bother me all that much.

Now, having said all that, there are two brilliant sparks in this chapter, which I absolutely love and must mention.  The first is that race selection comes before class.  The confusing, wishy-washy idea of trying to select both race and class at the same time, whist calculating the interchangable advantages, is finally gone.  I've always prefered it this way simply because one is a human before becoming a plumber.  I'm pleased to see the idea in print!  Also, the racial traits are a marvel of brevity and sleekness and gone are insipidly useless traits, such as determining depth under ground.

While none of the information presented here is particularly awe inspiring, it's also not hyper annoying "cannon" either.

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