Building Monsters

Monday, May 14, 2018

We've talked in depth about many of the systematic changes and PC options in the blogs so far, but what about monsters? From animated objects to zombies, from the lowliest kobold to the mighty jabberwock, the Pathfinder Playtest Bestiary includes over 250 different monsters and other adversaries built specifically for the playtest. But what makes these monsters tick? We've worked to bring you many of your favorite Pathfinder monsters with their familiar feel and niche in the world, but with updated mechanics to make your encounters even more memorable!

Signature Abilities

One of the monster innovations I—a computer science student at the time—appreciated most in Pathfinder First Edition was the idea of the Universal Monster Rule. It follows one of the most important principles of programming: modularity, which is to say, don't reinvent the wheel. One side effect of Universal Monster Rules having been a new concept in Pathfinder First Edition, however, is that many less fantastic creatures, especially animals, had a similar suite of Universal Monster Rules. For example, owlbears are iconic and memorable creatures, but as far as their statistics, if you look at the CR 4 owlbear and the CR 4 tiger side by side, the owlbear doesn't really have anything different to use during the encounter that the tiger doesn't.

Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

In the playtest version, those two monsters have some significantly different abilities. The tiger still has grab, allowing it to grapple a creature it hits with its jaws or claw attack, and the pounce action, allowing it to Stride and then Strike. Based on its real-world fighting style, it now also has wrestle, allowing it to claw a creature it's grabbed and knock it prone, and sneak attack, granting it extra damage against flat-footed creatures (typically ambushed via Stealth or those prone from its wrestle). Meanwhile, the owlbear also still has grab, but once it has you grabbed, it can gnaw on you, hoping to disembowel you so it can devour your guts and later regurgitate them to feed its young—and potentially making you sick from the disgusting sight. It can also unleash a blood-curdling screech as it advances into the fight to frighten you.

In general, giving interesting new abilities to real-world animals like the tiger allowed us to do some fun research into the animals' habits and design from there. Animals that hunt in packs sometimes have abilities to deal extra damage in groups, ambush predators use sneak attack and various sneaky tactics, and so on.

Dynamic Defenses

In Pathfinder First Edition, damage reduction (DR) and energy resistance both reduce damage by a set amount, the rarer vulnerability multiplies damage by 1.5, and immunity flat-out prevents certain abilities from functioning. Taken as a whole, monster defenses generally penalize you for using the wrong thing; you can deal your normal damage only by correctly bypassing DR, resistance, and immunities, and monsters rarely have a vulnerability. But in stories, we often imagine fey as being burned by cold iron or werewolves being poisoned by silver, and the reality of DR is that they just take the same damage from those as they do from cold, electricity, or fire. To fit those stories and to vary things up, we've combined DR and energy resistance into resistance, which reduces damage by a set amount, and we've changed vulnerability into a more common element called weakness, which increases damage by a set amount.

Two great examples of how this can dramatically change the feel of monsters are skeletons and zombies. A level 0 skeleton has 14 AC, 6 HP, and since it's made of bone, resistance 5 to slashing and piercing damage. A level 0 zombie, on the other hand, has 11 AC, 20 HP, and weakness 5 to slashing damage. The zombie takes 5 extra damage every time it's hit by a slashing weapon—that's an extremely high weakness! This means the fights feel very different, even though the creatures both take about the same number of swings to bring down. You can test this out for yourself in Pathfinder First Edition right now: consider giving zombies some extra HP and changing their DR into a weakness instead and see how the feel of the fight shifts!

Sweet Suites

Some monsters in Pathfinder First Edition have a large suite of abilities (typically from long lists of spell-like abilities), which vary between key iconic abilities, story abilities that influence what the monster can do in the narrative, and other abilities that are niche, redundant, or sometimes much weaker than their other attacks. For instance, it's pretty unlikely a nalfeshnee's call lightning is a good idea for a CR 14 monster to use in combat, and it doesn't have much of a noncombat application, either. In Pathfinder Second Edition, we tried to keep a monster's iconic abilities and story abilities while removing redundant or niche abilities, and then adding something new that fits the monster's ecology. For instance, barbed devils don't have the equivalent of order's wrath or unholy blight, but they have a special power called Warden of Erebus that lets them create extremely versatile glyphs of warding, cementing their role as, well, wardens of Erebus. For all such monsters, the goal is to make the monster's suite of abilities much easier to use and more memorable without oversimplifying the monsters, following our overall goal of adding as much depth to the game as possible while minimizing the cost in complexity.

I Have Multiattack

To close off, many people have been wondering how in the world we handle creatures with many heads, like the hydra, or arms, like the marilith or hekatonkheires, in the 3-action system. Such creatures have unique abilities to use their attacks in tandem in different ways. For instance, a marilith has three options for her six blades. She can make a focused assault on one enemy, which can deal a massive amount of damage on a hit, and deals damage for a single longsword even on a failure (but not a critical failure). Alternatively, she can spin about like a whirlwind of blades, attacking up to six different creatures with her swords. Finally, she can just attack twice and use the other blades to parry, giving her a killer AC for 1 round.

That's it for monsters for today; tune in on Friday as Logan goes through an example monster in detail and shows how we made the statblock easier to reference!

Mark Seifter
Designer

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4 people marked this as a favorite.

Honestly, I really miss the old scraggly trolls. The cliche fairy tale "lumpy, warty, bulbous-nosed a!&+&&%s" look we saw in Wormy was a lot of fun.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Class Deck, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Add me to the list of people who are concerned about art sketch on this post.


Cuàn wrote:
What exactly do you mean then? The former means a monster takes 5 more damage from slashing attacks while the latter means it takes 5 less damage from slashing attacks.

Both mean the creature takes 5 more damage from slashing.

The first has double HP to compensate for the weakness, rendering all attacks except slashing less effective. This includes energy based attacks, force damage, and untyped damage, which would all bypass DR 5/slashing in PF1

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Kobold Cleaver wrote:

Hoooo boy this is bad. This is "orcs wearing warpaint and speaking in broken English about eating the pinkskins" bad. I don't know why "don't draw races constantly coded as various nonwhite races and cultures like apes" is apparently such a consistently high bar for Paizo to clear, but between this, the charau-ka, and the (admittedly much less egregious) Monkey Goblins, apparently we're still on this.

Like, holy cow, guys. I know we're really, really attached to our "we need sentient, dehumanized races for adventurers to slaughter" tropes and all, but there are a million wonderful directions to take orcs, and this is what we chose? This is a serious error in judgment on the part of Paizo's design team, and I hope it turns out that this is just one isolated sketch—the "plump reptilian troll" of Pathfinder 2.0.

Yeah, I’m with Kobold Cleaver on this one. There are troubling parallels using gorilla coding on orcs. Especially considering how PF1E lore for orcs paints almost the entire ancestry as irredeemable monsters.

I’m jumping off the rails in Giantslayer so my players can Kingdom build in Southern Belkzen and thinking about orc culture and looks has been heavy on my mind.

I hope the team takes a long hard look at what their art and words are saying when it comes to orcs. Because colonial and old fashioned pulp ideas pervading the setting of Golarion in a new edition is going to be a problem. Paizo prices itself on its progressive values in the tabletop industry, and some of that should be reflected in their work. Deconstructing some of the worst old tropes when it comes to “evil” ancestries, rather than reinforcing them and doubling down, and worse echoing old prejudices.

Paizo Employee Customer Service & Community Manager

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I'm passing the feedback on the orc concept art along to our creative team. I would like to remind everyone that it is not okay to belittle, dismiss be aggressive towards or otherwise antagonize folks who may have concerns about connotations of artwork that you do not share.


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Paizo prices itself on its progressive values in the tabletop industry

*raises hand* I think you mean...

...

*lowers hand* actually you're probably good either way

But seriously, Dudemeister sums it up well. I want to see Paizo learning from past mistakes, and this isn't an encouraging sign.


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I love these Orcs, hope they stay this way.

Dark Archive

I think this blog post has made more excited about PF2 than anything else we've seen so far! It looks to me like the design team has incorporated the best parts of 4E monster/NPC design guidelines into PF1 rules and hit the ball out of the park! :)

Dark Archive

...er, that orc picture is a sketch, not final art? Why are people so riled up about it?

Scarab Sages

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To my eye, these orcs look decidedly like gorillas rather than any human cultures, «primitive» or not, so they do not register as racist for me, but then I probably don't make a good canary for such things.

I rather liked the knuckle-blades and the locomotion as a fresh perspective on orcs.


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Catharsis wrote:

To my eye, these orcs look decidedly like gorillas rather than any human cultures, «primitive» or not, so they do not register as racist for me, but then I probably don't make a good canary for such things.

I rather liked the knuckle-blades and the locomotion as a fresh perspective on orcs.

Yeah I thought that was actually a cool look with the knuckle blades. That and I wonder "Do they need Mounts if they can easily keep up and or have the mass/force to basically count as a Calvary charge?"

But like you, also not a good 'canary' for this. I can see it maybe causing problems but I doubt all Orcs will be like this anyway.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I find it rather strange to change the lore on orc physiology between editions, given that we have no "world changing event" like the Forgotten Realms had, i.e. the Time of Troubles and the Spellplague. And, if the change is implemented, that has further implications for half-orcs as well.


I do somewhat wonder what the proposed solution is, though, and how far this extends. Why isn't this concern regarding racist caricatures applicable to gnolls, for example, or other monstrous humanoid taxes? (If it is, please correct me.)


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Awahoon wrote:

Can I ask you a normal question? And I hope Sara Marie doesn't delete this, as it has no harsh words in it and I'm really curious about your answer.

What do you think about Golems in Golarion? Or the Djinni? What is your honest opinion about those creatures in Pathfinder? I'm really, really curious. As they were also a part of old Golarion, do you want them to show up in Bestiary 1 (2nd edition) or do you think they are rude to use in this age?

I think that D&D has historically borrowed from a lot of different mythologies and religions, and some usages are much iffier than others. I think that D&D's general handling of Hindu, Zoroastrian and Islamic mythologies probably has plenty of areas to grimace at (Ravenloft's infamous use of Kali as a Chaotic Evil goddess is probably the ultimate example), but just taking monsters from other mythologies and traditions doesn't have to be bad.

To translate this rather sharp topic to an edgeless blade, there's a big difference between including leprechauns as a fey creature and including a this as a monstrous race. One presents a creature from Irish mythology—the other presents the Irish themselves.

It's the difference between including a winter fey called a "wendigo" and featuring a race of CE gorilla-orcs who live in a tribal structure, are frequently referred to as "brutes" and "savages", wear war paint and tribal masks, and incorporate witch doctors as a major element of their religious tradition. One is appropriation*. The other is racial coding.

*Which, remember, is a neutral act on its own—it might be good appropriation or bad appropriation, but that's not the point here.

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Chemlak wrote:

Regarding art (I love the rules bits, that’s awesome):

I have... concerns regarding the message that comes from portraying orcs as (my words based on the art) apelike brutish tribal primitives. It runs some risks of paralleling some less-than-fair (he says very euphemistically) historical (and in some cases current) opinions of real-world human cultures.

TL;DR That pic skirts pretty close to racist. Please take care.

A Very Good Point. On the same note, staff people, maybe give a look from this perspective to other designs as well. Just in case. Easier to fix now than later!


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I really wonder how you guys view the gorilla tribe in Black Panther.

Silver Crusade

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Thanks, Kobold Cleaver et Al who are handling this convo. You're doing a great job and I appreciate you raising the concern.

Liberty's Edge

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Personally, I'd find it very interesting if the new less human Orc look was accompanied by, say, Orcs no longer having an Int penalty (presumably, their penalty would be Cha in that case) and a slightly higher emphasis on the Good and Neutral Orcs that exist (going into the non-Evil Orcs in the Mwangi Expanse, for example). Not dropping the Rovagug Worshiping awfulness of Orcs in Belkzen, but noting that as mainly a feature of Belkzen and its surroundings.

The juxtaposition could be cool.

I agree that there could be some unfortunate implications if we get Int penalty Orcs with a heavy emphasis on CE who look like this, though.

magnuskn wrote:
I find it rather strange to change the lore on orc physiology between editions, given that we have no "world changing event" like the Forgotten Realms had, i.e. the Time of Troubles and the Spellplague. And, if the change is implemented, that has further implications for half-orcs as well.

Well, all that's actually changing is what they look like in-universe. That makes some old art obsolete but not any text. Nothing needs to have changed in-universe at all.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'd rather see orcs being more porcine and ape-like myself, and that approach would probably be uh...less problematic.

On ape-like monsters in general I have no problems. They are one of the most common archetypes in world folklore, including in Africa.


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Cyouni wrote:
I do somewhat wonder what the proposed solution is, though, and how far this extends. Why isn't this concern regarding racist caricatures applicable to gnolls, for example, or other monstrous humanoid taxes? (If it is, please correct me.)

For one thing, most monstrous races are a little questionable. We've already mentioned goblins, but to name a few others:

- Kobolds live in tribes, despite being arguably one of the most organized and industrious evil races around. They have shamans, use "primitive" tools and traps like spears and snares, and are often depicted wearing nose rings or feathers.

- Lizardfolk, while not evil, are generally used to reflect "hostile natives facing encroaching colonists". They are often depicted as cannibals, worship gods clearly coded to resemble American gods both in their names and their stories, have been stated in several versions to deliberately resent technology and intelligence, have shamans and chieftains, and frequently highlight the noble savage/evil cannibal dichotomy pulp writers used to love so much.

I think gnolls are a bit more complicated, though—yes, they often have a tribal structure, but they're also explicitly based on the hyena itself, and have always been thus rooted. They are a tribal matriarchy, because, well, hyenas hunt in matriarchal packs. A lot of Pathfinder's gnoll stuff is arguably influenced by the Bouda, a mythological creature which was in turn rooted in antisemitism, and there is an interesting conversation to be had there—and also one that goes waaaay off-topic.

There is consistent coding throughout all monstrous races, barring a couple like drow and duergar (we can talk about what tropes those cuties represent some other time). But it's more egregious with some than others.

I haven't seen Black Panther, but it is a little bit transparent how virtually all of the serious responses so far have been variations of, "What about _____?"

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magnuskn wrote:
I really wonder how you guys view the gorilla tribe in Black Panther.

Off topic, but one difference is that the Gorilla tribe are decidedly not a chaotic evil tribe of murder monster raiders not known for their intelligence. There is a difference in framing and purpose.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
magnuskn wrote:
I find it rather strange to change the lore on orc physiology between editions, given that we have no "world changing event" like the Forgotten Realms had, i.e. the Time of Troubles and the Spellplague. And, if the change is implemented, that has further implications for half-orcs as well.

For monsters they have done that all the time in the existing edition. I recall Gnolls use to be patriarchal, but that got switched in I think the monster codex, since it silly that a race that was devoted to a monstrous demon goddess and based on an animal that in real life have societies run by females would be end up as that way.

Also see all the varying depictions of catfolk and hobgoblins.

Liberty's Edge

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Personally, I don't think there's an issue with humanoids being presented as 'tribal'. 'Tribal' isn't necessarily a bad thing, nor is 'civilized' always a good one.

The only issues come with them always being presented as the same kinds of tribes, and with so many tribal cultures being Evil.

It'd be much nicer if there were more Good tribal humanoids out there. And it would be particularly awesome if there was more cultural variation in what kind of 'tribes' we're talking about. A pseudo-Celtic Humanoid culture or three would be very nice to see, for example.

Scarab Sages

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So is having a brutish, warlike tribal species permanently off the list for bad guys in a fantasy game? Facing down a group of rampaging gorillas sounds pretty scary. Facing down a group of rampaging gorillas that are smarter than animals and have knuckle blades and makeshift armor? Terrifying.

If that's off limits, then what about an evil species with a militaristic culture intent on purging the world of any other sentient life? What about competing religious groups that send armies against each other? Should gnolls be changed to be a culture of shrewd traders instead of feral slavers?

Speaking to the original opinions on savage orcrillas, the Mwangi tribes are much closer parallels to real life cultures, and they have things like the Magaambyan arcanists as bastions of good and knowledge showing a different side to tribal cultures.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:

Personally, I'd find it very interesting if the new less human Orc look was accompanied by, say, Orcs no longer having an Int penalty (presumably, their penalty would be Cha in that case) and a slightly higher emphasis on the Good and Neutral Orcs that exist (going into the non-Evil Orcs in the Mwangi Expanse, for example). Not dropping the Rovagug Worshiping awfulness of Orcs in Belkzen, but noting that as mainly a feature of Belkzen and its surroundings.

The juxtaposition could be cool.

A friend of mine had this same initial reaction. Apes are smart, after all—if catfolk get to be clever, why shouldn't apefolk be even cleverer? I mean, cats are dumb.

But overall, even if you massively change orcs, there are still going to be gamers declaring, "Me am Wrackbul, of the Skullsmash clan. Me am great warrior!" The coding is pretty baked in. I have an Eberron player who's been doing the exact same thing with his half-orc, despite Eberron orcs being completely different as a race.

Point being, I'm not saying it couldn't work, but it's a dicey prospect either way. Ever since orcs passed from Tolkien's wise, guiding* hand, they've been increasingly nudged into the World of Warcraft/Elder Scrolls**/D&D direction of "savage brutish pagan tribes who run around attacking civilized human women".

*Wisdom and guidance not guaranteed.
**These references deleted at the advice of my counsel.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Rosgakori wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
I really wonder how you guys view the gorilla tribe in Black Panther.
Off topic, but one difference is that the Gorilla tribe are decidedly not a chaotic evil tribe of murder monster raiders not known for their intelligence. There is a difference in framing and purpose.

That's an interesting perspective, thanks. I was struggling a bit with how their portrayal comes off as a negative stereotype of black Africans, which somehow was okay, because it was done by a director who is black. That explanation makes it seem a bit more logical.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:

Personally, I don't think there's an issue with humanoids being presented as 'tribal'. 'Tribal' isn't necessarily a bad thing, nor is 'civilized' always a good one.

The only issues come with them always being presented as the same kinds of tribes, and with so many tribal cultures being Evil.

It'd be much nicer if there were more Good tribal humanoids out there. And it would be particularly awesome if there was more cultural variation in what kind of 'tribes' we're talking about. A pseudo-Celtic Humanoid culture or three would be very nice to see, for example.

Yes, exactly. There's nothing wrong with including tribal cultures, but if only the "monstrous" races are tribal, it's kinda a problem


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Point being, I'm not saying it couldn't work, but it's a dicey prospect either way. Ever since orcs passed from Tolkien's wise, guiding* hand, they've been increasingly nudged into the World of Warcraft/Elder Scrolls/D&D direction of "savage brutish pagan tribes who run around attacking civilized human women".

I, uh, ah... you obviously have no idea what you are talking about in regards to World of Warcraft. Like, zero point zero. Or negative numbers.


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Raisse wrote:
So is having a brutish, warlike tribal species permanently off the list for bad guys in a fantasy game?

Well, as a start, maybe don't give them shamans and witch doctors and warpaint and a prominent "superpredator" narrative? I seem to recall there being little complaint when

Quote:
If that's off limits, then what about an evil species with a militaristic culture intent on purging the world of any other sentient life?

It is not cool to subtweet Chelaxians like this.

In seriousness, why would this be a problem? I mean, unless you're coding them as, like, Mongolian or something.

J.R.R. Tolkien (on orcs) wrote:
...they are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes; in fact degraded and repulsive versions of (to Europeans) the least lovely Mongol-types

But otherwise, it's not an issue. This is about racial coding. You're taking things off-topic by acting like we're against all "evil" races.

Raisse wrote:
Speaking to the original opinions on savage orcrillas, the Mwangi tribes are much closer parallels to real life cultures, and they have things like the Magaambyan arcanists as bastions of good and knowledge showing a different side to tribal cultures.

Even if we concede that the Mwangi tribes are handled well—and let's just say there's a reason Paizo has said it's going to basically throw out all existing lore on the Bekyar—this wouldn't erase the problems of racial coding. Putting good representation next to an offensive and dangerous caricature doesn't erase the caricature.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:

Personally, I don't think there's an issue with humanoids being presented as 'tribal'. 'Tribal' isn't necessarily a bad thing, nor is 'civilized' always a good one.

The only issues come with them always being presented as the same kinds of tribes, and with so many tribal cultures being Evil.

It'd be much nicer if there were more Good tribal humanoids out there. And it would be particularly awesome if there was more cultural variation in what kind of 'tribes' we're talking about. A pseudo-Celtic Humanoid culture or three would be very nice to see, for example.

Yes, exactly. There's nothing wrong with including tribal cultures, but if only the "monstrous" races are tribal, it's kinda a problem

Mammoth Lords?

Also as my favorite to bring up for these kinds of things; Sahagin should also get the same treatment but everyone just skips over them. Do we just hate water adventures that much(Devs hey, better water rules for PF2?)

Though hmm question, what do we do about a race that is kinda largely MADE to be evil. And I don't mean just by the writers but in universe too. Example; Deep ones.


magnuskn wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Point being, I'm not saying it couldn't work, but it's a dicey prospect either way. Ever since orcs passed from Tolkien's wise, guiding* hand, they've been increasingly nudged into the World of Warcraft/Elder Scrolls/D&D direction of "savage brutish pagan tribes who run around attacking civilized human women".
I, uh, ah... you obviously have no idea what you are talking about in regards to World of Warcraft. Like, zero point zero. Or negative numbers.

Fair point; I've never played it. I mean, there's clearly still coding (still shamans, still warchiefs and clans) but it may not be negative.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Volkard Abendroth wrote:
Cuàn wrote:
What exactly do you mean then? The former means a monster takes 5 more damage from slashing attacks while the latter means it takes 5 less damage from slashing attacks.

Both mean the creature takes 5 more damage from slashing.

The first has double HP to compensate for the weakness, rendering all attacks except slashing less effective. This includes energy based attacks, force damage, and untyped damage, which would all bypass DR 5/slashing in PF1

Fair point regarding the zombie.

We will have to see how it all shakes out. With magic missile, at first level, a three action magic missile might come out ahead.

I personally think 5 may be a little much, but we will see how it plays out.


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magnuskn wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Point being, I'm not saying it couldn't work, but it's a dicey prospect either way. Ever since orcs passed from Tolkien's wise, guiding* hand, they've been increasingly nudged into the World of Warcraft/Elder Scrolls/D&D direction of "savage brutish pagan tribes who run around attacking civilized human women".
I, uh, ah... you obviously have no idea what you are talking about in regards to World of Warcraft. Like, zero point zero. Or negative numbers.

Or the Elder Scrolls for that matter. I mean, "orcs" there are actually elves (All -mer races are elves there and orcs are Orsimer) and everyone there's a pagan due to the wonky cosmology. And while they are stereotyped by most people as more savage, it's stated several times to be just that, a stereotype. Them going after human women isn't suggested anywhere at all, at least since Morrowind and beyond.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Point being, I'm not saying it couldn't work, but it's a dicey prospect either way. Ever since orcs passed from Tolkien's wise, guiding* hand, they've been increasingly nudged into the World of Warcraft/Elder Scrolls/D&D direction of "savage brutish pagan tribes who run around attacking civilized human women".
I, uh, ah... you obviously have no idea what you are talking about in regards to World of Warcraft. Like, zero point zero. Or negative numbers.
Fair point; I've never played it. I mean, there's clearly still coding (still shamans, still warchiefs and clans) but it may not be negative.

I think Tauren might be closer to what you're talking about though.


Both tauren and orcs are actually neutral (some are evil, some are good) in Warcraft.

I really hope we don't see that in Pathfinder however, I'd don't really care about the humanoid races though, but Minotaurs shouldn't be a race, they should be monsters of evil.

Also, Gnolls aren't based on the Bouda, Bouda are shapeshifters, not just hyena-men.


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MerlinCross wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:

Personally, I don't think there's an issue with humanoids being presented as 'tribal'. 'Tribal' isn't necessarily a bad thing, nor is 'civilized' always a good one.

The only issues come with them always being presented as the same kinds of tribes, and with so many tribal cultures being Evil.

It'd be much nicer if there were more Good tribal humanoids out there. And it would be particularly awesome if there was more cultural variation in what kind of 'tribes' we're talking about. A pseudo-Celtic Humanoid culture or three would be very nice to see, for example.

Yes, exactly. There's nothing wrong with including tribal cultures, but if only the "monstrous" races are tribal, it's kinda a problem
Mammoth Lords?

I mean, that's a nation, not a fantasy race, but this is true. The Kellids are referred to as "savage", and Paizo's artists can't seem to decide whether or not they're white. But they are human. As with the Mwangi tribes, invoking them isn't terribly relevant here.

Quote:
Also as my favorite to bring up for these kinds of things;

Yes, your favorite "whataboutism". Can we just be honest that that's what you're doing here?

Quote:
Sahagin should also get the same treatment.

Once again, yes, coding is present in most monstrous races.

Quote:
Though hmm question, what do we do about a race that is kinda largely MADE to be evil. And I don't mean just by the writers but in universe too. Example; Deep ones.

Just try not to code them as being some nonwhite culture, I would think. With Deep Ones in particular, try very, very hard to avoid playing into what Lovecraft was talking about when he wrote them.

Lovecraft is a great example of how to take some decent fantasy ideas and turn them into the most racist horror show imaginable.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Fair point; I've never played it. I mean, there's clearly still coding (still shamans, still warchiefs and clans) but it may not be negative.

Wanna know who else got shamans in WoW? Draenei, who are space aliens who fly in crystal space ships. Also, dwarves and goblins, two of the most technologically advanced races of the setting. And many other of the playable and non-playable races.

Orcs are basically the dominant culture on the Horde side, as well as one of the most technologically advanced races. If it comes to giant war machines, it's either of goblin or orc make, as far as the Horde goes.

Yep, they got "warchiefs", but the Alliance got "high kings". "Clans" could just as well be translated into "sub-cultures" with the orcs.

Scarab Sages

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Maybe I'm just a bit confused.

A humanoid species that lives in a tribal culture with warpaint and shamans and witch doctors and is mechanically less intelligent but stronger than humans, that generally (but not always) is evil and often worship demon lords or other CE entities is ok.

But a humanoid species that lives in a tribal culture with warpaint and shamans and witch doctors and is mechanically less intelligent but stronger than humans, that generally (but not always) is evil and often worship demon lords or other CE entities and has a skeletal and muscular system closer to gorillas than humans is off limits.

Why is making a nonhuman monstrous race more monstrous a problem?


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MerlinCross wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Point being, I'm not saying it couldn't work, but it's a dicey prospect either way. Ever since orcs passed from Tolkien's wise, guiding* hand, they've been increasingly nudged into the World of Warcraft/Elder Scrolls/D&D direction of "savage brutish pagan tribes who run around attacking civilized human women".
I, uh, ah... you obviously have no idea what you are talking about in regards to World of Warcraft. Like, zero point zero. Or negative numbers.
Fair point; I've never played it. I mean, there's clearly still coding (still shamans, still warchiefs and clans) but it may not be negative.
I think Tauren might be closer to what you're talking about though.

Perhaps, but Tauren do not exist in Pathfinder, and this isn't the "let's list all known examples of negative racial coding" thread.

Even though a lot of people arguing with us seem to think it is.

Awahoon wrote:
Also, Gnolls aren't based on the Bouda, Bouda are shapeshifters, not just hyena-men.

Bouda have historically been very closely connected to hyenas in particular, and Paizo knows this.


At least to me (non-WoW) knowledge, Warcraft Orcs are still divided into clans and the warchief is still their overall leader even if in the case of dudes like Thrall, it's more or less an honorary title and not indicative of his overall goals (dude's goal in WC3 anyway was to get his people, settle a new land, and just be left well enough alone, fighting was either in self-defense or because one of his subordinate chiefs was being an idiot. Or /demons). Noble Savage sums up the general identity well enough even if these days they're packing large and prosperous cities with adequate enough tech.


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Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Yes, your favorite "whataboutism". Can we just be honest that that's what you're doing here?

Can this incredible stupid word be retired already, please? "Whataboutism" is an argument used by people who hate having to deal with context which opposes their point of view.


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Raisse wrote:

Maybe I'm just a bit confused.

A humanoid species that lives in a tribal culture with warpaint and shamans and witch doctors and is mechanically less intelligent but stronger than humans, that generally (but not always) is evil and often worship demon lords or other CE entities is ok.

But a humanoid species that lives in a tribal culture with warpaint and shamans and witch doctors and is mechanically less intelligent but stronger than humans, that generally (but not always) is evil and often worship demon lords or other CE entities and has a skeletal and muscular system closer to gorillas than humans is off limits.

They both suck. One is worse. As we've repeatedly said, we would honestly like Paizo to move away from the bulk of what you listed there.

I appreciate this summary of the problems, though. People are very excited to point out, "See, the grippli exist, there's no racism in D&D!" but it's really very transparently a topic change.

magnskn wrote:
Can this incredible stupid word be retired already, please? "Whataboutism" is an argument used by people who hate having to deal with context which opposes their point of view.

In this case, it's not useful context—99% of this conversation can be summarized as:

"Racially-coded orcs being drawn like gorillas is racist."
"Well, if orcs are racially coded, aren't gnolls, too?"
"Yes."
"Oh, yeah? Are kobolds racially coded?"
"Yes."
"Are goblins racially coded?"
"Yes. Most monster races are throughout fantasy, even in, like, Elder Scrolls or WoW."
"[cue ten pages of arguing about proper Elder Scrolls mythos]"

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

So to the idea of taking warlike evil ancestry off the table, I’m not even suggesting that. I’m saying if you’re going to bring orcs to the table you need to consider carefully the coding you’re using to present this.

Long Digression on Pathfinder Orc Lore:

It’s funny, I’m going off the rails for Giantslayer and my players are building a nascent kingdom in the Conquered Lands in the South of Belkzen. The half-orc Fighter/Wizard will be ruler after he defeated General Karrguk in single combat. So I’ve had to think hard about orcs.

So I looked at Orc history:
Orcs were #driven to the surface by Dwarves.
Used as fodder for at least two tyrants (Tar Baphon and Kazavon)
They are surrounded by enemies on all sides who would like the orc held lands back.
Their pantheon are gods of simple survival concepts.

I didn’t want to completely negate the brutality of their history, but also didn’t want to completely negate the option of redemption.
So the first thing I told my PCs: Everything you’ve read about orcs has been written by humans. There is a significant bias.

While Orcish culture tends towards Chaotic and Evil it’s partially because every time their civilization would make any great change or advance they undergo some cataclysm. First the dwarves, then Tar Baphon, then Kazavon. It’s like they can never recover from their apocalypses.

While Orcs often raid their borders for resources, unless united by a tyrant of some kind they rarely seek to conquer. Their culture has never seen agriculture as a viable option since their origins are as Darklands raiders. They need to raid to provide resources for their kids.

Then there’s their deities. Their deities require terrible things in order to be appeased. So one of two things needs to happen:
Orcs need to be encouraged to worship other deities (We see a bit of this with Gorum and Sarenrae)
Or the Orc deities need to change with the times.

I suspect Varg the Iron Warrior (Orc god of complex warfare) is actually an aspect of Gorum. Or rather Gorum is an aspect of Varg who realised he could get more worshippers by selling himself as a conflict deity to other ancestries. Clever one that Varg.

I think the Dark Mother is another deity that could make the jump. She’s oppressed by the misogynistic orc deities and might realise that her power could increase exponentially if Shen became a more universal deity of expectant and warrior mothers.

Essentially the orcs are victims, but their toxic masculine culture can’t let them address their trauma. Until they can address that as a people they can’t move forward. It’s difficult though since you’re dealing with a lot of orcs who’s greatest ambition is to be a petty warlord of a raider tribe. And every time they are united as a people it’s nearly always as pawns, it has spelled a regression for their entire culture in the immediate aftermath.

Until orcs as a culture can admit their weaknesses, they’ll never be able to join the greater world as a true power.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Point being, I'm not saying it couldn't work, but it's a dicey prospect either way. Ever since orcs passed from Tolkien's wise, guiding* hand, they've been increasingly nudged into the World of Warcraft/Elder Scrolls/D&D direction of "savage brutish pagan tribes who run around attacking civilized human women".
I, uh, ah... you obviously have no idea what you are talking about in regards to World of Warcraft. Like, zero point zero. Or negative numbers.
Fair point; I've never played it. I mean, there's clearly still coding (still shamans, still warchiefs and clans) but it may not be negative.
I think Tauren might be closer to what you're talking about though.

Perhaps, but Tauren do not exist in Pathfinder, and this isn't the "let's list all known examples of negative racial coding" thread.

Even though a lot of people arguing with us seem to think it is.

While true and I'm dropping it with this post, I mean Tauren might be the WoW race that was closer to what you were saying earlier when you reached for the WoW orcs.


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Nah, that was just me talking about games I ain't never played, and I'll own that. I'll stick to what I know: Things I don't like about tabletop RPGs. ;)


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Well if some people get their way, not many races remain standing it seems.
That will be a very strange game. I'm curious about what Pathfinder will come up with in that case.

But if there are no more Wendigo, Golems, Orcs, Leprechaun, Djinn, and Akhluts, I'm not gonna like it one bit. I love those monsters, and I'm sure nobody sleeps less if such creatures get used in fantasy settings.

Scarab Sages

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I can understand people taking offense if the only tribal culture with warpaint and shamans and witch doctors were always CE orcs. That paints that entire culture as evil.

My point is that you should be allowed to have that burly, evil orc package, it just shouldn't be the only representation of that culture type. Otherwise, why shouldn't people get offended when any other culture that they identify with is painted in an evil light?

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