Ancestry Representation in the Rulebook


Ancestries & Backgrounds

Grand Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.

The Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook does a poor job representing the ancestral diversity I find in the PCs at my table. Just as in real life, where racial representation in media affects society's perception and acceptance of those races, Paizo could do better by a most ancestries by simply representing them more frequently in their artwork and other media.
[I'm in no way trying to equate RPG ancestries to the plight of RL minorities. I'm simply saying, "don't be surprised if most people play humans when >40% of your core ancestry artwork features humans."]

I went through the Playtest Rulebook and took count of every discernible face shown in the pictures. Here's the ancestral breakdown.

  • Dwarf: 8
  • Elf: 15
  • Gnome: 7
  • Goblin: 18
  • Half Elf: 3
  • Half Orc: 2
  • Halfling: 7
  • Human: 52
  • Not Core*: 20
  • Can't Tell**: 20
*Only including medium humanoids
**Faces/ears shrouded or helmeted in most cases
[Methodological Note: There are a couple of edge cases I couldn't determine. In those cases I went with "Can't Tell" since if they don't present strongly enough as their ancestry then they are hardly representing them.]

Things I noted while taking count:

  • 1. 4 of the 5 appearances of Half-Humans are on Page 23 alone!
  • 2. 13 of the 18 appearances of Goblins are on Pages 273 and 335, and all as enemies.
  • 3. 4 of the 7 appearances of Halflings are of the bard iconic, Lem. 2 of the others are for the ancestry face plates.
  • 4. 5 of the 8 appearances of Dwarves are of the ranger iconic, Harsk. 2 of the others are for the ancestry face plates.
  • I know some of this is due to reused material, but there's got to be left-over material of other Halflings and Dwarves. They aren't pigeon holed to one class.

Paizo! Give us more ancestral diversity in the artwork for the Official Rulebook and other media when 2E is released!


Part of this is just Golarion's Setting. Most of Golarion is Human-centric. I'm not a huge fan of the "Elves live in the Elf nation and speak Elven" bits of the setting, but it's a part of the setting, and with that, it's hard to go too far against that. Also, their Iconics are a part of it as well, with 7/12 of the core iconics being human (the other 5 are one for each ancestry), any time they show up, it's weighted towards humans.


It's intentionally a Human centric setting, your players can choose to focus on the colorful Humanoid freaks, but that is supposed to be within Human-predominant world. Human Ethnicities are easily on par or more prevalent than many non-Human races. Visually presenting otherwise would be mis-representation, and require under-representation of Human Ethnic diversity.

Something like Starfinder has somewhat different take, as well as other games.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I don't think that the majority of PCs playing Humans is surprising or bad. And yes, Golarion and the iconics are heavily weighted toward Humans.

I just want Paizo to be aware that some of us want to see more non-Full Human ancestries featured in artwork and media. Displaying different ancestries in a variety of roles is A. more interesting to look at and B. invites players to experiment and explore different roleplaying opportunities with ancestries.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Poor dwarves. I've always had problems getting people to play them due to looks.

Having more dwarven art could help others visualize how diverse dwarves can be.

Many will make a character also, after being inspired by a particular artwork.

You make a good point for many reasons. Thank you for this analysis.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Hurká wrote:
I don't think that the majority of PCs playing Humans is surprising or bad.

It's not surprising or bad... It's just not interesting. The Starfinder Core Rulebook, in comparison, had something in almost every illustration that made me stop and think "that thing looks really interesting. I want to know more about that." The human dominated illustrations in Pathfinder are, generally, well done and meet the need...but they don't really establish a unique vibe that draws the reader into their setting (which is expected with a generic rulebook but they did say they wanted Second Edition to be "Golarion-infused").

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Core Rulebook is more Golarion-aligned than the PF1 CRB, so it's not surprising that humans, which are something like 80% of Golarion's humanoid population, take the cake. One more major difference between PF and D&D.


Eh. I know that the CRB is Golarion-aligned but they did just include Goblins as a core ancestry. An edition shift is a great time to up the diversity quota. Golarion has a myriad of established ancestries...just have them be a bit more prevalent in the illustrations.


If Goblins are Core (or Ratfolk or whatever) it's normal for them to be illustrated as heroes.
If they publish book including more Ancestries like Tieflings, Hobgoblins, etc, it's normal that book would include illustrations of those as heroes. But that's not the core assumption, so it's normal that other products don't illustrate those races as heroes. Because the heroic illustrations are always proxies for PCs, this is concept behind Iconics. Yes, one could imagine random illustrations depicting heroic epics of Shoggoths and Aboleths and Azata, but that isn't amenable to proxy presentation for Core assumption PCs.
If you want a game with different core assumption and different resulting art, there is plenty of them.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Quandary wrote:
If they publish book including more Ancestries like Tieflings, Hobgoblins, etc, it's normal that book would include illustrations of those as heroes. But that's not the core assumption, so it's normal that other products don't illustrate those races as heroes.

When it comes to the iconics, absolutely, point made. You are correct. The iconics should not be of ancestries that are supported by core.

That said - the core rulebook has many illustrations that either do not feature the iconics or in which the iconics are interacting with the world. I see no reason that the iconics couldn't be chatting with a Tengu merchant or negotiating with a Grippli prince or arm wrestling a Minotaur. That would showcase the diversity of this "Golarion infused" system.

Quandary wrote:
Because the heroic illustrations are always proxies for PCs, this is concept behind Iconics. Yes, one could imagine random illustrations depicting heroic epics of Shoggoths and Aboleths and Azata, but that isn't amenable to proxy presentation for Core assumption PCs.

For the third time this week, let me state that I am all for our once and future lords - the Aboleth - being a core ancestry.

Quandary wrote:
If you want a game with different core assumption and different resulting art, there is plenty of them.

Way to go with the extreme closing statement. I'm aware that they are plenty of other systems but I'm quite happy with Pathfinder. Golarion on the other hand... It's fine but not quite my cup of tea. This is why I homebrew.

Community / Forums / Archive / Pathfinder / Playtests & Prerelease Discussions / Pathfinder Playtest / Player Rules / Ancestries & Backgrounds / Ancestry Representation in the Rulebook All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Ancestries & Backgrounds