Monster rarity and worldbuilding: minor outsiders are as common as wolves?


Rules Discussion


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Could someone please explain monster rarity to me? I understand that monster rarities are relative to monster level, so, for example, mu spores are common but are still "thankfully rare" (quoted verbatim) due to being 21st-level.

But consider, say, cassissian angels, lantern archons, lyrakien azatas, imp devils, and mephits in general, all of which are 1st-level common creatures. Does that mean that they are as common as kobold scouts, orc warriors, and wolves, all of which are 1st-level creatures as well? Are these little outsiders frequently seen roaming the world, as relatively everyday as sighting a wolf in the wilderness? This makes for a neat and fantastical setting (it genuinely does, almost folklore- and mythology-esque with minor spirits fluttering around everywhere), but I am curious if this is intentional.

Why stop there? Elementals can be identified with Arcana or Nature. A mephit has the exact same rarity as a wolf. If a woodsman can identify a wolf, they can identify a mephit with equal ease. A grizzly bear is a 3rd-level common creature, so if a woodsman can identify a grizzly bear, they can identify a brine shark, a cinder rat, a sod hound, or a zephyr hawk, since all of these roam the world with as much frequency as grizzly bears.


Probably common only for the adventurers, literally wise. But I think it's just for setting up the Recall Knowledge DC adjustments.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

It's just related to knowledge. Stop overreading into things

rarity p. 344 and 345 of the bestiary

rarity wrote:


Common A creature of this rarity is generally known and can be summoned with the appropriate summon spell.

Uncommon Less is known about uncommon creatures than common creatures. They typically can’t be summoned. The DC of Recall Knowledge checks related to this creature is increased by 2.

Rare As the name suggests, these creatures are rare. They typically can’t be summoned. The DC of Recall Knowledge checks related to this creature is increased by 5.

Unique A creature with this rarity is one of a kind. The DC of Recall Knowledge checks related to this creature is increased by 10.


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Does that mean that brine sharks, cinder rats, sod hounds, and zephyr hawks are all as well-known as grizzly bears?

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Colette Brunel wrote:
Does that mean that brine sharks, cinder rats, sod hounds, and zephyr hawks are all as well-known as grizzly bears?

Yeah sure, if that how you want them to be in your world or your version of Golarion.

It should be noted that depending on where somebody is, some of the creatures listed are indeed ridiculously common (not sure how much of Golarion lore you know):

Korvosa, for example, is literally full of imps. As in you can see imps flying in the sky everyday. People in Korvosa have seen more imps than they have seen bears or wolves in their entire life.


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Depends on where you are. If we integrate over the entire universe, outsiders are vastly more common than wolves.

Liberty's Edge

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Yeah, something is Common if it's Common anywhere, seems to be the general rule. So a lot of extraplanar things are common, not necessarily because you see them every day, but because anyone with knowledge of extraplanar creatures is as likely to know of them as a woods-dweller is to know about wolves.


I think what the OP wants, is some kind of rule that makes brine sharks and cinder rats less common and therefore not as well-known as grizzly bears.

It's the same with magic items. Every magic item of a given level is equally common, if we go by the rules except those few items that are listed as uncommon or rare.

This in, of course, ridiculous. It stands to reason there will be critters that are ten times as frequent as others, and that both of them are still common. (Picture a wandering monster table where some critters have a 10% chance of appearing while others have only 1%, or doesn't appear at all).

But I believe there will never be a more detailed frequency listing, so my answer to the OP is: you're on your own.


It is always within a GM's prerogative to recategorize brine sharks and lantern archons uncommon in this part of reality.

But honestly what is lost if characters know about brine sharks if they aren't encountering any? Maybe they read a book and it had a shark in it.


Yeah, I think it comes down to the standard Rarity listing isn't trying to do the level of detail the OP wants.
Most monsters give environmental info about where they live, so that is best guide for GM.
And if you can understand general gist of monster "ecology" you should have idea how common it is. If it sounds like apex predator, yeah probably you won't run into huge swarms of it, because what is it eating?

Higher power monsters can be less terrain defined, but will often have plot hooks specifying where/how they would be found.
Just the basic Level/Difficulty system means e.g. random Mariliths aren't common enough for Level 2 noob's to randomly walk into in the local forest. IMHO challenges significantly above APL shouldn't usually be "random terrain encounters" based on local commonality, they should have specific plot built around them, which doesn't hinge on generic local commonality per se.

What's worse is Common language access list, which DOES explicitly purport to reflect world commonality in Inner Sea nations,
yet large trading/imperial languages like Kelesh or Osirioni not on list (restricted to specific regions and characters of that ethnicity)
while marginal gonzo stuff like Undercommon, Tengu, Jotun, and so on are all on the list.
(in fact, it's clear the list is biased to non-Human languages, and 'vanilla D&D monsters')
Despite even "monster" races like Gnolls reasonably having equivalent or better commonality of language access VS Orcs.
(considering many Half-Orcs don't actually know Orcish, so can't facilitate learning of the language)


Not sure mephits are the best example. If you see a rat made out of fire, maybe you get the name wrong but I don't see a lot of conclusions you can reach about what it is other than a rat made of fire.


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So what is assumed normal? Because I know it is assumed normal for things to take place in temperate woodland area, but you probably do not run into wolves in the desert or the ocean and these places are also normal places.


Envall wrote:
So what is assumed normal? Because I know it is assumed normal for things to take place in temperate woodland area, but you probably do not run into wolves in the desert or the ocean and these places are also normal places.

Yeah, common is relative, so it's just amongst their type, like in the Abyss, you are more likely to bump into a dretch, than a balor.

Liberty's Edge

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Well the rules are built so that creatures are harder to know about the higher level they are, meaning a Common 20th level creature is harder to know about than a Rare 1st level one, so it seems a certain degree of 'things of higher level are less common' is clearly assumed. Basically, I think Rarity is best thought of as by level, like 'Common for a level 20 creature' or 'Rare for a 5th level creature'.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Well the rules are built so that creatures are harder to know about the higher level they are, meaning a Common 20th level creature is harder to know about than a Rare 1st level one, so it seems a certain degree of 'things of higher level are less common' is clearly assumed. Basically, I think Rarity is best thought of as by level, like 'Common for a level 20 creature' or 'Rare for a 5th level creature'.

I already address this in the opening post. What I am curious about is same-level, same-rarity creatures.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

That entirely depends on the area and the campaign.

As said above, you're not gonna find wolves at the bottom of the sea.


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You cannot get a world description out of a three Level rarity System. As Quandary mentioned, you have to get that Information out of the regional or monster descriptions.

As to knowledge wise, yes, probably even commoners know general stuff about outsiders like Angels and Demons - these will be their bedtime stories and stuff you talk in church about.


It is there as a guideline for GMs to work from and to give them the power to do so.

A similar system existed in PF1e but was rarely used and often complained about because there were no default scales of rarity.

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