Pathfinder’s Advanced Player’s Guide: Ancestries

Last week, we took a look at the four new classes presented in the recently-released Advanced Player’s Guide. This week, I want to check out another part of that book: the new ancestries and heritages!

If you’re unfamiliar with Pathfinder 2E, ancestries are the game’s equivalent to what D&D calls races: humans, elves, halflings, etc. After you pick your ancestry, you then pick a heritage–a sub-category of ancestry that gives you some additional skills or abilities. Ancestries (and some heritages) also give you access to a variety of feats.

This book presents ten new options: five ancestries (catfolk, kobolds, orcs, ratfolk, and tengu) and five heritages (changeling, dhampir, assimar, duskwalker, and tiefling). Today I want to focus on ancestries.

For starters, we’ve got catfolk. Who doesn’t love catfolk, right? From khaajit to tabaxi, it’s a classic fantasy race! The PF2E version is pretty much what you’d expect: low-light vision, buffs to Dexterity, and even an ability that lessens fall damage (since cats always land on their feet). There are several different heritages on offer; the thick-furred Winter Catfolk offers protection from the cold, while the Clawed Catfolk gives you a claw attack. I particularly like the Nine Lives Catfolk, which are better able to survive critical blows. Feat-wise, there are options to improve your claws, curse your foes, and increase your luck.

Kobolds are next up, and they might be the most interesting ancestry on offer. They’ve got several intriguing heritages, including the cantrip-slinging Spellscale Kobold and the Venomtail Kobold (which can apply poison to its weapon via a gland in its tail). Most impressive, though, is their feat pool. I love the options that let you delve further into your kobold’s draconic heritage, but there are some weirder choices, as well. For instance, there are a few feats that play up the kobolds’ short stature and unimposing silhouette to garner sympathy from foes! There’s also a feat that allows them mastery over a number of snares, which could be a great supplement to numerous character builds.

Next we have orcs–another classic! Orcs are a topic of some discussion in the tabletop RPG community right now, due to their tendency to lean on unfortunate racial stereotypes. All I’ll say about it here is that PF2E‘s flavor maintains a fairly traditional “orcs like fighting” stance while dropping the common “…because they’re evil!” follow-up. Mechanically, they’re fairly hardy, with the Badlands Orc heritage making them even harder to kill. The orc heritages don’t grab me quite as much as the heritages of other ancestries, but they’ve got some neat feats! On top of some of the strength-related buffs one might expect, there are also a few feats related to training animals; I definitely think a gruff orcish beastmaster with a heart of gold is a fun character concept!

Then there’s ratfolk. One thing I like about this book’s approach to ratfolk: they aren’t all portrayed as bedraggled, grey, sewer-rat-looking humanoids (though Sewer Rat is indeed a heritage). Several of the ratfolk pictured are adorable–almost mouse- or hamster-like in some cases! None of their heritages are particularly bonkers, but Deep Rat gets points for having the weirdest-sounding name. In terms of feats, there are a lot of great ones for ratfolk. Several focus on the ancestry’s ties to the vermin they get their name from: you can gain a rat familiar or even turn into a rat! The best feats, though, are the ones that grant you cheek pouches, allowing you to store all manner of odds and ends in your mouth.

Finally, there are tengu–humanoid birds. There are some very cool heritages available for these guys; the Mountainkeeper Tengu can disrupt the undead, while Stormtossed Tengu gain advantages against electricity and fog. I also like Taloned Tengu, mostly because I like the idea of an adventurer with big ol’ bird feet. For feats, Tengu get a few that reference their origin in Japanese myth, which is a nice touch. They can also manipulate luck, shoot lightning, and sprout wings, so… there are a lot of good options out there!

The way PF2E handles ancestry and heritage is one of my favorite parts about the system, elevating race from a one-time decision to a core part of the character. These five ancestries are all great additions to the game; personally, I’m looking forward to rolling up a kobold soon! On Friday, we’ll look at the five new heritages I mentioned earlier–and we’ll talk about what makes them so special and exciting compared to the game’s other heritages!

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