As promised, it’s time to check out the new heritages presented in the recent Pathfinder release, the Advanced Player’s Guide!
These five heritages are one of the more exciting aspects of the book for me. Why? Because they allow for something I’ve been wanting from systems for a long time: non-human versions of things like tieflings and aasimar. See, there’s something special about these heritages: they’re ‘versatile,’ meaning that any ancestry can pick them as a heritage. That’s awesome! You want to play an orc with a bit of celestial blood? A lizardfolk whose dad was a vampire? Thanks to the fresh approach Pathfinder 2E brings to traditional race mechanics, these combinations are finally possible!
The specific heritages presented here are great, too–aasimar and tieflings are the obvious fantasy choices, of course, being staples of D&D. Changelings are a slightly-more-surprising pick that digs a little deeper into classic myth to deliver a fun, interesting option to players. Dhampir are a personal favorite of mine (and let’s face it: who doesn’t want cool vampire powers?). And duskwalkers? Duskwalkers bring that special Pathfinder flavor that sets Paizo’s products apart from their competitors.
The first option presented is the changeling. Changelings are the children of hags; the hags seduce a man, kill him, and abandon their newborn child in the man’s town (an interesting twist on the traditional “child left by faeries” version of the changeling myth). These infants are identifiable as changelings by their pale skin and mismatched eyes; as they grow older, they manifest magic powers and, eventually hear the Call–a supernatural summoning to their mother. Should they answer it, they’ll become hags themselves.
One of the great things about each of these heritages is that they all link characters to iconic, legendary monsters, and changelings are a great example of that. Hags are creepy and fascinating, and the idea of the Call–this inevitable, supernatural drive–is a great hook for a player character to wrestle with. Changelings get access to some interesting feats, too! There are a variety of different Lineage feats that determine exactly what kind of hag your changeling descended from; on top of that, you can gain claws and even some limited magical ability!
Dhampir are up next. For those unfamiliar, a dhampir is a half-vampire; think Blade from Marvel comics. They’re a little bit alive, a little bit undead, and all kinds of awesome. How does one become a dhampir, you ask? Well, there are a few different ways. There’s the obvious method (when a vampire loves a mortal very much, sometimes a dhampir happens), but one can also result from a pregnant woman being turned into a vampire; the Advanced Player’s Guide even alludes to there being rituals that can turn babies into dhampir, though I can’t imagine what someone would want with a sort-of-but-not-really-undead baby.
Regardless–dhampir are mostly alive, but they’ve got a pesky allergy to positive energy. They treat negative and positive energy like undead do (the former heals them while the latter hurts), which makes them a pain to heal, but don’t worry! The tradeoff is worth it. Pretty much every dhampir feat rules: you can grow deadly fangs, resist disease, supernaturally charm folks, and best of all, you can turn into a bat! How cool is that?
The next three heritages are all lumped together under the umbrella of being ‘planar scions.’ That is to say, these heritages come from planes of existence outside the prime material. First up are aasimar: people with ties to powerful celestial creatures like angels. There’s nothing too surprising here; people assume that all aasimar are perfect, blessed healers, etc.
Feat-wise, they have several Lineages to choose from, each granting different abilities. One thing I really like about aasimar is how these Lineages can be built on through Lineage-specific feat trees. They can also lean hard into the whole angel thing and get a halo, wings, even healing blood–the whole nine yards! Perhaps my favorite aasimar feat, however, is the one that allows them to summon some of their celestial kin!
Now we come to duskwalkers–a wonderfully weird group of people descended from psychopomps (grim reaper-type fellows who guide souls after death). Er, well, descended isn’t quite right–they just sort of… appear. Apparently psychopomps occasionally allow for reincarnation, and those reincarnated souls become duskwalkers. There are only a few duskwalkers at any given time; when one of them dies, another presumably arises.
It’s a very interesting background for a character; duskwalkers don’t have childhoods per se, but they do have previous lives to investigate, allowing room for complicated and unorthodox backstories. Mechanically, they can’t become undead, which… I mean, it probably wouldn’t come up anyway, but if the campaign’s Big Bad is a necromancer it’ll come in handy! They also gain access to a handful of interesting feats, including the ability to harm incorporeal creatures and resist negative energy. Perhaps their most impressive feat allows them to teleport to the plane known as the Boneyard–though the campaign would need to be using the default Pathfinder cosmology (or allow a reasonable substitute) to do so.
Finally, that leaves us with tieflings. Tieflings are the fiendish answer to aasimar: people with a little bit of the devil (or demon or daemon) in ’em. Personally, I find demons just a bit more interesting than angels, so I’m all for tieflings, and this iteration of the classic fantasy race doesn’t disappoint.
Much like aasimar, tieflings have a variety of Lineage feats based on what specific style of fiend they’re descended from. Also like aasimar, tieflings are able to build on these Lineages as they gain higher levels (probably my favorite aspect of these two heritages). They can also gain all the stereotypical attributes of a demon: horns, cloven hooves instead of feet, a tail; it’s all there if you want it. They can also summon fiendish allies, and even gain a limited teleport–presumably with an accompanying ‘BAMF’ sound effect and the scent of brimstone!
I absolutely adore the ancestry/heritage system in Pathfinder 2E, and these versatile heritages improve it further by deepening the variety of builds available to players. From beloved staples like tieflings to interesting new additions like duskwalkers, each one of these heritages brings a ton of flavor and fun new mechanics to the table!