Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Humans of Golarion [RPG]

Humans are the default race for many fantasy worlds, and the official Pathfinder campaign setting of Golarion is no exception.  Since all the other Core races had received Player Companions, it was only natural that humans would as well.  The challenge for a book like the 32-page Humans of Golarion is that we all know what humans are "like" since . . . we are humans!  Instead of being about humans as a species, this is a "race book" that's far more geographically oriented than the others.  Although humans are humans, their societies and cultures vary across Golarion, and that's what this book focuses on.

"Don't mess with frost giants" is the quite valid lesson to draw from the great cover, which is reprinted sans text as the inside back cover.  The inside front cover reprints the human racial traits from the Core Rulebook, but, more usefully, has a list of "Human Half-Breed" PC races like Aasimar, Gillmen, Tieflings, etc., and where their details can be found.

The first few pages of the book cover the things that are really interesting to learn about other races (like "Physical Features" and "Senses") but that are rather unnecessary to discuss when it comes to humans.  The book nicely draws the theme that humans, despite being physically weaker than many other races, are an extremely fecund, energetic, and adaptable race, and that that, more than anything else, is why they're so dominant in Golarion.  The next few pages are a quite in-depth history of human migration throughout Golarion, including a map that shows how the major human ethnic groups circulated throughout the Inner Sea.  It's heavy background and not exactly gripping, but I do appreciate the devotion to world building.  Of more interest (at least to me) was the page and a half overview of humanity's "lost kingdoms" like Azlant, Jistka, Thassilon, Shory, etc.  There's only a paragraph or so discussion of each, but it definitely leaves the reader intrigued and curious to learn more.

The next thirteen pages are dedicated, on a one page per entry basis, to covering the major human ethnic groups on Golarion.  Each entry has basic information like Languages, Favored Regions and Religions, Male and Female Names, and Appearance, along with several paragraphs on common behaviors and perceptions.  We learn that Chelaxians, for example, "believe in strength, honor, nobility, and success", while Garundians tend to "approach life with gusto, and worship with song and dance."  The following ethnicities are covered: Azlanti, Chelaxians, Garundi, Keleshites, Kellids, Mwangi, Shoanti, Taldans, Tian, Ulfen, Varisians, Vudrani, Half-elves, and Half-orcs.  I found the entries a bit bland, like reading from an encyclopedia, but they are a concise way to get a "sense" of a group.  From a meta perspective, the human ethnicities of Golarion are obviously inspired by real-world counterparts.  The Tian are Asian-inspired, the Vudrani are India-themed, etc.  However, Paizo is smart enough to avoid lazy or offensive stereotypes, and I think they've made a real effort to be inclusive of the world's diversity.  I found a few of the entries curious: the Azlanti, for example, aren't around anymore, so why devote a page to them?  And half-orcs and half-elves are at least partially covered in Orcs of Golarion and Elves of Golarion, respectively.  A few extra pages could have been used for something else.

A list of "Human Weapons" takes up the next two pages of the book.  The idea is to discuss which of the groups covered above are most closely associated with various weapons.  Blowguns, for example, are said to be often used by Shoanti and Mwangi, while temple swords are used mainly in Vudra.  I think a "Favored Weapons" line in the entries above would have covered the issue adequately without spending two pages on it.

The next curious decision is to spend two pages discussing Aroden, the dead god of humanity.  Aroden is probably the most important background figure in the world-lore of Golarion, but is of little importance for "present-day" humans in Golarion.  It's the sort of interesting information that would be great in a campaign setting book for a GM who wants to incorporate some history and depth into an adventure, but for a Player Companion it's just not really necessary.

"Human Racial Spells" are the next two pages.  Five new spells are introduced and linked (but not restricted to) particular human ethnic groups.  I thought these spells were good both flavour-wise and mechanically.  I particularly liked the Summon Totem Creature spell for Shoanti spellcasters as it ties in directly to their quah (clan).

Last up are a full two pages of race traits restricted to humans of the associated ethnicities.  There's a lot of them here (24!), but for the most part I found them minor, unnecessary, and forgettable. I did appreciate the little index of human-focussed traits introduced in previous Paizo products, though of course such an index quickly becomes outdated.

Overall, I think Humans of Golarion serves fine as a cheap and concise primer to give to players to answer the "so where's your human PC from?" question.  In other words, it's not ground-breaking but it is useful.  My biggest complaint is that too much space was spent on material of dubious value to players.

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