The Pathfinder Advanced Race Guide is a fine looking book. I really shouldn’t be surprised, Paizo really does know how to put out a great looking, functional, well laid-out product. If nothing else I can say that Pathfinder books are probably some of my favorite gaming books just to sit and flip through. When I first brought this one home I gave it a day or two where I just picked it up and perused it a few times before diving in and reading. Is that weird? I don’t know, you tell me.
Seriously though, I’m also not really a fan of “splat” books. I find that player-focused crunch content is one of my least favorite trends in gaming. That said, another compliment I can give to Paizo is that in the five years that Pathfinder has been on the market they have kept the number of “in-house” splat books to a minimum. I’m not counting all the 3rd party stuff. So, another point for Paizo.
But what about the Advanced Race Guide?
Well, the book is pretty much as advertised. I’d best describe it as a one-stop shop for all the playable PC races so far introduced in Golarian. And it works very well in that regard. The information covers the basics but also hits lots of new points as well and brings interesting twists to the races. The book is divided into four sections — with the first three sections covering the Core Races, the Featured races, and the Uncommon races. The core races are the standard PHB fare – humans, elves, dwarves, etc. The featured races move on to such races as Aasimar, Catfolk, Drow — that kind of stuff. The Uncommon races are all over the place, Changelings, Kitsune, Merfolk – and even weirder stuff. Not only does this division work well to differentiate the races for players and DMs in a game system sense but it also serves to set a bar for how far into the weirdness factor players can go. I’ll admit that flipping through the book I love the idea of just handing it to players and saying, “Go nuts.” I am a fan of weird races and the mix here is well balanced and interesting. I can’t really tell you how much I want to play a Vishkanya.
The fourth section is where the book goes a little flat though. The fourth section of the book is a “race creation” system. Unfortunately, it is riddled with strange design choices and poor math. The value of certain choices you can select for your custom race just boggle the mind sometimes compared to another choice. Race abilities are separated into three categories: Standard, Advanced, and Monstrous. Sometimes it’s very confusing why certain abilities are in their assigned categories. Probably the least useful part of this section though is the fact that — for the most part — the abilities are only those already found on an existing race. Instead of a set of tools it’s actually just a set of lists. This could have been so much more.
Overall, I really like this book and I think it represents a lot of what can be good about splats without ever being too much. The race creation system is a disappointment but doesn’t detract from the other excellent parts of the Advanced Race Guide.
Agree? Disagree? Have a comment about my weirdness? Let me know. And thanks for reading.