Home >

Ancestries

Your character’s ancestry determines which people they call their own, whether it’s diverse and ambitious humans, insular but vivacious elves, traditionalist and family-focused dwarves. A character’s ancestry and their experiences prior to their life as an adventurer—represented by a background—might be key parts of their identity, shape how they see the world, and help them find their place in it.

Ancestry Publisher Source
Dwarf PCR2E
Elf PCR2E
Gnome PCR2E
Goblin PCR2E
Halfling PCR2E
Human PCR2E

A character has one ancestry which you select during character creation.

Ancestries express the culture your character hails from. Within many ancestries are heritages— subgroups that each have their own characteristics. An ancestry provides ability boosts (and perhaps ability flaws), Hit Points, ancestry feats, and sometimes additional abilities.

Ancestry Entries

Each entry includes details about the ancestry and presents the rules elements described below (all of these but heritages and ancestry feats are listed in a sidebar).

Hit Points

This tells you how many Hit Points your character gains from their ancestry at 1st level. You’ll add the Hit Points from your character’s class (including their Constitution modifier) to this number.

Size

This tells you the physical size of members of the ancestry.

Medium corresponds roughly to the height and weight range of a human adult, and Small is roughly half that.

Speed

This entry lists how far a member of the ancestry can move each time they spend an action (such as Stride) to do so.

Ability Boosts

This lists the ability scores you apply ability boosts to when creating a character of this ancestry. Most ancestries provide ability boosts to two specified ability scores, plus a free ability boost that you can apply to any other score of your choice.

Ability Flaw

This lists the ability score to which you apply an ability flaw when creating a character of this ancestry. Most ancestries, with the exception of humans, include an ability flaw.

Languages

This tells you the languages that members of the ancestry speak at 1st level. If your Intelligence modifier is +1 or higher, you can select more languages from a list given here.

Traits

These descriptors have no mechanical benefit, but they’re important for determining how certain spells, effects, and other aspects of the game interact with your character.

Special Abilities

Any other entries in the sidebar represent abilities, senses, and other qualities all members of the ancestry manifest.

These are omitted for ancestries with no special rules.

Ancestry Summaries

  • Catfolk, or amurruns, are humanoid felines who believe they were created to protect the wilderness from great danger.
  • Dwarf
  • Elf
  • Gnome
  • Goblin
  • Halfling
  • Human
  • Kobolds are small, reptilian creatures with outsized personalities and a love of dragons and traps.
  • Orcs are a proud, strong, warlike people with hardened physiques who value physical might and glory in combat.
  • Ratfolk, or ysoki, are small, clever, and adaptable humanoids with ratlike features and a love of community.
  • Tengu are gregarious and resourceful avian humanoids who collect knowledge and treasures alike.

Heritages

You select a heritage at 1st level to reflect abilities passed down to you from your ancestors or common among those of your ancestry in the environment where you were born or grew up. You have only one heritage and can’t change it later. A heritage is not the same as a culture or ethnicity, though some cultures or ethnicities might have more or fewer members from a particular heritage.

Versatile Heritages

People have a long history of intermingling. The inevitable offspring of these mixed unions share physiological features with both their parents, manifesting as a specific heritage. The most common of these by far are the half-elf and half-orc human ancestries. Some individuals, however, are born under far stranger circumstances, such as a monstrous, undead, or extraplanar parent, a powerful curse, or an incursion of extraplanar energies. As these circumstances aren’t unique to a single ancestry, these heritages—called versatile heritages—are likewise shared by many ancestries.

Because the circumstances that give rise to versatile heritages aren’t limited to a single ancestry, a versatile heritage can be chosen by a character of nearly any ancestry. Some versatile heritages are more common among some ancestries than others, and some might list additional restrictions specific to that heritage. Your GM may place other restrictions on which ancestries can use a given versatile heritage based on the story and setting.

Certain heritages can occur across all ancestries. For instance, if your mother was a hag, you could be a changeling whether you’re a human, orc, or catfolk.

  • Changelings are the children of hags, left as foundlings and subject to the danger of their mother’s tempting call.
  • Dhampirs are part vampires due to an early connection to vampire blood.
  • Planar Scions are descended from a distant planar ancestor or tied strongly to another plane.
Playing a Versatile Heritage

To play a character with a versatile heritage, first select your ancestry, just like you would for any character. You gain Hit Points, size, Speed, ability boosts and ability flaws, languages, traits, and other abilities from that ancestry.

Then, instead of choosing a heritage from those normally available to that ancestry, apply your chosen versatile heritage. You gain all the features from your versatile heritage, some of which might modify or replace statistics, abilities, or traits from your ancestry.

Since a versatile heritage is a heritage, you can have only one, and you can’t have any other heritage in addition to your versatile heritage.

Sometimes a versatile heritage might give you an ability that conflicts with an ability from your ancestry.

In these cases, you choose which of the conflicting abilities your character has.

When selecting ancestry feats, you can choose from those available to your ancestry as well as those specific to your versatile heritage.

Lineage Feats

Some ancestry feats within a versatile heritage have the lineage trait. These feats specify a physiological lineage your character has—such as the type of hag that birthed a changeling character, or the type of fiend that influenced a tiefling’s birth. You can have only one lineage feat; you can select such a feat only at 1st level, and you can’t retrain into or out of this feat.

Many Ancestries

Though a character can have only one heritage, it doesn’t mean characters with lineages tracing back to multiple ancestries or heritages don’t exist.

It’s certainly possible for a dhampir to be born to a half-elf mother, or for a duskwalker to appear in a community of death warden dwarves.

In these cases, the influence of the versatile heritage overshadows the other heritage—the dhampir heritage overshadows the half-elf heritage, and the duskwalker abilities replace those of the death warden dwarf heritage. So while, superficially, a character might bear a resemblance to both heritages, mechanically, they only gain the benefits of the versatile heritage.

Supernatural Origins

The circumstances that give rise to individuals with versatile heritages vary widely, from direct biological descendance to clandestine rituals, planar incursions, or unique mystical phenomena. It’s up to you to decide the details of your character’s heritage and how they came into being. Following are some broad suggestions that you can use as a jumping-off point, but these aren’t restrictions. Hags, for example, typically give birth to mammalian offspring, but they are devious creatures and might just as easily change form to that of a kobold long enough to hatch a changeling kobold child—or perhaps your changeling character arose as a result of a hag’s occult meddling rather than direct lineage. It’s your story to tell!

Changeling Children of the malevolent, magical crones known as hags, changelings share some of their mothers’ abilities, such as sharp claws and occult magic. Many changelings experience or dread the psychic summons of their hag mothers, known as the Call, urging them to seek out their mothers so they might be transformed into hags themselves. Changeling lineages affect the appearance of one of the changeling’s eyes, and are as follows: brine may for the child of a sea hag, callow may for a green hag, dream may for a night hag, and slag may for an annis hag.

Dhampir The mortal offspring of undead vampires are caught between life and undeath, mortality and immortality, mundane existence and powerful magic. Dhampirs enjoy long life spans and otherworldly charm, but their ghostly pallor and the nature of their parentage make their lives in humanoid societies difficult. The two lineages for dhampirs found here are the svetocher, who come from the most common vampires called the moroi, and the straveika, born of the aged and unsettling nosferatu.

Planar Scions

Some are born to unusual creatures or arise through specific mundane or supernatural circumstances. Many, however, result from an infusion of extraplanar energy, whether through direct parentage, more distant ancestors, or simply direct exposure to the quintessence of that plane.

These individuals are known as planar scions.

Life is present everywhere across the planes of the Great Beyond, and the intermingling of Material Plane mortals and extraplanar beings is no rare thing.

The resultant children of these relationships—and sometimes the descendants of those children—are known as planar scions. There are numerous types of planar scions, just as there are countless types of beings across the planes that might consort with mortals. This book focuses on the following three.

Aasimar These planar scions bear the blood of celestial beings—angels, archons, azatas, and other benevolent extraplanar entities. Though this grants aasimars certain abilities and characteristics, it also places tremendous pressure upon them to meet expectations due to the assumptions others hold of their heritage. Aasimar lineages found here include the angelkin, the lawbringers who come from archons, and the musetouched born of azatas.

Duskwalker A duskwalker isn’t born; they are instead created, each manifesting as a mortal child in a location with close ties to death. They embody the somber powers of the psychopomps, immortal guardians and shepherds of the dead, and they maintain a fascination with and deep understanding of death throughout their lives. More singular than other versatile heritages, duskwalkers don’t have different lineages.

Tiefling The influence of fiendish blood or energy gives rise to tieflings. A tiefling’s heritage is boon and bane, as none can contest the powers they command, but few communities are willing to overlook the physical features that accompany fiendish blood—horns, hoofed feet, and tails being but a few examples. The lineages for tieflings in this book are hellspawn born of devils, pitborn made with the influence of demons, and the grimspawn of daemonic origin.

Ancestry Feats

This section presents ancestry feats, which allow you to customize your character. You gain your first ancestry feat at 1st level, and you gain another at 5th level, 9th level, 13th level, and 17th level, as indicated in the class advancement table in the descriptions of each class.

Ancestry feats are organized by level. As a starting character, you can choose from only 1st-level ancestry feats, but later choices can be made from any feat of your level or lower. These feats also sometimes list prerequisites—requirements that your character must fulfill to select that feat.

The true sum of a character’s lineage is a complex thing, ranging from an individual’s parents and direct family all the way back to their ancestors’ origins upon the world. A person’s legacy can encompass a nearly endless array of factors, including personal forebears, ethnicity, nationality, city of residence, religion, cultural traditions, historical events, and myriad other circumstances. While the complex and often messy facets of someone’s origins can never be completely represented by abstract rules—just as real-world labels are often insufficient—they are represented by a character’s ancestry. Ancestry represents what people a character calls their own or is most closely associated with, as well as what personal, cultural, historical, environmental, and even magical influences might have affected their development.

Section 15: Copyright Notice
Pathfinder Core Rulebook (Second Edition) © 2019, Paizo Inc.; Designers: Logan Bonner, Jason Bulmahn, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, and Mark Seifter.