With the recent release of the Advanced Races Compendium* from Kobold Press crowning an amazing influx of PC races and racial options since just September’s add of more Paizo specific racial info to their core campaign setting, it looks like a good time talk around introducing new racial options into existing settings or games.
Expanding PC Racial Options in Existing Games
Due to sustained verisimilitude adding entire races with robust histories and a meaning to the campaign world can be challenging. Aligning these changes with story enhancing events will not only be more plausible but can improve the overall gaming experience for everyone. Here are some of our favorites:
- Reincarnation – This spell and others like it are hands down the easiest, most versatile solution to effortless race introduction. It can lean on existing campaign elements (an allied order or druids or shaman party member, established histories, etc), can convert existing characters, and with a lower material entry cost has greater likelihood of being used to restore families or possibly even villages… in a god (or Mythic games an overmage) could theoretically bring back a dead kingdom with this sort of story element.
- Wild Magic – Depending on the severity of the Primal Magic, Chaos Surge or other effect there is a possibility of a permanent polymorph effect landing on a party member. Existing racial memories and the like might come with the package creating a reason why other feats and skills may be taken on by the character.
- Secret City (or Cities) – A staple of comic books and pulp era sci-fi and fantasy, the revelation of a secret city is a great way to add sudden racial and cultural diversity. From experience this is the sort of thing that does not have to be singular. Run a persistent game and Claire wants to play a tengu or other non-standard character, intro more than one City to lay down the ground work for Ron’s ursa fighter next campaign.
- Curses – A PC wishing to transition race in your game can also have the player’s exciting choice be inflicted as a punishment on a character. Witches, priests and linnorm dragons all seem likely for this type of vengeful bestowal. The PC can even be trying to undo the result while the player enjoys it.
- Planar Portal – If you want to “hand wave” a racial introduction this is a relatively safe way to go. The PC can be up in running in minutes of dialogue and still have a history and story “back home.” This approach is simple but can result in a marginalized play experience with no real downtime and social links for the character except those made in game.
- Alternate World – A slightly more specific and useful application of the “Planar Portal” is to have the character be from an alternate universe where racial development (magically?) mirrored the same paths as the core campaign setting, this allows “skill porting” of Knowledges and the like allowing for a uniquely integrated experience. It may also allow for World v. World conflicts to errupt in the game at later dates which can be enormously fun for GMs.
- Who Him? – Another simple, if verisimilitude stretching, technique is to assume the culture has existed all along. This can get a little Joss Whedon but in a large cosmopolitan setting or unexplored area it is possible that the culture has been there and just not come up before. While this can work in the short term, if used to often it can add a little unbelievable or “door number 3” approach to a GMs setting undermining verisimilitude.
Adding races to a setting can be a rewarding exercise in campaign development. Don’t be too quick to jump to denial to “protect” a campaign setting if a player really has the passion to engage the choice. Previous articles on integrating to new content are available here and here.
(*Note: Advanced Race Compendium is a copyright of Kobold Press and the title is used by Permission)