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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, or any of the other folk who call the world of Pathfinder home. 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.
A character has one ancestry and one background, both of which you select during character creation. You’ll also select a number of languages for your character. Once chosen, your ancestry and background can’t be changed.
This chapter is divided into three parts:
- 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.
- Backgrounds describe training or environments your character experienced before becoming an adventurer. Your character’s background provides ability boosts, skill training, and a skill feat.
- Languages let your character communicate with the wonderful and weird people and creatures of the world.
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 (HP)
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. For more on calculating Hit Points, see Step 7: Record Class Details, on page 25.
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.
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. For more about ability boosts, see here.
- Ability Flaws
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. For more about applying ability flaws, see here.
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. More about languages can be found on page 65.
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.
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.
- 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.