Book Review: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Races

Pathfinder Campaign Setting:  Inner Sea Races, by Ross Byers, John Compton, Adam Daigle, Crystal Frasier, Matthew Goodall, Alex Greenshields, James Jacobs, Amanda Harmon Kunz, Ron Lundeen, Rob McCreary, Jessica Price, David N. Ross, Owen K.C. Stephens, James L. Sutter, Russ Taylor, and Jerome Virnich

It seems highly odd that a book this simple and straightforward should have perhaps the highest number of authors of any book I can remember recently apart from the collections of essays I review from time to time [1].  This book, it should be noted, is nowhere as serious as most books that require a lot of authors or that involve collaboration of a particularly scholarly kind, but at the same time this is the sort of book that might attract a great deal of authors who are wishing to provide what amounts to an imaginary anthropological exploration of the imaginary races and cultures of an imaginary region on an imaginary world for a role playing game [2].  For most people, this book would therefore present little of interest in the real world in which we live.  However, for those readers who play role playing games, this book provides a thoughtful and indirect picture of the way in which even our imaginary worlds are strongly influenced by the world in which we live, even if there are elements that are different.

It should be noted at the outset that this is not a book that provides the reader with discussions or help in creating or finding campaigns in this particular region of the Pathfinder Game, namely the Inner Sea region.  It should also be noted that the astute reader will find a large degree of confluence between the Inner Sea and the Mediterranean of our own world, not least in the way in which the various peoples are described in ways that are very close to peoples of our own world within Europe, Asia, and Africa, all the way up to the Arctic north, with a few other elements thrown in like other planets and a dark underworld and so on.  The organization of this book is by the commonality of races, and so common races are discussed first, namely various different cultures of human beings drawn from the old world, dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, and halflings, all of whom ought to be familiar to anyone who plays tabletop role playing games of any kind.  After this the author discusses somewhat more uncommon races, like aasimars, drow, geniekin, goblins, kobolds, orcs, and tieflings.  Following this, the author then discusses rare races in a much less detailed way, like androids, catfolk, changelings, dhampirs, fetchlings, gorans, gillmen, hobgoblins, ratfolk, strix, aliens, and dragon empires, and gives a very brief discussion of still other more obscure races that can be found in this imaginary world.  The book then concludes with a discussion on alternate racial traits, feats, spells, armor, weapons, armor, and heritages for various people before providing a brief and incomplete index.

What does a reader gain by reading this book?  It is likely that few people, even those interested in Pathfinder, would in fact find much of interest about this book.  This book’s value is mainly in providing a skewed look at how we conceive of even imaginary ethnicities in light of our understanding of our own.  There is much that is discussed here that is taken from actual history, and the more one knows about human history as well as the general nature of magical thought and myth within that history, the more appealing this book is as a guide to contextual understanding of how we as human beings never entirely lose the influence of the past and of our own context on our imaginary worlds.  We are far less far-ranging in our imaginations than we would like to consider ourselves, even when we are created bestiaries of immense complexity, as this book represents in its views of various cultures of humans and various arrays of humanoids of some diversity.  Yet they are all beings whom we can relate to as humans on some level.  We create after our own image, even if it a skewed image at times.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Book Review: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Races

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