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A flock of massive bird creatures attacks the Zoetrope as its crew, including a minotaur, grapple along the gunnels of the ship. Image: Wayne Reynolds/Paizo

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Paizo’s first new rulebook since dropping the OGL evokes... David Attenborough?

All aboard the good ship Zoetrope in search of Golarion’s wildest creatures

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

In January, on the heels of the disastrous OGL fiasco, Pathfinder Second Edition publisher Paizo fully committed to breaking free of its attachments — legal and otherwise — to Dungeons & Dragons. Earlier this month the Seattle-based company delivered on that promise, launching new core rulebooks that fully strip Wizards of the Coast’s intellectual property from its unique fantasy setting on the planet Golarion. Howl of the Wild will be the company’s first new rulebook published since the Pathfinder remaster. Polygon has an exclusive preview of some of the new creatures detailed inside — and of the all-new character templates that will soon be available to players.

Howl of the Wild is told from the perspective of Baranthet, an aging naturalist seeking to leave his ivory tower and walk the earth searching for the creatures he’s previously only encountered in dusty books. He’s joined by several fanciful creatures, including a minotaur, a sentient insect, and merfolk. Together they help to detail dozens of creatures, revealed here for the first time.

Senior designer James Case said that the writing team’s goal was to evoke the wonder and curiosity of Sir David Attenborough’s spirited narrations.

“He is a essentially a scholar who, from the time he was a kid, was told this bedtime story of these four mythical creatures that exist out there somewhere called the Wardens of the Wild,” Case told Polygon. “But he also was a timid scholar who never really got out there and did any field work. And now he is elderly, and he has going on his first adventure.”

Images of four different Griffin, each with beaks designed to break open different kinds of armor.
Different kinds of Griffin’s beaks, a drawing inspired by Darwin’s finches. Of course, these adaptations are for cracking open adventurers, not nuts.
Image: Luca Sotgui/Paizo
A Griffin with blue, green, and ochre pigmentation in its feathers.
The book includes creatures with many different levels and abilities within each type, like this high-level Ascended Griffin.
Image: Damien Mammoliti/Paizo

One of the most unusual new creatures is called the Apothecary Bee, which when on the offensive can drain the potions carried by players. When allied, it can inject what it has gathered to help buff players. Other newcomers to Pathfinder are more threatening, like the massive Thrunosaurus Rex — which is imbued, Jurassic World-style, with unnatural powers, but more suited to Pathfinder’s fantasy themes.

A large, furry bee with a purple sack above and on its legs. Purple ichor drops from its stinger. Imasge: Vira Linevych/Paizo
A large grey dynosaur shaped roughly like a t-rex, but with horns and a fireball over its head. Image: Justine Nortjé/Paizo

“It [literally has] unholy [energies within it],” Case said, “which is new to the remaster. So that means that even though it’s an animal, because it quite literally has devil essence coursing through it [...] and maybe some of your divine characters who would otherwise be as lacking [...] have a way to interact with it.”

But while Howl of the Wild is primarily a bestiary, it also contains six new playable ancestries. And, while ancestries have previously been revealed on the Paizo website, Case was able to share the book’s three new archetypes here for the first time.

A male-presenting character with green skin, daubs of earth, and matted hair. He’s on all fours. Image: Wilmar Ballespí Escarp/Paizo

The Wild Mimic is a take on the classic Tarzan or, for video game fans, Street Fighter’s Blanca. They have access to skills involving trampling, rending, and pouncing, but also generating electricity, regenerating limbs, and making shockingly loud vocalizations. Meanwhile, the Swarmkeeper — shown in early art as a character with Goblin ancestry — keeps a swarm of symbiotic insects on their person. Characters like the Swarmkeeper are the result, Case said, of extremely open-minded brainstorming brought on, in part, by a desire to further differentiate the Pathfinder universe from its competitors.

A goblin wearing a mask inspired by medieval beekeepers — with wicker bands over its eyes — calls forth a swarm of insects from beneath its tattered robes. Image: Wilmar Ballespí Escarp/Paizo
A werecreature in elaborage plate armor, its feet bare and a saber raised in salute. Its cape is green. Image: Luca Melo/Paizo

But by far the most anticipated addition to the Second Edition’s remastered ruleset is werecreatures — shapeshifting humanoid creatures inspired by werewolves and other mythical creatures. And Paizo’s system for creating these creatures, Case said, is even more nuanced than its other archetypes.

“This is double-length ancestry [in terms of page count] that gives you all of your classic stuff — shape shifting and healing, that sort of thing,” Case said. But it also offers additional abilities, like echolocation for werebats and pack attacks for werewolves in addition to “more general werecreature abilities.”

Howl of the Wild is due out as both a digital and a physical book in May 2024.

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