I've played an ogre barbarian/fighter with a one-hit-one-kill concept, and he can put out more damage than anything in the party. I've played a serpentfolk wizard whose DCs were so high, creatures 10 CR higher than the party had trouble making the saves. I've even played a vampire anti-paladin who could slaughter anything living, and that's not even against something good aligned.

In 3.5, going from the Savage Species book, it always seemed to me like playing a monstrous race would be a hassle, if not an outright waste of time. People still did it, of course, and often to amazing affect. But a base-race with class levels instead of monstrous levels always seemed to keep up, if not outright surpass, those same creatures.

In Pathfinder, that doesn't seem to be the case. So, I was wondering:

Is there any better system for incorporating monstrous races into a Pathfinder campaign than that given in the Bestiary? (I mean these rules.)

To clarify, I'm looking for a way to include the entire monstrous race, Hit dice and the like included. Example method: Not giving the creature bonus levels. (I don't use this method because it only really applies on a case-by-case basis. An ogre cleric, with this rule, would quickly grow underpowered, even though an Ogre Barbarian would likely keep up well with the party.)

Suggestions are welcome, and experience is always appreciated, but something official is more of what I'm looking for. If there aren't any, though, then no worries.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Like the Advanced Race Guide? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Dec 3, 2012 at 2:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Advanced Race Guide has a section on monstrous races? If so, guess I missed it. As far as I can tell, all it gives you is a very complicated way to reverse-engineering races to be used without their monstrous HD. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zach
    Dec 3, 2012 at 4:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ And that's by definition a way to differently incorporate monstrous races into a Pathfinder campaign... paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/advancedRaceGuide/raceBuilder.html \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Dec 3, 2012 at 4:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay, that's one way... anyone else have anything? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zach
    Dec 3, 2012 at 4:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just point of interest, Savage Species is one of the worst-balanced books WotC published for 3.x. It wasn't even really intended as a proper 3.x book, but a spin-off, but that got cancelled and the material got thrown into a weird "3.25" book. (Of course, its primary competition for that title within 3.5 is the Player's Handbook...) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 3, 2012 at 22:48

2 Answers 2


I proffer this answer only because @Zach doesn't like the answer provided above which, from a system point of view at least, is more consistent and easier to implement for the GM. However, here are some other options to work around the inherent imbalance of monster races without @Gates answer:

First and foremost - try to consider balance to be more than the sum total of what the system has to offer (and especially the combat system). In the example of the ogre you could:

  1. Make it apparent that life is difficult for creatures that big when pretty much everything is made for smaller folks: "Er... yeah - I repair weapons but something that big? I don't even know where to start. Leave it with me for a couple of weeks and I'll give it a go but don't expect anything quick or cheap"
  2. Play up reactions to the racial stereotype. There's likely to be settlements that just aren't comfortable letting an ogre wander around them.
  3. Magical items - in a campaign where they're relatively common how many are they going to find that actually fit an ogre?
  4. Transport: horses, coaches, boats etc are all likely to be difficult propositions.
  5. This one takes a little more work - but you can provide a slightly different perspective on the world with some effort to re-describe things for a less advanced race who might not understand the technical or social nuances of other species.

All of the above take more effort than just throwing in some checks and balances at character generation but they can add a lot of atmosphere to the game. I would also strongly advise talking with your group about whether any of them would help provide the sort balance that you want - after all there's not point putting balance mechanisms in that either don't work for your group or make the race entirely unplayable for your players.


The answer you want is provided by @mxyzplk. Take a look at the Advanced Race Guide, Race Builder section.

There are guidelines there for creating balanced races. We currently have an orc/elf/human in the party built at the 10RP range and he works out just fine.

It's pretty easy to balance out these characters, but it will require some reading.

Update: in reply to the comment below.

Here's an ogre example race and the ogre monster description.

The ogre PC gets +4 Str / +4 Con / -2 Int / -2 Cha. With a basic 20pt buy, that would give you scores like this: 20/10/18/8/10/8. The Ogre monster has 21/8/15/6/10/7, so it's already on par for just basic ability scores.

The PC has 2 points of Natural Armor instead of 5, but it doesn't have the dex loss. But level the Ogre PC to 3rd level fighter or so and that Ogre monster is in deep trouble.

A key thing to remember about the PF game is that Monsters and PCs are not created by the exact same rules. A big reason for this stuff (monster HD) is for game balance.

As given, the Ogre race is pretty broken. An Ogre Fighter would be a serious threat in any party. By level 5 he would be slaughtering whole Ogre families by himself. And the game actually accounts for this by suggesting the DM up the level of fights to account for how good the ogre is.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There are guidelines for creating balanced Base races. I'm looking to incorporate actual monsters (monstrous hit dice and all) into the character, not just create a new race that looks odd. For example, the Ogre they give in the advanced race guide just doesn't feel like an Ogre to me. It has +6 to str, not +10. So, by Ogre standards, it would be a pretty weak ogre. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zach
    Dec 3, 2012 at 22:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zach That's the official rules to make it less "broken." If you'd like it more broken, you know how to do that already. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Dec 4, 2012 at 0:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zach: It seems to me that your problem with making "overpowered" characters might have more to do with you devoting much more effort to optimizing your characters relative to your party than the (admittedly powerful) monstrous HD. I've had a similar problems in the past. If I may make a suggestion: voluntarily apply a few negative levels to your PC, and nerf your damage/DCs more if necessary. Keeps all the flavor and fun of your optimized build without perpetually stealing the show from your companions. Deliberately avoiding the most overpowered synergies when character building also helps. \$\endgroup\$
    – KryptofTen
    Oct 14, 2022 at 5:10

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