It is clear that most people in Golarion can identify an elf or a dwarf on sight, but what about more unusual creatures such as a drow or succubus? Do normal townspeople identify them on sight? If not, what would they think they are and how would they react to seeing such creatures?

What about shape-changers like eidolons? They can take on the appearance of dragons or even succubi. Would they be identified as what they really are and not as what they seem to be?

As it was asked in a comment: The campaign I'm running plays in Falcons hollow in Andoran.


Commoners (unless they spent points on the skill) and any other person who has not spent points on knowledge skills usually have some vague ideas about existing creatures, but it's mostly misinformed legends.
Commoners might know what an elf looks like, but couldn't recognize an elf from a fey or from any lithe being with long ears and great beauty, such as some celestials. Any such creature with a dark skin might be mistaken for a drow, even while lacking some drow giveaways like eye color, any stocky humanoid creature might be confused with a dwarf and any great winged lizard might be a dragon to them.

Shape-changers usually can't get recognized as such unless they're seen while transforming, their different forms are somewhat connected by logic ("that werewolf is wearing the same dress as our friend Jacob!") or their true shape is somewhat exposed (with a true seeing spell or the like, but this is unlikely to happen to our commoner friend).
If seen in a shape different from theirs, such creatures are to be recognized as whatever they're impersonating, including from people with high knowledge.
Very high knowledge or perception checks might be rewarded with the notion that there's something off, by DM fiat.


The rules on the Knowledge skill are helpful in explaining what people might be expected to know and identify.

Most people won't have these skills, and will thus only be able to make a 10 at best.

You cannot make an untrained Knowledge check with a DC higher than 10.

This means identifying a creature isn't going to work out for most people, except for very common monsters.

You can use this skill to identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities. In general, the DC of such a check equals 10 + the monster’s CR. For common monsters, such as goblins, the DC of this check equals 5 + the monster’s CR. For particularly rare monsters, such as the tarrasque, the DC of this check equals 15 + the monster’s CR or more.

Even a local low level adept or cleric would only know stuff about low HD critters.

As @MACN points out, what monsters are "common" would be dependent on where you are - in Geb undead are, in Falcon's Hollow kobolds are, et al. Drow are not known anywhere (see Second Darkness - they are mostly-unknown creatures of myth).

Even "Identify a creature's ethnicity or accent" is DC 10, so for common PC races a particularly dumb person might mix up a gnome and a halfling, or a Chelaxian and a Taldan.

Identifying an eidolon is not "really" a whatever it looks like would take Knowledge: Arcana or Spellcraft. The summoner/eidolon's mark would certainly link them, though "that guy is under the succubus' domination!!!" is as valid a guess to the untutored.


The glowing forehead rune on an Eidolon is probably a clear giveaway that it isn't the basic creature it's modeled after, especially if the Summoner and his glowing forehead rune is also there.

The eidolon’s physical appearance is up to the summoner, but it always appears as some sort of fantastical creature. This control is not fine enough to make the eidolon appear like a specific creature. The eidolon also bears a glowing rune that is identical to a rune that appears on the summoner’s forehead as long as the eidolon is summoned.

-Pathfinder SRD

Drow are probably obvious. Evil, kidnapping dark elves from the lightless places under the earth are scary stories people tell their children, while the elves themselves know and remember their foes.

A succubus might not be easily identified as such, but people are going to get the point if she's not polymorphed or disguised (which she is VERY good at): They'll run away screaming "Devil! There's a Devil!" .... or Demon, possibly, although we know that to be a slightly incorrect classification, it's close enough to get the expected response.

In general, villagers and townsfolk in a fantasy setting, and especially in educated, cosmopolitan Golarion should probably be able to tell the difference between a common race and a "monster" race or clearly magical creature, and know enough to know that common races can be dangerous and other things are always dangerous. That's usually enough. They'll likely call upon their town's experts for exact identification and to determine if they can kill it or drive it away themselves or if they need to hire adventurers. The town priest should be able to identify undead and demons, the sheriff or warden can identify animals and magical beasts, etc.


In adition to other answers, its worth to point that, in Golarion, depending on the creature type and the place, familiarity and reactions can be very different:

  • A non-shapeshifted devil walking in broad daylight in Absolom would cause quite a stirr, due to ignorance, religious indoctrination and superstition. In Cheliax, the former would be recognized as what it is, and offered a great deal of (mainly motivated by fear) respect.
  • Almost any type of undead would be perceived by fear and hostility in most parts of the world, but in Geb, they are legal citizens or property, depending of the type.
  • Is reasonable to expect a higher than average knowledge of djins and elementals in People of Quadira and Vudra. They deal with them more often than in other parts of the world, after all.
  • Trolls are considered dangerous beasts in most civilised lands, but in Irrisen, they are the enforcers of law, and the inhabitants of those places know much of them, a knowledge acquired the hard way.
  • Let's not forget the city of Nex, where the bizarre is part of everyday life. In that place, even the lowest commoner is accustomed to the most weird things.

These are only a few examples, as the setting offers a wide variety of locales where the definition what is normal deviates greatly of what is normal in the eyes of foreigners.

  • \$\begingroup\$ good examples there. In this case the game is set in andoran (falcons hollow to be exact) and from what I read they separated form cheliax because of them worshipping the devils (always confusing demons and devils though) so a succubus or something looking like one COULD raise a stir there (at least if confused with a devil that is)? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Aug 11 '14 at 11:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasE. The Andoran part should really be included in your question. \$\endgroup\$ – MACN Aug 11 '14 at 16:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ will modify it (only thought of it as I just read that part yesterday [overread it before] and your example reminded me that it could be important \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Aug 11 '14 at 20:22

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