I'm currently preparing for a Pathfinder session for the first time (we played degenesis and wanted to do something with more freedom). I got myself only the Core Rule Book.

However, I (we) simply cannot understand how traits are set up due to a few contradictory statements between the different wiki-sites and the Core Rule Book.

It also does not help that the German version we're using is not very well translated in that point. We had a great many problems distinguishing feats from traits in the book from the English wiki-pages, which caused some confusion even in framing this question originally.

Taking as example the Dwarves. The Core Rule Book states that dwarves have the following traits:

Slow and Steady: Dwarves have a base speed of 20 feet, but their speed is never modified by armor or encumbrance.

Defensive Training: Dwarves gain a +4 dodge bonus to AC against monsters of the giant subtype.

Hardy: Dwarves gain a +2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison, spells, and spell-like abilities.

Stability: Dwarves gain a +4 racial bonus to their Combat Maneuver Defense when resisting a bull rush or trip attempt while standing on the ground.

Greed: Dwarves gain a +2 racial bonus on Appraise checks made to determine the price of non-magical goods that contain precious metals or gemstones.

Stonecunning: Dwarves gain a +2 bonus on Perception checks to notice unusual stonework, such as traps and hidden doors located in stone walls or floors. They receive a check to notice such features whenever they pass within 10 feet of them, whether or not they are actively looking.

Darkvision: Dwarves can see perfectly in the dark up to 60 feet.

Hatred: Dwarves gain a +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against humanoid creatures of the orc and goblinoid subtypes because of their special training against these hated foes.

Weapon Familiarity: Dwarves are proficient with battleaxes, heavy picks, and warhammers, and treat any weapon with the word “dwarven” in its name as a martial weapon.

From that alone I would guessed that those traits come automatically if you choose that race. However in Chapter 5 there is a huge table with even more traits. After a bit of research I stumbled across this:

Gaining Traits

When you create your character for a campaign, ask your GM how many traits you can select. In most cases, a new PC should gain two traits, effectively gaining what amounts to a bonus feat at character creation. Some GMs may wish to adjust this number somewhat, depending upon their style of play; you may only be able to pick one trait, or your GM might allow three or more. Even if your GM normally doesn’t allow bonus traits, you might still be able to pick up some with the Additional Traits feat.

Since the CRB does not state it differently (or.... at all), does that mean that my dwarf character can only choose 2 of the 9 traits from above or the ones from the table in chapter? That would seem a bit un-dwarfly since they wouldn't be very distinguished from other races then.

Also, the CRB always assumes that my dwarf got the Slow and Steady trait and points towards it whenever speed calculations for medium/heavy armor are mentioned.

Bonus: The main reason for that dispute is that a friend of mine wants to play the Android race, but we do not know what traits we should give to it, since the "Emotionless" trait is only disadvantageous and does not make sense, if you only got 2 to choose.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I know what a Feat is, but what is a Perk? Did you mean to ask about Traits in the title? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 13, 2014 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, mixed it up. Since i tried multiple translators to find the correct term. The German Book only knows "Talente (Ger: "Talents") and Fertigkeiten (Eng: "Skills") \$\endgroup\$
    – Kyte
    Dec 13, 2014 at 21:52
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ As a fellow German: There's a German PRD available here. As for translations of the common game terms: "Volksmerkmale"="Racial Traits", "Talente"="Feats", "Fertigkeiten"="Skills", "Wesenszüge"="Traits". \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Dec 13, 2014 at 23:12
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ giantitp.com/comics/oots0012.html \$\endgroup\$ Dec 14, 2014 at 15:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ The glossary at pathfinder-ogl.de/wiki/Regelbegriff-Glossar is also handy when switching between German and English sources. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 15, 2014 at 18:45

3 Answers 3


You're confusing two different game concepts, which is understandable considering someone made the mistake of giving two completely different things very similar names.

Breaking it down:

  1. The Race you choose has Racial Traits. You get all of these automatically, just like you're thinking of. You pick a dwarf? You get all the dwarf racial traits. The "Gaining Traits" thing you found has no relation to these.
  2. Then the Advanced Player's Guide introduced a thing called the Trait system, which you can read about there. This is what the "Gaining Traits" thing applies to. These are optional mechanical bits you pick up for your characters. These traits are sorted into various lists, like Combat Traits and Equipment Traits. To confuse matters even further, one of these lists is also called Race Traits, which are so called because they always have a particular race for a prerequisite.

The racial traits from #1 have no relation at all to the traits system and race traits from #2.

The traits from the Trait system (#2) are like flavourful mini-feats you pick at character creation and which might reflect your character's personality or background (or you can ignore that bit). It lets you pick up neat features like an iron liver or an aptness at being a tactician. The Trait system is optional and your group can ignore it entirely.


The traits in question are not in the Core Rule book. They are first introduced in the Advanced Player's Guide, added to quite heavily in the book Ultimate Campaign and tend to show up in the various Player Companion books.

There is a difference between 'Race Traits', which are those you listed for the dwarf. A dwarf gets all the listed traits which can be modified with the variant traits found in books like Advanced Race Guide, and 'Character Traits' which are used to help provide a bit of background(and provide extra advantage).

http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/advanced/advancedNewRules.html http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCampaign/characterBackground/traits.html


A character of any given race always possesses all their standard racial traits unless they trade some out for alternate racial traits or have a template applied that changes those traits. Racial traits are part of the core rules, and are therefore assumed to be part of every game without exception: they are not optional.

Character traits function differently. From the PFSRD:

Character traits are abilities that are not tied to your character’s race or class.

A character only receives two of these normally if using this optional rule set, but this is open to DM customization as desired. Character traits are added to feats gained from leveling, bonus feats from class or race, standard or alternate racial traits, and class features, although all of these have slightly different rules and purposes.


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