Continuing with our Sword & Sorcery “reskinning” of Pathfinder Core Races I’ll now treat of another famous theme of pulp fantasy literature: Ape-men!
Called Ape-men by the original Chelaxian explorers of Sargava, these lite and agile humanoids have their bodies covered with a fine dark fur and slight simian features, including tails. They’re natives from the Mwangi Expanse, where they’re known to be territorial and elusive. Local tribesmen call them the Gar or the Hidden Folk and it quickly became a fashion among wealthy Chelaxian aristocrats to possess Apen-men slaves. At first, Gar slaves were used as entertainers and later even as scouts during Cheliax’s imperial wars. Although bestial in appearance, the Gar are a non-violent race, which contributed to their enslavement (and higher prices). Many, however, managed to escape their masters and hid among Avistan’s forests.
At Garund, the Ape-men guard old ruins – an sacred tradition lost amid the race’s origin. Gar are clearly half-human and many debate if the entire race is artificial or a degenerated version from some forgotten human folk from the Mwangi Expanse’s deeps. A few speculate the heresy that the Gar may actually be the oldest human race in Golarion.
Commentaries: Ok, this one was hard. Halflings are already seen with prejudice by many gamers and while elves and dwarves are common in most setting, Tolkien’s creation isn’t. Mechanically speaking, Pathfinder halflings are agile, lucky and even charming or shrewd. I can’t explain why but this mix, in my opinion, is a good start for an Ape-men race. I’m not talking about savage brutes and throwbacks (we’ll got those in a moment), but of a race of primordial tricksters with a very (very!) long history and potential secrets. If you read the Malazan Book of the Fallen, think about the Eres. Even Pellucidar’s Apemen are a good inspiration (note the difference that Burrough made between them and the Sagoth).
I believe the Gar add a nice (and exotic) variety to a Sword & Sorcery party. The fact that halflings are slaves in official Cheliax is perfect fit for the Gar.
In game terms, you can either use halflings racial traits as written for Ape-men (in which case they’ll be a small race), or add the following changes: remove Small, Slow Speed and Weapon Familiarity; add Brachiation (climb 20 ft.) and Prehensile Tail.
Gar can use their Prehensile Tail to hang (if carrying a light load or less) or to execute crude manipulating (any Dexterity or Dexterity-based skill check using their tail for precision-based tasks suffer a –10 penalty, reducible to –4 by spending a Feat slot).