The Pathfinder RPG, sometimes called "3.75E", has been called a Spiritual Successor to Edition 3.5 of Dungeons & Dragons. It is a tabletop game based upon the rules of Dungeons and Dragons' 3.5 Edition, but expands on them, making additional rules, rebalancing classes, and simplifying some aspects.In short, it's D&D for those who disliked the changes found in D&D's Fourth Edition (or who liked 3.5 and wished to remain compatible with its rules).Pathfinder was created by Paizo Publishing, a group that was split off from Wizards of the Coast in 2002 to publish Dragon and Dungeon Magazines. When WotC announced the fourth edition of D&D, they took back the publication rights to the magazines in order to create exclusively online versions. Paizo decided to publish a 3rd-edition-focused magazine of its own, Pathfinder, keeping up the "Adventure Path" tradition they'd established in the last three years of Dungeon while establishing a new in-house campaign setting. They subsequently decided that rather than transition into 4th Edition, they would create their own spin on 3rd, using the foundation of D&D to offer something new and fresh while allowing old players to build on what they already knew, created, and played. It also prides itself on being compatible with 3.5 (with a few rules alterations, of course.)Pathfinder products are set in the world of Golarion, which aims to be more like classic pulp fantasy than the more recent Dungeons and Dragons settings.The game has nothing to do with the movie of the same name.Now has a Character Sheet.There is now a line of novels and other fiction; this is under Pathfinder Tales. If you're looking for the book by Orson Scott Card, see Literature/Pathfinder. A massive online index of rule information - almost everything Paizo published, plus some third-party materials - can be found here.
Acid Trip Dimension: Limbo, a holdover from D&D is a chaotic realm where the terrain and even the physics changes randomly. Also, The First World, the home of the Fey and the original blueprint for the material plane.
Action Girl: While always an option in any role-playing game, it's notable that the "iconic" characters featured in Pathfinder's artwork have either been an even balance of the sexes, or slightly favoring women (as opposed to many games in which the fluff is male-dominant while the rules don't discriminate). This extends to teams of pre-generated characters for adventures, frequently featuring three women with a lone man, or the full four-woman party of the Carrion Crown campaign. (This may be a Mythology Gag, since Carrion Crown was an adventure series devoted to horror tropes.)
Alchemy: The alchemist is a base class introduced in the Advanced Player's Guide. It focuses on infusing chemical reagents with magical energy, creating potions, poisons, mutagens, and incendiaries. Its ultimate (20th-level) ability is the "grand discovery", which can take numerous forms, including immortality or the creation of a philosopher's stone.
Always Chaotic Evil: While there are always exceptions at the GM's discretion, supplementary materials would kindly remind you that aside from those singular individuals, the savage humanoids of Golarion are gleefully evil, if not insanely so. Part of the motivation behind the "Second Darkness" adventure path was to rewind back to the days when the Drow were unrepentantly, unforgivably evil, before the creation of a certain heroic dark elf ranger.
A particularly Egregious example from the Dungeoneer's Handbook includes an item that is essentially a collapsible boulder. It's described as being a fist-sized piece of coral weighing only a few ounces that, when wet, expands to a 3-foot boulder that suddenly weighs 8 pounds. Aside from the fact that coral doesn't work anything like that, there is no indication that it is in anyway magical, so how does it bludgeon the Law of Conservation of Mass so brutally?
Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: The forms of the various types of demons are determined by the sins of the souls they were formed from (i.e. Succubi are formed from lustful souls), whereas the forms of the various types of daemons are determined by the manner of death of the souls they were formed from (i.e. Hydrodaemons are formed from evil souls who died from drowning).
Awesome, but Impractical: Solid gold weapons! They cost 10 times as much as normal, weigh half again as much, take a penalty on damage rolls, fall apart on an attack roll of 1... but hey, they sure do look pretty!
Bonus points for having NO real bonuses to counteract these penalties. Except a possible circumstance bonus to Diplomacy.
Awesome Yet Practical: The 9th Level Cleric/Oracle Spell known as Miracle. Its main use is, in a nutshell, LETTING YOU CAST ANY LEVEL 7 OR LOWER SPELL IN THE GAME WHILE TREATING THEM LIKE 9TH LEVEL SPELLS. This essentially gives you every Bard, Magus, Inquisitor, and Summoner spell in existence, and a majority of Wizard/Sorceror Spell List at you finger tips, with the exceptions of spells that require having certain class skills to cast (like several Bard spells that require you to have the ability to use Bardic Preformance). As an added bonus, if the materials components cost 100 Gold or less, the Spell is FREE.
It gets better, since this is only ONE of the things this Spell can do. It can also remove the effects of harmful spells like Insanity or Feeblemind, or, to quote the official description on the official Pathfinder website, "Have any effect whose power level is in line with the above effects." WOW.
Badass Normal: Before he rose to godhood, this was Cayden Cailean in a nutshell. Extremely powerful, wandering, womanizing mercenary. Oh, and usually drunk. Became a god on a dare. While blackout drunk. Even as a god he doesn't remember how he managed to reach the Starstone, or what exactly was going on at the time. He basically woke up the next day with a terrifying hangover and godhood.
Of course, any non-magic-user character that survives long enough can be considered this.
Bag of Holding: A staple magic Item and elaborated on in "Classic Treasures Revisited".
Blade on a Stick: The Ancient Runelords of Thassilon all had a favored pole arm. In addition the weapon rules still have a fair amount of pole arms on their own.
Blue and Orange Morality: Many neutral outsiders, particularly the Aeons (enigmatic True Neutral entities that are guardians of various aspects of reality.), as well as beings from the First World such as many Fey (gnomes, being refugees from the place, have shades of this as well).
Special mention to Lawful/Chaotic Neutral outsiders who basically tend to have Blue and Orange Morality, but Black and White Ethics. For instance, a LN outsider would punish slavers in areas where it is illegal, but in places where slavery is legal their targets become escaped slaves.
Body Horror: Some of the Alchemist's Discoveries are pure self-inflicted body horror, ranging from standard Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde-style transformations to carrying a helpless conjoined twin (allowing for extra limbs) or a sentient tumor in your body. There's plenty to be found elsewhere, and most of it isn't voluntary.
A fair amount of this turns up in Wake of the Watcher, part four of the Carrion Crown Adventure Path. It's also the one with the most Lovecraftian influence and the Body Horror is not limited just to the descriptions - at least two pieces of artwork showed it quite clearly (much to this troper's discomfort).
And then there are the tortures the Drow indulge in whenever one of their surface cousins falls in their clutches.
Partially averted by the goddess Calistria, who isn't particularly good or evil.
Blob Monster: Of course, since "ooze" is kept as a creature type.
Brain in a Jar: The Carrion Crown adventure module Wake of the Watcher features a "brain archive" that contains several of these.
Break the Cutie: Ameiko Kaijitsu's story arc in Pathfinder #1: Burnt Offerings has shades of this trope. Her beloved but estranged younger half-brother, Tsuto, comes back to her home town after a five-year absence, intending to burn it to the ground and kill everyone in it. When she refuses to join him in this endeavor, he has his goblin minions beat her within an inch of her life (literally, she has a negative hit point total if the PCs manage to rescue her), and leaves her tied up, gagged, and blindfolded on a cold stone floor for a few hours. He also murders her father, and puts his body on display in the workshop of the family's glass-making business, covering it in sheets of cooled molten glass. And then there's the possible revelation, depending on how things play out, that her father murdered her mother five years earlier, as a long-delayed revenge for the adultery that produced Tsuto. Also, if the PCs don't rescue her very quickly after her capture, she'll end up being burned to death by Tsuto's psychotic girlfriend as a sacrifice to the demon goddess Lamashtu.
Whether it gets better or worse in Jade Regent depends on your point of view. Ameiko has the opportunity to become the Empress of Minkai—if she can make an exceedingly perilous journey there with the aid of the PCs and deal with the scheming powerful Oni who drove her noble family into exile and slaughtered her grandfather. Not to mention, her backstory is expanded upon, revealing that she quit her teenage adventuring career after seeing her lover get dragged to his death by cannibals.
Zon-Kuthon was a god of love and beauty like his sister Shelyn before going on a journey outside reality, meeting something, and coming back as the broken and twisted god of pain, darkness, and loss.
His father was a boisterous, life-loving wolf spirit/god who was more than happy to see his errant son come home. Now it is the Prince in Chains, a skinless, eternally tormented "hateful creature of broken flesh, pain and chains", and Zon-Kuthon's herald. Even its flesh isn't its own - in his tortures, his son stripped it all away, using it to create his own monsters, and chains, leather, and necrotic flesh from other victims. As a deity who holds torture to be the highest form of art, Zon-Kuthon is believed to consider the Prince-in-Chains his masterpiece.
To a greater or lesser extent, every single one of the Iconics.
Seytiel, the iconic Magus, is a bastard child who was repeatedly beaten by his "father" and who when he finally met his real father, a bandit leader, was left to die after he was captured in the hopes that he would be mistaken for his father.
Lini, the iconic Druid, was left to die by the friends she had repeatedly protected from wild animals when a snow leopard jumped on her.
Amiri, the iconic Barbarian was a typical tomboy, before her people, embarrassed by her skills at killing things, tried to get her killed. She murdered the group sent to cause her death in a blood rage and now she's forever exiled from her homeland.
Sajan, the iconic Monk, was separated from his beloved twin sister by politics and in searching for her has basically banished himself from his country and all his friends.
Lem, the iconic Bard, was a slave who overheard his masters planning to sacrifice the other slaves of the house to devils, so he arranged for the slaves to all be away while he burned down the house full of his masters. The Slaves all rushed into the fire to save them.
Seelah, the iconic Paladin, stole a paladin's helm, which led to the paladin's death when a killing blow was struck upon her unarmored head. Seelah didn't take that well, planning to burn herself to death on the paladin's own funeral pyre to atone.
Harsk, the iconic Ranger, lost his brother to giants and vowed to kill them all.
Ezren, the iconic Wizard, spent decades of his life trying to clear his father of false charges of heresy against the church of Abadar, only to prove his father's guilt.
Kyra, the iconic Cleric, lost her beloved peasant village when it was burned around her.
Alahazra, the iconic Oracle, was thrown out of her house into the desert to die of starvation and exposure by her own father because she could cast divine magic.
Feiya, the iconic Witch, was raised by Hags. Wolves would have been kinder.
Captain Ersatz: The boggards, a race of frog-people, are really just D&D's bullywugs renamed due to copyright issues.
The serpentfolk are similar to D&D's yuan-ti in function (ancient evil snake folk living in ruins) but different in appearance, powers, and culture. In a way, they're more of a return to form—yuan-ti were ersatzes of Robert E. Howard's serpentfolk. Pathfinder's serpentfolk are for all practical purposes identical to the archenemies of King Kull.
Intellect devourers, though a preexisting D&D monster, have become the default stand-in for mind flayers in the "psionic brain-themed underground aberration" department. Another preexisting monster tied to mind flayers, neothelids, also picked up a part of their role, in this case the "immensely powerful psionic horrors worshipping worse beings and plotting to destroy/enslave everything else" part. Finally, Psionics Unleashed, a third-party Sourcebook from Dreamscarred Press, features a direct Captain Ersatz for the illithid — the phrenic slayer. It looks like a tentacle-faced humanoid like a mind flayer, but beneath its cloak it's actually a squirming mass of worm-like tendrils.
Rovagug, the god of destruction, is the replacement for Obox-ob, the demon lord who was the Big Bad of lead designer James Jacobs's campaign which eventually became Golarion. Jacobs "sold" Obox-ob to Wizards of the Coast when he included the demon in their Fiendish Codex book (fair enough as he took the name from the 1E Monster Manual II).note Rovagug did exist in Jacobs's original campaign but was a more generic god of the underworld.
A weird case: In D&D 3E, there were two "underground fish-people" races: kuo-toa (the more popular and better-known) and skum. The skum were open-source under the Open Gaming License; the kuo-toa were not. So Paizo took the skum and made them thematically more like the kuo-toa (and H. P. Lovecraft's Deep Ones), turning them into a Captain Ersatz of the other fish-folk.
The graveknight is inspired by D&D's death knight, with some subtle differences—the death knight's soul inhabits its dead body like most undead, while the graveknight's soul possesses its armor, much like a lich's phylactery.
Likewise, the ravener is strongly based on D&D's dracolich.
The urdefhans are meant to evoke the image of D&D's githyanki — evil, otherworldly humanoids with a skeletal appearance who wield distinctive swords — but have a completely different campaign role.
The Starstone also turned out to be very powerful on its own right, including the ability to elevate mortals to GODHOOD, four times actually. Though the Aboleth were not aware of its real nature, so this was not intentional...at least from the point of view of the Deep Masters.
Creative Sterility: The titans were jealous of gods' ability to create mortals, so they tried to create a race of their own to worship them. What they got were the demodands, a race of twisted, fiendish mockeries.
Firearms misfire on a low attack roll. A misfire results in the weapon gaining the broken condition, which means that the weapon will more easily misfire again, and the weapon will explode on a second misfire.
Fragile weapons also become broken on a natural 1 and are destroyed on a second natural 1.
Any attack roll resulting in a natural 1 near a temerdaemon will hit the attacker or an ally of the attacker if a second attack roll succeeds.
Cthulhu Mythos: The dev team has said that they won't use elements of the Mythos tied directly to Earth (such as the great race of Yith, the elder things, and Cthulhu himself), but elements of a more cosmic scope (such as the Outer Gods and the Dreamlands) are fair game.
Until part 4 of the Carrion Crown adventure path, which details cults and monsters dedicated to these entities. They justified this in Cthulhu's case as a matter of his dreams and influence reaching across the gulf of space, despite his slumbering imprisonment on a distant, "unknown" world. Besides, Hastur is a Great Old One trapped on a world far away from Earth, yet still has cultists here (depending on the interpretation of Hastur you ascribe to, that is) so it's not unprecedented.
Aaand all bets are off now that Yithians have been statted up in Bestiary 3. Although why anyone would have believed them considering the very Earth-specific shoggoths were statted in the first Bestiary is a mystery.
Cthulhu now appears to be on the cover of Bestiary 4. Oh boy.
Cursed with Awesome: The sorcerer Class now has Bloodlines which can stem from anything from dragons to demons to undead to Lovecraftian horrors lurking between the stars. They all give the Sorcerer awesome powers, new spells, and access to more feats. In a more literal sense, the Oracle base class is given something called an "Oracle's Curse".
Oh no! You are babbling in a demonic tongue while in battle! But when you reach level 15, you can understand and speak any language!
Oh no! You can't see beyond 30 feet in front of you, but you can see in the infrared spectrum and at level 15 who cares about having difficulty seeing, you can see in a fashion that's better than regular sight.
Oh no! I'm a bit lame, but at level 15 I literally cannot get tired.
Oh no! I'm a bit ugly and unpleasant, but I'm completely immune to disease and nausea.
Darker and Edgier: Sometimes just in the sense of having a more "mature" feel, sometimes considerably less subtle (one module has hillbilly rapist ogres). Said module is the censored version. The original will likely never be published.
The "Carnival of Tears" module gives the heroes an early opportunity to stop a violent rape, and that's before any evil fey get involved. From there it becomes a parade of gore, misery, and horror that puts the Saw movies to shame. If the adventure ends with a body count of less than one hundred villagers, it's considered a smashing success for the heroes.
Demon Lords and Archdevils: Most "races" of fiends have a class of powerful rulers, who are classified as demigods and capable of channeling spells to cultists.
Most of the standard 1st-through-3rd edition archdevils made the transfer to Golarion, albeit altered. The ones who came along in 2E or 3E (Bel, Fierna, Levistus, Malagard, and Glasya) were dropped in favor of their 1E public domain predecessors (Geryon and Moloch), with a new one, Barbatos, rounding out the line-up.
Sadly, most of the demon lords had to be left behind and replaced by a new batch due to copyright reasons. On the other hand, most of the really important ones were Public Domain Characters (Orcus, Demogorgonnote though his depiction as a two-headed monkey/serpent remains copyrighted by Wizards, so he receives only off-hand mentions, Pazuzu, Dagon, Kostchtchie, Baphomet...). The biggest losses lore-wise were Graz'zt, Fraz-Urb'luunote who is open source thanks to creeping into the 3.5 3rd-party Tome of Horrors, but Paizo deliberately doesn't use him because he's so closely tied to Greyhawk, Pale Night, Yeenoghu, and Zuggtmoy. Many replacements will be familiar to those with knowledge of real-world demonology.
The daemons (who have reclaimed their proper name after being known as yugoloths for two and a half editions) now have the Four Horsemen leading them instead of the solitary Oinodaemon (whom they ganged up on and imprisoned).
The asuras (original to PF and based on Indian myth) have a caste of godlike "ranas".
The qlippoth are the original inhabitants of the Abyss, and were driven to the lower depths when the demons appeared. They have horrific, primeval shapes in contrast to the humanoid structure of demons, and wish to destroy the demons by destroying all mortal life (from which demons are formed). They have lords of their own, but most of them are unknown to mortals.
The kytons (originally a single subtype of devil in D&D, now a whole distinct race of fiends) are ruled by the demagogues, who, like Zon-Kuthon, are basically Cenobites.
The oni and rakshasas (evil spirits incarnate in mortal bodies) are ruled by demigods called daimyo and immortals respectively.
The divs (corrupted genies from Persian myth) have one demigod ruler, Ahriman.
The only race of fiends without godlike rulers are the demodands, who are instead ruled over by the thanatotictitans... who are nearly a race of demigods unto themselves.
Some items are "fragile" and will break when either critically hit (in the case of armor) or when you critically fail an attack (in the case of weapons). Some spells like shatter allow items to give applicable saving throws to avoid being destroyed. And of course, if you want to take a smack at someone's sword, shield, or armour, you can.
As of "Ultimate Combat" Items can now be made out of fragile materials like Bone which can break on a critical failure. Even before these rules Goblin-Made weapons like dogslicers were liable to break on their first critical failure.
Death World: Of all the places with sentient life, perhaps the most dangerous to Human life would be Golarion's Sun.
Elves VS Dwarves: Consciously averted. Elves actually are really good neighbors with Dwarfs in this setting due to both being fairly isolationist. According to one sourcebook this is because "good fences make good neighbors". Lead designer James Jacobs explained that it's because Elves VS Dwarves is a prominent trope in Forgotten Realms, and Paizo wanted to avoid comparisons between the two settings.
Apparently played straight as of the Advanced Race Guide, which includes character options for both elves and dwarves which divide up their favored enemy bonuses between the standard orcs...and each other, thanks to the usual ancient grudge.
The Empire: Cheliax, in all its dark devil-worshipping glory. Fortunately still recovering from its stint as a Vestigial Empire, though.
Empty Levels: Pathfinder has taken steps to avert this trope with a vengeance. Unlike 3.5, where most of the martial classes would end up having most their levels granting nothing but an attack bonus, practically every non-spellcaster class gets a class feature every level. Spellcasters, of course, get spells instead.
Even spellcasters get their own unique stuff. Clerics' domains give increasing bonuses and abilities as levels go up (as opposed to D&D, where, aside from spells, the domains gave their full payout at level 1), sorcerers have their Bloodlines that keep getting better, wizards get either increasing bonuses from being specialists, or from being a balanced generalist, and Summoners gain "Evolution Points" that they can use to tweak their Bond Creature.
Entropy and Chaos Magic: Primal Magic. This exists in areas where The First World invades upon the material plane or in places like the mana wastes between the war-torn arcane countries of Geb and Nex.
Even Evil Has Standards: Demons and devils regularly team up with each other and angels against the suicidally nihilistic daemons.
Everyone Is Bi: One of the developers has stated that unless otherwise explicitly noted, all of the mascot "iconic" characters should simply be considered bisexual. Golarion in general is pretty LGBT-friendly.
The fanservice isn't just of the sexual variety. A foreword to one of the Jade Regent adventures notes several great things about a story that combines ninjas with vikings, such as having a good excuse to paint a cover featuring ninjas fighting on a burning longboat.
Fantastic Fragility: Artifacts can be destroyed only in very specific ways, for example, The Axe of Dwarvish Lords can only be destroyed if a Goblin uses it to behead a Dwarven king.
Of the states: Absalom is Jerusalem. Almhult is Iceland. Amanandar is Hong Kong. Andoran is the early United States. The Arcadians are Native Americans, and so are the Shoantinote though the Shoanti are also influenced by Robert E. Howard's Picts. Bachuan is, of all places in a fantasy setting, a fusion of communist China and North Korea. Brevoy and Iobaria are medieval Russia. Cheliax can be seen as some weird form of Satan-worshipping Nazi Germany if you look at it the right (wrong) way. Dtang Ma is Thailand. The Erutaki are Inuit. The Forest of Spirits is ancient Japan, by way of Princess Mononoke. Galt is revolutionary France. Hongal is Mongolia. Hwanggot is Korea. Iblydos is ancient Greece. Irrisen is the fairy tale version of Russia (complete with Baba Yaga!). Kaladay is the medieval European conception of China. Katapesh is Arabia. Kelesh is Persia. The Lands of the Linnorm Kings are Scandinavia. Lung Wa and its many Successor States are China. Minata is Indonesia and the Philippines. Minkai is Japan and so is Shokuro, with the difference being that Minkai is a bit more fantastic and Shokuro a bit more feodal. The Mwangi Expanse is Darkest Africa. Ninshabur is Babylon. Osirion is Egypt. Qadira is also Arabia (with some Persian influences). Sarusan is Australia. The Shackles are the Caribbean. Taldor is the Byzantine Empire. Ustalav is fantasy Transylvania. Valenhall is Vinland. The Varisians are the Roma (Gypsies). The Varki are Sŕmi (Lapland natives). Vudra is India. The Wall of Heaven is Nepal. Xa Hoi is Vietnam. Zi Ha is Tibet.
Of the deities: The faith of Iomedae comes closest to Christianity. Asmodeus is Satan as depicted in Paradise Lost and the Divine Comedynote note that Asmodeus is a real-world devil, but very different from the Pathfinder version. Shizuru and Susumu are Amaterasu and Susanoo. Sangpotshi is Buddhism. The Vudran faith is Hinduism.
It even extends to the solar system. Aballon the Horse is Mercury. Castrovel the Green is Venus. Akiton the Red is Mars. The Diaspora is the Asteroid Belt. Liavara is Jupiter and Saturn. Bretheda is Uranus and Neptune.
Fantasy Gun Control: Averted in Alkenstar, a city-state located in a region where magic doesn't function, which has encouraged the inhabitants to develop non-magical weapons and technology, including firearms. Played straight most everywhere else, as most people don't see the use for loud, unreliable and hard to maintain weapons when magic can do the job.
As of the Ultimate Combat supplement, there is a Gunslinger base class that specializes in them. There are also paladin, cavalier (musketeer), inquisitor, and wizard variants that use guns, as well as pair of rogue talents that lets you nab the ability to use one.
Likewise, half-orcs are more often than not described as dim and brutish, with those who aren't being exceptions to the rule. By the rules, a half-orc takes no negatives to stats, and takes a +2 bonus to any stat of the player's choosing. So it's entirely possible to have a half-orc with 20 intelligence or charisma right off the bat.
Genie in a Bottle: Represented by the magical items efreeti bottle and the ring of djinn summoning.
Genre Shift: Occurs at the start of the second Kingmaker module. You go from being typical adventurers to becoming the rulers of a new kingdom. Adventuring still takes up most of gameplay, but you will spend a lot of time running your kingdom.
Queen Ileosa of Korvosa in Curse of the Crimson Throne.
The current queen of Cheliax is a teenage Royal Brat whose advisers include a pit fiend devil. You do the math. The worst part? He's there to reign in her darker impulses.
Gorgeous Garment Generation: The rod of splendor garbs its wielder in magical noble's clothing - the finest fabrics, plus adornments of furs and jewels, worth 7,000-10,000 gold pieces. Of course this was a DnD 3.5 item.
Green-Eyed Monster: The archdevil Baalzebul believes himself the only deserving son of Asmodeus and loathes the other archdevils for, in his mind, usurping his proper place in Hell.
Hellfire: Made by Devils, it's evil fire and can even burn those immune to fire.
Hell Seeker: There are a lot. Pretty much anyone who makes a Deal with the Devil for instance. Oddly enough Subverted to a degree with the country of Cheliax, who see Hell's Infernal Hierarchy more as a model for government than as a place they want to be.
Heel Face Turn: Champions of Purity has a short chapter and rules for redeeming Evil people and creatures. To drive the point home, the page displays the Tiefling shown fighting Seelah on the cover of Blood of Fiends now proudly wearing a symbol of Iomedae.
Hillbilly Horrors: The Hook Mountain Massacre, with the bonus that some of the inbred rapist homicidal degenerates are ten feet tall.
Ogres and ogrekin in general borrow a lot from this trope.
Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: Just like in D&D, several species in Pathfinder are quite capable of breeding with just about anything. Aside from the typical half-orcs, half-elves, aasimar and tieflings, there's also the matter of sorcerers whose bloodlines can include devils, demons, angels, undead, plants, and shadows.
Human Sacrifice: A tradition among the evil religions, though the particulars can vary. The Demonic Obedience for Lamashtu for instance involves sacrificing a life that is younger than 4 weeks old.
Humans Are Special: Subverted. The rise to power of the first human civilization, Azlant, was covertly backed by aboleths, and one can argue that humanity wouldn't have the status it now does without that start and its consequences.
Kaiju: Achaekek the Mantis God (one of the few gods with stats) qualifies, as do the Spawn of Rovagug — unique gigantic monstrosities that are the spawn of the Rough Beast Rovagug, god of destroying the world. The Tarrasque is just the most famous of the Spawn.
Other gigantic, high-power monsters can be considered this, like Mu spores, behemoths, krakens...
An actual kaiju template, inspired by high-powered Japanese movie monsters like Godzilla and Gamera, was scheduled for appearance in Bestiary 3, but it was cut because it would have been eight pages long. Paizo is now holding off on releasing it until they get mythic rules (ie, rules for playing near-demigods) ironed out.
The kaiju template now appears confirmed for Bestiary 4.
Katanas Are Just Better: Ultimate Combat introduces the katana and wakizashi. They're mostly identical to longswords (bastard swords before errata) and shortswords respectively, but with a very minor additional cost note 35 gold more when a 2nd level Player Character is expected to have 2000, a greater critical threat range, and an additional special property "deadly" that makes them better at executing helpless foes, and wakizashi can deal piercing or slashing damage while shortswords are only effective at piercing. Note that this is more about Power Creep than katana fanboyism, since they're also exotic weapons which require special and specific training to use properly - western exotic weapons have a similar level of power.
Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The adventure "The Witchwar Legacy" has a big one. One of Baba Yaga's witch-queen daughters, Tashanna, was exiled to another reality both as punishment for staging a coup against her mother and as a means to encourage her to grow into a great witch and demon-binder in her own right. The infamous Greyhawk villain Iggwilv, who received a lot of attention in Paizo's Dragon and Dungeon runs, was a member of the Circle of Eight under the alias "Tasha".
"The Dead Eyes worship a one-eyed orcdeity whose name is long since forgotten[...]"
Left-Justified Fantasy Map: Partially averted, the areas that have been detailed so far are Avistan - a rough Europe analogue, Garund - an equally wild and varied Africa analogue, and the western region of Casmaron - roughly equivalent to the Middle East. More Recently, Tian-Xia, an analogue of eastern Asia, has been detailed as well. Arcadia (an American analogue) has been mentioned, but not detailed yet. Ditto for Vudra, the southeastern part of Casmaron, which is basically the Indian subcontinent.
Level Drain: Averted. Undead can still inflict negative levels, but you no longer have to earn those levels back the hard way.
Light Is Not Good: Shining Children (creepy borderline-Eldritch Abomination evil outsiders with light and fire themed powers) and Lurkers in Light (creepy extraplanar evil fey with abilities that make them most dangerous in well-illuminated areas) from the second Bestiary. There is also the demon lord Nurgal, representing the merciless, destructive power of the sun, and has a portfolio of pointless conflict.
Living Shadow: The spell shadow projection allows you to make your own shadow into this.
Load-Bearing Boss: Once during Council of Thieves: The chain reaction that leads to the destruction of the mayors villa and the release of the Pit Fiend starts with one single, murdered Kyton (although sad Kyton is killed by an NPC before the heroes arrive).
Lost World: The Vaults of Orv in the lowest levels of the Darklands are these.
Love Dodecahedron: The villains of Rise of the Runelords. And a squicky dodecahedron at that. Orik likes Lyrie who loves Tsuto who loves Nualia who is having sex with Tsuto but doesn't actually love him because she's angry about her former lover Delek. The goblin chief is also infatuated with Nualia, and neglects his wives so that they're all sleeping with Bruthazmus.
Lovecraft Country: The description of the Lost Coast from Burnt Offerings, the first chapter of Rise of the Runelords (the first published adventure path), reads like a description of the Dunwich area.
Lovecraft Lite: Turns up everywhere, when you scratch under the surface. Nasty elder gods, ancient non-humanoid civilizations, weird and inimical aliens, and direct references to the Mythos. The guys at Paizo love H. P. Lovecraft. The game as a whole also does not actually care about these except as thematic elements or when they are direct antagonists, and most Mythos creatures are just more monsters, no Sanity Meter to speak of.
Mad Doctor: Many of the alchemist archetypes from Ultimate Magic are based around knowledge of anatomy (and how to severely damage it).
Made of Indestructium: Major artifacts need to be destroyed by fantastic means. A different, and always difficult, method is needed for each one. No conventional attempts can harm them.
Mad Scientist: The alchemist class is based on a fantasy application of mad chemistry, with incendiary bombs, Psycho Serums, and spells in potion form. The Ultimate Magic sourcebook adds various alternate alchemist archetypes like the vivisectionist, reanimator, and clone master that allow for a wider range of Mad Scientist types.
Magic from Technology / Magitek: The planet Verces is the most technologically advanced in Golarion's solar system, using equal parts Star Trek level technology and arcane magic to keep their spacefaring society running. Neither is seen as conflicting with the other.
Magic Knight: The magus base class blends arcane magic and swordplay from level 1, channeling spells through weapon attacks, and gaining the formidable ability to cast a spell and make a full attack routine in the same round.
Magic Missile: The titular spell is part of Pathfinder just like it was in D&D.
Magic Music: The Bard character class is built upon this.
The Magocracy: The two most prominent examples are the nations of Nex and Geb. The former nation focuses on standard magic (like evocation and transmutation), while the latter is a necrocracy focusing almost exclusively on necromantic magic.
Massive Race Selection: The Advanced Race Guide details a total of 37 races, starting with the "core" races: dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, halflings, and humansnote It should be noted that "Humans" also come in almost as many ethnicities as we do on Earth. It then continues on to the "featured" races: aasimars, catfolk, dhampirs, drow, fetchlings, goblins, hobgoblins, ifrits, kobolds, orcs, oreads, ratfolk, sylphs, tengus, tieflings, and undines. Finally, it details the "uncommon" races, who receive the least support: the changelings, duergar, gillmen, gripplis, kitsune, merfolk, nagaji, samsarans, strix, sulis, svirfneblin, vanaras, vishkanyas, and waylangs. In addition, the Inner Sea Bestiary introduces five more races: the android, ghoran, lashunta, monkey goblin and syrinx, bringing the grand total up to 42. The Advanced Race Guide also includes rules for creating a new race, which races from the Inner Sea Bestiary conform to.
Master Poisoner: A number of classes such as rogues, assassins and ninjas are proficient poisoners, but it's the Alchemist, which can not only make poisons, but becomes completely immune to them, can refine them into a more deadly, harder to resist form, make them last longer on the weapon and make them in a fraction of the time with reduced material costs.
Medieval European Fantasy: Played straight with the continent of Avistan, and averted overall. Pathfinder draws heavily from many pulp sources, so while Avistan has a lot of medieval Europe in it, other continents and time periods are equally well represented.
Mind Rape: The supplement Ultimate Magic introduces a whole raft of spells that can inflict this upon others. They range from murderous command (you order someone to kill the person closest to them) to malicious spite (make someone hate another person for days and work to harm them constantly) to the granddaddy of them all, prediction of failure (force someone to experience the pain and grief of every single failure and mistake they will ever make in their life, all at once, FOREVER).
The Minion Master: The Thrallherd prestige class from 3.5 returns in Psionics Unleashed.
Mithril: A Holdover from D&D (and to an extent Lord of the Rings), mithril is still shiny, still light, and still expensive.
Mons: Type 3 with Familliars, type 2 with Summoners/Eidolons.
Mystical Plague: The spell cursed earth can infect a one mile radius area with any disease of the caster's choice.
Nay Theist: A whole nation of them; after a devastating religious Civil War, the people of Rahadoum decided to outlaw religion, destroy the temples and throw out the priests as being more trouble than they're worth. The overall stance seems to be rather balanced, as while they have to deal with many hardships that could be handled more easily with divine aid and/or magic on their side, a lot of the problems in other lands actually are caused by gods and religions.
National Weapon: Many races, such as Elves and Gnomes and Dwarves have Weapon Proficiency or Familiarity with a small group of weapons. Also, each god has their own favored weapon like Sarenrae's love of scimitars.
Nerf: And buffs too. A nearly-comprehensive list of each can be found on GiantITP, or you can ask around Brilliant Gameologists. Just be prepared for some backlash.
Most noteworthy is prestige classes, which seem to pale in comparison to the alternate class options of current era. Assassin was particularly badly hit, losing its small repetoir of useful spells and gaining only abilities used in conjunction with its hideously impractical death attack mechanic, making the class a really subpar rogue at best and a stripped down vivisectionist alhcemist at worst and like the Magus replaced the eldritch knight, so too did the ninja replace the assassin, gaining an easier to use, more effective version of death attack as an advanced talent.
Another notable nerf is towards dragons. Not counting undead or templates, the strongest dragons in the pathfinder bestiaries are the ancient gold dragons, with a CR of 20, compared to D&D 3.5 monster manual, were an ancient gold dragon clocked in at CR 24, and still had two age categories to go above that, maxing out at CR 27 as a great wyrmnote A CR 26 red dragon and a CR 27 gold dragon were added with the Dragons Revisited supplement, however.. On the other hand, the Tarrasque receives a significant buff, going from CR 20 in the Monster Manual to CR 25 in the Bestiary, the highest CR of any monster in any of the three volumes.
Ninja: Introduced in Ultimate Combat as an alternative version of the rogue class (which had the potential to be pretty ninjariffic already). The "proper" ninja is focused more on stealth and less on general trickery, and uses ki energy to fuel supernatural powers.
Noble Savage: The Kellid and Shoanti human ethnic groups. The Shoanti are more noble, the Kellids more savage.
Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Like all fantasy settings Golarion has its fair share of these, but the names of the Spawn of Rovagug REALLY take the cake with names like "Festering Ulunat, the Unholy First", "Great Doom Chemnosit, the Monarch Worm", "The Tarrasque, Armageddon Engine", "Unyielding Kothogaz, the Dance of Disharmony", "Wrath-Blazing Xoanti, the Firebleeder", and "Volnagur the End-Singer".
Obvious Rule Patch: Many, but most notably, Energy Drain is now no longer permanent (generally). Thus, energy draining undead are no longer massively broken relative to their challenge rating. While the drowning rules lost their infamous ability to heal subjects at negative HP, there is still no rules to stop drowning.
Omnicidal Maniac: Rovagug, who wants the end of the entire universe. Then there's the daemons who certainly look this way to anyone on the outside.
Our Demons Are Different: Evil spirit creatures, collectively called fiends, are grouped into several different categories depending on alignment and/or plane of origin. Each aligned plane has a race of "true" fiends as well as at least one secondary race of lesser fiends.
invoked Hell, the Lawful Evil plane, is ruled by the devils. It is also inhabited by the asuras. A third Lawful Evil race of fiends, the kytons, lives on the Plane of Shadow but has embassies in Hell.
Devils are formed from the souls of evildoers, who are slowly and carefully tortured over eons until nothing remains except pain, obedience, and hate, at which point they become of the least of devils. Asuras are the twisted result of gods making mistakes. Kytons are mad, twisted beings obsessed with pain, who create more of themselves by torturing people until they can't tell the difference between pain and pleasure.
invoked Abaddon, the Neutral Evil plane, is ruled by the daemons. It is also the home of the divs.
Daemons want to kill everything, everywhere—they came into existence from different types of deaths mortals can experience, and want to destroy every soul in existence. Divs ALSO want to destroy everyone—but more, they want to destroy everything, returning everything to oblivion in service of their lord Ahriman.
invoked The Abyss, the Chaotic Evil plane, is ruled by the demons. The qlippoth and demodands also dwell there.
Demons are born from the sins of evil souls—and a single soul can spawn hundreds or thousands of them. Qlippoth existed before everything, were evil before evil existed, and have a loathing hatred for the souls of mortals, which created the demons that now outnumber them. Demodands are the flawed creations of the thanatotic titans, who were sealed in the Abyss after a failed attempt to defeat the gods; the titans tried to create their own life to surpass the gods, but only wound up with misshapen, but powerful, monsters.
Finally, Golarion itself is home to two minor races of fiends: the rakshasas and the oni.
Rakshasas are eternally reincarnating fiends with bestial aspects and bodies with one aspect reversed, which establish twisted caste systems. Oni are evil spirits whose burning hatred of humanoids causes them to incarnate as monstrously powerful examples of various races.
Our Dragons Are Different: In addition to the classic D&D evil chromatics and good metallics, there are the elemental primordial dragons, the savage linnorms, the twisted azi, and a whole bunch of draconic critters. There are also the Imperial Dragons, based on Asian mythology. There are also the much weaker, lesser drakes, which can largely be summed up as want-to-be-dragons.
Our Dwarves Are All the Same: They originated underground, tunneled their way to the surface during the Age of Darkness, and pulled humanity out of the dark ages. Otherwise pretty standard.
Our Elves Are Better: They have Monochromatic Eyes, and their primary goddess is one of lust, trickery, and revenge. Otherwise also pretty standard. They bailed on the planet during the Age of Darkness, only returning en masse within the past few millennia when a demon took over part of their ancestral homeland. Their "ruling class" apparently lives off-world through special "Elfgates" of which few truly still function, and the species as a whole originates from this otherworldly homeland. Also, they're Aliens, hailing from an isolated continent on the lush jungle covered planet of Castrovel.
Those elves who are raised outside "proper" elven society are called Forlorn, "maladjusted" souls who live their lives as hard as humans and tend to be more somber than most of their kin on account of always outliving their friends.
Elves who fall too far into wickedness become drow.
Our Gargoyles Rock: They barely need to eat or sleep, and honestly only kill things (slowly and tortuously) because it's fun. They're also almost literally made out of rock, will last as long as a statue will (although they usually end up killing one another before that), and occasionally come in gemstones. Oh, and some of them are Weeping Angels.
Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Gnomes are fey creatures exiled from the First World in the wake of a disaster of uncertain nature; they can't quite adjust to Golarion, and spend a lot of time obsessing over minutiae and seeking out new experiences in order to avoid going mad(der) or going through a lethal process called Bleaching, which slowly reduces them to a pile of dust and bones. It's darkly hinted by the developers that the story of the disaster may be a fabrication, and gnomes are really humanoid interface devices through which vastly more powerful beings can study the material world.
Our Gods Are Greater: Unlike some other D&D settings, most gods of Golarion have no stat blocks and are explicitly immune to mortal adventurers.
To drive the point home, there have been a few examples in the fiction where a mortal being has defeated a god or god-like being, but was unable to truly end them, just remove them as a threat for the present. Ydersius, the god of the Serpent Folk literally had his head cut off and thrown in lava, and it didn't actually kill him, instead rendering his body mindless and wandering the Darklands and leaving his head....well, entombed in a pit of lava.
Our Titans Are Different: The Titans tried to wage war upon the gods. Some, the Chaotic Good Elysian Titans, turned upon their kin and assisted in their defeat. The Chaotic Evil Thanatotic Titans were imprisoned in the deep layers of the Abyss, where they created the flawed demodands as servants. Both are hideously powerful, and described as very near divine.
Our Monsters Are Different: The classic "savage humanoid" races are all revisited, keeping fairly close to their original D&D themes while making it clear that they are all monsters, who do not work and play well with other races.
All Trolls Are Different: The savage aspect of the common D&D troll is played up; they're feral wilderness creatures who see everything as food, have no fear of death, and have odd intergender relations. The trope name also holds true within the setting, as art depicting trolls can be wildly inconsistent without even taking into account troll subraces (ice trolls, water trolls, etc.). The Jotund Trolls are notable for being strange even by troll standards, having nine arguing heads.
Our Goblins Are Different: The goblins of Golarion are dangerously stupid pyromaniacs who loathe dogs and horses (the feeling is mutual), are terrified of writing (it can steal your soul!), and sing horrible merry songs about eating babies. Hobgoblins are as militaristic as the Dungeons & Dragons norm but are so universally ambitious that they can't hold an army together for long, being an entire race of Starscreams. Bugbears are psychopathic serial killers who live for the smell of fear and are unnervingly good at hiding in places nothing that huge should be able to fit—like behind your door, or under your bed.
High Goblins, a Third-Party playable race, are baseline goblins who are wiser and braver than their fellows. Though generally scorned by other races, High Goblins tend to be extremely loyal to anyone who shows them respect. Have been known to make Heel Face Turns.
Our Mermaids Are Different: In addition to whatever take will be had on the standard variety, there are ningyo — nasty little mer-monkey creatures which, if killed, automatically rise as undead that are active only at night and indistinguishable from corpses during the day.
Pirate Girl: Besmara, the goddess of pirates, strife, and sea monsters.
Plague Doctor: A module features the "Queen's Physicians," who dress like this.
Planetary Romance: The other worlds in Golarion's star system are designed to facilitate this.
Politically Incorrect Villain: Asmodeus, among other things, is noted several times to be a rampant misogynist. Makes sense, given that he represents the bad things that can come from order (tyranny, imperialistic militarism, ruthless enforcement of class divisions, institutionalised use of torture, etc.).
Precision-Guided Boomerang: Specifically, Weapons with the returning properties. Even Melee weapons (if they also have the throwing property).
Prestige Class: Pathfinder does offer a decent selectionnote 78, not counting third party supplements.. Unlike the game from which it sprang, however, there are also generous rewards for players who abstain from a Prestige Class and set out to attain high levels in a base class.
Psychopathic Man Child: Goblins and some ogrekin. Goblins' childish traits are usually depicted humorously, whereas everything about ogrekin is played for horror or Squick.
Public Domain Character: A number of monsters pulled from Victorian and pulp literature are featured in the setting.
Several gods are taken from real-world mythology, including Asmodeus, Lamashtu, Sun Wukong, Camazotz, Ahriman, Apsu, and Dahak.
Religion of Evil: The Church of Asmodeus, the Church of Zon-Kuthon, cultists of Ghlaunder, Lamashtu, Norgorber, Rovagug, Urgathoa, various demon lords, archdevils, and the Four Horsemen.
The Republic: Andoran, bastion of enlightenment, democracy, and liberty.
La Résistance: The sub-theme of the Council of Thieves Adventure Path. In a Venice-analogue, no less.
Retcon: Seltyiel was originally a fighter/wizard/eldritch knight. As of the release of Ultimate Magic, he's now a (presumably single-class) magus.
In the first edition of the campaign setting guidebook, the world map showed Golarion's polar ice cap bordering the entire northern expanse. Later on, the dev team realized that unless Golarion was in an ice age, the ice cap was way too far south, and changed it so that the only large bit of ice on Avistan's northern border was a single large glacier.
Likewise, the Five Kings Mountains (the dwarven homeland) were originally listed as belonging to the human nation of Druma until the third edition of the campaign setting book gave it a separate entry as a sovereign land.
Roma: Varisians are the Fantasy Counterpart Culture version. They've been luckier than their Real Life counterparts, though, as they tend to be fairly easily accepted (usually), and there are quite a few settled lands where they're an important minority or even the majority human group.
Samurai: Introduced in Ultimate Combat, the samurai is a sub-class of cavalier (i.e., knight). Rather than forcing the player to play a Dual WieldingScreaming Warrior like the 3.5 samurai, the Pathfinder samurai can choose its focus (mounted combat, archery, or, yes, katana).
The economy of Numeria revolves entirely around plunder extracted from mountain-sized chunks of a crashed starship.
One issue of the Pathfinder Adventure Path gave brief descriptions of the other planets in Golarion's solar system. Out of the three most heavily-populated worlds, Castrovel is pure fantasy-themed (but with Psychic Powers instead of magic), Akiton has a "science fantasy" Planetary Romance theme, and Verces is futuristic sci-fi (though presumably still aware of magic).
The Alkenstar/Mana Wastes region, due to its inherent magic-screwing properties, meanwhile, has developped the first firearms to compensate. They're mostly seen as noisy, impractical and onerous curios elsewhere.
Sealed Evil in a Can: All over the place. The biggest evil, in the biggest can, is the apocalypse god Rovagug the Rough Beast, sealed into the molten core of Golarion by all the gods who survived his initial rampage.
Seven Deadly Sins: Originated as the seven virtues (rewards) of rulership, formulated by an ancient emperor. His seven subordinates promptly twisted them into the more familiar sins.
Some (but not all) of the sins are represented in the archdevils. Mammon embodies greed; Belial is extremely lustful; Moloch is a being of seething wrath; Baalzebul represents envy; Mephistopheles is famous for his great pride.
Furthermore, there is a corresponding species of demon for each of the seven deadly sins: Dretches (sloth), shadow demons (envy), succubi (lust), nabasus as well as vrolikai (gluttony), vrocks (wrath), nalfeshnees (greed), and mariliths (pride).
Standard Fantasy Setting: The core rulebooks present the setting like this. People can design their own campaigns however they wish, so a basic template is handy. The world of Golarion however diverges from this and moves more into the realm of a blend of standard fantasy and pulp novels.
Start My Own: Pathfinder got started when a group of big-name D&D 3.5 fans and writers, disgusted by the drastic changes made to D&D in 4th Edition, got together and decided to keep the old game going under a new name.
Steampunk: Not in Golarion by default, but details for it are included in the Gamemastery Guide along with a lot of other, more unusual aspects for DMs to use in their campaigns if they want.
Though in fairness, the druid, rogue, and paladin wear the sort of outfits you'd expect somebody who regularly fights to the death for a living to wear.
Stuck Items: Cursed magical items in general are examples of these, as they will return to you and in some cases, like the Rod of Arson, will force you to use them even if they have been physically destroyed. It takes specific spells or combinations of spells to get rid of them.
Summon Magic: Conjurers are a school of Wizards who specialize in conjuration, magic that creates matter from nothing or summons creatures. The Summoner is a base class that forgoes all magic but conjuration. Summoners also summon "Eidolons" from the realms beyond the material plane in arcane rituals lasting a minute or so, a'la Final Fantasy.
Summoning Ritual: Represented by the Planar Binding spells. Summoners must usually give the summoned creature rare or valuable offerings in order to gain its services.
The Undead: There's even a Sorcerer Lineage, Undead Sorcerer, who had a Lich or Vampire ancestor, or was a stillbirth who spontaneously resurrected.
Undead Child: Attic whispers (which are formed from the spirits of children who died of neglect) and drekavacs (formed from children who died of disease).
Transplant: Baba Yaga and the Great Old Ones are imported straight from their original settings. Even Cthulhu himself is mentioned as "slumbering on a distant planet".
Vestigial Empire: Taldor once controlled the entire northern coast of the Inner Sea, but following the civil war that broke off Cheliax, centuries of declining fortunes, war with Kelesh, and an increasingly decadent culture, it is now a shadow of its former glory. Unsurprisingly, it was inspired by the real-world Byzantine Empire.
Cheliax itself has fallen on hard times. After Aroden's death, the empire was taken over by devil-worshippers, prompting massive revolts that led several nations to split off from it.
The dwarven Five Kings Mountains have been in a state of slow but steady decay for centuries, splintering into several city-states.
Osirion has recently managed to start turning its fortunes around, but it's still a very long way from its heyday millenia ago.
World of Snark: Going by the flavor text alone, one could be forgiven for concluding that almost every single iconic character is a borderline Heroic Comedic Sociopath who speaks entirely in snarky one-liners. With the possible exceptions of Seelah and Sajan, they're sarcastic, bloodthirsty, indifferent to one another's injuries and casually consider either leaving their companions behind or actively killing them out of annoyance.
Wretched Hive: Kaer Maga. And Riddleport. And Bloodcove. And Ilizmagorti. And Daggermark. And Zirnakaynin. And almost every settlement in the Shackles. And... let's just say there's a lot of scum and villainy in Golarion.
Writing Around Trademarks: Go ahead, try and find Paizo using the phrase "Dungeons and Dragons" anywhere in their marketing materials. They'll be glad to tell you "The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is an evolution of the 3.5 rules set of the world's oldest fantasy roleplaying game," but somehow this "world's oldest fantasy roleplaying game" never gets named.
Lini, the Iconic Druid, does as well though it's hard to notice depending on the artist (Night of Frozen Shadows, the second part of the Jade Regent Adventure Path, has the best example of this on page 6).