Lots to talk about here. So much. And I can't even get into it because I’m still incensed by what happened last night on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
(What? I’m allowed to have outside interests besides Pathfinder, D&D, indie rock, folk, ska, comics, cosplay, nerd culture, film noir, kayaking, neo-burlesque, and girls with pixie cuts (call me!). Sometimes I need me some drag, hunty.)
A race of constructs, wyrwoods are—
I mean, were we watching the same episode?!?!
Hang on, I’ll get over it. Breathe, Patch. Just breathe.
Wyrwoods are one of the five new races introduced in the Advanced Race Guide. At the time of publication, it wasn’t even clear if those races would have a life outside that book. In retrospect, it was probably inevitable that they would find their way into the Bestiaries and Golarion proper—Paizo doesn't tend to create content they’re not going to use—but in that moment there was an up-in-the-air, this-is-just-for-the-appendix-ness about the gathlain, kasatha, et al. This was reinforced by the sketchy write-ups and comic book-inspired art that said, “Look what these rules let you make!” not “These guys are canon.”
Naturally I loved that sketchiness and all the unspoken possibility there. (In fact, I wanted more—my big complaint about that section was that there should have been double the number of new races.) But of all five races, wyrwoods were the obvious candidate for importing into Golarion—the setting simply has too many gestures toward constructs, clockwork, androids, and otherworldly technology to exclude them.
So, wyrwoods are a race of constructs. On the one hand, I think it’s a little too easy to call them Pathfinder’s warforged—their personalities are vastly different, for starters, plus warforged have different mechanics and were an integral part of the Eberron setting (to the point of being cover art material and getting major roles in two sourcebooks), while wyrwoods will likely always be a specialty race (and a Small one at that).
On the other hand, I think the example that the warforged set is instructive. There was never a question of why warforged existed on Eberron. Aside from the Mournland, there was no more stark reminder of the Last War for the people of Khorvaire than the animate robots walking in their midst. The warforged themselves, meanwhile, struggled to find meaning and reasons for being in a post-war world. And the answers to who created them and exactly how were left vague to serve as nice plot hooks.
In the same fashion, the wyrwoods in your campaign can’t just come out of nowhere. They have to have a reason. You can go with the “xenophobic and hyperlogical constructs who rebelled” tale from the ARG and the Bestiary 4—though it needs a lot of embellishing, as that’s a pretty price-of-entry origin story—or you can create your own. Are they a secret race, confined to a select geographic area, or as omnipresent as dwarves? Are they crafted from dryad wood? Are they accepted by local thieves’ guilds or viewed with suspicion? Doesn't matter, as long as you know why they exist and how they got that way.
The Malabar Imperium has long used construct-crafting as a way to rid themselves of undesirables, stripping away memory and personality from offenders and depositing their spirits in wyrwood shells. But during the Akarthian Genocide the Imperials created too many wyrwoods too quickly, and the constructs revolted. They now form their own people, made xenophobic by the trauma of their creation and estranged from the free-spirited Akarthians they once were.
Every wyrwood knows the secret of its construction. Not every wyrwood knows restraint. A wyrwood has turned the bowels of the World-City into a craft cyst, churning out wyrwood rogues at an alarming rate and sending them on inscrutable missions. One is known to have stolen every cat statue from the Museum of Lower Race Arts, another spies on the doomsayers in the Street of Judgment, and a third is planning the assassination of the undersecretary to the Safari Guild.
An order of paladins has run the cathedral city-state of Chancel ever since they rescued it from the clutches of hobgoblin corsairs. Their rule has resulted in a fair-minded and prosperous but dull city. When the church elders begin to replace the holy knights with efficient but mercilessly oppressive wyrwoods, the paladins find themselves in an odd position of being rebels against the law.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 280
Sorry, Game of Thrones fans, but it’s a completely different kind of wood.
I overlooked something yesterday, as filbypott mentioned: I did an entire entry on wraiths without once mentioning Tolkien’s Ringwraiths. (Which is just kind of a “Duh” moment on my part. I mean, seriously.) The simple answer is that I was just distracted by work and not thinking clearly. But let’s also chalk it up as another victim of last night’s calamity.