The playable races are the Tyrian species that players can select from during character creation: asura, charr, human, norn, or sylvari. While all professions are available to every race, the latter still has effect on various features, primarily on the character's physical appearance, their starting area, and the selection of the early story chapters.
- They may be short in stature, but these magical inventors are intellectual giants. Incredibly intelligent beings, the asura use their knowledge and skill with magic and crafting to assert their natural dominance. In the world of the asura, it is not the strong who survive, but the clever. Other races believe they should rule by virtue of their power and strength, but they delude themselves. All will serve the asura—in due time…
- The charr race was forged in the merciless crucible of war. It is all they know. War defines them, and their quest for dominion drives them ever onward. The weakling and the fool have no place among the charr. Victory is all that matters, and it must be achieved by any means and at any cost.
- Humans have lost their homeland, their security, and their former glory. Even their gods have withdrawn. And yet, the human spirit remains unshaken. These brave defenders of Kryta continue to fight with every ounce of their strength.
- This race of towering hunters experienced a great defeat when the Ice Dragon drove them from their glacial homeland. Nevertheless, they won't let one lost battle - however punishing - dampen their enthusiasm for life and the hunt. They know that only the ultimate victor achieves legendary rewards.
- Sylvari are not born. They awaken beneath the Pale Tree with knowledge gleaned in their pre-life Dream. These noble beings travel, seeking adventure and discovery. They struggle to balance curiosity with duty, eagerness with chivalry, and warfare with honor. Magic and mystery entwine to shape the future of this race that has so recently appeared.
Effects on character and game
Each race has unique physical features to adjust during character creation, and are granted exclusive access to cultural armor skins. Race also has an effect on the default camera height, and on the visual scaling of equipped weapon sizes. This is purely cosmetic and has no effect on weapon or character capabilities.
The player's race determines their biography questions, tutorial mission, starting area, and early to mid personal story, including racial sympathy options. Race also has an effect on how certain NPCs react to the character.
Each race has their own capital city and personal home instance located within the city. This instance is used as a hub for early personal story missions, and becomes outfitted with relevant NPCs as a character progresses through their story. It can also be upgraded with harvesting nodes.
A total of 6 racially-themed skills are available to each race. The type of skills available varies by race, but include healing, utility, and elite skills. Racial skills are typically less powerful than similar profession skills, and cannot be equipped in Structured PvP.
- ArenaNet originally said that they wanted the race chosen by the player to have a "pretty big" impact on the way that character plays.
- Humans were the only playable race in the original Guild Wars. Sylvari are the only playable race not to appear in the original game, though the Pale Tree made an appearance as a sapling.
- Tengu were initially considered as a playable race. Their home city would have been the Dominion of Winds.
- ^ The Making of Guild Wars 2.