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Throughout your play of Rimworld you will come across several different types of characters. Some of these characters will be friendly such as drifters who just wander through your colony and other hostile, such as the mechanoids, looking to destroy you.
As of Alpha 14 (July 15th, 2016), traders, visitors, raiders, kidnappers, animals, etc will now escape if surrounded by walls with no way out.
As of Alpha 16 (December 20th, 2016), rescued people (especially space refugees etc) should sometimes join the colony. If the environment isn’t survivable (e.g. bad temperature, toxic fallout) they should always join the colony.
Main Article: Animals
Wild animals occasionally spawn on the map according to the biome and from random events. These wild animals and tamed animals will wander and graze on vegetation, including player-grown plants, regardless of type. Growing food outdoors can sometimes attract animals to your base perimeter. Animals are an important source of food by the meat they provide once hunted and butchered.
Sometimes an animal may be driven mad by a psychic wave and attack any humans not behind closed doors. If injured by a colonist, certain species of animals will become maddened into a manhunter state and will relentlessly seek out humans to attack. Unless otherwise neutralized, a maddened animal will eventually return to a normal mood. As of Alpha 14 (July 15th, 2016), animals in manhunter state will attack doors if colonists try to go in and out of them.
Raiders will target pets as often as colonists.
As of Alpha 14 (July 15th, 2016), animal trainers receive 90 xp per training attempt, which is increased from 60 in Alpha 13. Taming an animal also grants 90 xp per attempt, which previously did not occur. When animals nuzzle a colonist, it counts as a social interaction and is logged in the social tab of both the colonist and animal.
Main Article: Colonists
Colonists are the living inhabitants of each RimWorld colony. Each colonist has specific skills, positive and negative traits, and a character backstory. In general, every human is a colonist except for raiders/travelers/prisoners. The colonists come in various outfits based on their background, which can be seen by looking at the 'Character' tab in game.
Main Article: Mechanoids
"Mechanoids - Autonomous intelligent robots built for domestic, industrial or military purposes. Only available to advanced cultures because such complex AI is needed to control them."—RimWorld Universe Quick Primer
Main Article: Prisoners
Prisoners are people, usually raiders or hostile tribals, who have been taken captive by a Colonist. They are unable to leave their prison barracks and can only use facilities (such as a food dispenser or equipment rack) on their own if they are placed inside the prison barracks. You should also notice that your colonists won't interact with objects in the prisoner's cell. For example, if you turn a recently-mined-out compacted steel vein into a cell, but there is still some metal on the ground, your colonists won't haul it away.
Main Article: Raider
Raiders are enemies that spawn in groups at semi-regular intervals. Group size, health, skill, and equipment depend on both the set game difficulty and the time already elapsed in the game. Typically on Tough Cassandra Classic only one wounded raider spawns in the first group. The subsequent group has 3-5 raiders, and eventually, there are groups of more than 20 raiders with the lowest health being above 80. Raiders will invoke a message when they spawn, and an alert will come when they begin their assault.
Raiders can enter "steal" mode if they see enough value. In this mode, they will grab your stuff and carry it off.
If the raiders see that they are losing, they may most likely flee, or try and kidnap downed colonists by letting some do the actual kidnapping and some covering them. After one of your colonists has been kidnapped, a ‘ransom demand’ incident can fire, demanding silver for the colonists that has been kidnapped.
They can spawn with both ranged or melee weapons, all melee (along with personal shields for Pirates or Outlanders), or all ranged. Shielded all melee rushes are highly dangerous to your colony, especially if your colonists are ranged-dependent.
As of Alpha 15 (August 28st, 2016), raiders steal a bit more often now.
Main Article: Drifters
Drifters are people who will randomly spawn on the edges of your map, accompanied by a message describing what their Adulthood Trait is, as well as their name. Their current status is shown as male/female drifter, and shows what equipment they have.
Occasionally an event is triggered that spawns a group visitors from a friendly faction at the edge of the map that comes and mills about the colony. Sometimes one member of the group has items to trade, indicated by a question mark over the pawn. To initiate trade, select a colonist and right-click the trader.
A visiting group's arrival could prove advantageous if the colony is assaulted by a mutual enemy while they are present. See Events - Faction visit.
When leaving, visitors will carry away wounded members of their faction.