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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.
Wild animals spawn on the map according to the biome and from random events. Unlike animals on, say, Earth, animals on RimWorld are all potentially dangerous. With just a little luck, a rat or squirrel, and certainly something as vicious as a tortoise or a wild turkey, can often take down and even kill a casually armored colonist, or at best leave them wishing they had never met the horrible beast. At least until you have some first-hand experience with them, do not underestimate wild animals!
These wild animals, and their tamed counterparts, 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.
Raiders will target tamed animals as often as colonists.
Animal trainers receive 90 XP per training or taming attempt. When tamed "cute" animals nuzzle a colonist, it counts as a social interaction and is logged in the social tab of both the colonist and animal.
Colonists are characters that are under your control. Colonists are human in vanilla, but can be different species if mods are in use. With the Ideology DLC, Colonists can have different Ideoligions depending on which faction they originate from.
Prisoners are people, usually raiders, hostile tribals, or your own colonists undergoing a mental break, who have been taken captive (they are just prisoners, not colonists now). They are unable to leave their prison barracks and can only use facilities, such as a nutrient paste dispensers or shelves, on their own if they are placed inside the prison barracks.
Raiders are essentially the main antagonists of RimWorld. They are predatory enemies who attack in groups when the storyteller's threat cycle is active (or any time, for Randy Random). The group size and strength of a raiding party is determined by 'points', which will be explained in-depth further down this article.
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 - Visitors.
When leaving, visitors will carry away wounded members of their faction.
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.