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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.
Animals are a type of nonplayable, nonhuman pawn in Rimworld with their own needs, stats, capacities, and actions. They come in dozens of species, all of which can be wild or tamed. Wild animals occasionally spawn at the map edges according to the biome and sometimes from random events.
Animals usually wander the map aimlessly and feed when hungry, even eating player-grown plants. Like humans, animals don't require water and generate filth on Rimworld. All animals on RimWorld will fight back if melee combat is initiated. With just a little luck, even a small rat or squirrel can take down and even kill a casually armored colonist. The most dangerous species regularly hunt humans or can immediately turn manhunter out of revenge. Some animals can be trained to Guard your colonists and Attack enemies.
Animals are an important source of food by the meat they provide once hunted and butchered.
Colonists assigned to Handle receive 90 XP towards their Animals skill per training or taming attempt. When tamed "cute" animals nuzzle a colonist, the colonist receives a +3 mood thought for 16 hours. Animals can also form bonds with colonists, providing a permanent +5 thought.
Friendly fire can happen with domesticated animals.
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.
Mechanoids are hostile autonomous robots of ancient origin. Mechanoids are stronger than most biological creatures, and are very commonly the downfall of lategame colonies. Mechanoids can be encountered in raids, mechanoid clusters, ancient dangers, and crashed ship parts.
Prisoners are people who have been taken captive. This usually includes raiders, but colonists can be imprisoned too.
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.
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.
Trade isn't available for some visitors. Sometimes one member of the group has items to trade, indicated by a question mark over the pawn.
As of version 0.14.1234 (15 July 2016) traders, visitors, raiders, kidnappers, animals, etc. will now escape if surrounded by walls with no way out.
As of version 0.16.1393 (21 December 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.