Animal Races: Clan of the Bat
This installment of the Animal Races-series clock in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Much like prior installments to this series, we herein receive rules for PCs belonging to one of the tightly and concisely-presented animal clans, with bat therians this time being the focus of attention. Bat clan therians may choose either to be small or medium, but both receive +2 Dex, -2 Str. Bat therians are humanoids with the dhampir subtype, low-light vision, +1 natural armor (upgrades to +2 at 10th level), a bite attack at one dice-step below what would be usual for creatures of the size. members of clan bat are healed by negative energy and damaged by positive energy. If a member of clan bat has nothing in both hands and doesn’t wear medium(heavy armor, the creature also receives an unassisted flight-speed of 30 feet with poor maneuverability. This can become an issue with some groups, since unassisted flight is usually limited to a higher level. It should be noted that the fly-rules specify that a creature can only fly when not carrying medium or more encumbrance, so that constitutes another limitation, which, alongside the negative energy affinity, somewhat offsets this powerful boon.
Members of Clan Bat may select one of 3 racial heritages – regular bats receive +2 to Cha and may select the racial heritage feat as a rogue talent. Jiang-Shi receive +2 to Wis and may select the racial heritage feat instead of a monk bonus feat. Finally, Nosferatu receive +2 to Cha and may select the feat instead of an oracle revelation and use the Curse of the Vampire feat as if it were an oracle curse.
Aforementioned racial heritage feat allows you to gain claw attacks, a climb speed, faster flight and a damage-upgrade to the bite. If you have all of these, you may also learn 40 ft. blindsense, inflict +1d6 bleed damage with claws and improved maneuverability. All in all, the racial heritage bonus feat feels too strong this time around – the default design assumption being that one begins with gliding wings and upgrades them towards flight at higher levels. Fly speed, climb speed, blindsense – all not per se too strong, but in the combination and relative ease with which they can be obtained, this one feel a bit over the top. And yes, I am aware that the minimum level required to get these scales up, still, this one feels a tad bit too good for my tastes…
The Curse of the Vampire feat can also grant progressive benefits, though it provides no means of selection – it constitutes essentially a list of progressive immunities, from emotion-based effects to death effects. While this is paid for by not being able to receive morale bonuses, this feat in particular constitutes a mayor design-blunder in my book – the amount of immunities gained is significant and can be gained very fast. Edit: In a previous iteration of this pdf, the feat could be used as an oracle-curse, which was ridiculous. At least this component has been nerfed. Still, too strong – at level 6, these guys can have immunity to fear- and emotion-based effects, morale, the exhausted and the fatigued condition, sleep effects, nonlethal damage, paralysis and the stunned condition. If your game is condition-light, that may not show as much, but in quite a few games I know, this is ridiculously strong.
Now the fluff of this installment is pretty glorious and the deity write-up of Camazotz is neat as well and a total of 6 heraldic crests as replacements for traits can be found, once again for bonus feats at the cost of will-save penalties. One is particularly interesting, granting Imp Ini, but at the same time this one prevents the stacking of trait-bonuses to initiative.
The pdf also introduces the so-called nectar of life, a certain type of honey of a now eradicated plant that doubles as vampire-repellant and as potion of cure light wounds. There are also different kinds of batfolk – escapees from the lands of the vampires, disowned by their clans and purged of the darkness by consumption of aforementioned nectar of life. These are known as batfolk.
Batfolk therians may choose either to be small or medium, but both receive +2 Dex, -2 Str. Bat therians are humanoids with the ratfolk (that should probably be BaTfolk…) subtype, low-light vision, +1 natural armor (upgrades to +2 at 10th level), scent and positive energy affinity, meaning that they can’t be raised as undead. If a batfolk has nothing in both hands and doesn’t wear medium(heavy armor, the creature also receives an unassisted flight-speed of 30 feet with poor maneuverability. This can become an issue with some groups, since unassisted flight is usually limited to a higher level. It should be noted that the fly-rules specify that a creature can only fly when not carrying medium or more encumbrance, so that constitutes another limitation, which, alongside the negative energy affinity, somewhat offsets this powerful boon. They also may select one of two racial heritages – regular batfolk receive +2 Cha and may take heritage feats instead of paladin mercies, whereas Flying foxes receive +2 to Cha and may select the racial heritage feats instead of rogue talents. The heritage they receive is more conservative – it only allows for a selection of claws, climb-speed and fast flight, with nimble flight as a kind of capstone.
The final pages of this installment are devoted to the portrayal of vampires and the CR +0/+1 lesser vampiric creatures, which once again can be considered a pretty awesome bonus chapter.
Editing and formatting are very good, there is not much to complain about here. Layout adheres to a very crisp and concise two-column b/w-standard with cool heraldic crests and stock art mixed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Eric Morton’s bat clan ranks among my favorites in the series, even more so with the added, non-vampiric batfolk, but it is also perhaps the one installment in the series that I consider not particularly well-balanced – from the exceedingly strong vampire-progression via feats to the unassisted flight and senses, the bats, especially the members of the clan, feel like they got too good a deal. They are not broken, mind you -in high powered games, they work pretty well. But lower powered games may consider them problematic – and the same holds true for games where the DM is not prepared to deal with level 1 flight and climb speed. This does not render this pdf bad, but it makes it less refined that its brethren. Oh, and the curse-synergy needs to die a fiery death. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to this pdf not deserving a mediocre rating and due to the non-vampiric batfolk providing a slightly less powerful alternative (though one that also sports 1st level unassisted flight…).
You can get this neat pdf here on OBS!