The first expansion-pdf for Dreamscarred Press’ massive Bloodforge-book of races clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/foreword by the authors, 1/2 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, one thing bloodforge did that I should have commented on in my review back in the day, would be that it introduced the notion of certain subtypes that make it possible for a creature, to, via the subtype, count as a second creature type for the purpose of spells and effects, abilities etc. While this does not necessarily yield issues per se, it makes some type-interactions a bit more complex for the GM and, promptly, a rather annoyed reader did comment on this in a private e-mail I am not going to duplicate here. Suffice to say, I do not consider this a problem per se – purists may argue otherwise, and I get the potential issues here, but, as a whole, I don’t consider that a strike against the system presented. I mention this since the half page below the ToC is used to recap these subtypes.
All right, the first race featured herein should bring a smile to fans of Full Metal Alchemist – the atstreidi are suits of living armor! They gain +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int, if they choose the aegis class, they form its astral armor over their bodies, losing temporarily their armor shell and any armor absorbed in favor of the astral suit to prevent insane stacking. Wait, what? Okay, the slow route: They are aberrations with the psionic and slimeblood subtypes, Medium, have darkvision 60 ft. and are immune to diseases and poisons, gain all benefits of 8 hours of sleep in 2 hours (no, spellcasters can still only prepare spells once per day…) and they have a base 25% chance to negate crits and precision damage etc., with fortification and similar effects increasing that chance by 10% instead of the usual benefits. They gain a +4 armor bonus to AC from their armored shell, but cannot wear armor -instead, they can, in a 24 hour-process, migrate to a new suit of armor and are helpless while undergoing this rigorous ritual – once transferred, they replace the armored shell’s bonus with that of the assimilated armor and are considered to be wearing it. The shell can be enchanted and its enchantments maintained – or those of the armor. The unarmed attacks and slams made are treated as though of the armor regarding DR and properties and yep, the ability takes sleeping in armor into account. The race also gets Wild Talent and may gain a power point as a favored class option. They can speak to deaf creatures, courtesy of their soothing voice, and get a +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy and to Bluff, but suffer a -2 penalty to Intimidate. It should be noted that teh communication and Diplomacy bonus are contingent on the creature not being immune to mind-affecting effects. They also gain a 1d4 primary slam attack.
As alternate racial traits, we have a +4 bonus to Intimidate and -2 to Diplomacy for those born of a psychic imprint of hate, replacing the soothing communication, obviously. Instead of a slam attack, a chosen weapon proficiency can be taken and there is an alternative for playing Small versions, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int. The pdf provides favored class options that include the option to gain 1/6 Heritage feat for all classes and specialized ones, for alchemist, aegis, barbarian, bard, druid, guru, inquisitor, monk, psychic warrior, soulknife, spiritualist, wilder, stalker and wizard. These are all solid.
The second new race herein would be the eiremian, born of a connection to the negative energy plane, inheriting an inner stillness that can be considered to be quieting and numbing, making them often feel like they’re missing out. The pdf has a funny jab here “It could be worse. They could be a dhampir.” They are native outsiders with +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Disguise and Stealth, -2 to Diplomacy, +4 to saves versus emotion effects and +4 to the DC to intimidate them (here we have a missing italicization of a spell effect quoted as an example)…and they gain Silent Desolation. Negative energy dealt by them against creatures and objects usually immune to it, still inflicts half damage. … Yeah, not getting anywhere near my game. Negative energy is already a very strong, rarely resisted energy type. They also gain “The Terrible Peace”: As an immediate action, they can force a target within close range to halt, with the Will-save to resist being 10 + 1/2 character level + Wisdom modifier. Full-round actions thus interrupted count as having been a standard action…which becomes all manner of wonky when used in conjunction with full attacks: TWFing ally hits for 4 of his 5 attacks, gets hit and gets a free move. Yes, the ability implies that the immediate action has to be taken BEFORE the effects of a given action, but it does not explicitly state so and RAW, immediate and swift actions may be used during a full attack. Even without this cheese, this would be INCREDIBLY powerful for a racial ability – and it has no daily limit – just a 1-minute cool-down. Oh, and these guys gain character level + Wisdom modifier negative energy resistance.
Instead of terrible peace and the save bonus, there is an option to, up to 3/day as a standard action, designate 1 + 1 creature per 4 character levels within 60 ft. and line of sight – on a failed save, their attitude changes one step towards indifferent and morale bonuses, fear effects, confusion or emotion effects are suppressed for 1 minute. Also a replacement for terrible peace is the powerful inevitability: When subject to hold person or “another effect that would prevent her from acting normally”, the save may be rerolled. It has a 1 minute cooldown. Yeah, that is a nonentity of rules-language I don’t usually get to see in Dreamscarred Press books. What constitutes this nebulous “acting normally”? Rage? Madness? Dex-reducing poisons? Spells hat generate weight? Entangle? No idea. Finally, we have a subtype that makes them count as human. Favored class option-wise, we have 1/6 Heritage feat for all classes as an option and specific FCOs for alchemist, cleric, fighter, guru, harbinger, hunter, inquisitor, kineticist, mystic, occultist, slayer, spiritualist, soulknife, vitalist and warder.
Ethumions would be the positive energy counterparts with +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wisdom; they are native outsiders with darkvision 60 ft. and gain Quick Draw as a bonus feat and may use it to draw any object. As a standard action they may perform a supernatural version of mage hand as a standard action. They recover hp and eliminate fatigue every hour as though they had rested for 8 hours, making fatigue and derivatives as a balancing check meaningless…particularly since they also regenerate ability damage and burn at twice the normal rate. They also do not gain temporary hit points in excess of their maximum from positive energy-dominant planes. They also receive +2 to Sleight of Hand and Escape Artist, -2 to Bluff and when they heal a creature, they increase the amount healed by +1 hit point, + another hit point at every odd level thereafter. Okay, does this extend to healing in a vitalist’s collective redistributed by the character? The ability specifies that it applies to powers etc., but does collective healing qualify?
When inflicting positive energy damage, they also add Constitution modifier to the damage caused. Instead of the healing boost and the telekinesis, they can gain a third, invisible, intangible hand that can wield weapons (though it can’t be used as a third weapon attack). The wording here regarding the third attack can be a bit confusing, but ultimately works. Alternatively, they can reduce their darkvision to 30 ft., but gain constant deathwatch in that range (COOL!)…and, once again, mostly human is an option. Beyond the general heritage FCO option, we get specified ones for alchemist, surprisingly, antipaladin, barbarian, bard, daevic, fighter, kineticist, occultist, paladin, rogue, sorceror, soulknife, warder, warlord and wilder. Once again, these are solid and before you ask – yes, we do get an age. height and weight table.
The pdf reprints the mixed blood trait before moving on to a selection of reprints of heritage feats from the big book. Wondered what the weird creature on the cover was? Well, that would be the Ravid, a CR 5 creature that pulses with a flow of positive energy that animates objects and grants it armored shell on speed with on the fly customization and regenerating temporary hit points as well as the option to make the whirl of objects a vortex of shrapnel in bursts or cones…oh, and their attacks are laced with positive energy! An amazing, cool and versatile critter here. Two thumbs up!!
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level – apart from missed italicizations, nothing grievous. For the most part, the rules-language of this pdf is as crisp and precise as we’d expect from the authors and Dreamscarred Press – i.e., top-notch…though, as mentioned above, there are some uncharacteristic hiccups that detract from an otherwise pretty excellent overall performance. The pdf adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ two-column full-color standard and comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and sports anime-style artworks that fit the theme of the races and the somewhat playful and chaotic nature of the Ravid.
Forrest Heck and Jade Ripley, with additional design by Adam Boucher, Doug Haworth, Jacob Karpel, Katia Oakes, Kevin Ryan and Matthew Ryan Medeiros have created three of the most creative races I’ve seen in a long, long while. Each of the races features not one, but several unique and amazing angles for roleplaying, flavorful and unique concepts, creative abilities that matter and very cool alternate racial traits. Two out of three also all are VERY, VERY STRONG. The Atstreidi, I’d allow in my regular-powered games – they are amazing, flavorful and their armor-engine is genius; You get a unique playing experience without it breaking the game and the limitations imposed on it and the crisp, pitch-perfect language that codifies them, is amazing. The ereimian and ethumion are also very flavorful, but mop the floor with aasimars, elans and other apex-level races, each of them breaking checks and balances in some way. They need, in my opinion, a hefty, prolonged whacking with a big nerfbat to bring them on par with even the strongest of races I usually get to see. I can’t recommend them in any way, shape or form as written, which breaks my heart – You see, in spite of the minor flaws I complained about, I LOVE both races. Sure, they need to be cut down to size, but they are worth doing so and it’s not hard to do so. As a reviewer, I have to rate what’s here, though.
The Ravid, just fyi, closes this pdf in style as another definite high note for the pdf. But oh boy, how do I rate this? I have severe issues with more than half of the content., but ultimately, I do love even the flawed parts. The material I don’t have issues with ranks as the absolute apex of what I’ve seen in races and frankly would deserve candidate status. Similarly, the ravid is a delightfully brutal monster with a thoroughly creative, compelling build.
Times like these, my job’s really not easy. On the one hand, I want to scream and rage, on the other, I want to cheer and applaud…and ultimately, the second impulse is the stronger. This is a mixed bag, yes, but one where a capable GM (or a revision) can make the dark spots shine bright like a sun and add to otherwise truly amazing options. If you’re planning on using eiremians and ethumions, whack them a bit before you do, unless you’re playing in a really high-powered custom-races game, though…and if that irks you, round down instead. Still, ravid and atstreidi and the ideas alone make this worth the asking price and I have always valued imperfect and creative offerings over bland, but perfect ones…which is why my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.
You can get this supplement here on OBS!
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