Bloodforge Infusions: Feathers and Fur
The second installment of the Bloodforge Infusions-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, ½ a page ToC, ½ a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin this one with a brief recap of the subtypes introduced in the big Bloodforge book before diving into the first race presented within, which would be one that really makes sense to me – the entoli, born from the union of sirens and maenads (still a race from Ultimate Psionics I really enjoy); the write-up does include notes on their appearance as well as their demeanor, and mechanics-wise, they get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Cha are Medium beastblood subtype creatures and get a +2 racial bonus to Profession (sailor), courtesy of their maenad lineage. They have low-light vision and , as an immediate action, they may grant an ally within 30 ft. a reroll against a mind-affecting effect that allows for a save, ending the effect on a success – nice one, particularly since the 1-minute cooldown does prevent this invalidating enchanter-builds. An alternate racial trait replaces this one with an option I consider slightly problematic: As an immediate action in response to a ranged or melee attack, you can make a Perform (dance) check (skill’s always a class skill for you, fyi) – if you exceed the attack roll, you negate the attack. Considering the ease with which you can blow skills out of proportions in Pathfinder, this can be an all but guaranteed attack negation. The only reason I consider this to be passable for some groups lies in the trait thankfully retaining the cooldown angle of the ability it replaces.
They can shift starting attitudes a third time and receive a +2 racial bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy and Perform (sing). They also get +2 to AC versus rays due to their crystalline feathers and receive Wild Talent as a bonus feat. They may also substitute Perform (sing) for Diplomacy and treat the former as a class skill – with an alternate racial trait, you may instead substitute Bluff, with another one, for Intimidate. The race may gain a power point instead of a skill or hit point as a FCO. They also add +1 to the DC of sonic powers and effects with the sonic descriptor. This sonic affinity may be replaced with one that instead pertains language-dependent effects. The social skill boost and sonic affinity may be exchanged for 1d3 talons that require defaulting regarding type and damage type. There are favored class options provided for the psionic classes aegis, dread, marksman, psychic warrior, tactician and wilder. Thoughtsinger bards, cavaliers, dominion daevics, rogues, skalds, sorcerers, swashbucklers zealots and warlords are also included.
Following the tradition of the hilarious April Augmented 2017 file (Potoo tengu still make me giggle…), we get a massive array of subraces next: 6 catfolk subraces are provided: Cheetah get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Con, fast speed and replace cat’s luck with a better run/charge that denies a target the Dex-bonus; they do lose sprinter, ironically. That is pretty powerful for certain builds and while it has a cooldown, it is an option that will not be suitable for all tables. The Manul get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, are Small, slow and get +2 to initiative when they can participate in the surprise round, as well as +1 to atk when executing attacks during the surprise round. They may move at full speed with Stealth and treat their armor check penalty as 3 lower. Minor nitpick: Stealth once not capitalized. They do lose cat’s luck and sprinter Lion catfolk get +2 St and Cha, -2 Dex and replace natural hunter with +2 to Diplomacy and Intimidate. They also get powerful build instead of sprinter and cat’s luck and may use oversized weaponry without gaining the otherwise problematic reach tricks. Nice one!
Lynx catfolk get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Cha, get Wild Talent and may choose to gain a power point instead of an FCO. They also may reroll a d20 as an immediate action, 1 minute cooldown. Yes, this is better than one of the most potent hexes. They also lose cat’s luck and sprinter. Not getting near my game. Jaguar catfolk get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int, 1d4 claws (require defaulting) and a 15 ft- climbing speed. This replaces, again, cat’s luck and sprinter. They replace natural hunter with +1 dodge bonus to AC when moving at least 10 ft., with the bonus doubled when charging. Tiger catfolk get +2 Str, are Large and use undersized weapons. They do lose cat’s luck and sprinter as well.
There is a variant subrace/alternate racial trait for kitsune included, the Yōkai kitsune, who gains the beastblood subtype and may use beast shape I to assume a specific Small-sized alternate form; they have a fox form as a natural form, and shapechanging is supernatural. Daevics also get the essence of the succubus veil as supplemental material here, and 6 subraces can be found within, replacing kitsune magic and agile, unless otherwise noted. Buda get +2 Str and Int, -2 Cha, +1 to the DC of curses and +2 to Craft (armorsmithing), (weaponsmithing) and Profession (blacksmith). Coyōtl get +2 Wis and Cha, +2 Str, making them slightly lopsided. They get +1 to the DC of death effects they use and healing they use that is expressed adds +1 per die. Minor nitpick: Technically, healing ability score damage/drain can be expressed in dice as well, so the ability should specify that it only applies when healing hit points. They may also use bleed and stabilize (italicazitions missing) 1/round as a free action SP. And get +2 to Bluff. Huli Jing kitsune are akashic and can drain essence from creatures lured into an act of passion; in combat, this can be done 1/round as a move action versus helpless or pinned targets. This deals 1 point of Constitution damage and requires a Will save to avoid becoming nauseated. Veilweaving characters are instead drained of essence and this ability sustains the character as food. Interesting. The aforementioned Essence of the Succubus veil is considered to be always shaped and does not count against the maximum of veils shaped. However, essence cannot be invested as usual, instead using the draining as a means to charge it. I really like how this one uses akasha to add some interesting tricks here. Kumiho kitsune get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Con, darkvision 60 ft. instead of low-light vision, and +4 to Survival to follow tracks. When they eat the heart or liver of a creature with Int 3+, they don’t age for a day, with the effect being cumulative. They get two 1d4/19-20 claws that they can hide and deploy as a free action; same goes for bite. Nasty and cool one.
Tanuki get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wis, and they add +1/2 class level to Disguise (not capitalized properly)bonuses gained from transmutations, illusions or psychometabolism. They also get +2 to Perform. Zenko are good outsiders, get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Str and 1/week may contact the heavens as per commune when sleeping, though the zenko may incur duties when doing so. Any message they’re thus sworn to relay cannot be forced out of them, and they get +1 to saves versus mind-affecting effects.
The pdf also includes 7 tengu subraces, with sneaky, swordtrained and gifted linguist as the traits that are usually replaced. Bearded vulture tengu get +2 Wis and Cha, -2 Str, making them slightly lopsided, and they gain +2 to saves and AC, which both increase by 1 when the tengu’s flatfooted. Cassowary tengu get +2 Str and Dex, -2 Wis and 2 primary talons at 1d4/18-20 (OUCH). They also get a free Intimidate check to demoralize the target when moving more than base speed and attacking. Hummingbird tengu are Small, get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Str and are fast. Kakapo tengu get +2 Str and Con, -2 Wis, are Small, slow and get darkvision 60 ft. instead of low-light vision. They get a 1d4 bite. Ostrich tengi get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int and receive Improved Unarmed Strike, dealing both piercing and bludgeoning damage. (I’d have made that a choice – more elegant.) They also treat their unarmed attacks as two-handed weapons – ouch! Skill-wise, +2 Perception and Sense Motive – which is kinda ironic. Pigeon tengu are Small, get +2 Int and Cha, -2 Str, are slow and get +2 Diplomacy and Knowledge (local). They also add +2 to atk versus targets flanked by allies and increase their granted aid another bonus by this amount. Swan tengu get +2 Str and Cha, are slow, but get a 20 ft.-swim speed and +2 to intimidate and Perception. Nice: We get variant starting ages and heights, lifespans, etc.
Beyond these, the pdf also features 3 new traits: The bakeneko trait for catfolk takes up half a page, which provides the cat form you’d expect and does the rather significant modifications for size etc. rather well. There is a trait for the Huli Jing to generate temporary essence from basking in sun- or moonlight, and one for mixed blood folks. The pdf also includes a feat section which allows for better weapon use for Small characters and reprints the Wings-feat chain and Feral Fighter from Bloodforge. We get a feat-chain analogue to the Spark of divinity and Sanguine Sorcery feat-chains from bloodforge, instead applying to psionics, a feat to tear those grappled with claws and a really cool 1/rage power that lets you rip out a target’s organs! This one is higher-level and limited, but potent – like it! It also is available sooner for Kumiho (delicious!); this further provides synergy with another feat that improves the Kumiho’s claws. Note: This does explicitly stack its crit increase with Improved Critical etc., so if you’re like me and prefer a more subdued power-level, the stacking caveat may need eliminating. (The feat is too cool to not use, as the rage power limitations prevent abuse of temporary hit point gains via liver eating…)
Editing is very good on a rules language and formal level; regarding formatting, the pdf has a few more minor hiccups than usual for Dreamscarred Press, but is still tight. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ neat two-column full-color standard and the pdf features a few nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version, and the pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Adam Boucher, Forrest Heck and Katia Oakes, with additional design by Doug Haworth, Jacob Karpel, Jade Ripley, Kevin Ryan and Matthew Ryan Medeiros, provide a selection of races I ended up enjoying more than I thought I would. Why? Because the subraces and variants presented within aren’t boring and execute some rather complex and interesting rules-language operations with the expertise we expect from Dreamscarred Press. What do I mean by “not boring”? Well, a lot of races boil down to accumulations of minor skill boosts without anything wholly unique going on. Nothing bad there, mind you, but also not exactly exciting. This pdf does provide a ton of unique options for the subraces.
Here’s the issue, at least for a part of the demographic that happens to include me: Many of these unique abilities are pretty blatantly more powerful than the base races. Significantly so. Now, it’s nothing new that Dreamscarred Press’ offerings tend to gravitate towards the higher-powered end of the spectrum, but comparing a vanilla catfolk or tengu with the variants within will have the standard versions weep in quite a few cases. And in many instances, this is not really requires. For quite a few of the unique abilities, the cooldown cap works rather well, but for others, a hard limit might have been a more prudent way to go in order to balance the more potent tricks. That being said, the difficulty of assigning limitations on these abilities isn’t particularly high and should not over-exert the mental faculties of GMs out there. Still, if you’re looking for more down o earth races on par with what the standard races offer, then this may not be for you or require some tinkering. Still, since even internally there also are some discrepancies between subrace power-levels, this is not a file I’d recommend without caveats.
However, if your game does gravitate to the higher end of the PC-power spectrum, then this is definitely worth checking out – the unique abilities do add spice to the game and provide some creative ideas on what you can do with racial tricks; the tie-ins to mythology are generally well-represented as well. How to rate this? See, here things become difficult for me. As a person, this would not see use at my table without serious nerfing in quite a few of the abilities; nevertheless, I enjoyed what this pdf does with its races; I like that it’s creative and bold – and I have always rated creativity and boldness with rough edges over mechanical perfection or super-tight balance. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. While this may not be for low fantasy/gritty games, it does have charm and style – enough to make me tinker with the options to make them work for me. If you actually *want* really strong races that mop the floor with their parents, then consider this to be a 4.5 star-file instead.
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Missed the hilarious (and PWYW!) April Augmented 2017? You can find it here!