Bloodragers of Porphyra
This installment of Purple Duck Games’ “…of Porphyra”-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 27 pages of content, though you should be aware that the pdf is formatted for A5-booklet-size (6” by9”) and thus allows you to fit up to 4 of these pages on a given sheet of A4-paper.
All right, let’s begin with the new archetypes contained here, the first of which would be the Beast Brother, who gains his 1st level bloodline power at 4th level, the 4th level bloodline power at 8th level, the 8th level bloodline power at 12th level, the 12th level bloodline power at 15th level and at 20th level, he gains the 16th level bloodline power. To make up for this delayed progression, the bloodrager receives an animal companion at full druid level progression. The animal companion receives the bloodline powers when the beat brother is raging, while the beast brother gains access to any one of the special qualities the animal companion possesses. Now the wording here is a bit weird – the companion “Also” seems to gain the bloodline benefits, implying that both receive the benefits of the bloodrage….which is a very strong option. At the same time, the companion replaces the 1st, 8th and 16th level bloodline power…but that directly contradicts the notes on delayed ability gain of the bloodline powers, making the archetype an uncharacteristically non-functional one. I have no idea whether the bloodrage only applies to the companion, of whether the 3 bloodline powers are supposed to be lost or not…as presented, this does not work.
The second archetype would be the bloodcaster, who gains only a 3/4 BAB-progression, but adds all bard-spells and the abjuration and evocation spells from the sorc/wiz list to his spell list, replacing DR, Uncanny Dodge and Improved Uncanny Dodge. Bloodrage is reduced/changed to +2 Str and Con as well as Cha. Blood Casting and Eschew Materials are gained at 1st level, with 11th level and 20th level increasing the bonuses to +4 and +6, respectively. A more caster-y bloodrager with a very potent spell-list that makes the magus cry in comparison.
The feral bloodrager gains a 1d6 bite and 2 1d4 claws when bloodraging and takes a -2 penalty to Will-saves – on a nitpick, it would have been nice to see the natural weapons specify whether they behave as primary or secondary and damage types would have been neat as well, though one can resort to the default choices. Starting at 11th level, natural weapons and weapons are treated as +1 size category when using a full attack while bloodraging, but at the cost of -2 Dex when calculating AC and Ref-saves; the crit-range of natural weapons is increased to 19-20, but conversely, the threat range of attacks versus the feral bloodrager increases by 1. I like this, engine-wise. The capstone makes bloodrage permanent, suppressed as a move action for Wis-mod rounds, with an additional size increase for the damage output of weapons. he also ignores fortification and the like and auto-confirms crits…but similarly, all crits against the bloodrager are automatically confirmed and ignore crit-negating abilities…ouch!!
The next archetype would be the scion of the blood, whose bloodrage neither conveys bonuses, nor penalties, but to make up for this, the bloodline powers of the scion’s bloodlines are gained sooner: The 4th level power is gained at third and every subsequent bloodline power is gained an additional level earlier – the 8th level power is gained two levels earlier, for example. The archetype may also select a mutated bloodline’s options, with the highest levels allowing for access to a related bloodline’s options. The Student of Fury archetype receives a variant rage – learned rage yields +4 to Str, Con or Int, with higher levels increasing that to +6 and +8, with the option to distribute the bonuses in increments of 2 between, I assume, Int and Con – as written, it almost sounds like the Str-bonus could also be freely allocated, which would be min-maxy overkill. Instead of 1st level’s bloodline power, the archetype receives an arcane pool and he may learn a magus arcana instead of a bloodrage power. Additionally, the archetype casts via Int and is a prepared spellcaster…with all the power that includes. Yeah, not comfortable with this archetype; it does not lose nearly enough for the power gain it receives.
The final archetype would be the Zen Rager, who receives a variant bloodrage he can maintain for 4 + Wisdom mod rounds, +2 rounds per level – he gains a +1 bonus to melee and thrown damage rolls as well as melee attack rolls and +3 to Will-saves. The zen rager also gains 3 temporary hit points per HD and the ability has a cooldown to prevent cycling-abuse. The upgrades increase these bonuses to +2/+4, 4 temporary hit points per HD and +3, +5 and 5 temporary hit points per HD, respectively. Instead of the 1st level’s bloodline power, the archetype receives a monk-style AC-bonus while unarmored and unencumbered- Bloodline power-gain is delayed by 4 levels. All in all, perhaps my favorite herein.
Now next up would be a very interesting array of options – particularly for more down-to-earth/gritty groups – mundane bloodrager bloodlines, of which 5 are presented. The idea is genius in its simplicity, taking a bit of the very high-.magic flavor out of the bloodrager class, while still providing meaningful options. The first of these would be the Bestial bloodline which provides animal fang etc. as spells as well as a selection of correctly codified primary natural attacks, with 12th level providing advanced attack options like rend, gore etc. depending on the natural attack chosen. Being treated as animal for spell purposes and the option to treat allied animals as also bloodraging are interesting, though the latter ability is in dire need of a hard cap – otherwise putting one of these guys in an army-sized array of animals gets ridiculous pretty fast.
Second, there would be the guardian bloodline, which provides increased Constitution and AC-bonuses, with 4th level allowing for an immediate action to force an enemy attacking an ally (or casting a spell) to instead target you on a failed Will-save. This is a cool idea. However, what happens if you are not an eligible target for the attack, because you’re further away/line of sight/effect is blocked? No idea. The ability looks deceptively simple and really isn’t, with a lack of range and basically infinite uses, it requires further clarification. At higher levels, progressively more physical damage is converted to nonlethal damage, which is pretty cool. There also are upgrades to AC and CMD and as a capstone, you can redirect otherwise lethal attacks to you – and if you die due to those, you gain no negative levels from being resurrected. The Heroic bloodline gains a pala’s smite evil, though the daily cap’s wording is slightly troubling – The pdf specifies: “You can use this ability once per bloodrage, once per day, plus one additional time per day at 5th level and every 5 levels after that.” -which could be read as the ability having a total cap or either a cap determined by the bloodrage, with additional uses per bloodrage hinging on the level. In short – this could be a bit more clear. Beyond that, we get the usual aura suspects.
The Hatred bloodline is interesting, in that its base ability, bloodlust, is a weapon that cuts both ways – while it nets a powerful + class level to attack and damage, it also means you have to succeed at a difficult save whenever you’re damage to not fly into a murderous rage. Oh, and while the ability has a caveat that it does not stack with haste (not properly italicized), it does also yield you +1 attack versus the target at maximum BAB, which is insanely strong at 1st level. Higher levels increase speed and DR as well as damage output versus the respective adversary. I love the concept of this one, but the execution ends up as very strong. The plagued bloodline nets Charisma bonus to Fort-saves and allows you at 4th level to select on whether or not to contract a disease – oh, and you reduce damage inflicted by those. This becomes particularly relevant once you learn to coat weapons in your diseased blood, which is amazing…but imho should be gained sooner to make the playing experience unique from the get-go, instead of delaying this option to 8th level. 12th level yields a breath weapon of diseases, with the levels beyond providing higher DCs, with the capstone making you a deadly harbinger of contagion.
The pdf also features 5 wildblooded bloodlines: Eldritch, associated with the aberrant bloodline, nets you a frightening gaze at 8th level and a confusing aura at 16th…oh, and suppressing it is a standard action…ouch! The jabberwock bloodline, associated with the fey bloodline, nets you a spread burble that causes confusion or a line of sonic damage, with high-level options yielding some of the impressive defensive properties of the jabberwock. The phoenix bloodline, associated with the elemental (fire) bloodline, gains a reflexive shroud of fire with a proper cap and a capstone that has the phoenix signature auto-resurrection. The reaper bloodline, associated with the undead bloodline, has a damn cool ability at 4th level – if you hit a creature, it gains SR for healing spells! Damn cool…though the lack of a duration is troubling. At 16th level, those killed become harder to get back from the dead. The Wild Magic bloodline, associated with the arcane bloodline, lets you imbue force damage into melee attacks for a limited amount of time, with higher levels providing an increase to the enhancement bonuses of weapons wielded – this lets you basically break the +5 cap…so why not simply grant a regular bonus there instead of breaking this rule?
The pdf also contains several new feats sporting the (Blood)-descriptor, which may be taken by characters with a bloodline in place of a bloodline feat or power. Additional daily bloodline uses, gaining a bloodline power you lost due to exchanging it and increasing the damage output of such a power can be found here, with the latter being potentially problematic, considering it simply provides an x1.5 modifier for damage. Pretty cool on the non-Blood-feat side would be the option to take Con-damage to temporarily increase your Strength. Problematic, even at -2 class level s – one feat-access to a 1st level bloodline ability. Considering that passive benefits can be found there, some seriously powerful options can thus become available….and with follow-up feats, you can gain even higher level powers. Adding rage powers similarly seems like overkill to me.
The pdf also contains a couple of new spells: blood infusion allows you to temporarily share bloodline powers with allies at -2 levels, though active tricks will require the target to have an appropriate bloodrage class ability to activate. Numerical escalation is okay. The dragonblood storm is balanced in potency by the costly dragon-blood required for its effects, though groups featuring dragon PCs via ItC-Dragons, for example, should retain the cost for balance’s sake. Cool: Those with the proper bloodline can instead pay in Con-damage, which seems more than fitting as balance for the power the spell offers. Quiet the Storm allows for the character to use mental skills and patience while bloodraging/engaging in raging song and helps mitigate fatigue etc., with raging strike allowing for the scaling ignoring of DR and hardness. All in all, the spell-selection here is pretty cool.
The pdf also features 2 magical weapons – the warlock’s blade penalizes the saves of those hit by it and the savage gauntlet lets you literally punch holes through the hearts of foes, potentially insta-killing them – and yes, they’re reasonably priced. The 3 armor special qualities include attuned, which is problematic: It makes you count as always in bloodrage for the purpose of bloodline power activation, which can become highly problematic in the case of bloodline powers balanced on the idea of bloodrage not being an infinite resource. Bloody is similarly BROKEN. Expend 1 hp per level as a free action to not expend bloodrage rounds. This is so ridiculously broken, I don’t even know where to start – it allows you, with even a halfway decent healing strategy, to bloodrage infinite rounds. Blergh. calm armor eliminates the bloodrage penalties. The belt of howling fury, oddly, increases the benefits of rage, taking the unchained barbarian into account…but oddly, RAW, has no benefits for a bloodrager, specifically referring to the rage class feature. The blood-drenched handwraps can be soaked by a bloodrager via Con-damage – thereafter, they can be used by others to bloodrage and access that bloodrager’s powers. Cool! Pauldrons of the Line increase the bloodrager’s level by for the purpose of bloodline powers he can use – the lack of an up to character level cap and extent is pretty insane for the price-point.
The pdf comes with a cool bonus-pdf penned by Aaron Hollingsworth, which depicts the stalactaur, a CR 6 magical beast that can absorb light – thin of it as a dinosaur with razor-sharp, crystalline plates that can blind foes with flashes – and yes, the critter comes with a pretty cool full-color artwork!
Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good – apart from an italicization here and there, I noticed no grievous formal glitches. On a rules-language level, several wordings could have been more precise. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ 1-column standard and the pdf has nice full-color art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience.
Nathan Reinecke has so far delivered two superb books; in particularly his book on swashbucklers was truly impressive. I don’t know what has happened in this book, but it feels rushed – while the rules-language looks precise at first glance, in several cases, it simply is not. From wide-open abilities to utterly overpowered delimitations of a limited resource, this pdf ticks off several no-goes of design… It’s frustrating, really. The archetypes also feel a bit wonky in balance and, compared to the often inspired swashbuckler engines, pretty uninspired, covering the basic hybrid-y tricks. In short, this lacks the precision and passion that made me love his previous offerings and feels like the passion’s not been there. The mundane bloodlines as a concept, while not perfect in execution, are intriguing and I hope to see more of them at one point. That being said, this is by far the weakest “…of Porphyra”-pdf I have analyzed in quite a while. Considering the issues I encountered (and I did not list all exploits), I can’t go higher than 2.5 stars…though the low-price point and cool bonus critter make me round up.
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