Echelon Expansions: Draconic Bloodlines
This pdf clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, 6 pages of SRD, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.
So, I’m not starting with the subject matter, but with the houserule mentioned on the first page: It’s kinda weird that bloodline spells are learned later, so the pdf provides an interesting and concise way to fix that without increasing the power of the class. Beyond that, we also get alternate rationalizations why a given character may have the draconic bloodline, from constellations to soul-wrenching rites of passage, this makes for a basic and pretty nice introduction.
But what is this truly about? Well, to put it bluntly, the author at one point realized that it is kind of dumb that one draconic bloodline represents the influence of all of dragonkind, with its distinct and widely diverging branches. So, while we reiterate the basic draconic bloodline as a starting point, we from here on out extrapolate the respective, more customized ones. This usually not only changes a couple of bloodline spells and powers, but makes them work as basically their own, unique and distinct entities. The respective abilities are formatted in a slightly unconventional manner, with the respective ability names in power-point like bubbles and tabs on top, denoting the precise ability type and the level it’s gained – while not immediately aesthetically pleasing, from an organizational point of view, this solution proved to be surprisingly efficient in conveying the necessary information.
Speaking of sensible and smart ways of conveying information: The sub-chapters of the pdf begin with tables that denote the spells, breath weapons and powers of the respective draconic bloodlines in tables that render the use of the pdf extremely comfortable. Now, as mentioned, the draconic bloodlines featured herein do not *completely* change the draconic base bloodline, instead opting for what could be considered to be an approach similar to mutated or wildblooded bloodlines, though the changes made. A sorceror who traces his ancestry to a black dragon, for example, gains the sire’s ability to breathe underwater and freely use spells, breath weapon etc. while submerged – which makes all kinds of sense to me.
Where applicable, scaling mechanisms have been included – for example regarding the electricity aura of sorcerors hailing from a blue bloodline. That being said, in some of the scaling information bits, very minor and purely aesthetic hiccups have crept in: While it is evident that the damage increase should cause electricity damage, the pdf omits the damage type for these increases. That is me at my nitpickiest, though – from context, it is perfectly evident. Amazing: The blue bloodline sorcerors get WINGS OF LIGHTNING. That actually interact with breath weapon etc. at higher levels. Come on, those visuals are cool! Sorcerors with a red sire can, as a capstone, learn to incinerate foes utterly with their breath, as another cool example of such custom abilities.
While the first section of the pdf covers the chromatics, as you no doubt have gleaned by now, the second section proceeds to cover the metallic dragons, where brass dragons get the sandstorm capstone of their parentage, while scions of bronze receive water mastery and the ability to generate vortices at higher levels. It should be noted that many of these abilities in themselves do feature a scaling mechanism, improving over the course of the respective bloodline’s ability-steps.
Thirdly, beyond these two classic families of dragon, we take a look at the primal dragons as well, with the cloud scion’s lightning fog at 9th level constituting a neat example for the ability. As a purely aesthetic gripe regarding rules-language – you do not verify critical hits, you confirm them. Yes, the claw progressions of the respective bloodlines also tend to differ in some ways, which was a welcome surprise to me. That being said, while it is easy to resort to the default, I still would have appreciated the natural attack abilities specifying whether they’re primary or secondary – still, that is purely aesthetic and won’t influence the final verdict. On the plus-side, umbral-blooded sorcerors gaining the ghost touch property for their claws makes sense to me.
The pdf doesn’t even stop there, though – the imperial dragons are yet another massive group of dragons covered with proper bloodlines, which should elicit cheers from the WuXia crowd…and, once again, the ability-modifications make sense as a whole: Forest dragon-bloodline sorcerors gaining huntsman claws and a capstone that lets them petrify foes, for example, makes sense to me. The capstone for sky dragon bloodline sorcerors to ignore electricity immunity and resistance with their breaths makes for nasty surprises and the sovereign dragon’s heritage, which increases the DC of spell saves and allows for the conjuring of golden armor (and a master counterspelling capstone) also fits the themes of the draconic sire.
“But wait, endy,” you’re saying “that’s not all dragons!” You’d be right. Even the frickin’ outer dragons are covered! Solar dragon sorcerors get even lay on hands – and yes, the pdf does provide information for what happens if you multiclass with paladin, just fyi. That being said, the bullet-point notes that explain ability-interaction here could have been a bit clearer in their wording; they make sense, mind you, but I could construct a misreading here. Speaking of which, the pdf is not *always* perfect regarding its abilities: The time dragon’s “second chance”-ability, for example, reads: “At 3rd level, you get a bonus to initiative checks equal to 1/2 your sorceror level.” (VERY potent – keep it away from mythic gaming!) It then goes on to state that 9th level unlocks a 1/day reroll of a d20 as an immediate action, and then, at 15th level, the ability can now be used twice per day. This can be somewhat confusing since all of these abilities are collected under the same header – splitting the ability would have been more elegant here….unless the initiative bonus was supposed to have a daily cap as well. That being said, we’re talking about the finer details of rules-language and design here – from a usability point of view, this should not provide any issues.
The pdf ends with designer’s notes that explain why esoteric dragons have not been included, the design-goals and an exceedingly helpful and detailed two-page index for the pdf.
Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no significant hiccups in either, only a few cosmetic glitches most people probably won’t even notice. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column standard. The colored ability-headers can be a bit of a drain on the printer, but other than that, no complaints. The pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes with very detailed, nested bookmarks. These, in conjunction with the index and the clean and crisp presentation generate an overall extremely easy to use pdf.
Keith Davies’ “Draconic Bloodlines” fix a whole in the rules that is so evident, it’s a wonder it hasn’t been taken care of earlier. I have myself often wondered why the draconic bloodline has been neglected thus and this massive differentiation of the material is more than appreciated. Better yet, for the most part the modified abilities make for some rather amazing visuals or enhance the respective draconic sire’s theme. This book is a godsend for campaigns wishing to play with multiple draconic characters, feuds, etc. and I’m certainly going to use it in Legendary Games’ upcoming dragon-AP. Balance-wise, the abilities sometimes exceed that of the base draconic bloodline by a slight bit, but considering that it is not the strongest of options in the first place, I am good with that. In short: Even the most hardcore gritty and restrictive of games should encounter no issues while using this pdf.
As a whole, this is worth getting – the few, extremely minor hiccups cost this my seal of approval and no, bloodrager fans, nothing in this book for you, but considering the design-goals and paradigms for it, the file achieves its goal. Get this and diversify your game’s draconic sorcerors! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 since this is closer to excellence than to being just “good”.
You can get this cool pdf here on OBS!