Elemental-Kin of Porphyra (Porphyra RPG) (Patreon Request)
This installment of the „…of Porphyra”-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 20.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
In case you weren’t aware of it: Porphyra RPG is pretty much compatible with PFRPG’s 1st edition; the game behaves akin to how PFRPG modernized 3.5 back in the day, and presents a continuation of the tradition, in contrast to PF2 being a whole different beast. As such, the content herein can be adapted to PF1 with minimal fuss.
We begin with the tale of the fall of the Ruby City of the Mountains, Chelmor, at the hands of the elemental-kin armies, and then proceed to learn about their turbulent history on the patchwork planet; how the war between Elementalists and Deists waged, how they suffered, and how they ultimately segregated from the teachings of the Zendik order.
Each individual write-up features a brief overview of the race, the racial characteristics (including alternate ones), and supplemental feats. All are, obviously, native outsiders. Ifrit get +2 Dexterity and Charisma, -2 Wisdom, are Medium with a base speed of 30, and get darkvision (which has no range in Porphyra RPG and includes low-light vision), resist fire 5 , and if you have a spell list, you get spells with the fire descriptor added and cast them at +1 CL. When they take fire damage, the ifrit get fast healing 2, though there is a scaling fixed daily cap on how much they can heal per day. They also get a +1 racial bonus to attack-rolls versus non-elemental outsiders, and choose elf, orc, or human, getting a +4 dodge bonus against the subtype. The race also gets dancing lights 1/day as a SP. Alternate racial traits include replacing the fast healing for a +2 racial bonus to Stealth; the fire spell affinity and SP may be replaced with 1/day enlarge person as a SP; fire magic affinity may also be traded in for +1 fire damage with unarmed attacks and making them count as armed; the fire resistance may be traded in for +2 to initiative. The attack and dodge bonuses can be traded in for Diplomacy as class skill, bonus and boons that let you retry. There is a nice consistency here, in that the aforementioned bonuses represent war memories and hatred, which doesn’t fit with Diplomacy; in short, there is consistency of tone and mechanics here.
The race also gets two feats: Blazing Personality lets you demoralize as a swift action; Scorchblade lets you sue a swift action to wreathe a weapon in fire, increasing its damage by +2 fire damage for 1 round. Now, in case you didn’t know: Porphyra RPG feats scale: Blazing Personality, at 5 HD, lets you demoralize via Diplomacy, sans the targets taking it personally. Scorchblade increases its fire damage at higher levels.
The Khashabi, also known as woodfolk, get +2 Strength and Dexterity, but only have a 20 ft. speed, which is not modified by encumbrance or armor. They also get darkvision, a natural armor bonus of +1, resist radiance 5, the same bonus to attack as the ifrit versus non-elemental outsiders, and the same dodge bonus. Why? These are the traits shared by the elemental kin due to their experiences in the wars. Khashabi get +4 to Stealth (bonus type missing, should be racial) in overgrown areas and forests, and a +4 racial bonus to resist combat maneuvers hat move them while they’re on the ground. They also get enlarge person as a 1/day SP. The armor and dwarf-like movement can be replaced with 30 ft. speed; alternatively, the armor can be traded in with proficiency in unarmed strikes and a threat range of 19-20 with them. The race adds all radiant spells to their list, if present, and 1/day in full sunlight, can heal 1d8 + Charisma modifier damage. Nitpick: This should state that it can heal their own damage; as written, the wording is ambiguous and could be taken to instead apply to anyone. It’s pretty clear that the ability’s supposed to only apply to the khashabi, though. This one btw. replaces the war abilities. The plant-stealth and difficult to topple abilities can be traded in for a + racial bonus to attacks with axes. The racial feats include scaling damage bonuses with weapons made of wood and additional sun-healing uses.
The oreads of Porphyra get +2 Strength and Wisdom, -2 Charisma, and get the usual native outsider, darkvision and war memory abilities as above; their elemental resistance applies to acid, and they get an analogue ability to the ifrit regarding healing when taking acid damage, with the same cap thankfully in place. Their SP is stone fist 1/day, and, bingo, they add all earth descriptor spells to their spell-list, if present. These magic tricks can be replaced with 1/day entangle and access to all plant descriptor spells instead. Stone magic may also be replaced in favor of an increased Ac versus ray attacks, and 1/day Deflect Arrow style ray deflection. Cool! The SP may be traded in with the ability to sacrifice a gem to increase the CL or damage output of earth spells. The attack bonus versus non-elemental outsiders can be exchanged for two class skills, representing sapper-experience, and elemental resistance can be exchanged for an untyped +2 to combat maneuvers made to bull rush or overrun. If you have the gem magic tricks and want to see more, consider using the Crystallomancer feat. (As an aside: These oread abilities reminded me of Underworld Races & Classes, particularly the colliatur and the svirfneblin’s gem magic, so if you enjoy these concepts, blending them would be a neat idea…) The second racial feat makes stone weapon wielding a reliable operation, and provides a damage bonus with them.
Sylphs receive the war traits, air magic affinity, alter winds as a SP, resist electricity 5 and +2 Dexterity and Intelligence, -2 Constitution. They also get the self-healing when hit, this time applying to electricity damage. Cool: One of the war-traits can be replaced for a bonus to Knowledge (engineering) and a 1-time-round trip for free to any place in Poprphyra, courtesy of your Fourlander Flight guild connections. The healing and air magic can be replaced with an AC boost courtesy of the winds surrounding you, and you can exhaust this passive ability with a 1/day ranged combat maneuver to bull rush or trip a target. Neat! The resistance can also be exchanged for a bonus to saves versus diseases, poisons and related conditions (which is quite valuable, considering that poisons are better in Porphyra); the second war-related trait and SP can also be exchanged for running Stealth and reduced penalty while moving. Finally, the anti-outsider bonus can be replaced with increased summon-duration for air creatures. The racial feats include scaling negative energy melee damage in shadows and darker, while the second one nets you scaling power and uses of feather fall and shocking grasp as SPs.
The undine of Porphyra get +2 Dexterity and Wisdom, -2 Strength, swim speed 30 ft. hydraulic push as the 1/day SP, and their resistance applies to cold, the magic affinity obviously to water spells. One of the war traits may be exchanged for +2 to CL, and SPs and water magic affinity may be exchanged for a cold cone breath attack. If you choose the latter, you can get a feat that also lets you wreathe your weapon in scaling cold damage, analogue to the ifrit feat. The war traits and water magic may be replaced with blindsense 30 ft. in water; the SP can be traded in for poison use, and one of the war traits and resistance for a bonus to saves versus mind and poison effects and poison. the latter bonus is not typed. The other racial feat requires taking the CL-boosting trait, and nets you an additional 1st-level spell slot for water spells, as well as the ability to ignore level increases of metamagic 1/day for a water spell. The ability can be used more often at higher HD.
Finally, there are the Vithr, also known as Ironmen – much like the Khashabi, they get a rather cool full-color artwork; rules-wise, they have +2 Strength and Charisma, -2 Intelligence, and their elemental resistance applies to sonic damage. Beyond the shared war traits and elemental spell affinity, we have ironskin as a 1/day SP. Minor nitpick: The elemental affinity has a cut-copy-paste glitch, referring to water instead of metal as the relevant descriptor. Unfortunately, they are missing the entry for their base speed, which is somewhat egregious, since the first alternate characteristic lets you exchange elemental resistance in favor of +10 ft. movement when charging, running, or withdrawing. The magic-related characteristics may be replaced with +1 to CMD (should be typed), the SP for a +1 natural armor, and one of the war characteristics with an untyped bonus to saves versus fear (should be typed). On the plus side: 1/day forming a metal piece into an object weighing 10 pounds or less? Awesome. One of the racial feats represents an alternate ability score adjustment array as well as axe proficiency, Dwarven language, and scaling a mage bonus with axes. The second feat lets you negate critical hits by sacrificing armor or shield, which become broken. I like this conceptually, but it should have some sort of caveat, since it’s reliable, and nothing keeps me from stocking up on a ton of bucklers…
4 global feats are also included: These range from a potentially Con-damage causing dance-challenge (NICE!) to Elemental Sight, scaling sues of plane shift to the associated plane, and the rather potent Zendik Commando, which can net you two of 5 bonuses when adjacent to an ally or flanking with them. The verbiage, unfortunately, is super-vague her. Are these chosen once? Each time anew? Is a “+1 teamwork bonus to attacks of opportunity” a bonus to the amount of times per round, or to the attack roll? I like this feat, as it looks like it’s a teamwork feat worth taking, but it needs to eb more precise.
The pdf also provides 6 archetypes: The Bolt-thrower is a sylph archetype for the arcane archer (which is my least favorite Porphyra class); this one lets you fire limited amounts of arrows that count as magical at higher levels and also cause bonus electricity damage; starting at 9th level, you can create arrows ex nihilo, the latter of which replaces all of archer’s luck, instead of having a scaling boost at 14th and 19th level, respectively. The Brotherhood of rust for the vithr is locked into the elemental assassin secret, and instead of poison use, gets the ability to lace their weapons with radiant damage. Interesting: the second secret nets you a cloak, which makes you count as in a situation marked by the element, but takes up the shoulders slot. The ifrit forgeknight eldritch knight gets a special breastplate bonded object in which they can sleep, crafting, and later may make the armor glow. The Khashabi get nature’s wrath as a champion cause, which enhances your survivability in a natural environment, as well as later providing a companion steed, telepathic bond, growing, etc. The oread pillar of stone for the stalwart defender, which is a minor engine tweak with a cool endgame, that lets you self-petrify into a nigh-invincible stone form. The undine seeker of Arlia is essentially a water-themed magic bloodhound for the slayer class.
7 magic items are presented: Elixirs of infiltration make native outsiders pass as human; forgelings are cylinders that seem to fuse with the hand, becoming harder to disarm; they can change variant weapon types as an immediate action: The Warhammer form, for example, bypasses a specific material DR, etc. Iron rings flat out negate the first 4 critical hits or sneak attacks per day, but make the wearer susceptible to rusting attacks; at just 12 K price, this is VERY strong. Khanjar of resistance let an elemental-kin apply their resistance as damage on critical hits. The mask of radiance can be charged up to fire light beams – oddly at a fixed attack bonus, and sans specifying the type of action that firing the beams takes. Oppressors of the elemental-kin are shaped like related items and can cast 0-level spells, but can also enslave the related elemental-kin. Totems of the elemental kin net an ability score boost and a CMD boost versus being demoralized.
The pdf concludes with 7 new spells: Absorb weapon is an exotic spell that heals you when struck, as you absorb weaponry used to attack you if the wielder fails a Reflex save. Ironskin nets a scaling bonus to your pre-existing natural AC, and may be dismissed to negate critical hits or sneak attacks. This is pretty strong for level 2 – at the very least, this spell should imho be exotic. Awful radiance dazzles those nearby and imposes more penalties on the light sensitive. Radiant armor is a defense spell that causes minor radiant damage to foes attacking you in melee; Radiant beam and focused radiance both deal radiant damage in a pretty straightforward manner; flame of Aurex is a mythos radiant battle spell. Radiant damage, by the way, cannot be healed by positive energy, or by fast healing and regeneration – only naturally, making it a VERY valuable resource.
Editing and formatting oscillates from proper precision to a few instances where the author falters and falls back into old habits; as a whole, I consider this to be a well-crafted supplement, though unfortunately, some of the glitches do hamper the rules-integrity of the presented material. Layout adheres to the series printer-friendly 2-column standard with purple highlights, and the supplement comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks presented are full-color and really nice.
Perry Fehr’s take on Elemental-kin starts off very strong: The respective races have been tweaked to work well in the context of Porphyra RPG’s assumed power-level, are well-executed and share enough similarities to be considered to be related, also historically, but also have quite a few components that set them apart. Much to my surprise, I found myself enjoying some of the alternate racial traits most here. The system’s scaling feats are a good call, and remain so, but what’s done herein with them is often less interesting than what I’ve seen, often favoring a simple escalation of numbers, which is valid, but e.g. minor fire damage boosts won’t justify spending a valuable swift action at higher levels. The scaling here needed some nuance. The archetypes are probably the weakest part of this book – they have cool concepts, but their execution is very basic, making them all minor modifications. They left me with a sense of unrealized potential, and feel slightly rushed – e.g. the arcane archer archetype lists a higher level ability before a lower level one; that sort of thing. Why am I talking about “unrealized potential” instead of whacking this more? Because conceptually, there are really cool nuggets here, and they’re realized. I was also surprised to see some of the cool ideas for the elemental-kin as a whole – Perry Fehr is great when it comes to cultures and the like, and I wished he spent more time on them here.
As a whole, I consider this to be a mixed bag, slightly on the positive side of things; personally, I wasn’t too blown away by the archetypes, but some might well enjoy them. Still, as a whole, when compared to what the author has done before, and what other authors have done with Porphyra RPG, this feels less impressive to me. If you’re looking for a selection of strong and interesting elemental kin-races, this’ll do, and you should round up, but as a whole, I think this is closer to 3 than 4 stars.
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