Sep 112013
 

Amazing Races: Kitsune

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This installment of the Amazing Races-series is 4 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s check out these options for the Kitsune!

 

We kick off with two new feats for the Kitsune:

-Kitsune Chakra: Via the expenditure of spell-level ki, you may use racially granted/magical tail-feat granted spell-like ability without expending it. Powerful one – and without the racially exclusive component, I’d start complaining right now. Since it’s restricted to Kitsune, I won’t complain here.

 

-Shapechanger’s Reveal:  This one allows you to revert to your true form by foregoing the first attack of your full attack and make bluff AND intimidate check versus every opponent within 30 ft. for a combined feint/demoralization-effect. Those aware of the Kitsune’s shapechanging capability get +4 to sense motive/have their intimidate DC increased by +4. A powerful ability – and one I can only see work on a given foe once in every 24 hours. Apart from that caveat missing (introducing it for perhaps +30 ft range?), this feat’s limit make it workable, if not superb.

 

We also get two new traits – one that nets you +2 to bluff to deceive humans and nets you bluff as a class skill. The second trait is useful when hiding in a crowd via stealth, you may make a sense motive check versus DC 10 to count as if the aid another action was executed by the crowd to aid you.

 

We also get 4 new alternate racial traits – Blazing traits allows you to replace magical talent with produce flames as a spell-like ability HD+cha-mod times. Alternatively, Kitsune may replace agile with +1 to Bluff and Intimidate as well as always learning +1 language per linguistics rank. The latter is imho bad – languages should not be that easy to acquire. Graceful Attacks nets you weapon finesse in exchange for natural weapons.

Finally, Kitsune may replace Kitsune magic with a ki pool of 1 point + 1 for every 4 level the Kitsune has. The Kitsune may spend ki to get DR 5/cold iron until the end of the turn. I wouldn’t harp on this, but since the pool stacks with ki pools from other sources, it becomes an issue: The Kitsune may use cha instead of wis to determine ki AND there’s another issue the pdf fails to specify: The ki pool gained via this racial trait can usually be used exclusively for the DR-granting purposes – so far, so good. None of the regular uses are possible – but what about Ki-based feats that require the expenditure of ki? I assume they can be taken, but I’m not sure. All in all, gaining a powerful (especially at lower levels) ability that far surpasses Kitsune magic in power makes for a problematic piece of content and one I wouldn’t allow in my home game.

 

The pdf also provides us with a racial archetype, the White-Furred Oracle (WFO in this review). These Oracles later their bonus spells from their mysteries with an expanded selection of spells representing the Nine Mysteries. An interesting and mythologically sound decision is to replace the oracle’s star gem -when not HOLDING this gem, these Kitsune must make concentration checks to properly cast the respective spells, spell-like abilities or supernatural abilities – with the latter getting information for the DC of their concentration-check. Still – I’m not sold on this one. Why? Because I know what I’d do -I’d sunder and shatter the living hell out of that gem. And yes, it’s supposed to work analogue to arcane bond (including the additional spellcasting) – but that does not tell me what the gem’s hp and hardness are. When compared to some curses, this gem feels a tad bit too strong – plus, even when it is destroyed, the oracle isn’t truly crippled. While the caveat that all canines get the frightful presence versus the Kitsune is nice, it’s still not enough of a drawback in my opinion.

 

Especially since the oracle also gets 1/2 level + cha-mod ki points. Said points stack with other ki pools, but only apply attribute modifiers once. As long as there’s one ki point remaining, concentration checks are 5 (!!!) easier for the oracle and additionally, ki can be used to increase the DC of spells by +1, increase speed by +20 feet for a round. They may also spend ki to cast mystery spells by expending spell level ki without expending said spell. But the ability specifies: “WFO can cast one of her mystery spells or nine mystery spells as a full-round action without expending a spell slot by spending a number of ki points equal to the spell’s level”.

I have no idea what this ability is supposed to be doing. Cast 9 Spells at once if the WFO has enough ki points??? Come again? Are these expended? I have not the slightest idea – but even without this spell level/ki point exchanging, the ability is MUCH stronger than the exchanged 3rd level revelation.

 

At 5th level, WFO may take rogue talents or ninja tricks that require a ki pool or any combat feat that requires ki in lieu of a revelation. The archetype  gets a native outsider capstone.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top.-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Abandoned Art’s two-column no-frills standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Author Alexander Augunas (of Pact Magic Unbound-fame) is a big fan of Kitsune – and it shows. For the better in the fact that the crunch is tied to mythologies and offers iconic options. And for worse in the fact that this pdf shows a bit Mary Sueish (no offense meant!) preferences here and there -while none of the abilities (with the notable exception of the one case of ambiguous wording) are truly broken per se, they feel like they are on the upper end of the power scale and often times, especially in the case of the archetype, beyond what I’d consider balanced. The flavor is superb, as are the ideas of the crunch, but the price the archetype (or alternate racial traits) extol is not on par with the at times massive benefits they grant. While not being a bad example of his craft, it’s nowhere near what I expected after Pact Magic Unbound. In the end, this is an ok installment, but not a superb one. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

 

You can get this supplement for Kitsune here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Comments

  4 Responses to “EZG reviews Amazing Races: Kitsune”

  1. Thanks for the review, Thilo!

    A quick note about the white-furred oracle’s ki pool – it does NOT allow the kitsune to cast 9 spells at once! The oracle can use this ability to cast one of her mystery spells or one of her “nine mysteries” spells (the nine spells granted by the “nine mysteries” class feature). In hindsight, I can see why the language might be confusing! I may get this errata’d just for clarity’s sake – but rest assured, the ki pool is in NO way meant to allow a character to cast nine simultaneous spells!

    Also, just like it says, spells cast in this way are not expended. The whole idea is that the oracle may spend a number of ki points instead of expending the spell in question.

  2. I figured as much:

    “Finally, a white-furred oracle can cast one of her mystery’s spell or nine mystery spells as a full-round action without expending a spell slot by spending a number of ki points equal to the spell’s level.”

    The “or nine mystery spells” part feels unnecessary and makes one think that multiple casts would be possible due to the double mentioning of “mystery’s spells”. If you change the wording, I’ll modify the review accordingly.

  3. Hey EZG! Thanks for the review. Here are some notes (so you can see into the mind of madness).

    –Aside from being racially restrictive, Kitsune Chakra has the additional downside that you absolutely need to take Magical Tail, a poor feat in itself, in order to get any benefit. While its true that Kitsune Chakra becomes more powerful as you invest more feats into Magical Tail, that was sort of the design goal. Eight selections of Magical Tail by itself is a pretty terrible character choice and even with Kitsune Chakra, you can do MUCH better with nine feats, which is almost every feat you will obtain sans bonus feats.

    –While Shapechanger’s Surprise is powerful, as you noted you are giving up your best attack per turn in order to use it. Because the feat only works when you transform into your true form, in theory you could use this ability every round if you have the feat from Dragon Empires that allows you to change shape as a swift action, but multiple demoralizes will stack the DC laughably quickly (+4 bonus on top of the +5 bonus per retry as stated in the Intimidate rules).

    –Some people are naturally good at picking up languages, and I would expect someone as charismatically guileful as a kitsune to learn languages rather quickly. Note that you still have to spend the skill points in order to obtain them in the first place.

    –You can take Ki based feats with the Kitsune racial ability as long as you meet all other prerequisites of the feat. Those feats are Extra Ki Pool and Ki Stand; all other ki feats either require a list of specific feats or monk levels. Again, hardly game-breaking. On its own, the kitsune’s Damage Reduction lasts until the end of the turn that its used, so you might reduce the sting of one creature’s attack. Also, the DR is negated by cold iron and as per the rules, anything with DR / cold iron can overcome DR / cold iron with its natural attacks. DR / cold iron is incredibly common, with fey and demons at the forefront of its users.

    –The white furred oracle is an incredibly subtle archetype whose penalties are only truly noticeable if your GM remembers to include them. Your right, I didn’t include rules for sundering the star gem because a wizard’s arcane bond doesn’t possess those same rules. However you would rule it for a wizard’s bond, rule it for the oracle.

    Some things you did not mention: the gem needs to be directly held in your hand in order to receive this benefit. This means that if you want to cast a spell or use a supernatural ability of any kind (including that ki pool), you need to restrict yourself to only having one available hand. Since casting a spell requires one hand, you can’t wield a weapon and cast a spell at the same time while holding the star gem. Using a two-handed weapon would likewise be virtually impossible because you couldn’t make use of that ki pool with both hands on your glaive / axe / whatever and still do simple things like use your ki pool. The ability also affects every spell. spell-like ability, and supernatural ability you possess. Nowhere do I specify “oracle” stuff. So if you multiclass, you’re still restricted. Compared to the limitations of effectively having one hand while using your magic, the frightful presence is basically a kick while you’re down. Also recall that oracle curses usually improve as you level. The star gem does not aside from the level of spontaneous spell you can cast growing higher. You take all of these penalties for what amounts to one extra spell slot.

    –The Ki pool should read something along the lines of, “The WFO can use her ki pool to cast one of her mystery spells or kitsune arcana spells (I think we changed the name to something else in editing, but kitsune arcana spells are basically the spells that the archetype replaces the standard mystery spells with). I think that the interpretation of, “Use the pool to cast all these spells at once?!?!” is incredibly silly on your part, personally, especially considering that the ability notes that you need to expand a number of points equal to the spell’s (singular noun) level in order to do so.

    Honestly, there were absolutely no problems with this archetype in the playtesting I gave it, and most of the people I showed it to actually thought the star gem was too punishing of a curse when I explained all of the subtleties to it. I will take the criticism that the star gem should have had its intricacies spelled out a bit more in its text instead of relying on rules mastery on the player’s / GM’s part.

    If you’re interested, take a peek at the sources I used to design some of the things you didn’t like, and then reread the product. The archetype itself is heavily based on the Tengu’s Shenjigo Oracle archetype (see the Advanced Race Guide) and all of the racial traits were designed using the Advanced Race Guide’s race builder chapter.

  4. Hej Alexander!

    Thanks for commenting! 🙂

    -Kitsune Chakra: I did write “Powerful one, but since it’s restricted to kitsune, I won’t complain here.” That’s an acknowledgment of power while stating that the feat, were it general and less restrictive, would be unbalancing. It’s not. I never claimed it was.

    -Shapechanger’s Reveal: That one boils down to personal preference. I can’t fathom in game of foes falling prey to it more than once per combat/24 hour period and yes, +4 make it get less useful fast, but with glibness etc., it still works more often than it should. A longer range and instead less repeatable changes would imho make the feat more believable for the “big reveal/trickster”-style you were going for. After all, it’s fool me once, fool me twice, isn’t it?
    Still, I wrote ” this feat’s limit make it workable, if not superb.” – even with my personal preference, I consider it okay.

    -“Some people are naturally good at picking up languages, and I would expect someone as charismatically guileful as a kitsune to learn languages rather quickly. ” – noted that. I’m a polyglot myself, but even as one picking languages up VERY easily, languages are already ridiculously cheap in d20-based systems. Further cheapening them just rubs me the wrong way.

    -Your claim of only 2 ki-feats requiring no monk-levels/excessive feats is unfortunately simply wrong. “Deny Death” only requires endurance for example. And don’t get me started on “Way of Ki”, “Heroes of the Jade Oath” etc. And while you could claim to taking only Paizo-feats into account, that does not change that the ability per se does not take the potential for more ki-feats into account in its wording. Also: Ninjas and similar classes have gotten access to ki. And yes, DR 5/cold iron is not that uncommon and can be bypassed by many creatures. That doesn’t change that it’s still VERY powerful to have at low levels.

    – I actually LIKE the one-hand-occupied balancing of the WFO. Unlike a wizard’s arcane bonded item, a star gem is a unique item. An arcane bond is either “amulet, ring, staff, wand, or weapon”, following the rules of these items. The star gem is neither and thus imho would require hp, hardness etc.

    -You are of course free to consider my campy, exaggerated notion of “Casting nine spells” as “incredibly silly” – it only mirrors the wording’s ambiguity by its over-the-topness. It’s your decision to take offense here – none was intended on my part.

    -I am aware of the Shenjigo oracle and consider, for what that’s worth, your oracle to be the superior archetype – the ARG did nothing for PFRPG regarding the quality of crunch in in contrast to the vast majority of the ARG book, as written, I actually LIKE this offering, though I’d disagree that the WFO requires system-mastery from either players or GMs – it’s complex, but definitely not dauntingly so.

    BUT: The WFO has some wordings that require polish. Star Gems need at least an acknowledgment that they e.g. have the same statistics as an arcane bond amulet or the like. As always, if there’s a revision, I’ll upgrade my review accordingly.

    Cheers!

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