EZG reviews the Remarkable Races Compendium
Remarkable Races: Compendium of Unusual PC Races
This massive pdf is 161 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 blank page inside the front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC,3 pages of indexes (vital for a book of this size), 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 151 pages of content, so let’s take a look at each of the new races:
The first in the cadre would be the race of Anumi: Born from a sacred fruit found by an enterprising charlatan, these humanoids are actually the revitalized (or rebirthed) animal companions, familiars etc. that had reached the end of their life cycle, given a new, fully grown humanoid body with an animal head by the consumption of the draught distilled from it. Thus, it is not surprisingly that introducing this race to your campaign will immediately make animal rights etc. a new political factor -rather cool if you’re so inclined, though in some rather dark/low fantasy campaigns that’d out of place.
Well, on the other hand, the background is easily enough ignored. So let’s get to the stats: Anumi all get +2 to Str, +2 to perception and additional bonuses depending on the animal they originated from. Amphibians get +2 Wis, -2 Cha, acid resistance 5, can hold their breath 4 times their constitution score, get +4 to swim checks and +2 to saves against poison and disease (Bestial Fortitude). Arachnid Anumi get +2 Int, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to reflex saves against electricity, fire or light area of effect spells (Bestial Reflexes), +4 to climb and can cast a web once per day as a spell-like ability. Avian Anumi get +2 Cha, -2 Int, the same reflex-bonuses as the spiders, +1 to ranged attack rolls and can cast feather fall on themselves once per day. Canine Anumi get +2 Cha, -2 Wis and scent as well as improved trip as a bonus feat.
Equine Anumi get +2 Int, -2 Wis, a base speed of 40 ft. that never decreases due to encumbrance, +2 fort-saves against poison and disease and can add a regular attack after a bull rush maneuver – the ability to not be encumbered is already powerful and adding this special attack goes too far for my tastes, making this choice particular insane for barbarians or similar heavily armored tanks. Feline Anumi get +2 Cha and -2 Wis, low-light vision, +2 to acrobatics and climb checks and may reroll every reflex save before the result is known. Unlimited times per day rerolls of reflex saves? Come again?
That’s sick and unbalanced. Not gonna happen in my game. Ever. Ophidian Anumi get +2 to Wis, -2 Cha, darkvision, +2 to saves against poisons and diseases, bestial reflexes and +2 to escape artist checks. Porcine Anumi get +2 Int, -2 Cha, bestial fortitude, scent and can continue fighting for one round after being brought below 0 hp. Reptile Anumi get +2 Wis and -2 Int, bestial fortitude, +1 to atks against tiny or smaller creatures and may reroll all will-saves, even after failing them, making this race imho more broken than the feline Anumus. Again, not gonna happen in my game- Rodent Anumi get +2 Int and -2 Cha, bestial reflexes, +2 to initiative and can reroll failed saves, but have to announce that they do so before the results are known. Again, unlimited rerolls per day are a huge no-go for me. Ursine Anumi, the final type presented, get +2 to Wis, -2 to Int, get +1 atk +1 damage to one unarmed attack per round, bestial fortitude and the improved grapple feat.
After these racial traits, we are given advice on creating more Anumi-types and how to integrate them in your game. It should be noted that the necessary age, height and weight tables etc. as well as speeds and a concise list of starting attributes for all new races herein are provided at the end of the race-section of the book.
The second race we are introduced to is called “Boggle” – manipulated and bred to be more intelligent goblins, boggles have changed into rather benevolent beings and now can be considered beneficial inventors. These strange little goblins get +2 to Dex and Int, -2 to Cha, are small, get a base speed of 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft, +1 to ref-saves against fire, electricity and acid area attacks, count as goblins, get +2 to Knowledge (Engineering), Profession (engineering), Craft (any), disable device or Use Magic Device and boggle weapon familiarity. Speaking of which: From the multitool-style boggle-wrenches to wind-up buzzblades and sniping crossbows, the new weapons are rather cool. Better yet, boggles come with an inbuilt adventuring-reason: Boggle madness, a racial disease stemming from their unnatural genesis that drives venerable boggles mad unless they inject it daily- suffice to say, it’s anything but cheap at 1 GP per dose. A nice race, especially for those slightly steampunkish in inclination.
Perhaps one of the weirdest races I’ve seen is the Entobian race: Upright walking caterpillars with a friendly disposition, though they fail to grasp the concept of romantic love. They also are larvites and can transform via metamorphosis, but the default Entobian gains +2 to Dex and Cha, -2 to Wis, are small, get 30 ft. movement, +2 to will-saves against charm-spells and effects, +1 to atk against vermin, get +2 to acrobatics and climb, can create strands of silk-like rope a couple of times per day and get a set of natural claws that deal 1d4 damage. The Entobians can also transform into 5 different evolved versions by taking the respective feats, but more on that once I get to the massive feat-section of the book.
Kvals look like wingless imps with huge hands and actually are a rather interesting concept: Basically, these creatures can be considered to be agents of entropy that seek to destroy evil when the balance is shifted too strongly. Abrasive and dark, yes, but if you’d have to draw some kind of comparison, the closest one I could find would then be that Kvals are a kind of cosmic antibody against the truly vile. They get +2 to Dex and Wis, -2 to Cha, are tiny, get low-light vision, can detect evil as a spell-like ability, are fast for their size (20 ft.), can wield weapons as if they were small, don’t provoke AoOs when entering the square of larger creatures, get +4 to acrobatics and poison those delivering bite attacks or swallowing them. Playing such a small character can surely be interesting and honestly, balance-wise, they are solid.
Next up are the Mahrog, which are essentially a form of neanderthal, taken by a benevolent goddess, isolated from the world and kept peaceful and prosperous – until they found their way back into our world. Now, their primitive culture and race shaped by millennia of isolation clashes with the modern world of the setting they’re placed in. They get +2 to Str, +2 to either Con or Wis, -2 to Int, count as humans, get either improved unarmed strike or improvised weapon mastery as bonus feats, get an additional skill rank that can be spent in appropriate skills and as long as they don’t wear anything made of metal, they add a +2 natural armor bonus to AC when clad in leather or hide armor. The very conservative, overprotective mother goddess Mahra also gets a full write-up, including her new preservation domain. A nice race that comes with an inherent tragedy: The Mahrog goes out into the big world, starts as conservative and indoctrinated and returns to his/her brethren only to realize that the edicts on which their utopian culture is based are stifling, constricting and ultimately dooming the race – or perhaps they are right? I like races that have such an inherent potential for conflict and development.
Mogogols, cheerful humanoid frog-people, have developed from boggards to become a race of sea-faring, friendly frogs (and also play a role in the stellar Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting by Alluria Publishing). They get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Int, can be either medium or small with according movement speeds (30 ft. and 20ft., respectively), can hold their breath longer, move unimpeded through marsh or mud, have a 10 ft. grasping tongue, get +4 to jump checks and small mogogols also get +4 to climb-checks. Best of all, though, is that they get a 10 ft. grasping tongue with which they can grapple. Due to the strange curse, affliction or mutation that separated them from their boggard ancestry, all mogogols are born good. Generally, these Gripli-like beings make for a nice race.
After them, we are off to the more esoteric Muse: Born from the realm of dream (or nightmare), these ephemerally beautiful beings serve to inspire mortals towards great deeds. They gain +2 to Cha and Int, but -2 to Con, low-light vision, can grant allies +1 to all skill checks that involve skills you have yourself, can 1/day grant a reroll of an atk, save or skill-check via a touch and when they are above half their maximum HP, they get +1 morale bonus to armor and saves against adjacent creatures (an unwelcome design-remnant of 4th edition’s “bloodied” condition, I guess – crunch-wise not impressive). But why have they left the realm of dream? To inspire the dawning of a new age? Or to escape something dreadful, lurking just behind the walls of sleep?
The coppery-skinned Numistians with their cat-like, green third eyes on their forehead may seem familiar at first: Denizens once native on the plane of commerce, these beings quite literally bleed sand and coins and actually sustain themselves on coins and wealth – to them, commerce is literally life. They get +2 Wis and +2 Cha, -2 Str, can change their size between small and medium, are slow but steady like dwarves (20 ft movement, but no penalties due to encumbrance), gain low-light vision, can 1/day lose hit points equal to their level to reroll a given save to bribe fate, get +4 to perception to detect coins, get +2 to saves against poison and can actually consume money (in gold or platinum increments) to heal their wounds – especially the latter ability being rather cool.
Oaklings, mobile plants with humanoid “faces”, have an interesting life-cycle, starting as acorns and then evolving to small trees that observe for years before springing to life and mobility. The coolly logic plants value survival above almost anything, making them feel rather detatched, hence also their racial traits: +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, +2 to saves against mind-affecting effects, paralysis, poisons, polymorph and stun effects as well as an immunity to sleep effects and can be affected by both humanoid and plant spells and effects. If below 50% of their HP, they get +2 AC due to rotective sap (again, 4th edition design remnant…), can heal by basking in sunlight and stand up as a swift action. Overall, the race feels rather powerful: The array of bonuses combined with the option to easily heal and standing up fast is slightly more powerful than I enjoy, though write-up wise, making these plant-beings essentially pragmatic beings determined by logic, I enjoyed them very much.
Next in the cirque is the one race I honestly dreaded, not due to their nature, but due to how many ways exist in which you could screw them up: The Obitu are a player-race infected with the so-called vivification virus – a virus that infects undead, and reverses their polarity, ending in a transformation that sees the beings being reborn as skeletons empowered by positive energy and thus also none of the life-hating characteristics of the undead. Obitu get +2 to Str and Dex, -2 to Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +4 to saves against disease and poison (how do they catch them sans metabolism?), gain improved initiative, +2 to acrobatics, escape artist and sleight of hands-checks, have a negative energy resistance of 5 + 1/2 character level and are immune to sleep. Good news first: The crunch is solid, if slightly more powerful than I enjoy – at least they don’t have the sickening amount of immunities undead have. The negative being that the Obitu, with their magic virus (which also gets its stats) can potentially break a campaign’s logic – after all, they offer an excellent way to enhance one’s lifespan greatly. Also rather weird are the references to muscular contractions and blood, when the obitu are skeletons – a more detailed run-down of their alien physiology would have been nice indeed. That being said, while certainly not perfect, they are nevertheless the best undead race for PFRPG also far and in far-out campaigns with a lot of weird races (or Plane-hopping campaigns) I will definitely use them, perhaps once my next player dies, an Obitu spawns and takes root in the bones of the fallen… My favorite race herein so far.
Relluks are an interesting relic of a bygone era – literally. These beings are constructs made of basalt and obsidian pressed into the shape of a vaguely humanoid creature with a gaping maw of a tribal face at the front, sprung to life via a soul-crystal and covered in strange golden metals that cover their frames in a distinct pattern resembling circuits, these relics of the downfall of two allied civilizations of atlantean proportions now scour the earth, guided by instinctual memories of their as of yet undiscovered brethren. They gain +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, have a con-score and make fortitude saves as normal, but do get some (though thankfully not all) construct immunities: poison, sleep, paralysis, petrification, disease, nausea, sickening and energy drain all hold no threat to the Relluk, which is a quite impressive list in my book. However, this is offset by the inability to heal regularly – without magic, no Relluk can heal and additionally, they are susceptible to spells that deal with stone and non-ferrous metals. Relluks use their gems to emulate magic items and armor – if the wear a regular armor, they quickly become fatigued and exhausted and 1/day, Relluks can emit a, obscuring mist-like cloud of steam that deals minimal fire damage. Finally, they always shed light as a torch and contact with the Relluk’s soul crystal ignites flammable objects, leading to some nice potential for humorous roleplaying. I honestly did not want to read this entry – yet another construct race? Yawn! But unlike Replicants, Ironborn and Automata, the Relluk are different in that they are WEIRD, don’t feel necessarily humanoid and also thankfully (as did some of the aforementioned, just to be precise…) avoid the “slap construct-immunities on them”-approach. Even if your world already has a sentient construct-race, I wager that the Relluk with their antediluvian flair will make for welcome additions and bring something new to the games! By the way: They come with a MASSIVE assortment of armor gems: 13 different base-types of armor gems are provided and apart from being useful as armor for Relluks, they also provide additional benefits like skill-bonuses, elemental resistances etc. Even cooler, there are gemstone equivalents for each armor gem, enabling Relluks to harness found gems in similar ways (which are actually VERY effective) and making gemstones finally more than just an annoying trip to the jeweler accompanied by an appraise-check. Kudos!
Ever wanted to play a slime? The Squole-race is just that. Slime. Humanoid-looking slime. Spawned from the Paraelemental plane of oozes, these beings get +2 to Dex, +2 to Con, -2 to Int, are blind beyond the range of their 40 ft. blindsight, get +2 to Acrobatics and Escape artists-checks due to being boneless, gain a resistance of 1/2 his character level against either cold, fire or acid and share some traits with oozes such as immunity to stunning, sneak attacks, poison and sleep. they can still be flanked, crited, paralyzed and polymorphed and while they don’t sleep, they do need to eat and drink. The blindsight is powerful, but the blindness beyond the reach is a cool way to balance the benefits of this race and while these oozes don’t feel as cool as the Relluk, they are a solid, albeit very weird addition to a campaign.
Speaking of weird: The Taddol are a weird crossbreed of elf and ettin, encompassing two personalities in one humanoid body. They get +2 Str and Int, -2 Cha, low-light vision, count as both elves and giants for race-related effects, get two favored classes (and +1 skills and hp every time they take a level in such a class), +4 to perception, double the number of head and neck-slots, but have double the chance to die by vorpal weapons -losing one head kills a Taddol. They also get Two Weapon Fighting as a bonus feat and qualify for the improved and greater feats without taking the dex-requirement into account.
The Xax are born from a combination of mad worshipers of the great tapestry and the primordial forces of the Abyss – and are strictly logical. Their physiology is weird, with a vertical mouth and eyes above another, organs comprised of tentacles (!!) and similarly weird stuff. Xax get +2 to Con and Int, -2 to Cha, are small, slow (20 ft.), roll at character creation for a random elemental resistance, gain proficiency of an exotic weapon of their choice and can randomly gain access each sunrise to another race’s signature racial powers, like stonecunning or halfling’s luck. A combination of chaotic fluxes akin to a rod of wonders with a dint Lovecraftia would the best describe these strange beings and honestly- they are so imaginative, I kind of like them. I might even introduce them into my campaign world – though I’ll have them all disguised. In my campaign, all races in this book would get lynched faster by the xenophobic human populace than you could say “Tar and Feathers”.
The final new character race is another one you’re guaranteed to never have seen before: The Zif are intelligent parasites that thrive in symbiosis with mollusk-forms and have since adopted the race of Snillorhgs, which should be understood as large snails with hands. Zifs get +2 Int and Wis, -2 Str, are medium, slow, gain an additional knowledge-skill rank at character creation, can’t wear shoes (but gets a second belt-slot), and can retreat into their shells, gaining 5+character level DR/-, but blinding the Zif. They also get +4 to climb checks and attempts to resist bull rushes – and possess an inbred and surprising hatred of aberrations and traditionally evil races. Another truly unique and intriguing race, I must say!
So, now the basics are out of the way, let’s move on to the racial prestige classes, for this book contains one for every new race.
First in the array is the Zif Abolisher, who comes at d8, 4+Int skills per level, medium fort and will-saves and full BAB as well as 9 levels of spellcasting progression. These beings can essentially be considered a dual-class of aberration-specialized hunter with arcane capabilities and the option to disable mental powers temporarily. The Relluk Archeovitus gets d8, 8+Int skills per day, medium BAB, medium ref-and will-saves and no spell-progression. The PrC gets the option to access bardic music, stonecunning, the option to perceive invisible creatures, an enhancement to make the steam solid fog and finally the abilities to cast find the path as well as legend lore. The Taddol Battletwin gets d12, 2+Int skills per level, full BAB, medium reflex saves and the abilities to replace the traditional two-weapon fighting style f the Taddol with a singular determination on large and deadly two-handed weapons, thus putting two minds to one blade, with devastating consequences: From improved reach to a better CMD to a cool capstone ability that lets her reroll her attacks 1/hour, the class is a cool, martial class that does not need any magic gizmos – quite cool, especially since the Taddol to me give off a distinct Howardesk flair – I’ll probably rather use them in my extremely low-magic Hyborian campaign…
The Kval Deathseeker (D12, 2+Int skills, medium fort and ref-saves, full BAB) gives new meaning to the phrase “Small but Fierce” – granting abilities to jump into the fray and even grant improving DR. Better yet, though, is the level 10 capstone ability: If an event would plunge a world towards catastrophic evil, this blaze of glory ability lets the Kval Deathseeker shunt all in a 1000 ft.-radius into a demiplane cyst, trapping the vil in question for a thousand years at the cost of not being able to escape himself – a cool final resort ability for a heroic sacrifice-endgame and since using the ability is dependent on DM-approval, one I absolutely LOVE. The Boggle Demolisher gtes d8, 6+Int skills per level, medium BAB and medium ref-saves and could be seen as a roguish demolitions-expert that excels at breaking things (for example the armor of his foes..) and creating explosives. Unfortunately, the Demolisher has not aged well and with the creation of the APG and the alchemist-class, feels somewhat dated. A revision as an alchemist-PrC would be cool.
The greedy Numistians introduce the Entrepreneur, who gets d6, 8+Int skills, medium BAB, medium fort and ref-saves and no spell progression. Entrepreneurs gain the abilities to automatically treat appraise-checks as rolled 20s, massively improved knowledge checks, improving blindsight, darkvision, an interesting ability that seems to heal damage when hitting a foe with a bludgeoning weapon, but actually doesn’t, an aura of trustworthiness and even x-ray vision. An interesting class, though one too focused on enhanced senses for my tastes. The Golden Muse (d8, 2+Int skills, medium BAB, medium will-save, full divine spell progression) is focused on bringing evil to justice, making the class essentially celestial in themes – golden light that crushes evil and inspires ally – the like. I found this particular class not too captivating or cool. The Obitu Grim Reaper (d8, 4+Int skills, full BAB, medium will-save 9 levels spell progression) is another PrC that does not excite me – yes, an undead-looking undead-hunter is cool. But the abilities are boring – I’ve seen bonuses against creature type y, immunity against negative levels etc. too often to consider this class well-made. I’ve literally seen all the abilities (apart from a slight improvement of the vivification virus) before. Wasted potential for the cool name. Entonbian Lightseekers get d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB, medium ref-saves and can be seen as trailblazers with some minor abilities to enhance their weapons with light-effects as well as speed and mobility-enhancements.
The Anumus Pharaoh (d8, 4+Int skills per level, medium BAB and will-save, full spell-progression) is actually a true surprise – not only get they to choose from different ancient secrets, they can also exchange persons via teleport in combat, punish or aid foes and allies by sheathing them in purple flames and sway the masses – the Pharaoh-PrC rocks hard and I’ll use them in my campaign – not only for Anumi (though I’ll rename it -scion of the duat). Two thumbs up for that one! The Oakling PrC, the Reverent of Spring (d12, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB, medium fort and will-saves) is a hunter/melee combatant that sees nature as “Kill or be killed” and can even learn to heal minor wounds each time they inflict damage in melee. The Mahrog Savage (d10, 2+Int skills per level, full BAB, medium fort-save) gains bonuses to handling a specific type of animal, summon animals of this kind, can create special hides that are the equivalent of civilized armor, special weapons that emulate civilized ones and turn into his totem animal. The Squole Slimelord (d8, 4+Int skills, medium BAB, medium fort-and ref-saves, full spellcasting progression) gains the ability to summon oozes and influence the mindless creatures as well as launch slime globes at foes and even turn into a full-blown ooze at the end.
The Xax warrior philosopher (d10, 2+Int skills per level, full BAB, medium fort and will-saves) starts off as a regular fighting class, but e.g. the option to roll 5d4 instead of a d20 once per round as well as the cool capstone “Perfect Strike” (treat atk as 20 or damage as maximum) make this class rather cool and the warrior philosopher a well-rounded class. The final new class is the Mogogol Zubbit, who comes with d10, 2+Int skills, full BAB, medium will-saves – and is unfortunately utterly lame – a kind of pseudo-paladin, all of the zubbit’s abilities are worse than those granted by the Paladin and Cavalier base-classes. Ok for NPCs and if you consciously want to make your Mogogol weaker. Otherwise: Avoid like the plague!
After this massive section, we delve into the feat-chapter, which is thankfully equipped with a two page table of feats by race so you can easily find what you’re looking for – special mention deserve the entobian metamorphosis-feats that give you the option to transform your larva-like entobian into different entobian forms, including new racial modifiers etc. – since, however, this review is already bloated beyond compare, I’ll refrain from going into all details. Overall, the majority of the feats offer some neat benefit and make sense.
The second portion of the book is specially for the GM and includes short write-ups of the island-home of the taddols and the plane of commerce of the Numistians. We also get a lot of magic items: From pet-related item like an invisible lash to put on Anumi (or would-be enslavers) to boggle one-man helicopter-backpacks, magic mistletoes, heartstones obitu can put in their empty chests to an enchanted slime armor and a diving helm-like ooze that enables you to breathe underwater, this chapter unanimously deserves my fullest praise – iconic, cool, imaginative items, one and all.
After this, we get a bestiary-section for all the races and related creatures, including undead oaklings, new oozes, etc., the section is useful and nice. The pdf closes with an aforementioned index. The pdf also comes with 3 pages of paper cardstock minis in full color.
Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect: I encountered a couple of different minor typos, though none impeded my ability to enjoy this pdf. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard, that, while beautiful, will extol a brutal drain on your printer since there is no printer-friendly version. The full-color, original artworks are mostly awesome and range from good to excellent. The pdf is excessively bookmarked.
I honestly expected to hate this book. Seriously. New races have a hard standing with me as I don’t like it when races don’t bring anything new to the table but variations of crunch. Thus, I was rather astonished to see that all of the different races herein at least have something going for them – some being even exceedingly innovative in their design and ideas. That being said, these races are weird and may not be appropriate for every setting, gravitating more towards settings with a lot of weird humanoids running around. The average creature herein would lead to people screaming “Monster” and piling up the pyre in my home campaign – in high fantasy, racially diverse settings or even better, planeswalking settings, though, these races truly shine and offer some breaths of fresh air to known and tried tropes. In fact, I can easily picture all of these beings fitting seamlessly on the streets of Sigil or any other place in the great beyond.
That out of the way, the supplemental material also deserves mentioning: While the magic items provided can stand up to the best of books, the PrCs, with some notable exceptions, fell flat for me: Too often do they remind one of classic tropes like “Mage with favored enemy” or “celestial bard” and while some offer truly ingenious abilities, not all feel that well-crafted. But back to the races: Apart from some slight balance-concerns I voiced in the respective sections (especially regarding the Anumi), I was positively surprised to see how well the races herein fare. Especially the Relluk practically belongs into any campaign that features a lost civilization prominently and remains my favorite race herein – probably because they have the most elaborate background. I know that the choice is by design, but my major gripe with this pdf is the lack of customs of the new races. While the omission of religious rites etc. makes them easy to integrate into a given campaign, it is religious rites, social peculiarities etc. that make races stand out and shape their identity. Take a look at Rite Publishing‘s race-books, notably the Ironborn in direct comparison: While the Ironborn are also a relatively new race, they do come with customs, terminology, identity-creating ploys. I really would have loved to see more in that vein, to e.g. properly present the ramblings of Xax warrior philosophers in battle. For me personally, this flaw weighs quite a bit and combined with the lack of a printer-friendly version and the minor glitches I encountered, makes me settle for a final verdict of 4 stars in the end.
You can check out the Compendium here.
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,