Legendary Hybrids: Skinchanger
This installment of the Legendary Hybrids-series clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 3.5 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20.5 pages of content. Now, as always, Legendary Games’ consumer-friendly layout means that there is a lot of text on these pages, so let’s take a look!
So, what is the skinchanger? Well, the class is a hybrid of druid and vigilante, and gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and all natural weapons gained from skinchanging as well as light armors, but not shields. The class gets ¾ BAB-progression, has only good save-progressions for all 3 saving throws, and skinchangers at 4th level gain spellcasting, drawing their spells from a massive, customized list. Their governing spellcasting attribute for these spells is Charisma, but they do need to prepare spells, and the skinchanger gets a unique twist on spontaneous spell-conversion: They may lose a prepared spell of an equal level or higher to convert it into alter self, monstrous physique I, or giant form I.
The base ability that takes the place of dual identity would be adopted persona: With 1 minute of mental and physical preparation, the skinchanger can adopt an invented or copied persona. The latter must be the identity of a target the skinchanger has studied closely – this means 1 week of spending time with the target, which can make for a great deep cover infiltration angle. Better yet, the ability actually is super precise regarding the daily studying required, making this ability exceedingly precise. Up to half class level, minimum 1, such personas may be maintained at any given time – learning a new one requires that the skinchanger forgets an old one, and personae must be maintained in a way, requiring at least 1 hour per week spent with the target. The transformation duration may NOT be hastened by abilities or effects that quicken a vigilante’s identity change. While within a persona, the skinchanger gets half her class level, minimum +1, to Bluff to maintain the ruse, as well as up to three Knowledge/profession skills related to the topics that constitute the adopted persona’s personality and occupation. This only applies while in the guise of the proper persona, obviously. Acting grossly out of character does blow your cover, and starting at 5th level, these bonuses apply even if you are untrained in the respective skills.
The skinchanger begins play with hidden strike +1d8, inflicting this as bonus precision damage versus unaware targets with melee weapons (or ranged ones, standard 30 ft. max distance caveat applies), with the damage increasing by +1d8 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The damage applies versus flanked targets, but is reduced to d4s. The ability stacks with the stalker specialization. The class also begins play with improved Unarmed Strike, and the ability specifies its interaction with natural attacks. The second core class feature would be the one that lends the class its name – I am, of course, talking about the supernatural skinchange ability.
Skinchange lets the skinchanger change form as a standard action and doesn’t provoke Attacks of Opportunity. The ability may be used 1/day, +1/day at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, with 20th level making the ability work at-will. Druid levels stack with skinchanger levels for the purpose of determining wild shape and skinchanging, and skinchanging counts as wild shape for the purpose of prerequisites. Feats and abilities that modify wild shape, such as Quick Wild Shape do not apply their benefits to the skinchange ability. The duration of a skinchange is 1 hour per skinchanger level, and if applicable, the save DC is 10 + ½ class level + Charisma modifier. Activating skinchanges while observed spoils any disguise granted by it – nice catch there!
Skinchanges fall into two different categories: Polymorph skinchanges and mutation skinchanges. The former follows the rules and restrictions that apply to the polymorph transmutation subschool, and when activating or dismissing a polymorph skinchange, the skinchanger may change one choice made for her mutation skinchanges as a swift action. Any number of mutation skinchanges may be in effect at any given time, but each must be activated separately as a standard action the activation costs must be paid, obviously. At 1st level, the skinchanger can alter her height, weight, skin, color, texture, hair and sex within her type, gaining a +5 untyped bonus to Disguise that does not stack with the polymorphing. This bonus increases to +10 at 4th level. This is btw. a mutation. Starting at second level, the skinchanger may assume Small or Medium humanoid or monstrous humanoid (at 4th level) form, functioning as alter self, with weapon/natural weapon interacting concisely defined. This does necessitate familiarity with the chosen form. This follows the rules for monstrous physique I, and 6th level allows for Tiny and Large creature forms, following, analogue, monstrous physique II.
At 4th level, the ability upgrades to advanced skinchange, which is no longer linear – instead, an option is chosen, and another one is unlocked every even level thereafter. In short, these would be class-exclusive talents that allow for further customization of the base ability. These include the mutation based ability to gain a hunter’s animal focus, camouflage, scaling boosts to physical attributes, extra forms and limbs, reach increase and easier squeezing, quicker movement, limited self-healing (has a cooldown)…and what about the immediate action +4 dodge bonus to AC and DR 10/bludgeoning for a skinchange use? Yeah, there is some interesting martial stuff going on here! Temporarily integrating tools into your form, reproducing sounds…really cool tricks here. The ability is further differentiated, though: At 10th level, the array of greater skinchanges is unlocked, where further size modifications are provided, and elemental based forms are also found here. These also allow for the further upgrade of the item creation angle that the advanced skinchange option offered: These abilities are particularly intriguing, considering the high difficulty or the rules operation here. Did I mention the ability to enter a death-like torpor? Also one of the really impressive ones from a design perspective would be the trap form: Become temporarily a trap! I have NEVER seen that operation pulled off properly before!!
Finally, 16th level unlocks the most potent of the skinchange tricks available to the class – the legendary skinchanges. Density control, Colossal forms, super-quick shapechange, further, numerical boosts…nice ones, suitable for these high levels.
The skinchanger also begins play with a social talent, gaining another one every 4 levels thereafter. These are, as a consequence of the unique engine, modified: Quicker studying of targets (that improves further at 13th level), assuming a special, anonymous persona (think faceless men), the aptly-named celebrity-lookalike that nets discounts and services (codified as tightly as you’d expect), defeating abilities that detect falsehoods, gaining the option to 50% avoiding divinations targeting her persona while she’s not in them, gaining a bonus to a selected skill (with a few exceptions), higher level options to quicker change, gaining languages with personae…or what about being adept at convincing others that she is the real deal when attempting to declare the original an impostor…really cool tricks here! I was positively surprised by how much these tricks deviate from the vigilante’s array, though vigilante social talents may also be selected from a list. Kudos!
At 2nd level, shapeshifter’s empathy allows for nonverbal universal communication via sound, pantomime and body language, and she may use class level + Charisma modifier instead to roll the check. This qualifies as wild empathy for prerequisite purposes. 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter yield a stalker talent, with once more Charisma acting as governing key ability score. The ability does include the information for use of these while observed, and quite a few of these talents apply to hidden strike – such talents are designated an asterisk, and only one such asterisk’d talent may be applied to a hidden strike. The ability does offer vigilante synergy and interact, once more, in unique ways with the adopted persona class feature: We can get perona-based combat wild-card feat, using Charisma as a replacement ability score prerequisite (so no feat tree cheesing/ easy monster feat unlocking) and the ability to Bluff items instead of UMDing them similarly is intriguing. Improving damage output of unarmed and natural strikes to monk-levels, drawing weapons melded with the skinchanger’s body as a swift action and synergy between Sleight of Hand palming and polymorphing make for cool tricks. Rogue talents, vigilante talents and the like can be found, and transformation abilities are tweaked and codified as talents instead, which makes all kinds of sense. Activating and dismissing polymorphs and combine them with grapples also rocks. 3rd level nets trackless step, and the capstone provides a shapechanger apotheosis and, as noted before, skinchange at will. Taking 20 sans increasing the action required for Disguise, while also adding the adopted persona bonus is also part of the deal.
A sample list of skinchanger forms is provided, and we get favored class options for the standard races plus android, auttaine, chlorvian, kitsune, reptoid, rougarou, skinwalker, tretharri and zvarr. I have no issues with these. There are a total of 4 different feats provided: Extra Skinchange nets + 1 skinchange and an additional daily use; Fast Skinchange lets you activate one as a move action…and in an interesting angle, this is contingent on exceeding the skinchange’s minimum level by 6 or more, making lower level skinchanges retain relevance at higher levels. Form Finesse lets you choose more special abilities when choosing from a list. Memorized Personae nets you Intelligence bonus (minimum 1) personae as permanent – this one may be taken multiple times.
The pdf sports 3 different archetypes: The Chimerist can adopt two personae simultaneously, but only gets the Bluff bonus from the base class feature, and social/stalker talents and similar personae-based tricks are assigned one of the personae. Since the chimeric forms are somewhat monstrous, the archetype gets ½ class level as a bonus to Intimidate. Instead of 4th level’s skinchange, we get minor augmentation, which basically codifies the rules required for the unique chimeric skinchanging the archetype offers, with 6th, 10th and 14th and 18th level provide the augmentations for this signature fusion ability, though the archetype does pay for this with stalker talents and hidden strike progressions. The second archetype would by the Lycanthrope Aspirant, choosing an animal form, with 9th level unlocking magical beasts – yes, this means that you could go quasi-displacer beast lycanthrope at higher levels! The archetype does come with a variety of unique skinchanges, including hybrid form. Form Finesse is baked into the archetype and it gets DR. The third archetype would be the shape thief, who modifies the base engine by requiring the touching of targets, replacing the disguise trick. This touch can also yield personae and follow the skinchange quicker after touching a target. Higher level shape thieves may steal memories as well and learn to, get this, swap shapes! Now this makes for some unique gambits! 16th level shape thieves even learn to mimic magic in a limited form! The archetypes all come with suggestions for fitting skinchanges, social and stalker talents, making them more user-friendly for newer players.
Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a variety of different full-color artworks. Some of these will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
David N. Ross and Patrick N. R. Julius provide a beats of a hybrid class here: Distinct, with an identity that transcends the parent classes, the skinchanger plays in a unique way. The engine provided is top tier difficulty regarding the demands of the design, and manages to depict perhaps the best faceless-man-style shapechanger available for PFRPG. Yep. Now, I can tell you about a ton of evolution-based shapechanger-classes that do the icky-monster angle well…but the social chameleon? The brilliant infiltrator? Not so much. This class fills this niche with panache aplomb, showcasing the amazing potential that an excellent hybrid class can have. The skinchanger is an inspired class that ranks as one of the finest hybrid classes I have ever read. This is a masterpiece and even if you’re skeptical regarding hybrid classes, this is well worth getting. The skinchanger is a true joy, one of the best hybrid classes out there, and as such, it should come as no surprise that my final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
You can get this inspired class here on OBS!