Rogue’s Field Guide to Rare Races
Rogue’s Field Guide to Rare Races
This massive book clocks in at 283 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover/designation of product identity, leaving us with 277 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review.
We begin with a brief framing device that is mirrored in the end of the pdf, with notes by “The Rogue”, the eponymous explorer that comments the text and provides the respective surveys, as well as the lead designer.
As you could glean from the title, this book is concerned with unique and strange races. Each of the racial write-ups notes the RP-values (which are, as an aside, woefully inadequate at judging a race’s potency) and the basic notes we’ve come to expect – relations, background, preferred alignment, sample names – you get the drift. Age, Height and Weight tables are thankfully provided as well. Each race comes with alternate racial traits, racial feats and archetypes as well as favored class options. It should be noted that favored class options tend to clock in on the more detailed side of things, and that the lists take both classes from the ACG and from OA into account, and yes, even the vigilante. Additionally, each section comes with a sample NPC, who is depicted at levels 3, 6 and 12 – kudos for that. The NPCs have, PFS-style, their abilities spelled out, which can make them more convenient to use, but the abilities don’t state the type (Ex, Su, etc.) – personally, I think that having the type helps, but that as an aside. Length-wise, most of the racial entries cover slightly more than 20 pages, most of which is devoted to crunch – just to give you an idea of the extent of the pdf.
All right, we have a TON of ground to cover, so let’s start with the first race, the Branchards. Branchards are actually no unified race, instead representing a catch-all term for beings that carry the blood of neutrally-aligned planes in their blood. They are native outsiders with a base speed of 30 ft., Medium and gain resistance 5 to cold, electricity and fire, as well as a +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy and Sense Motive. They can use blur 1/day as a SP, have darkvision and if they’re chaotic, they add +1 to the DC of spells cast with the chaotic descriptor, but take a -1 penalty to saves versus spells with the lawful descriptor. This holds true vice versa for lawful branchards. Branchards that have an alignment on the neutral point of the law-chaos-axis gain a +1 racial bonus to saves versus both lawful and chaotic spells. Ability-score-wise, they get +2 to Wis and Int, making them lopsided on the caster-side of things – personally, I prefer one boost to physical, one boost to a mental attribute.
Now, the base stats of each of the races are provided on a sheet of parchment, in a bullet-point-style list, which, true to premise, mimics the notes of the titular Rogue, including a kind of handwritten-looking, pretty legible font. Now, while I like the commitment to the premise here, this makes, from a usability point of view, for not the best decision. The font sports no formatting differentiation between what is usually bolded and what isn’t; more annoyingly, it’s an italicized font, which makes spotting e.g. spell-names harder than it should. I’d strongly suggest for future books to just stick to presentation-standards here. The idea is cute in theory, but slightly impractical in practice.
This problem, thankfully, only extends to the base stats of a given race- the rest of the rules are provided in a cleaner font and adheres to presentation and formatting standards. While we’re on the subject of formatting – here, I may actually compliment the book: E.g. bonus types and italicizations of spells etc. are enforced in a rather meticulous manner. Kudos there!
While we’re on the subject of minor layout snafus, it should be noted that I stumbled quite often over the look of the “1” in the font chosen for the regular text; it almost looks like an “I” to me; once more, not a big issue, but something to bear in mind.
Now, let us return to the branchards – we get a total of 12 different alternate racial traits for the race, which include +4 to Perception and 1/day see invisibility in exchange for the skill-boost and the SP; +2 to Knowledge (history) and to saves vs. death effects as well as 1/day lesser age resistance in exchange for the axis-based magic boost, SP and skill-boost; we can find Deathless warden; at-will detect undead, easier passing for humans…you get the idea. There is also a halo of glowing runes (which serves as light, italicization missing) and which can convey secret messages as writing – cool visuals there. Natural weapons are properly codified, if taken.
Not enough for you? Want specific alternate versions? There are 8 branchard heritages to choose from to represent more specific ancestries: Aeon-blooded branchards are typically neutral, get +2 to Str and Wis, instead apply the skill-boost to Knowledge (planes) and Perception and get calm emotions instead of blur. With the exceptions of the jyoti-blooded, these btw. all have their attribute bonuses evenly distributed among physical and mental scores – nice. 1/day vs. constant SPs also make sense – psychopomp-blooded branchards, known as wayfarers, get, for example, a constant deathwatch, while the protean-blooded warped ones get twisted space 1/day. The favored class options are extensive and do not shirk away from more complex rules-operations, like granting additional bloodline power uses for bloodline powers that can be used 3 + Cha-mod times per day. Now, a positive surprise for me was the massive 100-entry dressing table for branchard-NPC-abilities; these can also be used to replace the SP of the base race and include a wide variety of SPs. Formatting is slightly less tight here – we have instances of natural weapons not categorized and spells not italicized; there are a few typos here and there is a 20-ft.-aura that stuns targets 1/day – RAW sans save…so yeah, while I *liked* this table, it’s not as tight as it should be and should definitely remain the providence of GMs.
Really cool: We get a purely fluff-table to determine random features that can yield a mouth-slit, splayed feet, extra digits, etc. – neat one! We get 5 new feats: One yields mount, companion or familiar the entropic or resolute template; protean-blooded branchards of 9th level may choose to gain basically light fortification, which automatically upgrades to 50% chance to ignore crits and sneak attack-based bonus damage at 17th level. There’s a feat that nets you a traded in resistance of 5 back and one that nets you 1/day blink, +1/day for every 5 levels a day. Complaint here – the total at 20th level will be 5 uses, not 4: 1 feat, +1 at 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th level – that makes 5. Extra Limbs can only be taken at 1st level and is pretty OP: You get +2 off hands. If you have ever built a multiweapon shredder, you’ll know how lethal that is bound to end…and why 4-armed races usually have some sort of drawback built in. We also get a few nice mundane items like sleeping powder, flash powder and prismatic paints as well as an oil that may be applied to ropes, chains, etc. to bind incorporeal creatures.
The race also sports 3 sample spells: Decode space generates a cube that encapsulates a TON of spells: blood biography, detect animals and plants, charm, magic, poison, secret doors, thoughts, undead, identify and see alignment and it lets you see through illusions in the terrain. It also nets you the ability to ignore difficult terrain in the cube as well as +4 insight bonus on ALL checks (should be defined) made against a target decoded by the cube – I assume, this bonus only lasts while the spell does. I like the idea here, but this spell can become a nightmare to run – the sheer amount of information you need to dump on each target makes the actual use of this one cumbersome. I’d suggest providing a baseline buff/bonus for decoding, with the OPTION to concentrate for one or more of these benefits instead. Emphasizes player-agenda, retains flexibility and is less of a headache. Hallowed lantern enthralls the undead, and warpwave is a 5th level attempt to replicate the protean ability as a spell – complaint here: CL = character level makes no sense for a spell, but 3 of the 20 entries sport that note.
The racial archetype would be the axial exemplar chooses one of the alignment extremes and gains the associated domain, including the 8th level ability and the bonus spells of level 1 – 6, in exchange for the inqui domain and second judgment abilities. The inqui detects the opposed alignment exclusively and 16th level nets a 1/day SP depending on the chosen alignment. This one…is really basic, boring, and has no tie-in with the race. More exciting would be the NPC, a sorcerer/brawler (steelbreaker). Nice one.
The second race would be the Isoonna, who get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Con, are aquatic and immune to disease and poison (Boo!). They get +1 AC as well as +4 to CDM to resist disarm and grapple. They also get +1 to Knowledge (nature) and Survival, have a swim speed of 30 ft. and a properly codified 1d4 bite attack. They are amphibious and have darkvision and can, Con-mod times per day, minimum 1/day, secrete a Strength-damaging poison, with the DC scaling based on HD and Con-mod. They have an eel-angle going on: When they pin a creature, they cause 1 point of Con damage (should be contingent on bite, imho) and gain fast healing 2 for the round. Hand me that bag of kittens and a damage-dispersal option and we have infinite healing for the whole party. Blergh. Disqualified right there from any of my games. The lack of an abuse caveat here is sloppy. Which is a pity, for I liked the option to generate glue seals with touch attacks…though the save DC is wrong – it should be 10 + ½ character level + Con-mod, not “11 +…” Granted, they must consume one point of Con-damage in blood per day and are vulnerable to fire, but these folks still won’t get near my game…again, a pity, for I consider the idea of an aquatic vampire to be interesting and the slime, for example, makes for a unique and interesting angle. Also cool: Their spit can fortify others against disease and poison, granting a bonus to saves – now, sans the immunity for the base race, which wrecks a ton of low-level plots, this would be really cool…it still is. They may replace the slippery body with camouflage.
Also lulzy: At BAB+1 and Str 13 you can get BOTH grab and swallow whole with the bite. WUT? Seriously? Those two are VERY strong and should be locked behind a higher prerequisite barrier. The second feat is cool, though, allowing you to infuse the slime with toxins – really cool and what I like to see from racial feats. Unfortunate power-creep – there is an item that LITERALLY does the same as a tanglefoot back, but with added cold damage – flash-freeze foam. Cool, right? Well, it costs the same as a tanglefoot bag. Come on. Awesome, on the other hand – an expanding, higher level variant of glue seal and a vertigo-inducing variant of mirage arcana – both make for cool spells. The archetype would be the sanguisuge rogue, who can share potions imbibed by letting others drink her blood. At higher levels, we get alter self via blood drinking as well as addition the effects of progressively better beast shape or monstrous physique spells. Advanced talents allow for blood biography and the limited leeching or sorc/bloodrager bloodlines. Problem here: Limitations. The ability should spell out that gaining an ability thus multiple times does not reset any limited-use abilities of the bloodline in question to avoid cheesing. Nice: We get a write-up of the racial deity (5 domains and subdomains, shuriken favored weapon…) and the sample NPC is a chirurgeon alchemist/nature fang druid multiclass. All in all, a thematically amazing race with some needless cheese-exploits and a bit of feature bloat.
Iwaningen are aberrations that get +2 Con and Wis, and have a speed of 20 ft. The speed-entry is ccp’d, stating that if the creature is Medium, the speed is never reduced due to encumbrance. Guess what? They’re always Medium. They begin play with only their racial language due to their xenophobic culture…and, oddly, instead of listing it in the ability score adjustments, they list +2 Str as its own trait, making them somewhat lopsided there. They have DR 5/magic, +2 to saves versus poisons, spells and SPs, gain +4 natural armor, have fire immunity (wut?) and cold resistance 10, get +1 Knowledge (dungeoneering) and Survival while underground, +2 Perception, get +2 to concentration, +2 to CL-checks to overcome SR and +2 to dispel checks, have darkvision and may consume up to 10 lbs. of minerals or metal to heal 1 ability score damage per pound consumed. The healing takes 10 minutes to happen (good catch). But the ability does not specify an action required for eating 1 pound of minerals or metal. They take a whopping -6 to saves versus sleep or other spells that cause suspended animation. Alternate racial traits include burrow speed, +2 to CL with earth-spells or 3 Skill Focuses, gained at 1st, 8th and 16th level.
Yeah, well. 38 RP. What should I say here? Rock and crystal given life is a cool concept and the theme of the race is strong. The drawback versus suspended animation is really cool. But the race is choked in needless feature-bloat. Those numerical escalations for magic, the immunity to fire, the (almost always) lame skill boosts – they contribute nothing to making the race have a unique identity. As written, they are basically earth genasi/oreads on steroids. They get two cool racial weapons (where’s the proficiency for them?) and a feat lets them vomit slag! See, that type of thing makes the character unique! I’d strip all that numbers-escalating stuff, retain the metal-eating, slumber and DR and make that a racial trait. That being said, the slag vomited should have its damage cap based on level, not on metal eaten – a level 1 character can use this feat to vomit 10d6 fire damage in a 10-ft.cone if he’s eaten 10 lbs. of metal/minerals. That kills everything at that level. Oh, and guess what? The feat is missing its saving throw. RAW, there is NO SAVE. Cooldown 10 minutes, but still, way OP for low levels. The spells include a combo of fire resistance and DR via ceramic skin, and a level 3 touch attack that causes up to 10d6 sonic damage + nauseated on a failed save, sickened on a successful one. Save should negate the condition at this spell-level. Seismic skewers is cool, creating a tripping line of stalagmites that pierce foes.
The racial archetype provided is the construction chemist, who gets the option to infuse an extract in a bomb. Only direct hits are affected. Oh boy. This is so broken, I don’t even know where to start. The extract’s range is limited to the field it hits, but not the area of effect. This unintentionally allows for the bypassing of Personal range extracts, as the abuse caveat erroneously notes “Self” prohibited here, which does not exist in PFRPG – that’s 5e-rules language. The more significant problem is that the ability fails to specify how spell delivery, saves etc. interact with the magic-laced bomb, nor the actions it takes to lace the bomb with the extract – the alchemist can thus easily bypass casting-action-economy restrictions. The rest of the archetype sports formulae extensions and a cool idea, namely creation capsules that can duplicate the creation spells. Once more, we get a nice deity write-up and a sample NPC, this time around a staff magus/ancient sensei.
All in all, a race I’d only consider for NPCs, courtesy of the really strong racial baseline and issues in the cooler racial components.
The Kaalogii are next and clock in at a somewhat more moderate RP 26 – though, as we could see time and again in various supplements, that doesn’t mean much, so let’s see how they fare! In contrast to what the fluff text claims, the race is not a monstrous humanoid, but a native outsider at Medium size, with a base speed of 30 ft., darkvision, Dex and Wis +2 and Cha-2 – interesting, considering that they are butterfly people. The race gets +1 natural AC and always treats Perception and Sense Motive as class skills. They have adhesive spittle, which duplicates a non-magical glue seal with a range of 20 ft., usable at-will…which is interesting, but what is the DC of the ability? Does it scale with HD? No idea. The race gets unassisted personal flight at level 1, with good maneuverability, which can wreck the basic assumptions of many low-level modules. PFRPG has an implicit cap that assumes 5th level as a threshold for unassisted natural flight, building in the more commonly usable options on gliding wings and linear progressions or providing different ways to limit the availability of unassisted flight at low levels.
Hazard Hype is one of the two racial feats, and it adds +1 to your next initiative roll after succeeding a save or being missed by an attack. Somewhat weak, as far as I’m concerned. Perilous Panache is one of the infinitely abusable feats: Whenever you drop to below 1/10th of your maximum hit points (arbitrary threshold – not a fan), you regain 1 grit or panache. So, half-dead. Gain grit. Get 1-hp heal, cut yourself, rinse and repeat and you have infinite grit/panache. This needs an abuse-caveat. The racial spell would be nice: Greater share senses lets you share senses with other creatures. The intoxicating artist replaces bardic spells with an alchemist’s extracts, though the ability uses Charisma as governing attribute. Problematic: Instead of Performance, the archetype may use Fly – does that mean that the archetype can move AND perform via one skill check? No idea. The archetype’s bardic performance-effects are based on intoxicating powder, which represents nice imagery – the archetype gets an improvement for this dust at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, adding scaling debuff effects to the powder. The rules-interaction here is pretty hard to grasp – the improved powders suddenly make it seem like the base powders (i.e. performances) require a swift action to activate. The interaction between the abilities here are somewhat wonky and confusing – the archetype would have been served better by replacing performance with a properly phrased powder-engine instead. As before, we get a nice sample racial deity as well as a neat NPC – this time, a flying blade swashbuckler/daredevil bard multiclass.
The Khartajan are unique – somewhat bovine, with a sword-horn and rather beautiful, these desert-dwellers are interesting and culturally rather interesting. Rules-wise, they get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Int, are Medium humanoids with keen senses and their movement rate is, oddly, split between noting their base movement of 30 ft. and the increase of +10 ft. they always have. They get a properly codified 1d4 gore attack, low-light vision. They get cornered fury and gain a +4 racial bonus on Con-checks and saves to avoid fatigue and exhaustion caused from starvation, thirst, forced marches, etc. They get +1 natural armor and they can take 10 or Survival checks to locate water within 1d4 miles, using their horn to dowse. This also allows them to pinpoint water bodies of sufficient size as though via locate object. They also get a desert-variant of woodland stride and low-light vision. While suffering a bit from feature bloat in minor bonuses, these folks struck a real chord with me – unique, interesting and flavorful. I can see myself using these. The 3 alternate racial traits provided are solid.
The race comes with 3 racial weapons and a solid horn sheathe and 3 racial feats: Lithe Charger negates AC-penalty when using Cleave or Lunge or while charging; Sword Horn provides the means to deal slashing damage with the horn and potentially cause bleeding wounds. Ungulate Stamina is a lame boost to saves versus fatigue/exhaustion etc. The spell stallion’s stamina also falls into this category – fatigue and exhaustion immunity at 2nd level, even granted by a spell, temporarily, is pretty problematic. Absorb toxins is a full-blown power-creep; better than neutralize poison AND at a lower level. The racial archetype would be the stargazing strider ranger, who casts spells as psychic spells, replaces the 1st favored terrain with the ability to determine his precision location and adds Cha-to all Wisdom-based checks while under the night sky. Not a fan of dual attributes to a skill, it further exacerbates the skill-abuse. 1/day, they can freely cast a spell with one of a few metamagic improvements. 9th level nets commune under the night sky. The race comes with a nice deity write-up as well as with a sample NPC, a bard (magician)/oracle (stargazer).
Up next would be the delightfully weird Leimaxi, the strange, purple creatures on the cover, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Cha, are aberrations with the leimaxi subtype, and a slow and steady speed of 20 ft. They begin play with only the racial language and get +1 to Knowledge (dungeoneering) and Survival . When remaining motionless for at least 1 round, they get +4 to Stealth. They also get +4 to CMD to resist grapples and Escape Artist. They get stability and DR 5/slashing or piercing and have adhesive pseudopods that grant them a climb speed of 20 ft. They also have a properly codified 1d3 bite attack and may, as a swift action, increase their reach by 5 ft., which may also be done as part of an attack action. While the arms are extended thus, they take a -4 penalty when attacking with non-close weapon group, natural attack or unarmed strikes, suffer from 5% arcane spell failure (unless casting via Still Spell) and retracting arms is a move action that provokes an AoO – this is interesting! They also secrete Con-mod (min 1) times day toxic slime that inflicts 1d2 Con damage as a swift action. As if all of that weren’t enough, they also get darkvision AND blindsense 30 ft. To somewhat make up for all of this, they get light sensitivity, are susceptible to salt and vulnerable to fire. This is a perfect example of feature-bloat. The race, when boiled down to its essence, is defined by the arms and the toxic slime and the climb speed; the CMD-boosts etc. and the blindsense are superfluous and needlessly limit the appeal of the race. Also, if you needed further proof of why I think that the ARG sucks: These fellows clock in at 16 RP. That’s one more than aasimar.
The alternate racial traits allow the race to replace toxic slime with acid one – oh, and the acid slime can RAW be used an infinite number of times. *sigh* The second replacement would be adhesive slime, which nets a countergrapple WHENEVER the leimaxi is hit with a natural or unarmed melee attack and the leimaxi does NOT gain the grappled condition. Weird: The ability suddenly starts to talk about manufactured weapons being stuck to the leimaxi – here, we’d need a whole different set of mechanics! So no, not functional as presented. An upgraded darkvision at the cost of worse light sensitivity can be found and the coiled arms may be replaced with two 1d4 tentacle attacks that get grab. At level 1. And they are under constant long arm. We get two new exotic weapons and 3 feats. Coiled Punch lets you “wind up” the arm, inflicting more damage for each round in which you “wind up” your punch. This is, engine-wise, interesting. Destined Occupation makes you gain both a racial and generic FCO when leveling up in one, but your level in all other classes is treated as one level lower, minimum 1. OUCH. Preordained Confidence nets you +4 to saves versus charm, compulsion, emotion and fear effects, Wisdom modifier times. Okay, must this choice be made beforehand? Does it require activation? Can you choose not to use the bonus? Life well is a high-level combo-heal spell that damages undead; nauseating vision is duplicated here; I covered that spell and its shortcomings in the Isoonna section. Weird: Why print the spell twice in the same book?
The leimaxi archetype here would be the mutation motivator oracle, whose 1st level revelation is replaced with an aura that nets you a deformity and mutation on a failed save. Yes. Permanently. Making the save renders you immune for 24 hours, but seeing how the aura can RAW not be turned off, this is problematic. The archetype can add a ability score boost to mutants and, at level 7, make a target in range of the aura a mutant. Permanently. With only wish and miracle as counters. Yeah…players will hate that one. The capstone is a pretty boring apotheosis-style potpourri of passive abilities. The section closes with a cool racial deity and the sample NPC, which this time around, is a maneuver master/sacred fist.
The next race would be the morphlings, born from a union of mongrelmen and doppelgangers. They get both low-light vision and darkvision, are Medium, get +2 Dex and Wis, and they treat Bluff, Disguise, Linguistics and Sense Motive as class skills. That is a bit unnecessary overkill once more – why not have them choose one? The idea would be retained without the significant power-increase. The race counts as Con-mod subtypes as well as monstrous humanoids. I don’t object to multi-typing, although it’s not commonly used. However, the race should specify how that interacts with effects that have different effects depending on races targeted. Say, I choose orcs and elves, right? There is a battlefield, where orcs are buffed and elves are debuffed – how would that interact with the multiple types of the race? The morphlings also get voice mimicry and ability score-adjustment-less alter self that may not be used to assume the shape of specific individuals.Morphlings may once per day use evolution surge as a non-magic ability, with CL equal to character level. They also get spontaneous change, which is AMAZING. When critically hit, they roll 1d12 and consult a table, spontaneously mutating, gaining e.g. scent or natural attacks. Complaint here: I think that some of the natural attacks granted should probably specify whether they entail dropping an item held in the limb. Also slightly weird: The bonuses some of these grant are untyped, when racial would be the more sensible choice. I really liked the morphlings as a whole. The random and short-lived crit-mutation is unique and flavorful and can’t be cheesed. While the race suffers a bit from feature bloat, it’s not even close to what the 25 RP value would suggest. If you take away some of the needless power-escalation, you’ll have a cool race here.
Voice mimicry may be replaced with curiosity, and the class skills gained may be exchanged for +2 to saves versus poison and mind-affecting effects. Slightly weird: Bonuses are once more untyped here. The evolution surge-ability may be replaced with DR 5/silver. The entry comes with magical earrings that heat when near the partnered earring – which makes sense for a race of shapeshifters. We get 4 weapons and 4 racial feats: Tailored Change nets disguise self when changing; Selective Change nets you voluntary access to the random change effects and Mosaic Change builds on that, allowing the morphling to manifest up to Con-mod such changes at once. Monstrous Change nets ability score adjustment-less monstrous physique I and the ability to assume monstrous humanoid shapes. Lock form does what it says on the tin and the second skin spell nets you natural armor and temporary hit points, and, interestingly, delays the effects of polymorphs etc. The racial archetype provided would be the henshin hexer ninja, who replaces 4th level’s ninja trick with a hex, with poppets allowing for at-range hex delivery of touch-range hexes and the possession of undead. While brief, I found myself liking this one. The racial deity would be the first Chimera, which is a cool idea for such a race. The sample NPC is a bounty hunter slayer/daring infiltrator, btw.
Nariphons are plant-beings that arise in a form of reincarnation of sorts from the slain. They get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Dex, have +1 natural armor, treat Int-mod Knowledge skills as class skills. In addition to these, the race chooses two non-Knowledge skills, treating them as class skills with a +2 bonus. Now, the race has restorative sap that can restore skeletons to corpses, gentle repose corpses and heal the living – which is per se nice. A Nariphon can’t benefit from the sap, so that’s nice. At the same time, the sap can be used to create basically potions of cure serious wounds. This has serious repercussions for any world: The lack of limits regarding the longevity of the sap collected means that a level 1 group could, time provided, flood the market with infinite sap-potions. This should have a limit. The race has low-light vision and is light dependent. The race, in an interesting drawback, is also compelled to fulfill the desires of the “parent” creature that spawned them, which is a nice RP-motivator. Now, while the sap needs a limiter and while the skills gained are overkill, I still generally liked this one. Bark skin may be replaced with slightly better enchantment and social skills and the sap may be replaced with the ability to speak with dead/plants.
Seedling and sap of the race are provided as mundane items and we get 3 feats: Photosynthetic Growth nets non-magical enlarge person and long arm effects in intense light; Grasping Vines help deliver touch attacks and when requiring fine, delicate operations. Weird: The feat requires a standard action for the growth, but doesn’t specify a duration. Pretty sure that went missing. Draw Nutrients. They may also root themselves for immunity to bull rush and trip (Seriously? Even when a dragon punches them?) as well as fast healing for Con—mod rounds. Unfortunate: The intended limit of fast healing doesn’t work – you can just root yourself once more. “Ended the rooted effect is a move action.” Should probably spell “Ending.” Perfume of the alraune combines calm emotions with Wis-damage and a debuff. Create celestial/fiendish fruit are interesting spells that can generate special fruit that can provide buffs/debuffs to those with the correct/wrong alignments. The racial archetype would be the past life pugilist brawler, who gains a Wis-governed, monk-style AC-bonus and panache instead of martial flexibility, with a couple of deeds sprinkled in. The racial deity is REALLY interesting and one of my favorites herein – Vessantara is actually called the Fruit of Nirvana and makes for a really cool concept. The sample NPC is a spiritualist investigator/speaker of the past shaman.
Paleplasmi are humanoid oozes born from the mythical waters of life and their mysterious origins are hotly-debated – we get some more information here than usual. The race gets +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int and they are oozes, granting them a whole slew of immunities. They have a base speed of 20 ft. and they can, as an immediate action, make themselves acidic via digestive enzymes, dealing 1d6 acid damage to a creature that attacks them with natural/unarmed strikes or some combat maneuvers. The damage may also be applied to unarmed strikes. Split Self is really cool, flavorwise, but not really something I’d consider a racial trait: You see, the race can split and “die”, becoming two paleplasmi with half levels, feats, etc. each, obliterating the original personality. Obviously, this means that a PC will be grossly underleveled in such a case, which makes it not really helpful. The two paleplasmi can recombine, but only for brief periods. Okay, HOW? The fusion text that covers this super paleplasmi of fused beings doesn’t state a range or activation action. It also fails to state how many can be fused together – RAW, the race could combine a whole group into a super-being. If this was flavor, I’d applaud it, but as crunch, it’s woefully opaque regarding splitting and temporary recombination. It’s a great narrative device, but of limited use for players – and its 6 RP are not justified. As plasm, they can be returned from the dead more easily, which is kinda nice. They can mimic Large, Medium or Small creatures that have a solid body. They can use nonmagical variants of long arm and reduce person and they may form their bodily appendage into a weapon that can inflict one of the base physical damage types. They take -4 to Sense Motive and are vulnerable to cold. Splitting the self may be replaced with a swarm form, which is much stronger. The magic items include an enhancer for the morphic weaponry and a cloak for energy resistance upgrades that can render acid harmless. The racial feats allow for the wearing of armor, the assuming of inanimate forms and an upgrade for the morphic weaponry. We have acid-based ice prison variants and goo sentinels among the spells and the racial archetype would be the ooze tamer hunter, who gains an ooze-based animal empathy variant and an ooze companion as well as alternate focuses for oozes instead. Problem here: RAW, oozes with an Int of 0 can’t be taught. Which means that the base engine doesn’t work for most choices.
The artwork of the racial deity is the cutest thing in the whole book – loved it! The sample NPC is an unarmed fighter/exploiter wizard. Next up would be the Pallasyte race – picture beings made of starry night sky, with glowing meteorites in the joints. They get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Cha and get the psychic subtype. They only talk their racial language and have Dr 10/magic. From the get-go. Seriously, why not have that scale instead? RAW, this will make the race all but impervious to most threats at level 1. They get curiosity and aberration hatred, constant detect magic and at-will light if their Int is 10 or higher. They may once per day blink, but sans equipment! They are constructed and the racial magic item represents an energy shield that can store energy and apply it to weaponry or as rays. The racial feats include two bland skill boost-feats. The racial spells are crystal-based variants of ice spells. The racial archetype would be the radiant idol shaman, who is a spontaneous caster, using the oracle’s spells per day and spells known as well as Cha as governing attribute. Instead of the hex, we get a pretty potent buff boost that nets + class level to the touched creature’s next check. This should specify the type of check and ½ class level would still be really good, particularly since the bonus is untyped. The archetype gets pala-style channel energy and sanctuary/overwhelming presence at high levels. The racial deity is solid and the sample NPC is a storm druid/sensate fighter.
Tiervesen are basically an homage to the Grimm TV-series and the Wesen there. They get +4 Cha (urgh) and -2 Int, and in bestial form +2 to all three attributes. They are shapechanger fey and have DR 5/cold iron and get +2 to Disguise to pose as half-elves or elves and choose a totem animal, gaining +4 to Handle Animal and Wild Empathy checks, gaining that as a druid of their level. Vermin totem tiervesen get Vermin Heart as a bonus feat. They get +2 to Survival checks and may assume their bestial form as a standard action, resume default form as a swift action. They gain +1 to Cl in a chosen terrain, +10 ft. when running/charging/etc. and have low-light vision. Remaining too long in the bestial form runs the risk of primal regression, which is an interesting way to make them remain in regular form more often. That being said, this only comes into play when remaining in bestial form for one hour or more, which is easily enough to avoid. This could be a bit more punitive. The race comes with 12 tribes, all of which grant a slew of additional tricks for the bestial shape, two of which are chosen per transformation; these include at-will nonmagical Spell-duplicates, cooldown sonic weapons and the like – utter overkill, power-wise, that power heaps on top an already really strong and somewhat bloated chassis. The alternate racial traits include constant speak with animals, camouflage, urban survivalist and an intoxicating aura. Like in the luchador-episode of Grimm, we get a mask for bestial features and there is an amulet that can mitigate overuse of bestial shape, but which carries its own risk. The race comes with 3 mundane weapons and two racial feats, once of which, predictably, allows for move action change, while the other nets an additional feature. The spells include beastmind, which makes the target PERMANENTLY lose the ability to think above animal level. Level 3. WTF. Adopt totem lets the character temporarily adopt another tribe’s totem. The totemic stalker is a slayer that loses 4 slayer talents in favor of bestial form synergy. The racial deity is okay, if not too spectacular and the NPC is a totemic skald/blood arcanist.
This race is a perfect example of what should be a class-feature or a racial paragon class, instead jammed into a race. The engine underlying bestial shape is interesting, but the execution is problematic. The next race is not a race per se, but a phenomenon – the Veatman is a CR +2 template and as such not really intended for player-use, at least not mechanically regarding PFRPG’s underlying premises. That does not prevent the pdf from treating it as a valid PC choice, mind you. The template represents twinned souls, with an internal war raging between them. The template is per se really interesting, with trauma potentially engendering personality changes, insomnia and the ability to siphon off damage to the other soul. The massive ability score boosts (+4, +2,+2,-2,-2,-4) are needlessly minmaxy for an already really potent option. I’d strongly advise against using this as a PC-race, unless you’re playing in a really high-powered game where gestalting is common – in such a case, it makes for a cool choice, though! The high level spells provided include soul dividing and siphoning and there is a grand discovery for alchemists to duplicate the former and make it permanent. The alter ego shifter vigilante provided for the race basically represents a tweak of the identities in favor of personalities, also representing a gestalting of sorts, with both personalities having two separate ability score sets, HD, skills, etc.
The racial deity is okay and the NPC provided this time around is a sanctified slayer inquisitor/fearmonger paladin, depending on the personality in control. The final race would be the Verechelen reptile-humanoids, who get +4 Con, -2 to all mental ability scores, are xenophobic re languages, get +2 to Perception, Stealth and Survival and treated Perception and Survival as class skills. They get +4 to saves against diseases and poisons, +2 to saves versus charms and compulsions as well as a 1d4 bite attack. They also get ferocity and sprinter as well as low-light vision and scent and may replace sprinter with camouflage. Bonus types here are not as tight as previously. This would also be a good place to note that the favored class options often fail to specify available energy resistances to choose from – RAW, this would allow for force or sonic resistance, which is worth more than resistance to the classic 4 energy types.
The racial feats nets an immediate action 1/day scaling bonus to a save – which is very specific and limited. Responsive Healing Factor nets you once per day minor healing as a move action. We get two mundane weapons and a monk archetype who replaces flurry with challenge (not smart) and minor boosts versus such enemies and favored terrain. Not impressed. The deity is decent, a god of highwaymen and travelers. The sample NPC is a scout rogue/slayer multiclass. We end the massive tome with a few closing notes.
Editing and formatting get a lot right on a formal and rules-language level, but they also get a lot wrong. The bonus types, for example, oscillate somewhat in the precision of their application, and there are quite a few instances herein where the rules are a bit weird/rough. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and is decent – I commented on a few of its peculiarities before. The full-color artworks for each race are colorful and actually really nice. I liked them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, but not with nested bookmarks, which can make navigation slightly less comfortable. Still, nice to get them.
Producer Dennis “Wayne” Deshler, creative director Rahul “Rick” Kanojia and content developers Timothy Wallace, Lance Clodfelter and James Norse have delivered the single most ambitious freshman offering that I’ve seen in a long while. I mean, almost 300 pages of races? That is a rather impressive beast of a book. It is, alas, a book that shows that it is a freshman outing. The class options presented herein oscillate in their power and utility and generally are not particularly interesting. The same, thankfully, cannot be said about the races themselves. Concept-wise, I really enjoyed most of them, and they can almost all claim that they’re interesting in some way. The Verchelen are boring min-maxy reptiles, but apart from them, the book manages to present really interesting races, some of which have rather cool and unique concepts attached to them.
Thing is, this book represents what I feared would happen with the release of the ARG; the book’s “engine” makes it easy to throw any balance with core races so far out of the window, you won’t even hear the “thud” it makes when hitting the ground. That’s what happened here. Partially, that is probably by design, but I maintain that it is utterly unnecessary. Not a single one of the concepts herein needed the bloat of numeric escalation that these races suffer from – less abilities and a focus on core principles of the races would have been more fulfilling AND would have greatly increased the chances of these seeing play at the table. RP are a horribly inaccurate concept to judge race power, but here, with massive DRs at 1st level, economy-breaker-sap and what amounts to a shifter engine jammed into race traits, we have a power-escalation that is hard to justify. The absence of level adjustment-rules in PFRPG was never experienced more sharply by me than in this book, for that is how these races, or at least, some of them, feel: Like they had one or more class levels baked into the power that their racial traits bestow. Now, I do not object per se to a high-powered race-game, but the book has issues there as well – you see, the races are not balanced among themselves and there is quite a significant power-gap between them, so just whipping out this book and calling it a day is also not a viable strategy.
Add to that the issues that plague some of the finer aspects of rules, and we have an issue. When items are straight upgrades for the same price, one obviously should consult pricing ranges once more. So yeah, as a whole, I really wanted to like this book – there is a lot of care and passion that is evident from the material herein, but design-wise, there are many components that leave something to be desired, that limit their own appeal in needless ways in favor of power-creep. I love the ideas of e.g. Khartajan and Leimaxi, but as presented, I’ll use them for NPCs at best, as each race in the tome exceeds the power-level of aasimars, courtesy of their whole unnecessary feature and power bloat. I honestly found myself wishing that we’d get a racial paragon class for each race, one that unlocks the more higher-powered options as the game progresses; or a nerf or something like that.
Now, that being said, I still encourage particularly experienced GMs that like the weird to take a look at this book: The racial concepts are interesting and the NPCs available throughout the book make this work as a NPC-options/codex-book of sorts.
Now, how to rate this? Here, I have agonized and pondered for a few days. You see, the book is not boring – even after all the races I’ve read, this still had some neat ideas. The execution of them may be flawed, deeply so regarding any internal or external balance, but as a whole, it is interesting. Still, comparing this to other racial supplements, I usually wouldn’t be able to recommend it as a mixed bag. HOWEVER, there is one crucial thing to consider: This book is PWYW. Yep, you heard me. The Rogue Robot crew is actually offering it for any price you’re willing to pay. That is a pretty huge deal for a tome of this size, and it allows you to take a look at these races yourself and decide whether or how to introduce them to your game. This, to me, is not only really fair, it also allows me to recommend that you check this out yourself; it is a flawed book, but it has some gems worth mining. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3 stars.
You can check out this massive tome for PWYW here on OBS!