The Sanguine Disciple
This base-class, commissioned by Preston Mitchell, clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page b/w-version of front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Sanguine Disciples receive 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and will-saves, d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, all melee martial weapons dealing slashing/piercing damage (including all weapons that deal either as part of their damage), light and medium armor and shields. They may cast sanguine disciple spells while wearing these armors + shield without incurring arcane spell failure. Okay, so spellcasting is VERY odd at first glance – sanguine disciples are spontaneous casters and cast their spells not governed by Cha, as one would expect, but by Con. Sanguine Disciples may cast each spell they know exactly once per day and learn new spells for high con-mods, akin to how the Composition Magic-system handles spellcasting. At 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the sanguine disciple may retrain a spell. As a special component of the spellcasting, the spells deal damage equal to their spell-level to the sanguine disciple upon being cast – I assume after the respective casting, but on a nitpicky side, that ought to be specified to prevent concentration-confusion.
At 1st level, the sanguine disciple chooses a bloodsong and at 2nd, 3rd, 4th and every two levels thereafter, the sanguine disciple learns an additional bloodsong. Now here is the rules-modification that makes a blood-themed class work in the first place – bleed effects generated by bloodsongs stack their bleed damage, thus directly contradicting the bland way bleed works in vanilla PFRPG. No, not going to complain about that. I’ve been pretty vocal in my praise for TPK Games’ Laying Waste’s design decision to get rid of the stacking-prohibition of bleed damage. Wounding weapons also are taken into account, but thankfully, all other bleed effects do not stack with them, preventing a pretty obvious potential problem.
Bloodsongs are grouped into 4 categories: Builders have a cost to activate and generate one focus, a resource required to activate a finisher. A focus lasts for up to 1 minute before it vanishes and can be stacked – the maximum amount of foci a sanguine disciple can thus have would be 10.
Finisher bloodsongs have a focus needed-line, which mentions the minimum required focus to activate the finisher – and upon executing a finisher, focus is set back to 0. So no focus-hoarding. Harmonies grant a double-edged bonus/penalty and once activated, cannot be dismissed – they need to run their course. only one harmony can be in effect at a given time. Resonances are constant abilities that are always in effect and do not require a cost to activate.
There are two ways to pay for these bloodsongs – number 1 would be to reduce con by the bloodsong’s blood point cost for 1 minute. This is not damage or drain and thus cannot be healed by any means. At 2nd level, the sanguine disciple also receives a blood pool with a maximum size of 2 + 1/2 class level. This pool’s points can be used to pay the cost for bloodsongs without incurring the Con-reduction. When the sanguine disciple reduces a creature suffering from an ongoing bleed effect to 0 hp or lower, the sanguine disciple regains 1 blood point. And yes, the ability comes with an HD-cap, thus rendering it non-kitten-able. Nice! The blood pool also replenishes upon resting. Btw., in case you don’t want to do the simple blood pool size math, the table also sports a column that lists the maximum pool size for each level.
At 1st level, the sanguine disciple also receives a so-called sanguine relic – -this is a martial weapon that doubles as a bonded object. The weapon can be enhanced with a specific list of weapon special abilities. The sanguine disciple can have his relic “eat” other magical items, paying thus for the enhancement of the weapon. Changing relics etc. is also covered.
Now if you’ve checked respective creatures, there are certain types/subtypes that are immune to bleed damage – enter the 5th level ability everything bleeds, which allows you to choose a creature type/subtype and ignore bleeding immunity for the type. An additional creature type/subtype can be chosen at 11th and 17th level. Now personally, I consider the attached template a bit of a trap for inexperienced players, mainly because some choices are obviously much, much more potent than others – constructs and undead, for example, universally have immunity to bleed, whereas none of the other choices (yes, including oozes/aberrations!) receive automatic immunity to bleed damage per their creature type. From the top of my head, I couldn’t mention a single creature of the animal type that is immune to bleed. However, outsiders and humanoids have a pretty fine-grained distinction, whereas a bunch of subtypes (like the bleed-immune behemoth or kami) are not per default covered as their own entry. Now yes, there is a 12th level bloodsong that nets you 2 blood points when defeating a creature of the chosen type and the drow’s FCO, which nets +1/3 dodge bonus to AC against the chosen type, but that’s about all the additional reasoning I can find for some of these. Don’t get wrong – I can easily make creatures bleed-immune as a DM – that’s what templates and similar tricks are for. Still, inexperienced players may receive a bit of a hamper to their fun here if they make a bad choice.
At 7th level, whenever an ongoing bloodsong-caused bleed-effect receives magical healing, the healer must succeed a DC 10 + 1/2 Sanguine Disciple level + Con-mod level check – on a failure, the healing only halves the bleed effect’s damage. Now personally, I think that the Heal skill check should also receive an increasing DC – per default, bleed can be ended at a fixed DC 15 check – not terribly relevant in combat, but still – feels like an oversight to me.
High level abilities include immunity to bleed damage, DR reduction equal to ongoing bleed effects and the powerful option to halve the potency of magical healing, fast healing and regeneration. The class receives FCOs for the core races, aasimars, tieflings, drow, orcs, hobgoblins, kobolds and puddlings. They are generally nice. There also are two new feats – one for an extra bloodsong and one that nets you a secondary bloodpool of 2 points – it can only be used when wielding the sanguine relic AND can only be replenished by resting. This pool can be further increased.
The spell-lists take all big Paizo hardcovers into account and feel pretty well-balanced…but let’s get on to what you’ve all been waiting for, the bloodsongs.
Generally, bloodsongs tend to have level-restrictions and a few of them also sport minor feat/skill prereqs or a minimum number of bloodsongs known, but ultimately, these are pretty easy to qualify for.
Now as mentioned before, resonances are constantly in effect – and include aforementioned better blood point generation, temporary boosts to knowledge skill checks, treating 1s of bleed damage rolled as 2s etc. The interesting thing about them would be the inherent combo potential – receiving e.g. a temporary luck bonus when willingly reducing your Con to pay for bloodsong activation should be considered interesting. Automatically fatiguing creatures suffering from bleed damage while within 10 feet of you also can be considered an interesting tactical option. Receiving a temporary blood point for 1 round upon being critically hit also can be considered a nice way to exert vengeance on your foes. Now where things become pretty interesting would be with the builders – for example, temporarily increasing your movement rate by a +30-feet enhancement bonus, adding demoralization to bleed or immediate action-based dodge bonuses all provide a diverse array of tricks that can be easily crafted into a nice skirmishing/combo-potential. Replacing the spell’s usual damage to the sanguine disciple with healing can also be found.
On the harmony-side, Bloodletter Savant also can be considered an interesting bloodsong – it doubles the effects of bleed, but suspends the effects of the laceration class abilities. Here, a minor glitch has crept in – the bloodsong refers to jagged lacerations, a class ability that does not exist and probably has been renamed persistent lacerations. A somewhat unfortunately named rage called “Bloodrage” is cool. Bloodsongs dealing attribute-damage, exsanguinating blasts…quite a few very interesting options. For example, 10th level sanguine disciples can learn to enter a harmony that lets you no longer provoke AoOs, but also prohibits you from executing any yourself – very powerful skirmisher option! Another harmony would also be interesting – it increases speed and morale bonuses, but increases the penalty the character receives when frightened, shaken, etc. What about drawing weapons and executing retributive attacks with the weapon as an immediate action? A curse-like effect that spreads bleed to other creatures is also interesting and receiving reflexive, shrapnel-like blood is also pretty awesome in imagery. What about ending bleed effects in favor of a fiery burst?
Extremely important for low level sanguine disciples: TAKE THE SANGUINE HUNGER, spasmatic influence or a similar level 1 builder bloodsong as soon as possible. Why? because it’s a builder that allows you to deal bleed damage with your sanguine relic – without it, low level sanguine disciples may be stranded without means of causing bleed damage – on which almost all abilities are based.
Editing and formatting are good, but not as good as in most Interjection Games’ releases – I noticed some minor issues. Layout adheres to Interjection Games 2-column b/w-standard with thematically fitting stock-art. The pdf comes with full, nested bookmarks for your convenience.
This base-class is very much exciting – its complex resource-management game and skirmishing are a playstyle I very much enjoy and the relatively powerful options and stacking combos you can pull off with these guys can be rather impressive. That being said, the class does have its downsides, which boil down that one can very much see the iterations this class went through – author Bradley Crouch’s gift at making finely-entwined, complex systems that allow for awesome combos can be seen in the bloodsongs. The class itself, on the other hand, feels like a slightly disjointed chassis for the system, rendering the sanguine disciple less user-friendly than usual for Interjection Games. See, usually, the difficulty of Interjection Games’ systems stems from grasping the system in the first place and then mastering it – which is also the reason these reviews take me so long. Not so here – with the notable exception of the edgewalker, the sanguine disciple can be considered one of the most simple base classes released by Bradley Crouch. – everything bleeds vastly fluctuating effectiveness would be one rough edge. One, I think, that can be explained. At one point, the class feature probably had additional effects that were re-assigned/changed. And then there’s the very real possibility that a careless player may be stranded without access to bleed-damage at low levels. This particular problem is pretty nasty in my book and not an issue any of the other Interjection games-classes share – why not put a class feature that is required for just about everything in the non-optional part of the class? Yes, careful reading and properly understanding the class does help mitigate this, but my argument remains.
Now don’t get me wrong – in playtesting, this issue did not come up at my table – why? Because my players are *very* experienced. In the hands of a novice, the class can be pretty sucky – but in the hands of my players, it was a very fun melee skirmisher with some rather nasty, unique options and glorious flavor. But that may just be my inclination towards anything blood magic-related gushing like a fanboy. The diverse stacking options very much are thematically awesome and the sanguine disciple will fit perfectly into more gritty campaigns. Which brings me to another interesting fact the playtest spat out – the class fits thematically and mechanically perfectly with TPK Games’ Laying Waster critical hit-enhancing book – they share a propensity for stacking bleed and visceral imagery that blend together surprisingly well. Additionally, with the more numerous options to cause bleed that laying waste offers, it is harder to build yourself into a dead end. Hence, for campaigns using that book, I very much recommend the sanguine disciple, provided the player has enough experience.
Now the decision on how to rate this one has been exceedingly hard for me – for the class works in play. Pretty well, actually. I *love* the system and I am not kidding when I’m saying that this is my favorite martial system since Dreadfox Games’ Swordmaster. Bloodsongs ooze style (haha…I’m sorry. I’ll hit myself later…) and practically demand expansion. Indeed, I could envision the whole bloodsystem as provided herein work for a diverse array of classes. Then again, the class is rougher around the edges than what I’m accustomed to by Interjection games, it feels slightly less refined and, much like the gadgeteer back in the day (before its awesome expansion!), like it could have used some additional tools at its disposal. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars – novices should round down, whereas experts and rounds utilizing Laying Waste should definitely round up and give the class a shot. While I usually round up in such cases, my official reviewer’s rating here will round down, in spite of me really liking the class (and, as mentioned, as a person, I’d round up) – the blemishes can be pretty nasty.
You can get this cool class here on OBS!