Shibaten of Porphyra
This racial supplement clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, though it should be noted that they have been laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, allowing you to fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper when printing this.
We begin with a nice piece of introductory prose, one that is not wanting in “quack”-puns, before we come to the shibaten, or duck-folk, covering nomenclature, their relation with other races and adventuring, etc. Shibaten get +2 Strength and Charisma, -2 Wisdom, are humanoids with the tengu subtype and they are Small. Shibaten have a speed of 30 ft. and get a swim speed of 30 ft. as well, but only on the surface, as their swim speed is based on paddling. Shibaten have a hard time shutting up, and as such take a -4 penalty to Stealth, but do gain +2 to Perform (comedy), -4 to Perform (oratory, sing). They also get +2 to Intimidate and get Perception checks to notice things when within 5 ft. of the respective things. They also get +2 to CMD and CMB related to grapples. Bonus types are properly codified and we get a full age, height and weight table.
Paddling may be exchanged for a climbing speed of 20 ft., and if you accept lowering land speed to 20 ft., shibaten can hold their breath for 6 times Constitution rounds. Instead of the natural comedian angle, there is a variant that nets +2 to Perform (oratory), but nets -4 to Perform (act, sing). The grappling bonuses can be replaced with +2 to Profession (gambler) as well as Bluff, Perception, Sense Motive and Sleight of Hand regarding gambling. The uncanny perceptiveness can be replaced with +2 to Fly and all checks related to the driving of a vehicle. Instead of the Intimidate bonus and the natural comedian angle, shibaten can get +2 to Bluff, Disguise and Perform when mimicking sounds. Some shibaten can elect to not have racial bonuses penalties to Stealth and Intimidate. The Intimidate bonus may be replaced with a Bluff bonus and natural comedian and the Intimidate bonus may also be exchanged for +2 to all Perform checks. The grappling tricks can be replaced with choosing a skill each day, which is then temporarily considered to be a class skill, at +1 rank, up to the maximum. The Perception angle can be replaced with vestigial wings that net +4 to Acrobatics (oddly untyped here, when the rest of the traits do a really good job in codifying that) as well as x5 run-speed on land and water – and no it doesn’t work in heavy armor. The grappling may also be replaced with a perfectly-codified natural slam attack. Cool, btw.: Each alternate trait notes the color of plumage that most shibaten with this trait sport – this adds a sense of flavor to the traits and grounds them.
At this point, I should mention that traits and alternate racial traits are precise and fair in their respective exchanges; the paddle-mechanic is damn cool as well and provides a nice means of differentiation between swim speeds, the absence of which had always irked me. So kudos!
From here, we talk about the role of the race on Porphyra and then move on to a selection of race traits for the Shibaten, which includes the hilarious “Color Coded” one, which nets a +1 trait bonus to Intimidate and Diplomacy, making one of the skills class skill. Explanation: You thrive on stereotypes. Perhaps you’re good at thinking outside the egg – if that’s the case, you can 1/day attempt a skill check untrained that would usually not allow for that. Negating being flat-footed in surprise rounds by falling prone can be funny…and is pretty cool. The traits btw. get their bonus types right and blend tight mechanics with fun concepts.
The shibaten also receive 5 racial feats, the first of which will be Blow Over, which is elegant and smart: You can Intimidate targets, but limit the duration to 1d6+4 minutes. If you do, targets no longer decrease their starting attitude towards you. This…is so simple. Why haven’t I done this before?? Really cool! Break the Ice lets you use Perform (Comedy) to increase the starting attitude of targets, and yes, the feat can’t be cheesed – it can only be used once per target in a 24 hour period. Fear my Power lets you take a move action to Intimidate a target in 30 ft., but ends your turn. This is pretty potent for the right builds and needs to be handled with a bit of care. Grappling Charge lets you end a charge with a grapple, gaining +2 to CMD, -2 to AC. In Your Face makes you behave as +1 size category to determine which creatures you can affect with combat maneuvers.
Now, and this is really cool: Each of the favored class options (which include all of the classic classes, the ACG-classes, Brujo, Chi Warrior, Fencer, Kingpin, occult classes, quartermaster, sacerdote and vigilante) come with a short, flavorful statement that encapsulates the attitude towards the class. That makes the section a nicer reading experience and offers some fun RP-angles – kudos! The effects also are interesting and go in some cases beyond just playing with numbers – to give you an example, the psychic gains the following: “Add 1 to the psychic’s level to qualify for and use the detect thoughts, telepathic bond, and telepathy class features. This allows the psychic to gain these abilities at an earlier level. If the psychic’s effective level for these abilities exceeds 20, add 10 ft. to the range of the telepathy ability for each effective level after 20.” Meaningful, reigned in, yet flavorful. Really nice.
The pdf also includes racial archetypes, the first of which would be the Angry Quack barbarian (yes, archetype works for unchained barbarian as well!), who gets a modified skill list and 4 + Int skills, treating Intelligence as 13 for the purpose of meeting feat prerequisites, replacing fast movement. Uncanny dodge is replaced with evasion. 3rd level yields martial flexibility, which improves at 6th, 12th and 15th level, replacing trap sense/danger sense, respectively. 5th level’s improved uncanny dodge is replaced with being no longer fatigued after a rage. And yes, usually, I’d be screaming bloody murder right now – but the ability has a caveat that explicitly prevents rage-cycling! Huge kudos! 9th level yields improved evasion and 18th level eliminates the action-restrictions in a rage. Cool engine-tweak.
The next one is a complex one, and one I expected to see from another company – the Everyman medium! This medium’s power does not derive from spirits at all! I know, right? Instead, the everyman spends a week embodying a legend (a duration that comes with GM guidance – big plus!) Instead of séances, the everyman can affect allies within 30 ft as though they had participated in a séance. Everymen cannot choose to use a legend at less than maximum power and the legend has no influence on the character, nor does it bestow an influence penalty. Supernatural abilities inherited from the medium become extraordinary. The archetype also gets a Quirk pool equal to the Charisma modifier – when he would take an influence penalty from a legend embodied, he instead loses a quirk point. Once his quirk points are emptied, he can no longer use the abilities. The pool replenishes once per day upon regaining spell slots – in essence, we have a countdown here. Nice. The everyman may choose to accept a taboo or an influence penalty from a legend embodied, which increases his quirk pool by +1. However, breaking this limitation costs him 2 quirk points! At 9th level, the everyman can spend 2 hours practicing the legend embodied, regaining 1 quirk point. This upgrades to 1 point per hour at 14th, 1 point per 10 minutes at 19th level. This replaces propitiation, astral journey and spirit mastery.
Instead of shared séance, everymen get a further +2 when receiving the Aid Another benefits, but only for the first person aiding him in a given task. Starting at 3rd level, we replace haunt channeler with abilities contingent on the legend embodied. +2 spells per spell level from sorc/wiz, fast movement, cavalier abilities – cool spirit powers! 13th level provides an expansion of spirit powers, btw.
Instead of spacious soul and location channeler, we get 2 skills to be treated as class skills, and in these skills, he is treated as if having ½ class level ranks; this upgrades to 6 skills at 18th level. Instead of connection channel, we get temporary Knowledge skills with at least ½ class level ranks, depending on legend. And yes, these rank-abilities do sport a cap to avoid abuse. The capstone nets +5 quirk points and lets him channel all 5 legends not chosen for 1 round granting access to intermediate, greater and supreme spirit powers. This probably should have a quirk point cost to activate or other limit…but then again, there’s a chance it’s intended to be this potent – it’s the capstone, after all. Really cool archetype!
Fighting Quacks are brawlers that gain proficiency with all simple and martial melee weapons as well as light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Instead of martial training, the character may use martial flexibility as part of using Bluff to feint or Intimidate to demoralize. Big kudos: Verbiage takes e.g. Dazzling Display etc. into account!!
The flurry of the class is modified for +1 additional attack at 2nd, +1 at 11th level. 4th level provides generic weapon focus, which applies to all unarmed attacks and melee weapons, but only for the purpose of feat-prerequisites. Weapon Focus, if known, applies its benefits universally in conjunction with this ability. This replaces knockout. The additional knockout uses are replaced with the option to use martial flexibility, save it may now grant a style strike that may be used in conjunction with flurries, including the style strike of another archetype herein. At 16th level, two style strikes may be gained simultaneously. Actually…another winner. Meaningful, interesting engine tweaks.
The Quack-fu monk is a Way of Life practitioner, i.e. a Charisma-governed monk (Unarmed & Dangerous introduced this way of thinking about martials and is a great, recommended homebrewing toolkit, but not required to use this pdf). The archetype replaces still mind with being treated as progressively larger to determine what kind of creatures you can affect with combat maneuvers, size-category-wise. Yes, you will suplex that dinosaur! The style strike noted before comes from sumotori and is a grabbing slap. And yes, I like it.
The last component here would be the Feather bloodline, a version of which is presented for bloodrager and sorcerer, with bonus spells properly adjusted for both. We get PERFECTLY codified talons for the bloodrager (and they are treated as both manufactured and natural weapons for purposes of special abilities) that scale regarding damage and threat range. They get types and damage types right. Perfect! 4th level yields plummeting wings that can’t ascend yet, which is upgraded to fly speed 60 ft. with average maneuverability at 8th level – but only in bloodrage. At 16th level, this becomes always available – and in bloodrage, you fly faster! 12th level is really clever, modifying the downward vertical distance for the purpose of spell range, ranged attacks and Perception checks. This is so simple, yet so cool! The capstone yields constant freedom of movement that can be reestablished sans action on your turn. Neat bloodline!
The sorcerer version nets Perception as skill and the arcana doubles the range of all divinations cast, as well as the range of detection and Perception abilities granted by such a spell. The talons of the sorcerer are not always on and instead can be maintained 3 + Cha-mod rounds; however, the vertical distance reduction is more potent here. 9th level provides +30 ft. for any fly speed, but does not per se grant it. 15th level yields a constant phantom limb (phantom wings), with new wings deployable as an immediate action. The capstone allows for the application of a list of metamagic feats sans spell slot increase, as well as one of them as a bonus feat. And yes, these also are on the bonus feat list, obviously.
The pdf comes with a bonus file penned by Mark Gedak – it showcases the Deigenae, represented as a CR ½ rook. The pdf also contains the base racial stats, though! These folks have +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, are humanoids with the extraplanar subtype and have a cleric’s aura, as governed by lineage. They get +2 to initiative as well as +2 to Knowledge (religion/planes) and Deigeneae with Cha 10+ can cast 3 cleric orisons 1/day as a SP, using Charisma as governing attribute. They use Charisma instead of Wisdom to govern their Will-save or get Iron Will as a bonus feat.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, top-notch on a rules-language level. While I noticed a minor plural glitch etc., the rules are tight and manage to convey complex and innovative concepts. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ no-frills one-column standard with purple highlights. The interior artwork are nice full-color artworks that I have not seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Carl Cramér dove deep into the fringes of mythology, but when he found the shibaten spirit (really obscure!), we got this – and it’s awesome. I expected a ton of duck puns, and I got them. This made me chuckle a lot. However, this is NOT a useless comedy product; quite the contrary, in fact! The tie-in to pseudo-Japanese myth makes the shibaten as depicted actually work in the context of “serious” fantasy, Sure, they are a bit goofy, but you should NOT underestimate them! And yes, we get a ton of nods towards the much-beloved Duck Tales, obviously – but the book manages to actually transcend its niche! The class options focus on engine tweaks, which are traditionally not my favorites – here, however, we get quite an impressive array. Each of the options here does something innovative and interesting. Heck, even traditionally bland components have a narrative tie-in that adds to them, making them more than the sum of their parts and duck jokes.
In short, this is a really, really good racial supplement! It’s not perfect, but it contains a ton of actually interesting tricks and shows a deep understanding of what works and what doesn’t, of what’s interesting, etc. This is a fun supplement, yes, but it also is a really damn good one! Even if your kneejerk response is to cringe and move on, do yourself a favor and check out these fellows – the rules manage to be actually innovative in some cases! The shibaten are worth having. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
You can get these cool duck-folk here on OBS!
Purple Duck Games is currently making their Porphyra-RPG, based on Pathfinder v.1.0 – you can check out WIP-components here for PWYW!
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