This supplement for the Starjammer setting/rules clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This being a racial book, we don’t waste much space before we’re introduced to the first new race herein, the Aurellians, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Cha. They are Small aberration (darkvision 60 ft., must eat, breathe and sleep) and they have a limited, natural fly speed (not affected by antimagic fields) of 20 ft., but must remain over a solid surface that can hold their weight. Slightly weird – there is no maximum height from such a surface mentioned (which to me would make sense, but oh well…) and they don’t have a maneuverability rating. Aurellians have eye-stalks and can theoretically look into all directions, but require focus, so in essence, they don’t actually get all-around vision. The stalks negate flanking-based bonuses to atk rolls, but not flanking itself. Their language is partially based on gestures and their limited telepathy. As somewhat weird jelly-fish-y beings, the race is mute (which means feat tax for most casters) and lacks chest or feet magic item slots. However, they do gain an extra wrist slot and two extra ring slots (ouch!). They also get grabbing appendages: They have two arm-like tendrils and one longer one with a 10-ft.-reach. This grabbing tendril can grapple as though the Aurellian had Improved Grapple and, unlike most monsters, it may maintain grapples with it and attack with regular arms sans penalty, which can make for some brutal, brutal builds..
The race sports a total of 3 racial subtypes: Man O’Wars lose grabbing appendages and eyestalks and are Medium. They gain two natural sting attacks (primary, I assume) for 1d3 base damage and 10 ft. reach. As a swift action, a number of times per day equal to Con-mod, min 1, the Man O’War may deliver poison via these stingers. This poison may be applied to weaponry as a move action, lasting for Con-mod rounds or until successfully hitting the target. At character creation, one of three poisons is chosen, all of which are governed, DC-wise, by Con. They inflict either 1 Con damage, 1d2 Dex damage or 1d2 Str-damage, all with a frequency of 1/round for 6 rounds. Man O’ wars gain Weapon Finesse as a bonus feat, +2 to Appraise and Perception to find hidden objects and determine whether food was spoiled or identify poison by taste. They also treat Stealth and Perception as class skills.
The second variant is the inspired one, who loses the grabbing appendages for 1/day aid and cure moderate wounds as SPs. Foes suffer -1 to Will-saves versus spells and effects cast and the inspired one gets +2 to Diplomacy and Intimidate versus other races and never suffers from penalties due to being a different race or not sharing a language. Thirdly, there would be the chaos child, wo also lose the grabbing appendages. They are treated as 1 level higher for the purpose of spells with the [chaos] descriptor or using powers (note: Not gaining them!) of the chaos domain, blessing, protean bloodline powers and outer rifts mystery revelations. They are immune to diseases and poisons and may use alter self 1/day for up to character level hours, assuming the shape of a Small humanoid. Note that this has none of the usual low-level shape-variety limitations, but it does at least not modify ability scores. Minor complaint here: While all abilities note the RP, not all specify the type – in the case of the shape changing, that would have been interesting.
The race gets 3 different racial archetypes, the first of which would be the aberrant warden druid, who replaces the spontaneous conversion into summon nature’s ally spells with the new summon strange creature spells presented as part of the supplemental material:These come with a massive table and range from beheaded and chon chon to gibbering mothers, chuuls and in the IX-variant to charybdis, flying polyps and froghemoths. As you can glean from this brief excerpt, the new creatures gained are more potent, something to bear in mind, for the druid is locked as a balncing mechanism out of the animal companion option and must choose the Madness domain. Nature sense is modified to apply to Knowledge (dungeoneering). Instead of wild empathy, we get the option to improve aberration attitudes, even those of mindless beings. Instead of resist nature’s lure, the bonus applies to saves versus SUs and SPs of aberrations. Instead of wild shape, the archetype gains aberrant shape at 6th level, which grants 4 evolution points, using druid level as summoner level to determine for what it qualifies. This may be maintained indefinitely, but used only 1/day, +1/day at every other level after 6th. 10th level increases the points to 6, 14th to 8. Additionally, evolution surge (not italicized properly) is added to the spell list and the warden may target itself with it.
The second archetype is the floating monastic monk. Flurry of blows is modified to add a free grapple attempt as a swift action when hitting at least twice, using monk level as BAB to determine CMB, though still at -2 penalty. Instead of 2nd level’s bonus feat, we get Crushing Blow. At 4th level, a floating monastic may spend 1 ki as a swift action before attempting a grapple to roll the check twice and take the better result. This replaces slow fall. The third archetype would be the void scholar wizard, who may apply the benefits of Silent Spell to wizard spells without increasing the spell level. If the spell requires that the scholar is heard, then the race’s telepathy suffices, provided the target is in range. This replaces arcane bond and Scribe Scroll. 5th level’s bonus feat is replaced with the option Int bonus times per day convert half damage of ANY spell cast with “damage caused by the cold vacuum of the void”, ignoring any elemental resistance (should be energy resistance) of any type. Ouch. I mean, okay, loss of the familiar sucks…but still. Ouch. 15th level’s bonus feat is exchanged for an upgrade: 3/4th untyped damage; alternatively, the character can expend a use to increase the DC of a Will save caused by 2.
The race gets a total of 4 feats: Highswimmer actually clarifies the confusing part about the limited flight of the race, but actually looks like a downgrade if read back to back with the racial feature. Did something go wrong there? Pattern Weaver is cool: As a move action, flash in colors. Creatures that see you within 30 feet take a -2 penalty to concentration. Additional Toxin unlocks a second racial toxin as well as +1 daily use of it. Twin Toxin Blow builds on that allowing you to deliver two racial toxins at once. We get notes on their segmented armor and 4 variant telepathy dishes (Tech-rules!) that increase their telepathy range, which is per se cool. Do they take up a slot? There is a magical gem that transforms armor into aurellian segmented armor and a low cost brooch that allows them to speak. Summon amoeboid lets you cool giant amoebas or amoeba swarms. Minor complaint: The reference to the aurellian racial quality is incorrect – should be limited telepathy, not “mindspeech”. Swarming tentacles is a level 1 psionic power based on inevitable strike that nets a temporary +5 insight bonus to the next grapple maneuver before the end of next round, as a swift action. The race gets a proper age, height and weight table, but no favored class options.
Okay, the second race would be the Bisoni. Bingo. The fellows on the cover. These guys get +4 Str, -2 Dex and Int, which makes them more minmaxy in that regard than what I enjoy. This is further exacerbated by them being Large (yes, this totals Strength +6!). They are humanoids with a normal speed and get a primary gore attack for 1d8. They also get +3 natural AC and powerful charge as well as proficiency with katanas as a bonus feat at 1st level. They are culturally inclined to have a stringent code of honor, which means they suffer -2 to skills, saves and atk after violating this code, requiring some form of redemption. As another double-edged sword, they have 6 + character level SR, which may not be lowered; this anti-magic component extends to spell trigger and spell completion as well as command word or mental activation items, which have a 10% chance of failure. There is an alternate racial trait that eliminates this one, losing SR, but also the failure-chance. Pretty cool: We actually get 6 pretty detailed codes of conduct as orientation.
The bisoni get two different racial subtypes, the first of which would be the runt, who gets +2 Dex and Con, -2 Int. These guys are Medium, get +4 dodge bonus to AC versus bisonic, +2 to saves vs. poisons, spells and SPs and an additional bonus feat at first level. They also lose powerful charge. As an aside: Being Medium, their gore attack’s damage should probably be adjusted as well. Void Blooded bisoni get Perception and Stealth as class skills and +2 to Appriase and Perception checks to find hidden objects as well as +4 to Craft (mechanical) checks to use improvised parts. These guys lose the katana, but also the honor code and the thick hide. The bisoni get favored class options for barbarian, bloodrager, cleric, fighter, hunter, magus, oracle, shaman, spiritualist and warpriest. No complaints there.
Once more, we get 3 racial archetypes, the first of which would be the savage mage magus, who may use the arcane pool to enhance natural weapons instead of manufactured weapons. Spell combat does not require the use of weaponry and spells that target the magus herself only bypass the racial SR. Spellstrike works with natural weapons instead and spell recall is replaced with enhanced savagery: As a standard action, gain a 1d8/1d6 bite, 2 claws (1d4, 1d6) or a slam (1d4, 1d6) for one minute. Yes, RAW, she may have multiple ones. Yes, this makes the already glass cannon-y magus a shredder in the hands of a halfway capable player. No, I would not allow this. The archetype may not choose item creation or metamagic feats (awww…) and instead gets combat feats (!) or rage powers (class level as barbarian level); rage powers requiring rage instead apply when the magus enhances natural attacks. So…how does this interact with rage powers that have a per-rage use? At 7th level, when enhancing a natural attack, the magus may spend an additional point to enhance a second attack. 11th level yields arcane pool-based pounce (instead of improved spell recall) and 16th level lets the magus enhance all natural weapons at once for +2 points when granting her natural attack an enhancement bonus, replacing counterstrike.
The second archetype would be the spellrender fighter, who may not have traded away the racial SR. Instead of 1st level’s bonus feat and all instances of armor and weapon training and armor mastery, the character can charge of sorts when a spell fails to penetrate the SR. This lasts for fighter level rounds and adds +1d6 acid or fire damage, +1d6 at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, but the number of dice may never exceed the spell level of the absorbed spell, thankfully preventing abuse via cantrips etc. Only one such charge may be held. 2nd level yields spellshield, a +1 bonus on Ref-saves versus AoE spells that increases by +1 every 4 levels thereafter, replacing bravery. 20th level replaces weapon mastery by providing optional spell turning when affected by a spell that failed to penetrate SR. The final archetype is the tauric shinobi, a samurai who replaces mount with charging slice, i.e. +2 to atk during charges, and +class level to damage on crits executed with charges. Instead of challenge and demanding challenges, the archetype gets “Seeing Red”, i.e. an unchained barbarian’s rage, which is upgraded to greater rage at 12th level. This obviously adjusts honorable stand as well. Instead of last stand, we get a 1/day option to ignore hardness or DR, +twice class level damage…or attack a spell effect, duplicating greater dispel magic at CL equal to character level.
We get 4 racial feats: Distracted Stampede lets you join a charge of a nearby ally, providing potent synergy with Coordinated Charge. Merciless Gore adds bleed damage to gore attacks, scaling with BAB. Spellproof increases the racial SR to 11 + character level and the fail chance of activation items to 25%. Unstoppable Charge lets you follow a successful charge attack with overrun, also providing nearby allies an insight bonus on atk vs. a target you overrun. Magic item-wise, the amulet of reckless casting lets the bisoni 3/day as a swift action deliver a touch spell as a charge within movement range. Okay, does this refer to the base movement rate or the extended one of the charge? Snoutrings of foraging net +5 to Survival to get food and scent 30 ft. Once more, age, height and weight table is included.
The final race within would be the turtle-like Tortanians, who get -2 Dex, +4 Con, +2 Int, +2 Wis, +2 Cha, making them ability-array wise too strong and lopsided for my tastes. They are Medium humanoids with slow and steady, low-light vision and stability. They also get +2 natural armor bonus and get the option to enshell as a move action that does not provoke AoOs. Small or light objects may be pulled inside, others are dropped. This yields soft cover (+4 AC) and while enshelled, the character has no line of sight, but does not drop prone. The bonus to AC increases at 6th level and ever 6 levels thereafter by +1. While enshelled, the tortonian dos not threaten spaces and may take no other action than to exit the shell, which feels internally a bit weird, considering mental activation items etc. They also get +2 to Will-saves versus charm and compulsion effects and spells and if a tortonian fails such a save, he may retry one round later. Alternate racial trait-wise, we get Small size. And the antural AC bonus and stability may be traded for +2 Dex. The natural AC may also be exchanged for being umbra touched, i.e. cold and electricity resistance as well as a whopping 50% miss chance in dim light! Yeah…not seeing a fair trade-off here. Instead of the Will-save boost and stability, there also is an option to gain DR 5/- while enshelled.
The race gets favored class options for alchemist, druid, inquisitor, magus, ninja, oracle, shaman and vigilante. No problems there. We also get a racial variant, the exposed, who represents a tortonian that has lost his shell: The character loses enshell, stability, the Will-save boost and +2 natural Ac and gets +4 Dex, for an even more elite ability array. Additionally, slow and steady is replaced with 30 ft. movement, but the loss of the shell scarred the tortonian for life, imposing a -2 penalty to Will-saves.
The race comes with two racial archetypes, the first of which would be the shellshocker barbarian, who does not provoke attacks of opportunity when performing a bull rush in a charge and gets +2 to bull rush attempts as well as +2 to CMD against them; the ability qualifies as Improved Bull Rush for prerequisite purposes, but if used thus, the benefits may only be used during charges. This replaces fast movement. Instead of uncanny dodge, the archetype gains shell fortification, which allows the shell to be enchanted as if it were a masterwork shield, and may use shield bash with it as though it were a heavy steel shield. Critical hits and sneak attack damage have a 25% chance of being reduced to a regular hit. Instead of improved uncanny dodge, 5th level provides a +2 enhancement bonus to shield bashes with the shell, which is a bit odd. The fortification effect of the shell is enhanced to 50% at 8th level, replacing the rage power usually gained there. 12th level yields Shield Mastery in conjunction with the shell, replacing that level’s rage power. Instead of indomitable will, we get a final fortification upgrade for the shell at 14th level, of up to 75%. Probably one of the coolest archetypes in the book.
The second one would be the adamantine fist initiate for the brawler class. Instead of brawler’s cunning, the initiate may, after being hit in melee with a critical threat, attempt to sunder armor, shield or weapon of the attacker as an immediate action, gaining +4 to the sunder attempt if the crit was confirmed, which btw. does not provoke AoOs. Instead of the bonus combat feats gained at 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the archetype gets the adamantine fists ability, which lets the brawler ignore 1 point of natural armor the target possesses at 2nd level, increasing by +1 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter. If the ignored bonus exceeds the natural armor, the brawler instead applies + brawler level to damage. So, lot of flexibility and player agenda lost for bland damage boost. Not a fan. Instead of maneuver training, we get +2 to bull rush and to resist it, which increases by +1 at 7th level, where +2 to CMB and CMD versus trip are gained. 15th and 19th level further increase these bonuses by +1. At 4th level, we get crashing assault: When making a melee or ranged attack versus a target with hardness, the brawler ignore ½ class level hardness 1/day, +1/day every 6 levels thereafter, replacing knockout. Instead of close weapon mastery, 5th level yields titan’s disruption, which allows the character to use martial flexibility sunder unattended objects for shards that cause all three types of physical damage in 10 ft., with the save to halve based on Strength. Yep, basically Shrapnel Strike. Having the feat doubles range. At 10th level, two uses of martial flexibility may be used to attack a vessel component: If damage exceeds twice the object’s hardness, it is disabled for 1d4 rounds, +1 round for every 5 by which damage exceeded that threshold. Multiple such attacks only increase a disruption’s duration by +1 round. The ability comes with an engineering remedy for it, btw. Easily my favorite archetype ability in the book.
The race gets 4 racial feats: Abjurant Shell nets SR 11 + character level while enshelled; Enshelled Concentration allows for the casting of psychic spells or those sans somatic components etc. while enshelled. Quick Enshell lets you assume or end enshelled status as a swift action. Shell Shield lets you treat your shell as a tower shield, granting total cover, but at the cost of -4 to atk. We also get a new technological weapon, the shock bat (guess what it does…) and 5 new cybertechs: Ley Matrix, at implantation 1, allows the shell to be enchanted as a shield and allows the tortonian to use its special abilities while enshelled. Shell cannons clock in at Implantation 4 and integrates a technological firearm in the shell, which may not be disarmed and the wielder is proficient with it. Shell spikes add a 1d6 slam for Implantation 1; the spikes may be enchanted. At Implantation 3, spell absorber can store a spell, releasing it as a full-round action into a single space adjacent to the wielder, with space affected being chosen anew each round as a free action. To offset the flexibility, the wielder is staggered while using this one. The effects may be ended as a standard action. Finally, the underwater exploration kit (implantation 4) nets +30 ft. swim speed, +20 to Swim checks and the ability to breathe under water, as well as providing full buoyancy control. This one does eliminate the enshell ability while installed, though. The magic item, the shellbrooch nets 3/day the option to store the shell in the brooch, gaining +4 to Dex and freedom of movement, but can mean potentially losing the shell. The race comes with an age, height and weight table as well as a new spell, namely shellsight, which allows the caster to see through the shell while enshelled, providing line of sight, but not effect.
Editing and formatting on a formal level are good. On a rules language level, I noticed a few hiccups, but no truly grievous accumulation of them; however, some of them do influence rules-integrity. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports original pieces of full-color artwork for each race, which I applaud, even though, personally, I didn’t like them that much. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.
Tyler Beck’s races herein have in common that they all have cool concepts and that I have not see them executed before; that alone is worth something. He has also attempted to do something unique with each of them, which is something I really like.
That being said, this originality unfortunately does not extend to the majority of class options and feats within, which could have gone more creative routes as far as I’m concerned.
This pdf also stands as an excellent example to illustrate that the RP guidelines presented in the ARG, as I have observed time and again, SUCK as a guideline of the power of a race. While the races herein are not overpowered per se, they significantly exceed all core races in power, potentially limiting their appeal to games that favor higher-powered races, needlessly limiting their appeal. They also are bit too strongly geared towards specific roles for my tastes. Bisoni spellcasters, for example, are a bad idea, while their martial representations are ridiculously potent and mop the floor with comparative races of their RP. This overkill will certainly find its fans among the more min-maxy-minded players, but I maintain that the power-level of the races is not in any way required by the respective concepts, representing an artificial limitation of the cool ideas.
As a person, I liked the idea of all 3 races, but not the execution of any of them, which means I, alas, will never use them. That being said, I attempted to provide you with a good overview of what can be found within this pdf, so you shouldn’t have a hard to judge whether this appeals to you or not. Additionally, I do try hard to leave my own biases at the door when rating a product, and ultimately, this can be a worthwhile, if perhaps not an overwhelmingly awesome, book. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars. If the strength of the racial concepts sells this on you, then round up. Considering the fact that a significant part of the supplemental material didn’t blow me away, I still feel justified in rounding down for my official verdict. All in all, this represents a mixed bag, slightly on the positive side for groups that enjoy really potent races.
You can get this book here on OBS!