Along the Twisting Way: The Faerie Ring Player’s Guide (Patreon Request)
This massive player’s guide clocks in at 173 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page blank, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of ToC, 1 page reference explanation, 1 page end matter, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 160 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Important disclosure: I did both development and some major rewrites for this book, though I did not work on even close to everything herein. I am covering this book because one of my patreon supporters requested this. Due to me contributing to this book, I will try to be more neutral than I am anyways in my reviews, and try to focus on a descriptive angle.
Structurally, this book is essentially a tome that depicts a whole array of fey races for Pathfinder’s first edition, with supplemental material provided for each race. Being fey, the races herein also feature an above-average amount of myth-building inherent in their write-ups. As a collective, these narratives often intermix and entwine, creating a rather succinct overall thematic consistency. The mechanics-centric materials include racial archetypes, alternate racial traits, favored class options and the like, making this a pretty crunch-centric tome. As such, my coverage of this book won’t go into the super-detailed level and instead focus on providing an overview.
Okay, that being said, the first race featured herein would be the bitterclaws, larger siblings to the often maligned gremlins, their herding of their insane siblings has resulted in a kind of overdeveloped sense of responsibility, which, combined with their seemingly reckless behavior, does render them feasible candidates for players enjoying the slightly mad angle exemplified by e.g. goblins. They are Small fey with the mogwoi subtype (which references the campaign guide instead of reprinting its effects – something that holds true for all races and their subtypes here), have low-light vision, 20 ft. speed, and +2 Dexterity and wisdom, -2 Charisma. They also get a +2 racial bonus to Perception related to hearing, and their blood is poisonous to humanoids and may 1/day cast break as a SP. They get a primary bite attack at 1d4. So far, so conventional: However, the temperamental nature of the bitterclaws has them subject to wild moodswings, which translates to a shift from melancholy to euphoria and vice versa. You start each day as normal, but when you roll a 1 on an ability check, skill check, caster level check, saving throw, and fail that check, you become melancholic, losing your mogwoi subtype benefits, and becoming easier to frighten. On the plus side, when you roll a 20 on the SAME check, you enter a state of euphoria, and may choose to ignore being frightened. As a minor nitpick, it’d have been prudent to state whether individual skills and saves are considered to be their own trigger (so a 1 triggering failed Fort save can only be negated by a 20 on a successful Fort save), or whether all saves qualify. RAW, they do, and I think that this slight ambiguity is intended, but it was still one worth mentioning.
As for archetypes, we have the empath medium, which tap into the cracks of bitterclaw psyche, communing with future potential iterations of a target, rather than the heroes of ages past, and the channeling-related abilities of the class are replaced with divination-themed ones. Pathos alchemists can choose to take damage that only heals naturally to make emotion bombs – these don’t deal damage, instead providing a potent, scaling debuff. Which doesn’t seem so potent per se, but we also get immunity to poison bombs altered by discoveries that change poison bombs. The archetype otherwise gets unique emotion-themed discovery bombs. This archetype doesn’t lose anything, making it slightly stronger than the default, but considering the fact that all gains are balanced by a need for investment to gain the more potent effects. It should not break any game. Red inquisitors are an engine-tweak that enhances your crits when slaying sufficiently potent enemies while a judgment is active. The traveler ranger replaces wild empathy with better social skills, and instead of the favored terrain abilities, we have a nice array of movement/travel-related abilities. Weep druids are interesting, in that they get a pool that lets them execute special strikes and enhances their natural attacks. The Xaosian magus has a chaotic weapon they can change in type, and an interesting recall spell alternative, which works sans points, but is REALLY volatile and no, mathematically, it is not an ability that can be cheesed, in spite of the seemingly dangerous s delimiting. Items include razor puzzle boxes and gremlin “lockpicks” with teeth that actually damage objects – hilarious. The feats focus mostly on doing interesting things with the poisonous blood engine, but also feature destructive tricks in line with the gremlin-ish angle.
Black hats are essentially the necromancy-themed cousins of the far darrig; they are, powerlevel-wise, pretty much in line with the bitterclaws, and may tip their hat to heal the undead, as well as throw their hats as part of casting a spell a limited number of times per day to bypass SR. Bonus types of 2 abilities are not classified as racial here, as a minor nitpick. If this seems like to geared towards casters, rest assured that the alternate racial traits can help there – including a means to conceal the race for games where “darker”-themed races are problematic. Big Boss cavaliers get minions, which are essentially based on the animal companion rules, with the ability to split HD, and yes, they do require direction. The archetype is locked into a new order, and gets to call for minion rushes of targets. An interesting, complex engine-tweak. Bone thieves are rogues that get to poach a bit of the occultist’s tools. Bonecaller summoners are undead-themed summoners; dark reaver magi are a necromancy-themed magus-variant, which can deliver non-touch spells via spellstrikes, provided they are based on necromancy. They can also set up flanks with spectral hand, which is pretty interesting for your rogue etc. buddies. The soul collector medium has spirits contained in receptacles, which they then dominate, adding a primarily interesting angle to narrative angles. The racial feats make interesting use of the hat-based racial engine, and partially also build on alternate racial traits.
While we’re on the subject of fellows with funny hats: The aforementioned far darrig get a funny hat that can duplicate acute senses or persuasive goad as a default, and 1/day draw an animal from it (summon nature’s ally I) as a SP, which really put a smile on my face. Their paladin archetype, the faerie knight, replaces smite evil with a humbling prank that causes ability score damage, an aura of truth, etc. – I liked this thematic tweak. The rat sovereign bard was obviously inspired by Hameln (beautiful town, btw. – been there myself), with rat summoning and rat spies, etc. – this one is intrigue gold. Redcap witches store spells in their hats and later can use their hat to engulf and smother targets, which once more made me smile, big time. The rowdy rogue is a dirty trick specialist who gets a short-range demoralize effect, and, in comparison, is somewhat less exciting. The scaremonger focuses on Intimidate and causing Strength damage with stares. Two solid bardic masterpieces are also provided. Once more, the feat-section does a pretty neat job at rendering the hat-based engine interesting. Apart from one feat lacking the (Red Hat) descriptor that should have it. Theme-wise, this does the whimsy-angle incredibly well and keeps it playable – it is not something I could have designed, whimsy being a bit of a weak spot of mine.
Darklings were spawned by combat with the Adversary, but at great cost. The race follows the tendency to offer unique tricks: Here the ability to focus to reduce concealment’s miss chances, and the ability to generate shadowy discs. The archetypes include the cultist of forsaken lore mesmerist, whose gaze can instill primordial rage, which can be used as a dangerous buff, or as a target-control angle. This effect, offensively, is very strong, and probably should have a means to resist it – as written, it is not an emotion effect (which it should be, at the very least); while this replaces painful stare, it also is a reliably lockdown of ranged weapon users and casters, one that oddly targets “living” creatures with rage, exempting the undead from being targets of the victim’s rage. Desolate scavenger arcanists let you consume the shadows of enemies to replenish arcane energy. Peacekeeper magi get unique arcana and damage effects based on lighting; a really cool shadow-themed magus. Shimmerlings are hunters with a shimmer dog companion, as well as moon phase related abilities. Twilight monks are an interesting example for an engine tweak with a neat imagery: You can outsource flurry attacks to your shadow and later split it from your body. Cool! The racial fats allow e.g. clerics to combo channel energy and shadow disk racial trait to making shadow plane oubliettes and the like. Interesting!
Conquered and beaten, but unbowed, the fir bolg are the second “warrior race” type of race included herein; where the darklings have a shadow angle, the fir bolg are hunters, with a point-based engine that lets them know direction, forage better, etc. Feyhound druids are interesting, in hat they can assume hound form…or, if they have the cŵn annwn template, vice versa. The gloryhound fighter gets boosts when downing sufficiently potent targets and a basic trophy engine. Guerilla rangers get a huge array of specific tactics for use with terrains. Predator soul barbarians absorb parts of the spirits of animals of 1 HD or more, and the ability can’t be effectively cheesed. The archetype is all about the apex hunter angle. The silent skald is a Wisdom-based silence-themed skald, including a raging song that can steal voices, a reliable gesture communication, etc. Nice. The racial feats, unsurprisingly, allow you to add new tricks based on the hunter’s cache points the race gets, including a really cool one that builds on Diehard, or a feat that lets you dispatch targets you reduced to negative hit points via Vital Strike swiftly.
I love the goodfellows: They are fun, Tiny fellows, who do get flight at first level, but with the caveat that they drop down until they reached third level. They also belong to a so-called wreath, essentially a clan named for a flower, with 6 provided and each netting the character different SPs. And yes, being unwreathed is an option as well. Aquatic and burrowing variants can also be found. Arclight bombardier alchemists have a creative tweak to their bombs, getting arcs instead of splash damage, as well as scaling means to bypass energy resistance with them. Beekeper druids do exactly what you’d expect them to; false cupid mesmerists get a stare that penalizes targets of the hypnotic stares regarding emotion effects, as well as an option to cause extreme emotional effects on targets. Prankster slayers do something really creative, in that they render the target of studied target incapable of seeing you, but requires being not observed by the target; we also get prank-themed slayer talents. Shrinking violet vigilantes get nonlethal rays and shrinking abilities; treetop harrier rangers get a MASSIVE trap engine that is similar, but different to the ranger’s default engine, imho working much better in game, including the ability to bypass triggers, etc. The feats include means to enhance the wreaths, the race’s flight, better dodging, and the beekeeper archetype also gets a couple of unique feats. There also is a feat that helps your unarmed strike damage make up for the race’s size, etc.
In case you always disliked the anthropomorphic default kitsune take PFRPG usually features – well, here is a foxform take on the fellows as quadrupeds who can use their tails to wield non-weapon objects – including an alternate racial trait that nets you an additional magic item slot, and yes, you can have the shapeshifter trait. The foxmate vigilante is a take on the kitsune-partner from myth; the inari oracle is more NPC-centric, clearly inspired by myth, with means to render targets celebrity or exile, blighting or blessing of fields and the like. The ninetails sorcerer gains false tails and can assume alignment-based shapes. The star binder summoner has the classic star ball and an unwilling eidolon, and abilities to control outsiders. I liked this one thematically rather well. The tailed spirit medium gets a new spirit, as well as the ability to use Bluff to trick spirits. Unless you really suck at PFRPG, this is a reliable way to exert control over influence – to a degree, for thankfully, the DC increases. Kudos for that. The new spirit nets you btw. mesmerist spell access, miss chance, etc. – it’s a nice one. The item section here also deserves mentioning, as the star balls, tail ofuda and the like help render playing a kitsune unique. The feats this timearound focus on both animal-like combat tricks and a wide array of means to employ fox magic to power a wide variety of different effects.
The frog-like matabiri are a study in contrasts – compassionate, contemplative and with excellent deduction, they also tend to see others as chattel or meat, a perfect example of the dangerously arrogant; they are also amphibious and able to read Hob’s Dream, which translates to receiving a pool of dream points that, per default, lets you execute e.g. object reading. With Lucid Dreamer, Psychic Sensitivity, a dream feat or Alertness as a 1st level bonus feat, the race has a strong angle from the get-go. The archetypes include a dreamweaver witch (self-explanatory); the mud kineticist is pretty much what you’d expect. The swampfolk ranger is a decent archetype focused on harvesting stuff and surviving in the swamp. Xenogeneticist investigators are genuinely intriguing, with subjects added to the genetic extracts based on autopsy, and a whole array of different benefits. This one plays rather well. Zapper gunslingers get elemental zapping guns and minor modifications of it at higher levels. Better drowning of grappled enemies, crafting of gadgets and lots of dream-engine based feats complement these.
Net up would be the norns, who are “flavor”-blind; i.e. their Fate Sense ability make them operate sans downsides, but also plusses of the condition, and they can contribute to covens, and, well, they have a fate point pool, which, bingo, interjects with a wide variety of the race’s feats. They can also use a polymorph-based, permanent disguise self, which includes gender change, and the ability explicitly designates the new form as natural – as such, we have a VERY strong ability here, but considering the high fantasy fairytale theme of the supplement, it’s fitting. The alternate racial traits include an AWESOME gem: Spend a fate point to begin traveling to a final destination nearby, which is determined by the GM. Essentially this is a “Go to next plot point, please”-mechanic, one that is particularly great for open sandboxy games and players overburdened by the freedom experienced. Two thumbs up! Fate collector rogues are also cool: These are all considered to be always flanking when facing someone who cheated death – such as undead, adventurers an those otherwise raised. It’s an engine tweak, but a really cool one that fits the theme very much. The prescient investigator also falls into this category, with a wildcard extract, a yes/no logical leap to be answered by the GM, etc. – I like these. Truthspeaker oracles are about the spoken word – they can’t lie, and can cause suggestions and the ability to provide buffing oaths. Waterbearer kineticists get a variety of effects, but oddly don’t codify them like blasts, infusions and the like are usually presented. This irked me, to be quite honest. Wyrd witches are Wisdom-based and focus on the coven – it is a complex one.
The putti, curious and cute, are plant-creatures originally created as tools of extinction, made to annihilate animal life, but right now, they are rather lacking in blood thirst, suffused with a whimsical innocence that can’t be considered to be genuine compassion. I like this angle emphasizing how alien this is. They float, but once more have smart ways built into their mechanics to keep the floating in line – oh, and they should make sure they get enough light…Instead of treespeech and limited telepathy, we find deadly spores as alternate traits, and sympathetic auras and the like are also provided. The archetypes include the ascetic gardener druid, which includes an optional plant companion. Godkin mesmerists lose hypnotic stares in favor of AoE buffs, blasts foes with sonic energy and get a whole new array of tricks. Perfumer alchemists get cognatogens per default and modify their bombs to instead generate sickening scents, with a whole array of new discoveries. The cleric source of light helps the race deal with their light dependency. The windstormer kineticist once more provides the normal formatting for their abilities and custom tricks; I generally enjoyed this one. The feats allow you to progressively gain the potent plant traits, and the feats include a Divien Mien that makes the putti perceived as divine agents or even deities – thankfully with a hex-caveat that prevents abuse. Telekinesis and telepathy can also be enhanced, and the race’s non-floating, rather paltry 5-foot movement can also be circumvented. As a whole, a cool one.
The teras race is particularly weird; they are spores at first, and then improve a host; the process being not exactly perfect, tumors, aberrant growths and the like are turned to gifts and benefits. The mutable blood of Oleron is represented by the feat of the same name, which unlocks the whole Mutation-feat array. It should be noted that the teras, in spite of the grotesque-sounding angle, are actually hauntingly, unearthly beautiful. The alternate racial traits include various heritages. The arcane savant bard gets a custom array of performances, UMD and Knowledge focus. Chaos scientist alchemists get a custom extracts known table and sport a unique tweak on the extract engine. How unique? Well, it’s an extract/kineticist crossover engine, with a unique Burn-substitute, and mutagen as a basis for kinetic powers! This is, engine-wise, one of the most exciting ones herein. The crusading theurge antipaladin/paladin are actually BOTH! It assigns one gender to each alignment extreme, while acknowledging the necessity of the other, making you a two-mode character with gender-fluidity hardwired into the material. Really interesting! The archetype is complex, and plays in a very interesting manner. The mutable mage arcanist focuses on allowing you to reskin spells and alter their AoEs. This one spots one of the very few instances of missed italics herein – the formatting generally is very precise. The write up also includes a mutation bloodline for the sorcerer. The mutator bloodrager increases the damage against demoralized targets; the higher-level abilities include bonus acid damage, etc. – it is one of the few rather unfocused archetypes; not bad, but not impressive either. The oncomancer alchemist takes the old notion of the Book of Vile darkness, of the sentient tumor, and makes it non-icky, just super-weird. These can, in a lesser way, also be gained through the race’s feats, fyi – the growths can absorb ability score damage and the like. I’M also particular to the feats based on Heterochromatic eyes – perhaps because I really love that IRL. Mechanically, there are some seriously cool mesmerist tricks here.
The final race here would be the twilight children, which are essentially the book’s take on the changeling concept, including shadow-themed abilities – or light-based ones, depending on your chosen racial traits. The racial archetypes here include being a designated hunter of the courts, using the inquisitor base class with some dashes of vigilante thrown in, including a light-level affecting cowl. The lost children witches have no familiar, but carry a beloved childhood toy as a means to hold the charge; you get a whole array of age-related abilities (My recommendation: Blend this with Everybody Games’ Childhood Adventures). Mercurial Master spiritualists get a variant benefit array when housing their phantom – speaking of which: We get the capricious focus, and the archetype uses it; as a whole, a fun one. The investigator can be a seelie/unseelie detective – who sounds more interesting than he is, as it’s basically a bard spell-list hack. Titan’s foe fighters, finally, are about felling the big ones. The racial feats are particularly interesting here, including a high-level feat that nets you a shadow duplicate ability, and yes, the darkness/light angles are both supported by feats building on them.
Editing and formatting are VERY impressive, considering the size of this book, the complexity of the rules, and the sheer scope of it. On both a formal and rules-language level, there are next to no glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the book sports several original, high-quality artworks that are rather great indeed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. I can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof regarding the physical book, since I unfortunately do not own it.
If the surprisingly and rarely achieved consistence regarding mechanics puzzled you: The authors are Scott Gable, Eric Hindley, Victoria Jaczko, Amanda Hamon Kunz, Jeff Lee, Kelly Pawlik, David N. Ross. Stephen Rowe, David Schwartz, Mike Welham, and yours truly, with development by Stephen Radney-MacFarland, David N. Ross and Stephen Rowe, and again, yours truly, should illustrate well why this is the case: Those are some top-tier writers, and some top-tier devs right there, and I’m genuinely honored to be in their company in this book.
So, what is this book? It is a massive book that presents a whole and complete array of races for your game: This book’s races can be used as a stand-alone boo to choose a rich and diverse array of races from. The lore is interesting, and the same holds true for each of the races: There is something genuinely interesting on both a conceptual and on a mechanical level in every single one of them. Even with all the experience I have with PFRG, I found quite a few genuinely novel ideas regarding the engine herein. The book is very much cognizant of many of the details regarding rules, of what’s out there.
If you generally prefer your games to be on the lower power-end, the races herein may require some nerfing; while none of them are broken or overpowered, they are obviously intended for a faerie/fey-themed campaign, and correspondingly, high magic angles that make use of courts, planes and the like make them work best. Alternatively, a dark fantasy world, where magic is strongly linked to fey? Yeah, can see that work. As a general idea, if you enjoy Rite Publishing’s In the Company-series, the base races of that series with a bit on top are a good idea of a baseline here, minus racial paragon class, plus unique feat-based sub-engines of reach race.
So, do I consider this to be worth it? Yes, yes I do. If you’re looking for some far-out, interesting races that genuinely feel different from the standards, then this should be right up your alley.
You can get this massive book here on OBS!
My review is based on the PFRPG-version, but there is also a 5e-iteration. You can find it here!
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