Animal Lords of Porphyra (Porphyra RPG)
This installment of the „…of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content. These pages have been laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you could theoretically fit up to 4 on a given sheet of paper, provided your eyesight’s good enough.
As always for Porphyra RPG-supplements, this one is fully compatible with PF 1e; the Porphyra RPG is currently still in playtest, but power-level wise seems to aim a bit higher than core PF 1e, aiming more for the level of power we associate with the newer iterations of the game, i.e. including the changes introduced over the course of the system’s lifetime.
We start off this pdf with a brief flavor-centric introduction before diving into the animal lord class, who gets 6 + Int skills per level, full BAB progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, as well as proficiency with simple and martial weapons. The class does not gain armor proficiency, but adds Wisdom bonus to AC when unencumbered and unarmored and not using a shield, with 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter increasing this bonus by a further +1. This bonus represents basically a variant from the underappreciated and intriguing codification of thinking about martial arts rules chassis baselines as introduced in Purple Duck Games’ “Unarmed and Dangerous.” Notice something? Yep, alas, the HD-rating is missing. I assume from context that d8 or d10 was intended, with my personal guess gravitating towards d8, mainly because of being close to the shifter in the 1st level key concept, the animal family. This choice determines the senses associated with the animal family.
We need to speak about these, in that they all provide default sizes for the respective sizes, senses, and natural attacks. Here, an optional rule allows for taking of sizes beyond the usual for PCs, and the natural attack routines noted do specify their damage die sizes, which is a plus. Each family also yields skill bonuses, usually a pretty significant (as in: +8) bonus to a specific skill use, like Survival to track, Perception vs. adjacent foes, etc. Minor nitpick: Damage types for the natural are not noted, but type, thankfully, is, as the base class provides a concise default here. Since Porphyra RPG is still in playtest, I will not hold the damage type omission against the pdf, but it’s something to bear in mind. When applicable, the families note special attacks like grabbing and the respective speed ratings, which, somewhat oddly, seem to be not in a direct correlation between sizes and animal. A minor inconsistency would be that e.g. a bear family’s grab does not note its extraordinary quality, while the bear hug ability does specify being (Ex).
Now, beyond the bear family’s tricks, there are a couple that are rather interesting: The boar family, for example, allows us to overrun multiple targets. Capra charges allow for better gore attacks; cats get pounce and rake. (Minor nitpick: The animal special quality “Leap” of the cat family hasn’t been italicized.) Beyond these, cattle, constrictor, crocodile, deer, dinosaur, dolphins, elephants, fowl, frogs, horses, ostrichs, raptors, rats, seals, sharks and vipers are provided. Sharks get e.g. swim-by-attacks, and electroreception based blindsense. Interesting here: In spite of the massive discrepancies between the families, they generally come out approximately on par with one another. While mechanically, when just looking at damage per round and combat capabilities, there are a couple of families that are superior, these generally suffer in the versatility department, like movement rates, immunity to diseases and the like, so yeah – as a whole, this section was genuinely better than I expected. Maneuverability rating, while generally still here, is missing from the raptor’s fly speed. It should be noted that the animal natural attacks are gained at 2nd level, not first, and that this level also nets a combat style. 3rd level nets a new terrain type, reproduced here for convenience. The animal lord gets +2 to initiative, atk, damage, Perception, Stealth, Survival in this terrain, which improves to +4 at 8th level. 13th level and every 5 levels thereafter yield an additional terrain, also at 4th level. Interesting: This explicitly works as a favored enemy and favored terrain and can be used in conjunction with it.
3rd level nets the ability to assume the animal family’s forms as 3 + Wisdom bonus (min 0) times per day, for class level hours animal form per use of the ability. This ability is based on scaling beast shape as guidance, with higher levels also influencing the action economy, and higher levels increase the sizes available. The ability and its interaction with wild shape-based abilities is once more properly codified. 4th level yields the dominion ability, which translates to speak with animals as a constant effect, and the animal lords gets to deal nonlethal damage versus the family sans penalty. More interesting: When pummeling an animal into submission thus, the animal lord may use their at-will charm animal SP versus the target – and have the unconscious target auto-fail. This is a great representation of the concept of besting a potent animal to assert dominance. Kudos! Aforementioned animal skill bonuses granted by the family are gained at 5th level alongside previously mentioned special attacks.
7th level nets the shapeshifter subtype as well as Dr 5/magic or silver. 9th level nets the movement rates associated with the animal families, and 10th level makes the animal lord’s natural attacks count as silver and cold iron, and either Improved Natural Attack or an upgrade of secondary natural attacks to primary. 19th level provides the further upgrade to this ability. 11th level ntes the special qualities of the animal family in humanoid and animal form. 12th level yields camouflage and 15th level an apotheosis to outsider. 16th level allows the animal lord to bestow animal shapes to other creatures, granting the animal family’s skill bonus. 17th level nets Hide in Plain Sight.
A pretty big plus: We get favored class options for a TON of different Porphyra races, many of which are actually interesting – additional cat’s luck uses, better Strength checks and carrying capacity (but not any other forms of Str-based tricks)…and so on. The list covers all the exotics of core Pathfinder as well as a couple of my favorite Porphyran races like Avoodim or Zendiqi.
The pdf also features 2 different archetypes, the first of which is for the animal lord class: The beast king loses the charm angle, as well as 4 native terrains and hide in plain sight, but replaces that by a supernatural, scaling version of summon nature’s ally to call forth critters like animals and vermin. Basically, you get massive summoning tricks, and don’t have to pay that much for it – I’d be very weary of this one, but for a solo game, it may be a nice one. The second archetype, the Serker, can be summed up as a variant of the barbarian who gets a Way of the Body-based natural armor, and who loses rage powers in favor of animal family-based tricks. Minor note here: I am not a big fan of the animal families being presented after the favored class options and archetypes – I think it tears the presentation sequence of the animal lord apart more than it should be.
If you are particularly familiar with animals statted so far, you’ll note that there’ll be some blind spots: Thankfully, the pdf does contain 9 animals, including dwarf elephants, roadrunners, sea lions, etc., providing a neat conclusion here.
Editing and formatting on a rules-language level are hard to rate, since Porphyra RPG is not yet done. That being said, using PF 1 as a benchmark, I’d consider it to be pretty good. There are some aesthetic inconsistencies, but for the most part, this is really solid. That being said, the HD value missing is a big glitch. The pdf features nice interior artwork, and comes with super-detailed bookmarks that help navigate the file.
Carl Cramér’s animal lords were a pleasant surprise for me. When I saw the title and realized that is was a class and not a reference to the potent outsider lords, I expected a shifter hybrid, and at this point it’s no surprise that I REALLY dislike Paizo’s shifter. For shifters, Legendary Games’ Legendary Shifter and Everyman Gaming’s shifter in the Paranormal Adventures book do excellent work regarding that trope.
The animal lord does something else. In the 60s and 70s, there were a couple of comics particularly popular in Germany. They were kinda old-school and had heroes with Tarzan-like abilities; while I could rattle off their respective names, they’d mean next to nothing to most folks. Heck, I only know them because I found them in attic-stored boxes as a kid. The most commonly known character in the US that may hit best how these guys feel, is the Phantom, created, unless I’m sorely mistaken, sometime in the 30s by Lee Falk. The animal lord is a master of animals, with a bit of shapeshifting thrown in for the fantastic angle…and the class does that job well. While the lack of HD-ratings and a couple of minor aesthetic hiccups drag this down a bit, I found myself actually enjoying this fellow. It has its own identity, and as such, I consider this to be worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up.
You can get this neat class here on OBS!
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