Pathfinder 2nd Edition Thoughts

Pathfinder 2nd Edition’s Core Rulebook is another bullet-stopper, so there’s no way I’ll get through the whole thing with a review. What I thought I would do is share impressions and thoughts as I read through it in three categories: Hell Yes, Ok Whatever, and Please No. TL;DR – I’d play it and probably enjoy it, but it is still hard to learn for new gamers and will have some challenges even for experienced players.

Hell Yes

Hit points from race (culture). I like this idea a lot. I have a similar one as a possible D&D 5E house rule, where you get some hit points from your character background that you choose. (To be clear, you also get hit points from your class, meaning…)

Higher hit points at level 1. Yay. 4th Edition D&D got this exactly right, while 5th Ed is back to being survival horror at lower levels and heroic fantasy only after you’ve survived that long.

The language of race is gone from the character creation rules as far as I can tell. They use ‘ancestry’, which is much preferable, with half-elves and half-orcs as human bloodlines instead of “races.”

No random ability scores. This is fine with me, though they do have alternative rules for rolling ability scores for those who want to do so. Normally this is just OK Whatever, but I put this under Hell Yes because they way you build ability scores is by bonuses (and a penalty) from your background and the feats you choose. I encountered this first through Beyond the Wall, and OSR style game that takes a similar approach of choosing elements of your background and having those determine your starting ability scores.

Class intros. These are really helpful. Each class gives you a list of things to do in combat, exploration, and social encounters, as well as what this class is good at, how others might view you, and why you might see yourself as a member of this class.

Three actions and a reaction. I love that they simplified the way actions work when your turn comes around. I love the flexibility this brings. You get three actions and one reaction per turn, and you can use those actions to move, interact, or activate abilities that cost one or more action to use. So if you just stand there and bang, you can make multiple melee attacks. If you move around a lot, you can make fewer. If you want to charge up a spell or cast a more powerful version of a spell, you spend more actions casting and are less mobile. I loved this in the playtest I played at GenCon last year, and I love it now.

Lots of crits. Why not? Crits are fun. In Pathfinder 2E, a roll is a critical hit when it is 10 or more over the target number, and it is a critical failure when it is 10 or more under the target number. You can critically succeed or fail at saving throws as well. I’m all for this. That being said, the profusion of numerical bonuses and penalties discussed below is going to be a problem here, as players won’t want to be denied a crit, or told they crit fail, and then later remember that they forgot a bonus. Which, with a dozen or more categories to track, is pretty likely.

Safety tools. There’s a whole four pages or so in the GM section about creating a welcoming environment, avoiding “social splash damage” which I kind of like as a term, using the X-card, lines and veils, and so on. There is also a Pathfinder baseline described – violence is OK to describe but not excessive gore; no rape or violence against children or sexual threats or slavery; sex happens offscreen; avoid PCs hitting on each other as it can feel like the players hitting on each other; love it. A section like this should be in every GM section and every GM book for the next 100 years.

OK Whatever

Book design and art. (Originally Hell Yeah, but on further reflection…) Both are good. There is a menu along the outer edge of every page that tells you the section you are currently in, and so flipping through different sections was quite easy with this edition. The art throughout is totally recognizable, generally great-looking, though there are of course a few that are sub-par here and there. The maroon backgrounds on some of the class-example portraits make them harder to see, and I would have gone with a less saturated color or something. But the book is pleasant to read through, at least so far. I think that I prefer the art and design in the original Pathfinder Core Rulebook, but this one is fine.

Max hit points at every level. So, there’s no clear reason not to make this change, except for the fact that without also increasing damage, it will lead to longer combats. Pathfinder will be more of Hit Point Attrition the Game. Rolling hit points is a relic that I’m fine doing away with, I just think it should have been paired with fixed damage. Fixed damage is used in Big Eyes Small Mouth, as well as Mutants and Masterminds and other games, and it works great. You could even roll damage for a glancing blow (barely missed AC) and just double the number for a critical hit (or more than double for extra-critical abilities).

Everything is feats. This is fine. They just took all of the words for class abilities and race abilities from previous games and call it all feats.

Alchemists and goblins are core. No problem here. Alchemists are an interesting class, and they do things that other classes don’t with throwing bombs and mutagens. Goblins are awesome, though their Paizo-style super-monstrous appearance seems out of place among the other winsome species.

Arcane, divine, occult and primal spell lists. I like this change, as it simplifies how the spellcasting classes work a bit. This is one of many elements that seem drawn from D&D 4E, honestly, and I don’t mean that as a criticism, just an observation. (D&D 5E dropped a lot of good things that were in 4E, and that’s too bad) It’s odd to have occult on the list, and I noticed that the bard is an occult spellcaster. The description of what occult means seems very similar to what arcane means, but I get the impression that maybe Pathfinder’s occult classes were really popular and they wanted room for them. (All this being said, while there are down to only four spell lists, there is a lot of added spellcasting complexity in PF2)

Please No

The character sheet. It is so bad. This has already been commented upon when it was released ahead of time, but bears repeating. I just…don’t understand. It is both ugly and hard to follow, being overly-busy, at least to my untrained eye. But even Paizo can’t knock it out of the park every time.

Numerical modifiers abound. In the Gamer’s Table podcast review of the new rules, I believe they identified 14 different categories of numerical modifier that could apply to a single roll. This is a problem that the advantage/disadvantage system in D&D 5E honestly did fix. Cognitive load before a dice-roll should really be minimal, but Paizo doubled down on numerical modifiers.

A bafflement of riches. To my eye and taste, the core rulebook has too many options. Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebook includes 20 or so backgrounds, 6 species, and 13 classes, each class also gets 3-6 sub-class options on top of all of that (somewhere between 40 and 70 class options, without counting). Let’s be conservative and say around 5,000 combinations. On reading through, I had the strong feeling that I need an app for this. And I’m saying this as someone who played Pathfinder, ran Pathfinder, and has been playing RPGs for a long time. (For an example of doing something similar but a bit simpler and much better, you have Adventures in Middle-Earth from Cubicle 7, the 5th Ed D&D version of The One Ring, with backgrounds, cultures, and classes presented in a way that is much less overwhelming but seems to have comparable options) This just feels like too much to throw into character creation – not only inaccessible for a new gamer, but it’ll take some processing for experienced gamers to get their heads around as well. To be fair, D&D 5E probably has a comparable number of combinations with their longer list of core races and three sub-classes for each class, but the presentation and pacing of character creation decisions didn’t lead to the same feeling of overload.

Too much categorization of spells. You have four spell lists: arcane, divine, occult and primal (still not clear exactly what separates arcane and occult); you also have the usual schools of magic from previous editions; you also have categories of Matter, Mind, Life and Spirit for things that spells affect; you also have spells divided into common, uncommon, etc. like WoW drops; then there are spells that use spell slots and other spells that use focus points; there’s just way too much here.

Only humans have ethnicity. Dammit, Paizo. It’s stupid when the Forgotten Realms does this, and it was stupid when Golarion did this in Pathfinder’s 1st Edition. You were doing well, too, so far.

Would I Play This?

Definitely. But I would need a group of experienced gamers who wanted to really dig into a crunchy system. I would not hand this game to a new player, where I might actually hand them Pathfinder, with some guidance of course. Pathfinder 2E is better thought out, better designed, more interested (at least in the core rulebook), but more complicated as well, and the complexity comes in with character creation, which can be really daunting.

House Rules Already

If nothing else, I would use fixed damage for basic weapon attacks equal to the maximum that could be rolled on the dice. I haven’t had the time to read through how spells work damage-wise to see if it would be necessary there. If so, though, I’d be fine using fixed damage for all of it.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition Demo

It occurred to me that there are probably plenty of folks who are curious about Pathfinder 2nd Edition but have no iterest in my info-dump about my Origins 2018 experience. For all of you, the following:

I got to sit in on the demo scenario for  the current iteration of Pathfinder 2nd Edition. Overall, it is still very much Pathfinder, and it seems like they are taking this opportunity to clean up some of the rules, simplify a few things, and take feats that everyone always takes (Improved Initiative for example, or Precise Shot for archers) and just make them class abilities. Some observations, presented as bullet-points:

  • Increased hit points at level 1. My 1st level goblin alchemist had 15 hit points (Constitution 12 I believe)
    • Speaking of which, goblins are a core race and alchemist is a core class. We had a fighter, wizard, cleric, rogue, and an alchemist. Other tables with 6 players had another character – I’m not sure whom. Except for Fumbus, the new iconic goblin alchemist, the familiar iconics were the pre-gen characters
  • Skills and attacks seem to be ability score bonus + level. I couldn’t tell if it was just that, or if skill points had been spent
  • Fighters can fiddle with shields (and so can wizards who cast shield) by raising or lowering them to provide more cover in a fight
  • Only fighters get attacks of opportunity, which is GREAT, because I really detest attacks of opportunity. It’s just an onerous movement tax in combat that slows down everything and adds nothing and doesn’t make sense in a fight
  • Play is split into “modes” – exploration mode and combat mode. Exploration mode is open, skill-based, etc., and combat mode begins when you roll initiative. A little video-game-y but makes sense and formalizes something that’s always there
    • Your initiative roll is based on what you were doing when the fight started – many of us rolled Perception and the rogue rolled Stealth for initiative
  • Some weapons are “deadly”, meaning they add an additional die to critical damage rolls
  • Critical successes are always 10 over the target number, and apply to skill rolls as well as attacks, and critical failures are always 10 below the target number
  • You get 3 actions per turn, and can make 3 attacks if you don’t move. The second attack is made at -5 and the third at -10, making critical failures much more likely as you go. Still, some third attacks still landed for our 1st level characters against zombies
  • I was watching the numbers, and vulnerabilities are more common. Zombies are vulnerable to slashing, and took 5 additional damage from any slashing attack. Skeletons were resistant to fire, so resistances might be a bit more common as well
  • Speaking of skeletons and zombies, they had much more hit points than normal as well, based on how much we had to pummel them to bring them down
  • Spells take up to 3 actions to cast, and they take 1 action per component required – verbal, somatic, material.
    • For example, the cleric could cure light wounds with 1 action, or cure light wounds 30 feet away for 2 actions, or channel energy for 3 actions, dealing 4 damage to all undead and healing 4 for all living things in a 30′ radius. Undead had to save and if they failed they took 8 damage
    • Same with magic missile – the wizard could send up to 3 magic missiles, 1 per action spent casting, and I imagine other spells scale up as well

And just assume that if I didn’t mention something, it didn’t catch my attention (we weren’t allowed to have our phones out during the demo and agreed not to try to take pictures) or it hasn’t changed. For example, the three saves seem unchanged, and your second diagonal step still counts as 10 feet on the battle map.

Origins 2018

The Origins of Goodman Games|Goodman Games

Clockwork: Dominion

Reliquary Game Studios was in full effect at Origins 2018 – I knew because they are my friends from college 20 years ago and are still my friends today. They had a booth, shared with Fearlight Games, and a demo room that they also shared.

Clockwork: Dominion is a game I have demoed for them before, and I likely will get roped into demoing it again. I edited the core rulebook and Quick Start Guide back in the day, and helped them set up their Kickstarter campaign. It is a great game, and is the only Victorian game I would actually play (and certainly the only one I’d ever run). I’m not a huge fan of Victoriana, but the game is that good.

The Quest for Overlight

There were plenty of issues with events at Origins, which ins in my limited experience not new. For example, the location listed for demos of Overlight by Renegade Game Studios was not only incorrect but maybe a third of a mile or more away from the actual location. Fortunately I was still able to find my way to the demo room and play some Overlight.

The setting is interesting; the art is beautiful. The system…is probably in a final phase, but it made me wish they had refined it earlier in the process. The main issue is that there are two full resolution mechanics, one that is similar to Savage Worlds without a Wild Die and the other that was a target-number dice-pool system. This is just a needless problem – one or the other could have been cut, and honestly needs to be cut from my point of view. It’s as if in D&D you rolled a d20 for half of your tests, and then for the other half used a percentile system.

Oh wait, that’s what D&D was until…4th Edition, to varying degrees. But it was never good game design, and it still isn’t. The guy running the demo was nice and did a good job, but I don’t think I’d be able to get past the parallel resolution mechanics to play the game on my own.

Kids on Bikes

Kids on Bikes is a really fun game, also by Renegade. The killer app is definitely setting creation and character creation – they smoothly tie in blank space for creativity, leading questions about the other characters, and the charaters’ hobbies and fears. The tropes you choose from for your characters make sense, and I like that though the game is Kids On Bikes, you can play kids, adolescents, and adults all together.

We didn’t engage the powered character rules, but I like the options there as described to me by the demo person after our session. You can play the powered friend (Eleven, E.T., etc.) as a character who is shared by all of the players at different times (Maybe E.T.), or as one of the player-characters (Eleven), or you can not include a powered character at all (Stand By Me), or all of the characters can have powers (Supers School). You can build the powered character, or you can use a deck that they sell to draw powers and character traits randomly.

The significant flaw I perceived was with the resolution system. It is very much like Savage Worlds without the Wild Die – roll a die, and all dice potentially explode. D4 if you are bad at a thing, up to d20 if you are great at it. (All six tropes use one each of all six common die types, so everyone has a d4 and a d20 to start) The problem comes with the fact that you roll against a target number set by the GM, and it is very difficult to map, or intuit, the probability with this dice system. It is, for example, much mroe likely that a d4 will explode than a d20, but the d4 lets you roll up to an 8 and the d20 up to a 40.

In brief, you get very swingy results, and our game included difficulties from 5 to 20, which I think is too wide a range. Honestly, I might even end up hacking the dice system, or not going with the guidelines for difficulty in the book (if those were being used correctly in the demo). The nice thing is that the system is simple and clean, so you can probably hack it readily and get on with what is a very fun game. (And when you fail you get Adversity tokens, so maybe the swingy difficulties are a way to build those up? I’d have to play more than one demo to know.)

More Refurbished, Less Art

It’s been about 6 years since I was last at Origins, and since then the whole convention center has undergone an overhaul. More public art (by actual artists – there are touch screens where you can learn about their work) and far more plugs make the whole thing a lot more comfortable for someone like…everyone at Origins. A disappointing difference between this time and 6 years ago (or 11 years ago) is that there seemed to be fewer artists and less art. The last time I was there, a whole hallway was dedicated to artists and their work. Now it was just a smal corner of the dealer hall. I can only speculate on why this is – and to be clear, the artists who were there had a lot of excellent work on display.

Soul Food in Linden

I got to have some legit soul food at an African-American Cultural Arts Center in Linden, across the street from a Nation of Islam funeral home. The food was great, and it was about as far as you can get from Origins culturally while staying in the city of Columbus. A nice break, despite the heat.

Hiding In Starbucks

To be fair, I did a good amount of hiding near coffee at this convention, and it helped me deal with being over-stimulated and anxious as I am at events like this (combined with the parts that are genuinely fun). Right now I am just trying to build up some resolve to go talk to the very friendly Renegade Games demo team about whether the designers are interested in making a connection with The Bodhana Group. (Yesterday my friend the Executive Director gently reminded me that I am on the freaking Board after all)

Heroes and Villains

An unintentionally kind of intimate seminar with Michael A. Stackpole and [person’s name and background here] with only a handful of people there, so it was kind of intimate. We got to ask whatever we wanted. It as a bunch of solid writing advice from two very solid professionals, but it made me wonder as I nodded my head – am I at the point where I know this stuff? I think I might be. What I need to do, that I am not doing, is try my hand at some more actual fiction. Nothing they said surprised me, and it was all things I have heard from writers before. Not that it was run-of-the-mill, I’ve just listened to a LOT of writers and editors talk about their work and process. But did I, like, level?

Video Game Room

Some folks here at the convention are happy about the video game room. It is a darkened room set aside with huge screens and video games you can play on those screens. You just walk in and sign up and play. You might even just watch, or take a nap, or whatever, and it could easily double as a quiet room for people who are somewhat over-stimulated by this whole convention thing.

It gave me the idea that The Bodhana Group might be able to host a quiet room for folks at Origins 2019. I think it’s a good option to have – necessary for some people, and when we’re talking about thousands of con attendees, “some” is a lot.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition

I got to sit in on the demo scenario for  the current iteration of Pathfinder 2nd Edition. Overall, it is still very much Pathfinder, and it seems like they are taking this opportunity to clean up some of the rules, simplify a few things, and take feats that everyone always takes (Improved Initiative for example, or Precise Shot for archers) and just make them class abilities. Some observations, presented as bullet-points:

  • Increased hit points at level 1. My 1st level goblin alchemist had 15 hit points (Constitution 12 I believe)
    • Speaking of which, goblins are a core race and alchemist is a core class. We had a fighter, wizard, cleric, rogue, and an alchemist. Other tables with 6 players had another character – I’m not sure whom. Except for Fumbus, the new iconic goblin alchemist, the familiar iconics were the pre-gen characters
  • Skills and attacks seem to be ability score bonus + level. I couldn’t tell if it was just that, or if skill points had been spent
  • Fighters can fiddle with shields (and so can wizards who cast shield) by raising or lowering them to provide more cover in a fight
  • Only fighters get attacks of opportunity, which is GREAT, because I really detest attacks of opportunity. It’s just an onerous movement tax in combat that slows down everything and adds nothing and doesn’t make sense in a fight
  • Play is split into “modes” – exploration mode and combat mode. Exploration mode is open, skill-based, etc., and combat mode begins when you roll initiative. A little video-game-y but makes sense and formalizes something that’s always there
    • Your initiative roll is based on what you were doing when the fight started – many of us rolled Perception and the rogue rolled Stealth for initiative
  • Some weapons are “deadly”, meaning they add an additional die to critical damage rolls
  • Critical successes are always 10 over the target number, and apply to skill rolls as well as attacks, and critical failures are always 10 below the target number
  • You get 3 actions per turn, and can make 3 attacks if you don’t move. The second attack is made at -5 and the third at -10, making critical failures much more likely as you go. Still, some third attacks still landed for our 1st level characters against zombies
  • I was watching the numbers, and vulnerabilities are more common. Zombies are vulnerable to slashing, and took 5 additional damage from any slashing attack. Skeletons were resistant to fire, so resistances might be a bit more common as well
  • Speaking of skeletons and zombies, they had much more hit points than normal as well, based on how much we had to pummel them to bring them down
  • Spells take up to 3 actions to cast, and they take 1 action per component required – verbal, somatic, material.
    • For example, the cleric could cure light wounds with 1 action, or cure light wounds 30 feet away for 2 actions, or channel energy for 3 actions, dealing 4 damage to all undead and healing 4 for all living things in a 30′ radius. Undead had to save and if they failed they took 8 damage
    • Same with magic missile – the wizard could send up to 3 magic missiles, 1 per action spent casting, and I imagine other spells scale up as well

And just assume that if I didn’t mention something, it didn’t catch my attention (we weren’t allowed to have our phones out during the demo and agreed not to try to take pictures) or it hasn’t changed. For example, the three saves seem unchanged, and your second diagonal step still counts as 10 feet on the battle map.


For me personally, it seems to be much better, and more enjoyable, to have a loose schedule that is mostly free time. I can do things like have three hour conversations with my friends, and jump in on demos if they interest me, or just sit near a a plug and write (as I am doing now). Origins is a good convention for this method, though I would somewhat prefer the greater numbers of artists and writers in the past combined with the greater numbers of seats and plugs now. Maybe that’s the future of Origins?

The Bodhana Group is looking at attending Origins in 2019 and having a presence there to talk about therapeutic gaming. We need to figure out what this presence will be – a booth? Table? Games? Seminars? The nice thing about Origins is that it is a much more local convention than GenCon – I see people here I recognize from 2007 and 2012 when I’ve been here in the past. Lots of folks from OH and the adjacent states, from what I can tell. This means that we can attend once, or maybe periodically, but don’t necessarily have to be here each year in order to have a Bodhana presence.

Epilogue: Be A New DM

My friend Wendy is thinking of DMing for the first time. She’s been playing D&D for years and is familiar with a number of twitch/streaming D&D folks. She was at Origins playing Adventurer’s League and going to seminars for new DMs.

Folks: be the new DM. DM for your friends. As long as everyone at the table is being nice and trying to have fun, you almost cannot fail, and you will never become great at it until you practice a lot. Running a game is the most fun way to engage with it. At least that’s my experience.

RPG Mechanic Round-Up #5: All D&D

Dungeons and Dragons – C’era una volta.. Il Bardo, il ...

This post will include some repeats from the previous RPG Mechanic Round-Ups, but then again, very few people read those, so I imagine it’ll all be like new! Anyway, these are all of the little notes for house rules and hacks that I have for D&D:

Simplified Hirelings

Instead of having hirelings that the PCs then try to manipulate into walking ahead to set off traps or walk into ambushes, PCs simply hire them to eliminate a single kind of challenge. For example, PCs could hire a locksmith to bypass all locks during their adventure, or a guide to ensure that they find good camp sites each night, or are able to forage food as they travel. They could even hire a trap-springer to walk into traps for them if that’s what they want. In exchange for this help from the hireling, the PCs take a percentage reduction from their XP for that adventure, or maybe just miss out on the XP they would get from disarming those traps themselves.

Druid Circle of Rust

New D&D Druid circle: Circle of Rust. Rusting grasp, shatter, etc. Focused on conquering technology and civilization. (This is something I want to put the work into later)

Mystery Monsters

When you first encounter a monster in combat, especially in an ambush, you only get two or three descriptors for the monster. Then each round, you get one more descriptor, unless you take a moment to stand back and assess the situation. Otherwise, it’s a whirl of claws and teeth and blood and panic, and you’re just not seeing details. This is only for new monsters – monsters you’ve already encountered you’ll recognize.

Get Saved

I had the idea to add save points to D&D. I’m not sure if anyone would even want this. But have the PCs go to a temple and have a priest “save” them – for a large donation of course! Then if they die, they can come back to live at the temple with maybe a little loss of the XP you earned – 10% or so.

Bleeding Wounds

When a creature takes piercing or slashing damage, they begin to bleed 1 hit point each round on their turn. This is halted if they receive any magical healing, or after combat with a DC 10 Medicine check. This rule would also lead to cool scenes like tracking your opponent overland after they flee battle and try to regroup, following the dollops of monster blood on the ground. (Or monsters doing the same to chase the PCs down) Of course, this rule will make low-level adventuring even more brutal, but that’s the point.

Effects by Damage Type

I like adding special effects for the three types of physical damage. With a called shot made at disadvantage, a bludgeoning attack can deal damage and destroy one piece of armor; a piercing attack can deal double damage; and a slashing attack can deal normal damage and sever a limb.

Damage Bonus for Melee and Missile

Sometimes higher-level combats take too long, as the characters whittle down a monster’s hit points, and sometimes a higher-level character isn’t as dangerous as they should be, apart from having more hit points. A solution I’ve always had for this problem is to simply let all characters add their level to the damage they deal with melee or missile attacks.

Level Up Your Community

This idea has come up in a few tweets and posts lately, and I was also reminded of it playing through the Thieve’s Guild storyline in Skyrim. The idea is that as the character’s level, their community also levels. This can happen automatically, as their fame spreads, or can be something they pay into with all of that spare gold they accumulate. This system could also help tie them more deeply to a community – rather than leave for a larger city that has a better magic item store, through their heroics they build up their little village until it has a great magic item store of its own.

Simplified: Hit Dice Power Everything

When you have a special ability that is only available in a particular situation, like sneak attack perhaps, or with any limited special ability, make it so that the ability is powered by hit dice instead. The player describes how the conditions are met, spends the hit die, and the ability can be used. So, for example, the player playing the rogue says how her character feints to throw the monster off-balance for a moment, spends a hit die, and rolls the extra damage dice. I haven’t worked it out yet, but I think this can be adapted for most limited-use or situational-use PC abilities.


Hit-Point Hack

Low-level D&D can be grueling in a way that isn’t fun, especially in later versions of the game that are less meant to be meat-grinders. At the same time, when high-level characters have loads of hit points, it can be more difficult to challenge them without just arbitrarily increasing monster damage. My solution for this is for characters to begin with three hit dice instead of one hit die, and for their first hit die to continue to give maximum hit points. So a 1st level fighter, for example, would have 10 hit points, plus 2d10 hit points, plus 3 times her Constitution modifier.

At the upper end, I like the idea of lower hit points at higher levels, so I would say that a character stops gaining new hit dice with level 10. At 11th level and onward, she still gets any special abilities or spells as normal, but no new hit points. Technically, with the low-level hit point hack above, she would have the same hit points at level 10 that she would normally have at level 12, so I think it balances out well.

Buy Used

Settings like Forgotten Realms and Eberron are teeming with adventuring parties, and this would have to mean that there is a hot market for used adventuring gear. This used gear has a starting price that is equal to one half what the PHB or other sourcebook lists, with the caveat that when the player-character rolls a 1 using the equipment, or a monster rolls a critical hit (if it is armor) then it is damaged and useless until the character pays to have it repaired. Used weapons break on a 1, used armor breaks on a monster’s 20, and used equipment of any other kind also breaks on a 1.

No Overnight Healing

Healing is just rolling your remaining hit dice, rather than recovering all hit points.On the one hand, this will somewhat punish characters that had to use their hit dice to heal during short rests. On the other hand, it softens the “video game” effect of healing completely overnight.

Bullseye (Random Scatter)

Roll a d8 for random directional scatter, and then another die for distance from the intended target in concentric circles like a bullseye. On the d8, 1 is north, above, or away from the DM, and 5 is south, below, or toward the DM. The second die could be feet, or squares, or even inches in the given direction.

So, for example, a mirror golem deflects a lightning bolt in a random direction. You roll a 5 on the d8, so it is deflected toward the DM on the battle mat, and you roll a 4 on a d6, meaning it extends for 4 squares in that direction, electrocuting everyone along that line.

Disarm Feat

Grappling is famously bad in RPGs. I’m not sure how many players take the Grappler feat in D&D 5E, but I’m assuming that few do. In real-world martial arts, you often have to make someone miss in order to disarm them, and I thought it would be interesting to add an effect like that to the Grappler feat. Once per round, when an opponent misses an attack against you, you can use your reaction to try to disarm them with an opposed Strength roll. If you beat your opponent by 10 or more, you can grab their weapon for yourself.

Simplified Paralysis Effects

Paralysis effects are not fun. Really, any effect where you just lose your turn is not fun, in any game. A way to fix paralysis effects like hold person is for them to simply allow a single critical hit. Basically, they hold you paralyzed until you’re shocked back into action by a damaging strike. I think that this would provide enough bang for the proverbial buck.

XP for Conditions and Disadvantages

Another way to handle conditions and disadvantages, stolen from Chronicles of Darkness. You get XP when a condition affects you adversely, and it is up to the player to choose when these conditions will come up. This means that they don’t miss the character-defining d20 roll because they’re poisoned, but at the same time are rewarded for causing their characters trouble. This idea can be expanded to disadvantages as well. It would be up to the DM how much XP to award, and also what counts as enough of a problem caused to warrant it.

Simplified Conditions

Another way to handle conditions is to have each of them impose disadvantage once and then be cleared. This is much simpler and less punitive than the RAW, but some groups would prefer that. Another possibility is for some conditions to impose disadvantage more than once if they are more severe.

Equipment and Encumbrance by Kit

I have not enjoyed, or even been very interested in, tracking encumbrance for many years now. The system I use with another game I’ve designed is to have a character simply choose a “kit” that represents their equipment. (This also represents the idea that even adventurers aren’t always in full armor lugging their worldly possessions around with them)

Some examples could be war kit, travel kit, hunting kit, town/city kit, etc. It could also be simplified to light, medium and heavy. These kits could work as ‘presets’ for equipment, as exist in a lot of video games, and could also be a way to abstract out what exactly a character is carrying. For example, hunting kit would assume the character isn’t wearing armor, since they would be focusing on stealth and mobility, whereas war kit would include all of their combat gear but none of their other gear, since no one wants to fight with a huge pack on their back.

Historical Bows

This is just a historical tweak for bow terminology in D&D beyond short versus long. A hunting bow would be smaller and more maneuverable, and would deal d6 damage (around 40-50 pounds draw). a horse bow would be heavier than a hunting bow, meant to go through armor and shoot at long range in combat, but still small enough to use from horseback, dealing d8 damage (60-100 pounds draw). A war bow would be huge and heavy, requiring years of training to learn how to draw fully, but would deal perhaps d10 damage (100+ pounds draw).

Critical Options

I like the Paizo Critial Deck(s) and having other options for critical hits. I even kind of liked the Rolemaster/MERP critical hit tables. I like having options for critical hits beyond double damage, and here are some that I like to use I my games:

  1. Automatically deal max damage (similar to double damage rolled, but more predictable)
  2. Deal normal damage and knock your opponent prone
  3. Deal normal damage and blind your opponent until your next turn
  4. Deal normal damage and disarm your opponent (weapon falls at their feet)
  5. Deal normal damage and destroy your opponent’s shield
  6. Deal normal damage and stagger your opponent, cutting their movement in half until your next turn

Automatic Downtime

I need to revisit this idea in light of Xanathar’s Guid eto Everything and how it expands downtime rules, but the idea here is for things to happen over downtime automatically, based on a character’s class and possibly background. A guild artisan slowly rises up in their guild hierarchy; a fighter builds a reputation that draws other warriors to her banner; a cleric receives donations and tithes and puts them toward building a shrine or temple in the area; and so on. Wizards slowly create scrolls; warlocks are shown occult secrets in dreams. This is to replace more complex systems that require rolling and saving up gold pieces, but on the other hand keeps the development of the characters and the world around them front and center during downtime.

Bards Rock

In D&D, there is absolutely no reason for a bard to ever play a musical instrument unless they are out of combat, or they are using some kind of artifact item. I’ve always thought that bards should get a bonus of some kind for only using an instrument and their music in combat.

I have a few ideas for this one, none of which I’ve tried in 5E, for when a bard uses a musical instrument in combat:

  1. The bard counts as two levels higher than normal, and has access to more powerful spells
  2. The bard’s spells are power potent, adding 1 or 2 to their spell attack bonus and to the DC for saves against their magic
  3. They don’t lose spell slots – they can keep casting indefinitely, or maybe they have one extra spell slot per level that can only be used when they are using their instrument in combat (since indefinite spells is pretty powerful)
  4. There is an ongoing bonus effect – an aura of courage like a paladin has, or an aura of bonus hit points for her comrades, or something similar
  5. Her other bardic inspiration dice go up one die type, so from d6 to d8 and so on


Some of these will be full posts when I have time to flesh them out and add details, but ideas are cheap. Steal and enjoy!

Pathfinder Beastfolk 4: Wolf, Hound and Swarm of Bees

This fourth and final installment of beastfolk from the BySwarm project includes the last one which is definitely the weirdest – intelligent humanoid bee-swarms.


lupineLupines have formed the backbone of the Sascrian military for generations (even more generations as the Wolfmen reckon). They serve as the mobile, brutal shock troops of Sascria, and are feared abroad as much as they are honored at home.


Lupines are fiercely self-confident, particularly when they are part of the Sascrian military, in which they serve as elite shock troops. Posturing and status are very important to every Lupine – they will always seek to determine exactly where they fall in a hierarchy, and will test superiors to make sure they are deserving.

Physical Description

Lupines are large and muscular, slightly hunched, and covered with layered fur ranging in color from light grey to nearly black. Their undercoat is white, and they shed relentlessly in warm weather. Lupine eyes are piercing in color and shine golden in the dark when they catch a bit of light.


Because of their reputation, outside of Sascria Lupines are often mistrusted and relegated to manual labor or mercenary work. They fall into jobs like bodyguard and bouncer when they have a less adventuresome spirit.

Alignment and Religion

Lupines tend toward Neutrality. Their own nature is a balance between fierce self-reliance and pack mentality. They tend to ferociously defend their allies and also hunt their foes without mercy.


Within Sascria, Lupines are almost universally Fighters and Rangers, often serving in the Sascrian military or sometimes discharged from it and working as adventurers-for-hire. Outside Sascria, it is rare that Lupines go to school or are fully integrated into society, and they are more often Barbarians. Lupines respect and fear magic, and think of it as something that other people do. There are some, however, who delve into their animal nature and find they have a talent for the ways of the Druid.


Lupines often dispense entirely with personal names and go by their epithet instead. Skull-breaker, Scar, Ghost-runner, Shatterbone and so on serve to both identify Lupines and to spread their reputation, whatever it might be. Amongst themselves, they maintain hierarchy with those in authority often coming up with insulting nicknames for those under their command, or simply beneath them in social rank.

Lupine Racial Traits


+2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence. Lupines were bread for endurance and skill rather for deep, rational thought. Sascrian Lupines who tend toward the scholarly life are often simply beaten down by their peers and made to serve in the military anyway.

Brutality: because of their widespread reputation as merciless shock troops, Lupines receive a +2 racial bonus to Intimidation and a -2 racial penalty to both Bluff and Diplomacy

Fangs: Lupines receive a bite attack, made at -5 and dealing 1d4 damage

Pack Mentality: When a Lupine is flanking a target, he gets a +1 to his Combat Maneuver Bonus against that target. When two or more Lupines are flanking their opponent, this bonus increases to +2. Lupines do not question orders from superiors they fear and respect, and as a result of this tendency to obey are at a -2 to save against [Mind-Affecting] spells, regardless of school

Taste for Blood: Because they eat only meat, Lupines’ meals and cost of living are twice what they would normally be. The extra cost is ameliorated somewhat by the fact that the meat does not need to be cooked.

Winter-bred: Lupines have damage reduction 5 against cold


Lupines automatically speak Common as well as the dialect where they received their training – most often, that means Sascrian.


houndingHoundings were the first attempt of the Sascrian Wizards to create companion beastfolk who would serve as personal slaves. It was a simple decision to draw upon the domestic dog for source-material and information. What was unexpected was how utterly charming and loveable


Houndings are the most socially adept Beastfolk, and tend to integrate seamlessly into most Human cultures.

Physical Description

Houndings have diverse appearance, depending on the type of domesticated dog they were derived from. The majority, however, are literally hound-ish. Houndings are around the same height as the average Human, but tend to be heavy-boned.


Houndings were designed to be like domestic dogs – they really want to get along with everyone, and the do.

Alignment and Religion

Houndings tend toward the Good. They natrually tend toward cooperation.


Houndings tend to be either filled with wanderlust or complete homebodies. They tend to gravitate toward the Bard class, making the most of their social abilities, or the Ranger, since they are natural, peerless trackers.


Houndings often simply take appropriate cultural names, and many of them specifically detest dog-ish nicknames some Humans insist on giving them.

Houndings Racial Traits

+2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma. Houndings are tireless and charming, but long generations of domestication of the dogs from which they were created has dulled them a bit.

Best Friends: As dogs were domesticated, they became the most adept animals at reading Human emotions and at making their emotions clear to Humans in turn. Houndings gain a +2 racial bonus to Sense Motive checks and Humans gain a +2 racial bonus to Sense Motive when dealing with Houndings. Houndings also gain a +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy, Gather Information and Perform.

Bestial Nature: Houndings can communicate with domestic and wild dogs at will. They do not, however, speak wolf.

Scent: This functions exactly as the Scent ability

Sharp Senses: Houndings receive a +2 to all Perception checks

Buzzkin (Apini)

Buzzkin are beastfolk created by mingling human stock with that of honeybees. They were originally created to fill a vital role in the Sascrian Mageocracy’s agrarian workforce, namely they were experts in cross-pollination and the interbreeding of new plant species. There are three sub-types of Buzzkin – queens, drones and workers. Queens are the largest Buzzkin and are responsible for leadership and reproduction in a hive. Drones are the male Buzzkin, and they mate with the queens and do most of the manual labor in a hive. Workers are all females who are not queens – the smallest Buzzkin – charged with much of the labor and defending the hive from intruders. With the exception of queens, Buzzkin rarely work independently, and rather form small teams that act as a single unit.
Physical Description

Buzzkins tend to short in stature, and almost childlike in appearance. They have the torso & wings of a bee with the arms, legs, and head of a human, and are capable of flight. Buzzkin tend to prefer warmer climates, and are capable of hibernation in colder weather. Buzzkin drones are able to build hives, pollinate flowers, and produce honey in the same manner as normal bees, while Buzzkin queens are able to birth entire generations of Buzzkin larvae. There are typically only one or two queens born each generation in a given hive, and all but one of the queens are normally driven off and must found their own hives.
History & Relations

Sascria’s original intent was to breed only queens and drones – ‘surplus’ female larva were killed off magically and alchemically. Over time, the queens were able to communicate via drone messengers between hives, and hatched a plan to raise a generation of worker-warriors and win their freedom from the Magocracy. The Buzzkin learned the alchemical formulas used to kill the ‘surplus’ female larva and created antidotes in secret, administering them, and raising the resulting female warrior-bees in secret.

The revolt was sudden and violent, but once the Sascrian overseers were stung to death, it was an easy task for the Buzzkin to pack up their meager belongings and simply fly away, founding new hives in remote areas of Gondal. There, they opened up limited trade with Humans and other Beastfolk, trading special hybrid crops, honey and alchemical admixtures for raw materials and crafted goods. Many Beastfolk who fled Sascrian captivity ended up living near Buzzkin hives, and alliances were formed, most notably with the Ursians.

Over time, the desire grew for vengeance against Sascria, but the idea was rejected time and again because of the incredible arcane power of the Magocracy and the Arcane Schools.

Then, there came the Collapse…

Personality & Society

Buzzkins are often noted as accomplished artisans and crafters, especially in fields relating to gardening, herbal healing arts, alchemy and the cross-pollination of new plant strains.

The Buzzkin share a hive mind mentality with other members of their hive, which they use for limited communication (see racial traits below). Regardless of hive mind connection, however, Buzzkin are very tight-knit and share a very rigid and complex social structure. Under the old mageocracy, Buzzkin queens were accorded status and privilege akin to that usually reserved for artisans, master craftsmen, or even minor nobility, while Buzzkin worker drones were at best treated as a marginalized worker class and at worst treated as a slave caste.

Despite being extremely intelligent and quite capable of complex reasoning and problem-solving, Buzzkin worker drones typically have a very limited sense of independence. A typical drone lives to serve his queen and better his hive by performing the tasks assigned to him to his utmost capabilities. The average Buzzkin drone simply wouldn’t choose to seek personal advancement over the advancement of his hive.

Buzzkin queens, on the other hand, are allowed far more independence, and are free to act on individual goal separate from those of the hive. They are trained to think “outside the collective” in this fashion so that they may deal with threats to the hive and make decisions that affect the future of their hive. In this manner, Buzzkin queens are praised for their creative problem-solving skills.

The new breed of Buzzkin workers seem to fall somewhere in the middle ground between the queen and drone breeds. They are much more self-reliant than drones, but still subservient to their queens. Their role as tacticians also allows them to think in a much more non-linear fashion that the average Buzzkin drone. Buzzkin workers also recognize the need for personal strength and advancement as an extension of their duty to better defend their hives, as anything which makes them stronger also makes them better defenders.
Alignment & Religion

Buzzkin have an extremely strong work ethic, and tend to be lawful in alignment. If they have a religion, it is entirely unknown to outsiders. Occasionally a small swarm of Buzzkin workers might develop an independent streak, and these are the most likely to become adventurers.

Buzzkin adventurers are most likely to be of the worker breed. Indeed, some worker Buzzkin have begun adventuring as a means of bettering themselves and their hives. Occasionally, a Buzzkin queen might venture out from the hive, either to further her own agendas or for trade or diplomatic relations, but such an expedition will almost always be accompanied by a contingent of worker-warrior guards and drone servants.

Buzzkin drones can become superb Alchemists and powerful Bards, though their musical taste is alien to say the least to most Humans and other Beastfolk. Buzzkin workers who take up a life of adventure are often Barbarians, Fighters and Rangers.

Buzzkin drone and worker names tend to be short and often involve doubled letters which are attempts to transliterate sounds from the Buzzkin lanugage. Names like Zzak, Riik, Vvrax, and Sevv are common. Buzzkin queen names tend to be just the opposite, usually filled with vowels and very flowery – Lulorieni, Felianne, Siliansili and the like.
Buzzkin Racial Traits

Small Humanoid Swarm

Drones are always male and workers are always female.

-2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom. Buzzkin working together are about as strong as other Small races, but they are very nimble and perceptive.

Hive Menality: Though the Small swarm is composed of, on average, four Tiny individual creatures, they cannot accomplish anything complex individually – nothing more complex than scouting ahead or gathering tiny objects.

Pheromone Communication: Buzzkin can communicate with each other silently as long as they are no more than 10′ apart via pheromones. This is the equivalent of telepathic communication, and occurs at the same approximate rate as speech.

Swarm Traits: Small Humanoid Swarms have the vulnerabilities of all swarms. ( Small humanoid swarms such as Buzzkin function for the most part as if they are small humanoids. Small humanoid swarms do not attack by engulfing an opponent’s square in combat, but can attack like any other Small creature, and have a base reach of 1 with any weapon. In combat, each individual memeber of the small humanoid swarm wields a tiny weapon – the aggregate of these multiple tiny weapons are treated as a small weapon for the purposes of calculating damage. Unlike other swarms, a small humanoid swarm is subject to both flanking and critical hits. When there is a rules-related question, treat the small humanoid swarm as a small humanoid creature.

Vulnerable to cold: The temperature at which buzzkin must make Survival rolls to avoid damage from cold weather is 20 degrees higher than for other (mammalian) races. Cold attacks deal 150% damage to Buzzkin.

Wings: Fly speed of 30′ with perfect maneuverability (ability to hover, etc.)

Drones: Drones receive +2 to Craft: Alchemy and all of their Alchemical bombs (including alchemist fire/cold/etc.), extracts and mutagens have +1 to numerical effects or their duration multiplied by 1.5 – chosen at creation.

Workers: Worker Buzzkin are individually smaller than drones, but have stingers which drones lack. A worker’s sting is only usable once per day. The workers can attack with their stingers at their full attack bonus, dealing 1d4 damage. If they hit and deal damage, they deliver their poison. The Fortitide save DC is equal to 10 + 1/2 Buzzkin class level + Wisdom bonus. The damage is initial and secondary 1d6 Dex. Unlike their smaller cousins, Buzzkin workers who sting do not die, they simply cannot produce more than one dose of venom per 24 hour period.

Pathfinder Beastfolk 3: Bear, Otter and Snake (Oh My!)


ursa 2Ursidians are a race of hulking omnivores originally bred to be elite pit fighters in Sascria.


Ursidians can be slow unless they are roused. They are not necessarily stupid, but they are deliberate thinkers and poor negotiators. Bearkin prefer to be solitary, and are not comfortable in large groups, towns and cities.

Physical Description

Bear-kin are among the largest Beastfolk ever created. They retain the small, dark eyes of the bear ancestors wedded to tall, powerful, large-boned humanoid frames. Their hands and feet retain claws, but are adapted for more dexterity and for walking upright.


Originally, Ursidians and Buzzkin hated each other, but since they have become staunch allies. The Buzzkin’s skill in alchemy and their ability to fly is allied with the Ursidians large size and prowess in battle.

Alignment and Religion

Ursidians tend to be solitary, living at most in small familiar groups while they raise children. They are often willing to leave well enough alone, though they are loyal to allies. Bearkin tend toward neutrality.


Ursidians who become adventurers most commonly focus on melee combat, playing to their obvious strengths. Since the Collapse, some Ursidians have demonstrated a capacity for divine magic, and become Clerics of their clan totems or of a great bear-god who lives beneath the earth.


Lots of long, rounded vowel sounds; attempts to transliterate from the Ursidians’ own language. Brom, Aurorum, Goroom.

Ursidian Racial Traits

+2 Strength, -2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom. Ursidians are large and powerfully built and are close to their animal ancestors, which gives them both a natural insight and wisdom as well as a lack of manual dexterity.

Bear Claws: Ursidians have two claw attacks, each of which deal 1d4 damage and are made at a -5 penalty. Ursidian claw attacks can be made as part of a full attack action as long as the Ursidian has an empty hand. Ursidian claws also give them a +2 to Climb checks.

Bestial Nature: Ursidians are able to communicate with bears of all types at will.

Hibernation: In cold weather, Ursidians become sluggish and sleepy, and must sleep at least 10 hours per night, and are most comfortable with at least 12 hours.

Hulking Frame: Ursidians receive a +1 to both CMD and CMB due to their large size and powerful build – they are hard to disarm, grapple with, or knock down. Ursians also deal +1 damage with two-handed melee weapons.

Solitary: Ursidians are not particularly social, and take a -2 penalty to social rolls made in large groups, especially in the case of public speaking. One-on-one or among a few allies, this penalty does not apply.


Ursidians speak Common and Sylvan.


selkieThe Selkies of the Whale Islands have long since left their history as magical experiments behind. Selkies live in autonomous, small communities, always near large rivers, large bodies of water, or the sea. In appearance, Selkies are somewhat similar to Galidines, but where Galidines tend toward high-strung watchfulness, Selkies are simply goofballs. The people of the Whale Islands, the Ardyn, live in peace with the Selkies but do not intermingle with them, except in the area of shared interest – the sea. Selkies are superb swimmers, but they also make natural sailors.

Wanting more time to enjoy themselves, Selkies have become masters of aquaculture, raising fish, crabs, frogs and crayfish in netted shallows and weirs along rivers. Unlike the Galidines they sometimes resemble, Selkies were not originally bread primarily for fighting, and so while they do have some sharp teeth, they cannot make bite attacks in combat.


As mentioned above, Selkies tend to be fun-loving and playful, and have trouble treating anything but a life-and-death situation very seriously. Many of their cultural advancements have been aimed at creating more free time for themselves, and any technology or practice that creates more work is readily abandoned by Selkie communities. Selkies can be laid back, but will make sure that they goof off at least once a day. This goofing off may or may not create some trouble – Selkies who get into trouble are often a bit surprised by it, as if they assume that everyone is as easygoing as they are.

Physical Description

Selkies look a bit like Galidines with long, flexible, sleek bodies – but of course Selkies will maintain that they are far better looking. Selkies have wide hands and webbed feet to help with swimming, and long, powerful arms that they use to propel themselves through the water (which, in a pinch, can also swing a weapon pretty hard).


Selkies get along well with most Ardyn, the humans who live with them on the Whale Islands, and when they travel to other places, they can often fit in relatively well anywhere. Selkies just don’t appear very threatening to most people, whether they are trying to appear threatening or not.

Alignment and Religion

You have to travel a long tie to find a Selkie with a Lawful bone in her body – Selkies are creatures of Chaos, and often tend toward the Good, preferring to live in peace and plenty but willing to help those in need when they are able. Neutral Selkies tend to prank and joke for the sake of pranking and joking, and often at inappropriate times. Evil Selkies certain exist, and they see all of life as one big joke – and they are determined to have the last laugh, no matter who else it hurts.


Selkies love music, and make excellent Bards. They also tend to eschew many of the trappings of Human civilization, making them prefer the life of the Barbarian or the Ranger. Occasional Selkies feel the call to become an Oracle, and they almost always worship their own version of the Trickster deity. Many Selkie communities will also have a Witch who provides useful spells and periodic healing.


Selkies have their own language, adapted for use underwater, that almost no non-Selkies know. Their real names are in this language, and they only use it with each other. With outsiders, Selkies tend to choose odd, descriptive names like Shell-cracker, Swift, Bubble, Sharp-tooth and Fisher.

Selkie Racial Traits


+2 Dexterity, -2 Wisdom, +2 Charisma

Bestial Nature: Selkies are able to communicate with otters at will.

Just Joking: Selkies enjoy jokes, pranks, puns and the like, and it is often very hard to tell whether they are kidding or not. Still, it makes them likeable, at last in small doses. Selkies receive a +2 racial bonus to both Bluff and Diplomacy

Low-light vision: Selkies can see twice as far as Humans in low light, above and below the water

Natural Swimmers: Selkies have a swim speed of 20 and are extremely maneuverable underwater. They can hold their breath and remain highly active for 5 times longer than a Human.

Taunting: Selkies can turn their playful cleverness into some serious trash-talking. At level 1, every Selkie is able to make a Feint against a single opponent as a move action instead of a full action


Selkies begin play speaking Common as well as their own language, Selkie, which they only use with each other.




ophidianThe Ophidans are a sly race of Beastfolk uniquely designed to be assassins. They were created by the School of Metamorphosis as a hybrid of snakes and humans. Though the original Ophidans were made by using specific snakes, they were modified over time to have the maximum of reflexes, senses, and venom, making them much more deadly than they previously were. As these modifications were made, the Ophidans were also changed to minimize the outward appearance of their serpentine relation, causing them to become unstable and short-lived. The average Ophidan may live twenty to thirty years before they completely unravel and die. Ophidans tend to have solitary natures, but can very easily put on different faces. It’s thought that compulsive lying is a trait among many Ophidans.


Ophidians are cold and calculating, and sometimes have trouble understanding the mammals around them. Decisions for Ophidians are always clear-cut, black-and-white affairs, and if they take the concerns of allies or family into account, it is because they learned how.

Physical Description

The wizards who created the Ophidans created them to be as human as physically possible, so very few serpentine traits remain still. Their eyes are one of their main defining features- all Ophidans have slit pupils, though the distribution of the amounts of which snakes they mix with the most determines the direction in which the pupil is slit and the color. The same factor will determine their hair color, though most Ophidans have extremely fine hair. Most Ophidans will wear their hair relatively long, though they will cut it short from mourning. They also have fangs and slightly forked tongues, causing many Ophidans to have a subtle accent. Though almost all Ophidans are fair-skinned, some will have small patches of scales on their wrists or necks. Females of their race will usually be a height of 5’4” to 5’9”, and males will usually be of a height between 5’7” and 6’.

During the magocratic society, most Ophidans were assassins, thieves, or otherwise used in stealth operations. They used a clan affiliation amongst themselves, defining themselves by their families. Despite their reputation for being incurable liars, which is, to some extent, true, they are extremely loyal to their families, or, in more recent times, employers. Since the collapse of magocratic society, some of the Ophidans have maintained their affiliations, while some have broken free and become loners, though many Ophidans prefer to stay out of sight and with their clans.


Even in societies that accept or relatively accept the Beastfolk, most Ophidans are treated with mild suspicion and disdain because of their former employment in the magocratic society. The opinion of them is slowly changing in more war-torn lands, where they prove themselves to be capable and surprisingly loyal warriors, but most Ophidans keep minimal contact with society as a whole because of relatively poor opinions of them.

Alignment and Religion

Ophidians, designed to be killers and naturally callous, tend significantly toward Evil.


Ophidians most often become Rogues. Some leverage their natural hunting instincts to become effective Rangers.


Lots of fricatives and especially sibilants.

Ophidian Racial Traits


+2 Dex, -2 Con, +2 Wis

Bestial Nature: Ophidians can speak with serpents and vipers at will as a magical ability.

Darkvision 60′: Ophidians can see 60′ out even in total, nonmagical darkness, with a modified form of infravision

Hatred: Ophidians and Galidines have an acute hatred for each other, and will almost never agree to work together

Poison-mastery: When working with mundane and magical poisons, Ophidians do not risk poisoning themselves. They also receive a +2 bonus to Fortitude saves against mundane and magical poison

Venomous Fangs: Ophidians have a bite attack at -5 (their bite counts as a light weapon for Weapon Finesse). It only deals 1 damage, but if their bite deals damage, the Ophidian can choose to inject her opponent with venom. Ophidian venom is similar to any viper venom. The Fortitude save DC is equal to 10 +1/2 the Ophidian’s character level + her Con bonus, and the venom deals initial and secondary damage of 1d4 Constitution. Ophidians can only use their venom at most once per day, and their venom cannot be saved and applied to weapons. (The save DC is much higher than that for viper venom in the SRD intentionally – the Con damage is reduced to 1d4 because attribute damage is more powerful in PF)

Tremorsense 20′: Ophidians can sense vibrations due to movement within a range of 20′ even in magical darkness, but do not have a wide range of hearing otherwise, suffering a -2 penalty to Perception checks when listening

Pathfinder Beastfolk 2: Big Cat, Tortoise, Bird of Prey

Here are the next three beastfolk races I’m featuring. Some of these were late drafts but never finally polished and put together, but I think there is more than enough here to be helpful in your game:


panterian 2Not every attempt at creating beastfolk went as planned – not by a long shot. In most cases, the experiments were altered or aborted entirely. Lost resources were simply chalked up to the cost of creating new and exciting slaves for the pits or for other kinds of service. The Pantheria are an example of how things can go terribly wrong indeed.


Pantheria are either lone hunters or form into small familial prides. They retain enough intelligence and human nature, however, to band together when faced with an outside threat, and some Pantheria build homes and use simple tools. Others are more lost to their animal natures and stalk their island as highly intelligent apex predators.

Physical Description

Pantheria are long-boned and lithe and have the relaxed musculature of the great cats, capable of bursts of tremendous speed and strength when needed. In coloration, they take after one of the families of great cats – lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars.


The Pantheria sometimes tolerate trade with other beastfolk, as long as they do not appear to be easy prey, in which case they are eaten. Pantheria consider Humans to be relatively unappetizing, but would rather devour them than speak with them. One of the few tenets of their society that they maintain is their white-hot hatred of Human magic and Humans in general.

Alignment and Religion

Pantheria follow their own animistic religion of the hunt and of the renewal of nature. They believe that by devouring an opponent or rival’s heart and other key organs, they gain his or her power for themselves. From a Human point of view, they tend toward Evil, though of course the Pantheria do not see it that way.


Pantheria who have PC classes obviously tend toward Barbarians and Rangers. Religious leaders of the Pantheria are almost exclusively female, and they are often Druids or Witches. Few Pantheria if any leave their island home to adventure, though it is not unheard-of for young males seeking status as manhunters will cross to the mainland and make raids on outlying villages, carrying back treasures and trophies alike.


Racial Traits

+2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom. Pantheria are nimble and athletic, and are more bestial than other beastfolk.

Bestial Nature: Pantheria can communicate with any great cats at will because of their bestial background. Domestic cats are naturally terrified of them, but they can communicate as well.

Failed Experiment: Pantheria, rather than being susceptible to mind-controlling magic, turned out to be resistant to it, and because of this were able to gather their strength and win their freedom in a bloody rebellion. Pantheria have a +2 save bonus to all [Mind-affecting] spells.

Vengeance: Pantheria gain a +1 attack bonus against all Human arcane spellcasters

Night-Eyed: Pantheria have low-light vision

Primitive: Pantheria do not trust things they associate with Humans, including some simple technologies. Pantheria cannot use Crossbows and do not wear metal armor, though they do make use of metal weapons. Pantheria also begin play illiterate – in order to become literate, a Pantheria must spend a skill rank.

Red in Tooth and Claw: Pantheria have two claw attacks and a bit attack which can be used as part of a full attack. Each claw deals 1d4 damage, as does their bite attack, and all are made at a -5 to their base attack bonus. Pantheria claws give them a +2 bonus to Climb checks.



testudo 2Testudo are humanoid tortoises created by School of Metamorphosis Wizards before the Collapse to be effective wartime workers during a time when raw materials for armor were becoming scarce. It was decided that, given the relative ease of magical manipulation and availability of slaves, it might be beneficial to grow armored workers rather than pay to equip them. After the war was over, they Testudo were left to their own devices. Though they are heavyset and have the carapace and plastron of their tortoise ancestors, the Testudo tend to be bookish and quite conservative, and most of them eschew adventure. They are long-lived – no Testudo has yet died of old age, and they were created over 200 years ago. Testudo are universally vegetarian, and aggression does not come naturally to them. The reproduce by laying and fertilizing one large egg at a time – as long as the egg’s internal temperature is maintained, it does not have to be actively cared for. Hatchlings that result, however, are cared for assiduously. Testudo are not entirely reptilian.


Tesdudo tend to be bookish and conservative, concerned with lore, organization, and in things remaining much as they are. Testudo are not wont to challenge authority, nor are they prone to be innovators. They are conservators, and often feel that much of what Humans forget is in fact precious. Testudo carefully consider their options before choosing.

Physical Description

Though they are not true reptiles, Testudo retain the plastron and carapace of their tortoise ancestors. This means that they are wider and bulkier than other races, though not significantly heavier on average. Unlike tortoises, Testudo cannot pull their limbs inside their shell – it is a good bit of protection nonetheless. Testudo have short, thick fingers and toes and broad hands and feet. Their arms and legs tend to be short, and they never grow hair.


Testudo potentially get along with everyone, as long as you are not too loud and don’t make a lot of sudden moves. Galidines can make Testudo nervous, but they are useful for running and fetching things when the Testudo can’t be bothered.

Alignment and Religion

Testudo are quite Lawful, and do not tend toward great altruism nor are they particularly malevolent. If virtue is the balance between extremes, then Testudo are the picture of virtue.


Testudo are superb Alchemists when they try their hand at the art, and some even become Bards since they enjoy both gathering lore and knowing a little bit about everything. There is a school of Testudo Monks who practice a hard-hitting, methodical form of martial arts, drawing upon the strengths of their odd physiology. Testudo who have an interest in religious lore sometimes become Paladins, devoting themselves not only to a particular religious path, but also to the preservation of traditional values in general.


Testudo might be encountered in any urban area, and simply choose appropriate names from the local culture.

Testudo Racial Traits

-2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence. Testudo are large, strong and resilient, but lack agility and can be slow to act.

Bestial Nature: Testudo are able to communicate with turtles and tortoises at will.

Bookish: Testudo receive one free Knowledge as a class skill at character creation, regardless of class. If all Knowledges are already class skills, then the Testudo receives a +2 to a Knowledge of her choice.

Carapace and Plastron: +1 Natural Armor. Testudo can wear armor, but it has to be custom-made and is bulkier than normal armor, and their nonmagical armor costs 150% of normal and weighs 150% of normal. When a Testudo is attacked by an opponent who is flanking her, her carapace grants DR 2/- against the attack. At the DM’s discretion, this DR can be applied to area attacks which hit the Testudo when she has fallen prone, hiding under her carapace (a move action to duck-and-cover before the attack goes off)

Resistant to Change: Testudo receive a +2 to all Will saves. They are very hard to convince or sway by any means.

Slow Breath: Testudo receive a +2 racial bonus to Concentration, and they can hold their breath 5 times longer than a human with the same Constitution score.

Sluggish: A Testudo’s base movement speed is 20. Testudo in heavy armor just don’t get around.


Testudo speak Common as well as the Sylvan language that is common to Beastfolk of all kinds.


egalitThe Hakinu are a species of beastfolk that resemble humanoid birds of prey – hawks, eagles, falcons and owls.

Hawks, Eagles and Falcons

+2 Dexterity, +2 Charisma, -2 Intelligence


+2 Wisdom, +2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma

All Egalit

Medium – While slightly taller and slimmer than average humans, they are still of medium size.

Low-Light Vision – All egalit have can see twice as far as humans in dim light.

Keen Senses – Egalit receive a +2 racial bonus on all Perception skill checks.

Shinies – Due to their attraction to shiny objects, egalit receive a +2 racial bonus on Appraise skill checks for any object with metal or gems.

Bestial Nature – Due to their animalistic connections to their past, Egalit can speak with natural birds of prey at will as a supernatural ability.

Talons – While egalit have human-like hands, their fingers end in powerful talons that are useful for grasping and holding opponents. They receive a +2 racial bonus to CMB and CMD for grapples. They also receive a +2 racial bonus to Climb checks.

Sharp Eyes – All Egalit share incredible long-distance eyesight. On a clear day, an Egalit can see detail over a mile away. This does not mean that Egalit are better at sensing ambushes nearby; it only means that when an Egalit focuses on a distant object, she can see detail long before a Human could even see the object.