Part II of my review:
That being said, this pdf does manage an utterly admirable job at rendering the respective halfbreeds distinct and culturally unique - to the point where some of the brief fluff-write-ups actually captivated me enough to make me consider playing the half-breeds - and that coming from a guy who went out of 3.X with a distinct oversaturation regarding fiendish/celestial creatures and half-dragons as well as a distinct dislike for mopey halfbreeds. So yeah, this pdf can be considered inspired in that regard - from the roper/dwarf bio-weapons created by the phrenic hegemony to the love-conquers-all children of merfolk and men to the inspired and monstrous ornibus, suffused with the essences of howlers, the halfbreeds manage to avoid redundancy. And, if the above exercises in racial nitpickery were not ample clue for you - over all, they tend to be *almost* awesome - during my analysis, I regularly found myself enjoying myself and getting ready to write a recommendation for a race, only to have some ability overextend what I consider viable. Generally, about 1 ability among the racial traits, more often among the alternate racial traits, can be considered too strong and in need of nerfing - or its balancing versus its replacement feels like it is wonky. That being said - both the ornibus and the half-satyr pipers, for example, can be considered generally well-crafted - provided you can see past the numerous small violations of rules-semantics that make the RAI apparent, but are slightly less polished than what one would like to see. If you e.g. nerf down the +10 bonus to disarm for the Rana-race that can be received per expenditure of the psionic focus, we'll actually have a great, interesting race. (Rana are btw. Ophidian/Lizardfolk hybrids that usually grow up with the less intelligent lizardfolk and thus develop interesting mannerisms...)And yes, if that and the examples above were not clue enough for you - there is yet another thing I need to address regarding the races - and it's a HUGE plus!
Know how the ARG-races tend to feel somewhat sameish? How many races are just a recombination of the same tools, again and again? Not so here - every race herein has at least one unique trick that sets it apart - a racial signature ability, if you wish. I *love* this general idea, if not always the execution of them. - the half-gargoyles may e.g. use their wings to take 1/2 damage of an adjacent ally - think of it as a limited, immediate action-based shield other - interesting, though the wording could be more concise. Still, it is an ability like this that really sets the race apart and makes it feel distinct - also in a mechanical way. I have mentioned the tentacle-faced obvious heir to the half-illithids, haven't I? Yeah. The woodborn, which are just the race for anyone who ever wanted to tackle playing Pinocchio? Yeah, awesome. Even better - an alternate racial trait that nets you an assassin vine symbiote that deals more damage on a grapple just oozes style. Alas, it should have a slightly more precise wording: "This vine assists them during grapples, dealing 1d6+Strength modifier damage to other creatures in the grapple every round the woodborn maintains a grapple." - so does this mean that allied creatures in the creature/aiding also receive the damage? Why not go with a more standard wording for the damage? Winterwolf/Hellhound/Worg/humanoid half-breeds also deserve two thumbs up regarding their ability-suites.
Now this pdf does have more to offer than just a metric ton of half-breed races - namely templates - for bi/quadrupedal creatures, half-doppelgängers/medusas, half-elementals (!!!), half-rakshasas and also so-called titanblooded creatures - the templates are pretty solid all-around, with ample cool ideas and tools for mad scientists/transmuters to play with - nothing greivous to complain about here. The book furthermore offers a distinct array of feats, most of which have the [heritage]-descriptor. The feats run a wide gamut: We have for example one that substitutes a mental attribute for con - which would make me yell - however, it is restricted to bonus hp, not all the saves - which does, surprisingly, work for me. The presence of the Feral Fighter-feat feels a bit odd - it nets you claws or a bite as appropriate for your creature type. Why don't some of these races use this instead of the at times redundant or unnecessary-seeming amounts of natural weapons some receive - that would also put players agenda higher on the list. On the broken-side of thing, we can list e.g. bloodsong adept -which allows you to use bardic performance only affecting your type/subtype, but does not expend rounds of bardic performance. Urgh. Enter a party with the same race and we have unlimited bardic performance-rounds. Yeah. not gonna happen in my game and even feels cheap for NPCs - this one is hardcore broken and should imho get a serious nerfing bashing. On the okay-side, there are multiple SP-granting feats and some that e.g. net grab to add to bites and tentacle attacks - not a fan of the latter, but that is personal taste. Now on the other side, there is the Mixed Blood-feat, which is made of awesome and win - with a table of one whole page (!!!), it allows you to represent just about any odd bloodline/creature-type combinations - wanna go for a lawfully-infused orcish heritage? You can do that. This feat's concept is just great - and it's well-balanced to boot! Impressive one!
There also are 4 racially-themed PrCs - the brief run-down of them would be as follows:
The Bloodsong Heritor is the herald of his people - a solid, good bardic PrC with neat mechanics and not much but exceedingly minor nitpicks to complain about - were its prerequisite not aforementioned utterly broken unlimited performance feat, I'd be even more impressed - especially since the class does net more performance rounds and nice, unique performances that also include the expenditure of multiple rounds for interrupt-style effects while still maintaining the performance. Think of it as a less complex, much more limited and racially-themed take on what Interjection Games' Composition magic does. The Kith Hunter is an okay slayer-type 5-level PrC. Seen better, seen worse. The Kithlord can be considered a solid racial champion PrC with commander-style tricks/auras and even teleports at higher levels - okay, though I'd be wary of this PrC in a uni-race group - mostly great for NPC-adversaries, imho. The 5-level mongrel has the most choices among the PrCs, offering quite an ability-array to choose from and some rather unique bonuses - including ways of getting rid of ability damage by leeching off magic - nice one.
The book also sports a small selection of new spells, which can generally be considered among the more powerful examples available - they are not bad, mind you, but the option to e.g. have earthskin and stoneskin overlap may not fit well with some groups. That being said, spells that provide minor bonuses versus e.g. kobolds and goblins will not break anyone's game. The spells are solid.
Finally, the book provides new magical items, including 4 new special abilities, one of which nets you a standard action in a surprise round for just the equivalent of +1 - which seems too cheap, considering how pricey in terms of feat/ability-investment the like usually is. A +1 enhancement that bypasses the DRs of elementals and constructs essentially renders golems utterly useless at +1 enchantment - ridiculously OP and should be torn to smithereens. On the plus-side, conjuring forth a red blade of flame via bracers is pretty cool and the traveler's backpack will be a favorite for most wilderness adventures. So, all in all, solid section with some winners and some that obviously require significant nerfing.
Editing and formatting are not on par with what Dreamscarred press usually delivers. If you're picky about proper rules-semantics, you'll find a lot to nitpick, which I tried to showcase in my excessive and nasty picking apart of sentences in the first section of the review. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has copious full-color artworks - as mentioned above, ranging from gorgeous to horrifying. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
You may have gotten a wrong impression from this review - I actually like this book.
No, really. I was honestly positively surprised by this pdf.
The signature abilities provided for the races, the unique, non-redundant fluff and the overall balancing of the races is great. No, really, I mean it. Alas, this book is also the very definition of flawed - almost every race had either a wording hiccup or one ability that just went beyond what would be considered balanced in all but high-powered tables. Essentially, I could play "look for the bit that's too strong" with a huge array of races I otherwise loved - races that feel more organic and viable than they have any right to, provided the limited room they each have. SO let me state this again:
This is a good book. The thing is, it could have easily been an OMG-HOW-AWESOME-IS-THAT-book. Literally all races and quite a bunch of the non-racial supplemental material borders on the awesome, only to swerve on the finishing line and get an unnecessary bent. The rules-language per se makes RAI clear in most cases, but also allows for copious misinterpretation due to being a tad bit less precise than it could be. Matt Medeiros, Jade Ripley and Andreas Rönnqvist have ultimately crafted a massive racial book that can be considered a nice addition to a given campaign - and one a moderately system-savvy DM can render utterly awesome by ironing out the rough patches. This book has all the potential you could ask for. At the same time, though, it has several supplemental components in dire need of nerfing, some races that obviously could have used some streamlining and is marred by craftsmanship that, while not bad in the traditional sense, does exhibit some flaws and deviations from the target goal.
What I'm trying to say is: I can see people hating and loving this book. If you tend to get hung up on peculiarities of rules-language, then this will provide some frustration for you. Same goes for groups seeking for a book to drop in as is - while that can be done, I'd only recommend it unsupervised for high-powered games. On the plus-side, the races do feel iconic, they can be cleaned of the problematic bits and a capable DM can adjust them with relative ease to a lower power-level. Oh, and they, and that cannot be under-emphasized, do not suffer from the sucky bloat of skill-enhancer racial traits (Get +2 to Skill A and B) that hound so many races since the ARG, instead providing something unique.
How to rate this, then? Well, honestly, I should probably go with 3 stars for this - the flaws are numerous and pronounced and then there's the inclusion of some broken pieces among the supplemental materials that are OP by any standard applied. However, at the same time, this book is much more inspired that I ever had hoped it would be. Both in its design and its concepts. And there are MANY awesome ideas, both in the fluff- and crunch-departments to be found. The downright brilliant mixed blood, the non-sucky blinkling...and so many more do not deserve a mediocre rating. And ultimately, I enjoyed this book too much for that, in spite of its flaws. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4, with an explicit caveat emptor for anyone picky about rules-language. DMs willing to do some tinkering will find a nice treasure-trove here - one that needs polish, yes, but one that can, eventually, be brought to shine.
Posted here, submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.