In Bloodforge, we introduced you to a variety of halfbreed races for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. With Bloodforge Infusions, we take that to a whole new level
Bloodforge Infusions: Esoteric Energies is a 19 page PDF that includes:
3 new races, the astreidi, the eiremian, and the ethumion
Alternate racial favored class options and new feats for the new races in this book
The ravid creature
Written by Forrest Heck and Jade Ripley, with artwork by Dorian M. Smith, this is the first release in the Bloodforge Infusions series to give new and unique races for use in the Pathfinder RPG. This product was made possible thanks to our Patreon supporters!
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Today we’re looking at Bloodforge Infusions: Esoteric Energy, a book with a few races and their particular content. Right away we start with something that I appreciate by the publisher Dreamscarred Press, a little foreword by the authors. It’s very humanizing, and it’s just a personal touch that I appreciate in situations like these. We also get a list of subtypes and their clarification out of the way, useful to make sure we’re playing things correctly.
The first race we have is the atstreidi, which are living armor. While their genesis isn’t clear, I don’t see that as much of a problem, as being mysterious feels like part of their ‘thing’. The actual way that this race exist is done in a very faux science way, and it’s done in a satisfying enough fashion to the point where I would be okay pitching these creatures into other settings without a huge amount of tinkering. Their personality feels similar to other creatures of this general archetype; curious as to the world around them, but I don’t consider that a bad thing, and the art here really helps drive home their non-malicious nature. Flavor wise, I’m a fan, and they’re very low impact for most settings, making them easy to slide into games.
Mechanically, their racial adjustments are strong (+2 str/wis, -2 int), immunity to poison/disease, and a few other racials push them a bit above most other races, probably placing them at about tiefling level of race power (not super powerful, but watch out if you have halflings and gnomes in the party), and the inclusion of alternative racials and favored class bonuses (for all new races) is very much appreciated from the opinion of someone who loves customization in races.
Following this, we have the eiremian, who are much more subdued race. It’s hard to latch onto anything about this race, as everything about them seems to want you to forget them. Like a self fulfilling prophecy, I’m having a hard time to find much reason to care about them, as a lot of their description feels like it’s talking in circles, only really saying “they don’t really matter a lot.”
On the mechanical side, they have even stronger racial adjustments (+2 str/wis, -2 cha), native outsiders with darkvision, and the terrible peace is probably their best racial as it can force an action to be negated with a scaling DC based on wisdom; not sure I’m comfortable with this in my games. I’d probably put them to around the same level as asterdeidi, and while they’re low impact in setting inclusion, they’re also just…not that interesting.
Ethumion finish us off here, and what a mood whiplash from eiremian. It appears as though they’re intended as the opposites of eirmian, they’re written in such a more dynamic fashion as to make them feel more interesting and engaging as well as charming. Given the choice between the stark and taciturne eirmian and the explosive and exciting ethumion, I know which one I’d pick.
As for their mechanics, we get a more balanced set of racial adjustments (+2 con/cha, -2 wis), native outsiders with darkvision, and all of its racial abilities really play of the strengths of the race. Things like contagious enthusiasm giving free quick draw, minor telekinesis being silly useful, and uncontainable just being pure goodness in theme and utility, they’re easily my favorite race in the book, and one that I’ll be porting over to games of mine without fail.
With character options, we get the mixed blood trait which is a random goody bag of minor bonuses for mixing your race. Most of the rest of the content is feats with fun things like flight (given at a reasonable level), extra claws/bite, or other generally useful things that would be worth the resources invested.
We finish with the ravid, a new monster that seems violently phrenic, and having relation to the ethumion which instantly gives them street cred. I find them interesting, but not terribly so. Their relation to positive energy is probably the most unique thing about them, and I wish we’d gotten maybe a few variant species on here, but I believe that’s just me wanting more here, as I feel with more examples of this as a type of monster (like a proper sub category), I’d be able to get behind it more than I can now.
You know, everything in this book is quite solid, and I didn’t notice any glaring issues. At the same time, there wasn’t enough in here that was enough to make me take note of anything, making this a solid book overall. The races all work for what they’re trying to do, the monster is fair, and the feats won’t cause this book to get banned at your tables except for possibly terrible peace.
The presence of both the ethumion and eirmian weight me in different directions, as the atstreidi is a strong and interesting race in my book. I think the inclusion of both hurts the eirmian here the most, as it already starts off without a huge identity. Even being able to use 2/3 races from this book as well as the ravids and feats is enough to earn my respect, but I would have had a different race in the eirmian’s slot.
Final Thoughts: 4/5
I’m generally not huge on new races, but all three of these are so low impact as to how they fit into game worlds that they’re honestly kind of great. Jade Ripley and Forrest Heck’s races manage to do what I appreciate most; not change a campaign’s core assumptions greatly. While the power level of some may skew a little high for some tables, as a whole I find it very balanced with the core assumptions of the game, making for three fun races to include in future games (ethumion have a place in mine now), and an overall enjoyable product.
The first expansion-pdf for Dreamscarred Press' massive Bloodforge-book of races clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/foreword by the authors, 1/2 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So, one thing bloodforge did that I should have commented on in my review back in the day, would be that it introduced the notion of certain subtypes that make it possible for a creature, to, via the subtype, count as a second creature type for the purpose of spells and effects, abilities etc. While this does not necessarily yield issues per se, it makes some type-interactions a bit more complex for the GM and, promptly, a rather annoyed reader did comment on this in a private e-mail I am not going to duplicate here. Suffice to say, I do not consider this a problem per se - purists may argue otherwise, and I get the potential issues here, but, as a whole, I don't consider that a strike against the system presented. I mention this since the half page below the ToC is used to recap these subtypes.
All right, the first race featured herein should bring a smile to fans of Full Metal Alchemist - the atstreidi are suits of living armor! They gain +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int, if they choose the aegis class, they form its astral armor over their bodies, losing temporarily their armor shell and any armor absorbed in favor of the astral suit to prevent insane stacking. Wait, what? Okay, the slow route: They are aberrations with the psionic and slimeblood subtypes, Medium, have darkvision 60 ft. and are immune to diseases and poisons, gain all benefits of 8 hours of sleep in 2 hours (no, spellcasters can still only prepare spells once per day...) and they have a base 25% chance to negate crits and precision damage etc., with fortification and similar effects increasing that chance by 10% instead of the usual benefits. They gain a +4 armor bonus to AC from their armored shell, but cannot wear armor -instead, they can, in a 24 hour-process, migrate to a new suit of armor and are helpless while undergoing this rigorous ritual - once transferred, they replace the armored shell's bonus with that of the assimilated armor and are considered to be wearing it. The shell can be enchanted and its enchantments maintained - or those of the armor. The unarmed attacks and slams made are treated as though of the armor regarding DR and properties and yep, the ability takes sleeping in armor into account. The race also gets Wild Talent and may gain a power point as a favored class option. They can speak to deaf creatures, courtesy of their soothing voice, and get a +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy and to Bluff, but suffer a -2 penalty to Intimidate. It should be noted that teh communication and Diplomacy bonus are contingent on the creature not being immune to mind-affecting effects. They also gain a 1d4 primary slam attack.
As alternate racial traits, we have a +4 bonus to Intimidate and -2 to Diplomacy for those born of a psychic imprint of hate, replacing the soothing communication, obviously. Instead of a slam attack, a chosen weapon proficiency can be taken and there is an alternative for playing Small versions, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int. The pdf provides favored class options that include the option to gain 1/6 Heritage feat for all classes and specialized ones, for alchemist, aegis, barbarian, bard, druid, guru, inquisitor, monk, psychic warrior, soulknife, spiritualist, wilder, stalker and wizard. These are all solid.
The second new race herein would be the eiremian, born of a connection to the negative energy plane, inheriting an inner stillness that can be considered to be quieting and numbing, making them often feel like they're missing out. The pdf has a funny jab here "It could be worse. They could be a dhampir." They are native outsiders with +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Disguise and Stealth, -2 to Diplomacy, +4 to saves versus emotion effects and +4 to the DC to intimidate them (here we have a missing italicization of a spell effect quoted as an example)...and they gain Silent Desolation. Negative energy dealt by them against creatures and objects usually immune to it, still inflicts half damage. ... Yeah, not getting anywhere near my game. Negative energy is already a very strong, rarely resisted energy type. They also gain "The Terrible Peace": As an immediate action, they can force a target within close range to halt, with the Will-save to resist being 10 + 1/2 character level + Wisdom modifier. Full-round actions thus interrupted count as having been a standard action...which becomes all manner of wonky when used in conjunction with full attacks: TWFing ally hits for 4 of his 5 attacks, gets hit and gets a free move. Yes, the ability implies that the immediate action has to be taken BEFORE the effects of a given action, but it does not explicitly state so and RAW, immediate and swift actions may be used during a full attack. Even without this cheese, this would be INCREDIBLY powerful for a racial ability - and it has no daily limit - just a 1-minute cool-down. Oh, and these guys gain character level + Wisdom modifier negative energy resistance.
Instead of terrible peace and the save bonus, there is an option to, up to 3/day as a standard action, designate 1 + 1 creature per 4 character levels within 60 ft. and line of sight - on a failed save, their attitude changes one step towards indifferent and morale bonuses, fear effects, confusion or emotion effects are suppressed for 1 minute. Also a replacement for terrible peace is the powerful inevitability: When subject to hold person or "another effect that would prevent her from acting normally", the save may be rerolled. It has a 1 minute cooldown. Yeah, that is a nonentity of rules-language I don't usually get to see in Dreamscarred Press books. What constitutes this nebulous "acting normally"? Rage? Madness? Dex-reducing poisons? Spells hat generate weight? Entangle? No idea. Finally, we have a subtype that makes them count as human. Favored class option-wise, we have 1/6 Heritage feat for all classes as an option and specific FCOs for alchemist, cleric, fighter, guru, harbinger, hunter, inquisitor, kineticist, mystic, occultist, slayer, spiritualist, soulknife, vitalist and warder.
Ethumions would be the positive energy counterparts with +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wisdom; they are native outsiders with darkvision 60 ft. and gain Quick Draw as a bonus feat and may use it to draw any object. As a standard action they may perform a supernatural version of mage hand as a standard action. They recover hp and eliminate fatigue every hour as though they had rested for 8 hours, making fatigue and derivatives as a balancing check meaningless...particularly since they also regenerate ability damage and burn at twice the normal rate. They also do not gain temporary hit points in excess of their maximum from positive energy-dominant planes. They also receive +2 to Sleight of Hand and Escape Artist, -2 to Bluff and when they heal a creature, they increase the amount healed by +1 hit point, + another hit point at every odd level thereafter. Okay, does this extend to healing in a vitalist's collective redistributed by the character? The ability specifies that it applies to powers etc., but does collective healing qualify?
When inflicting positive energy damage, they also add Constitution modifier to the damage caused. Instead of the healing boost and the telekinesis, they can gain a third, invisible, intangible hand that can wield weapons (though it can't be used as a third weapon attack). The wording here regarding the third attack can be a bit confusing, but ultimately works. Alternatively, they can reduce their darkvision to 30 ft., but gain constant deathwatch in that range (COOL!)...and, once again, mostly human is an option. Beyond the general heritage FCO option, we get specified ones for alchemist, surprisingly, antipaladin, barbarian, bard, daevic, fighter, kineticist, occultist, paladin, rogue, sorceror, soulknife, warder, warlord and wilder. Once again, these are solid and before you ask - yes, we do get an age. height and weight table.
The pdf reprints the mixed blood trait before moving on to a selection of reprints of heritage feats from the big book. Wondered what the weird creature on the cover was? Well, that would be the Ravid, a CR 5 creature that pulses with a flow of positive energy that animates objects and grants it armored shell on speed with on the fly customization and regenerating temporary hit points as well as the option to make the whirl of objects a vortex of shrapnel in bursts or cones...oh, and their attacks are laced with positive energy! An amazing, cool and versatile critter here. Two thumbs up!!
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - apart from missed italicizations, nothing grievous. For the most part, the rules-language of this pdf is as crisp and precise as we'd expect from the authors and Dreamscarred Press - i.e., top-notch...though, as mentioned above, there are some uncharacteristic hiccups that detract from an otherwise pretty excellent overall performance. The pdf adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and sports anime-style artworks that fit the theme of the races and the somewhat playful and chaotic nature of the Ravid.
Forrest Heck and Jade Ripley, with additional design by Adam Boucher, Doug Haworth, Jacob Karpel, Katia Oakes, Kevin Ryan and Matthew Ryan Medeiros have created three of the most creative races I've seen in a long, long while. Each of the races features not one, but several unique and amazing angles for roleplaying, flavorful and unique concepts, creative abilities that matter and very cool alternate racial traits. Two out of three also all are VERY, VERY STRONG. The Atstreidi, I'd allow in my regular-powered games - they are amazing, flavorful and their armor-engine is genius; You get a unique playing experience without it breaking the game and the limitations imposed on it and the crisp, pitch-perfect language that codifies them, is amazing. The ereimian and ethumion are also very flavorful, but mop the floor with aasimars, elans and other apex-level races, each of them breaking checks and balances in some way. They need, in my opinion, a hefty, prolonged whacking with a big nerfbat to bring them on par with even the strongest of races I usually get to see. I can't recommend them in any way, shape or form as written, which breaks my heart - You see, in spite of the minor flaws I complained about, I LOVE both races. Sure, they need to be cut down to size, but they are worth doing so and it's not hard to do so. As a reviewer, I have to rate what's here, though.
The Ravid, just fyi, closes this pdf in style as another definite high note for the pdf. But oh boy, how do I rate this? I have severe issues with more than half of the content., but ultimately, I do love even the flawed parts. The material I don't have issues with ranks as the absolute apex of what I've seen in races and frankly would deserve candidate status. Similarly, the ravid is a delightfully brutal monster with a thoroughly creative, compelling build.
Times like these, my job's really not easy. On the one hand, I want to scream and rage, on the other, I want to cheer and applaud...and ultimately, the second impulse is the stronger. This is a mixed bag, yes, but one where a capable GM (or a revision) can make the dark spots shine bright like a sun and add to otherwise truly amazing options. If you're planning on using eiremians and ethumions, whack them a bit before you do, unless you're playing in a really high-powered custom-races game, though...and if that irks you, round down instead. Still, ravid and atstreidi and the ideas alone make this worth the asking price and I have always valued imperfect and creative offerings over bland, but perfect ones...which is why my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.