Kitsune's Realistic Likeness -- Humans Only?


Rules Questions


4 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

Heya all,

I've got two Kitsune certs and so I have a couple of questions for Pathfinder Society Play. I realise it's a minor thing unlikely to be officially FAQ'd or whatever, but I guess if someone from the campaign staff could jump and give me a tick that'd be great.

I'm curious to know what a Kitsune with the Realistic Likeness feat can transform into. The rules text seems to indicate "any individual", whereas the flavour text seems limited to humans. To preserve sanity, I think a middle ground is in order.

For the curious, the texts are:

--

Change Shape:
Change Shape (Su) A kitsune can assume the appearance of a specific single human form of the same sex. The kitsune always takes this specific form when she uses this ability. A kitsune in human form cannot use her bite attack, but gains a +10 racial bonus on Disguise checks made to appear human. Changing shape is a standard action. This ability otherwise functions as alter self, except that the kitsune does not adjust her ability scores.

Realistic Likeness:

When you are in human form, you can take the shape of a specific individual.

Benefit: You can precisely mimic the physical features of any individual you have encountered. When you use your racial change shape ability, you can attempt to take the form of an individual, granting you a +10 circumstance bonus on Disguise checks made to fool others with your impersonation.

--

I included the fluff text for Realistic Likeness as it indicates human only. However, the flavour text indicates that the Kitsune can attempt to impersonate "any individual". This indicates that it is more or less as-per alter self, minus stat changes, with unlimited duration.

I personally think that being able to impersonate any individual is a lot more fun, but I do agree there should be limits (attempting to claim a gold dragon as an "individual" seems wildly inappropriate). But if it's just humans, then the ability seems remarkably underpowered, since it's spending a racial ability and a feat on something that could be duplicated by a first or second level spell or even just some skill ranks if you are already human.

Accordingly, I was going to prepare a small cheat sheet for potential GMs regarding this issue that was going to include the two relevant texts along with my reasoning as to how it works or should work (bearing in mind mechanics text trumps flavour text).

I would suggest that it works the following way:

The Kitsune's Realistic Likeness feat allows the Kitsune to adopt the form of any specific or generic individual of the humanoid type, as per alter self. Additionally, the Kitsune may adopt the form of any other appropriate human-like form such as native outsiders who are descended from humanoids (Tieflings and Aasimar, amongst others), humanoid-appearing Fey, or constructs shaped as Medium or Small sized humanoids.

It does not permit the Kitsune to adopt the form of creatures too strange and fantastic for the biology of the Kitsune to adapt to, such as dragons, non-humanoid constructs, furniture, etc. In any event, this disguise brings with it none of the creature's actual biology. Shapeshifting into a Tiefling with horns does not grant a gore attack, shapeshifting into a Quickling does not grant access to their speed, etc. The shapeshift is, in all ways, cosmetic. This is a non-magical change (but true seeing and similar effects still pierce it).

A Kitsune cannot assume another gender while pregnant, although they may use their power to disguise their condition.

Irrespective of the form chosen, the modifiers for the Disguise still apply (including impersonating an alternate sex, race, age categories, etc).

Thoughts? Comments?

Shadow Lodge

Given that the prereq ability specifies human-only, at least at my table you'd be limited to human forms. As for your revision, it's not game breaking, and would actually work pretty well in a home game, but it's not well-suited to society play. How human-looking is human-looking? Feathers, bronze skin, tails and more are often present on native outsiders. I'd be wary of letting you assume anything fantastic like that. Even the ability to do all medium and small humanoids is just too broad, and the ability to go size small and back at will would be a bit too much.

All-in-all, expect many GMs to restrict you to human-only.


I think the first line of the Realistic Likeness feat answers your question, whether it's considered "flavor" text or not. Humans only. If that's not enough, the feat specifically mentions when you are using your racial ability, which states that you can only take on a human form. There shouldn't be any table variation on this, unless the GM is not familiar with the racial ability or the feat. The abilities are cut and dry.


Mat Black wrote:
I think the first line of the Realistic Likeness feat answers your question, whether it's considered "flavor" text or not. Humans only. If that's not enough, the feat specifically mentions when you are using your racial ability, which states that you can only take on a human form. There shouldn't be any table variation on this, unless the GM is not familiar with the racial ability or the feat. The abilities are cut and dry.

The problem is that the fluff text is just fluff. Sure, I agree it indicates the writers intent, but if abilities like Pageant of the Peacock were run based off clear intent instead of RaW, then fewer people would take it.

It's not honestly a huge drama, especially since one could combine it with other illusion magic or mundane disguises. It just seems odd that the ability is so... limited and underpowered.


The problem with this current text is that it doesn't clarify whether "human form" is the literal intent (although it may seem that way) or simply a specific reference to Change Shape's functioning mechanic. Honestly, all this ambiguity could've been removed with one or two word edits:

modified Realistic Likeness wrote:
Benefit: You can precisely mimic the physical features of any human individual you have encountered. When you use your racial change shape ability, you can attempt to take the form of this individual, granting you a +10 circumstance bonus on Disguise checks made to fool others with your impersonation.

or

modified Realistic Likeness wrote:
Benefit: You can precisely mimic the physical features of any medium humanoid individual you have encountered. When you use your racial change shape ability, you can attempt to take the form of this individual, granting you a +10 circumstance bonus on Disguise checks made to fool others with your impersonation.

or

modified Realistic Likeness wrote:
Benefit: You can precisely mimic the physical features of any creature you have encountered. When you use your racial change shape ability, you can attempt to take the form of this creature, granting you a +10 circumstance bonus on Disguise checks made to fool others with your impersonation.

Currently the RAW supports #3, which I don't agree with. Human-looking is defined by the medium-sized humanoid subtype and would be a fairly straightforward fix. Yes, it's fantastic, but the point of being a Kitsune is in playing a fantastic race. In the worst case, I'd rather the RP increase than have a case of diluted Eastern folklore.


You can make a pretty good case for any of those. Our GM has always allowed "individuals whose form alter self would let you take". There's some weird bits in Pathfinder's rules; for instance, there is no power in the game that lets you assume the form of a sylph, because the revised polymorph rules don't provide any way to adopt any kind of outsider form. Ever. Not even with shapechange.

Contributor

The feat only allows you to transform into kitsune. Here's why:

Quote:
Change Shape (Su) A kitsune can assume the appearance of a specific single human form of the same sex. The kitsune always takes this specific form when she uses this ability. A kitsune in human form cannot use her bite attack, but gains a +10 racial bonus on Disguise checks made to appear human. Changing shape is a standard action. This ability otherwise functions as alter self, except that the kitsune does not adjust her ability scores.

If you read Change Shape, the ability specifically calls out that you take a specific human form, otherwise functioning as alter self. This line is in Change Shape's first sentence.

Quote:
Benefit: You can precisely mimic the physical features of any individual you have encountered. When you use your racial change shape ability, you can attempt to take the form of an individual, granting you a +10 circumstance bonus on Disguise checks made to fool others with your impersonation.

Now if we read Realistic Likeness, even if we ignore the flavor text, the ability itself specifically says that when you use your racial change shape ability, you can take the form of an individual. That "racial change shape" ability specifically calls out that you must take a human form, and nowhere in Realistic Likeness's description does the feat modify that restriction.

In other words, Realistic Likeness modifies the aspect of change shape that states that you transform into a specific human individual each time it is used. It does not alter the race (human) or the fact that you receive no ability score modifiers or special abilities. Realistic Likeness does not need to call out that it is humans only, because change shape already imposes that restriction upon you and Realistic Likeness does not modify the racial restriction.

Shadow Lodge

Sasayaki wrote:
But if it's just humans, then the ability seems remarkably underpowered, since it's spending a racial ability and a feat on something that could be duplicated by a first or second level spell or even just some skill ranks if you are already human.

You can't.

Magic (Polymorph) wrote:
Unless otherwise noted, polymorph spells cannot be used to change into specific individuals.

So Alter Self cannot be used to do what Realistic Likeness does.

Disguise self can be used to mimic individuals, but it's an illusion which means anyone who interacts with the disguise gets a will save. Realistic Likeness, being a polymorph, can't be disbelieved.

However, imperfect polymorphs can be seen through, meaning Disguise skill ranks will be useful if you want to fool people who know your target well. Still, the disguise skill also benefits from Realistic Likeness since the polymorph effect grants you a +10 bonus on your disguise and lets you disguise yourself as a standard action.

It's not overwhelmingly powerful and I might house-rule it to allow impersonation of mixed-race characters that physically favour their human ancestry (including some native outsiders) but it's a nice trick as-is and certainly doesn't need to be opened up to all humanoids.


As Weirdo notes, the feat already allows the kitsune to do something that basically nothing else can do. If anything, for a less combat based play especially, it is a rather powerful feat.


For an intrigue based game this is immense when married to good bluff and disguise skills.

The other factor to note is that it does not change your equipment or clothing. If you are wearing say, a mithril chain shirt and magical cloak of resistance, then even with a new face people are still going to notice your equipment and ask questions as to how someone else could be wearing the 'same' rig out/gear.

Buying clothes that are double-sided and having 'generic' normal equipment would greatly assist here.


Alorha wrote:

Given that the prereq ability specifies human-only, at least at my table you'd be limited to human forms. As for your revision, it's not game breaking, and would actually work pretty well in a home game, but it's not well-suited to society play. How human-looking is human-looking? Feathers, bronze skin, tails and more are often present on native outsiders. I'd be wary of letting you assume anything fantastic like that. Even the ability to do all medium and small humanoids is just too broad, and the ability to go size small and back at will would be a bit too much.

All-in-all, expect many GMs to restrict you to human-only.

You can go small and back just by turning into a human with drawfism, or since such things don't exist a young template human.

Shadow Lodge

You can't turn into creatures with templates, so young humans are out by RAW.

Mighty Squash and strayshift also raise the good point that the feat is situationally useful. In a game heavy on combat or dungeon crawls, or with a lot of nonhuman NPCs, it won't be as useful, but if you're in a spy campaign with even one-quarter of the population human it's a must-have. It's ridiculously easy to make the perfect infiltrator with this feat. I had a Kitsune bard with this feat who was able to impersonate the princess so well that her own father couldn't tell the difference - my character played that sort of thing for laughs but could really have used/abused it for personal gain.

Sleeves of Many Garments are a cheap solution to the issue of changing your clothes.

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