Races of the Lost Spheres: Bloodborn
This supplement clocks in at 23 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, what are Bloodborn? Well, at one point, there were those that came before – collectors of lore and knowledge, this ancient empire implemented a unique plan to withstand the inevitable fall of their empire, electing not for the preservation of the self, but instead of the things they achieved in a supremely selfless gesture. Thus, they crafted the Sourcerunes and the Bloodwells – when these are seeded with the blood of 2 compatible beings, thus generating the bloodborn, heirs to an ancient empire. Mechanically, the bloodborn are augmented humans who receive +2 to an ability score of their choice, and they choose two skills to represent the blood donors – these become class skills. Subject to the GM’s discretion, this might allow the bloodborn to engage in skills familiar to the blood patrons. Due to their unique genesis, bloodborn have a -2 penalty to saving throws versus death effects and can’t reproduce naturally. The dual heritage has a unique effect, with the echoes of conflicting memories growing ever strong. If the bloodborn remain single-classed after 1st level, they incur a circumstance penalty equal to the number of class levels beyond the first to all d20 rolls; if this penalty exceeds the highest mental ability score modifier, they even become insane! This is an AMAZING notion I really like – however, RAW, taking a single other level eliminates this effect when not using the variant multiclassing rules from Pathfinder Unchained. When not using those, consider instead adding the following to the rules-language:
“When the class level of a multiclassed bloodborn in a single class exceeds the total combined class levels they have in other classes by more than 1, this penalty applies as well.” There, fixed that for non-Pathfinder Unchained multiclassing for you.
Now, what’s with those Sourcerunes? Each bloodborn begins play attuned to two such runes – one of these is the primary Sourcerune, the other being the secondary Sourcerune. 6 Sourcerunes are provided, and yes, these do include drawings that showcase them – love that! Each Sourcerune has a primary and secondary benefit, and the first would be the Atkai, who may use Charisma as governing spellcasting ability score for spellcasting or manifesting, or instead choose a single class and make the supernatural or spell-like abilities be governed by Charisma. The secondary ability score is an alternate favored class option, granting access to a single spell known. The Muo rune may instead use Wisdom as governing modifier as a primary benefit, and as a secondary benefit, we have a channel energy enhancing alternate favored class option. Essal, unsurprisingly, use Intelligence as their governing spellcasting ability score, and the favored class option alternative granted from the secondary benefit nets a racial bonus to a skill – important: This does NOT count as ranks, so no cheesing of prerequisites! Good call there! The Juhn can use Constitution as the governing spellcasting…you get the idea by now, right? The secondary benefit of that family can enhance e.g. ki or arcane pools as an alternate favored class option. The Jhi family can learn to cast via Dexterity and their secondary benefit nets ¼ bonus feat. Sho, as you could picture by now, nets Strength and either a martial weapon proficiency or half an exotic weapon proficiency.
Okay, before we continue: I do not like seeing the physical ability scores as basis for spellcasting; HOWEVER, considering the limitations and enforced multiclassing of the base race, this had a rather intriguing effect – it rendered a whole plethora of multiclass builds and concepts suddenly valid. While there are bound to be some that are exceedingly potent, the race can help you with other components, and do so rather formidably: Let’s say you’re playing a 15-point-buy campaign, but want to play a class with MAD (Multiple Ability Score Dependence) – this can help somewhat mitigate that. The concept looks horribly broken on paper, and you can indeed generate VERY potent combos – but it’s not as easy as you might think, and it actually works in favor of plenty of unique character concepts – so yeah, I do consider this to be a wide-open, but inspiring component of the race’s design.
This is not where the pdf stops, though! Instead, we are introduced to the concept of Sourcerune Resonance: Depending on which runes you chose, you get different unique abilities that may be triggered under the right circumstances, which can just be using abilities on consecutive rounds, or e.g. require using abilities from the same class in subsequent rounds, etc. Let’s say, you’ve chosen Atkai as your primary rune, and Muo as your secondary one, right? When you use a spell, granted ability or power within one round of using a spell, granted ability or power from a different class, the second effect will have its level of usage (caster level, manifester level, class level for the purpose of scaling abilities, etc.) increased by 1 – or you can increase the save DC, if any, by +1. If you have Atkai-Juhn (Atkai primary, Juhn secondary), if you thus alternate abilities granted from different classes or use ones from the same class, you get temporary hit points equal to the effect’s level, with the temporary hit points overlapping, so no stacking to high-heavens. That’s good. Even better: The rules language prevents infinite healing exploits! Since the effect’s level is the governing metric, cantrips and the like can’t be abused in conjunction with hit point transfer. Very clever. And before you ask: Yes, the pdf is very much cognizant of the term “granted abilities” not being standard rules language, and defines the term properly. And yep, with the right resonance, you can get Weapon of the Soul and a mindblade.
This is easily the most mechanically-unique player race I’ve seen in a long, long time. But does the supplemental material hold up?
Well, first of all, we get not one, not two, but 24 (!!) new [Runic]-feats. Why are there so many? Because the help build on individual Sourcerune Resonances. Let’s take soulgrace, which is the Muo-Jhi resonant power – it provides a +1 luck bonus to a penalized roll; with the proper feat, the duration of this bonus extends to 1 round, or until the penalty ceases. There is also an interesting one, namely Imprint Rune, which lets you meditate with other bloodborn, replacing the feat with a feat the other bloodborn has that you qualify for. Cool! Quicker rune-drafting, bonus to atk and damage when attacking targets that failed against an effect powered by your Soulrune Resonance – we essentially have a feat-based expansion of the base combo-reward engine championed by the base Soulrune Resonance frame. I am not a fan of the feat that lets you increase threat range and multiplier; multiplier should cap at x4, and threat-range should have a caveat that prevents undue stacking…but I don’t consider this feat to be OP. Why? Because it has a maximum daily use limitation – the verbiage here “Before you must reset” is not perfect, but yeah. Really cool: There is a feat that lets you, when resting, switch primary and secondary rune! This essentially provides a gestalt-lite engine, two different modes – love it! Other feats allow for the suppression of visible runes, and as noted before, there is a mindblade lite engine. A lite-version of martial flexibility may also be found – and yep, it’s only available t one resonance, thankfully.
The pdf also presents two prestige classes, with the first being the bloodstone adept, wjo requires aforementioned feat to reverse primary and secondary rune, as well as 5 ranks in Knowledge (Arcana)…and he needs access to past-life or ancestral memory. The PrC gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Will-save progression, and 7/10 spellcasting/manifesting/feature progression. In that way, this 10-level PrC is akin to e.g. Everybody Games’ take on PrCs – which is a good thing. The adept may, at first level, enter an 8-hour trance too channel an alternate self. This self has the same statistics and racial bonuses, and the runic self must have one level in common with the bloodrune’s adept, but may redistribute the class levels among the classes they have. The runic self is balanced by having levels equal to character level -2, and may differ from the original character’s alignment by one step. At 6th and 10th level, the character gains an additional such self. At 4th level, these selves may be character level -1, and at 9th level, they may be of equal level of the character. However, the text does not state this – it’s obvious that this was intended, but the “Greater Bloodrune Recall”-text is missing.
At 2nd and 7th level, you get a blood self, which is similar, save that the blood self must share class levels with the bloodborn’s patron donors (the people that spawned the bloodborn), and the alignment of these may diverge up to two steps from the bloodborn, as long as it’s towards the blood patron’s alignment. Cool. 3rd level and 8th level net a bonus feat (though the text does not mention the 8th level). At 5th level, we have the ability to 1/day lets you act as though an alternate runic or blood self, with the full compliment of powers. The text here contradicts the class table, stating that a second daily use is gained at 9th level, while the class table states it’s supposed to be 10th level. The latter is obviously correct.
The second PrC is the zenith caster, who requires two metamagic feats, Knowledge (Arcana) 5 ranks and access to spells or powers of 2nd level from two or more classes. These fellows get d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level. Interesting: At each level except at 1st and 5th, you gain spells/powers/etc. known as well as caster/manifester level increase as though you advanced in one of your original classes; at 1st and 5th level, you ALSO get an increase in CL/ML etc. in your LOWEST CL/ML/etc. class. The ability also uses the Source concept of many Lost Spheres Publishing books to add some caveats here. At first level, the PrC lets you choose two classes with different Sources, increasing CL (and, I assume ML etc. – though that’s not spelled out this time) by +1. This increases once more at 4th and 7th level. This is called “tidal magic”, and at 2nd level, you can select a metamagic feat – you can sacrifice a spell or spell slot from one of your tidal magic sources to apply the metamagic feat to the other tidal magic source chosen. The class feature includes a limitation on maximum spell-level enhancement, and the complex ability sports a caveat that prevents abuse – you have to sacrifice a spell slot or spell prepared of at least the metamagic feat’s spell adjustment. And yes, does take psionics into account. 5th and 9th level net bonus feats. You select an additional such metamagic feat at 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter. This one is cool – a feasible dual-caster metamagic specialist that is not overpowered. Interesting indeed.
The pdf also sports two new psionic powers: Destabilize resonance is cool in that it ends your resonance effect as an immediate action to let you make a touch attack that deals, what I surmise from descriptor etc., MUST be force damage – the power does not state this in an obvious oversight, though. Rune lock is also cool and lets you temporarily lock down your resonance effects. The pdf also offers two new spells – hide sourcerune, and the mighty curse seal sourcerune – both do exactly what you think they’d do.
The final page of the pdf contains new mythic path abilities – universal path abilities include extended resonance duration at 1st tier, and a potent enhancer to the number of runic feats possessed for the purpose of their benefits at 3rd tier. The Archmage path allows as a first tier ability to invoke a drafted rune more often; at 6th tier, we have a cool ability to be reborn as a bloodborn upon being slain. The Master-of-Shapes (see Lost Sphere’s Mythic Paths booklet) gets the 1st tier ability lets you consume a slain bloodborn, gaining essentially another secondary sourcerune – or a primary rune, if you’re no bloodborn. Minor nitpick: The feat referenced here is called Tertiary Attunement, not Tertiary Sourcerune. The Scion-of-High-Sorcery may, with the right 1st tier ability, gain access to the SOurcerunes by tasting a bloodborn’s blood. The Will-of-All, finally, gets a 1st tier ability – and here, something has gone wrong with the sentence structure, and an “r” is missing; essentially, you make a connection between your Sourcerunes and that of a bloodborn , and you get the resonant benefits of this connection.
Editing and formatting are a bit of a weak spot of the pdf: While the rules-language deserves to be called good for the most part, there are a couple of obvious formal snafus that, in parts do influence the ability to immediately comprehend some components. Oh, and missing ability? Big no-go. Layout adheres to Lost Spheres Publishing’s two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports multiple unique and high-quality full-color artworks – original pieces, mind you! Kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Christen N. Sowards’ bloodborn made me wish for one thing – that this got a final editing pass. Why? Because I genuinely LOVE the race. Yes. Ole’ cynical Endy actually likes a race. The supplement fills a very distinct niche, and does so with panache aplomb – it is ambitious, cool and genuinely fun. The concept is inspiring, and as a whole, I adored the race. This’d be a straight 5 star + seal of approval file, were it not for its glitches, and try as I want to, I can’t ignore them as a reviewer. The core feature of the race requires an additional sentence to smoothly run with non-unchained-multiclassing, and while the engine works smoothly and surprisingly well, there are, time and again, these small hiccups…and a few greater ones. I honestly should be rounding down, but I genuinely, seriously enjoyed the material herein, its snafus notwithstanding – and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars….and for the race, for what it brings to multiclassing…this does actually get my seal of approval, for those components are seriously inspired.
You can get this slightly rough, but exceedingly inspired race here on OBS!
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Missed the massive Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres-book? You can find it here!