Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Blood of Fiends (for Pathfinder)

Okay, so here is the companion review to the Blood of Angels player companion book for the Pathfinder RPG.  As Blood of Angels focused on the aasimar, or mortals with a background connection to good outsiders ("angels"), Blood of Fiends focuses on tieflings, or mortals with a background connection to evil outsiders.

As with Blood of Angels, Blood of Fiends is a 36-page pdf with three pages of front and back cover and a full-page no-text version of the cover artwork.  The artwork here does not disappoint.  I liked all of it.

As with its counterpart, Blood of Angels, Bloof of Fiends jumps right in by laying out the racial traits for aasimars.  I like having that information right up front in quick-reference style on page 2 and I like that it's all on one page to print as a handout for the players.  I like the traits they've given tielfings--except that they get darkvision.    It is a very powerful ability which most characters only get by magic items or spells. I'd prefer that no PC races have darkvision; better to use low light vision or infravision.  I would definitely change this for my campaign.  One of the characters in my current campaign is playing a half-orc with darkvision and it really spoils what otherwise would be much more tense and dramatic scenes.  I also found it a bit odd that they offer a list of male and female names.  Wouldn't characters have names from the local culture into which they were born?  This presupposes that there is some sort of separate tiefling culture from the mainstream cultures.  That said the names are

Like Blood of Angels, there are good sections in Blood of Fiends discussing the many ways that an tiefling may have been conceived, possible influences and experiences during early childhood and adolescence, physiology, relationships with other races, adult worklife paths, dress, habits, romance, and homes.  There's also a small but decent section talking about tiefling who are not human-based.  These are all great for building background on characters, whether PCs or NPCs. Most of this material is setting-neutral but for those who are actually using Paizo's Golarion campaign setting there's a geographic section with a paragraph or two per country/region on how tiefling might fit there, including some good plot hook material.  There's also a section talking about how the tiefling race works as an option for each of the Pathfinder core and base classes.

Blood of Fiends contains a table of 100 variant tiefling abilities to replace the standard spell-like ability to use the darkness spell once per day.  I like this sort of semi-fluff/semi-crunch in rules.  They provide additional flavor with just enough crunch to notice.  Some examples of variants are:
  • You can eat and gain nourishment from ash, cinders, dust, and sand.
  • You possess the scent special ability.
  • You can see creatures on the Ethereal Plane.
 Next are six specific heritages for your tiefling instead of just sticking with the generic traits.  The intro explains: "Each heritage presents new ability modifiers, spell-like abilities, and skill modifiers that replace the default aasimar racial traits, as well as a pair of custom traits. Each entry also discusses the most common (though by no means ubiquitous) personality traits, physical features, and places of origin of aasimars with that particular heritage."  These include the Pitborn (demon-spawned) and Spritespawn (div-spawned) .  Eight heritages are included, providing plenty of opportunities to provide deeper options than just the table of variant tiefling abilities.

Feats are next.  Let just mention here that I now look on feats as one of the primary areas of rules bloat for Pathfinder.  The number of feats is already massive.  Eventually you get to a point where there are so many feats available that you might as well throw them all out and just let the players make up whatever feats they want because they already exist out there somewhere.  Anyway, there are fourteen feats in Blood of Fiends.  However, I felt that only four of these feats were really fully tielfing-specific.

Chapters adding class features to the oracle, inquisitor, bard, and sorcerer follow.  As a fan of the oracle class I really liked the new oracle curses.  I think the oracle class has huge potential in for roleplay and I'm always keen on new material for it.  The three new inquisitions for the inquisitor class are almost all oriented towards inquisitors of evil deities, but that makes for great NPCs send to hunt down the PCs after the inevitable raid on some evil temple somewhere.  For the bard (a class I think is rather silly, thanks for asking) I was glad to see a dance included as a bardic masterpiece.  The dancer class/job in Final Fantasy always intrigued me and I really want to see a dance style bard in Pathfinder.  Last up is a daemon bloodline for the sorcerer class.  I love bloodlines for the sorcerer class and this one is well done.  (Strangely enough, even though I like reading up all the cool bloodlines I have no interest in actually playing one.  I'm not sure why.)

In the same vein as the feats above, Blood of Fiends includes a section on traits for tieflings.  Traits are a contributor to rules bloat in exactly the same way that feats are.  New feats and traits really should be held to a minimum.  All the traits presented here good, but as with feats I often think that players might as well just be able to make them up in cooperation with the GM.

And finally there is a random d100 table of random physical features for tieflings, such as Face: missing nose, Teeth: metallic, and Other: infernal glow.  Again, I love fluffy stuff like this for fantasy races.

Bottom line: I like the Blood of Fiends player companion and feel that it was a worthwhile purchase.

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