Randal Reads APG 2e: Ch 1 – Ancestries and Backgrounds (part 2)

Welcome back to the continuation of the Advanced Player’s Guide special review blog! If you missed the beginning, you can find it here, where we covered the Introduction, Catfolk, and Kobolds. Today we will finish the ancestries and start on the Versatile Heritages!

Chapter 1 – Ancestries and Backgrounds (cont’d)

Orc

  • Badlands Orc – heat resistance and more Hustle
  • Deep Orc – underground Terrain Expertise and Combat Climber
  • Hold-Scarred Orc – 12 HP and Diehard
  • Rainfall Orc – bonuses to climb/swim/disease

I enjoyed the shift in tone of the orcs to give them more depth than they usually get by simply being a bestiary entry, or fodder for creating half-orcs. I did laugh at how many times they mentioned what orcs find attractive in the second paragraph of the Physical Description section. The 10 HP and Strength plus Free ability boosts make orc an attractive ancestry, mechanically. The heritage choices seem to expand the flavor options of playing an orc, but mechanically Hold-Scarred seems superior. The feats that improve (or expand) Orc Ferocity are nice, and the Ferocious Beasts is a must have for a druid or ranger. All in all, I can see mixing and matching a number of heritage and feat combos for different build options, regardless of any mechanical superiority.

Ratfolk

  • Deep Rat – darkvision
  • Desert Rat – environmentally heat resistant but cold weak, can run faster on all four
  • Longsnout Rat – scent
  • Sewer Rat – disease resistant
  • Shadow Rat – intimidation, coerce animals

Ysoki … I could have sworn they were already a core option, I mean I have a ysoki bounty hunter … oh, right, Starfinder! Anyway, I am not sure why, but I feel like they either got added because of their popularity in Starfinder, or to tie in to their prevalence in starfinder, or perhaps both. And, I guess, there isn’t a reason for that to be a bad thing? Moving on. I chuckled at how often they referenced confusion between ratfolk and wererats, because, for some reason (likely playing Starfinder) I hadn’t made the connection yet. At 6 HP, Small, with Strength Flaw and low-light vision, their stats don’t really set them apart from other small ancestries. Deep Rat was expected, as was Desert Rat (although I liked the twist of cold and the optional run), Longsnout Rat was a sure thing, Sewer Rat shouldn’t be a surprise but it hadn’t occurred to me …  but the Shadow Rat heritage really seems to be something new, I loved the flavor. From cheek pouches to rat familiars and ratspeak, from bite attacks to maze navigation, there are a lot of 1st level feats to make a variety of characters. Improvements to packing your bags, as well as expanded use of cheeek pouches await at higher levels. I enjoyed the word play of most of these feats … but laughed that after all that wererat talk, you can actually take on a rat form at 9th level.

Tengu

  • Jinxed Tengu – success becomes crit success vs curse/misfortune, and flat check to decrease Doomed
  • Mountainkeeper Tengu – disrupt undead
  • Skyborn Tengu – never take falling damage
  • Stormtossed Tengu – elec resist and see through fog
  • Taloned Tengu – talon attack

The Tengu entry intrigued me. I like their concept and implementation in 1e, but I really didn’t expect to see them so soon in 2e. Their writeup was nice, but the mechanics and options for them really shine, making it a no brainer that we are going to see more tengu PCs than ever before. Dex and Free Boosts, low-light and a beak … very attractive options from a pure mechanical stand point … but the heritages are great, different, and give immediate rise to ideas for builds. Jinxed Tengu might be niche, but it is a new twist on halfling luck. Mountainkeeper Tengu may just be a cantrip heritage, but choosing primal or divine on the fly is an interesting mechanic. Skyborn Tengu is evocative of multiple tropes about feathered heroes. Stormtossed Tengu isn’t just about elemental resistance and Taloned Tengu provide even more unarmed combat options for the monks we all expect to see and build. I expected to see lore and weapon options for ancestry feats, fortune effects too … and they are there. Eat Fortune looks fun. The expanded flight for Skyborn is nice to see, as well. The Long-Nosed Form has given me something to lookup and learn about tengu. I honestly think all the feats are useful or neat, and making choices will come down to how I want my character to function more so than simply choosing the best mechanics.

Versatile Heritages

This is one of the sections that has been most anticipated in this book. How are they going to handle aasimar, tiefling, and other “planar scions” in second edition!? The answer seems to be simply (maybe even elegant?) creating heritages that can be selected by any ancestry. The first page was wordy, but seems to have covered all the nitty gritty of how Versatile Heritages and Lineage Feats work (lineage feats are ancestry feats for versatile heritages that specify what you came from; and you can have only one). I was glad to see the Many Ancestries sidebar call out that the choice of a single Ancestry + Heritage combo is purely mechanical, and that your character can just as easily be descended from a half-elf, half-orc, assimar and still select and use the mechanics of a dhampir (my example, not theirs). The Supernatural Origins sidebar similarly points out that these heritages can also be from rituals, planar incursions, or other mystical phenomena. Points I am glad are in the book to promote variety and imagination. The versatile heritages (and their lineages) outlined and summarized are:

  • Changling
    • Brine May (Sea Hag)
    • Callow May (Green Hag)
    • Dream May (Night Hag)
    • Slag May (Annis Hag)
  • Dhampir
    • Svetocher (Moroi)
    • Straveika (Nosferatu)
  • Planar Scions
    • Aasimar
      • Angelkin (Angel)
      • Lawbringers (Archon)
      • Musetouched (Azata)
    • Duskwalker
    • Tiefling
      • Hellspawn (Devil)
      • Pitborn (Demon)
      • Grimspawn (Daemonic)

Tune in tomorrow as I dive into Verstile Heritages!
And, as always, please join us at our Discord server https://discord.gg/Rt79BAj to let me know what you think or simply have a chat!

Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him vast amounts of ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, playing with his kids, bowling, or running a PF campaign, Randal is likely writing some new mobile web app (http://halfmugtavern.blog) to enhance the experience of playing Pathfinder!