Jinn: The Bound

Jinn: The Bound

You were born of Smokeless Fire, master of wastelands, walker of paths untouched by mortal feet, wielding power over the elements and mirages, hidden from the sight of the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. You were playing tricks on them as you pleased, bargained with their magicians, to the lost you showed mercy or your cruelty, as the fancy struck you...

And then came a wise one, a powerful one, a mortal versed in the lore more esoteric than the secrets of your kind, invoking names even greater than yours and your siblings. One by one, your kind fell to cunning and power, will and words. Their essence, their spirits were captured in trinkets of bronze and iron, forever bound to serve.

Jinn are creatures of wastelands and hidden oases, mirage and deception. Neither truly spirit nor mortal flesh, they existed somewhere in between those worlds until defeated by ancient wizards and witches, and bound into talismans to forever serve heirs, the mortals who rightfully bear them. Some talismans house single jinn but most contain essences of three to five, tied into a band forever. Each jinn has a reserve of ruh, life force that drives them and powers their magic. The reserve is smaller than they had when they were free, for part of that is pooled together in the talisman, available to all the jinn sharing the same bond. Ruh slowly replenishes itself a bit every sunrise and sunset and is expended to interact with the world and perform sihr.

Despite what many myths and legends claim, jinn are not all-powerful, being limited both by their bindings, by the inherent nature of their powers, and by their knowledge of the world and understanding of the human nature.

While the jinn's hearts remain eternally bound to the talisman, they retain bodiless, intangible presences, either slumbering within the talisman or hovering around it, incapable of acting unless following orders, wishes, and desires of the heir, protecting the heir from harm, or trying to get the lost talisman back to their heir. When bodiless, the jinn can move around—the more loyal can stride farther, though even the most dutiful jinn cannot project their presence further than a ten dozens of steps or so from the talisman. If the heir issues a command or express a desire that could be fulfilled by physical action, or are endangered by circumstances that could be mitigated in such way, the jinn can channel some of the available ruh and manipulate solid objects as if physically present for a short amount of time. They can also whisper short sentences directly into the thoughts of mortals, which might offer guidance or distract. Weak-willed and impulsive individuals might even take them for their own and act on them, though it is by no means a reliant form of mind-control.

If the heir makes an explicit command, or when the jinn judge that it would be the most efficient way to fulfill the tasks given, they can channel a much greater amount of ruh and manifest it into physical bodies for themselves, usually human, though sometimes animal—mouse, bat, desert fox, cat, snake, goat, dog, hyena, jackal, desert lion, donkey, oxen, camel or similar creature common to the deserts and wastelands. Such physical form lasts until killed or dismissed by the jinn. It can move farther from the talisman than the bodiless jinn, though the distance it can safely venture away is still limited, slowly weakening when farther than that.

When the task given goes beyond simple physical activity, the jinn can resort to sihr—magic of their kind. It is within jinn's power to create objects out of thin air, or rather, raw ruh, though they are limited in complexity, shape, and composition. Creating a pebble is a child's play, forming a gold nugget isn't hard, weaving a silken gown or a splendid feast takes more time and energy. A jinn who took time and effort to understand workings of modern devices could possibly even create a car, though any electronics is far beyond capacity of jinn magic—it is simply too complex to shape, composed of too tiny pieces that would require energy exceeding capacity of even the largest bands of jinn. All jinn creations are unstable and temporary, though, remaining in existence only as long as they are close to either the heir or the talisman. Once they are past a few dozen steps away, they quickly crumble into fine sand and smoke. Another application of sihr is weaving illusions, masking the true nature of objects and creatures under the veil of magic—though like magical creations they dissolve quickly away from the talisman. Such illusions have to be anchored to specific items, changing their form and mortal perceptions of them. Finally, jinn can also use their magic to heal injuries, cure diseases, undo curses, and ward off malicious supernatural powers, though this works more energy-efficient on the heir than on other mortals, and the worst illness, such as cancer are merely suspended while near the heir or the talisman. While jinn's healing magic can't extend the heirs' life forever, it can easily allow them to live comfortably and in good health up to human maximum lifespan of decade or two past a century, though the last years might require jinn to spend majority of their energy to upheld physical and mental well being of their masters with little to spare for other tasks.

Jinn have a number of advantages directly tied to their bond with the heir. They can always sense the heir's location, vital and emotional state, and understand whatever the heir speaks. With time, they can fine-tune their understanding of the heir's emotions and desires,  reading deepest thoughts and unspoken motivation behind their wishes. While bodiless and nearby they can also speak directly into the heir's mind.

Each talisman is a trinket usually made out of metal—bronze, iron, and gold are the most popular, though not exclusive. Contrary to the legends, they rarely take forms of lamps, more often being rings, necklaces, bracelets, and statuettes. Even when made of soft gold, each talisman is much more durable than its form would suggest—while not truly indestructible, nevertheless they are unlikely to be destroyed, for it would require a molten lava or one of those new foundries that make hardest steel run like a liquid.

While destroying the talisman might be a temptation to a jinn bound to one, each jinn is inherently aware that their very essence is captured within one. To destroy one, would be to erase oneself, unmake without trace nor any chance of freedom, however trifling it would be.

Heirs are the rightful owners of the talisman. The ancient spells and enchantments that bind jinn determine the ways of inheritance of such powerful artifact. The current heir can willingly pass the talisman to another person as they please, though they must do that voluntarily and knowingly—with intent of giving the talisman away, though they don't have to know about the talisman's power ("here, take this" while giving away your backpack does not passes the inheritance of the talisman stashed inside, unless giving away the talisman was the heir's intent). The current heir can designate who is supposed to inherit the talisman after them in case of their passing. If no inheritance was specified, the first of the children, spouses, and siblings of the deceased heir who claims the talisman becomes the new heir. If there is no such close relative, the first person who claims the talisman becomes the new heir. The heir can also deliberately reject ownership of the talisman. Passing, rejecting, or claiming the ownership of the talisman has to be done deliberately and of purely own will.

One can also become the heir by defeating the current heir and claiming the talisman, though jinn are bound to attempt to protect the current heir in such situation unless he explicitly commands them to not interfere, making it an unlikely prospect.

There are certain restriction on inheritance, though. First and foremost is that only a living mortal human can be heir. Undead can't inherit or claim a talisman at all and if a legitimate heir is turned into one, the ownership of the talisman passes to the next heir or is voided until a viable heir claims it. Werebeasts are not human and can't inherit either. Magicians and other folks adept in esoteric arts can be bearers of talismans, but they are not true heirs either—they can tap energies stored within the talisman for arcane purposes, but the jinn remain bodiless and powerless to act, though they can communicate with magician-heir.

When the talisman remains unclaimed, its jinn are powerless and can't do anything—a state of boredom often even more frustrating than being commanded by a mere mortal. After some time in this state, jinn tend to fall into a dream-like fugue where they barely note the events of their surrounding and yet being burdened by passage of time. This alone makes a great motivation for most jinn to take extra care protecting their heirs from harm. The only things more dreadful to a band of jinn than spending eternity at the bottom of the sea, might be their utter annihilation in the depths of a volcano, and many would wonder if the later isn't the better option anyway.

No jinn can knowingly harm their heir, directly or indirectly, including the situation where stopping the action taken would cause harm (for example, a jinn holding a large boulder under which heir passes, can't simply drop it). They can refrain from protecting their heir but as their loyalty wanes, so does their reach around the talisman, and their ability to interpret the tasks given—as the binding enchantment restrict vestiges of their freedom even more.

The jinn have free choice if they reveal themselves to the heir of the talisman they are bound to—assuming the previous heir hadn't revealed the secret of the talisman before the inheritance. Either option has its advantages and disadvantages. A clueless heir might have wilder wishes and desires but won't bother jinn with explicit tasks. A heir in the know can be more concise and clear when it comes to issuing commands but might also ask more and more.

During their services, the jinn have to struggle with their heirs—to fulfill their orders and desires; with the world around—to protect their heirs from threats, violent and accidental; with mundane thieves, envious siblings, arcane societies, and esoteric cults who would get their hands of the talisman, which at best would involve recruiting the heir, and more likely would involve killing them, or even sacrificing them to dark spirits. They also often end struggling with the consequences of the way they fulfilled their tasks—owners of wealth they redirected to their masters, criminals they thwarted, tax collectors suspicious of display of unaccounted for luxuries...


Monster: Drac'coon

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A cat with long head, slender limbs, lithe torso, and a pair of bat-like wings. Its body is covered with fur and bony plating, with short bony horns growing between its furry ears.

CR 2; XP 600

N Small Dragon
Init +6; Senses blindsense 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +10


AC 14, touch 13, flat-footed 12 (+2 Dex, +1 natural, +1 size)
hp 19 (3d12)
Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +5
Defensive Abilities evasion; Immune paralysis, sleep, dragons' frightful presence

Speed 40 ft., climb 40 ft., fly 40 ft. (average)
Melee 2 claws +4 (1d4), bite +4 (1d4)
Special Attacks hypnotic purr, odious vomit, pounce

Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 15, Cha 15
Base Atk +3; CMB +2; CMD 14 (18 vs. trip)
Feats Alertness, Improved Initiative
Skills Acrobatics +5 (+9 jumping), Climb +8, Knowledge (arcana) +7, Perception +10, Sense Motive +10, Stealth +12, Swim +6, Use Magic Device +8
Languages Common, Draconic

Environment temperate forests and hills, urban, ruins
Organization single or pair
Treasure standard

Special Abilities

Hypnotic Purr (Su) A drac'coon can purr as a standard action, fascinating those within 30 feet who fail their Will saving throw (DC 13) for as long as drac'coon purrs plus 1d4 rounds thereafter. Fascinated creature may approach the purring drac'coon and pet it, if they are not afraid of being scratched. A content drac'coon can purr for hours. Dragons and big felines suffer –4 penalty to their saving throws. The saving throw DC is Charisma-based.

Odious Vomit (Ex) A drac'coon can spew an odious vomit in a 5-ft cone. A living creature caught within the cone that fails a Reflex saving throw (DC 11) is sickened for 1d4 rounds. The saving throw DC is Constitution-based.

Drac'coon combine (some would say the worst) qualities of cats and dragons. They are vain, capricious, inquisitive, playful, lazy, gluttonous beings. These days, they are more likely to be found among humanoids and dragons, living as pampered pets, watchers, and spies, than living in the wilds. They like collecting shiny things, especially magic items that generate light, though they are not really greedy, considering them mere toys. Some of them like hunting, though often they lose track and turn to searching for strange and hidden things, or exploring new places, though when doing this then can be distracted again by potential prey.

A young drac'coon (CR 1, Tiny) can be selected as an Improved Familiar (required caster level 5th). It usually grows to full size around caster level 9th.


Fantasy Races: Nyr Erain

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Fantasy Races: Nyr Erain

Nyr erain are a spiritual salvage from a universe that is no more, collapsed in an uncertain disaster that left few traces. Somehow, before its final moments, an unknown group or force managed to scavenge whatever was left of the mortal souls of their dying world, and to cast them across dimensions, together with a seed that grew in the depths of the Shadow Plane into the city of obsidian and darkness. There, the saved spirit remnants were patched together into new souls by the esoteric machinery of the city, and reborn into bodies designed of what was available at hand—volcanic glass and shadows.

Now, nyr erain are seeking their place in the greater universe, learning of its wonders, of their origins, and of themselves, but they are also full of hope for new existence here and now.

Their name, nyr erain, like their whole language is approximate recreation of some common elements of the languages used on their vanquished world. Nyr means something close to "We" or "People", while erain might mean "refuges", "saved", "escaped" or "exiled".

Physical Description: Nyr erain have lithe, mostly anthropomorphic bodies with skin the color of ink or a starry night. While they have pair of arms and a pair of legs, like humanoids they were shaped to resemble, instead of head they have a vaguely head-shaped flame, dark green, dark blue, or dark purple, with a number of brighter sparks moving within—physical manifestation of nyr erain's soul, formed out of shards of spirits of beings that nyr erain were in their native universe. Nyr erain head-flame visibly dims, diminish, and calms down when they sleep or are unconscious, and goes out when they die. Their bones are shaped of obsidian and their flesh is made of the stuff of the Shadow Plane, evaporating within hours of their death, leaving skeleton of black volcanic glass.

Nyr erain flesh is cool, smooth, and supple to touch, lacking any hair whatsoever. Nyr erain typically prefer to wear clothing colored white, ivory, or brighter hue of their own spirit-flame.

Nyr erain bodies are more temporary than bodies of mortals, failing after twenty five to thirty five years, releasing their spirits to return to their city.

Society: Nyr erain have only single settlement of their own, Erain, their hidden citadel of obsidian and gloom, drifting through the vast depths of The Shadow Plane. There, at its heart arrays of soul-conduits fuse shards of nyr erain spirits into living souls and attach them to bodies made of shadowstuff grown over obsidian bones.

Around the heart lies the inner city, a labyrinth of chambers, buildings, and corridors, where newly awakened nyr erain learn the basics of their existence, attended only by shadowy phantasms until they are ready to step into the outer city. While the heart of the city, and its inner part function seemingly autonomously, driven by esoteric machines that recycle nyr erain souls and build nyr erain bodies, the outer city is a much more conventional settlement, where thousands of nyr erain live before they venture into the world beyond. Occasionally, planar travelers reach Erain, meeting and trading with its denizens. As nyr erain need no food or drink, they produce little of those, but they still have some craftsmen making clothing, tools, weapons, and armors for their kin. They also have a number of defenders, protecting the city from possible intrusions, mostly hunting shadowy monstrosities and undead that crept in. Still, even the outer Erain would be foreboding and alien place to other mortals, with its dark alleys, obsidian walls, and omnipresent living shadows.

Erain lacks clear leaders, with each newly created nyr erain being instructed about world and existence by shadowy phantasms manifesting themselves in the inner city, often in dreams that might or might not be vestiges of memories inherent in spirit shards that compose their souls. The outer city is lacklacks true government either, with nyr erain usually simply acting on their own initiative when they perceive the need for specific action for the good of the community—their well developed compassion and empathy makes antisocial activities rare.

There are a few nyr erain settlements outside of Erain, often loosely governed by a council of the most experience nyr erain. They are all reliant on arrival of new nyr erain from Erain, though, because their people don't reproduce naturally.

Relations: Nyr erain are recent arrivals to this universe, knowing little of other peoples, though eager to learn. This is complicated by their strange appearance that might disturb folks unused to exotic people. Many nyr erain wander away from their people, in company of adventurers of other races, making impression of being unique being, often mistaken for an undead, a magical construct, or taken for some sort of extraplanar being, with the later being technically true, though mostly misleading.

This slowly changes, however, as the numbers of errant nyr erain grow, combined with their shared willingness to help driven by both pragmatism and compassion.

Alignment And Religion: Nyr erain have tendency to be compassionate and willing to help others, though it is not clear if it was inherent preference for good back in their native universe, quality that increased chance of the soul to be salvaged during the end, the reaction to being saved from impending doom, or a quality instilled in the reformed souls, deliberately or as a side effect of the spirit-fusing process.

A few nyr erain turned to evil—those who were corrupted by utter despair into nihilistic hatred of existence, and those who obsessed on bringing order and safety to the point of accepting absolutely any means available, becoming ruthless and callous in execution of their duties, and being blinded by their convictions to the point where they no longer care about those they protect.

Nyr erain are not a part of the natural cycle of souls. Instead, when they die, their souls unravel back into the constituent spirit shards. They slowly seep through the planes over days, weeks, or months, until they reach Shadow Plane and return back to Erain, where they are recaptured by soul conduits and join the commonality of nyr erain spirit shards stored within. There they await being refused into a new soul and bound to a freshly made body.

Adventurers: Basically each and every nyr erain is an adventurer, a champion seeking the place for their people in this new, strange universe. The common heroic classes among nyr erain are paladins, slayers, and spiritualists, fighting evil, hunting monsters, and tending to vestigial shards of nyr spirits.

Names: Nyr erain names are composed of three to seven short syllables.

Sample Names: TeMaTaNaRi, IteWaKa, NeKaTeMa

Nyr Erain Racial Traits

Ability Scores: +2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, –2 Constitution. Nyr erain bodies made of shadow and obsidian are capable of exerting significant force but are not as resilient as real flesh. They also have an occasional insight of souls much older than they are.

Type: Nyr erain are outsiders with native subtype.

Normal Speed: Nyr erain have land speed of 30 feet.

Darkvision: Nyr erain can see in the dark up to 60 feet.

Absorb Shadows (Su): Once per day, nyr erain can attempt to draw shadow energies with a touch. This works like touch-ranged targeted dispel magic against illusions and effects with the shadow descriptor. If a shadow effect is dispelled in this way (but not a non-shadow illusion), the nyr erain gains temporary hit points equal to caster level of the effect. Against creatures and objects created from shadow or summoned from the Shadow Plane, it works like vampiric touch. Either effect uses the nyr erain's character level as a caster level.

Flesh Of Shadow: Being made mostly of essence of shadows, nyr erain always treat Illusion (shadows) as fully real, never making Will disbelief saves, though they make any other saving throws required by interaction with shadows normally. Because of the ties, they recognize majority of illusions (shadow) as being powered by the Shadow Plane like themselves. Nyr erain don't need to eat or drink, though they can consume food and liquids to gain their magical effects. As a weird side effect, any attempt to use a nyr erain as a basis for simulacrum effect, instead of creating regular simulacrum, has a 25% chance that it will work like clone spell for the nyr erain copied, 25% chance it will attract unbound nyr erain spirit, giving life to a completely new, fully fledged nyr erain, and 50% chance it will fail to work at all.

Spirit-Flame (Su): Nyr erain spirit-flame is manifestation of their spirit and not actual light, despite its appearance. It only dimly illuminates ethereal and incorporeal creatures and objects within 5 feet, revealing their presence but little else.

Unraveling Shadows (Su): Nyr erain can voluntarily unravel shadows composing their bodies, effectively killing themselves with a standard action (though they can never be compelled or convinced to do that against their fully conscious and independent choice). When nyr erain die violently (except when killed by death or disintegration effect) or voluntarily unravel their bodies, they release the shadows they were composed of, allowing the deceased to duplicate a single evocation or conjuration spell effect with the spell level not exceeding half their character level (rounded down). This is an illusion (shadow) with a Will disbelief saving (20% effectiveness for those who make the save) in addition to any saving throws included in the effect itself and lasts for no longer than 3 rounds.

Language: Nyr erain begin play speaking Common and Erain. Nyr erain with a high Intelligence score can choose from the following: Abyssal, Aklo, Dwarven, and Elven.

Nyr Erain Feats
Nyr erain can select following feats enhancing their natural abilities.

Dissolve Shadows
You can use your absorb shadows ability in a area of effect burst.
Prerequisites: Nyr erain, absorb shadows racial feature.
Benefit: You can use your absorb shadows to affect creatures and objects in a 20-ft. radius burst centered on you. If your absorb shadows steals life from one or more shadow creatures, you gain temporary hit points equal to the highest number of hit points lost by any one of those creatures. You can use absorb shadows one additional time per day.

Shadow Bane
You fight against hostile shadows.
Prerequisites: Nyr erain, absorb shadows racial feature.
Benefit: You can spend one of your absorb shadows daily uses as a swift action to ignite your hands with your spirit-flame. For a number of rounds equal to your character level, your unarmed, natural, and weapon attacks gain bane weapon property, gaining bonuses against creatures and objects created with illusion (shadow) effects and creatures native to Shadow Plane. You can use absorb shadows one additional time per day.

Shadow Healing
You can be healed with shadow magic.
Prerequisites: Nyr erain, absorb shadows racial feature.
Benefit: Anyone casting a spell or spell-like ability with shadow descriptor can decide to use it to heal you instead of producing its normal effects. The caster must touch you and you heal 1d8 points of damage per spell level of the spell used.

Spirit Flare
You can intensive the glow of your spirit flame for a short time.
Prerequisites: Nyr erain, spirit-flame racial feature.
Benefit: Once per day, as a standard action, you can cause your spirit-flame flare with unearthly glow for a number of rounds equal to your character level. The glow reveals all invisible, incorporeal, and ethereal creatures and objects within 30 feet, outlining them with a faint light of the same hue as your spirit-flame. You can use your absorb shadows racial ability as a vampiric touch on living and undead incorporeal and ethereal creatures revealed by your spirit flare.

Favored Class Options
Nyr erain can select following options as their favored class bonuses.

Fighter: +1 to all healing received. Shadow flesh might be less durable than real one, but it is also easier to mend.

Metamorph: +1/4 of an evolution point. Nyr erain flesh is malleable.

Paladin: +1 foot to radius of spirit-flame, dissolve shadows, and spirit flare.

Slayer: +1/4 additional use of absorb shadows per day.

Spiritualist: +1/2 of an illusion spell selected from bard, psychic, or sorcerer/wizard spell list with spell level equal to or lower than the highest current spell level available is added to the spiritualist spell list and spells known.


Xeno Files #9: Azan And Ker-Azan

So, once upon a time, I wrote a race of small geniuses with big egos...

Now, they are back, spreading far and wide across the galaxy! With even bigger toys. Azan don't play for small stakes!


Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest: The First Gimpse

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The First Glimpse Of Pathfinder's Second Edition

A few days ago, Paizo released the playtest for incoming second edition of their widely popular Pathfinder RPG. The >full package< contains the rulebook, the bestiary, "Doomsday Dawn"—a set of seven test adventures, tracking sheet to makes notes for the incoming playtest survey, and four pages of flip maps, that someone with really good printer could print for the sessions... Printing them on a cheap, character sheet-grade printer (like the one I have) would be probably a waste of ink/toner, however.

The files present publishing-grade quality, with the rulebook and the adventure book containing illustrations typical for Paizo (and most if not all of them new). Regretfully, bestiary lacks those and is more concise than the typical Pathfinder monsters books. Monster entries are designed for the playtest and not an actual game, providing mechanics with only two to three sentence description for each monster.

Note that there is still almost year until the game is published, so everything is flux, and what I write here is what is presented now. It might be changed later because of feedback and testing.

Basic Rules
Second edition is not so much a rework, as the case of the system being disassembled into component parts and rebuild from scratch using a similar frame, keeping some of the core ideas, discarding others, and reinventing a lot. We still have races (renamed "ancestries"), classes, levels, ability scores, spells, skills, feats (a lot of feats in fact), checks, saving throws, attack rolls, AC, and check DCs. All of that seen changes and adjustments, sometimes quite significant.

For starters, the game drops base attack bonus, base saving throws, and skill ranks, instead introducing proficiency ranks. Basically anything that is related to a d20 roll involves a proficiency rank, ranging from untrained (–2), trained (+0), expert (+1), master (+2), and legendary (+3), with the numbers I listed in parentheses added to the character's level to get a proficiency modifier. Whenever you make a check (except flat checks), you make a d20 roll and add your ability score and the appropriate proficiency modifier, so a 10th level fighter with expert rank in Medicine skill and Wisdom score of 16 adds +14 to his Medicine check, plus any other bonuses and penalties that might affect him at the moment. This inflates numbers quite fast, but the Difficult Class of challenges raises at similar rate. The same method is used to determine AC and DC of spells and abilities, except they add 10 instead of roll, so the same 10th level fighter with master proficiency in Perception will offer DC of 25 to a pick pocket trying to steal his purse. Other modifiers tend to be lower than in the first edition, so while the numbers rolled escalate quickly, there is no such wild spread among them as in the first edition where DCs of challenges were reaching the point where characters competent in them were passing them easily while other characters of the same level had no practical chance of succeeding. On the other hand it leads to ridiculous situations where high level character that should be completely incompetent in some field still easily beats an expert of much lower level. For example, a 20th level crude barbarian with Charisma 8, has +17 total bonus to Deception checks, easily fooling fifth level noble diplomat with her DC of 19. Some of the activities and skill uses require having certain proficiency rank (for example you can lie while untrained in Deception, but you need trained rank to use Feint in combat).

Another novelty (for a Pathfinder that is), is introduction of grades of success. If the d20 check beats the DC by 10, or when the natural 20 was rolled and the check succeeded, the result if a critical success. If the roll failed by 10, or a natural 1 was rolled while result would be a failure, a critical failure occurs. Many activities offer additional effect when critical success or critical failure occurs, such as extra damage inflicted, worse condition suffered, etc.

Races ancestries still adjust ability scores, give starting languages, starting hit points, land speed, and in some cases either low-light vision or darkvision, but now, all the former racial abilities were relegated to the role of ancestry feats. I have mixed feeling about that... On one hand, it means you don't have to have racial traits you don't care for, but also means you might have to wait until high level to gather all the abilities you considered signature for the race. You get your first ancestry feat at 1st level, and then one every four levels thereafter (5th, 9th, 13th, 17th).

The core ancestries include humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings, and goblins... Yes, the goblins are becoming a core PC race. Wait... Where are half-elves and half-orcs?! Well, now they are heritage feats for humans. You have to sacrifice your first ancestry feat (instead of using it to pick that juice extra class feat at 1st level) to become one. In return you get to select two out of four minor benefits and further access to feats of your other ancestry and some that are specific to your half-race.

A completely new element involved in the character creation (or not so new for those who played Starfinder), is "background", telling us where your character was raised or what he did before becoming an adventurer. Each background gives you ability score bonuses, a you a feat (often of rather limited use), and a lore skill linked to your job.

Then there are classes. To the old eleven, the alchemist was added as a core class. Each class now gets a lot of selective options in the form of class feats (old systems like barbarian's rage powers and rogue talents were turned into class feats), with one class feat gained on each even level (and some but not all classes also get a class feat at 1st level). Each class defines the character's starting proficiency ranks in things like perception, weapons, armor, and saving throws, as well as allowing the characters to select a number of skills in which they are trained. Additionally, each class has a list of "signature skills", skills which can be trained beyond expert rank at higher levels... This is one of the contentious areas, as, three days after the playtest was released, a lot of people are very negative toward that restriction—either in principle, or because of lack of possibility of customization forcing you to pick specific class if you want to play character that in the future is supposed to be master of certain skill. I expect it will be one of aspects of the game that will see changes.

Alchemist has an ability to create a limited number of short-duration alchemical items each day, especially bombs, such as alchemist acid, alchemist fire, and bottled lightning—thanks to abilities that significantly increase their effects.

Barbarians enter destructive rage, like they did in the past... Except now they can rage unlimited number of times each day, though each rage is limited to three rounds now, followed by short period of being exhausted when they can't rage. Each barbarian now picks a totem that gives certain additional effects to the rage and places certain restrictions on barbarians who follow them (for example barbarian with giant totem can't refuse challenges of strength).

Bards also had some significant redesign to their abilities. Now, they are primary occult caster, having access to nine levels of spells (with 10th level of spells unlocked via a 20th level class feat). Their bardic performance was reworked into a number of cantrips, renamed "compositions" and are now usable at will, though restricted to one active composition at a time, unless you pick feat that allows you to use two compositions at the same time. Despite that change, they still remain recognizable, with initial composition known to all bards being inspire courage. What they lost, though, is general bardic lore, which they now can acquire as a feat. Each bard picks a muse at 1st level, being something between inspiration and philosophy behind the bard's life and granting the initial class feat and the second 1st level known.

Clerics still cast divine spells with nine levels of spells (again, a class feat unlocks 10th level of spells at 20th level), have access to domains, though they get only one domain at 1st level now (they can select two more with class feats), and channel energy to heal or harm. Domains grant powers (spells cast with spell points instead of being cast with slots) but don't grant bonus spells, however, and channel energy absorbed the role of the old spontaneous cure/inflict casting, being the ability to cast scaling heal spell (or harm, in case of some but not all evil deities), that depending upon the number of actions spent casting can affect single touched target, single target at range, or everyone within 30 feet.

Druids are main casters for a new type of primal magic. They are divided into orders that grant them their initial special ability—animal companion for animal order, leshy familiar fo leaf order, lightning attack for storm order, and wild shape for claw order... Yes, wild shape is potentially available to druids from the first level, but it is seriously nerfed comparing to the first edition, as it now lasts for a single minute per use. *yuck* Polymorphy was redesigned again, anyway. Each druid can select abilities of other orders with class feats, so you can have wild shaping druid with animal companion and leshy familiar throwing lightning arcs around.

Fighters are still the masters of weapons, though mastery of armor is supposedly more of a paladin niche in this edition. They are the only class that starts with the ability to perform attacks of opportunity, and later can get ability to perform more than one reaction between their turns.

Monks are much less reliant on Wisdom in this edition, ki points derived from Wisdom bonus being purely optional (if you pick the right feat), they don't apply it to their AC either. They can get various stances and special attacks by picking the right class feats. If they decided to get that ki points, they have some quasi-magical options as well.

Playtest paladins are traditional lawful good guys, but the final game might have paladins for different alignments. Their two initial abilities of note, is old favorite lay on hands, and a new retributive strike that allows them to make a reactive attack when enemy strikes adjacent ally instead of them. At 3rd level they gain ability to summon spirit that will imbue their weapon, their shield, or take form of a mount. They don't cast spells in the traditional way, but can use their class feats to add various powers that are spells cast using a pool of spell points.

Rangers don't get spells either. They can select an enemy as their prey, gaining a number of advantages against that specific foe. They can select animal companion feat, and some extra combat and trapping abilities with more class feats.

Rogues still get sneak attack, though it doesn't do as many dice of damage at higher levels as in the first edition. They are definite masters of skills, getting more skill increases, more signature skills, and more skill feats than any other class. Their class feats grant them a lot of options for enhancing their sneak attacks, increase mobility, and defending oneself.

Sorcerers pick their bloodline, which in addition to powers and skills, determines what type of magic they wield: arcane, divine, occult, or primal. Angelic-blooded sorcerer casts divine spells now, and can be a decent healer, while dragon-blooded one cast arcane spells, and fey-blooded primal. They don't get as many spells per day as they did in the first edition, but they still are spontaneous casters.

Wizards feel quite familiar, with their arcane spells, selection of specialization school that even grant bonus spell slot for the specialization spell at each spell level.

Skills And Feats
Skills were cut down to sixteen specific skills (Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, Crafting, Deception, Diplomacy, Intimidation, Medicine, Nature, Occultism, Performance, Religion, Society, Stealth, Survival, Thievery) plus potentially infinite number of Lore skills, which cover most vocational skills and knowledge of anything not covered by main skills. Each skill has a number of skill feats associated, which are gained at every even level (except of rogue who gets one each level), that unlock extra options and benefits for that particular skill. For example a character trained in Medicine can select Battlefield Medic which allows the character to heal wounds to an ally once per day.

General feats were seriously cut down to a few, with a general feat gained at 3rd level and every four levels thereafter. Multiclassing is done by picking special multiclassing feats that grant you some abilities of class other than your own.

Spellcasting remains similar to the first edition one, retaining both prepared vancian casting (cleric, druid, wizard) and spontaneous casting using daily slots (bard, sorcerer) though many spells were redesigned and moved around. New type of spells was introduced called powers, which are spells bestowed by class features and feats, cast using spell points instead of being cast with daily slots. Cantrips are still cast at will, and now they scale somewhat with the level of the caster. Many spells can be scaled by using them with a higher level spell slot than minimum required to cast them (for example regular 3rd level fireball inflicts 6d6 points of fire damage, but when cast using higher level slot, it inflicts additional 2d6 for each level beyond 3rd).

Combat saw some big redesign when it comes to action system. Instead of having a standard action, a move action, and a quick action, or a full action with iterative attacks, the second edition gives each character three actions that can be used to move, attack, interact, or use their abilities as they please (well, mostly, many abilities have restrictions how often or when you can use them, though basic actions allow for a lot of versatility). Casting spells usually requires two actions—one verbal casting and one somatic casting, though this vary from spell to spell. Certain effects can give characters fourth action, often with strict restrictions on what kind of action can be taken, while slowed condition can take away third or even second action from affected character. Between your turns you can make single reaction, though a lot of characters probably won't get any abilities that would let them meaningfully utilize their reactions, attacks of opportunity are now ability restricted to fighters and (with selection of correct feat) paladins mostly. Free actions are still here.

Attacking itself is still the same, roll the die, add the total bonus, compare to AC, roll the damage if hit. Scoring critical hits against low AC enemies is easier, as you only need to beat their AC by 10 points, but critical multipliers are gone, with attacks dealing double damage. Some weapons have a deadly trait that lets them roll extra die of damage, while others have fatal trait, which alters their damage die on a critical hit, though.

Dying was redesigned into a series of Fortitude saving throws, with failures stacking dying condition, until the character is dead when it reaches dying 4. It's possible to die quickly if you are downed by a critical hit (you normally get dying 1 when you drop to 0 hit points, but a critical hit gives you dying 2 immediately) and then by rolling a critical failure on your recovery save, which gives you two more levels of dying.

Goodies, aka Magic Items and other treasures
The treasure section includes a number of alchemical items, particularly important for alchemists, as they can craft many of them for their use during adventures, runes that can be etched on weapons and armors to grant them various magical properties, and more classical items such as wands, staves, scrolls, and wondrous items.

The big change regarding magic items is introduction of a Resonance, a pool of points that refreshes daily, equal to the character's level plus their Charisma modifier that need to be spent to use magic items.

The game offers exploration mode rules regarding, well, exploration, as well as some minimalist downtime options allowing for a structured if abstracted activity between adventures, such as earning money through work, crafting items, gathering information, and retraining. Oh, and your super-miserly PCs can save money on living by scrounging for food in wilderness and towns, if they can make their Survival or Society rolls.

The playtest has just begun, there still might be some major changes made in the future and we'll surely see a lot of minor adjustments.


Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest is here!

So, the moment has come, and just a few hours ago Paizo started an open playtest of the second edition of their enormously popular roleplaying game Pathfinder.

The files can be downloaded here: rulebook, bestiary, and the first in the series of playtest scenarios.