RPG Review – Underworld Races: Ahool
This supplement clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We kick off this installment of the Underworld Races-series with an extensive history of the underworld’s genesis -a subterranean origin myth, if you wish – from the banishment of the infernal forces of HEL in earth’s core to the forging (and splintering) of the dwarven races to the rise and fall of the dracoprime and the arrival of the colloid (the contribution of your’s truly to the lore of Aventyr) , we get an interesting, well-crafted origin myth here, one supplemented by a full blown-table of age, height and weight tables not only for the ahool, but for all underworld races.
After this general overview, we delve right into the write-up of the Ahool -so what are they? Demonic interaction with mortal races tends to spawn new species -and thus, the Ahool were born and from these did spawn the ahooling -a race of blood-drinking, vampiric humanoids. Ahoolings get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, are monstrous humanoids, a fly speed of 30 ft. (clumsy), SR 6+class level, darkvision 60 ft, resistance 5 to sonic and cold, a natural bite attack at 1d4 as a primary weapon, get +4 to fly-checks (here rather odd – the entry on this bonus mentions them as incapable of flying properly, which they can certainly do according to the flight speed) and suffer from light blindness. Rather weird here – fly speed versus vestigial wings – clumsy nets -8 to fly, the wings +4, so I *assume* a net skill of -4, but I’m not sure.
Apart from their moss caverns, the race also receives a significant amount of favored class options, which generally tend to be rather cool and cover most of the classes. However, a glitch has crept here in the option for the fledgling ahool racial paragon class: The FCO specifies that the race receives +2 ft. fly speed, which needs to be increments of 5 ft to work – so far, so good. But weirdly, the FCO mentions that there’s no effect if it has not been selected 5 times, which contradicts how the FCO works movement-rate wise – so which is it? Clarification would be required here.
We also receive two so-called racial archetypes, which essentially constitute of a select array of alternate racial trait-kits that can be applied to the ahooling – the Terrestrial and the Aquatic Ahooling – both receive change shape effects and alternate movement rates. Most interesting, though, would be the modularity that seeps into the racial paragon class – the racial archetypes influence the apotheosis granted by the class.
Now I’ve been mentioning this 5-level PrC, which nets full BAB-progression, good ref- and will-saves, d10, increases fly speed up to 60 ft., 2+Int skills per level, +3 natural armor bonus and the class allows the race to learn to blood drain, receive claws as secondary attacks and also learns to unleash obscuring mists, gusts of wind and finally receive a kind of apotheosis towards being closer to a full-blown ahool. They also receive a couple of appropriate proficiencies and the option to unleash a limited amount of sonic blasts on foes..
The ahooling may also opt for the Ironsinger PrC, which nets a 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 fort-save progression, +5 natural armor bonus progression and also DR 4/- over the 10 level-progression. The class also receives d8, 4+Int skills per level and increase the damage output of the sonic blasts granted by the fledgling racial paragon class. Beyond an array of thematically appropriate spell-like abilities, dazing and staggering sonic attacks and a capstone that lets them force targets to save multiple times to evade the lethal sonics.
Beyond these options, we also receive a total of 7 racial feats to improve bite attacks, flight and swoop down on foes, inspiring terror or reading information from the blood of those they consume. Speaking with bats and gaining fiendish familiars is also covered here. Rather weird here – flight is, once again, all over the place – one feat implies that the fledgling ahool only receives a limited amount of rounds of flight per day.
On the glorious side, a moss rope and net and bloodflow staunching moss make for cool alchemical items, whereas 3 magical items and 3 spells add further, nice options – throwing darts of obsidian that damage those without natural armor trying to use them, or the cool ahool crown make for neat items.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from some italicization errors. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Mike Myler and Julian Neale deliver a great race that is high concept and intriguing – but alas, one that partially falls short of the great promise of the race’s concept – the total and utter confusion regarding whether they get proper flight or not mars the ahooling somewhat, mostly due to unassisted flight usually being balance-wise restricted to some levels down the line. It’s overall somewhat hard to judge the race regarding this particular balancing, especially since the ahooling per se isn’t a particularly weak race in the first place – SR et al already make for a sufficiently powerful race at the higher end of the spectrum. That being said, this is not a bad supplement, the ahooling making for a compelling, unique race and the sonic-based PrCs and options generally make for a sufficiently unique race that feels like its own, unique culture, which is more than I can say about quite an array of creatures. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.
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