Frogfolk of Porphyra RPG review by Endzeitgeist
This installment of the „…of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, with the pdf laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), leaving us with 54 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This book was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
In case you were wondering: Porphyra RPG is essentially a continuation of Pathfinder 1, fully backwards compatible in the same way as Pathfinder behaved to 3.5, but with several cool features such as scaling feats and the like. Now, it should be noted that this pdf was written before the rules for Porphyra RPG were finalized, a fact that makes this closer to Pathfinder in several ways, so this is something to bear in mind.
All right, so, frogfolk! Who doesn’t love them? I sure as heck love me some gripplis, and indeed, these frogfolk are one of the three races contained herein, with the other two being the boggards and the doathi. We start with the boggards, and indeed, the book begins with a really well-written introduction by Perry Fehr, one that does a rather excellent job of setting the stage for culture and leitmotifs of the boggards, who are said to have ventured to the patchwork planet of Porphyra at the behest of the Great Old Ones, and boggards are resembling humanoid monstrous toads (as opposed to the gripplis being frog-like); the boggards as depicted here are an extremely primal society native to swamplands, and they still feel the sting of the Elemental Lords losing the NewGod war, reserving particular enmity for the Chiuta. The details provided, which include sample names, provide a compelling picture.
Mechanics-wise, boggards get +2 Strength and Constitution, -2 Intelligence, which makes them somewhat lopsided regarding their preferred classes. They are Medium humanoids with the boggard subtype, speed 20 ft., swim speed 30 ft., and get darkvision and low-light vision. This is one of the changes, were the pdf is closer to PF1 than Porphyra RPG, as in Porphyra RPG darkvision has no range, and includes low-light vision. Boggards have hold breath, and get a 10-feet tongue secondary attack; interesting here: This tongue locks you and the target down, but does not interact with the drag/pull rules, instead locking you and the target in place in relation to each other, making the tongue a pretty potent tool; however, since it’s easy to break loose, there is no reliable way to cheese this. Still, theoretically, this would allow a tribe of boggards to use their tongues to limit the movements of targets that they shouldn’t be able to restrict – this does not paralyze them, or anything, but it does allow boggard groups to lock down targets action economy-wise. While this does seem a bit odd to me, it may well be intentional. Still, a certain sense of disjunction did not leave me here. Boggards get marsh strike, and the mind-affecting sonic, Charisma-governed terrifying croak ability, usable 1/hour as a standard action. A target can end up being briefly shaken, and the ability has a caveat that prevents spamming it, but lists no range – I assume as far as can be heard, but yeah, pretty sure there should be a range.
Alternative racial traits include a bite attack (that does not properly specify damage type – Porphyra’s convention is bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage for that), some water-themed SPs…and a really cool one, that allows them to communicate across surprising distances – this one in particular, the toadsong, has some seriously cool repercussions regarding how you can depict them, and sets them apart. Really like it! There also is a replacement for the tongue that lets you make 10 foot 5-foot-steps on a successful Acrobatics check – the DC here is a very low flat DC, when it would have made more sense to at least somewhat tie this to the threatening creatures. Then again, Porphyra RPG has gotten rid of much of the bonus stacking tricks, so yeah. The pdf includes 4 nice, properly-coded race traits and 3 racial feats that scale with levels: Exploding Warts punishes critical hits against you with acid damage; Marshmaster nets you a +2 bonus to AC, initiative, Perception in marshes (later +4), and Toad-Boss Bully provides minor debuffs to creatures you demoralize or hit with melee attacks but only one target may be affected at a given time. I *assume* that affecting a new target ends the previous effect, but this is not explicitly stated.
Doathia are essentially batrachians deep ones, who look like humans, but suffer a -2 penalty to Charisma upon reaching middle age. They get either gills, +1 natural armor, +2 to Perception, or “resist sonic 5” (should be resistance); the bonus types are not codified properly either, and formatting differs from how Porphyra RPG usually does that. Odd: This is not included in the racial traits. Doathi get +2 to any “characteristic” (should be ability score), -2 to Charisma, are Medium aberrations, have darkvision (again, not the Porphyra version) and resistance acid and sonic 5, once more erroneously referred to as “resist.” They have an unnatural aura and a properly codified +4 racial bonus to Athletics made to swim, and may take 10 while swimming. 4 alternate racial traits are included, and I have no complaints there – they are well-balanced and precisely-presented, including easier item activation due to a history of forbidden lore, SPs, etc.. and the pdf also sports some cool traits: My favorite states: “You are fascinated with the Great Old Ones, but their cults are too gauche for your membership.” This nets you mythos spells added t spell list, and made me genuinely chuckle. Hidden Twin is a great racial feat, it lets you summon an invisible monster that later is greater invisible. Ogdoad Legacy nets you limited fast healing and later no breath and acid immunity. Like these!
The grippli,a s depicted herein, get +2 Dexterity and Wisdom, -2 Strength, are Small, have the boggard subtype, darkvision (same issue as before), 30 ft. speed on land and in water, 20 ft. climb speed, +8 racial bonus to Athletics checks made to climb and swim, +4 racial bonus to Stealth in marshes and forested areas. They can also fall in a more controlled manner if not overly encumbered; they always have a running start for jumping purposes, marsh stride, a Con-governed toxic skin (Track: Sluggish-Stiffened, Staggered), kept in check by limited uses, and weapon familiarity with nets. Overall, a pretty powerful race regarding the utility. In the alternate racial characteristics, something has gone wrong – there is one, bughunter, which nets you a +1 trait bonus to hit and damage vermin. That should be a trait, and its cost should not be the vastly superior jumper and toxic skin. Pretty sure that this should be a trait, and have no cost. Grippli also get the cool communication-angle, and toxic skin may be replaced with a skin that is permeable, allowing for bladders storing potions to be smashed and consumed more quickly. This one is really cool. The 4 traits that are presented here, are once more all mechanically-tight and properly codified. There are three racial feats: Poison Spit lets you spit the toxin, but since it’s just 1/day, that may not be the smartest move. Frog Style is a cool (Style) feat that lets you bounce around when critting, with two cool follow-up tricks that allows you to potentially throw and follow foes. Split-Second Leap lets you 1/combat avoid a ranged attack with a Reflex save – I generally like this, but it should not have a nonsensical “per combat” use, and instead specify a fixed duration.
The pdf also presents new racial spells (Porphyra differentiates more between spell-lists, which is one fantastic change). For the purpose of readability of this review, I will put spell names in italics, even though Porphyra RPG’s convention is to not do so. 3 variants of call bugs (pretty self-explanatory what that does) are included; Curse of the Ogdoad is a nasty, permanent curse that afflicts the target with essentially disadvantage on d20-rolls. Key and Jewel points the caster towards the nearest magic item (excluding those in the caster’s possession and those of their allies), which is a great time-saver at the table. Plague of Warts is interesting, in that it is a debuff – but for boggards and aberrations, it acts as a buff. Toe of Frog is a nice little grippli-curse, and Wall of Muck allows for low-level terrain control.
We also are introduced to an array of new magical items, which includes the Batrachonomicon artifact – and yes, it’s a risky tome. The Boggy Bodhran is a buffing hand-drum, and really creepy: Elixirs if Devolution can make anthropomorphic humanoids revert to being animals, with hybrids such as doathi having a 50% chance to become giant frogs or orangutans…A jade frog wondrous figurine can warn you of traps (or move/transform into a frog), and there is a mask that enhances mythos spells. Cursed totems of the Great Old Ones, makes that can plague of warts targets, and there is a web-woven grippli-armor as well. Generally a neat selection! Mundane items, such as snares that may be carried around (damage type not properly codified), a grippli fruit drink (called, of course, “Buu’uurp”), and firefly essence (which is essentially an anti-concealment bomb)…also cool: The custom to make Ghoul Portraits. When someone dies, the family commissions a super-ugly/repulsive portrait – the deceased person does return to hideous unlife, the portrait has a good chance of scaring them away! I LOVE this! Heck, I’d love it, if folks would do that once I’m dead and gone. We also get a siege weapon, a macabre, simple tongue-themed ballista, a drug that can induce astral projection…some gems here that I look forward to using!
The supplement also presents three new archetypes(class options, one for each race: The bloated champion is for the boggards, and is a new cause, which nets Deception and Intimidate as class skills, 1/day enlarge person (self only), and has a theme of becoming more massive; the former ability lacks the proper descriptor as (Sp), which is also missing from the capstone that lets you call a potent ally. Other than those niggles (and no proper bonus types), a cool cause. Grippli arcane archers can choose to become zappers, which are essentially anti-vermin exterminator specialists that can act unimpeded underwater, among other things. The ability to do see duplicates freedom of movement, but is extraordinary, and as such, should specify an activation action. The third option would be the Sothite doathi wizard, who is a disciple of Yog-Sothoth – they lose some weapon proficiencies, but get free action low-range demoralize attempts with limited daily uses, uttering words of Yog – cool. The archetype also gets some esoteric, exotic spells and is a bonded object that may be enchanted as a weapon.
The appendix of the pdf is massive and contains some monster update rules re types and things like Improved Drag, Quicken Spell-Like Ability, a couple of spells and universal monster rules. From giant ants, flies (statblock misses bolding and dragonflies to the leather-winged toads called Mobogo and the dreaded Ogdoad (4 types of these batrachians sires of the doathi), this section offers some fun builds.
Editing and formatting oscillate on a rules-language and formal level between admirable precision and missing some obvious components. Layout adheres to the series’ 1-column standard with purple highlights, and the pdf is all about the content, with no interior artwork. The pdf comes with extensive nested bookmarks that render navigation simple and comfortable.
Perry Fehr (and Mark Gedak) deliver a pdf here that sports a few hiccups stemming from Porphyra RPG by then not being finalized. That being said, the supplement does take advantage of several great rules – from the scaling feats to spell-balancing via categories (such as powerful curses being balanced by being exclusives), the pdf highlights several plusses of the game. Perry Fehr is a great author, and actually manages to make the respective races come to life, feel distinct, so that’s a huge plus for me; at the same time, his rules oscillate between inspired and unconventional to less than impressive. Minor bonus-granting feats? Lame. Similarly, the rules are rather often precise and to the point; at other instances, as noted above, they lack bonus types of sports a few oddities – in short, this is pretty much a definition of a mixed bag; while personally, I consider this to be on the positive side of things, I’d usually round down due to the hiccups. If you are particular about the details, you may wish to round down. HOWEVER, considering the amount of content we get, and the rather cool critters featured in the extensive appendix, my final verdict will round up from 3.5 stars.
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