Welcome back to d20 Diaries!
As mentioned this past Monday, today we’re going to be taking a look at one of the wonderful Pathfinder books I happen to own: Blood of the Sea!
Blood of the Sea is a Pathfinder Player Companion compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This means it’s a thin, soft-cover book with plenty of new options intended for players creating characters. More specifically, this volume focuses on some of the aquatic races of Golarion, how you can use them in water and on land, and on underwater adventuring. This book goes hand in hand with Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Aquatic Adventures, which contains information on each of the oceans of Golarion, underwater combat, a host of new rules and some new character options.
The races detailed in Blood of the Sea include aquatic elves, cecaelias, gillmen, locathahs, merfolk, tritons, adaro, grindylow, and sahuagin. Statistics for playing these races as characters are including for all of these races except for aquatic elves, gillmen and merfolk. Aquatic elves, gillmen and merfolk can be found in a variety of sources, including the the Advanced Race Guide and Inner Sea Races. Gillmen can also be found in the Inner Sea World Guide, and the Inner Sea Monster Codex, while merfolk can also be found in the first Bestiary.
Blood of the Sea features dynamic cover art by Kiki Moch Rizky, which showcases Hakon, the iconic skald, battling an enraged cecaelia on the beach. The inside cover has a really useful map of Golarion with all of its oceans and seas labelled. I definitely read some I didn’t recognize, which is nice to see. The oceans include Abari, Antarkos, Arcadian, Embaral, and Okaiyo, while the seas depicted are Castrovin, Fever, Ivory, Inner, Shining, Songil, Steaming, and Valashmai. For more information on these major waterways you’ll need to check out Aquatic Adventures.
Up next is the table of contents and the introduction. Unlike most Pathfinder Player Companion introductions, this one does not contain any traits or character options. It does still contain a handy rules index, which lists all the new archetypes, feats, and other new rules options contained in the book, alphabetically by type with the page numbers so they can be found on for easy reference. After this we move right into the bulk of the book: aquatic races. The goodly races are presented first, each with two pages dedicated to them. Each contains information about the race in general, how they might come to be adventurers, and some new rules options which typically include statistics for playing them as a race, alternate race traits, favoured class options, feat, and archetypes. Villainous races are showcased afterwards, with two pages shared between then three of them.
Up first? Aquatic elves! Curious and respectful, these elves take it upon themselves to explore and protect underwater ruins — although they have the wisdom to leave the most dangerous ruins untouched. There’s some nifty artwork featuring an aquatic elf with a dagger that has a handle made from a conch shell, which looks pretty cool. As already mentioned, the statistics for playing an aquatic elf are not included in this book. Instead, there is a nice rogue archetype called ‘seeker of the lost‘ which I rather enjoyed. It focuses on exploring underwater ruins, disabling magical traps (which are some of the only kind to survive long periods of time underwater without deteriorating), and underwater combat. Although it’s not ground-breaking or anything, I rather like it. There are also three alternate race traits, and a total of nine favoured class options. ‘Deep sea dweller‘ allows aquatic elves to survive in the dark, depths of the ocean — sort of. It grants you dark vision and cold resistance at the cost of low-light vision and elven immunities. It does not, however, grant and protections from pressure. So it allows you to be in the lightless parts of the ocean, but not too far down. It’s my favourite of the race traits for sure! ‘Surface features‘ allows you to blend in with surface elves which, although useful, doesn’t really tickle my fancy. Why be a weird race and then choose to look like everyone else? Still, it’s sure to see use in play. It replaces keen senses. Lastly, ‘surfacer antagonist‘ is for all the aquatic elves out there who have been harmed by those nasty humans. (Ugh. Filthy land-lubbers. Am I right? lol). This trait grants you a +1 bonus on attack rolls against humans at the cost of elven magic. Yeah, against HUMANS. This trait is going to be really good in pretty much any adventure or campaign. I honestly can’t think of one where you don’t fight a human at some point. Despite it’s usefulness, ‘deep sea dweller’ beats it as my favourite character option for aquatic elves.
Next we come to cecaelias, which first appeared in Pathfinder as an enemy in Bestiary 3. I can honestly say that before reading this book they were not one of the races I ever thought I would want to play. They seem relatively impractical for a PC (being aquatic, and having tentacles), and I’m not big into octopi. It just wasn’t interesting to me. But, after reading the book, I’m probably the most excited for playing a cecaelia. For starters the artwork is awesome, and makes them a lot more relatable than the bestiary image. Their racial traits are fun looking. They have enough of the monster’s original abilities, while still being playable as a PC. They’re a powerful race, of course, at 23 RP, which puts them on par with grindylow, sahuagin, ogres, and svirfneblin. They have great flavour and cultural information. I adore that they’re super curious and social. They’re out to enjoy life, which is always fun to play. They come with three alternate race traits: ‘dextrous tentacles,’ ‘garrulous,’ and ‘tripping tentacles.’ They’re all pretty good, with ‘dextrous tentacles‘ allowing you to use your tentacles to hold and manipulate objects and increase the range of your tentacle sense ability (which gives you blindsight underwater) at the expense of being able to shoot an ink cloud; ‘garrulous‘ gives you a bonus on linguistics and diplomacy skill checks as well as allows you to learn two languages each time you invest a rank into linguistics at the expense of being able to shoot an ink cloud; lastly, ‘tripping tentacles‘ makes you really good at tripping your opponent but causes you to lose your tentacle sense ability. I like ‘garrulous‘ best, but I’m one of those players who enjoys learning a ton of languages, so I’m definitely biased. Haha. As for class options, they have only a single feat up for offer. That said, I like it, so its enough for me. The feat is ‘cecaelia focus tattoo’ which gives you a magical tattoo. Although you can have any number of tattoos, you can only activate one at a time. Once activated a tattoo functions for one hour. There are currently eight different tattoos which can increase your saves against poison or death effects, your stealth or survival skill checks, or the distance of your darkvision. Once you have the feat you can also choose to take another tattoo or increase the potency of one of your tattoos in place of a favoured class bonus, which is a pretty nifty option.
Leaving behind our tattooed cephalopods we get to a race I’ve liked since they were introduced ages ago: gillmen. I know, I know, having to submerge yourself in water or die a horrible death is tricky for a lot of campaigns, but what can I say? I like them! As mentioned previously, statistics for playing gillmen are not included this book. Instead, we get some nice flavour and cultural information (some of which is new), and a lot of class options. There’s the ‘hidden current‘ vigilante archetype which allows gillmen to take on the identity of a nonaquatic humanoid when they’re on land, and at higher levels can even let them magically travel between the land or sea. There’s also four feats, four alternate race traits, an four favoured class bonuses. Also? Awesome artwork! Its my favourite of the entire book. My favourite class options are the feats ‘surface survivor‘ (which makes playing gillmen more manageable) and ‘aphotic explorer,’ as well as the ‘venomkissed‘ alternate race trait.
Locathahs are up next, which is another one of those races I’ve never really felt an urge to play. That said, the flavour really sold it for me, and I think I’d enjoy creating one. My favourite part? They’re stinky and proud of it! Haha. Locathahs use their scent to communicate, even underwater, which is pretty cool. Locathah racial traits are a great conversion from their statistics from Bestiary 2, and the race comes in at 10 RP, which makes them approximately on par with the core races. There are also three feats here, all of which are a part of a combat style called ‘electric eel‘ that utilizes the ‘elemental fist‘ feat. I’ve mentioned in other blog posts that combat styles aren’t really my cup of tea, but I’m actually quite fond of this one. I recommend giving it a read. There are also five alternate race traits available for locathah characters, and six favoured class bonuses. I like all of the alternate race traits, but I think my favourites are ‘blunt head‘ which gives you a bite attack but reduces your swim speed, and ‘coastal emissary.‘ I also love ‘powerful smell,’ but its bound to irritate your companions. Haha.
Up next is merfolk. As mentioned, the statistics for merfolk are not provided in this book. Instead there’s a lot of music-themed class options and six favoured class bonuses. In fact, they have some of my very favourite class options in the entire book. For starters there the oracle archetype ‘ocean’s echo‘ which gives you a nice selection of sound-themed bonus spells, and the ability to use some bardic performances. I’m in! (It should be noted: I love bards). There’s also a new oracle curse which is bound to be a ton of fun: ‘song-bound,’ which compels you to sing loudly whenever you speak. Yes, always. How fun is that? I don’t know about you, but I would literally sing everything my character says (I’m an average singer at best, by the way). My kids love it, too. Lastly, there are two new masterpieces in this section, one of which can grant your companions a swim speed, and the other that can scare off trespassers. Both can be sung or played on a string instrument.
Tritons are the final goodly aquatic race in this book. Just over half of the entry is racial and cultural information, most of which is new (as far as I know, haha). Their racial traits are well done, but wow! Are they ever slow on land! Haha. They’re a great conversion from their statistics in Bestiary 2, and come out to a total of 11 RP which makes them approximately on par with the core races and locathahs. There’s a paladin archetype in this section called ‘kraken slayer‘ which looks interesting, but isn’t going to see much use in non-aquatic campaigns. There’s also two feats which work well together: ‘ally caller‘ which lets you use your innate spell-like ability to summon water elementals and dolphins two extra times per day (this feat can be taken multiple times) and ‘aquatic squires‘ which makes that same spell-like ability last 1 minute per level. Not amazing or anything, but fun and flavourful. I like it. All told, though, triton is my least favourite of the goodly races featured in this book.
With the good guys over and done we come to two pages entitled ‘Enemies of the Sea.’ Here we find statistics for playing adaros, grindylow, and sahuagin, as well as a paragraph of racial information on each. Grindylow and sahuagin are both 22 RP, putting them on par with the cecaelia, while adaro are a whopping 32 RP, which makes them among the toughest races you can choose, just under gargoyles and driders. I’ve always enjoyed adaros and grindylow, so I’m happy to see they were included.
Flipping the page we get to three pages on gear — most of which is mundane. Air breathing creatures can make use of artificial gills to survive underwater for a while, while aquatic creatures with slow base speeds like merfolk and tritons can make use of land limbs to improve their speed on land. There’s also a lot of practical gear like underwater paper, pens and compasses, as well as wall hooks. But, my personal favourite mundane bit of gear? Sponge suit! This is a mandatory purchase for the next gillman I make!
There are only four magical items, but they’re all quite useful. The ‘crystal helm‘ fills with water while on land and with air while underwater, allowing a PCs out of their environment the ability to breathe. The familiar bubble can keep your familiar breathing underwater, and shimmering kilt can turn an aquatic humanoid’s tail into legs. (No need to barter with evil cecealia witches anymore… Poor Ursula’s going to be unemployed). But, my personal favourite? The ‘cloak of eternal mist.’ In addition to making you character count as if they were submerged in water, it grants you a bonus to hide in fog and mist, and can grant you concealment when immobile. The best part? Its relatively affordable.
There are four spells on the next page. They are nicely thematic, but none of them blew me away. I think my favourite is ‘arid refuge,’ a spell that can help enable prolonged underwater adventures for land-bound characters by giving them a safe place to rest. Other spells include ‘instant clot,’ ‘silt sphere,’ and ‘suspend drowning.’
Leaving magic behind we get to four pages of aquatic class options that can be taken by most races. There’s a total of five class archetypes, one cavalier order (order of the eel) and one eidolon subtype (deepwater eidolon). I particularly like the ‘aquatic beastmaster‘ archetype for hunter, which contains a whole new array of water themed animals to use with the animal focus ability. I also really like that the ‘coral witch‘ witch archetype allows you to grow your familiar out of coral, an that the ‘keeper of the current‘ inquisitor archetype can track underwater by reading traces of eddies and currents. Very cool! The last two archetypes are ‘crashing wave‘ for the cleric (which has a very interesting form of channel energy that leaves neutrally aligned creatures unaffected) and the ‘tempest tamer‘ druid archetype (which taps into the powers of typhoons, whirlpools, and other storms).
After this is a very useful chapter on the challenges facing underwater creatures who find themselves on land, and ideas and methods for overcoming those challenges (both magical and mundane). I found these four pages a huge help. It not only urges you to think about some troubles you might not have thought of, but it also makes playing aquatic races in a land-based campaign a lot more… attainable. There were certainly some topics discussed that I’d never thought of. Not because it’s obscure or anything, but just… I don’t know. I never thought about it. Haha. For example, weight. If you’re used to being buoyant, walking on land would be hard. How would you act? Imagine how heavy your body would feel to you. Sounds exhausting! What about weather? It’s a lot different than the sway of the currents. And climate? In a lot of places the ocean is cold. How does someone used to that feel on land? What about little things, like seeing a fire or cooking your food? Or keeping up with your companions? This section also has some awesome artwork of a serious ranger on a horse looking off into the distance. Except he’s not just a ranger. He’s a merfolk ranger riding sidesaddle. It’s great. Haha.
Which bring us to the last part of the book. Two pages discussing how air-breathing creatures can adventure and travel on or under water. Like the chapter before it, this section brings up some interesting topics. It also works as a handy reference for spells and magical gear that are useful for underwater exploration. There’s also a small sidebar that lists the oceans of Golarion, a few of its seas, and gives you a one sentence description about that body of water. It’s super brief, but better than nothing. As previously mentioned, players looking for more information on Golarions major waterways should pick up a copy of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Aquatic Adventures.
And that’s it! Then end.
This was a really fun, useful book that presented a lot of unique race and class options for players. I think it’s well-worth the investment. That said, due to its topic, it is quite niche. It’s not a book you’ll be able to use with every character or adventure you’re in. It’s quite focused: underwater races, and underwater class options. That said, this book invested a lot of effort into making underwater races playable on land indefinitely, and it succeeded. Some of the class options are just as usable above water as they are underwater — the ‘ocean’s echo‘ oracle archetype and the ‘tempest tamer‘ druid archetype are great examples of this. The rest, though, cleave pretty tightly to the waves. That said, there are plenty of places in Golarion where water is plentiful. The oceans, seas, and underwater, of course. There’s also the Shackles, Sodden Lands, and River Kingdoms, as well as many port towns, and the coasts throughout Golarion. There’s some settlements which are located both above and below the waves, like Acisazi (there’s at least one more, but I can’t recall its name at the moment… Hmmm… If you happen to remember it let me know in the comments!), and even Absalom has a the half-flooded district of the Puddles.
Those of you looking for adventures to play aquatic races or aquatic themed archetypes in should try the Pathfinder Modules: Plunder & Peril (which is a level four adventure that takes place in the Shackles), Ire of the Storm (which is a level one adventure that takes place in Sargava), River into Darkness (which is a level four GameMastery Module for 3.5 that takes place almost entirely along the Vanji River in the Mwangi Expanse), or — my personal favourites — Seers of the Drowned City (a level six adventure that takes place in a half-flooded ancient city in the Sodden Lands), and From Shore to Sea (a level six adventure that involves ancient Azlanti ruins and a super insular town on the coast of Cheliax). Those looking for a longer campaign should check out the Ruins of Azlant Adventure Path (which begins with Ruins of Azlant: Book One: The Lost Outpost), Skull and Shackles Adventure Path (which begins with Skull & Shackles: Book One: The Wormwood Mutiny), or even the Kingmaker Adventure Path (which begins begins with Kingmaker: Book One: Stolen Land). I know, I know, Kingmaker seems like an off choice. But, it takes place in the River Kingdoms (which has a whole lot of rivers), it’s encounters and adventure structure allow for regular resting (and taking a dunk in the nearest water source), and you can build your own town. Perfect for those high-maintenance aquatic races looking to make a unique mark on the world.
Overall, I highly recommend Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea. It was an enjoyable, inspiring read.
I hope you enjoyed taking a look at Blood of the Sea with me today, and that this article can help you decide if this delightful little book was right for you.
Until next time,