This massive, huge book clocks in at 153 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of ToC/editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with a colossal 146 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin this pdf with an introduction regarding the goals of this book – in one sentence: Making bloodlines more versatile and interesting. This is achieved in a rather ingenious way – the pdf designates a number of bloodlines as parent bloodlines, others as children of said bloodlines. When multiclassing soceror and bloodrager, all you need to ensure is that the two bloodlines share a parent, are parent and child or match – i.e. one is the sorceror, one is the bloodrager version. Obviously, this approach generates a whole array of previously impossible builds. Oh, and if you’re like me and ultimately are looking for a bit more for some builds…then there would be complex bloodlines. These do one or more of the following: Instead of bonus feats, they can grant bloodline-specific abilities, swap out bonus spells for something else or introduce basically a subsystem unique for the bloodline, which results in these complex bloodlines feeling more like archetypes or PrCs – and yes, they do not interfere with archetypes, further allowing for a significant expansion of options in that regard.
Thus, a list of parent bloodlines and child bloodlines for first party material is provided in the beginning…before we dive into a huge assortment of diverse bloodlines. It should also be noted that some bonus feats among the bloodlines of this pdf actually are stripped of their prerequisites – a bloodrager character with the alchemical bloodline can e.g. take Fire God’s Blessing sans prerequisite. Oh, there is one more unique feature I should probably mention – quite an assortment of bloodlines in this book features supplemental feats. All right, so what can bloodragers look forward to? Well, for once, they get acidic saliva they can spit at foes, gain caustic blood and, via a nice feat, they can even heal themselves by dealing acid damage – and yes, as could be expected from Bradley Crouch, this feat cannot be kitten’d. Oh…and high-level bloodragers with this one can light foes on fire. What about a banshee bloodline that can enhance her sonic damage-dealing capacity with ever increasing feats – oh, and guess what – these enhancer-feats can only be taken as bloodline bonus feats, which is an interesting notion I have not seen done before in bloodline design.
Even bloodlines that do not necessarily evoke immediate reactions from me have interesting components – brineborn gaining a combination of nautical abilities and acid-themed tricks based on salt – and yes, including a whipping tongue with which you can lick your weapons. As far as I’m concerned, this certainly is fun and sports a unique array of visuals properly supplemented by nice crunch. Cacodaemon bloodragers get a capstone that deserves mention as well – a jaw filled with gems that can hold the souls of those you consume. All right, so what about these complex bloodlines I mentioned? Well, for example the cannibal bloodline allows you to devour the flesh of defeated foes – you gain a feat of your choice, with a limited, but expanding list of eligible feats. These feats, however, also occupy a cannibalism slot – said slots increase in number over the levels. Replenishing spells empties these slots. Oh, know what I forgot to mention? Guess what – it’s not just feats. Abilities otherwise not available can also be gained via cannibalism slots. The Cloudborn automatically increase their ranks in the Fly skill and later may fly while also gaining miss chances when they move. The constellation bloodline can be pictured as a take on the psionic collective for teamwork purposes…and even cast spells on allies designated as part of your constellation…even if they would not usually qualify as targets…which is exceedingly versatile and powerful, making more than up for the comparatively moderate teamwork tricks. Also cool – granting temporary hit points and the like.
Okay, so what about e.g. the Cosmic Dreamer? This complex bloodline basically records an ever-increasing amount of rolled dice-results in the morning due to their fragmentary prescience – then, during the day, they may substitute these rolls for those they rolled in a cool take on prescience. The interesting thing is, though, that multiple such rolls can be combined in pretty concise rules that are rendered unambiguous by the rules-language provided. It should come as no surprise, then, that the bloodline actually takes this take on its unique subsystem and utilizes it properly, expanding the options thus gained in unique ways over the levels. It’s not just the complex bloodlines that get evocative tricks – crystalborn may, for example, ready actions, to catch ray-spells in their mouths and spit them back at foes. I certainly know I really want to do this at least once in game. Cooler yet – you may, when making full attacks, forego the bite attack this one nets you to ready such a catch. OM NOM NOM.
The dryad complex bloodline is all about aspect-enhancement, allowing the character to modify the plants grown via fey and verdant bloodlines to include flame-thrower flowers, acidic lichen or berries that you can pick to gain limited prescience. What about screaming lilac? And yes, your bloodrage lets you grow squares upon squares of these plants…and the ability works even underwater. Want to dip your feet into the awesomeness that is ethermagic, but sans learning the system? Ethertouched bloodline. Want composition sans having to learn that system (and with an evil tint)? Soulstrummer. And yes, it works completely sans knowing anything about ethermagic.
Somewhat similar and just as awesome as the dryad – the fungus complex bloodline: Instead of growing plants, though, your body can produce spores based on a point-system – said spores sport a variety of unique and fun tricks. Speaking of fun – you know how Interjection Games-books tend to be pretty fun to read? Well, there is a bloodline called leper and it’s basically every leper-joke ever told as a bloodline. You can e.g. detach and re-attach limbs, pluck out your eye and send it forth to spy for you…you get the idea. And yeah, it’s cool. Want to play a bookworm bloodrager? The complex Librarian bloodline offers a lot of unique tricks for you, based on some crucial pieces of literature. The lycanthrope bloodline, just fyi, allows you to choose the werebeaver option. And yep, these guys can basically become a looney-toon-ball of kicking, gnawing and working 1/day and, sufficient material provided, generate instant cabins. Yeah, damn cool.
From the medusa to the mi-go and even the mime (!!!) – and yes, there is a onmyōdo-bloodline and even a pufferfish bloodline – Magic: it doesn’t have to make sense, as the flavor-text aptly observes. Zombie bloodlines? Yup. Elemental-themed weirds? Aye. And no, at this point I honestly haven’t even begun to list every one of the bloodlines, only provided a smattering of samples.
Now the second chapter would be the one dealing with the sorceror bloodlines – and they are nothing if not just as unique as the bloodrager options – hurling blobs of algae? Check. Know, though, which bloodline actually made me laugh…loudly? The Angst bloodline. It’s simply hilarious. Think of it basically as every anime main character, the bloodline. From gaining an ancestral weapon, failing incredibly endearingly to later gaining memories of a lost mentor -absolutely glorious. You are the chosen one and hate every minute of it. More serious – sorcerors that can make complex baubles of spellglass, bloodlines defined by their blasphemy or the butler bloodline. And yes, aforementioned brineborn, cannibal etc. bloodlines also sport sorceror-customized versions herein – though e.g. the cannibal bloodline has a complex child -the cuisine bloodline.
And yes, ethertouched’s scavenging/reduction of ethermagic can also be found for sorcerors…and extremophiles, basically the sorceror-equivalent of the magical survivalist – who only take two hours of sleep (but still may not regain spells more often than 1/day) with a feat. The Florist would be akin to the dryad in quite a few ways, but obviously attuned for the requirements of the sorceror class. Gravity-themed sorcerors that gain a reflexive field of gravity can also carry a huge amount of load – and gremlin blooded sorcerors are masters of slapstick that can turn potions into toads, while the haberdashery bloodline grants you the best hat EVER. The magmaborn can conjure forth painful spikes of magma and the complex mimicry bloodline basically can be likened to the old final fantasy secret characters/jobs, allowing you to mimic spells and later your own ones – pretty cool! What about the brewer-specialists, the percolution-savants that can make powerful stimulant cocktails? Yep, it’s basically a barrista/coffee-addict bloodline…and it’s pretty neat. The complex radiation bloodline lets you choose unique mutations instead of bonus spells and the complex rust bloodline just begs to be used in any setting that features a leitmotif of decay and or renewal. Becoming the heir to the snow queen also is rather cool (haha…yeah, I’ll hit myself later for that one…). As a nitpick, the Solar bloodline’s supplemental feat lacks the Metamagic-descriptor in the header, though that ultimately does not impede its functionality…btw. one of the rare formal glitches that can be found in this book.
Always liked worms-that-walk/ want to run Age of Worms? Swarm bloodline, baby. Similarly, the complex wanderlust bloodline is cool, providing an assortment of abilities generally associated with romantic notions of wandering, from danger sense to pulling all-nighters and making items from natural ingedients.
This is, however, not where the pdf ends – beyond supplemental material for two classes, this whole book can be seen as a colossal playing field for the new bloodlord base class. Bloodlords get d8 HD, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-and Ref-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and one 1-handed martial, a 2-handed martial weapona nd a thrown weapon as well as with shields, light armor and medium armor, all sans arcane spell failure, though this failure does apply when using tower shields. Bloodlords pick two bloodrager and two sorceror bloodlines at first level, which are then divided into pairs, with a bloodrager and sorcero bloodline each. These bloodlines must share a single parent and this choice is not limited by alignment. At 1st level, bloodlords do not receive the sorceror bloodline arcanas and they gain +2 to skill-checks performed with the class skills associated with the sorceror bloodlines.
The bloodlord has bloodrager bloodline power slots at 1st level, gaining an additional one at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter – these slots are distinguished between bloodrager and sorceror – basically allowing for the flexible assignment of powers gained from the bloodlines of the character. They get bonus feats at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter and bonus spells at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. Bonus spells are gained from both bloodline bearing classes according to strict guidelines, with the granting of multiple spells being accounted for -said spells, however, are cast as SPs. It should also be noted that multiclassing into bloodline-featuring bloodlines is possible, with guidelines, once again, being included in the rules.
At 1st level, these guys can enter bloodboils for a number of rounds equal to 4+ Constitution modifier, +2 rounds per additional level – this state enables the use of bloodrage powers. At 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the bloodlord gains a sanguokinesis talent, which is powered by the transfusion pool – said pool is equal to 1+Charisma modifier at 2nd level and increases every even level thereafter by +1. These talents remain active for as long as the bloodlord remains in the bloodboil-state and one such talent can be added to the state. It should be noted, that unlike a bloodrage or the like, this state does not provide bonuses to attributes, but neither does it have a fatigue cool down, which means you can cycle the effects of sanguinokentic talents. At 11th level, bloodlords may activate up to two such talents per bloodboil, though they have to pay for both. Getting a reflexive disarm, better saves, SR, using bloodboil rounds as a resource to cast bloodline spell-like abilities quicker – there are some pretty tricky combos you can pull off with this class.
However, the transfusion pool also has a use on its own – it can be used to quickswap slotted bloodline powers, temporarily gain bloodline arcanas and at 6th level grant willing touched creatures filled bloodline slots – which allows for some very interesting tricks. Higehr levels make btw. this infusion of power into allies faster. The class comes btw. with nice favored class options for the core-races, aasimar, tiefling, hobgoblin, orc, kobold, kitsune, vanar, vishkanya and puddling races. Expanding the SPs ad various numerical tricks of the class can be done via the new feats, which btw. also provides an option for energy resistance while bloodboiling. The base-class also sports jno less than 4 archetypes – the bloodbottler loses the quickswapping of slots and flexibility, but may bottle his unused powers and hand them to eligible drinkers – basically, a less spontaneous variant. The Claimant picks only a single sorceror and bloodrager bloodline – but here’s the catch – they gain an “empty” Eldritch Heritage that he may fill by touching a particular blood, claiming the power. This is retained until the claimant decides to forget it after resting and opt for a new one. And yes, the feature improves over the levels. You essentially trade in bloodlines for more flexibility in choosing and also gain transfusion pool points at odd levels instead, starting at third.
The Enigmatist is a pretty complex one – basically, think of these guys as bloodlords sans bloodlines, who instead focus on mysteries and revelations. The final archetype, the mongrel lord, may choose all bloodline abilities (up to from a maximum of 6 bloodlines), but gains neither bloodline arcanas and class skills. Basically, the archetype grants you the option to cherry-pick abilities, yes; but at the cost of gaining the proper powers of the respective, diluted options. Additionally, these guys gain limited access to evolutions and a pretty impressive transfusion pool – but the archetype loses all sangiokinesis talents for this flexibility as well as the arcane awakening, quickswap and transfusion class features.
As a nice service to the reader, we close this book with a glossary of 3pp-bloodlines by product.
Editing and formatting are top-notch for a book of this size – while there are some minor formatting hiccups in this book, it still can be considered to be well-edited. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard beyond the full color cover artwork. The pdf’s interior artwork is b/w and sports an array of novel, nice pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. As per the writing of this review, I can’t yet comment on the print-version.
Bradley Crouch’s Big Book of Bloodlines takes one concept I’ve seen done to death, namely bloodlines, and OWNS it. There are more mechanical, unique tweaks to bloodlines herein that I have ever seen before in my career. We have a stunning assortment of cool subsystems, evocative ideas and concepts in this book, an array that manages in several cases to bring player-agenda to the table: Big time. Choose the right bloodline and you’ll have quite a bunch of cool customization options. It should also be noted that you won’t find bland “been there, done that”-bloodlines in this book – each bloodline in this tome has at least one ability and/or visual I certainly haven’t seen before. No matter which type of game you’re playing, be it high fantasy, dark fantasy, horror or just plain gonzo weirdness – this book has you covered. The bloodlord per se is a great addition as well, though, by nature of its openness, a class that does require a bit of GM-oversight: Considering the amount of bloodlines out there, though, this is no wonder and not something that could have been avoided. While personally, I consider the mongrel lord a bit too much for some groups, I can just as well picture plenty of campaigns in which it will flawlessly work.
So…how to rate this. Well, that question is pretty easily answered – this book, at least for me, ups the ante of what to expect from bloodlines. It may be the book that ended bloodlines, the go-to-tome. And bloodragers in particular need this book – think about quite a few of the bloodlines in this tome as archetype-level complexity without locking you out of your favorite one. You get CHOICES! Player-agenda! Same goes for sorcerors, obviously…and bloodlords are also cool…hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Don’t be content with boring filler bloodlines – get yourself some truly unique tricks!