Thursday, June 4, 2015

Races of Pathfinder: Kobold

Kobolds are small, reptilian creatures who like to claim ancestry to true dragons (though it may be just that, a claim). With the recent publishing of Kobolds of Golarion, these little critters have gotten a HUGE number of new racial options.

Racial Traits:

Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, -4 Strength, -2 Constitution. These are very painful penalties, but notice that with no bonuses or penalties to any of the mental scores, these bonuses and penalties essentially don’t affect any full spellcasting class.

Type: Kobolds are humanoids with the reptilian subtype.

Size: Kobolds are Small creatures, which gives them a good bonus to Stealth and an extra +1 to attack rolls, which many of them will need very badly to offset that -4 Strength penalty.

Base Speed: Unlike most Small creatures, kobolds move at a full 30 feet base speed.

Armor: A natural armor bonus right from the beginning is great, but there are several great options to trade this away for, so don’t overlook those.

Crafty: +2 to Craft (trapmaking) and Perception are both very useful bonuses, though the bonus to Profession (miner) isn’t very exciting. Adding Stealth to your class skills no matter what class you pick is really great too (although every class gets Craft as a class skill, so that part is pointless). However, I’d like to point out that the Wild Forest Kobold alternate racial trait is all-around better than this one, unless you plan to actually make traps.

Darkvision: As always, darkvision is super useful. However, for surface-adventuring kobolds, I would trade this away for low-light vision so that you can drop Light Sensitivity.

Light Sensitivity: Being perpetually dazzled when you’re outdoors is pretty painful, but there are worse things than taking a -1 to Perception and attack rolls. At least this isn’t Light Blindness...

Alternate Racial Traits:

Beast Bond [Crafty]: If you’re playing a class that rides a mount, such as a Cavalier or Paladin, then this is a very nice option to trade out for, but for any other class it’s a waste.

Day Raider [Darkvision, Light Sensitivity]: This is an excellent option for any character who doesn’t plan to spend the majority of their days in a dark dungeon. That’s pretty much everyone.

Dragonmaw [Armor]: A bite attack is excellent for martial classes, especially because you got to add 1d6 energy damage to that bite attack once per day. If only your Strength score wasn’t so low, this attack would be much more useful. I’d like to point out an amazing combination with this racial trait... if you grab the Draconic Breath feat with the black or green dragon options, you’ll qualify for the Noxious Bite feat, which will cause your bite attack to nauseate your enemies for several rounds at a time! Seriously, amazing!

Dragon-Scaled [Armor]: Resistance 5 to essentially any one energy type of your choice is an excellent option, and you can combine this with some of the kobold-specific Race Traits in Kobolds of Golarion as well.

Echo Whistler [Crafty]: I don’t find the ability to throw your voice a few times per day worth the trade-off for a +2 to Perception, so this one’s a no-go for me.

Frightener [Armor]: This is a great option for any type of spellcaster, as fear effects can mean the difference between losing a fight and your opponent running away in terror. Obviously for non-spellcasters, choose something else.

Gliding Wings [Crafty]: Never take any fall damage? Ever? Check! This is an amazing option, and probably the only one on here that I would trade Crafty out for.

Jester [Crafty]: Losing the bonus to Perception just isn’t worth this tradeoff unless you’re planning to be the party face (and in most campaigns, kobolds just aren’t going to cut it as the party face).

Prehensile Tail [Armor]: For a kobold Rogue or Ninja, this could come in very handy, as you might need to pull out a hidden weapon at a moment’s notice. For most characters, though, the +1 to armor class is just plain more useful.

Secret Strider [Crafty]: If you’re worried about being tracked... just boost your Perception check so that you can hear someone tracking you instead. I suppose for a kobold Ranger this is a useful option, but I just like Perception too much for this.

Shoulder to Shoulder [Crafty]: A pair of kobold Rogues with this racial trait will be seriously nasty, and if you’re the GM, you should consider giving every kobold enemy you put your players up against this trait, as it’s very powerful!

Spellcaster Sneak [Crafty]: A free once-per-day Silent Spell is an excellent choice for spellcasters, and you’re looking at a +6 bonus to Stealth just from size and race, so this is actually a really nice option.

Wild Forest Kobold [Crafty]: This is actually an all-around better option than Crafty for almost all characters, since you still get the Perception bonus but also get a bonus to Survival instead of Craft (trapmaking), so I’d grab it unless you’re planning to use Ranger Traps (which you probably should if you’re playing a kobold!)

Wyrmcrowned [Crafty]: This is a decent choice for either a party face or an Initimidate-build melee fighter, but for the most part I still like Wild Forest Kobold better.


Alchemist: A bomb-focused Alchemist is an excellent choice for a kobold thanks to both the bonus to Dexterity and a favored class option giving you extra bombs per day. The Vivisectionist archetype also works really well for a kobold if you pick up the Merciless Precision feat, which increases your sneak attack dice by 1d6 if your target has a negative condition currently affecting them.

Barbarian: The penalty to both Strength and Constitution means that a kobold was just never meant to be a Barbarian. If you did decide to play a kobold Barbarian, make sure you pick up the Dragonmaw racial trait so that your favored class bonus can give you some extra damage to the bite attack it gives you.

Bard: Kobolds are tricky little things, and so Bard is a great option for them. Echo Whistler and Jester are both decent racial trait options, and there’s a racial archetype available, the Dragon Herald, which is a sort of strange archetype allowing you to extol the virtues of a dragon in several different ways. The favored class option will be good at lower levels but its effectiveness will drop off as more creatures have better Will saves.

Cavalier [Samurai]: Cavalier seems an odd choice for a kobold, and with the penalty to Strength and Con, you’re going to have trouble making a really decent Cavalier. I do wish, for the sake of theme, that you could take some sort of reptilian creature as your mount, but a wolf will have to do unless you find some way to open up more options. The racial favored class option is definitely worth taking... for three levels. After that, switch to hit points.

Cleric: There’s nothing saying a kobold can’t make an excellent Cleric, even without a Wisdom or Charisma bonus. Kobolds of Golarion introduces not one, not two, but THREE new subdomains for kobolds, and personally I really like them. The Ambush subdomain grants you concealment from enemies pretty much constantly, which is actually a pretty incredible ability. The Radiation subdomain is a little stranger, allowing you to irradiate an object, which will then sicken those around you (including your allies). Finally, the Trap subdomain gives you access to a supernatural Ranger Trap, which can be really powerful. The favored class bonus gives you bonus damage when channeling energy, but only when the target is denied its Dexterity bonus to AC, so it’s probably too situational to be of much real use.

Druid: A kobold Druid would probably do well to choose the Beast Bond alternate racial trait if the animal companion is what you’re after. If not, take one of the three new subdomains I just talked about under Cleric. The Learn Ranger Trap and Improved Learn Ranger Trap wouuld be of much use to a kobold Druid, as setting traps is practically in a kobold’s blood. The Kobold Herbalist race trait (for green-scaled kobolds) also is very thematic, allowing you to create scent cloak alchemical items with a Survival check instead of a Craft (alchemy) check.

Fighter: Before the release of Kobolds of Golarion, I probably would have given Fighter a pretty low rating for a kobold because of the painful -4 Strength penalty. However, several options in that book have made the Fighter not only a viable option but one of the better ones. The Swarm Fighter archetype, which trades out standard Bravery for a similar ability which is instead bolstered by having allies nearby, allows you to share the space of larger creatures and get a bonus to AC and reflex saves when doing so, and even deny an enemy’s Dexterity bonus to AC when sharing a space with them! Toss in the Shoulder to Shoulder alternate racial trait so that you can also share spaces with your Small allies. I also like the Wall of Flesh teamwork feat, which treats you as one size larger for the purposes of combat maneuvers when an ally is adjacent to you. Finally, probably the most excellent option for a kobold Fighter is the new Kobold Style line of style feats, which give you bonuses to combat maneuvers when an opponent is denied his or her Dexterity bonus to AC, and eventually allow you to jump on top of a prone creature that is larger than you to grapple them while sharing their square! Make sure to take the favored class option, which boosts the damage you deal when flanking or when the opponent is denied their Dex to AC.

Gunslinger: A kobold’s Small size and bonus to Dexterity lend strongly toward the Gunslinger, and if any of the Small races were to figure out how to build guns, it would be the kobolds. There is a racial archetype for the Gunslinger, called the Bushwacker, which gives you the ability to deal sneak attack damage with your firearm, as long as you have at least 1 grit point remaining. This is excellent when combined with Kobold Sniper and Merciless Precision. You also gain grit points back for coup-de-grace-ing an opponent, which is very kobold-like. The racial favored class option is very nice, boosting your Nimble ability by a good chunk.

Inquisitor: A kobold Inquisitor has gained a lot of new and exciting options from Kobolds of Golarion, chief of which is the Scaled Disciple feat. This feat allows a spontaneous divine spellcaster to take the Dragon Disciple prestige class, treating his levels in that divine caster class as if they were levels in Sorcerer. Think about this... you can wear armor and have no penalty to casting your spells.... WOW! You also get a boost to caster level for spells of the “dragon domain” (which doesn’t actually exist, by the way... I think the author made an error.. it was supposed to be the Scalykind Domain and/or the Dragon Subdomain). The Dragon Disciple prestige class is a powerful option, giving you access to excellent spells from the Sorcerer spell list, and many powers that you can’t get anywhere else. The Kobold Style line of style feats is also an excellent option for a kobold Inquisitor, and the Merciless Magic feat synergizes well with the Dragon Disciple powers also. Since you’ll be using natural weapons a lot, make sure to grab both Tail Terror and the Dragonmaw racial trait, to add a bite and tail slap attack to your natural weapon repertoire.

Magus: A Dex-based Magus build would work very well for a kobold, and you may even want to consider a whip magus build, since you can take the Kobold Style line of feats to get bonuses against prone enemies. Spellcaster Sneak is a viable alternate racial trait, letting you sneak up on enemies and cast a spell without their knowledge before shocking grasp-ing them to oblivion. The racial favored class option is deceptive... Magi already get huge bonuses to their concentration checks to cast defensively, and so the likelihood of this being useful, especially at higher levels, is very low. I would suggest you take it for the first four levels or so, but after that you’ll be making your concentration checks even if you roll a 1.

Monk: A Maneuver Master Monk would be an excellent option for a kobold thanks to the Kobold Style feats. However, not being able to access the Swarm Fighter archetype is painful, and I might even suggest dual-classing with Fighter to get the Strike The Underbelly class feature, even though you’ll have to take 9 levels of Fighter to get there. Realistically, you’re probably better off going straight Fighter because of that archetype. I wish that Monk was a better choice for a kobold, though, because the favored class bonus is incredible, increasing your unarmored AC bonus by up to +6!

Oracle: Like the Inquisitor, the obvious choice for a kobold Oracle is to take the Scaled Disciple feat and go into the Dragon Disciple prestige class. Since you are casting divine spells, you don’t have to worry about arcane spell failure from armor, so load up on some real chunky armor and go to town with claws, tail, and bite. Take the Battle mystery and make sure to grab the Skill at Arms, Maneuver Mastery, and Iron Skin revelations, and you’ll be a powerhouse that can eventually turn into a dragon! Make sure to take the favored class option at every level, because it can end up giving you a +5 to AC when you cast a spell that gives you an armor or natural armor bonus, which is excellent!

Paladin [Antipaladin]: An effective kobold Paladin won’t be terribly easy to put together... you’ve got penalties to Strength and Con, and no boost to Charisma. None of the alternate racial options are glamorous for a Paladin, though the favor class option is pretty good, boosting your AC against your smite target. Since Paladins prepare their (paltry) spells, you can’t go into Dragon Disciple, either. Overall, this is just a weak choice.

Ranger: Now here is a class for a kobold. You’re absolutely going to want to take the Trapper archetype, and you should keep the Crafty racial trait for sure. You’ll also likely want to take Day Raider, unless you’re an underground Ranger exclusively. Both Kobold Ambusher and Kobold Sniper will fit in very well with a sneaky ranged build, and if you do plan to use traps before 5th level when you get to use actual Ranger Traps, you should pick up the Elaborate Trapper race trait. The favored class option is only helpful if you choose not to take an animal companion, and I find that animal companions are almost always more beneficial than the other option, so there’s that. Overall, though, kobolds make really great Rangers, and with their affinity for traps, the Trapper is definitely the way to go thematically.

Rogue [Ninja]: A kobold was BORN to be a Rogue. There’s no question about it. Just look at those ability scores! A kobold Rogue is almost a better trap setter than a kobold Trapper Ranger, because of their racial archetype, the Snare Setter. You get to learn a Ranger Trap at 1st level, and you get a new one every two levels in place of a Rogue Talent (if you like). You even get to deal sneak attack-style damage with your traps, and at 20th level you can add “death” to the effect of any Ranger Trap! Seriously, this is excellent! The ONLY thing you miss out on compared to the Trapper Ranger is that you can’t fire your traps at enemies at higher levels. You’ll also want the Merciless Precision feat, which gives you an extra +1d6 sneak damage when your target has a detrimental effect on them such as blinded or nauseated. That feat also meshes well with the dirty trick combat maneuver, as you can blind your target for a round, then deal extra sneak damage to them on the next round.

Sorcerer: There’s really no reason a kobold can’t be an excellent Sorcerer, and they do have a few things going for them, such as the Spellcaster Sneak racial trait, which gives you a free Silent Spell once per day. I also really like the kobold Sorcerer’s favored class option, which gives you bonus points of damage with your energy damage spells (though you’ll want to make sure to choose an energy type that you will cast a lot of!) Merciless Magic is an excellent way to boost your spell DCs. Kobolds also get their own racial bloodline, aptly named the Kobold bloodline, which includes several trap-like spells and two trap-focused bloodline powers, so it definitley fits the theme. One of my favorite kobold race traits is Frost Spitter, and I definitely recommend it for a kobold Sorcerer, as it lets you make a 10-foot square of ground as slippery as ice once per day. That’s like a free grease spell!

Summoner: With no bonus to Charisma and no special racial abilities, a kobold Sorcerer is only so-so. Since you’re small, you can ride your eidolon right from the beginning, which is cool. Frost Spitter is a great race trait to get a free extra bit of battlefield control each day, and Merciless Magic is just as good as it is for any caster. The favored class option is solid, giving you a higher bonus to AC when you’re near your eidolon (such as when riding it). Overall, though, a kobold Summoner is never going to be optimal.

Witch: I feel like one of the more iconic kobold builds is the witch doctor, and a kobold Witch can make for an excellent witch doctor. The Beast Bond alternate racial trait is nice and thematic, although Spellcaster Sneak is probably more powerful and therefore a better choice. You’ll absolutely want the Frightener alternate racial trait, as the Witch spell list includes a lot of fear-based spells. Merciless Magic is an excellent choice for a Witch, since many of your spells and hexes cause detrimental effects. The alternate favored class option is not very exciting, since most Witches want to keep their familiars right next to them, so granting the Alertness feat from farther away is a moot point. I like the Witch class for a kobold since it’s thematic and the penalties to Strength and Con aren’t going to be as terrible, so this one’s a solid choice.

Wizard: While it’s a little less thematic than the Witch (kobolds with spell books?) the Wizard works just as well. You’ll absolutely want the Spellcaster Sneak alternate racial trait, and Merciless Magic is a no-brainer. The favored class option isn’t too great, although it can apply to either a familiar or a bonded item, which is kinda nice. Other than those few things, Wizard is just a “meh” choice for a kobold.

Alternate Favored Class Options:

Alchemist: More bombs means more damage, and that’s a great option for a kobold Alchemist.

Barbarian: I like this option, but be aware that this only adds damage to your RACIAL natural attacks, which means you don’t gain extra damage from any other natural attacks you get when you rage, like a gore. Make sure to grab Dragonmaw and Tail Terror to make the best use of this.

Bard: Fascinate isn’t the best performance out there, but at lower levels this will come in very handy. Sadly fascinate doesn’t work mid-battle, so at higher levels this will become less and less useful.

Cavalier: This is an amazing favored class option... for three levels. Since it maxes out at 15 feet of extra charging speed for your mount, once you take it three times, go back to hit points.

Cleric: This is a very situational ability, letting you deal extra damage to creatures with channeled energy, but only when they’re denied their Dex bonus to AC. I’d say a hit point is more useful.

Druid: Wild empathy doesn’t come up a heck of a lot, so you’re probably better off taking a skill point at each level and putting it into Handle Animal.

Fighter: If this was a Rogue option, I’d grab it in a heartbeat without question. Still, getting extra damage to foes you’re flanking is always useful, so unless you’re a ranged Fighter, you should probably choose this one.

Gunslinger: Adding more to your Dodge bonus to AC is excellent, even though this maxes out at +4. Take 16 levels of it, then go back to hit or skill points.

Inquisitor: This is WAY too situational to be worth giving up a hit point for. Ignore!

Magus: Bonuses to concentration to cast defensively are not hard to get for a Magus, but this will help boost you from “almost always cast my spell” to “never fail to cast my spell”, so I’d say grab it at every level.

Monk: WOW. Ok, so this can get you a total of +6 additional untyped bonus to your AC, which apply at all times unless you’re unconscious or helpless. There’s no question that any kobold Monk should choose this at every level until 18th.

Oracle: This is also a really great option for extra armor, since it essentially gives you up to +5 additional AC from spells which normally max out at +4, such as mage armor. You should take this at every level.

Paladin: Another great AC-boosting option, this increases your deflection bonus against your smite evil target up to +5 more than normal. Even though this only works against one target at a time, it’s a great choice.

Ranger: As a Ranger, I would pretty much never choose the bond with companions option over an animal companion, so I think this is a really bad choice. If you DO like to bond with your companions, though, this favored class option is solid.

Rogue: This favored class option is only good if you didn’t trade out trap sense with an archetype, and the vast majority of archetypes do so. However, if you’re taking my advice and using the Snare Setter archetype, then you should definitely take this at every level.

Sorcerer: Anything that gives you bonuses to damaging spells is great, even if you’re not focusing on being a blaster. Pick an energy type that you can cast often, and go to town, getting up to +10 to damage with that type!

Summoner: This is another option that gives you bonus AC, and if you’re planning to ride your eidolon it’ll be super useful. Grab it at every level.

Witch: Most Witches know that their familiar is supposed to stay nearby at all times, because getting your familiar killed is NOT good. Because of that, I just don’t see the benefit to this option. Choose a hit point instead.

Wizard: Your familiar shouldn’t have to be making many Will saves if you play it right, and if your bonded item is being sundered you’re also doing something wrong, so I don’t think this option is as good as a skill point.

Racial Archetypes:
Alchemical Trapper (Alchemist): This certainly looks like fun, at the very least.  You can make your bombs into traps quickly and effectively.  This can be wonderful in dungeons, where you can lure your enemies into an area. This seems like it would be a blast, though losing two discoveries right off the bat is pretty harsh and keeps it from blue.  Excuse me while I roll up a kobold alchemist.

Bushwacker (Gunslinger): I like this archetype because it just feels very kobold-y. You’re a sneaky little thing, running around the battlefield coup-de-gracing creatures who are asleep or otherwise incapacitated to regain your grit points, and getting sneak damage with your gun when creatures can’t normally defend themselves. This is the ultimate sniper archetype for a Gunslinger, so if you’re a kobold and want to shoot things, go with this archetype for sure!

Dragon Herald (Bard): This is a really weird archetype, and is pretty situational (you’re really good at telling people how great dragons are... they already know that). I do enjoy the theme of the new bardic performances, such as Diplomatic Immunity which lets you cast sanctuary on yourself in order to extol the virtues of your dragon patron in hostile territory. The stacking energy resistance is also pretty sweet. At higher levels, all creatures can understand you when you speak Draconic, which is... interesting. Not powerful in any way, but interesting.

Dragon Yapper (Bard): The dragon yapper allows the Bard to annoy his enemies, essentially giving them the same penalties that inspire courage bestows.  And all that you give up is fascinate.  A good rule of thumb is:  If there are more martial enemies than allies, use Yapping Song.  If there are more martial allies than enemies, use inspire courage.  I often find that the former is true, in which case Yapping song is great (and hilarious).

Snare Setter (Rogue): This is now one of my favorite archetypes in the whole game, and I really hope that they make kobold boons for Pathfinder Society so that I can play one of these guys. Ranger Traps are really excellent, and this archetype lets you start using them even sooner than a Ranger can! You also get to add sneak damage to your traps, which is just crazy awesome. Seriously, if you’re playing a kobold Rogue, you NEED to take this archetype.

Swarm Fighter (Fighter): This archetype lets you fight better in groups, so if as a GM you’re putting your characters up against a bunch of kobolds, give every one of them this archetype. There are several useful abilities, but the best one is the Share Space class feature which you get at 5th level, which when combined with the Strike the Underbelly 9th level ability lets you enter an enemy’s space and instantly deny them their Dexterity bonus. There’s a good reason why this isn’t a Rogue archteype (even though your kobold Rogue WISHES it was!)

Kobold Bloodline (Sorcerer Bloodline): This bloodline is very trap- and stealth-oriented, and so if you’re planning to play a sneaky caster, this is a good way to go. The bloodline arcana gives you a boost to spell DCs against creatures denied their Dex to AC, which is fun and will come in handy. Make sure to take Improved Initiative and Merciless Magic to make the most use of this. I really like the Trap Rune and Arcane Ambush bloodline powers, as well.

Racial Feats:
Draconic Aspect: Resistance to an element is helpful, but not terribly exciting. This feat is worth your time, however, because it is required for four other feats that are much more interesting.

Draconic Breath: This can be a useful ability to be able to toss out there once per day, though the damage doesn’t scale with character level. Note that Sorcerers can get more out of this than most other classes, since the save DC is based on Charisma for them. However, there is one thing you should really consider for any melee character. Take the Dragonmaw racial trait, and choose either of the acid options for this feat. Then, take Noxious Bite, which lets your bite attacks nauseate your enemies for several rounds, which is crazy awesome!

Draconic Glide: This ability essentially mimics the Gliding Wings racial trait, letting you fall from any distance without getting hurt. If you already have that racial trait, it literally does nothing for you (your base speed is already 30 feet!) so only take this if you want to glide and you don’t already have Gliding Wings.

Draconic MagicGaining two decent once a day spells isn't bad, particularly when they scale so nicely with levels.  Each color dragon has a utility spell and damage dealer, and the utility ones will stay relevant with that scaling DC.

Draconic Paragon: Now HERE is why you’ve been taking those other “Draconic” feats. With this feat, you get a bonus against sleep and paralysis effects, your breath weapon deals more damage, and you gain a fly speed instead of just being able to glide. This is an excellent feat, but it does have a lot of feat requirements to get the most out of it.

Kobold Ambusher: This feat is useful for anyone other than a Rogue who wants to be able to move around without being seen. Note that this does exactly the same thing as a Rogue Talent, so a Rogue should take the talent instead.

Kobold Confidence: This feat will be a great option for any front-line type character, as it’ll keep you from dying as quickly (assuming one of your mental stats is higher than your Constitution). The bonus to Fort saves is also excellent, and for that reason I’d suggest that a Sorcerer or other arcane caster at least consider picking this one up.

Kobold Sniper: If you’re a ranged attacker, you want this. Reducing the penalty from sniping to -10 instead of -20 is a HUGE boost!

Merciless Magic: Every kobold spellcaster should take this, as it increases your spell DCs when a creature already has a detrimental condition. I especially like this for Witches, since they can stack Evil Eye with this to seriously lower an enemy’s chance of saving against their spells.

Merciless Precision: Extra sneak dice? HELL YES! Seriously, take this if you’re a Rogue or Vivisectionist Alchemist.

Mixed Scales: If you want to get resistance to multiple energy types, this is a great way to do it. You count as two colors for your Draconic Aspect or Dragon-Scaled abilities.

Redeemed Kobold: This is really only useful for a Cleric, Paladin, or Life Oracle who channels positive energy. You get a +2 to your Charisma score when calculating your positive energy DCs, and you get some Diplomacy bonuses against good creatures. Pretty paltry, if you ask me.

Scaled Disciple: This is one of my new favorite feats in the game... you can start taking the Dragon Disciple prestige class using Oracle (or Inquisitor) levels instead of Sorcerer levels! This means that your spells don’t have arcane spell failure, which is normally a HUGE problem for Dragon Disciples. Seriously, if you are playing an Oracle or Inquisitor, you really should take this.

Slurk RiderYou are better at riding slurk.  Which is great if you like riding slurk.

Tail Terror: Kobold tail attachments are fun and flavorful weapons, and using one still counts as a natural attack, so you can use them along with your Dragonmaw bite attack. Any melee class should consider going with natural weapons because of this.

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