Thursday, June 4, 2015

Races of Pathfinder: Svirfneblin

Svirfneblin are the underdark version of gnomes. Gray skinned and stern, these creatures lack the joviality of their cousins above the ground. They gain really excellent defensive traits, with strong SR, +2 bonus to AC, and +2 to all saves, and a handful of very useful 1/day spells, but their weak ability score distribution limits their class choices.

Racial Traits:
Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, -2 Strength, -4 Charisma.  I'll be honest, it's not great.  Any class that keys on Charisma, even partially, is right out, and melee isn't looking too hot either. Only a few classes work well with this ability distribution, and only their ranged versions (and even then they suffer from lacking the strength to wield a compound bow).  Luckily, this is by far the weakest part of the class.

Size: As small creatures, Svirfneblin gain a bonuses to AC, size, attack, and Stealth, while suffering a slight penalty to CMB and CMD. 

Speed: 20 ft., the bane of small races.  Still, with a ranged class you can mitigate this.

Natural Armor: Not one, but +2 to Natural Armor?  This is an absolutely fantastic trait that will help you from level 1 to 20. 

Fortunate: +2 to all saves?  How could this get better?

Spell Resistant: It got better.  With Spell Resistance of 11+Class Level, this ensures that fully half of all spells from an equal level spell caster will fail.  Boy, have they spoiled us here.

Skills: +2 bonus to Stealth, with another +2 underground.  Perhaps more importantly, we also get +2 to Craft (alchemy) and Perception.  Two very solid skills with one that can be useful if you make it.

Stonecunning: Even more bonuses to Perception, but only if they involve stonework.  This is also passive, always-on trap finding if the trap is hidden in stone.

Svirfneblin Magic: We gain +1 to the DC of any illusion spells.  We also get Constant nondetection.  We also get three very useful once a day spells: blindness/deafness (a great de-buff), blur (a great buff), and disguise (a great utility spell).  Blindness/Deafness's usefulness will diminish with time, but blur and disguise are useful from 1-20.

Hated: Hatred against reptilians and dwarves.  Fine, but not too likely to come up frequently.

Darkvision & Low-Light Vision: Just some more delicious bonuses to add on top.  Darkvision is always a great thing to have.

Alternate Racial Traits: 
Healthy [Fortunate]: No way. I'm not giving up on +2 against all saves for +4 against disease and poison.  Even if this were +4 on all Fortitude saves it wouldn't be worth it.  Avoid at all costs.

Stoneseer [Svirfneblin Magic]: Instead of Svirfneblin Magic, you gain +1 to caster level of earth spells.  You also get magic stone, stone shape, and stone tell.  Magic stone is somewhat of a wash, but stone shape and stone tell are both very useful.  Also of note, you give up Level 2, 2, and 1 spells for a Level 6, 3, and 1 spells.  My personal preference is for the original in terms of utility, but it's hard to argue with those numbers.

The Svirfneblin's defensive abilities are powerful, and well suited for any character, particularly melee characters.  However, his ability scores rule out a number of options, and that -2 Strength doesn't help.  The -2 Strength even hurts the compound bow users
The Gunslinger can really make use of the Svirfneblin's abilities without suffering from any detriments.  Even though he's at ranged, he'll still appreciate all of those defensive buffs without needing to take a lower compound bow.  The Empyreal Sorcerer also benefits immensely, though if he uses his Charisma to channel through "Sacred Cistern" he drops down to a solid blue.
Next come our ranged Wisdom dabblers:  The Ranger, Zen Archer Monk, and Inquisitor are all good choices, though their melee counterparts drop down to Green.  The Rogue is an unlikely winner here, his squishy exterior gaining immensely from all of those delicious defensive buffs.  The Druid is another good option, both ranged and wild-shape focused, as is the bomb-focused Alchemist.
Next come our ranged non-Wisdom dabblers.  The Fighter, Barbarian, and Cavalier are all reasonable candidates for the Svirfneblin, gaining from the Dexterity and survivability. Their melee counterparts are a bit lower on the scale, but probably still green.  Wizards and Witches won't get a much needed Intelligence boost, but will revel in the extra survivability.
Then comes a large gap occupied only by the Ninja and the ranged Cleric.  Both of these classes key partially off of Charisma, but can be build to somewhat minimize that detriment. The Wisdom bonus keeps the Cleric out of Red, but only just.
Far, far in the back are those who rely on Charisma.  The Paladin and Bard are above the Summoner, Oracle, and Sorcerer (except the Sage Sorcerer and Empyreal Sorcerer), who I would rate lower than red if I could for obvious reasons.

Favored Class Options: 
Alchemist: As an alchemist, you can just buy new extracts.  Don't bother.

Oracles: Oracles, on the other hand, need as many spells as they can get.  Certainly grab some extra.

Ranger: DR 1/2 / magic sounds nice, but really isn't that powerful.  I'd avoid.

Racial Archetypes: 
Deep Bomber (Alchemist): The Deep bomber gives up poisoning and alchemy creation for some bomb buffs.  If you don't use alchemy or poison, then this is definitely a viable option.  Silent Bomb is interesting, but the ability to outline invisible, blurred, displaced, and concealed creatures with Targeting Bomb is invaluable.

Racial Feats: 
Stoic Pose: You can stand still for 5 rounds to look like a rock, allowing you to use stealth without cover or concealment... Just find some cover or concealment.

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