Ktisune are fox-people, and while that may conjure the dreaded “furry” hatred from some players, they are actually a lot of fun and can be very powerful if built correctly. Their physical weakness is more than made up for by agility and friendliness, and as you’ll see soon, they can make some of the best spellcasters out there!
Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 Charisma, -2 Strength. Ktisune are agile and likable, but not very strong, and that makes them ideal as Charisma-based spellcasters and ranged combatants.
Size: Kitsune are the same size as humans.
Type: Kitsune are humanoids with the kitsune and shapechanger subtypes. Surprisingly, “shapechanger” is not a current legal option for Ranger favored enemy, so you don’t need to worry about that (a Ranger would have to pick humanoid (kitsune) to affect you). It’s also worth mentioning that the shapechanger subtype allows a kitsune to use a standard action to remove any detrimental polymorph effect from themselves, which could come in quite handy. However, this could actually be a double-edged sword, because if you already have a helpful polymorph spell cast upon you (like aspect of the bear or others) and you use your kitsune change shape ability, you lose the effects of that spell. You also can’t have polymorph spells cast on you when you are in human or fox form without first reverting to your native kitsune form.
Speed: Kitsune move as fast as humans.
Agile: Kitsune get a +2 racial bonus on Acrobatics checks, which is definitely useful for Kitsune rogues and ninjas, or even for any character who wants to move around the battlefield without being smacked.
Change Shape: You get a limited shapechange ability, allowing you to turn into a specific human, giving you a +10 on Disguise checks. The only thing that this doesn’t give you is a boost to any ability scores, which stinks, but it’s a great ability that can be used as a swift action if you pick up Swift Kitsune Shapechanger. Note that while you use this ability to turn human, you can’t have any other polymorph effects cast on you!
Kitsune Magic: A +1 to the DC of enchantment spells and dancing lights three times per day doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re building an enchantment-master, you’ll love that extra +1. This is blue for spellcasters, orange for everyone else.
Natural Weapon: Kitsune have a bite attack that deals 1d4 damage, which can be useful to allow for flanking without taking up hands with pesky weapons. If you are hoping to make use of the Vulpine Pounce feat, you’ll be happy that you have this extra bite attack at the end of a charge.
Low-Light Vision: Once more, I prefer darkvision to this, but it can come in handy sometimes.
Alternate Racial Traits:
Fast Shifter [Kitsune Magic]: This racial trait is an outright trap, since there is a feat that you can take that is in all ways better, Swift Kitsune Shapechanger, which allows you to use your shapechange ability as a swift action, whereas this alternate trait only allows it as a move action. The only reason you might want this trait is if you plan to shift in combat before you can get BAB +6, which the feat requires. The only reason to take this alternate trait is if you’re a non-spellcaster with a Charisma score less than 11, in which case there’s nothing at all to lose by choosing this option.
Gregarious [Agile]: This is too situational to give up a flat +2 to Acrobatics, in my opinion. If this also included a bonus to Diplomacy checks, I’d give it a much higher rating.
Alchemist: A kitsune can make an excellent bomb-focused Alchemist, though you won’t want to try a Jekyl-and-Hyde build thanks to the penalty to Strength. I REALLY wish that the first spell on the list for Magical Tail was charm person, because then I would highly recommend that feat in combination with the Alchemist, since the extract list is devoid of spells that can charm enemies, but as it is, bomber Alchemists are too feat-starved to invest two feats on it.
Barbarian: The penalty to Strength makes Barbarian a sub-optimal choice for a kitsune. Don’t try to go for the Vulpine Pounce feat, since a Barbarian can get a full version of pounce through the Great Beast Totem rage power at the same level. The bite attack can be useful, but that’s also something you can get with a rage power.
Bard: Kitsune make excellent bards, for pretty much the same reasons that elves do. The Charisma bonus helps with spellcasting and bardic performance DCs, and the Dexterity bonus and racial Acrobatics boost are great for moving around the battlefield. Kitsune bards are just BEGGING for the Arcane Duelist archetype, and the Magical Tail feat might be a worthy investment to augment your spells per day. The racial favored class option isn’t terribly good, as it only applies to specific Bluff and Diplomacy checks, so I’d probably take the skill point instead.
Cavalier [Samurai]: I’m imagining a Kitsune Cavalier riding a large wolf into the battlefield, and that fills my heart with awesome. However, it’s not going to be optimal, not by a longshot. Instead, consider going with the Samurai and the mounted archer style build, which would work out much better. I really wish the Beast Rider archetype was compatible with the Samurai, but alas Samurai don’t have Expert Trainer, which is one of the trade-outs for the archetype.
Cleric: There’s just no reason at all to choose Cleric over Oracle as a kitsune. If you really want to play a kitsune Cleric, though, there’s nothing making it a really good or really bad choice, so have at it!
Druid: As with the Cleric, there’s nothing saying you can’t make a fine Druid with your kitsune, but there’s also nothing specific going for you. I do want to point out that the kitsune’s Change Shape ability does synergize well with wild shape, allowing you to turn into animals or a human, when need be. The favored class option is decent, but only works on animals, so it’s situational.
Fighter: Though not optimal for the front-line, a kitsune can make an excellent ranged Fighter thanks to the Dex bonus. You could also focus on your kitsune Fighter’s charismatic nature and toss in Realistic Likeness to become whoever you need to be at any given time. However, if you’re going for that build, go Rogue instead.
Gunslinger: Any race that works well as a ranged Fighter will also work well as a Gunslinger. You might want the Mysterious Stranger archetype to capitalize on your high Charisma, just make sure to upgrade your gun with the Reliable property ASAP since you lose Quick Clear!
Inquisitor: Like the Cleric and Druid, this is an okay choice but will never be optimal thanks to the lack of Wisdom bonus. A ranged build will obviously fare better than a melee one, but overall I’d still stick with the Oracle instead.
Magus: Magi rely too heavily on melee combat (except the Myrmidarch, of course) and don’t have very many enchantment spells, so I’d say go with a Sorcerer instead.
Monk: Nothing says a kitsune can’t make a decent Monk, but they don’t have much going for them thanks to the lack of a Wisdom bonus. The Zen Archer is a good option to take advantage of the Dex bonus, but any Dex-based melee build would be fine too.
Oracle: Here is an excellent option for a kitsune, thanks to the Kitsune Magic ability and the Charisma bonus. Of course, you’ll want to choose a lot of enchantment spells known, and the Nature mystery makes a lot of thematic sense. Though the Wolfscarred Face curse would fit perfectly, a 20% chance of spell failure with verbal spells is very painful. You could always be super-munchkinly and take Dual-Cursed, then combine Wolfscarred Face with the Deaf curse, negating the penalty from Wolfscarred Face completely! Stay away from the favored class option, you shouldn’t be using weapons often anyway.
Paladin [Antipaladin]: While the Charisma bonus will help with spells and other DCs, a Strength penalty is painful for most Paladins. You could always go with a ranged Paladin build, which would work out just fine, and the Holy Gun is right up a kitsune’s alley too. Overall, not a bad choice.
Ranger: There’s really nothing good or bad about choosing a Ranger as a kitsune. I like the Infiltrator archetype to go along with the kitsune’s natural shapeshifting, and the Realistic Likeness feat obviously fits well with that also. Overall, this is a fine, if suboptimal, choice.
Rogue [Ninja]: Rogue is an excellent choice for a Kitsune, thanks to their Dex bonus. This class is optimal for the “party face” type Rogue, maxing out Diplomacy and Bluff skills and using those to get out of sticky situations with NPCs. You even have a few new Rogue Talents that were written specifically for the kitsune: False Friend, Obfuscate Story, and Steal the Story. All three of these Talents are completely story-focused and, thus, useless in combat, but they are very flavorful and can make for a character who walks into a smoky bar and instantly makes everyone in the room love her. Kitsune also have their own archetype, the Kitsune Trickster, that also fits the same mold, allowing for limited castings of charm person without needing to use precious spell slots on Magical Tail. As far as combat goes, I also like the Scout archetype for Kitsune, thanks to their natural bite attack and Acrobatics bonus, and you can work your way up to Vulpine Pounce to get a true pouncing ability later on.
Sorcerer: This is the best option for any kitsune, period. Why, you may ask? Simply because of the incredible combination of the racial ability from Kitsune Magic, combined with the favored class option for Sorcerers. Between these two abilities, by 12th level you will have a +4 to the DCs of your enchantment spells, on top of having high DCs in the first place thanks to the Charisma bonus. You are the ultimate charmer, making enemies fall over and worship you in the middle of combat. You can further augment your ability to make enemies do what you want by picking the Fey bloodline, giving you an additional +2 to the DCs of your compulsion spells. Toss in Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus on enchantments and you’ve made the ultimate controller character. You may also want to consider picking up the Threnodic Spell metamagic feat, so that you can affect undead with your enchantments, and Persistent Spell is great to make sure those creatures with high saves are still affected. The Maestro and Rakshasa bloodlines are also very good choices, thanks to synergistic spells and bloodline powers. Your kitsune Sorcerer will also be the ultimate “party face” if you pick up the Realistic Likeness feat, allowing you to turn into any other human that you’ve seen.
Summoner: Given the Sorcerer’s amazing favored class option, and the Summoner’s much more limited spell list, I see no reason to ever pick Summoner over Sorcerer as a kitsune. If you want a combat pet, take the Sylvan bloodline. If you’re REALLY set on being a kitsune Summoner, though, you’ve got a bonus to Charisma to help out with that, and you can definitely be a great “party face” too.
Witch: If you’re going to be an arcane caster as a kitsune, be a Sorcerer. That being said, you can still put together a mean Witch, but the issue here is that your hexes don’t get the benefit of the +1 DC from Kitsune Magic, and you don’t have the Charisma bonus to help with talking your way out of situations, so Sorcerer is just all-around a better choice.
Wizard: Wizard is a slightly better choice than Witch, simply because you’ve got more spellcasting you can do instead of hexes. You’ll definitely want to take the Enchantment school, though I’m not as impressed with either of the subschools available under it. All of the feats that I suggested for the Sorcerer are just as good for a kitsune Wizard, also. Overall, I still suggest choosing Sorcerer instead, but you can make a great kitsune Wizard if the mood strikes you.
Racial Favored Class Options:
Bard: For a “party face” character who plans to use the Realistic Likeness feat to infiltrate enemy territory, a bonus to Bluff is incredibly useful, but for anyone else this is not a good choice.
Druid: Changing a creature’s attitude really isn’t the focus of most Druids, though I suppose you are getting a bonus to spells like charm animals. I’d say this is a decent choice, but you should still be a Sorcerer instead!
Oracle: A kitsune isn’t meant to be a battle Oracle, so this is a trap. Stay away!
Rogue: Extra rogue talents are always a good choice, and you have a few special ones written just for Kitsune, so I say go for it!
Sorcerer: This is possibly the best favored class option in the game, right up there with the elven Oracle’s bonus to class level for a single Revelation. Enchantment spells can easily mean the difference between an overwhelming battle and one that’s a piece of cake, so +1 to DCs every four levels is a REALLY great bonus. Take this option at every level!
Kitsune Trickster (Rogue): This archetype is very simple. It lets you add your Intelligence modifier to Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, and Sense Motive checks, which is excellent, and it lets you cast charm person several times per day as a spell-like ability. Both of these are amazing options for a “party face” Rogue, and you’ll probably want to pay attention to the three rogue talents which were written just for Kitsune (though any Rogue can choose them), False Friend, Obfuscate Story, and Steal the Story. This is a great archetype, and I highly recommend it.
Fox Shape: Unlike the other kitsune Racial feats, I haven’t mentioned this one during the class descriptions. This is because I honestly can see few benefits from taking this feat that you can’t get from the Realistic Likeness feat in most situations. Sure, if you really need to turn into an animal to hide amongst animals, this is the way to do it, but in almost all situations, turning into a specific human that you’ve seen in the past will get you out of trouble just as well, and that feat has no prerequisites so you can take it at first level!
Magical Tail: This is a fun, flavorful feat that not only gives you some limited magical abilities but CAUSES YOU TO GROW MORE TAILS! I mean, come on, how awesome is that? Seriously, though, it does take a lot of feat investment to get into the really excellent spell-like abilities, and remember that your Kitsune Magic bonus to enchantment spells won’t work on these because they’re not technically spells. I could definitely imagine building a Fighter around this feat who could eventually dominate his opponents to fight for him instead of running into combat himself (though most other characters are just too feat-starved to use 8 feats on this).
Realistic Likeness: This feat just blows my mind. I want to know who the designer was who thought that this would be a good idea, and both hug him as a player and kick him in the nads as a GM. By investing only a single feat with no prerequisites other than being a kitsune, you get an unlimited number of casts of alter self per day that breaks the very rules of polymorph spells, which normally don’t allow you to mimic a specific person. This is broken in such an awesome way, and every kitsune should spend a feat slot on this feat, no questions asked.
Swift Kitsune Shapechanger: You know how Realistic LIkeness is really excellent? With the investment of just one more feat, you can use those unlimited casts of alter self as a Swift action instead of a Standard. This means that you could be running away from a bad guy at full speed, turn a corner and change into someone you just saw without even slowing down. Seriously, this is excellent.
Vulpine Pounce: If you’re willing to invest the feats in it, this is one of the easiest ways to get a true pounce ability in the game, and tossing this onto a Scout Rogue is just plain incredible. Now, it’s important to note that this requires base attack +10, so it’ll take 10-15 levels for most characters to get it (and you won’t get it until 20th level if you’re a full spellcaster!) Despite that, this is a great option that I definitely recommend for a Rogue or Fighter (though Barbarians can get their own form of pounce).