‘Of Stranger Bonds’ is a class compendium that includes 50 new base character classes.
The slight twist being that these 49 of these classes are actually a combination of class and race, allowing players (and NPCs, of course) to be ‘monsters’ of some kind. Who can honestly say that they never even considered the idea of playing as something more exotic than a gnome or half-orc, after all?
While the idea itself may not be the most innovative, the spin taken in ‘Of Stranger Bonds’ will be a bit different, outfitting these creatures with actual class features and a whole 20-level-progress in front of them.
The manual is structured in 7 chapters, each presenting 7 classes, and a last one presenting the final class which, unlike the others, is meant to be used by more ‘regular’ characters.
General Terms and Information
Classes and Races: All the “class” advancements described in this document are actually a mix of race and class. In a sense, they present the most common development of the chosen race, a sort of “racial paragon” class, working on developing the traits and strengths typical of any specific race. Upon choosing a class, apply all the racial traits given on its entry and treat that class as the creature’s favored class (gaining the usual benefits from favored classes). Because of this particularity, there cannot be, for example, a “human with 5 levels in lamia”, but only a lamia can attain levels in the given class. Conversely, there can be other possible advancements for the creatures (see below).
Levels, Hit Dice, Advancement Tiers: In most cases, for playable characters, Hit Dice and levels are the same thing, but this is not always the case for the Strangers (general term for the creatures described in this manual). Some of them have an advancement that goes through 20 levels by gaining 20 Hit Dice and, in that case, the term level is used freely in this manual as well, to indicate the point of advancement in a specific class. In other cases though, the level and Hit Dice can be different, as indicated in the advancement table of each class. The tables can include some levels in which no Hit Die is gained (indicated as, for example “AT 1” in the advancement table) but some other benefit is still granted. These pseudo-levels are called Advancement Tiers and mark some mandatory steps in the creature’s advancement, often granting abilities that are independent of the creature’s chosen profession, but are instead inbuilt in the creature (such as a troll’s regeneration or a titan’s size). In these cases, when the word “level” is used, then it is implied that it is the sum of the creature’s Hit Dice and Advancement Tiers. In all other cases, Hit Dice or Advancement Tiers is used as appropriate. For example, the elf’s martial training ability clearly states to use the Stranger’s level (not Hit Dice) instead of its base attack bonus to calculate CMB and CMD, thus it’ll be the sum of HD and AT, while all its other features are dependent on the value of HD, and thus ignore any Advancement Tier obtained when calculating their power.
Strangers and Skills: A Stranger only gets new Skill Ranks when it gains a Hit Die, the number of which is indicated for each class. Still, the maximum number of ranks in each skill is determined by the creature’s total level. Therefore, for example, a giant at his 10th level (composed of 7 Hit Dice and 3 Advancement Tiers) can have 10 ranks in any skill, even if he gained skill ranks only 7 times.
Strangers and Multiclassing: While each Stranger has a full class advancement laid out in front of it, they can freely pursue other careers by taking the Diverse Training feat.
At the GM’s discretion, multiclassing can instead be free, without requiring the Diverse Training feat. This second option opens the possibility of entering a different class right at 1st level, without taking the first class level in the Stranger’s own racial class, which may be interesting for customization, but may leave the Stranger lacking some of their defining abilities.
When multiclassing, if both the race-specific class and the common class have a curse, mystery, bloodline, domain, favored school or similar features, stack the levels of the two classes to determine the feature’s total power only if the same exact curse, mystery, etc… was chosen for both.
Note that, for the requirements of any feat, a creature’s class feature that works as a normal class feature, only with a different name, counts as the normal class feature. The features for which this is possible have a special tag at the end of their description. For example, a lich’s guardian spirit works in many ways like a summoner’s eidolon; and this extreme similarity is pointed out with the tag [Summoner – Eidolon] at the end of the feature’s description. Therefore, a lich can take any feat that normally requires the ability to call an eidolon, such as extra evolution.
Multiclassing and Advancement Tiers: With Diverse Training, a Stranger can swap class Hit Dice for levels in classes, but not their Advancement Tiers, that must be taken at the required intervals. For example, a troll has an Advancement Tier at 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th level. Therefore, even if he takes Diverse Training at 1st Hit Die to be able to gain powers as a cleric, at 4th level he still has to forgo the gaining of any Hit Die to instead achieve an Advancement Tier, gaining Toughness and regeneration as shown in the table. Likewise, even if his number of troll Hit Dice is still 1, at 8th level he will still “lose” a level to gain his 2nd advancement tier, obtaining the shown features. In this way, Diverse Training can only be used to change the type of advancement, not to benefit from higher base ability scores and avoid going through the Advancement Tiers.
Changing Size: Some Strangers are able to get naturally larger as they mature. Despite this happening at the change of level (most usually by gaining an Advancement Tier), it is intended to be a gradual change, with the creature still growing bigger at a normal pace and reaching the change of size category when indicated (even if it means that, realistically, the Stranger was already of its new size for a while before the change starts to have any effect on the rules and statistics). When a Stranger becomes of the next size category, it usually doubles in size and becomes 8 times heavier, but, to the GM’s discretion the exact measurements may be different. The changes in statistics are reported on each creature’s class advancement. Note that non-magical equipment does not change size to fit the creature’s new size. Unless stated differently, an increase in size adds 5 feet to every movement type the creature has.
Strangers and Equipment: Each Stranger able to use weapons and armors has an entry describing what kind of equipment they are proficient with. Every Stranger is proficient with their natural attacks, but if they lack any proficiency entry in their description, that’s all they are proficient with. To the GM’s discretion, creatures that can use only natural attacks can have one (or more) of their natural weapons be eligible for gaining magical enhancements, and the same goes for the natural armor of creatures that cannot wear conventional armors. Likewise, which equipment slots are available to non-humanoid creatures is to the GM’s discretion as, for example, some may allow a Coatl to wear two rings on its tail, while others may decide that, not having hands, they cannot benefit from rings at all.
Strangers’ Abilities: Each Stranger has in its entry a field called “Save DCs:” followed by the name of an ability score (usually Wisdom, Intelligence, or Charisma). This is to tell the players which of their scores influence the saving throw of their features and other special attacks. Unless otherwise specified, the saving throw against a Stranger’s special attack is equal to 10 + 1/2 the Stranger’s HD + the Stranger’s specified ability modifier.
Strangers’ Weaknesses: In this manual, all the Strangers are presented as being native from other planes – even if some do not have the outsider type – and being unable to return to their home world. This particular condition makes the dismissal and banishment spells have particularly aggravating effects on them when cast by a creature native of the material plane (usually humans). With this optional rule, the spells maintain their usual characteristics, including the saving throw of Will (negates) but, on a failed throw, work as disintegrate, inflicting 2d6 points of damage per caster level on a targeted Stranger (or more than one for banishment). In different adaptations of the presented material, this optional rule may have no meaning and can easily be disregarded.
Strangers’ Vital Statistics: the weaknesses described above also affect the Strangers’ lifespans. While bound to a pledged, a Stranger’s age increases without its body decaying. Thus, when changing into another age category, the Stranger will gain the bonus to its mental ability scores due to aging without any penalty to its physical ability scores. Should the bond be broken and the Stranger be left without a pledged, it will start getting the appropriate physical ability penalties for its actual age; conversely, should an older Stranger bind to a pledged, its body will revert towards its prime. These changes happen at the rate of one age category per week. To determine how age affects the Stranger’s ability scores, see the “vital statistics” tables at the end of each Order’s chapter; there, the strangers’ age progressions are presented in two rows – without a bonded pledged on the first row, and with one on the second. In either case, mental ability scores are modified according to the first row of the table, while physical ability penalties are taken according to the second (according to the Stranger’s actual age). Should a Stranger have exceeded its kind’s maximum possible age (without pledged), it will die within one week of applying the bonuses/penalties for the venerable age category. In case its age is twice the maximum age for its kind, or more, it will change age categories at a rate of one for every three days, and die three days after becoming venerable; in case it’s three times the maximum (always to be counted without a pledged), it gains one age category per day, and die on the day after becoming venerable; in case it’s five times the maximum, it will gain one age category per hour, and die 24 hours after losing the bond. Such penalties do not apply to creatures that have no maximum age both with and without a pledged (e.g. a phoenix), but apply normally to those that have a maximum age without a pledged, even if they have no maximum age with one.
Of Stranger Bonds, © 2019, Alessandro Passera