Book of Races by Flex Dolphynn is the freshman outing by GameVein. It contains 14 races for 4e, licensed under the GSL, in a 70 page PDF available from DriveThruRPG. The book is full color, with at least one illustration of each race. The illustrations range from Poser/DAZ Studio characters with photoshop filters to colored, pencil art (without inking). This review is from a review copy provided by the author.
The 14 races are as follows:
- Avians, birdmen who can screech and eventually gain flying ability. They also gain a pile of rituals for free.
- Bjorn, fearless bear people.
- Excelsion, who seem to be modeled after Dr. Manhattan.
- Ferralyn, cat-people who literally flip-out.
- Insectoid, which unsurprisingly are bug-people. They spit acid.
- Leonines, whose concept seems to be a race of attractive people from the Astral Sea.
- Ling, small colored pixie people who are the progenitors of the halfling race. (Huh?)
- Nymphs, more specifically water nymphs, are seductive swimmers.
- Obsidians, dark rock-people from the Shadowfell.
- Radiant, righteous gold people from the Astral Sea.
- Storm Elves, muscular elves that throw lightning.
- Tarsion, strange monkey-people that resemble something out of Jim Henson.
- Vixen, trickster fox-people.
- Volems, golems who have gained sentience. Like Genasi, they come in several flavors: rock, mud, flesh, crystal, metal, and wood.
Each race is written up like the core races: racial traits, racial power, description, physical qualities, advice on playing the race, adventurers of that race, and racial feats. Most of the races also have paragon paths.
There seems to be a contingent of people who enjoy playing “animal people” in D&D, and this book definitely fills that need. I think that might be interesting in a campaign that only had animal people in it, like Tellos, but I find them mostly un-needed in standard D&D. There are a few other interesting races, like the Volems, but nothing that screams out at me to be played. Other races just strike me as downright bizarre, like the Leonines and the Ling. Some of the races seem like they’re fairly “cheesecakey”, and that it’s their only reason to exist.
Ruleswise, I’m impressed that they were able to develop so many races. Each one contains a fair amount of feats for each tier, as well as paragon paths. The writeups are complete for each one, though the text is sometimes bland (as is the case with core 4e races too). There’s a note about balance at the beginning of the book, but I had some knee-jerk reactions to some things being overpowered and some underpowered. For example, nymphs have a one turn daily dominate, which seems like there’s some potential for abuse there. Others, like the bear-people’s hibernation, seem like they don’t need it as a special ability. Interestingly, the races make a number of references to psionicists, leading me to believe that the company’s next product will be a psionics class.
I’ve noticed a trend in 3rd party PDF publishers releasing a product and then admitting that they’ll fix any problems later. This is no exception, already having FAQs and Errata sections up in the book and website. While this is a strength of PDF publishing, it makes me wonder how much playtesting is going into these things before being released to the public, and how much it’s expected to be taken care of later.
Ultimately, if you or your players are interested in the kinds of races listed, then Book of Races might be worth picking up. $8 for 70 pages of content is a pretty good deal, too. But if you’re like me and never really got into the fox-people in D&D, you probably can give this book a pass.