Two days ago, the Aethera campaign setting for Pathfinder was released in PDF form to the backers of their Kickstarter. While I haven’t read the whole thing yet – it weighs in at over 500 pages – I’ve read enough to venture an opinion.
If you backed it? Good on you; it seems that, aside from a few typographical errors, you’re getting some high-quality and well-designed material. It’s certainly better laid out than many game books, and the design makes it easy to read without hurting your eyes. I can’t vouch for the physical copy, as I only backed it at the PDF level. (Want to help me afford physical products so I can tell you if they’ll be worth your time? Hit up my Patreon!)
That said, I’ve been through the races and classes so far, and I can say that I feel like I have gotten my money’s worth already. While there are some significant changes, so far it doesn’t feel like anything has been ripped up for the lulz. Only humans remain from the core races with four new ones showing up, and we lose clerics and warpriests in exchange for a divine bard class. I’ve been told there’s an explanation, already hinted at in the book, for the lack of these divine classes.
So what are the races like? Honestly, I’m fairly pleased with what’s on offer.
The erahthi are plantfolk, grown from trees and intended to fit a particular role as seen by divinations; as such, they have no sex or gender identity, but they’ll adopt them as they see fit when they integrate with other societies. Given that I use xe/xer/xyr as a pronoun set, this pleases me quite a bit, and I can foresee genderfluid and agender players feeling comfortable with this race. They’ve got some neat tricks, mechanically, not the least of which is their ability to literally breathe with any part of their body – they can keep a hand above the surface of the water to let them stay oxygenated while they faff about in the water, a far superior solution to desperately sucking air through reeds like a human would need to do.
The okanta are beastfolk, with the only common trait being their horns. Short-lived and strongly family-oriented, they’re welcoming and inclusive. Visit them and they’ll offer you a seat by the fire, and ask you to trade stories with them. This isn’t to say they’re weak at all – they survive on a frigid world with giants as their biggest foes. Okanta live for heroism and to make their mark on the stories of their people; they also learn incredibly fast, getting to have a single ‘flex’ skill that essentially lets them have a skill that they think they might need without actually needing to put skill points in it.
The infused are the weakest of the races; they’re essentially a war crime, people born from horrific experiments during the Century War at the hands of human researchers. Infused with aetherite and empowered with supernatural gifts, they’d be wonderful if not for their lost memories, drastically shortened lifespan, and the mental and emotional instability that came from the experiments that created them. Many seek to find a way to prolong their lives and permit their people to breed into a sustainable race, others want revenge on their creators, and still others want to find a way to undo what was done to them.
Last, we have the phalanx, a race I can best describe as “What if the warforged hadn’t been so silly?” Robots left over from the days of the Progenitors and newly brought to literal life with aetherite cores by humans during the Century War, phalanx have none of the silly ‘living metal’ nonsense of the warforged and all the cool vibes of being living constructs. They have a simple natural armor bonus, rather than an automatic AC, a dependency on consuming processed aetherite to remain functional, and Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat because their fists are made of metal. Best of all, there’s no silly living construct type; they’re straight-up constructs with the phalanx subtype, which grants them a Constitution score and denies them size-based bonus HP.
Honestly, I’m torn between wanting to play an erahthi arcanist and a phalanx druid.
There’s an additional section which explains how the races from the Advanced Race Guide fit into the Aethera setting; it’s clear a bit of thought was put into each paragraph-long entry to give players a base to build from for their own characters.
Next time I’ll talk about the things the book offers for classes, such as the cantor base class and the class archetypes; perhaps by then I’ll know more about why clerics and warpriests deliberately don’t exist!