Bloodlines and Black Magic – The Bloodlines

Last time we looked at the world of Bloodlines and Black Magic, an engaging combination of worldwide conspiracy and urban magic. At the center of all of this (unsurprisingly) are the bloodlines that rule the world, the seven sources of arcane power that we’ll be looking at today.

Bloodlines are the “races” of Bloodlines and Black Magic, the cornerstone to your character in combination with their class. They have ability score modifiers, special abilities, and in-world lore but they are customizable. Every character gets 7 “blood points” to spend on their character’s bloodline abilities meaning you could have several different abilities from your bloodline or a few big ones. Each bloodline comes with around ten abilities to “purchase” to showcase how your character’s bloodline is expressed.

The Dragon Blooded

With bonuses to Dexterity and Charisma, as well as lots of opportunities for resistance and survival powers, dragon blooded characters are tough. They also have spell-like abilities to give them a mystical, magical air. Two of the more interesting abilities for dragon blooded are temple’s first secret (+2 dodge bonus when in jungle) and dragon’s luck (always land on your feet when falling, though you take the same damage). These two seem like fun roleplaying opportunities, even if they aren’t the most useful.

Specific lineages of dragon blooded people in the world include a group of South American cannibals and an East Asian dynasty with a legacy of power. These two (and the nationalistic Albanian lineage) show the range of dragon blooded people out there, although it’s still pretty focused. If I were a BBM Gamemaster I’d be looking at how to make a uniquely Scandinavian line of dragon blooded or an aboriginal Australian family. Not sure how much this section helps for expanding beyond what’s already written.

The Fey Blooded

Those humans with faerie magic in their veins have some qualities similar to the dragon blooded: charismatic and dexterous, tough natural armor, fast speed, and some spell-like abilities. They also have the option of gaining an elf-like resistance to sleep and charm magic and they can get damage resistance to everything but cold iron. It’s easy to build a fey character with this but I think there’s even more room for abilities than this.

The lineages are great and show an even greater range of possibilities. There are the Sionanns (a close-knit Scots-Irish family) and a Sub-Saharan group (with ties to Anansi). I’d love to see even more but just with these two you can start to see that the fey blooded aren’t just limited to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Dusting off some Changeling: The Dreaming sourcebooks is a great next step.

The Infernal Blooded

Bloodlines & Black Magic - Infernal Occultist
Image © Storm Bunny Studios

Those with devils’ blood have a wide host of options available to them in keeping with the wide range of devilish legend. In addition to being strong and intelligent, they have abilities for purchase that give them bonuses against fear, that let them speak many languages, that give them a halo of fire, and so on. It’s extremely varied, especially following the dragon and fey blooded, but also very thematic.

The two infernal groups as surprisingly large-scale. One (House Scrae) are the entrenched gatekeepers of black magic in Europe and the other (the Masters) are the predatory newcomers in America. With the universality of demons in world folklore, I’m really surprised there aren’t more localized options for infernal blooded lineages.

The Jinn Blooded

With bonuses to Intelligence and Constitution, those with genie magic in their blood can excel as warriors or sorcerers. Their abilities lend themselves to this too, giving them the opportunities for fire resistance and Reflex save bonuses or spellcasting advantages and bonuses to Bluff and Diplomacy. They still have a lot of options in each of this field so they’re hardly hurt by this wide spread of abilities, but I imagine there are some Munchkin-ized combinations to be found with these guys.

The jinn lineages are anchored in the Middle East and Africa but they show some nice variety. The Court of Sulayman is based in the Islamic cultures of West Asia with interesting connections to King Solomon. The Shaitan’s Own is also from that general area but transported to Australia but with economic ties worldwide. These give a good idea of how the concepts of the djinn can be recast in other cultures

The Seraphic Blooded

In contrast to the infernal blooded, the angelic bloodline’s powers are a little… tame. Back when Dungeons & Dragons 4e was under development, Rob Heinsoo described the difficulty of making good-aligned factions as interesting as evil-aligned factions. He termed it the “Ave Maria problem,” referencing the pairing of “Night on Bald Mountain” and “Ave Maria” in the original 1940s Fantasia. Both are excellent pieces but the holy “Ave Maria” is slow and soothing whereas “Night on Bald Mountain” is bombastic and exciting.

I think the same issue might be at play here as characters with the seraphic bloodline have the option of abilities like bonuses to Diplomacy and Heal, low-light vision, and casting cure light wounds as a spell-like ability. There are a few combat-related abilities (cold/electricity resistance and Improved Initiative) but the only really exciting one for me is the Blessing of the First which gives them fast healing 2 when they’re hit with an electrical attack. Even the lineages are a little lesser in comparison: a Brazilian family of caregivers and a lineage of embattled martyrs. They’re not bad, they’re actually cool-sounding, but compared to the infernal lineages (a bunch of demonic playboys and shadowy Old World witches) they just don’t have that punch.

The Shadow Blooded

Bloodlines and Black Magic - Hidden Dangers
Image © Storm Bunny Studios

The abilities available to the shadow blooded are slippery sorts, both physically and magically. Some abilities give them tricks in the dark (casting darkness, gaining low-light or darkvision) while others give them magical resistance (save bonuses against specific magics, spell resistance). The combination is a bloodline steeped in secrets who can keep them well without just being shadowmancers or assassins. I like it.

There’s only one lineage, which is disappointing, but it’s a pretty sweet one. The Eyes of Nyx started off as a cult a Greek goddess of the night but has morphed into a spy organization with dark lore and “supernatural super-hacker[s] of the dark web.” Puns aside, that’s a pretty sweet profile.

The Spirit Blooded

There are lots of different origins you could have for “spirit” but in this context it refers to ancient Dreamtime, akashic memory, and spiritual healing. It’s a little vaguely-defined (although it is explicitly tied to the Astral Plane mentioned last time) and the abilities they have are similarly varied. They have save bonuses against illusion, speed bonuses, spell-like abilities, bonded weapons, bonuses to Bluff and Sleight of Hand, etc. They’re trying to cover a lot of bases here, but that’s alright.

Two lineages try to give this bloodline some context. The Sands of Khufu are an Old Kingdom Egyptian brotherhood trying to reunite the lost treasures of the pharaoh Khufu (he of the Great Pyramid) which were lost to otherworldly enemies in ages past. The other is the Mura-Mura People, a group of aboriginal shamans from Australia named for the Dieri word for the Dreamtime. Two different groups, though they really just scratch the surface.

Bloodline Diseases

An interesting addendum at the end of the chapter on bloodlines details supernatural diseases which only target people of the bloodlines. “Black censor” is a wasting disease, while “aberrant cuor” is a mutation that blends bloodline abilities. There are a few more like this but I really like this idea of afflictions that only target bloodlines. First of all, it makes it clear that being part of a bloodline is not all fun and games. There are drawbacks and vulnerabilities in the hidden world of Bloodlines and Black Magic that make it a dangerous place even if you don’t head into abandoned ruins. The second reason has to do with those abandoned ruins: diseases and curses are part and parcel with delving into ancient sites and this is a way to do that without making it dumb (“You get dysentery from the Olmec idol… but, like, magic dysentery!).

Conclusion

There are some issues with the bloodlines and they aren’t as massively powerful as you might assume. This is alright for two big reasons, though.

Bloodlines & Black Magic - Spirit-Blooded Investigator
Image © Storm Bunny Studios

First of all, they are meant to replace races from basic Pathfinder and so that should temper your expectations a little bit. If you’re expecting these bloodlines to be like the clans of Vampire: the Requiem or like the templates from The Dresden Files RPG then you’ll find these a little thin. If, however, you compare them to elves and halflings in Pathfinder then these actually have quite a bit of variety and power.

The second reason I think these ultimately come out on top is that it’s easy to change them up. If you wanted to include more abilities or more options for dwarves in your Pathfinder game, it would be a big deal that would potentially make every Pathfinder product incompatible with your home game. No fun. If you find that you want to change up, say, the seraphic bloodline (which is top of my list) then you can just add new abilities and lineages without causing any conflicts. Your players will be able to purchase your new abilities with build points alongside the original ones and everyone comes out alright.

In the end, I like the bloodlines in Bloodlines and Black Magic and I think they represent a good variety of in-game and character-generation options. They are adaptable and flexible and lend themselves to exactly the sort of complicated setting that Storm Bunny Studios is aiming for. Next time, we’ll see if the new classes also match up to this goal!

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