Miscegenation has long been a thorny issue in tabletop role-playing games that involve racial hybrids. The question of why there are half-elves but no half-dwarves, or elf-dwarves for that matter, have long been one of those unanswered questions that has never had a good answer. Most of the time, the answer is a shrug and some utterance of “because that’s how it is,” since the alternative is to either begin charting out every possible combination (a task daunting in its impossibility) or disallowing crossbred characters altogether.
More recently, race-creation systems have been proposed as the answer. Any Pathfinder aficionado, for example, will likely be able to tell you all about the Advanced Race Guide’s use of Race Points (RP) as a means of generating a character of unique parentage. But even then, problems still arise: from issues of stark lists of abilities whose RP costs fail to invoke any ideas about what sort of beings would possess them to an overly-permeable scale of how many RPs a character can have before being “too powerful,” that and similar takes on standardizing the act of custom-race creation tend to be unsatisfying in what they offer.
Then we come to Hybrid Blood, the race-creation supplement from Silver Games, and the problem is solved.
Before I go any further, I need to make some disclaimers. The first and most important is that I have a potential conflict of interest here. Not only am I Patreon supporter of this company, I’ve also worked with the author on several projects. Make of that what you will.
Another thing that needs to be stated upfront is that this book, while it does deal with anthropomorphic characters (i.e. furries), contains absolutely no fetish-fuel whatsoever. Don’t expect anything even remotely suggestive here; the most you’ll find are a tame notation that “beast people” are able to interbreed. The artwork is likewise no more tantalizing than anything you’d find in a contemporary mass-market product. This book is all about being a role-playing game supplement, and nothing else.
Finally, let me note that Hybrid Blood is configured for no less than THREE distinct role-playing games: Pathfinder, Starfinder, and Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition (though the Starfinder material is often folded into Pathfinder). While I know a lot of gamers for whom that’s a huge issue (i.e. no one wants to buy material that isn’t for the game they’re playing), I can’t stress enough just how much the books use of layout and formatting makes this feel like a non-issue. The brilliant use of color-coded backgrounds/headers (always paired with a small two-letter symbol – PF, SF, or 5E – to make sure things are completely clear), completely eliminates any ambiguity and makes it easy for your eyes to instantly be drawn to the section of the page that’s relevant to your interest. The degree to which this mitigates the feeling of wasted space cannot be overstated.
With all of that said, how does Hybrid Blood tackle the topic of custom-race characters? Interestingly, the book presents two different answers to this question. The first is for “beast people” as an overarching race, while the second is present hybrid characters. The two are held as being distinct from each other, but their presentation is exceedingly similar in how they’re built.
For beast people, a standard PC racial write-up is given. The rub lies in the fact that a given beast person needs to pick not one, but two special qualities from a list: one for how they acquire their food, and one for their method of locomotion. This takes us to the book’s answer to the how races are built: by selecting multiple thematic packages of racial qualities.
To put it another way, your beast person character might (after noting the basic racial qualities given under the “beast person” racial outline) take “tooth and claw” for their diet-based quality, which gives them a choice of where they allocate their ability score bonuses and penalties, and gives them natural weapons. They’d then choose “tunneler” for their movement-based quality, potentially modifying their ability score distribution and giving them a burrow speed. Of course, height and weight tables are given, along with a robust selection of feats and traits to round things out.
Then we come to the next section, which takes up roughly three-fourths of the book: hybrid characters.
Hybrid characters, as noted above, are built similarly to beast people characters. The difference is that, while beast people are essentially a single race with some comparatively minor modifications based on their diet and movement, the qualities of a hybrid character have no standardized aspects to them: everything is determined by their construction. In this case, that construction is chosen by taking two “physical quality” packages and one “upbringing quality” package. I have to take a moment to point out the conceptual brilliance in making upbringing be an integral part of building a character this way; this is a (metaphorical) hobgoblin that the tabletop gaming community has struggled with for some time (i.e. “would an elf still be good with a bow if he was raised by dwarves and never taught archery?”), so clearly delineating which parts of a hybrid character are nature and which are nurture is a brilliant move that deserves notable props.
The packages denoting these qualities, both physical and upbringing, make up the bulk of the book, and for a very good reason: there are a LOT of them! Insofar as physical qualities go, the book presents the basic races, Ponyfinder races, Advanced Race Guide races, Starjammer races, and a collection of even more unusual races such as worgs or phoenixes alongside more familiar groups such as dragons or the undead. All for Pathfinder/Starfinder and 5E. Interestingly, the more familiar races are presented as having two physical qualities: “X Blooded” and “X Bodied” (where “X” is the race in question). The former denotes intangible qualities that are nevertheless biological, where the latter are gross physical attributes. This means that, if you take, say, Elf Blooded and Elf Bodied – along with the Raised by Elves upbringing – you’ll essentially have a bog-standard elven character, rather than a hybrid per se.
The book doesn’t end there. It makes sure to denote what you do if your qualities make you have different creature types (i.e. if you’re an Outsider or a Fey, depending on your choices), how this impacts reincarnation, sub-races, and other topics. There are also several new feats, traits, spells, and other character options to complement what’s given here.
I should also note that, while this is technically a Ponyfinder product, there’s very little setting-specific material here. The bulk of what you’ll find is an overview of how the gods of Everglow feel about the beast people, and how beast people tend to view other races. Other than that, you might find the odd reference to Everglow or its gods, but aside from that what’s here is completely setting-independent (save for the Everglow races being among the thematic packages). In this case, I can’t help but feel that this is a plus, since it widens the potential appeal; throw in how many non-pony-related races have material in here (tieflings and goblins and oreads and so many others) and this is essentially a setting-independent book for all intents and purposes.
Having said all of that, it should be obvious that what’s here is not just a stellar product, but one that can honestly claim to have set a new standard in answering an age-old issue among tabletop gamers. The rules here, specifically the hybrid rules, are a race-generation system that allows for myriad potential combinations that’s not only intuitive in its design, but stimulates the imagination far more than a dry listing of mechanical effects. With a layout that lets it easily work across three game systems, this book is one that you need to have in your library if you’ve ever given more than a passing thought to building a custom race.
The bottom line is this: when it comes to making new races, Hybrid Blood is the transfusion your game needs.
[5 of 5 Stars!]