Humanity and the Paths Of Power

And today we have another question;

So I’ve been re-reading my copies of Paths of Power and something’s bothering me, specifically the human racial magical path. It mostly seems concerned with blowing shit up. Don’t get me wrong, a healthy love of explosions is an essential part of humanity. However, in DnD at least, humanities main schtick is their adaptability. With that in mind, wouldn’t it make more sense to either A) Put together a list of spells that emphasize adaptability or B) Let humans simply elect one path to get for free in lieu of having a racial magical path to represent that humans specific tradition/culture/personal inclination?

-TommyNihil

A “path of adaptability” could make sense – but there just aren’t that many suitable spells. Looking through the system reference document we have:

  • Level One: Endure Elements (Abjuration, although a case might be made for Comprehend Languages. You might even be able to stretch it to a personal-only version of Enlarge or Reduce Person – but why?).
  • Level Two: Alter Self (Transmutation) or perhaps Resist Energy (Abjuration). Resist Energy is a bit of a stretch, but it’s not TOO bad.
  • Level Three: Water Breathing (Transmutation) or perhaps Tongues (Divination). Tongues is pushing it again – but a minor variant saying “I suddenly speak all languages!” might work.
  • Level Four: Polymorph (Self only variant, Transmutation). Really, this is about the last word in “adaption”. It pretty much defines the outer limits of the field.
  • Level Five: No suitable spell.
  • Level Six: Contingency (Evocation. The Transformation spell is not suitable due to the magic item material component requirement – which makes little sense for a racial ability. Of course Contingency is about planning, not adaptability – but it comes closer than the other available spells at this level).
  • Level Seven: Etheral Jaunt (Transmutation). Another serious stretch – jumping to another plane has very little to do with adaptability – but, once again, I’m short of candidate spells at this level.
  • Level Eight: Iron Body (Transmutation. This has material component problems – how did this become a racial attribute when the component would be impossible to obtain in many settings or pre-iron age? Still, it’s the only remotely suitable spell at this level, and I’ve got to pick SOMETHING.
  • Level Nine: Shapechange (Transmutation).

Those really don’t go together very well. Worse for a racial path… many of them are concerned with turning the user into something other than human, and that makes very little sense. “My races basic nature is… all about giving up being a member of my race”?

I can think of some additional “adaptability” spells – say one that gives you some temporary skill ranks, one that lets you see in the dark, one that lets you blend in to alien cultures, and spells like Water Breathing for more exotic environments – but temporary skill ranks tend to step on the role of skill-based characters. Blending into a culture is rarely all that useful unless everyone can do it – and even then it’s not useful in a lot of (combat-based) games. Getting along in an exotic environment means that humans would have a special adaption for places that humans do not normally go – and would either rarely-to-never come up or would limit many adventures to humans only unless the GM makes suitable magic available for everyone else (which spoils the point of a racial path). That’s why “Water Breathing” doesn’t see a lot of use in most games.

Thus I picked a path of “blowing things up!” because that path IS exceptionally well-adapted to the environment of most games – where the ability to kill and destroy is one of the most vital things about a character. In d20, “I can kill it/them!” is probably the most adaptable power there is – which is why I gave it to humans.

OK, considering human behavior compared to most other earthly creatures… I could make a very good argument for a path of sex magic that – at higher levels – would presumably let you produce weird crossbreeds, but it REALLY wouldn’t fit into most settings, would call for a LOT of special rules – and would be oriented towards producing non-humans, which makes very little sense for a human racial path. Still, in reality… the only “higher” species I can think of offhand that are as all-the-time sexually-oriented as humans are dolphins and bonobos.

Letting humans select a path would indeed be very adaptable – but adding special racial bonuses can be quite troublesome. Worse, the racial paths are supposed to be one of the defining elements of a species, remaining unchanged even when the individual is transformed – which puts giving humans a choice of paths pretty much on the same level as letting them choose whether they have carbon-based or silicon-based metabolisms. It’s not that you can’t do it – it’s simply that I don’t think that it really works.

Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it that way if you want – and if you come up with a good Path of Adaptability I will be more than happy to put it up here if you’d like – but that’s why I thought that a propensity for blowing things up suited humans very well indeed.

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One Response

  1. First of all, thanks for the in-depth reply. I very much appreciate you taking the time to type all that out.

    So, immediately after reading your reply, I set forth to put together a path for adaptability… only to find, to my embarrassment, that I ran into the same problems you did. A set of spells themed around adaptation just didn’t feel right, especially when many of them turned humans… well, inhuman…

    My next approach was throwing a lot of “Workhorse” spells – spells that were themselves supremely adaptable – into a list, but that just ended up feeling rather disconnected, with the only the fact that the spells were all rather munchkinny to bind them together.

    So, I’m thinking that a limited variation of the choose your own path option would be the way to go, as it best fits with human’s other bonuses, the free skill points and the free feat, and hopefully keeps humans from being too broken. Instead of simply picking any path, humans must take a path that is suited to the environment they grew up in, on the theory that humans, as the most adaptable race, are necessarily shaped by their surroundings more than other races. Thus. a human who grew up in a large city would have a different path than a desert or coastal dweller, each having a path suited to the environment that shaped them most.

    I’ll try to write up a few paths for this idea. If they’re any good, I’ll post them here.

    Thanks again for the answer.

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