Review: Book of Uncommon Ancestry

It is no secret that I am a fan of Sterling Vermin Adventuring Co. and their main proponent Benjamin Huffman. His Pugilist class has been a favorite in my games and their latest release of that class, along with source book, have been used multiple times over. So when I got wind of his new Book of Uncommon Ancestry, I was immediately intrigued.

First off, I really like the concise formatting of this publication. Three chapters: Races, Feats, and Magic Items. Gives me what I expect and in an appropriate order. As such, this review will take those chapters in order. I will use the style of evaluation similar to what I did for Xanathar’s Lost Notes (of which Huffman takes explicit influence from as mentioned in his introduction). That method entails whether I am inclined to use elements of this supplement in my own home game, The Skull & The Eye, while also keeping an eye out for things that just look fun; giving each element a “Yay!” or “Nay.”

Book Wyrm

Have to say, as a librarian this class makes me uneasy. That said, I could see this being a ton of fun to play. The key element of them is their Bibliovorous feature, namely that if they key a written document, they learn the entirety of the text. Now I do want this cleared up, that is, say the book wyrm eats a map, do they have it memorized. What about a spell scroll, can they now cast that spell once? I think that would need to be hashed out on a group to group basis, namely due to how it could be abused. Also, they can read all written languages, but not speak them. Pretty cool. Yay!

Dhampir

The half-vampire is a fun trope; in fact during our Ravenloft campaign, we had one that used the vampire rules from the Plane Shift Zendikar document. Seeing a better developed and rendered version is something I am eager for. The dhampir here has three subraces: dreadblood, feralblood, and nobleblood. These cover the general classic vampire types. However, what is really cool is the mechanic they each have to draw on Hit Dice to activate some sort of ability. This is reminiscent of Blood Pool in Vampire: The Masquerade. The only thing I see lacking from the dhampir is a way to drink blood. I think introducing the Blood Thirst ability from Plane Shift Zendikar would make this perfect. Yay!

Dragontortleborn

An amalgam of the tortle and dragonborn, they are very reminiscent of the Snapper variant of tortles from 2nd Edition. Having a breath weapon and swim speed adds some fun flavor. Kind of a ocean based version of dragonborn, if you will. Yay!

Giff

With Spelljammer seeming more and more to be an upcoming setting, the Giff need some representation as a player race. I was glad to see them in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, but alas they were not playable therein. Giff are known for their usage of gunpowder and other explosive, with rules for such included in Uncommon Ancestry. What is really thoughtful is an alternate set for the Giff, should the Dungeon Master have a campaign setting that does not use gunpowder. I would be surprised if the official version of the Giff that comes out is much different than this. Yay!

Godblooded

While not going the full route of the Deva, the Godblooded utilizes the Cleric Domain feature as a racial trait. Effectively they have subraces but they are tied to the type of deity that would have influenced their heritage. This is a great race to use if you are playing a game where the gods walk the earth. What is interesting is you can choose to be either medium or small with this race, depending what your mortal parentage is. I can see this being popular. Yay!

Grimalkin

Sure we have tabaxi, but what about more cuddly cat people. They fey descended catfolk bear a resemblance closer to a house cat than the apex feline predators. They are delightfully deceptive and adept at manipulating fortune, they would be best in a more frolicking campaign. They are not something I would use in my home campaign, but could be a blast in a feywild romp. Yay!

Half-Dwarf

This is what I was looking forward to the most. In Dark Sun, Muls are half-dwarves that are also infertile, but make great workers. This is reflected in their “Tireless” ability that makes their short rests extremely powerful by eliminating a level of exhaustion and regaining hit points. There has been some debate in my game about the prospect of half-dwarves, so having access this could come in handy. Yay!

Lemurian

So this one threw me for a loop. I get a distinct feel of the Vadhagh race from Michael Moorcock’s Corum, in that they are removed from the material world and possess the ability to have sight beyond sight (along with their pale features). This is a good race to use if you are looking for something alien, but still aware of magical quandaries going on in the world. Yay!

Lupin

We had house cat people, so why not dog people. The Lupins are divided into two subraces: Hutaaken, the more wolf like folk; and Renardy, more like common dogs. To me this race is in competition with Eberron’s Shifters on some level, but this is for a more rounded character and one that would work very well with a party, providing support via their superior senses and pack tactics. Not really my cup of tea though. Nay.

Saurian

This is a pretty exhaustive race of dinosaur people with seven subraces featuring all the favorites. These would be great in a jungle style campaign or in some sort of lost and forgotten kingdom to be discovered. It does not really fit my game, but I find the exhaustive design absolutely intriguing. Yay!

Shardmind

I remember seeing these first in 4E and thinking “WTF?” The design here is strong, with essentially a built in thunderstep. However without firm psionic rules in place yet, the shardmind feel out of place. That said, a fighter shardmind would look fun to play, despite all their stat bonuses being in non-physical attributes. Yay!

Thri-Kreen

Another Dark Sun race, the mantis people have been a staple in D&D for many decades. The Thri-Kreen are known for their unique weaponry and rules/stats for them are provided. The traits laid out give them that physical edge they are known for while enabling some of their more alien traits, such as not sleeping, shine through. Yay!

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A Dragontortleborn and Lemurian coming at you!

The Feat section is pretty elaborate too. It, much like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, provides at least two feats per race featured in Uncommon Ancestry, but also provides some for the races found in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, including the Firbolg, Kenku, Aasimar, Lizardfolk, and more. Furthermore, this section also expands the racial feats from Xanathar’s Guide to apply to races from this book. The Half-Dwarf, for example, can benefit from Dwarven Resilience and Prodigy. In fact, a racial feat for the Dhampir remedies my issue with it, giving it a way to suck blood. In my own home game, racial feats have been amply used, so this section would be vital if we implemented any of these races at home. Very much, Yay!

The final part is Magic Items. THERE NEEDS TO BE AN OFFICIAL MAGIC ITEM COMPENDIUM! So any help, like the ones found in this book are welcomed. Some of them are geared towards the races featured, other are general. There are about 40 total items, of all rarities including weapons, potions, and wondrous items. Of note and a personal favorite is the Skillful Tome. Much like the Manuals that can permanently raise a stat, these can train a skill if rare or train a skill and give double proficiency if very rare. Very Fallout. But for sure, all the items are all killer and no filler. Please, can I have some more. Yay!

Overall for $6, this is a sweet release. While I doubt I will use it all, there is a discernible amount I plan on at least taking influence from. It is worth it for the magic items alone, due to their consistent quality. And it is worth it alone for the diverse set of interesting and intriguing races offered.

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