I would like to include in my world the ability for a PC to turn into a sort of aspect of nature based on one of several animals in my current campaign.

I am using the transformation process for becoming a Dragonborn from Races of the Dragon as the basis for how the mechanics of the transformation would work. I just need a good set of "templates" for them to change into (Dragonborn transformation works in a weird world between template and race.

My second try at a the first one, themed to being a gorilla avatar (Additional races I'm considering are: Elephant, Lion, Bear, Hawk, Leopard, Turtle, Shark, and Dolphin.):

Avatar of Nature (Gorilla)

Upon completing the ritual of rebirth you a emerge an aspect of nature's divine fury. Your skin is now covered with a layer of thick black fur and your face has morphed into a distinctly simian form. You are slightly larger than typical for your previous race, but do not change size categories

Subtype (animal-blooded): you gain the animal-blooded subtype, all spells, feats, and other abilities that target animals may be gained/used by you.

Stat Bonuses: +2 Str, -2 Int

Base Speed: 30ft Land, 15ft Climb (only usable while carrying a light load and must have hands free).

Darkvision out to 60ft.

A Gorilla Avatar has a +2 Natural Armor bonus.

Natural Weapons: A Gorilla Avatar has two slam attacks dealing 1d4. Each attack is unusable if an item is held the corresponding hand. Examples Carrying a short sword: one attack, carrying a sword and shield: no attacks

A Gorilla Avatar has a +2 racial bonus on Climb checks and can always choose to take 10 on Climb checks, even if rushed or threatened.

Brachiation: A Gorilla Avatar may select Brachiation, even if he doesn't meet the requirements.

Automatic Languages: Gora (Secret language understandable by only other gorilla avatars similar to Druidic)

Favored Class: Barbarian or Ranger

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It has nothing to do with estimating LA so a comment. Your racial bonus on Climb won't function as written as climb speed allready gives you +8 racial bonus to that skill and racial bonuses don't stack. It may of course kick in if your load is medium+. I just suspect your intent was different. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp is correct. However, adding something like This replaces the normal +8 racial bonus the creature would normally receive from a having a climb speed would be unique but fine. (And, in an odd turn, Pathfinder stacks racial bonuses.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 21:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dragonborn’s Ritual of Rebirth has the dragonborn features largely replace the character’s original racial features (excepting ability scores, movement modes, size, and subtype, IIRC), rather than being added-on. I don’t see anything about this replacing, so I assume that, like most templates, it’s added on. If it’s meant as a replacement, that should be mentioned—probably copy the wording from Races of the Dragon for it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 13:48

1 Answer 1


Honestly, LA +0. It’s better than nothing, which means it’s slightly awkward that it’s “free,” but if you have to have in-game events occur to justify it, then I wouldn’t be concerned about it. It is nowhere near LA +1. Not even close.

  • The ability score changes balance out. This template will probably be sought out by someone who favors Strength and doesn’t care much about Intelligence, but generally speaking Strength is probably about the weakest of ability scores, and Strength-based characters are certainly weaker than your average Intelligence-based character. So I call that a wash.

  • Natural armor is very low-value since touch attacks ignore it, and +2 isn’t a huge amount. Theoretically an amulet of natural armor +2 costs 8,000 gp, but then no one should be buying any amulet of natural armor as they’re hideously overpriced. Sure, anyone would take it as a freebie but meh, it’s really minor.

  • The slam attacks are nice but not all that amazing; for many characters, just using weapons is going to be better. If you build around them, cool, but I’m not going to be worried about it.

  • The requirements for Brachiation are really, really easy, and the feat isn’t all that good, so I wouldn’t put any value at all on waiving its requirements. Honestly, I’d probably just throw the feat in as a bonus feat.

  • The skill bonuses are super-minor and I wouldn’t be worried about them at all.

  • I can’t really say how important Gora is going to be in your campaign, so that’s really up to you.

  • Saving the best for last, the climb speed is the one thing that gives me pause. For one thing—and this should be reflected in the section on racial bonuses—having a climb speed automatically gives a +8 racial bonus to Climb and always taking-10. Since racial bonuses stack (probably), that becomes a +10 bonus on Climb checks—which honestly, isn’t that big a deal. Climb is a really, really low-value skill, if climbing is going to be their thing then it’s fine for them to avoid a skill point tax on it. But it should be noted—or if you’re replacing that default bonus with the +2, you need to say that explicitly.

    For another, a climb speed is a pretty effective way of moving around at very-low levels, which is pretty nice. But then consider that spider climb is vastly superior as a 2nd-level spell, available at 3rd, and then at 5th you start to see fly and other methods of flight. Flight is just about mandatory by 10th or so at the latest, at which point climbing is going to be completely irrelevant.

So all-in-all, it’s not nothing, but it isn’t much, either. LA +0 is fine. And that’s assuming that it works as written—you mention that you’re basing it on the dragonborn’s Ritual of Rebirth, which notably strips away almost all of the benefits of being whatever race you started as, but you don’t include that in the write-up. If that is what you meant, and that these abilities are replacing one’s usual racial features, then I’m not sure it’s actually good enough. I mean, it’s a big win for a half-elf or half-orc, or for that matter a full-blooded orc, but it’s pretty garbage for stronger races. I wouldn’t trade my human bonus feat for this, for example. Dwarf and halfling saving throw bonuses, for that matter actual dragonborn, they just have far more valuable racial features than this offers.

But as an add-on, it’s nice without being too much. It’s more than I’d want to give to someone just because they wrote it into their backstory, but I’d be happy to give it out “free” as a quest reward. Or run a campaign where everyone got this or their choice of one of the other similar templates you hint at.


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