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Spheres of Power and its related splatbooks recently came under the valid books my RPG group is allowed to use.

The system is quite something, and far different from anything I have ever used in Pathfinder. So far, I'm liking it quite a lot, and my group is having a blast building characters with those new options in mind.

One of the players wants to RP as a mage-like character that happens to be a mermaid. Her plan is to emulate this "mermaidness" not by picking a different race, but by using the feats Transformation and Hybrid Transformation. (Check this link for details on them.)

Transformation says:

Benefit: Choose one (transformation) Alteration sphere talent that does not cost a spell point. If you choose Anthropomorphic Transformation and are humanoid or of a similar body plan, choose one other (transformation) or (body) talent to use when choosing traits to be granted by Anthropomorphic Transformation.

As a full-round action, you may assume the form of a single creature whose type corresponds to this form talent per the shapeshift ability of the Alteration sphere as a supernatural ability.

The same creature (wolf, spider, treant, etc.) is mimicked and the appearance of that creature is retained each time. The chosen form may be the same as your base size or else Medium or Small, applying size change bonuses and penalties as appropriate if this is not your usual size. When assuming your chosen form, you gain the chosen size. This transformation lasts until you choose to revert to your original form as a full-round action.

You gain all the abilities granted by this form (movement modes, natural attacks, special abilities, etc.) but do not gain any traits from the Alteration sphere as part of this transformation. Treat your Hit Dice as your caster level for the purposes of this effect. This is a polymorph effect. Possessing this feat gives you the shapechanger subtype.

So, from reading this, transformation could be used to, for example, transform her mage into a fish, dolphin or similar creature if she picked "Aquan Transformation". She couldn't transform into a mermaid, however, since the Aquan Transformation doesn't have limbs besides a head and a tail by default.

Hybrid Transformation grants a few new options.

Benefit: When changing into a form granted by the Transformation feat, you may instead assume a hybrid form, blending your base form and your transformation form. This cannot be used if your transformation form is already similar to your base form, such as a humanoid using Anthropomorphic Transformation.

When in hybrid form, you gain all limbs, natural attacks, special abilities, and movement modes from your transformation form, but without changing your basic shape nor melding your equipment. You may choose to retain limbs and movement speeds from your base form if your transformation form lacks them or has lesser versions, such as a humanoid keeping arms when assuming a hybrid form based on Serpentine Transformation or Vermin Transformation, adding legs to Aquan Transformation, or a winged creature retaining its wings under Animalistic Transformation.

If your transformation would grant you additional legs, you may instead gain them as arms, although they do not grant any additional attacks, are not strong enough to gain any natural attacks, and may not assist in wielding weapons, activate magic items, or wield a shield. They may hold items and as a swift action you can use them to draw a sheathed or hidden weapon, don a shield, retrieve a stored item, load a crossbow, open a door, pick up an unattended item, sheathe or store an item, or take other non-offensive actions involving manipulating objects. Items do not automatically merge with the new form if it is capable of wearing them, but the size of the items does not change if they do not resize on their own.

From our reading from it, if one can add arms to a Vermin or Serpentine transformation, or legs to an Aquan Transformation, one can deduce that it is possible to put arms on an Aquan Transformation, thus emulating the desired mermaid form as many times and as long as she wants during the adventuring day.

However, since I'm extremely unfamiliar with spheres of power, I have no idea if I'm missing something.

Is this strategy legal? Is it possible to create a mermaid-like character by picking up those two feats?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just curious, is there a reason they don't want to be a Merfolk that has Transformation to gain legs? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Sep 4, 2020 at 15:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe there are racial options for humans or other human-likes, where being merfolk is not good for the desired build.. \$\endgroup\$
    – Johannes
    Sep 4, 2020 at 17:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ifusaso Only the base races are allowed for the table. This is a restriction that was put in place after a half-dragon ogre tiefling broke the last game. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Sep 4, 2020 at 20:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ The issue isn't merfolk, but allowing a +2 CR template on a CR 3 creature for a character with a base Str +9 mod before PB. Even with monsters as PC rules (which would require level 5+ for normal races before such a character would be considered balanced), this can break encounters easily. Not for the faint of heart, but without any consideration of the result anything but surprising how this ended up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Johannes
    Sep 5, 2020 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Johannes My example was a bit of an extrapolation for comedic effect. The fact is, even for races that would be supposedly "balanced", often things go very weird directions on my table. My group is fan of very strange builds and weird interactions. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Sep 5, 2020 at 19:50

2 Answers 2

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Spheres of Power allows many ways to have a mermaid form. The recently released Beast Tamer's Handbook introduces the aquatic tail trait to the Aquan Transformation talent. This trait has specific text that lets you replace your legs with an aquatic tail to create a merfolk-like appearance. A similar trait and text exists for Serpentine Transformation as well.

Special: When granting this trait, you may choose to have this tail replace the shapeshifted target’s legs. If you do, the shapeshifted target’s base land speed is reduced to 5 feet and the target cannot be tripped. In addition, the shapeshifted target gains a 30 feet swim speed or increases their existing swim speed by +15 feet (whichever is more beneficial). If the shapeshifted target gains legs through another ability or Alteration sphere trait, such as the Additional Limbs “a pair of legs” trait, the shapeshifted target loses any benefits or adjustments from replacing their legs with this tail.

A side bar in this book makes it clear that a player should have some flexibility to deciding the aesthetics of a form as long as they do not receive more mechanical benefit than allowed by the traits and form. It uses the example that it's fine to allow a PC to transform into a multi-headed dragon without Additional Limbs talent as long as they aren't receiving the mechanical benefits of having extra heads.

The important meta-gaming piece is that a trait should not do more than it could, but can be mutable in its appearance and flavor .. An example might be playing as a multi-headed dragon creature, it is cumbersome and annoying to afford multiple extra head traits. Allowing a character to merely reflavor their resulting form as multiheaded, but not gain any of the benefits of additional heads, can let them keep their desired flavor without being stymied by mechanics.

So, yes, you can absolutely make a mermaid by combining Aquan Transformation with extra arms from Additional Limbs. Alternatively, you can apply Anthropomorphic Transformation with a swim speed trait given that merfolk are humanoid creatures. Or use the new aquatic tail trait. In my home game, I allowed a player to become a mermaid using Blank Transformation with Aquan Transformation's swim speed, amphibious, and a trait for cosmetic change.

The books encourage GMs to not let mechanics hinder the flavor.

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The answer is yes - both feats together allow you to mix and match any property of your normal form and the fish form you would normally assume. This allows for mermaids, as well a fish with legs or any other weirdness which can be derived from mix and match the two forms.

In addition, the Beast Tamer HB will soon contain additional errata for the Aquan TF, which should remove the need of the Hybrid TF feat. The book is in playtest right now and it can be found in the Discord playtest channel. Considering that this comment will outlive the playtest I will not directly link to it.

Also, please link the Sphere of Power wiki (which also contains other systems, so check where content is originally from if you use the search function). It contains nearly everything published by DDS for Spheres so far (has a two week delay for new stuff), unlike the d20pfsrd site. It does even contain additional errata not necessarily reflected in the PDFs, so the site is considered to be the authoritative source.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I used both d20pfsrd and the wiki for my links. I'll change to just the wiki. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Sep 4, 2020 at 19:54
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    – V2Blast
    Sep 5, 2020 at 0:15

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