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ALTERNATE HERO POINTS FOR PF1

Hero points are a mechanic that allows players to “edit” the events of an encounter and the rules of the game to a limited degree. They give heroes the ability to do the amazing things heroes do in fantasy fiction, but with specific rules for doing so, and they encourage players to make the sort of choices fantasy heroes do in those stories, in order to get more Hero points.

A GM decides where or not to use Hero points, and while it’s most common for that to be done on a per-campaign basis, it needn’t be. A GM could allow Hero points only when the PCs are involved in something they have strong feelings about, or only in climactic plotline-ending scenes. Alternatively, a GM might use Hero points when a player can’t make it to a game session, to give the remaining characters a power boost, or use it for day-in-the-life game sessions when combat and life-or-death situations are unlikely but the GM would like to encourage players to get involved in telling social stories.

Hero points are a pure power up for characters, but they are also a way for the GM and players to have a rules-based back-and-forth with what moments each consider important to the ongoing story. Some groups like having some ability to edit events to be closer to what they want, while others feel it takes focus away from the risk-and-reward feel of the game rules. The most important thing is to find what a GM and their game group are comfortable with, and do that.

These Hero points are based on those from the M&M game, and are intentionally more common and generally more powerful than those presented in the APG (though explicitly excluding the Cheat Death option, since having that tends to discourage Hero point spending for any other purpose). Even so, you can look to the APG rules on Hero points for more ideas on how and why you might use them. For example, these rules are not designed to be used with the Hero’s Fortune feat (APG), but you could combine them with such a feat if you wished.

(This is an Extended Post, with additional material including rewritten versions of the Hero Point Feats from the APG made available exclusively on my Patreon, for my supporting Patrons.)

HERO POINTS FOR PATHFINDER 1E

Players start each game session with 2 Hero points. During the adventure they get opportunities to earn more Hero points. Unspent Hero points don’t carry over to the next session; the heroes start out with 2 points again. Use them or lose them!

USING HERO POINTS

Unless otherwise noted, spending a Hero point is a reaction that takes no action (thus not restricting your other reactions). You can spend Hero points for any of the following:

EXTRA ACTION

You can spend a Hero point to gain an additional standard action on your turn (this is an exception to the rule that Hero points are normally a reaction), or to gain an additional Move action at any time. You cannot combine multiple extra actions into a full round action.

IMPROVE ROLL

One Hero point allows you to re-roll any die roll you make and take the better of the two rolls. On a result of 1 through 10 on the second roll, add 10 to the result, an 11 or higher remains as-is (so the re-roll is always a result of 11-20). You must spend the Hero point to improve a roll before the GM announces the outcome of your initial roll. You cannot spend Hero points on die rolls made by the GM or other players.

REUSE

You can spend a hero point to recall a spell you have already cast or to gain another use of a special ability that is otherwise limited. This should only be used on spells and abilities possessed by your character that recharge on a daily basis.

INSPIRATION

You can spend a Hero point to get sudden inspiration in the form of a hint, clue, or bit of help from the GM. It might be a way out of the villain’s fiendish deathtrap, a vital clue for solving a mystery, or an idea about the villain’s weakness. It’s up to the GM exactly how much help the players get from inspiration and how it manifests, but since Hero points are a very limited resource, the help should be in some way significant.

RECOVER

You can spend a Hero point to recover faster. A Hero point allows you to immediately remove a bleed, confused, dazed, dazzled, fascinated, fatigued, prone, shaken, sickened, or staggered condition, without taking an action.

Spending a Hero point to recover also lets you convert a cowering condition into frightened, panicked into frightened, frightened into shaken, exhausted condition into a fatigued condition; convert a stunned condition into a staggered condition, or convert a nauseated condition into a sickened condition.

You can also use a Hero point to overcome the limitations of the blinded, broken, deafened, energy drained, entangled, grappled, flat-footed, or paralyzed condition for 1 round. This does not end the condition, and you cannot move from a spot the condition roots you to, but you ignore all its other effects until the beginning of your next turn.

If at 0 or fewer Hit Points and dying, you can spend a Hero point to stabilize. If at 0 or fewer hit points and stable, you can spend a Hero point to become conscious and have positive hit points equal to half your level (equal to your level if you have Toughness or Endurance, equal to 1.5x your level if you have both).

MINOR SCENE EDITING

A player may offer the GM a Hero point to make a minor edit to a scene. For example, if the player’s character is set on fire in the middle of the street, the player might offer the GM a Hero point in order to add a trough of water to the street, so the PC can jump into it and extinguish themselves. Minor editing should always make sense, should never bypass an encounter entirely, and is entirely at the discretion of the GM. If the GM does not edit the scene as requested, the player retains the Hero point.

EARNING HERO POINTS

The GM can give any player a Hero point to edit events in a way that goes against the player’s character without allowing die rolls, and in contravention of the normal rules or action order. For example, if an adventure calls for a villain to escape, and a PC has the villain grabbed, the GM can grant the player a Hero point and declare the villain wriggles free and dashes out of sight. If a PC manages to kill a major foe in a single blow, the GM can give that PC’s player a Hero point and state the foe miraculously blocked the attack at the last second.

A GM can also offer a player a Hero point as an inducement to have the player’s PC make a poor choice. This is always voluntary—the player decided whether to accept the Hero point and make the bad decision. For example, if a sketchy old man offers the PC an apple out of nowhere, and the player obviously rejects the iffy fruit, the GM could offer the player a Hero point if the PC takes and eats the apple instead. This should only be done in furtherance of the adventure, and obviously not if it means permanent negative consequences for the PC.

These options should never be used to make a character look incompetent or stupid, unless the player encourages that as part of their characterization of their PC.

If a player does something especially heroic, awesome, funny, or helpful, the GM may grant them an extra Hero point in response.

PATREON

There is an extended version of this article on my Patreon, available only to patrons. You can join for as little as the cost of a cup of coffee a month, and it’s one of my primary forms of support to put out my essays, letters, background, context, and of course game content in an effort to make the ttRPG industry a better place.

Putting the Use of Critical Hit/Fumble Decks in Player’s Hands

Lots of game systems have Critical Hit and Critical Fumble decks. Pathfinder 1e and Starfinder are two well-known examples (and, full disclosure, I wrote the ones for Starfinder).

Many groups find them hysterical, chaotic fun, Others find them hateful, swingy, and absolutely no fun at all.

But what if the PLAYERS got to decide when they came into play? That introduces the rules and their funny, unexpected effects into a game, but doesn’t force them on anyone who doesn’t want to deal with them.

Here’s a simple set of example rules for doing that.

When an attack against a PC is a success, the player can earn one Crit Point by deciding the attack draws from the Critical Hit Deck.

When an attack by a PC is a failure , the player can earn one Crit Point by deciding the attack draws from the Critical Failure Deck.

When an attack by PC is a success, the player can spend two Crit Points to cause the attack to draw from the Critical Hit Deck. If the player has 3 or more Crit Points, they can spend additional Crit Points before any cards are drawn to increase the number of cards they draw on a 1-1 basis (spending 4 extra Crit Points means you draw 4 extra Critical Hit cards). You select one Critical hit effect from one drawn card to apply to the attack.

(As an alternate rule, you can also allow a player to earn Crit Points when they use these rules, by having GM draw 3 critical hit cards for an attack against the PC, or by drawing 3 Critical Failure cards for an attack made by the PC).

All Crit Points are reset to 0 at the end of each game session.

The reason a PC has to suffer more card effects than they get to inflict is that players can be quite cunning about timing and resources, accepting critical hits and critical failures that go against them when they can afford the hit and saving up the Crit Points to turn the tides when they need it. However, by making it a 2-1 ratio, and not letting players save points between games, this tactical use of the rules is balanced out.

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More Bennenite Staff Mastery Feats for PF1

I’ve dipped into my old campaign files to post lore about the holy warriors known as Bennenites, and converted some of their concepts from previous game editions to PF1, including Staff Mastery feats.

So, here are more.

Defensive Bennenite Training
You are as good at defending with an attack as you are attacking.
Prerequisites: Bennenite Training, base attack bonus +1 or 1 rank Knowledge (religion)
Benefit: When equipped with a quarterstaff, as part of any other action that is not any kind of attack, you can choose rather than treating it as a quarterstaff or longsword and shortsword, to treat it as a longsword and a light wooden shield, or a longsword and a heavy wooden shield. You can stop treating it as a longsword and shield at the beginning of your turn, or as part of any standard action, move action, or full action.

Holy Staff
You can channel the grace of St. Bennen through a staff.
Prerequisites: Bennenite Training, good alignment, base attack bonus +1 or 1 rank Knowledge (religion)
Benefit: When using a quarterstaff, your attacks bypass any DR that has “good” as one of the elements to bypass it. For example, you could bypass “DR 5/good and cold iron,” even if your staff was not cold iron. (The exception to this is if an attack normally also has to be mythic to bypass the DR, in which case you only bypass it if you are 15th level or higher.) Against targets with the evil descriptor, you gain a +4 bonus to staff attack rolls made to confirm a critical threat.
Additionally, you can use a staff as a holy symbol, and fullfil somatic spell components with a hand holding a staff.

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Bennenite Staff Mastery Feats for PF1

In my longest-running fantasy RPG group campaign, The Sovereign Kingdoms, there was a famous religious order who revered Saint Bennen. Known as “Bennenites,” they were warrior-priests who were considered masters of quarterstaff fighting. They were a popular piece of lore for the world, and anytime a character was described as wearing heavy armor and carrying a wooden staff, shod in cold iron at one end and silver at the other, players knew to take them seriously because they obviously had received Bennenite training.

Bennenites were one of the major Good Guy organizations, and included clerics, fighters, priests, and “Kirks” (which were a form of religious order given roughly the same authority and respect as Knights, but only where that religion was acknowledged). However, Bennenite training was made available to anyone not known to be of foul character, and young peasants, squires, mercenaries, and craftsmen often trained at Bennenite Chapterhouses. If those trainees later turned evil, that did not somehow take away the benefits of their training. (One major villain was a mage with Bennenite Training, and a magic staff).

I had begun to work on Bennenite training feats for 3.0 and 3.5 fantasy RPG rules, but never finished them. Here is a new take on the ideas, at least to start, for Pathfinder 1st edition.

Bennenite Training
You have been trained in the fighting style of St. Bennen, who said “Let none who can pick up a stick see themselves as unarmed against adversity.”
Prerequisite: Proficiency with quarterstaff, base attack bonus +1 or 1 rank Knowledge (religion)
Benefit: When equipped with a quarterstaff, you can use it as if it was a longsword, shortsword, or one of each, except the weapon damage type is bludgeoning. You are still considered proficient with the weapons when you use the quarterstaff as a longsword and shortsword, even if you aren’t proficient with longsword and/or shortsword. You can use this as proficiency for feats (such as Weapon Focus: Longsword), but if you only meet the proficiency as a result of Bennenite Training you can only use those feats with a quarterstaff. Any feat, ability, or action you have access to you can apply to a quarterstaff you can continue to use even when treating the quarterstaff as a longsword, short sword, or both. You cannot gain the same benefit twice by using one version for quarterstaff and one for another weapons (for example if you have Weapon Focus with both longsword and quarterstaff, you cannot apply both to the same attack).

If you take an action that normally requires two weapons (such as attacking with two weapons), you must treat the two ends of your quarterstaff as the two weapons.

If you are proficient with quarterstaff, longsword, and short sword, this feat acts as Weapon Focus for any attack you make with a quarterstaff.

Bennenite Training Specialization
You have learned advanced teachings of St. Bennen.
Prerequisites: Bennenite Training, base attack bonus +4 or 4 ranks Knowledge (religion).
Benefit: When you make an attack with a quarterstaff, regardless of what weapon you treat it as, you gain a +2 bonus to damage dealt. This counts as Weapon Specialization, and does not stack with other forms of Weapon Specialization.

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More Sigil Scion Options for PF1

So, I wrote up a short set of options for “Sigil Scions,” themed abilities you can stack onto PF1 characters (or monsters) to give them a significant boost in effectiveness. And I have a system for turning oracle mysteries into domains, which would make access to some revelations an option.

But the Sigil Scion rules assume everyone is going to get some spell power, and not everyone WANTS spells — even bonus Still Spells with Eschew Material Components — for their characters.

Enter Sigil Seals.

Sigil Seals

If using the Sigil Scion rules, a character may take a Sigil Seal in place of Sigil Spells or Sigil Power. A Sigial Scion may replace both Sigil Spells and Sigil Power with Sigil Seals, if desired.

Sigil Seals grants a power at 1st level, and again at 8th level. These powers may be bonus feats, alchemist discoveries, the investigator inspiration, magus discoveries, ninja tricks, rogue talents, shaman hexes, slayer talents, or witches hexes. When selecting bonus feats, you do not need to meet any ability score prerequisite, but all other prerequisites must be met normally.

For other choices, you gain the abilities of the selected ability, using your total character level as your level in the relevant class. If the ability is fueled by a pool of points you do not possess (such as an arcane reservoir for arcanist exploits, or inspiration pool), you gain the relevant pool with a total number of points equal to 1 +1/3 your character level. If you select an investigator inspiration, you gain an inspiration pool and inspiration die using your character level as a class level. If you take investigator inspiration, you may then select an investigator talent if you get another Sigil Seal selection. (For example, a character taking Sigil Seals twice at 1st level could select investigator inspiration and an investigator talent as their two 1st level selections.)

You do not gain any ability not expressly granted by the selection. However, you can apply any option from the selected class feature to relevant options gained from other classes (so if you are a druid, and you select the focused summoning arcanist exploit, you do not gain access to arcanist summoning spells, but you can apply the exploit to your druidic summoning spells).

When you first gain a Sigil Seal, select one ability modifier. Any time your Sigil Seal refer to an ability score or modifier (such as to determine save DCs or uses per day), you use the selected ability.

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Oracle Mysteries as Cleric Domains in PF1

Sometimes, it’s useful to be able to swap around similar features from different classes, such as using oracle mysteries as cleric domains. You might want to have different kinds of clerics for various concepts (perhaps Merothian clerics of Community focus on the founders of each community, so they use the Ancestry mystery as one of their domains). Sometimes you might want to expand options for some other form of 3pp (such as Sigil Scions).

In any case, this specific swap is pretty straightforward.

Mystery spells replace the domain spells of the same spell level. They use the domain spell rules. This does mean a cleric taking a mystery gains access to its mystery spells on character level earlier than an oracle. That’s fine.

Then the cleric gains two revelation powers, one at 1st level, and one at 8th level. A GM can assign these revelations (for example, perhaps all clerics who take the ancestry mystery as a domain gain blood of heroes at 1st level, and wisdom of the ancestors at 8th level), or allow clerics to pick them, but either way they must be revelations can be selected by an oracle at 1st and 8th level. Any calculation in a revelation that works off the character’s Charisma instead works off the cleric’s Wisdom.

And you’re done!

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Sigil Scions (for Pathfinder 1st Ed)

I’ve been meaning to finish this for more than two years, as I began it back when I worked at Paizo. I meant to put it up yesterday, but it took longer than the time I had allotted for blogging, so you get a triple-sized post today instead!

Tithain kept her eyes open and one hand resting easily on the longsword at her hip as she walked alongside Queen Aerigold, who was clearly keeping her attention on the crowds that had gathered to welcome their new monarch. The Queen had insisted she get a new tabard—a bright green silken thing with gold thread and the shining sun-and-tree symbol of the Queen’s Trusted on it—but beneath that Tithain had on the same utilitarian plate armor she’d worn at the Battle of Seven Crowns, all those years ago.

A glint caught Tithain’s eye, and she instinctive stepped between its source and her beloved lady. As a bolt shot out of the crowd, Tithain raised a gauntleted hand and felt the power of her family’s Sigil flow through her, its bright blue lines visible even through the steel protecting her. The arrow slammed into her and shattered, the majority of its force expended against her defensive ward.

A dozen pale-skinned men in the crowd threw off cloaks, reveling the red-and-black garb of Kakkain cultists, and drew weapons as the cityfolk began to cry out and flee from them.

One of the broadest of the men, his eyes glittering with the flickering light of a Fel Embraced, pointed a thorned mace at her and cried out in the echoing voice of those with one foot already firmly planted in Hell.

“She’s a Scion of the Shield Sigil! Kill her first, then the peace-lover queen will fall!”

Sometimes, you want to add something to a campaign that isn’t anchored in class, background, ancestry, or other standard game categories. Sometimes, you just want to be able to slap a whole new power source on characters, and see what fun evolves from it.

Sigil Scions are such a concept.

Sigil Scions have a powerful, mystic source of capability. That might be from their position within an organization, the mark of a god, the collective will of those they defend, an asteroid radiating them with runic power–whatever. The easiest way to add Sigil Scions to a game is to just decide on a narrative framework (anything from ancient heroes reincarnated or cheat codes given to modern characters when they are sent to a fantasy world), and let each player build their own sigil from there. Sigil scions are a pure power-up for characters (especially monks… ), but not as much as being gestalt characters.

(Art by warmtail)

Sigil Power

Select any one bloodrager bloodline, cleric domain, inquisitor inquisition, sorcerer bloodline, warpriest blessing, or wizard specialization. You cannot select a specific option you already have, nor later take the specific option you select here if you gain the appropriate class feature to do so (for example, if you select the cleric healing domain, and later gain cleric domains through some other class, you could not take the healing domain again.)

You gain the abilities of the selected class feature, using your total character level as your level in the relevant class. You do not gain any ability not expressly granted by the selection (so taking the abjuration wizard specialist schools does not give you the ability to prepare spells just because the resistance ability is tied to when you prepare spells). However, you can apply any option from the selected class feature to relevant options gained from other classes (so if you are a druid, and you select the healing domain, you can apply the healer’s blessing ability to your druidic cure spells).

When you first gain sigil power, select one ability modifier. Any time your sigil powers refer to an ability score or modifier (such as to determine save DCs or uses per day), you use the selected ability.

Sigil Spells

Sigil Scions gain spells as they grow in power.

At 1st level, you select three specific class spell lists, which you note down. When you gain Sigil Spells, they must come from these three spell lists. You cannot select spells lists from a prestige class, or a class that gains multiple spell lists (ie you cannot select the hunter class spell list, as it is made of the druid and ranger class spell lists). If a spell list comes from a class with requirements for alignment, background, or armor/equipment restrictions (such as druid or paladin), you must meet those restrictions.

Each Sigil Spell you select is noted as being from one of these three lists (even if it on multiple class lists, you must assign it to just one of your three), and follows the general rules for spellcasting from that class (such as Arcane Spell Failure), though you never need to prepare spells in advance (see below). When you cast these spells you do so as if you were a member of the selected class (Sigil Spells are normal spells, not spell-like abilities).

When you first choose Sigil Spells, You may choose to gain Eschew Materials as a bonus feat, and for all of your Sigil Spells to automatically be Still Spells (thus ignoring Arcane Spell Failure). If you do this, your Sigil Spell caster level is equal to half your character level (at 1st level, your CL is 0.5 – all CL-influenced values are halved, rounding down).

Sigil Spells can be used to meet prerequisites for feats and item creation, but not archetypes or prestige classes.

When you first gain Sigil Spells, you select three 0-level spells known. In addition to 0-level spells from your three class spell lists, you may also choose from the following 0-level spells: detect magic, guidance, light, mage hand, read magic, stabilize. You can assign these to any of your three class lists, even if they do not normally have these spell on that list.

At 2nd level, your total spells known increases to four, and the maximum spell level you can select from goes from 0-level to 1st level. You can select any one 1st level spell from the three spell lists you choose as your Sigil Spell lists to bring you spells known up to your new maximum. You also gain one spell slot you can use to cast any 1st-level or higher spell you know. Your spell slots are restored once per day at a set time (normally dawn) as long as you are not fatigued or exhausted.

As you gain in character level, you gain additional spells known and can select higher-level spells. You spell slots are used to cast any of your 1st-level or higher spells. Thus a 6th level Sigil Scion knows five spells (three of which are 0 level, one 1st-level, and one 1st or 2nd level) and has two spells slots (which can be used to cast any 1st or 2nd level spell the Scion knows). Each time you gain a new level, you can change one spell known to another spell of the same level from one of your three class lists.

When you first gain sigil power, select one ability modifier. Any time your sigil powers refer to an ability score or modifier (such as to determine save DCs or uses per day), you use the selected ability. If a spell references an ability score of yours to determine how it works (such as spiritual weapon allowing you to add your Wisdom bonus to attack rolls with it), you can also switch that to your selected ability.

As you gain levels, your total spells known and the maximum level of the spells you know increase, as shown on Table: Sigil Spells, below.

Table: Sigil Spells

1st           Three spells known (max level 0), Zero slots

2nd-3rd      Four spells known (max level 1), One slot

4th-5th      Four spells known (max level 1), Two slots

6th-7th      Five spells known (max level 2), Two slots

8th-9th      Five spells known (max level 2), Three slots

10th-11th                       Six spells known (max level 3), Three slots

12th-13th                       Six spells known (max level 3), Four slots

14th-15th                       Seven spells known (max level 3), Four slots

16th-17th                       Eight spells known (max level 3), Four slots

18th-19th                       Nine spells known (max level 4), Five slots

20th             Ten spells known (max level 4), Five slots

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Ablative for Pathfinder 1st edition

Ablative is a creature ability you can add to monsters to make them shrink as they take damage. It’s designed for use with elementals, constructs, and slimes, but could apply to other creatures as well. If applies to creatures that primarily do weapons or natural weapon damage, it’s reduced damage output heavily counters its increased AC and accuracy. For creatures that use offenses not modified by the reduced size, it generally becomes more dangerous as it’s injured.

When an ablative creature has lost 1/3 or more of its HP, it becomes one size smaller until its HP total is healed to be over that threshold. This otherwise functions as reduce person.

When an ablative creature has lost 2/3 or more of its HP, it becomes one size smaller until its HP total is healed to be over that threshold. This also otherwise functions as reduce person, with the modifiers stacking with the first application.

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Barbaric Axe Fighting, for Pathfinder 1st edition

Jacob Blackmon noted yesterday that there are a LOT of illustrations of barbaric characters fighting with two axes. He’s right, and I also noticed that often that art shows them using 2-handed axes in each hand.

I thought it was a shame it’s not something the 1st edition Pathfinder RPG supports well as a character concept.

And then, this idea hit me.

(Art by Konstantin Gerasimov)

BARBARIC AXE FIGHTING (Combat)
You have mastered a vicious axe-fighting technique.
Prerequisites: Martial weapon proficiency, rage class feature, Str 13.
Benefit: You can fight with two weapons you are proficient with from the axes weapon group, one in each hand. You can do this even if one or both is a two-handed weapon (you can use each 1-handed, without taking any special penalty for doing so, otherwise using 1-handed weapon rules). You are not considered to be two-weapon fighting, and do not gain any extra attacks of benefits of two-weapon fighting. If you gain multiple attacks per round from a high base attack bonus or haste effect, you can choose which weapon to make each attack with.
Additionally, when you make an attack roll where the d20 show a result 1 or 2 less than your threat range, your attack is a lesser critical threat. Roll to confirm the lesser critical threat, just as if it was a normal critical threat. If your lesser critical threat confirms, your attack does double damage. You do not gain any other benefit you would normally gain with a critical hit, and any effect that would prevent a critical hit from being effect also negates your lesser critical hit.
Special: A character that gains rage powers may select this as a rage power if they meet the prerequisites. It functions exactly as noted above, even when the character is not raging.

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A rage-themed warpriest archetype for PF1

I got asked if I would be willing to write up something like this, and it leaped into my head nearly fully-formed.

RETRIBUTOR

Some gods have warpriests that call on divinely inspired fury to strike down the god’s foes.

Special: A retributor must be chaotic in alignment.

(Art by Zackary Lee)

Divine Fury (Ex): At 1st level, you gain the ability to enter a state similar to (but less powerful than) a bloodrager‘s bloodrage. You can enter this lesser bloodrage twice per day. The combined total duration of both your bloodrages each day cannot exceed 3 + your warpriest level. During this lesser bloodrage, you gain a +2 morale bonus to Strength and Constitution, and no morale bonus on Will saving throws. If you have the fervor class feature, you can cast spells on yourself while bloodraging when using fervor to do so. You can also cast these spells defensively and can make concentration checks for these spells while bloodraging. Otherwise, this benefit is the same as the bloodrage class feature.

Beginning at 11th level, your lesser bloodrage grants you a +4 morale bonus to Strength and Constitution, a +2 morale bonus on Will saving throws, and can cast any of your warpriest spells while bloodraging.

This replaces focus weapon, sacred weapon, channel energy, and one of the two blessings (and major blessings) gained by the warpriest, and reduces the number of times per day the warpriest can use his remaining blessing to 1/2 his level (minimum once per day).

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