Race Review: Octopods (Chad M. Lensch): 4 Stars
Jarlaxle reaches the locked chest where he keeps his hat of disguise and finds his prized possession missing. He closes the lid, then notices the chalk drawing of eight interwoven circles there on the chest. With a slight smirk, his eyes follow a damp trail that leads from the chest to what is the escape route–an impossibly small oar hole.
Octopods are a race of small, intelligent, and dexterous octopi that are perfect for your nautical based adventures. But the supplement is more than just an optional race. Not only is it more detailed than most racial options, it includes a faction option, NPCs, and a short race-based adventure for your octopod players to delve even more deeply into their immersion. While the race may be on the more powerful side of balance, the depth and breadth of the product makes up for any mechanical deficiency.
Race Idea. The idea of octopods is really cool. They’re small, intelligent, and have a lot of variety within both their personality and their mechanics. I love that their language is so difficult they can be used as code breakers, and that they have their own sign language. The race is suffused with so much flavor and roleplay potential that it’d be fun to insert into any campaign, even if as an NPC race.
Factions. This supplement comes with a very intriguing faction built in: The Faction of Eight Rings. While it’s unclear if this faction is “octopod only”, the overall message is clear–a chaotic faction that can add some very interesting narrative and roleplaying into any campaign. With an elaborate backstory and even a dungeon for the players to use, this becomes much more than a book for a cool race, it’s actually a one-shot as well! Chad Lensch has done an amazing job bringing this faction to life.
NPCs. This product also comes with 3 NPC’s, all of which are relatively unique and fun to engage with. My favorite is “Dublozz the ‘seven armed’ sorcerer” (Trigger Warning: Dissassociative Identity Disorder). I won’t tell you how she lost her arm, you’ll have to buy the product for that. The NPC’s come with compelling backgrounds and excellently crafted mechanics. The best thing about them? The author gives various suggestions about how they are best used in a campaign.
The Groto. The grotto is a location that can serve as a tier one one-shot, and is particularly tailored to the mechanics of the octopod, but which can be used by parties that comprise of any race. It is the headquarters of the “Eight Rings” and thus technically could be used as either a friendly base or a source of opposition. The groto is simple but fun and presents a lot of variety in the types of encounters it provides. The narrative is sparse, but the loot it grants players is nice.
Balance. There’s a lot of features to this race which makes it seem unbalanced (though I haven’t playtested it yet), and there are a few slightly questionable mechanical decision. The ability scores are distributed overall normally (+3) but with a negative 1 to strength, which I’m not typically a fan of for 5th edition, though I know there’s precedence for it.
Additionally, the race gets a swim speed, a special grapple, a +1 stealth modifier (breaking with the general philosophy that mechanics don’t add flat bonuses to skill checks), +3 to damage taken (again, against general philosophy), proficiency in two skills (performance and sleight of hand), but also suffers weapon and armor restrictions. Overall, my hunch is that it’s balanced, but it’s significantly more complex than most races and definitely on the more powerful side once you factor in subraces (4 of them). If you’re ok with that, I think you’ll have fun with this, but it’s definitely not going to be to everyone’s liking.
No ToC. The product doesn’t come with a table of contents. While it’s not a huge deal and doesn’t “break” the guide, it’d be nice to see one included.
Octopods is a fun, if complicated, race that comes packed with a lot of extra content. We’re giving it 4 Stars and Highly Recommending to just about everyone–it’s a great aquatic race, but with an agreeable DM could fit well in any campaign. It’s bonus content ensures it’s an excellent purchase for both players and DM’s. If you want to pick it up, use the picture below to click through to the product page.