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Hsiao Racial Write-Up and Progressionby Jamie Baty
Hsiao are a race of intelligent avians that resemble giant owls in appearance. They devote themselves to prayer and study, ultimately seeking to understand the underlying order of the multiverse.
Personality: The hsiao are the great philosophers, obsessed with order, morality, and wisdom. They are always lawful. Their lives are dominated by study, contemplation, and prayer. Law and order dominate all of their studies, the purpose of which is to learn of the ultimate order that underlies the existence of the multiverse. Through this understanding, the hsiao can better live within that order and help ensure the transcendence of that order, lest Entropy be allowed to unravel the order, and more importantly, the multiverse.
Individual hsiao may be more involved in one area than others. Some are more interested in study and may devote themselves to gathering and recording knowledge; another may become an adventurer, a devoutly prayerful crusader for the cause of Law.
Hsiao society is quite orderly. The core of clan groups is a mated pair, the eldest of which is considered the head of the clan. The clan contains the pair's offspring, along with unrelated hsiao attracted to the group for assorted intellectual reasons on a temporary or permanent basis.
Physical Description: The appearance of the hsiao leads some to mistake them for giant owls, with broad wings and large, golden eyes that are said to shine with inner wisdom. Rumours persist that some have grown to almost human-size, but most are halfling and dwarf-sized. They are lighter than humanoids of comparable size, on account of the light, hollow bones needed for flight.
Hsiao are very good flyers, both swift and manoeuvrable when airborne. They are surprisingly agile when walking, whether on the ground or among tree branches.
Due to their physique, hsiao prefer not to wear any clothing or armour, although specially made armour maybe used by adventuring hsiao and some jewellery (rings, bracelets and necklaces) could be worn by a clever hsiao. They cannot use any weapons, and are limited to their bite and claws as attacks.
Relations: Hsiao maintain excellent cooperative relationships with non-chaotic woodland races, as well as with druids. Hsiao welcome the occasional guest, especially one who brings a new titbit of enlightenment, but on the whole they prefer to avoid humans, demi-humans (other than elves), and humanoids. They believe those races are predominantly young, foolish and rash.
Alignment: Hsiao are always lawful, and are often good as well.
Hsiao Lands: The hsiao can be found throughout the Known World, usually residing in forests. They particularly fond of peaceful wilderness places far from civilisation.
They construct strongholds that are mazes of nests and tunnels high above the forest floor. The nest are constructed of sticks and earth, and lined in places with feathers. While seemingly random to a visitor, each stronghold is constructed to follow a pattern based on an exacting mathematical formula.
Religion: Hsiao do not have a formal religion. Most, at the very least, work in the interests of the lawful Immortals as a whole. Some choose to follow specific lawful Immortals as a way to seek out more enlightenment. Hsiao are known to take any opportunity to consort with Immortals, hoping to learn more secrets of the multiverse's hidden order.
Language: Hsiao speak their own language, Sylvan, Elvish, Treant, and the predominate local language. They can communicate with other avian creatures as well. They may also know Celestial, Common, Giant, Gnomish, and Halfling. The hsiao are very learned and may know ancient languages long forgotten.
Names: Hsiao names often draw upon a variety of naming traditions, but usually sound bird-like. Most also possess a clan name in addition to their birth name.
Male Names: Cawl, Tryk-tryk
Female Names: Kaalki, Maka
Clan Names: Grey-wing, Hsuu
Adventurers: Hsiao very rarely adventure in the same sense as humans or demi-humans. However, their study and prayer may lead them to seek out ancient writings, magic, and possibly heroes that will help them better understand or protect the multiversal order. Some are drawn out to adventure in search of new knowledge, lore and enlightenment. More rarely, a hsiao may join an adventuring party in order to thwart the forces of entropy. As they are non-violent, their role in a party is often as a healer or support type.
Almost every hsiao advances as a cleric. Being a devout, cleric-philosopher is the norm in their society. Other character classes are very rare. Druids, sorcerers and bards are the most "common" of these rare types. The martial classes (including monk and rogue), are considered an aberration among hsiao - they expect other races to pursue such violent ways, but not other hsiao. The exception to this is the paladin, which some adventuring hsiao see as a way to help maintain the order of the multiverse, even if they are not ideally suited to the class.
The fact that the hsiao cannot use most of the equipment presented in the players handbook means that Hsiao with classes that depend on various items are usually very weakened.
Hsiao Racial Traits:
Hsiao characters possess the following racial traits.
• -2 Str, +4 Dex, +4 Int, +6 Wis
• Small size. +1 bonus to Armour Class, +1 bonus on attack rolls, +4 bonus on Hide checks, -4 penalty on grapple checks, lifting and carrying limits 3/4 those of Medium characters.
• Space/Reach: 5'/5'
• Base move 30', and 70' fly (good).
• Darkvision 60ft and Superior Lowlight Vision
• Racial Hit Dice: A hsiao begins with four levels of magical beast, which provide 4d10 Hit Dice, a base attack bonus of +4, and base saving throw bonuses of Fort +4, Ref +4, and Will +1.
• Racial Skills: A hsiao's magical beast levels give it skill points equal to 7 × (2 + Int modifier). Its class skills are Concentration, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (religion), Listen, Sense Motive, Spellcraft, and Spot.
• Racial Feats: A hsiao's magical beast levels give it two feats. It gains the eschew materials feat as a bonus feat
• Natural Weapons: 2 claws (1d6) and 1 bite (1d4)
• +4 natural armour bonus
• Special Attacks:
Spells (Sp): A hsiao can cast spells as a fourth level cleric (as cleric level equal to HD), although the hsiao does not gain any domains unless provided by class levels. These levels stack with any cleric levels the hsiao possesses.
• Special Qualities:
Divine Nature (Su): Hsiao are intimately in tune with divine magic and do not require a divine focus.
Physical Limitations (Ex): A hsiao does not possess hands. Its claws maybe used to manipulate simple objects, and even write, but they are incapable of wielding any weapons.
Likewise, the hsiao's physiology makes wearing armour problematic at best. A hsiao must have any armour specially made for it (at 3x the normal cost) in order to still be able to fly. Armour tailored to the hsiao reduces the hsiao's flying speed to 50' (average) rather than preventing it altogether, in addition to any other penalties associated with the armour type.
Superior Low-light Vision (Ex): A Hsiao can see five times as far as a human in bright starlight and other dim conditions.
• Automatic Languages: Hsiao, Sylvan, Elvish, Treant, local language, communicate with avian creatures. Bonus Languages: Celestial, Common, Giant, Gnomish, and Halfling.
• Favoured Class: Cleric.
• Level Adjustment: +3.
Hsiao Racial Progression
The table below gives an optional level progression for hsiao players. In this system, starting ability score modifiers and other abilities are granted later or partially granted. At the end of the progression, the hsiao will be the same as if created normally. If desired, the player may gain up to 12 Magical Beast HD instead of class levels. For each additional Magical Beast HD gained, the hsiao Spells level increases by +1. At 9HD, the hsiao becomes a medium sized creature.
Table: Hsiao Racial Progression
Class Level Hit Dice Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Special 1st 1d10 +1 +2 +2 +0 (2+ Int Mod) x4 -2 Str, +4 Int; 2 claws (1d3, Bite (1d2); Physical Limitations; Superior Low-light Vision, Starting Feat. 2nd 1d10 +1 +2 +2 +0 --- +2 Wis; +1 natural armour 3rd 2d10 +2 +3 +3 +0 2+ Int Mod +2 Dex; Spells (1st Level); Divine Nature; Eschew Materials (b) 4th 2d10 +2 +3 +3 +0 --- +2 Wis; +2 natural armour 5th 3d10 +3 +3 +3 +1 2+ Int Mod +2 Dex; Spells (2nd Level); Feat 6th 3d10 +3 +3 +3 +1 --- Spells (3rd Level); +3 natural armour 7th 4d10 +4 +4 +4 +1 2+ Int Mod +2 Wis, Spells (4th Level), +4 natural armour