Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Al Qadim, Maztica, Rokugan, Golarion, Spelljammer, Greyhawk, Birthright, Known World, Dark Sun, Planescape, Kara Tur… of all the D&D settings over the decades, my favorite has been Birthright. Others have their place in my heart, but Birthright has always been my favorite.
Partly because of the demesne games, which in other settings were highly optional rules but here were built in. Mostly, it because of the bloodlines and their powers.
I didn’t wholly like how they were implemented, though. Even then, I was not fond of how random it was — I didn’t care for AD&D1e psionics for the same reason. If you got lucky, you were way more awesome than anyone else, but you were more likely to have something insipid, and mostly likely nothing at all.
If I were to implement bloodlines in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, I would probably use something similar to oracle mysteries. A caster might gain the mystery spells as additional spell knowledge (especially nice for the spontaneous casters) and a non-caster might be allowed to use each once per day, as they become high enough level to cast them.
More likely, I’d remove them. I’m more interested in the revelations. Each bloodline would have some number of revelations, probably including a final revelation. When a scion of a bloodline gains a new bloodline power, the scion can pick from the revelations of their bloodline.
Incidentally, I like this mechanism better than the sorcerer and bloodrager bloodlines, and would be totally open to rebuilding bloodlines using mystery-based mechanics.
As for Azrai, it is no longer a bloodline at all. There is a great deal of variation between scions of Azrai, and scions of other bloodlines can be converted to the Azrai bloodline. The corruption mechanic is a much better fit.
Hard to call it a ‘choice’, since I presented only one option. However, it can’t quite be implemented as described above.
I can get close, though.
It is not unreasonable to make ‘divine blood’ a path option. This one’s a little tricky to place.
- Basic? ‘Divine blood’ is something you have or you don’t, and this would be true at first level… but it doesn’t feel like something you should start with, it should take some time to come online.
- Expert? Expert path comes online at level 3, which is still pretty close to the start without being at the start. It also means you get six revelations by the time you reach level 20, which is pretty nice. The bloodlines are specific.
- Master? In fact, they’re almost specialized, which is the hallmark of the master paths. I can see the case for needing to be level 10 before they kick in.
- Champion? I don’t think so. At champion, you are not ‘a scion of this deity’, you are ‘the herald of this deity’.
I think the correct balance might be Expert for the basic bloodline powers, with the option of greater powers at Master. This means you could end up with ten bloodline powers overall (six expert and four master) and… I think I’m okay with this.
There are no prerequisites between paths (except perhaps Champion), so it’s possible for a character to grow as a warrior and then knight, then gain greater bloodline powers as a Master without having base bloodline powers as an Expert. I’m not sure yet, but this is probably okay.
I think this is how it will work:
- Divine Bloodlines will come online in the Expert path.
- Each Expert bloodline path will allow selection of a basic bloodline power at each level (levels 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18).
- Greater Bloodlines will come online in the Master path.
- Each Master bloodline path will allow selection of a greater bloodline power at each level (levels 10, 13, 16, 19).
This means divine bloodlines should be comparable to other path options, including martial ability and spell casting. These are not little “+1 to Survival check” things.