Back to my posts on making the Sphinx D&D race:
To make a race, first we need to pick the 2 primary statistics. This was easy, I just looked at the highest statistics of the Sphinx monster and decided the statistics would be Strength and Wisdom, which make a lot of sense. Next, we need to pick the skill bonuses. The description of the Sphinx mentions that Arcana, History, and Religion are the most common skills for telling riddles. Since a Sphinx is of course supposed to be a master of that, I think a bonus in all 3 as appropriate. This is one more skill than usual, but we will just count that as one of the Sphinx advantages.
Next, the special powers. I will assume that the marking ability and the pounce ability are "class" abilities of the monster rather than racial abilities. The ability to tell powerful riddles appears to be more appropriate for a monster than for a player character. The roaring ability seems perfect for a once per encounter special ability. Close Burst 10 seems excessive, but I realize I can allow high-level feats to increase the area and start it at only Close Burst 3. How effective is it? Well, giving an opponent -2 on attack rolls until they make us save is clearly less good than giving them - 4 on attack rolls for his single turn but perhaps a bit better than – 3. The close burst is very effective, I'll estimate it catches about 3 monsters on average. So we have about -10 to hit, which creates a 50% chance of a hit becoming a miss. We can compare this to the halfling power Second Chance, which also has about a 40% chance of turning a hit into a miss. But the roar has to hit to be effective, which it only does about 60% of the time, so it really only creates a 30% chance of a monster missing. Of course there are many small differences, the roar takes a minor action and has a limited range and can be affected by vulnerabilities, but you don't have to wait for an enemy to attack before using it and it can affect multiple attacks in a turn. But they are at least reasonably similar.
The Sphinx also has the special power to take a second wind, which monsters normally can’t do. So maybe I’ll give the Sphinx a better second wind. I tend to think taking a Second Wind on your own action is of very little use, since it costs an attack action, doesn’t get any healing bonus, and takes away your ability to get revived with the Heal skill. So I might as well make it much better, like the dwarf ability does. I’ll do something different and say that it still costs a standard action, but you can spend two surges instead of one.
The Sphinx can also fly, of course. But flight is a very dangerous power which is generally not available at low level. So this should become available only through paragon or epic feats, or for a limited duration. Conveniently, the Sphinx isn’t a very good flyer. The tricky question is how stingy to be on giving away flight. I think a feat to give flight for one round each encounter is no problem (sort of a variant on teleport). But what about perpetual flight? Magic items that give permanent flight are epic level, but flying mounts are much lower level. Since a Sphinx is a clumsy flyer, I guess I’ll assume paragon level is OK.
The darkvision can also be a feat, we’ll start the Sphinx with low-light vision.
Now let’s see how balanced we are. We’ll compare the Sphinx to the halfling. They both have two useful stat bonuses. The Sphinx has a slight bonus in having +2 to a third skill, the halfling has a slight bonus in having +5 on fear saves. The Sphinx has fearsome roar, the halfling has Second Chance. The Sphinx has stronger healing surges, the halfing has the opportunity attack AC bonus. Similar so far, probably edge to halfling. But the Sphinx has Low-Light vision. The Sphinx can’t use superior weapons, but halfling is worse off in being forced to use inferior weapons. However, the Sphinx is Large, which is a real nuisance so still advantage halfling. And the Sphinx has no hands! So the Sphinx needs some help. I’ll give the Sphinx a free mental skill (to help them be lore masters), and assume that the availability of cool feats makes up the difference.
I’ll write up the feats and a prettier description next post.