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Hsiao (Guardian Owl)

by Jamie Baty

RC, PC1 14
Small Magical Beast
Hit Dice: 4d10 (22 hp)
Initiative: +2 (+2 Dex)
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares), fly 70 ft. (good)
Armour Class: 17 (+1 size, +2 Dex, +4 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 13
Base Attack/Grapple: +4/+0
Attack: Claw +3 melee (1d6-1)
Full Attack: 2 Claw +3 melee (1d6-1) and bite -2 melee (1d4-1)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Spells
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60ft., divine nature, physical limitations, superior low-light vision
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +4
Abilities: Str 9, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 16, Cha 11
Skills: Concentration +4, Diplomacy +4, Gather Information +2, Knowledge (nature) +9, Knowledge (religion) +6, Listen +5, Sense Motive +7, Spellcraft +6, Spot +5
Feats: Eschew materials(B),Negotiator, Skill Focus (Knowledge (nature))
Environment: Cold and Temperate forests
Organisation: Solitary, Family (2-5), or Clan (5-20)
Challenge Rating: 2
Treasure: Standard (Magic Only)
Alignment: Always lawful, Often good
Advancement: 5-8 HD (Small), 9-12 HD (Medium) or by character class
Level Adjustment: +3

The hsiao are a race of intelligent avians. Their appearance 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.
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.
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.
The hsiao loathe violence and will always seek a peaceful resolution first. If this is not possible, they can defend themselves with their claws and beak, but even then, they prefer to let their allies shed blood, while they provide magical support.
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.

Combat
Most hsiao are peaceful creatures and will seek to avoid combat. They will employ magic to further this end. Should they be forced to fight, they attack through magic spells and their natural weapons. Hsiao are intelligent and cunning foes that will coordinate 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.
This hsiao may cast 5/4/3 spells per day.

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.

Hsiao Characters
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. 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.

Hsiao 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 (see above): Spells
Special Qualities (see above): Divine Nature, Physical Limitations, Superior Lowlight Vision.
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.