Fox Magic: Kitsune

May 20th, 2009
Kuniyoshi's woodblock print of the legendary kitsune Kuzunoha.

Kuniyoshi's woodblock print of the legendary kitsune Kuzunoha.

A year or two ago, I wrote a  couple of articles for Dragon magazine, back when Paizo was still publishing it as an actual print-on-dead-trees magazine.  You won’t find those articles by looking through back issues, because they were never published.  Something about Paizo losing the print-on-dead-trees license and Wizards releasing articles as PDFs to subscribers, now.

But this left me with a bunch of 3.5e stuff on my computer for which I had little use, and had in fact more or less forgotten about until I came across it recently while looking for something else entirely.

My loss of a publishing credit is my gain of some blog posts, because I’m going to update at least some of it for fourth edition.  Given my inclinations toward Mythic China and Mythic Japan elements in my game, I thought I’d start with my article about kitsune, the shapeshifting foxes of Japanese folklore.

Wikipedia’s article on kitsune (which I wrote large chunks of, back in the day) is pretty good for a compact overview of the folklore.  Japanese folklore in general is pretty interesting stuff; if you’re looking to spice up your game, I’d recommend getting your hands on some, reading it, and looking for elements to adapt.  But I digress.  On to the kitsune.  For today’s installment, the basic writeup.


Beautiful, cultured, ingenious… and beast in human shape,
standing at the juncture of two worlds.


Average Height: 5’6″ – 6’2″
Average Weight: 135 – 220 lb.
Size: Medium

Speed: 6 squares
Vision: Low-light

Languages: Common, choice of one other

Fey Origin: Your ancestors were native to the Feywild, so you are considered a fey creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.

Fox Shape: Once per round, as a minor action, you may shift from your humanoid form to that of a fox, or from your fox form back to humanoid.  When you change form, you can shift 1 square.  While you are in fox form, you cannot use attack or feat powers, although you may sustain such powers.  You retain your statistics, and you may still speak and use utility powers.  You gain a +2 power bonus to Stealth checks and Armor Class and a +2 square power bonus to speed.

When you take fox shape, your equipment becomes part of your form.  You continue to gain the benefits of the equipment you wear.  You can use the properties and powers of magic items that you wear, but not the properties or powers of weapons or implements, nor the powers of wondrous items.  While equipment is part of your fox shape, it cannot be removed, and anything in a container that is part of your fox shape is inaccessible.  In fox shape, you cannot manipulate objects, but you are able to pick up and carry a single object of no more than 5 lbs. weight.


Ability Scores: +2 Charisma, +2 Wisdom
Skill Bonuses: +2 Insight, +2 Religion

Celestial Calm: +2 bonus to saving throws against fear or charm effects.

Favored of Inari*: You can use favored of Inari as an encounter power.  Additionally, when you use a Divine power, you may use your Charisma modifier in place of your Intelligence modifier.

Group Insight: You grant non-kitsune allies within 5 squares of you a +1 racial bonus to Insight checks.


Ability Scores: +2 Charisma, +2 Intelligence
Skill Bonuses: +2 Bluff, +2 Thievery

Danger Sense: +2 racial bonus to AC and Reflex defense against traps.

Foxfire and Treachery: Once per encounter, you can use one of the following abilities:

  • Foxfire:  As a free action, you may add 1d6 bonus fire damage to one damage roll (or 2d6 if the attack targets an individual creature); that attack gains the Fire keyword.  At the paragon tier, you add an additional 2d6 (or 3d6) bonus fire damage; at the epic tier, you add an additional 3d6 (or 4d6) bonus fire damage.  You may choose to add this damage after you know the result of your attack roll.
  • Treachery:  As a free action, when the effect of a power with the Charm, Fear, or Illusion keyword(s) would normally end, you may cause the power to last for one additional round.  This extension does not force a creature to roll additional saving throws; the power simply ends one round after the successful saving throw, rather than immediately.

Favored of Inari*
The oath you swore to serve has its benefits as well.  When all looks bleakest, you can call upon your deity for aid, and know that he will hear you.
Immediate Reaction * Personal
You are bloodied.
Effect: You recharge one expended encounter power.
Special: This power cannot be recharged by any means other than resting.

(* Note:  Rename according to the patron the kitsune favors, of course.)

Kuzunoha again.  By Yoshitoshi.

Kuzunoha again. By Yoshitoshi.

Physical Qualities

Kitsune are intelligent foxes from the Feywild.  Their humanoid forms typically are human, and possess the same broad range of characteristics as actual humans do.  Darker hair colors are common, though gold, white, and red are far from unknown.  A kitsune who originates in a given area generally possesses the characteristics most common to the humans who live in that area, because that is the shape they learn to emulate.  More practiced kitsune can learn to change these traits, and even to imitate specific beings.  There is often something “foxlike” about the appearance of a kitsune in human form, although this is not universally true.

Kitsune mature very quickly but live long lives.  Some legends attribute immortality to them; this is not true, but they show few signs of age past adulthood until near the end of their lives, and their lifespan can stretch beyond even that of an eladrin.  Exceptional kitsune may live for 500 years or more.

Playing a Kitsune

Kitsune divide themselves into two categories according to their choice to take or not take an oath to a divine patron.  Those who do are the celestials (known by such names as myobu and zenko).  Those who refuse are the wilders (nogitsune or yako).  Stereotypically, the kitsune celestials are inclined to good and the wilders to mischief or outright malice, but in truth, individuals’ personalities may vary widely.

Kitsune celestials are often drawn to the divine paths, and they tend to be very social creatures, often living among humans and offering their aid and protection to their communities.  In contrast, wilders tend to be more individualistic and, while not averse to social contact, less likely to feel empathy toward those outside their own immediate circle of friends.  Celestials tend to favor order and peace, while wilders favor freedom and adventure.  A celestial adventurer likely has a specific goal in mind, even if it’s one as nebulous and far-reaching as “bring peace to the region” or “develop my personal abilities”; a wilder is just as likely to adventure for the sense of discovery or the sheer fun of it.

Kitsune celestials favor the avenger, bard, cleric, invoker, and paladin classes.  Kitsune wilders favor the bard, rogue, sorcerer, warlock, and wizard classes.

Kitsune Characteristics: calm, clever, curious, impulsive, intuitive, manipulative, mischievous, mystical, quick-witted, secretive, sly, vengeful

(Edit:  Updated, 5/23/2009.)


Related posts:

  1. Fox Magic: Arcane Feats
  2. Fox Magic: Feats
  3. Fox Magic: Martial Feats
  4. Fox Magic: Inari
  5. Fox Magic: Allies and Adversaries

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  1. greywulf, May. 20, 2009, 10:01 am:

    Thanks for that! I love me some Kitsune, and this is an excellent rendition for 4e. Bookmarked.

  2. Aaron, May. 20, 2009, 2:48 pm:

    Kobold Quarterly had one of these in the last issue, but I really like this one because of the split between the Celestials and the Wilders. I wonder if there’s a way to combine this with the Fox Magic of KQ’s Kitsune.


    Aaron´s last blog post: Dungeoncraft – in medias res: Movers and Shakers

  3. Scott, May. 20, 2009, 3:55 pm:

    @Greywulf: Thanks. They might be a little overpowered as it stands; this is just the initial translation from my 3.5 version (which was LA +1). Going to be working them out a bit more this week. (Edit: I’ve revised them since posting this. They need some more playtesting, but this version seems better.)

    @Aaron: I’d like to take a look at that. Does KQ cover 4e now? I might have to pick up an issue.

    The split is fairly important in Japanese legend. It could be just flavor, but I figured that treating it in a way similar to the Shifter split would allow them to specialize in either the divine roles or the trickster roles.

  4. Aaron, May. 23, 2009, 3:06 pm:

    KQ covers 3.5e/Pathfinder and 4e, though there is still a focus (I feel, I may be wrong) on 3.5e/Pathfinder. The kitsune article, however, was 4e only, with a 3.5e version on the ‘net.

    KQ’s kitsune was slightly different because they were pretty much all tricksters of some kind. The major differences mechanically were the ability to use a Hoshi no Tama (Star Ball) as an implement, and the ability to switch out some powers for Fox Magic powers.

    I really liked the kitsune, which is why I made an epic destiny for it as my part in the Atomic Array blog carnival ( I’m a huge fan of Japanese mythology, and I can’t wait to see more of your work!

    Aaron´s last blog post: Dungeoncraft – in medias res: Movers and Shakers

  5. Scott, May. 23, 2009, 7:27 pm:

    @Aaron: I see… well, I may track down the issue, at least.

    As far as the hoshi no tama, I thought the existing orb implement would suit. I guess it could be appropriate to add a racial trait along the lines of “If your class employs implements, you may use an orb in addition to your usual implements,” though.

    The 3e version looks all right. I prefer the version in Alejandro Melchor’s Kitsunemori setting, though. In particular, I think his relation of nine tails to nine spell levels was insightful. Al-X does a remarkable job with the setting, too. It’s by Dog Soul Publishing, which also produced the Folkloric line, rather good products for harvesting ideas from. At $7, the PDF (which is almost 200 pages) is barely more than the KQ issue PDF — at that price, I definitely recommend it. There’s also a print version floating around, though it’s pretty hard to find these days.

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