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The Bird’s Eye View S2|24: Four More Years!

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|24: Leeroy Jenkins!

Since it was kind of a slow episode this week, I have a little time to indulge in a bit of a historical milestone. September 13, 2017, was the air date of the very first episode of Roll For Combat. That’s right… four years of listening to us goof off for your listening pleasure. We’ve officially been at this longer than several US Presidents held office, and longer than it takes the majority of college students to graduate. (Don’t come at me with your fancy triple-major with a certificate in archaeology that took six years to finish; I said majority.)

It’s funny… when I look back on it, I was skeptical that we’d even stick with it for four months, much less four years. We were trying a brand-new game system (Starfinder) and the logistics of having people actually listen to our reindeer games was a little daunting… honestly, it took me a while to get past thinking we were going to peak at 10 listeners and quietly fold up shop with our collective tail between our legs. But not only is our little podcast still going strong, but we’ve expanded to two-and-a-half shows and we (Steve at least) added a publishing arm to our little enterprise. How did that happen?

In fact, if you want to stretch the definition of anniversaries, we’re also within the same week of passing one year of the Edgewatch podcast. The actual airdate for Episode 1 was either the 17th or 18th (depending on if you count episode 0 as the “first” episode), but by next week we’ll have passed it and I don’t want to milk this two weeks running, so figure I’d mention that too. (Also, as I said, it’s a slow episode in the show.) It’s funny… I was a big supporter of the Black Lodge format (Society adventures, guest stars, all that stuff), but once we got into it and started doing it, I kinda missed all the “connective tissue” a larger adventure path entails. So I’m glad we decided to change course and give Edgewatch a shot.

This week though, we got caught “in-between hops”, to use a bit of baseball terminology. We finally reached the cultist lair, but we did so out at the end of our resources for the day, so we ended up having to turn around and head back right when we found what we were looking for. Oops. I think the deciding factor was how many rooms there were in close proximity; it looked from the map like once you started this thing, you could easily have to fight your way through multiple rooms. If there had been a way to cleanly pull one fight, maybe we could’ve continued on, but with everything jam-packed, retreat seemed like the best option.

We also found the missing Graycloaks, so there’s also an element of “let’s get those guys out before we get too crazy”. At a meta-game level, collect the experience, but it even feels like the right thing to do from a roleplay standpoint. You’ve got these guys who are on their literal last legs, lost half their team… you don’t want to make them sit around while you clear a few more rooms. Rescue becomes the priority at that point. The experience points are just a bonus.

Recapping their adventures, it seems like they ran into most of the same challenges we did, except that they followed the poop river up north and ran into some nasty super-otyugh further north. Among other things, probably explains the source of the contamination, though I’m not sure how much value there is to going and dealing with it. But as far as the Graycloaks, they split up, half their guys got eaten by the otyughs, and the rest (this group) had to flee from Tyrroicese, but their captain didn’t get as lucky as we did.

One thing that stands out is that doing the math, it does seem like this room is relatively safe. The cultists don’t go the other way because they don’t want to deal with Tyrroicese either, and they don’t know about the secret door on the other side, so this room MIGHT be a safe base of operations. The real X-factor here is how much of Gomez’s healing runs on consumables. It’s one thing to rest up and get spells back, but if we’ve got to go back to town and replenish… at that point, let’s sleep in our own beds and have a Sharky-approved breakfast.

After a little bit of kicking around different ideas for getting the Graycloaks out, we decide to just make a run for it past the Tyrroicese, basically, the way we originally came in. (Only now with a working door.) This time things go a lot smoother, it barely gets time to turn its head (do oozes have heads?) and we’re gone. Graycloaks rescued. Good vibes received.

Back at the ranch, we get two major bits of news that help us going forward. First, we do a little research into Tyrroicese and find out that it’s susceptible to good damage. That’s not an EASY thing to find, as the runes are out of our price range, but there are a few options. At first glance, if I put Aligned Oil on my bow, I can get three attacks per round with an extra… 5, 10… damage each time. That’ll add up. Granted, it would cost 140g to do that, but it’s the beginnings of a plan.

Speaking of which, sorry if I was being a bit pedantic about the idea of putting holy water in the sword-cane, but it seemed like there were some practical questions to be resolved because it’s not usually used internally. Usually, you splash it, it does damage once, and you’re done. If you inject it, does that even work, or would it be too diluted to be effective? Even if it does work, how long does it last? Essentially, I was looking for some rules to poison-ify holy water.

The other good news is we’re going to be Level 8! Nice. Granted, Level 8 isn’t (normally) the most exciting level, but because I took the wizard archetype, that means I get access to Level 3 spells. OK… “spell”, singular. So I guess we’ll unveil that next week.

So hey… thanks for a great four years, and here’s to the next (gulp) four. But in the short term, we’ll see you back here next week when we enter the cultist lair for realsies. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S2|24: Leeroy Jenkins!

The Agents managed to find their way into a secret section of the Catacombs, but getting out is a whole different story.

Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch, and the second book, Sixty Feet Under.

Don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

Become a supporter of the podcast on our Patreon page where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!

The Sideshow S2|39: Tree Strikes, You’re Out

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|39: The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Giants.

I wanted to start off with a little fun with math this week. It was Steve’s remark about the 40-episode synergy that got me started. It’s always been kind of this anecdotal thing that we in the Edgewatch show move at a faster pace without the random birthday parties and visits to Hamlin’s Hots. But now we actually have a bit of hard data to play around with.

So we have Three-Ring Adventure checking in at 80 episodes for two books. Now, looking over at Edgewatch, we’re still in the middle of Book 2, but our next episode will be Episode 52 (at least according to the numbering of my columns). Now… we’re not all the way to the end, but we’re getting there. Without spoiling too much… I’d say maybe 5-7 episodes left? There are a couple of big fights, one of which might even have to be cut into multiple episodes, but at the same time, we are into the cultist lair, so we’re approaching a final resolution. So, even if you aim on the high side AND aim for a round number, 8 more episodes would be 60, for 30 per book. So we finally have some numbers to play around with that suggest the circus crew’s roleplaying adds a 25% overhead.

Of course, the real champion here was the original Dead Suns podcast. With that one, we were doing 22-25 episodes per book. Granted, you’re adding in a different game system with that one, so it’s not exactly apples to apples, but Dead Suns moved almost twice as fast as the circus crew.

Either that or Bob Markee keeps us lean and mean and playing efficiently, and we’ve turned into slackers without his positive influence.

In other news, I didn’t mean to touch off some big THING with last week’s column, but here we are. Just to clarify, if I’m feeling impatient, it’s in a positive direction, not a negative one. I want to see how this ends, and specifically, I want to see Mistress Dusklight receive the ass-kicking she so richly deserves. It’s not that I’m bored with the in-between encounters; it’s just that I’m ready for the main event to start. I will add that I really like how they’ve incorporated the carnival funhouse theme into the various encounters; it’s a nice little touch that takes it beyond the realm of “lather, rinse, repeat” combat.

This week, we actually start with a bit of a breather, as the team encounters a little ball of cuteness known as a “moon mole”, because “zuipnyrn” is tough to spell. (Although it would be worth a lot of points in Scrabble.) And OK… it is on the shortlist for “the strangest thing you’ve ever seen”, so Steve wasn’t lying when he set up that cliffhanger last week. The artwork on these guys is a little evocative of the aliens from old-school Sesame Street, if you remember them. Not an EXACT match, but something in my brain tripped the comparison. The good news is they’re comically easy to fight if one were to go that route. 35 hit points? A crit could literally one-shot it. Really, it’s most useful as a distraction.

Ateran actually had the same thought I did… could they actually roll the cage into later rooms and use the moon mole to distract future opponents? First of all, would it work logistically or would the creatures just be able to ignore it? Second, how would that play ethically… “I’m going to take this sentient creature and use it as a meat shield, charging into danger hoping it distracts my opponent”. Probably have to have a sit-down with your deity of choice after pulling a stunt like that. But it would have been fun to try.

Instead, they just cover up the cage and move on to the next room. And then we’re back to Bizarro Violent Sideshow Acts, as we have hill giant clowns throwing paint cans at each other, and a gnome/halfling on a trapeze. (THE ARISTOCRATS!) Far be it for me to question the entertainment value of the Celestial Menagerie, but… people pay money to watch this? Compared to the other acts, this one stands out as somewhat less sophisticated.

The combat starts with Alhara getting critted (must be a day ending in “Y”), and it’s a slugfest from there. Our team prevails, but it gets a little messy, and not just because of the abundance of orange paint. If there’s one thing that stood out to me about this fight, I was a little surprised Trapeze Girl didn’t really engage in the battle as much as I thought she would. But then again, maybe she’s another one of Dusklight’s quasi-hostages who’s only offering enough resistance to say she tried. Could she be another recruit for Wayward Wonders 2.0? Probably need to get to the bottom of those fangs before offering her a gig.

Next up… last up, maybe?… we have the mirror maze. Half-fight, half-trap, and a very confusing little interlude. I have to admit, I thought it was hilarious when Alhara used the tree feather token to take the whole thing out in one swing of the bat. Reminiscent of John McClane using the entire brick of C-4 on the Nakatomi Building. (We, also, are covered in glass down here.)

As the mirror maze resolves, we’re presented with a quandary. One of Dusklight’s guards is tied up, and one of the town guard higher-ups claims to have taken Mistress Dusklight into custody. I have to admit my Spider-Sense went off at the same time Loren/Hap’s did, and for much the same reasons: how did a single town guard get by all the stuff our team just had to fight through?

Sure enough, after some back and forth, the guard decides the ruse isn’t working, and it’s time to fight. And that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. For what Steve is promising us is FINALLY the end of book two.

I’M HOLDING YOU TO THAT.

As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Three Ring Adventure S2|39: The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Giants

This week we discover the deadliest weapon in all of Pathfinder, and it’s not what you think!

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse, and the second book, Legacy of the Lost God.

Don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

Become a supporter of the podcast on our Patreon page where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!

The Bird’s Eye View S2|23: Welcome to the Cultist Clubhouse

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|23: DMing in the Dark.

This week feels like an important one on Edgewatch because it feels like we’ve passed the peak of the mountain in terms of information acquisition and are headed down the other side toward the conclusion.

I don’t know if it’s like this for every adventure, but there’s a cycle here. You start each adventure, or each section of the adventure, with a simple set of marching orders. Find this person. Solve the mystery of XYZ. In this case, it’s “the Skinsaw Cult are in the catacombs… go get ‘em”. As you start to explore, there’s a certain amount of the adventure that actually opens up new side quests and creates NEW questions, and maybe challenges what you think you knew going in. In this case, we’ve got the horseman and his missing chain, we’ve got the missing Graycloaks, we stumble across general corruption within the catacombs (including that big Tyrroicese thing we ran from), and we get a POSSIBLE assist from Dannicus, though when we first got the information, it was unclear how much we could trust him. The point being… up to a certain point, it’s easy to end up more confused than you started because the game is lobbing new information at you faster than you can clear the old stuff off the board.

But then the new revelations begin to slow down, and you actually start resolving some of the open items, and THIS feels like the week we finally hit that point in the adventure. At a high level, without getting into the blow-by-blow action, we cross off the side quest with the ghostly daughter and her fountain, we find out what happened to (most of) the Graycloaks, and most importantly, we FINALLY have our entry point into the cultist lair. Though it would be better if we could avoid sneaking past that big nasty every time.

That doesn’t mean the combat is going to get easier; if anything, the fights are likely to get harder. Dannicus identified the Skinner and at least two sub-bosses, there’s those daemons and the golem on the upper entry point, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we still have to fight Tyrroicese for real at some point. (Also… what’s fouling up the underground stream?) But in terms of information gathering and story complexity, it feels like we’re past the peak and heading down the other side of the mountain. It won’t be too much longer before we’re back into “find the cultists, kill the cultists” territory.

Of course, to get there, we had to do a little more subterranean wandering, through the ONE part of the complex not covered by Dannicus’ map. Basically, Dannicus gave us the upper and lower cultist layers, but all the little extra tunnels that snake in between… we’re on our own for that, with only a few geographical hints – we know all the stuff to the west eventually terminates where we met Dannicus, the one passage to the far east that almost HAS to correspond with the rubble-filled passage to the far east of the catacombs level. So it’s a LITTLE confusing, but we can roughly find our way.

We start by crossing off the side quest with the stonemason’s daughter. It turns out the missing gem powers a simulated “holographic” (though we’re in the wrong game system for that technology) garden, which lets her experience nature and be set free. This also destroys the statue, providing us with two magic staves, but the bad news is neither of them is arcane-friendly. But it’s OK… Gomez can use the Healing staff, so more heals are really a win for all of us. The nature staff… meh. Feels like a bunch of situational stuff, and even the movement-impairing spells probably have fairly low DCs to them. It might be useless to SOMEONE, but for our group, that’s probably a sell item.

We explore a little further and find a few signs of a trail being marked. The real question is: is it the cultists marking the CORRECT way to go, or the Graycloaks marking off ways they SHOULDN’T go? Kind of an important distinction. As we do our wandering, we reach what appears to be our destination – the door on the far side of the gap and the lookout alcove BOTH bear resemblance to Dannicus’ map, so if we get over to the other side, we’re in.

But of course, that means sneaking past Tyrroicese. And this time, there’s no gate protecting us if we can’t get through the door on the other side. So we decide to sneak someone over and I draw the short straw, because I’m unexpectedly good at Stealth, AND I’m not that bad at Thievery either.

The bad news is the door isn’t just locked, but physically barred from the other side, so we aren’t going to get it open any time soon. And on the way back across, of course, I roll a crit-fail. Walking and chewing gum is now beyond my capabilities. Sigh.

So now Tyrroicese knows we’re here, but the silver lining to this cloud is that is we have a round to act before it can really do anything to us. I decide to just jump over the edge, but with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I probably should’ve done what Lo Mang and Dougie did and try to jump the gap to the open hallway. After all, if I failed, my feather fall STILL would’ve kicked in, but if I’d succeeded, I wouldn’t have gotten dunked in the River of Awfulness. Heck, even if I’d fallen, if I’d put some horizontal motion into it, I might have landed on the BANKS of the Poo River, rather than falling directly into it.

So OK… low-key humiliation endured, but the good news is that Tyrrroicese doesn’t follow us. So… maybe it just guards that room or something? I eventually get pulled up to the main level and we are IN the cultist layer, where our map kicks in.

As we plan our exploration, 90% of the map is to the north of us, except for a U-shaped section that goes west, doubles back (with an exit to the “porch” where the daemons and the golem are), and then comes back to the east and ends up at that door. (Now, skipping ahead, the map reveals the secret door, so that seems like a bit of a mild spoiler, but whatever… it wouldn’t have been THAT tough to piece together that 50-ish feet of hallway was missing.) So… if the two main choices are figuring out that door and securing a more graceful insertion point, or immediately rushing into the more heavily populated parts of the cultist lair with the Tyrroicese stalking our retreat path… yeah, I think we should at LEAST clear that door first.

So we take the lower route, and run into the alcove with the not-that-subtle secret door. I thought it was going to require some fancy manipulation of stones or using some magic, but apparently, a basic T-pose is good enough to get it done. Revealing a room beyond.

The good news… the Graycloaks are in here. Now, this is good news, and not JUST because they’re alive, because depending on how long they’ve been here, it means the cultists haven’t been able to get into this room either. That might even mean we could rest in this room if we had to (though that wouldn’t do anything about replenishing consumables).

The bad news… we’re still dressed like cultists, so they prepare to give us whatever fight they’ve got left in them as the episode ends. I guess next week starts with some Gomez Diplomacy. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S2|23: DMing in the Dark

The Agents finally make some progress towards knocking off the many side-quests, but without a stumble here and there.

Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch, and the second book, Sixty Feet Under.

Don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

Become a supporter of the podcast on our Patreon page where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!

The Sideshow S2|38: Are We There Yet?

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|38: My Anaconda Don’t Want None.

Welcome to Roll For Zeno’s Paradox, the RPG podcast where every week we cover half the remaining distance to reach Mistress Dusklight. Make sure for the big finale in December when the party is still 1/8th of an inch away, but there’s another monster 1/16th of an inch away.

OK, sorry… I’m getting a little testy. I want my day of reckoning and to see Mistress Dusklight catch the ass-whuppin she so richly deserves; watching our party thump quasi-innocents who secretly hate Mistress Dusklight and don’t really want to be there is reaching a point of diminishing returns. I’m all for beating down anyone who drank deep of the Dusklight Kool-Aid; watching folks who were just there for the paycheck decide how much of a beating they’re willing to take before surrendering… you kinda start to feel bad for them.

Though… I mean, if we didn’t have this little interlude, we wouldn’t have had a chance to indulge in all the Sir Mixalot references this week. So that’s at least something.

Speaking of which (pushes glasses up on nose): as a devotee of Kurgess, it would be logical to presume Alhara does a lot of both side-bends AND sit-ups on a regular basis, and would therefore not meet Sir Mixalot’s expectations of an appropriate amount of “back”. Therefore, a true Mixalot-compliant anaconda would probably want none of Alhara; depending on how broad-minded we want to be about things, Darius’ glistening thighs would probably have been far more appealing.

Why yes, I am sleep-deprived this week. Why do you ask?

I think the thing that I liked most about this week’s encounter was Loren’s commitment to let Hap’s love of animals override her sense of revenge, at least temporarily. Ever since Mistress Dusklight’s goons killed Bardolph, I’d been assuming we’d see Hap go full MurderHobo and just stay in that zone for the duration of this encounter. And don’t get me wrong… I expect to see full “Jean Grey Phoenix Force” levels of wrath when we finally reach Mistress Dusklight. But I do respect that even in this moment, she still tries to work things out with the critters.

Granted, it creates a little tension within the party as several members drop some unsubtle hints that they’d prefer Hap just nuke the site from orbit. But tension in the party – at least in-character tension that doesn’t carry over to the players – can be a positive thing. Takes the story to unexpected places.

And for the record, it’s probably a good thing Hap was able to at least slow down the smilodons until the anaconda was dealt with because they were pretty tough customers. Among the usual cat powers like stealth and precision damage against flat-footed creatures, their bite attack can actually break armor of 10 hardness or less, and then when it gets through your armor, it applies persistent bleed damage. We didn’t really get to see that in its full glory, but it could’ve been nasty.  We always talk about the party taking advantage of tactics, but if you have an anaconda grabbing people and applying flat-footed so the cats can get precision damage and apply bleeding… that could’ve gotten a LOT messier.

Even without the smilodons helping out, the anaconda was still a pretty formidable challenge. Start with pretty strong conventional attacks, and then throw in the constrict ability that it can use on multiple targets – essentially it can grab up to as many people in its coils as can fit in its space. That’s pretty crazy. Usually grappling is a double-edged sword, because on a bipedal creature, holding onto one grabbed target means it can’t do a lot else; here, the snake can keep right on multi-tasking. On top of all of that, we can add in the ability to engulf, which triggers all the stuff about holding your breath or suffocating. And we didn’t get into the fact that if you try and run, it has both swim and climb speeds. Or the fact that it can still move and carry anyone it’s got constricted along with it as it goes. That’s a nasty customer. The only real thing that mitigates the threat is that its defenses are nothing special – armor class is pretty average for the level, and no particular resistances. You’d think maybe the scales would provide some hardness or something, but no… it’s just a bag-o-meat.

I also got a bit of a laugh out of the fact that for once, Alhara’s leap into battle actually saved her from stepping on a trap, and left it undiscovered for Darius to find. One of the recurring themes of this show so far is of Alhara leaping into danger and getting pummeled, so it was nice to see the leap pay a modest dividend for once. Granted, the snake still smacked her around… she just didn’t ALSO have to suffer the additional indignity of falling on her ass while it was happening.

So the anaconda is dispatched, and after a few false starts, Hap manages to negotiate a peace treaty with the smilodons where they’re willing to eat the remains of the snake instead of the party. Time for some Handwave Healing, and it’s on to the next room. Alhara does another one of her patented leaps into action and is greeted with The Strangest Thing You’ve Ever Seen as our cliffhanger for next week. (And this from a campaign that’s already established the existence of “Muscle Fancy” magazine.)

And look… at the risk of bringing back my cynical grumpy persona, that cliffhanger means it’s probably not Mistress Dusklight NEXT week either, since they’ve seen her plenty of times. (Unless she’s got a new combat outfit that’s some weird Met Gala shit or something.) So next week, come back so we can see what this strangest thing is… and whether they’re going to fight it… or whether it wants to switch circuses… or ask it whether it prefers Hamlin’s Hots or Caleb’s Colds. There are lots of ways this can end up going. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Pathfinder Secrets of Magic Review: Some Secrets Are Worth Sharing

Make sure to check out the Battlezoo Bestiary! Over 100 new monsters, the new Monster Parts System, play as a Dragon, the level 1-11 Jewel of the Indigo Isles Adventure Path, and more! Check it out now!

They say introspection is part of a healthy lifestyle, so let me start by dropping a bit of self-evaluation.

The Magus was my favorite class in Pathfinder First Edition, so I’ve been looking forward to Secrets Of Magic since the day I heard the Magus was going to be included. If I’m being totally honest, Secrets Of Magic could have been The Magus And Here’s 70-Some Blank Pages To Scribble In, and I probably still would have been pretty happy with it. Just being honest with all of you.

But Secrets of Magic – Paizo’s newest hardcover release – has ZERO pages to scribble in because it’s chock full of new magical toys for the Second Edition system, and that’s definitely an improvement over my idea. I can only really draw stick figures anyway. What strikes me at first glance is that it’s a book that both broadens and deepens the world of magic in Second Edition. What I mean is that it gives you more of what’s already there – new classes, new backgrounds, a whole lot of new spells, more magic items – but it’s also got a lot of content that expands the system in new directions, including a bunch of different variant rules you can play around with if you want your entire campaign setting to get a little weird.

But let’s start with the big news up front… the Magus and Summoner classes finally make their way to Second Edition. If you’ve played First Edition, you already know what these are likely to look like; but I’ll assume we have some people who skipped First Edition and may not know what to expect.

The Magus is a hybrid blend of warrior and arcane caster. At a Cliff’s Notes glance: you give up some of the spell slots you’d get as a full caster, but you get back armor, weapons, more hit points, and overall survivability. And, you’re your own walking, talking property rune because you channel magic through your weapon. Now… it’s true that up until now, you could get something in the ballpark of that by playing around with multiclass archetypes, but it’s kind of like that one meme – “Mom says we have the Magus at home”. You can create a character that both fights on the front lines and casts spells, but it’s missing the special sauce that holds it all together.

In this case, the “special sauce” of the Magus comes in the form of the Spellstrike class ability, which lets a Magus cast a spell and channel it into their weapon as part of a combined attack. Your first reaction might be “but wait, I only get one chance to hit and if I miss, my whole round is a waste! That sucks!”. But consider this – you get a one-action attack and a two-action spell as a two-action Spellstrike (so you’re immediately saving an action). So yes, there’s a lot more riding on each individual die roll, but overall the math and action economy are on your side. You also get “conflux spells” which are Magus specific spells that run off focus points (and therefore recharge after 10-minute rests), and you can obtain additional special abilities based on your specialization – there are builds for two-handed weapons, one-handed weapons, shields, ranged weapons, and staves.

If there’s a downside to this, it’s what you’d expect – you don’t have as many spell slots as a full caster, and your feats are all geared toward combat effectiveness, so good luck trying to make a “utility Magus” – you’re here to kill stuff, just with extra magic ‘splodeys. (Though now I’m sure SOMEONE will try to prove me wrong by building one.)

The Summoner? That’s more like half caster, half Pokemon trainer. You have a repertoire of spells, but most of your abilities come from forging a connection to an eidolon, a magical creature who serves as your sidekick and does most of your fighting for you. Unlike a normal summoning spell where the creature lasts for a few rounds and then disappears, your eidolon can be summoned as needed (though it’s a three-action ability) and sticks around as long as you need it to.

More importantly, the eidolon is a permanent creation that you design, and it grows as you level. When it comes to creating an eidolon, you start by choosing an origin (fey, beast, construct, demon, etc.) and choosing whether you want a warrior (STR) or scout (DEX) based build, but the specific look of your eidolon is whatever you choose it to be. So if you want your eidolon to physically manifest as, say, a golem made of Dippin’ Dots, you can do that. (And really, who WOULDN’T want that?)

The eidolon-summoner relationship admittedly starts out a little clunky – you basically have to share one turn between you when you first start. In fact, there’s a Level 1 feat called “Meld Into Eidolon” where you just acknowledge the early-level futility, use your eidolon as a battle suit, and hide behind its hit points. But as you level, you can take different feats that improve your eidolon, including feats that improve action efficiency. Though where’s the fun in that when you can also add far more interesting abilities? Spellcasting, different movement types, weapon proficiency… you know… in case the aforementioned Dippin’ Dots golem needs to wield a katana. (And again, I ask… who WOULDN’T want that?)

The Summoner does have a repertoire of spells, but again, fewer than a true caster. The good news is they can auto-heighten any spell they have, and they also have a secondary synergy with (wait for it) summoning spells: there are feats that let you take additional spell slots IF you use them on summon spells. But obviously, those feats will mean fewer feats to develop your eidolon, so it’s a trade-off one has to manage.

Now, in getting to the two new classes, I kinda skipped over Chapter 1… and I feel a little guilty doing that because there’s still good work and creativity that went into that as well. The first chapter starts with in-character world-building, with academic treatises written by various luminaries about the four traditions (arcane, primal, divine, occult), as well as a similar piece about magical “essences”. It then offers “The Eight Arches Of Incantation”, which summarizes the eight major magic fields – what makes something conjuration vs. illusion vs. transmutation? This one is meant to be in character as well, but written for a more general audience, so it’s closer to general GM info.

Then we have a few pages of magical backgrounds, both normal and rare. The “normal” backgrounds just expand backgrounds in a magical direction, as one can be an “academy dropout”, “magical merchant”, or a “plant whisperer”, but they’re still the standard “here’s some ability boosts and skills”. The RARE ones get pretty interesting because they offer special abilities (sometimes at a price). My favorite here is probably the “anti-magical” background where you’re resistant to magic: any spell cast on you (friend or foe) has to pass a DC3 flat check or it fails to affect you. So there’s a 10% chance that you shrug off an enemy mage’s fireball, but then again, the same could happen to that heal spell your ally casts on you.

Chapter 3, the largest by page count, gives us a WHOLE lot of new spells. Granted, this also includes the focus spells for the magus and summoner classes, as well as a few rituals, but that still leaves a LOT of new options for casters to take. I could sit here and list random cool spells I liked, but if there are a few recurring themes that keep popping up, they are battle forms and contingency spells.

Battle forms are spells that clarify the mechanics and expand the options for changing into another creature to fight – because hey, sometimes you’re either low on spell slots, or the enemy creature is resistant to magical damage and you just have to slap it around the old-fashioned way. The various battle form spells (aberrant form, angel form, OOZE form, and so on) let you change into that type of creature for a duration (usually a minute) and they specify all the stats and attacks you have available to you while in that form. (You also have a few options per spell, just so you can play around with different movement/damage/etc. options.) The druid’s Wild Shape ability did something like this for more common creatures; the new spells in Secrets of Magic expand that to the more esoteric options.

It should also be mentioned that most of these spells come with heightened versions where the creature gets bigger, you get more temporary hit points, and its attack hit harder. I’m not saying you should try being a gargantuan gelatinous cube, but… you should try being a gargantuan gelatinous cube.

Contingency spells are spells that you cast now, but take full effect later, when certain conditions are met. The basic concept already sort of exists with things like protective runes and magical traps, but Secrets of Magic expands on the concept. One of my favorites here is Instant Armor (and no, not just because I can sing John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” when casting it). It basically stores your armor in an extra-dimensional space, and it’s summoned to your body when you issue the activation command. Aside from having big Tony Stark energy, it’s got solid practical uses: imagine infiltrating an enemy’s stronghold where you have to get in through the front door politely – maybe a fancy-dress ball – but might get into a scrap once you’re in the building. (It’s not a contingency spell, but Juvenile Companion has a similar vibe – you can basically turn your animal companion into the cute non-threatening baby version of itself if you have to sneak it in somewhere.)

Oh, and hey, if you’ve got a spare thousand gold per level, and no morals about killing people, Secrets of Magic also offers the “Bathe In Blood” ritual which lets you either pause aging or grow younger. (Though if you critically fail the ritual, you die.) Golarion’s Ra’s al Ghul Lazarus Pits are open for business!

In Chapter 4, we tackle magical items. As with other parts of the book, there’s more of what we already know and love, and we also expand into some new territories.

Fulus are a hybrid of scroll and talisman, usually associated with the Tian Xia region. They’re paper charms affixed to weapons, armor, or sometimes locations. They mostly work as talismans, except since they’re designed as wards, they’re more commonly automated/defensive rather than activated by the user – the condition is met and the fulu activates.

A grimoire is a spellbook that has additional magical effects, usually an affinity for certain types of spells that makes those spells more effective. To use a specific example: let’s look at the Book of Lingering Blaze. If you cast a fire spell that was prepared from the book (but not, say, from a staff or wand), the flames are extra-hot and ignore up to 10 fire resistance.

Secrets of Magic also now lets you be your own rune with the addition of magical tattoos. (Including a skill feat to have your character become a magical tattoo artist.) There are only a few sample tattoos to introduce the concept, but I kind of liked the wave warding tattoo, which gives you a cast of air bubble if you ever find yourself in a spot where you can’t breathe.

Next up we have the concept of personal staves – it’s basically a system for designing your own staff and loading it with spells, including rules for making it more powerful and adding new spells as you level. Now, it’s not a total free-for-all – there has to be a uniting trait for all spells on the staff – so you can’t just make the Staff Of Spells That RAWK. But if you wanted to make a staff of water spells, or spells focused on movement abilities, or something like that… there’s now a way for you to do it.

Spell Catalysts are basically talismans for spells – single-use items that increase the effectiveness of a certain spell. For example, Firestarter Pellets add persistent fire damage to a fireball spell. Shimmering Dust added to glitterdust not only negates invisibility, but the affected creatures give off dim light. Now, here’s where Science Nerd Me points out that “catalysts” enable a reaction without themselves being altered or consumed, and then here’s where you should feel free to shove Science Nerd Me into a locker. (Hey, it’s kinda dark in here.)

Then there are Spellhearts. Think of them as permanent, and more powerful, versions of talismans. They generally have a passive effect if affixed to armor, and an active effect when affixed to a weapon; and in either case, activation casts a specific spell (generally, a once-per-day thing). So the lowest version of a Five-Feather Wreath contains the spell gale blast. Attaching it to armor gives a +1 to Acrobatics and negates 2 falling damage. But if you put it on a weapon, then when you cast the gale blast spell from the spellheart, you can take an action to fly five feet. (Not surprisingly, most spellhearts have multiple versions of different power levels – the highest level version of that five-feather wreath lets you fly 40 feet.)

Finally, at the end of this chapter, we still do have an expansion of more “traditional” magical items and consumables. There’s a lot of fun stuff here, but I’d just like to call out a couple of my favorites. First, one that has no combat use but could lead to fun roleplay is the Deck of Mischief – it’s a deck of playing cards that allows you to activate it to know where all the aces and face cards are, and make an illusory swap. However, the deck itself has a mind of its own, and if neglected or poorly maintained, may choose to malfunction of its own accord. More in the combat mindset, I’m a big fan of battlefield movement effects, so I love the Gloaming Shard. It’s a dagger that allows you to throw it tethered to a filament of your own shadow, and then teleport yourself to the location/enemy you threw it at (once per hour). Cool Nightcrawler vibes abound!

And now… we get to Chapter 5. Here’s where things get interesting… and maybe a little weird. It’s an entire chapter of variant rules if you want to play around with different magical concepts. Some of these apply concepts from one part of the game to another part of the game, some very much feel like homages to other fantasy settings, but some are just kinda doing their own thing. Keep in mind ALL of these are optional systems. You can use a few that sound cool, none at all… OK, trying to use all of them at the same time might end up kind of a mess, but there’s nothing to stop you from trying.

 

Now, I realize in advance this is going to get kinda laundry-list-y, but it seemed like presenting a little high-level information about each ruleset was better than either a) trying to jam it into one or two paragraphs and really telling you nothing or b) going deep-dive with examples on each one, and then you’re still reading this review when Guns And Gears comes out. I played around a little and this felt like the “right” amount of info.

  • We start with cathartic magic – magic driven by emotion. It’s kind of like combining barbarian rage (but with more emotional flexibility) and spell casting. There’s a trigger event, which is usually a specific game mechanic. That puts the cathartic caster into catharsis, which gives them benefits for three rounds including a spell they only have access to while in that state. But at the end of the three rounds, they have an “emotional fallout” that confers some sort of negative status. All of this is then cleared by “settling your emotions” over a ten-minute rest.
  • Elementalism builds around the four traditional elements of water, earth, fire, and air (FLAMEO, HOTMAN!). We get some formal feats for druids and monks to flesh out the parts of the elemental spectrum that were a little weak in their previous rules, and then we get the elementalist class archetype that allows ANY character to become an expert in the traditional forces. Of course, if you’re a caster, you have to give up your normal spell list and choose ONLY from the elementalist spell list, but you get other benefits in trade.
  • Flexible preparation is a system for adjusting the prepared caster classes if you want to let everyone just cast spells spontaneously like a sorcerer does. The gist… you get a few fewer spell slots, but you can cast any spell you know in a slot. There’s also a single-feat archetype that makes the wheels on the bus go ‘round.
  • Geomancy is another archetype; one that feels like it brings the idea of rangers’ “favored terrain” to the casting world. You basically “attune” to the terrain you’re in, at which point you can get movement bonuses, draw power from the land to heal, things like that.
  • Ley lines play around with the idea that there are invisible streams of magic in the air around us. This ruleset lets a caster tap into those lines and use them to enhance their magic… or they might blow up if they fail their save. But if they succeed, they can do things like add persistent damage to spells, perform some of the metamagic feats like adding reach, and so on.

  • Pervasive magic… this is the “what if EVERYBODY had access to at least a little bit of magic?” ruleset. (See also: Piers Anthony’s Xanth setting without all the perviness or the Black Cloveranime without Asta proclaiming someone or something cool every five minutes.) The town guards have magic missile! The barmaid can knock out unruly patrons with sleep! It’s ANARCHY! But if you want to go there, Paizo has you covered. You’ve got rules for assigning additional spells based on the entity’s level (friend OR foe… those kobolds you’re fighting get magic too!), a few feats to make the system work, and interestingly, a section that reviews the map of the Inner Sea and recommends magical hot spots where you could implement this if you were so inclined.
  • Shadow Magic provides us with an archetype for the gothiest caster you could ever hope to create. You basically sacrifice a little piece of your soul to get access to all sorts of neat shadow spells, but you also completely lose the ability to cast spells dealing with light. Bad poetry and trips to Hot Topic may or may also be involved. (OK, I’m deflecting… I want to roll one.)
  • Soul Seeds border on something out of a JRPG… not an insult, just an observation. They’re relic-level items you harvest from powerful enemies, that provide a soul gift: a new ability. Obvious example: kill a red dragon, and its soul seed grants the ability to breathe fire.
  • Soulforged armaments are armor and weapons where you create a special supernatural bond based on an oath – “seek justice”, “protect the downtrodden”, even something more specific like “rid the world of undead”. The benefit of the bond is that it grants the gear additional magical powers (including the ability to store it extradimensionally and summon it when needed); the danger is that if you don’t honor whatever oath you made to the gear, it can become corrupted and lose effectiveness until the corruption is cleansed. So if you promised to help the downtrodden and then go to work as a mercenary for a rich nobleman, you might have a problem. Note that there is still an underlying physical weapon that can be upgraded, replaced, or engraved with runes, so you’re not locked into your Level 1 Pointy Stick forever.
  • Runelords? These guys are pretty well-known within the lore of Pathfinder. They were mostly bad guys in First Edition – a society of esoteric mages who were corrupted by sin — but here in Second Edition, a Thassilonian city from 10,000 years just plunked itself down in the modern world, and half the Thassilonians are trying to move on and return to the Runelords’ more noble origins. Which, I suppose, opens up the possibility of Good Guy Runelords. Among their interesting little tricks are fighting with polearms – something you don’t usually expect of wizards – and embedding aeon stones in their skin. (There’s a Bedazzler joke begging to be made, but I’m gonna leave that for someone else.) I particularly like that they can make a magic staff the shaft of a polearm, thereby having access to a melee weapon AND the spells on the staff… that’s pretty neat.
  • True Names embrace the idea that most entities (particularly the evil ones) have multiple names, and learning a creature’s true name gives you power over it. This ruleset gives you feats and spells for identifying a creature’s true name and exploiting that either through compelling (making it perform actions) and invoking (doing more damage). You can also make an amulet that makes the invoke effect against that creature permanent.
  • Lastly, we have Wellspring Magic and the Wellspring Mage archetype, which in some ways saves the best for last. The general idea of wellspring magic plays around with unstable magical ability, and it kicks in every time you roll initiative or are in a high-stress situation. If things go well, you recover spell slots without having to rest; if things go badly, you generate a “wellspring surge” which is a random effect – could create a protective shield, could allow everyone to read your thoughts, could just go boom. The min-maxer in me would NEVER play a character with such random outcomes, but the STORIES such a character would create… “yeah, we almost had the dragon beat, and then Zolgar went and HEALED it”.

And that… in a larger-than-normal nutshell… is Secrets of Magic. As you can see, there’s a LOT of stuff in there, and some of it takes the game in unexpected directions. You certainly can’t go wrong with two new classes and a bunch of new spells; adding more of what people already love can’t really go wrong. As far as the variant rules, I feel like the sheer variety is what impresses me – sure, nobody’s going to want to use ALL of them, but it’s hard to imagine any Second Edition player looking at those rules and not finding at least a couple that sound fun and worth incorporating into their game. (Me, it’s soulforged weapons and the wellspring mage. And OK, might want to roll up a Runelord.) In short, it does feel like they’ve cast their nets in enough different directions that there’s something for everyone. So if you want your Second Edition campaign to get a little weirder and paint with bolder colors, definitely add Secrets of Magic to your gaming library.

Make sure to read Jason’s review of the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook, as well as his review of the Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide, Pathfinder Lost Omens: Legends, Pathfinder World Guide, Character Guide, Gods & Magic, The Mwangi Expanse, Gamemastery Guide, Bestiary 2, and Bestiary 3.

If you enjoyed this review make sure to check out our Pathfinder Adventure Path: Agents of Edgewatch Podcast and our Pathfinder Adventure Path: Three Ring Adventure.