Paizo puts out many supplements for the Pathfinder role Playing game every year. These tend to fall into the adventure path category which are year long adventures which release on a regular schedule. Paizo also releases a couple of books which expand on the underlying rules of the system and increase the things that players can do with Pathfinder.
This year at Gen Con Paizo released Occult Adventures. Reading the early press releases for this book had me intrigued. They spoke of allowing players to take on the roles of psychics, Kineticist, Medium, and several other new character types. These all sounded very interesting. When I was able to get into the Vendor Hall early, I did the interview that I wanted to complete and wandered over to the Paizo booth and picked up Occult Adventures.
The vision in my mind of what to expect from Occult Adventures didn’t match the reality of the book but this is not a bad thing. I envisioned psionic characters that created affects in the vein of Akira when Occult Adventures delivers psychic characters that fight hidden menaces with a much more lovecraftian feel. One of the the themes that runs through all the characters and items present within this book is power with a price. Each of the new classes has a mechanic that not only places a price on the abilities of the class but allows the player to push the power beyond it’s normal capacity by paying an even high price on the part of the character. An example would be the Medium. Their core ability is to channel the abilities of a spirit that they house within themselves for a day. They are able at give the spirit within extra influence over them in exchange for adding die to rolls throughout the day. The ultimate cost can be total loss of control of themselves for the rest of the day.
Like all the Paizo products that I have picked up, Occult Adventures is gorgeous. The book is 270 pages long and full color throughout. The binding is tough and stands up to repeated use and referencing at the game table. The art work throughout the book has the iconic fantasy feel that is a highlight of Pathfinder books and a delight to just flip through and gaze upon. The books also appears to present a diverse cast of characters through it’s art. The thing that caught my eye the most was that the iconic character for the Spiritualist was Grandmotherly and I think this is the first time outside of a Wizard that I’ve seen a character of age portrayed. Occult Adventures clocks in at a retail price of $44.99 which isn’t that bad for a book of this size and production values.
Occult Adventures provides the basics that a group would need to begin telling stories of this style. The new character classes are specifically designed with the themes of hidden lore and the price of power at their core. There are archetypes that allow players that don’t want to jump into the deep end of the occult to dip their toes in with a fighter or other character class build that can still partake of these types of adventures without totally abandoning what has gone before. Feats, Items, and Advice round out what is need to play in this darkened corner of the Pathfinder universe.
My favorite thing about Occult Adventures is the Kineticist class. The art and mechanics of this class are definite riff on the benders from Avatar: The Last Air Bender. The design of this class makes it so that this class easily fits into an occult adventure but allows the Kineticist to just as easily join a band of regular adventurers with little to no difficulty. It just makes me happy to be able to play such a character without a lot of house-rules to make it happen.
I only have one problem with the book as a whole. Despite the archetypes and advice presented throughout the book little time is spent on how to integrate character from other books into these types of adventures. It also assumes that the group will already be interested in this time of game and spends little time in helping a new game master learn how to sell this type of game to his players. It is a minor quibble but something that would be a good addition to something with such a strong theme that runs throughout both the mechanics and stories.
I give Pathfinder: Occult Adventures four bear paws out of four. It provides a all one needs in order to run adventures in the Pathfinder universe. It has gorgeous art, a good price point , and carries the themes throughout the book. If you are a fan of Pathfinder, this a must-have for your collection.