By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Pathfinder's role-playing 'Occult Adventures' is an exploration into the supernatural
The back of the "occult Adventures" book says, "There is an unseen world all around you. On the streets and in the halls of power, in your dreams and across the bizarre planes of the multiverse, there are those who walk among us like giants among ants, twisting reality to their wills in their search for ancient knowledge. Now pull back the curtain of the mundane world and learn the secrets of these occult masters if you dare!" - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
I wasn't sure what to expect with Pathfinder's role-playing game's latest hardback book, "Occult Adventures." The book contains optional rules for the Pathfinder role-playing game, but the title threw me off. What could possibly be contained within the pages of this new tome?

An occult adventure is a world where magic is accepted and understood. It is a realm of mysterious beings, psychic attacks, supernatural happenings, ghosts and the principle that raw power is not everything. It is a game of research, historical texts, mind over matter and arcane knowledge.

In an occult adventure, characters are working to fight the powers and creatures of the occult to bring peace and understanding to their world. The book describes occult classes, archetypes, feats, psychic magic, occult rules, running an occult game and occult rewards.

Chapter 1 kicks off the book by introducing six new character classes. It does a good job of defining a third class of magic allowing use of psychic spells. Psychic magic is the emphasis for characters battling the occult worlds, but one can't help to think what would happen if a game master allowed an occult character into a regular game. It might shake things up.

The six new classes are the kineticist, medium, mesmerist, occultist, psychic and spiritualist. Each class comes with new talents and options to explore. The kineticist, for example, is able to control the elements and embody powers that control fire, earth, air and water. The psychic, on the other hand, believes that the mind posesses more power than any magic artifact or holy site. They can shape the world with raw mental energy.

Chapter 2 explains the archetypes available for all the new occult character classes as well as rules for adapting some of the common core classes. The archetypes are available to allow customization and variety for games of Pathfinder. The storyteller archetype is a personal favorite. At high levels he or she can actually tell a story that sucks people into it. Also, don't overlook the ghost hunter paladin archetype. "I ain't afraid of no ghosts."

The feats in Chapter 3 outline options for characters' special tricks and edges that might have been required through training, luck or given at birth. Tables detailing the new feats along with prerequisites and benefits fill this chapter. The mesmerist character class has a fatiguing stare feat that can sap the strength out of an enemy.

The meat hits the table in Chapter 4 with everything gamers want to know about a new class of magic, psychic magic. This magic is esoteric and connected to a creature's mind, soul and psyche. Psychic spells do not have verbal or somatic components and may be cast when a character is pinned or paralyzed. They are powers of the mind.

A full spell list for each character class from the new book is present along with spells for Pathfinder core classes. There are some tweaks to old spells, but most of the spells are new. For example, the dream voyage spell allows the caster and his or her companions to travel in the dimension of dreams like a dream travel spell, but they travel on a fantastical vehicle that cuts all time requirements in half.

There are spells to become a ghost, cause mental damage, control objects with the mind and even one to explode a head. Just don't try that on a dragon. The wall of ectoplasm is much more useful and can be used for a variety of creative means because it exists on both the material and ethereal planes.

All the bare bone rules needed for occult adventures are covered in Chapter 5. Details on unlocking skills, reading auras and activating chakras are given here. A favorite is the rules for psychic duels. Some of the greatest battles ever known to the world of Golarion will be fought inside the living mind.

All a gamer could ever want to know about running an occult game is comprised in Chapter 6. The rules go through occult organizations, adventure seeds, monsters and locations for exploration. This section also has new "haunt rules" that clarify those given in the GameMastery Guide. Here they are a little more fleshed out and applicable to the occult world content.

Ley lines are also covered to describe how the universe and esoteric planes are all interconnected and how travel is possible between these planes. How to use ley lines and rules on mindscapes are given. Supernatural locations are explained along with the positive, astral and negative energy planes, the material and ethereal planes and of course, the dimension of dreams.

The final chapter discusses how occult characters are rewarded. Typically there are magic items that enhance or complement a character's abilities or specializations. For example the straitjacket and ventriloquist's dummy are detailed for gameplay. There are five artifacts given as well.

Of course there are magical items such as the ring of psychic mastery or the Vril staff. Wondrous items include the dreamcatcher, flying skiff and the mask of the mesmerist to name a few. And no magic item Pathfinder book section would be complete without rules for using the monkey's paw: three wishes that never turn out the way a character plans. Oh, phooey!

As mentioned before, I wasn't sure what to expect from this latest book offering. A book on the occult for some might be an immediate turn off. The book has high fantasy art depicting creatures, magic and characters interacting with the supernatural. But this book could have easily been labeled "Supernatural Adventures." There is more here about mystical realms, mysterious objects, psychic powers and fantastical occurrences than there is anything demonic or sinister. The book clearly states that characters are fighting against the occult world and game masters can decide what content to use.

Occult adventures is one of those books that will appeal to specific individuals playing the Pathfinder role-playing game. So it is important to know what one might find within its 272 pages. The design, artwork, layout and features are all high quality, as seen in other Pathfinder books. It just comes down to personal preference. One word of caution though. Watch out for exploding heads.