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The Onmyoji: A Japanese Occult Diviner (PFRPG) PDF

***** (based on 3 ratings)

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The onmyōji is a practitioner of onmyōdō, which is best described to the western layman as a sort of occult druidism with a focus on communication with spirits, whose advice and protection provides powerful abjuration and divination abilities. An adept onmyōji is in touch with the natural world, as well as the spirits that tend to it. Historically, onmyōji were retained by rulers and other decision makers to help ensure that all festivals and other holidays fell on lucky days, as well as in an advisory role regarding policy. Some onmyōji differentiated further, becoming ritualistic healers, as well.

The kami are the onmyōji's lifelong allies. Some, he venerates as gods, while he may bind other, lesser spirits to his direct service as shikigami. The spirits of the land can be petitioned directly, or their powers channeled through mystical talismans: o-fuda and omamori. Without these spirits, the onmyōji is nothing in a fight, but without the onmyōji, the spirits have no mortal herald to call their own.

In game terms, an onmyōji is a powerful support spellcaster with an equally powerful shikigami spirit at his side. Completely devoid of classic Vancian magic systems, an onmyōji is instead possessed of powerful area denial magic through the use of talismans, which channels power that is impossible to resist, thus necessitating the destruction of the talisman to get around his magic.

Product Features:

  • The onmyōji base class, a pet-focused full caster with two new systems of magic: petitions and talismans, and no traditional Vancian magic
  • Rules for an onmyōji's shikigami, a powerful bound spirit that has its own spellcasting resources
  • 29 talismans, with separate effects for area-of-effect o-fuda or single-target omamori
  • 28 petitions, which call upon great beings, even Buddhist and Shinto gods, for aid
  • 7 Friendship feats, representing a personal relationship with one of the Seven Lucky Gods. Each feat empowers that god's iconic petition.
  • 6 Shikigami feats
  • 6 Onmyoji feats
  • Complete bookmarking of all sections and tables

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Product Reviews (3)

Average product rating:

***** (based on 3 ratings)

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You can’t get more Japanese than this!

*****

The Onmyoji for Pathfinder is Interjection Games' take on a real-world concept, an old type of nature priest from Japan’s past. There have been many more Onmyoji in D&D that I can recall, but all of them were just either a cleric or a wizard with a funny hat. As with many other versions by IG, THIS Onmyoji is made from scratch, combining point-based casting, pet and temporary item creation to present something completely new, all stepped in Japanese flavor and tradition.

What’s inside?
20 pages of content for 4 bucks, which include:

-The Onmyoji base class: With a chassis similar to a wizard (bad BAB, good Will save), but more skilled (4 skill points to spend on 14 class skills, of note being linguistics, 4 areas of knowledge, and even use magic device), and only a little over simple weapon proficiencies and only shields, we don’t have a front-liner. The Onmyoji has an interesting armor restriction where abilities are costlier if you don armor that you aren’t proficient in, so 1 level of fighter or something will let you cast in full armor sans penalties. Like clerics, Onmyoji derive class abilities from both wisdom and charisma, so this makes them neither SAD nor MAD.

Onmyoji have three defining class features: Prayers, Petitions and Shikigami. Among their other assorted class features they get access to a couple of cycle-able wizard and cleric cantrips, and a Charisma-based Spirit pool to empower some basic abilities of their talismans, and their Petitions.

Talismans can be thought as temporary magical items. The Onmyoji starts knowing two Prayers to place on the Talismans, and 1 more at 3rd and every two more levels (11 prayers at 19th level). Talismans can be made in two ways. O-fuda are placed and emanate power in a 10-foot radius, while Omamori are placed on 1 creature and only affect that creature. Onmyoji can place a number of Talismans equal to their class level plus their wisdom modifier.

Petitions are the Onmyoji “spells”. They learn their first at 2nd level and learn another every two levels. Since they are granted abilities, the Onmyoji uses charisma as the casting stat. Each Petition has a Spirit point cost, but only a few have a level required and most scale with level.

Shikigami are the “pets” of Onmyoji. They are kami bound to tiny origami paper constructs, so while they are treated as a construct, they are intelligent. As tiny creatures, they are not really combat able, but damn they are though. They work more like wizard familiars and even give the Onmyoji the ability a familiar of their form would grant. They can activate talismans (albeit a bit weaker) that count towards their master’s maximum, and they have their own spirit pool they can use to affect talismans it placed.

-Favored Class Bonus: As always, these cover the core races plus a few others, and they give abilities beyond the old “extra something”. A lot of these enhance the Shikigami beyond a hit point or a skill point. You can get extra feats for it, give it hardness or even heal it a little for free after using a petition. Other bonuses interact in interesting ways with talismans and petitions, from making them tougher, deadlier or just plain meaner.

-Feats: This section include 26 feats, in three categories: Onmyoji, Shikigami and Friendship. Onmyoji feats start with 4 “Aid” feats that improve their minor magical abilities, getting more cantrips and from more lists and a specific 1st level spell once per day from said list, improving to twice per day with another feat, which rewards specialization; this mini-feat chain culminates in one that interacts with a couple of “Gift” petitions tied to said “Aid” feats, reducing the Spirit point cost to 0 the first time you perform the petition. Then there are two feats that interact with one another, one giving you an extra petition and the other extra Spirit pool points, but you can’t get the later feat more than the former, demanding commitment (which is nice). Extra talisman prayers, reduced petition and a feat that basically gives your shikigami a bonus feat cost round up the Onmyoji feats. Now, Shikigami feats ARE NOT for the Onmyoji, but for the Shikigami itself to buy with its own feats: from getting magic item slots, to learning petition from its master, to being tougher physically and spiritually. It is nice to see the new pet getting this much love. Finally, Friendship feats are a collection of 7 feats that lets you be favored in the eyes of one of the 7 Lucky Gods of Japanese mythology. You can only take one, and all have a specific petition as a prerequisite. The powers are flavorful and varied, but some are more powerful than others.

-33 Onmyoji Petitions: All of these are steeped in Japanese mythology and are so flavorful that after running an Onmyoji expect all wizards and clerics in such a campaign start retraining. Kami of the Morning Dew summons a creature composed of dew (seems to have been pulled straightly from a Ghibli movie!), that explodes and heals the recipient of the petition after it receives an attack or a minute passes, whichever comes first. Not only this ability is more tactical than say, Cure Wounds spells, it feels more immersive and magical. On the Spring Breeze could just be a Fly spell, but the Onmyoji surrounds the recipient in ethereal cherry blossoms that lift the target. It could be argued that a Fly spell could be flavored like that, but not all players and game masters are gifted at descriptions, and this could make new players feel the magic of fantasy roleplaying.

-29 Talisman Prayers: Now these can come in two versions, Omamori and O-fuda, but not all of them have both. You can use Censured Warding to protect a place with continuous force damage, or maybe use the Foresight talisman to either give a substantial insight attack bonus to allies in range of the O-fuda, or the recipient of the Omamori a similar bonus, but huge.

Of Note: Everything. That’s right, every single part of the class is just plain awesome, evocative and really captures the feeling of the Onmyoji. My favorite part are the talismans, since these temporary magical items are something no other class does! They can be attacked and destroyed, which create unique encounter possibilities (we have to destroy that thing!).

Anything wrong?: The Onmyoji’s greatest strength might arguably be its only weakness. If you are in a campaign that is far away from fantasy Japan, or that doesn’t even have one, it could be a bit difficult to justify the existence of this class... But only a bit, since you can re-flavor the class as a fetish maker, witch doctor, or other practitioner of older folk magic. It wouldn’t be an easy task, but you HAVE that option in case you need it.

What I want: Since this is a Japanese-flavored class, I would like more interaction with parts of that region that are already in the game… Mainly Kami and other Japanese monsters, but also Monks and divine casters. How can Spirit pool interact with Ki? Granted powers? Finally, I can’t complain with support for the class itself, since it is going to be part of Strange Magic 2 and there is already a short follow-up with two archetypes.

What cool things did this inspire?: If you have ever seen the movie Onmyoji and its sequel, Onmyoji 2, you WILL want to play an Onmyoji, maybe of the Kitsune race, that’s part of the court. I was also going to run a Japanese-themes campaign with dark tones using the Kaidan campaign setting, which is almost out by another awesome company, Rite Publishing, who by the way have their own Onmyoji archetype for wizards, but this one mops the floor with that one.

Do I recommend it?: If you are tired of Vancian magic and it’s squalid presentation with 0 flavor text or descriptions, and if you want a tactically compelling caster that requires more from you than just reading an on-line guide on how to “win” at Pathfinder, I fully recommend this little great book. I offer 5 elemental star-shaped magatamas!


A favorite of mine

*****

Summary: The Onmyoji is a caster with two spell systems. He can write prayers on talismans and place them on the ground for area effects (o-fuda) or on a single target for a stronger version of the same effect (omamori). And he can use unique spells by petitioning spirits, fueled by a spirit pool. He’s also helped by a powerful familiar-like summon called shikigami.

Main abilities: Charisma and Wisdom.

Gameplay experience: As a DM of a very small group (only 3 players total) I usually play a DMPC in the role of support, as a defense and buff-heavy character, choosing powers that match such design and staying in the back row during combat. The Onmyoji can take this role very well, with healing and buffing (AC, saving throws and energy resistance) prayers and petitions.

I usually move, place a talisman smack in the middle of the group, and move back to use long ranged attacks (not so great) and the aid of the minor kami power (cantrips and orisons). If the combat starts going bad, and it usually does, I either place a healing talisman near the party or start with healing petitions. But you really want to watch out your usage of prayers and talismans, since they can end really fast if the combat starts to drag, or you have one too many encounters in a day.

If there's only one melee character in the party, it might prove more useful to top him with an omamori talisman before he rushes/charges/zergs ahead, instead of placing an o-fuda talisman and watching the monsters moving around and away from it - it’s really painful to look at a talisman laying on the floor without anyone to benefit from it! And trust me, the party will hardly ever bother to try and move the fight back to the talisman radius.

The shikigami is incredible useful to flank with the melee party members, and way more tough than it looks - as long as you remember to stay close so it can receive his buffs from your presence. It can barely do much more than non-lethal damage, but his power to also place talismans is really handy in emergencies.

Ramblings: Although I haven’t played with an offensive build, I can see the Onmyoji has plenty of potential to cause damage, specially at later levels. The lack of armor proficiency probably hampers him a lot as a melee engager, though. As he is right now, a long ranged caster is probably the way to go.

I'd love to combine the elemental summoning petition with a feat that allows your shikigami to also learn petitions, but that would make my Onmyoji stand out way too much in my table, which isn't really the point.

I find the petitions and prayers are very thematically appropriate and the book has some great classic illustrations.

Rating: Five out of five stars.

Suggestions: Probably archetypes. I imagine some sort of exorcist-themed Onmyoji, focused on fighting yokai/outsiders; and a melee version of the Onmyoji, trading the shikigami for some defensive bonuses, maybe keeping the origami motif in some way (a permanent talisman?); or the Shikigami master, giving animal companion stats to his familiar.

Crafting! I’d love to see a Craft Wand and Scribe Scroll equivalent feats for the onmyoji to place his petitions into magical objects - probably some jade figurines with 50 charges and prayer beads with 1 charge, or other thematically fit objects.

And maybe exchanging one of his petitions or prayers after 4th level and on every even level like other casters (sorcerers, for an example) for other petitions or prayers of any level he can learn. I know all his powers scale up, but it would be useful to fix some regrets - not so sure how this would affect balance, though, if at all.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This new base-class clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

So what is the Onmyōji? Mechanically, we receive a 20-level base-class with 1/2 BAB-progression, good will-saves, d6, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, kukri, double chicken saber, tonfa, monk's spade and naginata as well as proficiency with shields. When wearing armor or shields the onmyōji is not proficient with, petitions increase their cost by +1 and talismans are reduced to 1/2 duration. Onmyōji begin play with a spirit pool equal to cha-mod, which grows to 12+cha-mod (+2 every 3 levels). They also start with 2 prayers known and scale that up to 11. At 2nd level, they have the first petition and scale that up by +1 every even level thereafter. It should also be noted that an onmyōji receives access to two cantrips/orisons that cna be changed as a new sequence of abilities added via the most recent update.

An onmyōji begins play with a shikigami, a kami bound to the onmyōji's service in an origami paper vessel. If said shikigami dies, it can be replaced after 1 week for 200 gp per onmyōji level in an 8-hour ceremony. Shikigami are tiny constructs with d10 HD (and 1/2 HD-progression), a fixed Str of 6, 10 Int, Wis and Cha and a Dex-score that begins at 14 and sclaes up to 15 at 7th level and 16 at 15th level. The shikigami has 1/2 BAB-progression and no good save. It begins play with 2 skills (and has its own skill-list of class skills) and begins play with a feat, receiving another one at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Sounds fragile? Well, while within 20 feet of the onmyōji that is its master, it receives the master's Wisdom modifier as hardness. Additionally, while within this range, it grants the onmyōji bonuses as if a familiar. Its origami-form determines its natural attacks. It may also place talismans the master knows while within this range, drawing on the onmyōji's resource, but using the shikigami's HD rather than the class level to determine talisman duration. A shikigami can communicate with the master onmyōji and it has a spirit pool equal to its HD, but may only use these points to influence talismans it has placed itself. This short-range benefits increase by +5 ft at 2nd level further for every HD the shikigami has. At 5th level, the shikigami receives improved evasion. At 9th and 15th level, the shikigami receives more bonus hit points, counting as a larger-sized construct - which btw. are provided in a handy table. It should also be noted that the shikigami may now participate in the added cantrip/orison ability.

Now I mentioned the spirit pool - this can be utilized in a variety of ways: The onmyōji can extend the reach by 5 ft. per onmyōji level for the purposes of placing talismans for 1 round or extend the duration of an active talisman within 60 ft. by 5 rounds. He may extend the duration of ALL such talismans at 13th level. At 5th level, the onmyōji may increase the hardness of all active talismans within 60 ft. by wis-mod for 1 round and at 7th level, an o-fuda talisman's radius within 60 ft. may be expanded by 5 ft (2 o-fuda talismans at 14th level). 11th level onmyōji may pay 2 spirit points for a +10 ft. radius-extension. (2 at 16th level)

All of these can be activated as swift actions. As an immediate action, the onmyōji of 11th level or higher may temporarily increase a talisman's HP by wis-mod times 3. At 17th level, a spirit pool point can be used to make the next talisman not count against the daily allotment and 20th level onmyōji may treat o-fuda talismans as onamori talismans for the purpose of its prayer. Sounds confusing? Well wait a second and read on, it's actually pretty simple and concisely presented in the pdf.

First, let me explain those talismans: Talismans are small tokens usually made of paper, cloth or wood, decorated with glyphs. An onmyōji begins play with 2 prayers and learns an additional one at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. When placing a talisman, an onmyōji can choose a prayer that is compatible with the talisman-type and the onmyōji has to have a wis-score of at least 10 +1/2 the minimum level of the prayer's level requirement. Talismans do not allow for saving throws and have a limited hardness equal to wis-mod, hp equal to class levels times 3. Destroying a talisman ends its effects; otherwise, it lasts for 3 rounds, +1 round for each class level. An onmyōji may deploy class level + wis-mod talismans per day. There are two types of talisman, first of which would be o-fuda. These generate their warding effects in a 10 ft.-radius upon being placed and canot be moved while placed, only destroyed. The second type would be the onamori - these are attached to creatures the onmyōji threatens, either voluntarily or via a touch attack. These only affect the creature to which they are attached. Failing to hit does NOT expend talisman-uses - nice!

Onmyōji of 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter also learn a petition to the spirits. These are governed by Charisma, with a 10 +1/2 min level minimum requirement in the ability score analogue to the Wis-based talismans. Petitions have a DC of 10 + 1/2 class level + cha-mod.

The class comes with favored class options for the core-races, aasimar, drow, hobgoblins, kobolds, orcs, puddlings and tieflings - and they are interesting, actually - e.g. adding bleed damage to onamori is pretty interesting and fitting for half-orcs/orcs... Now, we also receive a significant array of onmyōji-feats - increased spirit pool-size, more petitions, reduced costs of a petition, gaining temporary spirit points when executing an ability chosen from the spirit pool's options. Granting shikigami a bonus feat, granting shikigami the option to wear an item in the neck slot or increasing attributes of your shikigami/sharing an petition with your paper pet or increasing the size of a shikigami's spirit pool/sharing the master's level for onamori when close by...interesting. It should also be noted that the most recent update has introduced multiple limited-use spell-like ability-granting feats to add to the fray. Some of these new feats also are assigned as prerequisites for new petitions and the gifting of tricks, but more on petitions later.

Speaking of interesting - I love the idea of friendship-feats. These special feats are aligned with the 7 lucky gods of Japanese mythology, significantly increasing the potency of the petition aligned with said god. However, an onmyōji may only have ONE friendship-feat at a given time...so choose wisely your allies among the gods! Really like the fluff of these feats. Petitions essentially constitute the spells of the class, all coming with required levels (instead of petition-levels) and drawing from the same spirit pool resource. Conjuring force-damage dealing phantom legions, petitioning the scarecrow god Kuebiko for a divination - but one that only extends half an hour. Shields of temporary hit points, or a status-like effect based on heavenly bureaucrats - the petitions themselves are not only mechanically interesting, they also evoke a ridiculously awesome imagery and often come with quite an awesome narrative potential. Daikoku-ten, for example, may create mundane goods for you, but they do vanish upon executing the petition the next time... Raising the dead can also be achieved by petitioning Fukorokuju. Or perhaps you want to conjure forth a kami of the morning dew, which may explode upon the target receiving damage to douse the unfortunate in healing spray?

These petitions stand out due to two facts - for one, they provide Interjection games' interesting knack for cool mechanics and nifty combo-potential. however, more so than in almost all IG-releases, these petitions also BREATHE the awesomeness of the extensive Japanese mythology and supplement the great rules with an imagery that is ridiculously evocative and steeped in lore. Everyone even remotely into Japanese mythology will have a field day here, grinning from ear to ear. Ever wanted to fly on ethereal cherry blossoms? Yeah. You read these and can immediately picture them - even in the cases where the mechanics are interesting, but not too special, it is the imagery that makes the petition awesome. For less romantic imagery, what about emitting a dread shriek of the dishonored and perished souls or unleashing Raijin's thunderclap on foes? On the mechanical side, the most interesting petition herein essentially takes all the 1/day spell-like abilities granted and turns them into a pool, for more flexibility - nice!

Talismans should also not be neglected in my enumeration of options herein - they also come with minimum level restrictions and most prayers (but not all) can be used on either o-fuda or onamori. The onamori's can be considered single-target effects, while the o-fuda, if used wisely, can make the onmyōji's area-buffing absolutely unique and rewarding, allowing you to finally lure foes into your cleverly laid-out o-fuda traps. Guiding attacks, increasing the potency of the elements, increasing the healing of allies - all pretty cool and sporting mechanics that deviate enough from spellcasting to maintain the unique flavor of the class - what about e.g. granting allies the option to spit weaponized energy-based saliva? Temporary negating age-based penalties for the image of the venerable monk standing up and kicking badass butt? Yeah, I love these.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' printer-friendly 2-column standard and the pdf comes with a solid array of bookmarks. Artwork is a blend of traditional illustrations from mythology and even photographs for a surprisingly concise presentation that original artwork probably couldn't have surpassed.

I've read and analyzed *A LOT* of Interjection games classes - and whenever I think I've seen all the tricks Bradley Crouch can come up, his creativity bubbles forth like a hot spring, creating something I did not expect. The onmyōji combines being a unique pet-class with a unique, yet easy to grasp spellcasting system and excellent enabler-capabilities for a class that is utterly, completely inspired. Not only is the crunch creative and unique, the class also breathes a rich mythology that adds the fluff-icing on the crunchy, perfect bacon of this class. I *adore* the onmyōji - it may be one of the best classes Bradley's done so far and I sincerely hope we'll see future expansions (the class has SO MUCH untapped potential beyond its glorious incarnation herein!) for the onmyōji. It is utterly unique and a must-buy addition to each campaign even remotely poaching elements of Japanese or Eastern mythology. This is one of the best 3pp-classes currently out there and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and is a candidate for my Top ten of 2014.

Endzeitgeist out.


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