Grimoire of Lost Souls (PFRPG)

****½ (based on 3 ratings)
RHG515E

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Lure ancient spirits to bargain for their supernatural power.

Immerse yourself in the ancient rituals and legends of pact magic. Grab thick chalk, gather totems, inscribe a geometric sigil, and invoke the name of an inchoate and terrible spirit from the Dark Beyond to aid your quest.

Behold! With a final flourish, you surrender to the spirit and a quivering surge of power emanates from deep within. Are you ready? Follow paths once trodden by shivering demons and martyred titans, lost mortals and chastised gods. Within this occult pages, the vestiges of 144 sundered souls lie at your fingertips, yours to command if you dare.

You will discover:

  • The pactmaker class with access to binder secrets.
  • Archetype options to integrate pactmaking into 30 popular classes.
  • Feats, spells, and magic items suited to binding of spirits.
  • One hundred forty-four bindable spirits from across the ages. Each spirit includes a legend, granted abilities, and more.
  • Six prestige classes, seven organizations and three alternate planes of existence well-suited to occult adventures.
  • Occult creatures, pactmaker background generator, pact maladies, dangerous ravager spirits, and more.
  • Ideas for GMs to integrate pact magic into their campaign settings.
  • This FULL COLOR tome brings together and replaces prior renditions of pact magic including "Secrets of Pact Magic" by Dario Nardi and adapted works by Alex Augunas. All classes, spirits, etc are entirely rewritten from the ground up.

You must use Adobe Acrobat 9.0 or later.

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****½ (based on 3 ratings)

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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

The massive hardcover Ultimate-style book for Pact magic clocks in at 387 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-thanks, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 376 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

I was a KS-backer for this book and as such, I have received the massive hardcover. My review is mostly based on the print version, though I have also consulted my pdf-iteration for it.

So, what is this book? The short tl;dr-version would be that it is for Pact Magic, what Ultimate Psionics was for psionics. A more detailed response would also note that this book is not simply a compilation of previously-released material; in fact, this massive grimoire does feature a lot of new material, material previously not seen for PFRPG and some massive tweaks to existing options.

So, what is pact magic? Well, the short reply would be that it was the original Pact Magic. First conceived in 3.5’s Tome of Magic, the system had some serious hiccups and balance-issues in its initial iteration, but at the same time, it was a revelation for me: The idea was that named spirits exist; said spirits have fallen past the usual confines implied by D&D cosmology and, from their in-between status, they hunger for the chance to interact with the realms of mortals. From legends to archetypical beings to strange demons, all kinds of weird spirits, some of which were influenced by the key of Solomon, were thus presented.

This system was greatly expanded in two massive hardcovers back in 3.X, “Secrets of Pact magic” and “Villains of Pact Magic”, both of which are undeservedly obscure and have a place of honor on my bookshelf. They tweaked the balance of the system, expanded it and made it more unique – and, more importantly for me, they rank as some of my favorite rule-books of that age – the spirits came with HUGE short stories depicting their legends, adding a vast amount of flavor to each of the options herein. Then, two stand-alone updates/expansions for PFRPG were released, expanding the concept and translating it to PFRPG, though these did cut back on the beloved legends I enjoyed so much. This book once again features a lot of legends, though some have been externalized to a short-story collection.

Fast-forward to this book, which presents basically the latest and most refined iteration of the concept. At the heart of this system lies the pactmaker class, which gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves. The class adds +1/2 class level, minimum 1, to Knowledge (arcane), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (religion) and Knowledge (planes) and gains a bonus on these to research a spirit’s knowledge tasks, instead gains a bonus equal to full character level.

So, what are knowledge tasks? Each spirit has a specific, occult seal that is drawn by the binder: This seal and the spirit need to be researched via knowledge tasks – basically, these represent the effort to learn a spirit. This is important, in that there is no limit otherwise on spirits known, if you will: While a pactmaker can only bind spirits of 1st level in the beginning, he may learn all of them. New spirit levels are unlocked at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter and spirits are organized by levels, much like spells; the 9th level spirits being obviously the most potent. A pactmaker may bind multiple spirits at higher levels – 2 at 4th level, +1 one spirit every 6 levels thereafter. 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter allow a pact maker to replenish an expended spirit ability 1/day and the capstone makes spirit abilities count as extraordinary and allows for the ignoring of personality influences and also nets the class automatically the capstone empowerment. Bear with me for a second – those are spirit terms. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter provide a choice of bonuses while bound to a spirit. Saves against abilities, generally, are determined by Charisma as a governing attribute.

And that is already pretty much the basic chassis of the class. Let’s move on to the basics of pact magic, shall we?

The term to denote a character using pact magic is “binder”; a binder level is the equivalent of the caster level, for the purpose of governing the spirit’s abilities. A binding check is a d0 + ½ binder level + Charisma modifier, and it is made upon summoning a spirit to determine the power of the pact. This requires a ceremony and a binder check versus the binding DC of the spirit in question – rushing the ceremony is possible, but results in massive penalties to the check. On a success of the check, the binder gets a good pact. A binder that makes a good pact can freely suppress the physical sign or minor granted abilities of being inhabited by the spirit (like horns, tentacles, weird voices, etc.) and suffers no penalty when acting against the spirit’s influence – basically, the personality of the spirit. If failing the check, he still gets the spirit, but makes a poor pact; the binder must exhibit the physical sign and suffers cumulative penalties when disobeying the spirit’s influence, lasting for 24 hours, even if the spirit if exorcised before that duration has elapsed. Suppressing a spirit eliminates all benefits, but also all penalties that may be incurred by having a spirit inhabit you. The process of making a good pact can be improved by using totems – basically optional material components or terrain components. Additionally, some spirits are more well or ill--disposed towards some races (favored allies and enemies), beings with certain alignments, class features, etc., while others reward those that call them in dark places, while stricken by illness, etc. the possibilities here are endless and tie in very well with the flavor of the spirits in question, rewarding players for caring about the story of their spirits.

Here is the catch: Spirits have three types of abilities: Minor abilities, which are always granted; major abilities, which are expended for 5 rounds after being used unless otherwise noted, and capstone empowerments, which are only gained when the spirit’s DC is beaten by 10 or more, making even low-level spirits retain their usefulness at higher levels.

It is not in the chassis of the pact-maker class or one of the numerous pact magic based class options that the system’s appeal lies; it is within the massive, colossal array of spirits. It should also be noted that most spirits are assigned to a constellation – upon binding them, the binder gains constellation aspects and these general affiliations double as thematic restrictions and schools of spirits if you will; you can focus on binding nature spirits…or fiendish ones…or those that hearken from the dark beyond. Whether you want to focus on slenderman-like entities or strange fey or on any combination of them, the spirits are here and allow for a wide variety of different types of character. And yes, benevolent spirits like cynical detectives that have fallen through the cracks of reality or basically saints can also be found – this is important to note, for pact magic, requiring less study thanb comparable magic and no divine oversight either, does carry with it the flavor of the forbidden, of the occult. And yes, there are starless, more obscure spirits.

As you may have gleaned by now, a strength of spirits lies in the way in which many of their abilities operate on a cool-down mechanic…and frankly, I went through this massive tome with my analysis, and rules-wise, there are precious few hiccups: To note two remarkable ones: The spirit Sevnoir, for example, heals you when inflicting damage to a creature suffering from a fear-effect. If you have a character with a fear-aura on hand, the 1/round caveat doesn’t prevent cheesing this via kitten slaughter.

At the same time, this book does predate the release of Occult Adventure regarding when it was worked on, and as such, unfortunately does not provide synergy with that glorious tome. Prestige classes, magic items, feats, special binder secrets (talents), spells, races, planes and organizations (apocryphal desert…nightmare weald…need I say more?) – the book has a ton to offer in crunch and I could bloat this review to 14, 20 pages even – easily, and still scratch the surface of what the book offers in terms of sheer content. There are some minor formatting inconsistencies to be found, with abilities that should be red showing up in black instead and the like.

There is one more thing you should be aware of: RAW, binders do NOT gain new spirits upon reaching new levels. While *personally*, I require downtime training to gain the benefits of a level up (I really dislike just *pling*, getting level-ups mid-dungeon...), I know that many groups do just that – in such cases, I’d suggest automatically gaining a spirit upon reaching a new level. So yes, this may be, for some groups, a drawback of the RAW engine, though one that can be houseruled away with ease. System-immanently, groups that do not engage in a lot of roleplaying as opposed to rollplaying will have a bit less fun with this, though please do take a look at my conclusion for what I mean by this.

I have to break my usual system of presentation here a bit in order to convey what this book provides, so let me prematurely interject my

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect – I noticed a couple of hiccups here and there, some formatting glitches and the like; less than in many books of this crunch-density, but enough to notice. Layout adheres to a gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the book comes with a TON of absolutely phenomenal full-color art; some of which was previously used and colored, but most is new. Each spirit has his/her/its own seal as a visual representation, so yeah, you can actually draw the seal, if that’s how you roll! The pdf version comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience and thankfully, the book has a massive, multi-page index that helps navigating this tome. The hardcover is a beauty to behold and well worth getting.

You know, as a person and as a reviewer, I generally tend to gravitate towards complex options; beautiful mathy constructs and subsystems that provide an interesting playing experience. I can honestly appreciate it when math works out, when some abilities do something utterly unique with complex rules operations. While certainly not simple in these regards, pact magic never reaches the complexity of akashic mysteries, ethermagic or similar systems. And still, it is one of my favorite systems ever.

I am not a sentimental man, so nostalgia is not the culprit here and it took me quite a while to deduce why pact magic works so well for me. There is no simple answer. One, though, would be that much like psionics, I can see it completely replacing the standard spellcasting classes for a completely different campaign experience, one steeped in occult lore, research…and one that makes magic more dangerous, feel more forbidden, medieval. In fact, I’m regularly stealing spirits from this book when playing OSR-games, breaking them down to the simpler rules of such systems. LotFP, LL, S&W – it works and fits thematically perfectly will the often more gritty aesthetics there. This has literally transcended the bounds of its system, at least for me – something only precious few books in my vast library achieve.

At the same time, the strength of the system, its appeal, does not lie wholly in its mechanics; pact magic, to a degree, is the original occult magic, prior to Occult Adventures. In my review of Paizo’s phenomenal hardcover, I commented on the fact that I love how player agenda AND character agenda are emphasized, and how the classes have ROLEplaying potential hardcoded into their respective rules. This is, ultimately, why I adore this massive tome; I adore tactical combat and I’m the first to appreciate a well-made combat-encounter with strategically-interesting hazards etc. – I love these. I love the tactical, complex combat aspects of PFRPG. But I also adore the storytelling aspect of the game; I love good roleplaying between characters, between PCs and NPCs; I use story-rewards a lot. To me, the beauty of roleplaying games with a high rules-density lies in the blending of strategy and story-telling, in the fusion of stories and tactics. Ultimately, for me the best rules let me do either unique things in the strategy department, in the roleplaying department, or both.

Every single spirit is a bit like an unruly character that influences the PC or NPC; they all have personalities, quirks and goals, enemies – and they may grow with your PCs. When a spirit helps vanquish a certain foe after being bested by him, you have your work cut out for you as a good roleplayer; you can tweak your character with spirits and keep them perpetually fresh and interesting; perhaps your character is a teetotaler, so binding some spirits may be something he’d be loathe to do; perhaps bidning one spirit and succumbing to the spirit’s influence nets you some complications…or new allies – it’s small, organically happening constellations (haha! – sorry, I’ll punch myself for that later) that make this shine as brightly for me.

There is another aspect to this book. One that perhaps bears no importance for you…but then again, I think it does.

No other system I have used has made me write this much custom material.

When, for example, Aldern Foxglove was a very popular character in my RotRL-game back in the day and then died (trying to be SPOILER-less), I promptly had him come back as a spirit with peculiar personalities, fluid constellations and abilities depending on the dominant personality; when my PCs liberated the ghost lions from the Ghostlord in Red Hand of Doom, I made the pack return as a spirit to be bound; When Kyuss fell, he became the master of the Worm constellation. The Crimson King is a spirit in my game. So is the Dark Tower.

Part II of my review can be found here!


I've enjoyed what I've used.

****( )

I'm going to start off this review by stating that this review is focused on the areas of the book I've used, or have extensively read over. There are some sections I glossed over, simply because they would never come up/effect any game I'll play. This isn't to say that these sections aren't of value, simply that they did not fit in the campaign I'm playing in.

So let us get to it, shall we?

I came to the Grimoire of Lost Souls for two things. That was the Pact Maker class and of course the spirits that they use. The pact maker class at first glance could look a little bland, however, it ends up being a solid chassis that allows for a fair amount of versatility and variance for different builds. Pact Augmentations, in particular, stand out here, as they give you a decent amount of choices to either patch up some weaknesses, or reinforce strengths when you receive them.

The secrets available to the class are somewhat hit or miss in my opinion, with only a handful that I really wanted to use. However, with the implementation of one particular secret that allows you to choose an occult feat instead, this was less of an issue. This is personal tastes, however, and I'm certain that there are those that would find many of the secrets desirable.

One thing in particular that I didn't care for, was that pact makers (and all other archetypes and prestige classes) do not automatically gain any spirits when leveling. Since the process to learn a new spirit is designed to take a few days, that means that while everyone else in your party is automatically getting new stuff, you still will have to wait a little bit, hoping that in game you're allowed the time to make the appropriate checks to get that cool new spirit you've had your eye on. This was meant to push the flavor of the class, with the intention that the GM might flesh out a miniature story of discovering this new spirit in the game. That said, my GM and I found this idea to be a bit tedious to implement into a long campaign, not wanting to add a veritable side quest every time I wanted to gain a new spirit. This, in turn, boiled the flavor away down to the mechanics, which is just rolling and trying to hit certain DCs. My GM was gracious enough to homebrew the allowance of 1 automatically gained spirit that my character is capable of using when I level. This has worked out for me so far, and with the other rules in place, has left the balance of the class undisturbed. Add to that, that I can still work to learn more spirits over time, and I'm still a happy camper.

Now onto the meat of the book. The spirits. There is a lot of flavor and heart poured into these spirits. A lot of interesting and/or fun effects. The fact that a pact maker can mix these abilities together as they progress, makes them almost a Swiss Army Knife able to pull off all sorts of different feats, potentially. From reincarnating into a fish person if you die to survive while your head is cut off, to transforming into animals to mimicking spells, and on and on. Some spirits even take major influence from characters and stories we know and love today, which just makes them that much more fun and inspirational.

There are a good chunk of spirits that are situationally useful, but there are just as much, if not more that are generally useful and versatile. I found it extremely important when playing this class to know which is which and to use the generally useful spirits unless you find yourself in the situation in which the situationally useful spirit you've learned arrives. To this point, I even went as far as to making a guide for myself to realize the difference and have found this mindset to be helpful in making sure I can feel useful and do things in any given session.

The feats provided in the book are more or less solid. Some can be situational or are meant for very specific builds, but that is to be expected and I don't blame them for it.

As far as magic items go, there weren't many that excited me, but there were a few that I liked. Those tended to be either too expensive for my character to use at the time, or simply help me manage to make good pacts with spirits. Other magic items seemed to be meant for campaigns that were steeped in this books flavor and setting, and so won't be seen in my campaign, as I'm the only one playing a pact maker, using these spirits.

I won't review prestige classes, as there weren't any that I felt interested in using, and so I only glossed over them. I also haven't used any of the spells added to the book, nor the special aging rules added to the book so far, and thus cannot give a reliable review here either. Lastly, since I chose to play a straight up pact maker, the archetypes and archetypes for other classes (such as sorcerers, fighters, rogues and such) never came up for me, and again I do not feel I can give a reliable review in this regard.

The art of the book is solid. I enjoyed the seals drawn above each spirits entry the most. To be honest, I came to this book more for the function than the flair, so I've not really bothered to look over the artwork in detail.

In the end, the pact maker character I made using this book, along with the spirits provided has been one of the most fun characters I've played in quite some time. Now, a big chunk of that enjoyment is the personality I've made for them, the setting and the campaign that my GM has developed, but the versatility of the class, and the flavor and various abilities the spirits offer are a big part as well and I can't think of wanting to play another class for this particular PC I've developed.

TL'DR: The class, spirits, and feats provided in this large book are largely very solid, and very fun to play, and very balanced, with only one or two personal qualms that were easily be mended with a very simple house ruling. Very good stuff. Would definitely recommend to others.


*****

Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter campaign to create the Grimoire of Lost Souls, ordering both the PDF and the hard copy of this product.

Let's start with the basics, shall we? The Grimoire of Lost Souls is a big book. I mean, this is a seriously big book - I have multiple-adventure campaign books (hard copies!) that are shorter than this. It's longer than the entirety of Interjection Games' Strange Magic, which contains no less than three separate, unique, fully-detailed subsystems with a bunch of options each. So what the heck is all of this book about, you ask?

Pact Magic. This is a system that's been worked on for quite a few years now, but the Grimoire of Lost Souls is easily the largest and most flexible version of the system ever published. The basic theme is that characters gain the ability to make pacts with specific spirits, receiving granted powers in exchange for influence and giving the spirit a place to reside. It's a bit like Paizo's Medium, except that A) Pact magic is older, and B) There are a heck of a lot more options. This will be discussed later.

The book opens with an overview of pact magic, including its availability and how it's usually perceived. The usual assumption, of course, is that it's not particularly popular unless it's widely practiced - after all, allowing mysterious spirits into your soul is rarely safe. The book itself is broken up into nine chapters, and yes, I'll be discussing each of them in turn. I can't go over literally every option here - there are far too many - but I hope to explain each section in enough detail to help you get a sense for the sheer volume of content this book contains.

The first chapter, Classes, opens with the Pactmaker base class. This is essentially the true master of pact magic, with more options and more ability to bind and control the many spirits than anyone else. As noted in the description of the class, the various spirits offer so many different abilities that a smart Pactmaker can be prepared for almost any situation. They can be of any alignment, have a d8 hit dice, a nice selection of class skills, and 4+ skill points per level. The class also has 3/4ths BAB, good Fort and Will saves, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, and they rely on their Charisma modifier for most of their abilities. Intelligence doesn't directly impact most of their skills (and one of their powers gives them a bonus to certain Knowledge-based checks), but it's an important ability score for actually getting more spirits in the first place. Depending on their build, their need for other ability scores will fluctuate somewhat.

The Pactmaker begins the game by having a partnership with one spirit, and can gain additional spirits by completing four Knowledge Tasks (representing their Ceremony, Constellation, Personality, and Seal - more on this later), although they can only bind spirits whose maximum level doesn't exceed their limit. The spirits themselves come in 9 levels, progressing at every odd level.

Once a spirit is bound, it offers a variety of abilities to the Pactmaker. In addition, Pactmakers can learn Binder Secrets (additional powers, basically equivalent to Magus Arcana), Constellation Aspects (bonus powers based on the type of spirit a pact was made with, but only when a good pact was made), and Pact Augmentations (basic bonuses, like a dodge bonus to AC or Spell Resistance). Starting at 4th Level, the Pactmaker can also bind additional spirits to themselves, capping at four spirits when they reach 16th Level.

The point to take away from all of this is that Pactmakers have a LOT of flexibility. Once all of the class abilities have been explained, the book dives into the Constellation Aspects. You get one of these for each 'good' pact currently active, and each type of spirit has four potential choices (so, in theory, you could have all four constellation aspects if you bind four spirits of the same category). These are mostly minor but useful powers, such as the Angel constellation's Bless ability, which lets them cast the spell of the same name a number of times per day equal to 3+Cha mod.

Following that, the book explains the Binder Secrets, which allow the Pactmaker do to things like hide the signs of the spirits, penetrate the defenses of foes a given spirit's favored enemies, or enhance a weapon much like a Magus can. Some of these secrets alter the granted abilities, or act as rituals for things like calling the spirits for information. Some of these are definitely more useful than others - for example, the Steal Pact Spirits ability won't be very useful unless you have a lot of pact-making foes.

To cap things off, the Grimoire of Lost Souls offers plenty of Favored Class Bonuses, covering the Core, Featured, and Uncommon races.

As if all of that weren't enough, the Grimoire of Lost Souls has archetypes and class options galore, covering 29 of Pathfinder's normal classes (no Occult classes, I'm afraid) as well as the three Alternate Classes and its own Pactmaker class. Barbarians have new rage powers, Fighters can learn to make pacts, Paladins can become friends or foes of pact magic, Summoners can influence their Eidolons... if you want to dip into pact magic without actually making a Pactmaker, this section is going to help you do it. For balance, many of the archetypes have either diminished spirit level growth (capping at 6th instead of 9th) and/or the Tunneled Lore feature (restricting them to one constellation and Starless spirits).

And finally - finally! - we're done with Chapter 1. Next up is Chapter Two: Feats. This is exactly what you'd expect it to be, and this section includes general, combat, grit, item creation, metamagic, pact, panache, and teamwork feats (with reminders for how they work). The options here include things like sharing minor abilities with allies, learning basic pact magic with any class, focusing on specific Constellations and/or Spirits so you excel in using them, extra class features, and even rolling for special abilities on a table. Notably, some of these feats are necessary if you want to max out particular class abilities (as written, for example, you can't get the maximum amount of DR/- from Pact Augmentations unless you take the Extra Pact Augmentation feat). All in all, this section is a very solid selection of choices for people using Pact Magic, and you'll definitely want to read through it when deciding on your build.

Now, up to this point, we've heard a lot about pactmaking but little about actually doing it. That's what the third chapter, the aptly-named Pactmaking, focuses on. It begins with an explanation of the Knowledge Tasks, the arcane lore a Pactmaker must uncover before they can summon a spirit. Sooner or later, the character will succeed - if they fail, they get a cumulative bonus to their next check as long as they keep working at it. The key thing to remember here is that someone who uses Pact Magic probably won't have access to higher-level spirits as soon as they level up - so it behooves them to try and get their knowledge skills high enough to succeed on a regular basis. Difficult? No. Important? Yes.

There's an aside of one page where all the terms used here are defined - a helpful reference for those new to Pact Magic, and very important for everyone to read. After this, the chapter moves on to the actual ceremonies. Summoning a spirit involves several steps and is broadly similar to preparing spells for the day, but with some important caveats. First, a binder can rush the ritual if they're pressed for time, but this usually reduces the chance of success and should be avoided when possible. The most important part of this is the Bartering, the last part, where the binder has to roll against the Binding DC of the spirit. If they exceed the DC, that's good and they get all the powers. If they REALLY exceed it, they get a bonus power. If you fail... well, that's a poor pact. You still get the spirit, but not all of the powers. Naturally, various things can influence the likelihood of success. For example, binders get a +2 bonus when trying to get spirits whose alignment matches their own (or a -2 penalty if they have opposed alignments), while anyone can use a totem related to the spirit to improve their odds of success. Note that totems are not exclusively physical - for example, you might get a bonus if you speak exclusively in a certain language, make the summoning circle in certain areas, or just don't break the law in the day before the summoning. (All of these are actual totems, by the way.)

This section also provides the rules for using granted abilities, including how often they can be used, what the DCs are, and notably, that none of them qualify as prerequisites because they're only temporary powers. To further complicate things - seriously, this is a robust system, people! - there are details on the physical signs that spirits cause and how binders can trade certain granted abilities for others. The section ends with a note on multiclassing - basically, levels in classes that grant the Bind Spirit class feature stack for determining your level as a Pact Magic user, but not for the level of spirits you can use.

The next chapter deals with the Spirits, and there are well over a hundred different options here - at least one spirit of each constellation per-level, plus two Starless spirits that aren't part of a Constellation and function a bit differently in regards to certain powers. Spirits cover the full spectrum of alignments, although some are definitely more popular than others - Chaotic Neutral and Lawful Evil are pretty popular early on, and poor Chaotic Good and Lawful Neutral tend to lag behind throughout. Neutral Good actually does pretty well, though, and is probably the best choice for alignment if you want to be a good-aligned pact magic user. I'm not saying we needed an even spread at every level, but I would have appreciated a little more alignment balance overall.

I'm not going to detail every spirit - there's way too many for that - but as a brief overview, most of them are essentially mythological entities, complete with their own legends. A number of these are reproduced in the book for fun, and all of the spirits in general are fairly distinct. For example, Forash is a forgotten archdevil who claims to have taught pact magic to mortals (which explains why he's so easy to get), while Marat is the spirit of a construct that developed a soul and now works to help protect others. Suffice to say that they cover pretty much the entire spectrum of themes.

Now, the full list of spirits is a very large part of the book, but we're still a long ways from done. Chapter 5 covers new Spells, with options for many classes. A fair number of these have to do with pact magic, of course, but there's also an interestingly high number of age-based spells that have effects based on how old the characters are. These help balance out the fact that classes other than the Pactmaker generally can't have more than one spirit at a time.

Chapter 6 dives into the Prestige Classes of the system, and six are offered.
-The Devotees are members of organizations (explained later in the book) with a diverse set of skills.
-The Divine Exorcist is an anti-binder class. Obviously, that's not something most players are likely to take unless binders are very common enemies, but it's a solid concept for an NPC that's opposing a party that has one or more Binders in it.
-The Greensprout Rapscallion is a class focused on getting eternal youth and life, so if your character wants to be a kid forever, this is probably worth looking at...
-The Mascareri focuses on transforming corpses into occult masks that grant interesting powers of illusion.
-The Ravage Binder focus on binding a special type of spirit detailed at the end of the book - rather than being one entity, it's more of the angry, wild fragments of spirits. Nasty stuff.
-Finally, the Undying Soul is focused on using their powers to endure deadly attacks. Somewhat unusually, it has a Constitution requirement of 15+, which isn't terribly hard to get but does emphasize the tanking focus of the class.

Chapter 7 focuses on Magic Items, some of which are harder for people unversed in the ways of Pacts to identify. There are a number of new Armor and Weapon special abilities, most of which are probably only useful for NPCs going against the party. That's not an inherently bad thing - it's good to be able to challenge players - but it's worth keeping in mind. There are also some rings, rods (including metamagic rods), staves, and a good number of wondrous items. The endless chalk is practically a necessity in campaigns that track mundane supplies, since otherwise your daily bindings will burn through a lot of that (and it's priced at a very attractive 500 GP, so pick it up early). Gnostic Tomes provide all the lore for one spirit, and are a good way for GMs to give access to an additional spirit as treasure (they're probably not something PCs will craft themselves). There's even a pair of artifacts, although these are even less likely to see use.

Chapter 8, Occult Locales, is mostly fluff and fun. This chapter details some of the lore behind spirits, what exactly these mysterious beings are, and how they come to exist. It also details Organizations (groups that players can be a part of) and Planes where Spirits can exist (and that players can visit). For example, the Death Company is described as "Suicidal Mercenaries gifted with Occult Fortune", while the Apocryphal Desert exists on the edge of the Chaotic Neutral and Chaotic Evil planes, close to the realm of non-existence. (How you get to the edge of an infinite place is a concept much harder to grasp - welcome to the fun of planar travel.)

Finally, Chapter 9 focuses on Esoterica, optional rules for a given game. This includes rules on Aging (the avoidance of which is a common goal among those who study the occult), the Frehmin (a race of pactmaking humanoids), four occult creatures, a Pactmaker background generator, Pact Maladies (curse-like effects), Ravager Spirits (a major threat to Binders), and some pactmaking uses of skills.

Closing out the book, we have a Thank You page where the Kickstarter backers are listed (I'm on this!), an index, and the OGL.

Whew! Okay, almost done! Now we just need to talk about the book itself. The Grimoire of Lost Souls is a full-color product, complete with a significant amount of very nice artwork (and I mean really nice - getting good artwork for this project was one of the main goals of the Kickstarter, and they succeeded). However, a few pieces do fall into the "mature" category, so this probably isn't a good book for kids. The book adheres to the standard two-column layout used by the industry, and it makes use of its colors to make things easier to read (such as by highlighting the names of abilities in red, and many sections in blue). This is not a short, simple PDF you'll be totally familiar with in ten or fifteen minutes of reading - it's a massive book, and I feel it was well worth the wait and the price I paid for it. If the idea of making contracts with spirits sounds fun to you, like a Medium pumped up, then you're probably going to like this book. Notably, there is an IMMENSE amount of room for flavoring your character here, covering everything from evil villains channeling the power of monsters to righteous figures calling on the spirits of angels and heroes.

I would personally rate this tome at about 4.75/5, rounded up. I do wish that a few of the options had been a little more player-focused, such as among the weapon and armor special abilities, but those are basically just quibbles at worst. This is a solid product, and I'm looking forward to using it in my games.


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Huzzah! Thanks, Rick!

It's been a LONG time coming, but we've FINALLY got print books for the Grimoire of Lost Souls in the Paizo store!

If you missed the Kickstarter and want a copy of this gorgeous, full-color book, now's the time to pick one up! If you participated in the Kickstarter, never fear—your book is already on its way to you!

If you're new to the schtick, Pact Magic is an interactive magic system where you seek out and summon powerful, otherworldly spirits and bargain with them for power. Gone are the days where you simply "know" your spells, as a binder of spirits you'll need to wrest every spell-like and supernatural ability you desire from the greedy grasps of the spirits that empower you. So gather your totems, practice a ceremony or two, and prepare for your Pathfinder RPG game to never again be the same with the Grimoire of Lost Souls!


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Aaaand for those who'd like to know more about the content, you can check out my in-depth review where things are discussed in detail. ^^ Suffice to say that there is quite a lot of stuff in this book.

Dark Archive

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Print/PDF combo maybe?

Contributor

Chris Ballard wrote:
Print/PDF combo maybe?

I'll bring it up to Dario and get back to you on that.


I hope this one sells well. It's one heck of a great book!

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Alexander Augunas wrote:
Chris Ballard wrote:
Print/PDF combo maybe?
I'll bring it up to Dario and get back to you on that.

Dario and I discussed it. The plan is to offer a PDF/Print bundle for $69.99. Keep your eyes peeled! :D

Contributor

Eric Hinkle wrote:
I hope this one sells well. It's one heck of a great book!

Me too! We're going to try some advertisement push after PaizoCon, but word of mouth is the best advertisement you can get. ;-)


Do you have an approximate date for the bundle? If it'll be just a few days, I'll hold out, but if it'll be some months, I'll take just the hardcopy now and maybe pick up the PDF sometime down the line.

In other news, you mentioned behavior analysis in a comment somewhere or other. Do you have any advice for someone looking to begin a career in ABA? So far my job search is... frustrating.

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qaplawjw wrote:

Do you have an approximate date for the bundle? If it'll be just a few days, I'll hold out, but if it'll be some months, I'll take just the hardcopy now and maybe pick up the PDF sometime down the line.

In other news, you mentioned behavior analysis in a comment somewhere or other. Do you have any advice for someone looking to begin a career in ABA? So far my job search is... frustrating.

Dario sent a message to Rick Hunz last night about the bundle, so I imagine it'll be done some time next week after the PaizoCon dust settled.

Right now, I'm working on my Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis (specifically for Education) so I don't really have any tips or advice to get in anywhere as a BCBA. Good luck!


That's awesome! I just didn't want to wait until Christmas or something.


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And bought. Super excited to get it in the mail and, when a character slot opens up, play one!


Out of curiosity, what type of character do you think you might want to play?

(The Pactmaker base class is the real master of Pact Magic - and almost frighteningly flexible in its variety of builds - but the archetypes included in the book also mean you can add Pact Magic to a class you're more familiar with.)


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Probably Pactmaker, as the Binder was always my favorite. Others are always cool too, but being the best is always fun. <o/

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Alexander Augunas wrote:
Chris Ballard wrote:
Print/PDF combo maybe?
I'll bring it up to Dario and get back to you on that.

Print/PDF combo now available!

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Dario Nardi wrote:
Alexander Augunas wrote:
Chris Ballard wrote:
Print/PDF combo maybe?
I'll bring it up to Dario and get back to you on that.
Print/PDF combo now available!

Unavailable.

:(

Contributor

Chris Ballard wrote:
Dario Nardi wrote:
Alexander Augunas wrote:
Chris Ballard wrote:
Print/PDF combo maybe?
I'll bring it up to Dario and get back to you on that.
Print/PDF combo now available!

Unavailable.

:(

I'll talk to Dario, but that *might* mean the print copies we sent got snatched up already.


Wow, I got that just in time! You guys made my week, in a very difficult time.


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Just got mine in the mail! Gotta read it, but it is massive!

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qaplawjw wrote:
Wow, I got that just in time! You guys made my week, in a very difficult time.

We aim to please! Glad you got your copy fast. :D

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Zangy wrote:
Just got mine in the mail! Gotta read it, but it is massive!

But think of the LORE!

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Also, it looks like the warehouse might have gotten the next batch of Grimoires! Hooray!

(Make sure to buy'em out quickly so we can order more. ;-P)


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Rednal's review sold me on one. Didn't pay this sub-system much heed back in 3.5, but reading that review won me over.


This is a big book, yes... and I'm glad my review helped, Wraithguard. ^^ Enjoy!


How does it compare to 3.5 Pact Magic?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

How big is this book exactly?


@Chris: ~384 pages, mostly rule options but occasionally broken by by nice artwork and fluff on the legends of the spirits. As noted in my reviews, I have adventure collections and multiple-system compilations shorter than this product.

@The NPC: I'm not familiar with the 3.5 version, but I suspect this one is objectively better (with more options, better mechanics for working with Pathfinder, etc).


It is big 384 pages I got mine a week ago and it's fabulous. :)

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The NPC wrote:
How does it compare to 3.5 Pact Magic?

Similar but different. Same basic mechanics--you perform a ceremony, witness a manifestation, barter for power, and suffer influence if you fail. The biggest change to the core mechanic is the standardization of granted abilities into major powers and minor powers, with the major being an all-day power with a short recharge time and the minors being more traditionally limited abilities. Most spirits have one major ability and four minor abilities, plus a capstone empowerment that gives you a special improvement to your major ability if you made a good pact with the spirit. There are also vestigial booms which act like mini archetypes for the spirit.

This is really just the tip of the ice berg in differences, but it is a good summary of the differences spirit wise.


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Got my GM to sign off on letting me play a pactmaker for Wrath of the Righteous. However, one issue that I think may come up is that gaining new spirits will be very tedious, as we won't have too much downtime. I haven't finished reading everything yet, but is there a way to expedite learning new spirits, or is it a blanket length of time?


Once you get good at knowledge checks (and the Pactmaker is good at that), you can blow through them pretty easily, especially when you're traveling for a long period of time. You could also talk with your GM about regularly getting Gnostic Tomes, which contain all the information needed to summon a new spirit and basically serve as a way for GM's to provide new spirits when they want to. ^^ (Handy, that.)

Contributor

GM Rednal wrote:
Once you get good at knowledge checks (and the Pactmaker is good at that), you can blow through them pretty easily, especially when you're traveling for a long period of time. You could also talk with your GM about regularly getting Gnostic Tomes, which contain all the information needed to summon a new spirit and basically serve as a way for GM's to provide new spirits when they want to. ^^ (Handy, that.)

Indeed. The pactmaker is designed to be good at discovering new spirits, and gnostic tomes are intended to be the GM's way to give players new spirits when taking the time to research is not an option.


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Zangy wrote:
Got my GM to sign off on letting me play a pactmaker for Wrath of the Righteous. However, one issue that I think may come up is that gaining new spirits will be very tedious, as we won't have too much downtime. I haven't finished reading everything yet, but is there a way to expedite learning new spirits, or is it a blanket length of time?

So, basically, there are four methods you can use to gain access to new spirits.

The primary way is via Knowledge checks; if you nail every one while adventuring (that is, no time to spend a day or two in a quiet environment), it will take you sixteen days to research a new spirit. If you don't nail them, it can take longer, but with the +5 bonus you get every time you fail, it shouldn't be that much longer.

The second one is hiring someone else to teach you, which costs the same amount as purchasing a new spell for a wizard's spellbook, though the price for this can be increased at the GM's discretion, or made impossible if they decide that no such people can be found.

Though on reflection, is this supposed to be the cost for purchasing a scroll to then scribe in the spellbook, or is it the half the cost a wizard usually charges to allow you to copy out of his spellbook (Adding Spells to a Wizard's Spellbook)? I presume a spirit's level should be equal to the spell's level when pricing this, though...I would go with scrolls myself, but admittedly not completely certain.

The third way is to acquire a gnostic tome. These do tend to be expensive, particularly for higher level spirits, but don't require a tutor, though depending on setting they might still be hard to come across. Regardless, studying it will give you access to the spirit in question, whereupon you can probably choose to resell it.

The fourth and final way is to have your GM basically give you some or all of the information you need. For example, you might find a spirit's seal in a dungeon, or information about its ceremony in a lost library, or hear a tale of its legend from a traveling storyteller. This one depends pretty much entirely on how much your GM buys into pact magic...in most games, you probably can't expect it.

Side note, does anyone else's copy have the background going a little over some of the lettering near the bottom of page 83, or is it just my copy?


Zangy wrote:
Got my GM to sign off on letting me play a pactmaker for Wrath of the Righteous. However, one issue that I think may come up is that gaining new spirits will be very tedious, as we won't have too much downtime. I haven't finished reading everything yet, but is there a way to expedite learning new spirits, or is it a blanket length of time?

Aside from the official ways already mentioned, one homebrew my GM allowed was automatically gaining a couple spirits upon leveling (of course only ones you're capable of using at your level). Sort of like a wizard. Where they gain a couple spells free, and can add more spells to their spellbook, this homebrew allowed me the same with spirits. It's been quite balanced I feel, since you'd still have a limit on the number of spirits you can have bound at a given time. That said, this is just a homebrew solution. So, your GM might be disinclined to use it.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I do not know how Pact Magic works except that it involves spirits. Wrath of the Righteous implies Mythic to me. Wouldn't spirits just flock to a Mythic Pactmaker in hope of being the one who makes a Pact with such a promising mortal ?

Will look at the review and real interested in this product but cash is rare for the time being. This will have to wait for quite some time, I'm afraid :-(

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The Raven Black wrote:

I do not know how Pact Magic works except that it involves spirits. Wrath of the Righteous implies Mythic to me. Wouldn't spirits just flock to a Mythic Pactmaker in hope of being the one who makes a Pact with such a promising mortal ?

Will look at the review and real interested in this product but cash is rare for the time being. This will have to wait for quite some time, I'm afraid :-(

Not necessarily. The spirits summoned and bound by pactmakers aren't the same as those communed with by shaman. A shaman's spirit is a freely mobile entity that is capable of influencing the mortal world with its own agency—this is why you see shaman's "inviting" spirits into their bodies rather than demanding it.

Pactmaker spirits are all beings that, for one reason or another, are completely unable to influence the mortal world. Most are locked away in extradimensional places, some of which aren't even accessible to mortals outside of the pactmaking process. (This is explained in more detail in Chapter 8, but that's the gist of it.)

As a result, Pact Magic spirits don't "flock" to anyone; they're basically powerless agency-less beings who are begging for sweet release from their madness-inducing conditions in the form of a pact. That's why they're open to bargaining, and don't just usurp control of pactmakers at their leisure. (Unless they do; see ravenger spirits.) As a result, a mythic pactmaker is honestly no less attractive to a Pact Magic spirit than a nonmythic pactmaker for the same reason that ground hamburger and sirloin are equally appetizing to a starving dog.


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Those familiar with the material, is there suggestions for integrating into an existing campaign, sans the Pactmaker class?


Yes. The easiest method is probably to just use the many archetypes that are available, which essentially give basic pactmaking ability. (Note that the Pactmaker class is the undisputed master of binding techniques - most archetypes have the Tunneled Lore class feature, which rather strictly limits which spirits a character can have access to.)

Page 5 also has a column discussing Pact Magic Availability and how it should be treated by the world if it exists at all. Generally, Pact Magic should be at least 'Emerging' if non-Pactmaker options, like the archetypes, are available.


This looks interesting!

Would it be out of line to request a list of the spirits present in the book? (Perhaps in a spoiler tag?)

OR perhaps a table of contents? (It does not have to be super-detailed, either...)

However, I'll understand if the contributor(s) would rather not...

Please & thank you.


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*Gestures at the review* I think that will at least serve as a table of contents and overview of each chapter's material. There are a few too many spirits to discuss all of them in detail right here, but samples include entities like Muse Istago (the Painter of Paradox, who allows you to create illusions and scry on others through dreams), N'alyia (the First Vampire, who allows you to drain life from foes and turn into a bat), and Humble Ohbal (the Servant of the Elements, who allows you to teleport enemies into places convenient for your party and summon phantom steeds that can plane shift their riders).

...All spirits have rather more powers than described, so that's just a sampling. Suffice to say that Binders can manage quite a variety of playstyles - possibly several at the same time, if you're a Pactmaker - and the more you understand the spirits and your options, the more effective you'll be. XD Which seems fitting, given the lore of the class.


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Elorebaen wrote:
Those familiar with the material, is there suggestions for integrating into an existing campaign, sans the Pactmaker class?

Quite a bit, yes! There are spells, magic items, archetypes, planes, organizations, all kinds of stuff for integrating it into your game.


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I've now been able to play this class twice now. First was in Wrath of the Righteous, and then again in Strange Aeons. Both times, it's been very fun, and it doesn't even really feel like I'm playing the same class, due to the spirits that I have with both (though, I do have an archetype on one). So much fun versatility.


Sometimes, I wonder if the Pactmaker is a bit too versatile - but then I remember Wizards. XD I found it gets a lot easier once you really get to know the spirits and understand their styles, though. The more you know your options, the better off you're going to be.

Out of curiosity, have any commenters here played one of the pactmaking archetypes (Warbinder Fighter, Pactsworn Hunter, etc.), rather than the main Pactmaker class? If so, how did you feel about the changes to the normal style of that class?


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Thank you for the resposes!


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What would be some existing deities/beings that grant spells in Golarion that would grant the Occult domain?


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Adding on a new domain to existing deities can be a bit tricky, though off the top of my head I'd speculate some possibilities might be...

Abraxas (as a demon lord who has an interest in forbidden magic)
Ashava (as an empyreal lord who seeks to help lonely spirits)
Geryon (as an archdevil interested in forbidden knowledge and heresy)
Maephistopheles (as an archdevil interested in both contracts, which pact magic could be associated with, and secrets)
Nethys (pact magic is a form of magic, after all, and presumably something that falls under his domain)
Ng (mostly just because he's mysterious as hell and interested in secrets and lore)
Nyarlathotep (dangerous secrets and forbidden lore are his game, after all)
Tsukiyo (given he's a god of spirits...)
Shiggarreb (a qlippoth lord with an interest in forbidden magic, it seems plausible to me he might be interested in using spirits to increase people's war potential)

A few others that seem slightly less likely would be: Ayrzul (he is the god of buried secrets, so maybe?), Bastet (a goddess of secrets, and cats are often associated with occult themes), and Kabiri (who knows secrets kept by the dead).

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If it were me, I'd find an Azlanti god who has the Magic domaain and swap Magic for Occult.

Silver Crusade

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Amaznen, the Azlanti god of magic, died along with Acavna during Earthfall ;_;

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Rysky wrote:
Amaznen, the Azlanti god of magic, died along with Acavna during Earthfall ;_;

It's a good thing that several spirits just happen to reference dead gods. Because what IS death to a divine being, anyway? >:)


...Slightly less certain than taxes?

Silver Crusade

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Alexander Augunas wrote:
Rysky wrote:
Amaznen, the Azlanti god of magic, died along with Acavna during Earthfall ;_;
It's a good thing that several spirits just happen to reference dead gods. Because what IS death to a divine being, anyway? >:)

YES!

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