Pathfinder Player Companion: Dragon Empires Primer (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Player Companion: Dragon Empires Primer (PFRPG)
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The distant continent of Tian Xia rests on the opposite side of the world from the Inner Sea region, and it shows. From the treacherous jungles of naga-ruled Nagajor to the sorcerous kingdom of Dtang Ma, and from the trackless and unforgiving deserts of Shaguang to the wondrous city of Goka, countless opportunities can be found for any character or adventure in amazingly expansive Tian Xia. While the extensive Dragon Empires Gazetteer unveils dozens of the mystical continent’s secrets, the Dragon Empires Primer provides information pertinent to creating characters for campaigns set in this vast and diverse region. This volume of Pathfinder Player Companion provides players and Game Masters alike with all of the settingspecific traits and trappings they need to customize and play characters in the Dragon Empires.

    Inside this Pathfinder Player Companion, you’ll find:
  • Overviews of all of Tian Xia’s nations, including important details for players to integrate into their characters’ backstories and new character traits for every region to give characters boons that further tie them to their homelands.
  • Rules for Tian Xia’s five most prominent races: the shapeshifting kitsune, ophidian nagaji, transmigratory samsarans, avian tengus, and shadowy wayangs.
  • Four new archetypes with distinctly Tian flavors, including the lotus geisha (bard), sword saint (samurai), white-haired witch (witch), and yokai hunter (ranger).
  • New feats for combative characters that bolster prowess in martial arts and swordplay.
  • An extensive look at the gods and philosophies of the Dragon Empires, as well as rules for the moon subdomain.
  • A new bloodline for sorcerers tainted with oni blood, and a new school of magic for wizards who wish to harness the power of the mysterious void.
  • New rules mechanics for establishing and maintaining one’s honor in the Dragon Empires.

This Pathfinder Player Companion works best with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or the 3.5 version of the world’s oldest fantasy roleplaying game, but can be easily incorporated into any fantasy world.

Written by Tim Hitchcock and Colin McComb

Each bimonthly 32-page Pathfinder Companion contains several player-focused articles exploring the volume’s theme as well as short articles with innovative new rules for social, magic, religious, and combat-focused characters, as well as traits to better anchor the player to the campaign.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-386-6

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Player Companion Subscription.

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A nice entry


This book is a nice entry to Tian Xia, directed at players.
You find lots of good background information about different regions and deities here.
The races are all great and fun to play.
Archetypes are all very cool in idea and concept, the execution isn´t the best though unfortunately.
The feats are interesting and usefull enough though, just as the magic school and sorcerer bloodline.

The book suffers from the fact that most of the really useful content is printed in other books, from Dragon Empires Gazeteer to the Advanced Race Guide, as well as the archetypes having mechanical problems.
It would be very awesome if some of them receive updates/reprints/errata.
I also feel the sword saint could be a swashbuckler archtype.

The pro of the book is definately the Tian Xia Background info as well as the introduced races.

Should you be a fan of Tian Xia or like it: buy!


I've reviewed this book over on

Good introduction to a fascinating setting


Read my full review on my blog.

Dragon Empires Primer presents a broad overview of the setting from a player perspective. As it serves the same basic purpose as the Inner Sea Primer (which provides an overview of the Inner Sea region), it shares the same style of layout and structure as that book, with half-page entries on each of the nations and main regions, along with new races, archetypes and feats, brief descriptions of the setting’s gods, and a system for keeping track of characters’ honour. Each nation’s entry also includes a pair of regional traits for characters from that land. It’s important to point out, however, that people expecting in-depth detail won’t find it here. Half a page is not a lot of space to describe an entire nation with anything more than the broadest strokes. What the book does do is provide an introduction to the setting, one to whet the appetites of players, and it does this very well. It provides just enough information to get players thinking about the types of characters they might like to play in the setting, and sets the stage for later, more in-depth development, provided by either the GM or future supplements.

Some use to players, a waste for DMs


So......I bought the Dragon Empires Primer PDF after getting the Gazeteer and finding that it left out some info on the Dragon Empires that would be included in the Primer. Like kitsune racial feats, and regional traits. What a waste this turned out to be.

Not only is most of the Primer just condensed or copied descriptions from the Dragon Empires Gazeteer (meaning I basically paid twice for most of the Primer's content), but there's hardly any new or useful info in the Primer for anyone who already has the Dragon Empires Gazeteer. Only 2 regional character traits for each country/region, 3 kitsune racial feats (all based on changing to fox form and back, quickly; nothing for their spell-like abilities or other racial traits), 1 bard archetype (Lotus Geisha), 1 samurai archetype (Sword Saint), 1 ranger archetype (Yokai Hunter), 1 witch archetype (White-Haired Witch), 10 new combat feats (only 1-3 of which are any use to non-monks....and 5 of the new feats are worse than core feats or just fairly pointless), 1 new samurai order (for evil samurai, and nothing new or special about it), 1 new sorcerer bloodline (the Oni Bloodline, which has a standard sorcerer skill as its bloodline class skill), 1 new wizard school (the void elemental school, which is a bit odd and requires both the Advanced Player's Guide and Ultimate Magic since some of its spells are only in those sources), 1 new wizard spell, and 2 pages describing Honor mechanics for the Dragon Empires as an optional rule.

The new material only occupies around 9 pages, and at least 1-2 of those are worthless to DMs. All in all.....the Dragon Empires Primer just isn't worth it for a DM, unless money and value are non-issues to you. Just get the DE Gazeteer PDF, if even that, which is only somewhat more detailed but more useful to DMs.

Players, at least, will get enough out of the Primer to at least make some characters hailing from the Dragon Empires, but only just. The 4 class archetypes are interesting enough and should be capable enough in a Dragon Empires campaign (perhaps the Jade Regent Adventure Path), though the Lotus Geisha and Yokai Hunter and some regional traits are unlikely to be as useful in some other parts of Golarion. The Void Elemental wizard school is neat and Call the Void is a cool spell, but with an error (it says victims can't cast spells with somatic components, when it should say verbal components, since victims can't speak in the airless void), and you'll need the APG and Ultimate Magic if you want to use its other spells. A few of the combat feats are actually useful, like Sleeper Hold, but most are weaker/more-limited than core feats.

Interesting, but has some problems


The Companion line is supposed to present a player-friendly product to help in creating characters from particular regions/races/religions/whatever. I bought the Dragon Empires Primer (DEP) for this very reason, thinking that it would be just as useful as the Inner Sea Primer (ISP).

Well, the Dragon Empires Primer certainly is similar to the Inner Sea Primer. They both have short-but-interesting half-page summaries for each country in the region covered, and a couple of pages each on archetypes (DEP has lotus geisha bard, sword saint samurai, white-haired witch, and yokai hunter ranger), arcane spellcaster variations (DEP has the oni bloodline and the void elemental wizard school), and major deities and other religions/philosophies.

The DEP has two more pages devoted to races than the ISP (which has only two). That is not surprising, as five new PC-playable races have been introduced along with a multitude of Tian ethnicities. There are also three kitsune racial feats plus a double hand-full of combat-related feats.

Unlike the ISP, the DEP does not have an abbreviated time-line to bring players up to speed on both the broad strokes of history (Earthfall/Age of Darkness, other Ages, etc.) and some of the most recent current events.

Also unlike the ISP, the DEP has two pages devoted to honour in the region, its importance, and how to track it. The system is similar to the Reputation system for the Land of the Linnorm Kings (Campaign Setting sourcebook).

The problems ...

Mistakes in the crunch/rules-heavy part. Examples include the oni bloodline's class skill, a spell name changed between a school spell list and the actual spell write-up (the same spell also has an error), and an error relating to the sword saint archetype's brutal slash class feature.

Lack of one very important player aid when creating a character - deity domains (and sub-domains). Something like that is easily left out of the ISP because those same deities are also in the Core Rules (which presumably a player has access to when creating a character). But what about a player making a character for/from the Dragon Empires?!? Most of those deities' domains are not listed in the Core Rules (exceptions: Abadar, Desna, Irori, Lamashtu, Pharasma, and Shelyn - which leaves 14 others).

Quite honestly, I think that the DEP should have used one page for listing the domains of the deities worshipped in the Dragon Empires, and one page for describing the importance of honour in the region. (While putting this information in the player-friendly sourcebook is probably a good "heads up" for players, the actual rules relating to honour should have been put in the Gazetteer.)

The lack of an abbreviated time-line also irritated me. I'm still not sure which are the 16 Successor States, and I won't know unless I do some careful reading of the 28 individual country write-ups.

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The Exchange

My homebrew race has always had a +2 to two mental abilities and a -2 to one physical. Happy to see it fits the Paizo model, per the Samsarans.

Generic Villain wrote:
The oni bloodline's fine if you just switch out Disguise for Intimidate. It's the most logical choice, given how oni are deceptive and like disguising themselves as other races.

Yes, but note that the Oni Bloodline (alternate tieflings) in Blood of Fiends also has disguise and intimidate. So, while disguise might be a BETTER choice in some players opinions, for whatever reason they decided to go with Intimidate for the sorcerer bloodline. Which, if you look at the Bloodline Arcana, makes sense. It gives you bonuses to charm and compulsion related skills, which Disguise is not. Oni are deceptive yes, but they are also intimidating. So, I don't think it's an error so much as a choice that some players don't agree with.

EDIT: Ok, I read more posts, and I see the point... with Intimidate already being a sorcerer skill, it's redundant to give them Intimidate. So yeah, it should be Disguise no matter which way you look at it. :P

As for the Void Elementalist School... show me a school in the core book (not sure about others) that actually consistently gives you NEW spells... Most of them are just extra free spells you don't have to research/buy and that are themed/useful.

Finally, a friend of mine that bought the Dragon Empires Primer through DRiveThruRPG said how cute the Kitsune are... I was like... What? There's no pics of Kitsune in the Dragon Empires Primer... but apparently, the DRiveThruRPG copy there is... When he gets home from work I am going to have him send me the copy to look at cause I'm curious.

Anyone else (or someone at Paizo even) know if this weirdness in him having more pictures in a DriveThruRPG PDF is normal?

Dark Archive

AbsolutGrndZer0 wrote:
Finally, a friend of mine that bought the Dragon Empires Primer through DRiveThruRPG said how cute the Kitsune are... I was like... What? There's no pics of Kitsune in the Dragon Empires Primer... but apparently, the DRiveThruRPG copy there is... When he gets home from work I am going to have him send me the copy to look at cause I'm curious.

My theory would be that he got the Dragon Empires *Gazetteer* (which does have a Kitsune picture in it) and there was a miscommunication about which book he'd gotten (which, in a month in which Paizo released two different books named 'Dragon Empires Somethingsomething' is kinda understandable).

Scarab Sages

They don't even sell Paizo PDFs at DriveThruRPG as far as I know...

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

feytharn wrote:
They don't even sell Paizo PDFs at DriveThruRPG as far as I know...

You're right—we don't.

I'm starting to wondering if the Yokai Hunter's weakening of favored enemy is an error and not an intentional change... I don't think that archetype gets anything that makes up for losing up to +8 attack and damage against certain targets at level 20. Maybe the writer forgot to add the "In addition, increase the bonus against a previous Favored Yokai by +2" sentence?

James Jacobs wrote:
Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:

You invented the wayangs and naga-ji for DE, too, and their writeups are admirably informative -- they're sort of anti-gnomes from the Plane of Shadow, or engineered servants for the naga masters. Bang, there you go! ^.^

...But yeah, samsarans are intriguing from what you've told us so far, and I'd like to see a "Samsarans of Golarion" Companion or some such, along with companions for the others.

The wayangs and the nagaji are to a certain extent "easier" to grasp and thus easier to summarize. Nagaji are basically 0 HD lizardfolk, while as you say, the wayangs are "reverse gnomes."

The samsarans are really pretty new; they're pretty unique and unlike much else. Furthermore, their strange method of birth and death, which is their defining characteristic, required a lot of the space in their entry. They were hands down the HARDEST part of the book to make fit in their allocated space. No contest.

I'd love a chance to expand upon them more... and a lot of interest from the customers will only increase the chances we'll be able to do just that.

Until then, I'm certainly willing to answer any questions folks have about them to the best of my ability.

Cool, I've got a Samsaran question that's been driving me crazy searching to no avail for an answer on the message boards.

I know they give birth to humans, so they can have children, but what races are they genetically compatible with?

Only other Samsarans? Samsarans and humans?

Are they treated genetically as human for purpose of other races they can reproduce with (like elves and orcs), maybe giving birth to half elves or half orcs who then reincarnate as Samsarans after death?

Or are they capable of reproducing with any humanoid, their Samsaran blood overpowering that race's heredity and producing a human child?

I've been pondering this one a while, obviously. I could easily just pick something for my game, but I like to know how a race is intended to be when possible, and go from there.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm having a bit of difficulty interpreting the RAI for the Sword Saint archetype's abilities. Only the fluff/flavour text mentions that the Sword Saint must be "using a sword and carrying nothing in his other hand". The actual rules text for the Iaijustsu Strike (and the class abilities which build on it) only mentions "his sword", and that it must be still sheathed at the start of the action.

So, can a Sword Saint use the Iaijutsu abilities with a two-handeded sword, e.g., a nodachi, or an elven curve blade (in the case of a Samurai from Jinin)?

Would the Quick Draw feat help a Sword Saint with a two-handed sword to accomplish the Iaijutsu actions?

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Hi. I have a question about the White-haired Witch archetype's hair. RAW says that the archetype gets INT to damage and CMB rolls, but not to attack rolls. This is weird because the prehensile hair hex does give INT to hit and damage. Was this on purpose? Did you mean for the WHW to not get INT to attack?

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Did you try a search on White Haired Witch? There are a lot of threads on this exact subject.

Unfortunately most threads I found conclude that the archetype a trap and I have not found any developer input on whether this were an error or not, though I've done quite a few searches. I posed the question in James Jacobs' thread earlier and he admitted that it looks like a mistake and that I should ask here. So I did.

Grand Lodge

Matrixryu wrote:
I'm starting to wondering if the Yokai Hunter's weakening of favored enemy is an error and not an intentional change... I don't think that archetype gets anything that makes up for losing up to +8 attack and damage against certain targets at level 20. Maybe the writer forgot to add the "In addition, increase the bonus against a previous Favored Yokai by +2" sentence?

I get the impression that "Favored Yokai" is meant to exclude the bonus increase. The shortened list is a trivial sacrifice for a character that anticipates fighting the following creatures: aberration, dragon, fey, magical beast, outsider (native), and undead (incorporeal). Thus, it seems that the author of the Yokai Hunter, or Paizo, saw it fit to remove the bonus increase to allow the Yokai Hunter a chance to see through the disguises of a favored yokai. The Favored Yokai ability also seems to suggest that if the core Ranger cannot identify a favored enemy through a check that he cannot again his favored enemy bonuses. I'm not convinced that the latter is correct and that this ability is a worthwhile trade off.

What's more, Yokai Sense, as written, only seems to grant blindsense with a successful check to against a favored yokai that is disguised or has not made its otherworldly essence known. Meaning that the Yokai Hunter has no chance to gain blindsense if the favored yokai is undisguised and fully discloses its otherworldly essence... That seems counterintuitive.

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