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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Inspiring and a great start to a larger world


This is a review of the Dragon Empires Primer. I like it a lot, and I didn’t expect to. Please read on.

To understand the above, you need to know that overall I am not a huge fan of Asian-themed gaming. I grew up on Saturday afternoon poorly-dubbed martial arts movies that weren’t neat, just ridiculous. Oriental Adventures for AD&D was good, but it didn’t really inspire or convey any mood to me. Sacrilegious at it may seem I tried to like and read the old Kara-Tur boxed set and kept falling asleep.

On the other hand I have all of Miyazaki’s animated films on DVD, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and I adore them. Also, the way Xena introduced Asian elements throughout the series and in her background really struck a chord with me too. Maybe it’s the fact that these are not loaded with cheese (from what I recall of similar films of the 70’s and 80’s).

So, as a Paizo subscriber I let Jade Regent take its place on my shelf with a light reading of each volume. The Dragon Empires Gazetteer was glanced through and looked amazing, but I had other things to read. I also skipped over the Asian weapons section in Ultimate Combat.

That brings us to the Primer. It’s beautiful to behold, a high quality of presentation as always. The interior front cover has the area map in full color with area names, major locations and borders shown. The intro immediately set me at ease. In plain words it set up what I was about to read, and an overview of how they view the Dragon Empires land and its people. Without the extra info in the Gazetteer, It read quick and to the point. It is the player’s version of setting and so contains no spoiler info. There is a handful or errors in the book but I didn’t really feel they detracted from the overall usefulness.

It is laid out in familiar fashion to those who have the Inner Sea Guide and Gazetteer. In the very beginning is a section on new races complete with stats, and an overview on the human ethnicities found in the region. Each nation or territory is then covered in a half-page column with a symbol, basic stats, summary description of the area, and a couple of traits to take. I expected to find a couple areas of interest and found myself getting more interested the more I read. The entries kept getting better. I was excited to get to the next one to see what was in store and was not disappointed.

To be frank, it’s because the places are weird enough but easily grasped with strong themes you can immediately latch onto. As a GM it got my mind going multiple times. Many of the entries are fantastic without being wacky or bizarre, and there is also a sense there are plenty of common folk and situations too without every place being alien. More importantly they feel like places I’d like to adventure in, not treat as background info only. A gritty Hobgoblin land, dark and foreboding Naga territory, a spirit-haunted wood akin to Princess Mononoke and a celestial nation of aasimar are just a sampling of what you’ll find here. It’s fantastic enough and Golarion-centric so I didn’t feel any intimidation regarding my overall knowledge gap on ancient oriental culture!

The Combat section has 10 new feats themed to the area’s style that will make monk players quite happy. There’s also a new Samurai order. The Faith section gives a paragraph on each of the deities of the realm. A handful of favorites from the Inner Sea region make the port (like Lamashtu, Desna, Pharasma and Irori), as well as a host of original ones with appropriate names and themes. There are also four new archetypes to help round out characters that deserve praise.

The Magic Section has the Sorcerer Oni bloodline and the Void elemental school for Wizards, with a new spell. The Social section has a spread and easy rules for tracking honor points for your character and the benefits or consequences thereof.

I figured I’d like the crunch, but the nations section was easily my favorite, and I didn’t see it coming. What a surprise. Not only do I feel the book is just what I needed to finally really get into the setting but I can’t wait to read the Gazetteer and to run the Ruby Phoenix Tournament adventure! My hat is off to writers Tim Hitchcock and Colin McComb. If it made a believer of a skeptic like me I’m sure fans of the genre will embrace what Paizo’s done to the other side of Golarion.

Very good, but too few


I was looking for the book because I just starting the Jade Regent AP, and I have to say that it's a good addition.

While I like the new content (regional traits, archetypes) I feel a little bit underwhelmed : the content is good, but it is not much.

There is a lack of racial traits / favored class options, and we receive the too few archetypes (I would like to see at least several for ninja and samurai)

Take a look at my full review at Rpg.Org

Kitsune Ninja strike


I like the asian flavor stuff along with flavors from other countries. So I was happy about to get this one for the Oni bloodline, several very useful traits, some interesting archtypes, and a few feats. thought the book was worth it, my main complaint was that there wasn't room for more.

Good, with errors


I didn't get the Gazetteer for the same reasons that the previous reviewer dinged this entry. I looked at it and saw some nice fluff but little meat...

This book is nice and meaty, yes there's errors, they do slip in sometimes, we all know that, so I'm not dinging it too hard for those errors. It's still better than Adventurer's Armory.

Check out the full review on my blog:

A Second Oriental Appetizer


As many people did, I purchased the Dragon Empire's Gazetteer and simply ate it up, loving every plot, mechanic, race variant and expansion it had to offer and thoroughly pleased. It left me wanting even more of the oriental flavour still lingering in my mouth. My intrigue towards the mystical land of Tian Xia now peaked, I eagerly anticipated the release of the Dragon Empire's Primer a month or so later.

Inside I found about 60% of the content in the Dragon Empire's Primer was available in the Gazetteer. Now I know that the Gazette is suppose to be bite sized chunks of the deliciousness that is the Campaign Setting and Primer, but I couldn't help but feel a little underwhelmed. I liken the experience to a man going to a fancy diner and sifting through the mountains of salad to try to excavate his steak dinner, only to find it in disappointingly small proportions. That said this is of course the view at first glance, after having some time to, chew the fat as it were, I found a plethora of engaging and alluring concepts, the new regional traits in particular give the once unknown Tian Xia almost as much character and depth as the Inner Sea which we have known and love.

The new archetypes, Sword Saint, White Haired Witch, Lotus Geisha and Yokai Hunter gave new scope to having a rich oriental feeling character. Though, I found that none of the above archetypes were unable to be created from creative character building with the existing content. Sure they tidied it up, wrapped a ribbon around it and made it so we wouldn't sacrifice a limb to make them. But there is a crumb of disillusionment when one is looking for the "new" content and finds the polished old stuff. That said, what's "new" is highly over rated and polishing existing concepts and ideas is a need that will always want satisfying.

As for Magic expansion the Void School and Moon Domains seem interesting, but I personally haven't gone into them enough to really elaborate more. While play testing the Oni Bloodline I defiantly felt it had a Chilaxian feel to me. This is good in a way, and bad in others. One new spell that's it, and a Samurai Order that outline's the edicts but no new abilities.

The new playable races are enthralling, though I am literally pulling hairs out trying to find miniatures for them, the Kitsune(fox people), Nagaji(snake people), Tengu (crow people) *note who don't say "Doom Doom", Wayang (Shadow Goblins) and Samsaran (Living Reincarnated people) are all very tempting to play. However at the end of it, I wanted that little more, a few more Race Traits for any of the aforementioned races or favored class options, Racial feats for someone other than the Kitsune. But alas I suppose we shall wait to see if Advanced Race Guide has anything on the matter.

While loosely on the topic of Feats, the feats available from this book seemed really, really geared towards monks. A smorgasbord of monk ki feats, Stunning fist feats, Quivering Palm feats. Don't get me wrong monks don't get enough love, what with their bonus feats, unarmed strike tree, combat manoeuvre specialties, style feats...-_- I would love to have seen a lot more geared towards either the social, religious or magical eccentricities of Tian Xia shown through the feats rather than the 2.5 non monk feats. Even more stuff expanding on the Honor System would have been great.

Somewhat of a recent development, there are a lot of errors in the actual rules for the Dragon Primer. I strongly recommend checking the boards while using this book.

The last point of mention is the honor system, which I look forward to trying outside of a play test environment very soon. Fundamentally you earn honor, while levelling and performing honorable deeds in game. You then spend those points like gold on boons and favours from the NPCs, great concept but when you hit 0 you take a -2 on your Will and on all Charisma based checks. What really happens with that? Honor, the new credit system, this guy overdrew on honor so here is a 10% fine on all your charisma and will based assets and we expect your honor to rise within the next 5-10 business days or else we'll send a Nagaji honor collector.

In summary, Buy the Dragon Primer, but if you have the Dragon Empire Gazetteer don't break the bank over it. The Dragon Primer as a Player Companion falls short of its distant cousin the Inner Sea Primer in terms of social, magic, faith traits and features, it is still a delicious and succulent second appetizer for the Tian Xia setting, it has a lot of inspiring ideas that players and GMs alike can use to bring the magic of Tian Xia to your table. Even if you're still left wondering where are my steak and mash potatoes.

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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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