Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Occult Mysteries (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Occult Mysteries (PFRPG)
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The Terrible Truth!

Every civilization has its big questions, those mysteries that have plagued generations of scholars. How did humanity rise from barbarism? Why did the gnomes leave the First World? Who are the string-pulling veiled masters? What is the Aucturn Enigma, and what strange powers did it grant the rulers of Osirion? What secret could be so great that it led to the suppression of volume five of the Pathfinder Chronicles? Within these covers, all these questions—and far more dangerous secrets—are explored at last.

Occult Mysteries shines a light on the darkest mysteries of the Pathfinder campaign setting. Within this book, you’ll find:

  • In-depth explorations of five of the most debated questions of the Pathfinder campaign setting, including the origins of life, the exodus of the gnomes, and the designs of the veiled masters.
  • Insights into the workings and agendas of eight secret societies like the Anaphexia, the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, and the Knights of the Ioun Star, as well as rules for joining their hidden ranks.
  • Revelations on esoteric traditions such as astrology, numerology, spiritualism, and more, along with a host of new rules and character options to help integrate them into your game.
  • Entirely new ways to divine and influence characters’ futures with Golarion’s zodiac, the Cosmic Caravan, as well as a system for using the harrow deck to inspire game-changing plot twists.
  • Details on six of the most infamous texts in Golarion, along with the hidden powers that make them so dangerous.
  • Numerous options for players, including new feats and spells, ritual magic items, the pain taster prestige class, the occult oracle mystery, and more.

Occult Mysteries is intended for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Pathfinder campaign setting, but can easily be used in any fantasy game.

Written by Jason Bulmahn, Crystal Frasier, Jim Groves, Brandon Hodge, James Jacobs, Erik Mona, F. Wesley Schneider, and Jerome Virnich.
Cover Art by Johan Grenier.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-649-2

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscription.

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Fabulous tool for background information on the mysteries of Golarian


Occult Mysteries has been great as a PFS GM understanding a bit more of the ongoing mysteries / controversies in Golarian's history. Does it answer the mysteries? No. And as a GM I'm glad. The mysteries of the setting are meant to be that. What it does is provide GMs with the tools and details to build upon these mysteries and intrigue your players into investigating them.

As far as I'm concerned, this book has exactly one usable piece of player crunch: the lucky number spell. On the other hand, it's a great spell that can be gotten in a wand and be used by most casters in PFS.

As a PFS GM (and a frequent player of Dark Archives characters), this book has provided material for me make several recent scenarios come alive for my players. It talks about the death of Aroden, the Harbinger of Fate cult and the Book of 1000 Whispers. It discusses the mysterious disappearance of the Number 5 issue of the Pathfinder Chronicles. It even has a chapter that compiles the theories of why gnomes left the first world -- a place perfect for creatures of caprice and chaos -- to come to the material plane with its order and mortality.

If you're looking for crunch, look elsewhere. If you're looking for real answers, look elsewhere. But... If you're seeking more information on the great questions of the Golarian setting, this is the book for you.

Unspeakable Dread


Wonderful book devoted to secret societies & mysterious cults. This offers lots of adventure hooks and ideas that will feed PC paranoia. The astrology segment was welcome, offering a new set of traits based on constellations. The elaboration on the Night Heralds and Veiled Masters is a particular treat. There are a few new spells and haunts that appears useful, and the detailed description of several arcane tomes is incredible -- I only wish that reading them drove the reader a bit insane, a la Call of Cthulhu. (I house rule in insanity, no save, usually in the form of a simple phobia that is as fun to role-play as it is frustrating). If you enjoy Call of Cthulhu, you'll like this.

the flavor is great, but "scientific magic" is ruined forever.


This book contains a great deal of ideas to build upon. one could easily see a custom game centring around many of these mysteries. and makes for a good read in general

the problem comes from the crunch. every character option detailed in here is simply too complicated to be feasible in an in game setting. we are talking about taking on an extra 5 minutes for someone to take their turn just to calculate for a metamagic feat. it's not that the feat effect is bad. It's just that the actual steps to actualy use it are aggravating at best. the feats provided for numerology feel like they should have been part of the description of what numerologists do rather than something the player himself has to do. take the sacred geomery feat for example. it requires you to roll a number of d6 equal to your knowledge engineering skill, and do any combination of math with those dice such that they equal a number on a table. who in there right mind would take 10 minutes doing mid level algebra just to take your turn? why not just make it something like "roll a number of d6 equal to your knowledge engineering. If the total is above the number on the table the feat succeeds"?

the worst part is that I was looking forward to "science magic" for a while. This single book kills any chance of anyone ever playing with it unless Paizo fixes this at a later date.

Great book


Read my full review on Of Dice and Pen.

Occult Mysteries offers incredible insight into the beliefs of the people of Golarion, and into their thought processes. The book looks at a number of “mysteries” from across the world—the strange things that people haven’t quite been able to explain, but have many hypotheses about. These include creation stories, the exodus of the gnomes, and the missing Volume 5 of the Pathfinder Chronicles. The book also looks at traditions like astrology and numerology, secret societies, and infamous texts of great power.

Far too many ideas for one campaign to hold.


So, I should definitely begin by saying that this publication is specifically helpful for Game Masters who use the Pathfinder Campaign Setting (Golarion, and its related mythos); other gamers might find it fun to muse on if they are unfamiliar, but not all that helpful as a player-option resource. This is definitely a storyteller-oriented publication, and not something you will want to encourage your players to keep on hand, unless they are involved in some of the books organizations and secret societies. This book presents more questions than answers, and I believe it may be impossible to verify/debunk every theory of every mystery presented here, in the scope of a single campaign. If you are hoping that this book will make you stop feeling the urge to find out the answers to questions you have from other related products, you are almost guaranteed to be disappointed. This product works really well if you have the Inner Sea World Guide, and is also helpful for those who use the materials for the Dragon Empires, Tian Xia; but for those who have none, you have the Pathfinder Wiki.

The inside front cover features an illustrated diagram of the Cosmic Caravan, Golarion's central zodiac; the back cover repeats the outside front cover illustration. One page of credits and table of contents.

Two pages are a 'Collection Memorandum' (Introduction), written in-character by Djavin Vhrest, an Absalom scholar, including fourteen listed texts and their descriptions the reader may find of alluring interest. This scholar also includes an introduction and postscript by the fictional author. Page 3 includes a sidebar listing the "Mysterious Occultists" who participated in the publication's writing, and the sections upon which they worked.

Chapter 1 is 'Mysteries of Golarion', and begins with an excellent image of two cosmic dragons fighting in a starry, nebulous space. All of the artwork in this publication is great. The greatest mysteries of Golarion are explored here, and the page 5 explanation of them includes 'The Ultimate Mystery,' referring to the death/disappearance of Aroden, and its effects on the campaign setting lands. Each topic in this chapter is summarized, and the 'Facts' and 'Theories' are presented for each of them, allowing GMs to tailor the plot hooks, adventure materials, and their own ideas to the players at the table, and the campaign at hand.

Chapter 1 mysteries include the Aucturn Enigma, Creation Myths & Origin Stories, the Exodus of the Gnomes from the First World, the aboleth Veiled Masters and ancient Azlant, and the infamous lost Volume 5 of the Pathfinder Chronicles.

Chapter 2 is 'Secret Societies', and features a wicked illustration of a few worshiping cultists, encircling some sort of tentacle creature emerging from a pool in a massive cyclopean architectural space - it's beautiful and freaky, all at once. A full page (p. 17) is dedicated to the idea of joining or leaving a secret society, and benefits of membership.

Chapter 2 secret societies include the Anaphexia, Conference Z, the Church of Razmir, the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, the Harbingers of Fate, the Knights of the Ioun Star, the Night Heralds, and the Way of the Kirin. Each of these are detailed, and certain benefits of membership are presented, as well as how GMs can use these organizations in their own campaigns. Great illustrations, all the way around; Paizo does a lovely job with this.

Chapter 3 is 'Esoteric Traditions', which begins with an illustration of Seltyiel (the iconic magus) performing self-mortification to gain arcane power - very creepy, no doubt about it, but still very cool. A page is dedicated to summarizing these traditions.

Chapter 3 esoteric traditions include Astrology (with two full-page tables for astrological elements), the Harrow (including three pages of descriptions of the deck cards), Mortification and the Pain Taster prestige class, Numerology, and Spiritualism. Each section is given a 4-page spread, wonderful illustrations, and a lot of options such as new feats and spells. The Numerology section could easily become complicated and could be a time-consuming mechanical aspect, and some people may feel a little over-informed about the Harrow because of other Paizo products; but for those who want it all in one place, this is a perfect solution.

Chapter 4 is 'Occult Writings', the final chapter of the publication, and features an illustration of Ezren, the iconic wizard, with his eyes getting zapped by arcane energies from reading a massive tome. Oh, did I mention the really nice artwork? A page is dedicated to describing occult writings, along with sixteen of those texts not detailed in this section.

Chapter 4 occult writings include the Aleh Almaktoum (includes the spell, spectral saluqi), the Book of 1,000 Whispers, The Inward-Facing Circle, the Lost Gospels of Tabris, the Secrets of the Dreaming Dark, and Uniting the Flesh. I don't even know how to summarize how much awesome is in this section, and each of the one-page detailed sections includes an illustration of the tome/text.

An advertisement accompanies the Open Gaming License, with a standard outside back cover design about the publication. 64 lovely pages of wonderful excellence, and it is definitely possible to have an overdose of awesome on this product; proceed with caution, readers.

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Duncan7291 wrote:
2.5 weeks since last post. Still looking to see if any of the material will be allowed in PFS.

The PFS staff are shoulder-deep in GenCon prep—I would not expect anything until after that.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Does the same apply for clarification of the new Pain Taster prestige class' abilities?

So they expanded Pain Taster to a 10-level PRC, but they nerfed Cruelty in the process. In the earlier version you got Cruelty damage on sneak attacks with slashing weapons or on every attack with a whip, but now it looks like Cruelty damage is only applied on sneak attacks with a whip.

Kinda makes the skill a lot less appealling.

Pain Taster in Second Darkness wrote:

At 2nd level, a pain taster gains the sneak attack ability, but only when using slashing weapons. This additional damage stacks with any sneak attack damage he may possess from other classes.

A pain taster is particularly adept at delivering cruelty damage with a whip. As long as he chooses to inflict lethal damage with his whip, he inflicts cruelty damage on every strike. If he has sneak attack as well, the additional sneak attack damage only applies if the conditions for a successful sneak attack are met as well. When attacking with a whip using cruelty, the pain taster ignores the restriction on damaging creatures with high armor or natural armor bonuses.

At 4th level, the pain taster inflicts +2d6 points of damage whenever he strikes with cruelty.

Pain Taster in Occult Mysteries wrote:
At 2nd level, a pain taster gains the sneak attack ability, but only when using a whip. This additional damage stacks with any sneak attack damage she possesses from other classes. The amount of damage dealt by cruelty increases by 1d6 every 2 pain taster levels thereafter.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Does anyone know who was responsible for the Pain Taster prestige class' revised write-up in Occult Mysteries? I would really like to get some answers to the questions above ...

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Bellona wrote:
Does anyone know who was responsible for the Pain Taster prestige class' revised write-up in Occult Mysteries? I would really like to get some answers to the questions above ...

Since the Pain Taster is found in the Mortification article, it seems likely that it was written by Jerome Virnich. At least he is credited with writing the Mortification article, among others.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thanks for the info! Although it appears that Jerome Virnich is not reachable as a "user" here on

Paizo Employee Developer

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Bellona wrote:
Does anyone know who was responsible for the Pain Taster prestige class' revised write-up in Occult Mysteries? I would really like to get some answers to the questions above ...

As the lead developer on the project, I'm the one ultimately responsible, and those questions should come to me. Since I'm here, I can answer them! (Note that I already wrote a really long post doing just that, but RPG Superstar voting knocked the site out just prior to my finishing the post. I hope my repeated effort is not wasted.)

”Bellona” wrote:

The Disciple of Pain class ability refers to daily hour-long self-torture routines, both the more intentse "starter" versions and the less intense "follow-up" versions. But nowhere do I see the hit point damage and other damage caused by these routines. And there must be some, considering both the descriptions and the reference under the Pain Mastery class ability.

Did something get left out, or am I suffering from selective blindness?

The ritual involved in the disciple of pain class ability does not deal hit point damage. To do so would make it one of the few class abilities that came with a built-in burden to characters who take levels in the class. The rituals are meant to be primarily flavorful means by which a character gains the benefit, similar to deific obediences from Inner Sea Gods or to a wizard preparing spells for the day. If a GM wishes to play out this hour-long ritual, she is welcome to do so, but we didn’t want to hard-code a penalty or hit point tax into the rules for all players. The reference to hit point damage in the pain mastery description is a legacy from changes made to the class last-minute that slipped through the cracks (see below).

“Bellona” wrote:

And why did the authordeveloper (fixed that for you) remove the reference to the Fortitude DC 15 (or Will DC 20) saving throw needed to survive the initiation rite into the prestige class?

Because a character shouldn’t risk death when attempting to level up. As with many special requirements for entry into a prestige class (such as a Hellknight killing a devil or a Pathfinder Chronicler selling a written work for a certain amount of money), they are primarily flavorful elements to further cement the character into the theme of the prestige class in question. Individual GMs may choose to make this ritual into a much larger part of the campaign, and by not hard-coding how it works into the class, it gives GMs the freedom to push the boundaries of what her players are comfortable with as she sees fit. As written, the ritual may be attempted many times in the lead-up to a character’s entry into the prestige class, and a failure should be an opportunity for a more intricate story rather than an opportunity to make a new character.

”Set” wrote:

In addition to that, I observed earlier that the 5th level Pain Mastery ability appears to be designed around the Disciple of Pain class ability, but instead refers to the Masochism ability (both in name and mechanics, sacrificing hit points for a bonus).

I imagine that, during conversion / updating, something got changed in mid-design, and not all changes were propogated successfully.

Your assessment is correct (see above). In order to fit the class on a single spread, we had to make some adjustments to its text in the late stages of editing and development, and this ability in particular changed pretty significantly. Pain mastery should work in conjunction with disciple of pain rather than masochism, as a result. If we ever pick the prestige class up elsewhere, we’ll aim to make the necessary adjustments to the language to clarify this.

I think that’s all the actual questions that remained unanswered. Sorry for the long delay!

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thank you for the answers! :) (I only just found out that there had been answers, hence the delay in my own reaction.)

The Pain Mastery clarification is indeed helpful, and I hope that Set sees it. The rest of your answers also make sense from a meta-game perspective.

However, I still do find a dissonance between the graphic descriptions under the newer Disciple of Pain class feature and the actual consequences of those rituals. Personally, I'd be inclined to go back to the original Disciple of Pain description in SD 3, but as the wise say: YMMV. The same goes for whether or not death should be a risk when qualifying for this prestige class.

As a whole, the prestige class seems to have moved away from its original "target audience" (Barbarians and Fighters) and towards any class that feels comfortable trying to sneak attack a foe with a whip.

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