What's the difference between arcane and occult?


Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells


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Seems to me that these are just slightly different flavors of the same thing. Occult and arcane are basically synonyms, both meaning something obscure, esoteric and mystical.

It seems that Paizo are trying to differentiate between a more scientific, rigorous type of magic and a more mystical, esoteric type of magic. But why? For the longest time in d20 fantasy games and related books and other media, magic of non-divine spellcasters (Arcane magic) has been called "The Art" for a reason - it was a combination of study and mysticism. Not truly a science, but not a purely intuitive thing, either.

Now, we've got two different skills and spell lists which have so much in common it's strange why the distinction even there. The only real mechanical difference is that Occult spell list has some spells from the Divine spell list, but fluff-wise, Occult and Arcane are almost the same.

As a contrast, Divine and Primal magics are very distinct, flavor-wise. One deals with the over-worldly powers (i. e. supernatural) another deals with powers of the world itself (i. e. natural in the strictest sense).

Meanwhile, what's the difference between "magic writing" and "occult writing"? Or between "magical creatures" and "creatures of occult significance"? Descriptions of Occult and Arcane skills basically describe the same thing, just use slightly different words, synonyms, essentially.

Personally, I believe it would be a better idea to introduce Psionics as the fourth pillar of magic. It has the same "aberration-flavored/mind magic" feel that Occultism has, but it differs more from the Arcane.

So, can anyone please sell me on the idea of dividing Arcane and Occult magic? I honestly want to understand it, so I could enjoy the game just as much as other players in my group do. The fluff has always been crucial for me when it comes to table-top roleplaying.


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In my mind, the arcane makes sense. The occult...is something stranger. Not quite logical. A chink in the fabric of reality


Arcane = Generic D&D magic flavour that doesn't really have any occult flavour aspects and hasn't fit the word arcane since 3e. It has kept the terminology because it's now the word people associate with that type of magic regardless of the original meaning of the word.
Occult = Occult magical practices of arcane secrets and the spiritual.


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Occult has all the old necromancy spells, which makes the change bizarre. Why is finger of death divine and not occult? Why is wail occult but not arcane? Why is vampiric exsanguination arcane?

Basically, the necromancer wizard is a worse necromancer than the occult bard. I personally don't think this change was well thought out; the divisions are arbitrary - finger of death has never been a divine spell, and wail has been a wizard spell since it first showed up in 2e.

Grand Lodge

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The way it was explained to me:

Arcane = Nuts and bolts magic. Types: Mental/Material
Divine = Faith-based magic. Types: Spiritual/Vital
Nature = magic springing from life. Types: Material/Vital
Occult = things man was not meant to know. Types: Mental/Spiritual.

So:
Wizards = Technicians of magic.
Clerics = Save you body & Soul.
Druids = Draw power from the world around.
Bards = Getting into things they really shouldn't, Cthulu is waiting right around that corner.

Silver Crusade

Culach wrote:

The way it was explained to me:

Arcane = Nuts and bolts magic. Types: Mental/Material
Divine = Faith-based magic. Types: Spiritual/Vital
Nature = magic springing from life. Types: Material/Vital
Occult = things man was not meant to know. Types: Mental/Spiritual.

So:
Wizards = Technicians of magic.
Clerics = Save you body & Soul.
Druids = Draw power from the world around.
Bards = Getting into things they really shouldn't, Cthulu is waiting right around that corner.

Mark Seifter gave a really good and expansive introduction to this philosophy on Know Direction and the bard makes TOTAL sense as an Occult caster.


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Dean HS Jones wrote:


Mark Seifter gave a really good and expansive introduction to this philosophy on Know Direction and the bard makes TOTAL sense as an Occult caster.

Thanks for the tip! I'll listen to it pronto since the Occult + bard connection is very unclear to me. Feels like Occult should instead be connected to witches and sorcerers, and bards to enchantment magic and illusions.


link?

Sovereign Court

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AshVandal wrote:

link?

Seifting through the Bard

Grand Lodge

Razcar wrote:
Dean HS Jones wrote:


Mark Seifter gave a really good and expansive introduction to this philosophy on Know Direction and the bard makes TOTAL sense as an Occult caster.
Thanks for the tip! I'll listen to it pronto since the Occult + bard connection is very unclear to me. Feels like Occult should instead be connected to witches and sorcerers, and bards to enchantment magic and illusions.

I guess it makes sense to me because, in my mind, bards have always been the overly curious type, collecting the bits of lore that would otherwise be forgotten.

Sorcerers DO get Occult, depending on their bloodline, and I agree that Witches, when we get them, IF THEY HAVE SPELLS (I could see them only having Powers and special Rituals) should be on the occult list.


I still don't get the difference between arcane and occult :/ One of my players asked me about it, and I could not explain it.

If I get what you are saying... Occultism is about lovecraftian lore ?


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Paizo definitely loves them some Lovecraft, and that is 100% the reason why Occult is a separate thing from Arcane. And that's fine! But I would still replace Occult with Psionics or Mentalism, which still fits the Cthulhu stuff just fine and gives it more of a distinct space and flavor. I would then shift the flavor of Arcane to include esoterica and understanding / manipulating the underpinning structure of reality.


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Hmm... I'm not a fan of Lovecraft being hard-baked in Pathfinder's system. I don't automatically think Lovecraft when I think heroic fantasy. Even in Golarion, lovecraftian horrors are pretty rare from what I can see (one module, one campaign, and half a scenario in Carrion Crown). This would mean that in any setup without Cthulhu and cie, Occultism is useless.

I know people will probably tell it's the same about Arcana or Religion depending on the setup, but I can see those two being easier to incorporate in heroic fantasy than aliens. I explicitely stay in med-fan territory and stay out of sci-fi because I don't like aliens.

Plus, this is pretty weird when you have played with Occult rules in PF1, where occultism was more linked to spirits and psionism.


I know that this is a hardcore necro, but since the game just came out officially a couple weeks ago I wanted to weigh in a little. My understanding is that arcane magic is learned through books and teachers and chalkboards and theories. If you want a pop culture reference, think Harry Potter.

Occult magic is a gypsy fortune teller reading tarot cards, or a turbaned carnival performer levitating and speaking with the dead. It's a voodoo witch doctor, a coven chanting around a cauldron, or a ouija board. This isn't Harry Potter, it's Supernatural.

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