Welcome, Archivists. I’m James Case, here for your debrief on the playtest for Pathfinder Dark Archive! First, thank you all for taking the time to try out the psychic and the thaumaturge and for filling out surveys, talking about the classes on forums and chat servers, making blog posts and videos, and all in all helping us make the classes the best we can be! Now that the playtest has wrapped, we wanted to talk about some of the feedback we saw and the directions we’re starting to take class revisions. While we’re still in the middle of discussions, development, and analysis, we thought we’d check in. Keep in mind that both classes will get a ton of small updates across the board, as well as more feats, class path options, and the like, so we’re just going to focus on the big changes here!
Thaleon, the iconic psychic. Sketch by Wayne Reynolds.
Main Takeaways:We tried something a little different from the conventional spellcaster model with the psychic’s lower number of spell slots and strong focus on …focus... cantrips, amps, and other special powers, with conventional slotted spells filling a more supplemental role. The overwhelming majority of you responded that you preferred this approach over a conventional spellcaster approach; however, much of the feedback also indicated that while what the psychic got in exchange for this reduced spell loadout was very interesting, it didn’t feel powerful or useful enough to make up for the difference in lost spell slots. So, a major direction of change for the psychic will be to retain the “fewer spell slots” and “cantrip/amp focus” class role, but adjust the power level of the supplemental pieces so that you can truly feel like you’ve unleashed the awesome power of your mind. I’ll get into some of the approaches we’re taking in each point below.
We also wanted to get a sense in the playtest of what you all thought of the general tone and genre of the class. This was pretty conclusive—over two-thirds of respondents said the more magical cast was working for them, so we’ll be staying the course here as well!
Spells and Spellcasting: A strong majority of respondents stated that they preferred the playtest arrangement of the psychic’s spellcasting and key ability scores, so we’ll be sticking to those and keeping the psychic as a spontaneous occult spellcaster whose subconscious mind gives them a thematic choice of key ability score between Intelligence and Charisma.
I also want to call out that, as with past spellcaster playtests, the specific spells granted on the conscious minds drew only on spells we had already published, so some needed to be chosen for role (“a damaging spell here” or “a scouting spell here”) and easy understandability even if they were a little outside the theme—for instance, magic missile was a stand-in for a more on-theme damaging level 1 spell on the distant grasp psychic. The final Dark Archive book will introduce several new spells with the psychic in mind for thematically tighter granted spells!
Psyche: The ability to unleash your psyche to amp spells for free was originally intended to let psychics really feel like they got to be masters of focus by cheating the Focus Point caps. However, the fact that psychics had almost unlimited Focus Points took up a lot of the power budget for the class, rippling into the psyches needing to come online later and have both benefits and drawbacks, as well as affecting the power of amps (which I'll touch on next). Therefore, one of the biggest changes we’ll be making to psychic is to remove this aspect of Unleash Psyche, and then redistribute that power through the rest of the class for a more consistent play experience.
Consistent feedback also showed that while psyches were interesting when unleashed, most combats didn’t last long enough after the third turn to make getting into the psyche feel worthwhile (meaning that much of the psychic’s power was tied up in a feature they had inconsistent access to). While we don’t want to make Unleash Psyche an “assumed first-turn action” in the vein of Rage, Hunt Prey, or similar, we do want to make it easier to do. Thankfully, with the removal of psyche’s role as a source of unlimited Focus Points, we have a lot of options for making it more accessible, as well as for adding more punch, such as effects that happen when your first Unleash your Psyche, more special abilities that happen automatically when you are unleashed, or the ability to end your psyche earlier for a single big benefit.
Amps: Amps are one of the major parts of the psychic, and most respondents stated that they found these options very interesting—Mark tells me that amps scored among the highest for “interesting” of any class we’ve playtested—but also that they felt weak in comparison to normal focus spells. They were! Since Unleash Psyche meant that you could amp your focus cantrips 5 or more times in a single combat, as opposed to a hard maximum of 3, those amps needed to be a little under the balance point of spells like fire ray. While psychics will retain their focus on amps, they likely won’t have such an outsized number of them, so we have plenty of room to now bring the power scale of amps back up.
New Stuff!: Of course, we always increase the number of options between the playtest and the final class! In addition to the new spells that will be added in Dark Archive, the psychic will of course be gaining new feats and choices of both conscious and subconscious minds. In honor of our new iconic psychic, Thaleon, I’ll share his conscious mind, which is called the tangible dream. This path focuses on materializing and projecting the user’s thoughts into the physical world, allowing you to conjure walls, blades, and other constructs of force (or astral thread, or ectoplasm, as your character concept fits) around the battlefield!
I’m getting a vision… It’s… of Mark, talking about the thaumaturge!
Mios, the iconic thaumaturge. Sketch by Wayne Reynolds.
Hi everyone, Mark Seifter here for a post-playtest report for the thaumaturge class. I first want to thank you all for participating in the playtest by running and playing games, posting your playtest results and analysis, answering surveys, and having good discussions! In particular, the playtest was happening during a pretty challenging period for us at Paizo, and I appreciate how all of you in the playtest stepped up your game compared to earlier playtests with extremely civil discourse, keeping repetitive points to a minimum so I could keep up with all the new ideas, and just really engaging with each other’s ideas and feelings in good faith to talk about different directions.
Overall, people really liked the thaumaturge, with a strong good feeling from the majority of players, but there were definitely some areas where it needed tweaking or rethinking, usually in a way that didn’t detract much for most playtesters but did in a big way for a small number of them. This left the thaumaturge in an interesting situation, with about as many people who were about as many huge fans of the class as the highest-ranking class we’ve ever playtested, but then that small number with especially low rankings. The great news about that is that it left a clear path forward.
Main Takeaways: The one thing I wasn’t sure about was whether playtesters would like our new vision of the thaumaturge or would prefer something more similar to the first edition occultist. What I discovered is that you really like the martial thaumaturge concept, by an overwhelming majority, and want it to remain a magpie picking up from all four traditions. However, there was a desire to make it clearer how the class fantasy works with respect to exerting your force of personality to convince the universe, as well as to add more capacity to the class’s skills so that Charisma-based skills are front and center to match the intro lore about being persuasive. The changes to Esoteric Antithesis and Find Flaws (see below) may help with this as well to allow better advantage of your Charisma key ability score, while freeing up a broader variety of character concepts—this will let players freely choose whether to lean more heavily on magical learning or more on making things up as you go along as best fits the character. We’ll also be making a variety of quality-of-life changes based on other playtester proposals.
New Implements: As the playtest mentioned, we’ll be adding up to nine implements (three each granting active, reactive, and passive abilities). Of the four new implements, one of them will be the tome (or a ledger, notebook, or similar object), a passive implement that mysteriously writes down information about everything around you to assist you. The other implements are one to let you inspire and lead your allies, one to debuff your enemies, and one that misleads your enemies’ attacks, but I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what implements those might be!
Esoteric Antithesis and Find Flaws: One thing I’ve learned from these playtests is that our playtesters tend to be our most dedicated and experienced players (and even if you’re new to Pathfinder, you are very experienced with tabletop RPGs in general). So, whenever even our most experienced playtesters think a mechanic is complicated, I think I should take another look at that. People loved the benefits for these abilities but thought they were complex, and that they sometimes had issues being tied directly to Recall Knowledge. Our plan is to disentangle Esoteric Antithesis from Recall Knowledge (with a feat, like investigators’, to pick up a free Recall Knowledge if you want that), instead just flat-out forcing your will on the universe with a check to establish a connection (I’m thinking a name like “Forge Connection”). One consequence of this is that even on a failure, you can forge a connection, but a success or critical success will give you more. Additionally, while a high majority of players really liked the playtest benefit from Esoteric Antithesis, there were some good ideas about how to open up to allow a variety of benefits to allow for more playstyles. So, we’re looking at offering multiple benefits a thaumaturge can pick from when you successfully forge a connection. This separates out the benefit where you apply a creature’s highest weakness and the benefit where you create a new weakness as two options, to handle the feedback people gave about situations where they were already applying a creature’s highest weakness due to preparation for the encounter. It also allows you to gain new benefits, for instance, when you might prefer a special buff or debuff instead of simply more damage. Right now, we’re toying with the idea of having a different connection for each implement, as some folks also thought implements could use one more unique power, and then have more connections available through feats
Pacts: People loved the story of the pacts—in fact, they wanted them to have stronger effects, and many wanted the option for any character, even non-thaumaturges, to gain them. We had actually planned on including similar pacts in a yet-unannounced part of the book, but based on your feedback, we also expanded the pacts into a full-on pact binder archetype for anyone to take! Opinions were pretty varied about their rarity, perhaps the most mixed we’ve ever gotten in a multiple choice question for paths moving forward, so we’ll take that into account moving forward.
A Glimpse, A Hunch, A Flicker of the Future:
Hey, thanks for sticking around! Here’s something coming up in Dark Archive—while the book is still in development and various things might change a little, I wanted to give a sneak peek into a new type of player option coming up in the cryptids file, one of the eight casefiles of the Dark ArchiveM.
Creature Echo Feats
Creature echoes are a new type of feat that grant you special powers based on exposure to an unusual creature. These are rare and usually only occur after a significant event involving the creature. Imagine a town where people have, one by one, begun to turn to stone. You might spend many months tracking down the cause of the phenomena, only to eventually find it was an ancient creature with a petrifying gaze living deep under the town. However your encounter with the creature goes, the following feat might echo with you if you survive:
Stone Skin — Feat 12
Prerequisites You have been petrified.
It might have been a medusa, dracolisk, or even a fossil golem; regardless of the source, you were the target of some petrifying effect, and an element of that stony gaze has remained with you, both protecting and slowly consuming you. Your limbs are coated with a layer of stone that rests atop your skin. You gain a stone fist unarmed attack which deals 1d8 bludgeoning damage, has the shove trait, and is in the brawling weapon group; unlike a normal fist, it does not have the agile or finesse traits. As your life force ebbs, this petrification spreads over more of your body to form a stony armor. When you have fewer than half your maximum Hit Points, your stone fist unarmed attack increases its weapon damage die from 1d8 to 1d10 and you gain resistance to physical damage equal to your Constitution modifier.
If you would gain the dying condition, you can choose to instead be permanently petrified to avoid the risk of death. Counteracting this petrification requires a casting of stone to flesh of a spell level equal to at least half your level, as well as a counteract check against the hard DC for your level. Each time you recover from petrification caused in this way, you gain a new scar on your skin in the shape of a long, thin crack.
Scribes of the Archive
Before I go, I want to say thanks to the awesome writers whose work is featured in the book. We’re in the middle of development and I gotta say, they’ve done some strange, spooky, and brilliant work!
Written by Rigby Bendele, Logan Bonner, James Case, Dan Cascone, Jessica Catalan, Banana Chan, Kay Hashimoto, Sen.H.H.S., Patrick Hurley, Avi Kool, Daniel Kwan, Kendra Leigh Speedling, Luis Loza, Ron Lundeen, Liane Merciel, Jacob W. Michaels, Andrew Mullen, Quinn Murphy, K. Tessa Newton, Mikhail Rekun, Patrick Renie, Michael Sayre, Mark Seifter, Shay Snow, Soup, Alex Speidel, Solomon St. John, Geoffrey Suthers, Ruvaid Virk, Jabari Weathers, and Isis Wozniakowska
We’ll have more for you in the future, so stay tuned for further updates over the next year. Again, thank you all so much for taking the time to participate in the playtest and for sending in feedback to make the classes the best they can be!
In darkness lies enlightenment,
Dark Archive Playtest Analysis
Monday, November 22, 2021