Paizo continues to release amazing Pathfinder Second Edition (PF2) with the addition of Secrets of Magic! The newest rulebook for Pathfinder Second Edition brings the mystical and mysterious to your table in the form of new magic rules. In this Secrets of Magic review, we’ll take a look at all the sweet spellcaster secrets!
The first thing you’ll notice is that the cover strays away from the style format that Paizo has used for the other Second Edition rulebooks. The previous books featured a blocky title font at the bottom of the cover, laid over the striking artwork. In Secrets of Magic, you get this sharp, angular font that is reminiscent of arcane etchings, and a beautifully illustrated border showcasing various magical accoutrements.
Right away, this should tell you that this book is meant to push the boundaries on Pathfinder Second Edition content. And it does! Not only will you find the rules for two new playable classes in the Summoner and Magus, but there are shiny new spells, magic items, and extended rules to give background context to your magical abilities!
Let’s take a look at the details!
Secrets of Magic: Who It’s For
Secrets of Magic is designed for all magic-lovers in Golarion. If you find yourself constantly building characters with access to magic, or if you’re a Gamemaster looking to enhance your NPCs and big-bads with a fresh coat of magical paint, Secrets of Magic is right up your alley.
The first section, Essentials of Magic, is presented in the form of excerpts from Golarion’s well-known magical tomes. If you’ve played the Elder Scrolls games, like Skyrim or Oblivion, consider it similar to reading the in-game books. There’s so much lore in those games that some people never see because it’s contained within those texts, but they’re so good at grounding the world in reality.
Likewise, the Essentials of Magic section also includes a full-page spread for each of the schools of magic. It’s more of a deep dive into the essence behind your incantations, to see what magics you’re truly harnessing.
Of course, if you’re a player or a GM, you’ll find lots to love in the two new classes introduced in the book: Magus and Summoner.
With a Magus, you get the best of both worlds as a melee fighter AND an adept caster. A Magus receives the ability to Spellstrike, enhancing their attacks with the power of spells. An interesting addition to the class, thanks to the 3-action economy, is that you must spend an action to concentrate before you can use your Spellstrike again.
At higher levels you can do some pretty neat things, including wrapping your weapon with a scroll to use as a part of a Spellstrike, or the ability to counteract enemy magic on a successful Spellstrike.
Summoners have the ability to bring an eidolon into the world. Eidolons are a league of their own – not quite minions and not normal summoned creatures – and create a magical link between themselves and the summoner. If you play a Summoner, prepare to be manipulating the action economy with your Act Together ability, which allow you and your eidolon to coordinate your actions with your shared link.
Not only are there numerous types of eidolons to choose from, but your eidolon will gain even more abilities along with you as you level up. Eventually, your eidolon can even become a magical master, and you can supplement your eidolon with other powerful summoned creatures.
Secrets of Magic is designed for people who love to play spellcasters, and it delivers that in droves.
Secrets of Magic: The Best Parts
Now let’s take a look at my top three takeaways from Secrets of Magic. Although the book is splitting the binding with fun and useful tidbits, there are a few items that really caught my eye while reading through the tome.
There’s an entire subsection of magic items called Fulus, which are magical paper charms originating from Tian Xia. Upon first glance, they seem like scrolls, but they’re actually charms that can be affixed to other items to enhance them. For example, you can have a Ghostbane Fulu that will trigger when you successfully Strike an incorporeal creature. Other Fulus don’t have a Trigger; they merely bestow their power similar to a rune.
What I really like about Fulus is that they give non-magic users more opportunity to use magic within the game. There’s already a lot of versatility in Pathfinder Section Edition to sprinkle in magic where you see fit, but Fulus are like taking an always-active readied action to active a magical scroll.
You’ll also find a brief section on creating your own Fulus. This gives the GM the autonomy to reimagine scrolls as Fulus, which can add some spice and flavor to encounters, personalities, and world-building alike. From a balance perspective, Fulus are also incredibly visible, so players will have a clue that something magical is going on.
Players love to name things – companions, swords, etc. And now, with Secrets of Magic, you can create and name your own personal staff! Finally, we can wield something in our wizarding hands besides a crossbow.
What I love about being able to create personal staves in Pathfinder Section Edition is that you can imbue different levels of spells into the staff. All staves need a trait, so all of the spells on the staff will share a common theme.
This could be a staff centered around cold magic with spells like Winter Bolt and Snowball. Or you might be more concerned about turning down the lights with the darkness trait and spells like Cloak of Shadow and Chilling Darkness.
Limiting your staff to specific magical traits is a really smart move. It helps ensure that there isn’t a ridiculously over-powered staff by touching every school of magic across multiple disciplines. From a character perspective, this also grounds your character to a specialty. Just don’t forget to give your staff a name!
Book of Unlimited Magic
Who would’ve thought that you’d get a book INSIDE a book with Secrets of Magic? The last section of the book is titled ‘Book of Unlimited Magic’, and it provides source content for extra magical rules that you can implement into your games. It’s a wide blend of different rules, including Ley Lines, Cathartic (Emotional) Magic, and True Names.
Utilizing any of these rulesets can grant a lot of interesting dynamics to your table. For example, the Cathartic Magic section talks about how Emotional States like Awe, Love, or Pride can trigger certain feelings within your character. These feelings then extend into an Emotional Fervor state, eventually creating a Fallout.
Rules like this aren’t for every table; you really need to make sure everyone is onboard before introducing things like Emotional Fervor. The book even says that Fervor isn’t a free pass to do whatever you want; you should always be respectful of other players and the table.
But the point I’m making about this section is that the creativity afforded to the game is what makes your table unique to your group. Just like the expanded character options and archetypes allow more freedom within the boundaries of your character, these rules expand the limitations of your game as a whole. Plus, I’ve always wanted to build a Geomancer for some kind of Airbender campaign. Now I can!
Secrets of Magic: Parting Thoughts
Since I’m usually in the GM chair, I don’t get a ton of opportunity to stretch my hand at making really interesting spellcasters in Pathfinder Second Edition. As a general rule, the more spells that I have to remember, the harder it’ll be for me to be dynamic in encounters. It can be a lot to juggle.
However, with Secrets of Magic, I’m really interested in implementing some of the interesting rulesets and trying my hand at building a Magus and Summoner. And, with all the background information and flavor in the book, there are plenty of opportunities to drop magical lore at the fingertips of my players.
Long story short: if you like MAGIC (and who doesn’t?) Secrets of Magic will make a fine addition to your Pathfinder Second Edition library!
[Disclosure: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of the Secrets of Magic from Paizo in exchange for an honest review.]