Dark Archive, the latest sourcebook for Pathfinder Second Edition (PF2), brings the focus to some of the more supernatural aspects of the Pathfinder world. Featuring two new classes – the Psychic and the Thaumaturge – you’ll be ready to investigate the paranormal and uncover the secrets of the things we can’t explain.
If you played Pathfinder First Edition, you may be familiar with the occult classes. Dark Archive isn’t exactly a replication of that; rather, it’s an exploration into a secondary world that runs in tandem with our own.
I have been looking forward to Dark Archive since it was announced, and it’s still managed to pleasantly surprise me. There are mini-adventures, plenty of feats, and – of course – the two new classes. Plus there’s a veritable bounty of cryptid-adjacent material!
Let’s get into the details of the book!
Dark Archive: Who It’s For
The Dark Archive for Pathfinder Second Edition is designed for people who want to keep going in the direction of the weird and the wild, right on the heels of the Book of the Dead. It’s an interesting book in that the content is split between being suitable for players and Gamemasters almost evenly.
That does lead to a change in how the material is presented; the pre-written mini-adventures are sprinkled in at the end of relevant sections seemingly without warning. It’s actually decently difficult to distinguish between the adventures and the other headings because there isn’t any formatting different between the two. You just have to hope that you notice the header image having room markings like A1, A2, etc. Or you have to be sure not to skip the ‘Adventure Background’ at the beginning of it.
In my opinion, this could have been done better. I understand that the adventures are meant to highlight that section’s content, but I wouldn’t want players to accidentally start reading part of an adventure that they might be running through in the future.
To get back on topic, the Dark Archive book presents the two new classes: Psychic and Thaumaturge. Anytime you have a sourcebook with major player options like this, it’s going to be of great interest to players.
Psychics get access to psychic magic and a subconscious mind! This means that you replace your verbal components of spells with thought components. The tradeoff is that you have to use concentration, but you don’t have to speak to cast your spells anymore. Sorry Silence! Psychics excel at attacking the minds of others while warping the psychic energy fields in the area.
The Thaumaturge is a nod towards the Occultist class from Pathfinder First Edition. They use mystical implements and objects to tap into the supernatural world around them. There are a variety of implements that you can use, such as a lantern, regalia, chalice, and more. As you gain experience, you’ll unlock stronger benefits, essentially granting yourself some free magical items with great utility.
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The Dark Archive isn’t necessarily a book that I would recommend for players who are new to the Pathfinder Second Edition system. As with the old occultism classes, the concepts in the book have a little bit more meat that might seem overwhelming to a new player.
On the other hand, players who are a bit more familiar with the system will probably find a lot of interesting concepts in the new classes and the other content. It’s sort of similar to how the Bestiaries get more complicated over time. That being said, the content is really good and will be a welcomed addition to the player and GM toolboxes!
Dark Archive: The Best Parts
Now let’s take a look at my top three takeaways from the Dark Archive. These are things that caught my eye when reading through the book, and the things I’m most excited to bring to the table.
Secret Societies (Pg 74)
The first thing I want to briefly touch on is the section on secret societies and organizations. What I really like about this section is that it really gets my creativity going as a Gamemaster. The section discusses various organizations in Golarion, their history, and what they’re up to at the moment.
Sometimes as a Gamemaster, I struggle to come up with some unique organizations or cults that people could belong to. Even just having a list in my back pocket of subtle nods to various groups is enough, and this section gives me that. For example, the masks worn by the Cat and Mouse Society is a small way to breathe some life into your worldbuilding at the table. Is an NPC wearing the mask? Do they find it at a crime scene or a pet shop? Or maybe it’s in the dusty archives of an old museum.
If you crave more lore and worldbuilding opportunities, I encourage you to check out this section. I mean, what’s up with that huge ebony metal sarcophagus in the tunnels underneath Marlview Village? Paizo leaves just enough to the imagination that ANYTHING could be inside.
Living Vessel Archetype (Pg 140)
The Living Vessel archetype is when a character allows another entity to inhabit their being. The exact details of that arrangement are left up to the reader, but at the end of the day there are powers inside the character that take them to new heights. As with all things, however, it comes with a price.
This archetype really leans into a fey, aberration, or outer entity as the source of power. These are generally beings that are ‘out there’ in the sense that you can get really creative with it! The Warped Constriction Feat reminds me of Ben from the Umbrella Academy, since it sends tendrils out from your body to restrict and constrict your foes.
You can have a lot of fun playing around with being a living vessel. How would you roleplay the interacts between your two selves? Who is in control? Can you remain a contributing member of the party without becoming a liability? If you’re able to get to the Vessel’s Form Feat, all of this becomes moot; you combine with the entity temporarily, getting some massive benefits.
That’s my kind of Feat!
Cryptid Adjustments (Pg 58)
Did somebody say cryptids?! I hail from Wisconsin, so I’m no stranger to cryptid lore. Take the Hodag for example. Now I can put the Hodag into my Pathfinder game to set upon my players!
Almost any beast in Pathfinder Second Edition can be made into a Cryptid, thanks to the adjustments provided in the Dark Archive. You can create experimental, mutant, primeval, or rumored cryptids.
Rumored cryptids have the most flavor ties to their mechanics, in my opion. That’s because as rumors and tall tales spread about the nature of the beast, that collective weight of belief ends up shaping the creature to match what people are saying about it. The urban legends are actually fueling the creature into becoming its final form. I guess one way to combat that would be to convince everyone that the cryptid is a harmless blobfish, but I don’t think that will work once the mob has been worked up into their fury.
All cryptid adjustments will buff the HP of the creature, but their abilities are determined by their type. Personally, I think that you could go a step further and mix-and-match the different types to fit the nature of the beast. This is especially true if you’re in a cryptid-centric campaign. For example, you could have a mage experimenting on certain beasts, which is actually turning them into mutants. Well, I guess that confirms X-Men in Golarion, wrap it up folks!
Dark Archive: Parting Thoughts
The Dark Archive for Pathfinder Second Edition is an excellent sourcebook by Paizo that is sure to excite fans of the system. I’m always an advocate for more player options, especially when they expand the rules and add an extra dimension to the world we’ve been playing in thus far. The Psychic and Thaumaturge classes do exactly that.
Plus there are a bunch of little adventures that are pre-written to help you take out these new classes for a test drive. It really helps to have these as an example of how the mechancis work, as well as giving Gamemasters a starting point for their adventures. Something besides your typical ‘you meet in a tavern’ type stuff.
And if somebody finds a Hodag, please call me immediately.
[Disclosure: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of the Pathfinder Dark Archive from Paizo in exchange for an honest review.]