In this episode of the RPGBOT.News, we discuss the newly-released Book of the Dead for Pathfinder 2nd edition. We examine the books contents, discuss our favorite new content, and give some spoiler-free impressions of the adventure included in the book.
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Materials Referenced in this Episode
Welcome to the RPGBOT dot news. I’m Randall James and with me is Tyler Kamstra.
All right, Tyler, what is happening?
Well, today, we got our hands on Pathfinder second editions, new supplement Book of the Dead. Now we’re a little bit behind this came out in April 2022. It’s a little bit into May. But we’ve read through the book, and it’s super great. And I’m very excited to talk about it.
Now, which Book of the Dead? Is this? Is that? Is this the Necronomicon?
No, it is the leaper smartis? No, it’s just called Book of the Dead. There’s pictures of happy looking skeletons on the front, you know, all smiles. It’s a very cool supplement, you got a little setting information, you got some character options, you’ve got an adventure, you’ve got a bunch of monsters. Like there is something for everyone in here if you’re going to play Pathfinder Second Edition. And even if you’re playing other games, there’s actually some really cool storytelling devices in here and like lore that you could borrow. So this is a really good book. There’s a lot to see here.
Yeah, I want to agree with that. Like I think both the storytelling and the setup of like what it means to be undead is hugely bearable. The settings are hugely bearable. So I want to go and broach I think what is going to be one of the first controversies we have to face unless they’ve resolved it. And if you haven’t faced it yet, there’s a person who becomes undead who names their kingdom after themselves. And is that person in Kingdom, Geb or Jeb?
I’m gonna go with Geb. I’m assuming it’s a hard G but I don’t know. It’s fantasy spelling. I’m surprised there aren’t more apostrophes and like, boom laughs or whatever.
It’s actually pronounced EB the G is silent. Yeah, no, I we’re gonna go with gab. I assumed it was gab as well. It’s Jif, by the way, but yeah, but yeah. So yeah, like the storytelling is really cool. It’s written a lot of the early book is written from his perspective. And he’s talking about like, oh, yeah, when I started studying the undead, like, you know, I too thought of them as only servants and kind of tools to do the things that I need to get done. But now that I’m undead, I’m beginning to realize that we’re more than just tools for executing other people’s whims. We have feelings and we have beliefs and we have emotions and we can be whole kingdoms and when we need more people, it’s a natural cycle. We go and we find the living and we make them undead. Isn’t that great?
You’re talking like a necromancer. Yeah. Yeah, I like that they, they’ve leaned into kind of having a character tell the story, similar to fifth edition. They’ll have quips from named characters like Mordekeinen and Tasha and the sidebars for some of the books, but they’ve leaned into that a little heavier. So yeah, whole pages of text written in first person. I don’t know if I’ve seen that before from Pathfinder, so I thought that was a lot of fun.
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s really good. And even this idea of like, there is this kingdom Gab, founded by Gab, who became a ghost That’s right, that’s that’s a particular brand of undead.
Yes, I believe he became a ghost, but all of a sudden, you asked and I forgot.
No, that’s fair. That’s why we’re doing this. But yeah, like lead a kingdom, and there’s a story in there somewhere where like, actually, he disappeared for a while, and then he came back and he led his kingdom to go against or to basically run a war against the kingdom of the living and then took all of the people who died during that war and was like, Hey, welcome to our side. That’s how this works. Which you know, it’s presented very light hearted. Of course, you know, if you’re a DM or if you’re a GM and your table like wants to take that kind of a dark mysterious path, you can 100% go that route. If you want this to be goofy Scooby Doo skeletons like it 100% will work.
Yes, absolutely. So let’s go ahead and jump into what’s in it. So most parties, you’re probably not going to want to be undead. So chapter one is for you. Chapter one is all about fighting undead, there are new backgrounds, including some really interesting rare backgrounds, rare backgrounds, or like they’re just like the regular Pathfinder second edition backgrounds, but they’re a little bit more powerful and a little a little more unusual and interesting. So we get a few of those in a lot of the supplements.
So is it reasonable to interpret the idea of rare of like, if you’re if your game master says you can’t be a common background, your game master is probably being a jerk. If your game master says you can’t be a rare background, there probably is a story or reason or mechanics reason why look, let’s just not have that in this game.
Yeah, absolutely. So Pathfinder second edition has that rarity system Common, Uncommon, Rare. And that’s used for all kinds of things, ancestries, Heritage’s classes, even items. So like, items like firearms are rare because they only exist in specific parts of the Golarion setting. And then the backgrounds might be uncommon or rare, just because there aren’t that many people that fall into those backgrounds. So those might not be available to you unless you get permission from your GM. So yeah, talk to your GM before you take any of those, otherwise everyone in the party is going to come as like, I’m a princess. I’m the chosen one. I’m a descendant of vampire hunters, and we’re all gonna go on weird adventures together.
It does sound like a great campaign, though. I would claim that. Yeah. And so it does make sense that these undead fighting our types would be rare. Because the last I checked, Valerian is not overrun by the undead.
Most of it now.
There’s, there’s regions now.
Yes, there’s new archetypes as well. Like we mentioned, there’s an undead Slayer, a couple other ones, these should be very easy to drop into an undead heavy game. So if you’re gonna be playing campaign, where you’re gonna be fighting a lot of undead, this is great place to look. There’s new items to help your undead Hunter. All kinds of cool stuff should fit very neatly into an existing game.
Yeah, one of the fun pieces of this was the idea of like folk remedies for dealing with the undead. Because you would have that right. Like I think in, in real history. It’s like, oh, like we, we sprinkled parsnips over our doorstep. And that keeps the zombies out. Why? I don’t know they hate parsnips. And so yeah, in that first chapter, you’re also getting a list of folk remedies to like combat or to prevent different types of undead. And so it’s effectively like, you know, a cool story of like, try this, try this and boom, viewer undead in your face.
Yeah, I like that a lot. And that’s one of those things that’s super easy to steal for any game you’re running, like just folk remedies to common problems. Like if, if you have a town that’s haunted by evil spirits, everyone in town carries a feather duster made of crow feathers and waves that around to scare off evil spirits, like just stuff like that. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t. Folklore, it’s great.
If I were undead, and I saw people waving around crow feathers are like these people are crazy. I’m getting out of fear. In life, I had allergies, and I don’t want to deal with bird dander.
The pollen is out in force, I can sympathize.
Imagine a sneezing skeleton. It’s like a xylophone just going off. So there were also one ancestry. And I guess we’ll dive further into that as well as archetype for being undead. So if you’ve thought, but playing a living character, like that’s it, that’s a fun time. It’s a lot of fun. What if I played an undead character?
Yeah. Chapter two is all about playing undead characters. And there’s a lot of cool stuff in here. Like you said, we got one ancestry. It’s the skeleton. And for some reason, the skeleton is an ancestry, every other kind of undead you can be as an archetype. I don’t know why they did it that way. But it’s kind of I neat.
My ancestors had skeletons.
That’s true. I can’t say that any environment ancestors had zombies. So…
I’m pretty sure there was a Lich somewhere in there, but we’re gonna… that’s neither here nor there.
But let’s not talk about that. So there’s two new archetypes for players who want to be or control undead. Sorry, let me rephrase that there’s a bunch of archetypes that make you undead: Zombie, Lich, Ghoul, et cetera. And then there’s archetypes that are more traditional, like you don’t have to die to become one. There’s one for summoning and controlling a bunch of undead and one for just being really good friends with undead. So there’s everything you need in here to make undead work in a party. There’s a new skill feed for using the treat wounds action so you don’t have to constantly use magic to heal your undead buddies. And yeah, the skeleton needs history may be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.
Yeah. So like, you have this new stitch flush. And we’ve seen this before across tabletop, where the idea of like, oh, well, I can’t cast healing on a mechanical thing. So what am I going to do? Oh, I’m just going to say that, you know, now there’s a feat and you can now put together these nonliving things and what is it really, it’s just a bandaid to say we have to heal. We’re not going to say that the undead can’t heal. So great stitch flush go. Perfect. We’re done. Right? Yeah. Yeah, it’s alright, we get the Reanimator. We also… one of the things that I thought was really cool was undead familiars.
Yes, familiars, animal companions, and eidolons… eidolons are the sort of the thing that summoners control. You can have basically any of those be undead. And there’s some specific familiars, which is like if you don’t want to pick and choose your familiars abilities, you can use what’s called a specific familiar to get some specific statblock with like unique benefits. You can get a crawling claw, a talking skull or an old friend quote unquote, and the picture is a… the ghost of a wiener dog.
So yeah, it’s a skeletal apparition of a wiener dog who is still looking up at you out of the page adoringly because he loves you because it’s an old friend. Yeah, so that felt really cool. It’s… it’s a lot of flavor in the undead world without necessarily having like any real OP.
That’s fun. Okay, you call this out a second ago, probably the coolest thing in the section, the skeletal ancestry. I think it would actually be worth it for a second. Because I don’t know how many folks at home are playing PF2. Can we lay out like, how do you build a character? And then from there, kind of okay, what is the rule of saying like, I’m going to take the skeletal ancestry?
Yeah. So to compare it to fifth edition D&D, your ancestry is your race, your heritage is your sub race, and classes, same thing. And background is kind of the same concept, but a little mechanically different. So you have your ancestry, your heritage, your background, and your class. And those are like the four primary decision points when you build your character at level one. So the skeleton is your ancestry and there’s some different skeleton heritages that have like different mechanical benefits. But it’s essentially like I could be human or I can be a skeleton. I’ll be a skeleton eventually if I start as humans, so why don’t I just skip straight there?
I’m very bad at this tabletop gaming. I’m gonna go straight to undead. Yes. I think you call it one of the cool things there. One of the feats that the skeletal ancestry can take is the art… what is it called? It’s called the adopted ancestry.
Yes, any ancestry can take the adopted ancestry feats, which allows you take ancestry feats from a different ancestry. So I suppose technically anyone could be adopted by a skeleton and take skeleton feats. Which is confusing because one of the one of the skeleton feats is like, if you’re hit by a critical hit, you can reduce it to a regular hit worth of damage by collapsing into a pile of bones. So if like, I’m a halfling, I’ve been bonked on the head. I’m a pile of bones now. It’s fine. I’ll stand up next.
What’s it? Yeah, like the super flexible people who can like basically just fall to the ground and like collapse and and nothing. That’s it. That’s effectively what you do. It’s like what happened? Well, I was raised by bones. And so this is… no perfect. One of the things that I really liked that they called out which makes sense is they say like, as the skeleton goes on, over time, in early skeleton, so to speak, recent skeleton extracted from its flesh, may not remember its full life and history. But as time goes on, they begin to gather flashes of this sort of thing. So they specifically call out it makes sense for a skeleton to take the adopted ancestry feat, and then have the ability to blend in with society. So let’s say… and it calls out like, if you were dwarf, probably your adopted ancestor. If you’re a dwarf skeleton, I should say, probably, your adopted ancestry should be dwarf. One of the specific things they called out that was cool was if you’re wearing armor or clothing that fully covers you, you can non-magically disguise yourself as belonging to that race. So if you want to go into polite society, and not have to deal with like, Oh, they’re bones. You can you can get away with that.
You probably only get away with being a skeleton on Halloween. And then there’s like really convincing costume.
Look. Oh, well, yeah, it’s cosplay. Sword right through. It’s great. Yeah, the collapsing so that was a really cool thing. If I remember correctly, the trigger for that was on a critical strike. You could reduce irregular damage. And so basically, the idea is, you know, somebody’s coming at you they get the critical strike. Critical Strike would be terrible amounts of damage, you can sit and say, What if I just took regular damage? And effectively it’s at the cost of going prone? Right
Exactly six seconds, actually, I think is that’s how long around this you see.
Now I’m going to go back and check. It might actually be six seconds. And that would just be such a fun coincidence.
Yeah, here we are. I’m now inspired. My adopted ancestry is turtle. Let’s play that game. What lore are you good at? Plumbing. It’s really weird. Yeah, so I really liked the ancestry as far as the archetypes go, right. So I know, we’ve all been sitting at home and we’ve been thinking, You know what, I really want to play a game. I want to get into tabletop. I want to play some Pathfinder, but I really want to be a zombie.
But definitely if you want to be a zombie, you got to be you got to play Pathfinder. Yeah, the… there’s an archetype for being a zombie. And you typically, you typically the realist, you can take an archetype is level two. So your level one character, you build them normally. And then at level two, you become a zombie. Who knows how? The book actually does say if you want to start as one of these archetypes, that’s fine. Just make sure it’s okay with your GM and you just have to take the archetype feed at level two Okay, so you can’t be a level one zombie character if you want to, like I, I’m a zombie, cat person. And I don’t know I’m gonna go jump on things and be, be dead.
And so, right. To run through the list archetypes that we get. So ghost, Ghoul, Lich, Mummy, Vampire, Zombie. One of the things they specifically call out, which caught me for a second because I actually started planning and then Tyler was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, you got to stop. It does specifically say that before your character becomes this thing. They have to be living. So unfortunately, I can’t be skeletal ancestory which is undead, Necromancer Wizard for class, Lich archetype.
Tragically, yes. You also can’t be like a Vampire Zombie or whatever any of those things. They are mutually exclusive which is a little bit sad but it makes sense. Maybe you can convince your, your GM delay be like a vampire skeleton or something. But rules as written. I’m pretty sure it’s not allowed.
Yeah, big skeleton, big things. Cool, boys.
So the next section, Chapter Three. It’s 100 pages even of new monsters. It starts off with some quick templates that you can apply to existing monsters to quickly change their stats from whatever they are into some variety of undead. So like, I’m in a pinch. I need a tiger ghoul for some reasons. You just… You just like throw these quick stat modifiers on them. You’re done. You’ve got your tiger ghoul.
Wait, so what is the tiger ghoul like? It already craves flesh, but now it craves more flesh?
Okay. Terrified. Keep going. All right, that’s fine.
Yeah. So I mean, that alone adds a massive amount of versatility to your monsters, because your players like Ah, yes, they are prepared to fight this troll, next encounter, or next session or whatever. But are they prepared to fight a vampire troll? And sure is, yeah, just throw all this nonsense at your players. Like make things undead unexpectedly. You could take a published adventure path and just make every monster in it random undead and suddenly you’ve got an undead hunting campaign. Surprise.
So I guess that’s interesting. So in 5e, like, there is that description of like, if you want to turn anything into a zombie, you give it the reanimate? We’re not going to call it a feat. But yeah, it’s effectively the same idea as a feat. You drop its intelligence to some, you know, absolute garbage number, and then you party on. And so here we’re getting that but we’re actually getting it. Additionally, it’s like, okay, you don’t just have to go zombie and be stupid. You could go vampire and be charming. Or you could go ghoul and be smelly..
Yes, absolutely. And so the idea that like, okay, well, here’s your entire Book of Monsters, and we can add this modifier and and I thought that it’s a nice amount of flexibility. That probably is also bearable.
Yeah, it’s of the specific mechanical changes might need a little bit of adjusting if you want to try and do the same thing in 5e. I’m sure someone somewhere has figured out a way to do this. And if they haven’t… hey internet get on it. But that’s just the first two pages of the 100 page monster section. And there’s a bunch of new monsters, a lot of which are really cool. Like, there’s this undead thing that appears if you mess up raising somebody from the dead. Like I have messed up this ritual very, very badly. And now this terrifying, terrifying undead creature comes and attacks me and I can’t raise my friend from the dead until it’s destroyed. There’s cool stuff like that. There’s like full two and three page spreads of just lore on existing monsters like wraithes and vampires. And it’s all written in first person from the perspective of Gab, the ghost necromancer with the nation named after him. You could very easily steal all of that lore for pretty much any other game alive. It’s really cool. There’s two new varieties of vampire based on real world lore, one that drains emotions and one that dreams key. I believe the key one is based in Chinese mythology, and I cannot pronounce the name I’m so sorry.
No, that’s fair. So what I was looking one of the creatures that jumped out at me, is the cadaverous rake. The picture is a skeleton wearing very like flamboyant clothing like bandana piercings, like all of this sort of thing. And like, it’s a famed sword fighter who died, and then rose from the dead to be continued being an awesome sword fighter, as an undead and I’m looking at it’s like, it’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
Yeah, no, 100% but like, Okay, if you have the book at home, open it up. Look at the art, 100%. It’s Captain Jack Sparrow. You know, there’s going to be one of them, and they’re going to be awesome. And I think you should probably just invite them to come into your party.
Well, now I want to play skeleton swashbuckler. That sounds great. Right?
Skeletons can get a feat where you take one arm, dislocate your other arm and hold on to it as handle and can hold a weapon in the hand of that arm. You’ve got, like two arms length worth of reach with a weapon. Just fight people from all the way over here. Yeah, I like it a lot.
I want to see a cadaver’s rake actually do that in a game. That’s like, I’ve done a 10 foot reach, what do you have?
Alright, so chapter four, that’s Lands of the Dead. So if you’re if you’re familiar with the Golarion setting, this covers some pre existing locations in the world of Golarion in more detail. I think the one that gets the most coverage is the land of Gab, because it’s this massive nation ruled by undead. There are some smaller locations touched on… well, I shouldn’t say smaller, but locations that get less coverage like Osyrian, which is the, the Golarion equivalent of ancient Egypt. it goes into essentially places where there are lots of undead, what unend do there, and how that place came about. Like a few of the places were like, oh, yeah, it was a normal place, and then undead came out of nowhere and ate everybody. And now it’s an undead metropolis. It’s great. If you’re using the Golerian setting, and if you’re doing an undead hunting campaign, or a campaign where you’re playing as undead, these are places that are probably going to feature heavily. If you want to be undead heroes, you can use the nation of Gab and be like… okay, we’re undead or undead adjacent. Everyone else here is cool with undead. And other than that, this is a perfectly normal adventuring campaign. Like we’re gonna go plunder ancient ruins for loot, we’re gonna go fight people that want to disrupt the nation that we’d love things like that. Yeah, you just you essentially flip the roles on its head. All the like bad guys are your good aligned clerics.
And occasionally, like these evil living people come in, and they’re like, “oh, we hate you because you’re undead. And like when I made cheese, what are you doing to me?
One one of my favorite details about give is the living and the dead are split into like two classifications, there is the quick and there is the dead, which is a goofy movie reference. The quick are the living because they live and die very quickly compared to the dead and then the dead or the dead. I thought that was a fun joke. Whoever wrote that Paizo I see you. Good job. So the last section of the book is an undead themed adventure. So this is one of those adventures that assumes that the players are living characters, or on the side of the living at the very least, and are coming there to fight undead. I’m not going to give you any spoilers, but the adventure looks like a ton of fun. It’s an adventure for a party of four level three characters. Expect to fight undead. So you know, bring your Cleric, bring a Paladin, stuff like that Holy Water, load up with items from the first chapter get ready to go. The adventure does have a content warning on the first page of the adventure with just some like, Hey, here’s some themes that might make you uncomfortable. So like, clear that with your party beforehand, do a session zero make sure the themes of the adventure aren’t going to upset anyone. Check out our session zero episode for advice on that. And again, I won’t spoil it too much. But there is kind of a siege mechanic about halfway through the adventure. That’s just an absolute ton of fun. It looks like a lot of fun to play. And I’m kind of sad that I read it because now no one can read it for me with without me spoiling all the prices. So I am sad. But for those of you who haven’t read it, go play it. It looks like so much fun.
So luckily we drew lots and I won lots and I didn’t have to read it. So at this point, I think the answer is Tyler, you have to run the game for me.
I will bear this burden.
That’s fair. That’s fair. Out of character, do we know what levels it runs through? Like how long?
I think it’s… it probably wouldn’t even get you to level four.
Okay, so it’s a one shot effectively,
Probably like one, maybe two sessions.
Okay, back to radio voice, you should say that.
So this adventure is probably not going to get you to level four. I haven’t counted up all of the experience points. I wasn’t that crazy. But it does look like a lot of fun. You could probably run this in one or two sessions, assuming you don’t get super bogged down in combat. But it’s a great way to test out the mechanics. If your party is like, Hey, we’re in the middle of a game. This isn’t an undead hunting game that we’re in. But we do want to like, we want to play with the Book of the Dead. It looks super cool. And we want to hunt some undead. This is a great way to do it. Just roll up some characters for a one shot. Play one or two sessions however long it takes you to get through. It’s a great way to show off all the cool stuff that’s new in the book.
Yeah, and I really like it exactly for that right. So having… having something that is like one long session or two shorter sessions.., two shorter sessions. Yes. Giving like giving folks. Okay, here’s everything that’s in the book. Here’s what we can do. You know, the one thing I’ll say here is the fact that you’re actually starting on The Living movie doesn’t allow you to do some of the coolest stuff in the book, because I think some of the coolest stuff in the book is starting as an undead. You know, for folks who have read like the Witcher series, for instance, one of the characters is a very ancient, very wise vampire. And it’s always this situation that he has to hide who he is when they’re around polite society, because otherwise it’s going to be problematic. Like playing an undead vampire, using these rules would be a lot of fun because you could bring that vampire to polite society, zombie a little harder, especially after the first time your nose gets chopped off, then it’s just like leprosy, leprosy. Also don’t cook the meat. But… but yeah, I like the idea of like being able to come into it, play a little bit, get everybody familiar with the the mechanics that are brought into this book, The lore that’s part of the book. And then at that point, if you want to bring it back to a regular campaign, and kind of sprinkle this into just make it part of your Pathfinder world. And to me that feels really powerful. All right. Well, thanks so much for joining us for this RPGBOT News. I’m Randall James. You can find me @amateurjack.com and on Twitter and Instagram at JackAmateur
I’m Tyler Kamstra. You’ll find me at RPGBOT.net Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at RPGBOT D O T n e t and patreon.com/rpgbot.
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If I have this skeleton arm attached my skeleton arm I can reach all the way across the room and steal your milkshake.