The things in this vault, they’re not just treasures, they’re stories.
Okay, no one say anything. Don’t tell Paizo. We have an early copy of Treasure Vault, and I’m going to tell you what’s in the Game Master’s Trove chapter, because it’s pretty great and I’m not good at keeping secrets.
(I’m mostly kidding. Paizo generously provided review materials for this article, and asked us to share a preview.)
I’ve been looking forward to this book since it was announced. We’ve talked on the podcast about crafting and about intelligent magic items, and highlighted both of those as places that we’d like to see expansion in Pathfinder 2e. And by what I have to assume is coincidence, we’re getting both in Treasure Vault.
Now I can’t preview the whole book, There’s too much!) so let’s look at the Game Master’s Trove. Books of items scream “player options” in a game famous for deep, exciting player options, but game masters have not been left out of this one. The tools here are fantastic and exciting.
Look Away, Players!
Purepurin and her kin are not allowed into these vaults. She is earnest and more skilled than she seems, but the treasures that lie beyond this point are simply too much for her.
The content of this chapter is mostly intended for game masters. Throwing an artifact into your game into your game is a big deal, and you’re not going to find Cayden’s drinking mug on a shelf at your local magic item shop.
That said, if you’re a player, you should still take a peak. If your GM doesn’t know that you want to use these things, they won’t add them to the game. If you don’t know they exist, you won’t know to ask for them. So take a look, get excited, and remember to say “please.”
Many of the things in this section are expansions of what’s in the Gamemastery Guide, including things like artifacts and cursed items. But these sections do work independently. You don’t strictly need the Gamemastery Guide to use this section. It’s still a fantastic book, but you don’t need it handy while you read Treasure Vault to know what’s going on.
This section includes several new artifacts, many of which are tied to specific characters. The actual number of artifacts presented is pretty small, but what we get is a lot of fun.
Among other items, we get Cayden’s Tankard, the metal mug with which he is almost always portrayed. I went into the description expecting a somewhat comical series of effects, but it’s actually a really powerful defense and support item on top of being a +4 weapon.
Granting archetype artifacts as options in a campaign using the free archetype variant rules (Gamemastery Guide 194) is the assumed function of these options
The implication there is really neat. The free archetype variant is extremely popular among the player base, with some polls indicating that more people use it than people who don’t. Paizo embracing that mechanic as a storytelling device is exciting, and offers us some really great storytelling tools.
Tragically, we only get two archetype artifacts, but I’d bet gold that Paizo will give us more in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start popping up in published adventure paths.
But hey, the two we got have feats. Feats mean that we can optimize within the archetype!
Ursine Avenger Hood
The Ursine Avenger Hood turns you into a claw-based melee monster. To get the most out of it, you want to build around using the claws in melee. Ancestry/heritage feats like the Changeling’s Accursed Claws synergize well, as does anything that makes you dangerous in a grapple. The hood is a great option for any high-strength unarmed melee build, so mutagenist alchemists, barbarians, fighters, monks, and thaumaturges will likely do well.
Note: I got some very specific and helpful feedback from some folks online and made adjustments to initial assessments of the archetype. I always appreciate that sort of feedback, so if you think I’ve made an error, please email me. It’s surprisingly hard to get specific feedback, and I always appreciate when people take the time to tell me what I’m getting wrong.
- : The unarmed attacks are necessary for many of the later feats. If this were a normal archetype, I’d suggest getting claws from somewhere else, but artifact archetypes assume that you’re using the Free Archetype variant.
- : Scent and Darkvision are both excellent.
The closest comparable feat that I’ve seen is the Fighter’s Combat Grab, which works very similarly, but doesn’t require you to hit with a Strike first and doesn’t require the Strike+Grab combo to target the creature of a previous Strike. Combat Grab is certainly better, but it’s also not free and available to any character.
: You need to use this after your
first attack in a turn because you need to hit with a claw Strike before you
use this, but getting to make a Strike and also grab the target is very
action-efficient and doesn’t require you to invest in Athletics. You’ll have
to deal with a Multiple Attack Penalty on your claw Strike made with Bear
Hug, but at least the claws are Agile.
- : A free summon once per hour that improves as you level. Excellent. It won’t match the capabilities of a full caster, but over the course of a long day you can use this much more often than many spellcasters can due to limited spell slots.
- : Only situationally useful most of the time, but you do get to summon a bear to talk to.
- : Enlarge is a decent buff. Large size, reach, +2 melee damage. But at this level, that damage bonus is pretty tiny, so you’re mostly here for reach and the ability to take up space.
- : For one Action, you turn into a bear, grow claws/teeth, and Demoralize everything in the room. Make sure to invest in Intimidation, bec ause this is excellent.
- : Consistently useful and doesn’t require you to do anything different. For classes which have very busy hands (Alchemists, thaumaturges, etc.), a d12 damage die is hard to beat, and by this level you’re running a run of Greater Striking, so trippling the damage dice makes the improvement feel really impactful. If you’re leaning into the archetype, you’re already using claws and teeth, so this is great.
- : Huge, 10-foot reach, +4 melee damage. Definitely an improvement.
- : Suddenly being Clumsy because you enlarged yourself is much less of a problem. This continues to work if you fall unconscious, but remember that you still wake up with Wounded if you heal yourself back to consciousness.
Great power, but at a terrible price.
These are long-lasting, but temporary sources of incredible power. Every one of them will kill you, and usually in an extremely unpleasant fashion. But until that happens, the powers they give you can be incredibly tempting. You can save to resist the progression of the boon’s effects, but the DC gets harder every time you pass the save. You’ll fail eventually.
An easy example: the Heartblood Ring. A golden ring with a secret compartment containing a special concoction made by a vampire, drinking the contained liquid grants you the effects of the Regenerate spell, allows you to remove poisons and diseases with astounding speed, grants you fast healing, and protects you from saves against several maladies including poison and death. It’s fantastic!
But a month later you hit stage 2. Your hit point maximum drops significantly, and it gets worse from there. You start craving blood, the sun makes you sick, and you start to get more like a vampire as the stages progress. If you die, you very briefly conduct your own funeral as a magical gas, then arise as a vampire under the control of whoever created the heartblood. Death and also a terrible post-death fate.
Cursed & Intelligent Items
Entirely unsafe for those who are lacking even slightly in will or experience.
I love cursed items. I love intelligent items. I love magic items that are going to give me a cool story to tell.
The cursed items range from inconvenient to outright cruel, and a few of them appear to be taken straight from the real world, such as the Luckless Dice.
Most are more serious than comical, and the higher-level cursed items have more problematic effects. The Unfathomable Stargazer lets you see horrible things among the stars, and hits you with warp mind for your trouble.
The intelligent items section gives us several new items, which is great since the Gamemastery Guide includes just 3. There’s still not much specific guidance on creating your own, but with so many more examples, it’s easier to find something level-appropriate to serve as an example.
There are some wonderful gems among the included items. A doll which prevents gnomes from experiencing the Bleaching, a cloak that encourages its owner to commit burglary, a judgemental set of armor, and a pair of armbands with the personality of a high school wrestling coach that trash talks your opponents on your behalf.
The Gamemastery Guide introduces relics as a system for creating powerful and unique magic items. These are the kinds of exciting items where, even in a game where your character is decorated with more baubles than a christmas tree, you can still say “my fighter with that awesome magic shield”.
Relics offer more choice in customizing your item than you typically get, even with the rune system for weapons and armor. The system of “gifts” presents another way to advance your relic, similar to but distinct from property runes.
The Gamemastery Guide includes roughly 10 pages of relic gifts (there are some sidebars, but it’s still quite a few). Treasure Vault adds another 3 pages of relic gifts in some new themes, including the Intelligent Item gift, allowing you to take your super cool magic spear and make it intelligent.
Treasure Vault also introduces “set relics” and pregenerated “relic seeds,” both of which are novel new ways to interact with the relic system.
Set relics work similarly to an item set in many video games. Each set contains some number of pieces, and as you collect the pieces, the benefits of the set emerge. The sets presented in Treasure Vault have pre-selected items which hit the approximate level steps where relics should advance, allowing you to collect them over your career in order to gain access to the relic’s gifts.
“Relic seeds” refer to the base item of your relic. For example, your relic mace has a mace as its relic seed. A bog standard, off-the-shelf mace is a bit mundane, so Treasure Vault offers some exciting relic seeds. Among the options are some great options like the Inventor’s Chair (a suped-up traveler’s chair specialized in crafting) and the Sleuth’s Pipe (an intelligent pipe tailor-made for the Investigator). Even if you never use the ones in the book, they’re great inspiration.
I want to use everything in this book. I want to run a game and I want to rain treasures and curses and relics and trinkets on my players and watch them run around like children on Christmas day. I want to sneak cursed items into their pockets and wait months for them to figure out their dice are cursed both in and out of game.
This is a wonderful box of toys and I can’t wait to see people open it and start creating.