Review – The Harrow Handbook (Pathfinder)

The most prominent Pathfinder supplements are bigger hardcovers, from mechanical supplements like the Advanced Class Guide (labeled as “Pathfinder Roleplaying Game”) to setting-focused supplements like Inner Sea Gods (labeled as “Pathfinder Campaign Setting”). Those only come out a few times a year. But Paizo also supplements Pathfinder is also supplemented on a monthly basis with the Pathfinder Player Companions. These full-color, softcover supplements weigh in at a slim 32 pages, and focus on a specific theme or region from the campaign setting.

Today I’m looking at one of those supplements, The Harrow Handbook (which came out back in 2014). Harrow is the Pathfinder equivalent of tarot. It’s been around since almost the beginning of Golarian, as Curse for the Crimson Throne (the second Pathfinder Adventure Path) has a harrow theme to it. The Inner Sea World Guide (the core setting book for the Pathfinder Campaign Setting) as the Harrower prestige class. And, since both of those require drawing harrow cards, there’s a Deluxe Harrow Deck if you want to do it in style. (If you hop over to the world of Dungeons & Dragons, you can similarly find a tarot-like Tarroka deck and a campaign that thematically uses the Tarroka, Curse of Strahd.)

I think Curse of the Crimson Throne is a fantastic campaign, I’ve got the Harrow Deck, and so I’ve been looking forward to an opportunity to play a Harrower. So, I picked up the Harrow Handbook to see what it would offer to such a character. The Harrow Handbook does have a good number of options for that prestige class, but also a lot of ways to use the Harrow for a variety of characters, including non-spellcasters (the Harrower prestige class is a spellcasting class that requires the Harrowed feat and access to a solid number of divination spell to begin).

After a few introductory flavor pages, The Harrow Handbook hops back and forth between flavor and mechanics as it moves through the history of the harrow, (non-magical) divining with the harrow (including alternate harrow spreads), games to play with a harrow deck, and a rundown of the meaning of each of the six suits (each of which corresponds to one of the six attributes).

Mechanically, there’s quite the potpourri. The most significant content is for the sorcerer (who gets a Harrow bloodline), witch (who gets the Cartomancer archetype and new hexes), and rogue (which gets the Sczarni Swindler archetype and six new talents). But there’s also harrow shop locations to use with Ultimate Campaign, the Greater Harrowing spell, a feat to enhanced summoned creatures based on a harrow draw, the Deadly Dealer feat to throw harrow cards as weapons, a cavalier order (the Order of the Hammer) and three combat feats, two bardic masterpieces, an inquisitor archetype (the Suit Seeker), a magus archetype (the Card Caster), a summoner archetype (the Story Summoner) and a Storykin eidolon, an oracle mystery (the Solar Mystery), a monk archetype (the Harrow Warden), and two pages of magic items. I do wish there was something for wizards, however, beyond access to the Greater Harrowing spells, as they also fit well with the Harrower prestige class.

The most notable is probably the Harrow bloodline, because sorcerer is a solid fit for the Harrower prestige class, and also because Pathfinder’s iconic sorcerer (Seoni) is a Varisian, the group from which the Harrow originated. Anyone delving into an applicable spellcaster focused on the Harrow will want to check out to the Greater Harrowing spell, which performs a Harrow for the whole group and gives them control over the bonuses they get. I also like the Solar Mystery, which has a lot of wandering, sun, and light based abilities – although it’s connection to the Harrow is essentially nonexistent. 

Like most of the Pathfinder Player Companion supplements, you’ll only get maximum value out of The Harrow Handbook if harrowing and/or harrow decks are of interest. There are mechanical components that don’t really care about the Harrow (such as that Solar Mystery), but that’s reducing the book down to a handful of pages. If the Harrow is of interest, however, The Harrow Handbook provides an attractive spread of options to integrate it into a wide variety of character concepts, and is well worth picking up.

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