The Lost Omens Character Guide was the second setting book for Pathfinder Second Edition (after the Lost Omens World Guide). It’s a handy book, but the scope of the content could use a little clarification. Although the back cover is clear, the title of Lost Omens Character Guide could be a bit misleading, because this is not a broad, all-encompassing set of character options for Golarion. Rather, it is a book specifically about ancestries and organizations.
The Lost Omens Character Guide examines the six PF2 core ancestries – humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, goblins, and halflings. For each of these ancestries, there are two primary aspects of the presentation, one “fluff” and one “crunch” (if you’ll pardon my archaic categorizations). The first is a survey of the different ethnicities of that species – what do they look like, where are the most likely to be from, what culture predominates in that area, etc. The most distinctive aspect of this part of the presentation is that it covers such a wide array of ethnicities. So the Tian and Mwangi (those are the more Asian- and African-inspired continents of Golarion) get a spread of ethnicities, just like the more European-inspired continent of Avistan always has. This extends to nonhuman species as well, presenting ethnically diverse elves and such, instead of simply environmental speciation (e.g., wood elves, sea elves).
Mechanically, each of the six core ancestries gains at least one new heritage and an array of ancestry feats. As one might expect, these tend to be tied to ethnicities or nations in Golarion. So the human heritage that provides cold resistance is most common in Irrisen, while only ethnic Varisians or New Thassilon nationals can take the Arcane Tattoos ancestry feat. Humans in particular get a pile of 1st level ancestry feats to provide wide coverage (other ancestries get things like a single 1st level heritage feat for all surface dwarves). There are also a decent number of ‘chains’ in the heritage/ancestry options. So taking Arcane Tattoos open up Ornate Tattoo at level 5 and then Virtue-Forged Tattoos at level 9. I suspect that many players’ favorites will depend as much on the flavor as much as the mechanics. So I am fond of said Arcane Tattoos feat because (1) Seoni and (2) how many adventure paths have been set in that part of the world? Some of the options I liked, for reasons flavorful or mechanical, included:
- Arcane Tattoos: Your tattoos represent one of the schools of magic, and grant an innate arcane spell that can be cast at will (shield for abjuration, ghost sound for illusion, and so on); the higher-level feats (Ornate Tattoo, Virtue-Forged Tattoos) grant a higher level spell, but it’s only once per day;
- Dragon Spit (Tian-Dan ethnicity): lets you throw a innate damage-dealing cantrip at will, always a handy backup option; elves have a version of this with Elemental Wrath;
- Gloomseer (Nidalese ethnicity): low-light vision really isn’t darkvision, but it’s something … and then it lets you take Darkseer at level 5;
- Wavetouched Paragon (Bonuwat ethnicity): gain a swim speed;
- Oathkeeper Dwarf: To help remind people that having principles does not make your character Lawful Stupid, this dwarven heritage provides bonuses to sense motive, detecting lies, and persuading people you’re speaking the truth when you are so speaking, at the cost of being really bad at lying yourself;
- Ancient Elves: Representing the dabbling of a long life, this heritage jump-starts a multiclass character;
- Wandering Hearts: This 13th level ancestry feat available to an ‘environmental’ elf heritage (arctic, desert, cavern, etc.) allows the character to adapt to new environments, changing their heritage after sufficient exposure;
- Gnome Polyglot: For when your wandering (but not elven) heart means you need to be able to chat with pretty much everyone;
- Bouncy Goblin: OK, I’m not really a big fan of the player character goblins, but a “bouncy” goblin with innate elasticity seems like a great way to take it (and being better at Acrobatics can be fun); this also allows access to more hijinx later on with the Roll With It feat; and
- Easily Dismissed: The Bellflowers aren’t one of the organizations with a full write-up here, but halflings from Chelax can use this ancestry feat to keep their heads down, and at 9th level gain access to Fade Away for innate invisibility and misdirection spells.
In addition to these new options for existing ancestries, the Lost Omens Character Guide offers of three new ones – hobgoblins, leshies, and lizardfolk. Based on their past popularity, I imagine leshies will be the most-played of these new ancestries. Hobgoblins, which are like goblins but without any of the chaos or charm to distract from their militaristic malevolence, are tough and smart, but not that perceptive. Their heritage options include magic resistance, improved intimidation, or fire resistance. Leshies, spirits who inhabit small plant (or fungus) bodies, are tough and perceptive, but not as smart as your average bear. They have low-light vision and draw as their plant/fungus body, and have heritage options for improving to darkvision (fungs), never taking damage from falling (leaf), or improved climbing (vine). Lizardfolk (iruxi) are strong and perceptive, but join the leshies in being less-than-amazing in the smarts department. They also have claws and some aquatic adaptations. Their heritage options include improved climbing (from adapted toes/feet), dorsal spins to scare enemies off, camouflage, and stealth.
Golarion is blessed with a rich array of established organizations. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough room to give the full treatment to all of them, so the primary recipients here are five: the Firebrands, Hellknights, Knights of Lastwall, Magaambya Academy, and the Pathfinder Society. Each of these five gets a full write-up, at least one (possibly three) archetypes, and other miscellaneous mechanical bits. Some of the organizations presented are some of the most popular and best-established in the setting (Pathfinder Society, Hellknights). Others are newer or more obscure (Firebrands, Magaambya).
Note that most of the archetypes work with archetypes from the Lost Omens World Guide. They require the entry level archetype, they excuse the normal requirement to take three feats from the entry-level archetype, and they work with abilities from the entry-level archetype as if they were that archetype. For these reasons, and flavor ones, I would say that the organizations half of the Character Guide really requires the World Guide to be fully functional.
Of course, the Pathfinder Society will be near and dear to the heart of many longtime (or even newer) Pathfinder players, myself included. In addition to background and some information on the current factions, there’s more wayfinder material (who doesn’t want to cram two aeon stones into one wayfinder?), Pathfinder Chronicles, coins, and pouches, feats, and three archetypes. My favorite feat has got to be Forced Entry, because it’s so stereotypically PFS. I like that Pathfinder agents can grow up to be Scrollmasters, Swordmasters, or Spellmasters.
Hellknights are usually more of an NPC thing, in my experience, but they are popular, and they get as much mechanical coverage as the Pathfinders. A significant chunk of this is presentation of the different orders, which use the Order Training and Advanced Order Training feats to hand out different bonuses for all of the orders. Hellknight
squires armigers can grow up to be full knights, taking the Hellknight or Hellknight Signifier (for spellcasters) archetypes. Oh, and there’s Hellknight Plate and some feats for using it.
The Knights of Lastwall focus a lot of attention on the Crimson Reclaimers faction and their mysterious patron. Given how many times it says that many Reclaimers believe that the patron is the divinely-good Ragathiel I can only conclude that their patron is absolutely, definitely not Ragathiel. Mechanically, this faction can gain a focus spell, Invoke the Crimson Oath, which allows the character to turn a melee attack into a 20-foot cone attack that’s a beating against undead and more feats to develop that spell. This includes ones from their archetype, the Knight Reclaimant. That’s not the whole story for the Knights of Lastwall, however, as the other faction (the more conservative Shining Sentinels) also get an archetype, and there are a number of fighter/champion feats only open to the Knights.
The Magaambya are based in Garund, especially the Mwangi Expanse, an inclusive organization focusing on gathering knowledge (including with “we swear they aren’t spies”) and working to combine arcane and primal magic. The Magaambya have five branches. They don’t each get their own archetype, but many aspects of the Magammbyan Attendant archetypes that are gated by faction. Attendants can graduate to being Halcyon Speakers, who can cast halcyon magic using either arcane or primal spell slots. There is also a focus on wearing masks, including the ability to take a Mask Familiar.
The Firebrands are an organization dedicated to breaking tyrannical governments and, to a lesser extent, just causing trouble and looking flashy (especially the pirate contingent). Out of the five organizations, the Firebrands see the most flavor development and, as a result, the least mechanical content. Their feats and items relate to disguise, rumors, and leadership. Their archetype is the Firebrand Braggart.
Capping off the organizations section is an NPC gallery, which presents about 20 pages of members of the five organizations. It’s here that there’s something thrown in for the non-covered organizations, providing theme templates for a wide array, including the Aldori Swordlords, Aspic Consortium, Bellflower Network, and Red Mantis Assassins (in addition to templates for the main five).
The Lost Omens Character Guide has a narrower focus than its title might indicate, but delivers the goods on the areas it covers – the ancestries and ethnicities of Golarion, and the five focus organizations. The ancestry feats and heritage options presented are broad and interesting. I can’t help but hope that more organizations will get the second edition treatment, but it’s good to see signature archetypes for organizations not previously covered, as well as expanded advancement paths for mainstays like the Pathfinder Society and Hellknights. Also I’m going to infer that the Myx of Blades (to go along with Master and Mistress of Blades) is a title for non-binary Hellknights, and give props to Paizo for that.
Promotional consideration provided in the form of a review copy.