Investing In: Secrets of Magic

Secrets of Magic goes beyond the basics of magic in ways both large and small. You’ll find everything from a new cantrip that creates a small spout of water to rules for pervasive magic that can totally transform a campaign’s world. And more than just the rules, this book digs deep into how magic feels and the ways spellcasters understand the magic of their world. Though the Essentials of Magic chapter goes in-depth on this topic, you’ll find notes among the spells and magic items written by the people of Golarion, and the Book of Unlimited Magic explains in each section how that form of magic can affect roleplaying and the game world. 1

Well it’s not a secret anymore: Secrets of Magic is here and this book certainly goes beyond! Logan and Mark do not disappoint! I’ve been eagerly anticipating having it in hand like a wizard (or magus!) getting their first spellbook. It opens up numerous possibilities for our characters, but it is truly a work of art. The covert art, the binding, the design and layout, the borders? Absolutely lovely. And the narrative write ups in the Essentials of Magic chapter are also literary works in of themselves. They help evoke images of the world of Golarion and set the mood of a world rich with magical tradition. It’s storytelling and game mechanics with a whole new look and feel that goes beyond any other book released before, let alone it’s over 250 pages!

There’s a lot to get excited about here from the treatises on the magical traditions and schools of magic, the 50 pages of new spells, or more magic items than any one party could ever hope to find in the course of the adventure. However it’s the possibilities for PCs and NPCs alike that we now have through new backgrounds, the finalized Magus and Summoner classes (including multiclass archetypes!), as well as all those amazing magical character options in the chapter entitled Book of Unlimited Magic as the excerpt above references. Seeing those various forms reflected in Golarion and the Age of Lost Omens is what truly thrills me and has me investing in this book!

Backgrounds To the Front

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Pathfinder 2E are the backgrounds, which basically replaced those initial traits from last edition but offer a lot of opportunity in a feat, skills, and of course the relevant ability scores. While the Magical Backgrounds are basically just that without any particular reference to an area of Golarion it’s easy to use them to craft yourself a place in the world like an Academy Dropout who just didn’t like the Magaambya school. The Occult Librarian could hail from Ustalav but they too could be from the Mwangi Expanse or maybe Osirion. I’d love to see some players tie their characters to previous paths and I love that we’re seeing the impact of the 1E’s paths now in the new paths and lore for the Lost Omens line. So perhaps your Musical Prodigy hails from the recently liberated Kintargo! The Rare Magical Backgrounds give us great opportunity there like the Genie-Blessed of Jalmeray or a Time Traveler from the recently returned of Edasseril. These rare backgrounds have some very interesting abilities too like the Chosen One’s ability to affect fate or the Magical Experiment’s to have altered senses or even a form of telepathy via touch.

Showtime Synergy!

My players in our Expedition Coalition game already have established backgrounds but one is playing a Summoner, one of the two new classes in Secrets of Magic, along with the Magus. We’re thrilled for the expanded rules and options but something caught my attention before reading through all that delicious crunch. The sidebars of lore and forewords to chapters always excite me after all. I especially appreciate the writeup in the Classes chapter calling out the “synergistic arts” both new classes represent by focusing on a relationship or connection to something apart from the caster, namely an eidolon or weapon.  I’m perhaps partial to the Magus though that may just be my very real crush on Seltyiel. That tragic history, antihero vibe as he weaves magic over that sword? It’s also that witty repartee with Seoni or that flirting with the Incubus in the Hollow Mountain comic line…

Anyway, the art for him and Ija – the new iconic Summoner with her dragon eidolon – are excellent. Had we started Valiant with Magus rules available then Ev may have been a Magus instead of a wizard. I love the ne’er-do-well vibe and the options available like the Starlit Span study to use your spellstrike with a ranged weapon. The Laughing Shadow’s ability to dimensional assault is – as others have said – so very Nightcrawler. The catfolk Arcane Fist example is only adorable until you’re clawed from the darkness. The Summoner’s eidolons having options for stat arrays is another interesting add with possibly varying Armor Class benefits. I like that Paizo increasingly encourages creativity with Eidolons and all aspects of their games like encouraging the player to choose what the Armor benefit is from whether hide, scales, or even a magical aura. The Fey’s Trickster array allows for a real focus on spellcasting and you can greatly expand on your summoner’s magical ability through the Magical Adept line of feats. I hope to see more emotional eidolons like the Anger and Devotion as well as the other spiritual things that an Eidolon could represent from creative players!

The Limit Does Not Exist

Those players and all you GMs out there are bound to have some fun finding creative ways to utilize the new magical systems, archetypes, and other practices in the Book of Unlimited Magic chapter. There’s so much here you could likely write an article on each subsection. Randal’s latest Read focuses upon them so definitely take a look. There’s a few I’m primarily interested in personally and wanted to highlight because of the roleplaying or Golarion-ties opportunities. 

Cathartic Magic is the very first option with an archetype tied to tapping emotional energy for your spellcasting. I’ve gotten some further ideas on this too playing Life is Strange: True Colors – a good though Mature game I’m also investing in – as you see emotional auras and can channel their power, lest it overwhelm you. There’s specifically a Roleplaying section for this variant, and it’s a place where safety tools can be important. You could cross into some Mature areas, some raw emotions, or get into situations where you’re upsetting others. You still have to be accountable for what you choose the character to do, else it’ll feel like gaslighting. As noted it doesn’t give you the excuse to be rude to the players or to the GM for that matter. What it does provide is an opportunity to focus on an emotional aspect of your character’s history or personality like an Anger or Rage caster (barbarian mix?) or perhaps someone who seeks to bring Joy to the world after all they’ve seen in their journeys. I’m particularly interested in a cross with Thassilonian sin magic, but more on that below.

There are great Druid opportunities with Elementalism, Geomancy, and Ley Lines. Shadow Magic and the supporting Shadowcaster archetype grabbed my attention due to Ateran my witch from Nidal for Roll for Combat’s Three Ring Adventure. I’ve always been fascinated by the dusky promise of summer twilight and how shadow represents something between light and darkness, not that light is necessarily good or darkness evil. The Shadow Magic entry has a lot of lore in the Origins presented for a number of areas around Golarion, including Nidal as I expected. How could the worshippers of Zon-Kuthon, the Midnight Lord, not practice some shadow magic? There’s also a nice sidebar on other sources of shadowy power like the Wayangs of Tian Xia who practice it or the norns who live in Arcadia’s northern reaches where the Ulfen sometimes venture. Shout out to the Path of Kings and its author Luis! Shadow magic can be sinister but maybe it’s just tricky, best represented by all the Shadow Spells you can pick up with the feat of that very name, the Inscrutable Mask focus power, or just picking up a Shadow Companion or Familiar. You might choose to let a Druid focused on the darker parts of the world (caves? Old forests?) or illusionists pick up some a friend.

Thassilonian Rune Magic gets six lovely pages including two specifically from the redeemed Queen of Lust magic herself: Sorshen! I really enjoyed that for an in-character perspective but also to help further capture her manner of speaking and attitude. I may plan to have her involved in my Expedition game or something. Anyway (I’m easily inspired by this book – or maybe I should say distracted) we’ve got our Runelord archetype and it actually starts at 1st level rather than 2nd, though you have to take the dedication feat at 2nd level. We’ve details for each of the seven schools and of course you gain proficiency with polearms. There’s a number of archetype feats. After reading Cathartic Magic and the runelord’s archetype, I couldn’t help but want to blend the two. Sin magic is the corruption of what Xin originally found in runes to represent virtues that too easily overwhelmed its practitioners. Could even such magical practices be redeemed? Perhaps it would take someone dedicated to truly understanding the emotional impact of such magic.

Like Randal, I was excited to see Wellspring Magic step in where wild magic was spoken of in the past. Overwhelming power surges through the caster, sometimes empowering but sometimes causing random effects or mishaps. I love the iconic Oracle Korakai art as their life energy surges out from them as dazzling birds! There’s a multiclass variant that’s a nice idea, allowing a character who chooses oracle or sorcerer as a multiclass archetype to also apply the wellspring magic as they struggle to control the power emerging from them. And while any character could get this Rare archetype, there’s notes of some ideas as to how such as being from or moving through the Mana Wastes or being plane-touched like by the First World. The raw primal power of nature, life, ang magic just ripping out through that charming fey sorcerer? Please don’t make the Fey angry!

Secrets of Magic has a plethora of options, lore, and is literally a magical work of art. I highly encourage you invest in it, especially this Gen Con weekend! If on location, be sure to pick it up and marvel at it. You can also get an amazing breakdown of the entire book with Randal in his Randal Reads series so keep watching for those. Happy Gen Con friends and happy gaming!

Investing In:

I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!

I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!

Sources

Banner Secrets of Magic cover art, Paizo

  1. Introduction excerpt, Secrets of Magic, Paizo
  2. Structure of Magic banner from Introduction, Secrets of Magic, Paizo
  3. Seltyiel, Iconic Magus, from Magus section, Secrets of Magic, Paizo
  4. Shadow Companion banner from Shadow Magic section, Secrets of Magic, Paizo
  5. Korakai from Wellspring Magic section, Secrets of Magic, Paizo

Rob Pontious

Rob Pontious works in web commerce by day and is a writer for KnowDirectionPodcast.com's #InvestingIn, a player for Roll for Combat's #ThreeRingAdventure podcast, and also a player for GehennaGaming's #GehennaValley MonsterHearts2 twitch stream. He's a lover of TTRPGs for over three decades, a gamer, and a GAYMER. You can find him on social media as @silentinfinity.