Investing In: Dark Archive

My future and fellow Archivists,

The Dark Archive is no more, except for me. When the Pathfinder Society announced that our faction was to be dissolved, absorbed into its other departments, I grabbed the files I could and left before they could stop me. These pages are all that remain of our faction’s records, and I am all that remains of our membership.

This world of ours is strange, isn’t it? I muse on this idea more often than I care to admit, vital though it may be to our work. The most common description of the Dark Archive is that we “investigate the paranormal” and that’s… true, but it’s a description by negation. If we are to turn our gaze to the “paranormal”, first we must ask: what is normal?1

That’s a good question, and the mysterious K.H.W. – the writer of this foreword I’ve quoted a snippet of – goes on to consider all that we consider wondrous and magical, at least that we’ve thus far seen and read of, is normal. It seems our writer got word that the Pathfinder Society was readying to dissolve the Dark Archive faction. Thankfully this Lone Archivist has secured for us a bit of lore before fleeing from Absalom, including a training manual as well as a folio of cases compiled in the Dark Archive

Yes after a year of hinting, testing, foreshadowing, and some recent previews the Dark Archive is available now! In fact, I’ve come in to edit that my print edition has arrived and it is beautiful. And yes, you guessed it, the Hype has arrived for your reading pleasure! Authors James Case, Mikhail Rekun, and Mark Seifter join a number of other writers (like Logan Bonner, Luis Loza, Andrew Mullen, and Avi Kool), editors, designers, and artists to bring us this tome of paranormal ability. I highly suggest once you get your book, look everyone up and give ‘em a follow! There’s gotta be a way to make that sort of thing easier, or maybe there should be. Anyway, I love the frame up similar to Secrets of Magic’s in-game lore heavily woven throughout that book or more recently Book of the Dead as the collected work of Geb. Dark Archive takes it a step further and I’m very intrigued to discover who this K.H.W. was or is. Thankfully his rescued folio is available for us to peruse.

Archivists In Training

You may have tried your hand at the Psychic or the Thaumaturge as part of the Dark Archive Playtest but now they’re here in full color. I never played a 1E Psychic but did get to enjoy an Occultist (what the Thaumaturge has evolved into) within a Mummy’s Mask campaign. We’ve now 4 subconscious mind options to choose from and 6 conscious mind possibilities for 24 combinations of how your abilities manifest, how you tap your occult spells, and what sort of psi cantrips you get access to. That’s more options than I expected for initial release, though I certainly won’t say no to more options! I admit Thaleon’s – the iconic Psychicstory has me quite intrigued where emotion becomes color and power. I’m sure Seltyiel won’t mind if I’ve another iconic of particular interest. Thaleon may be of an Emotional Acceptance subconscious mind but I believe his conscious thoughts evoke the Tangible Dream with the storied image of Astral Rain.

I can’t leave out Mios, the iconic Thaumaturge, whose story is as much about their truth as using the symbolic power of talismanic implements in their adventures. I try to play up the symbolic aspect of thought, emotion, and objects when I play my witch Ateran because of that occult spellcasting. It’s even more so true for a Thaumaturge. We’ve 9 implements to choose from now instead of 5: amulet, bell, chalice, lantern, mirror, regalia, tome, wand, and weapon. While you’ll have to pick up Dark Archive to learn what each is capable of as you master its benefits and leverage how it reveals vulnerabilities in your targets, I will say the new Regalia implement is exciting to me for someone who wants to bolster their allies in a support / face role combination. Considering the Thaumaturge has Charisma as a favored attribute, I’m sure we’ll see a lot of self-assured leaders and talkers amongst the Thaumaturges! Of course we get archetype feats for psychic and thaumaturge too for those who want to add a bit more occult to their builds!

Stolen Casefiles

From there, the Dark Archive delves again into a bit of in-world narrative with a section of chapters titled the Stolen Casefiles that represent parts of this “Dark Archive Folio” that K.V.H. rescued from the Pathfinder Society. Each chapter contains some narrative work, some Lost Omens lore that you can use or adapt, as well as rules and options for GMs and players alike. However, each also has a small adventure that is part of a larger series centered around that Folio. I may be mistaken – correct me if I’m wrong – but I don’t think we’ve seen that before in a sourcebook and I absolutely love it, especially in the wake of my article last time of how to leverage various pieces of paths and published material that works for your campaign.

The Cryptids chapter gives us feats for abilities after we’ve faced or saved foes like helping a ghost or saving a fey life. There’s also rules to modify your creatures to make them experimental or mutant cryptids. The primeval and rumored versions give you options for legends out of the woods or unlocking ancient beasts from their cages. The Primeval Winter Wolf pictured above is a dangerous example. We get things for players too! Gear for hunting crypitds and feats for druids or rangers influenced by the cryptids of their locales. I like the Forgotten Presence feat as it represents a mysterious, long-lived druid hiding in the wilderness.

In Secret Societies we get details on some prevalent secret societies around Golarion including the one that’s not so secret: the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. There’s one from the River Kingdoms I hadn’t heard of called the Marlview Village Society with an intriguing sarcophagus at its focus. I’m thrilled for new occult skill feats because I’d felt a little limited or that they were mostly just a catch all with occultism an option between the spellcasting related skills. Automatic writing and crystal healing are bound to be popular.  There’s gear before the adventure of that section, though I think you can understand why I won’t be detailing what happens in the adventures in this book. Suffice to say though, you either want to run or play them! There’s an exciting vignette as is this chapter’s opera house visit.

Now maybe I’m just on a Marvel kick after the end of Ms. Marvel (no spoilers, I promise). However, Deviant Abilities is a chapter filled with potential variations of power, mutations, or granted abilities. It reminded me of Eberron’s rune-based powers or the corruption rules from 1E. A number of feats with suggested origins (facing a dragon, troll heritage, etc.) are presented with spells that play up these beyonder, occult investigation style adventures. Phase Bolt and Warp Step are bound to be popular cantrips, especially the latter’s ability to help you navigate just a bit quicker with an eerie countenance but that bolt’s ability to care less about cover and more about striking your enemy is very, very useful.

Mirrors and Imposters is an interesting chapter, not one I necessarily expected. There’s a new heritage called Reflection with a number of supporting feats. Do you want to play the imposter? Well here’s your chance. Paizo is giving us the options of how to play the baddies, the undead, the monsters, and even the accidentally empowered in the last few books. I love it. The Alter Ego archetype feels almost vigilante, this archetype is more spy than combatant or maybe they’re an entertainment star. A combination of both, the celebrity archetype could make for a really complex character. I didn’t even mean to and I feel like I’ve led myself into Moon Knight. Sorry for all the Marvel-fanning over here!

Cults and then the Curses and Pacts chapters offer a lot of character options while feeding us information on the Age of Lost Omens. A cult like the Red Mantis or a curse there like in the Stolen Lands are presented but I’m eagerly digging through new archetypes and spells. A Living Vessel so you can play the possessed or a Venom-like symbiote like the image above? Yes, please. New curses to levy on your enemies are great, especially for a crafty spellcaster. Speaking of the craft, Witches get the brand new Pacts patron with the lovely nine-tailed fox familiar Daji art. Special lessons intended for that patron are presented around making deals with your target. We’ve got archetypes for Pactbinding, reminding me of that old class, as well as one called the Cursed Maelstrom. The Pactbinder makes deals with entities for power, a possibly great story-based archetype to explore!

There’s a lot to love in Temporal Anomalies, but the Time Mage archetype – you just have to be a spellcaster to take it – has a really entertaining feat at 8th level called What Could Have Been. When you conjure something, you conjure a variant of yourself from time and space of what you need. The example they give? Oh you’re summoning a troll, well you get the version of you as a troll from some other reality. This is the Loki-level power we need. I was tickled pink seeing this and can’t wait to see someone use it in their game. Obviously the other time magic options are pretty wonderful including that Timeline-Splitting Spell at 18th level. We also get a new Time Oracle Mystery, which I think is particularly well timed for this release. A few more oracle mysteries is good for options and planning and a curse of being stuck in a shifting band of time so you – or parts of you – might get older or younger as you use your abilities is great roleplaying fun.

Mindscape’s chapter is for the psychics and occultists ready to dive into mental duels, landscapes constructed of mental power, and dream-like reveries for adventure. We get three new archetypes: Psychic Duelist (after the much discussed 1E version), the Mind Smith (psychic weapons), and the Sleepwalker (the power of dreams). This chapter culminates in the final adventure The Last Dream – a fitting title for the chapter – and you learn just a bit more of the Dark Archive folio adventure your characters have been chasing. Uncovering abilities like new feats and spells are fitting rewards for players, but sometimes unlocking the ability to take a new archetype or perhaps triggering the free archetype rule at that point could work! Free your mind and the rest will follow.

The Dark Archive is far beyond the normal, a paranormal level of extraordinary as I’m sure K.H.W. would agree. From all I’ve said to all that there’s still to be discovered by you and your fellow players, I’m thrilled to have this book and all it symbolizes in hand. We shouldn’t forget Paizo’s history is as Paizo Publishing, having taken over Dungeon and Dragon magazines. I was a long time subscriber back then. It’s why I’ve long valued their work for 3.5, the world of Golarion and the Lost Omens lore. I find it really exciting to see how their developed materials are now evolving into publications with an editorial feel with amazing rules crunch, great story, cool in-verse narratives, and of course a touch of adventure as well. I can’t wait to see what new wonders we’ll learn about at Gen Con! Until then, I highly suggest you invest in Dark Archive and all Paizo has been building toward over the last year!

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!


Banner Dark Archive cover, Paizo 

  1. Welcome to the Dark Archive excerpt, Dark Archive, Paizo
  2. Dark Archive Folio, The Stolen Casefiles chapter, Dark Archive, Paizo
  3. Iconic Encounter: Fear, Fortitude, and Fury, Paizo blog, Rain of Blades art by João Fiuza, Paizo
  4. Primeval Winter Wolf, Primeval Cryptid, Dark Archive, Paizo
  5. Living Vessel archetype image, Dark Archive, Paizo
  6. Daji, Pacts (Rare Witch Patron), Dark Archive, Paizo
  7. Psychic Duelist archetype image, Dark Archive, Paizo

Rob Pontious

You may know Rob Pontious from Order of the Amber Die or Gehenna Gaming's first series of Monster Hearts 2. He currently writes Know Direction's Investing In blog as well as a player for the Valiant podcast and Roll for Combat's Three Ring Adventure. He's been a lover of TTRPGs for over three decades, as a gamer, and a GAYMER. You can find him on social media as @silentinfinity.