Fox’s Cunning – Tracking the Talismans: Part 1

Don’t miss out on Part 2 of this article!

Last time on Fox’s Cunning I rated armor runes. A friend mentioned she wanted to see Talismans, and so here we are. Talismans are super handy and fun consumable magic items with their own archetype, The Talisman Dabbler, which you may have seen heard me play during our Troubles in Otari Adventurous liveplay. But we will go over the archetype during Part 2!

Check out my google doc if you just want to see the effects of all the talismans in one easy to read table!

Simply Charming: Talismans & Fulu

Want to see a complete list of Talismans? Archive of Nethys has the most up to date list, but if you want to see all the effects on a single page, check out my google doc.

The rules for talismans are simple. You affix them to an item using the Affix a Talisman activity, which takes 10 minutes. Talismans can be activated when you satisfy the talisman’s trigger condition, usually as a free action. They are consumed once they are used, and otherwise function similar to runes. It’s a good idea to pick up a few if you have some spare silver, and they make wonderful treasures for characters in dungeons since they are so versatile and easy to apply to existing arms and armor. They are also super useful for giving enemies magic items without worrying about the PCs looting too much treasure!

Full Marks: Ranking the Talismans

Want to see a complete list of property runes? Archives of Nethys has the most up to date list, but if you want to see all the effects on a single page: check out my google doc.

The grades and opinions given below are biased. There are no “trap” options for runes in Pathfinder Second Edition. Even the lowest ranking talisman on this list serves a purpose. Most of my lower grades are assuming you are playing a campaign like Organized Play, with mixed enemy types and no particularly strong theme for your character that these talismans would otherwise enable. All talismans can be divided into one of the following categories: Offense, Defense, Skill, Tactical, and Utility. The decision on what kind of talisman you want really comes down to party composition. Talismans like fulu of the drunken monkey are substantially less useful if your party has a character who can reliable remove poisons.

Note on Proficiencies: Many talismans require certain skill proficiencies to use! Many of them offer access to abilities that usually require one or more skill feats, so these can help shore up classes that don’t receive as many skill feats as others, and might even be the deciding factor in whether or not you want a skill feat that you think might be too niche!

Level 1 Talismans:

★★★★★ Silver Tripod (Firearm; Tactical; Level 1; 3 gp) — If you use a tripod with kickback this will let you use it in midair, which is especially useful in exotic locations. It’s pretty mandatory for gunslingers using firearms with the kickback trait until you can afford an immovable tripod.
★★★★☆ Potency Crystal (Weapon; Offense; Level 1; 4 gp) — A +1 Striking Weapon is really strong at level 1, especially on characters who like to do multiple attacks in a single round. This talisman becomes next to useless once everyone in the party gets a +1 Striking weapon.
★★★☆☆ Emergency Disguise (Armor; Utility; Level 1; 3 gp) — Instant clothing is super useful, both as a disguise and for potential skill bonuses during diplomatic encounters. This is useful well beyond level 1, although eventually you may just want a hat of disguise. 3 gp worth of clothes is enough for a fine outfit plus 1 gp worth of accessories! But if you really just need an instant disguise you can always go with tear-away clothing and not use up your armor talisman slot, but this has more versatility.
★★★☆☆ Owlbear Claw (Weapon; Offense; Level 1; 3 gp) — Great once you have a +1 Striking Weapon. Critical hits are usually rare enough that you don’t mind only getting the effect once, and many of the specialization effects are quite potent. Fighters can stop using it at level 7 and give it to the Wizard, who needs it until level 13.
★★★☆☆ Slippery Ribbon (Armor; Tactical; Level 1; 12 gp) — This is undeniably niche and rather expensive, but you’ll probably be looking into these at much higher levels of play. Why? Because that’s when you start seeing Huge sized creatures! Being able to tumble diagonally through 3 squares after you’ve already moved 4 or 5 squares is pretty nice for a single action and 12 gold. It doesn’t even care if you are going through difficult terrain!
★★☆☆☆ Wolf Fang (Armor; Offense; Level 1; 4 gp) — This might net you 4 or 5 additional damage for 4 gold? I’d much rather save the money at that level for a Potency Crystal. Kind of neat having an offensive talisman that attaches to your armor. Maybe if your GM let it apply to every enemy you trip during an action that trips multiple enemies?

Level 2 Talismans:

★★★★☆ Crying Angel Pendant (Armor; Skill; Level 2; 7 gp) — Not doing damage with a critical failure using medicine is vital for parties who don’t have magical healing!
★★★★☆ Monkey Pin (Armor; Tactical; Level 2; 6 gp) — Being able to climb your land speed, even for a single action, is really helpful. A little less when you all fly.
★★★☆☆ Bronze Bull Pendant (Armor; Offense; Level 2; 7 gp) — +2 to shove is extremely potent, and shove is underrated against single melee enemies for eating up actions. Still, not the best.
★★★☆☆ Jade Cat (Armor; Tactical/Defense; Level 2; 6 gp) — Stopping falling damage and difficult terrain is both good, but  feather step and snap leaf (level 3) are better.
★★★☆☆ Onyx Panther (Armor; Defense; Level 2; 7 gp) — Being able to sneak at full speed for a turn is pretty useful for the right types of characters.
★★☆☆☆ Hunter’s Bane (Armor; Tactical; Level 2; 6 gp) — Making an invisible enemy hidden instead of detected is okay, but not great. Especially when you have to be hit for it to trigger.
★★☆☆☆ Effervescent Ampoule (Armor; Tactical; Level 2; 7 gp) — Best to carry one with you. Running over unstable surfaces (and water) is nice, but it takes an action.
★★☆☆☆ Mesmerizing Opal (Armor; Skill; Level 2; 7 gp) — Usable if you have a class that gets extra mileage out of a critical success on a feint, but there are better ways to flat-foot people.
★☆☆☆☆ Savior Spike (Armor; Defense; Level 2; 7 gp) — If this turned a failure into a success then maybe. Jade Cat is way more useful. Low rating because Grab an Edge takes a reaction.

Level 3 Talismans:

★★★★★ Feather Step Stone (Armor; Tactical; Level 3; 8 gp) — Ignoring difficult or greater difficult terrain is excellent at any level.
★★★★★ Retrieval Prism (Armor; Defense; Level 3; 12 gp) — Pulling an item without spending an action can be invaluable, but it takes some planning. Especially good for 2-action items that require you to be in a specific place, and 3-action items!
★★★★☆ Snapleaf (Armor; Defense/Tactical; Level 3; 9 gp) — Ignoring falling damage can save your life. The invisibility is neat, but it goes away once you land.
★☆☆☆☆ Indomitable Keepsake (Armor; Defense; Level 3; 12 gp) — Niche. If you know your going up against firearms, it’s good.
★☆☆☆☆ Matchmaker Fulu (Armor; Skill; Level 3; 10 gp) — Best to carry one with you for exploration mode. +2 status to diplomacy is pretty good and sometimes you can’t afford the crit fail.
★☆☆☆☆ Venomous Cure Fulu (Armor; Defense; Level 3; 10 gp) — Niche. Antidotes work on every type of poison. I’m not even sure what counts as an “injected” poison. If you absolutely know you are going up against lots of creatures to whom this applies, it’s pretty good.

Level 4 Talismans:

★★★★☆ Bloodseeker Beak (Weapon; Offense; Level 4; 20 gp) — Extra damage is pretty good. Bleed is even better.
★★★★☆ Energized Cartridge (Firearm/Crossbow; Offense; Level 4; 20 gp) — Great if you know the creature’s weakness. Persistent against weakness is brutal.
★★★☆☆ Sniper’s Bead (Firearm/Crossbow; Tactical/Offense; Level 4; 16 gp) — Can be table dependant, as many games don’t like long range sniping. Best to carry it with you since you are probably not being ambushed from that far away.
★★★☆☆ Admonishing Band (Firearm; Skill/Tactical; Level 4; 20 gp) — Warning Shot’s range is incredible. This is great for an Agonizing Rebuke build.
★★☆☆☆ Fortifying Pebble (Armor/Shield/Weapon; Utility/Defense; Level 4; 13 gp) — Niche. Most items never take damage. Good with shields. Or for Starspinners (shameless plug).
★★☆☆☆ Lion Badge (Armor; Defense; Level 4; 15 gp) — Only works when you fail a will save, not when you are intimidated. Decent in the right campaign.
★★☆☆☆ Dragonbone Arrowhead (Weapon; Tactical; Level 4; 20 gp) — Using an entire action just so you can throw your weapon isn’t very good.
★☆☆☆☆ Dragon Turtle Scale (Armor; Tactical; Level 4; 13 gp) — Nice to carry around just in case. Having a swim speed has nice benefits, but this requires Expert in Athletics which in most cases means you probably didn’t need this. I’ve run the same adventure for different groups at least a dozen times and only saw this used once due to the skill requirement.
★☆☆☆☆ Fear Gem (Weapon; Tactical; Level 4; 20 gp) — You can automatically make a target Frightened by doing a two-action strike. Probably better just using Intimidate. If you have Intimidating Strike, it can make them frightened 3 on a critical hit, which is nice for Agonizing Rebuke builds. I guess its good against things with extremely high Will saves.

Level 5 Talismans:

★★★★☆ Goblin-Eye Orb (Firearm/Crossbow; Tactical/Offense; Level 5; 24 gp) — Being able to auto-ignore concealment/hidden flat-checks can save you from automatically missing with that magic ammunition empowered multi-action super-strike.
★★★★☆ Beckoning Cat Amulet (Armor; Defense; Level 5; 26 gp) — Niche requirements. I don’t think hero points count as a feat or ability, but if you have such an ability this can help the party, especially with effects that cause everyone to be moved and/or fall in a hole! You do have to fail to use it, but if you picked one of these abilities your reflex is probably not your high save.
★★★☆☆ Shark Tooth Charm (Armor; Tactical; Level 5; 23 gp) —The piercing damage is fun, but you’ll be using this because you want to get out. It’s not bad, as many things grab/grapple. -1 star because you have to declare you use it before you see your die roll and the damage gets paltry pretty fast.
★★★☆☆ Eye of Enlightenment (Weapon; Tactical; Level 5; 25 gp) —This is great for characters who can benefit from a free Recall Knowledge check.
★★★☆☆ Rhino Hide Brooch (Armor; Defense; Level 5; 28 gp) — Resistance 5 to physical damage is swell against creatures with tons of attacks. You will level out of it fast, but you’ll use it. It does use your reaction, though, which is why its not 4 stars.
★★★☆☆ Tiger Menuki (Weapon; Offense; Level 5; 30 gp) — Sweep is pretty good and it’s hard to get a +1 circumstance bonus to attack from an item.
★★☆☆☆ Emerald Grasshopper (Armor; Skill/Tactical; Level 5; 30 gp) — 60 foot high jump is fun, but you are getting close to Fly levels.
★★☆☆☆ Fulu of the Drunken Monkey (Armor; Defense; Level 5; 25 gp) — Niche. Bonuses against ingested poison and strong alcohol are nice in the right place. Carry it with you just in case.
★★☆☆☆ Fulu of the Stoic Ox (Armor; Defense; Level 5; 25 gp) — Niche. Bonuses against disease are nice in the right place. Carry it with you just in case.
★☆☆☆☆ Oily Button (Armor; Tactical; Level 5; 30 gp) — This just reminds people how hard it is to disarm without a dedicated build. +4 is nice, but you’ll still take a -5. Should be lv 1-2 item.
☆☆☆☆☆ Sneaky Key (Armor; Skill; Level 5; 22 gp) — Extremely niche. There’s some value, but in most cases you’ll just use extra picks.

Dustin Knight

Dustin has been playing and improving on RPGs since AD&D in 1999. He ran games and conventions around California while studying Graphic Design, Philosophy, English & Architecture. After developing a tabletop game seminar he began working freelance for Alderac Entertainment Games. During his stint on the East Coast, he became a Venture Lieutenant and began reviewing Pathfinder mechanics for Organized Play. After moving to Washington in 2019, he met Alex Augunas at Paizocon and developed, designed and wrote for Everybody Games LLC. He has since published work with Rogue Genius Games and Paizo. He can be found on the Know Direction discord where he goes by the username "KitsuneWarlock".