Fox’s Cunning – Tracking the Talismans: Part 2

Last time on Fox’s Cunning I rated talismans level 1-5. Check that post for basic hints and rules on Talismans. This week we will rank the rest of the talismans, and go over the archetype, The Talisman Dabbler, which you may have seen heard me play during our Troubles in Otari Adventurous liveplay.

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

More Than a Dabbler: The Talisman Dabbler

The Talisman Dabbler archetype is super fun, especially in Free Archetype campaigns. It has no prerequisites so a martial character can benefit from the class as well as a caster. Even if you don’t find yourself on the front line where talismans are most useful, you can use the class to help support your teammates, using free talismans every day and even affixing talismans during combat! I find Monks, Champions (with shields), and Gunslingers can get a little extra mileage out of the class, if you can afford the feats! The class is especially good in campaigns with small parties of four or fewer PCs, since you’ll have fewer PCs you have to worry about outfitting with talismans!

Talisman Dabbler Dedication gives you two free talismans a day, up to half your level. This let’s you craft dispoable “niche use” talismans based on the daily needs of yourself and the rest of the party. At early levels your party will appreciate the Potency Crystals. And at higher levels you will still have access to a slew of good Talismans that still effective at level 20! I recommend using your archetype for weapon talismans, as those tend to get used more often. You will still be buying and/or crafting talismans, and don’t be shy about asking your party to chip in to help pay for their buffs.

Quick Fix is good to take at level 12 or higher, as being able to affix four talismans as a 3-action activity during breaks between “waves” (or even in combat, in some cases) will be a great boon to the party!

Deeper Dabbler gives you two additional free talismans a day; If you find that two free talismans aren’t cutting it, consider taking the class.

Talismanic Sage is a very powerful feat! Being able to enhance two attacks per round with the same talisman is extremely potent, but make sure you understand that you can’t trigger multiple abilities off the same trigger, but not all talismans use the same trigger for the same action. For example, some weapon talismans say “when you roll weapon damage”, and others say “when you make a Strike”.

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 6 Talismans:

★★★★★ Ghostbane Fulu (Weapon; Offense; Level 6; 40 gp) — The problem with ghost touch is it uses up your property rune but isn’t always super useful in every type of campaign, so carrying some ghostbane fulu can be extremely useful, especially since games very often give hints that a ghost encounter is forthcoming but, unlike balms and oils, you don’t consume this item unless there is a guaranteed target! Since resistances scale with level, this is always a useful item.
★★★★☆ Binding Coil (Weapon; Tactical/Offense; Level 6; 50 gp) — A free grapple on a hit is great. Even if the Escape DC doesn’t scale, they are still spending an action to break free!
★★☆☆☆ Iron Cube (Weapon; Tactical/Offense; Level 6; 50 gp) — There’s nothing wrong with a MAPless trip, it’s just not worth 50 gold, especially if I miss the initial strike and now I just spent two actions on a missed attack. I wish this was done like Binding Coil instead.
★☆☆☆☆ Peacemaker (Firearm; Tactical; Level 6; 35 gp) — The DC on this effect is way too low given what a subpar effect it is in the first place. This has really nice flavor and I appreciate it for that!
☆☆☆☆☆ Singing Muse (Armor; Skill; Level 6; 250 gp) — This isn’t a terrible effect, but it costs 250 GP! Orchestral Brooch only costs 100 gp and is two levels higher! I think this is a typo, but until that is fixed this is too expensive.

Level 7 Talismans:

★★★★★ Persistent Lodestone (Firearm; Utility; Level 7; 55 gp) — If you miss your gun reloads with the same ammo. This is a great way to make sure that poisoned magic ammunition you shot isn’t wasted and you get to reload your gun for free! This’ll be a good item at any level.
★★★★☆ Putrescent Glob (Weapon; Tactical/Offense; Level 7; 65 gp) — The only reason this isn’t 5-stars is because it can be hard to make someone sickened in the first place. Yes, that DC doesn’t scale, but you can use this after you check that you’ve already crit and automatically slow someone, which is fantastic for any PC who can consistently sicken an enemy.
★★★★☆ Grim Trophy (Armor; Skill; Level 7; 55 GP) — Intimidate is one of the best skills in the game. Hitting two creatures at once is great. As an added bonus, this is super fun to craft using the skull of a fallen enemy.
★★★★☆ Swift Block Cabochon (Shield; Tactical/Defense; Level 7; 70 gp) — A free reaction is really good at any level and many monsters have mutliple attacks per round.
★★★☆☆ Murderer’s Knot (Weapon; Level 7; 66 gp) — Very few talismans give you extra damage. Persistent bleed damage is really good. This makes me want to pick up Twist the Knife at higher levels, because doing 3d6 or 4d6 persistant bleed is brutal.
★☆☆☆☆ Whisper Briolette  (Armor; Skill; Level 7; 55 gp) — There are some fun out-of-combat uses for this, but if your GM isn’t letting your characters who have fought alongside each other for 6 levels kind of get the gist of how to respond to fighting on the same battlefield, your game is in hard mode and you need better talismans to stay alive anyway!

Level 8 Talismans:

★★★★★ Stormfeather (Armor; Tactical; Level 8; 100 gp) — Single-action flight is good at every level, assuming you never get permanent flight. This talisman is amazing. Get it.
★★★★☆ Detect Anathema Fulu (Armor; Utility; Level 8; 100 gp) — Has some great out of character utility for niche situations, including keeping a sketchy NPC from doing the wrong thing, and helps to keep you from falling if you are worshipping a god with awkward anathema or infiltrating a cult. Remember that you lose the talisman the first time it activates, even if it doesn’t burst into flames. I’m sure there’s some cool niche combo we will eventually find with being able to essentially light yourself on fire as a free action.
★★★☆☆ Jade Bauble (Weapon; Tactical; Level 8; 100 gp) — Takes an action but unlike Gallows Tooth it at least confers flat-footed so your allies can hit them too. Make sure to delay initiatives properly to get maximum use out of this.
★★★☆☆ Orchestral Brooch (Armor; Skill; Level 8; 100 gp) — Turning into a one-man band is a total flavor win, and sometimes you just want to critical succeed your perform check, especially when victory points are at stake.
★☆☆☆☆ Gallows Tooth (Weapon; Offense; Level 8; 100 gp) — I’m not spending 100 gp to make someone flat-footed. By level 8 your party should have figured this out. Or get a Jade Bauble.

Level 9 Talismans:

★★★☆☆ Rebound Fulu (Shield; Offense; Level 9; 125 gp) — A reliable source of damage that will technically scale as you level up, but it’s most effective around this level for an extra ~10 damage, whereas at higher levels your only looking at a tiny percentage of an opponent’s hit-points.
★★★☆☆ Basilisk Eye (Shield; Defense; Level 9; 150 gp) — Saving throw isn’t great, but slowed 1 makes this good enough until level 11.
★☆☆☆☆ Ixamè’s Eye (Headgear; Tactical/Offense; Level 9; 150 gp) — Goz Masks are only 30 GP, but they are uncommon. This has niche usefulness unless you have a party member with fog/mist spells, then it’s better, but still really expensive for a one-time trick.
★☆☆☆☆ Indomitable Keepsake (Great) (Armor; Defense; Level 9; 120 gp) — This is okay if you absolutely know you are fighitng a gunslinger? This is extremely niche, but more useful now than at later levels. It’s also super flavorful for an Alkenstar or Deadshot Lands adventure.

Level 10 Talismans:

★★★★★ Retrieval Prism (Greater) (Any Item; Tactical/Utility; Level 10; 200 GP) — Being able to quick-draw any item is extremely good at any level, especially since there are few ways to do this with non-item weapons and non-frontliners are the most likely to want a utility rune on their armor. There’s less out of combat shenanigans you can do with this compared to the other prism, but this is probably better for casters with lots of scrolls and wands, especially if its a three-action cast!
★★★★★ Lucky Rabbit’s Foot (Armor; Defense/Tactical; Level 10; 175 gp) — Rerolling saving throws is really good and will be good at any level.
★★★★☆ Iron Medallion (Armor; Defense; Level 10; 175 gp) — Pretty good in fear heavy campaigns, especially at this level and higher where fear effects have some nasty riders beyond just the frightened condition.
★★★☆☆ Mummified Bat (Weapon; Tactical; Level 10; 175 GP) — Blindsense is good and echolocation is great, but invisibility isn’t that bad. This is a helpful, but I’m just not that impressed.
★★☆☆☆ Vanishing Coin (Armor; Tactical/Offense; Level 10; 160 gp) — If you are stealthing in exploration mode you likely will begin combat unseen anyway and have ways to make opponent’s flat-footed (or just continue being concealed). Sneaky types would probably prefer defensive armor anyway. This might be good for an NPC who needs to run away the moment combat starts.
★☆☆☆☆ Shockguard Coil (Shield; Offense; Level 10; 175 GP) — A non-scaling basic save just for some damage and the flat-footed condition? It is a very high save for this level, but I’d only pick this up if I knew I’d be fighting against an enemy who was weak to electricity with a low reflex save. I’d rather use a Rebound Fulu
★☆☆☆☆ Sniper’s Bead (Greater) (Firearm/Crossbow; Tactical/Offense; Level 10; 160 gp) — There are so many better firearm/crossbow talismans that will actually come in handy. There are very few scenarios where you will need to fire further than the size of most maps, but this isn’t far enough that you should just carry it with you “just incase”.

Level 11 Talismans:

★★★★☆ Lion Claw (Weapon; Offense; Level 11; 300 gp) — Pounce is pretty good. You can avoid AoOs and you’ll catch the target flat-footed, in addition to effectively getting “sudden charge”.
★★☆☆☆ Ghostshot Wrapping (Ranged Weapon; Tactical; Level 11; 300 gp) — Being able to fire and not be seen is pretty useful if the entire party can do it, but outside of niche encounters like assassinations of low-level-but-important-NPCs, this Talisman is too expensive to outfit an entire party and there are too many other great ranged weapon talismans.

Level 12 Talismans:

★★★★★ Shrieking Skull (Firearm or Crossbow; Tactical; Level 12; 400 gp) — Being able to AoE Intimidation from practically anywhere is really powerful since you can combine it with all those delicious riders to “Demoralize” like Terrified Retreat and Agonizing Rebuke.
★★★★☆ Eye of Apprehension (Armor; Tactical; Level 12; 400 gp) — Rolling twice and taking the highest on the most common initiative in the game is really useful when you absolutely positively have to go first.
★★★★☆ Fade Band (Armor; Defense/Tactical; Level 12; 320 gp) — Going invisible when someone hits you is pretty good. Many monsters can swing multiple times in a round, oftentimes ignoring Multiple Attack Penalty.
★★★★☆ Balisse Feather (Weapon; Offense; Level 12; 400 gp) — Not as niche as it looks, since it functions against anyone you’ve seen committing an evil act, which would include “trying to murder you when you try to reason with them”. Lowering resistances is effectively +5 damage on every future hit, including hits by your allies. The only reason this isn’t 5 stars is the saving throw is low.
★★☆☆☆ Iron Equalizer (Weapon; Offense; Level 12; 400 gp) — Certain Strike is pretty okay, and there are a few abilities you can combo with it, but not many since you still “missed” the attack and all added damage die are not added. You can do some neat stuff with this, but without that neat stuff this is only a two-stars.

Level 13 Talismans:

★★★★☆ Mending Lattice (Shield or Weapon; Tactical/Utility; Level 13; 525 gp) — Automatically repairing a shield is pretty darned useful for a shield-wielder; Only niche effectiveness on a weapon.
★★★☆☆ Binding Coil (Greater) (Weapon; Tactical; Level 13; 450 gp) — Free action grab isn’t bad and hte escape DC is pretty high until level 15.

Level 14 Talismans:

★★★★★ Vapor Sphere (Armor; Defense; Level 14; 900 gp)  — Resistance 25 and immunity to precision damage is really good. Also works well against Hazards. Moving back 5 feet from a single attack can potentially save you against a pounce!
★★★★☆ Grinning Pugwampi (Weapon; Tactical; Level 14; 700 gp) — Very powerful effect that will ruin a monster’s day. This is not incapacitation, but the saving throw does not scale (but is pretty high).
★★★★☆ Iron Cudgel (Weapon; Offense; Level 14; 900 gp) — Sometimes you just want to do a ton of damage. Extra weapon dice are good. Getting up to four extra weapon dice if you have the feat is great.
★★★☆☆ Viper’s Fang (Weapon; Tactical; Level 14; 850 gp) — By now you probably have an Attack of Opportunity; A free strike is really good, especially if you have the right supporting feats. I just think there are other talismans that are a little better. But this doesn’t get worse as you go up in level!
★★★☆☆ Dazing Coil (Weapon; Tactical; Level 14; 900 gp) — Stunned is really good but the Will save doesn’t scale and isn’t that high. Grinning Pugwampi is probably better.

Level 15 Talismans:

★★☆☆☆ Indomitable Keepsake (Major) (Armor; Defense; Level 15; 1200 gp) — If you are expecting a gunfight, this can be useful. Great for firearm duels or if you find yourself in Alkenstar or the Deadshot lands. Even then, there are other options around this level that are comparable (if not better). Vapore Sphere is probably better.

Level 16 Talismans:

★★★★★ Flame Navette (Armor; Defensive; Level 16; 1,800 gp) — Determination is a really powerful feat and being able to counteract a bunch of negative effects is really good.
★★★★☆ Tusk and Fang Chain (Armor; Tactical/Offense/Defense; Level 16; 1800 gp) — Great on grapplers. Good on everyone else. Even higher level monsters grab. Confusion is a brutal effect. This does have incapacitate.
★★★★☆ Ghost Dust (Armor; Tactical; Level 16; 1800 gp) — 4th-level invisibility is really good and activating this is as easy as moving, which you are probably doing anyway. Great for slipping away or entering the fray.
★★☆☆☆ Stormbreaker Fulu (Armor; Defense/Tactical; Level 16; 1900 gp) — Niche and expensive, but if you know you are going into a giant storm to fight enemies who use this energy type it’s really good. Great for high-level nautical campaigns.
★☆☆☆☆ Sniper’s Bead (Major)(Weapon; Offensive; Level 16; 1600 gp) — Extremely niche. Carry one with you if you think you might need to assassinate someone from five maps away, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever need this in a published encounter.

Level 17 Talismans:

★★★★☆ Dispelling Sliver (Weapon; Tactical; Level 17; 2400 gp) — I’m a sucker for dispeling magic with strikes. Expensive, but +29 is a super high counter-act check! I don’t know if I’d use this even if I had Dispelling Slice; I might just save it for its free-action as usually there is one powerful spell you want to end each time you attack. Probably best with ranged weapons against magic fliers.

Level 20 Talismans:

★★★☆☆ Celestial Hair (Armor; Defensive; Level 20; 12,500) — It’s a really useful effect, but it’s so expensive! 5-stars against a level 24-25 creature, as they hit super hard. In a normal encounter you are better off using cheaper talismans you can afford to lose.

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".