Investing In: Book of the Dead

I’m pleased to share the news that we have finally obtained a reproduction of Geb’s prized tome on the undead, smuggled out of the nation of Geb at great personal cost. In this crate you will find a series of scrolls, some quite old and others with the ink barely dry. Though it’s long been suspected Geb used an existing document as the source for his chronicling on the undead, it’s quite clear he’s put his own stamp on it. We received significantly more than the 20 scrolls we originally anticipated, some of which are quite recent. Separating out the ancient writings from those of Geb would be an involved process, but will be essential for sifting out a complete historical record.1

Thrilled to say the sourcebook of our horror dreams – or nightmares – is finally here! Book of the Dead is not only on my computer but in my hands. I love me some PDFs as a subscriber, but the real feel of the book and being able to thumb through it quickly is a real joy. This book gives us numerous horror elements to contend with or contribute too, especially fighting the undead or being one in play. Vanessa and Luis got to sit down with design lead Logan Bonner last week for a full breakdown so make sure to check that out. I find it an incredible step that we now see the approach of how we might choose to play various creatures in our Pathfinder 2E game. As someone who very much enjoys their horror games and playing the monsters of those genres like the World of Darkness, I’ve been looking forward to this since it was announced last year!

I appreciate how this book is framed as the writing of Geb, specifically his Aleh Almaktoum. That’s Ancient Osiriani for Book of the Dead by the way. Allegedly these writings – in our Lost Omens lore that is – are a collection of scrolls that predate Geb. He merely found and collected them. Allegedly. It’s a great framing device for a book chock full of character options (both for those who fight and work with (as?) the undead), monsters, lands of Undeath, and even an adventure. I’m always excited to get that mixture of mechanics and lore with plenty both players and GMs can use!

Right out the gate, there’s a section on Hunters of the Dead in the world of Golarion and I’m thrilled to see the Nidalese Resistance mentioned due to the Desnan worshippers there. Granted, Zon-Kuthon isn’t particularly a fan of the undead anyway, which creates a fair amount of political strife for certain individuals in Nidal but a certain area and its ranches are mentioned within and that’s make me rather happy considering my Nidalese born witch Ateran from Three Ring Adventure is having their past come up soon. It’s good to have details on who fights for the light, for life before you present all those player options to combat the undead. A number of backgrounds and items are contained in the Prayers for the Living chapter, as well as a few archetypes. 

For the Living & the Dead

The one I was most hyped for? Hallowed Necromancer. I’d heard the art was gorgeous for this book and the Hallowed Necromancer sure doesn’t disappoint! I’ve longed for a player option for those who use necromancy for good, especially considering some spells like Heal are necromancy in this edition. Necromancy can’t all be bad! The Hallowed Ground focus power to bolster your spells while damaging undead in that area becomes this quintessential component of your combats. I love the opportunity to describe what it looks like while you use your spells and other powers picked up from the other archetype feats. The fact you get to choose from the necromancy wizard and death domain for some of these abilities works well, especially as the archetype can really be applied to any casting class.

The living are great and all, but those aren’t the options that I was most excited to see. Chapter 2’s Hymns for the Dead presents the vile necromancers with a few archetypes like the Reanimator and the Undead Master, as well as spellcasting feats and companions (familiars too) that hum with that foul power. If you’re playing a horror campaign or maybe a PC wants to explore a storyline of struggling to do good despite what’s happening to them – who doesn’t love a good antihero – then look no further than the undead archetypes! Ghost, Ghoul, Lich, Mummy, Vampire, and Zombie as well as ancestry rules for the Skeleton! You could easily have a party where everyone’s a little different there in Geb! I’ll highly suggest the Free Archetype variant rule in general, but even more so to allow your players to explore this sort of campaign. Of note the Lich can only be started at level 12 with its dedication, but all others start at level 2. I like that as it jives with the lore of a powerful spellcaster making their phylactery or otherwise finding the right rituals to become a lich. I really enjoyed the corruption rules in Pathfinder 1E. We used the ghoul corruption specifically in the Strange Aeons path and it made for some great story. With these character options, we could’ve taken it even further. 

A Grim Bestiary

In the Grim Crypt chapter we get monstrous adversary options. I’ll likely use the Undead Adjustments in my Expedition Coalition campaign. Having rules to make various creatures Ghostly, Shadowy, or Vampiric are very useful for on the fly undead elements. We get numerous undead monsters for players to fight including the Fiddling Bones, a devotee of music who can’t escape it, or the Risen Pet. There’s a rabbit and a dog example, low level, and great for small threats and jump scares in a horror campaign. There’s a new vampire type presented called the Vetalarana. They’re like the Vetala of 1E, vampires who feed on emotions and thought. Sounds familiar to the psychic magic of 1E as well. I’m wondering if the Vealarana stats and abilities give us a hint to what we might see of the Bestiary in the Dark Archive, which is due in July pending any shipping delays. Let me tell you from an ecommerce perspective, the operations and costs of shipping have skyrocketed as well as become more limited. Anyway, the Vetalarana have some interesting abilities like thoughtsense – sensing the presence of non-mindless within 100 feet precisely – and a Drain Thoughts ability that allows it to feed, slowly stupifying the target until they’re rendered comatose. Disturbing and dangerous, especially if the Vetalarana needs to be reborn after its body is destroyed… While we didn’t get options in the Vampire archetype to play one, I’d love to see such in the future.

Many of the classic undead get expanded examples like a ghoul priest or a lich of runecarved bone and flesh. A number of the monsters presented also have two-page write ups that could be used in character as if pulled directly from Geb’s – allegedly – Aleh Almaktoum. I’d recommend purchasing a PDF of Book of the Dead for those pages alone, printing them up to be found and collected by your players. Perhaps they’re needed to stop a terrible ritual or call upon Geb for help against the Whispering Tyrant! Yeah, remember who is now loose in the world of Golarion. Tar-Baphon is free and a horde of undead swept through Lastwall and threatens still more of Avistan. If you’re looking for a darker campaign you could play members of the Whispering Way or of course you can be heroes looking to stop the undead scourge. Of course there is the adventure I mentioned called March of the Dead. I clearly missed an update that there’d be an adventure in this book. Don’t want to run a whole Undead / Horror campaign? Then there’s the one shot (two shot?) for you! It features the town of Trunau in the Hold of Belkzen. Trunau has never fallen and we can’t let it happen now! If you and/or your players enjoy it, then perhaps that campaign to fight against the Whispering Tyrant is right for you!

The Book of the Dead is made of dreams and nightmares. I want to see it in an actual play, so please join me in some positive pressuring of my friends at Carrion Comfort Studios and Gehenna Gaming. They know rich, mature roleplaying and horror gaming so well that I trust them with the Lost Omens lore. The Book of the Dead truly provides an opportunity for another facet of fantasy gaming that I think will reach a whole new group of players that Pathfinder hasn’t reached yet. I highly suggest you invest in its undead horrors whether you want to fight them or play them!

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 Book of the Dead cover, Paizo

  1. A New Acquisition excerpt, Book of the Dead, Paizo
  2. A New Acquisition banner, Book of the Dead, Paizo
  3. Hallowed Necromancer archetype, Book of the Dead, Paizo
  4. Lich archetype, Book of the Dead, Paizo
  5. Vetalarana Emergent, Book of the Dead, 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.