The Tome of Secrets (a review)

1 12 2009

My love of Pathfinder is already documented on these pages.  But that doesn’t mean I will always praise Pathfinder related content – I will always write it as I see it.

I was a little surprised to see a hard copy of The Tome of Secrets in my local store – as I live in England and the nearby stores aren’t exactly RPG-centric.

That said, I saw a copy and immediately grabbed it (without checking the contents). 

My first overall observation is that with the Paizo produced stuff so far, just about anything within their covers is allowable in the game.  OK, I have a house-rule about attacks of opportunity and players have to check with me if they want to take a trait from a supplement or the web-document – but pretty much anything is fair game. 

This is rarely the case with third-party sourcebooks and Adamant Entertainment’s offering is no different.  Having started with something of a negative, I’ll balance that by saying that overall it is worth the purchase price.  Doubly so as you get a free PDF once you have bought it.

The sections are well laid out and cover:

  • Three additional races
  • Eight additional classes
  • Drawbacks
  • Occupations
  • GM Options

Some Specifics

I like the fact that Adamant Entertainment worked with Paizo to ensure that anything that goes in here doesn’t contradict something Paizo will put out later.  So the races and classes and mechanics won’t clash.

The races are…interesting.  Not sure if I’d ever play one but they give a significantly different option to the Paizo core races.  The classes are good too.  One or two appeal (the Spellblade and Warlock in particular) and the rest serve a purpose.

I really like the drawbacks and the fact that a player is allowed a skill bonus to offset taking the  drawback.  Some drawbacks are very specific e.g. Cold Aversion only affects you at certain temperatures and some are generic e.g. Bad Shot means a -2 penalty on all ranged attacks.  As a GM I’d be sure players only took sensible drawbacks.  Taking Cold Aversion for a desert campaign would be vetoed at once!

Occupations considers what your PC did prior to becoming an adventurer.  There are rules on wealth creation, some random tables if you just want to trust chance (and these are grouped by region e.g. rural, marine etc.).  Each background occupation gives specific skills that can give both flavour and some helpful abilities.

The GM section covers a range of topics and the GM can pick’n’mix whatever aspects he wants to add.  So there are sections on the mechanics of a range of aspects, e.g. stunts, morale and enchantment.

My favourite section is all about chases.  With standard movement rates, in the typical game mechanics you either never catch someone or you do.  This depends on your relative movement rate.  One human will never catch another human.  So the mechanics here allow for variety in that scenario – and a whole new aspect of adventuring can begin – the chase.

Next up there are some random generation tables for magical items and some mechanics for modifying standard monsters to create something new for your players.  There is a random adventure generator and finally a section on gunpowder weapons.   

What could be improved

My first observation is the artwork.  None is poor but many artists have contributed and for me at least, I like a high degree of commonality.  So some is OK, some is good but I don’t get the feeling I’m reading from one source – rather a few that have been put together.  But then I’m awkward.

I think that not every page will appeal to every player or GM but then that should not put people off buying it.  There is enough for any group to justify the price – with over 180 pages of information to use.

You’ll like this if:

  • You like Pathfinder and want some extra dimension
  • As a GM you want to try some different mechanics
  • You like the idea of ‘chases’
  • You’d like a way to develop backgrounds for your PCs and NPCs

You won’t like it if:

  • You’re on a limited budget and Paizo produce as much as you can afford each month
  • You want a huge amount of depth on one specific subject – this book offers a lot of different topics
  • You’re of the opinion that if Paizo didn’t want to publish it, you’d rather ignore it

Overall I’d recommend it to anyone who is serious about Pathfinder.  Would I recommend every player had a copy?  Perhaps not but every group should have access to at least one copy.

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