Pathfinder Secrets of Magic, a brand-new sourcebook for the second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplayig Game, is set for release on Sept. 1. Lead designer Logan Bonner, who co-wrote the book with Mark Seifter, sat down with Polygon to give fans a guided tour. He says that this is the biggest release of the year for publisher Paizo, and not just by sheer number of pages.
Secrets of Magic includes two revised character classes, the Magus and the Summoner, both of which are tailored for the tabletop role-playing game’s second edition. There are dozens of spells and magical items, and that’s not all. The book also includes a section titled Book of Unlimited Magic. It details brand new ways to integrate magic to your world, with narrative and mechanical concepts that can make your at-home games different from everyone else’s.
Pathfinder was originally spun out of Dungeons & Dragons, and retains much of the complexity of that TTRPG’s 3.5 edition. Bonner says that the intent with Secrets of Magic was to hew closely to that format, a model that was updated with the game’s second edition in 2019.
“We wanted to keep the same kind of vibe,” Bonner said, “which is a fairly complex game with a lot of choices, a lot of options, a lot of ways to customize your character, and to feel like the rules are supporting the story you want to tell with your character.”
When Polygon reviewed the new Pathfinder Core Rulebook at launch, I noted its refined tactical combat and its elegant narrative hooks. Secrets of Magic follows through on the promise of the new system, giving a dynamic range of new options for players and game masters alike.
“This is kind of a chance to talk about magic as a concept,” Bonner said, “We have a lot of things that use magic, but we don’t really get into the nitty gritty of what magic is, where it comes from, how people think about it, and use it. So we want to get that stuff out there early in the [second] edition.”
The book opens with a lengthy section titled Essentials of Magic. It’s a collection of in-fiction documents, some of them annotated by hand via in-fiction secondary sources. Next come the two classes — the magus and the summoner.
“‘Refreshed’ is, I think, a good way to put it,” Bonner said. “We looked at the mechanics of the original version, but we really kind of reassessed from the start how they were going to work.”
The magus is a classic “gish” character, Bonner said, skilled in both melee combat and spellcasting — not unlike the Witcher. They rely on a special ability called spell strike, which lets them load a spell into their weapon and unleash its effects on contact. They also have a stance called arcane cascade that allows for ongoing damage over time.
The summoner, on the other hand, is a pet class that gives players access to a powerful companion creature called an eidolon. Eidolons can take many forms, including dragons, plants, demons, angels, or other cuddly and horrific creatures. Both classes will help to give Pathfinder 2e a more nuanced style of gameplay, with plenty of opportunities for narrative rabbit holes and elaborate role-play.
“Both of these classes have spell casting,” Bonner said, “but not quite as much spell casting as a direct spell caster — like a wizard or a cleric. They get a pretty good number of spells, but because they have some other major thing going on, they don’t have as many. They still get up to the same levels of spells, they just don’t have as many spells at every level.”
Secrets of Magic covers a lot of ground, and we won’t be able to touch on it all here in our initial preview. But suffice it to say, one of the more exciting elements for me personally is in how the game gives options for integrating magic into the game world. I mentioned the Book of Unlimited Magic above, and it might just be my favorite chapter.
“Book of Unlimited Magic is where we kind of brainstormed a bunch of ideas about what magic can be,” Bonner said, “about magical tropes that we want to bring into the game. [...] And then, how can you implement it in your game.”
For instance, there’s a section now for soulforged armaments, which will allow for worlds where magical arms and equipment are fused with a player character’s own soul. The section on elementalism includes details on how to convert the druids and monks in your world into distinct and powerful warriors. Each of these sections is accompanied with a newly curated list of existing spells, available in this and other books, giving each thematic option its own texture and flavor.
“These are all really concept first,” Bonner said, “then we planned out how you can implement it in your [home] game.”
Pathfinder Secrets of Magic is up for pre-order now at the Paizo website and through your friendly local game store. Physical copies run $49.99, while PDF copies are $14.99. While publisher Paizo won’t be at this year’s Gen Con tabletop gaming convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, its partner Troll & Toad will be attending and selling its products on the show floor starting Sept. 16.
Pathfinder Secrets of Magic was previewed with a pre-release digital copy of the book provided by Paizo. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.