Pathfinder has just released its second book in the Lost Omens line, which is titled: the Character Guide. This Lost Omens series of books is separate from what I would call the “Core Books”. While core books are primarily structured around rules and systems, the Lost Omens line focuses on the world and setting Pathfinder has created. One could think of these books as optional or supplementary as they flavor the world surrounding the game. However, there are many new player options, as the title suggests, as well as, new organizations, NPC gallery, and theme templates, which all add to the value of this book. You may notice when reading the Character Guide, that many of these abilities and player options will reference specific peoples and cultures that exist within Golarion. The thought that follows is most likely something to the affect of “what if my game is not set in Golarion?” or “What if I’m not playing X race?”. This is where my view differs from many in the tabletop RPG community. I view rule-books and player options as suggestions or ideas to steal for my game. The rules as written are not final. Discuss with your DM, but if you have a cool idea for your character that isn’t rooted in some I’m trying to break the game idiocy, then I’m willing to bet everyone in your game will be on board. I bring this up, because as I cracked the spine of my Character Guide, I was struck by the sheer amount of fun ideas and player options that will surely add depth to your 2nd Edition games!
New Options for Core Races
A bulk of this book revolves around different options for characters, and how they could fit into the world of Galarion. The first entry in the Lost Omens line was the World Guide, which gave us an overview of different locations, as well as, the cultures that inhabit them. Here, we get to zoom-in a bit on these cultures in order to learn more about them. Humans alone have 12 different entries, and though this a fantasy setting, the development team does a wonderful job incorporating many real life cultures. Now, there is a huge demand from gamers for diversity and inclusion, rightfully so, and this is often reflected in some player options or flavor text. However, most games fall short as it’s a tall order to include all peoples in one book. So, we often get the “Asian” or “African” option, with no real diversity within these groups. Again, this is a mighty big ask, however, seeing as the Character Guide includes 5 different Asian inspired options, and 3-4 African inspired options just as examples to the length the team has gone too. I say inspired, because these cultures are tied to fictional nations in the fantasy world of Golarion, but their is tremendous value in handing a book like this, filled with diverse character art, to a new player that wants to feel represented. It’s also worth noting that this diversity is not limited to humans. Though they may not get their own section, the side-bars include 4 different heritages for half-elves and half-orcs. I particularly love the touch of adding so many portraits to highlight the subtle differences between these cultures. All of the core races from the Core-Rulebook are represented here.
In addition to these different heritages, this section also includes ancestry feats that are tied to these different cultures in super thematic ways. Again, don’t feel like you are being locked out from these options if you are not playing a specific setting. These are all rules that you can incorporate into your game. One of my favorite design decisions in Pathfinder 2e is the separation of different feat categories. Some people call it “siloing”, but overall this just allows a player to take more thematic racial options without sacrificing a powerful combat ability. Though, don’t think these feats are simply flavor as there are some active combat abilities to choose from. This ancestry feats section isn’t large, but when you combine it with the core-rulebook and the world guide, well, it’s impressive how many options the dev team have created in the short lifespan of 2nd edition.
Not only does the Character Guide build on the existing races, but we get three new ancestries: Hobgoblins, Leshies, and Lizardfolk. Leshies have become a fan favorite, so I was not surprised at their inclusion, but Hobgoblins and Lizardfolk caught me off guard. I believe this is because the Paizo team will have a core book coming out this upcoming year that will include many of the most popular races, and this smaller supplemental book was a quick way to incorporate a few minor, yet still pretty fun, races. I’m not normally a fan of the more off the wall races, such as leshies. Just seeing the fungus leshy will haunt my nightmares. However, I recognize that
crazy people do enjoy these options, and the artists do a splendid job showing many different ways these races can be represented. Looking over the feats for these more monstrous races, you can see the dev team really leaned into their features when writing feats. For example, the lizardfolk can gain a tail whip attack, and later can learn to shed its tail to escape being grabbed. It may seem small, but you can see where mechanical benefits are being applied that are thematically aligned with the race you are choosing to play. The sheer number of options and three new player-able races makes this a pretty crunchy book for a smaller supplement.
Organizations and NPC Gallery
Now that you have a uniquely flavored character, where does he/she fit into the world? As they explore, your character can choose to join one of many organizations within the world of Golarion. The organizations highlighted in this book are the Firebrands, Hellknights, Knights of Lastwall, Magaambya, and the Pathfinder Society. You are getting a full section on each organization which includes tons of interesting pieces of information for both DMs and players. Who are their friends? Who are their enemies? What are their goals? And more importantly, do they have a cool hideout? I love the detail placed in these organizations, and they are filled with story hooks that will bring players together. Often, when I run a one-shot or if the players don’t know each other, I like to begin a game by having everyone join a specific group. It just gives the players a bit of a push that gets everyone into the action. Though these organizations are well known to Pathfinder fans, there is a ton of value here for DMs to steal and re-skin for their own game. Each organization also has an archetype that includes feats that can tie a character more closely to their new found friends. Also included in this section is an NPC gallery. These NPCs are each notable characters within the given organizations, so they can be either friend or foe to your players. This NPCs include interesting abilities and full art to bring them to life in your game. With everything you already get inside this book, these little extra features are icing on the cake.
Obviously, being a supplemental line, the Lost Omens books have to prove their worth in a market full of amazing tabletop RPGs. I feel like the Paizo team has done that; primarily in two ways. First by adding player options. The game doesn’t break or is any less by not including these options in the base game, but for those fans that want more, well… Let’s just say you get player options on your player options. The second way is by expanding on their world and setting in Golarion. Remember, even if you are not playing in this setting, just reading through the different nations, peoples, and organizations will inspire any DM with new ideas for his/her home game. With all of this included, I say this is much more then a supplemental line and will have me looking forward to future releases.