How to Use the Magic Systems in Pathfinder 2E

Pathfinder’s Knights of Everflame is a Pathfinder Second Edition campaign written and run by Jason Bulman. A group of five strangers who board a caravan heading to Lastwall, an ancient kingdom watching over the grave of a long-dead menace… you can find them on Tuesday evenings on Twitch!

Spellcasters. No other character subtype in any fantasy-based RPG game has ever rivaled the sheer world-bending and destroying power spellcasters wield. Pathfinder’s Second Edition has done much to balance spellcasters with other classes in several ways, but two stand out more than others. 2E not only elevates other classes, it also increases the “spell casting” part of classes with magic that’s fun to play around with. they’ve increased the “spell casting” part of classes with magic.  There are traditions, schools, focus spells, and even essence components like Matter, Spirit, Mind, and Life.

The end result is a magic system that is more flexible. When your Bard is a practitioner of unexplainable esoterica seeking to influence the Mind, it is fun to fiddle with your spells. These aspects of spell casting ground the player to the character; even if they can tear open gateways to another plane. Before spellcasters become truly terrifying (and the world needs to rely on the martial classes to stop them), let’s take a look at the four traditions in Pathfinder 2E… and how to use a dead cat to kill a guard.

Primal

Pathfinder Spells Image

With a connection to the world of Pathfinder itself, Primal spellcasters are nature casters. The cycle of life and death, predator and prey, day and night are played out in their spell selection list. Theirs is also probably the most diverse and utilitarian. At their pinnacle, the primal spellcasters can transform a group of people into a herd of mammoths. Turning a group of pitchfork-wielding angry farmers into a group of huge, battle-ready mammoths to stampede your enemies is one way to make your point about pollution.

But to kill a guard with a dead cat at low levels, we must look to an underused spell: Negate Aroma. An abjuration spell, it causes a target to lose its odor and prevents creatures from noticing its presence via smell alone. This guard-killing plan is insidious and a long-term one, of course. Find a dead cat and let it spoil, rot, and begin to stink. Then, hit it with some negate aroma, cook the toxic beast in some otherwise tasty smelling food, and serve it up—sit back and wait for nature to run its course. The one-hour time limit on the spell should be enough time to pull off the plan, or you could use the duration of the spell to create a time-delayed stink bomb. Which is probably handier than long term poisoning?

Occult

Occult practitioners seek to understand the unexplainable and access the world around them using their own latent power. Their spell list is filled with the strange and weird things that don’t fit nicely into other boxes. Even though there is cross over with the Arcane tradition more often, the nature of occultism feels differently. Reality warping, possession, plane shifting, rewiring the creature’s senses, and shadow walking are the types of abilities you’ll find. At the highest level, Fabricated Truth makes creatures believe something is a fact. Choose a single statement you want the targets to believe and give it a go; then everyone will believe that purple gnomes really are out to kill them and steal their socks.

For an occultist, killing a guard with a dead cat is trivial. A cantrip called Telekenitc Projectile allows you to hurl a loose, unattended object that is within range against a target. If it hits, the spell does a 1d6 plus your spellcasting ability modifier. Think about this. Flinging dead cats in an alleyway that do as much damage as crossbow bolts AND you can even crit with them.

Divine

Pathfinder Magic Image 2

Celestial power and gifts from other entities fall into the divine category. Additionally, anything dealing with life, the afterlife, and energies from planes and worlds beyond our own fit nicely into the divine block. At their pinnacle, they transform into avatars of their deity (which is clearly Asmodeus) and gain the ability to summon down hellfire while walking on the air itself. I can think of no better way to head to the grocery store each day. Jokes aside, the divine spell list has become unique and flavorful, turning them into more than just party buffers and healers that clerics were typically known for a decade ago.

Unfortunately, I could not find an easy way for a divine character to kill a guard using a dead cat at low levels easily. There is one possibility of using the Message spell and a very specific dead cat, however. The divine spell list is filled with detection spells and aura readings, and using this knowledge, we investigate the guard to find their cat (or their partners’ cat). Once the cat is no longer among the living, you send that guard a cryptic message informing them that another guard killed their cat. Or you use ventriloquism to make it appear as if the dead cat is talking and has demands from beyond the grave.

Arcane

Arcane spellcasters are masters of logic and rationality. As a tradition, it boasts the broadest spell list. Wizards and Sorcerers have spent centuries seeking out wisdom and unlocking the mysteries of spellcraft, so that goes without saying. It is clear, however, that the Arcane tradition is perhaps the worst at affecting anything with the spirit or the soul. Luckily, they are still capable of calling down an instant and damaging cataclysm at their command. The unimaginable power of world-ending cataclysms, ripping a small piece of each and combine them into one horrifically powerful attack. Flesh-dissolving acid, roaring earthquakes, tsunami’s, freezing winds, wildfire and more all devastate a region at a snap of their fingers.

With that kind of devastation at their command, arcane spellcasters don’t need to kill a guard with a dead cat. They’ve got plenty of ways to do so. From their swiss army knife of tools, casting Pest Form on yourself is one method. Pest Form turns you into a non-threating animal such as a cat, and you can dismiss the spell at will. Turn into a cat (or other roadkill) and have your party deliver you with some actual dead pelts to the guard. Dismiss the spell, pick up the other animals and beat the surprised guards to death with the cat.

In the end, what shines about the spell system is the versatility and fun that can be had in exploring clever ways to use a spell. It’s truly a treat to play around with various scenarios and every spell can be used to tell a story by itself. If you’re a storyteller ever looking for a plot idea, you can generate one-shots just by reading the description of a spell.

What’s your favorite spell combination? Let us know in the comments below!

Images: Pathfinder Second Edition

This post is sponsored by Paizo.

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