In January Paizo released the Pathfinder Player Companion: Dragon Empires Primer, the second book about the continent of Tian Xia, further expanding our knowledge and player options based on this area. It’s a nice addition to the Dragon Empires Gazeteer, but how useful is it ? I decided to take a look, as I just started the Jade Regent adventure path with my players.
After first reading through the book I had mixed feelings : I felt the content of the book is really good, but I felt that it’s too few. For example I think we should have received much more new archetypes, as I would like to see at least 4-5 options for both the Samurai (we received 1) and the Ninja (0 new). I think these are the most Tian Xia themed classes after all.
First we receive a description about the five new playable races : Kitsune (fox-men), Nagaji (a reptilian race), Samsaran (reincarnated humans), Tengu (crow-men), and the Wayang (shadow-creatures). The new races are really interesting, however if you own the Gazeteer, then the only new thing you will find here are the excellent Kitsune feats, which are extending upon their shape-shifting powers. It was a turn down that there are no racial traits or favored class options, but I guess we will receive those in the Advanced Race Guide.
We also receive 28 half-page descriptions about the regions of the Dragon Empires, each entry including 2 regional traits. I think they made a good work with this part, as every short description gives a nice overview about the area, while the new traits nicely tie characters into the setting.
The book also contains four new character archetypes, which are really connected to the Dragon Empires. The Lotus Geisha can concentrate his abilities on a single target, and it’s a good archetype for a seducer-type of geisha. The White Haired Witch is one of the most interesting archetypes, replacing Hexes with an extremely powerful prehensile hair, and receive rogue talents instead of major hex and grand hex, creating a much more close combat oriented character. The Yokai Hunter is a very fitting Ranger archetype, hunting for oni, and ghost, while providing nice bonuses for detecting and resisting them. We also received the Sword Saint archetype for the Samurai class, which possess the art of Iajitsu, and several abilities based on Iajitsu. It’s really a good archetype, and I hink it’s also a plus that it’s removes the mount ability from the class.
Honestly, I think when Paizo published the Samurai alternate class, the first thing they should have removed is the mount ability. I guess they didn’t saw much films or books about samurai, as they mainly foot. I think they should fi his error by providing at least several archetypes which replaces the mount ability for something else.
The Dragon Empires Primer book also includes several feats, which are mostly usable only to monk characters. The feat I liked the most is Blinding Flash, which enables a character to blind his foe (daze effect) for one round by reflecting light with his blade into his opponent eyes. We also receive a “new” samurai order, Order of the Black Daimyo, but it’s new only in their motivations, while their abilities exactly match the Order of the Warrior.
We also receive some information on the magic of the Dragon Empires. This includes the Oni bloodline for sorcerers, a new elemental school for wizards (void), 3 new items and a single spell. These are absolutely Asian inspired and well executed, but it would be great if we could have seen a little bit more Dragon Empires magic.
I didn’t mentioned the last 2 parts of the book : faith, covering the deities and he new Moon subdomain, and the honor system. I think the honor system is an interesting idea to track the deeds of a character, however I didn’t had the chance to test it in practice, so I won’ take a judgement her.
I think that the Dragon Empires Primer is a good expansion, but the content seems a little bit few compared the potential. In the end I give it 4/5 stars.
Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros