Pathfinder: Book of the Dead Review

Hello my friends and welcome back to another PAIZO PRODUCT REVIEW! Today we’re taking a look at...

Hello my friends and welcome back to another PAIZO PRODUCT REVIEW! Today we’re taking a look at Pathfinder: Book of the Dead, one of the more interesting supplements to come out recently for Pathfinder second edition. This is a nifty little grimoire for those of y’all just itching to play a shambling undead—or, play undead hunters, I guess, but why do that when you can play a skeleton? Onward!

Book of the Dead Cover.png

One of the more delightful touches I wanted to make sure to appreciate about Book of the Dead is that of its framing conceit—the book presents itself as a manuscript from Geb on undeath and its presentations in Golarion, and the manuscript itself is supposedly stolen by unknown agents and delivered to the reader. Each section is also written by Geb in a different stage of his life (or unlife) as his views and understanding on undeath grows.

I can’t help but love this framing device, even if I would have loved to see a bit more distinction in Geb’s personality and opinions in the various sections. After the introductory chapter, Geb’s narrative voice largely falls away—which is a shame! I’m always down for a bit of characterization, especially for such an influential figure in Golarion geopolitics. In this regard, there are other books in other systems that see more success injecting the narrator’s personality, even if only in the marginalia, and I feel like there’s space for something that with Paizo books.

There only a few notable missed opportunities or disconnects with Geb’s narration—most notably with respect to the other influential undead leader in Golarion, Tar-Baphon. Geb remains curiously quiet on the Whispering Tyrant. I would love to hear what these two undead figures think of each other! That said, it’s odd that a mention of the fall of Lastwall occurs in the section that it does—that particular section is supposedly written millennia before the “current time” in Golarion, and so couldn’t have been referenced by the author at the time. Of course, the book authors need to make mention of it, because it's an incredibly influential event in world—this is just a case for some of that marginalia!

Book of the Dead TarBaphon.png

The real meat and potatoes of the book centers around player options for undead-centered characters. Undead hunters, sure, but also undead characters—the real draw here. Sure, there’s a Van Helsing archetype for those of you in desperate need of wide-brimmed hats and bandoliers of stakes and garlic, but who needs all of THAT when there are rules for playing as a LICH?! Or a VAMPIRE?! Or a ZOMBIE?!

Condolences to all you GMs out there that sign off on … basically anything in this book, because it’s going to be a slippery slope from character-approachable archetypes to your players begging to just play something out of the Bestiary. Most of the archetype feats feel like pale imitations of what the monster gets—ghouls don’t even get ghoul fever, even at levels where the ghoul natural abilities would be overshadowed by character abilities—so there’s a certain point where you should just ... play a monster campaign.

There’s a few other delightful little nuggets—sidebars on roleplaying tips, and a section on how to build and tell a ghost story—all of which combine with the main content here to make for a juicy (if somewhat niche) product perfect for a table and a GM ready for something new.

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Ben Reece

Ben Reece

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I'm running PF2 more than any other game at the moment, but I can't see this being a product for me. The undead ancestries are something I wouldn't want in my games. I don't especially care about the campaign setting. All the undead-hunting feats and spells are on Archives of Nethys, so it's actually less convenient to use the book for character creation.


TL;DR version: This book focuses on the topic of Undead and expands those options from a Player and GM perspective, rather than being just for one. For both, the depth of options is impressive and generally of high quality. For players wanting to be an undead, the Skeleton Ancestry is good, the Undead archetypes are questionable in their stock configuration. The lore in the book is well written and engaging.
Now THIS is a review, thanks for taking your time to write it.

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