Take the Power Back… (Getting Clear on Your Source)

When playing the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game with a character that commands supernatural forces, a player should probably understand where their character’s power comes from–even if the character doesn’t. The game has many effects and interactions that aware of this reality and even has rule-sets that interact with or alter how a Source works. Let’s take a look at those Sources.

Sources of Power

Some products make references to magic systems that draw on specific Sources of power. Specifically in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook are defined two such sources:

Arcane – The structural power of the universe drawn through the innate gifts of sorcerers, the songs of bards and studied in the tomes of wizards. If is most often referenced in terms of prestige class requirements, feats and class features.

Divine – The power of the Gods, drawn through creation and returned to their mortal
vessels. Clerics, oracles and druids use this power source for their spells. Paladins and rangers probably derive some of their other abilities from this source beyond just their spells.

Other Sources

Psionic – Probably the most common additional Source, the inner power of the mind unlocked through self-awareness or rigorous study granting marvelous powers of telekinesis and telepathy, clairvoyance and metabolic control. Dreamscarred Press‘ books introduce the power of psions, wilders and similar classes fit this power source. Some GMs include monks and other ki users in this group.

Entropic – Less formal in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game environment, the power of system failures in the universe, liminal energies and broken entities of great power. Most binder based classes and more specialized classes like riven mages or warlocks may also be derived from the splintering forces of this source. Some games will include Shadow in this Source as its dark reflection is based on the distortion or interaction of a more material state like Rogue Genius’ shadow warriors or Lost Spheres’ own echo.

Primal – The raw power of the cosmos and the natural energies of the world. (Some GMs may wish to re-assign Druids this power source.) Arguably this is the “Source” of martial classes and skill-users of the physical world. Primal things simply are.

Temporal – The power of the flow of time. Exploited by time thieves, time reavers and time wardens to alter the course of reality. Manipulations of this Source are presented by default as non-Arcane and the nature of this Source is a really big clue as to how Source matters to player. Temporal effects can for instance dispel duration based effects, even if they aren’t magical.

Why Source Matters

A lot of the discussion on this topic gets addressed in the psionics community, but if you aren’t partial to or are unfamiliar with that community you might not be as aware of it. A few reasons to be aware of your source include:

Advancement – Several prestige classes and feats have source stipulated requirements. You may not consciously realize it but sometimes Source is as obvious as a class name, say arcane trickster. The new Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Class Guide introduces arcanists, again referencing Source in the class name.

Resistance and Mechanical Strength – You’d probably be surprised by the number of Source-sensitive mechanics in the game. From trait based bonuses to monster resistances and immunities relative power is frequently impacted by Source selection. Some designers include blanket zones of dead power for a specific Source. Some forces, like Temporal, can effect phenomena previously untouched by or in ways different than Arcane or Divine sources.

Story Implications -There are entire species of monster cosmically aligned against your Source. Asuras that hate the divine, aberrant overlords dedicating themselves to destroy the Primal balance, and purifiers zealously persecuting any who would further the cause of Entropy. Choosing a source is declaring life-long enemies for your character.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Source mechanics in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game environment have favored a general rule of equivalency. This has made things “easier” in that an effect is treated in a similar manner to other effects of its “level” regardless of source. Psionics have generally agreed with the current rules trend and favored a similar declaration of full transparency. As a base assumption this is a good starting point. Everything works within the same framework of power and is generally equal.

Until it isn’t.

With the above mentioned rule realities, we know that source still matters. And as such it is very important to talk to your GM and get clear on your source. Don’t be surprised if you find out you have a different source than you assume. Maybe in her setting wizardry is a gift of the gods being a divine Sourced magic and maybe sorcerers are entropic, living fissures in reality defying the Gods will. I promise you that Source selection WILL matter in that game.

Don’t be disappointed if you ask a question like this and get a “What?” as a reply. The game has its default settings and sometimes a GM will prefer to run as “Source”-blind as possible not wanting the added layer of “complexity” in rules decisions. Just be sure you do ask, one way or another, Source will matter.

Bonus Round:

Of the Forgotten World (General Feat)

Requirements: GM permission. Must be taken at 1st level or before the 1st level granting access to a new Source.

Benefit: Select one class. Select one Source that is not generally affiliated with that class in your GMs campaign world. Your character’s spells, spell-like abilities, powers and supernatural abilities from that class are drawn from the new source for all mechanical considerations. Your classes spell or power list remains the same. This may also impact requirements for advancing and learning new abilities as defined by your GM.

Special: You may take this feat more than once, each time selecting a new class and a new replacement Source.

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