One of the greatest challenges with making new options for Pathfinder games is making those options stand out, making them memorable and different from what has come before. The sheer volume of books available for Pathfinder (especially when you include all the Campaign Setting, Player Companion, and Adventure Path books) can be intimidating and it makes it difficult to remember every single new option available. Most end up forgotten and never used. Even when they are remembered, it’s difficult to remember which book to find them in. Several recent Pathfinder books have done well in presenting new options that really stand out. From the Alchemy Manual to Inner Sea Combat and Inner Sea Gods, these books use their new options to develop the campaign setting, drawing on the setting’s flavour to enhance the mechanics, and using the mechanics to enhance the setting’s flavour. And now, The Harrow Handbook adds on to that list.
The harrow has always been one of the defining aspects of Golarion. Every campaign world has fighters and wizards (well, the vast majority of them, at any rate), but no other campaign world has the harrow. Of course, as the harrow is based on real-world tarot, other settings could certainly have tarot-like cards and fortune telling, but they would have their own versions and something quite different from the harrow. But the harrow is more than just Golarion’s version of tarot. It is uniquely tied to the mechanics of the Pathfinder game itself. Harrow cards have six suits. These suits represent in-game characteristics, but also the six basic attributes of all Pathfinder characters. The cards are also tied to alignments—a system that is very defining of Pathfinder and its progenitor, Dungeons & Dragons. By tying the harrow so closely to metagame mechanics as well as in-game aspects, you have something that can be exploited by players for their characters—and with that, an opportunity to create some truly original characters not seen in any other campaign world.