Review: Construct Handbook

Today on d20 Diaries we’re taking a peek between the covers of one of the wonderful new products that came out at the end of last year: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. If you’re a follower of this blog you’ll know this was a book I was thrilled to get my hands on this past holiday season, and I was not disappointed.

Pathfinder Campaign Setting Construct Handbook
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook is a thick softcover book that is 64 pages long. Although the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line typically contains world lore (for all players) and some extra material for GMs, this book is a bit different. Equally geared at both players and GMs, it contains detailed rules on creating constructs, class archetypes, magic items, and a lot of new golems and golem templates. The cover features some atmospheric artwork by Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, which depicts the iconic arcanist Enora giving commands to her adamantine golem, as it battles a quantium golem. (Talk about epic career goals! Haha).

The front inside cover shines a light on some famous construct innovators, providing an image and a paragraph of information on each. The crafters showcased are Sidrah Imeruss, founder of the Technic League and an expert in the robots of Numeria; Toth Bhreacher, founder of the prestigious Golemworks in Magnimar; and Hadia Al-Dannah, a world renowned Qadiran mathematician, former scholar of the Clockwork Cathedral in Absalom, and expert on clockwork construction. The information is brief but lends a face to the construct trade, which is really nice. It also serves to give any characters interested in crafting golems a famous mentor or role model to live up to. A nice bit of fluff and backstory for any characters interested in seizing it.

construct handbook - icons of construct history
Icons of Construct History: Sidrah Imeruss, Toth Bhreacher, and Hadia Al-Dannah.

After that we have the table of contents, and then we hop right into the introduction. In addition to touching on what’s going to be in this lovely little tome, the introduction also discusses how the general populace of Golarion views golems and their crafters (both positives and negatives), and the difficulty in obtaining appropriate raw materials to craft a golem (which can often become an adventure in and of itself!). The Construct Handbook primarily focuses on clockworks, golems, and robots, but explains that there are may other kinds of constructs. For each of these major kinds of contracts it doesn’t touch upon, it contains a paragraph of information that lets you know where those constructs were first introduced, how compatible they are with the templates in this book, and where you can look for further information on them (if applicable). Constructs mentioned in this way are animated objects, colossi, and homunculi.

Leaving behind the introduction we hop right into the first chapter: ‘Crafting Constructs.’ This section of the book is six pages long and is really, really useful for anyone who wants to make a construct. Not sure I can stress that enough! Haha. It starts by taking a look at every step in the construct crafting process and explaining it fully and clearly. That includes everything from the requirements, cost, and finding materials, to time, and skill checks. It then details other methods that you could use to craft a construct, such as the use of the infamous golem manuals, purchase, and theft. After that it talks about construct modifications, which were first introduced in Pathfinder RPG: Ultimate Magic. It offers four new basic modifications (I particularly liked the movement and resistances modifications) and six really cool new complex modifications (be sure to check out construct shelter, mind link, and self-repair).

construct handbook - making a construct

The next chapter is six pages in length and contains eleven new archetypes. Some of these archetypes fell into expected themes: those that create or destroy constructs, but others I found quite surprising. My favourite archetype was definitely the clocksmith, a wizard archetype that falls solidly in the ‘create construct’ category. This delightful archetype lets you create a magical clockwork familiar in place of your regular familiar, and gives you craft construct as a bonus feat at level one instead of scribe scroll. In place their arcane school powers, clocksmiths gain a bonus on saving throws against effects created by constructs, and increase their effective spell level when casting spells that target constructs. At later levels they can tinker with their clockwork familiars, granting them eidolon evolutions. Super cool and thematic! I love it!

Other archetypes that fall solidly in the ‘create construct’ category include the construct caller, an unchained summoner archetype that allows your eidolon to be a construct; the cruorchymist, an alchemist archetype that gives up its poison abilities and mutagen to have a homunculus familiar which he can heal or alter on the fly with his own blood. Although I enjoy the construct caller, I find the cruorchymist is really rough on your CON score, with one ability dealing CON drain and another dealing CON damage to your character. Ouch!

arcanotheurge - construct handbook - alyssa mccarthy
A construct caller. Illustrated by Alyssa McCarthy. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Of the archetypes that focus on destroying constructs, I found that I liked the construct saboteur best. This rogue archetype swaps out knowledge (dungeoneering) and knowledge (local) as class skills in exchange for knowledge (arcana) and knowledge (engineering). They gain arcane strike at first level instead of trap finding, and gain a special kind of ability called an arcane sabotage, which is essentially construct hindering rogue talents accessible only though this archetype. My favourite of the arcane sabotage options are diminish senses (which can blind a construct for a turn) and magic vulnerability (which replaces a construct’s magic immunity with spell resistance instead). Most of the arcane sabotage options also allow you to extend of bolster their effects by giving up any sneak attack damage that you would deal. Super cool!

I was pleasantly surprised by the Forgefather’s seeker paladin archetype that enables pious worshippers of Torag to destroy dangerous artificial creations. They can smite constructs, cut through their DR with ease, and, at level 20, they even have a chance to automatically destroy a construct with a single blow. Not only was this archetype really solid and thematic, it was not something I expected to see. Construct killing paladins? I like it! The final ‘construct killing’ themed archetype was an arcanist archetype called the arcane tinkerer.

After reading the archetypes in this chapter, another theme became apparent: archetypes that can hijack or otherwise assume control of enemy constructs. Here you’ll find the construct collector occultist archetype, and the voice of Brigh bard archetype. The voice of Brigh was an interesting archetype. They have the ability to effect constructs with their bardic performances, which is very cool. But, most of it’s offensive performances have changed so that they only effect constructs. Essentially this means that you can use your bolstering music on allies of all kinds, including constructs, but that your hindering ones, like dirge of doom, fascinate, and frightening tune can only affect constructs. It’s a balanced trade if you’re going to be facing off against or allying with constructs on a regular basis, but otherwise is a rather large negative. However, their new bardic performance, Brigh’s Spark, allows them to reanimate a destroyed construct and force it to fight on your behalf. Each round they use this performance the construct regains more hp, and if it ever reaches full hp before they stop performing, it remains animated and under their control for 24 hours. So worth it!

I rather enjoyed the construct collector, as well, particularly because it gives up my least used of the occultist abilities for some cool new powers. They sacrifice magic circles, outside contact, binding circles, and fast circles, for the ability to temporarily halt a constructs destruction and control it for a turn (at the cost of some mental focus). At higher levels this ability’s duration is extended to a few rounds, and then a few minutes. They also gain the ability to harvest parts from broken constructs, which hold a point of generic focus. They can use the generic mental focus stored in these parts to fuel their focus powers on a one-for-one basis, which renders the parts useless. A nice touch!

The last few archetypes are much less focused and more easily used in a wide variety of games. The engineer is an investigator archetype that creates mechanisms that can aid them in a specific task for a few minutes. These mechanisms cost an inspiration point to create, grant the inspiration dice to the check it was made for throughout its duration, and can be shared with allies. They also gain a bonus on identifying constructs and on engineering checks. The scrapper is a fighter archetype that scavenges the parts from armour or broken constructs and uses them to augment their own armour. How much the makeshift modifications help and last depend on how powerful their source was. I found that archetype one of the most surprising I read! Really wasn’t expecting it, but I like it! Finally, there’s the wild effigy, a shifter archetype whose aspects and wild shape take on the appearance and consistency of stone instead of flesh and blood.

Chapter three is four pages of magic items, all with a very strong construct theme. It’s mostly golem manuals, but eight other magic items exist as well. I particularly like the chirurgeon cube and the oculus of magnetic fury.

Construct Handbook - Dragonhide Golem.JPG

Which brings us to our last and largest chapter: the bestiary. This thing is a forty three pages long, making it well over half the length of the book. In this chapter you’ll find fifteen new constructs and nine construct templates (each of which includes one sample stat block). Five of these constructs are a new intelligent kind of construct with ties to the Jistka Imperium, called an automaton. There’s also four new clockworks, three new robots, and three new golems. My favourite new constructs were the champion automatons (who can grab an enemy in their pincers and then whack another enemy with them! Hahaha! I love it!), clockwork songbird, dragonhide golem, and sand golem. My favourite construct templates include the energized golem, haunted construct, and recycled construct.

steam powered -clockwork dragon - construct handbook - graey erb
A steam powered clockwork dragon created using the new steam powered template with a clockwork dragon as the base creature. Illustrated by Graey Erb. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Which brings us to the end of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. Overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s got some cool archetypes and a lot of awesome new enemies. New beasties for your players to battle against is always a great investment as a GM, so it was worth my money based on creatures alone. It’s an invaluable book for anyone who want to get into construct crafting. That said, it is very tight on its theme. Chances are if you’re a player who isn’t planning on crafting constructs or playing in a construct heavy campaign, you won’t find much of use in this book. It should be noted that although I’ll get the most use out of this book (as a GM), all of my family — my husband and my two young children — read this book and got inspired by the class archetypes. The three of them are now begging me to make them a construct themed campaign. (Do we not have enough campaigns?! Pretty sure we do!). I suppose it’s more use for players than I thought! Haha.

All in all, we’re happy to have this lovely little book on our shelf!

Do you own the Construct Handbook? Got some favourite creatures from it or stories about construct crafting you want to share? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about it!

Jessica