The Advanced Class Guide Playtest for Pathfinder has been released by Paizo and I've now spent the last week pouring over every page. I jumped into message boards to see what other players were feeling about the ten new hybrid classes as well as talked with my regular gaming group about their thoughts on the material. Now that I've processed all that I thought I would break down what I saw and how I felt about each of the classes and perhaps point out a thing or two that you might not have thought of and open up some conversation. Each entry has a link on the class name that links to the discussion thread on the Pathfinder message boards.
The Arcanist is the first class and apparently wasn’t the best received class by the fans because it appears to be headed for some sort of overhaul in short order. Jason Bulmahn, Lead Designer commented on this here. What the designers are proposing excites me a lot more than the current state of the arcanist, which is a mix between wizard and sorcerer that doesn’t seem to offer anything original and could become a problem with nobody ever playing either of those two classes again. The fluff for this class in no way matched that crunch and it sounds like this will be changed shortly.
What these proposed changes will end up to look like is not known but I'd love to see something that was perhaps similar to the Incantrix. Perhaps some ability to absorb a spell that is already in place, adding that power to their arcane reservoir to use in a variety of ways later like powering metamagic feats or storing the spell away for later use. At higher levels the arcanist could even gain the ability to break down a spell directed at them. Since this class appears to be in major flux we will move on and perhaps revisit it in a later article.
A class I don’t think is necessarily filling an archetypical role, but is interesting nonetheless is the Bloodrager. This mix of barbarian and sorcerer has a lot of gamers excited about possible power builds and some potentially exciting options in and out of combat. Bloodrager is multi-ability dependent because of the need for a decent Charisma as well as Strength and Wisdom. Fortunately Charisma will not really need to be higher than 14 by the time the character is 13th level because I see them using a lot of buffs and touch attacks but not many other types of spells. Some Dexterity would be nice as well to help with the low armor class and reflex save.
I think Uncanny Dodge is a little out of place for the Bloodrager but the Damage Reduction seems like a pretty solid fit since they will probably see a lot of melee combat. The bloodline powers and feats allow for a lot of options as the character advances and will help to differentiate one Bloodrager from another. There isn’t an alignment restriction like there is for a barbarian so you can have a lot of specific campaign flavor and versatility on how the class will be utilized in different campaigns. A full Base Attack Bonus spell caster is not to be trifled with in the hands of a creative, clever, and brave player.
I have never been a fan of monks or brawling grappling type fighters in my fantasy games, so my thoughts on the Brawler are probably colored by that. Weapons were invented for a reason and I've a hard time wrapping my mind around the usefulness of punching ooze or trying to grapple a gargantuan dragon. That being said, the brawler is a competent combatant and the Martial Manuevers ability allows a player who is a student of the game to really shine in combat situations. This ability also allows the character to use some of the more situational feats that might otherwise not appear in your game as they are too limited to be worth selecting with a feat. I also like Manuever Training as this helps the character to have a certain style which mirrors many real world martial artists and boxers.
I know that for game balance purposes it had to be part of the class I guess, but I don't like Brawler Strike one bit. Why the unarmed combatant eschewing the mysticism of the monk would begin having their hands and feet count as cold iron and admantine just doesn’t make any sense to me. The class was actually an excellent bar brawler until I got to this power. I also don’t understand although Oriental Adventures style weapon proficiencies. Nunchaku and sai just don’t seem like the right type of weapon fit for a class that is described as not being that type of class.
One of the classes I was most excited about and something that I really thought filled a gap was the Hunter. The beastmaster is a classic fantasy archetype and needed specific representation in the game. The class stands as a competent combination of druid and ranger, giving up the shapechanging of the druid and the combat prowess of the ranger. I would have liked to see something a bit more martial and even more focused on their animal companion. Perhaps a full base attack bonus and no spells would work. The Animal Focus ability is interesting and makes the Hunter a bit more capable in a variety of situations. This class is close and in the thread notes several changes are proposed after receiving feedback. Shouldn’t a true beastmaster be able to look through the eyes of their animal companion at will? Something to consider instead of spells as well.
The Investigator looks like a fun class that could replace a rogue in a party or make a great fifth player character in an adventuring group. It does skills well and Inspiration is a pretty interesting mechanic especially for players that love skill monkeys. I like the Alchemy and Extracts because Sherlock Holmes and his chemistry set is something that I can really picture. At low levels this class is going to have to really be careful in combats not to get flattened but at about 3rd level I think that will begin to subside a little.
The poison use ability doesn’t seem to fit the idea of the Investigator but Poison Resistance does. I don’t picture a sleuth coating a blade with poison but I do picture the targets of their investigations using such nefarious tactics. The sneak attack damage might want to come down a little bit or perhaps be replaced by something else altogether like a fixed damage bonus based on their Intelligence. Perhaps a +1 every time they would get a die of sneak attack damage up to their Intelligence bonus. This would reduce the Investigator’s damage potential at the high end but leave them with something that was more reliable and easier to use especially without the Evasion and Uncanny Dodge.
That brings us to Shaman a very interesting class that one of the players in the regular Pathfinder game I run had already been trying to simulate with other classes. Needless to say that character will be switched immediately. With decent base attack bonus and armor available plus cleric spells a shaman can be a capable second tier combatant. There are enough spirit options between Spirits, Spirit Magic, Hex, Wandering Spirit, and Wandering Hex to keep Shamans feeling fresh and offer a wide variety of types of characters that can be played. I really like this class and can see it played a variety of ways from barbarian mystic to a young medium who is haunted and helped by the spirits that have attached to her. I’m really excited to see this class in action.
Skald is the one class which appears to be really specific from the name. It's also the one class that the rest of the players and party better be on board with. It really isn't tough enough physically with access to light armor and a d8 hit die to fulfill it's fluff, nor does it provide enough advantage to the rest of the group to offset the disadvantages the Skald brings to the group. The rest of the party can choose not to be affected by the raging song but if they don't isn't the Skald pretty much standing there singing karaoke? Sure they can add on rage powers but not having the ability to do anything that requires concentration while under the effects of the rage song means many characters especially spell casters will probably pass. It also doesn't stack with the raging abilities of the barbarian which is kind of ridiculous since you think you would find the character among a group of barbarians inspiring them throughout a battle. The slow spell progression doesn't really inspire me to want to play one either.
One of the more solid builds that also lives up to the name and fluff is the Slayer. The slayer is a more than competent killer of all things and has a lot of options when deciding how she is going to kill and what she kills best. The skill points could probably use a boost up based on the two alternate classes listed, ranger and rogue. The damage that this class can top out might be pretty tremendous and will make a great addition to a party either as the primary martial character or as a second one capable of great damage at range or in melee. At first I thought it might step on the toes of the ranger and rogue, but after studying it I can see a lot of differences. The skills being the most noticeable as several that a party might find useful are not on the skill list of the Slayer. That’s a good thing. I hope to see the Slayer in action soon.
I'm always excited when I see a Swashbuckler class in any system because I love to play the quick, mobile, sharp tongued swordsman. With a little tinkering, this Swashbuckler will fit the bill perfectly. Once the Weapon Finesse feat is either moved to first level or a line is added to the description of the power gained at 2nd level that allows you to take another feat if you already have Weapon Finesse, the class will be beyond excellent. Since one of the alternate classes for this class is the gunslinger, I hope we will see an archetype soon that uses a clutch of pistols. A really cool way to build a pirate is something that can fill a niche in Pathfinder and every pirate needs their flintlock. We're going to have to wait and see what changes are made because the class is a little lacking in mobility. Expanding out the deeds to allow for a bit more mobility and how the Swashbuckler can recover panache are areas where the class can grow over time.
Warpriest was a class that many argue could be somewhat accomplished by a fighter/cleric multiclass or a paladin with the right feats selected. I think it fills a necessary role without the alignment restrictions of the paladin or the loss of spell casting power that comes from multiclassing. The first rules revision caught the need for the Warpriest to be proficient with their deity’s favorite weapon and was quickly corrected. That was the biggest flaw in the class. The hit die is a little low for a character with a martial theme and perhaps the channel ability can be dropped to allow for a higher hit die and perhaps something else to help move the Warpriest to the front line a little easier.
Make sure to follow the Advanced Class Guide Playtest updates here until the playtest closes on December 17th. You can see by reading through the first update that the designers are watching the message boards, really paying attention to the fan feedback, and continuously letting the players of Pathfinder know what changes they are looking at and making. I'm excited by these new classes and in general and can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like. Once the book comes out I'll have more to say, but really want to hear what all of you have to say so please leave a comment, and until next time, Roll Hard!
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