Monday, January 3, 2011

Review: Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide

Hello, folks!

Talking about roleplaying has caused me to pick up my Pathfinder books and peruse through them. For those of you not familiar, Pathfinder is the successor of Dungeons & Dragons version 3.5. D&D eventually came out with a fourth edition that was drastically different than this ruleset, and those who enjoyed the elegance of that ruleset were left to either play in a system that had no official support, or find something new. This is where Paizo Publishing stepped in. Already well known for publishing the D&D magazines Dragon and Dungeon for several years, Paizo had the ability to launch the Pathfinder RPG. They had open and free downloads of the Alpha and Beta version of the material which allowed fans to playtest and provide input during the developmental stages of the system. The result was a system that fans felt invested in, that had a great deal of scrutinay applied to it and ended up being what many felt D&D 4th edition should have been. And it's pretty darn rad, in my humble opinion. And this post is about one of the offerings in that line, the Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player's Guide

The Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guyide is an excellent addition to the game: a must-have. This book is very similar to the splatbooks that Wizards of the Coast (WotC) released for D&D 3.5, but without being confined to a small group of classes (and, frankly, without the garbage). The primary expanded areas are the addition of six new base classes, additional feats, additional class options, additional racial options, spells, prestige classes and combat options.

The class and racial options are primarily substitution-based. What that means is that if you're sick of your Ranger being the merry woodsman with two swords, make him an Urban Ranger, Infiltrator or Shapeshifter! Tired of your elf moping over useless caster-only racial abilities? Swap out the Elven Magic ability for Silent Hunter, and stalk your enemies before you go in for the kill! These option really go the extgra mile for defining an interesting set of character abilities. This feels a lot better to me than defining a new race that is marginally different and trying to shoehorn them into an existing campaign world, as WotC has done many times. As for the class options, the substitutions are usually a package (called an Archectype). The Ranger is also expanded by adding several new combat styles (which I love, by the way), for example. The cleric options are the addition of subdomains, which are easy to integrate becaus the existing domains each have 2-3 associated subdomains which swap domain powers. I've always loved the idea of customizing characters, and I feel this book really opens up possibilities. Do you remember the last time you were excited to play a Monk? Oh, never? What if I told you you could be a Zen archer, performing supernatural feats with a bow? Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

The new classes are excellent. I admit that I am not crazy about the Alchemist, but the others are top-notch. The remaining additions are the Cavalier (a fighter-type with bardic powers, focusing on challenging single foes and inspiring friends), the Inquisitor (a deity-sworn hunter), the Summoner (class focused on summoning a pet- think World of Warcraft Warlock), the Oracle (a divination-themed spontaneous divine caster) and the Witch (a hex-throwing caster whose familiar is her living spellbook). I honestly could see playing any one of these and having a blast, particularly the Inquisitor and the Witch. These all have distinct roles, none of which seem to step on the toes of existing classes. Their power also seems in sync with the other PFRPG classes (unlike the classes in the WotC splatbooks).

The feats and prestige classes, while largely obligatory in a book of this type, avoid cheesiness. They expand the game well, and they make sure that the new base classes have the options the core ones were provided. Also of note are teamwork feats. WotC has offered these before, and basically, they are feats that are only useful when an ally has the same feat. I have always ignored these feats outright, but Pathfinder has made it so that two of the new base classes (Inquisitor and Cavalier) utilize these and either allow a player to grant use of one (a Cavalier power) or make so that your character acts as though your allies had the feat (Inquisitor). Without integration like these, these feats would largely be a waste of space. The prestige classes largely give advancement potential for new base classes, though some are the remaining PFRPG equivalents of the base 3.5 prestige classes (from the D&D 3.5 Dungeon Master's Guide).

All said, I feel this book was worth every cent. I fully expect to use some of these options the next time I make a Pathfinder character. As a matter of fact, it's likely going to be an Elf Zen Archer Monk that'll be able to give Legolas a run for his money. This book exemplifies the PFRPG's commitment to quality gaming material, and I recommend it highly.

I hope you found that interesting. Either way, let us know what you thought about it! I think we made it easier to post comments, so why not leave one? Happy gaming!

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