[Pathfinder] Advanced Class Guide

Monday, February 22, 2016

So, Paizo's Advanced Class Guide.... I struggle with this one, I really do. Truthfully, this gets a 3 star rating because I want to rate some parts of it 5 and some parts 1, so we're splitting the difference. If you're new to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, I suggest you not start your collection with this book. Aside from deserving the "Advanced" in the title, there are some fairly glaring issues that may create an unfair perception of the quality of work that Paizo puts out. If you're familiar with the game, read on...

The bad stuff first- the editing in the book is atrocious. I mean, there's not another word, it's just bad. Starting at the front cover which bears the wrong logo (it says "Adventure Path" instead of "Roleplaying Game" which is, granted, something only a big fan or picky reviewer would probably catch), the book is riddled with errors in spelling, formatting, and proof-reading. There are Blessings (a mechanic for the new warpriest class) that bleed into other blessings because the headers are improperly formatted, archetypes that trade away the same class features twice, archetypes that reference abilities which don't exist, areas that introduce or reference two different mechanics but use the same name for both, and even the general power and quality of the archetypes themselves varies greatly. The book feels rushed, and a lot of the materials lack the sense of love and investment to be found in the other Pathfinder sourcebooks.

Now, you'll recall I mentioned that there was some stuff that made me want to give this 5 stars, so lets talk about that. Several of the new classes are simply superb. The Hunter, Brawler, and Investigator all feel truly inspired and are remarkably well balanced, with a deep breadth of options and possibilities. These classes, to me, are really the greatest contributions to come out of the book. 

Several of the archetypes are clever and excellently put together as well. The Daring Champion is a Cavalier archetype that takes some of the best parts of the Swashbuckler class and grafts them onto a chassis that doesn't feel like it was designed by 5 different people who never spoke to one another, creating a dashing and daring knight who replaces his horse with panache (both the mechanic and the normal kind). The Bolt Ace is a gunslinger archetype that forgoes guns for crossbows, finally creating that bridge between players who like the Grit mechanics of the Gunslinger and GMs who don't want firearms in their campaign. There's a few small issues with the Bolt Ace, but none of them impact his playability or important mechanics.

There's a few hidden gems in here as well. While the Slayer class was a mechanically sound but supremely uninspired class, it's Vanguard archetype is an absolute gem, allowing you to cull some of the remarkably mediocre Slayer talents and replace them with an improved version of the Cavalier's Tactician. You end up with the perfect class for creating thieve's guild leaders, elitescouting captains, and just about any other concept you can think of that combines skill, deadliness, and leadership.

I feel like the book maybe needed a little more time to "cook" before going to print. There is a certain discordance within its pages that is highly unusual for the creative team at Paizo, and just a bit disappointing. That being said, I think there are probably at least 5 things in this book for every player; what those things are will vary a bit depending on personal taste. While "5" may not sound like a very big number, the truth is that I've bought a lot of gaming books because they had 1 thing that I personally really liked, and sometimes nothing my friends were really interested in, so despite its flaws, I'd chalk this book up as a reasonably successful endeavor and a worthwhile purchase.