We suspended the Grand Campaign for an evening to playtest Paizo’s new Advanced Player’s Guide classes.  An evening of chaos and mayhem followed.

My experience – The Alchemist:

Can’t I just cast like everybody else?

On paper, the Alchemist looked interesting – bomb-throwing, funny-sounding infusions, lots of custom rules.  Basically, it’s a replacement Bard - a limited arcane caster (who doesn’t *really* cast as such, he brews) who operates as a support character with some combat capabilities delineated later.   I skimmed all the classes and the Alchemist was the one I decided I wanted to playtest.

In practice, it gave me a headache.  I understand the urge to build a non-casting caster, but I ended up having to study for some time just to figure out how to make the class work.  (Not study to optimize, just to play, and I’ve played a lot of classes).

Mutagens – wouldn’t touch them.  I’m sure some players will want to build a self-only casting physical-stat booster who wades into melee despite a medium BAB, simple weapons and light armor – but not me.   (Also, I think there are other classes that probably do this better).

The few options to build a party-support character seemed weak – blade poison isn’t that great after low levels and being able to cast my spells into little infusions so other characters could drink ‘em later seemed clumsy at best.

So I built a Mad Bomber.  The Bomb options are kind of neat, though I wish they were a little more divided into Discoveries that Stack and Discoveries that Don’t Stack.  As it is, part of your Discovery stacks, but not the rest … headache.  Bomb damage is about the same as a Rogue’s sneak attack, but is a tad easier to deliver since it’s a Touch Attack and doesn’t require special conditions.  On the other hand, for most of your Alchemist career you can throw one Bomb as a standard action and are kind of wimpy.  I spent the level 10 Playtests wandering around trying to be relevant and getting killed.  I’m pretty sure my level 7 Ranger in our usual Campaign could take this guy at level 10.

That said, in the level 15 playtest I became a B-52.  I could throw bombs equal to my BAB, and with Rapid Shot and Haste (assuming both are legal) I could throw 5 bombs a round – at that level, 40d6+45, all touch attacks, with me needing to roll a 2+ with all but the last bomb against the big demons we were killing.  Considering I could throw various damage types, I could literally carpet-bomb big enemies and kill their sidekicks with spash damage.  At the moment it felt cool because I could finally do something useful, but in hindsight, that’s a tremendous amount of damage output.  (I can’t keep it up long because I only had 24 bombs per day, but still … until I run outta bombs, it’s evil.)

Casting was frustrating.  Because I hadn’t taken the ability to make my personal spells usable by others, I literally could do nothing to help my friends in battle and often couldn’t be effective myself, because I couldn’t hang in melee, had to get close to toss bombs, and couldn’t buff or heal my friends when they needed.  Even if I had been able to infuse my ‘spells’ for use by others, they still had to waste actions drinking them.  Any other buff caster would be better.  I did my most useful actions UMDing wands to help my allies, which was lame.

Recommendations and Thoughts:

I did like the class concept, even though it’s not very high-fantasy - still, a mad bomber is a fun idea, and though I didn’t use it, the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde mutagen build was at least amusing.

Make NO bomb discovery stack with any part of any other.  Make all the things that modify Bomb abilities that stack into feats – so I can get the increased splash radius or smoke or rapid-fire or whatever as feats.  (I didn’t need many feats, because few of them help me throw bombs, and I’m not REALLY a caster …)

Please, please make the Alchemist a standard caster.  It’s OK to know some magic in order to perform Alchemy.  If you cast like an underpowered wizard, you could use Metamagic feats and items and would be governed by all the ‘normal’ magic rules.  This would make for a much shorter, less complicated character description which can concentrate on special abilities and bombs and not the intricacies of casting without being a caster.  This would make it easier to be a party support character – and much, much more useful without being overpowered.

The Alchemist is enough of a skill-monger to sub for a Rogue, if they could disarm magical traps.  Just sayin’.

Throwing one bomb per Standard action is too weak and throwing at full BAB is nuts if you go for rate-of-bombing.  I’m not sure if there is a proper compromise for this.

And now for the rest of the party:
The Summoner:

A souped-up Conjurer or an uber-Druid - the Summoner is a cool character concept.  Basically, it can pull some magic and a lot of Summoning, plus it has a seriously heavy ‘pet’ that’s a mutable outsider - basically build-a-monster that is your Summoner’s loyal servant - called an Eidolon.

Oh, my.  After the playtest, we all agreed our Summoner was easily the most powerful character on the battlefield even though the Player hadn’t bothered to buy his 10th level gear and only had a single magic item at 15th.  This character never personally engaged in combat.  There were some rounds he was magically dominating the battlefield and the Eidolon wasn’t even participating.

First, the Eidolon is WAY too complicated.  I heartily dislike it as character ‘pet’.  I recommend you remove from the class entirely.  The Summoner is powerful enough with spells and their Summon Monster Spell-like ability.

If the Eidolon can’t be gotten rid of, please consider making ‘Eidonlon Master’ it’s own class – because, really, the guy controlling it doesn’t NEED spells of his own – or, at the very least, making it a ‘track’ of Summoner ALTERNATIVE to Summon Monster(Sp); having both of these was just amazingly powerful.

I liked the idea of the Summoner, but would modify it.  First, I’d make the Summon Monster(Sp) creatures individuals – you’re summoning the same monster(s) every time, so you build a relationship (and might be able to upgrade) your critters.  We thought it’d be cool if, for example, at 1-4 you can summon one Elemental, then at 5-8 two types, then 9-12 three, and so forth.  By 16th level you could summon whatever elemental type you needed, and perhaps might have upgraded your extraplanar allies a bit with feats or items.  Seemed like a cool class different enough from a Druid to make them worth playing.

Overall, cool character concept, but the Eidonlon and SM(Sp) combination is ugly.

The Inquisitor:

Imagine a smoothed-out multiclass between Cleric and Ranger (with a dash of Paladin) and you’ve got something like an Inquisitor.  Limited casting (more Bard, not Pally), Cleric-ish selection of weapons, and some cool abilities.  Could sub for a Ranger or Pally or light support caster.

This class seemed pretty good from my side of the table.  He needed a Battle Buddy to really use his powers, but did well in Melee and later on tossed some handy spells.   We didn’t notice any abilities or skills that seemed over or underpowered, though anything ‘Teamwork’ seemed a bit weak.

The Witch:

Basically another heavy-caster class, like a Wizard or Sorc; the Witch (A Witch!) has a few special abilities and less of a direct-damage casting list.

Not too shabby – like most power casters, struggled a bit to hit her stride, but contributed a LOT to the battles and was generally liked – except the NAME.  First, ‘Witch’ makes everybody assume a female character, and second, ‘A Witch’ causes spontaneous Monty Python and the Holy Grail quoting, which chews up game time every time it happens.  :)

The Cavalier:

A dedicated mounted fighter focused on lance charges and with banners to boost his allies, the Cavalier is distantly related to the old 1st Edition Cav.

Oh, the poor Cavalier.  Of all the classes we tested, this was the only one I think we’d reject completely.  The Cavalier is WAY too dependent on horses and charging.  The poor Cavalier was the most prone to be killed or badly wounded.  Fighting a dungeon crawl without a mount was crippling.

I played a Cavalier back in 1st edition and loved him.  Right now, there’s really no reason not to play a Fighter instead.

Suggestions (radical):  Repurpose this class.  Were it me, I’d make them a non-magical buffer like a Bard who can fight well in melee – Cavaliers Lead the Way or something like that.  Possibly Morale boosting abilities for all allies in 30’ on a Charge OR when set to Receive a Charge.  (Radius increases when mounted or something).  Morale bonuses to Save if they make a save or Crit if they Crit.  Their mount and allies mounts should be able to charge further.  The ability to take a Monster Mount at high levels.

Their abilities – whatever they are – need to work on foot and mounted, or they swap abilities when on foot or mounted, or as a last resort, give them two Cavalier tracks, one specializing in being mounted, the other for being afoot.

Finally, if you’re going to tie most of their combat power to a mount, you’ve got to make sure they can keep their mount with them.  What happens when the Cavalier has to adventure underwater?  In a narrow hallway?  I’d let them magically summon their horse.

The Final Word:

OK.  I’m a High-Fantasy, Low Magic kind of player in general, a roleplayer who rarely min-maxes and doesn’t much care for multiclassing for optimization.  That said, there’s little among these classes that appeals to me.  I’d ban Summoners outright from my campaigns without major changes to their Eidolon and power level.  I doubt many would play an Alchemist or Cavalier without minor changes to the first and major to the second.  Right now the Inquisitor and Witch would fit into my Campaign setting and games just fine.  Wish we’d gotten to test the Oracle …

Mainly, though, all these classes are COMPLICATED.  Some needlessly so.  I realize every class can’t be simple, but Pathfinder has enough shared mechanics in combat, magic and monsters that creating new classes shouldn’t require quite so much mental gymnastics.  I’m not asking for dumbed-down classes, just elegance in gameplay, even if it takes more playtesting and more time.

I’m sure the other guys will chime in with their thoughts, then they’ll send them on to Paizo.  I’m looking forward to seeing the final product!

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This entry was posted on Saturday, February 13th, 2010 at 2:53 pm and is filed under Advice & Tools, Fantasy, Pathfinder, RPG, RPG Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 comments so far

APG
 1 

I couldnt disagree with you more on your assessment of the alchemist. It plays fantastic. And getting rid of the eidilon would make the summoner a glorified conjurist with a focus specifically on summoning, just weak the eidilon. And the classes are SUPPOSED to be complex, this IS the ADVANCED players guide.

February 24th, 2010 at 8:10 am
Mauril
 2 

“This is the APG, it’s supposed to be confusing…er, complex!” is one of the worst defenses I have heard regarding these classes. I am fine with complicated. I understand that not ever class can be a fighter (”my class features are bonus feats!”) and that varied levels of complexity are to be expected, but there is a point where complexity has turned into confusion. I, the resident rules lawyer of the group, spent several days reading each of the APG classes. Some of them, like the Inquisitor and Witch, had interesting class features that were rather easily understandable. The Alchemist’s formulae, which are really just magic-but-not, were confusing. There is a full page of text to tell me that they are spells that don’t act like spells on anyone else. I don’t necessarily want a boring or simple class, but - like a good mathematical formula - I want my classes to be elegant. As they currently sit, neither the Summoner nor the Alchemist are elegant.

March 1st, 2010 at 9:53 am