I was not looking forward to the release of this source book. I took one look at the proposed title and I outwardly groaned. In fact, it took me a couple of weeks to realise that it had even been released, such was the lac of anticipation I had for the Advanced Class Guide. Well, that serves me right I suppose for making an assumption that it was going to be poor. I even said, rather dejectedly at the time to another writer of RPG Knights that this would mark the beginning of the end for Pathfinder. I am happy to be wrong.
I need to explore a little with you why I had this attitude though. Most games that I see come and go tend to progress through a similar life cycle. They start and people get (hopefully) excited by the game and they pick up the base rules and hunger for more material. Then more material comes out and it brings the game to a really comfortable phase in its development where new material is something that everyone could use but does not need (like more bestiaries or the NPC Codex) or offers up some nice options (like Ultimate Magic and Advanced Race Guide). But also they might release something that makes you pause and wonder “Am I just feeding the cash cow?” (I did that with Ultimate Combat, and to some degree Ultimate Equipment too). Before I get the haters (although haters are going to hate) I know that companies like Paizo need to turn a profit and to do this they need to develop new material. I thought that the Advanced Class Guide was going to be the rule bloat that broke the camel’s back. It isn’t. Not by a long shot.
Advanced Class Guide
I opened the front tentatively. The cover was a thing of beauty so the production quality of Paizo was still red hot. I had read the back cover and it promised me ten new base classes and I scoffed at the suggestion. How stupid did they think I was. I was dreading opening it up and finding ten lean classes and bunches of charts and rules about how to build my own classes which I never really wanted to do any way. I have a player that will NOT play anything standard and always wants to steal from 7 different archetypes to build a character so I envisioned him with this book coming up with a space turnip that wields the power of the mind to create beautiful colours in a violent and sadistic manner twisted with 15 kilograms of crazy kind of class.
Well, that is not this book. In fact this book presents ten beautiful new classes that are all hybrid classes. That is classes that have been envisioned by the writers of Paizo as a mix of two existing base classes. Now I know that sounds lame but I now have 10 new classes I want to play. No lie. they are all unique, they have the flavour of their base classes but they stand out on their own as if to say “Why has no one thought of me before?”. I can’t even pick a favourite, they are all such elegant classes.
The book is a decent sized source book coming in at 253 non advertising pages. The majority of that material is the new class descriptions, the archetype and class options section, all the new feats, spells, gear and magic items and then a modest 12 page explanation on how to create your own class. The book is lavish full colour with awesome illustrations but not too many. I read another book recently where it almost felt like there was more art than content. Not in this book by a long stretch, it just sits at the right level for my tastes.
A Brief Description of the New Classes
Arcanist: A true magician’s magician who has a touch of the magical bloodline (sorcerer) and a devotion to study (wizard) this class seeks to bend magic to their will.
Bloodrager: No secrets here that the barbarian is involved but just imagine if that barbarian had magic in their blood (sorcerer). What an awful surprise that may be…
Brawler: Ever watched one of Jason Statham’s Crank movies? There is no doubt that he is a brawler and in Pathfinder you find the brawler a mixture of the monk and the fighter class meaning he does not need to fight for an ideal anymore…
Hunter: A solitary hunter with a deep bond with his animal companion. This character class sounds like a ranger but is really a focused force of combining powers with the animal companion as the ranger meets the druid head on.
Investigator: If I had to pick a favourite it would likely be this class just because it has a great feel to it and to me would bring something so completely new to the Pathfinder realm. It is a combination of the rogue and the alchemist that makes for the perfect detective.
Shaman: I had hoped this would be a class that used totem spirits in much the same way of the 4th edition shaman class (yes 4th edition D&D had some good ideas) but instead it provides an intriguing mixture of the witch and the oracle.
Skald: Rushing into battle with their axe held high the Skald is the warrior that calls to his companions to make them stay strong and keep their feet. This class is the mixture of the barbarian and the bard class.
Slayer: Hey, look, Buffy showed up. And that is not too far from the truth either as the ranger mixes with the rogue to hunt down their foes.
Swashbuckler: Ah if only they had this class prior to me starting the Skull and Shackles adventure path. There would be pirates with frilly silk shirts and rapiers all over the players ship! The swashbuckler is a mixture of fighter with gunslinger that provides a stylistic flair.
Warpriest: We often call the cleric the warriors of the church but in fact they are a little on the weak side when you mix the Cleric and the Fighter together bring the fury and judgement of their god one swing at a time.
You may think by looking at the above combinations that the Advanced Class Guide has not done anything really special. However, if that is what you are thinking then it is more a failing of the way that I have expressed the class because each is unique. They may have some trappings of the hybrid classes but at their core they are completely new and feel different and this really opens up my eyes as a GM and sometime player to a wide variety of options.
Archetypes and Class Options
Look, I have to put a disclaimer here. I really dislike reading archetype chapters and this one was no different. There are some really good archetypes in here (and by the way there is new stuff in here for all the classes in the core rule books) and some really good optional rules for classes but I hate reading them until I want to use them. I do it so I can review it but honestly the idea of archetypes just makes me shudder for the moment that the player I mentioned above gets his hands on the book and wants to mix 14 of them. That said they are great for NPC’s to add a bit of a surprise for the experienced players when the Monk takes on a new fighting stance or the like. It is this chapter that has made me take my time to get out this review as I can not read more than six pages of this chapter at a time without feeling sleepy!
The Advanced Class Guide is full to the brim with awesome feats. Feats and I have a kind of love hate relationship where I love them because there are so many you can customise your character in an awesome way but I hate them because there are so many to customise your character! I normally really suffer reading a Feats chapter but the Advanced Class Guide kept me awake and excited. I kept sending messages via social media to my players saying check out x feat and attaching a link. I made them a little paranoid as they think that they need to take them now I pointed them out but in reality it was just because they were brilliant.
They suit mostly to the classes in the Advanced Class Guide but there are quite a few that have prerequisites that match the other classes. In fact I am really excited because there are three to four feats in this book that are really useful for a summoner and their eidolon which I play and feel they have been left a little high and dry for this love until now.
There is a chapter full of spells and these have a tendency of putting me to sleep too. But again the Advanced Class Guide came to my rescue with some really interesting spells. I loved the ideas behind some of them and it just went to show me that the people at Pathfinder are really being innovative still and providing interesting material for those of us that love the game.
Gear and Magical Items
This chapter covered some regular gear, some alchemical gear and then some items of a magical persuasion. Again a lot of this gear was aimed at the new classes but there is also a lot here to keep any player interested. Interesting items that allow others to use class features of the new classes were among my favourites.
There are new functions for weapons and armour that can be added and a variety of rings, rods, staves and other wondorous items that make this a cool stop for the GM to boost up his treasure hoards. Of course there is the problem that these are not in the Ultimate Equipment Guide so now the GM really needs multiple books again to fill out their treasure piles again.
Building Your Own Classes
This chapter is the shortest and final chapter. With 6 page turns (12 pages) they tell you how to create your own base classes, archetypes and prestige classes. It is also my favourite chapter of the book. The reason why is that the Advanced Class Guide lays it out in advice. There are no hard tables or charts or gimmicks. What they do is they sit down and succinctly describe in those twelve pages “This is how we do it.” And you know what, that just made me smile. The information is broad stroke material that makes sense. Essentially, in a nutshell, they say it will take trial and error with a lot of play testing to get what you want. And that is OK with me.
Ah Paizo. I love the way you do that thing where I am looking at a product and I go that is going to be the biggest pile of ogre vomit that I will ever lay eyes on and then completely turn me around. I really did think that this book would spell the end of my affair with 3.75 D&D but it has only opened the door to a great many new possibilities that I am literally excited to try. If you have been holding off on getting this because you were worried too, go and get it. It will inject life back into you from the moment you read the first class. You will struggle after reading the ten of them to pick a favourite and you will realise while there are classes you do not want to play they are far from bad classes.
In short I can not fault the Advanced Class Guide in any way. Sure, if I were looking at story heavy games then I would have something to say but I am not. I am looking at Pathfinder which has a beauty all of its own and this book only makes that beauty burn stronger so go out and get it if you have not got it already. And hey, keep rolling!