Strategy Guide – Why Paizo? Why?

The title says it all, but I had best go through my reasoning.  Do not expect a glowing review here as I was extremely disappointed from the moment I opened the book and did a flip through.  Then on reading it my fears were confirmed and I got angry.  This book is so far from what my players and I had hoped it to be and I really feel let down and ripped off for the first time ever in buying Paizo books for Pathfinder.

What I hoped it would be

I lamented a while back that I had no real idea of what was going on in the Paizo Pathfinder line and I felt Paizo were falling behind in their openness with the fans.  For the several years before this one I had a clear idea of what was coming out, roughly when and what it was likely to be about.  These past twelve months though I have been largely disconnected from this process.  Either they are not doing as many interviews any more or they are not talking about long term release schedules.  So what happened is that I got the Monster Codex, read it and at the back there was an advertisement for the Strategy Guide.  The text in this advertisement got myself and my players excited…

Strategy Guide advertisement
Text from the advertisement

There are a lot of classes in Pathfinder now.  A LOT of classes.  they are all pretty good (though I am not much a fan of Ninja or Samurai) and so on showing this to my in person players they all got excited.  This is going to bring it all together and offer some insights on how to build exciting classes and combine feats in certain ways.  This is going to be all the tricks we need to help us sort through the mountain of feats and the like that we wanted to get through.  They were excited to min max and I was excited to build some coherent NPC’s.

The battle to get it here

OK, this is a bit unfair in a review of the book BUT I feel that this was Paizo’s website trying to tell me!  I ordered this book three times.  For some reason it kept putting the book in my sidecart.  I would let a month or so pass and then go back to the order page to find it hidden there.  The second time I tried to get Unchained at the same time and let it go for a month or so and then the final time I stayed on the order page until I could damn well see that it was coming to me.  I have been soooooo excited over these past few weeks waiting for these books.

On arrival

I got the books (two separate packages?) and opened them up.  The covers are beautiful.  The Strategy Guide is only 160 pages, so very slim for a core book but I set them aside and deal with all the blog material that had built up through the past couple of days.  Then I grab the Strategy Guide and get ready to have a flip through and then have a look at the suggestions they have for Summoners.

So, I go the flip through and am immediately disappointed.  This book is, despite the cover, a completely different layout process to the rest of the core books.  By different, I mean jarringly different.  All of the borders are solid block colours that delineate sections as opposed to the beautiful patterned borders of every other book.  The chapters themselves no longer have the two page spread with an image and some flavour text from the perspective of the icon characters.  Then as I go through I realise one final fatal flaw with this book.  They only address the Core Rulebook classes.

What they have done

Paizo have released a guide on how to build a character and play the game intended to be used by novice players.  There is so much wrong built into that sentence that I have no idea where to start.  First, let us start with the fact that Paizo now want a novice player to shell out $49.99 (USD) for the large tome of the Core book and then as a beginning player a further $29.99 (USD) to learn how to decipher that book and make a character in the way they think you should.  I may be a little harsh here but that is in essence the placement of this book.

The advertising (as you could see above) did not make it out to be that way and the fact that they included this book in the Core stream of products for Pathfinder would suggest it is a good addition to any player.  It is not.  I have purchased at least one, sometimes two of (and these come from the core stream, I have purchased much more than this in other streams);

  1. Core Rulebook
  2. Advanced Players Guide
  3. Bestiary 1
  4. Bestiary 2
  5. Bestiary 3
  6. Bestiary 4
  7. NPC Codex
  8. Monster Codex
  9. Ultimate Magic
  10. Ultimate Combat
  11. Ultimate Equipment
  12. Advanced Race Guide
  13. Advanced Class Guide
  14. GM Screen
  15. Game Mastery Guide
  16. Ultimate Campaign
  17. Mythic Adventures
  18. Several of the Token Boxes
  19. Pathfinder Unchained
  20. Strategy Guide
Strategy Guide sample page
U – G – L – Y They ain’t got no alibi, it’s UGLY

To open the Strategy Guide and be slapped by Paizo in this way really stings.  The preface talks about how the stuff in the strategy guide is normally handled by the GM or the player sitting next to you in assisting the new player into the game but not every game has this.  I am offended by this really.  Totally at a loss for words.

Secondly, I am really, really annoyed at the way the new supplements tend to focus only on the core classes/races.  Big write-ups for the core books and much tighter, shorter write-ups for others.  I can see the logic that they can not guarantee that a person buying x book will have anything apart from the core rulebook BUT I do and I want more.  I want a focussed look at the Brawler and the Summoner and the Magus so give it to me.  I bought your products.  I am your demographic, meet my needs.

The other effect of this book is they give good builds from level 1 – 20 for the 11 core classes.  Come ON.  If they are still using this book at level 20 because they still do not know how to play what the hell is going on?  Not only that but now I am going to expect cute little cookie cutter characters to come out of my players because of this crud?  I want them to come up with a concept and consider something other than 11 predetermined paths to glory.

Is there anything redeemable about this book?

No.

Oh wait, do you have a wobbly table – might be just the right size to keep it level?

Maybe I can give it to players who I don’t like and tell them there is a test to see if they can get in my game?

Really big insect swatter?

Good way to start a fire (and I HATE the idea of burning a book)?

In Conclusion

This book is so substandard for people that have been playing this game for a long time.  It was not advertised as a starter book and even on the back the blurb states;

Whether you’re a new player eager to jump into the action or an experienced roleplayer looking for insights…

To be fair they then say on the blurb that it is a great introduction but as a person that can not hold a book in my hand before I purchase this I feel bloody cheated.  This is the worst thing that I have ever purchased in the Pathfinder line.  I had said about a week ago to my players that I think my purchase of Pathfinder books is going to end soon.  This purchase is likely to hasten that decision.  Unless Unchained is totally awesome I may have bought my last.  Keep rolling.

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