Well, after the slog it was to get through the Core rulebook it is neat to have spent only a week reading the Advanced Player’s Guide. Coming in at around 260+ pages it is a lightweight in comparison. What did I think of the contents though? Was the read a worthwhile one? Let us take a walk along a similar path as I did with the Core rulebook and look at it chapter by chapter. I promise this one will be nowhere near as long.
Chapter 1: Ancestries and Backgrounds
Ok, let me start by giving a bit of what happened in the first edition. The Advanced Player’s Guide was a thing that offered (and this is from memory) some new classes, feats, player options, equipment and a bunch of alternate rules. It was well written and the book was reasonably engaging. The second edition is really about just shoving player options under your nose. Again it is not written well, it literally is like legalese speak about tiny snippets of rules. It is dry and hard to read. Now, assuming that they decided to do what is on the cover and just make it for the players, they appear to have decided to give them a broader range of ancestries to consider, as well as some new options for those that exist.
Honestly, what a travesty. Such nonsensical choices of characters. Makes me feel like they wanted Pathfinder to belong to the animalistic world of Wind in the Willows. An ancestry that is like cats, ancestry like rats, a bird race (actually, I have a soft spot for Tengu. And if they are not bestial enough, let us bring in Orc as an ancestry, because everyone loves working with them. Plus of course, who would not love to play as a party of Kobolds. These ancestries in general are terrible for party cohesion. I struggled to find any joy in this chapter. There are some versatile ancestries that are OK, but Tengu was my highlight.
Do not get me wrong. I am in all likelihood going to say no to a Tengu request in my own game but I do love the Tengu of Japanese folklore. I also liked them when I ran the Skull and Shackles adventure path, but as a player ancestry, NOPE. The backgrounds in the chapter were OK. They introduced the concept of rare backgrounds but in all honesty, I can’t remember a single one of them. It really is the writing that makes it like this. So many feats and rules that just do my head in. If there is anything even approaching flavour text I think it must be the poorest ever written. Hopefully, the chapter with some new classes and class options for the existing classes will make up for it.
Chapter 2: Classes
Nope. It is really badly written and full of just minutia detail about feats that makes me want to go to sleep when reading this. I am not sure Paizo got the memo that they are creating a game and games are meant to be fun. There are four new classes introduced. The Investigator, the Oracle, the Swashbuckler and the Witch. There are a bunch of options for the other classes in there too which is nice. Badly written, but nice. As a player, reading this minutia can be done in short hits, but I want to run the game and I have to read this stuff to get an idea about what is available.
My afterthoughts on the new classes are this. The Investigator may be a great idea and a high concept for some where they come in and solve the mystery. The flavour of the investigator with their forensic tools is way off for the setting. A mystery is presented and the Investigator goes through his massive grab bag of feats to get to the bottom of it and… the Barbarian has already started raging, killing everything in sight and ruining all the good evidence. Oh, and just for giggles the Wizard has let off a fireball as well and the place just tells the Investigator that they should have been a rogue.
The Oracle. I used to like the Oracle in the other edition. In this, I could not tell you a thing about what they do. I read the four bazillion feats that were there and just thought how bad are curses. There literally seems to be nothing positive about an Oracle. I could not get a feel for what role they are meant to have or what in Asmodeus’ name they are doing as an option to play. Seriously, worst class that I have read to date and seem to be all negative for the player.
Swashbuckler is a neat idea. A fighter with flair and panache. I love pirating games and I think this does well in that niche. The Feats seem to fit the concept and I could imagine playing one of these. That is pretty high praise from me because the way these are written, I am amazed I can get a feel for any of them. To top it off, I liked the Witch too. The tie in with their familiar seemed stronger than previous editions and the link to their hexes also sold me on them.
Nothing really stood out for me with the options on the other classes. In some they tried to give some further thematic roles to fill but none of them grabbed me. In fact, by the end of the chapter I was just considering the classes that really can’t be given further embellishment by a role and it made me feel a little sad for those that play them.
Chapter 3: Archetypes
I did not mind this chapter. That in itself surprised me, but I came out of it with a much better understanding of archetypes. Largely, players will be looking at archetypes as a way of multiclassing like you used to be able to do in first edition. In reality though that is a poor decision. Any archetype of another class is far weaker than actually being in the class itself. The class archetypes are completely pointless to me. That being sid there are a BUNCH of cool archetypes that you can pick up here. Want to be a Fighter who commands the respect of big cats? Then take the Beastmaster archetype and wow your friends! There are so many great options in this section.
In fact, it was one of the chapters that had me wanting to read the minute detail. How do they bring to life a Gladiator? Why have a Martial Artist when there is a Monk class? Woo Hoo! Pirates! Vikings! What is not to love. I really loved this chapter of the book. as it helped me open my mind to the modularity you can bring in this game. There are a good number of Archetypes full of Feats that actually give you some promising role playing potential.
Chapter 4: Feats
Ok, not going to write a glowing review here. There are some new General feats and a bunch of skill feats in here as well. They are tidbits of minute rules designed to support a bunch of player options. Not going to bring this chapter down too much either as many of these feats support the concepts of the previous chapter and bring those archetypes to life.
Chapter 5: Spells
I have to say, there were quite a few spells in this chapter that used to be core book spells in the first edition and other versions of this same type of game. Heat Metal, Animate Dead and Transmute Rock to Mud were the ones that came clearly to mind. I wondered what they had done to be relegated to the Player Options style book for spells that had seen so much use. At least in my games that is.
This Chapter introduces a lot more spells to the spell lists and are a good range of additions. The spell section still has all the issues in the spells that I mentioned in the core book review, but on the whole it is OK. The focus spells were some additions for some of the classes and a heap for the Oracle. Just to clarify, even with all the focus spells added in I am still completely mystified by the Oracle. Even the focus spells make them seem terrible.
Finally, the Ritual Spells just continue to show that they are ripping spells away from classes just to make them ritualised. Reincarnation is ritual now? And Clone? Wow, come on. Just let it go. Ritual spells should all be a bout big earth shattering affairs that the players need to stop. Not about restricting their spells and forcing them to invest in crafting skills.
Chapter 6: Items
The final Chapter! It adds a bunch of items to the base equipment list. It also then goes on to add some new alchemical and magical items. The chapter is a mash up of the Equipment and Crafting and Treasure chapters of the Core book. There are some gems hidden away here, but again the writing lets it down. So little flavour and it is all about the rules here. Hidden among some of this stuff is some great new runes but all in all they lose the punch because they have this great sounding concept in the title and then three lines of pure mechanics.
I do think that someone decided that the Advanced Player’s Guide should be all about Player options. That is what it is now. The old version had a bunch of added rules to try if you wanted. Not here. It is here are a bunch of things that can make your character modular. If I was a player, as opposed to a GM I would love this book. I would pick it up, read the options for my class and pick what I knew would fit with my concept. As a Games Master though I have to read it to find what the breadth of those options is. What is out there for each of the classes, to factor it in for NPC’s as well as help Players. This book sucks for that kind of reading. 260+ pages of tiny snippets of rules not even in context. Plus that one class that I just do not understand! If you are a second edition Oracle player and know what the go is, I beseech you to comment on this and let me know. I literally read a book where I think nearly every function for a class was a drawback, not a positive. On to the Gamemastery Guide which I am secretly looking forward to.