Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two things I like in the Pathfinder APG

Maybe the power creep of D&D 3.5 has spoiled me a bit, but when I picked up the new Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide, I was expecting a lot more "That's awesome!" moments than I actually had. Come to think about it, there really weren't any such moments. That may be a good thing because it means Pathfinder isn't going to follow the path of ever more exotic and powerful classes and abilities. Still, I think some classes needed help. Some, like the monk, got it. Others, like the cleric, not so much. Still, there were a couple of things I did like enough to be noteworthy.

Cleric subdomains. Okay, let's face it. Clerics suck to play. You've got to have one for the healing, but playing one is like being someone's personal assistant. They are supposed to be good at combat, but they mostly just get in the way of the real warriors. They don't get much offensive magical ability unless they're evil or fighting undead. Finally, to rub salt into the wounds, they have a bunch of "1 round-per-level" buffing spells. These are truly the most hateful and fun-killing invention in the history of D&D (ok, second after level drain). You can't cast them ahead of time, because they will expire before the next fight. You can't cast them at the beginning of a fight, because by the time you get a decent buff going (typically 3 or 4 spells), the fight is all but over. Sure, you can cast quickened versions, if you want to give up 5th-level spells to cast 1st-level ones, but it doesn't take a genius to see the problem with that. So, what are you left with, channeling and domain powers. The former used to be awesome late in the D&D 3.5 cycle with all the channeling feats, but if you're playing pure Pathfinder, those are gone and what you are left with is an occasional weapon against some exotic opponents and yet another source of healing. Yawn! So, finally, we come to domain powers. There are definitely some cool ones. The domains of War, Protection and Good are particularly sweet. The problem is, designing cleric characters based on a few decent domain powers really limits options and who wants that? Enter subdomains. As the name implies, subdomains are incorporated into domains and act like alternative class features. They don't completely replace the domain, but typically provide one alternate domain power and a few alternate domain spells. The best ones are those that salvage an otherwise useless domain. One I really like is the Feather subdomain of the Animal domain. The latter gives the ability to speak with animals and an animal companion. Yeah, I know. But substitute the Feather subdomain and you give up the talking animals in exchange for a nice Perception skill bonus. You also get feather fall and fly as domain spells.

The Alchemist base class. I loved it in the playtest and I still love it now. There have been many attempts in the past to incorporate pseudotechnology into the D&D rules. Even when done well, such as Monte Cook's Chaositech, it never seemed to catch on. I think it's hard to balance the requirements that pseudotechnology feel different from magic, but be approximately equal to magic in usefulness. The Pathfinder alchemist seems to have finally achieved that. It will be interesting to see if the designers make some effort to incorporate other technologies like steam, clockwork and blackpowder weapons in future supplements. There are third-party publishers who have released 3.x-compatible products dealing with these, such as Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Clock & Steam from Zeitgeist Games and The Tome of Secrets from Adamant Entertainment, but wider acceptance is only achieved when new rules are included in official products.



Derobane-bane said...

Despite your comments regarding how sucky clerics are, your PC has certainly shown his worth and efficacy in our local game. The Baron has been the most influential and effective support staff member of the party. Dakros does not hit very hard but his spells have saved us from TPK on more than one occasion and his leadership has defined the very core of our entire adventuring group. He is the spiritual and temporal leader of our party and the entire city of Dunwin. Being a moral compass and influential compassionate leader fits a cleric better than any class I can think of. For me, leading an entire nation as chief decision maker of both church and state related issues is far more interesting than rolling a handful of dice to do lots of damage against some soon-to-be-forgotten monster.
In combat, he doesnt contribute to the felling of the monsters as much as the barbarian (although that critical with the spiritual weapon was nice last time) but Dakros keeps us alive and focused.

I am convinced that Darkos would suck as a spiritual leader without the cleric class. The cleric class has helped to guide Rog into making yet another unforgettable character in his long list of great PCs, regardless of the number of kills Dakros has under his belt.

Rognar said...

Yes, everyone loves the cleric, except the guy playing him.

Having said that, Kingmaker is somewhat unique, allowing the cleric more opportunities for non-combat-related activities. I probably wouldn't be playing a cleric in a more conventional AP. I'm just not well-suited to the role of cheerleader.

Obiri said...

I've read over the new barbarian toys and come away once again underwhelmed. I just can't any reason to play one besides flavor.
The fighter out fights after after the first couple levels and never looks back and the ranger fights almost as well and is better outside combat.

Like you, I'm happy with some of the monk toys and I'd actually consider playing one now. The alchemist isn't my cup of tea but I dig most of the others. I'm still up in the air about the oracle. I keep thinking there has to be some awesomeness there but I just haven't found it yet.

I didn't see a lot of love for druids either. Some new spells but nothing that strikes me as super awesome. Ironically I think they'll see more love in the next bestiary. Hopefully it will help with wildshape at the upper levels.

Rognar said...

The best thing about the barbarian is that they have more resistance to enchantments than fighters. Few things are more annoying than having your fighter switch sides in the middle of combat.