Book Review – Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide

One of the things that excited me the most about going to GenCon was the chance to see the booths of not only new companies, but those whose games I already play. Paizo was one of those companies. I use Pathfinder for my home game, so having the chance to pick up some of their products directly from them was cool. I got my hands on both the Gamemastery Guide and the Advanced Player’s Guide. I’ve been spending time since GenCon reading through the Advanced Player’s Guide, and I’m pleased to be able to give my take on the new material.

If you don;t feel like reading past this point, then here’s the short version: I like what I see a lot; go buy it. Now, the expanded look.

What Do We Have Here?

Rather than try to re-state what you can easily read on the Paizo website, I will take their words and use them for my own purposes. From

“Explore new and uncharted depths of roleplaying with the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide! Empower your existing characters with expanded rules for all 11 Pathfinder Roleplaying Game core classes and seven core races, or build a new one from the ground up with one of six brand-new, 20-level base classes. Whether you’re designing your own monstrous helpers as an enigmatic summoner, brewing up trouble with a grimy urban alchemist, or simply teaching an old rogue a new trick, this book has everything you need to make your heroes more heroic.

The Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide is a must-have companion volume to the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. This imaginative tabletop game builds upon more than 10 years of system development and an Open Playtest featuring more than 50,000 gamers to create a cutting-edge RPG experience that brings the all-time best-selling set of fantasy rules into the new millennium.

    The 336-page Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide includes:

  • Six new base classes: the monster-hunting inquisitor, the explosive alchemist, the noble cavalier, the prophecy-haunted oracle, the monster-crafting summoner, and the hex-weaving witch
  • More than a hundred innovative new feats and combat abilities for characters of all classes, including Steal, Point-Blank Master, and Bouncing Spell
  • Variant class abilities, rules subsystems, and thematic archetypes for all 11 core classes, such as the antipaladin, the hungry ghost monk, and the urban ranger
  • Hundreds of new spells and magic items, from phantasmal revenge to the Storm King’s Cloud Castle
  • A wealth of fantastic equipment, such as fireblast rods and fortune-tellers’ cards
  • New prestige classes like the Master Chymist and the Battle Herald

So, that’s what they have to say about the book. Here’s what I have to say about it.

The Good

The OPTIONS! Good Lord, the options! From the new classes to the new items, to the new spells, all of it adds some excellent utility to the already-really-good Pathfinder rules. In my opinion, here are the highlights:

– Racial Trait Substitutions

With these, you can really make the gnome you play your gnome. You can focus any race in any direction you want to, even bucking the stereotypes that the race usually adheres to. If your particular campaign world has a different flavor than a typical fantasy setting, then you are almost sure to find something here to fit your world.

– Class Feature Substitutions

This might be my absolute favorite part of this book. If you add these options to the Racial Trait substitutions mentioned above, then you have a lot of options available to customize classes to fit your world. There are variants that we’ve seen in other places, like the Urban Druid, or the Drunken Master, but the variants go even further, adding different Sorcerer Bloodlines, deeper Wizard Specializations and Cleric Domains and, praise be to the wicked powers, an Anti-Paladin.

– New Weapons and Magic Items

Some of these are traditional weapons and types of items that we have seen before, but some are brand-spanking new. Because I’m an evil GM (apparently), and I love having cursed items, I was thrilled to see a new sheaf of just that in the magic item section.

– New Spells

Not only are there spell offering for the six new core classes, but there are also a lot of new options for the  11 classes found in the main book.

The Bad

I’ll be completely honest: as I was reading through this book, I found very little that I did not like. Now, I’ve not had a chance to playtest any of this material, so I could find that the things I’m loving now are things that I end up hating. Still, most of it looks really good.

My only complaint, thus far, is the set of options for Favored Classes. If you’re tired of just getting a Hit Point or a Skill Point when you take a level in your Favored Class, then you now have some different options, but what I dislike about them is that most of them only give you a benefit every other level, or every 3rd or 4th level. What this means is that, if you take a Favored Bonus that gives you a +1 bonus every 4 levels, then you have to add a +1/4 bonus every time you take it, rounded down. It’s math that is necessary if you’re multi-classing, but to state it in terms of such small fractions seems overly complicated for this d20-based system.

That might be a small nit to pick, but consider it picked.

The Ugly

The what? Seriously, have you seen this book? It’s freaking gorgeous. I guess if you’re a fan of overall simplicity, then you could call this entire book ugly, as all it does is add options, and options do make for complications.

The Final Word

If you’ve been looking for something to spice up your Pathfinder game, or have a custom world that needs a rules-based kick in the pants, then this book is for you. My own tastes have me strongly considering a Stampunk/Victorian/Robert-Downey-Jr-as-Sherlock-Holmes-type setting, using these rules to modify the base races and classes to fit. Also, there’s a Sword Cane in the Items section; enough said.

I’ve seen a lot of rules supplements for d20 games over the years. I went through basically every splatbook that WotC released for 3.0 and 3.5, and this is one of the best books in that vein that I have ever seen.

If I’m going to use the same 5-star system that Ben has used, then it’s undoubtedly a 5 out of 5 stars. If I’m breaking it down on a percentile scale, then it’s a solid 94% our of 100. Highly recommended.

[tags]rpg, rpgs, role player games, reviews, Pathfinder[/tags]

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