Wednesday 28 October 2015

Advanced Class Origins

People who have read my review of it from last year will know that I am not a big fan of the Advanced Class Guide. It's not a bad book, but it just doesn't have much that I want or need for my games. To date, I have never used anything from the book in any of my games. Similarly, Advanced Class Origins, which provides additional options for the hybrid classes from the Advanced Class Guide and talks about how they fit into the Pathfinder Campaign Setting is rather useless to me as well. When it comes to reviewing such a book, it's tempting to just say, “Yeah, it's useless,” and move on.

But I'm not really the target audience for Advanced Class Origins. If I don't use any of the hybrid classes in my game, then of course I'm not going to get any use out of a book all about them. The target audience is, naturally, people who do use hybrid classes in their games and any review of Advanced Class Origins must take that into account. And so that is what I intend to do with this review. I will put my own dislike for the hybrid classes aside and look at what this book offers (or doesn't offer) people who like and use the classes.

The Advanced Class Guide introduced 10 new classes, and as Advanced Class Origins, like other books in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, is only 32 pages long, not surprisingly, it can only devote a limited amount of space to each class. Each class gets two pages of information, starting with how the class fits into Golarion. This background information generally takes up most of the first page and discusses the various countries where the class is most common. With so little space available, I'm pleased to see even this much devoted to background information. Nonetheless, it is still rather generic as a result. It doesn't really provide much in the way of setting insight. Also, much like Mythic Origins, the book doesn't actually discuss the origins of these characters. Rather, they have always been there and the book is just telling us where. This was more of a problem with Mythic Origins, though. With Advanced Class Origins, it merely makes for a confusing title.

The remainder of the two pages for each class contain new options for that class. Although the types of options vary depending on the class, every section ends with two new traits—mostly regional traits, though the brawler and warpriest get combat traits and the skald section has race traits. The other options include things like new bloodlines for bloodragers, new talents for investigators, and a new spirit for shamans. The bulk of the new options, however, are archetypes, with most classes getting at least one and several getting two. Only the bloodranger and shaman do not have any new archetypes.

There are actually quite a few interesting options and they generally do a very good job of tying the classes to Golarion. The black blood bloodrager bloodline, for example, is based around the black blood of Orv (in the Darklands). The scarab stalker archetype places hunters in the deserts of Osirion, and the Lepidstadt inspector places investigators in...well...Lepidstadt, Ustalav. The archetypes create a great deal of local flavour, which I really like to see.

After the classes, the remainder of Advanced Class Origins offers a selection of new feats, magic items, and spells. These are all fairly standard fare, though not a lot really stands out. Fencing Grace, however, lets characters with Weapon Finesse and Weapon Focus (rapier) apply their Dexterity bonuses to damage instead of Strength, an ability in high demand for Dexterity-based fighters (and other warrior classes). I also rather like the Lepidstadt investigator's hat, which is a deerstalker cap that lets characters pretend to be Sherlock Holmes (and also affects an investigator's inspiration ability). Another nice thing about these last few pages of the book is that many of the feats, spells, and magic items are useful for any class, not just the hybrid classes, making the book at least a little useful for those of us who don't use the hybrid classes.

On the whole, there is quite a bit of useful material in Advanced Class Origins for people who use the hybrid classes from Advanced Class Guide. Even though there are a lot of classes to cover and not a lot of space in the book, it manages to provide a good variety of options for each of those classes. It also does a good job of adding a lot of Golarion-specific flavour to the classes, with archetypes and abilities that are tied to specific locations in the campaign setting. Overall, it's a pretty decent book.

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