Review – Pathfinder Rolepaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide

One of the hot new releases at Gen Con this year, was the Pathfinder Rolepaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide by Paizo Publishing. As media, we get into the vendor area an hour early on Thursday, before the doors open to regular guests. And when those doors opened, I was standing next to Paizo’s booth. All I can remember was a tsunami of gamers to descended on their booth in a mad frenzy to get their hands on this book. I had to see what all the fuss was about!

The layout of this book was very similar to their Core Rulebook. And for those not familiar with Pathfinder, it was an OGL d20 product (compatible with D&D 3.0/3.5). When Wizards of the Coast went to 4th edition, Paizo decided to update the 3.5 rules to expand the game further and fix some of the things that they though could be improved.  I have heard players refer to it at D&D 3.75 rules. But in reality, it is the Pathfinder Core Rules.  So, the Pathfinder Core rulebook is the release of the OGL rules in an updated form. This Advanced Players guide takes the game to the next level.

The first chapter has to do with races. It does not add new races to the game, but instead enhances the races that are already a part of the core rules (Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, Halflings, and Humans). There are new racial traits, favored class bonuses, and some class descriptors. My personal favorite racial trait is the “Plagueborn” trait for the Half-Orc. This trait places your character from some of the most despicable and disgusting environs, accustomed to all kinds of nasties and sicknesses. Sure, it comes with a bonus to saving throws against disease, ingested poisons, and becoming nauseated or sickened. But, the roleplaying opportunity is endless!

The second chapter is where the book really shines. There are six new base classes for the game, and the reason which a lot of people bought this book. You can now play as an Alchemist, Cavalier, Inquisitor, Oracle, Summoner, and Witch. These are some very interesting and imaginative classes. This is where the game starts to break from its D&D 3.5 roots and really starts becoming something unique. And by-the-way, my Plagueborn Half-Orc will totally be an Oracle. Can the rest of the party really trust the revelations of a creature that smells like 3-day old Dragon poo?

In addition to to the new base classes, they have also added alternate class features to the core base classes. This is similar to the racial traits, where you can take new and interesting class paths by swapping out one of the original ones. A rogue sniper?  Sign me up!

Chapter 3 adds new feats. Chapter 4 adds new equipment. Chapter 5 adds new spells. And, chapter 7 adds new magic items. There is nothing ground-breaking in these chapters, but they do what they are suppose to do extremely well. Give more player options and round the game into something new and Pathfindery.  This book is over 300 pages.  There is a TON of crunch for the kiddies.

Chapter 6 deals with some new prestige classes for the game. They did a fantastic job coming up with some interesting ideas here. We have the Battle Herald, Holy Vindicator, Horizon Walker, Master Chymist, Master Spy, Nature Warden, and the Stalwart Defender. And they also have a great one for my skeezy Orc-Lite Oracle. The Rage Prophet!

Chapter 8 introduces some optional rules for the core game. There are combat maneuvers that give new blood to the list of core maneuvers (e.g., tripping, grappling, disarming). Dirty Trick, Drag, Reposition, and Steal are new tools for the toolbox of all players. Hero Points are now added to the game. It is known in other RPGs as fate bonuses, destiny dice, luck rerolls. etc.  The interesting thing about Pathfinder, they didn’t look at what was out their and pick one.  They picked them all.  You can trade in your Hero Point for a bonus to a roll, an extra action, a re-roll, and many other options. The last new rule is Traits.  This is basically the option to add traits to your character as a background or in-game experience. Now my stinky 2-penny Orcan Oracle came from a Poverty-Stricken home and have had a History of Heresy.

Overall, this is a really spectacular product. When I first started reading it, I was a little upset that there were not any new races. But, by the end of this monster of a book, with all the new and exciting crunch, and all the new things you can do with the old races, I had forgotten all about it.

But there was one thing that really didn’t set right with me.  And I am guessing it didn’t set right with one of the authors as well, as it is mentioned in the book’s Introduction. I don’t feel that this book should not have had “Advanced” in the title. I worry that one would assume that either advanced meant that this book is more complex than the core book, or that the core book was a basic level book. Neither is the case here. So, don’t let the name fool you. There are a lot of great additions and improvements in this book and nothing changes the level of complexity that is already in the rules.

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide is a 336 page, full color hardbound supplement. It is available now for $39.99. It is also available on Paizo’s website as a PDF for $9.99. I would like to thank Erik Mona for explaining to me what all the hub-bub at Gen Con was about and providing me a review copy of this book to get my Pathfinder adventuring!

Stuart Greenwell

My first experiences with serious gaming came from the Hero Quest board game. I then made the next step to the RoboTech RPG and a lunchtime meeting of AD&D Oriental Adventures. My interests now are pretty much the same. Boardgames and RPGS. Some of my favorites boardgames are currently Settlers of Catan, Battlestar Galactica, and Space Alert. For RPGS, it is Monte Cook's Cypher System. But I am always down for a good round of Dungeons & Dragons.