For our first leap into Pathfinder, I decided to ‘limit’ my players to the 11 Classes that are detailed in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.
Two of the guys are pretty well versed in RPGs now, certainly enough to have the basics of how the genre works anyway. The other two are both new players, virgins you might say but all are equally excited!
Frankly, 11 Classes can prove a little daunting to a new player, what with the strange stats, the odd terminology, masses of acronyms… I’ve known some to take a look through and simply put their hands up and say, “Nope, too hard…”
So, with that in mind, I asked the players to all look through the Giantslayer Players Guide before we met up to go through the basics. The Guide is a free pdf from Paizo that offers information about the area that the adventure will take place in, some important NPCs, a handful of campaign specific Traits and some history to the region. It’s actually a really interesting read even if you’re not playing the adventure path, so much blood has been spilled in that area!
So with that information in circulation, and knowing full well that having a deep understanding of everything before you start playing, is absolutely unnecessary, I set up a group session to go through basics and give simple advice on party makeup, play styles, and answer any questions.
The session went very well, and most of them had actually read the Guide!
After a couple of hours, the players had agreed on a good mix of Classes and, more importantly, a real desire for each player to actually want to play the Class he chose. I was very much against any of them having to concede a role, “Well, we haven’t got a healer so I guess I’ll have to be one of them,” and it didn’t happen. Happy days.
Now, in any good RPG, the worry of your character dying should be real. A good adventure, should have some fights that will be tough no matter what level they are set at and how effective your group is. No challenge, no achievement, no fun!
I remember way back when I played in Sony’s MMO Everquest, running around stomping minor vermin outside of Qeynos (Which is “Sony EQ” backwards in case there’s anyone that cares and still hadn’t picked up on that!), or killing skeletons outside of Ak’Anon on my little Gnome Necromancer, ‘Graveztone’; gotta get those bone chips!
Life was easy, but it could get real boring, real fast, if you weren’t entertaining yourself with some great songs! Every time I think of Kelethin, I’m reminded of Zack De La Rocha telling me, “F*** you, I won’t do what you tell me!”
Anyway, I digress; as usual.
Now, no one likes it when a player’s character dies (except for the odd vinDICKtive GM), it stresses the group out and can create tension, anger, a blame culture or worse. I have no problem letting PCs kill themselves if they do something stupid, that’s on them, however some adventures are just made to be absolutely lethal – I’m looking at you Tomb of Horrors!
Personally, I don’t consider Giantslayer to be anywhere near as ludicrously hard as the Tomb of Horrors, but at the same time, it’s no cake walk either. It requires the players to THINK and consider when to cast those spells and to use consumables intelligently . I wouldn’t be too surprised if a group playing this AP had a good number of near death experiences between levels 2 and 4. Level 1 has no real relevance in measuring an adventure’s difficulty as one simple, unlucky dice roll can kill any character outright. The beginning of the Giantslayer AP is set in a little town called Trunau. Anyone that reads the Giantslayer Player’s Guide will know that this is not some idylic holiday destination.
The location is brutal. Why anyone would live their lives there is a complete mystery. The threat of attack is constant with bands of wandering Orcs pillaging their way around the area, food is sparse and any fields that are worked have to be extremely well guarded. It’s a nightmare of a place. It was best described by Skid Maher on the Glass Cannon podcast as being akin to, ‘Mordor’.
When you take that setting into consideration, the AP simply has to be dangerous. I honestly don’t see how the authors could have written it any other way than they have.
I am expecting a few deaths among my group, not because I have new players or because I think any of them will be bad, but simply because it’s going to be tough.
From what I can see, Pathfinder has 35 prime/hybrid Classes available (Paizo released – there are more if you take 3rd party releases into account), and that allows for an enormous amount of variation and choice for any RPG player!
I have agreed with my players that all those classes will be available to be chosen once they either die or decide to multi-class. My players are all intelligent guys, and getting their heads around the various Class types and variations of them, shouldn’t be too hard once they’ve had a little exposure to the game’s mechanics.
Thankfully, multi-classing isn’t as hard in Pathfinder as it can be in other RPGs, and I’ve found several places that give some good advice:
Here; and a video
Without further ado, here is a mostly cut and pasted section I’ve created to collect together all the available Class types, along with hyperlinks to their details on Paizo’s website.
The alchemist’s reputation is not softened by his exuberance (some would say dangerous recklessness) in perfecting his magical extracts and potion-like creations, infusing these substances with magic siphoned from his aura and using his own body as experimental stock. Nor is it mollified by the alchemist’s almost gleeful passion for building explosive bombs and discovering strange new poisons and methods for their use. These traits, while making him a liability and risk for most civilized organizations and institutions of higher learning, seem to fit quite well with most adventuring groups.
Blending the power of the sorcerer with the versatility of the wizard, the Arcanist draws upon a reservoir of power to bend magic to her will. Arcanists are scholars of all things magical. They constantly seek out new forms of magic to discover how they work, and in many cases, to collect the energy of such magic for their own uses. Many Arcanists are seen as reckless, more concerned with the potency of magic than the ramifications of unleashing such power.
The Barbarian is a brutal berserker from beyond the edge of civilized lands. Barbarians excel in combat, possessing the martial prowess and fortitude to take on foes seemingly far superior to themselves. With rage granting them boldness and daring beyond that of most other warriors, Barbarians charge furiously into battle and ruin all who would stand in their way.
The Bard uses skill and spell alike to bolster his allies, confound his enemies, and build upon his fame. Bards capably confuse and confound their foes while inspiring their allies to ever-greater daring. While accomplished with both weapons and magic, the true strength of bards lies outside melee, where they can support their companions and undermine their foes without fear of interruptions to their performances.
Masters of the battlefield, Bloodragers unleash fearful carnage on their enemies using their bloodlines and combat prowess. The Bloodrager’s place is on the front lines, right in his enemies’ faces, supplying tremendous martial force bolstered by a trace of arcane magic.
Focusing on hand-to-hand combat, the Brawler mixes the martial artistry of the monk with the specialist training of the fighter. Brawlers are maneuverable and well suited for creating flanking situations or dealing with lightly armored enemies, as well as quickly adapting to a rapidly changing battlefield.
Cavaliers tend to marshal forces on the battlefield, using their mounted talents and challenges to control the flow of the fight. Outside of battle, Cavaliers can be found advancing their cause through diplomacy and, if needed, subterfuge. The Cavalier is no stranger to courtly intrigue and can hold his own in even the most delicate of social situations.
A devout follower of a deity, the Cleric can heal wounds, raise the dead, and call down the wrath of the gods. More than capable of upholding the honor of their deities in battle, Clerics often prove stalwart and capable combatants. Their true strength lies in their capability to draw upon the power of their deities, whether to increase their own and their allies’ prowess in battle, to vex their foes with divine magic, or to lend healing to companions in need.
The Druid is a worshiper of all things natural—a spellcaster, a friend to animals, and a skilled shapechanger. While some Druids might keep to the fringe of battle, allowing companions and summoned creatures to fight while they confound foes with the powers of nature, others transform into deadly beasts and savagely wade into combat. Druids worship personifications of elemental forces, natural powers, or nature itself. Typically this means devotion to a nature deity, though druids are just as likely to revere vague spirits, animalistic demigods, or even specific awe-inspiring natural wonders.
Brave and stalwart, the Fighter is a master of all manner of arms and armor. Fighters excel at combat—defeating their enemies, controlling the flow of battle, and surviving such sorties themselves. While their specific weapons and methods grant them a wide variety of tactics, few can match Fighters for sheer battle prowess.
Gunslingers are thunderous artillery, often found where the fighting is fiercest. Brave, clever, and frequently foolhardy, many Gunslingers push to position themselves at close range, barrels blazing, to take down their foes and demoralize their enemies. Other Gunslingers are masters of distant death, picking off enemies from afar with their strange and wondrous weapons.
Though both the Druid and Ranger can have animal companions, the Hunter takes this bond to the next level, forming a deadly duo with her savage ally. Hunters can adapt their tactics to many kinds of opponents, and they cherish their highly trained animal companions. As a team, the Hunter and her companion can react to danger with incredible speed, making them excellent scouts, explorers, and saboteurs.
Inquisitors tend to move from place to place, chasing down enemies and researching emerging threats. As a result, they often travel with others, if for no other reason than to mask their presence. Inquisitors work with members of their faith whenever possible, but even such allies are not above suspicion.
With the Rogue’s cunning complemented by the Alchemist’s magical talent, the Investigator is a peerless problem solver. Investigators live to solve mysteries and find inventive ways to get out of jams. They serve as advisors and support for their adventuring parties, but can take center stage when knowledge and cunning are needed. No slouches in battle, they know how to make surprise attacks and use inspiration to bring those attacks home.
Kineticists generally use their powers to assail their foes from range, but based on the way their talents develop, they can channel their kinetic abilities for a variety of situations. Kineticists are usually quite different from their families and friends, so they often strike out on their own or alongside others with extraordinary talents.
Magi spend much of their time traveling the world, learning whatever martial or arcane secrets they can find. They might spend months learning a new sword-fighting style from a master Fighter, while simultaneously moonlighting in the local library, poring through tomes of ancient lore. Most who take this path dabble in all sorts of lore, picking up anything that might aid them in their search for perfection.
Mediums are very versatile, filling whatever role the party needs at the moment by channeling the right spirit. By contacting spirits in places of power, the Medium allows the personalities of legendary heroes to overcome his own, vastly changing his abilities and spells. He holds seances to benefit himself and his allies.
Mesmerists wield power over lesser minds, suppressing foes’ wills to weaken them. Priding themselves on their trickery and inventiveness, they also support their allies—and often themselves—with magical tricks, most of which offer protection. Their limited healing ability primarily provides temporary hit points, so Mesmerists aren’t the strongest primary healers, but they can easily remove conditions that typically affect the mind.
A student of martial arts, the Monk trains his body to be his greatest weapon and defense. Monks excel at overcoming even the most daunting perils, striking where it’s least expected, and taking advantage of enemy vulnerabilities. Fleet of foot and skilled in combat, Monks can navigate any battlefield with ease, aiding allies wherever they are needed most.
To make use of his powers, an Occultist channels psychic energy into a varied collection of antiques and mementos with storied pasts. Every type of implement allows him to use a different school of magic. Occultists are always eager to travel in the company of adventurers, explorers, and archaeologists, as those three groups of people have a knack for finding items with rich histories and great significance.
Oracles do not usually associate with any one church or temple, instead preferring to strike out on their own, or with a small group of like-minded individuals. Oracles typically use their spells and revelations to further their understanding of their mystery, be it through fighting mighty battles or tending to the poor and sick.
The Paladin is the knight in shining armor, a devoted follower of law and good. Paladins serve as beacons for their allies within the chaos of battle. While deadly opponents of evil, they can also empower goodly souls to aid in their crusades. Their magic and martial skills also make them well suited to defending others and blessing the fallen with the strength to continue fighting.
With her incredibly potent mind, the Psychic can cast spells that are more powerful than those of members of any other occult class. She accesses these spells through a specific discipline, and can bend and amplify psychic spells as she casts them. With a large suite of spells, Psychics can handle many situations, but they excel at moving and manipulating objects, as well as reading and influencing thoughts.
A tracker and hunter, the Ranger is a creature of the wild and of tracking down his favored foes. Rangers are deft skirmishers, either in melee or at range, capable of skillfully dancing in and out of battle. Their abilities allow them to deal significant harm to specific types of foes, but their skills are valuable against all manner of enemies.
The Rogue is a thief and a scout, an opportunist capable of delivering brutal strikes against unwary foes. Rogues excel at moving about unseen and catching foes unaware, and tend to avoid head-to-head combat. Their varied skills and abilities allow them to be highly versatile, with great variations in expertise existing between different Rogues. Most, however, excel in overcoming hindrances of all types, from unlocking doors and disarming traps to outwitting magical hazards and conning dull-witted opponents.
Calling on the divine power of the Oracle and the hexes of a Witch, the Shaman communes with her spirit animal to unleash doom upon her foes. Shamans make for potent divine spellcasters, capable of using divine spells and the power of their spirits to aid their allies and destroy their foes. While they aren’t the healers that Clerics are, they can fill that role when needed.
Sharing fury through song and deed, the Skald takes the rage that lives in the heart of the Barbarian and inspires it in others using the performances of the Bard. A Skald inspires his allies, and often presses forward to fight enemies in melee. Outside combat, he’s useful as a healer and a scholar, less versatile but more durable than a Bard.
Mixing the precise strikes of the Rogue with the special training of the Ranger, the Slayer hunts down his foes with ruthless efficiency. The Slayer is elusive, and adept at finding the opportune time and location to strike. Combining the deadliest talents of Rangers and Rogues, a Slayer’s abilities are all about getting into combat, dealing with a target, and getting back out again.
The spellcasting Sorcerer is born with an innate knack for magic and has strange, eldritch powers. Sorcerers excel at casting a selection of favored spells frequently, making them powerful battle mages. As they become familiar with a specific and ever-widening set of spells, Sorcerers often discover new and versatile ways of making use of magics other spellcasters might overlook. Their bloodlines also grant them additional abilities, assuring that no two Sorcerers are ever quite alike.
Attuned to the spirits of the dead, a Spiritualist forms a bond with a phantom—a returned spirit that has unfinished business but did not become undead. This spectral ally can alternate between forms, emerging from the safety of the spiritualist’s mind to take on an incorporeal form or an ectoplasmic body. The Spiritualist seeks the occult and esoteric truth about life, death, and the passage beyond, using her phantom as a guide and tool. The connection with her phantom allows her to harness the powers of life and death, thought and nightmare, shadow and revelation.
Summoners spend much of their time exploring the arcane arts alongside their eidolons. While their power comes from within, they rely heavily on their eidolon companions in dangerous situations. While a summoner and his eidolon function as individuals, their true power lies in what they can accomplish together.
Combining the prowess of the fighter with the determination of the Gunslinger, the Swashbuckler is an acrobatic melee combatant. With fancy footwork and quick, precise lunges, Swashbucklers dart in and out of battle, harassing and thwarting their opponents. These agile combatants can serve as protectors for spellcasters and flanking partners for rogues and slayers, while waiting for the opportunity to demonstrate panache and score the killing blow on some lumbering hulk.
Blending the cleric’s divine might and the fighter’s martial skills, the Warpriest brings the fight to the enemies of his faith. Warpriests can serve as capable healers or spellcasters, calling upon their divine powers from the center of the fight, where their armor and martial skills are put to the test.
While many witches are recluses, living on the edge of civilization, some live within society, openly or in hiding. The blend of witches’ spells makes them adept at filling a number of different roles, from seer to healer, and their hexes grant them a number of abilities that are useful in a fight.
The wizard masters magic through constant study that gives him incredible magical power. While universalist wizards might study to prepare themselves for any manner of danger, specialist wizards research schools of magic that make them exceptionally skilled within a specific focus. Yet no matter their specialty, all wizards are masters of the impossible and can aid their allies in overcoming any danger.