I wasn't originally planning on buying this book, at least not for a few months. To be honest, the preview material sort of put me off. The art is part of that. The technical execution of the art is as good as Paizo's art has ever been, but the character design has veered deeper into the kewlio. I kvetched about the art a bit before, in my Pathfinder RPG review, but this is just a bit too much for me. It detracts from the material of the book. I hope we won't be seeing a whole lot of these characters in future materials, the way the original characters have been used over and over and over again (Paizo does get their mileage out of their art and their character designs, that's for sure.)
So why did I drop the hardback retail on this book?
The first thing I was looking for from a new book is well designed player classes.The Alchemist, the Summoner, and the Witch are all classes I like. The Cavalier, Inquisitor, and Oracle don't do it for me. While new classes was the main thing I was looking for from this book, there turned out to be some surprises that finally tipped the balance for me to get this book. First, a look at the classes.
I have a soft spot for Alchemists. A friend played a very interesting Alchemist in the first campaign I played in. The character class came from The Strategic Review (or it may have become The Dragon by the time the Alchemist appeared, I don't recall.) He did a great job with that character, and when he lost his arm--only to have it replaced by a tentacle due to a botched regeneration--it made the character more interesting. I added the Alchemist to my campaign, and I've had the class ever since. Here's my latest version for OD&D. So far, the Alchemist in the PFRPG APG looks good. The power level looks good for the overall level of the game, and it's a flexible enough class to be good for a lot of adventuring. I'm sure I'll have more to say about it in the future.
The Summoner is another type of class I like. Ever since playing Metagaming's Microgames Melee and Wizard (both part of a larger game called The Fantasy Trip), the idea of a mage who acts mainly through indirect spells that call up minions and items has appealed to me. I've tried designing several such classes for OD&D, but haven't been happy enough with them to use them in my present game (largely because it takes a lot of time to balance such a class.) The Summoner class of the APG seems a bit limited, since it's mostly monster-type summoning so far as I can tell at first look. I need to spend more time with the spell list to see if there are any of the "summon a mondo weapon for your buddy" type spells as well to round out the class a bit. What I've seen so far looks good.
The Witch is also a class that goes back a long time. There were two of them in early articles of TSR and The Dragon that I recall. I also built a pretty good Witch/Warlock class myself that I ran for many years in my game. The Witch class here looks like a sort of arcane druid class. It looks like a good option for players who want this sort of slant to their character, when one of the other caster classes doesn't appeal to them.
What Didn't Work for Me
I'll try to be brief about the three new classes that don't appeal to me; Cavalier, Inquisitor, and Oracle. Cavalier and Inquisitor look just too limited to be of general use. It's too early in the game's publication cycle to start putting out such limited character types, IMO. And where the appeal is for the Oracle, I don't know. It's a pretty blah looking class, particularly next to the extremely well designed Cleric class for this game. The Inquisitor looks like it's as much of a party pain in the tookus as the old-style AD&D Paladins were, possibly worse. And the Cavalier just looks like a gimped fighter. I'll look at them some more, there's plenty of possibility I've missed what the magic is to these classes. Right now I consider them dead weight.
What I wasn't expecting but was pleased by is the additions to the core classes from the original Core book. I wasn't expecting much but fluff, but from my brief look so far, it looks pretty meaty. It was enough to get me to lay down my cash, along with the three classes I like.
The BIG downside is that there's now another book to be rifled through at the table. "Which book was that in?" will become a common question. It drives me crazy. One of the things I really liked about PFRPG was how great a game it is with just two books. If this was just one more GMs book, it wouldn't be that big an issue. But it's a player book. Which means it'll be getting passed around the table along with the Core book. "Where was that ability?" "Where was that feat described?" Sigh.
As it is, I don't plan on rolling the new rules into the game until some time down the road. If someone has to roll up a new character, I'll let them draw from this book in the meanwhile, but otherwise I'll wait a bit until my players have more of what's in the core book well known to them. In the meanwhile, I'll be reading and familiarizing myself with this new book.
One More Factor
Another thing that pushed me toward buying this book now is my 15 year old daughter. She really got excited by this book. She gives it two thumbs up, with no reservations at all. She likes everything she's seen in it.
PFRPG Roll Call
Here are the books I've bought so far and what I think of them:
Core Rulebook: Five Stars. Paizo has made d20 really smooth and fun to play.
Bestiary: Five Stars. The best monster book I've ever had, bar none. And remember, I was on the waiting list before the original Monster Manual came out back in the 70s. It makes a GM's life a good one. Get it even if you're doing some other d20 game. You'll wish they were all this good.
Gamemastery Guide: Three Stars. Only get it if you're a new GM, or if you see some material in it you think will be particularly useful to your campaign, like the NPC generation rules or the city material. If you're a new GM, it'll help get a campaign rolling quickly.
GameMaster's Screen: One Star. Total Fluff. Well made physically, but the reference charts on it aren't the ones you really wish you had. Avoid unless you want something really solid and really expensive to tape printouts of the charts you actually use to.
Advanced Player's Guide: (Ranking Awaiting Further Looking) Get it if you want to spice up your campaign past the core material. Otherwise, wait until your campaign has matured a bit. I like it pretty well, but I think they should have put in four really killer classes rather than three good and three specialty classes probably not for all campaigns.
The APG has prestige classes in it, but I don't mention them here because they don't get used in my campaign except for NPCs. I tend to top out the characters' lives before they become too über, at about tenth level or so.