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Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide Review

Hey howdy my friends, it’s time for yet another PAIZO REVIEW! Today we’re cracking into a very exciting new product for all you Pathfinder 2E fans: it’s the Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide! Stuffed to bursting with new ancestries, backgrounds, classes, archetypes, and more, this new supplement offers excited players a truly staggering number of customization options. Let’s dig in!

p2apg.jpg

One of the most interesting themes that you might find throughout the APG is that a lot of the new options presented here have the “uncommon” keyword. Nominally, this means that they’re only available to characters with certain prerequisites, but in most of these cases these options are character-generation choices. In this case, GMs will have to decide if the options are appropriate for their campaign.

Amusingly, there is a sidebar on the first page discussing this issue! Interestingly enough this sidebar mentions how some ancestries normally considered Common are only thus in certain areas of Golarion – the halfling and dwarf ancestries have an Uncommon keyword in Tian Xia, for example. That said, rarer toys are always more exciting – how soon do you think it’ll be before you’re in a group, organized play or not, where everyone at the table has an uncommon ancestry, background, or both?

Also the GM in me is eternally grateful to the writers for including a reminder to readers that while yes, your new and shiny character is unusual and outcast in the typical Pathfinder world, you still need to work together as a party. Honestly, some players need a little bit more reminder in that lane regardless!

Onto the ancestries! I won’t go into too much detail here – each of the ancestries and backgrounds are fairly well-balanced and usually have interesting and thematic ancestry feats, so I’ll be focusing mostly on what really sticks out to me. For example, catfolk (and who’s surprised that catfolk are the first new ancestry available, really?) have a few feats that functionally amount to “what do we say to the god of Death? mmmmmmeeeeeyooow!”

The Kobold ancestry provides an example of an interesting and exciting character option I want to see more of. One of their ancestry feats gives them critical success if they roll success on certain saves, but also critical failure if they roll a failure on the same saves. I love the risk-reward aspect to feats like this, and I want to see more of that going forward!

The APG also provides new options for the ancestry options in the Core Rulebook. Some of these options seem…more powerful than others? Dwarves, for example, have feats that let them either a) see in magical darkness or b) add a pretty consistent flat bonus to their melee strikes? One of these seems more useful than the other. Humans get access to a feat that just begs to be used for a “you and what army” scenario, and goblins continue to be my favorite thing in Pathfinder with the description they get for loud singing.

There’s also a whole new bevy of backgrounds to choose from, both Common and Rare to choose from. I have to admit I’m rather amused by the Barber and Cultist background from the Common section, and of course we have Amnesiac to complete the “OC do not steal” bingo board that the rest of the book fills out.

Let’s move on to the new class options! Investigators get a special shout-out from me because they are now officially the top dog when it comes to being the party skill monkey. They get a skill increase every level! Honestly, a lot of their kit seems like a big pile of GM-frustrating nonsense, and I can tell it will require more cooperation with said GM or else it will feel like a lot of your kit is less than useful.

The Oracle class is a perfect example of the risk-reward gameplay I was talking about earlier! In first edition, the oracle curse was a bit of a static partner that only got less and less present as you get more powerful. Here, the curse is the source of the oracle’s power AND the resource they spend to cast focus spells. More debilitating, yes, but also more powerful! Whoever was working on the Oracle was having a lot of fun and is doing some serious flexing as a game designer.

Here is also where we finally find the option for evil champions, or for those of us stuck in earlier editions, blackguards (or antipaladins). These guys are some pretty hard-line dudes, though, so I don’t see them sticking in anything other than an evil campaign.

Finally, the last layer of customization is Archetype, and the APG has plenty to choose from. Honestly, by the time we get to archetypes, I’m a little exhausted by the incredible diversity of options that come through combining this with the already-full Core Rulebook. That said I’m morbidly curious to see how ridiculous a campaign it would make to have a party that takes more than just one feat per customization option – like, several ancestry feats, class feats, archetype feats in addition to rather than instead of class feats, so on. That way lies madness. That way lies gestalt.

I’m very impressed by the Advanced Player’s Guide. Paizo packs a lot into the 265 pages of content here and nearly everything in here sparks interest if not excitement for a new character or build. Definitely worth your time if you want to make a splash at your next table.
 
Ben Reece

Ben Reece

CapnZapp

Legend
I hope nobody really believes it isn't at some level deeply redonkulous to offer thousands of feats in your game...?

Yes, more than a couple of dozen as in 5E is fine. No, offering literally thousands is not sane.

In my not so humble personal opinion, it means two things. Neither are good:
1) you are monetizing every last scrap of design space. Yes, by that I mean that you have deliberately created a game that allows you to sell truckloads of feats as shovelware
2) you nuke the GMs ability to improvise and be generous. A GM that is used to the "yes" and "yes, but..." schools of gamesmastering will find - over and over - that by allowing a player character to do something - anything - not explicitly allowed by the rules, she has just negated a feat somewhere.

In this regard, PF2 is descending the same dark dark path that 4E walked. (No other comparison intended)
 

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Aldarc

Legend
Or it’s just continuing the trajectory of feats in 3e and Pathfinder. 🤷‍♂️ But no, let’s overlook the obvious connection in favor of nefarious ones for the purpose of constructing false narratives. It’s just like K.I.S.S.: “keep it sinister, stupid.”
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Or it’s just continuing the trajectory of feats in 3e and Pathfinder. 🤷‍♂️ But no, let’s overlook the obvious connection in favor of nefarious ones for the purpose of constructing false narratives. It’s just like K.I.S.S.: “keep it sinister, stupid.”
The reason I brought up 4th edition is because I consider the design of Pathfinder 2 (as regards feats) to share many more similarities to D&D 4th edition than any d20 game.
 

Lefi2017

Explorer
I hope nobody really believes it isn't at some level deeply redonkulous to offer thousands of feats in your game...?

Yes, more than a couple of dozen as in 5E is fine. No, offering literally thousands is not sane.

In my not so humble personal opinion, it means two things. Neither are good:
1) you are monetizing every last scrap of design space. Yes, by that I mean that you have deliberately created a game that allows you to sell truckloads of feats as shovelware
2) you nuke the GMs ability to improvise and be generous. A GM that is used to the "yes" and "yes, but..." schools of gamesmastering will find - over and over - that by allowing a player character to do something - anything - not explicitly allowed by the rules, she has just negated a feat somewhere.

In this regard, PF2 is descending the same dark dark path that 4E walked. (No other comparison intended)
thank you this what I wanted to know
so As a gm I would have known pf2 inside out to deal with players wanting to do things to make sure they do not cancel out feats

Also I'm shocked how much additional player material and monsters they have published in the short time the new edition exist
Did player and GMs exhaust all these options so quickly or is it just pure greed?
 


Lefi2017

Explorer
Clearly it is just greed. No possible other explanations could ever exist. We should probably apply nefarious purposes using false dichotomies to Paizo because that is good and healthy for our hobby.
greed in the sense that this is what worked for pf1 and made them money like it did for 3.5 wotc
but I often here that players here that they had to spread out in 3,5 and pathfinder on which books to get so none was would need to spend their funds on all the books them self
I like the slower process in 5e but even they start to push more martial lastly which is draining my currently low funds hard to the point I have postpone buying books
 


Aldarc

Legend
Owning the books is not entirely necessary though when online SRDs are available that include these player options. Players in most of my PF1 games used d20pfsrd.com. That said, I suspect that there are a number of people - at least those who like it - who want these Bestiaries and Player Guide books because they want to convert their campaigns/characters over to the new rule system.

By that metric, should they also hate Chris Perkins and Mike Mearls?
🤫
 

Retreater

Legend
Owning the books is not entirely necessary though when online SRDs are available that include these player options. Players in most of my PF1 games used d20pfsrd.com. That said, I suspect that there are a number of people - at least those who like it - who want these Bestiaries and Player Guide books because they want to convert their campaigns/characters over to the new rule system.
How true! The physical books are oddly the least useful format to me these days. The online databases are searchable, shareable with my entire group (who are each already playing in front of a computer because of the pandemic). I'm still purchasing material on Roll20 (so I don't have to program character options), but I haven't bought physical books for this edition since the Core Rules and Bestiary 1.
 

Aldarc

Legend
How true! The physical books are oddly the least useful format to me these days. The online databases are searchable, shareable with my entire group (who are each already playing in front of a computer because of the pandemic). I'm still purchasing material on Roll20 (so I don't have to program character options), but I haven't bought physical books for this edition since the Core Rules and Bestiary 1.
It also made looking up a number of player options relatively easy, both as a player and GM.
 

willrali

Explorer
I hope nobody really believes it isn't at some level deeply redonkulous to offer thousands of feats in your game...?

Depends on the feats. I’ve been fine ‘yes, but...’ allowing anything normal-humanish within the bounds of DC guidelines. I’ve found feats in p2 are generally either to give an edge on something or permit something preternatural or superhuman.

In other news, truly sounds like you’d be happier ditching p2. 5e has more players too. (Personally I like it but I exhausted it after a couple of years.)

Although I’m struggling to see the difference between the abilities granted by the growing plethora of 5e subclasses vs p2’s feats. And as Xanathar’s guide mentions, even in 5e, exceptions trump general rules.
 

Retreater

Legend
In other news, truly sounds like you’d be happier ditching p2. 5e has more players too. (Personally I like it but I exhausted it after a couple of years.)

The new Tasha's splatbook will be a much-needed injection of new life into 5e for me.

I have one group that will hopefully stick with PF2 at least to finish the AP we started (we're nearly to the end of Part 2 of Age of Ashes). I have another group about to the end of Curse of Strahd in 5e (they are a session or two away from entering Castle Ravenloft). I have another group that is more than halfway through Waterdeep Dragon Heist (blazing through it because they are jumping to all the right conclusions in their investigations).

So I have two 5e games about to wrap up in a few months. Neither of those will transition to PF2 - even though I like the system, it's a bit exhausting to run. The Waterdeep group will probably go to Old School Essentials. The Curse of Strahd group will stick with 5e unless it disbands.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest
It's guilt by limited association, and I suspect the 4e-haters found a convenient scapegoat for their PF2 woes in Logan Bonner.

See, this is how edition wars start - ascribing nefarious motives to people you disagree with. Someone else might be more willing to give jsaving the benefit of the doubt and recognize he's concerned that the 4e-ization of PF is likely to continue with the current design team and its leadership.

Personally, I'm not that keen on how 4e-ish PF2 went either. I went to PF1 to get away from 4e - I don't like that PF2 has incorporated so much of 4e-like structure even if it has improved on several aspects of it. I'm not sure I'm finding those improvements enough to make it palatable.
 

jsaving

Adventurer
You put that better than I did but yes, that is what I was imperfectly trying to get at. No offense whatsoever intended to members of the 4e dev team or players who like PF2e.
 

Windjammer

Adventurer
There's potential for a good discussion of multi-classing across editions of D&D and PF but I'm not sure we've scratched more than the surface.

other changes [of PF2] brought back 4e innovations we'd strongly disliked, such as the elimination of 3e-style multiclassing to simplify the game and protect players from themselves. No thanks, if we wanted simplicity/protection we wouldn't have left D&D in the first place.

To be fair, you could do 3.x-style multi-classing in 4E if you went versatile bard and did Paragon multi-classing. The problem wasn’t lack of flexibility but lack of effectiveness.

I played a 4E bard drawing on 6+ classes who ended up being not versatile at all. Instead of being a Swiss Army Knife, Elvis was a ‘jack of no trades’ on the battle grid where hardly a roll landed. And that wasn’t the result of 4E’s piss poor multi-classing rules but the system’s relentless punishment of players who dared to build anything short of mono-stat PCs (where players focus their ability raises on one stat to stay on the Mearls math curve). This problem applied in moderation to dual-statted PCs but wrote versatile multi-classing out of the picture even though the option mechanically existed on paper.
In true 4E fashion, the designers (Logan included?) next "fixed" this problem by writing a sh*t ton of feats that allowed you to use certain powers using YOUR primary stat instead of the power's scripted stat. Of course, the more of those feats you took, the less effective you were in other ways... and the fewer multi-classing you could do (which also required feats). It's 4E in a nut shell, where subsystems were rolled out in ways that didn't work and then patched in ways that ran directly counter to the issue to be fixed (here: how can I multiclass effectively).

I think you could port 4E’s versatile bard multi-classing rules into PF2 with no problem. But having seen how super heavy PF2 penalizes non-optimized builds (see all the endless discussion of how hard it’s to build some advertised archetypes—like the goblin alchemist—that don’t suck all day long), you may run into the same difficulties 4E had. Not saying you always will, but PF2 is definitely a narrowly scripted class-build system like 4E Essentials was.
 
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Teemu

Adventurer
The “accusations” of PF2 being like 4e are weird when 5e is much closer to 4e than PF2! The core structures of 5e and 4e are much more alike than 4e and PF2. PF2 is a whole lot more crunchy and detailed. 4e and 5e both share an approach of higher degree of abstraction for checks. Look at skills, look at attacks, and look at spells (or magical powers in 4e). Look at conditions. The shared genealogy between 5e and 4e is so obvious, whereas PF2 is closer to the 3.PF heritage.
 

Retreater

Legend
The “accusations” of PF2 being like 4e are weird when 5e is much closer to 4e than PF2! The core structures of 5e and 4e are much more alike than 4e and PF2. PF2 is a whole lot more crunchy and detailed. 4e and 5e both share an approach of higher degree of abstraction for checks. Look at skills, look at attacks, and look at spells (or magical powers in 4e). Look at conditions. The shared genealogy between 5e and 4e is so obvious, whereas PF2 is closer to the 3.PF heritage.
My PF2 group consists mostly of 4E apologists who don't care for 5E. I think it's the level of crunch and tactical options that aren't in 5E. To me, PF2 feels more like 4E that 5E does (which isn't a bad thing). 5E feels like 2E to me.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
My PF2 group consists mostly of 4E apologists who don't care for 5E. I think it's the level of crunch and tactical options that aren't in 5E. To me, PF2 feels more like 4E that 5E does (which isn't a bad thing). 5E feels like 2E to me.

I feel much the same way, though for me PF2 feeling more like 4e than 5e does isn't a good thing - mostly because 4e left me cold. But then things like the bounded accuracy and optionality of magic items in 5e were big selling points for me with 5e. They, among a few other things, are why 5e now slots higher on my list of favorite D&D editions than PF.
 

Rhianni32

Adventurer
Whereas precisely because PF2e offers such a rich background of archetypes, taking away 3e-style multiclassing takes a much larger set of interesting character concepts off the table in order to protect players who by virtue of having dropped 4e for PF1e have already showed they're not interested in being protected.

How do you know that the PF2 archetype/multiclass model is inteded to protect players from bad decisions? Did Paizo make an announcement during development somewhere.

If I had to guess I think they went the way they did because it fits into everything else with character building. Most levels you get 2 feat type picks. Your range of choices is bound by your class selection. dedication feats unlock access to new choices but does not drasticaly alter the maximum power level of a character.
 

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