Review – The Secrets of Tactical Archetypes II (PFRPG)

By on February 27, 2012

  Yesterday Rite Publishing released The Secrets of Tactical Archetypes II, a new sourcebook for the Pathfinder RPG. In the supplement you could find more than a dozen archetypes for different classes, which are mostly tactical teamwork or team support focused, bringing unique abilities and new options to characters.

  There are many original ideas here, like shadow manipulating bards (with no bardic music), and magic disrupting sorcerers. In my opinion the supplement is pure gold in this regard. On the other hand some archetypes are have a problem : game balance issues.

The Archetypes

  I was happy to find out that there are several refreshing and original archetypes were included, which really feels like something new compared to the core classes. The already mentioned shadow using bard (Umbral Weaver) and the Peltast fighters (adept at throwing weapons) are a good example of this.

  After reading through the book I’ve chosen several personal favorites myself. The highly protective Circle Warden (Witch) and the divine tactician Pious Sentinel (Cleric) are archetypes I would gladly enable to my players, and I would be happy to explore their possibilities. The Circle Warden for example replaces some of her abilities with protective hexes and abilities to defend and heal their team members.

But not every archetype as good as the above. Several of the new options are highly overpowered. Just to say some examples : level 5 Oracle gaining 2 spirit allies with 3d4+Cha bonus touch attack (and they could be summoned unlimited times per day), Druid replacing his single Domain for up to 4 Domains, an archetype receiving low level (4th) ability instead of high level ability, or the Peltast, which replaces a single feat with a very effective anti DR and anti AC power. Some of these powers are even more powerful at higher levels.

  I think the most overpowered one is the spirit summoning Oracle, who completely gets out of hand at level 11. Then he could have 3 non-moving spirits with low AC and HP, but DR 15/-, displacement, and with 6d4+CHA ranged touch attack. And they could be summoned by a move action, so the Oracle could cast a spell or attack in the same turn. I guess this is a little bit much for a class ability which comes in addition to everything else instead of replacing another ability. And if you take on of the Revelations for the archetype they could use Dispel Magic instead of a damaging attack, which again is a little bit much for a move action.

Final words

As I mentioned at the beginning I have mixed feeling about this product. There are many very interesting archetypes (like the Pious Sentinel) which are very good, and I would use them cheerfully in my campaigns. On the other hand several archetypes are very problematic and I wouldn’t let my players to use them.

In the end I think there is enough good things here to give 3,5/5 points. I’m sad about this, as the excellent ideas would earn maximum points if presented correctly.

If you would like to take a look, the book is available for purchase at RPGNow.com here.

Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros

About Cain.rpgorg

6 Comments

  1. Will McCardell

    February 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks once again Cain!

    Were there any other archetypes than the ones you listed that you disliked?

    I would like to explain the reasoning behind the Elementalurgist and Peltast though (and take another look at the Aetherurgist, which had some changes in editing). Normally we would’ve had a sidebar including our reasoning in the product, but that didn’t quite make it in.

    For the Peltast, the ability you spoke of is Find the Breach, right? The peltast had specific difficulties in its design, due to problems inherent with thrown weapons in PFRPG: the cost of magic weapons and the multitude of weapons necessary for a thrown weapon expert. Originally, the ability was something akin to “thrown weapons after the first get the enhancements of the first”, but that was a Su, and fighters shouldn’t have those. Plus it was weird and metagame-y. We explored using a magic item to solve the problem. But requiring an item for the class to be somewhat effective? That’s a bad idea.

    So, Find the Breach was born. This ability requires a knowledge check (which introduces an element of MAD), and there are 5 knowledge skills that would be necessary to max to make this useful against all opponents. It may have been on omission that they don’t get those Knowledge skills as class skills, and I plan to look into that. And it helps with the magic item issue, as it simulates a magic weapon’s DR ignoring and enhancement bonus to hit abilities.

    Regarding the elementalurgist: The strongest abilities of the druid are their ability to convert any spell into an SNA (and thus flood the battlefield) as well as Wildshape. Those are the abilities that make them one of the strongest classes in PF, since they can create an army, be effective in melee (pouncing kitty!), and also be a full caster. Spellcasting focused druids still use it as well, whether to always be flying, or as utility. This archetype gets neither so we felt that their power was considerably neutered.

    The goal of this archetype was a spellcasting focused druid that supported allies. The domain powers of the elemental domains are extremely lackluster (although some of the sub domains are nice). We might revisit the ability to spontaneously cast the domain spells later if other people’s reports show that to be problematic. Perhaps just the domain spells you’ve prepared, but that does goes against the concept to an extent.

    And regarding the Aetherurgist: the high DR was added in editing and there are a few things I plan on revisiting. We thought it was slightly on the powerful side, but the hard limit on spirits per round (1), and that they’re torn up by AoE helped limit their power. It was based on the dual-cursed oracle which gets 30% more revelations for their two curses, so we thought that this was decently approximate to 2 revelations.

    Once again, thanks for the feedback. Any feedback is much appreciated :)

  2. Steven D. Russell

    February 28, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Thanks for taking the time to do a review of our product.

    Steve Russell
    Rite Publishing

  3. Cain.rpgorg

    February 28, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Thanks guys for taking time to read my review. :)

    First, I would like to add that what i feel unbalanced and what I dislike is not the same for me. For example I liked both the Peltast and the Elementalurgistas an idea, but I think their power level should be lowered a bit.

    On the other hand I disliked the Barbarian archetype which seems balanced, but against my personal preferences – so I didn’t count that against the final score.

    I think I understand your reasoning behind Find the Breach, but I think that a single feat is not a fair trade-off. The Peltast still could have a magical melee weapon as other fighters and additionally he gets DR reduction for ranged attacks. Or how about a Returning Short Spear or a similar weapon which is usable both in melee and as a thrown weapon ?

    About the Elemetalurgist : I’m not sure if spontaneously casting Fireballs has a lower effect on the battlefield than SNA. And at higher levels memorizing spells became much less a problem as you could spontaneously cast 2-4 different spells per spell level. And you also get a lots of non-spell ranged attacks plus multiple resistances. You may compare this to a cleric, who only receives 2 domains.

    I don’t think that Elemental Infusion would be that weaker than Wild Shape, if it’s weaker at all, considering that it’s usable unlimited times/day. Maybe you should consider to limit it for some uses/day, when it would be still awesome.

    But as you may guess my main concern was the Aetherurgist. I think his powers made him much more powerful than any core class, even the dual-cursed oracle. Move action 6d4+ ranged touch or Dispel Magic (which get’s repeated turn by turn if not dealt with an AoE spell) is way over the top. And it could be used unlimited times/day.

    Regardless, the sourcebook stil offers lots of value, and I’m already planning the first Umbral Weaver NPC for my players to meet. :)

  4. Will McCardell

    February 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    I’m glad you like the Umbral Weaver! That’s one of my favorite. I was going for a more active support role for bards, and I hope that guy achieves that.

    Just a few notes: The Elemental Infusion is limited to 5 + mWisdom times per day. The line about that is right above “New Feats and Spells” on page 7. Plus, it’s always a standard action, which is different from most buffing abilities (which usually degrade in actions).

    We’ve updated the Aetherurgist a bit, mostly taking away iterative attacks. We have an alternative Not Quite There lined up in case others share your concerns about it. At 10th level, these spirits will have, on average, 16 hit points. One single attack that lands should chew right through them.

    Also, I’m going to send you a PM on Paizo.com.

  5. Benjamin Rombeaut

    February 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to review our supplement, Cain ! And glad you are liking our own personal faves, the Umbral Weaver and Circle Warden. :)

    Like Will said, I wish to explain and resolve some of the issues you have perceived while reading.
    Concerning the peltast, Find The Breach is intended to make the fighter relevant against his enemies at any level, without having to rely on a full quiver of magic weapons but on his own Intelligence. Making a new class utterly dependant on a new, included magic item was bad design ; and the first itteration of the concept was to have the peltast “memorize” the magic properties of a thrown weapon to apply it to the next ones. This was more than borderline (Su) and thus was replaced with a simple DR penetration, whose efficiency, like other Peltast capacities, relies on his Intelligence score. This vastly reduced the peltast’s efficiency in comparison to an archer.
    Sure, you could have some +1 Returning magic weapons. Except that this weapon is unusable until the next round, and you probably can’t send more than two per round nor move one square away since otherwise you couldn’t catch them back before the next round. Sacrificing a 4th level feat is a big thing when you rely on a style that deals few damage, requires MAD and may eat up all your feats on ranged + thrown weapon + TWFing + Weapon Focus/Weapon Specialization + Combat maneuvers feats… all others fighters just have to full-attack at full benefit with the same magic weapon, and they don’t have to spend a feat to do so.

    But the peltast may indeed use magic weapons efficiently, only on his own cinematic fashion : to help open an enemy to attacks, or shine with a one-hit wonder strike that changes the tide of battle, like the Impaling Skirmish or a ranged combat maneuver.
    Using a magic weapon in melee like any other fighter would be as useless as an archer wielding a greataxe in melee like any other fighter, since the peltast only gets bonuses and cool abilities on thrown weapon attacks. That would be like saying any fighter archetype is good or overpowered with a weapon in hand.

    We also have an alternative to Find The Breach, just close to Not Quite There, if others share your opinion on the topic.
    Don’t hesitate to express any other concerns, or questions you could have about your purchase by sending us a PM on Paizo.com. Here is mine :

    http://paizo.com/people/Maxximilius

    And thanks again for your review !
    I hope our clarifications will help you see the balance of the archetypes in a new light and make the experience better for you ! :)

  6. Cain.rpgorg

    March 1, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Hi,

    Thank you guys for the clarifications. I think I can get behind the peltast now.

    I somehow missed the daily limit on Elemental Infusion, sorry about that.

    Will : I received your PM, and I think that the old version seems much better for the spirits defense.

    Cain

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