Welcome back to the Dev Pit, everyone!
A few weeks ago I started a series where I analyzed Pathfinder First Edition’s classes and gave some ideas on whether or not that class should be translated to Second Edition as a new class or as an archetype. The original post covered the “Advanced” Classes from the Advanced Class Guide and Advanced Player’s Guide, and this product will cover the classes from the “Ultimate” books; Ultimate Magic, Ultimate Combat, Ultimate Wilderness, and Ultimate Intrigue.
As before, these concepts are based on what I’ve seen of Pathfinder 2E at PaizoCon 2019 and what I’ve seen of the Pathfinder Playtest. Not all of this information may remain relevant once the Core Rulebook is released in August, but this should make for a fun article regardless. Ready? Let’s go!
I mentioned this last week, so I’m going to re-mention it here—I really like the core mechanic of the gunslinger; grit. I really DON’T like classes that are hyperfocused on specific weapons, like the gunslinger and the swashbuckler (and, to a lesser extent, the samurai and cavalier, which have similar problems). So ultimately what I’m hoping for is a class that combines the two classes (gunslinger and swashbuckler) into a unified whole that builds on their shared mechanic, the grit / panache system. I’m going to call this theoretical class the daredevil for simplicity’s sake, but there are certainly better options to use. Anyway, Expanding upon this idea is grit as a class-wide extraordinary version of focus points; essentially, you have a small number of grit points and a number of nonmagical abilities that you can use by spending grit points. Every time you rest for 10 minutes, you get your grit back. While every magic-less class could have abilities tied to grit, our theoretical daredevil would be the “monk” of grit; they have the most abilities that use it and grit management is the class’s core chassis. I think that would be a cool, compelling class. (Also, merging is kind of easy considering both the swashbuckler and the gunslinger iconics are half-elf women; they were already a little too samey, and I think we can all agree that Liranne, the Iconic Gunslinger, is the more memorable of the two anyway!)
I am sure I am going to be accused of heresy when I say this, but I don’t think that the magus should exist as a class in PF2. Most of what made the magus special in PF1 isn’t relevant anymore; there’s no arcane spell failure for wearing armor anymore, so those abilities aren’t needed. Class point pools seem to be a thing of the past, so the magus’s unique resource would probably get converted into focus points if it existed. The most “magus” thing there was is spell combat, which isn’t as important under the three action system (you can still attack once and cast a spell most rounds). Magus arcana were infamously bland, so what does that leave? The pool’s ability to regain spent spell slots for points? I personally think that, given the balance of power for focus spells, that would be insanely OP in 2nd Edition. All we really have left is spell strike, so if we wanted to go that route the best option, in my personal opinion, would be to make a special magus archetype that any spellcaster who bothered to invest in weapon use could take. It would give you the magus’s spell strike and maybe some eldritch knight-like powers from First Edition. The ability to cast a spell instead of dealing crit damage / crit effects when you crit an opponent could be insanely cool. There is definitely a future where the PF2 Design Team could redesign the magus and make all of its magus arcana into cool abilities, but I don’t see that happening. The archetype answer seems much better in this regard.
I’m not entirely convinced that ninja should exist as an independent class in PF2. Personally, to me the ninja as it appears in PF 1 is basically a rogue who multiclassed into monk for the ki focus powers. Ninja could be an archetype that expanded upon that idea, adding new ninja-themed focus powers like the ability to temporarily become invisible or run across water. Along similar lines I think that any ninja ability that didn’t involve ki or supernatural powers could just as easily be transformed into feats for the monk and rogue, similarly to how we saw the barbarian and fighter share the sudden charge feats in the playtest.
The Pathfinder Playtest saw the cavalier class get converted into an archetype, and frankly I think that the samurai is in a similar boat. There just isn’t enough to this class to actually keep it separate from the fighter; they’re moderately better with traditional samurai weapons like the katana or longbow, but not better then a fighter who invested in those same weapons would be. They get a mount and the resolve class feature, which is basically their only unique power, but ultimately don’t have much zing to them. Of all the alternate classes, the samurai always felt like the most paint-by-the-numbers basic of them, and I don’t think it makes the cut to PF2 as a result. It would be neat to see a samurai archetype that leaned more in to the “sword saint” concept of samurai, since I think that has more room for interesting design then what the base samurai had.
I’m going to show my biases here, because while the shifter as it appeared in Ultimate Wilderness was essentially a basic mash-up between the druid, the monk, and the hunter, I think most people agree that said mash-up was never what they really wanted out of a shapeshifting class. As a result, I think that PF2 should absolutely have shifter as an independent class, if only because a class that focuses specifically on shapeshifting is absolutely something that deserves its own class. In PF1, the excuse for shifter not being “the best shapeshifter ever” was that wild shape eventually became the druid’s capstone. Well, in PF2, shapeshifting certainly is NOT the druid’s capstone; at best, its one option that the druid can take out of many. Personally, I’m hoping for a “shapeshifter at 1st level” class that gets to pick polymorph forms from relevant polymorph spells and simply assume them whenever they want. No daily limits, just shapeshifting. If Paizo wants, I think there’s absolutely room for something akin to an order mechanic where the shifter could choose to manifest natural weapons and style on foes that way, but in either case the shifter definitely could be its own class if it was allowed to be what people wanted out of the PF1 shifter instead of what they got.
The vigilante is an archetype, pure and simple. The easiest way to decide this is simply to look at its specializations and everything that trades them out for new abilities. Baseline, the vigilante gets to choose between being a fighter (avenger) or a rogue (stalker). They have archetypes that allow them to be sorcerers, wizards, witches, magi, summoners, barbarians, and dozens of other classes. At its core, the vigilante was a class that tried to make you feel like “ordinary civilian by day, member of an adventuring class by night”. So why bother with that when we have PF2’s archetype system? If Dual Identity was made into the dedication feat and most of the auxiliary feats were things like the ability to assume your identity faster or the “X appearance” abilities, the vigilante would end up being a fairly strong archetype for characters looking to protect their identities.
What about the social talents and the cool, unique vigilante talents they had? The majority of social talents should get turned into general feats anyone can take, especially things like renown. The vigilante talents should be dissolved and added to classes where it makes sense (especially mystic bolt, which should basically end up as either an arcane cantrip or as a sorcerer/wizard feat that gave them magic as a weapon).
And there you go! If I was in charge of porting the Ultimate Classes to PF2, this is how I would do it. This crop definitely has fewer classes I’d keep and more classes that I’d turn into archetypes, but that’s a feature, not a bug. Next week I’m going to finish up my kineticists of Tian Xia series with a samsaran build, then finish this series with Part 3: The Occult Classes, and then FINALLY get around to that Dev Pit article on character roles and how your design is affected by them. (Unless that puts me in August, in which case I might break for some PF2 Analysis articles.) So we’ll see!
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time in the Dev Pit!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.
Creative Commons Credit: Random Sketch Female Fantasy Class by tantaku