Randal Reads APG 2e: Ch 1 – Ancestries and Backgrounds (part 1)

Hello and welcome back to another special review blog! I, Randal, am your host for the next few days. Last year, at GenCon, I was unable to attend, so I filled the void that our GenCon hiatus left by posting a blog a day of my thoughts and impressions of the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook in this series. Well, a year later, and even though quarantined, I am again unable to partake in GenCon. Lucky for you, Paizo is releasing (or rather just released) the Advanced Player’s Guide during GenCon, and I thought it only fitting that I do another review to capture this milestone in the game. Again, these is my thoughts as I read the book in the context of what I think it brings to the game, or simply how much I enjoy or dislike a particular part; it is not a comparison to 1st edition. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Introduction

Hey, we gotta start somewhere. This little two page spread has less words than images, but it sets the scene. New iconics in the art, and a nice little blurb about uncommon options, their access, and a reminder that the GM can alter/wave them as they see fit. As with the Core Rulebook (CRB), I enjoyed the tables that list the ancestries and classes side by side with a quick blurb and ability score info. It makes a quick scan for ideas simple. The ancestry choices intrigue me: Catfolk, Kobold, Orc, Ratfolk, Tengu. I agree with kobold, I like tengu, I can see orc, but I was surprised by catfolk and ratfolk … not in a bad way, I simply didn’t expect them. Still a fan of the class icons. As somebody that usually plays an arcane caster (and arcanist at that), I didn’t really have much in the way of classes I would like to see besides the witch. That said, I liked the playtest options for the investigator and oracle, but didn’t get much time in with the swashbuckler; thought I see the draw and have high hopes. I have a (homebrew) Kobold in play now, a (playtest) Oracle in play now, and a Witch I wanna convert to 2e … so let’s see what this book has to offer me on all those fronts!

Chapter 1 – Ancestries and Backgrounds

The chapter starts off with an almost drool-worthy list of things to come. Ok, maybe I have been waiting too long for this book. Ancestries (the already mentioned Catfolk, Kobolds, Orcs, Ratfolk, and Tengu) are the main attraction, but honestly, I think I am more excited to read about how they do Versatile Heritages … not to be confused with the *ahem* Human Versatile Heritage. These heritages can be taken by any ancestry as a way of showing that you have something “else” in your blood, and they come out the gate swinging with Changelings, Dhampirs, Aasimar, Duskwalkers, and Tieflings. I mean, we knew Aasimar and Tiefling were coming, but I think they made good choices for the others … especially when you consider combinations like Changeling Witch. The list finishes by telling us that there are more new heritages and ancestry feats for the core classes (always welcome) as well as more backgrounds … and the introduction of rare backgrounds. The sidebar once again does a good job of pointing out that ancestries, heritages, and backgrounds have rarity for the sake of setting and balance should you wish to follow along with Golarion as written (my words, not theirs), but that GMs are in control of using them … or not.

Catfolk

  • Clawed Catfolk – unarmed slashing damage
  • Hunting Catfolk – scent
  • Jungle Catfolk – ignore difficult
  • Nine Lives Catfolk – no dying 2 from crits
  • Winter Catfolk – cold environment resistance

Ok, I get it now, catfolk are here to pair with Swashbuckler so we can all play Puss n Boots! Seriously, though, by the time I got through to the heritages, I enjoyed the background information on the amurruns, as they call themselves. They have low-light vision and always land on their feet … so they already have something worth playing over a human. Looking through the heritages found here, they seem to do well to provide a balance of options. Winter is the same as any other cold/hot themed heritage, and honestly, at this point, there should really just be versatile heritages for cold/hot environment adaptation. Jungle seems weakest, but if you play in the forest/jungle often then it might be very strong. Nine Lives is nice if dice hate you, which leaves me probably choosing between claws or scent … and I think I would usually go scent. The feats seemed to be spread out about how I expected, based on the CRB’s variety of ancestry feats. Lore, Weapon Familiarity, something about luck at every level, with a few interesting ones. Shared Luck … let allies reroll a failed reflex from a fireball. Caterwaul … bring an ally back from 0 hp. 5th level was the winner here, letting you choose between raking, climbing, sneaking, jumping … lots of options, most all of them useful.

Kobold

  • Cavern Kobold – rock climbing, tunnel squeezing
  • Dragonscaled Kobold – elemental resistance
  • Spellscale Kobold – arcane cantrip
  • Strongjaw Kobold – bite attack
  • Venomtail Kobold – tail toxin

I have been fascinated with Kobolds since I first played DnD in the later 90s. Recently, I wrote my own homebrew Kobold ancestry for an Age of Ashes game, and it looks like I wasn’t too far off the mark. I like that they mention leadership as a sorcerer or true dragon … no longer do they simply wish to be related to dragons, they are! Darkvision and 6 HP are no surprise, nor is choosing a Draconic Exemplar to represent your coloration and powers as the manifest and grow. The heritages felt on point to me as I read them and found what I expected to find … and then Venomtail Kobolds came outta left field for me. They can generate venom that they can coat a weapon with (once per day) for poison damage *equal to your level* … but dice can make or break that option. The feats really fit the flavor I was hoping for with Kobolds. From deceptive tactics to in your face confidence (that can backfire!), from scampering to snares, and from lore to BREATH WEAPONS … yeah, breath weapon at first level. I know what my Maroon’s (my Age of Ashes PC) rebuild includes at 1st level! As you level, you continue to see deception, snare, magic, and breath weapon improvements. I am pretty sure I am now also building a PFS Kobold with some of my GM credits from KD Societous.


Tune in tomorrow for more of Chapter 1 – Orc, Ratfolk, Tengu, and more!
And, as always, please join us at our Discord server https://discord.gg/Rt79BAj to let me know what you think or simply have a chat!

Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him vast amounts of ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, playing with his kids, bowling, or running a PF campaign, Randal is likely writing some new mobile web app (http://halfmugtavern.blog) to enhance the experience of playing Pathfinder!