In true open gaming form, Paizo has put out all six new classes that are going into their Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide for comment. You can download them for free:
In my opinion, Paizo has knocked another one out of the park. I was prepared to be underwhelmed – most new non-core classes in D&D 3.5e were clearly just there to be weird collections of rules and not represent meaningful iconic archetypes. “Ooo ooo, I’ve always wanted to be a Hulking Hurler!” “And I always wanted to be a Master of the Unseen Hand! Or maybe a Spellwarp Sniper!” It feels like you may as well just say “DURRRR” out loud after announcing your chosen class.
The Cavalier is the prototypical knight. He belongs to a specific knightly order, takes oaths, challenges enemies, and has a mighty mount. Trap avoided: making the class *too* dependent on mounted combat. Remaining weak point: the oaths are kinda lame in implementation and the knightly orders fall into that weird “made kinda generic but still hard to fit into your campaign world” area.
The Oracle is filled with divine force, but less from a specific deity and more of a powerful archetype. Besides clerical spells, the oracle gets powers appropriate to their divine focus, and suffer from a curse like being haunted, blind, or lame – but the curse turns into powers of its own with level! Trap avoided: when I read the class name I thought, “Ah, a lame diviner class suitable for NPCs.” Remaining weak point: the curses are the main thing that seems different about the Oracle and her foci from a normal cleric and her domains; a focus feels just kinda like a “double strength domain.”
The Summoner is what we call a “pet class.” He has a persistent customizable critter called an eidolon; plus he can summon monsters pretty well and toss other conjurations and enchantments off a custom spell list. It’s the first time D&D has really been able to do the “Pokemon Master” or “WoW Warlock” thing effectively. Trap avoided: this class already got nerfed from the playtest doc where he could cast a large number of 1 minute/level Summon Monster SLAs and could easily boost his eidolon’s AC to the 50s without breaking a sweat. Remaining weak point: The eidolon rules are complicated and probably open to a lot of exploits. And why the hell does he have d8 HD and decent BAB?
The Witch is the most witchy witch class in the history of D&D witch classes. It’s brilliant. It can cast hexes, have a cauldron, join a coven, cackle, lay the evil eye on you… And she learns spells (off a custom spell list that has enchants, conjures, and even heals) from her familiar. Trap avoided: being lame. Remaining weak point: the covens are weak and should be more interesting, but that’s a minor nit in an otherwise very nicely designed class.
The Alchemist makes potion-like extracts made from formulae, bombs, and self-transforming mutagens. Very flavorful – taking some of the alchemist schtick (like the bomb throwing) from WoW and other computer games. They had to cop out a little to explain the limited number of uses in a day – the concoctions are powered by the alchemist’s “magical aura,” so if you’re looking for the scientific angle here you’re out of luck. Trap avoided: being godawful complicated like the Artificer from Eberron. Remaining weak point: They don’t get many bombs per day and their extracts and mutagens are pretty weak otherwise – I think they’ll have trouble being useful over the adventuring day. The mutagens do physical boosts, but it’s not going to sufficiently make up for the BAB/HD discrepancy and turn them into a useful fighter even for the limited duration.
The Inquisitor brings to mind Warhammer 40k, but upon reading it… This class is an odd mishmash. It has a cleric’s HD and BAB and invokes judgements upon the naughty; it has a little ranger to it in the “vampire hunter” kind of vein. But then it gets tactical/teamwork feats. I’m not really sure what it is trying to be – a paladin of any alignment? A Buffy? A marshal? Mostly a Buffy I think. Trap avoided: none. Remaining weak point: falling too close to what other classes are or can do. I’d think you could build something like this as a cleric/ranger or pally/ranger.
Anyway, I think they’ve done a great job of taking truly iconic mythical archetypes and making them solid playable classes. Check them out yourself!