Pathfinder’s Advanced Player’s Guide: Swashbuckler & Witch

As promised, today’s article will take a look at the two new Pathfinder classes I didn’t cover on Wednesday: the Swashbuckler and the Witch!

The Swashbuckler
Who doesn’t love a swashbuckler? Zorro, the Three Musketeers, Errol Flynn (er, well, his movies, anyway)–their daring feats of swordplay and quick wit have dazzled folks for decades. It’s a lovely concept to build a character around!

If there’s one word that sums up a traditional swashbuckler, it’s style, and believe me–Pathfinder Swashbucklers are chock full of it! Their definitive class feature is panache: that extra bit of flair that sets them apart from a bog-standard Fighter. In the first edition version of the class, as I recall, Swashbucklers had a pool of panache points; that’s no longer the case in second edition, however. Instead, Swashbucklers who act with the proper amount of pizzazz enter a state of panache. While in Panache Mode, they get a bevy of bonuses including increased movement speed, bonuses to certain skills, and more!

This mechanic is a bit more abstract than a lot of class abilities, as it’s basically up to the Game Master to determine when Panache Mode kicks in. There are a few specific mechanical triggers (the Tumble Through action, for instance, as well as different actions based on your specific Style), but it really encourages players to think outside the box and do crazy, fun stunts at the table. Even the specific action triggers listed encourage a more active, interesting playstyle than the traditional melee combatant tactic of “swing my sword until the other guy stops moving.”

In addition to bonuses, Panache Mode gives you access to finishers–powerful attacks that deal extra damage, inflict status effects, and more. Using a finisher takes you out of Panache Mode, giving Swashbucklers an interesting combat loop: do something cool to gain panache, fight until you’re in position to use a finisher, use it, and repeat! It’s a nice rhythm that should keep the class interesting.

I mentioned Styles earlier; these are the Swashbuckler’s big mechanical decision point (the equivalent of D&D 5E‘s subclasses). Different Styles allow you to gain panache in different ways. Battledancers gain panache through Performance; Braggarts get it by Demoralizing opponents; Fencers by successfully performing a Feint; Gymnasts by using combat maneuvers; and for those with a quick Wit, there’s the Bon Mot feat, which allows you gain panache by insulting your foes. Each Style encourages a different style of play, and they all feel perfectly suited for Swashbucklers!

There’s so much that excites me about this class. I love how it encourages a more nuanced and interesting approach to combat, and the class feat list is filled with interesting new finishers, taunts, and acrobatic tricks. It looks insanely fun to play, and it might just be my favorite class in the book–or it would be, if the fourth and final class didn’t steal the spotlight…

The Witch
The Witch is Pathfinder‘s take on my absolute favorite Dungeons & Dragons class, the Warlock. Therefore it should come as no surprise that it has swiftly become one of my favorite Pathfinder classes as well!

Witches are casters who derive their magical abilities from a patron–a mysterious being that bestows some of its power on the Witch for reasons unknown. It’s a class concept with a ton of awesome narrative potential baked right in–who is your patron? Are they good or evil? Why did they give you power? What do they want in return? It gives the Game Master so much to work with, and since I’m almost always the GM for my group, I love it when players pick classes like this!

Witches are prepared casters, like Wizards, but they don’t keep a spellbook; instead, they gain access to a familiar. A Witch familiar works more-or-less the same way as the basic familiars laid out in the Core Rulebook, with one major exception: the familiar is where the Witch stores all her spells. On top of that, Witches gain access to several class feats that allow them to buff their familiar in various ways. I’ve always been a sucker for animal companions of any kind, so getting a souped-up familiar as part of the “mysterious patron” package just makes Witches even more appealing to me!

Another cool thing about this class? It gets access to Hexes. Hexes are a type of Focus spell granted by your patron’s Theme (subclass) and Lessons (special abilities you can gain through class feats). They work like regular Focus spells, which I talked about more in-depth last week, with one exception–Witches get Hex cantrips! As the name implies, Hex cantrips are Focus spells that don’t use Focus points. I love the inventive ways this book plays with the Focus mechanic; it’s a part of the system I already adored, and seeing Paizo continue to innovate with it makes me even more excited to see this game’s future.

Witch feats are deliciously flavorful, too. My personal favorite is the Cauldron feat, which allows them to make large batches of potions; however, there’s lots of other great options, too, such as the spell-sustaining Cackle or the deadly Eldritch Nails. Basically, if you can think of a ‘wicked witch’ trope, there’s a way to emulate it with this class!

Witches take an already-interesting concept and turn it into a unique and flavorful class that’s sure to invigorate any spell-slinging player who’s sick of rolling a Wizard or Sorcerer. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a Witch ends up being the first class I roll up when I eventually join a game as a player!

New classes are always at the forefront of people’s minds when a book like the Advanced Player’s Guide rolls out, and I’m happy to say that the four inside this book are all slam dunks. Looking back over these last two posts, I think I liked each new class more than the last–an impressive feat when you’ve got something as cool as Investigator setting the bar! The four new classes alone justify the book’s cover price, but that’s not all that’s on offer; there’s new spells, new feats, new ancestries, and a ridiculous number of new archetypes. Check back next week, when I’ll dig into some of the other great options in the Advanced Player’s Guide!

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