So I downloaded and read the playtest material for Advanced Class Guide with a certain amount of glee. Several of my books disappeared in my PCS (permanent change of station) move and this had kind of dampened my spirits when it came to pathfinder lately (I'm just a hardcopy kind of guy).
So I will admit some initial dismay when I opened the document. "51 pages? Too long!" was my initial thought for something labelled 10 hybrid classes. I wanted something I could see and immediately start messing with, not a lot of new rules almost exactly like the old rules but with different names.
Which would currently be my initial complaint -- why are we reinventing the wheel so much? If it's flurry of blows just say it -- calling it a different name and rehashing the ability (in what is my opinion an awkward fashion) isn't helping anyone. If it is a hybrid let it be a hybrid and don't expect us to be surprised if the mechanics are stolen wholesale -- we are expecting it (in some cases looking forward to it)!
And this would bring me to my biggest complaint: Too many new mechanics. I think part of the success of the magus was that it introduced few new mechanics -- we had a resource pool with talent like options and spell combat. Everything else with it was pretty well standard fare.
It is my opinion that if a class is a hybrid then it doesn't really need the abilities of the old class slammed into a new format that doesn't match the old. The bloodrager is a prime example of this: Why reinvent the wheel of bloodlines? Yes they will need some adjusting (such as the bonus spells) but that doesn't mean all the abilities need readjusting. At most change the once per day abilities into a set cost in rage rounds and move on (this makes up for the severally limited spellcasting). Instead of inventing a whole host of new hexes and then railroading the class with specific spirit types add a lot of new hexes to the witch and limit selection of those by spirit type.
So on to the individual classes:
Arcanist -- This class seems a bit wordy to me but nothing too horrible. I think the mechanic for using bloodline abilities should be copied for the bloodrager. My only complaint is how many spells perpared per day the arcanist gets. I do NOT like the fact that it matches the sorcerer's spells known chart. The only other thing I didn't like is the 'fatigued if you spend all your blood focus' throw away -- really? We want people to NOT use a class ability? Instead I would suggest a slight bonus that goes away when the pool is empty. This works for the monk and the gunslinger, why not stick with it on the arcanist? As a suggestion they can only use the bloodline spells from their bloodline while they still have blood focus points.
Bloodrager -- so I love the initial concept, rage and magic. After all emotion and magic have a long and rich history together. So I'm expecting something maybe a bit like a Sith Lord or something. I was instantly disappointed in the general lack of spell casting. The ability to use bloodline powers as part of the rage made sense to me and was a great twist... but the fact that each bloodline had to suddenly be reinvented confused me. A charge mechanic or limited use per hour or something makes more sense to me than wasting the space and time trying to redo each bloodline.
Brawler -- Alright, why can't we just call a monk's spade a monk's spade and simply use the original ability names instead of all these awkward rewrites, in the words of the Tea Party, "Fix old, no New!"
Hunter -- After reading the brawler I was really too mentally tired to give a care about this class. However over all I kind of like it. Feels more like a mix between the ranger and the inquisitor, but whatever.
Investigator -- Alright, this was one I was looking forward too! I like almost everything about this -- it's smooth, a bit subtle and you can easily grasp it. My only two complaints would be I think it might get a bit too much sneak attach, and I would like to see some more of the alchemist discoveries available.
Shaman -- I WANT to like this class. However I feel that like the bloodrager it is too wordy by far. I like the spirits idea, but instead of reinventing the wheel why not list the bonus spells, the familiar bonus (I like), then a collection of revelations and hexes for each ability. It's simple, it keeps the flavor and it saves the word count.
Skald -- Meh, we have an archetype already. Don't get me wrong it's not bad (well spell kenning seems out of place... perhaps I would like it more on the bloodrager -- strike that I would LOVE something like that on the bloodrager), it just doesn't do anything for me.
Slayer -- Peculiar, but I like. Sneak attack is listed twice, I assume that's an editing error. I have to play with it some but it seems well done on first glance. The sneak attack progression might be something to visit for the investigator. This class might work well with the Nature's warden incidentally.
Swashbuckler -- Alright standard fare (I mean that in a good way) my only real disappointment was the utter lack of firearm support and any rogue talents. Sorry I know these are supposed to be two class hybrids but I'm really seeing three play into this one. Also -- come on... just a bit of firearm support... please?