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I think most DMs would let you use the ship as a community for the purposes of Renown, but by the rules your renown-based abilities would only apply to the ship, not to whatever port the ship happened to be docked in, any more than having a small neighborhood as one of your communities would let your renown abilities apply to the entire city the neighborhood is in.
I'm not the first one to suggest that the Vigilante's dual identity stuff feels like it should be a series of feats or something instead of a class feature, but I feel like the status quo makes the Vigilante's dual identity feature pretty worthless on an NPC, assuming that you have mechanics-savvy players. Basically, as soon as an NPC Vigilante does something mechanically that makes it clear that they're a member of the Vigilante class (or likely a member of the Vigilante class), the gig is up, assuming that your players recognize it. The players can avoid metagaming by having their characters act like they don't know, but the surprise is still spoiled for the players, and I feel like avoiding acting on knowledge when it comes to major plot things is kind of unsatisfying (and pretty much impossible to do perfectly).
Alternately, the DM can carefully have the NPC dance around doing anything that suggests they might be a Vigilante, but for most specializations that means ignoring a lot of what's cool about the class.
In this regard, I feel like the Vigilante is fundamentally misconceived as a class, at least in terms of being an antagonistic NPC. As soon as the players can tell that the bad guy is a vigilante, it tells them that someone else - probably someone else they know or will meet (otherwise why have the character be a vigilante?) - is the same character, and given what the social identity is capable of, that usually narrows down the options considerably. That's a potentially huge campaign spoiler given away by the nature of the class design.
If the Dual Identity features were instead a feat chain, that would solve this almost entirely. The NPC antagonist wouldn't have to avoid using class features in order to avoid giving away that they have a dual identity, because they have the same class features as their base class. They'd be down a feat or two, but "this NPC has a few feats unaccounted for" is virtually impossible for the players to detect.
Ironically, this makes the Vigilante perhaps the single worst class in the game for an NPC that's supposed to have two identities, assuming you have reasonably mechanically savvy players, because it's the only class that tells the players "I have two identities." If you want to have a two-identities NPC antagonist, you're much better off making them literally any other class and then using PF's pretty extensive array of identity-shielding items and mechanics to paper over the differences.
I haven't been following the playtest super closely, so maybe this a known issue with a good solution already proposed, but as it is it seems like it's a pretty serious flaw.
I very much like the Vigilante talents, and I think the four-subclasses structure is fine, but having the other class features be huge tells regarding Dual Identity mostly spoils the class as a class for NPC baddies.
Ignoring things that are easy to houserule (which probably aren't worth the hassle of a new edition) and things that would just be clarifications (which don't require a new anything at all), while still having something Pathfindery, I'd want the following. Note that my perspective is heavily tainted by being someone who teaches people to play on the reg:
- A simple(ish), resonant spellcaster class in core, or probably two. I don't care if Vancian and pseudo-vancian spellcasters are also around, but they're both very complicated and they don't work remotely like how anybody thinks of magic as working. I get that they're part of the game and stuff, and that's why I'm okay with them remaining - but I think that there should be options that are easier to hand to somebody that's totally new to the game, and options that better model how people think of spellcasting as working if they haven't been playing D&D forever. This would also make it way easier to make NPC spellcasters (I basically never make NPC spellcasters 'properly' any more, since it's too much of a hassle for what it gets you.)
Based on my exploration of the many threads, and the hatred that others reigned down upon the threads that i have posted it is obvious that the reason (or so it seems) that many of the people on here play is because they see it as a "battle of math"? Or so it seems. I feel many people forget that it is a Role Playing Game. Reminder this is all opinion. But i don't see how you can have a lot of fun when constantly running the numbers of how effective your character will be in every situation. Also i feel people rely to much on their spells, all that has to happen is for a wizard to lose the ability to cast and they are as good as dead, you have to have other classes, i feel other people do not realize that. Again all just opinion. Remember everyone RPG!! not Math Wars
That's not correct. What's actually going on is that people prefer the idea of characters being able to work as advertised and to actually be good at the things that they're supposed to be good at to the idea that some characters are less capable of overcoming standard adventuring challenges for no reason. An important part of playing the game for a lot of people is that the actual repercussions of their actions synch up with the character concept, and that if a character invests in being good at something, that should pay off.
In other words, people want a world where the math works well AND the RP stuff works well. If people didn't care about RP stuff, there are hundreds of non-RPG games with better "math" that they could be playing. People like the idea of both working better than the idea of only one working. Why settle?
I feel like the same set of conflations and crosstalk happen in most of these threads.
The rogue IS NOT strictly dominated - There technically exist (narrow and convoluted) sets of priorities where the rogue is technically the best way to get those things.
That's purely a DM call. It's not unreasonable to assume that it might:
- Do nothing
It's not feasible for the game to specifically define the interactions between every possible pair of obscure game elements, so it's really up to the DM.
You can always try attacking an empty square under the belief that there's an invisible enemy there, but that doesn't help with great cleave, since that requires you to actually hit the thing you're attacking.
I think that you're marginally better off from a rules perspective attacking the ground than attacking the air, since there are at least rules for targeting and attacking solid objects. You still have to justify that the ground counts as a 'foe' - that's the word that the feat actually uses - but at least it's a specific targetable object.
Orfamay Quest wrote:
In my experience, there's a huge amount of table variation between theoretical caster flexibility and how much flexibility casters actually display. Many spellcasters simply don't have a big pile of scrolls lying around in order to flawlessly handle the wide array of situations that it would let them handle. I don't think that character options should necessarily be balanced around characters being played significantly below potential, but it definitely explains differences in people's real-world evaluation of the value of skills.
On the rogue thing, blame 3.5. PF inherited its structural issues from there. Ignoring odd (and clearly not-designed-around) splash-weapon builds and stuff, the rogue actually got a TON of sweet stuff in PF - nearly-feat-equivalent goodies every other level and expanded SA targeting - but the class was in such a deep, deep, massive hole coming out of 3.5 that giving it a little boost didn't get it above water. (There's also been some niche-erosion, but that's a good thing; it shouldn't be the case that there's a bad class that serves as a tax the party has to pay because it's the only way to get some important feature.)
Fighter issue is separate. It hasn't gotten the help that most other classes have because there's fewer natural extension points for boosting the fighter - basically just fighter archetypes and things that explicitly say "fighters only!" on them. When you're schtick is that you're only allowed to do things if everybody is allowed to do them, it's easy to get outpaced.
Having lots of skill points is a thing the rogue does. To me, taking an Int penalty is like making a barbarian with a Str penalty - you have a full BAB, so you can have a little penalty and it doesn't matter. Skills are what the rogue does.
This seems to be the core of your inability to get why int isn't any better for a rogue than for any other class. The skill points:rogue::attack bonus:barbarian analogy isn't a valid one because having additional skill points when you already have a lot of skill points isn't the same as having additional attack when you already have a lot of attack bonus.
The reason is that because barbarians have a naturally high BAB, taking a specific action - attacking - is a good option for them. So it makes sense to further invest into attacking.
Taking a stat that gives you extra skill points doesn't "stack" with something you're already doing. In fact, by divesting away from things like Dex, you're making yourself worse at things that the party would otherwise be relying on you for.
Short version: Str makes a barbarian better at what they're doing anyway. Int makes a rogue worse at what they're doing anyway. (Because "skills" isn't a thing. It's a bunch of things.)
You are getting a little extra versatility out of the int... but only three skill points worth, which is no more than a barbarian or a sorcerer or any other class would get out of 16 int. Do you suggest that a barbarian should always take 16 int, since getting just three skill points out of it is apparently worth that investment?
You're also still confusing "class that benefits from having extra skill points more than most classes do" - which the rogue is emphatically not and "class that has a high base number of skill points", which the rogue actually is. An extra skill point on a rogue is not worth any more than an extra skill point on any other class.
Some portion of your position does seem to be based around the idea that rogues are SO helpless at combat that you should give up on that completely and basically just make an Expert, but I don't think that rogues are so bad at combat that you should make the severe sacrifice of having your party fight a man down just so that the party has access to another +X worth of appraise.
Because a skill point on a rogue isn't really worth any more than a skill point on anybody else. A skill point on a rogue is worth one skill point per level. A skill point on anybody else is worth one skill point per level. If you wouldn't always start with a 16 on EVERY class, you shouldn't start with it on a rogue. In fact, once you already have a bunch of skill points/level, additional ones are LESS valuable, because your 13th-pick skill is way less important than your third-pick skill. Rogues are able to dump Int harder than every other class because they need it for nothing, and are sacrificing their eighth-most-important skill by doing that, instead of their second-most-important or fourth-most-important, like most classes are. Int is a dump stat on rogues. Rogues are NOT good at skills. They have zero advantages to using skills aside from perception and disable device, which they can easily afford even with six or seven skill points per level. Bards are good at skills; they get actual advantages to having skill points in things. Rogues don't. A rouge's skill point is no more valuable than anybody else's, and may be less.
It is the case that some skills complement each other when they're on the same character, but not to a degree that you need twelve skill ranks per level. Rogues have zero advantages to having decent int scores that aren't available to EVERY class. Zero.
Calling the rogue "a class whose main thing is skill points" collapses two different ideas - "a class that gets a lot of skill points" and "a class that gets more advantages from having skill points than other classes" - into the same idea. The rogue is the first one. It's not meaningfully the second. And that's why Int is a dump stat for rogues. (You certainly CAN build and play a rogue character with 16 Int, just like you could build and play a wizard with 20 Cha, and you might have fun with that, but it's not an efficiently built character.)
Also, if you're starting with the assumption that it's worthwhile to trash a character just to get a large number of skill points... bards STILL end up being better at that. (And unlike rouges, a skill point on a bard is actually worth a bit more than a skill point on a fighter.)
The trouble that Tower Shield specialists run into in my experience, both as someone trying to make the character type work for myself and as someone whose DM'd for people trying the same, is how to manage to do much of anything aside from being an unhittable guy occupying a square. This is especially critical as you go on, since unhittable AC becomes less and less valuable as you level and enemy threats diversify. Even though the archetype is literally make for Tower Shield users, I'm not totally sold on Tower Shield Specialist for that reason; it's boss at making you even more unhittable, and gives you a nice hedge against enemy threat diversity by protecting you from touch spells (well, giving you +4 vs. touch spells), but its sole contribution to making you an offensive threat is that it gives you +2 to hit at level five, which puts you back at base BAB. That's actually not bad, but you're still in a hole offensively compared to anybody with a normal shield. Being the offensive equivalent of an NPC warrior using a one-handed weapon in one hand doesn't make you a credible threat. Counterintuitively, I think that Tower Shield users need to focus all of their resources on offense, for whatever particular class combination that means taking. You're already not meaningfully threatened by things that target AC; you want to be spreading out your goodness from there.
Note that tower shield characters (any character that sacrifices offensive power for AC, really) are quite good at level one or two, when enemies have typically very few HP to cut through and mostly target your AC, and individual choices you make won't change that. You're looking to plan for the long haul in terms of what your character will do in situations where having really high AC isn't enough on its own.
When they were putting together UE, they specifically asked for feedback, and people told them that they needed to explain better what they intended for the rules for some of the more obscure and complicated weapons to be. That a weapon chart should be rules for playing the game, and not just a record of the general existence of every weapon ever used by any culture ever. They didn't do that, and instead just reprinted the text for things like that verbatim, in the same unclear form that it had been printed in before.
That something is a monk weapon is the one clear thing about it; status as a monk is unrelated to whether monks are proficient in something. It's an arguably-misleadingly-named weapon property that means that you can flurry with the weapon.
Pathfinder is a game that supposes that a properly designed holy water sprinkler or ladder can be used as weapons with no real trouble or penalties compared to similarly-sized and shaped things that are actual weapons. I would definitely not pile on a bunch of penalties for a sword just because it's made out of wood, assuming that it had been designed as a wooden sword. A wooden sword is definitely more obviously practical (and, uh, real) than a third of the things on the PF weapon list to begin with.
Not all metagaming is bad for the game. In fact, good metagaming is incredibly important. However, "metagaming" has a negative connotation for a lot of people, so people usually don't refer to good metagaming as metagaming.
(As a note, PF Open Minded works differently, to avoid being as powerful in concert with how class skills work.)
Either way, the reason that that doesn't work out right is that even if Open Minded (3.5 version) is worth a feat, it's not worth as much as your best possible feat choice. Imagine that you gave a character a choice, A or B.
A) 3.5 Open Minded
Obviously, pretty much every character would choose B, especially past level 1. And when you let somebody trade five skill points for a feat, that's exactly the choice that you're offering them. They can have five skill points, or they can have a feat. If Open Minded was such a good feat that every character was strongly considering taking it, then the trade would be fair. Otherwise, not so much.
The Temple of Abadar in most towns ensures that all merchandise and transactions are handled fairly, via certification and surprise inspections.
That's basically how I run things. Selling somebody a magic item that doesn't work right or that's cursed or something is not only fraud, it's negligent. If somebody's magic item stops working (or never works) in an emergency, they could die.
I'd also like to think that in very lawful societies, not only would the sellers of certain magical items be vetted, but the buyers might as well. A crook with a magical weapon is much more likely to kill one or two town guards trying to apprehend him or her than one without one, and many magic spells can be used for criminal or violent ends.
It's 100% fine. Is it possible that there's a few things in there that you can smoosh together with some other stuff and make something that looks a little unfair? Probably. But it's completely fine. If the question is "Is it too powerful for Pathfinder games?", at least. If the question is "Will it further marginalize already marginal classes?", then the answer is also "yes", but there's a huuuuuuge amount of ground between "things that would further marginalize marginal classes" and "too powerful for Pathfinder games."
I don't think that anybody "owes" the party anything, but it never hurts to tell the group what to expect, especially if you're planning on not filling a party function that your character class is known for generally filling. Additionally, if you're planning on making choices that severely hamper what a character of your chosen class can contribute, I think it's good policy to make sure that the group is okay with carrying you a little bit.
The one exception is that I do think, barring clearance from the rest of the group, that characters do have a responsibility to not be actively deleterious to the rest of the group. An alchemist doesn't owe it to the group to take Precise Bombs, but they do owe to the group to either take precise bombs or be judicious with bomb use such that they don't catch allies in the area of effect. There's certainly some gray area, especially when you get into the realm of chaotic effects, but in general I do think that you need clearance from the group before you go ahead with a character that plans to sometimes cause active harm to the party.
The Shining Fool wrote:
My favorite response to the thread so far has been Scavion's, as I feel it most clearly answers the dilemma of "fixing the rogue" without "losing identity" (wraithstrike later suggested much the same thing, so I'll give him virtual points too, as do Wraithkin and Joyd for further defining what "better talents" would mean). I've appreciated a lot of the comments, whether or not I agreed with them, but I think that his most cleanly stayed within those limits. For instance, while I think Umbiere and Rynjin's posts were excellent, Umbriere seems (to me) to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater and Rynjin seemed to simply be eloquently arguing for the desire for a fix, without a clear statement of how.
Basically, how I feel about options that give you a specialization in something relatively narrow is that if a player is selecting one of those, the game might as well go all the way and really make them an all-star at that thing. The game doesn't fall apart if somebody is so awesome at climbing that they all but auto-succeed at all but the craziest climbing tasks, and I don't think that that ability has to be pushed off until the contending-with-gods tier of play, a point at which mundane climbing is basically a nonfactor anyway in all but the most exceptional circumstances. Right now, a rogue who wants to can take a skill and spend three talents to be... kinda good at climbing. That's not awesome. Climbing is not such a gamebreaker that we can't let somebody who wants to be a total climbing badass just be a total climbing badass. What's the worst thing that can happen? They use their awesome climbing ability to do something totally awesome and effective? Great! They should be able to do that! If somebody wants to specialize in climbing for whatever reason, then any problem that even might be something that climbing is a good solution for should be something that the party looks to the guy who took a climbing-related character option for.
It's trivial to show that it's not the general case that taking away an option can never create more fun. Imagine that there is a class called the Savant. Savants are basically like Rangers in every way, except that they have an ability called "Solution", which they can use at will. Solution instantly solves any problem, defeats any enemies, and flawlessly deals with any problem with no chance of failure and no drawbacks. It's pretty obvious that "Solution" is an ability that makes the class less fun, because its existence makes it the answer to every question. Character options that are too universally applicable and reliable can indeed make a class less fun.
Now, no class in Pathfinder has an ability that's anywhere close to Solution, but having more limited options can absolutely be more fun, as it forces creativity. When you can produce almost any effect, it's not nearly as great of a creative challenge as when you can produce a more limited range of effects. There's a floor on things too, of course; if you can't produce any interesting effects, that's generally less fun too, which is why the commoner class isn't all that fun. The middle ground is extremely wide, but I wouldn't call somebody crazy if they said that certain classes are above or below the idea range, at least by a little bit.
Assuming that the goal is to pull the rogue up to the level of the lowish-middle point of the system where lots of classes live, I feel like the obvious low-hanging fruit in terms of "what should the rogue do that makes it better without hurting its flavor" is "the stuff it's already doing, but better, earlier, and more reliably."
The one thing that the rouge could do that it doesn't already do is be good at skills. Right now, as written, the rogue isn't really good at skills. The rogue gets a lot of skill points, but a skill point on a rogue isn't any more valuable than a skill point on anybody else. At best, the rogue can manage skill diversity, and even there it loses to the Bard and eventually to the Wizard and Witch, and that's ignoring the vast quantities of options that many classes have that circumvent the skill system entirely, or give bonuses to skill use that the rogue can't match.
The rogue is actually advantaged at only one two skills, and only subsets of them - Perception and Disable Device, and one of those is just a flat bonus. The rogue DOES have lots of options to be actually advantaged at skills through various rogue tricks, but the majority of the options presented are sufficiently niche, narrow, or minor enough that they're not widely considered good options.
One option for giving rogues a little bit of a boost and making them actually skill badasses would be to simply cram together packages of related rogue tricks, and maybe beef them up even further from there if they're still borderline. Make a giant awesome "Smooth Talker" trick that gives the rogue tons of quantitative and qualitative benefits, enough so that any rogue that takes it is clearly the party's talk guy, not the Sorcerer. You don't have to make everything or anything pseudo-magic or even legendary-epic; solid, reliable, and flexible go a long way on their own.
Like, let's punch up a weaksauce rogue talent:
Guileful Polyglot (Ex)
That's what it says now. That's pretty weak. It's worth substantially less than four skill points, since it gives you just part of the benefit of having four ranks in linguistics. Let's punch that up.
Badass Guileful Polyglot Archlinguist Cryptophilology(Ex)
Okay, so maybe the last ability is a little silly, but whatever. The point is, that ability, even with all of the stuff I threw in there, isn't terribly strong - it's mostly duplicated by a few low-level spells - but it's something that actually makes the character legitimately good-ish at things. I wanted to throw a permanent free Read Magic effect in there, but I wanted to avoid anything that seemed at all magical. If you give rogues a bunch of options like that, then they start to be the actual go-to guys for getting stuff done, instead of always magic or someone else who has the skill and a higher stat to boot.
DPR is the most reasonable way to measure a rogue's contribution specifically to combat, since the class doesn't have any clean avenues to contributing in any other fashion aside from Any Warm Body stuff like holding the light or something. It's a relatively fragile class without good access to tricks.
Out-of-combat comparisons might flatter the rogue a little more, but it's still cleanly in the lower half. I feel as though this thread has a fair bit of handwaviness regarding a rogues skill advantages, as though its traditional label as a "skillsy" class lets it go without saying that the rogue has exceptional out-of-combat utility, rather than merely modest.
I feel as though an assertion that rogues are justified on the grounds that they have "flavor" doesn't really mean much, unless someone's willing to argue that they have way more flavor than other classes. "A player can have fun with a rogue with ROLEPLAYING" is trivially true, and it's trivially true of any class, and isn't really what anybody is debating. If anything, the rogue's general hopelessness and tendency to be outclassed hurts the flavor, since that's not something that's consistent with the archetype. Finally, even if the rogue is, by whoever's standards, substantially more flavorful than other classes, that's so totally orthogonal to the class's power level as to be essentially irrelevant, unless someone is willing to advance the argument that being a basement-tier class outflanked on all sides at the stuff it's supposed to be good at is contributing to the flavor. Why not a class that has "flavor" AND is more mechanically on-par with the rest of the system.
I struggle to think of things that have all of the following properties:
1) Are clearly martial or nearly-martial (meaning that it's something that you can imagine a nonmagical character doing, perhaps with a bit of poetic license.)
Like, take jumping really far. I'm pretty comfortable calling that a mostly-martial trick. It's appropriate for a range of martial characters; it doesn't require a specific story about what the character is like, just that they're athletic. It's sort of interesting, and occasionally adventure-relevant. But is it still that way at level fifteen, outside of atypical campaigns? At the risk of turning this into an "OMG anticaster spellcaster haters i see you're agenda you just hate wizersd" thread, it's tough to carve out a niche for awesome out-of-combat things for non-magic types to do in a system that makes spellcasters stronger than most fictional spellcasters starting at very low levels and ramps up hard from there.
As soon as there's at least one other person in the party who's primary combat action is to hit people, Bard becomes a really good damage class, even before you factor in the benefits of their spellcasting. (Plus they're far and away the best skills class in the game, leaving the other high-skill classes - rogue, ninja, wizard, witch, ranger, summoner, inquisitor - totally in the dust, at least until very high levels.)
Vivianne Laflamme wrote:
Being less conservative with things like that does feel like the low-hanging fruit of giving martial classes a hand. I'd like to think that the sorts of things represented by the combat maneuvers aren't too outlandish for most people's sense of verisimilitude, but they're still things that require extensive investment for a character to even be adequate at.
I sort of wish they'd just cut the Gordian knot and pull the Int 13 requirement off of all of that stuff. It's not a comprehensive solution for martial classes in general, of course, but it's a pretty big albatross around the neck of that corner of the game rules. The designers know this, which is why there's so many character options that go out of their way to very specifically let your circumvent that unfortunate bit of rules design. I appreciate where the Int 13 requirement's heart is - it gives classes that otherwise dump Int hard a reason to consider it - but it plays out pretty poorly in practice. It's also weird from a flavor perspective; you have to be more intelligent than most of the population in order to be able to trip somebody without being a total boob about it, and no matter how good you are at fighting, you're still going to be sort of inept at tripping people? It's also wearisome because it's not like it's a systemic philosophy that specialist options require substantial investment in dump stats; Augment Summoning doesn't require 13 Strength.
I feel like the same set of conflations and crosstalk happen in most of these threads.
The rogue IS NOT strictly dominated - There technically exist (narrow and convoluted) sets of priorities where the rogue is technically the best way to get those things.
Completely nuking a character option from orbit is the safest way to balance it, if you feel that it's an unbalanced option. If you just try to edge it in a little and you don't go far enough, then you're stuck with another round of errata and then confusion sort of starts to pile up. It might be a dead feat now, but most feats are dead feats.
Conjuration and Transmutation tend to get more stuff - and stuff from everywhere - because they have both effect-based definitions AND thematics-based definitions that cover extremely broad things. (Making something and changing something.)
Abjuration has a purely effect-based definition. Almost nothing gets to be abjuration because of its thematics. This means that Abjuration ends up with a narrow and often-borrowed-from slice.
Enchantment has two primarily functional definitions. Its defensive definition is bit into heavily from all sides, and its offensive definition is to a lesser degree. It has little thematic definition outside of its connection to mind-affecting effects.
Evocation has both thematic (making energy-stuff) and functional (hurting people) definitions, but doesn't hold onto those things very exclusively, so lots of other schools (especially conjuration) bite into them heavily.
Divination has a mostly thematic definition, but has a strong-but-narrow functional hold over spells that specifically grant extrasensory perception.
Illusion has a pretty strong but pretty narrow functional definition and a pretty strong but pretty narrow thematic definition.
Necromancy has very little in the way of a functional definition, aside from the very narrow realm of spells that literally create undead creatures. It's mostly thematically defined, and with a thematic that's not the most obvious thematic for most effects.
It's the blur of functional and thematic definitions and the degree to which different schools seem to have exclusive hold over them that leads to general blurriness about what what school spells should be in. For a very large number of the spell effects in the game, it's relatively easy to think of a way that that might be accomplished by creating, changing, or moving matter or energy of some kind, which is why tons of stuff ends up in Conjuration or Transmutation. Abjuration, which has no thematics of its own, doesn't really end up with many effects outside of what you might think of as typical effects for the school, since it's purely functionally defined.
Because the thematic definitions exist, it becomes super easy to fit a lot of basic effects into tons of different schools. For example, consider a spell that gives you +4 AC for some amount of time. Is it:
An abjuration spell that grants magical protection?
Some of those are greater stretches than others, but all of them are reasonable implementations of an AC-boosting spell, and in fact all are very similar to effects that already exist within the system, although some are implemented in different ways. (The Divination power is based on the 3.5 Psion power Defensive Precognition.)
I think a good measure of general optimization is the degree to which a character helps a typical diversified party overcome standard adventuring challenges.
Being useful in overcoming common challenges is more important than being useful in overcoming uncommon challenges, and it's important to be useful in challenges where everyone naturally participates, like combat or noticing stuff. (Being merely okay at disarming traps is not much more useful than being totally helpless at it, because that's typically a solo activity undertaken by whoever's the best at it, with others providing aid at best.)
I think that breaking it down too far runs the risk of being misleading, but I'd be willing to commit to at least the following:
1) An optimized character has something useful and powerful to do with their combat actions. Often this is damage, but it can also come in the form of preventing incoming damage (and control) through control (tripping, Sleep, etc.) or virtual damage in the form of in-combat buffs (largely the purview of the bard). Being able to do several possible useful things depending on tactical necessity is better than only being able to do one useful thing.
2) An optimized character can succeed as reliably as possible on whatever individual-focused tasks the party is relying on him or her for.
3) An optimized character minimizes glaring weaknesses that require extra expenditures of party resources or put the character or the party at risk. Being super fragile is an example.
Optimization is always campaign-dependent; it's useful when comparing things in a vacuum to be able to think about "standard adventuring challenges", but the nature of a campaign and a DM's style can wildly affect what's good.
Finally, it's important for a character to be optimized for their player! A character that's super complicated isn't an optimized for a player who doesn't want to focus on their thirty-five different fiddly abilities, because they're not going to care to play the character effectively. A build that requires taking a lot of risks isn't optimal in the hands of a conservative player. Any build that a player doesn't find fun, that focuses on things that the player doesn't enjoy, that sidesteps things the player does enjoy, or that the player doesn't feel real ownership of isn't one that a player is going to want to play to the strengths of - which makes it worse. Having fun really is a part of optimization!
The power level is more or less balanced enough to use as they are right now (assuming you're not talking about advanced firearms), but as others in the thread have said, if you get rid of targeting touch AC you should wildly improve them in other ways. Dropping the ability to target touch AC from up close makes guns bad crossbows, and crossbows are already really bad.
Honestly, if you're worried about what effect gunslingers will have on your game, just allow them with the explicit proviso that you're a little bit nervous about them and you know that they have an uneven reputation, so you're reserving the right to reevalute. (And don't use the advanced firearms - those explicitly represent the level of technology where firearms largely do replace conventional weapons.) Most of extreme cases mentioned in this thread involve doing things like juggling a pair of guns around between both of your hands and your prehensile tail many times every round, and without niche craziness like that, gunslingers (which already can't do much besides damage) are even more completely in-band. That gunslingers with a highly specific setup are capable of making a very large number of attacks every round is not strong evidence that firearms or gunslingers are problematic for general use, even when generally optimized otherwise.
To whatever extent 3.5's general system math was actually designed (it kind of seems like it feel from the sky), Touch AC wasn't designed as the thing being targeted by every one of your attacks. Doing that isn't intrinsically too powerful - not even close - but it makes the Gunslinger wildly insensitive to CR compared to other fighty classes. Most fighty classes deal with two additional difficulties against higher CR monsters - they have more HP to burn though, and they have higher AC. Gunslingers ignore AC, so higher-CR monsters are only scaling on one axis against them instead of two. This leads to unexpected results a lot of the time. The world is used to the idea that spellcasters trivially one-shot single powerful monsters (like gunslingers, they only have to deal with one axis of scaling, since they ignore HP), but a more CR-insensitive fighty class is less familiar. A gunslinger is certainly less powerful than a spellcaster (they have an better chance of doing lots of damage to an otherwise difficult-to-hit foe, but that's basically all they have going on), but it fits in the system math in a super weird way.
Gunslingers tend to actually shine harder the more optimized a party is. Optimized parties require the DM to throw more difficult encounters at a party to challenge them, but the Gunslinger class isn't much worse against harder monsters than against easier monsters.
EDIT: The gunslinger class and the emerging firearms rules are the "only the gunslinger is really reasonable with a gun" rules. The advanced firearms rules are the "firearms are a reasonable weapon for everybody" rules. Gunslinger + Advanced Firearms IS more powerful than the rest of the martial combat ecosystem.
I agree that they're supposed to be capable ranged characters. They're supposed to be capable at either, and they are. (Not incredible, but capable.) Nothing I said was intended to imply in any way that inquisitors are supposed to be only one or only the other. The repeating crossbow is just a cute trinket text choice for thematics.
To be good with a bow, an inquisitor does in fact have to put pretty much every feat they have into it. The game rewards the inquisitor for doing that through the fact that bows reliably make a ton of attacks, which is a good combination with having a hefty damage bonus to your attacks, which inquisitors do.
After two drinks, he might be sickened. Sickened isn't vomiting your eyeballs out. It's -2 to most d20 rolls and to damage. That's it. That maybe does make an average person a little bit of a lightweight, but -2 on skill checks (a one-in-ten chance of failing something moderately difficult as a result of having been drinking) after a few drinks sounds about right to me. "Sickened" here is just standing in for the effects of mild intoxication. The sort of sickness that people think of when they hear "he got sick from drinking too much" is what the system calls "nauseated".
The reason that Inquisitors are proficient in simple melee weapons but martial ranged weapons isn't because they're specifically supposed to be archers (although they're fine at that), but because while simple melee weapons are just lower-damage versions of martial melee weapons, simple ranged weapons are borderline nonfunctional versions of martial ranged weapons. That's a problem, considering how feat-heavy ranged combat is already. If you had to blow another feat just to get a non-terribad ranged weapon, the Inquisitor would basically be just a melee class (unless you worship Erastil specifically.) If you want to make non-Erastilian Inquisitors a real thing, you pretty much have to give them Martial ranged. (The reverse isn't true; not only are there a lot of deities that give reasonable or good melee weapons, but melee combat is less feat-intensive, so even if you want to be a Desnan melee Inquisitor or something, you can afford the feat.)
I really liked how responsive the dev team was throughout the process. Really, really incredible. I know that in an ideal world they'd be able to process and respond to even more stuff, but the rate of response was really great.
I also liked feeling like the playtest feedback was actually making a difference in the final forms of the classes.
By far the biggest thing that I felt was difficult was the very short period of real time covered by the playtest, especially considering the revision in the middle. Compounded by the fact that the playtest overlapped American Thanksgiving and the end of an academic term (I know those are things that don't affect every player, but they affect a lot of players), even if my groups wanted to do nothing but playtest ACG classes during our game time during the playtest, it would have been hard to fit much in, especially post-revision. I realize that both the timing and the length of the playtest were probably mandated by other factors, but I not only felt like I didn't have time to get a reasonable feel for all of the classes, I didn't feel like had time to get a reasonable feel for any of the classes. I didn't feel like I could comment first-hand on how even the classes I DID get a chance to try changed with the revision, because the post-revision period was so short and so busy that I didn't get a real chance to play with them again.
The only other thing that might have been nice would have been maybe just a little more direction in terms of what the intent behind some of the classes was. This is particularly true for classes with severe name/theme mismatches, like the Hunter, and for classes where the marquee feature and the main feature are different things, like the Skald or, again, the Hunter. I know it's more work, but I would have appreciated a bit more behind-the-curtain about the design intent.
The one wildcard thing I would add is that I believe the Hunter's spell list to be substantially better than the inquisitor's. While the Inquisitor does get some useful spells that the Hunter does not, such as Invisibility and Ear-Piercing Scream, the druid list simply has more high-impact spells than the inquisitor list, especially in terms of spells that circumvent challenges entirely and multi-target control. The hunter is also a prepared caster, which lets it take good advantage of the druid spell list's many circumstantial but situationally potent options.
The inquisitor spell list has a lot of nice things in it, but it is not as strong overall as some of the other six-level casters' lists or the first six levels of the nine-level caster's lists. The inquisitor's list is made up primarily of modest or narrow buff spells, adequate single-target control spells, and various anti-alignment spells, but with relatively little of the sort of stuff that lets most spellcasters be totally unfair. Inquisitor spellcasting is a major part of the class and is still really good, but I'd hesitate to quickly call it a wash with Hunter spellcasting.
Not that I think that skills should be restricted or closed off, but applying the "there's no reason that anybody who puts the time into it shouldn't be able to learn this" to more mundane competencies does make it hard for classes that are supposed to have those mundane competencies as their points of specialization to retain their niche. It's up to the game to decide whether "puts the time in" means "takes a ton of levels of rogue or expert" or whether it means "just has to put one of your piles of skill points into this." Pathfinder is happy, as it stands, to respond to "My wizard has studied mechanical devices and can disable traps" with "Cool, just put your skill points into Disable Device, and why not grab a trait to make it a class skill, too?" On the other hand, "My Fighter is a devout worshipper of Saranrae, so I'm going to pray to her for some healing on most days" gets "not without some levels of cleric you aren't."
That's not to say that you can't have a game that makes mundane stuff available to everyone and non-mundane stuff not-available to everyone, but it does require being careful about how you juice classes that are supposed to be excelling at the mundane stuff.
I don't, incidentally, think that "deals with traps" is at all a good niche for a class to have in the first place. "Specific response to a narrow threat" as a class design goal doesn't lead to anything good. In campaigns where that threat is common, you NEED that class in the party (which is super bad) unless the game offers a bunch of other ways to get around the threat, which eliminates the need for your specific-response class in the first place. In campaigns where the narrow threat is not common, the specific-response class is largely pointless.
The parent classes do not reflect this, in fact, it seems to be a tie in from some sort of Paladin change
The ability is probably based on the Cleric's channel energy, which derives both its DC and uses/day from Charisma. While changing it to make the class less MAD would certainly make it stronger, it is coming from somewhere.
I know it isn't a hybrid but when will I see psionics!
The PF team has said that they're not that interested in psionics, and if and when they ever do psionics, it wouldn't look like 3.5 psionics. Fortunately, Dreamscarred Press has totally Pathfinderized 3.5 Psionics and has expanded and extended it in tons of cool ways. Their work is at least as good as Paizo stuff if not better, and is on d20pfsrd if you want to check it out.
Spell Kenning should also include Druid, Magus, and all other caster spell lists. Because nearly all casters that are not wizards or clerics are usually weaker casters, therefore, their spells should be easier to Ken.
It may be the case that their spells should be easier to Ken, but that's a hefty power boost for the ability, not only for the extra diversity but because several of the four- and six-level casters get the same spells at a lower spell level than nine-level casters do.
I agree 110% that rage song could use broadening, probably extensive broadening, but I think that you're overstating the extent to which it's useless to various classes to such a degree that it's actively undermining the point. Most rogues aren't feint-based rogues. Inquisitors, Paladins, and even many Clerics, Oracles and Druids use the majority - sometimes the overwhelming majority - of their combat actions not casting spells. Pet classes only need to drop out of the rage if they need to issue a new command, and the pets themselves benefit perfectly from the song. And guess what? In many cases (though admittedly not all, especially not for classes like the magus) where somebody would have to drop out of the song for a round to cast, they would be getting only very minor benefits from Inspire Courage anyway. A round where a ranger is casting a spell is a round where Inspire Courage would be a saves buff only, which is pretty nice, but doesn't vault over my bar for helping somebody in a major way.
Again, I agree totally that it's weird that there's such a high disparity between the benefits enjoyed by some classes and the benefits enjoyed by other classes as the result of the Raging Song, but it's not that severe, and the last thing I want is for Raging Song to not get any help because it looks like the people who think it's too narrow don't understand how Raging Song or half of the classes in the game even work. Raging Song doesn't say "If your class has any features that you can't use while raging song, pack it in, it's over." Raging Song has issues - it has significant issues - but it doesn't literally work for nobody. It works for a somewhat constricted set of of the classes that Inspire Courage works for, with the most dramatic exclusion being the Magus.
The idea of Hunters being spontaneous spellcasters that also prepare one spell/level has come up before, but I kind of like the reverse idea - that hunters are prepared spellcasters that have a spontaneous conversion list, maybe even a build-your-own.
Always Prepared: At second level, choose a hunter spell you can prepare. The hunter can “lose” any prepared spell in order to cast any spell chosen with this feature of the same spell level or lower. At level 5 and at every third level after that, choose an additional spell.
(That wording allows, but does not require, the hunter to choose one spell of each real spell level, plus one more at the end.)
That allows the hunter to either know some niche utility spells while preparing more general stuff, or vice versa.