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Hey gang, Sean again.
So we're inching up on two years since the guide has been updated and there's some new content out for the class. I've been thinking it over and I've decided to take up the mantle and start writing for the guide again.
Expect things to be a bit slow going at first. I'll need to get acquainted with the new material, and I'm very open to hearing from the community about new (and old) options.
The guide will of course maintain it's original focus and will only include books from the "loose core." Anything third party or campaign specific will be excluded. This means I won't be covering any of the revisited series or the player companion series. I'm happy to discuss any of this and of course encourage discussion of these prereferral materials, but they won't be in the guide proper.
So what does all of this mean? Basically, I'm going to be adding the following books:
I'll also dig through the Gamemastery Guide and Ultimate Campaign again to see if there's anything in those that can be added, but if I recall there's nothing. With Ultimate Equipment I'm only going to add the stuff that specifically affects the oracle. I don't want to clutter the guide. I wanted to add an equipment section the first time I wrote it, but it got very complicated. Expect something with broad strokes.
I'll post updates in this thread when new sections are complete since I usually just edit the Google document directly. Hopefully this will help alleviate some of the confusion between quick edits and entire updates.
Not sure anyone really even uses this anymore but I'm excited to be back on the project. Looking forward to responses from the community.
Until then, I'll be buried in a source book.
Personally, I love what Paizo did with the Oracle. This is sort of how I saw it:
3.5 Cleric: Devotee of a god, channeling divine power through faith
PF Cleric: Devotee of a god, channeling divine power through faith
I'm speaking in hyperbole of course, so take it with a grain of salt. Paizo did a fine job of making the classes distinct in both mechanics and flavor. It gives players (and GMs) the opportunity to play around with divine magic without having to worship a higher power. Yes, you can do this by playing a "godless" cleric, but it's still different. Clerics are utterly devoted to their concept/god, where-as an Oracle is simply a conduit.
See, that's the thing. Except for the GM following the original poster to the forums (which strikes me as the most trollsy detail) I don't see a lot of his actions as creeper-status.
Honestly, I could see myself accidentally doing exactly what he did. They've been friends/friendly for 20 years and he made a few attempts to get ahold of her. She perceives it as harassment and runs to the forums to vent or seek advice. She hasn't come back, so that leaves her original position somewhat suspect.
Maybe the GM is a creeper. But maybe he's just a guy who got wrapped up in a really awkward situation he didn't even know he was in, and then got frustrated when he was branded a villain on the forums. Maybe in his frustration he defended himself, like anyone might do, and said a few things he probably shouldn't have.
In my opinion, both parties are at fault. The OP acted like a coward and a jerk by deliberately ignoring/avoiding the GM, never bringing up her concerns to the person who matters, and then running to the forums to paint him as a harasser. The GM is potentially oblivious of social queues (not necessarily a crime) and maybe even a bit too pushy by some standards. He didn't keep very good track of his own game, which is on him. The worst thing he did, by my viewing, was throwing all the blame onto the OP. Yeah, maybe this was a misunderstanding, but posts in the vein of "you brought this on yourself" don't garner much sympathy. Also, following the OP to the forums is a mite bit creepy (even if just to defend yourself).
If it's a legit situation I feel kinda bad. Both of these people are at fault and it could have been avoided by simply talking to each other. I hope each leaves this with some sort of personal growth.
Charisma may be an example of physical attractiveness, but it can also be completely divorced from appearance. Allow me to show you a few creatures with high charisma that are defined by their ugliness (or their horrifying nature).
Hope that helps justify your cause. :D
omg its amazing.
I was less than impressed. I enjoyed the heck out of it for the first hour or two, but the fun was quickly overwhelmed with a frustrating and tedious magic system.
Magic is so iconic in games like this, but Grimrock basically encourages you to play mage-less. I've made a few attempts to go back and finish it, but I can never get past level 5 before I quit.
I just keep hoping that the come out with some sort of fan-patch that redoes the magic. The game has so much potential for me!
(this is all personal opinion. I know a lot of people really enjoyed the magic system.)
@Samurai: I don't disagree with anything you've said so far about Men's Rights. They're alarmingly slim when compared to women, and it's something that makes me kinda glad to be gay. That said, I don't feel like this is a scam at all. I also don't feel that you need to be wrong for what this woman is doing to be right.
She seems to be making an honest effort at education. Whether or not you feel that's useless, I still feel that this is important. Change comes from education, and this will hopefully be another resource to lean on when saying that women suffer unfair portrayals in video games.
Honestly, so do men in a lot of cases. But the fact remains that while the genres of video games (and gaming in general) seem pretty keen on leaning on these stereotypes there are many more examples of male characters breaking a trope than a female doing so.
(edited: for clarity, and because I forgot several words.)
So... here I am. I've been digging through this thread for a few days while at work. I haven't finished yet, because holy crap this thing is LONG, but I felt the need to be involved here.
I'm 25 and openly gay, living in Dallas Texas. I don't know how much anyone cares about my life story, but this thread has made me very grateful for what I have. In fact I've texted my boyfriend a few times while reading to say "I'm sorry if I ever take you for granted."
Anyways, yes. Hi. I'm crap with intros.
Not being colorblind, I still like having the stars there. When I first started reading these guides, I kept having to go look back at the color coding system at the beginning when reading guides, because I didn't remember which colors indicated good or bad options at first.
I agree. Personally I really like the four color rating system because it keeps everything very simple. Terrible, Okay, Good, Great. I don't care for rating systems with 5-6 colors simply because it's all so subjective anyways that it just feels like clutter eventually.
Guide Update: I thought long and hard about it and decided to pull the equipment section from the guide. I had it about two-thirds done (not uploaded) when I realized that it wasn't adding much to the overall guide at all. I know that there might be some pushback on this decision, but I really feel that the 4th section was unneeded and made the guide more dense/wordy/long (choose one).
This was a frustrating decision considering how much of the equipment I've combed through, but it does provide me with one very satisfying thing to say:
I'm freakin' done with this guide.
Well, until Paizo produces another book. I've still got every intention of keeping this guide up-to-date.
I've actually been considering producing a second guide, but I'm not sure which class to focus on. I'm a ground-up kinda guy so I wouldn't lean on another guide by making an "Expansion" to the guide, and some of my favorite classes have already been covered. I'm considering taking a stab at Cleric, Fighter, or Ranger since those seem to need the most love.
Anyways, I'm done! It's very exciting.
Is a more updated version of the guide? Say with the Wrecker curse? I want to know your opinion on it, and what color you'd make it for useability and for what you gain vs. what you lose.
Ah, yeah, those new curses were (thankfully) in supplement books so I chose not to review them. The Advanced Race Guide knocked me on my ass when that came out, so I'm glad to let a few books pass over.
Still, if you're looking for a total review, I'd probably rate the whole thing red. Let me break it down.
Broken - First of all, it's not clear to me if the broken condition is applied to only held/equipped items or if it applies to everything you've got equipped (armor). I choose to go with the first interpretation of only things in your actual hands, otherwise this is bright-freaking-red.
Broken status - This is pretty debilitating for both warrior and caster types, and it never gets better. Warrior types take -2 to attack and damage forever and have their weapon's crit range reduced to 20/x2, so that limits a lot of decent weapons. Shields only get half their AC bonus, so it's pretty worthless going that route as well. You also take a -2 penalty to skill checks requiring a tool (like heal and disable device). Wands & Staves also take a huge hit here, effectively halving their usefulness. This is a very rough penalty for any type of oracle. Weapon issues can be circumvented with natural weapons or pursuing unarmed combat (perhaps a 1 level dip into monk?).
Disable Device - This is deceptively bad. First, you can't deal with magical traps at all using this skill, but it's at least useful in dealing with the non-magical types. Sort of. It overcomes Wrecker's applied penalty of -2 and lets you reduce the time from several rounds to just 1 move action. Is that worth it? Maybe once in an entire campaign, or more if your DM is generous with the scenarios. The other great use for Disable Device is opening locks, which you will forever take a -2 penalty to doing. After level 5 you're actually better off sundering locks and traps.
5 - This is kinda nice, actually, if you're into the whole smash-in-the-door thing. You can sunder a LOT of stuff, especially if you're a half-orc. Keep in mind that you're still doing -2 attack/damage unless you're using a natural weapon. By level 10 you can bust through most stuff pretty effortlessly, so don't be surprised when your DM starts littering the campaign with enchanted locks and adamantine doors.
10 - Meh. Again, maybe useful once or twice. This makes a point to mention objects, but objects don't have Damage Reduction- they have hardness, and that's what the level 5 ability is for. If your DM rules otherwise this is pretty great.
15 - Again, deceptively terrible. At level 15 lots of creatures don't even bother to use weapons, so this is useless. Those that do use weapons are going to be using enchanted weapons, which are very expensive and probably the main source of your group's income. It may look cool to disintegrate your enemy's +4 Unholy Bastard Sword in a big show-down, but all of your allies are going to be pissed when all you did was end the fight 3 rounds earlier and cost them all a huge chunk of cash. This is only useful on creatures using mundane/cheap weapons and then only after you've been struck.
Whoah, whoah, whoah. This seems really out of line. You can't throw it back on the GM if a player is able to mess this up. For all we know the group regularly enjoys a beer or two during a game and this was the first time someone got truly drunk. Also, it may have been the first time the player ever acted out. There's probably a good chance that this player has some out of game stuff going on and the GM is just trying to preserve the continuity of the story for all the players, despite one screwing it up for them all.
All we do know is that a first level character acted entirely within the rules and committed murder. It's not unreasonable at all to believe that a first level ninja would be able to act in the surprise round (before anyone else could respond) and kill a commoner in a single blow.
As other posters have suggested I think the best course of action is to attempt to turn your ninja into the authorities. If this was just a really poor choice on a friend of yours (out-of-game) let him suffer the consequences in game and move on. I'm sure he realizes how much of an ass he was once he's sobered up. If this is how he regularly is I'd look at getting him out of the group.
Whoah, whoah, whoah.
Before more people jump of the deep end and start screaming "bad DM!" let's get a few facts for the crowd. First, what level is the party? Second, how long have you been playing in this particular campaign? Third, how many people are in your group?
From what I'm hearing it sounds like your DM is being really reasonable with the group. He's got y'all on a strong point buy and it sounds like the group has a lot of collective experience. Everything you've written so far sounds like your DM is just trying to make the module challenging for you rather than have you stomp through it effortlessly.
It's both a DM's right and responsibility to adjust the campaign to suit his/her players. There's no fun to be had in easily defeating challenges time and again. I've played with DMs who offer basically no wealth as we level, or kept us at half the standard value. It was difficult to play, but so rewarding when we succeeded.
So maybe don't be so quick to think your DM is pulling a bunch of dick moves on you. If it really bothers you, just freakin' talk to him. Let him know that you're confused as to why he's doing any of this.
I'm not sure how all these links end up with spaces in them, but here's the proper linked version: Linkified!
I'd add ghost sound or some other siren effect used to lure prey. Alternatively, give them an ability to briefly animate corpses that also flushes the skin and mimics life; think wolf-in-sheep's-clothing. Villager sees a seemingly wounded deer, goes in to finish it off and collect the meat, gets tangled in web, and becomes an arachnid's snack.
That is seriously messed up.
I vote for this.
Even if this seems to be the board's number one go-to as a response, I think it's really fitting here: consider finding a different group.
You've got a serious conflict of playstyles here and it's not going to end well. You already show signs of resenting this group. You're clearly frustrated with the way 7 of your 10 allies have fun. This is not the group for you.
And I'm sorry to say this, but the group doesn't need help; you do. It sounds like just about everyone here (including the DM) is on the same page. You however seem to be trying to mold the game into something you'd prefer. This is not an insult or any sort of criticism. You're in a group that's down with the classic Kick in the Door style gaming, and it's clearly not your thing.
This leaves you with really three options: change your expectations of the game, leave the group, or chat up your two "optimizing" allies and see if you can get a new group going with a mindset similar to what you're expecting.
Good luck and happy gaming! I look forward to hearing how all this plays out.
This is where I fall as well.
Drinking an enemy's blood is the same as eating the meat from their corpse. Often it's gonna be gross, but it's hardly evil. It's not as if you're damaging their immortal soul or harnessing their life essence for your nefarious deeds- you're just sustaining yourself like any other living being, and you're doing it as a hemovore.
Equating drinking blood to being evil is the same as equating eating meat to being evil. If any part of the process is evil it's going to be the act of getting the corpse, not what you do with it.
I don't really think comments like this are helpful. Having a preexisting connection to other characters gives some players the ability to fully explore the concept they've chosen while never having to worry about metagaming or "why am I with this bunch of dorks?" This is doubly true for sandbox games without a clear motivation.
Ok, it appears that we might be having tone issues in this discussion here, and it all seems to be getting a bit too defensive.
@ShadowcatX: I wasn't trying to belittle your opinion here, so I'm sorry if it came off that way. You made a comparison of the oracle to the sorcerer and stated that every race other than human is red when you consider the favored class bonus. I felt that this simplified a very complex issue and needed to be expanded on.
@CP & Gat: After looking over some additional data I think I may have overestimated the use of combat maneuvers and the toughness feat. I've adjusted both of them in the guide. It bears stating that Cook identified Toughness as a trap feat back when it only gave +3 hit points, not its current incarnation.
I think it needs stating that this guide is not for me. I decided to write this guide when I looked through a list of available guides and noticed that the oracle didn't have anything written about it. I've had some experience with the class and have a pretty firm grasp on the system, so I thought I'd take a stab at it. This was not an attempt to produce something to show off and have people praise me for being oh-so-clever.
My only goal with this document was to produce an in depth examination of the class and the mechanics relating to it. I can only write it based on my own experiences and understanding of the system, but it's pretty clear that I can/will be wrong about lots of different things. I hope that I've demonstrated my ability to change my opinion and the guide to follow reasonable data as it's presented to me. This thing isn't even done and it's already undergone over two dozen revisions based entirely on what someone in this thread has said.
I don't pretend to know everything. I'm presenting my opinion and attempting to base it on facts that I can reference in the SRD. Sometimes I just need a bit of time to chew on an idea (particularly one radically different to my own) before I can really come to a good conclusion here.
I have to say, though, coming in here and stating "this ability is absolutely worthless and here's why you're wrong" is a bit abrasive. I'm not pointing any fingers, but this sort of thing immediately puts someone on the defensive and is counterproductive to a free exchange of ideas. I know that I've been guilty of this myself, and I'm trying to pay more attention to that.
Anyways, I'm attempting to work through the cleric spells but it's a slow process. There are a lot of effing cleric spells.
This alone makes every other race red in comparison to humans. Same way it does on sorcerer. Since other races aren't rated red, I can't help but think this is largely being ignored. Seriously, its 10 feats over 20 levels, as opposed to say the hp every level which is 1 feat. Or the skill point every level which if you have psionics unleashed is 1 feat.
This is a pretty uneducated thing to say, and I feel it's worth discussing.
First of all, the wizard spell list is better than the cleric spell list in almost every way. Doing a direct comparison of the two will have the wizard side winning every time, even if you're only comparing the top 10%.
The cleric spell list is marred by an abundance of highly situation spells or spells of marginal use on a day-to-day basis. It's got some real gems, but those aren't hard to pick up with the standard allotment of oracle spells known. This is especially true of warrior types who won't have the spell DCs to make a lot of the good spells worth it.
What the human oracle has over every other oracle is the ability to pick up some of those situation spells in a pretty low cost way. This can be excellent for small parties lacking a cleric/wizard, but when a prepared caster enters the mix (especially a cleric) the use here is even less. Why get those highly situation spells when an ally can cover that base for you?
Saying that every other race is worthless because of this feature is pretty similar to saying that every race without darkvision is worthless if you enjoy dungeon delving. It's an advantage, sure, but it's easily overcome in common setups.
And for the record, it may be 10 feats over 20 levels, but it's ten really crappy feats.
I agree. The most constructive approach to a post like this is:
1. Acknowledge the OP's request.
If any of your stats are above 16 or below 10, you are a neanderthal who is incapable of roleplaying.
Oh my god, plus ****ing one.
I am so tired of the rages about this crap. "HOW DARE MY PLAYERS CHOOSE STATS WELL WITHIN THE REASONABLE BOUNDS ESTABLISHED BY THE CORE RULES AND POINT BUY SYSTEM?!" I don't understand why some people are so offended by wanting to be the heroes of the story.
Well, on the other hand, this is exactly the sort of delicious chaos that you hope to get from the confusion spell.
On the whole I'm pretty opposed to the idea of doing a proper multiclass with the oracle, but dipping either can really bolster a character. A lot of the mysteries have some really powerful abilities right at level 1.
I wouldn't worry about the curse too much. Tongues isn't a hindrance to a fighting type (a paladin only speaking celestial is really cool), and haunted won't do much to a caster sort. Wasting is another good option if you don't mind being ugly. It's just a -4 to charisma skills, which you may not care about anyways.
Taking a single level of something else as an oracle has quite a few options. Sorcerer nets a bloodline arcana which may or may not be absolutely awesome. Archaeologist bard gives you a bunch of class skills and the archaeologists luck feature. Martial dips expand your weapon/armor selection if you aren't in a mystery that does it for you. The guide ranger gives a 1/day "smite lite," as well as a lot of class skills. Witch gives you a single hex and the ability to take more through feats. A single level of Magus grants spell combat.
I notice that you haven't put an ratings of the mysteries as a whole. Its not terribly hard to average out how many stars each has, but will you be adding something like that later? Which mysteries would you prefer? Which ones are best avoided?
Ok, it sounds goofy, but I firmly believe that all of the mysteries are good and solid choices if you know what you're getting into. Some are clearly more versatile than others, but I've yet to review a mystery and think "God, this is awful!"
I don't want to do an overall review of a mystery beyond assigning it a suggested role because I feel like that will belittle the flexibility of the oracle as a whole. Without any feats, an oracle is going to gain six revelations if she goes all the way to 20. But most campaigns won't pass 15th level, and PF society doesn't even pass 12th. If you only ever take 3-4 revelations you'd be hard pressed to find a single mystery that couldn't meet that expectation.
I have no problem rating the revelations as singular entities, but I do try to keep in mind the mystery they're tied to and what that mystery is trying to accomplish. You'll notice that some of the copypasta divinations under the Lore mystery are rated higher than other versions of them elsewhere.
All in all, some of the mysteries might look weak when you see how everything stacks up side by side. But it you only look at the character sheet of a particular oracle it's probably going to look fantastic.
Nothing like this exists thus far (to my knowledge), but the original Ur Priest was a munchkin abomination. And this is coming from a min maxer.
The Ur Priest concept is simple, though: you hate the gods for X reason, and steal their power rather than obtain it through worship. Granting the character 9 levels of spells over a 10 level class is a terrible idea, but the concept is fantastic. It would be very easy to simply reflavor a cleric of ideals to this with little to no mechanical changes. Hell, an oracle could already be thought to do this. Perhaps the character was struck down by the gods (oracle curse) and now uses the wound as a spiritual link to divinity and siphons off magical power to use as his own? Bam! Instant Ur Priest.
Just a thought.
I agree with most of what you've said, despite often being a breaker of 4. I'd also like to add:
9) The Dungeon Master is playing the game, too.
This is not a game about the players vs. the dungeon master. It's cooperative storytelling in which the DM provides a setting and you develop your characters. A game is doomed to fail the moment the DM tries to "win" the game, or the players blame the DM for storytelling elements and "biases." It's just as important that the DM enjoy the game as it is the players do.
10) Be open and honest as a player.
Your character can be a crafty bastard intent on killing the rest of the party, but you as a player need to be open to your fellow gamers. Don't cheat (ooc), don't steal (ooc), and don't try to trick the DM with clever interpretations of specific rules. Breaking this rule can destroy friendships and gaming groups alike.
It seems that, as a whole, we've gotten over the idea that the cleric is the healbot. When will we get over the idea that a bard must buff the party?
Dire Mongoose wrote:
Mongoose, I believe the point that Cheapy is trying to make is that he opposes the idea of a bard not being worth a party slot if they don't provide buffs to other members of the party. Nearly every bard archetype that gives up inspire courage replaces it with an ability that helps the bard contribute in the role that the archetype was designed to. Or it gives you a weaker version of the ability because the rest of the archetype is theoretically stronger.
It seems that, as a whole, we've gotten over the idea that the cleric is the healbot. When will we get over the idea that a bard must buff the party?
On the whole, this reasoning seems to stem from a combination of two things: 1) simply looking at the class features and reasoning that the large amount of buffs make this a buff class, and 2) "old edition gamers" who remember when the bard was at best a good 5th member.
Bards are excellent at buffing the group. In fact, there's no other class better than the bard for one simple reason: bard buffs hit lots of people, and the bard doesn't have to dedicate his whole turn to helping both himself and his allies.
But bards are also excellent skill bots, and competent spellcasters, and synergize well with social encounters. They're also surprisingly good at weapon combat. Archetypes have done a lot to draw people away from the idea that a bard must buff his allies, but the fact remains: a core bard is an excellent buffer.
I think the real thing we need to get away from is the idea that the bard isn't worth a slot in a four man party. Every time I read "the bard is an excellent 5th party member" I curl my fists in anger. Bards are excellent and versatile, and very capable of filling a single role when the player sets his mind to filling that role.
It was errata'd, which you'll find here.
A ranger with the Infiltrator archetype can use the camouflage and hide in plain sight class features whenever he is using his adaptation class feature, regardless of the terrain he is in.
Edit: Ninja'd by Bascaria. Jerk. :)
This sums it up pretty well, though the fluff is that wearing any sort of weighted, stiff armor restricts the caster's ability to perform somatic components. If you look at it more along the lines of Avatar's spellcasting rather than the traditional "point and click" magic in the movies it gives you a better idea of what the somatic component for arcane magic is supposed to be: big, wide, and using the whole body.
This is just a fluff restriction though. The mechanical reason is that Pathfinder (and 3.5 and earlier) believes that full arcane casters are simply too powerful to be allowed unhindered access to armor.
Except that they sorta do. Archaeologist's Luck is a very powerful self-buff that was obviously designed to work as a luck mechanic. Occasionally, if you really need the boost, you can get a +1/2/3/4 on all of your attack/damage/skill/saving throw rolls for 4-9 rounds per day. All of that for a swift/free action starting at level 1.
In and of itself the ability is undoubtedly mediocre when examined in a vacuum. Compared to a standard bard it suffers because it only affects you, but it's pulling the weight of multiple performance abilities and requires less effort to achieve over the course of a bard's career. A regular bard is using swift actions on his performance at level 13, which is well behind the Archaeologist. Compounding on this is the fact that the bonus is luck, and incredibly uncommon bonus and is likely to stack with just about anything else the bard has going for it.
The issue here is not that it only lasts 4+cha rounds per day, but rather that you're undervaluing the potential of the ability. The class has a lot of things going for it (including spellcasting) and is still a leg and a half above a rogue in terms of utility. The ability was also created in such a way that there are several options to take it from being a mediocre ability to an amazing boost to your character's ability. Even lingering song, available from level 1, means that if you spend a swift action every 3 turns you'll have this boost for a minimum of 12 turns, though its more likely to be closer to 18 or 21.
Wow, there's a lot going on in this thread- most of it makes me cringe. If I'm reading this correctly you want to do the following: make arcane and divine magic mechanically different without rewriting the entire system. By modifying spell lists you're taking away the uniqueness of specific classes. Further, by changing one to prepared and the other to spontaneous you've actually dulled more than half of the spellcasting classes in the books. So instead, here are a few house rules and system changes I've seen over the years that might help you:
Try looking over the some of the old psionics books. They tend to discuss how to treat psionics in your game, and a lot of it is relevant to this right here. Building on that scarred lands concept, they actually broke magic down into three categories: arcane, divine, and primal. Arcane (wizards/sorcerers) took their magic from the universe through blood or study. Divine (clerics/paladins/monks) were granted their magic from the gods. Primal (bards/druids/rangers) gained their magic through attuning themselves to a specific concept. It was a neat idea.
John John wrote:
On that note, dipping into Sorcerer for a single level can have fantastic results for the bard who wants to do some spellcasting. The bloodline arcana effects are surprisingly good for some of the bloodlines, and Jason has said that they work for any spells the character casts.
In particular, Arcane (+1 DC with metamagic), Deep Earth (+1 DC when underground), Destined (+spell level to saving throws for 1 round on personal spells), Dreamspun (+1/2 spell level to AC & Saves vs. target creature for 1 round), Fey (+2 DC for compulsion spells), Infernal (+2 DC for charm spells), Serpentine (Mind affecting/language dependent spells now also affect animals, magical beasts, and monstrous humanoids as if they were humanoids who understand your language), Stormborn (+1 DC on sonic/electricity spells),Undead (treat corporeal humanoid undead as if they were humanoid), and Verdant (personal spells grant +spell level natural armor for 1d4 rounds) all make for decent choices.
With the above arguments aside, I don't see an issue with allowing sneak attack to occur once per attack roll. On spells that don't require attack rolls I would say that sneak attack can occur once per target.
I make this judgment based solely on pathfinder official material, so here's my logic:
There seem to be about 3 different styles of Arcane Trickster. The first is the sneak attacking caster: Wizard 7 / Rogue 3 / AT 10. The second is the spellcasting rogue: Rogue 7 / Wizard 3 / AT 10. And the third is the true hybrid: Wizard 5 / Rogue 5 / AT 10. These are obviously simplified, ignoring options that include additional prestige classes. But, all in all, they net us a total of 7d6 and 9d6 sneak attack- so let's go with 8d6 for an average.
The arcane trickster is good at a couple of things: Being sneaky (Fey Sorcerers & Illusionists are better), casting spells (Every full caster is better), dealing precision damage (rogues are better), and having skill points (roughly on par with a bard, rogues do it better). The class pushes the focus on precision damage when applied to spells, so let's make that our focus in analysis.
With scorching ray, a 2nd level spell, the AT can deal 4d6+8d6 fire damage 3 times to 1-3 enemies. This is sort of seen as the ultimate AT spell, since it's low level and requires attack rolls. Being only 2nd level, it's easy to quicken (6th level). This will cause an average damage of roughly 126 damage if all three hit, and they likely will. That's pretty classy for a 2nd level spell, and it allows the AT to essentially "go nova." Throw in a quickened spell and you've got double that, an average of 252 damage every round- snazzy!
Now this is at level 20, so that 252 won't kill the big scary things, but it will make them take notice of you. Fire is unfortunately a common resistance, and they'll get their resistance x3 against you, but it's not hard to change the element with a cheap +1 metamagic. You'll also struggle with spell resistance because you're anywhere between 3 and 7 levels behind a regular caster, and feats won't close that gap.
Past that, the class doesn't do very much that's impressive. Adding sneak attack to your area of effect blasts makes them arguably more useful, but AoE spells are easy to save against and are often hard to lay down. With the addition of intense spell you can consistently toss out 15d6 fireballs and 20d6 cones of cold, but even with your sneak attack you're going to struggle. 98 damage from a cone of cold is startling, but doesn't kill many/any enemies at 20th level.
Even the awesome Magic Missile, cast against 5 separate targets, does an inescapable 31 damage to each of them. Woo. It's only fun when you start adding sneak attack damage to spells like Ennervate- where you're getting negative levels and the bonus negative energy damage is just gravy.
AT faces a lot of issues, though. MAD is top of the list, but more importantly it doesn't benefit from a lot of the traditionally awesome aspects of offense. First, critical hits don't multiply precision damage. Second, precision damage is difficult to set up until higher levels, and sometimes downright dangerous. Third, spell resistance (which is eye-rollingly common at higher levels) will always be a bane to the AT. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, sneak attack damage is NOT modified by metamagic. A lot of the terrifying numbers we see are people maximizing sneak attack which is just an absurd idea.
So all in all, ignoring the Volley rules are just fine in my book. It allows the AT to play as a proper blaster that doesn't become obsolete by ~6th level. It doesn't eclipse any particular class in ability, has a variety of setbacks, and fills a very specific niche. I just don't see the problem (or the appeal).
Just my opinion, though.
The faerie dragon is very powerful for a familiar, though quite effective.
As for interesting tricks, keep an eye on the different racial tricks that each familiar can do. Ones that have DCs that scale with hit dice are excellent, because the familiar is treated as having your HD. Some ideas:
Don't discount an idea because it seems weak. You're basically using an ally with an entirely separate set of actions. If your familiar is acting every round then it's performing above and beyond any other class's class feature.
Maybe I'm the oddball here, but I've always seen dwarves as very suited for the arcane pursuit. They're stoic, level headed, and prone to intense commitment: very wizardly. I see dwarven wizards as focused on things that produce a tangible result. They would favor conjurations, transmutations, abjurations, and even divinations. I don't see them as at all interested in enchantments, illusions, or most necromancy.
As for sorcerer, there have to be at least a few- after all, it's in the blood. I imagine sorcerers are looked upon with great awe, perhaps even a bit of fear. Dwarves are a naturally resilient race, and so I imagine they'd be keen on bloodlines that increased their innate survivability: earth elemental, destined, and even celestial.
Gestalt is an *awesome* option, but it has a few inherent flaws that a lot of people seem to overlook when you get the option to have TWO classes instead of just one!
First, the gestalt character only has the feats of a single character, so wildly diverse concepts will struggle to succeed. Second, they're using a single set of stats, so dual casters that don't require the same stat will struggle to be as awesome as possible. And third, the action economy: you still only get 1 standard action, so dual casters or "full gishes" aren't as amazing as you'd think.
This all sums up to the same thing: Your strongest class combinations are ones that work together while still filling out each others weaknesses. Here are my opinions on what mixes well with what:
Cleric/Druid, Wizard/Witch, Sorcerer/Oracle: The strongest dual casters, in my opinion. Reliance on a single stat means boosting it through the roof.
Bard/almost anything: Bard is already a "jack of all trades," so mixing it with another class just enforces one of the many roles a bard can already fill. Sorcerer or Oracle makes the bard a very strong spellcaster, while Paladin makes him a strong melee fighter. Barbarian and Ranger make him a strong combatant, while keeping his reliance on light armors. Fighter gives him enough feats to continue to pursue casting. Anything really works, but keeping in mind his tendancy towards Charisma and Dexterity I'd avoid anything that requires Wisdom (his most common dump stat).
Paladin/Sorcerer, Cleric/Monk, Ranger/Druid: The best gishes, as their reliance on a high spellcasting stat helps their "fighting" side greatly. Druid and Cleric are obviously interchangeable.
Fighter/anything at all: Fighter is still a great buffer for the "meh" gestalt players. It boosts your HP, grants great proficiencies, and offers enough feats to make your head spin. Even if you never want to wade into combat with a weapon, there are enough [Combat] feats to strike your interest.
Rogue/Ranger: Hells yes. I think that combinations like this epitomize gestalt.
Anyways, just my 2cp.
Actually guys, familiars don't gain additional hit dice when you level up. Check here on page 82:
A familiar is an animal chosen by a spellcaster to aid in his study of magic. It retains the appearance, hit dice, base attack bonus, base save bonuses, skills, and feats of the normal animal it once was...
A couple paragraphs later we see hit dice appear again:
Hit Dice: For the purpose of effects related to number of hit dice, use the master's character level or the familiar's normal HD total, whichever is higher.
So, the familiar doesn't ever gain hit dice, but you get to pretend he does when figuring out how powerful his poison/burn/whirlwind/ect. is. This also means that the familiar won't gain feats or skill points.
I personally wouldn't do any sort of a forest dependency. It penalizes the character and makes it difficult to play ("Sorry guys, I know we need to rest and all but I've got to head back to the forest or I'm gonna start racking up penalties. Peace.") in many settings.
I'd either ditch it or offer them some sort of bonus while in the forest (+1 to fort saves, maybe). Also, I hadn't seen that about the woodworking- good call.
Sounds like you had a bad experience with a DM. I think, at this point, it's important to remember the two things PLAYERS should never do:
1. Never forget that your DM is playing the game, too. S/he puts more effort into the story and campaign than any single player character, and as such deserves to have as much fun as the rest of the group.