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The Vanguard

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PDF STATS

This pdf is 8 pages long. The first page includes the cover and a brief introduction to the class. Page 2 includes the description of the class, its role, and the table. Page 3 concludes the role of the class, introduces the class skills and class features, and has a sidebar referencing Super Genius Games’ other magical warrior class, the Archon. Page 4 continues with the class features and possesses the Spells Known table. Pages 5 and 6 conclude the class features and introduce new feats useable with the class. Page 7 includes new feats and spells for use with the class. Page 8 includes the credits and the OGL.

LAYOUT

Similar to all other genius guides. It is in landscape alignment with three columns of text. The table appears before any class features are presented, and takes up an odd amount of space on the page. The Archon sidebar feels appropriate, though I feel its placement and the placement of the table should have been switched. The art is well-spaced in the document. The feats section comes in right at the end of the class features, and I feel it could have been pushed to the next page for a better flow. Otherwise, if you enjoy the standard Genius Guide layout, then this one is the same.

ART

The cover-piece is fantastic, evoking exactly what I expect from a class called the Vanguard. A man stands on a cliff, facing down a monstrous sea-beast, his magic sword in-hand, shining against the darkness of the storm. The rest of the art, however…feels very forced. I get the idea that they didn’t have access to pictures that showed both martial prowess and magic in the same character, so they went with what they had. The other three characters pictured remind me more of a samurai, a barbarian and a rogue than a vanguard. I will lend credit, though, in that they keep a consistent water-color-esque style.

CLASS

D8 hit dice, medium BAB, high Fort and Will saves, 4 skill points per level, 6th-level spontaneous casting (in the same vein as a bard or summoner). No dead levels.

The vanguard is presented as a class whose merger of martial prowess and arcane might represents incredible versatility, if not incredible strength from either end of the spectrum. It is promoted as being a fusion of two worlds, a synergist who is able to meld the strengths of the martial and the magical into one awesome being. And, atop this, they are also master tacticians whose knowledge of battle allows them great insight into how they should fight in combat.

Well, let’s put that to the test, shall we?

Skills: Class skills feel like those of a particularly eclectic fighter, including appraise, additional knowledge skills, linguistics, perception, stealth and spellcraft. This seems appropriate, as they do gain 4 skill points per level.

Proficiencies: Proficiencies are pretty standard: simple and martial weapons, light armor, and the ability to cast in such armor.

Spells: The spells are where I start to have problems with this class. It selects from the wizard/sorcerer class list, but uses charisma as its casting score, when it was touted earlier as having high intelligence. In addition, it is a class that is supposed to be tactical in its spell use, but it utilizes spontaneous spellcasting, a decidedly less tactical spellcasting method. Using a prepared spellcasting system and a spellbook would have increased the versatility the vanguard is supposed to possess. Overall, this is one area where I was not impressed.

Arcane Bond: At first, this feels just like a copy-paste from the wizard’s arcane bond, with the caveat that it must be a weapon. However, its originality shines through in the third paragraph. Not only is he treated as possessing eschew materials while wielding it, but he can cast spells with his hands full, so long as he is wielding the weapon. There’s more to the weapon, but without giving too much away, just be aware that this is NOT just the wizard’s arcane bond with a costume.

Arcane Strike: The feat. ‘Nuff said.

Combat Casting: Again. The feat. I feel like only one of these should have been utilized, as otherwise it just feels a bit like filler.

Iron Grip: This grants a bonus against disarm and sunder attempts with his bonded weapon. Overall, I like this. It really gives the bonded weapon some nice flavor.

Weapon Channel: This begins feeling like a better version of the magus’ spellstrike, as it doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. However, it reveals its true intentions at later levels, granting the ability to avoid losing the spell on a missed attack as well as the ability to utilize the spell against every target in a full-attack. Very nice.

Bonus Feats: feats at 3 different levels, either a metamagic feat, spell focus or a combat feat. No opinion here. Lots of classes get bonus feats.

Vanguard’s Spell Penetration: Adding my bonded weapon’s enhancement bonuses to spell penetration? Yes please. Especially when it increases as I level.

Swift Spell: Cast a spell as a swift action once per day. Increases to 5/day at high levels. It feels like a callback to the duskblade, which is fine. I liked the duskblade, and this ability, especially 5/day, is really, REALLY good.

Spell Block: Essentially, the vanguard can block a spell as if countering with dispel magic 3 + charisma modifier times per day. The only thing I find wrong here is that it’s stated that the ability is a “reaction”, which is not a
Pathfinder term. It means “immediate action”, but it’s just something someone missed.

Arcane Smite: Sacrifice a spell to add damage for one attack. Overall, this ability feels pretty weak. I would have made it similar to other smite abilities, and had it last for a while.

Enhance Bond Weapon: Adding weapon effects to the bonded weapon for a number of rounds equal to the vanguard’s level. Pretty basic, and feels inspired by the inquisitor’s “bane” ability.

Spell Sunder: Essentially, he can spend a use of his spell-block ability to dispel a magical effect on a creature with an attack. I would have preferred if he could dispel any effect, like a prismatic wall, but this is nice on its own.

Spell Grapple: Interesting name for an interesting ability. Essentially, the vanguard can store a blocked spell in his bonded weapon, and can release it later. Nifty.

Bond Weapon Mastery: Auto-confirming crits with the bond weapon is nice, but the fact that it can’t be targeted by disarm or sunder makes it even better.

New Feats: The included feats are “Extra Swift Spell,” self-explanatory, “Improved Spell Block” which adds 4 to your dispel check, and “Improved Weapon Channel,” which allows you to add a metamagic feat to any channeled spell without increasing the casting time. Nice.

New Spells: There are also 2 new spells based around summoning the arcane bond weapon to you. They’re all right, but nothing to write home about.

And that’s it!

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

The vanguard is a well-built class. However, it’s not without its faults. While the class is promoted as being a versatile tactician, its utilization of charisma over intelligence and its spontaneous casting method lead me to believe it was instead intended to be a “hero”-styled class, rushing into battle and inspiring people with his strength and mystical abilities. In addition, while it claims to be versatile, I see little variation between vanguards unless someone chooses a ranged weapon as opposed to a melee weapon for their arcane bond. And even then, all vanguards gain the same abilities at each level. One of the hallmarks of most pathfinder classes is the ability to customize through selectable abilities, and this class lacks that customization factor.

All that being said, however, I do really enjoy the vanguard. It’s got a lot of balance and some fun abilities like Weapon Channel, Vanguard’s Spell Penetration and Spell Block. In addition, the hero aesthetic that its abilities seem to promote is welcome in a game where many of the classes feel rather gritty. This feels like a class where one can have fun, and it’s welcome in any campaign I run.



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