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The Genius Guide to the Vanguard (PFRPG) PDF

***** (based on 5 ratings)

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One of the greatest challenges for any fantasy roleplaying game is finding a way to translate the essence of legends, folktales, and fiction into a set of balanced and playable rules. Perhaps the trickiest area for this effort is that intersection of mundane melee combat and magical abilities. The classic tales we all know abound with heroes who mix swordplay and spellcasting, excelling at both but yet remaining believable, appropriately powered members of their worlds, but game rules often have a difficult time allowing a single character access to both martial and arcane traits without having them become overpowered.

The Vanguard is a new base class designed for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. The class blends martial and arcane power, focusing the character’s skill and effort into mastering a single weapon with which he has a strong arcane bond. Spellcasting and martial combat become merged for the vanguard in a way that presents balanced game mechanics in a satisfying conceptual package. You can see in both his powers and their limitations echoes of the magical warriors whose exploits first fired our fascination with fantasy fiction and brought us to the gaming hobby in hopes of forging such adventures for ourselves.

Now updated with feedback from more than a year of comments, as well as expanded options to make the class even more flexible and customizable. In addition, the ZIP file now includes a file for use with Hero Lab!

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Product Reviews (5)

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***** (based on 5 ratings)

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An RPG Resource Review

*****

The introduction speaks of the common image of the fictional fantasy hero, capable of wielding both arcane might and a big sword in the course of his adventures, as opposed to the role-playing one who usually has to choose whether to be a magic-user or a fighter. The original Vangard - published before the Magus class was introduced in Ultimate Magic - is still a valuable addition to the options available, and has now been revised in the light of player feedback and ruleset developments over the nearly two years since it first emerged into the light of day.

The concept is simple. A vangard concentrates on but a single weapon, and hones his skill with it in harmony with the magic that he studies, his real strength being in his ability to use sword and spell together. They can hold their own in a pure physical brawl, and can hurl spells with the best, but neither of these modes of combat show them at their best. Part of his unique skillset is based on the development of an arcane bond between the vangard and his signature weapon. With high intelligence, battlefield awareness and mobility, the vangard is a useful asset.

Whilst the vangard is limited in the number of spell he can know, he has the advantage of not having to prepare them in advance, being able to cast any spell he knows until he has reached his daily limit. He's also able to cast when wearing light armour or carrying a shield without restrictions, although he does suffer penalties if in medium or heavy armour. Still, as they tend to specialise in fluid tactics, light armour is often preferred anyway. The vangard needs to have his bonded weapon in hand to cast a spell without need for a concentration check, but if he has it he has no need for material components and may make all the gestures he needs with the weapon itself, leaving his other hand free, and at higher levels may deliver a 'touch' spell to anything he can touch with the weapon rather than a hand. He also develops an energy strike attack, the vangard blast.

As well as providing the normal progression charts and a whole bunch of new special abilities to codify the particular combination of weapon and spell use that's the vangard's specialty, there is an array of new feats many of which can be used by anybody, not just vangards. There are also two new spells which allow the summoning of an arcane bonded item to the caster's hand - intended for a vangard and his weapon, other arcane casters may wish to experiment with other objects with which they have formed such a bond.

Overall this is a well thought out base class that is different enough from anything else to be an interesting option, whether you have a hero from fantasy fiction in mind or are ready to write your own legends in epic style as your vangard develops through play. Oh, and if you use HeroLab, the relevant material to administer a vangard character is included with your download. Neat!


Options, how I love options

*****

The Vanguard..... I've read through the revised edition of this Genius Guide, planning out a character concept here, an NPC idea there....in short, I did what I always do, I read through the material and tried to decide for myself, would I use this concept in my game. The answer is yes. In a heartbeat. Yes, from a purely metagamer point of view this is a concept that has now been done three times over; the archon, the magus and of course the vanguard itself, so why the need right? Simple answer, because there's more than one class swinging a sword isn't there? We play in a game that is built on versatility and option. It is that wealth of option that makes the game what it is. Without option we all end up playing the same character, and that my friends gets boring, fast. Not to mention how many times can you travel to a new city to discover the captain of the guard is the clone of the last town's guard captain, which is fine since their town spell chucker is the twin brother of EVERY OTHER spell chucking NPC....no thank you. I like options, and lots of them. Yes, there are overlap concepts here with the other two spell chucking sword swinging classes, so what? There are also overlaps with cavaliers, templars and paladins, clerics and paladins, cavaliers and fighters, bards and...well everybody. Point being, the vanguard still has a unique identity that sets it apart where it matters, and that alone made it worth taking the time to revise. So, lets get into this, shall we?

Weighing in at 11 pages, we get the standard SGG 3 column landscape format that opens with the partial cover that SGG has certainly made a signature look by now. Only one wording mishap caught my eye, and it was a minor one. Spelling looked fine throughout, as did spacing and punctuation. Artwork is all stock (I do believe), and of decent quality. I found it amusing, this being a revision of a class that Marc Radle designed, and yet there was not a single Radle drawing within this PDF, and I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed by this. Of the 11 pages of material, we lose one to the OGL/credits, leaving the rest to handle crunch and fluff...the former being far more prevalent than the latter.

At its base, the vanguard feels to me to fill the niche that the sorcerer did. The vanguard need not study, has a severely limited amount of spells they may know, and will never accomplish the full potential of magical power that the true wizard will. On the other hand, they don't suffer near as many penalties for wearing armor and carrying weaponry while performing those spells they do know, and act as a fantastic opening line of offense/defense for a playgroup, having the “out the gate” capacity to handle the first round or two of combat on the front lines to aid the playgroup's tank in dealing some physical damage to a foe while tactically getting in some arcane blows as well, leaving the bigger badder spell work to the chuckers in the back, giving them time to work their mojo. Another nice feature for this class has got to be their capacity to cast touch spells through their weapon, turning every successful melee attack (or ranged if you go with an archer) into a spell delivery opportunity.

With a list of Class Features that include an Arcane Bonded Weapon (which becomes the focus point of all of their magical casting capacity, as well as gaining some very useful and nice features as levels progress) and Vanguard Blast (think magic missile with more umph) the true winner for me in the class features had to be the Spell Maneuvers. There are nine presented here, with the potential to pick up six throughout the career of a vanguard, and they offer up some very interesting options for combat tactics including: Spell Block – essentially pulling off a dispel magic trick with your weapon, Spell Charge – replacing the melee attack portion of a charge with a spell casting, Spell Grapple – in tandem with the spell block, instead of wasting the spell blocked, store it within weapon to cast back utilizing the vanguard's levels and numbers to determine the pertinent information.

At eight level the vanguard can begin utilize their Arcane Smite class feature, sacrificing a spell to add its level worth of HD damage to a weapon strike. Ninth level sees the option to further enhance the bonded weapon with a list of interesting choices with a limit in rounds per total vanguard level.
And of course, as is standard, a class must come with feats, and although these feats would work well with many different classes, they were designed with the vanguard in mind. Feats such as Arcane Defense that allow you to burn a spell to gain its level in bonus to your armor class temporarily (think along the lines of sheathing yourself in the raw magical energy for a second essentially), a handful of feats along the lines of improved/greater versions of class features such as the arcane smite, vanguard blast and spell block. The standout feat for me that really tied the concept of the vanguard back to the sorcerer (beyond the fact they don't study and have a limited selection of spells, lol) was the Vanguard Heritage. With this feat, you choose a bloodline as per the sorcerer class, that you do not already have, and gain it's 1st level bloodline power. Being a stack-able feat, every time you take it, you gain the next power in that bloodlines natural progression.

Two new spells are presented here as well, both dealing with summoning the bonded weapon, and as useful as they both are, struck me as kind of blah blah blah...sorry, but I saw them both coming, no wow factor from either of them. Solid design mechanically speaking, just no wow factor for me.

So, final thoughts on the vanguard.....yes, it's a spell casting weapon swinging class, and there are a few options for that combination. I think it comes down to personal tastes regarding classes, whether you are a metagamer or not, a player/GM who enjoys a character ripe with role play potential...or roll play capacity. It should be noted that Rite Publishing's 101 Renegade Class Feats does offer up some support for this class with a few useful feats that will further broaden the pool of options. I personally enjoyed the class as an option, as I like variety, and a lot of it. It did not feel over powered, nor under powered to me for my campaign world, and as a class I like the flavor of it. I would like to see the Geniuses go a step further with this revision, and perhaps give us an updated collection of support introducing additional Spell Maneuvers and/or feats, perhaps in Bullet Point format, or even bundled together with a support book for the Archon and Magus, thereby tying the trinity of steel wielding spell chuckers together.

So, as a class option, perhaps the vanguard is not for every game group, and as a GM you have to ask yourself, are you OK with every variation of the fighter being at your table? Because if you are, then you have no reason to not allow the vanguard, as in the end, it is just that, another option. With the two spells presented (neither of them even registering any coolness other than that they both felt like a requirement rather than a cool new concept) I'm going to have to go with a 4.5 for my total on this product, rounding up to a 5 for the sheer fact that the spells aren't enough to round down for.


Vastly improved - I can't believe how much better the revised edition is!

*****

This pdf is 11 pages long, 2 /3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving 9 1/3 pages of content, so let's check this one out!

If you're a regular on these boards and to reviews, you might recall my first review of the Vanguard - which admitted to being unfair. The class came out before the Magus and I judged it in direct comparison to Paizo's class. Now, my verdict then was that the Archon is more interesting and that I didn't see a good reason for this class. Now, this is the REVISED edition and I wrote it in capital letters for a reason. The pdf has been given a major overhaul and thus I also reevaluate my take on the class.

For those of you new to the party: The Vanguard is a gish-class (arcane caster/fighter-hybrid) with 3/4 BAB, d8, 4+Int skills per level, good fort and will-saves, proficiency with light armors, shields and martial weapons and Cha-based spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th level. The release of the magus-class has impacted the vanguard in more than one way - essentially, the abilities have been completely rewritten and expanded upon. But let me elaborate first: The Vanguard bonds with a specific weapon that essentially becomes the material component of his spellcasting and which can even be enchanted at higher levels.

The weapon being essential for a vanguard to work, this is both a strength and a weakness and thus destroying/disarming a vanguard is a hard feat to pull off, with abilities like iron grip etc. preventing it and the weapon actually "healing" damage. Of course, delivering touch attacks via the blade is an option and the vanguard becomes consecutively more adapt at channeling touch spells via his weapon of choice. The vanguard also gains access to vanguard tactics, which enable him to use his intelligence to the benefits of his allies via his tactics and then there's the vanguard blast - essentially a kind of unerring, magic missile style blast, the attack improves over the levels and may even deal elemental damage.

This reliable output of damage, coupled with tactical prowess and an arcane bond is neat. What's even better, though, is that the once linear progression of the class has been abolished in favor of more customizability: A total of 9 spell maneuvers, special abilities that range from the ability to block spells (dispel them) to the option to increase casting time for an added oomph are included. The ability to cast some spells as swift actions each day is retained in the new version.

A total of 10 feats (where formerly were only 3) are also part of the deal and let you expend spells for temporary protective magic auras, expand upon your bonded weapon's enhancements and even add a first-level sorceror bloodline power to your roster of tricks. Oh, and arcane smite can also be expanded: Arcane smite lets you expend spells to store damaging energy in your blade and discharge it upon unwilling foes - for painful results!
The pdf ends with 2 spells that summon an arcane bonded object and a box that elaborates on the usefulness of multiple gish-classes in one setting.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to SGG's 3-column standard. the artwork is stock and nothing truly exciting. The pdf comes without bookmarks, which is a minor bummer. Oh BOY! I complained about the linearity of the class - it's gone. In its place are options galore. I complained about a lack of signature abilities. Now we have multiple ones. I complained about a lack of feats. Now, the additional feats open up whole avenues of different character concepts. This new Vanguard is up to the times - smarter, better, cooler in every way and armed with a plethora of abilities that make it stand out from the Archon and the Magus, this revised edition is mind-boggling in the sheer amount of ways in which it is better than its predecessor. For this review, I sat down and compared the old and the new pdf and am happy indeed to pronounce: This revised edition is so far superior to the first one, it's not even funny. In fact, I'm extremely glad to see this - author Marc Radle has taken a class that had become outdated and infused it with a whole new spark of life, a complexity and a wealth of iconic options that make this revised edition truly stand its ground and make the class a great one. This is beyond an updated version. This is not simply an overhaul. It is one of the most expansive and well-made revisions I've yet to see of an rpg-product. Product support like this is scarce indeed and I'm still a bit baffled by the lengths to which this revision goes to make the class not only appealing, but an iconic one that makes you immediately want to try it. I am deeply impressed and since all my gripes have been taken care of and since this class now truly deserves it, I'm happy to revise my verdict and give the revised vanguard 5 stars plus the Endzeitgeist seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


The Vanguard

****( )

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.


The Genius Guide to: The Vanguard

*****

The Genius Guide to: The Vanguard by Otherworld Creation

This product is 8 pages long. Opening page is cover and intro to the class.

Next it gets into the class description and table. (4 pages)
D8, 4 skills, medium BaB, 2 good saves, simple and martial weapons, light armor and shields. Level 1 spell casting ability that maxes out and 6th level spells. Cast spells like a Sorcerer, with the same progression. Though can cast fewer spells per day of each level.
Class Features
Arcane Bond – with there weapon, allowing them to cast with the weapon in hand. In fact it is hard for them to cast with out their bonded weapon. If it is lost it can be replaced by the same type of weapon.
Feats gain – Arcane Strike, Combat casting.
Bonus Feats at – 4th, 10th and 16th
Iron Grip – makes it hard to disarm the Vanguard
Weapon Channel – Cast touch based spells threw weapon, causing weapon damage and spell damage on a hit.
Vanguard Spell Penetration – add any to hit enhancements to the spell to overcome SR.
Swift Spell – Can cast a single spell as a swift action. Once per day, eventually getting 5 uses a day.
Spell Block – May attempt to block a spell cast at them like dispel magic. 3 + chr mod per day.
Arcane Smite – may expand a spell into their sword, causing there next attack to do 1d6 per level of spell used in extra magical damage.
Enhance Weapon Bond – Can enchant their weapon with magic effects. Defending, Flaming, Frost, Ghost Touch, Shock, or Thundering. May change it as a move action. Last a number or rounds per day equal to class level.
Spell Sunder – On a attack and hit, the vanguard may try and dispel any magic on the target just as if she had cast dispel magic.
Spell Grapple – On a successful spell block, instead of dispelling it, she stores it in her weapon and can then choose to cast the spell herself.
Bond Weapon Mastery – Automatically confirms crits with bonded weapon.

The next page has new feats and spells on it.
Feats
Extra Swift Spell
Improved Spell Block
Improved Weapon Channel

Spells
Summon Arcane Bonded Object
Summon Arcane Bonded Object, Greater

Final page is a OGL.

Closing Thoughts: The artwork is pretty good but a bit different. Reminds me a bit of water color art, not sure how else to describe it. I didn't notice any errors and the class seems well done. They also have a side bar talking about is the class needed with the Archon already existing. While both classes are magic/melee classes they are pretty different as well. I like this one better personally. My biggest nitpick is Enhance Weapon Bond at the level it is gained I think it could have been permanent and just only allowed them to switch the powers only so many times a day. They can bonded a magic weapon to them as well. This is one of the better magic/melee classes I have seen. Sort fills a similar roll as the Paladin only with arcane magic. Though I wouldn't have objected to them getting some bonuses to hit with their bonded weapon. Say a +1 every 5 levels so at level 20 they have a full BaB with their bonded weapon only. Going to give this a 4.5 star. Mostly because it is shorter than most of their products and it was missing the section on how to fit them into your campaign world etc.



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