Advanced Class Guide Preview: Slayer

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Into every generation, a slayer is born. The slayer is a hunter, a stalker, and a killer, with enough power to fight fairly and win, but the inclination to fight unfairly and win by an even wider margin. The slayer combines the stalking and combat styles of the rogue and the ranger with none of the ranger's nature focus. Basically, the slayer is Ezio from the Assassin's Creed series, the quintessential assassin and the last person you want to see leaping out at you from the shadows.

The slayer is a full BAB class with a slower sneak attack progression than the rogue, talents at even levels, and its own prime feature, favored target (which is now called studied target). Studied target is the slayer's spin on favored enemy. Instead of hating a particular type of creature, the slayer studies any target he wants (hey, no wonder it's called studied target!), gaining bonuses against that target until he switches targets. Since this bonus also applies to Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival (and later Disguise, Intimidate, and Stealth), clever slayers can also gain a substantial boon from this feature in a variety of non-combat situations as well by studying NPCs during social encounters too. Favored target has unlimited daily uses, and who knows—if the old lady suddenly starts attacking, then you're even ready to fight back right away!


Illustration by Ramon Puasa Jr

In the original version, there were 16 choices for slayer talents with 8 additional advanced talents available at level 10. Playtesters had trouble finding enough talents that they wanted to take for their builds, so for the second playtest, this increased to 24 talents and 10 advanced talents, including the powerful combat style talent that could be taken three times, essentially granting the ranger's combat style feats to the slayer, and allowing the slayer the potential to amass a small army of feats at his disposal. Additionally, playtests had shown that the slayer's 4+Int bonus skill points were insufficient to pick up all the sorts of skills he needed to successfully slay, so he bumped up to 6+Int skill points.

The final version of the slayer as it appears in the Advanced Class Guide is quite similar to the second playtest version, so pull up your playtest document (or download it now) for an excellent preview of the class. The most exciting change is in the action economy of studied target—at low levels (before 7th when you can study as a swift action), melee slayers were finding the move action to study a target was really cramping their ambushes. So now, starting from level 1, if you hit and deal sneak attack damage, you can apply your studied target as an immediate action, and it even applies the favored target bonus to damage for that same attack. That way, you can ambush all you like and get right to the slaying!

The slayer screams out for archetypes that capture all the different facets of the iconic image of the slayer. The slayer archetypes in this book are really nice in that they give you what you're looking for with a relatively light touch, generally switching out a few of your talents for thematic abilities and losing very little else. The bounty hunter is your Boba Fett, bringing back criminals and debtors alive with combat maneuvers and an incapacitating death attack. The cleaner is the guy you send in to make sure those darned investigators don't figure out what happened, with a special ability to force any would-be detectives to beat the cleaner's Disguise or Stealth in order to find clues. The cutthroat is even more like Ezio, losing outdoorsy skills for city-based powers and skill bonuses that will help you leap off buildings instead of out of the shadows. The grave warden goes back to my intro quote with a kickass undead slayer, gaining an at-will self-only death ward at level 7 (it does cost 4 holy waters) and the ability to death attack an undead. But I'm sure you've been wondering "Mark, when are you going to get to that glowy purply shadow guy. He looks awesome!" That, my friends, is the stygian slayer, a killer imbued with the darkest shadows. He can cast invisibility, use wands and scrolls of a few thematic spells without a Use Magic Device Check, and turn into an inky black cloud that obscures vision. And that's just 5 of the 8 slayer archetypes in the final book! But wait—people have been asking for a thrown weapon ranger combat style for a while, right? Yeah, we have that too!

So you've got the rogue. You've got the ranger. Why should you be excited about the slayer class? Because those other classes serve a few masters when it comes to their design, but the slayer unashamedly serves only one—he wants to be the best at slaying, eliminating a chosen foe or foes. And he serves his master well. Even a fighter's offense can't keep up with the slayer, so if you prefer a style that emphasizes guile, stealth, and strong offense over defense, the slayer is the class for you.

As I'm typing this last paragraph, I've noticed that the slayer has some kind of a curved dagger to my throat, and he's made a few demands, so I want you to know, completely not under duress, that the slayer is my personal hero and is the best at all things. In fact, we're going to put out an entire book dedicated only to slayer options, and—aaaaaargh.

Mark Seifter
Designer

Editor's Note: After shooing the raptors away from the scene, we found this blog on a USB drive clutched in the hand of the remains of designer Mark Seifter. After a resurrection spell, he's fine now and back at work on Pathfinder Unchained, but he's still jumpy any time anyone mentions the slayer class. He defies anyone who claims that if he was dying, he wouldn't have bothered to have typed "Aaaaargh", he'd just say it.

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Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ramon Puasa Jr Slayer
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Liberty's Edge

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Troodos wrote:
This class has a different theme than a fighter. Classes aren't about power they are about different play styles and character archetypes. A soldier, knight, or proud warrior isn't going to be a slayer, they are going to be fighters, cavaliers, and similar classes.

Actually...Slayer probably works better for most soldiers (especially special forces or the equivalent) or most versions of 'proud warrior' than Fighter does (see my mention of Conan above). Knight, admittedly, doesn't work at all...but Cavalier is better than Fighter for that anyway.


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Troodos wrote:
K177Y C47 wrote:
Remember, the fighter's thing has always been feats... but the ranger and now the brawler AND the slayer can just about match him tit for tat... if not be better than him at it (skipping pre-reqs).. kinda hurts the poor fighter a lot... seeing as he really doesn't have much else (Weapon trainign is ok... armor training is alright... bravery is a joke...)
This class has a different theme than a fighter. Classes aren't about power they are about different play styles and character archetypes. A soldier, knight, or proud warrior isn't going to be a slayer, they are going to be fighters, cavaliers, and similar classes.

Unless I say it's a different theme. Which I will.


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Troodos wrote:
This class has a different theme than a fighter. Classes aren't about power they are about different play styles and character archetypes. A soldier, knight, or proud warrior isn't going to be a slayer, they are going to be fighters, cavaliers, and similar classes.

Character classes are just mechanical constructs, not role-play restrictions.

Class is not concept, concept is not class.

What is stopping anyone from using a Slayer (class) to create and role play a soldier, knight or proud warrior (character concept)?


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Nicos wrote:
Troodos wrote:
A soldier, knight, or proud warrior isn't going to be a slayer
Why not? (besides heavy armor prof)

Because it doesn't make sense thematically. A knight isnt going to be sneaking around in the shadows, and a proud warrior isn't going to train for skills that favor assassination and "dishonorable" conduct, he's going to learn to fight fair and skilled. It isn't about what abilities are needed, it's about what abilities MAKE SENSE. When would a soldier who fights in formation have time to learn sneak attack? Why would a gladiator want to make less of a spectacle?


I'm actually seeing a pretty good schematic with Mounted Combat Style, taking the Animal Companion feats to get a scaling mount and enjoying your 6 skills points per level with a pretty nice skill list. Ride, pick up Handle Animal with a trait...

Cool stuff.


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Troodos wrote:
Because it doesn't make sense thematically. A knight isnt going to be sneaking around in the shadows, and a proud warrior isn't going to train for skills that favor assassination and "dishonorable" conduct, he's going to learn to fight fair and skilled. It isn't about what abilities are needed, it's about what abilities MAKE SENSE. When would a soldier who fights in formation have time to learn sneak attack? Why would a gladiator want to make less of a spectacle?

Then take different skills and act more honorably. Take a few Combat Performance feats. Cool thing about skills and feats: your class doesn't force you to pick any one you don't want.

And honestly, what warrior would not learn to focus their attacks on vital spots?

Here, let me give you a couple examples...

1- A Halfling Duelist (concept) who is a Barbarian (class).

2- A Knight-In-Shining-Armor (concept) who is a Barbarian 1/Ranger 9 (class).

And let's not forget the countless characters who are sneaky rogues (concept) without ever taking a single level in Rogue (class).


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Troodos wrote:
Nicos wrote:
Troodos wrote:
A soldier, knight, or proud warrior isn't going to be a slayer
Why not? (besides heavy armor prof)
Because it doesn't make sense thematically. A knight isnt going to be sneaking around in the shadows, and a proud warrior isn't going to train for skills that favor assassination and "dishonorable" conduct, he's going to learn to fight fair and skilled. It isn't about what abilities are needed, it's about what abilities MAKE SENSE. When would a soldier who fights in formation have time to learn sneak attack? Why would a gladiator want to make less of a spectacle?

Roman soldiers used their shields to hide where their sword was, allowing them to make attacks through an enemy's guard. Sounds like using feint + sneak attack. Also, most soldiers did not wear fullplate. Light and medium armor is more than enough for a soldier.

I could also play a proud warrior, claiming that my studied target is actually my personal challenge. With my huge amount of skill points I can take ranks in all the skills I think a "proud warrior" should have.

Who says I have to sneak just because I have sneak attack and stealth as a class skill?


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Adam B. 135 wrote:
Troodos wrote:
Nicos wrote:
Troodos wrote:
A soldier, knight, or proud warrior isn't going to be a slayer
Why not? (besides heavy armor prof)
Because it doesn't make sense thematically. A knight isnt going to be sneaking around in the shadows, and a proud warrior isn't going to train for skills that favor assassination and "dishonorable" conduct, he's going to learn to fight fair and skilled. It isn't about what abilities are needed, it's about what abilities MAKE SENSE. When would a soldier who fights in formation have time to learn sneak attack? Why would a gladiator want to make less of a spectacle?

Roman soldiers used their shields to hide where their sword was, allowing them to make attacks through an enemy's guard. Sounds like using feint + sneak attack. Also, most soldiers did not wear fullplate. Light and medium armor is more than enough for a soldier.

I could also play a proud warrior, claiming that my studied target is actually my personal challenge. With my huge amount of skill points I can take ranks in all the skills I think a "proud warrior" should have.

Who says I have to sneak just because I have sneak attack and stealth as a class skill?

Let's not forget that sneak attack often doesn't work for sneaking anyway since it stops working in low light. Sneak attack as people use it is much more "finding opening in the enemy guard and wrecking their bottoms"


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Troodos wrote:
Nicos wrote:
Troodos wrote:
A soldier, knight, or proud warrior isn't going to be a slayer
Why not? (besides heavy armor prof)
Because it doesn't make sense thematically. A knight isnt going to be sneaking around in the shadows, and a proud warrior isn't going to train for skills that favor assassination and "dishonorable" conduct, he's going to learn to fight fair and skilled. It isn't about what abilities are needed, it's about what abilities MAKE SENSE. When would a soldier who fights in formation have time to learn sneak attack? Why would a gladiator want to make less of a spectacle?

Thend dont.

A slayer can take the ranger mounted combat style, instead of putting skill points into stealth you put it into ride. Done.

As aproud warrior the salyer can take the feint feats, and instead of fighting from the shadow he could prefer to combat his enemies face to face. Done.

Liberty's Edge

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Troodos wrote:
Because it doesn't make sense thematically. A knight isnt going to be sneaking around in the shadows, and a proud warrior isn't going to train for skills that favor assassination and "dishonorable" conduct, he's going to learn to fight fair and skilled.

How are Acrobatics, Climb, Craft, Heal, Intimidate, some Knowledge skills, Perception, Profession, Ride, Sense Motive, Survival, and Swim dishonorable? And that's literally only three or four skills less than their whole skill list. Less than a quarter of their Class Skills match your description.

Troodos wrote:
It isn't about what abilities are needed, it's about what abilities MAKE SENSE. When would a soldier who fights in formation have time to learn sneak attack? Why would a gladiator want to make less of a spectacle?

Except that almost universally their class abilities, while potentially useful in sneaky situations, don't require stealth or subtlety at all. Even Sneak Attack just represents some knowledge of vulnerable spots. Along with that, they have the ability to study an opponent and fight him better, and the ability to track.

How is any of that inappropriate to being a soldier? Or a gladiator? Indeed, the 'studying an opponent' thing seems spot on for a gladiator (the tracking's a bit superfluous, but not unbelievable, and not a huge deal anyway).


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Troodos wrote:
K177Y C47 wrote:
Remember, the fighter's thing has always been feats... but the ranger and now the brawler AND the slayer can just about match him tit for tat... if not be better than him at it (skipping pre-reqs).. kinda hurts the poor fighter a lot... seeing as he really doesn't have much else (Weapon trainign is ok... armor training is alright... bravery is a joke...)
This class has a different theme than a fighter. Classes aren't about power they are about different play styles and character archetypes. A soldier, knight, or proud warrior isn't going to be a slayer, they are going to be fighters, cavaliers, and similar classes.

Says who? You are allowing the name of the class define how it plays. Do all ninja's run around in pajamas and use wakazashis?


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Troodos wrote:
Nicos wrote:
Troodos wrote:
A soldier, knight, or proud warrior isn't going to be a slayer
Why not? (besides heavy armor prof)
Because it doesn't make sense thematically. A knight isnt going to be sneaking around in the shadows, and a proud warrior isn't going to train for skills that favor assassination and "dishonorable" conduct, he's going to learn to fight fair and skilled. It isn't about what abilities are needed, it's about what abilities MAKE SENSE. When would a soldier who fights in formation have time to learn sneak attack? Why would a gladiator want to make less of a spectacle?

Who says the slayer needs to be stealthy? For all he cares he can be a warrior who is so good at his art, he can land devastating blows with precision when his opponents are denied dex (i.e. flat-footed or flanking) which is how he got Sneak attack. Studied Target can be like an honorable foe that you deem worthy of your extra attention.

Shadow Lodge

Poor Troodos. =)


And this post just shot the Slayer to my #1 most anticipated class for the ACG, was already looking forward to it before, but those archetypes sound amazing (especially since I've been calling for the bounty hunter as an archetype since round 1 of the playtest)


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DC: Mark's not gonna make it perception check: There is a strange, out of place shadow in your office.

"Hello, Mark. How are you doing?"

Couldn't resist ;P

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

AndIMustMask wrote:
so are we really just going to sweep fighter/rogue/monk under the rug and just replace them with the newer models instead of fixing them? over page-count? sigh.

They already did fix the monk, via archetypes. And Monk and Rogue are both getting reworks in Unchained.

Sooo..... They're pretty much doing what they've always said they're going to do, with the added goodies from Unchained for people who don't want fixes through archetypes or expansion.


Oooo...I DO HOPE one of the 8 Archetypes is an Avenger-type Archetype (aka an assassin who works for a religious order).


Orthos wrote:
Poor Troodos. =)

Yeah. I wouldn't have responded if I saw how he was gonna be sixtuple-teamed.

Though back on topic, I totally wanna run a viking dude off of Slayer. I think it will be grand.


Adam B. 135 wrote:
Orthos wrote:
Poor Troodos. =)

Yeah. I wouldn't have responded if I saw how he was gonna be sixtuple-teamed.

Though back on topic, I totally wanna run a viking dude off of Slayer. I think it will be grand.

KITTEN PILE!!!

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

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Worth pointing out on the "how are soldiers who fight in formation going to learn sneak attack?" thing: That's how good formations work. The guy covering your flank distracts the enemy, you stick a sword in his armpit. Slayers match up way better with formation fighters like Spartans than baseline Fighters do.

Plus, they get that cinematic ability to suddenly break formation and engage in a crazy violent duel with that guy that killed their brother/father/son/lover/what-have-you, with mechanical bonuses and everything.

Silver Crusade

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Well I think this should be enough to kill the ranger, and destroy the body.


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Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
Well I think this should be enough to kill the ranger, and destroy the body.

?

The Ranger still has an Animal Companion, spells, and full Favored Enemy/Terrain progression. The Ranger's fine.


I rolled up a 2nd level slayer as a replacement character and played him for one session so far. He was a blast to play. I am just hoping they open up some more rogue talents, allow ninja talents, and have some new slayer talents. I just feel there needs to be more.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

Rynjin wrote:
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
Well I think this should be enough to kill the ranger, and destroy the body.

?

The Ranger still has an Animal Companion, spells, and full Favored Enemy/Terrain progression. The Ranger's fine.

Yeah, this. Ranger is still firmly ensconced in his particular niche. Rogue's the one who should feel nervous.


The ranger has 4/9 spell casting, and an AC (that gets favored enemy), as well as a bunch of nice archetypes.

Slayer is more like a more flexible ranger, but the ranger is more focused and is better at it.


Rangers are considerably better at Stealth too.


Oh, and a chance to pick up evasion.*

Lemmy wrote:
Rangers are considerably better at Stealth too.

How so?

*edit: just rechecked, evasion is an advanced talent.


eakratz wrote:

Oh, and a chance to pick up evasion.

Lemmy wrote:
Rangers are considerably better at Stealth too.
How so?

I think they have a spell to neagate scent and the bonus from favorite terrain, not sure if that constitue "considerably better" though, I should be missing something.


Rangers eventually pick up Hide in Plain Sight. So there's that.


Arachnofiend wrote:
Rangers eventually pick up Hide in Plain Sight. So there's that.

I think there is an advanced rogue talent for that, probably not as good as the real HiPs though.


Ah. I was thinking of favored terrain. I admit my eyes gloss over when I read spells so I would have easily missed that. Hide in Plain site should be an advance slayer talent though.


eakratz wrote:

Oh, and a chance to pick up evasion.*

Lemmy wrote:
Rangers are considerably better at Stealth too.

How so?

*edit: just rechecked, evasion is an advanced talent.

Between Favored Enemy, Favored Terrain, spells (such as Conceal Scent and Terrain Bond), Camouflage (which Slayer can get as well, although it costs them a talent) and HiPS, Rangers have a solid advantage on Stealth.


Yeah, I can see that with the spells. Slayers only get studied target bonuses against one target at a time, which can really cramp trying to stealth past multiple enemies. Slayers do,get favored terrain, bit I can't imagine taking that as a talent.


Lest see, the salyer could ge fast stealth, there are probably other rogue talents for that, but I am not sure if taking rogue talens is the best idea.


If the slayer did get its name by slaying the party rogue and fighter and then taking their place in the group... is the slayer entitled to two shares of party loot? Seems like it would a little unbalancing.


Nicos wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Rangers eventually pick up Hide in Plain Sight. So there's that.
I think there is an advanced rogue talent for that, probably not as good as the real HiPs though.

the rogue version requires them to take rogue talents for favored terrains. They only get HiPS in a favored terrain.


Torbyne wrote:
If the slayer did get its name by slaying the party rogue and fighter and then taking their place in the group... is the slayer entitled to two shares of party loot? Seems like it would a little unbalancing.

That's assuming Rogues were ever alive to start with...


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Adam B. 135 wrote:
Nicos wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Rangers eventually pick up Hide in Plain Sight. So there's that.
I think there is an advanced rogue talent for that, probably not as good as the real HiPs though.
the rogue version requires them to take rogue talents for favored terrains. They only get HiPS in a favored terrain.

Also, they need to take it multiple times, while Ranger get it for free and can use Terrain Bond to treat any terrain as their favored one.


It was an out of combat encounter; a series of opposed stealth, track and perception checks. The outcome was obvious from the start but the slayer just had to go through the motions. The death was off screen and quite.


Lemmy wrote:
Adam B. 135 wrote:
Nicos wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Rangers eventually pick up Hide in Plain Sight. So there's that.
I think there is an advanced rogue talent for that, probably not as good as the real HiPs though.
the rogue version requires them to take rogue talents for favored terrains. They only get HiPS in a favored terrain.
Also, they need to take it multiple times, while Ranger get it for free and can use Terrain Bond to treat any terrain as their favored one.

Uhm, I dislke that kind of spells.

anyways, unless the ACG have new impresive stealth talents, the ranger is clearly better.


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Torbyne wrote:
It was an out of combat encounter; a series of opposed stealth, track and perception checks. The outcome was obvious from the start but the slayer just had to go through the motions. The death was off screen and quite.

Quite?..... Sudden?


Good class design is good.

I do like that we are getting a lot of full class replacements for niches filled by old Prestige Classes.

This thing is obviously a much better take on the Assassin, without having to be evil.

A Brawler Archetype that gets weapons might suffice to be a decent fighter fix for those who are worried.


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master_marshmallow wrote:

Good class design is good.

I do like that we are getting a lot of full class replacements for niches filled by old Prestige Classes.

This thing is obviously a much better take on the Assassin, without having to be evil.

A Brawler Archetype that gets weapons might suffice to be a decent fighter fix for those who are worried.

I wonder how slayer+Red Mantis Assassin would work xD

Silver Crusade

eakratz wrote:
Yeah, I can see that with the spells. Slayers only get studied target bonuses against one target at a time, which can really cramp trying to stealth past multiple enemies. Slayers do,get favored terrain, bit I can't imagine taking that as a talent.

Actually, as the slayer advances in level, studied target can be used on multiple opponents (every 5 levels, up to 5 by 20th level).

The cleaner seems like something I can get behind. Looks like just what I need to drive an investigator PC crazy.


Well if the Iron Gods campaign does indeed have chainsaw swords, I know some people will recreate an adorably psychotic Cleaner from a certain series.


I have a question... When Slayers take the Ranger Combat Style trick, do they need to meet feat prerequisites?


Lemmy wrote:
I have a question... When Slayers take the Ranger Combat Style trick, do they need to meet feat prerequisites?

if the test was missing in the playtest, I am pretty sure I remember that being on the list of things SKR would fix.


Ranger Combat Style prerequesites are not mentioned in the second version of the playtest. It seems implied that they function identical to the Ranger - all my GMs have ignored prerequisites based on RAI.

It could certainly do with clarification.


I hope you guys are right. Ignoring prerequisites is half the fun. ;)


Okay, will the Stygian Slayer have an ability that grants access to Dimension Door and open up the Dimensional Savant feat to someone with sneak attack finally without cripplingly bad multiclassing?

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