PACG Core Set Class Strategy #4: Amiri the Barbarian

Friday, January 24, 2020

Amiri is the character that got me thinking about these character strategy guides in the first place. I don’t think I’ve ever played her in a tabletop game, but I played all of the Rise of the Runelords characters a lot in Obsidian’s Pathfinder Adventures computer game shortly after it was released, and I was really impressed by subtle uses of Amiri’s power of movement. That cleverness is still there in the Core Set, so I’m happy to finally present these strategies, over three years after I wrote an earlier version of them down in rough notes.

Core Set Amiri

Best Skill: Strength (d12)
Character Type: Warrior, Melee

Skills. As a character with a d12, Amiri gets to roll the best die in the game. This makes her especially strong in combat (Melee: Strength +2) and even more so if she’s blessed, since blessings add a d12 each. That often makes Amiri a great choice for fighting the villain. Amiri’s other skills are Fortitude and Survival, of which Survival is the only one that’s somewhat rare—shared by only Harsk and Lini in the Core Set. Harsk in fact shares both of these subsidiary skills with Amiri, so they’re not good fellows in an adventuring party due to the overlap.

Weaknesses. Amiri’s d4 is in Charisma, which makes it harder to recruit allies. Generally, Amiri shouldn’t explore ally-heavy locations, though some allies have a Survival acquisition roll, so she still has a chance. Otherwise, Amiri’s biggest weakness is that her sub-skills are all +1 or +2, balancing out her high Strength roll.

Cards. Barbarians hate magic(!), so it’s no surprise that Amiri has no spell card slots (0), but remember that she can always cast spells as one-off “scrolls.” She may have more weapon cards (4) and armor cards (2) than she needs, and this can clog your hand if you’re not careful, so you should only increase these slots after Amiri’s deck has gotten large enough that you can no longer reliably draw the weapons and armor that you need.

Blessings. The favored deity for Amiri is probably Torag, who can boost her already robust Strength and Constitution. Given Amiri’s role as a brutish fighter, Gorum and Lamashtu aren’t bad either

Clarification: What is a non-Attack combat check? Attack is a trait that tends to be added by spells and Wand items, so a non-Attack combat check tends to be a physical attack, like Melee or Ranged. That’s why Gorum is the perfect deity for physical combatants.

Items. Amiri will often discard weapons for extra damage and will discard blessings and allies to explore again, but she has no way to recover them on her own. Obviously, there should be a healer in your party like Kyra or Lini, but Sarenrae also helps those who help themselves, so stock up on healing items like Elixirs of Healing, Balmberries, and Staffs of Minor Healing.

Weapons. Amiri prefers Melee strength weapons that can be recharged or reloaded (instead of discarded) for extra damage. That tends to mean swords (such as the Shortsword, Longsword, and Keen Rapier), which usually reload for small bonuses.

The Power of Rage

Although it’s not Amiri’s most interesting power, her “rage” may be the most useful: she can add her Fortitude skill to Strength checks or checks against monsters.

Take Rage from Discard as Your First Power Feat. Thanks to her Melee skill of d12 + 2, Amiri is already a combat monster, but the rage power just improves that, because she can now add Fortitude skill of d8 + 1 to checks against monsters, which brings it to d12 + d8 + 3, even before adding in a weapon. (In fact, Amiri can get away without having a weapon in many fights, as she averages 14 if she rages, and she certainly doesn’t need to discard a weapon in most cases if she rages.) The catch is Amiri’s need to bury a card from her hand to rage, which is quite costly except near the end of the game, as buried cards typically can’t be recovered. This is why Amiri’s first power feat should go toward turning her rage into an ability that draws from her discards: it’s still costly due to the loss of a card, but at least it doesn’t thin her hand (and honestly, that’s one less card that she needs to heal).

Clarification: What is the Fortitude Skill? The Fortitude skill is the die plus any modifiers that you add together when rolling Fortitude (as described in page 11 of the Core Set rules). For Amiri, that’s d8 + 1 at start. If the rage power had instead said to add the Fortitude modifier, then it would be just the +1, and if it had said the Fortitude die, then it would be just the d8, but a skill is both.

Rage, Rage against the Beginning of the Fight. Note that Amiri’s rage ability allows her to add Fortitude to any “check against a monster.” That’s not just the main combat check! Amiri can also use her rage power on “before acting” and “after acting” checks. These checks usually have lower target numbers that become relatively easy when you get to add together two skills—both the listed skill and Fortitude—so this may be even more useful than raging in the fight itself... though you can of course do both.

Rage When You Talk Too. Similarly, if a monster has a non-combat check to defeat, like Charisma or Divine, it might be easier to do that than actually fight, as non-combat checks to defeat tend to have lower difficulties. Take a look at your comparative dice pools and see which is better.

Collect Things to Break. The cost of Amiri’s rage is breaking stuff—which is to say burying cards. To prepare for this, try to collect things early in the game. Send Amiri to a boon-heavy location, and even if she picks up junk like Quarterstaffs and Leather Armors, she can still use them to fuel her rage. And once she’s taken the power feat that lets her fuel her rage with discards, she doesn’t even need to let the junk clutter her hand; she can discard it at the earliest opportunity.

The Power of Movement

Though Amiri’s rage is extremely useful, it’s her power of movement that is unique, and allows her to do something that no one else can (well, other than roles and other characters that copy the power!).

Dance Around Locations with Start-of-Turn Penalties. Amiri should be your group’s character to explore locations where something bad happens at the start of your turn. (There were more of these locations in previous sets, and presumably will be more in future sets.) She can move there after the start of her turn, explore during her turn, then move away at the end. Rinse and repeat until the location is closed.

Occasionally Hang Out with Your Friends. Alternatively, Amiri might have friends who are great to explore with like Kyra (who can heal Amiri, resolving one of her major disadvantages), Lem (who can boost local checks), or Seelah (who can boost local checks and invoke Magic). But, it’s not always great to hang around with friends because monsters can attack you all and barriers can force everyone to make checks. So Amiri might join her friends during her explorations, then flee the possibility of bad effects on their turns.

Be Ready to Guard Out of Turn. Finally, Amiri can also use her ability to guard locations on other players’ turns. Maybe she’s teaming up with other characters on her turn or maybe there’s some nasty location that no one wants to explore because it’s full of monsters and barriers. In either case, Amiri can go sit at an otherwise unguarded location after her turn is done, then return to her normal explorations at the start of her next turn.

Clarification: Can Amiri’s Movement Be Stopped? Yes! Per the Golden Rules on page 3 of the Core Set Rulebook, if a card says that you cannot do something (such as the location Cell, which says “You cannot move unless…”) and something else says you can (like Amiri’s power), comply with the one that tells you that you cannot. (The Golden Rules also say that locations override support cards, support cards override characters, and characters override other card types, so that would stop her too.)

Take Your Friends with You. Remember that Amiri’s power extends to other characters. This means that if someone is exploring a nasty location with beginning-of-the-turn powers, Amiri can also whisk them away; other characters might even go to Amiri’s location with the intent to be moved away on her turn. This makes Amiri’s location a prime spot for powers like the spell Revitalize, which heals everyone there. Characters can move to Amiri’s location to get healed, then she can move some of them away to spread out the party.

The Amiri Roles

Both of Amiri’s roles make her even more of a combat monster; Resistance Fighter can help her take damage, while Smashmouth can help her cycle her deck and destroy traps.

Resistance Fighter. This role mainly offers incremental improvements to Amiri’s core powers: she can remove scourges and heal while raging and closing, and she can examine while moving. Her combat power also gets even better thanks to freely played blessings. But there’s one big addition, focused on damage taking: a set of three powers allow her to (controllably) discard damage from her deck instead of her hand. This can really improve Amiri’s combat against dangerous henchmen and villains, who often do pre-combat damage that can empty out a hand. In those circumstances, Amiri can instead take the damage from her deck while peeking to ensure they’re cards she can lose.

Smashmouth. This role also adds incremental improvements to Amiri’s powers, though it focuses a little more on combat than the other role. The ability to recharge combat blessings helps Amiri’s issue with healing, while the ability to recharge weapons to stop before or after you act damage offers a different answer to that problem, and one that’s less costly in health. The Smashmouth role also allows Amiri to rage against barriers, which is a nice addition if you don’t have a Disabler in your party.

Shannon Appelcline
Game Historian

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