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Mechanically too strong, but so much flavor!


Note: this is a review of the original priest version, which I got as a copy from Marc Radle. Depending on if there has been an update in the meantime, some of my points might have become obsolete. Just so you know.

So I've been sitting on a review of the priest class for... way too long. Marc Radle, bless him, out of the goodness of his heart provided me with a PDF ages ago and is probably still waiting for something in return. Problem is, I really really want to say it's a 5-star installment and give it a rave review, but I can't, and that makes me sad.

Since both Endzeitgeist and Ssalarn already delivered comprehensive and solid reviews on this class, I won't go into all the mechanical details because there's nothing left to say on that. The Priest is a Wisdom-based divine full caster, d6 Hit Dice and a number of abilities, most of which are aimed at supporting a 'healer/buffer' theme.

My problem with the priest is that it's simply too good. Like, way too good. In a standard party (if there's such a thing) featuring Core Rulebook characters, a priest will stand head and shoulders above a cleric in terms of divine casting, and even if other base/hybrid classes and advanced races are allowed, I believe the priest still stands strong, Sure, he loses martial capabilities and is less of an allrounder compared to a cleric, but he is SAD (single-ability dependent) and gains a lot of flexibility with three domains and the divine gift class feature in particular. Having an answer to all kinds of situations is cool, but if you can almost constantly pull off the absolute best solution of the entire party, something's wrong.

I've played a priest character in a small Pathfinder game running from 3rd to 6th level, featuring a group of four characters (we had a fifth player for a while but she dropped out). I saw this game as an opportunity to playtest the priest a bit since our GM thankfully was open to 3rd party material. Our party consisted of a human spell-less ranger (another spectacular class created by Marc Radle, and one I've used several times in my own games) who did double duty as archer and melee combatant, a dwarf elemental wizard (earth) focusing on conjuration, a sylph unchained rogue doing the standard sneaky stuff and my samsaran priest (I didn't use the Mystic Past Life alternate trait, so no extra spell shenanigans) who was the dedicated healer of the group. Every player was experienced with Pathfinder, some for many years. I'm only mentioning the party setup since I guess it informed my opinion of the priest class quite a bit, and someone else, in another situation, might come to different conclusions.

With three domains (Healing (Restoration), Luck, and Travel (Exploration)), I had access to a variety of special abilities and all sorts of useful domains spells. Sure, a priest casts less spells per day than a cleric, but I felt the spontaneous casting of my prepared spells more than made up for the loss. Also, with a decent Wisdom score and a perl of power or two it's not even really an issue.

What became an issue though was the divine gift ability. Since you can select any gift when you use the ability, you can cherry-pick the entire list every single time according to your current needs. And with things like Ascetic's Blessing (apply any metamagic feat for free), Anointed Spell (add half your Wisdom modifier to CL and spell DC) or Supplant Spell (exchange one of your prepared spells for another one of the same level), there are super powerful options available. It introduces a nova capability (the ability to unleash limited daily resources in a single burst for great effect) to a character class that frankly doesn't need one. Compared to a wizard, and especially the elemental wizard in our group (even though he was pretty optimized and used the updated spell lists from Planes of Power since the APG's list is so badly dated), I constantly felt that I had more and better options available without even trying to push the game's limits.

In the end I toned things down considerably on my end. I enjoyed being good at my 'job', don't get me wrong, but as someone who's played a number of clerics over the years, this felt crazy powerful to me. I had fun, lots of it, but I also keenly felt the untapped power of the class souring the game for me.

Since a single, low-level game hardly qualifies for an absolute verdict on the priest class, I don't think I can (or want) to end this review with a 'buy this' or 'avoid this' comment. The priest is a really good take on a non-martial cleric, a divine caster who doesn't run around in plate armor, swinging morningstars. I like the theme. And all the problems I mentioned, maybe you don't feel them the same way in your game. If I were to run a game and a player wanted to play a priest, I'd allow it - after dropping the third domain and doing something do divine gift, maybe making it a move action or something like that.

In the end I'd say: give this one a cautious try. Be wary, and keep a close eye on the group dynamics, but it might just be the divine class you've been looking for.