The Genius Guide to Apprentice-Level Characters (PFRPG) PDF

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When you consider the number of things a 1st-level character can do in a Pathfinder RPG campaign, it’s pretty clear that even the lowest level characters have completed some intense training. But what do you do if you want to start an adventure before your wizards have mastered their 1st-level spells and paladins have discovered how to detect evil at will? The Genius Guide to Apprentice-Level Characters presents simple rules for creating 0-level or 1/2-level characters who have some instruction but aren’t yet fully trained members of their class.

There are two typical ways to use apprentice-level characters. The first is to run a campaign where the characters start at level 0. Such characters begin with half the starting gold they’d normally get at 1st level and usually represent characters that are still in training. If you want to begin a game at a training facility or in a village that is normally guarded by 1st-level warriors, having 0-level player characters would be appropriate. It takes 1/2 as many experience points to go from 0 to 1st level as it takes to go from 1st to 2nd level.

The other use of apprentice-level characters is to allow multiclass characters at 1st level. An apprentice-fighter/apprentice rogue is (roughly) the same as a 1st-level character, and allows the character to begin play with a mix of stealth and martial skill. When such a multiclass character reaches 2nd level, he becomes 1st level in both of the two classes, and proceeds normally from there.

While apprentice-level characters use the same basic rules for combat and actions as any Pathfinder Roleplaying Game character, there are a few specific questions that should be addressed in regards to these characters.

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Only the most basic crunch

2/5

This pdf is 7 pages long 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page SRD and credits, leaving 5 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look at some heroes in the making!

I’ve always been a fan of the concept of 0-level characters, i.e. people who stumble into being a hero, be it via slave-revolt, ship-wreck or similar circumstances. In the end, a dramatic beginning, the trauma of combat etc. that separates the characters from fellow commoners or similar NPCs can not only make for a great bonding/plot-element, it can also be utilized for great satisfaction for the players, once they reach the true prowess of already better than average PC-classes.

The other classic usage of this system enables the apprentice to reflect a multiclass-character at first level. The latter has e.g. also been done admirably well in 4 Wind Fantasy Gaming’s “Strategists & Tacticians” via a 1-level PrC whose modularity ranks among the finest examples of designing-craft I’ve seen in quite some time, but I digress.
The basic approach in this guide to apprentice-level characters is to limit 1st-level abilities: PCs get half their hitdice, half their skill points, no feats, good saves get +1 and limited access to special qualities and spells. Usually, that means 1 first-level-spell or limitations on e.g. the Witch’s Hex.

That being said, a lot of classes are covered in minor blocks that sum their respective information up: All the base-classes are covered, as are the APG-classes. Additionally, we get coverage of SGG’s Archon, the Armiger, the Death Mage, the Dragonrider, the 4 Godlings, the SGG-Magus (arcane/divine caster), the Shadow Assassin, the Time Thief, the Vanguard, the War Master and finally the Witch Hunter as well.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 3-column standard and once again, we get no bookmarks. While the writing and presentation are concise, I was SORELY disappointed by this book. First of all, no guidelines as to when (xp-wise, story-wise etc.) the characters should graduate to 1st level are given. More importantly, though, the execution, while mechanically sound, is just plain BORING.

Had I set out to make the most dry, bland approach to apprentice-level characters, I couldn’t have done a better job. All the potential for misfiring spells, misbehaving animal companions, mispronounced judgments, self-igniting fire-bloodline sorcerers etc. – squandered. The topic of apprenticeship lends itself to tremendous and plentiful creative ways to write adventures, from humorous, to traumatic, from pastel-shaded last days of innocence to the first journey to the lands of men to a struggle for survival – depending on the class, a plethora of cool handicaps springs to mind that limit abilities and make for compelling roleplaying.
This book offers nothing of the like. If you’re too lazy to do perhaps one of the easiest mathematical operations and use a bit of common sense, this might be 3 stars for you. For me and everyone else who was looking for more than this slew of numbers, though, this is not what we've been looking for and were I to review this for just me, I'd give it one star. My final verdict, though, will be 2 stars for the ultimate crime of being boring and yet acknowledging that for some people this might actually be useful.


Basic Crunch Data

4/5

This short booklet gives you some information on how to add Apprentice Level rules to your Pathfinder Campaign. It provides some interesting ideas but basically just takes every class and divides by 2. Half HP, Skill Points, Saves, etc. If you don't use all of the classes shown from all the genius guides, you will never need that info. If you are going to start your characters out at 0 level or 1/2 level as an apprentice, this is a good purchase for you. It felt very basic to me.


Pretty good.

5/5

I had some pretty decent ideas for how to play apprentice/children/0-level characters. I think it's safe to say those ideas are scrapped & won't be seen again for years(if at all). There's only one thing I'd do to expand on the system & it's just something I'd do for the Pathfinder system as a whole anyway.

Whether you want to do something like "starting off the 1rst session with the characters as children & having them end up banding together for some reason" or simply make more varied 1rst level characters, this booklet can get the job done.


The Genius Guide to: Apprentice Level Characters

4/5

The Genius Guide to: Apprentice Level Characters by Super Genius Games

This product is 7 pages long. It starts off with a cover and intro into what apprentice level characters are. (1 page) Next it gets into all the aspects of a class, feats, skill lists, spells, etc and how things are different for them. (1 page).

Next it lists all the classes with all the information on how to change the base class into a Apprentice level version of it. It covers all the base Pathfinder classes, all the classes from the new Advance Players Guide and all the classes so far published by Super Genius Games. (4 pages)

It finishes with a OGL.

Closing thoughts. The artwork is fair most of it all but one I have seen in other products of theirs. The book is pretty much what you would expect. Stripping the classes down to apprentice level versions of them. If you have always wanted to start characters off before they was first level then this is a good pick up. I am giving this a 4 star. While the product does just what it promises, giving you apprentice level characters to play. It also didn't wow me either, so it is a solid pickup for those wanting that.


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Scarab Sages

Out now at Paizo's store!

When you consider the number of things a 1st-level character can do in a Pathfinder RPG campaign, it’s pretty clear that even the lowest level characters have completed some intense training. But what do you do if you want to start an adventure before your wizards have mastered their 1st-level spells and paladins have discovered how to detect evil at will? The Genius Guide to Apprentice-Level Characters presents simple rules for creating 0-level or 1/2-level characters who have some instruction but aren’t yet fully trained members of their class.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:

Out now at Paizo's store!

When you consider the number of things a 1st-level character can do in a Pathfinder RPG campaign, it’s pretty clear that even the lowest level characters have completed some intense training. But what do you do if you want to start an adventure before your wizards have mastered their 1st-level spells and paladins have discovered how to detect evil at will? The Genius Guide to Apprentice-Level Characters presents simple rules for creating 0-level or 1/2-level characters who have some instruction but aren’t yet fully trained members of their class.

Sold to me due to nostalgia for the AD&D Treasure Hunt adventure.

The Exchange

Sold me because it's something I've thought a lot about before, and I know others who have always talked about doing pre-adventures (as a group or solo) using rules along these lines, but have always been too busy to come up with the rules.

Dark Archive

You are just determined to make me poor arn't you?

Scarab Sages

w0nkothesane wrote:
I know others who have always talked about doing pre-adventures (as a group or solo) using rules along these lines, but have always been too busy to come up with the rules.

That's us, we make rules so you don't have to!

Dark_Mistress wrote:
You are just determined to make me poor arn't you?

We prefer to think of ourselves as determined to turn your money into new kinds of gaming fun. But yeah. :)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What would be some good adventures to run for 0-level characters? I think it would be neat to start one up. I loved this concept in 1st ed. Have a close group of adventuring friends like in Stand By Me.

I would think something like a lone CR1 being the big bad or even a CR2. Like a Gnoll terrorizing farmers or a Ghoul haunting an old abandoned graveyard.

The Exchange

I imagine I could use a few different types of pre-level 1 adventures. A couple I've considered using in the past include:

A single solo session with each member of a new group to have them go through a couple of (very very low CR) challenges while they're learning their skills- be it soldier training, rites of adulthood, or apprenticing to a wizard.

Set the 0-level adventure a few weeks/months/years before the characters are even in a position to go adventuring, like when they're in their young to mid teens (or equivalent for each race) and have them be a group of friends who get into some mischief or caught up in some minor scheme, like the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Scarab Sages

Shar Tahl wrote:

What would be some good adventures to run for 0-level characters? I think it would be neat to start one up. I loved this concept in 1st ed. Have a close group of adventuring friends like in Stand By Me.

I would think something like a lone CR1 being the big bad or even a CR2. Like a Gnoll terrorizing farmers or a Ghoul haunting an old abandoned graveyard.

way back in 2nd ed, I once ran a 0-level adventure that focused on two goblins who had taken up residence in the town's stable/barn, and only the town's teens believed the goblins was actually in there. Of course, on addition to being 0-level, the teens had to arm themselves with a pitchfork, butcher knife and frying pan, as I recall.

When they killed the goblins, they came to the attention of a local knight, who made them squires, then one joined the church and another became the court wizard's apprentice, and so on.

Scarab Sages

w0nkothesane wrote:
Set the 0-level adventure a few weeks/months/years before the characters are even in a position to go adventuring, like when they're in their young to mid teens (or equivalent for each race) and have them be a group of friends who get into some mischief or caught up in some minor scheme, like the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

That's a *great* idea!

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

...i wish there wasn't such a big delay between getting the product up here and making it available on RPGNow...

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Dark_Mistress wrote:
You are just determined to make me poor arn't you?

You know, a real Succubus might think of other ways of "compensating" these guys for their products.


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Great idea!

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Lord Fyre wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
You are just determined to make me poor arn't you?
You know, a real Succubus might think of other ways of "compensating" these guys for their products.

Drain their life force and term them into eternal soulless slaves?

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game, Rulebook Subscriber
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
You are just determined to make me poor arn't you?
You know, a real Succubus might think of other ways of "compensating" these guys for their products.
Drain their life force and term them into eternal soulless slaves?

Soulless slaves are far less creative than free-willed capitalists.

Scarab Sages

DitheringFool wrote:
...i wish there wasn't such a big delay between getting the product up here and making it available on RPGNow...

Sorry! We try to make it no more than a day or two. But that's one of the things Hyrum took care of for us and, well...

In general we're managing without him okay, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit there are some things it turns out won't work as well without him.

Dark_Mistress wrote:
Drain their life force and term them into eternal soulless slaves?

That was my first thought, yeah.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Dark_Mistress wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
You are just determined to make me poor arn't you?
You know, a real Succubus might think of other ways of "compensating" these guys for their products.
Drain their life force and term them into eternal soulless slaves?

Well, Yeah!

Dark Archive

UG! tUrn not tErm.... *le sigh*


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So, in addition to expanded favored class options, will all future Genius core class releases also have information for using them as apprentice characters (e.g. the "apprentice stat block" that this book gives us)?

Scarab Sages

DitheringFool wrote:
...i wish there wasn't such a big delay between getting the product up here and making it available on RPGNow...

Lookie here!

Scarab Sages

Alzrius wrote:
So, in addition to expanded favored class options, will all future Genius core class releases also have information for using them as apprentice characters (e.g. the "apprentice stat block" that this book gives us)?

All that information will be available eventually. We don't yet know for sure what format it's going to take. Not everyone wants APG-style alternate favored class advancements or apprentice-level rules, and even with a PDF there's a risk of eventual bloat.

I might include it with classes, or collect and gather in free expansions, or clutch the only copies to my chest while perched in a clock tower and demand a ransom for it. It's still under discussion. But it will be generated and made available somehow, in any case.

*Normally* I take SGG class products in with updates to official Paizo classes, such as I am sure we'll be seeing in Ultimate Magic.


Dammit, Owen! Just when I'm completely broke cause of the divorce you have to put out something like this...

--
Steve Creech
DragonWing Games

Dark Archive

Reviewed.

Contributor

Dark_Mistress wrote:
Reviewed.

Thanks for the review, DM.

Just for the sake of discussion ... since your review says that the PDF includes everything one needs to use this material, what could we have included that would have helped the product to better "wow" you?

Dark Archive

Hmm good question. I mean it turned out to be pretty much what I expected and it works. Which is just stripped down classes. I guess what I was hoping for was something like background traits. Maybe something like this.

Farmer - You grew up on a farm and helped your family attend to the chores of the farm growing up.
Requirements - Str or Con 12+
Bonuses - Profession Farmer and Handle Animal are consider Class skills. +1 skill point must be spent on Profession or Handle Animal.

Something along those lines is what I was hoping for. Basically something that would have been useful for everyone. Regardless if they want to play 0 level characters. To me that would be a wow of going above and beyond what was needed, yet something that fits in the concept. I mean what they did before they was adventures.


Are these rules based off the old 3.0 apprentice level rules?


Shar Tahl wrote:
What would be some good adventures to run for 0-level characters?

Goodman Games has a few 0-level adventures that they made for 3.5e.

  • Dungeon Crawl Classics #35: Gazetteer of the Known Realms

  • Dungeon Crawl Classics #35A: Halls of the Minotaur
    (I've played this one, it was really cool, but I can't seem to find it for sale anywhere. OOP maybe?)

  • Dungeon Crawl Classics #52: Chronicle of the Fiend


  • 1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Dark_Mistress wrote:

    Hmm good question. I mean it turned out to be pretty much what I expected and it works. Which is just stripped down classes. I guess what I was hoping for was something like background traits. Maybe something like this.

    Farmer - You grew up on a farm and helped your family attend to the chores of the farm growing up.
    Requirements - Str or Con 12+
    Bonuses - Profession Farmer and Handle Animal are consider Class skills. +1 skill point must be spent on Profession or Handle Animal.

    Something along those lines is what I was hoping for. Basically something that would have been useful for everyone. Regardless if they want to play 0 level characters. To me that would be a wow of going above and beyond what was needed, yet something that fits in the concept. I mean what they did before they was adventures.

    I agreed with your review almost completely, and so I thought I'd add that, while the actual product is worth the money and does what it is suppose to do, I did kind of wish for a little more crunch for actually running a 0-level game.

    Your ideas about traits are a good idea. I know what I'm about to mention is probably way beyond the pale (buy, um, maybe for a follow up?), but I was thinking of something that does something like the old inspiration points in the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover for 0-level characters (how many people remember that one?).

    Basically, it let you spend inspiration points to do things that you might do later in your career. While I know that this system kind of assumes that you already have a class in mind when you start out, something like that might still be useful for determining if your other "half" is going to be multi-classing or filling out your current class.

    Plus I liked the idea that 0-level characters kind of survived on dumb luck at times when seasoned adventurers might normally have a harder time.

    Scarab Sages

    seekerofshadowlight wrote:
    Are these rules based off the old 3.0 apprentice level rules?

    I'd say they were in part inspired by those rules, but I didn't look at or reference them while building these.


    Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:


    I'd say they were in part inspired by those rules, but I didn't look at or reference them while building these.

    They are similar, but I think the rules in this product actually make more sense than the 3.0 rules did. A little cleaner in presentation, more logical in context.


    KnightErrantJR wrote:


    Your ideas about traits are a good idea. I know what I'm about to mention is probably way beyond the pale (buy, um, maybe for a follow up?), but I was thinking of something that does something like the old inspiration points in the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover for 0-level characters (how many people remember that one?).

    Heh.. how many remember Len Lakofka's article in his "Leomund's Tiny Hut" column in the Dragon magazine long before Greyhawk Adventures? One srticle (may have been a series) discussed "pre-1st level characters". Your PCs started with negative XP and earned their way to 1st level at 0 XP.

    Fighting classes (Figher, Paladin, and Ranger) spent time at "Man-at-arms" training for all or part of their pre-adventuring career, while Rangers and Paladins also needed additional, more specialized "courses". The more powerful the class was, the more pre-1st level training was required and the more negative XP you started with. From memory, the Fighters needed only the "Man-at-arms" training and started with the least XP "debt", while the Ranger may have had the most.

    In any event, the Inspiration Point model sounds good, especially if the characters begin with a pool based on how long and dangerout the initial adventure is .. a short "introductory" adventure having a small pool per PC, while a longer adventure (maybe one meant for 1st level characters) offered a bigger pool. The GM or player should track how the points are spent, with an eye to seeing which class the PC gravitates toward naturally.

    The problem with that, of course, is that only addresses the use of 0-level PCs as "before they were heroes" characters. It does not address the multi-classed-at-1st-level situation.


    For another take on apprentice levels. Kolja Raven Liquette has some notes for his home campaign posted on the web. He hasn't updated it in ages though.

    http://www.wakinglands.com/htm_files/the_classes_page.htm

    Sethvir

    Liberty's Edge

    Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

    Just downloaded this. Level 0 characters kind of give me the feel of the power level of Level 1 characters back in the early days of D&D. It's great to have this as an option!


    I just downloaded the product, and found myself wondering.

    If I were to use this, I'd set a limit of negative XP these apprentice level PC's would start at. Based on what I've seen and after reading the notes here, I'd suggest a max of -200Xp to each PC. This way, they'll have to work together in order to reach 1st level, and it'll be a goal they could reach with only a few mishaps.

    Hope that works for everyone else.

    Dark Archive

    Just bought it, now to see if I can put any of it to use.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

    My thoughts:

    Overall i liked it.

    The half and half way to multiclass at 1st level was a nice touch and unexpected. mechanics are simple enough and easy to apply to any class. I can definitely see using it for some styles of games i play.

    The only thing i personally would have liked to see would be a way to have Unclassed 0-level characters so they could drift into certain classes as the game goes on.

    Perhaps KEJ's inspiration points suggestion above (yes i do have that and remember it KEJ!) or perhaps 'floating' half feats/skills/class-features that require some type of UMD-esque style of rolling to use. (still at the apprentice level 1/2 power as well.)

    Contributor

    Rathendar wrote:
    Perhaps KEJ's inspiration points suggestion above

    In our weekly Genius Meeting last week we talked about KEJ's inspiration points AND DM's background traits suggestions. They BOTH sound like really awesome ways to expand on the Apprentice-Level material.

    They're now officially in the mix of "intriguing ideas" that we're poking around at ... who's to say what the final result may be?


    This one really struck my interest because it's a new way for me to do below level 1 games. I'm curious as to what they do differently from what I had in mind. I really must buy this when I have more than $9 in my bank account(If only I could find a way to profit from my all my homebrew material for D&D/Pathfinder). Anyway. Someday you shall be mine $2 PDF I can't afford. MWUHAHAHA!!! or something like that...


    InfernosReaper wrote:
    I'm curious as to what they do differently from what I had in mind. I really must buy this when I have more than $9 in my bank account

    See, we make these cheap so you *can* buy it when you have only $9. (No, seriously, I get it. We'll wait.)

    InfernosReaper wrote:
    (If only I could find a way to profit from my all my homebrew material for D&D/Pathfinder).

    I will note my entire RPG writer career began with a thought very, very similar to that. Have you considered if you can compile any of those rules into enough words for a PDF or article for Kobold Q?


    InfernosReaper wrote:
    This one really struck my interest because it's a new way for me to do below level 1 games. I'm curious as to what they do differently from what I had in mind. I really must buy this when I have more than $9 in my bank account(If only I could find a way to profit from my all my homebrew material for D&D/Pathfinder). Anyway. Someday you shall be mine $2 PDF I can't afford. MWUHAHAHA!!! or something like that...

    Enjoy your PDF. ;)

    Shadow Lodge

    I actually downloaded this last week, but it's going to go far in a game I'm running... Those poor players are in for a surprise when they find out the kids are a threat!


    CWenzler, Creator of Sarunia wrote:


    Enjoy your PDF. ;)

    I don't know how I can properly thank you, though, so all I can say is "thank you very much."


    InfernosReaper wrote:
    CWenzler, Creator of Sarunia wrote:


    Enjoy your PDF. ;)
    I don't know how I can properly thank you, though, so all I can say is "thank you very much."

    It brings joy to my heart to help out a fellow gamer.

    No worries on proper thanks, simple thanks is enough. ;)


    OWEN STEPHENS wrote:


    InfernosReaper wrote:
    (If only I could find a way to profit from my all my homebrew material for D&D/Pathfinder).
    I will note my entire RPG writer career began with a thought very, very similar to that. Have you considered if you can compile any of those rules into enough words for a PDF or article for Kobold Q?

    Yeah, I could do that. The majority of my works were character classes for 3.5 D&D, but I have ported over few of the ones that weren't rendered obsolete by Pathfinder or class variants. I've also made a few races, of which one actually has a lot of background history & the ability to be placed into just about any setting.

    As I don't want to take up anymore space on this thread, if you're curious about what I've got in my arsenal, my email is loneflame1023@yahoo.com


    As a random question, could The Genius Guide to Apprentice-Level Characters be used in conjunction with an ongoing story? Say the PC's come across a crazy wizard who turns them into children? At which point you hand out the character sheets and wait for them to figure out how to return to normal. Or possibly have a Deity induced dream where the PC's are children fighting through the dreamscape? Or is it more of a starting point building up to 1st level characters?


    Canor wrote:
    As a random question, could The Genius Guide to Apprentice-Level Characters be used in conjunction with an ongoing story? Say the PC's come across a crazy wizard who turns them into children? At which point you hand out the character sheets and wait for them to figure out how to return to normal.

    Actually, it should be PERFECT for that. Which is a neat idea I may borrow for my own games.


    OWEN STEPHENS wrote:


    Actually, it should be PERFECT for that. Which is a neat idea I may borrow for my own games.

    Feel free to use it as it was just a random thought I had while reading other people's comments.


    I reviewed this over at robot viking.

    Grand Lodge

    For those of you who have used these 0-level classes as pre-teen adventures what did you do for stats? I've been thinking of setting the pre-gen PCs stats at 8 to start and use the point buy system (5 points). Please note this is for a 1-shot for a monthly meetup so the characters will not be leveling up.

    Any advice/ideas?

    Scarab Sages

    Fumihasa wrote:
    For those of you who have used these 0-level classes as pre-teen adventures what did you do for stats?

    Pre-teens? Everyone has a Wis of 6. Full stop.

    Grand Lodge

    Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
    Pre-teens? Everyone has a Wis of 6. Full stop.

    Full Stop?

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