Inquisitor, Alchemist, Cavalier, Summoner and Witch Playtest

Advanced Player's Guide Playtest: Final Playtest

We wanted to get all six classes, but we were a player short. While not an extensive playtest, we ran three combats last night in order to get a feeling for what we liked and didn't like, found to work and found not to work. The first two combats were run at level 10 and the third combat was run at level 15.

I know this is late, but this was our first opportunity to run a playtest and we wanted to get in our observations before time ran out.

First Impressions
These are the impressions that each player gave me before we began the combats. Each player has been playing variants of DnD and other roleplaying games for at least 10 years.

Inquisitor - The player felt that the Teamwork feats he was given as bonus feats were too situational for him to have taken if not for Solo Tactics and the fact that he gets them for free. He liked the flavor and appearance of the class.

Alchemist - The player said that it was a class that he normally would not have played but, for the sake of the playtest, would give it a try. He found the rules to be overly complicated (especially the infusions) compared to what they did, was sort of cast spells slightly differently.

Cavalier - The player seemed expectant that the cavalier would fare long as his one trick would work. If he was ever away from his horse, or couldn't charge, he expected to be useless.

Summoner - The player, who was a fan of 3.5 druids, expected the summoner to play similarly.

Witch - The player was non-plussed with the class. "It's just a wizard with some minor tricks."

Final Impressions
After the combats, each player gave a single short description of how they felt about the class.

Inquisitor - He was impressed at how well the spellcasting worked. He was expecting something similar to Ranger or Paladin casting. He liked the Judgments and how they worked, activating mostly ones that increased to hit and damage bonuses. In the third battle, he never even bothered with his heavy repeating crossbow. He still didn't like the Teamwork feats, even though he could use them solo (sort of). They seemed too limited and there were few useful ones for a ranged character.

Alchemist - He was continually frustrated that he couldn't use his infusions on anyone else because he didn't take the discovery to do so. He specialized on the bombs instead. Only being able to use a single bomb per round also frustrated him and then when he could chuck multiple bombs a round (his level 15 build) he was much happier but still worried because of needing to be within 30 feet of things with brutal melee attacks and having only light armor and a d8 hit die.

Cavalier - Quote: "I'd rather just play a fighter." He felt that his dependency on his horse made him useless against flying foes (which were present in the second and third battles) or when he couldn't charge (a problem in all three battles). He was also frustrated with the few abilities he could transfer to his allies. They were either too small at this level or could only be used once per day.

Summoner - He was floored by how powerful he was. Eidolon + SLA summon + regular casting summon = win. He said that he would loved the class even without the Eidolon. He also felt that he totally outshined every other player in every single battle. He didn't even bother purchasing gear for himself or his eidolon beyond a Headband to boost his casting stat. He could have spent another 58k and 170k (at 10 and 15, respectively) to gear himself and his eidolon. He also only spent about ten minutes planning his Eidolon and felt that, had he been able to spend more time, he could have made it even more powerful.

Witch - The player was actually rather impressed with the Witch. He liked the Hexes. He felt that it fit into a niche, somewhere between the druid and the wizard. He didn't have much to say other than that it felt clean and seemed to work as is.

Group Suggestions
After getting their final impressions, we sat down as a group and discussed what we thought worked and didn't work with each class, taking into account the party dynamics.

Everyone felt that the Summoner was too powerful and that the Cavalier was almost useless outside of his one trick (mounted charges). Everyone feared a party of all Summoners. Everyone seemed to like the Witch, liking her abilities and flavor...except the name. They felt it pushed players into needing to be female and caused spontaneous movie quoting, which is already enough of a problem at most tables.

Inquisitor - The only changes that the group really felt were needed were with the Teamwork Feats and not the Inquisitor itself. They felt that, were it not for Solo Tactics, the wouldn't bother with them. Even with Solo Tactics, a ranged non-caster has very few that are useful. They all liked the Judgments as a nice way to distinguish the class from a Ranger, Paladin or Cleric. "stalwart" seemed relatively powerful, dealing with Fortitude and Will saves. We felt like it should be one or the other, even if just a choice between the two.

Alchemist - The first suggestion was to drop the pseudo-casting and just make it real arcane casting. Keep the potions and bombs and mutagens, but let the Alchemist just cast his spells as spells. He does it slightly differently than the Wizard, but he still mixes various ingredients (components) and has to imbue them with some sort of arcane energy anyway, but, unless they focus on it at the expense of the other options, they can't do anything as a party support character. As a mad bomber, he took the discovery to full attack with his bombs. This was a huge increase in his power. Throwing one bomb a round and not being able to do anything else (no party support) had the player resorting to UMDing wands in the level 10 battles. The suggestion is to either lower the level of the full attack bombing Discovery or to simply make it a class feature. Another suggested class feature would be to give the Alchemist the trap disabling ability that the Rogue has.

Cavalier - This is the one that had the most suggestions offered for it. A lot of them amounted to "make it more like the 3.5 Marshall" or "do something like the 4e Warlord". Give them Bard-like morale bonuses to will saves, attack and damage, movement. They suggested they last a number of rounds based on the Cavalier's Charisma or some such. Other suggestions were things like "as a free action, at the beginning of a charge, the Cavalier may give any allies within X feet a 10 foot speed increase when then charge". This ability would be only usable a certain number of times per day and would only last for a few rounds. All of this, however, should be usable without having to shake a banner. They should be verbal commands, some of them requiring a move or standard action, and some of them being swift or free actions (especially charge related ones). They also simply having some auras. Just being near this great general/commander/hero gives you a boost to fear saves or something similar. We also decided that, if the Cavalier was going to remain mount dependent, then he needs a way to magically summon it. I know that the class is supposed to be mundane, but losing that horse is far too crippling.

Summoner - Running with virtually no gear, he was still the most powerful class we saw. The suggestion from the player was "drop the summoning [SLA] or drop the pet". He seemed to much prefer the summoning aspects to the eidolon and wanted to figure out a way to trade it in for something else. The customizable creature was fun, everyone agreed, but ultimately still too powerful. The suggestion was to give the summoner access to elementals instead. They choose a single elemental type and gain access to the other types as the level increases, eventually gaining all four types. The size of the elemental also increases. This summoned elemental would be as per the Planar Ally line, so that it's the same elemental summoned each time. Alternately, splitting the Summoner into two tracks (like many of the casters have) to either get the Eidolon or to get the planar ally and the summoning SLA. Both options would still present a powerful class with its own niche without being an overpowered class. They also suggested moving the Summoner further down to 1/2 BAB and d6 HD, especially if they keep all the other current class features.

Witch - Um... change the name? We liked the witch as is. Aside from the occasional snarks about being turned into newts and getting better or whether or not the Gnome weighed the same as a duck, that is.

Rules Concerns
We were unclear on how some of the ranged weapon feats applied to the bombs. Can you take Weapon Focus (or similar feats) for them? Does the Bestiary feat "improved natural attack" stack with the Eidolon evolution that does the same thing? What sort of effect does having a halfling-sized banner have on a Cavalier's movement, especially through small areas? Where does the Cavalier put said banner if he doesn't have a lance to hang it from?

Playtest Limitations
Most of players did not have adequate time to fully study their classes and optimize them. Also, none of the players are particularly keen powergamers. All are competent players, but they aren't the type to frequent the CharOp boards.

In the encounters, we did not run any encounters involving traps. The was specifically because none of the APG classes have the ability to disable magical traps. We also did not run any non-combat scenarios, and so were not able to test the skill abilities of the various classes. It was postulated that the Alchemist would fare better there than in combat.

The combats, while varied, were not fully representative of all creatures. The fought 3 fire giants (encounter 1), a single black dragon (encounter 2) and an assortment of 5 demons (encounter 3). They did not fight creatures with class levels.

We also did not do a direct comparison of core classes to the APG classes in the same scenarios. Judgments were based on the knowledge of the core classes and mid- to high-level play.

With some minor tweaks, we rather like the Witch and Inquisitor. We would be fine with taking them as printed, even. The Alchemist needs some changes to be brought in line with comparable classes (Rogue and Bard). The Cavalier needs a large boost to compete against the Fighter and Paladin in general combat usefulness. The Summoner needs yet another nerf to not outshine any non-Summoner in the party. Teamwork feats seem far to "gimmicky" and far too situational for non-Inquisitors and non-Cavaliers to take. The consensus regarding all of the classes was that they were needlessly complicated. Not just complex, but needlessly complicated. Simplifications in the overall mechanics would be seen as a positive move.

These are the direct insights from one of the players. They give further recommendations and impressions from the Alchemist.

Scarab Sages

Mauril wrote:

Summoner - He was floored by how powerful he was. Eidolon + SLA summon + regular casting summon = win

I know these are impressions from your group & this is important but so far from my playtests & those I have read from others that Animal companion (with barding possibly) + Wildshape + full casting ability (which includes ability to spontanteously cast SNA) = win & is better than the summoner anyday with the current nerf

when I build a druid & summoner of equivalent level all I see with the current nerf is I will take a druid everytime - yes the Eidolon can be build to be a powerhouse but it is useless otherwise & has so many drawbacks the animal companion is simply better IMHO

no offense intended in anyway

None taken. I also never said that I thought the Druid was on the right power level. *smirk*

I'll agree that with proper work, a Druid could be more powerful than the Summoner. However, with very little work, the Summoner vastly outshone the other players' characters, some of whom had spent most of the week (rather than most of the afternoon) studying their class and preparing their build.

I'm not trying to dispute anyone else's opinions either. Some people have felt the Summoner is too weak and a third group think it's just right. My group found it too strong.

Also, until about a year ago when I joined the group, the group was very roleplay heavy and optimization light. Now that I've joined, we've amped up the optimization without sacrificing the roleplay.

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