Universal Archetypes?


Homebrew and House Rules


Epic Meepo's thread got me wondering...

Would it be feasible to "de-couple" archetype abilities from classes altogether?

There would be a list of abilities, the kinds of things that are typically assigned to classes, but they wouldn't be tied to any one particular class. Each would be assigned a number which would represent the minimum level of the ability. If you want to take that ability, you would have to swap out a class ability you are normally in line to receive, something of the same level (or higher).

For example, let's take the ranger archetype, "Deep Walker." At 3rd level, it gets the Deep Knowledge ability, which replaces a ranger's favored terrain. Since favored terrain is a 3rd-level class ability, Deep Knowledge would be rated 3+, so that any character from any class could take it as long as they swap out a 3rd-level or higher class ability.

Obviously some things might not make much sense as currently written, but paired with feats this could go a long way toward making characters that aren't boxed in to predetermined class concepts (one of the things I like about archetypes in the first place, giving them some breathing room from the rigid classes).

Anyway, just a thought.


Wouldn't this encourage cherry-picking abilities though?

Grand Lodge

You'd have to come up with some sort of elaborate point buy system and be very careful about how you price such abilities. Some class abilities may seem rather worthless, but it's hard to predict how they'll interact with other abilities outside of their native environments.

Then you have to consider how you treat things like BAB and save progression, and levels of spellcasting, and which spell lists you have access to, and weapon and armor proficiencies, and so on.

To further complicate things, some classes have abilities that are very similar to those of another class, but not identical. Bardic performance and Sensei's advice, for example. Or wizard familiars vs. witch familiars.

Also, the replacement chain for some archetypes can be hard to pin down. Weapon Master gets Weapon Training at 3rd level - would you let anyone choose this as a 3rd level replacement, or would you require 5th level per the main Fighter class?

There are plenty of other thorny issues too. One domain or two? Do you get bonus spells with those domains (Cleric) or not (Inquisitor)? Are you allowed to take an arcane school if you're a divine caster? Can you take Oracle revelations, but not have an Oracle curse? Can you take both Ninja Ki Pool and Monk Ki Pool? What about non-alignment restricted abilities that only occur in alignment-restricted classes (Divine Grace, Unholy Resilience)? How do Prestige Classes fit into all this?

In short: Possible? maybe. Feasible? No, probably not.


I mentioned some time ago in thread about multi-classing in archetypes the idea of using your Base Feats (the ones you get at 1st, 3rd, and every two levels thereafter) in exchange for abilities. Taking that line of thought if you make a few 'universal' archetypes that give up those feats and grant abilities instead; and like all archetypes once you decide on one you have to follow it through (no cherry picking).


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Azten wrote:
Wouldn't this encourage cherry-picking abilities though?

I personally don't understand the complete and utter loathing of "cherry picking".. I mean yes, sometimes things go crazy when this ability and that ability meet..

Its easier to do this when you have more freedom of course and less thoughtful construction of abilities.

But it feels that people are so loathed to cherry picking that they want the system to be closer to something where the developers pick exactly what you get, when you get it when you take rogue.

Now granted this topic though..

I'd agree with more of a point buy system. Technically AD&D was fairly close to that before 3.5 started boxing in the classes. (The black books completely did point buy)


Yes this is possible. See The Genius Guide to Martial Archetypes, The Genius Guide to Arcane Archetypes, The Genius Guide to Divine Archetypes, and The Genius Guide to Archer Archetypes.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I have a type of archetype, that could be considered universal. Your first level feat is used to buy into the archetype and instead of getting ability score increases, you get unique feats, powers, and spell-like abilities.


Caedwyr wrote:
Yes this is possible. See The Genius Guide to Martial Archetypes, The Genius Guide to Arcane Archetypes, The Genius Guide to Divine Archetypes, and The Genius Guide to Archer Archetypes.

I was thinking of the same thing. The only problem with these is that they seem to have you trade more than what you receive...


Cherry picking is an issue because soon we realize that most of the non-spellcasting classes are just BAB + maybe one nice ability.

It's like buying the fish for the roe and just throwing the rest (even the fillet!) out.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

A special ability that can be taken by anyone so long as they meet the prerequisites is what I'd call a feat.

The direction I'd take personally is look at the class abilities you can make more universal and just turn them into feats and feat trees. I realize this isn't what you want to do, but I'd consider it the less thorny path.

Even so, there are some things to bear in mind--what abilities do you really want to relinquish to everybody, or even just a block of character types?

I remember in 3.5 often hearing the argument that rogues were TOO essential because of trapfinding, and unfairly so. I often saw proposed the idea of making trapfinding a feat or series of feats, and the general sentiment that this should be a much more available ability, and that rogues would still be fine because of sneak attack and lots of skill points (both considered very important boons), etc.

In Pathfinder, trapfinding's power was reduced (the DC 20 cap to finding non-magical traps for non-rogues) -- and THEN given to other classes via archetypes. Not even feats, just a handful of archetypes (and the rogue even trades trapfinding for other abilities with its archetypes). And suddenly--even though the Pathfinder rogue has a higher HD than the 3.5 rogue and the same sneak attack and even more abilities (talents), suddenly the rogue was "weak" and other classes did things better than it could, and the transfer of trapfinding to other classes was one of the things that created this unbalancing circumstances.

While the moral of this story is probably more "gamers are fickle" than "don't give out class abilities to other classes," it's still worth considering how "universal" you want to make certain abilities.


JiCi wrote:
Caedwyr wrote:
Yes this is possible. See The Genius Guide to Martial Archetypes, The Genius Guide to Arcane Archetypes, The Genius Guide to Divine Archetypes, and The Genius Guide to Archer Archetypes.
I was thinking of the same thing. The only problem with these is that they seem to have you trade more than what you receive...

This is for balance reasons. It prevents the 'cherry picking' problem discussed earlier. It is a GOOD thing.

Liberty's Edge

The way the OP was thinking of it, no. However, SGG's archetypes are wonderfully designed and available to any class.


Weables wrote:
JiCi wrote:
Caedwyr wrote:
Yes this is possible. See The Genius Guide to Martial Archetypes, The Genius Guide to Arcane Archetypes, The Genius Guide to Divine Archetypes, and The Genius Guide to Archer Archetypes.
I was thinking of the same thing. The only problem with these is that they seem to have you trade more than what you receive...
This is for balance reasons. It prevents the 'cherry picking' problem discussed earlier. It is a GOOD thing.

I know... but some classes lose a lot. For instance, the fighter loses the bonus feats gained at 1st, 6th, 12th and 18th level, bravery, and weapon training, in addition of losing the feature of having fighter levels for feats.

I mean, really ? Weapon and Armor Training, and possibly Bravery, would have been enough IMO.

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