Thematic Archetype Issues


Prerelease Discussion


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There is a lot to like about the thematic Archetype direction over either the starfinder archetype and PF1 prestige classes, but there are a couple of major design issues that are exposed here that I think could use some further thought.

the dedication feat:
on the surface, getting a signature skill, weapon or armor proficiencies, and a unique power is a very powerful feat. If the Unique ability is genuinely useful to the campaign you are in, then it is probably worth the dedication feat to gain that power and either the proficiencies or the signature skill (assuming you are coming from a class that already grants one or the other. However, the feat is clearly the most powerful for characters that don't get any of the abilities granted. For example, pirate may be a better feat for a wizard than a lot of the general feats that grant a weapon proficiency or a signature skill, even if the campaign is set in a desert. In this light, neither the proficiencies nor the signature skill can be turned into something else if you already have those proficiencies/signature skill because it obliterates other feats if it starts offering 2 or more flexible options.

It also isn't possible for the proficiency bonus just to stack, because expert proficiency in weapons can't be that easy to jump around, especially while picking up a signature skill.

This creates a somewhat awkward dynamic of making thematic archetypes best for characters completely unlike that theme and much worse for characters already building towards it.

The retainability is interesting for the sake of giving characters a way to train for some downtime to be ready to face a specific challenge ahead, but I am not sure how things like signature skill work as far as what happens if I choose a feat to gain legendary proficiency in my signature skill and then retrain the feat that granted me access to that skill.

I will post a follow up post about the issues with the follow up feats later, but I have to run now.

Overall, I do like where this is headed, but the gain 3 things that basically overlap what you get from a class, seems like it could be better implemented as either having the dedication feat give you one or two of several options or focusing on the situational power or bonus and having the proficiencies and signature skills be selectable as bonus feats from the archetype tree (perhaps only slightly better then the generic feats that grant those abilities.


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I definitely agree, and it's something I was worried about with backgrounds too. The Acolyte background, for example, really sucks for clerics because there's no point in getting Lore(Your God) when you're already trained in Knowledge(Religion) and will likely have a higher bonus to that.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Arachnofiend wrote:
I definitely agree, and it's something I was worried about with backgrounds too. The Acolyte background, for example, really sucks for clerics because there's no point in getting Lore(Your God) when you're already trained in Knowledge(Religion) and will likely have a higher bonus to that.

Lore is also the equivalent of profession and is who you make money during downtime, right? So there's some use, although that depends on your group being into that sort of rules. Overall I agree.


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Arachnofiend wrote:
I definitely agree, and it's something I was worried about with backgrounds too. The Acolyte background, for example, really sucks for clerics because there's no point in getting Lore(Your God) when you're already trained in Knowledge(Religion) and will likely have a higher bonus to that.

The way I'd do it, and I suspect many GMs would too, is make the DC lower for Lore(Sarenrae) than Religion, on topics that the lore applies to. After all, Lore is specific knowledge, where religion is general, and enough general knowledge, you will learn some specifics, but someone with in depth knowledge on specifics will probably be better than you for the most part.

But on the topic of the post at hand, I wholeheartedly agree. There needs to be some stipulation that you get some additional benefit if you already have proficiency or that signature skill.


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Rather than gumming up each and every archetype feat with additional text, it'd be better to just make it a flat standing rule in one little paragraph at the start of the archetypes chapter. "If an archetype grants a signature skill that you already have as signature, you may choose another skill in which you are proficient in its place. If an archetype grants a martial or exotic weapon proficiency that you already have, you may choose another weapon of the same tier (martial or exotic) and same damage type (bludgeoning, piercing or slashing) in its place."


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Fuzzypaws wrote:
Rather than gumming up each and every archetype feat with additional text, it'd be better to just make it a flat standing rule in one little paragraph at the start of the archetypes chapter. "If an archetype grants a signature skill that you already have as signature, you may choose another skill in which you are proficient in its place. If an archetype grants a martial or exotic weapon proficiency that you already have, you may choose another weapon of the same tier (martial or exotic) and same damage type (bludgeoning, piercing or slashing) in its place."

Seems to work well enough in 5E


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Since choice is a major theme of PF2, and archetype dedications do appear to grant redundant features for a lot of classes (e.g. the pirate archetype and classes which already have proficiency in hatchets, spears, and scimitars or acrobatics as a signature skill) could we instead replace those parts of the dedication feat with "pick one of these two things" so as to not provide greater benefit to wizards who become pirates than to fighters (proficiency in all weapons) and monks (almost surely acrobatics as a signature skill).


PossibleCabbage wrote:
Since choice is a major theme of PF2, and archetype dedications do appear to grant redundant features for a lot of classes (e.g. the pirate archetype and classes which already have proficiency in hatchets, spears, and scimitars or acrobatics as a signature skill) could we instead replace those parts of the dedication feat with "pick one of these two things" so as to not provide greater benefit to wizards who become pirates than to fighters (proficiency in all weapons) and monks (almost surely acrobatics as a signature skill).

Getting to choose a free proficiency or signature skill from your skill list significantly increases the power of the Archetype feat. Probably too much, making them an obvious and far superior way of gaining a flexible signature skill or proficiency. Why not have the base power given from the archetype better to the theme it is providing, make it available at level one and have subsequent feats grant proficiencies and signature skills that are slightly better than the base generic general feats.


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Unicore wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
Since choice is a major theme of PF2, and archetype dedications do appear to grant redundant features for a lot of classes (e.g. the pirate archetype and classes which already have proficiency in hatchets, spears, and scimitars or acrobatics as a signature skill) could we instead replace those parts of the dedication feat with "pick one of these two things" so as to not provide greater benefit to wizards who become pirates than to fighters (proficiency in all weapons) and monks (almost surely acrobatics as a signature skill).
Getting to choose a free proficiency or signature skill from your skill list significantly increases the power of the Archetype feat. Probably too much, making them an obvious and far superior way of gaining a flexible signature skill or proficiency. Why not have the base power given from the archetype better to the theme it is providing, make it available at level one and have subsequent feats grant proficiencies and signature skills that are slightly better than the base generic general feats.

Cabbage isn't suggesting giving the choice of any proficiency or signature skill. They are suggesting you get one or the other of the listed benefits, but not both. So the pirate dedication becomes:

Prerequisites Dexterity 12, trained in Acrobatics and Sailing Lore

When you Balance aboard a ship, treat a success as a critical success. You also ignore any difficult terrain, uneven ground, or incline caused by the ship's movement. In addition, you can choose one of the following benefits:

*You are trained with the hatchet, scimitar, and spear.
*Acrobatics is a signature skill for you.


oops, I meant to be responding to Fuzzypaws' suggestion. I agree with Possible cabbage, except I would probably argue for it to be accessible at first level then.


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Follow up Archetype feats:

Follow up archetype feats probably do need to be a little more powerful than general feats as well (at least for their thematic situation) since they have a somewhat significant opportunity cost. Personally, I think the followup feats are a great place to tag on signature skills and proficiencies, along with a situation ability or benefit related to the theme, with follow up feats being able to be the feats that would specifically benefit each class in a way that makes them fit in with the theme. This would allow thematic archetypes to completely replace the 12 Archetypes that make each class be able to be dedicated to one specific theme.

SO for the pirate example, we could get all of the pirate archetype stuff in the same place, but still have room for their to be piratey wizard feats and piratey fighter feats. without having different archetypes.

Liberty's Edge

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Fuzzypaws wrote:
Rather than gumming up each and every archetype feat with additional text, it'd be better to just make it a flat standing rule in one little paragraph at the start of the archetypes chapter. "If an archetype grants a signature skill that you already have as signature, you may choose another skill in which you are proficient in its place. If an archetype grants a martial or exotic weapon proficiency that you already have, you may choose another weapon of the same tier (martial or exotic) and same damage type (bludgeoning, piercing or slashing) in its place."

They may well have already done this, at least for Signature Skills. We simply lack the data to say one way or the other.


Rather than require a feat tax to enter the Pirate archetype, why not just have the other feats in the chain require either the dedication feat OR proficiency with scimitars (if it's a combat feat). Alternatively you could have the pirate dedication feat OR have acrobatics as a signature skill (if it's skill related).


@John Lynch, I thought about that too, and it might eventually be something that could work, but since archetype feats are feats that could be taken in place of class feats, I think it gets pretty messy and convoluted if there is a whole set of feats that can be selected in place of existing class feats. Yes, the dedication feats are already that, but it is only one per archetype. If it was all the associated feats of each archetype, that will quickly add up to hundreds or even thiusands of extra feats you can take in place of class feats. At that point, why bother having classes of different kinds of feats?

@deadmanwalking, in this instance, I am pretty sure they would have told us that they could be traded out if that was an initial design intention. That seems like it would have been a big enough feature of archetypes to point out in the initial blog, or in response to people’s concerns about it to this point. In responses to questions, the developers seem pretty quick to point out that this is a concept that is still in development and personally, I think the extra level of flexibility that would let you get one flexible bonus signature skill or proficiency, and one or more static bonus of the other, on top of a unique thematic power, is approaching the obvious and obligatory way of picking up additional signature skills and weapon proficiencies.

Flexibility is a power boost to a feat that has to be carefully balanced or else the could have just created “thematic archetype: pick a theme that interest you, now pick one weapon proficiency and one signature skill related to that theme.” And then had feats for the special powers you can get be listed separately, more like John Lynch was suggesting, gated only by the weapon proficiency or signature skill required to use them.

Liberty's Edge

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Unicore wrote:
@deadmanwalking, in this instance, I am pretty sure they would have told us that they could be traded out if that was an initial design intention. That seems like it would have been a big enough feature of archetypes to point out in the initial blog, or in response to people’s concerns about it to this point.

I wouldn't assume that at all, at least in regards to Signature Skills. People in the Archetype thread have not primarily been concerned with this specific issue, and indeed have only mentioned it in passing for the most part, especially early on. Which is very relevant, since the folks at Paizo lack unlimited time, and Mark Seifter at least has noted that he sometimes lacks the time to come back and get caught up with a thread after it gets away from him (like, say, after going to bed). So find his last post in the Archetype thread and there's a decent chance he hasn't read anything too far past that.

Additionally, they've been very evasive about how you acquire Signature Skills at all, to the point we weren't even sure Feats did it until the Archetype Blog. Not mentioning this in regards to them would fit the pattern pretty consistently.

I'm admittedly much more skeptical about this applying to Weapon Proficiency, since the Ancestry Weapon Training Feats make specific allowances to be useful to those who already have all martial weapon proficiencies, which seems unnecessary if you could trade them in somehow.


Unicore wrote:
@John Lynch, I thought about that too, and it might eventually be something that could work, but since archetype feats are feats that could be taken in place of class feats, I think it gets pretty messy and convoluted if there is a whole set of feats that can be selected in place of existing class feats. Yes, the dedication feats are already that, but it is only one per archetype. If it was all the associated feats of each archetype, that will quickly add up to hundreds or even thiusands of extra feats you can take in place of class feats. At that point, why bother having classes of different kinds of feats?

Well that's how 4th ed ended up and that did quarantine powers (that edition's equivalent of feats) by class. So relegating them in that way doesn't really stop the bloat. The bloat is dictated by the publishing schedule.

But you could still limit people into having to invest so much per feat-chain before you let them start on a new feat-chain. That would be the equivalent of what we have now without the initial feat tax.


The most piratey pirate I made needed all of their feats to get a familiar working (the Inner Sea Pirate PrC uses sneak attack as its main combat boost, so I needed a flank partner. I chose a mauler version of the best exotic bird(?) for combat: the archaeopteryx).

My second most piratey pirate could probably spare the feats, but that has more to do with being a Cleric than being a pirate (they stared with Besmara, but have since switched to Cayden)


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John Lynch 106 wrote:
Unicore wrote:
@John Lynch, I thought about that too, and it might eventually be something that could work, but since archetype feats are feats that could be taken in place of class feats, I think it gets pretty messy and convoluted if there is a whole set of feats that can be selected in place of existing class feats. Yes, the dedication feats are already that, but it is only one per archetype. If it was all the associated feats of each archetype, that will quickly add up to hundreds or even thiusands of extra feats you can take in place of class feats. At that point, why bother having classes of different kinds of feats?

Well that's how 4th ed ended up and that did quarantine powers (that edition's equivalent of feats) by class. So relegating them in that way doesn't really stop the bloat. The bloat is dictated by the publishing schedule.

But you could still limit people into having to invest so much per feat-chain before you let them start on a new feat-chain. That would be the equivalent of what we have now without the initial feat tax.

The complicated mess PF1 got into with this feat chain = character identity issue is that there became an arbitrary amount of ways to get around specific feat requirements as developers used one or more of them in developing new archetypes. I think the demanding that you take 2 more archetype feats before accessing a new archetype is already one of the more awkward (even if necessary) features of this playtest design, and breaking that open to general feat chains sounds really messy and confusing.

In that sense, I think the flat "feat X" (meaning level restrictions) is a more elegant system for the kind of production schedule that Paizo runs than balancing access to feats purely off of prerequisite feats. I think dedication feats are propable a necessary entry point to keep these feats from clogging up hero lab feat lists/player options, but I do think it would be better to make more of the non-prestige archetypes accessible from level 1.

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