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I wanted to name this thread “What I think the alchemist, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger and rogue could learn from the barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer and wizard.” However, I think that title might have been a bit long.
Looking at the level one options I find that the classes fall into two different categories. Some classes make a very meaningful choice that differentiates themselves both thematically and mechanically from others of the same class, while some other classes get no such choice. To list them below:
Mechanical / Thematic Choice:
One could argue that the “no choice classes” have a choice of a 1st level class feat, but I feel like there is a big difference here. When you make a choice like an order or a bloodline, that choice really stands out and feel unique. If you’re a druid with a wild order, you know you’ll always have an edge over druids of other orders when it comes to your shapeshifting abilities. This carries on well past first level, with many class feats giving you a bonus depending on your order. I really like this system, as it doesn't lock in your progression. You could still take the animal companion class feat at level 2 as a wild druid, or choose to forego a companion altogether.
I would love to see something similar for the other classes. Perhaps rogues could pick a creed, choosing between stealth bonuses, social bonuses or combat bonuses. The rogue with the social creed would get a bonus to sneak attack damage after using “You’re next”, whereas the rogue with the combat creed would be able to attack after successfully dodging an attack with nimble dodge (perhaps at a penalty).
Rangers could choose a combat focus, getting bonuses to trap, melee/ranged attacks or their companions. Monks could pick a style (or a lack thereof) and paladins could choose an extra oath, granting them benefits to either offensive, defense or their divine powers. Alchemist could have a crafting specialty, picking between apothecary, poison master, grenadier or mutagenist (granting a special mutagen at level 1). Fighters could pick a signature weapon and gain different bonuses based on it’s type.
One of the other benefits here is that these choices allow for easy additions in the future. Let's say Paizo wants to add a wizard option focused on time magic. It would be easy to add that in! Instead of picking a school at level one they chose to focus on time magic. I think these choices could work in tangent with archetypes, allowing for even more differentiation.
Why I bring this up is because during character creation one of my players (druid) was truly excited about his choice. He had a tough time picking between the wild and animal order because they “both sound so awesome”. Whereas another one of my players (monk) looked at the class feats and went “meh, guess I’ll choose monastic weaponry”. I think he would have been more excited if he had picked a path of specialization, instead of a single ability.
It's not that the classes that don't have a fixed path of specialization lacks one, it's just that theirs are more modular and "opt-in", so to speak.
One could argue that the classes that have a path of specialization are more limited in that they are stuck with their choices from level 1, with less option to retrain out of it (how does a Sorcerer suddenly change bloodlines)?
For example, a Rogue can already focus on various things, like debilitating strikes, or crossbow skirmish abilities, or more defensive abilities. Better yet, he can mix and match these abilities if he so chooses.
Monks can focus on different things too. Do you want to focus on a stance and develop it toward mastery or be more like a mystic and fire Ki blasts around? Or you could try out the weapons option by taking Monastic Weaponry. I don't know why your friend thought his options were limited, there are quite a few out there for a Monk. Just because the game doesn't tell you explicitly "here's this archetype and the path it builds for you, pick it", doesn't mean you don't have meaningful choices to make.
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Having flexibility in feat assignment and also a choice of core "archetype" or "subclass" are not mutually exclusive.
I agree with the OP. Of special note, the design of the Druid in particular is my favorite in the book as well as several of my players. You make a meaningful choice at 1st which resonates through your career yet doesn't lock you out of other options. Specifics may need to be tweaked a bit (other druids should get more than 1 wild shape a day, maybe what the animal druids get is extra temp HP in wild shape or a longer duration) but the core idea is very very sound. We were flabbergasted that all the classes didn't follow the obvious example of the druid as "best design philosophy."
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As above. I have to agree the Druid was the class I was simultaneously most excited for, and impressed by. And I have maybe played a Druid once in my life. The Barbarian was also up there on classes I was excited for.
From a design standpoint, for me, I compare it to 5e and Starfinder. In Starfinder, almost all of the classes are constructed through choice rather than set abilities. This is easiest seen on the Envoy level up chart. In 5e, you have your base class and at level 3 you specialize into a unique path. These are two of my favorite class building games, and PF2e's Druid in particular is literally that perfect fusion of those two concepts.
I would like to see that hybridization for all of PF2s classes. I built a Rogue already (though I will be GMing our table, so I will not get chance to use it) and while I felt I had some customization, I felt really if I built another Rogue, too little would be different. To use 5e's choices, had I started with the options of Thief, Assassin, or Arcane Trickster, I'd have been more excited for character prospects.
I know it's cliche at this point and will get arguement but:
PF2's class feat system lets you further go into depth with this idea. You could create a Paladin of Sarenrae with a healing focus for example. Instead you can get baby Oath adjustment at 2nd level, can't choose certain deities because reasons who would fit those Oaths, and everything is clearly worded more with the legal intent to protect the player from a bad GM than to actually create an engaging character.
Some of those in the no-choice category do have a similar choice, of sorts.
Monk's Ki Strike is the lead-in into the Ki feats, literally being a prerequisite for them. This seems like a clear thematic/mechanic level 1 choice you can make.
Fighter has clear archery, shield, two-weapon, and some other lines starting from level 1.
It's possible there's a variety in approaches due to it being a playtest and they want to know how people prefer things. We currently have "hard choice" for things like Sorcerer or Barbarian, where your choice locks you in and gives you mutually exclusive stuff as you level up, and "soft choice" like the Druid or Bard, where the choice leads you in certain directions but doesn't require you to commit. The "no choice" classes are similar to the "soft choice", but with even less commitment.
It seems to me that the "soft choice" variety is having the most positive response. And it makes sense. It makes the most amount of people happy all at once.
If you have a concept that fits your "soft choice" well, you are happy to have it.
If you have a concept that doesn't quite fit, you can pick a similar "soft choice" and then use the flexibility of feat choices to get the rest of the way to your concept. Happy result again.
If you have a concept that doesn't fit any "soft choice" except the one that is the most generic, then you can use the feats to fit your concept entirely. You still get what you were after.
If you have a concept that fits nothing, then you're outta luck and should look at other class options.
Three out of four outcomes being positive is a damn good ratio if you ask me.
Because each of the classes with expressly stated thematic choice (as outlined in the OP) do it so differently (Bard is just a 1st level feat, and spell, Barb is a feature, and prereq for later options, Druid is a feat and a Power, with some special benefits for later feats, ect), it makes me wonder if they're actually trying to playtest which of these mechanics people like best. It might not make sense for every class, but it might be something where if they find everyone really likes how druid does it, then they make the others closer to druid (but probably still with their own deviations here and there), and maybe add something like that to other classes. As I said, it probably doesn't work for every class, as, for example, for fighters it wouldn't make much sense, Alchemists, Monks and Paladins I could see definitely, as well as maybe Ranger.
Unsure on how I'd feel about that. I do like druid's way of doing it the most, but I don't know whether it would feel more homogenized if everyone was like that.
As I said, it probably doesn't work for every class, as, for example, for fighters it wouldn't make much sense, Alchemists, Monks and Paladins I could see definitely, as well as maybe Ranger.
I dunno. The fighter could be as simple as different starting fighting styles. Say... Two Weapon Fighter, Archer, Great Weapon Master, Sword and Board... Or even take it Starfinder Soldier style where you have a primary style to start and a secondary style later.
Real life soldiers have specializations they can go into.
Infantry vs Green Beret vs Marines vs Seals etc.
It can work well for all the classes as long as there is a viable way to differentiate different flavors of a class.
And given all the content in 1e there is to draw upon for inspiration it doesn't seem like such a tall order.
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I agree with OP.
Would love to make a Grenadier Alchemist and have an edge with bombs and weaponry over an apothecary or mutation expert.
The 1st-level "archetype" options help make a focused character in the early levels, which can then be focused further or diversified through feats. It feels like you have better and more meaningful choices, and a greater variety in builds, with that approach (a pure Animal Companion Ranger vs. a Ranger that started with an Animal Companion and then diversified both feel distinct from one another even though they started the same).