Thoughts on free archetype?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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I like to give bonus feats (or feat adjacent abilities like relic powers) as adventure awards. So, I prefer to GM without Free Archetype otherwise it gets to be just a little too much.


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The only thing I don't like about Free Archetype is that people have really wonky expectations of how people are actually going to use it. It's easy to forget because even being the type of person who posts online puts you into a very insular group, but the vast majority of people playing these games aren't going to abuse mechanics like Free Archetype in an attempt to break the game. Most people playing TTRPGs aren't min-maxers or people with a bent towards optimization. It can be hard accept that online when you're mostly exposed to a hardcore audience, but the vast majority of players at real tables (both online and offline) don't use Free Archetype as an opportunity to try and break or hyperoptimize their characters... only to try and pick up more stuff to help their party or to better mechanically reflect their character's story mechanically.

And by the way, while many other people have already gone over the many great things Free Archetype adds to the game, I'd like to highlight this. Class feats have a very narrow focus and on classes that aren't focused on support (IE, most of the classes in the game) you have little flexibility to make choices in the service of your party instead of the optimization of your own playstyle. This, I feel, encourages a rather selfish form of buildcraft. Free Archetype gives players the space they need to think about what the party as a whole can do, and opens them up to fill any empty niches. Since Second Edition is a team game, I don't care if this makes the game easier at all. I know that my players will be having more fun and be more engaged with each other as a result of their increased ability to coordinate and work together.

Though I do also of course appreciate Free Archetype for all the obvious reasons. Peak of which for me is the capability to more fully embody my character fantasy, instead of hewing only to Paizo's interpretation of what my character can be. My nature-based herbalist doctor only exists and only works because Free Archetype can build off of the Forensic Medicine Investigator. It wants you to feel like Sherlock Holmes but I want to feel like my character, and that's what Free Archetype allows for that the vanilla progression doesn't. As someone very passionate about my stories and my characters, this makes it into a core part of the game for me. I'd never play in nor run a game without its inclusion.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I strongly prefer free archetype or double class feats. But I will echo something said earlier in the thread: it usually isn't worth the added complexity for new players or players that don't really care much about builds. Archetypes are actually kind of a lot to take in.

But if you liked building PF1 characters you almost certainly will like free archetype.


GM OfAnything wrote:
I like to give bonus feats (or feat adjacent abilities like relic powers) as adventure awards. So, I prefer to GM without Free Archetype otherwise it gets to be just a little too much.

I like your idea.

How do you deal with eventual requirements?
Do you just give feats a character could get or even stuff that would require other feats to be taken?


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I feel like the big disconnect for me is that the better designed Pathfinder 1e classes got to make meaningful choices at every level. You had your "feat" slots at odd levels, and at even levels you had Magus Arcana/Phrenic Amplifications/Rage Powers/etc. that map neatly onto the concept of "class feats" and there wasn't often a huge discrepancy in power between the "feat" choices and the "[class feat]" choices.

But in Pathfinder 2nd edition class feats are a huge part of your power budget, and Skill feats, General feats, and Ancestry feats are significantly less valuable resources. So something akin to "roughly doubling the number of meaningful choices you get to make" is what makes PF2 feel "right" to me.

But since skill, general, and ancestry feats are not worthless, while archetype feats are broadly weaker than "just double the number of class feats" free archetype feels like a good middle path option.

"GM gives free feats as rewards" can work, but it's a lot more work for the GM to make sure there's enough of them, they fit in the narrative, and they're something the player would actually want for their character whereas FA is very easy to GM around.


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While I agree with that argument, doubling choice can make the game more fun, I'm not sure I'd use 1E as my example. At least with characters I made and played with all of their feats fell into two camps. The first was composed of feats you needed in order to do the thing, the tax feats like Power Attack and so on, and the second was all the Extra [Insert Class Feature Here] feats, since those were generally more valuable than just picking feats was.


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I will note that some of the more common house rules for PF1 was to eliminate feat taxes through things like "removing power attack and combat expertise from the game, and just making them general options people can do like fighting defensively" along with "combining the "improved [combat maneuver]" feats into a couple of feats that covered all of them.

So in keeping with that, it's not hard to see why Free Archetype is popular. Particular given that Dedication Feats are really underwhelming compared to any class feat, and those really do feel like taxes.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

I will note that some of the more common house rules for PF1 was to eliminate feat taxes through things like "removing power attack and combat expertise from the game, and just making them general options people can do like fighting defensively" along with "combining the "improved [combat maneuver]" feats into a couple of feats that covered all of them.

So in keeping with that, it's not hard to see why Free Archetype is popular. Particular given that Dedication Feats are really underwhelming compared to any class feat, and those really do feel like taxes.

It depends on the class. But casting archetypes are almost always as good as a class feat because some of the buffs reduce failure chances. Picking up 1 action spells like Shield are great for 2-hander fighters.

The rogue also seems like a high value archetype if you want more skill ups.


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Deriven Firelion wrote:
The rogue also seems like a high value archetype if you want more skill ups.

Rogue is one I was considering, but not necessarily for the skills and skill feats. I was a bit tempted by the light armor proficiency and the option to get Nimble Dodge. Witch doesn't really have any good reactions natively. +2 AC in a pinch as a reaction seems pretty good to me.


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I am squarely on the side that Free Archetype makes PF2 barely passable as a successor to PF1. Otherwise it would fall down to the same level as 5e (which I dislike for having little customization). As PossibleCabbage noted, all of the PF1 classes got a class thing every level outside of general feats (even Fighter), which PF2 doesn't quite do. So from my perspective Free Archetype is getting back to what the baseline should be.

As for no restrictions on free archetype. Well if I personally would allow even taking your own class as an archetype. Why you may ask? Because it allows martials to double down without having to wait multiple levels, while giving casters more spells slots. Which to me is a win-win.


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Deriven Firelion wrote:

It depends on the class. But casting archetypes are almost always as good as a class feat because some of the buffs reduce failure chances. Picking up 1 action spells like Shield are great for 2-hander fighters.

The rogue also seems like a high value archetype if you want more skill ups.

I was talking about the first feat in an archetype the "[foo] dedication" which, as you observe can be valuable if you get a cantrip or two out of it (though many ancestries have a way to do this as well). But something like the fighter dedication is one of the absolute worst feats in the game on a chassis that already has simple and martial weapon training (which is something like 9 classes, not to mention the classes that won't want to stick with martial weapons once they get the proficiency bump to their class intended weapons.)

I like the rogue archetype plenty, but since almost everybody has light armor training already, the actual dedication feat is basically a skill training, a skill feat, and the surprise attack class feature which is fairly weak if you're not already a rogue.

Liberty's Edge

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Temperans wrote:
As PossibleCabbage noted, all of the PF1 classes got a class thing every level outside of general feats (even Fighter), which PF2 doesn't quite do.

PossibnleCabbage noted that the well designed ones did - pf1 clerics get functionally nothing on any even levels, wizards barely get any class features past 1st level and definitely not ever level, oracles only got something on every other odd level, and sorcerers would often only get a lower-level spell-known on odd levels. By no means did every PF1 class get a class thing of any impact every level, and many literally do have dead levels for class features.


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I think we should take note that of the latter classes in PF1 the Vigilante gets "Class Feat" (Vigilante Talent) at even levels, the Occultist gets a "Class Feat" (Focus Power) at even levels, the Psychic gets a "Class Feat" (Phrenic Amplification) at every other even level, the Mesmerist got a "Class Feat" (Mesmerist Trick) at even levels, the unMonk got a "Class Feat" (Ki Power) at even levels other than 2, the unRogue matches the original rogue with a "Class Feat" (Rogue Talent) at even levels, et cetera. So it's safe to say they settled into the format that was defined by the Barbarian, Rogue, etc. for most classes.

I doń't know if anybody would consider the PF1 Cleric and Wizard to be "well designed classes". They were powerful classes, for sure, but that was because of the strength of 9th level spellcasting not from anything else the class gives you.


Arcaian wrote:
Temperans wrote:
As PossibleCabbage noted, all of the PF1 classes got a class thing every level outside of general feats (even Fighter), which PF2 doesn't quite do.
PossibnleCabbage noted that the well designed ones did - pf1 clerics get functionally nothing on any even levels, wizards barely get any class features past 1st level and definitely not ever level, oracles only got something on every other odd level, and sorcerers would often only get a lower-level spell-known on odd levels. By no means did every PF1 class get a class thing of any impact every level, and many literally do have dead levels for class features.

I would like to point out that all the classes you just mentioned are full casters. PF1 full casters having caster level increases and bonus spell slots was more than enough, and they still got other abilities as part of the class. Wizard got abilities, bonus feats, and bonus spells slots. Sorcerers got abilities, bonus feats, and bonus spells. Oracles got abilities and bonus spells almost every level. Etc.

Although I will agree on Clerics.

I still stand by my point and will not sidetrack this thread further.


You don't get to say this:

Novem wrote:
It's easy to forget because even being the type of person who posts online puts you into a very insular group, but the vast majority of people playing these games aren't going to abuse mechanics like Free Archetype in an attempt to break the game. Most people playing TTRPGs aren't min-maxers or people with a bent towards optimization.

Then immediately say this:

Novem wrote:
Class feats have a very narrow focus and on classes that aren't focused on support (IE, most of the classes in the game) you have little flexibility to make choices in the service of your party instead of the optimization of your own playstyle.

And call it a cohesive message.

Besides that, you don't need FA to build a character with high group synergy/support. You just have to think about it and perhaps make a sacrifice of some other option you wanted. As you should have to do if you want to play a game where builds matter.

Novem wrote:
Peak of which for me is the capability to more fully embody my character fantasy, instead of hewing only to Paizo's interpretation of what my character can be. My nature-based herbalist doctor only exists and only works because Free Archetype can build off...

This is the only reason to want FA that holds any water with me (other than for everyone to be Pirates, which is great because YARRRR). Even then, I am of the opinion that your concept is probably cluttered, bloated, or should just be a higher level character.


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Temperans wrote:

I am squarely on the side that Free Archetype makes PF2 barely passable as a successor to PF1. Otherwise it would fall down to the same level as 5e (which I dislike for having little customization). As PossibleCabbage noted, all of the PF1 classes got a class thing every level outside of general feats (even Fighter), which PF2 doesn't quite do. So from my perspective Free Archetype is getting back to what the baseline should be.

As for no restrictions on free archetype. Well if I personally would allow even taking your own class as an archetype. Why you may ask? Because it allows martials to double down without having to wait multiple levels, while giving casters more spells slots. Which to me is a win-win.

I gotta ask, have you ever actually played 5E? Even just base class progression contains 5x the amount of choice and customization of any 5E character. Almost all of what your character does is decided at character creation and very little of any significant impact can be taken after that. Even the 2E classes with weaker feat sets have at least one or two playstyle defining feats to pick up during their progression. I get you were probably just doing hyperbole but it's way over the top.

I also feel like you're not really reckoning with how little choice there actually is in 1E buildcraft, especially once you have any degree of system mastery and realize that not taking the efficient choices can essentially gimp your character. And even in the places where you do have choices, very few of those choices will actually meaningfully impact the way your character plays (most feats are only there to make you numerically better at what you were already doing). 1E may be more complex but while it may have a bit more build agency than 5E, I'd argue even vanilla 2E has more actual meaningful choices to make during progression. Just getting a thing doesn't actually matter if that thing isn't actually having a meaningful impact on your character's playstyle. Nearly every choice you make in 2E actually matters and expands your character's capabilities in a way you're actually going to feel and notice during play, this is not the case in 1E. So it's... let's say weird to say that 1E classes get "more" during progression. Because in the end, it's a quantity over quality sort of thing. Would you rather the game constantly pretend you have options, or make sure each choice you make is actually important? I choose the latter.

And even that is giving that argument a bit too much credit for my taste, characters are at base capable of performing a greater versatility of actions than 1E characters are (you don't have to take feats for combat maneuvers, for example... and it's quite rare to see feats in 2E which just straight up upgrade an ability you already invested a choice into, and the ones that do exist are rarely straight numerical upgrades or necessary for the ability to even function mathematically). So there's an actual reason why characters in 2E making fewer choices, because they have a lot more baked in by default. 2E characters are also overall capable of more. They may make fewer choices during progression, but that's just because all of the functionally meaningless choices that 1E was infested with are gone. And also because a lot of the things certain types of characters otherwise wouldn't get or focus narrowly on have been removed.

That is to say, IMO you're making multiple very unfair comparisons here. One to a game that's manifestly more shallow (5E), and another one to a game that may have greater quantity of choices but also has arguably significantly less depth to those decisions.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
BaronOfBread wrote:


Novem wrote:
Peak of which for me is the capability to more fully embody my character fantasy, instead of hewing only to Paizo's interpretation of what my character can be. My nature-based herbalist doctor only exists and only works because Free Archetype can build off...
This is the only reason to want FA that holds any water with me (other than for everyone to be Pirates, which is great because YARRRR). Even then, I am of the opinion that your concept is probably cluttered, bloated, or should just be a higher level character.

I am of the opinion that your message is unreasonably snobby, for we are all playing what amounts to fancy make-believe in a million different flavors all stuffed into a big but not perfect chassis.

BaronOfBread wrote:
I dislike not getting to make as many hard choices while putting together a character build, it makes build choices feel cheap and largely unsatisfying to me. Also as someone who just builds characters for no reason, FA frequently requires me to either staple a second identity onto a complete character or just grab some power boosts. Ultimately, FA ruins the elegance of making an effective and clean character by adding unnecessary bells and whistles.

And I believe this can have more to do with the differences between the white room and actual play than about Free Archetype specifically. Everything's vaguely unsatisfying to me when it's just trying to thread as much thematic synergy and generic power together as possible, or see if I can get past x awkward requirements or fulfill y requirements.

When I gain actual experience with a character, suddenly all of those niche situations and corresponding benefits matter, and my character's personality and aesthetic and relationships have developed in many small ways that could be mechanically represented one way or another. There's nothing really "bloated" about taking Dancing Leaf due to an epiphany or close call and also wanting to wrestle. Or being a wild, unarmed Fighter with a mechanical need for relevant feat support but also wanting Medic to represent a commitment to non-monstrous ends and keeping your few friends alive. Even if there is bloat, what does it matter to you? It's just another story, and another way to play.

PossibleCabbage wrote:
WatersLethe wrote:
because there was clearly a class feat bottleneck that artificially prevented character concepts from coming online at a reasonable rate.
I want to underline this for emphasis. The major design problem for PF2 from where I sit is that class feats are *the* currency for basically everything important about your character, and the number of them that the game gives you by default is perilously close to too low.

In case this seems unlikely to readers, or a gross exaggeration, I'll chip in my thoughts. There are powerful ancestry, general, and skill feats, but you generally get less of them, fewer options in their pools, more requirements, and less frequent "character-defining" flavor, whatever that means to you. In short, they're more generic, and less to do with personality and theme.

The tipping point where I personally came to agree with Cabbage's core takeaway was the knowledge that most of the "I'm undead" options in Book of the Dead are archetypes, which presumably lock you in and take class feats, rather than ancestries or versatile heritages. Strikes me as a sign of where the winds blow, if that holds.

(And while I'm spouting my opinions, a cautious/ theoretical one, and a question. Giving everyone the same archetype strikes me as somewhat dull unless it's a big one (like Pathfinder Agent) or has a lot of options in its feats (like Druid or Wizard). Like, if everyone's a Pirate...woo, everyone can balance on a ship and there's three other things they could all take. But I recognize that it can be kinda fun to present a challenge (even something small like balancing on a ship) and then give them something to surpass it. So I wonder, what are some successfully interesting instances of everyone getting the same small archetype?)

Liberty's Edge

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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I doń't know if anybody would consider the PF1 Cleric and Wizard to be "well designed classes". They were powerful classes, for sure, but that was because of the strength of 9th level spellcasting not from anything else the class gives you.

Oh, I fully agree - apologies for any confusion in my previous post; I agree that the best-designed PF1 classes (mostly 6th level casters and the classes that came out in the 2nd half of PF1's lifetime) have interesting choices to be making every level. I was simply disagreeing with Temperans' saying that all PF1 classes got that interesting choice.


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BaronOfBread wrote:

You don't get to say this:

Novem wrote:
It's easy to forget because even being the type of person who posts online puts you into a very insular group, but the vast majority of people playing these games aren't going to abuse mechanics like Free Archetype in an attempt to break the game. Most people playing TTRPGs aren't min-maxers or people with a bent towards optimization.

Then immediately say this:

Novem wrote:
Class feats have a very narrow focus and on classes that aren't focused on support (IE, most of the classes in the game) you have little flexibility to make choices in the service of your party instead of the optimization of your own playstyle.

And call it a cohesive message.

Besides that, you don't need FA to build a character with high group synergy/support. You just have to think about it and perhaps make a sacrifice of some other option you wanted. As you should have to do if you want to play a game where builds matter.

Novem wrote:
Peak of which for me is the capability to more fully embody my character fantasy, instead of hewing only to Paizo's interpretation of what my character can be. My nature-based herbalist doctor only exists and only works because Free Archetype can build off...
This is the only reason to want FA that holds any water with me (other than for everyone to be Pirates, which is great because YARRRR). Even then, I am of the opinion that your concept is probably cluttered, bloated, or should just be a higher level character.

Sorry if you felt there was a contradiction here, but let me clarify. There's a difference between straightforward mechanical optimization (IE, trying to break the system by creating a powerful character) and optimization of your character's playstyle. Obviously, most players want to be very good at what they've decided they want their character to be good at. Part of embodying a character's fantasy is having defined strengths and weaknesses. Players naturally want to excel at what they perceive as their strengths and want to feel like their decisions meaningfully allow them to do that. However, specialization is usually contradictory to optimization, because specialized characters are very good in certain scenarios and perform poorly in others. This is especially the case because players most often choose a rather narrow focus. I may build a character that is excellent at healing, and maybe even decent at other supportive capabilities, but I'm going to lag behind in damage and defense. This character is optimized for a narrow task but they are not overall an optimized character.

There's also one other thing that personally I think stands out as rather obvious, but I'll note it anyway just in-case. True gamebreaking min-maxing requires an extreme level of system mastery and knowledge. This level of optimization isn't just something most players won't even try to strive for, it's literally beyond what most players are even capable of.

Hopefully this helps you understand my post a bit better.

Also, just to address the later parts of your post, I think what your saying is quite a bit off-base.

First your take on the necessity of Free Archetype. You seem to have a very narrow view of what creates a game where builds matter (and even if you don't, you're inherently presuming that you don't have to make sacrifices in Free Archetype, which just isn't true). Also yes you don't "need" Free Archetype to create a character with high group synergy, but I would say you absolutely do if you want to do that and still excel at your character's own thing. In the vast majority of cases in vanilla, it's either or, you rarely get both. And doing both requires high system mastery and knowledge which most players don't have. This is what I was trying to say in my OP, vanilla progression encourages selfish buildcraft. Most players aren't going to sacrifice their own character for the sake of the group, and there's very little wiggle room to avoid it when you only have 10 feats to work with (and especially if you're playing a class who is heavily dependent on their class feats, meaning you are all but blocked from archetypes as a system). Forcing the players to choose between themselves and their teammates isn't a healthy thing for a game to have at such a fundamental level. This is a team game, and the game is thus healthier if the players have the versatility to specialize where they want to and still have room to account for the party's needs. This positions teammates as a source of aid, and not as an enemy competing for their exceedingly precious feat slots.

Second as far as it concerns my character, that's just like... your opinion, man. If my character's entire backstory is that they are an herbalist who grew up in the woods learning medicine, it probably shouldn't take half of my progression and totally obliterate any ability to build out my class's existing features to get them to a place where they mechanically live up to that backstory. And that's not even a particularly special or crazy backstory. Just imagine the struggle for a more radical or comprehensive concept. This is especially the case for concepts which are otherwise self-defeating. For instance one idea I've been toying around with is a Dhampir Cleric of Sarenrae... meaning I'm going to have a positive healing Cleric with an ancestry that can't receive positive healing until 13th level, and only then only in direct natural sunlight. It's a lot easier to build around and handle that restriction with Free Archetype, where I have the versatility to dip into extra spells and abilities to help heal myself while not compromising on my character being the greatest healer around who hurts themselves to help others. This concept isn't cluttered or bloated, and it shouldn't take until more than halfway through a campaign for it to be meaningfully effective (not to mention, if it was, that would hurt my whole team... and my team shouldn't have to deal with me being bad just for playing a character with an interesting story, that actively discourages players from engaging in meaningful RP because nobody wants to be the lead weight dragging the entire party down). If my character is complicated, it's because people are complicated and I like to create fleshed out characters who feel well-rounded, alive, and multi-dimensional. Maybe that's bloat to you, but it's the experience I play roleplaying games for and I'm not going to apologize for that.


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Alfa/Polaris wrote:
(And while I'm spouting my opinions, a cautious/ theoretical one, and a question. Giving everyone the same archetype strikes me as somewhat dull unless it's a big one (like Pathfinder Agent) or has a lot of options in its feats (like Druid or Wizard). Like, if everyone's a Pirate...woo, everyone can balance on a ship and there's three other things they could all take. But I recognize that it can be kinda fun to present a challenge (even something small like balancing on a ship) and then give them something to surpass it. So I wonder, what are some successfully interesting instances of everyone getting the same small archetype?)

I sadly can't speak to actual play experience because I haven't been in a free archetype game yet, though I'm looking forward to getting to try one, so this is all theorizing. That being said I think you could get some pretty good mileage out of a group of various Soulforgers, Cathartic Mages, or any other archetype where the feat selection may be limited, but the initial buy-in comes with another option that can be different across characters.

Factional archetypes are the kings though, I definitely agree. Pathfinder archetypes are the best for this (Who'd have thunk it?) with some runner-ups being the branching archetypes like Magaambyan mages or Hellknights, or archetypes that got a nice infusion of feats like the Red Mantis.

Liberty's Edge

siegfriedliner wrote:
So far the only build I have made that felt much more powerful due to free archetypes was the unarmed fighter,

Do you think this unarmed fighter build winds up too powerful or just more powerful? I ask because I loved the 1E Brawler class, but haven’t felt like a non-Monk fist fighter is particularly viable in 2E.


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I cannot stand playing without FA now that it's been out for nearly 2 years. My first 2 characters didn't have it because the APG and GMG weren't out yet, and while they were fun, it felt a little stifling because there were a few different things that thematically I wanted to do, that in practice I couldn't/was impractical to do. I've made probably 6 different characters with FA and all of them felt like I could fulfil the initial character fantasy without much issue. I would be bored out of my skull during CharGen without FA, and half of my PC concepts would have to get thrown away.

I also DM for a group that uses it, and I barely have to change encounter difficulty parameters to match the party's skillset, and I can throw more skill challenges at them because they're more equipped to deal with them all. I haven't tried any other variant rules (other than Relics) but ABP and skill/ability points look quite fun, but no one is willing to try them with me :P


I've never tried free archetypes, but it seems like a great way to recreate, to an extent, some of the archetypes from PF1.


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Luke Styer wrote:
siegfriedliner wrote:
So far the only build I have made that felt much more powerful due to free archetypes was the unarmed fighter,
Do you think this unarmed fighter build winds up too powerful or just more powerful? I ask because I loved the 1E Brawler class, but haven’t felt like a non-Monk fist fighter is particularly viable in 2E.

Maybe it was a fighter + alchemist dedication unarmed build.


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I enjoy free archetype, and generally prefer that it be there, but can live without it. It gives a lot more freedom to character building, but sometimes I feel restrictions can be fun. Plus, I've definitely had characters where no archetype quite felt right, but that issue has been resolving itself with more content coming out.

I'm also currently GMing a double class feats game, which I like significantly less. It feels like it homogenizes classes too much, particularly for newer classes that don't have as much feat support. The only class I like more under it is Alchemist, but that's because I feel they have too many required feats and would rather just identify those and give them to alchemists for free. So all in all, I'll probably continue with free archetype and not use double class feats again.


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Luke Styer wrote:
siegfriedliner wrote:
So far the only build I have made that felt much more powerful due to free archetypes was the unarmed fighter,
Do you think this unarmed fighter build winds up too powerful or just more powerful? I ask because I loved the 1E Brawler class, but haven’t felt like a non-Monk fist fighter is particularly viable in 2E.

Its not the most damaging type of fighter but its very versatile when it comes to its control effects. I wouldn't say its too powerful but it's nice to be able to use the free hand fighter goodies with the mon martial artist damage enhancers


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Luke Styer wrote:
siegfriedliner wrote:
So far the only build I have made that felt much more powerful due to free archetypes was the unarmed fighter,
Do you think this unarmed fighter build winds up too powerful or just more powerful? I ask because I loved the 1E Brawler class, but haven’t felt like a non-Monk fist fighter is particularly viable in 2E.

Most times, fighter +[other melee class] winds up just being a better version of [other melee class]. It takes longer for monk because flurry doesn't become available until 10 and stances don't come around until 4 so you're just sorta mediocre for awhile. Much better under free archetype where you get your good fighter feats while getting your punching feats.

That said, there are plenty of unarmed fighter builds. The one I see most often (as an idea not in play) is the fighter + druid to abuse wild shape into multitalented monk 9 flurry 10 stance 12 to smoothly transition away from wild shape after it stops scaling.

For another caster-based option, you have fighter+sorc(dragon). This opens up dragon claws at 4 which are a fairly strong option with the built in extra damage they have and spell utility as the game progresses.

The other one I see is the fighter+barbarian using animal unarmed attacks at 6. Takes longer to turn on so I don't see it talked about unless using a later starting level or with retraining in mind. Under free archetype you pretty easily become barbarian+ with higher accuracy, better EHP and better feats.

A fourth option you have is fighter+alchemist. Comes online the fastest at level 2 through bestial mutagen, and gives some team support.

Plenty of options as you can see, though traditional pugilist is, ironically, probably the weakest of the bunch. And of course, all of the above can have the multitalented 9 flurry 10 combo tacked onto them to boost their power.


Gisher wrote:
I've never tried free archetypes, but it seems like a great way to recreate, to an extent, some of the archetypes from PF1.

So far the most success I've had with free archetype is in trying to recreate the weapon and armor-based archetypes from PF1E. It's significantly easier to make a non-human Hellknight Signifer, for example, as well as not-as-martial Red Mantis Assassins.

Really any archetype that has a prerequisite of requiring a specific weapon or armor is way easier to achieve with free archetype if you don't also want to be human, and is still easier even then.


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HumbleGamer wrote:
Maybe it was a fighter + alchemist dedication unarmed build.

I can't think of a scenario where a Fighter with an Alchemist archetype would be more powerful than a Fighter with an Alchemist ally.


Eoran wrote:
HumbleGamer wrote:
Maybe it was a fighter + alchemist dedication unarmed build.
I can't think of a scenario where a Fighter with an Alchemist archetype would be more powerful than a Fighter with an Alchemist ally.

Probably because your scenarios involve comparing one character with two. Try adjusting your scenarios to compare the alch-fighter duo to a bard-fighter/alch duo or a cleric-fighter/alch duo.

Asymmetrical comparisons aside, keeping your party in mind with free archetype is still important. You really don't want to archetype Alchemist if you have one (or another going archetype Alchemist) in the party for instance.

Similarly, many of the profession archetypes boost your skills to expert which is a great way to compensate for lacking a rogue and helps those skills and others scale better as the game progresses as they save you limited skill boosts, but you also want to make sure you aren't wasting it on skills that somebody else is already covering. Classes that can dump str or dex and boost int instead are the best for taking advantage of these since the extra trained skills can help clear the prereqs for these archetypes.


gesalt wrote:
Eoran wrote:
HumbleGamer wrote:
Maybe it was a fighter + alchemist dedication unarmed build.
I can't think of a scenario where a Fighter with an Alchemist archetype would be more powerful than a Fighter with an Alchemist ally.

Probably because your scenarios involve comparing one character with two. Try adjusting your scenarios to compare the alch-fighter duo to a bard-fighter/alch duo or a cleric-fighter/alch duo.

Or just any other archetype.

I mean, my point was that regards pushing powercreep with an unarmed fighter, the alchemist dedication would give an excellent boost.

Would it get better results with a real alchemist giving elixirs to the fighter? indeed, but maybe the party would benefit more from a cloistered cleric rather than an alchemist.


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If you're really interested in combating power creep, just keep a closer eye on what the players with the already overtuned classes (e.g. fighter, bard) are doing with their free archetypes.


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HumbleGamer wrote:
Would it get better results with a real alchemist giving elixirs to the fighter? indeed, but maybe the party would benefit more from a cloistered cleric rather than an alchemist.

It's a bit complicated, because if you really want to abuse the hell out of the Fighter Mutagenist, you need Feral Mutagen at level 16. It gives you Fighter Proficiency, a d12 Deadly d10 main weapon, a d10 Deadly d10 Agile side weapon (with Agile Grace, you hit like a Flurry Ranger) and the ability to FoB. With an Alchemist you gain an extra +1 to hit and the ability to use this strategy earlier (as you need the Greater Bestial Mutagen to be fully efficient).

As a side note, this build greatly benefits from Free Archetypes rule. You need Monk Dedication and Flurry of Blows, Alchemist Dedication, Basic and Advanced Concoction (for Feral Mutagen), Expert and Master Alchemy if you don't have an Alchemist in the party. You greatly benefit from Rogue Dedication for Sneak Attack (on your secondary attacks), and Opportune Backstab. And Bastion is excellent as it compensates your AC loss from Feral Mutagen and allows you to get extra Shield blocks (you can also get these feats directly as a Fighter, but you have the choice to use the free archetype feats, too). And if you're a half-elf, you can grab Champion Dedication + Champion Reaction + Ranged Reprisal. So 16 archetype feats to get stellar efficiency, especially at level 20 when you add Boundless Reprisal and end up with an unkillable machine of destruction (so many reactions that you Shield Block nearly every attack while triggering reactions all the time between AoO, Retributive Strike and Opportune Backstab). I think we can safely say that these kind of monsters are not intended by the game and show the limits of the Free Archetype rules when it is used for the sake of optimization.

Liberty's Edge

Same phenomenon as in MtG then. More possibilities open the way to a greater diversity of builds and to more powerful optimized builds at the same time.


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The Raven Black wrote:
Same phenomenon as in MtG then. More possibilities open the way to a greater diversity of builds and to more powerful optimized builds at the same time.

Sure, and that was always going to be the case. The question is, more or less, how much greater the diversity is as compared to how much more powerful the optimized builds are. The impression that I get (both from looking at how I'd personally use it and seeing the reactions of others) is that Free Archetype gives a pretty significant boost to diversity with a comparatively low boost to max power level. At the same time, yeah, if you're running a game with Free Archetype, it's probably worth keeping an eye on your most optimization-happy players and making sure they don't abuse it too badly.


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

So you have a player with a fighter alchemist druid monk.

Now what? What can you really do about it that isn't going to risk rocking the boat and alienating one or more players?

Best to leave it alone unless the power gap is so egregious that one or more players are not having fun as a result of the alleged "power gamer."

But this is Pathfinder 2nd Edition, likely the most balanced system available, and so any perceived issues are likely all just in your head...

...:
...you control freak.

.
.
.

:P

Just kidding. A conversation between sensible adults likely won't hurt anything.


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In my experience *most people* are going to stick to some kind of theming with their free archetypes that's not "get the most powerful stuff available."

So if your character concept is "I'm the plant guy" and you're a plant summoner, you might do like MC Druid for plant stuff and also grab Herbalist.

But like your idea for "who your character is" might not involve being a member of 3 secret organizations and turning into an octopus from time to time. Or if it does, that's a very specific concept and I want to hear about it.


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And if a specific player is causing problems and refuses to chill? Just yeet them out the game.

Liberty's Edge

PossibleCabbage wrote:

In my experience *most people* are going to stick to some kind of theming with their free archetypes that's not "get the most powerful stuff available."

So if your character concept is "I'm the plant guy" and you're a plant summoner, you might do like MC Druid for plant stuff and also grab Herbalist.

But like your idea for "who your character is" might not involve being a member of 3 secret organizations and turning into an octopus from time to time. Or if it does, that's a very specific concept and I want to hear about it.

Sometimes, my character concept is being the best at what they do. It could be DPR or something completely different.

Aka Munchkins are people too ;-)

And, yes, I agree that PF2 is extremely good at curtailing overpower while sustaining variety.


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I love FA. I think talking about what might be too powerful is rather subjective. Nothing really breaks the system other then some extreme edge cases, and even then there's only so much you can do. There's several layers of power prevention, so even if you dual class and FA there's still a limit on what you can do. The combos that become too much are obvious things you can avoid.
I've never made a FA character where I could get everything I wanted, so saying that playing without it makes you have harder choices makes no sense to me.
My group uses a slightly different ruling that you can't use multiclass archetypes with FA, maybe that makes a difference.


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I can play without it, but I much prefer playing with it. FA lets me take flavor choices that I would normally have to pass up for more essential choices. A current example I have is an alchemist who used FA to pick up inventor once G&G came out; she played like this roguish type infiltrator that solved mission obstacles with the aid of her alchemy and reverse engineered stolen tech, and FA let me get brilliant crafter to let my crafting auto scale and reverse engineer to let me use crafting to open locks and disable devices (I reskin this as pulling out alchemical items that break the locks and such) while still being able to pick up essentials like quick bomb and calculated splash.

On a character I'm planning, it opens the door to make social focused arcane trickster type easier by letting me take stuff like spell tricker or captivator while I nab dandy, conceal/silent spell, etc with my wizard feats. I dont strictly need these options per se, but they enrich the experience and roleplay options


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Does anyone play with "FA-lite"? I have yet to GM my first 2e game (1e campaign still wrapping up). I plan to make FA default, but only give an extra feat on levels 2, 6, 10, 14, 18.

If the levels for FA feat don't work for character concept I can work with the player, but this seems more manageable.

Wat do people think?


Mythraine wrote:

Does anyone play with "FA-lite"? I have yet to GM my first 2e game (1e campaign still wrapping up). I plan to make FA default, but only give an extra feat on levels 2, 6, 10, 14, 18.

If the levels for FA feat don't work for character concept I can work with the player, but this seems more manageable.

Wat do people think?

That's close to what I do. For my players that a Free Archetype doesn't appeal to, I allow ancestry feats as an alternative.


Based on the comments so far the problem does seem to be overpowered builds. But that Fighters are overtuned compared to what everyone else can do. Notice that it's mostly just "fighter alchemist with flurry" that gets talked about?

That tells you more than enough as to what the problem seems to be: Fighters being top DPS becomes broken when given Flurry (a great action economy booster), and arguably better use of alchemy than the actual alchemist (the current version barely helps the Alchemist but Fighter is broken with it).


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Since the Free Archetype rule appears in the GMG right after the "Dual Class" variant (which is objectively more powerful, but less popular in my experience) I will quote from that section

GMG, Page 193 wrote:
For instance, a fighter/ranger with the flurry hunter’s edge gains access to incredibly accurate press actions, and a barbarian/fighter has the barbarian’s high damage plus the fighter’s high accuracy. One way around this is to simply disallow combinations that double down on a narrow ability, and instead encourage dual-class characters that open up narrative options and increase the character’s flexibility.

I would say the same can easily apply to Free Archetype.

So I think a reasonable way to go about this in this thread is to try to highlight some of the trouble combinations. The first two that come to mind are:
1) A fighter combining a different class's primary combat trick with the fighter's native high accuracy.
2) A spellcaster taking a multiclass archetype with a different class which casts off the same primary statistic (e.g. Oracle/Bard/Sorcerer, Wizard/Witch, Cleric/Druid).

The Exchange

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GM OfAnything wrote:
I like to give bonus feats (or feat adjacent abilities like relic powers) as adventure awards. So, I prefer to GM without Free Archetype otherwise it gets to be just a little too much.

I hope the players have the choice as to what feat they take otherwise the GM is asying "I think your character should be tweaked the way that I want it to look"


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Temperans wrote:
Based on the comments so far the problem does seem to be overpowered builds.

That is probably the bigger and more obvious concern.

The other one that I saw on here that I think is worth highlighting again is the increased complexity - which can be a problem for inexperienced players. They may end up suffering with option overload. Both in character building and in having too many choices of things to do during a round.

Liberty's Edge

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Ravingdork wrote:
But this is Pathfinder 2nd Edition, likely the most balanced system available, and so any perceived issues are likely all just in your head...

You know, you really should trust this man, I'm not sure anyone has a better reputation for trying to find ways things can and do get broken than RD so you better believe that if something were truly busted or inordinately unbalanced he would know about it.


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breithauptclan wrote:
Temperans wrote:
Based on the comments so far the problem does seem to be overpowered builds.

That is probably the bigger and more obvious concern.

The other one that I saw on here that I think is worth highlighting again is the increased complexity - which can be a problem for inexperienced players. They may end up suffering with option overload. Both in character building and in having too many choices of things to do during a round.

That's my primary concern when considering if FA should be included or not. I mean, obviously go over it with the group first and get their impressions, but do keep in mind that it is adding another silo of feats and forcing players to interact with a system they may not have been anticipating. I forget who suggested it, but I like the solution of granting the equivalent of a multiclass dedication in a player's class if they would rather just focus on the feats their class has. It saves on lots of book-flipping and choice paralysis.

PossibleCabbage wrote:

So I think a reasonable way to go about this in this thread is to try to highlight some of the trouble combinations. The first two that come to mind are:

1) A fighter combining a different class's primary combat trick with the fighter's native high accuracy.
2) A spellcaster taking a multiclass archetype with a different class which casts off the same primary statistic (e.g. Oracle/Bard/Sorcerer, Wizard/Witch, Cleric/Druid).

What about archetypes that also grant spellcasting power, but aren't multiclass archetypes? The Cathartic Mage comes to mind.


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Temperans wrote:

Based on the comments so far the problem does seem to be overpowered builds. But that Fighters are overtuned compared to what everyone else can do. Notice that it's mostly just "fighter alchemist with flurry" that gets talked about?

That tells you more than enough as to what the problem seems to be: Fighters being top DPS becomes broken when given Flurry (a great action economy booster), and arguably better use of alchemy than the actual alchemist (the current version barely helps the Alchemist but Fighter is broken with it).

Actually, FA doesn't boost power that much in most cases. The power level of my playtest games (ran RAW) and my home game (ran with a FA rule that allows players to pick up half level class feats or at level archetype feats) is about the same. The FA table shows a wider variety of abilities, but aren't really more powerful at the stuff their base class already does

The fighter flurry thing can be done with or without FA. Meanwhile, your assessment of alchemist is also off base; being able to pick up wizard MCD and still have have all the bomb feats early on is a hell of an early game boost that frees up reagent resources (I say this was someone actually playing an FA alchemist), although when G&G came out, I retrained my MCD to inventor for flavor.

I won't say that that it makes the alchemist better than other classes dipping into alchemy, but saying that FA barely helps alchemist is highly inaccurate. Off the top of my head, wizard/witch, gunslinger (mostly for martial gun access), archer (again, martial ranged weapon access), ranger (hunt prey acting as pseudo range increase, gravity weapon stacking with calc/expanded splash, hunter's aim for accuracy boosts, etc) all provide pretty meaningful boosts to the class, especially early game, where the class has the most problems. It doesn't make alchemist mich more powerful, but it does take a lot of stress off of the feat taxes the class expects you to pay

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