The Advanced Player’s Guide is one of what I think of as the “Big Three” Pathfinder player supplements – the three Advanced “X” Guides. The APG, along with the Advanced Race Guide (ARG) and the Advanced Class Guide (ACG), are just saturated with player options. I think there can be a lot of debate about exactly how interesting/powerful this or that aspect of these three books is, in comparison to each other or to the more topical supplements (e.g., the “Ultimate X” and “X Adventures” series), but the raw quantity of material in each one is so overwhelming that nothing else holds up. So, sure, if you’re specifically digging for planar exploration character concepts, pick up Planar Adventures. But if you’re starting out with Pathfinder, or just looking for generic Good Stuff, the Advanced Player’s Guide (along with the Advanced Race Guide and Advanced Class Guide) is the place to start.
So, having told you that you don’t really need to worry about whether any particular aspect of the APG is interesting or powerful, let’s take a look at some specific aspects of the APG …
Proviso: What follows is mostly my opinion, which is the usual sort of thing for a review – what do I like, find interesting, think is cool, etc. But the APG has been around long enough that this one is also going to delve a bit into what major aspects I’ve seen other players use. These aren’t my personal opinions, but I don’t claim they’re universal – the fact that groups I’ve played in haven’t used a character class that gets used all the time in your area doesn’t invalidate your experience.
The APG isn’t the ARG, but it still kicks off with content on player races. There are no new races, but there are alternate racial traits and racial favored class abilities for each of the core book races and some of the core/APG classes.
I’ve seen alternate racial traits used a lot (at least, for nonhumans; the few human racial traits are so universally good that there’s little incentive to replace them). Most of the races in Pathfinder have a collection of minor abilities, and with so many there’s a reasonable chance there’s some aspect that you don’t find interesting or useful (especially things like spellcasting bonuses when you aren’t taking a spellcasting class). Adding in big lists of racial traits lets you hunt around for something to swap that weak link trait out for. Even if it isn’t much of a difference, mechanically, I find it satisfying to file off that one racial trait I don’t get a kick out of for one that I do. I think that the presence of Ancestry Feats in Pathfinder Playtest is a testament to the success of alternate racial traits.
Racial favored class options, however, I have not seen used much (although, of course, they continue to be added whenever we get a new base class). I think that the bonus skill point or bonus hit point are too generically handy to be easily replaced – the racial favored class options are sometimes both narrower and weaker.
Of course, the most obvious and enduring legacy of many (most? all?) player option books is new base classes, and the APG got the ball rolling on this front:
- Alchemist: The most successful new base class of them all, judging by its inclusion in Pathfinder Playtest, I see alchemists get played all the time (more than several of the core book classes). I find myself the odd person out here, however, as the extract-brewing, bomb-slinging alchemist has never appealed to me. I think it’s partially because I prefer permanent items to one-use items (even when the permanent bonus is much weaker). This is irrational here, because alchemical items for an alchemist replace spells, not items, but there it is. alchemists and their formulae sure are useful to have around against swarms though.
- Cavalier: The concept of the cavalier feels like a paladin variant, with more of an emphasis on mounted combat. But here’s the thing – mounted combat is so often a bad concept for a Pathfinder game/campaign. Most fights happen in dungeons, or caves, or temples, or really any sort of enclosed space. Or even if they aren’t enclosed, the range isn’t that far. What good is a mount? For me, horses are these things that get you from one encounter to the next faster, not something you use in combat. There’s just a big mismatch between the cavalier concept and what I’d want in a character class. I might not be the only one, because I almost never see cavaliers.
- Inquisitor: I have a tendency to get excited whenever I see “inquisitor,” until I remember that it’s the investigator (from the ACG) who’s the over-the-top skill monkey. The inquisitor is sort of the rogue’s answer to the paladin – dedicated to a deity/religion, but being a sneaky git sometimes to accomplish their ends. However, the inquisitor is a half-caster without a full base attack bonus, which requires some compelling non-spell class abilities to be attractive. For the inquisitor, those other abilities include judgment (variable bonus for one combat/day; handy if you only have 1-3 combats before resting), using teamwork feats without regard to whether others have them, and some speed/detection abilities. The inquisitor isn’t as absent as the cavalier, but I still haven’t seen them around much.
- Oracle: The full-caster oracle, on the other hand, I see even more than alchemists. There’s the ever-popular “who needs clerics?” life oracle, of course, but their combination of a variety of potent mysteries, pick-your-poison curses, and (later-added) alternate class features provide a lot of min-maxing opportunities, and I think that adds to the classes popularity.
- Summoner: The Summoner had to be fixed in Pathfinder Unchained, so I’m just going to pretend it isn’t here.
- Witch: The witch is a full, Int-based caster with a familiar focus who also gets to hand out hexes. This makes the witch a solid alternative to the traditional wizard, and I’ve seen them get a moderate amount of play. Just be careful before you let someone sit down at the table with a Seducer Witch – that can go all kinds of horrible in the hands of the wrong player.
In addition to new core classes, the APG has piles and piles of alternate class features for the core classes and introduces class archetypes. There’s more than 70 pages of this stuff. It’s just a smorgasbord of options.
The APG also still has prestige classes, a holdover from D&D 3.5 that would quickly fade (they got much less attractive in part because Pathfinder just gives base classes a lot more new stuff every level for most classes than 3.5 did). I know I’ve been hankering to use the Harrower prestige class (which is in the Inner Sea World Guide, not here), but at this point I don’t get a lot of mileage out of prestige class content. But they are here, including the battle herald (commanding officer cavalier), holy vindicator (give your cleric more direct punch in battle), horizon walker (multi-terrain ranger extension), master chymist (mutating alchemist), master spy (what it sounds like), nature warden (druid leaning into ranger), rage prophet (barbarian/oracle), and stalwart defender.
Traits were another evergreen, constantly-used addition to Pathfinder (although, since they’re just extras that you don’t have to give anything up for, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re frequently used). But they also allow for a nice little background touch, in addition to whatever joy you derive from scouring lists for the optimal bonus without regard to what the flavor attached to it is. This is, for example, where Merisiel can pick up being Forlorn. Traits come in combat, magic, social, and faith flavors, in addition to race traits (not to be confused with racial traits, which are part of the race).
All the Other Things
You (apparently) can’t have a player option book without more feats, spells, equipment, and magic items, and APG doesn’t let you down. Personally, feats are my favorite of these sections (because character construction is fun).
There are scores of feats available, but the major foci are metamagic feats, teamwork feats, racial feats, feats focused on the new base classes (e.g., extra use of a class ability), and combat feats (especially combat maneuver-based feats).
The spell section (about 70 pages long) of course includes lists and options for the new casters, but also has plenty of new spells for the core classes. There are also new lists for some archetypes, such as the Antipaladin and Elementalist Wizards.
The Advanced Player’s Guide is one of three “you need to buy this after the core book” supplements for Pathfinder. It had a great volume of content, but its biggest additions are alternate racial traits, class archetypes, the alchemist and oracle base classes, and traits.