The Advanced Race Guide dropped last month, bringing a bag full of goodies to the Pathfinder roleplaying game. Asides from the obvious addition of new player races (including tieflings, aasimar, and tengu), the book introduced a slew of new racial archetypes. These archetypes are only available to single races, and many radically alter the base abilities of their corresponding class. Coupled with the wealth of alternative racial traits that were introduced, I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing more dwarves, halflings, and gnomes in organized play.
It’d be a tremendous ordeal to analyze every new archetype found in the Advanced Race Guide, so instead I’ll rattle off a couple of my favourites.
As if elves weren’t subject to enough ridicule for being vainglorious hippies, Paizo hands them the prissiest-named archetype in the game. It might as well have been called the treehugger. Joking aside, this arboreal archetype is really quite interesting.
Plants are the name of the game for treesingers. The archetypes swaps out nature bond for a class feature called plant bond. Casting druids will find themselves limited to a handful of plant-themed domains (plant, growth, jungle, and swamp). Those keen on having a pet are prohibited from choosing an animal companion; instead the Advanced Race Guide lays out a plethora of living plant companions for the druid to choose from. These range from the expected (a hard hitting sapling treant) to the patently bizarre (a sentient flying fungus known as a puffball). Personally, I’m partial to the carnivorous flower, if only for the Little Shop of Horrors references.
The druid’s wild shape ability undergoes a similar green transformation. The treesinger swaps his animal and elemental forms for advanced plant forms. This trade off has been decried as weak by many, but I encourage a second look. Slowly and surely, the list of plant type enemies in Pathfinder has been growing with each new bestiary release. A few strong options at fourth level include the mandragora, a nasty critter with reach and poison, and the violet fungus, boasting an impressive four iterative attacks.
The main hurdle a treesinger will have to overcome is juggling ability scores. Elves have horrendous ability score modifiers for a druid, sacrificing much needed constitution for bonuses to dexterity and intelligence – tertiary stats at best. It’s definitely an uphill battle from an optimization standpoint, but there’s a lot of great flavour to be found here.
The short races received a lot of love in the Advanced Race Guide, and dwarves are no exception. The stonelord is one of the most comprehensive archetypes introduced to Pathfinder to date. It brazenly disassembles almost every ability of the paladin class, leaving it almost unrecognizable.
The stonelord triumphs in its ability to tailor the paladin class to the strengths and weaknesses of the dwarven race. Many players are reluctant to roll dwarven paladins due to the crippling handicap dwarves receive to their charisma score. Attaining a high enough charisma to take advantage of divine grace and spellcasting is often a fruitless endeavor in a point buy situation, making a cleric with a fighter dip a much more appealing option.
Pious dwarves of Golarion can rejoice, since the stonelord archetype all but eschews charisma. Divine grace is replaced by heartstone, another passive ability that grants bonus natural armor and damage resistance at four-level increments. Divine spellcasting is similarly discarded; the stonelord instead poaches the defensive stance ability of the stalwart defender prestige class. Lay on hands is the only remaining ability that factors in charisma, and even then a few additional uses per day offers little incentive to boost the attribute above a ten.
At fifth level, the stonelord swaps out his divine bond for an earth elemental pet. The thing starts out pretty wimpy but grows by one size category every three levels. While it lacks the punch of a druid’s animal companion, having a flanking buddy with tremorsense is nothing to scoff at. Dwarves just look silly on horses anyhow.
Purists may knock the stonelord for the lack of spellcasting, but I think this archetype is a strong choice. A stonelord with full plate and a shield is an impenetrable fortress. At the very least, it’ll be a blast to roleplay.