What about Advanced Feats: Secrets of the Alchemist? A review…

Let me get this out in the clear first. I love the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Players Guide! (If I like it SO much I should do a proper review of it, but I digress.) A an avid Pathfinder RPG fan I was thrilled to get the book, among all the goodies like new feats, spells, rules for existing races and classes, I must admit that the concept of new classes tickled my fancy the most. I know I’m not alone! In my regular weekly campaign three new players had to create new characters and all three went for the flavor of the month and created characters from the Advanced Players Guide.

While the book includes rules for these new classes, some of my players expressed their concern about what new crunch would be available for the new classes. After all we have well over a decade’s worth of material for the base classes that can be converted, but I understand the concern, will there be new toys to play with for the new classes? Well fret no more, the excellent folk at Open Design come to our rescue.

I received a review copy of the PDF for Advanced Feats: Secrets of the Alchemist, the first in a monthly series of products supporting the classes in the Advanced Players Guide. This first installment is dedicated to the Alchemist. This is a very interesting class; it combines bomb throwing with potion like spell effects and character buffing mutagens. Upon first reading about the class it gave me a Final Fantasy vibe. I can’t quiet place my finger on why but it just evoked that memory of playing the game all those years ago.

This installment’s author (I have no idea if he will write future supplements in the series) Sigfried Trent puts his experiences as the editor in chief of the Netbook of Feats to good use and provides 30 new feats for the Alchemist. But the book also includes a breakdown of the class and a couple of character builds that flesh out the possibilities inherent in the class.

Let’s discuss the larger portion of the book first, feats. Love them or hate them, feats are an integral part of the D&D 3rd edition experience and by extension of the Pathfinder RPG. They differentiate characters, make them unique and create new tactical opportunities in the game. I must say I love the feats in the book. They are clearly well designed, taking into account the strengths of the class and add new options without being overpowering. The inclusion of commentary explaining rule decisions and expounding on the feat’s application are a great addition. This along with boxed text about some feats shows the care taken when creating these feats.

There are some no brainers here, like feats making it easier and quicker for Alchemists to get to their potions, extracts and mutagens and drinking them. There are some true gems here, like the feat for creating wondrous creatures, and others that enhance the role playing aspect of the “mad scientist, while at the same time having a concrete game effect. There are some feats here that may even be useful to non-alchemists, and an attempt at creating feats that will allow a character to wield larger sized weapons efficiently, Lighten Weapon and Improved Lighten Weapon. I’m not sure if I agree with the implementation. I can see the logic behind it but I may need to try it out at the table and see.

I also wasn’t thrilled with the wood like background on the cover and the border of the page, it looked amateurish. Other than that the layout of the book is clear and functional, the only art is in the cover and a piece of what looks like stock clip art on the next to last page.

Don’t let those gripes mislead you. I found all the feats in the book useful; they work especially well with the three builds at the end of the book, very flavorful. The builds are very good and show very well how different race and feat choices create diverse, effective and exciting versions of the same class.

The examination of the class that opens the book serves as a good overview to set the tone and review its capabilities, a little simple but effective. This book lives up to the hype of being more than just a collection of feats. In its short 12 pages, 9 of them actual rules, the author manages to add depth and options to the class that will add months, if not years, of gaming opportunities for the Alchemist class.

For $3.95, you can’t go wrong with this book. I heartily recommend it and look forward to the next installments.