Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Vigilante Playtest: First Impressions

A simple citizen by day,
a crusader against crime by night.
Last Friday, Paizo published the playtest for the new Vigilante class that will be included in next year's Ultimate Intrigue. As the name implies, the Vigilante will allow players who want to play a character similar to the Shadow or Zorro a class to do so.

When I heard about this new class, I will admit I wasn't very excited about it. I subscribe to the believe that something with such a tiny niche as the Vigilante probably shouldn't have a base class built around it, but should be represented by an archetype for a class like the Investigator and the Slayer. However, I decided to wait until I at least got the chance to look at the playtest version of the class before finalizing my thoughts upon it.

With that in mind, I decided to spend the last few days reading over the document, dissecting the rules, and develop my own thoughts about this new, weird class, which I decided to post here.

  • The class' mechanics are filled to the brim with flavor. A lot of the class' general abilities represent the class' concept pretty well, dealing with their fame/infamy within different locales (Renown), a stealth-based fighting style focused on striking fear within the heart of their enemies (Stunning Appearance, Frightening Appearance, etc.), and the fact that the character is juggling multiple identities (Dual Identity).
  • The Vigilante also has some interesting mechanical ideas as well. Dual Identity giving your two identities different alignments is pretty cool and the fact that Vigilantes pick a specialization the rework the class' basic role within the party is intriguing. Want to be a martially-focused character? Pick the Avenger specialization. Want to sling arcane spells instead? Pick the Warlock.
  • The class' mechanics need some serious work. Dual Identity has an awful restriction where you can't use the majority of your Vigilante abilities while you are in your social identity. That's beyond idiotic. Does Batman lose his skills when he's Bruce Wayne? Of course not! Other abilities come on too late to be truly useful (Quick Change, Everyman, the later Appearance abilities) or unnecessarily restrictive or limited (Renown only allowing you to gain it's benefits within a community of 200 people at 3rd level? That's not good...)
  • The four specializations are rather weak and restrictive due to their reliance upon the class' talent system. The Avenger and the Stalker are weaker versions of the Fighter and the Rogue, the Zealot is a weaker version of the Inquisitor, and the Warlock is hampered by the class' talent allotment. It's especially sad when you consider these talents are supposed to be stronger than feats, but many are clearly not.
  • The class' niche is extremely limited and it's place within the game seems limited as well. The class gives off the impression that it will only be useful within a particular type of campaign, an urban one with high amounts of intrigue. The fact that the designers keep saying the class was designed to utilize the subsystems presented within Ultimate Intrigue furthers that notion. Also, I can't be the only one who thinks tying the viability of your class' abilities to optional subsystems that  might not be used by everyone. 

At the moment, the Vigilante feels like a class that needs a lot of work to make it a much better class. Its abilities need some fine tuning, some need to be moved around, and the talents and specializations need to be made stronger. While Paizo might make the necessary changes, especially since they tend to release purposefully conservative versions of their classes for playtest purposes, I would be lying of I said I was concerned about it.

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