Thursday, June 25, 2015

Vigilante Class Walkthrough

Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen
Copyright the CW, licensed
for promotional use of the
show Arrow.
Paizo recently released a playtest for the new class from it's forthcoming release Ultimate Intrigue.  The vigilante class is designed to hold one personality by day and another, ass-kicking, personality by night (or vice versa, I guess).  Honestly, at first I wasn't particularly interested in this class.  At first glance, it seemed like an attempt to port superheroes into Pathfinder.  And that's fine for some people's games, it's just not my cup of tea.  I enjoy watching Arrow, I just can't picture Oliver Queen on Golarion.  Plus, I was hoping that Ultimate Intrigue would turn out to be a more skills and social encounter-heavy rulebook and the vigilante class did not seem to be a harbinger for that.  Despite my misgivings, I persevered and found something to love with the vigilante.

Vigilante Class Overview
Alignment restrictions: None
Hit Dice: d8
BAB: 3/4
Good saves: Reflex & Will
Poor saves: Fortitude
Skill ranks: 6 + Int bonus
Class Skills: Bluff, Craft, Diplomacy, Disguise, Escape Artist, Knowledge (local), Perception, Perform, Profession, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth + skills from his/her specialization
Proficiencies: Light and martial weapons; light armor, medium, armor, and shields

In general, we've got a good basis for a class here.  The playtest PDF is 14 pages long, though 2.5 of those are title page, short forward by Jason Buhlman, and the OGL text.  The class skill list is pretty good, especially considering that each vigilante's specialization will add a few extras along the way.  The one exception is the choice not to give Intimidate as a class skill.  Only the Avenger and the Zealot specializations add it as a class skill.  But, one of the vigilante's most useful abilities, renown, is keyed to it.  If you're going to key a general class ability to a skill, it ought to be a class skill.  On top of this, all but one of the vigilante's class powers are extraordinary abilities, meaning that magic will have few effects on the vigilante's ability to fully exercise his class skills at any time.

Also, for those into this sort of thing, the different vigilante specialization descriptions switch between male and female pronouns, which indicate that we could expect to see multiple iconics for the vigilante.  Or, maybe that's just an error since this is a playtest document.  It seems like much of the vigilante base class is really just a chassis which the specialization will fill in.  Even more than other chassis-style classes like the sorcerer, the vigilante really seems like a blank slate.  Or perhaps I should say blank slates--since a lot of the vigilante's powers are tied into whether he's in full-on vigilante mode or mild-mannered daytime social mode, it's almost like a study in multiple personality disorder from a fantasy RPG perspective.

Vigilante Class Powers
Dual Identity (Ex) (1st):  What good is a class with two identities if you can't keep them separate.  And the two identities are very different from each other.  Changing back and forth from one to another takes 5 minutes and must be done in secret.  And each identity really is separate.  If you attempt to scry on the vigilante's secret identity while he's doing his daytime thing, you get nothing.  Vice-versa for attempts to connect the day to the night.
Interestingly, each identity can have its own alignment, provided that both are within one step of each other.  This can be a challenge, because although you can take feats and class abilities based on one of the alignments, you can only use them when in the identity that qualifies for those abilities.  So, if you're a Zealot (divine caster inspired) vigilante with a nighttime lawful neutral identity that casts divine spells granted by LG Iomedae and a daytime true neutral identity, no divine spells for you during the day.  Some might see this as a challenge, others might see it as an interesting role-playing opportunity.

Social Grace (Ex) (1st, 2nd, 6th, 10th, 14th, 18th): You've got your dual identities, but don't want them getting connected.  A vigilante gets a +20 bonus to Disguise checks while in his social/daytime identity to appear merely as a member of polite society.  A word of caution: this does not work both ways.  There is NO corresponding ability not to have the nighttime identity linked back to the daytime identity, so be secretive and don't get caught taking the law into your own hands.
Also, at 2nd level and at every 4 levels thereafter, the vigilante picks a skill tied to a mental ability score.  The vigilante gets a +4 bonus on checks related to this skill when in his social/daytime identity only.

Vigilante Specialization (Ex) (1st): Each vigilante picks a specialization between avenger (warrior focused), stalker (roguish), warlock (arcane caster), and zealot (divine caster).  I'll cover those in more depth later.  But, one thing that I do like about this choice is that it opens up lots of space for more design.  There's space for new vigilante talents AND there's space for more specializations.  The specializations are more keyed to the nighttime/vigilante identity, but I'm digressing there.

Vigilante Talents (2nd): At 2nd level and every even level thereafter, a vigilante picks up talents related to his specialization.  To me this was something of a 50/50.  On the one hand, it's cool that the talents are tied into the specialization.  On the other, the vigilante has the opportunity to do a lot of interesting things with skills.  I'd have preferred that there be some universal vigilante talents that any vigilante can take.  I like this for two reasons.  First, it recognizes that there are some abilities that would be useful to any vigilante, regardless of specialization.  Second, universal talents go a long way to opening up future design space.  If Paizo or a 3rd party publisher wants to design a new vigilante specialization in the future, they are stuck designing everything in that specialization from the ground up.  With some universal talents, it'll be easier to fit a new vigilante specialization on a 1-2 page spread in a Player's Companion.

Renown (Ex) (3rd, 9th, 15th): The vigilante gains the power to go around town in his mild-mannered identity and talk up how scary his secret identity is.  At first this can only be done for a small area (village or neighborhood of up to 200 or so) but it grows over time.  The vigilante spends his time talking up his nighttime identity and word gets around: he gets a +4 bonus on Intimidate checks while in his nighttime identity.  At 9th level, the vigilante can influence a community up to 5,000 people large or two communities of up to 2,000 people.  The intimidate bonus increases to +6.  At 15th level, the population area increases to 25,000 (or two cities of up to 10K) and the Intimidate bonus increases to +8.
This is a cool ability, but it could be improved in a couple of ways.  First, Intimidate isn't a class skill for the vigilante.  The Avenger and Zealot specializations get it, but the Warlock and the Stalker don't.  This ability is too central to the vigilante's schtick not to be a class ability to everybody.  Secondly, the jumps are too big.  There are more gradiated settlement sizes and there's no reason not to expand this ability out to take advantage of all of them.

Startling Appearance (Ex) (5th): Okay, this is just awesome to conceptualize.  The vigilante is setting up an ambush and--wham!--the hammer of justice is falling on some malefectors.  If the vigilante makes an attack against a foe that's unaware of his presence, the foe is treated as flat-footed for the rest of the vigilante's turn.  But also, the foe takes a -4 penalty on attacks made against the vigilante until the start of the vigilante's next turn.  Basically, this gives the vigilante the opportunity to attack twice or to go up against some foes that might normally be able to hit him hard and take him out early.

Loyal Aid (Ex) (7th): What kind of a vigilante doesn't have a good support crew.  Now there are game mechanics to make this happen for you as vigilante.  Within the vigilante's area of renown, the vigilante gains a bonus on diplomacy checks to gather information equal to 1/2 his level.  So, that's starting off as a +3 and rising pretty quickly.  Once per week, the vigilante can also increase the DC of skill checks for others gathering information about him or trying to track him by his level.  So, if the vigilante controls when he'll be striking, he's going to be incredibly hard to follow back to his lair.  Similarly, if the vigilante knows someone will be looking for him, time to up that Diplomacy DC to figure out what the vigilante is up to!

Many Guises (Ex) (9th): Allows a third identity, John Q. 6-pack.  The vigilante appears as a generic person of his race; his alignment detects as neutral; and he ports over that +20 Disguise bonus to appear this way.  Assuming a decent Charisma score and a few ranks in Disguise, it's going to take about a 30+whatever the vigilante rolls on the d20 to figure out that he's not who he appears to be.  To whit, you ain't catching him.

Frightening Appearance (Ex) (11th): This stacks on top of Startling Appearance and improves it.  As a free action, the vigilante makes an Intimidate checks against his target and enemies within 10 feet to demoralize them.  Note that because of his Renown ability, the vigilante is getting a +6 bonus to that Intimidate check in addition to any skill ranks, class skill bonuses, ability score bonuses, and a d20 roll.  Chances are excellent that the demoralization will work and good that it'll extend its effects by beating the necessary DC by 5.

Quick Change (Ex) (13th): The vigilante can change identities as a full round action, but must make Disguise checks to stop those that know his other identity from making him.  On the other hand, using a whole minute means the change is made and nobody figures him out.

Stunning Appearance (Ex) (17th): It starts with appearance, so it must improve on the Startling and Frightening Appearance abilities, right?  You betcha!  And it stacks.  If the vigilante's appearance attack hits, the victim must make a Will save or be stunned until the end of the vigilante's next turn.

Everyman (Su) (19th): The vigilante can now appear to be specific random Joe Q. Six-Packs.  The vigilante gets the +20 Disguise bonus to be this rando person and a +10 bonus on Bluff checks to act like that person (remember bonuses if the vigilante knows the target of his impersonation).  The vigilante is even so good at this that spells and spell-like abilities designed to find that other individual find the vigilante in disguise instead 50% of the time.

Vengeance Strike (Ex) (20th): A vigilante can use up to 5 consecutive standard actions to study his target before striking from unawares.  For each round the vigilante spent in study, the vigilante gains the option to use following: +4 bonus on the attack roll, +3d6 precision damage, or treat the die roll as 2 higher for the purpose of threatening a critical hit.  (i.e., for each round in study the vigilante picks one and if the vigilante picks the same one twice, the effects stack.  Does that mean that 5 rounds of study can yield +15d6 damage?  Yes.  That's why this will likely be nerfed to +2d6 damage per round in study, but that's still pretty awesome).

Vigilante Specializations
Avenger
Class Skills: Climb, Intimidate, Knowledge (dungeoneering), Ride, Survival, Swim
Base Ability: Full Base Attack Bonus
Selected Talent Options:
  • Armor Silence (Ex) & Armor Skin (Ex): Avengers that take these talents don't apply armor check penalties on Stealth (silence) or Acrobatics and Escape Artist (skin) skill checks when wearing light or medium armor.  Umm...is it me or is this an ability that rogues would love to have?  Why don't they get it?
  • Close the Gap (Ex): Designate one foe within 20' not adjacent to the vigilante.  That foe doesn't get attacks of opportunity against the vigilante so long as the vigilante ends his turn adjacent to the foe.
  • Environment Weapon (Ex): Choose a ranger favored terrain.  So long as there are moveable items around, can find an improvised weapon as a swift action and use it without penalties to attack rolls.
  • Favored Maneuver (Ex): Gain Improved [insert combat maneuver here] AND gain another +2 bonus on foes that are unaware of the vigilante when the vigilante uses the maneuver on them.
  • Fist of the Avenger (Ex): Gains Improved Unarmed Strike and does bonus damage of vigilante level divided by four.
  • Living Shield (Ex): When grappling an opponent and being attacked by another opponent, make a combat maneuver check against your grappled opponent.  If you succeed, opponent takes damage from the other opponent's attack.
  • Signature Weapon (Ex): Choose a type of weapon.  Gain Weapon Focus feat as a bonus feat.  At 8th level gain Weapon Specialization in that weapon.
  • Vital Punishment (Ex): Gain Vital Strike as a bonus feat.  Once per round when making attack of opportunity, apply Vital Strike to the attack.
Stalker
Class Skills: Acrobatics, Appraise, Climb, Disable Device, Knowledge (engineering), Use Magic Device
Base Ability: Deal +1d6 extra damage against foes that are unaware of the vigilante's presence.  Increases by +1d6 every 2 levels.  Can also use it against foes that are aware of vigilante's presence when sneak attack would normally be in play, but the d6s are lowered to d4s.
Selected Talent Options:
  • Another Day (Ex, Su): When dropped unconscious because of hit point damage, automatically stabilize but appear to be dead.
  • Case the Joint (Ex): Spend one hour at a location while in social identity.  Make a DC Knowledge (engineering) check.  If you succeed, may reroll any one failed skill check related to that location (stealth, disable device, and sleight of hand are specifically called out).
  • Foe Collision* (Ex): When dealing hidden strike damage (base ability above), deal an equal amount of nonlethal damage to a foe adjacent to the enemy (even if not adjacent to you).
  • Leave an Opening* (Ex): At beginning of foe's next turn, if stalker vigilante threatens the foe stalker vigilante gets an attack of opportunity.
  • Mighty Ambush* (Ex): Successful hidden strike allows vigilante to drop damaged enemy unconscious for 1d4 rounds.  (Fort negates)
  • Perfect Fall (Ex): As long as there's at least a wall nearby, never suffer falling damage.  Even if no wall, suffer only half damage.  Always land on your feet.
  • Perfect Vulnerability (Ex): Make one attack per day against a foe's touch AC (denying Dexterity bonus).
  • Rooftop Infiltrator (Ex): Gain climb speed equal to half of normal speed.
  • Strike the Unseen (Ex): Gain Blind-Fight as bonus feat and make hidden strike damage against foes who are totally concealed.
  • Throat Jab* (Ex): Successful hidden strike on an opponent renders opponent unable to speak until vigilante's next turn.
  • Twisting Fear (Ex): Whenever vigilante imposes the shaken, frightened, or panicked conditions on an opponent, opponent also suffers extra non-lethal damage equal to half the vigilante's normal hidden strike damage.  This applies with the normal ability to apply shaken condition to enemies by demoralize them?
Warlock
Class Skills: Fly, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (planes), Spellcraft, Use Magic Device
Base Ability: Ability to cast limited number of 1st level arcane spells.
Selected Talent Options:
  • Arcane Training II-VI: Available at the levels at which a warlock vigilante would become eligible to use a new level of spells, the warlock vigilante must use talents to gain spells of the higher level.
  • Arcane Striker (Su): Gain Arcane Strike as a bonus feat.  At 12th and 16th levels gain further effects normally tied to magic weapons that can be applied to the arcane strike.
  • Bombs (Su): Gain bombs like an alchemist.  Don't add intelligence to bomb damage because "don't possess the alchemist's thrown anything class feature."  So, if you take the Throw Anything feat, do you start adding Int damage to bombs?
  • Caster's Defense (Su): Gain Combat Casting as a bonus feat.  If successfully casts defensively, gain DR/magic equal to 1/2 vigilante level for one round.  At 10th level, the DR also gains an alignment component.
  • Educated Defense (Su): If successfully identify a spell using Spellcraft, use immediate action to negate the spell.  Can negate up to as many spell levels per day as the character has vigilante levels.
  • Elemental Battle Armor (Su): Gains resistance 5 to cold, electricity, or fire.  At 4th level, those attacking vigilante with natural weapon or non-reach handheld weapons take 1d6 points of that same energy every time they strike the vigilante.
  • Mystic Bolt (Sp): Gets a ray-like melee touch attack of elemental energy.  Using it doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity.  Can also be used as a ranged attack with a range increment of 30 feet.  Does 1d6+[vigilante's level] damage of energy damage.  Can take Weapon Focus for it, but must take Weapon Focus (mystic bolt) rather than Weapon Focus (ray).
  • Social Simulacrum (Sp): Create simulacrum (as per lesser simulacrum) that lasts up to 4 hours.
  • Tattoo Chamber (Su): Magically absorb some items via a tattoo.  Can retrieve the items with a swift action and can also trigger spell-like abilities of the items while stored as if the vigilante were wielding them.
Zealot
Class Skills: Intimidate, Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (religion), Knowledge (planes), Spellcraft, Survival
Base Ability: Limited spellcasting ability of 0th and 1st level spells off of the inquisitor spell list.
Selected Talent Options:
  • Channel Energy (Su): Channel energy as a cleric of vigilante's level minus 4.
  • Divine Bastion (Su): Swift action to gain CMD bonus equal to 1/2 vigilante level.  At 5th level can grant bonus to allies adjacent to vigilante as well.  Can use as many times per day as the character has vigilante levels.  Comment: I'd feel like this ability was more balanced if the character had to expend extra uses for each other character that receives the CMD bonus.
  • Divine Training I-VI (Ex): First of all, this HAS to be a type.  This can't be an extraordinary ability, can it?  Anyway, gain ability to cast inquisitor level spells of higher levels as the vigilante achieves levels when those spells would normally be castable.
  • Domain: Gain one cleric domain's powers, though not it's bonus spells or spell slots.
  • Empower Symbol (Su): As standard action, empower holy symbol to act like center of consecration/desecration spell.  At 10th level, this just happens passively.
  • Life Bond (Ex): When ally within 30 feet takes damage, vigilante can instead take half of that damage.  Useable once plus vigilante's Charisma bonus times per day.
  • Revivifying Touch (Su): Once per day can use to heal an ally that died within one round.  Touch heals 5d8+[one point per vigilante level] and brings that person back from the dead if healing sufficient to bring back to life.
  • Stalwart (Ex): If vigilante succeeds at a Fortitude or Will saving throw, the vigilante avoids all effects of whatever caused the saving throw.  Basically this is improved uncanny dodge for the other two types of saves...at the same time.
In general, I don't think I like this class very much.  First of all, it just doesn't feel particularly coherent.  Rather than discrete classes, these just seem like abilities that could be layered onto the fighter, cleric, wizard/sorcerer, and rogue class to let them be dual-identity heroes.  One on hand, it has a lot of abilities that I find to be a little bit overpowered.  On the other, they don't all fit together very well.  In general I find the class disorganized and lacking coherence--for players at least.  I find that this class is fantastic for villains!  Villains need some of these abilities to get past things like alignment detection and Sense Motive checks.  Not all villains of course, but certainly the main villain mastermind that orchestrating everything.  What fun is it if the villain can't overcome that.  So, I think that I might grant some bonus levels in vigilante to villains.

But for players, this just doesn't seem like a well-organized class.  I have high hopes for Ultimate Intrigue.  My plans for running an entire Kaer Maga campaign hinge on giving players the ability to do a lot more with skill checks.  (Okay, actually, they really just hinge on convincing the PCs that there will be ramifications if they kill humanoids or other civilized creatures, but I still have high hopes for Ultimate Intrigue).  What I'm seeing about this class doesn't fulfill those hopes.  I'm used to better class designs out of Paizo.