If you’ve played through more than a few scenarios of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, trying to use only cards from a class deck box, the chances are you will have encountered frustration. Particularly in the first wave of seven class decks, the card pool was stretched thin trying to cater to the needs of 4 different characters, and there was often a major short-fall in cards of the appropriate type.
To take an example, a wizard, using only the wizard class deck starts off in a good position, with attack spells available at base-set level, which offer him his arcane +2d4. In adventure 1, there are a pair of 2d6 spells, and another in adventure 2, but after that, everything goes quiet. In adventure 4 (and realistically the first few scenarios of adventure five at least) the 2d6 spells are still the best available, and given the poor selection of weapons for wizards (not to mention their lack of competence in using the things), if he wants more than 3 spells, he’ll have to fall back to the D4s.
Prompted by concerns like there, there has been much talk of multi-classing – finding a way of accessing better cards which exist in other class decks.
(Disclaimer: I only play the ACG, I have never played an RPG, Pathfinder or otherwise, so my use of the term “multi-classing” may be jarring/mis-used to RPG-ers. Apologies if so.)
Multiclassing: Prototype Rules
If a character has a role-card, she may choose to Multi-class
- In order to multi-class, after successfully completing a scenario, a character may forfeit the deck upgrade to unlock 1 type of card (weapon, spell etc) from one class deck (Ranger, Fighter etc).
- Each character may only unlock 1 other class deck for multi-classing. (Exception, if your character is a Bard, you may multi-class from 2 decks)
- Each character may only unlock 1 card type from their chosen secondary class per adventure.
- When taking a deck upgrade from an unlocked deck, treat the acquired card as if its adventure deck number was 1 lower than printed.
- If a player has insufficient cards of a given type, they can only fill the gaps from their own deck- there is no circumstance under which a player may take multiple cards from their secondary deck after a single scenario.
- Only characters with the divine skill may multi-class for Blessings, and they may not select set B blessings if they do so.
Darago completes 4-1 successfully. Instead of upgrading his deck, he opts to multi-class, and choses “Bard: Spell.” He then plays 4-2, and acquires a spell with adventure deck number 4. When upgrading his deck, he may take a spell of adventure 4 or lower from his own deck, OR a spell of adventure 3 or lower from the bard deck.
During scenario 4-3, Darago has several cards banished from his hand, and is missing two spells at the end of the scenario. No-one else in the party has acquired a spell. He must there rebuild his deck using the standard rules, from the Wizard deck only.
After successfully completing 5-1, instead of taking a deck upgrade, Darago could unlock another type of card. As he has already chosen “bard” as his secondary class, it would have to be another card-type from the bard deck. As he does not have the divine skill, this card-type could not be “Blessing.”
I added the restriction on Blessings, because I felt this was an area where it would be very easy to significantly skew the composition of a player deck. Most Class decks will limit you to 2 or 3 blessings of a given deity without using upgrades of higher adventure deck numbers- however, the right multi-class option could allow you to trade in pretty much any blessing to get a full set of your deity of choice, potentially game-breaking if you have a power that allows you recharge this blessing rather than discarding them.
I put in the restriction of 1 class per character to stop people just cherry-picking the best spells from everywhere, likewise, the one card-set per adventure means people can’t just unlock anything everything whenever there’s no upgrade worth taking. The relaxation of this requirement for Bards was based on a note I found on an online article about RPG multi-classing.
Evidently, this approach is designed specifically for characters who already have an existing class-deck. Other characters, which are already a hybrid class, such as the Magus present a different challenge – it’s hard to think of an approach which would save Seltyiel from being hideously underpowered in terms of either spells or weapons for much of the AP.
We’re taking this group through Rise of the Runelords, using a modified version of the OP deck-upgrade rules – we start with the default class-deck approach, of only cards from that pool, and only 1 upgrade per scenario, based on a card type and adventure number. However, we do allow ourselves Loot (as and when awarded for scenario/adventure completion) as well as a few Promo cards (currently I think we have Poog and a Horsechopper +1), which we’ve allowed characters to keep in their decks.
We’re also using the OP-style rules of purging all the basics (boons and banes) at the start of adventure 3 [except Blessings of the gods which we remove as we banish them], and all the elites at the start of adventure 5.
Despite the generally low-level of difficulty in Runelords, this is a group that showcases some of the biggest difficulties of the Class-Deck system.
Zarlova (Theurge) is queen of the Divine attack spells, but as she’s unwilling to use Inflict (because really, what’s the point in adventure 4) she is stuck with a single Holy Light and a single Fireblade – making it much more likely that she starts with a support spell in her opening hand instead: she has no weapons.
Flenta (Arcane Pretender) is just Flenta, she spends most of her time looking confused. Her weapons are not great, although this is largely due to failing to acquire cards to upgrade with, rather than her class deck per se. In keeping with her Arcane Pretender role, she has scattered skill feats here and there (one on her intelligence, one on her charisma, and two on strength).
Wu Shen (Prey Stalker) really likes finesse weapons. This is why she is still using a rapier and a cutlass in AP4. On a good day she draws the acidic whip +1, and there is a disrupting rapier in her own deck that would make life easier, but she would still be left with one basic weapon if sticking to “finesse.” The latter half of Runelords is actually a little less problematic for her, as there are fewer undead enemies to worry about, which means that she can make use of her poisonous bag of tricks.
Darago (Necromancer) would like some attack spells which aren’t 2d4. He has a couple, but they are the minority. Darago’s combat options are a little confusing: he starts the game with two weapons, but armed combat is a bad idea with D4 strength, D6 dexterity, and no proficiency.
Over the first three scenarios of adventure 4, Darago chose to Multi-class spells from the Bard deck, Zarlova took Spells from the Ranger deck, and Wu Shen took Weapons from the Ranger deck. After unlocking the spell options, they didn’t pick up anything better than a spell 2, which was one level too low to take a spell-2 from the multi-classed deck. (we spotted later on that Zarlova could have taken an extra Holy Light, although the “fire” trait on the Fireblade was handy.)
Flenta picked up a weapon 4, and was able to replace a Greatclub with a Greatclub +3 – good news for her, less so for the spectre she’d been batting around the guard tower, unable to shift due to the lack of magic. She has yet to multi-class.
As already noted, we’re following the OP-style approaching of purging basics and elites en masse, so at the start of adventure 5, there was a sudden jump in the cards we were encountering (and therefore able to acquire). Even with some disappointing failures, we came out of 5-1 with a spell 4 and a spell 5 – Darago was able to take his own Icy Prison, and Zarlova took the Divine Blaze from the Ranger Deck, where its adventure number was 2 lower than in her own! This meant that when she picked up another spell 5, she was able to ensure that she now has 2 Divine Blazes in her deck.
A few more games later, this group has completed Rise of the Runelords in its entirety. Flenta never did take a multi-class option, and Wu Shen never managed to pick up enough weapons to benefit from drawing something from the ranger deck, but Zarlova and Darago definitely benefitted from the wider pool of spells available, taking 2 or 3 apiece.
Overall then, I think it’s clear that Multi-classing has enabled the characters to have better decks than before. This is good – it was the entire point of the exercise. I also don’t feel it’s made them massively overpowered. Zarlova may have 2 copies of a powerful spell instead of 1, but she was also still carrying around a Fireblade and trying to use it to take down adventure 5 monsters. (She eventually ditched the Fireblade for a second Holy Light, after getting herself into some tricky situations in a scenario where the henchmen (and the villain, who we fought 3 times) were immune to fire.
I think the restriction I threw in (almost without thinking) that characters couldn’t take cards from the multi-classed deck when filling gaps (either due to banishing cards, or to taking card feats) had a much bigger impact than I anticipated. The ability to simply take a card from 2 decks below in 5 or 6 is a very significant one – I think a case could definitely be argued for letting people do the same with multi-classed cards (potentially at adventure -3 instead of -2) if the system proposed above was considered under-powered.
I also found it interesting how this influenced my decisions on power feats- I had already given Zarlova +2 to acquire and recharge spells, and had been intending to take +2 to arcane combat checks when I was still limping around with all the set Bs. Now, however, I’ve decided to up the recharge boost to +4, as failing to recharge Divine Blaze (14 on D10+9 is only just above 50/50).
In some ways, I was already limited in my feat choices by the class deck – Zarlova does have the option to gain the Arcane skill, and put recharged arcane spells on top of her deck too, but I never really considered these options, due to the complete lack of arcane spells in the cleric deck (& the fact that we had a wizard in the party) – this approach to multi-classing seems to offer an option for people wanting to explore the full range of directions in which characters can be taken.
Overall, I think for Runelords, we could probably have survived without the multi-classing upgrades, but it certainly helped remove some of the frustration of never being able to go beyond the basic cards (or even of a full-caster with a hand-size of seven and only 2 attack-spells) but for other Adventure Paths where the difficulty level is more challenging, I think this is probably the sort of tweak necessary to make things manageable.
As I hope is clear from above, this is purely something I’ve dreamt up myself, drawing inspiration from message-boards and the internet, but without any input from other PACG players, aside from my wife. For that reason, I’d be interested to know other people’s thoughts – have you tried anything along these lines, and how have you found it played out in practice? Obviously I’d be particularly happy if someone else wanted to do a bit more play-testing of the rules I’ve created here.