When the Advanced Class Guide was released by Paizo, every Pathfinder player who could get his or her hands on the book went absolutely nuts over it. It was like the new toy at Christmas you’d been hoping and praying you’d get, and when you did you couldn’t think of anything else. Now that the dust has settled a bit, and players have largely gotten over the initial shininess of the new classes, there are a lot of questions being asked.
One of those questions is this one: “Why would you ever play a rogue or a ranger when you could play a slayer?”
What Is the Slayer?
For those who haven’t investigated the hybrid classes just yet, the slayer is the love child of the ranger and the rogue. It’s also hard to tell which of its parents the slayer takes after more. The class gains studied target (which is like favored enemy, but you can use it on any enemy, any time for the price of a move action), Track, and Quarry from the ranger, and it gains Sneak Attack, Talents, and Advanced Talents from the rogue. With a full base attack bonus progression, along with good Fortitude and Reflex saves, it’s a class that studies enemies, runs them to ground, and brings them down.
Visualizing these mechanics in action would help. Slayers make ideal bounty hunters, since they have a lot of skill points to throw around, they’re martially capable, and they can track someone down even while moving at full speed. Slayers would also make phenomenal military scouts and skirmishers, with their ability to move stealthily, study how a target moves, and then fight them using guerrilla tactics. Slayers could also be skillful assassins, using their abilities to kill specific targets before vanishing into thin air.
How Does It Measure Up?
At a glance, it seems as if the slayer just took all the best parts of the ranger and rogue classes, then put together something superior to both. After all, while a ranger’s favored enemy is more potent, it’s also more limited, and while rogues get more 6-sided dice to throw around with their sneak attack, the slayer has a full base attack bonus, which means a slayer can actually hit more often. From a pure combat perspective (the only one that a lot of players are looking at), slayers are definitely the class that will be the most reliable when it comes to dealing out damage and putting down enemies.
There are more ways to kill a dog than by hanging, though. Put another way, it’s important to look at what you’re giving up from the parent classes before you decide that the slayer is the next big thing.
Let’s start with the rogue, a class that players give a lot of guff because so many of its class features have been farmed out to archetypes for other classes. While the slayer gains access to sneak attack as well as rogue and ninja tricks, there are a lot of features it loses out on. Uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge are at the top of the list, as is evasion and improved evasion. The slayer can gain access to trapfinding, but it requires a slayer talent to do it. And, of course, rogues get more overall sneak attack damage dice.
What about the ranger, though? Well, I’ve already mentioned that favored enemy is more powerful, but a lot stricter on when the bonuses actually kick in. So the slayer is a definite win on that front. Rangers are a lot more than their favored enemies, however. While the slayer can gain access to ranger combat styles and camouflage with slayer talents and advanced slayer talents respectively, those abilities aren’t just something the slayer gets handed. Another thing the ranger didn’t pass on was the ability to choose an animal companion, or to give favored enemy bonuses to other members of the party. Rangers also have spells which, while they might not be the class’s bread-and-butter, can allow rangers to pull off some extraordinary things when initiative has been rolled and the chips are down.
A Good Addition
There’s no denying the slayer, as a class, is a fine addition to Pathfinder. It’s ideal for players who want the stealth and killing-blow capacity of rogues, but who also want the tracking and enemy bonuses of rangers. Slayers are likely to be very popular for players who wish that rogues could hit harder, or that they didn’t have to mess with all that magic and managing the situational benefits of rangers.
That doesn’t mean that there’s no place in a party for a traditional ranger and his or her trusty wolf, or for a rogue’s deft fingers. It just means there’s a new way to play for those who really wish they had a skirmisher with sneak attack.
For more tabletop gaming posts check out Neal F. Litherland’s blog Improved Initiative!