Alex’s Top 10 Favorite Archetypes

Welcome to the Gibbering Mouth article for March 5th, 2014. Today’s article is about my favorite archetypes.


Last week I talked about my least favorite types of archetypes. (See Dude, That’s Racist for more details.) For today’s installment of Birthday Week, I’m going to list off my favorite archetypes in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and talk about why they’re my favorite archetypes.

#10 – Scout (Rogue)

Advanced Player’s Guide. I really like this archetype, but my reason isn’t a particularly good one. In my opinion, it’s the best rogue archetype short of the ninja class itself because it’s the only archetype that is truly worth taking. In some regards, it might be too good because its abilities are very powerful. You trade two defensive abilities that seldom come into play (uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge) for an ability that makes using your primary attack easier; sneak attack. No other archetype offers an ability that interfaces with sneak attack quite like the scout, which earns it a spot on my Top 10 list.

#9 – Tattooed Sorcerer (Sorcerer)

Inner Sea Magic. This archetype has a really cool ability: the ability to transform a familiar into a tattoo. It basically turns all familiars into tumor familiars (as the alchemist), which is a cool ability. If you take Tattooed Sorcerer as an arcane bloodline sorcerer, you don’t really lose a whole lot except for the ability to select an arcane bond and the spontaneous metamagic ability. It’s fun, it’s flavorful, and there’s a lot of storytelling potential for something like this.

#8 – Qinggong Monk (Monk)

Ultimate Magic. I love this archetype because of its flexibility. Qinggong monk is the most flexible archetype in the game because you can pick and choose from a list of abilities and can replace a list of abilities. This flexibility makes the qinggong monk one of my favorite archetypes and I wish that Paizo would make more archetypes like this for other classes.

#7 – Nimble Guardian (Catfolk Monk)

Advanced Race Guide. I don’t usually like racial archetypes and this is one of the few that I like that isn’t intrinsically tied to the catfolk’s racial traits. Although anyone can focus on being quick or a defender, tying the ability to transform into a big cat at will to the catfolk makes a lot of sense thematically. Even if I can picture other monks gaining this ability under other circumstances, it’s much less pronounced then something like the stonelord or the buccaneer. In my world, this archetype represents an order of catfolk monks that seek self-perfection in the physical form of true cats, like lions and tigers and stuff. At any rate, this is one of those archetypes that’s begging for an archetype to expand upon it.

#6 – Caravan Sniper (Drow Fighter)

Advanced Race Guide. This is my absolute favorite racial archetype in the game because of its very first ability: the power to imbue drow spell-like abilities into crossbow attacks. This ability mechanically grounds the archetype in drow lore and is given soon enough that players realize right away why this is a drow-specific option. Although the rest of the archetype deals with steal and ambush tactics, which anyone can achieve, the imbue shot ability sets the archetype’s tone, which allows the rest of it to deliver perfectly.

#5 – Urban Barbarian (Barbarian)

Ultimate Combat. This archetype is wonderful because it’s short and sweet. It doesn’t change more than it has to, though I’d argue that even the crowd control ability might be a little much, if not excessive. Regardless, crowd control is a situational ability that is useful more often than it isn’t and controlled rage makes for the perfect “battle trance” barbarian that people so often love to build. More importantly, this archetype helps to redefine what it means to be a barbarian in a campaign world and provides a strong barbarian option for ranged characters (pump that Dex for to-hit bonuses) and for Weapon Finesse barbarians. This archetype is a jewel both mechanically and flavor-wise.

#4 – Holy Tactician (Paladin)

Ultimate Combat. This archetype puts the cavalier to shame at teamwork because its battlefield acumen ability can be used at-will rather than for uses and rounds per day. It may be limited to one feat at a time, but often that’s all you really need to share. This archetype is excellent at doing what it says it does: creating a paladin who is a tactical genius. This archetype is also an amazing dip for anyone who wants to be a teamwork specialist, so long as you can stand being Lawful Good. Some people can’t, but I think it’s worth it for the holy tactician archetype.

#3 – Archaeologist (Bard)

Ultimate Combat. You can argue about whether or not making Indianna Jones a bard was a good idea, but I’ll be damned if this archetype doesn’t pull Indy off perfectly. From rogue talents to supernatural luck to the natural whip proficiency and amazing skill set, you can tell that whomever wrote this archetype was a huge fan of Indiana Jones. Archaeologist is one of the best bardic dip archetypes available because of the Fate’s Favored trait (see me put this strategy to use in Oh, Those Carnival Nights!) and the bard gaining access to rogue talents gives him a fun repertoire of skillful abilities to draw upon as well as a few bonus feats, which the bard hurts for somewhat. You simply can’t go wrong with this archetype.

#2 – Bladebound (Magus)

Ultimate Magic. Soul Reaper Magus. There, I said it. This archetype basically covers every main character from Bleach ever. It has its downsides, but trading one magus arcana for a magical sword that grows with you is a bonus in my book. Making it magical is even better. My brother plays this archetype in one of the campaigns that I play in and let me tell you, losing one magus arcana for a free weapon and an amazingly cool RP companion is worth it without question, every time. This archetype isn’t a power house, but it’s a solid backbone for more than one character concept.

#1 – Lore Warden (Fighter)

Pathfinder Society Field Guide. If you read my Iconic Design articles, this should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone. I adore the Lore Warden archetype. Some might say this archetype is overpowered and those folks might be right, but Lore Warden represents my flavor of fighter, perfectly. It’s the smart, skillful fighter. The fighter who looks for weaknesses in his enemy’s defense and exploits them. But that isn’t why I love this archetype. I love this archetype because it trades an ability that I don’t want (bravery) for another ability that I don’t want (Combat Expertise) that happens to be a prerequisite for oodles of things I do want. If bravery was the prerequisite for some awesome feats, I’d probably think twice about trading it away. But it doesn’t, so I don’t. Any archetype that gives Combat Expertise for free is worth considering in my book, but the fighter grants Combat Expertise for free AND gives you a bonus feat at the same level. It lets you jump right into a combat maneuver or special action feat tree of your choice without waiting. I absolutely LOVE that about this archetype. I’m a guy who loves his feats, and a class that grants me 22 feats over 20 levels is a fine one in my book!

And that wraps up my Top 10 favorite Pathfinder Archetypes! What do you think? Do you agree with me on mine? Disagree with me? What are your favorite archetypes? Leave your answers and comments below and I’ll see you next time on Gibbering Mouther and on Friday for MY BIRTHDAY!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune lore warden, and his favorite pastime is eating birthday cake. Too bad it only comes once a year….


2 thoughts on “Alex’s Top 10 Favorite Archetypes

  1. How do you feel about eating Unbirthday cakes?

    #10 Winter Witch

    This blog truthfully introduced me to this archetype. While I’ve known about it for awhile, I’d never really looked at it until your iconic build. This archetype, along with the prestige class, is one that is very much so packed full of flavor, and more than that, it’s useful. Doing one or the other isn’t unheard of, but doing both at the same time is typically rare, especially for a prestige class. It’s the most recent of my favorites, so it’s the lowest down.

    #9 Tempest Druid

    I’ve loved the idea of a Lord of Lightning styled Druid for a long time and this one pulls it off nicely. More than that, it can *bend lightning* which makes it all kinds of badass. Unfortunately, Wildshape and the Polymorph spells are, in my book, a huge hassle (forcing you to maintain many, many different charactersheets for each form) so I’ve held off on playing such a character.

    #8 Bladebound Magus

    Basically what you said in regards to this. The Bound Blade gives so much fun and flavor to this class and there are so many ways you can flavor the blade itself it’s just good. It’s especially good if you’re running a low-magic campaign. It also makes me think of Jedi, for some reason, which isn’t a bad thing.

    #7 Hungry Ghost Monk

    I know this archetype tries hard to make you think it’s evil, but I just can’t do that. Every time I read this archetype, I always think of the Xbox game Jade Empire by Bioware and that really makes me love it. On top of that, I like the idea of being able to funnel Ki back into myself and this archetype makes that possible.

    #6 Qinggong Monk

    I love the variety of this archetype; it really expands the possibilities of the Monk in many ways. Honestly, this archetype is so good, I’m hard pressed not taking it any time I build a Monk.

    #5 Sound Striker Bard

    The first time I read this archetype, I couldn’t help but picture a kind of ‘video game’ introduction scene, something akin to that of Borderlands, where you come across a chamber with a bunch of Orcs/Goblins/Kobolds etc. rushing a figure. She spins around with a violin in her hands and runs the bow across the strings making an awful racket, but these translucent blades of sound come rushing forth killing the small horde attacking her.

    Killing enemies with your sound is just awesome to me. Too bad the mechanics are so clunky and the viability of this archetype are up in the air with Paizo’s pending nerf/destruction of it. If you don’t know what their proposal is for changes, think Crane Wing but worse.

    #4 Knife Master Rogue

    The first Rogue I ever played was in 3.5 and he was a master of daggers. Bandits killed his father and then used the same dagger to stab him in the stomach, but he managed to escape with the dagger still embedded. Since then, he’s carried the dagger that nearly killed him everywhere and he has a fascination with the instrument of his near death. When I converted him to Pathfinder, I found this archetype and loved it because it was just so ‘Malchior’ even if it isn’t the best one out there (which is undeniably Scout).

    #3 Master of Many Styles

    There are so many Kung-Fu movies that have the participants showing off their ‘martial art styles’ and this one always makes me think of them. Plus, it really makes me think of all of those martial arts masters in stories that have studied martial arts from around the world to make their own ‘unique’ art. On top of that, this archetype is highly useful, both as a full class and as a dip for so many other classes. At the same time, I also think that MoMS was the real problem behind Crane Wing, and not Crane Wing itself.

    #2 Lore Warden

    While I think this archetype is really good, one of my favorite aspects is the fact it gives the Fighter more Skill points, which is something I think he desperately needs. But other than that, I agree with everything you said about it.

    #1 Monk of the Four Winds

    I love this archetype. Not the most powerful of archetypes, to be sure, but it’s got it’s own good things going for it. It’s also got an awesome capstone as he is basically the only character in the game that is truly immortal. I started playing this archetype in Legacy of Fire, and I thought it was awesome that my Monk of the Four Winds happened to become the Moldspeaker and is now strongly allied with the Templars of the Five Winds. In fact, he hopes to replace Vardishal as the Templar of the North Wind one day.

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