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The 21st Pathfinder: Kingmaker Kickstarter update unveils a new stretch goal: at $800,000 we'll get an opportunity to greatly customize our characters through archetypes. These archetypes change certain class features in order to make less conventional playstyles possible. Here's a bit on that:
Archetypes are not new classes on their own, but merely modifications of an already existing class, although the extent of modification varies greatly from case to case. Archetypes remove some class features from their base class, change others, modify existing choices and numerical bonuses of the class. In some cases, they just replace one feature with a feature of another class, and in some cases, they replace significant parts of the class, with an array of completely new abilities.
Sometimes you want your character to specialize in a certain specific part of their class far more than representatives of this class usually do. For example, let's say you want to play a cleric that concentrates on summoning monsters, but find that this specialization is hard to achieve with just the conventional cleric. There is an archetype that fits this purpose perfectly. The Cleric's Herald Caller archetype concentrates on summoning allies to fight for him. While he loses his ability to wear medium armor, equip shields and only has one domain, he can convert his spells into summoning spells in the middle of combat, and the creatures he summons are far more formidable and numerous.
Sometimes you want to take a different approach to a conventional role, for example, to create a tanking fighter that relies on his swordsmanship alone – yet every time you look up your abilities your conviction wavers. You see that equipping a shield would make your character a better tank, but you never envisioned him hiding behind a shield in battle. On the other hand, not using one makes you feel that you aren’t using your character to his full potential. In this case, you may look for an archetype instead – and find one that fits your idea. For example, the Aldori Defender, a fighter archetype with his roots in the fencing school of Aldori Swordlords, prefers to master his parrying techniques instead of relying on shields.
And sometimes you want to go even further. For example, create a magus, who is skilled with a bow. There is simply no way to do that with the basic magus class – his abilities work with one-handed melee weapons, and the bow is neither. Only archetypes can help you with this, and there is one designed specifically with that purpose in mind. The magus' Eldritch Archer archetype allows him to use his abilities with any ranged weapon and, instead of charging his blade with close combat spells, this archetype allows the magus to charge his attacks with long range spells, shooting fiery rays from his crossbow or launching bolts of lightning together with a javelin.
And that’s not the extent of possible archetypes – there are far more of them in Pathfinder. There’s the Sword Saint, a magus archetype that abandons armor and some of his spellcasting to become a master of one chosen weapon. There’s the Vivisectionist – an alchemist that replaces his signature ability to throw bombs with deadly sneak attacks. Ecclesitheurge – a cleric, favoring the perfection of his divine magic abilities over his martial prowess. Armored Hulk – a heavily armored barbarian. Sacred Huntsmaster and Mad Dog – inquisitor and barbarian with animal companions. And the list goes on and on.