In my experience, battles in Pathfinder tend to be somewhat chaotic. I don’t mean that in terms of mechanics or organization, but rather that most fights are, from an in-game point of view, brawls. Everyone moves off into little groups which proceed to whack (or blast) each other until someone falls down, at which point the victor goes to whack someone else. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s devoid of any particularly intricate tactics, to say nothing of teamwork (can you remember the last time someone aided another in combat?). Worse, a lot of classes with buffing abilities tend to have them at the expense of doing something cool – no one in my group wants to be a bard, for example, because who wants to spend every round just using bardic music?
The aptly-named Super Geniuses’ answer to this is found in The Genius Guide to the War Master, for the Pathfinder RPG. This new base class is a full-BAB class with tactically-focused options that benefit the entire party in various ways.
As with most other Super Genius products, this is fairly short, being a total of eleven pages from start to finish. It has no bookmarks, but doesn’t really need them at this length. The art is full-color, compromised of stock art from Cerberus Illustrations.
The war master is, as mentioned, meant to serve as a buff-based character that grants tactical options to others in the party. This is primarily done through two major features: battle tactics and talents. Battle tactics are a series of static class abilities (that is, they’re set; you don’t choose which ones you get) gained over various levels. Only one can be used at a time, and you can only use them for so many rounds per day. The best part of these, however, is that while starting them (or switching between them) takes an action, maintaining them is a free action. More than just providing bonuses, this provides a surprisingly broad series of options, such as granting enhancement bonuses to movement during a double move or charge (called “deployment”) or letting other characters use the war master’s CMD.
Talents, as you may have guessed, are variable class features. Gained every other level, these let you choose from possible options, with some being restricted to higher levels. A number of these are based around the Leadership feat, such as granting extra followers, a special kind of cohort, or having followers be “contacts” in various settlements and cities. Of course, others focus on the war master himself, such as letting him cast minor clerical spells.
These are the major features of the class, though a few others round it out. Interestingly, one of these remaining abilities focuses on using masterwork equipment. While this is self-explanatory for weapons and armor, a section rounds out the book (after a few new feats) on the benefits of masterwork equipment, giving rules for what it means to have, say, a masterwork backpack. This was a nice little bonus for the book to have, and it really lent something extra to the class, since that helps to drive home the image of the well-schooled general who uses the best hardware on his missions.
The war master is meant for someone who wants to lead in combat, not only by example – full BAB and fighter-like weapon and armor proficiencies make this a front-line class – but also by coordinating what the rest of the party can do. With variable class abilities, possibilities for Leadership, and even new feats to round it out, this book presents a great new class that doesn’t feel like a second-tier choice because it enhances other characters. Play a war master, and take control of the battlefield the next time combat breaks out.