I recently picked up Paizo’s Ultimate Magic for Pathfinder, and overall I really like the book, but I have a few issues with it. Below are my initial impressions I was writing down as I reading through it, fleshed out a bit as I type this out.
Magus actually looks like it might me a fun class to play. It looks like they fixed the biggest issues that the beta magus. There are a still issues that I have with it (like the problem that all gishes in that they’re MAD like monks) and I would most likely not play one in a game that more than about 50% combat. I honestly believe that every Magus that ever gets played is going to be taking combat casting as their first feat.
The broad study magus arcana seems almost worthless to me, as you have to have a pretty specific character concept to be multi-classing Magus with another spellcasting class. I’m also not hot on the fact that a lot of the Magus’ abilities use swift actions, for example the critical strike magus arcana, so you’re only using one a round (which I admit is a balancing factor of the action system). With the critical strike example, if you’ve already used your swift action you won’t be able to use the critical strike magus arcana.
Most of the other class abilities are pretty solid. I like the way they reinforced the “get in there and fight” feel of the class by making it melee only and loading the spell list with mostly blasting style spells. The capstone seems a little meh for a capstone, but I’m giving the class a B+.
The new Alchemist discoveries in general look cool. Cognatogen answers the biggest complaint that one of my friends had about the class. Tumor familiar and parasitic twin are both very icky-awesome. I like the Alchemist archetypes, especially the poke-master preservationist.
The Bard masterpieces are not worth the cost to gain them or the actions to preform them. This is seriously my least liked section of the book. The Bard archetypes are sort of “meh.” (I hate to keep using that word.) That may be because I think the Bard has its place in the game as the go to “fifth man” of the game now that the APG is out.
The Cleric variant channeling are nice. I like that you can make the choice when you channel and are not locked into the alternate effect every time you channel. I like the archetypes, flavorful while still being useful.
Druid animal and terrain domains I can see getting used a lot in campaigns, I personally wouldn’t use them much, but that’s because I like the animal companion and transformation aspect of Druids. I’m suprised by the fact that there weren’t dragon and dinosaur domains to go with their respective shaman archetypes.
The inquisitions are neat and feel like they fit the Inquisitor a little better than the regular domains.
I like the Magus archetypes, though I did find it a little odd to introduce alternate class abilities in the same book that the class is introduced. The bladebound with it’s bonded intelegent blade and the Staff Magus wielding the classic spellcaster weapon were the two that I really liked. I’m a little disapointed that the spellblade couldn’t use the ability to create its main weapon. As a player I would have loved to have seen a ranged weapon archetype, but as a GM I’m a little glad that I don’t have to deal with it.
The Monk vows are almost a good idea, but what you have to put up with isn’t worth the reward you get for them. The Qinggong monk archetype (or the monk of customization) is nice.
I have to admit that I don’t know enough about the Oracle to give any real assement of the new options.
The Paladin oaths for the oathbound archetype don’t seem any more restrictive than the standard paladin codes, but being a restriction on your actions (“never suffer an evil outsider to live” is the perfect example) could make your adventuring career pretty short.
Ranger traps are not worth a feat each. The Trapper archetype also, in my opinion, suffers from getting too few traps and getting them no earlier than fifth level. The fact that the designers think the traps are worth giving up even the meager spellcasting the rangers get is laughable.
New Sorcerer bloodlines are always a welcome addition. I particularly like the genie bloodlines being separate from one another. The wildblooded archetype allows a little more customization within all bloodlines, so that may be seeing some use.
The summoner got a lot of new toys to play with. A new eidolon base form (that, truth be told, most likely won’t see a lot of use outside of nautical campaigns, but is nice to have the option. Some new evolutions that can really help flesh out the “supernatural creature” aspect of an eidolon. I like the variety of archetypes that the summoner gets to play with, all of them effecting the core class feature in an interesting way. The Eidolon models I see as more of a GM tool, enabling a quick build for NPC summoners, but it works just as well as a guide for players who would want some help designing their outsider buddy.
The Witch, there’s only one thing you need to know: you can now play a man-witch and punch people with your mustache! There’s some other stuff there, but really what more do you need?
The Wizard gets some new toys in the form of Arcane Discoveries. Overall I think they’re worth what you would give up to get them. The immortality one is nice for the flavor of a 20th level wizard finally reaching the end goal that so many desire.
The Scrollmaster archetype is sort of cool, but I feel like it’s a reference to something that I’m missing.
Spellblights are just spellcaster only curses, only they’re going to be easier to acquire (let’s face it, any GM who uses these is most likely going to be using all the optional ways of acquiring them). I won’t be using them in my games.
The spell Duels section is interesting, but I can’t really comment on it further until I see it in play.
The binding outsiders section collects the info from the various sources into one place and gives you a few more tools to do the job.
I liked the building and modifying constructs section, though it still confuses the hell out of me why Animate Object isn’t on the Wiz/Sorc list (and before you say “just houserule it” I do, but that doesn’t change the the problem in the actual rules, now does it?) I’m disappointed that there weren’t any less expensive golems in the book.
The new familiars are nice (for some reason I now want to roll up a redneck sorcerer with a pig familiar). Makes me think that someone should come up with farm animal druid companions so that someone could ride a dire billy goat into battle.
The pregened spellbooks are a nice time saver from a GMing point of view. I like that they included the section on designing spells (I’m not sure how much I’m going to be using it, but it’s nice that it’s there.) I the unified list of spell descriptors is a handy reference.
The feats in the book are, for the most part, good additions to the game, but there are a few that need special mention. Antagonize is one I’m going to be serious look at until I decide how to adjust the rather low DCs. There are a number of new metamagic feats, but I’ve never been a big fan of those (that’s a rant for another day.)
I have to admit that I’ve so far glossed over the Words of Power. I’m not really interested in alternate spellcasting systems that still have to function within the vancian casting system.
I’m not going to go into every new spell. There are some good utility spells, some good blasting spells, and they’re doing more with curses now.
Finally in the back is a much needed companion/eidolon char sheet.
Overall I’m going to give this a solid B+. It’s good as far as splat books go, but it isn’t quite up to the APG.