By now, you've probably read a review of the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player's Guide; if you haven't, our friends over at Troll in the Corner have a lovely piece up singing the tome's praises, and you should go check that out if you want a full review.
What I'm more interested in is demonstrating the flexibility afforded by the new options available in the Advanced Player's Guide. One of the main issues that the Advanced Player's Guide addresses for the races is that certain race/class combinations leave you with abilities that you can't use; the best example of this is that an elf who classes as a non-spellcaster has no use for elven magic. You still might make a good character this way, but from a mechanics standpoint it makes more sense to build a character that can take advantage of all its abilities. By adding alternative abilities to elven magic and other racial abilities, the Advanced Player's Guide effectively makes race/class combos feasible.
The class options also open a lot of doors. I felt very much like, where in the past a whole new class would have been created to accomodate an archetype, many of the class variants negated that need. I think this is an important step toward avoiding some of the class-glut that happened in D&D 3.5. (Also, longtime readers may appreciate the weight of the following statement: The Advanced Player's Guide made me want to play a bard. But only a little!)
These two aspect, of course, don't even scratch the surface of everything the Advanced Player's Guide has to offer, they are simply the most important aspects in my opinion. To whet your palate for all the option-y goodness in this book, I whipped up a nice little NPC to show off a few things. Readers, meet Kzazsi:
Male half-orc superstitious barbarian 4
CG Medium humanoid (human, orc)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +7
AC 18, touch 10, flat-footed 18 (+2 Dex, +7 armor, +1 natural, –2 rage); +1 insight on surprise rounds
hp 43 (4d12+12)
Fort +8, Ref +3, Will +4
Defensive Abilities sacred tattoo*, sixth sense*, uncanny dodge
Speed 30 ft. in +1 breastplate (40 ft. base)
Melee mwk spiked chain +11 (2d4+9), slam +5 (1d4+1 negative energy)
Attack Options Power Attack
Special Attack rage (15 rounds/day), rage powers (quick reflexes, lesser spirit totem)
AC 20, touch 12, flat-footed 20 (+2 Dex, +7 armor, +1 natural); +1 insight on surprise rounds
hp 35 (4d12+4)
Fort +6, Will +2
Melee mwk spiked chain +9 (2d4+6)
CMB +8; CMD 20
Str 18 (22), Dex 14, Con 13 (17), Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 13
Base Atk +4; CMB +10; CMD 22
Feats Ironhide*, Power Attack
Skills Intimidate +10, Perception +7, Survival +7; Racial Modifiers +2 Intimidate
SQ chain fighter*, fast movement, intimidating, orc blood
Languages Common, Orc
Combat Gear potions of cure light wounds (4) potion of enlarge person, smokesticks (2), tanglefoot bags (2); Other Gear masterwork spiked chain, javelins (3), +1 breastplate, war paint of the terrible visage*, 100 gp
*See Advanced Player's Guide for full description
Kzazsi was born to an orc mother, Azanna, an oracle and protector of their people who was tormented by the restless spirits of her dead kinsmen. During his early years, Kzazsi was regarded as normal at best, and somewhat frail at worst. However, since he first learned to speak, it was clear that he was cursed with a mystic connection to his orc ancestors. The spirits that haunted his mother also tortured her son, driving his young mind to the brink of sanity. In a final attempt to save her son, Azanna travelled to the peak of a mountain to commune with the gods. They sent her a vision of an intricate pattern. As soon as she returned from her pilgrimage, she had the pattern tattooed on Kzazsi's body.
The tattoos empowered the spirits and turned them to Kzazsi's will, and he quickly learned to channel his anger to control them. However, his new power frightened the rest of the tribe, and many believed he would grow to be a powerful necromancer. Out of respect for his mother, they simply exiled him instead of killing him as some wished.
Away from the security of his tribe, he was soon captured by marauding human slavers. He remained their prisoner for several years, variously serving as a laborer, gladiator, or servant as his masters pleased, and narrowly avoiding death while continuing to hone his connection to the spirit world. When the slavers were eventually attacked by a group of elven rangers, Kzazsi broke free and aided their assault, then fled to a nearby city.
He has since scraped by in human society, chasing down rogue magic users and bandits for money.