Monday, August 29, 2011

Pathfinder: First Thoughts, Part 2 (Classes)

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As promised, here are my thoughts on the alterations made to the various classes between D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder. Recurring themes will include: increased power, particularly to non caster classes; increased variability, allowing players more involvement in their own progression; and fewer boring levels.

Barbarian

The first thing I noticed is that Illiteracy has been removed. This is one change which I'm not particularly fond of. Being illiterate was an interesting bit of flavor for the barbarian which, in the end, hurt them very little if they were playing with a party. And if it was a problem for a player, then 2 skill points out of 4+Int every level is hardly the end of the world. But this is the kind of thing which can be houseruled in & out of a game easily.

"Rage Powers" are the big new thing for Barbarians in Pathfinder. They're part of the increased versatility which is enjoyed by all of the core classes. Essentially, Rage Powers are similar to feats which can only be used while the Barbarian is in a rage. Abilities include automatically confirming critical hits, immunity to sickness, and battle cries terrifying enough to leave enemies shaken.

The amount that a Barbarian can rage has also been fiddled with. In 3.5, the number of times per day which a Barbarian could enter a rage was determined by level (1/day at 1st level, 2/day at 4th, 3/day at 6th, and so on.) The amount of time the Barbarian could rage was 3 + CON. Pathfinder has improved on this system thus:

Starting at 1st level, a barbarian can rage for a number of rounds per day equal to 4 + her Constitution modifier. At each level after 1st, she can rage for 2 additional rounds. [...] A barbarian can enter rage as a free action. [...] A barbarian can end her rage as a free action and is fatigued after rage for a number of rounds equal to 2 times the number of rounds spent in the rage.


So, simply put, you used to use this ability X times per day for a short amount of time. Now you have a large amount of time which you can start & stop using at will, but that time needs to last you the whole day.

Overall, the class has been improved.

Bard

Fuck you. I like Bards.

Bards, like all the classes which had either a D6 or a D4 HD in 3.5, have had their HD bumped up a notch. Which means bards now have D8 HD. To be honest, I wasn't sure how I felt about this for awhile, fearing that the game had lost some flavor by making classes with low HP more beefy. However, when I consider the D8 HD classes which Rogues & Bards are joining with this change (such as clerics, and druids) I can't honestly say that I feel they have any good reason to be beefier than Rogues and Bards.

So raised HD is tentatively approved.

The big bard change is the sheer number of bardic music abilities. The list took up less than 1 full page in 3.5, and now covers almost 3 pages. All of which a bard can access as he levels up.

Like all spellcasters, a Bard's level 0 spells no longer have a daily limit, which is fun, though it really doesn't significantly alter the power level of the class from what I've seen.

Bards have also received four completely new abilities. Versatile performance allows a bard to use a perform check in place of a related skill check (for example, he could use a Perform (acting) check in place of a Disguise check.) Well Versed helps resist other Bard's music. Lore Master allows a bard to take a 10 or 20 on Knowledge checks. And finally, "Jack of All Trades" allows a bard to use any skill, even those which require training.

Cleric

As a spellcaster, Clerics were among the most overpowered classes in 3.5, eventually dwarfing other classes as levels progressed. As such, they've actually suffered from the noticeable nerf of no longer being proficient with heavy armor. Medium Armor and a shield is the best a cleric can do now, without taking additional feats.

One huge change for the cleric, which I absolutely love, is the removal of Turn / Rebuke undead. Those abilities have been turned into feats, and in their place, Clerics now have "Channel Energy."

Just as before, clerics choose Positive or Negative energy. Only now, rather than being restricted to targeting that energy towards undead creatures, it comes out as a massive AoE which deals Xd6 points of energy damage/healing to a radius of 30ft. And there are a veritable truckload of feats which modify the ability so it can affect different alignments, elemental traits, or other miscellaneous things.

Additionally, cleric domains now have a much larger affect on the player. Instead of granting very limited abilities, and one aditional spell per level, a cleric's selection of domains can now significantly alter the abilities of the character. For example, clerics of the Animal Domain can speak with animals, gain an animal companion as a druid would, and treat knowledge (nature) as a class skill. (class skills is another much improved system which I'll talk about when I do the skills chapter.) And to top it off, they've retained the 3.5 "domain spell" system.

Druid

Druids were a class that I was almost entirely unfamiliar with in 3.5. None of my players ever played one, I never felt like playing one, and I never had need of an NPC druid. I will do my best to compare the two.

The Animal Companion class ability has been made into an option, with the other option being the player's choice of one of several nature-related cleric domains. This is a theme repeated several times with other classes. Many of the defining class abilities of 3.5 have been made less important, with the player being able to select an alternative ability in its place.

The progression of Wild Shape has been modified. It now becomes available one level earlier than before, and uses-per-day increase at a more staggered rate. In the end, a Pathfinder Druid will be able to use Wild Shape more often than a 3.5 druid. And, at level 20, it becomes an at-will ability.

Other than that, the druid appears very much the same.

Fighter

Oh my goodness FIGHTERS! FIGHTERS! The forgotten child of 3.5, the class only fools would play due to how horribly underpowered they became compared to nearly every other class. It has been reborn in Pathfinder, and I can't wait to roll one.

First off, Bonus Feat frequency has been increased significantly. When combined with the increased rate of standard feats, a fighter now receives feats at every single level.

Since bonus feats was the only thing available to fighters at all in 3.5, this change alone would be an improvement. But the wise men and women who designed Pathfinder didn't stop there. They knew the Fighter needed more. And boy did they give fighters more:

Bravery - Every 2 levels, a fighter gains an additional +1 to saves against fear. They will look into the gullet of Cthulhu and just grit their teeth.

Armor Training - While wearing armor, the fighter reduces the armor check penalty, and increases the max dex bonus. Unlike most scrubs who wear armor, the Figher now knows how to look good doing it!

Weapon Training - Essentially this is the Favored Enemy system Rangers use, but for weapons instead. Pick a weapon, get +1 on attack and damage rolls with it. A few levels later, pick another weapon to get the bonus, and the previous weapon you picked goes up to +2 on attack and damage.

Armor Mastery - At level 19, fighters get Damage Reduction 5/-

Weapon Mastery - Pick a weapon type. All weapons of that type auto-confirm all crits, and their critical multiplier is increased by 1. Also, can no longer be disarmed.

Fighters are, by far, the most improved class in Pathfinder.

This post is really starting to get long, so I'm going to end on that high note of fighters. I *think* should be able to finish all the classes in the next part, and then finish the rest of the book in another 2 parts or so. But we'll see...I keep writing far more than I intended.

Thanks so much for reading!

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