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Pathfinder Beta Review - Opinions Welcome

Discussion in 'Dungeons & Dragons + Other RPGs' started by The Shaman, Oct 2, 2008.

  1. The Shaman Gems: 28/31
    Latest gem: Star Sapphire


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    As quite a few may know already, I've recently become quite fascinated with Paizo's Pathfinder RPG and how it, effectively, updates D&D 3.5. You can find the beta version of the book on Paizo's website, and while it requires a registration you can download it for free. I have opened this thread to give my opinion of the changes Pathfinder does in various areas of the game - races, classes, and the like - and how I view these elements now.

    Races:

    Dwarves:

    Dwarves were already one of the stronger races, so predictably they don’t get as many goodies. Still, the +2 to wisdom can’t hurt, and they have various other minor goodies such as +2 to certain perception checks, and automatic proficiency with battleaxes, heavy picks and warhammers can come in handy. Their favourite classes are now fighter or cleric (which means higher HP or SP/level with either class – and for those classes both are good options), and their abilities lend themselves to both – as well as, really, any class where movement speed and charisma are less than vital.


    Elves:

    The penalty to constitution remains, but the new bonus to intelligence makes elves much more desirable. The main other novelty of the class – their magical aptitude – is mostly useful to casters. Together with the way favored class works, this means that elves are now very good mages (for a change) and rangers, but their abilities can be utilized by other classes as well – from fighters to clerics.


    Gnomes:

    The bonus to charisma makes gnomes great sorcerers or bards (both are now favored classes), and could help at other roles. Still, gnomes are not a very good choice for martial characters, so sticking to casters is strongly encouraged. Nothing new there, really - with the exception of the whisper gnomes, 3.x gnomes tended to be a caster race anyway.


    Half-elves:

    No longer a joke of a race (finally), half-elves are now useful in most any role. The ability boost, free skill focus (the feat itself has been improved to now be worthwhile) and choice of favored class means your character can be good at pretty much anything. Rangers, rogues and the like will enjoy having full elven senses.


    Half-orcs:

    It was about time the other embarrassment of a race was fixed, and half-orcs are now actually worthy of consideration. With bonuses to strength and wisdom and penalty to intelligence they can excel at various martial professions, and while the weapon familiarity and ferocity features are more useful to NPCs, player characters can certainly find them useful. Very good at their favourite classes – barbarian and druid – but valuable at most other non-cerebral occupations.


    Halflings:

    Their favored classes – rogue and bard – do benefit from the new bonus to charisma, and they can make tolerable clerics, sorcerers or even possibly wizards. They aren’t that good at most other things, though.


    Humans:

    Still very good, unsurprisingly. The ability boost works well with the new favored class mechanics, and like half-elves, humans can exceed at whatever they want to be. The bonus martial weapon proficiency can be useful to certain classes that may want to get in combat after all.

    ---------- Added 0 hours, 5 minutes and 56 seconds later... ----------

    This may take a while... expect updates at some point ;) Please note I will mostly deal with the changes that have been made to the classes - evasion is still evasion as far as I know.

    Classes:

    Barbarian:
    There are only a few noteworthy changes about the barbarian – the skills and the rage system. As class skills (read: +3 bonus to any check) they get the versatile acrobatics and perception. This bring a fair bit of combat mobility (acrobatics includes the former tumble skill) and detection capabilities, which make barbies more useful in non-combat situations, but also help with their combat mobility. The major difference, however, is the rage powers system – barbies now have a pool of rage points that increase with level and can be used to both enter/maintain rage (which means much more versatility in raging even at low levels) and to activate various powers players learn, choosing one per every 2 levels. Some of these powers can be pretty decent, others… well, not. In alphabetical order, they are:

    i. Animal fury: an additional natural attack, but without some of the usual penalties. Not that good imo, but handy at low levels and for grapplers – 2 rage points/round

    ii. Clear mind: will saves tend to be warrior PCs weak point, and a reroll can be a very useful ability. While costly, it can be more than worth it – 6 rage points, immediate action, req. level 8.

    iii. Increased damage reduction: at the level you get it, 1-3 points of damage less tend to be insignificant. Don’t bother – 4-12 rage points, req. level 12.

    iv. Elemental rage: even with the nerf power attack got, 1-6 points of damage more usually isn’t such a big deal at that level. Still, it could be somewhat useful if you have several attacks/round, and you can choose the elemental type. Possible, but not first priority – 8 rage points/ round, req. level 12.

    v. Guarded stance: dodge bonus to melee attacks equal to half your barb level for 2 rage points/round? That’s a bargain if you ask me, and the fact that it scales very well with level makes it one of the best rage powers imo – 2 rage points/round.

    vi. Intimidating glare: not bad if you bumped your intimidate - free action debuffs are useful, and if it stacks with itself – as fear attacks tend to – the duration means you can effectively put an enemy out of combat for a while. Very handy in the proper build – 4 rage points.

    vii. Knockback – no save, and applies to all attacks made that round. More combat options never hurt, and this one is definitely useful in a more tactically-minded party – 4 rage points/round.

    viii. Low-light vision: all but a few races get this for free, and a duration measured in rounds/day is BS. Oh, and you can only use it when raging, of course – which means either being in combat or messing up your main combat feature. Are you kidding me? 2 rage points/round.

    ix. Mighty swing: auto-confirm a critical; handy against high-ac enemies or if you just want to make sure the fight ends as quickly as possible. One of the better higher-level options, certainly – 8 rage points, immediate action, req. level 12

    x. Moment of clarity: get all the bonuses from rage without any of the penalties. Useful for the effective AC boost, and particularly for being able to use any action when having the benefit of rage. Useful in most builds - 4 points/round

    xi. Night sight – slightly less ridiculous than low-light vision, but more expensive and requires having either the ability or the power. Very situational at best – and generally worthless. 4 rage points/round.

    xii. Mighty blow – a.k.a. “Thog smite!”, adds your barbarian level to damage as a swift action. While you can only take 1 swift action/round, extra damage can certainly be worth the cost. Decent – 4 rage points.

    xiii. Quick reflexes – the poor barbarian’s combat reflexes, this can allow you to make more AoOs per round. Getting the feat is better, but if you can’t, it could come in handy with the right build – 4 rage points, immediate action.

    xiv. Renewed vigor – standard actions are precious, especially in combat. At levels 6 and above, spending one to get the equivalent of a CLW spell is not worth it, unless you have no healing casters whatsoever, and definitely not advisable even then. Pass – 6 rage points.

    xv. Rolling dodge: perhaps not as good as guarded stance, but having a decent bonus to your AC vs ranged attacks (including rays and the like) certainly won’t hurt. Good, though situational – 2 rage points/ round.

    xvi. Roused anger: being able to enter rage even when fatigued can be a life-saver if you are caught off-guard. This power is (hopefully) not used often, but is damn handy when it does. – 4 rage points, one-time at the start of a rage.

    xvii. Strength surge: adding your barb level to any strength roll or combat maneuver check can be surprisingly useful. Very useful both defensively and offensively – 2 rage points, immediate action

    xviii. Surprise accuracy: as a swift action, add your barbarian level to the attack roll. Hey, nobody likes missing – 4 rage points, swift action.

    xix. Swift foot: Enhancement bonuses to your movement speed are not exactly hard to get, but this can practically double your speed – which can be great if you need to cover/charge great distances or tumble through a longer space. 2 rage points/round per 10 feet bonus, up to 6 rage points/round.

    xx. Terrifying howl: Unlike intimidating glare (which it requires) it takes a standard action and allows a save. It’s nice that it’s based off strength, and it does leave them frightened, but still not a prime choice – 8 rage points, req. level 8

    xxi. Unexpected strike: 1 extra attack at your higher BAB. It might not stack with haste, but unless you have a speed weapon or a mage at your beck and call, an extra attack is definitely worth it – 8 rage points. Req. level 8.

    Bard:
    While many of the changes to the class are subtle, bards have benefited from Pathfinder in several ways. They have a higher HD and the skill system restructuring gives them a better chance to live up to their “jacks of all trade” fame. Their spells per day have improved notably, too, and various abilities have been made more useful.

    Bardic knowledge: now it can substitute for any knowledge skills, or actually boost them (if they exist) considerably. In a core game, this allows the bard to cover most knowledges single-handedly, but if stuff like knowledge devotion comes in it becomes downright nasty.

    Bardic music: bards add a few neat tricks to their repertoire, and generally decrease the performance ranks to match the new system. Note that certain music types only work with perform acting/oratory/dance/comedy, while others require keyboard/percussion/wind/string/singing. Curiously, I can’t see a mention that the effects are mind-affecting – though your DM will most likely rule that they are.

    - Distraction: available at level 1, and useful against patterns or figments that rely on sight. Even though it does not work with certain kinds of performance, it can be quite handy – the big lugs in front seldom have good will saves, and there are many illusion spells that this ability can help against.

    - Inspire courage: now with faster progression: +2 at level 5, +3 at level 11 and +4 at level 17.

    - Dirge of doom – you get this ability at level 8, and it will probably see quite some use. Making all enemies in up to 30 feet shaken is nice – for you – especially if they don’t get a save to resist it. It works only with vocal or music instrument performances, though.

    - Discordant performance – available with the perform types that also allow distraction, and again at level 8. Confusion is a very nasty effect, but your enemies get a saving throw to resist (your old level-based charisma check). While much more risky than DoD, it’s a nice way to disable a few dumb brutes.

    - Soothing performance – a healing tune that also removes a few minor afflictions. The HP itself is nothing incredible at level 12 unless you are bringing quite a few helpers with you. Requires acting performance

    - Frightening tune: while the effect is greater than DoD, allowing your enemies a save is not (the standard 10+ ½ bard level + cha). Possibly useful, though, and with decent duration. Requires vocal performance

    - Paralyzing show: while I prefer effects that don’t allow a save, especially each round, paralysis is a very nasty condition and can quickly result in a coup-de-grace involving death of an otherwise powerful NPC. Requires acting performance.

    - Deadly performance: eh, while a save-or-die effect against a single enemy at level 20 is nothing to write home about, this effect stuns the enemy for a few rounds if they save, making it a win-win situation. Well, against anything that doesn’t have mettle or is immune to mind-affecting effects (if your DM steps in with such a rule).

    Cantrips: now at-will abilities. Sure, why not? Everyone likes a freebie.

    Lore master: taking 10 on any knowledge you have ranks in is nice, and taking 20 a few times per day doesn’t hurt.

    Jack of all trades: It comes a bit late at level 19, but it could make a difference. It effectively means a +3 bonus on many skills, and being able to take 10 on many more. Oh, and being able to use all trained-only skills, though at that point you might have put a point or two in them anyway.

    Clerics:
    A few nerfs and spell changes have scaled back the CoDzillas, but they are still nothing to joke about. Domains now instead give special abilities instead of bonus spell slots/ day, which might make them a bit weaker – but makes anything that gives extra domains (i.e. a PrC) that much stronger. Anyway, orisons are free and deities are given free proficiency with their deity’s favored weapon. Apart from that, the major change is in domains. In general, expect an at-will ability at level 1, a per-day spell-like at levels 2, 4, 12, 16 and 20, and a useful but quite limited supernatural ability at level 8.

    • Air domain: the lighting arc ability is kinds like a warlock’s blast, but weaker. Still, elemental damage at will may be handy at times – but nothing to write home about. Obscuring mist at level 2 is unimpressive; while gust of wind is so-so. Walk on air for 1 round/CL is not bad, and chain lighting, control weather and elemental swarm are all useful imo. Overall – above average domain.

    • Animal domain: the summoned companion is similar to a ranger’s in strength, and being able to choose what you want with every summon compensates for not having a ranger’s rapport. Speak with animals is imo one of the more useful low-level spell-likes, though hold animal is mostly meh. Animal form is quite useful it itself, but the limited duration makes it more of a surprise/getaway trick. Commune with nature and antilife shell are ok, and of course Shapechange is still damn impressive. Fairly strong.

    • Artifice: the spell-like ability is potentially valuable, and being able to weaken enemies’ equipment with a touch can be useful if you’re out of other options. Animate rope and wood shape are situational, but creation is decent even with the low duration. Fabricate and animate objects is ok, and prismatic sphere is quite good. Ok, but not really that impressive – many of the abilities are similar

    • Chaos: touch of chaos is quite decent as it does not allow a save, but limiting it to 1/day per enemy means you have to be careful. Protection from law, align weapon, anarchic weapon… heck, all other abilities are geared mostly towards fighting lawful enemies/outsiders, and thus can be very useful or mostly useless – depending on the campaign.

    • Charm: Dazing touch is quite good – no save and no SR, 1 round of doing nothing can be vital in a battle. Charm person is as good as always, and calm emotions can be effective as well. Charming touch is a SU version of charm monster with a shorter duration, but still more than useful. Geas, Insanity and Dominate monster are all ok spells, though limited by the standard weaknesses of enchantments. Overall, very good.

    • Community: healing nonlethal damage is meh, but removing fatigued, shaken and sickened is very useful. The spell-likes it offers are ok – bless is decent at lower levels, status could theoretically be handy if your group is more spread out, and aura of prayer is ok, though short. Heroes’ feast and refuge are ok, and mass heal never hurts (except undead, but that is another story)

    • Darkness: touch of darkness is not that bad if you don’t have any good spells prepared, as -2 to attack rolls and particularly saves vs fear can be a nasty problem. Obscuring mist is meh (it is centered on you) and blindness Is imo not that impressive. Aura of shadows, as well as the higher-level spell-likes, however, are quite decent. Overall, an ok domain but it takes a while to come into its own.

    • Death: bleeding touch can be an interesting way to make sure fleeing NPCs don’t come back or to harass enemies lacking magical healing. Cause fear and death knell are tolerable for lower level, but nothing to write home about. Call undead is very decent – extra skellies/zombunnys that do NOT count towards your control limit and that you can replenish more or less at will. Slay living. Create undead (3xday – and as iirc spell-likes do not require material components this can be VERY handy) and wail of the banshee might not be the best spells of their level, but they are certainly useful. Very good.

    • Destruction: Destructive smite is pretty pathetic on itself (at least when you start making more than one attack/round, but automatically confirming critical threats can be ok in the right party. Inflict light wounds is unimpressive in most cases, though shatter can be good. Aura of destruction is a bit of a Russian Roulette move as it affects friend and foe alike. Inflict critical wounds is unimpressive unless you maintain an undead squad, and disintegrate and implosion are ok. Quite situational – imo avoid it unless you are bringing a group of undead with you (or playing one)

    • Earth: Acid dart is decent, and imo better than electric arc – acid is generally more useful both against enemies and the environment. Magic stone is mostly useless, though soften earth & stone can be handy with some imagination (and, I imagine, a knowledge of architecture). Body of stone is ok in combat, and wall of stone, earthquake and elemental swarm are all good. A stable, useful domain.

    • Evil: though it shares the situational abilities of chaos, this domain has a very good 1st level ability that makes creatures of any kind vulnerable to it. If it actually applies the sickened condition to them, it is arguably the best 1st level ability altogether – and at any rate makes the domain more than acceptable.

    • Fire: between the often resisted fire damage and the mostly damage-oriented abilities, this domain is imo not as good as its big brothers. Still, setting stuff aflame can be fun, and resist energy and elemental swarm allow you to make the best of the resulting conflagration.

    • Glory: in the right party, touch of glory is indeed a blessing – unfortunately in most cases the party is at a numerical disadvantage, which makes it slightly less useful than touch of evil. Shield of faith and bless weapon are quite ok, and the following abilities are all very impressive. Overall – if your deity gives that domain, there are few reasons not to take it.

    • Good: Touch of good is a very good supporting ability, although once again it is limited to once per day per character touché. Still, getting a bonus equal to the cleric’s caster level (!) to pretty much any roll you want is a heck of a useful ability. Apart from that it is fairly similar to other alignment-related domains, though arguably more useful as most campaigns use evil antagonists.

    • Healing: rebuke death is mostly situational as a heal, but being able to make any undead you touch shaken for several rounds at a time can be quite useful. Pretty much all the abilities – arguably side from mass CLW – are useful for their level and beyond, so the domain is a very good one if your deity offers it.

    • Knowledge: The active ability of lore keeper is meh, but having all knowledge skills as class skills never hurts. Comprehend languages can be situational, but never hurts – especially if you travel a lot or use planar/summoned allies. Detect thoughts is very useful, and so is remote viewing. True seeing and legent lore never hurt, and though foresight is imo overrated as a lvl 9 spell, no one can argue it’s not useful. The domain is imo About average – not earthshaking, but definitely handy at times.

    • Law: unlike most of the other alignment touch abilities, law seems fairly underwhelming; in most cases you have better things to do that ensure that a single ally won’t completely screw up. It’s not useless, I guess, but compared to the other similar abilities just doesn’t measure. The rest of the spell-likes are fairly predictable – the law versions of the protection/align/weapon property/ X AoE attack/Word of X/ Summon monster line. Not particularly impressive, though possibly handy in certain campaigns.

    • Liberation: Inspiring word can be a great buff if you have good charisma, but is limited by the familiar 1/day/character rule – and, of course, requires you to spend a standard action. Remove fear and paralysis are ok if your DM likes to challenge your party with more unorthodox methods, and freedom’s call is a very decent defensive aura. Greater dispel magic is as good as always, though refuge and freedom are not that impressive for higher-level SLAs. About average.

    • Luck: Bit of luck is great, though limited in the usual 1/day/character fashion. Still, rerolling and getting the better result can’t hurt. True strike and blur are useful, and lucky aura is an impressive combat buff. Break enchantment and spell turning are somewhat situational, though miracle is great as usual. Very good.

    • Madness. Vision of madness is similar to touch of X, though the drawbacks are significant if you are in a more complex combat – but no trouble at all in a slugfest or a skill check situation. Lesser confusion is meh, but touch of idiocy and aura of madness can be quite useful. The higher-level SLAs, however, seem rather… unimpressive. Unimpressive.

    • Magic:hand of the acolyte is rendered as little more than an emergency measure due to its concentration duration – at least, unless you find a way to make concentrate checks as swift or at least move actions. Detect magic at will is fairly good – but you already have it as an orison, so having it as an at-will SLA means little. Magic mouth is meh, though dispelling touch can be useful. Spell resistance and spell turning can be useful, but tend to be situational unless you’re doing a lot of magehunting. Disjunction… well, it’s long been a special case, a weapon of last resort as it were. It basically means “screw the loot, I want to make it out alive” – and it does that very well. Overall, average-ish; situational, but potentially lifesaving.

    • Nobility: while noble blessing does not the impressive bonuses of Touch of X, it lasts a fair bit longer. Divine favor and enthrall are so-so, and divine right can be very handy against dumber foes. Geas, repulsion, and storm of vengeance are imo about average for that level. An ok, maybe about average domain.

    • Plant: Wooden fist is geared mostly towards unarmed fighters… so chances are unless you are making a sacred fist you could care less about it. Entangle can be quite useful if your DM allows you to cast it in more environments; difficult terrain can limit the mobility of many landbound foes. Barkskin is so-so, but the other abilities (perhaps except shambler, but you are getting it at lvl 20) are not that impressive imo. Unimpressive.

    • Protection: a transferable (and scalable) bonus to all saving throws never hurts; sanctuary and shield other can be useful as a last resort measure of sorts to protect the real squishies such as mages or the like. Aura of protection is a minor (at its level) but useful group buff, and though spell resistance and repulsion are situational, prismatic sphere is the classical all-out defensive measure. Quite good

    • Repose: gentle rest is impressive despite the HD and 1/day/char limitation; a no-save sleep effect for 1 round is usually equal to coup de grace, and slow for several rounds severely hampers many undead opponents. Deathwatch and gentle repose are situational at best, but ward against death is invaluable when fighting undead… or anyone else who can hurl death effects at you (like mages). Undeath to death is situational, and destruction and wail of the banshees are useful offensive options. An above average domain with an impressive 1st level power.

    • Rune: the rune power series seem mostly unimpressive, even as a short-term defense measure. Erase and secret page are likewise situational, as is GGW. Having the symbol SLAs without material components can be good, but frankly at that level you could do better. Situational at best, generally to be avoided.

    • Strength: Strength surge is useful, though not ZOMG-impressive. Enlarge person always helps the party tank, and bull’s strength, though not necessarily incredible, is a nice thing to have when you’re swinging the old greatsword. Might of the Gods may be ok, but as imo it doesn’t improve attack or damage it is situational to say the least – you probably won’t be the greatest athlete on the team even with it. Righteous might is nice, though mass bull’s strength and crushing hand are generally sub-standard for their level.

    • Sun: sun’s touch is generally underwhelming unless you’re fighting undead day and night; produce flame and heat metal are fairly situational. Nimbus of light is ok, but mostly as an anti-darkness measure or an attrition ability in a big zombie fight. The higher-level spell-likes are ok, but nothing to write home about. Overall – unimpressive, though useful in some situations.

    • Travel: teleport at 10 ft/CL that you may share with your pals (at a cost, of course – and as a swift action? Sign me up. Expeditious retreat and levitate may not come in play that often, but they certainly have a variety of issues. Flight, even 1 round/CL, is useful – and dimension door, greater teleport and astral projection are all impressive. Arguably one of the best domains.

    • Trickery: you can have a minor mirror image at will, and cast it as a move action. Not that impressive, but it may save your bacon quite a few times if you get in trouble.Disguise self is generally wasted on a cleric, unless you are pulling a divine trickster character – even then, though, it is not that impressive. Invisibility is as nifty as always, though, and Master’s Illusion can be a boon to the right party. Confusion is ok, and mass invisibility is great against anything that doesn’t have ready access to dispel or true seeing. As for Time stop… I don’t need to say much about it, do I? In general, an above average domain – but one that needs experience and skill to pull properly.

    • War: Battle smite depends on whether you need to spend a move/standard action to touch the weapon – if yes, it is unimpressive. Magic weapon is useful at low levels, though it does not scale very well; spiritual weapon is decent. Weapon master is handy, but the higher-level SLAs are only so-so. Below average.

    • Water: Similar to fire, and about as unimpressive. Ice resistances may be a bit less common than cold, but apart from the tried and true Elemental Swarm, the domain is mediocre at best. In general, it is among the weakest.

    • Weather: storm burst is unimpressive – more of a last-resort option when you have no good options – but at least you can do it as often as you like. Obscuring mist is unimpressive unless you have blindsense/blindsight; fog cloud at least allows you to center it wherever is convenient. Lightning lord is interesting – especially as you can target several enemies with a standard action if you don’t mind blowing your reserves. Control winds is situational, but control weather can be quite versatile. Storm of vengeance is ok.

    Druid:
    The druid was (in)famous as being the most powerful class at 3.5, and it can still make a decent claim for that place – though owing more to versatility (and the scaling back of the cleric) than anything else. The proficiencies remain almost unchanged, though the scythe was finally added to their list of known weapons, giving druids a decent two-hander; the prohibitions against metal armor/shield remain. Orisons are again at-will abilities, other than that the magic system is mostly unchanged - except that slots cap at 4/level. The starting abilities are similar, with the main difference is that the druid is able to pick an elemental domain or animal/plant/weather instead of an animal companion. An option for those who don’t feel like taking care of a pet, but most of the domain abilities are either unimpressive or bring nothing new to the class

    The major difference in the class has been prompted by how Wild shape now works – basically it emulates the relevant spell (animal/plant/elemental shape), and thus higher levels of the spell give access to more options (i.e. in size and the form’s special abilities). In general, however, wildshaping no longer substitutes the druid’s physical scores with that of the form and only offers a bonus or penalty to them. Thus, the physical stats are no longer unimportant for the class. The progression of the wildshape is changed somewhat – it starts at 4, allows small elemental shapes at 6, and becomes an at-will ability at level 20. Most of the other abilities are unchanged.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2008
  2. The Shaman Gems: 28/31
    Latest gem: Star Sapphire


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    Part II

    Fighter:
    The much-maligned fighteri is one of the classes whose remake I particularly like. Their skill list has become slightly less laughable with the insertion of survival and a few knowledges. Most importantly, however, the class finally has what it always needed: actual class features. They are not particularly numerous or long-winded, but all scale tolerably well and make the class actually good at the one thing it is supposed to be doing – combat. All the bonus feats stay (they can be either fighter feats or combat feats) and the following additions appear:

    • At level 2, fighters get a +1 on saves vs fear, and an additional +1 at levels 6, 10, 14 and 18. Sure, not as good as a good will save, but at least it’s something.

    • At level 3, a fighter gets +1 armor bonus to the AC of whatever armor they are wearing, reduces the armor check penalty of it by 1 to a minimum of 0, and increases its maximum dexterity bonus by +1. This happens again at level 7, 11 and 15 for a total of +4 to AC, -4 to ACheck penalty, and +4 to max dexterity bonus. It starts off small, but eventually can be pretty impressive – a high-level fighter can practically prance around in full plate as if it were a chain shirt, and use a chain shirt with the protection of a full plate – and an incredible max dexterity bonus. This can make elven or Halfling fighters appealing – almost.

    • At level 5, a fighter chooses one group of weapons s/he gets +1 to attack and damage to; the groups include axes, heavy blades, light blades, close-combat, crossbows, double, flails, hammers, monk, polearms, spears, thrown, and bows. At levels 9, 13 and 17 s/he can pick a new group s/he gets +1 to, and the bonuses for the old ones increase by +1 for each (kinda like the 3.0 favored enemies scheme). Thus, at level 17 a fighter gets +4 to attack/damage with the group she chose at level 5, a +3 with that chosen at level 9, etc. When weapons appear in more than one group, the higher applies. It almost makes weapon focus/specialization/mastery worthless, but finally turns fighters into the armsmasters they were supposed to be (and, finally, competent archers).

    • At level 19, a fighter using any armor OR shield gets a DR of 5/- . Not that much at that level, unless you end up wading through a field of mooks. Still, when you do you will probably enjoy the feeling.

    • At level 20, the fighter chooses one specific weapon; with it s/he automatically confirms critical threats, and the damage multiplier on a critical increases by 1.Also, the fighter can’t be disarmed of such a weapon. Well, the critical modifiers are nice; the disarm is more of a fluff thing.

    Monks:
    In 3.5, monks were regarded as a controversial class – potentially powerful class abilities, interspersed by glaring weaknesses and little synergy. Some of that lack of synergy yet remains, but monks have become notably better fighters (especially in combat maneuvers, which were supposed to be their shtick in the first place), and have a few useful tricks up their sleeve. The old unarmed damage and wis-to-ac stays, as well as some of the other iconic features; here is a list of the changes

    • Bonus feats: now at levels 10, 14 and 18 as well, and there is a much richer choice (a level 2 monk can choose between 8 feats, and at levels 6 and 10 yet more are added); monks can choose those feats without meeting the prerequisites, as before. Well, I doubt people would take monks to level 20 if they have the choice, but at least you get more after level 6.

    • Maneuver training: a monk at level 3+ can use their monk level instead of their BAB for maneuvers such as trip, disarm etc. Thankfully, this solves one of the long-standing monk paradoxes – in 3.5, monks often made WORSE grapplers than fighters who wanted to learn some jujitsu on the side, and had similar problems with disarm and trip. About time, really.

    • Monk AC bonus: the progression is increased somewhat, and at level 20 you actually get a +5 instead of +4. Not impressive, by itself, but every little bit helps.

    • Ki pool: an altogether new feature for monks; who at levels 4+ get a number of ki points equal to half their monk level + their wisdom modifier. As long as they have at least one, they can use their ki strike (magic, lawful and adamantine, as before). Also, spending ki pool points can have other benefits; at level 4 a monk can do so to get an extra attack at his highest BAB when flurrying, to increase their speed by 20 feet for 1 round or get a +4 dodge bonus to AC for one round. The ki pool is replenished after 8 hours of rest or meditation, and points take a swift action to spend. All of these can certainly benefit a monk’s combat potential significantly, though they are somewhat easy to spend. It would be interesting how PrCs interact with this feature.

    • High Jump: at level 5, a monk counts as having a running start when jumping and acts his level to all acrobatics check made to jump. Also, if s/he spends a ki point, s/he gets a +20 bonus on acrobatics checks made to jump for one round. I’ve never been that enamored by jumpmeisters, but being able to cover incredible distances without the use of magic may be very handy.

    • Purity of body: now applies to supernatural or magical diseases as well. Handy if you are around lycanthropes, mummies, or just irked mages.

    • Wholeness of body: a monk can heal themselves an amount equal to their monk level by spending 2 ki points. Eh, you might end up needing more self-healing, but I think in most cases you will have a better use of your hard-earned ki points.

    • Abundant step: like wholeness of body, the dimension door-like ability now costs 2 ki points. Unlike it, it is actually worth the cost imo.

    • Quivering palm: now limited to all creatures subject to critical hits; then again, I don’t remember many undead, oozes, plants or incorporeals that could be critted, so that changes little.

    • Empty body: now it costs 3 points of your ki pool and a move action to activate for 1 minute. Well, considering that it is a lvl 9 spell, I can imagine paying for it every now and then.

    Paladin:
    This class remains challenging to play both in terms or roleplaying and mechanics, but it has also received a few slight improvements. I’m still surprised it does not get a good will save – after all, who else shows more moral fortitude than someone with the rigid code and bravery of a paladin – but paladins still get some new mojo. Heck, some of it is actually handy.

    • Smite evil: the progression has been improved, and now paladins get more smite attempts – and faster, up to 7/day at level 19.

    • Lay on hands: now a paladin gets uses of this ability equal to ½ their level + the charisma bonus (kinda like monk ki points) rather than a complete pool. Each use heals (or harms, if the target is undead) for a number of HPs equal to the paladin level; other abilities also use LoH uses. Personally, I preferred being able to hit a lich or vamp with 140+ HP of positive energy before going near-epic, but others may disagree.

    • Spellcasting: paladins get slightly more spell slots, and their spell progression becomes a little more even – i.e. you don’t get 60+ percent of your mojo at levels 18+. Now it’s only 50%. Well, in case you play a straight pally, every bit helps…

    • Divine bond: okay, one option is the good old mount. The other is being able to call up a celestial spirit to temporarily improve your weapon – if it is the same weapon as the favourite of your deity – with a +1 bonus, with another +1 for every 3 levels after the 5th. You can add these to the weapon or use them to purchase enhancements such as axiomatic, defending, disruption, flaming, holy, keen, speed and a few others (if the weapon is a double one, only one end gets the goodies). These bonuses don’t stack with any properties the weapon already has, but I would presume this means they do not suppress them the way Holy Sword used to. These bonuses last for 1 minute/level, and a paladin can call upon this power once per day at level 5, and once more for every other 4 levels. If the weapon is destroyed while thus empowered, the paladin loses this feature for 30 days or until gaining a level, whichever comes first. In that period, s/he gets -1 to attack and damage. All in all, definitely handy if you want to be a pedestrian (and arguably better than the PHB II charging smite, at least in prolonged fights), but the mount is imo better.

    • Remove disease: now costs 2 LoH uses; CL: is equal to the pally’s level.

    • Aura of resolve: at levels 8 and above, the paladin becomes immune to charm, and allies within 10 feet get a +4 morale bonus on saves vs charm effects. Neat; charm effects are one of the things the party least likes applied on their meat shield, and paladins are usually close enough to the fray so that their uprightness rubs on any other tanks the party has. Insert “stick up the backside is contagious” jokes here if you want.

    • Remove curse: at level 9, same as remove disease: costs 2 LoH uses, CL is equal to paladin levels. Freebies are nice, situational as they may be, and imo curses are nastier than diseases.

    • Aura of justice: at level 11, a paladin can expend two smite uses to give the smite ability (with her bonuses) to all non-evil allies within 10 feet. Using the ability is a free action, but allies must use their smite by the paladin’s next turn. Eh, it depends on the party – if you have several characters in melee and the paladin has no shortage of smites, it can definitely help bring a powerful foe down.

    • Neutralize poison: see remove curse or remove disease. Same principle, you get it at level 12.

    • Aura of faith: at level 14, a paladin’s weapons are treated as good aligned for overcoming DR. Any attack made against an enemy within 10 rounds of the paladin is likewise considered good-aligned. While this is mostly situational, it can be priceless when fighting evil outsiders… and paladins tend to have their fair share of such combats.

    • Break enchantments: level 15, 3 LoH uses, you know the rest.

    • Aura of righteousness: at level 17, a paladin gets DR 5/evil and immunity to compulsion spells and spell-likes (nothing said about supernatural abilities, interestingly enough). Any ally within 10 feet gets a +4 morale bonus on saving throw vs compulsions. Nice, even though it comes late. Dominate monster on a party member is never pleasant for the players

    • Heal: level 18, 4 LoH uses. Finally a decent combat healing power or anti-undead nuke.

    • Holy Champion: at level 20, the paladin’s DR improves to 10/evil, and a smite on an evil outsider also hits it with a banishment spell (paladin level = CL), with the weapon and holy symbol counting as hated objects. Oh, and your Turn unde… oops, positive energy channeling automatically get the maximum positive amount. Neat!

    Ranger::
    The ranger's role has changed little; s/he is a secondary combatant and scout.You can do a fair bit of damage, though, especially against your favourite enemies. Your role outside of combat is no less important; you are the one that can make sure the party is never caught unaware and it can thrive in even the most hostile environment.


    - HD: d10 . A small update that puts rangers on par with fighters and paladins, but hey, with all that toughting it out it's not exactly undeserved. Still, you probably still wouldn't be the one that stops swords with his chest.

    - Skill list: Same average skill points/list, slightly expanded list of class skills as intiimidate and spellcraft (which now includes concentration) were added. The major point is the merge of spot/listen/search into perception and hide/move silently into stealth, so these two should be all but mandatory. Note that the way new way class skills work has been changed somewhat:you only get a 6+int skill points at level, but if you put ranks in a class skill you get a +3 bonus.

    - Favored Enemy: the iconic ranger feature has mostly been left intact. Mostly - because now the FE bonus also applies to attack rolls as well. Nice!

    - Track: the feat was nixed, so instead you get a bonus to survival rolls to track equal to your ranger level. This may mean you never lose a track when you start following it - or that you don't need to put all that many ranks in survival and still be effective. Both are nice, imo, but nothing to write home about. Still - freebie.

    - Combat style: unfortunately, you still need to select either TWF or archery; however, you now get bonus feats at levels 2,6, 10, 14 and 18 and you can actually choose them from a list, however small, so you can be a tad more versatile. The rest is unchanged; you can only use them in light or no armor, and you do not need to meet the feat prerequisites.

    - Favored Terrain: remember the UA version that gave you bonuses depending on certain terrains, instead of what you were fighting? Well, now you do not have to choose; at lvl 3 and every 5 levels after, you can pick a terrain in which you get +2 to knowledge geography, perception, stealth and survival and +1 to initiative; these bonuses can increase in the same way favored enemy ones do. You can even pick dungeons, urban, and water-sailing crafts if you want something more unusual.

    - Hunter's Bond: you can either spend a move action to give your party mates half your FE bonus against a single enemy (for a number of rounds equal to your wis modifier) or get the standard animal companion. Frankly, I'd choose the latter, or even better, trade it for the urban companion from the Cityscape web enhancement.

    - Spells: ranger spellcasting has received 2 minor boosts. The first is that you have slightly more spell slots; the second and imo more important is that spellcasting progression is much more even. For example, the base spell slots for a level 17 ranger as per the PHB are 2-2-2-1, while a Pathfinder ranger would have 4-3-2-1 instead. For mid-level or multi-classing rangers, this can be handy - rangers may not have a lot of spells, but they can provide some great utility or situational advantage for a predominantly fighting class.

    - Quarry: at level 11 you get another FE-sque ability. As a standard action, you designate an enemy that you can track at normal speed without penalties (and take 10 while doing so), and in combat with them you geta +2 insight bonus to attack, and confirm criticals automatically. The only problem is that you can have only one at a time, and needs some time before choosing a new one. Depending on the campaign, this could be useful.

    - Camouflage: same as before. but at level 12 instead of 13

    - Improved Evasion: you get it at level 16. Nifty, I guess - you shouldn't fail too many reflex saves, though.

    - Improved Quarry: at level 19, your quarry feature gets notably better: you pick it a quarry as a free action, can take 20 while tracking, the attack bonus is doubled and you need only 10 minutes to pick a new one if the old one ends. Better than before, and you don't need to spend precious action to get them.

    Master Hunter: the capstone ability of the class allows you to follow trails at full speed at no penalty and make something like a death attack against a favored enemy once per day per enemy category. I'm not quite sure how useful this is at level 20 when the DC is 20+Wis modifier, though. It may be interesting if this works versus undead, who have a fairly unimpressive fortitude save. It is mostly situational, I guess, but imagine how you would feel if that great wyrm red dragon rolled a 1 on its save .

    Rogue:
    the class has not received that many changes, but those it did get would be quite welcome by the players. First, the compression of skills makes rogues, as the most impressive PHB skillmonkeys, that much better. Second, their new d8 hit die means an average of 1 extra HP per level – never bad for a class that does tend to go in trouble at times, either in a fight or as the party scout. Oh, and now their major combat feature - sneak attack - applies to everything that has a discernable weak spot – so everything except things with truly indiscernible or invulnerable anatomy such as elementals, oozes and a few undead are now susceptible to ye olde backstab. Even more importantly, rogues now get special “rogue talent” features every even level; while they can not choose the same talent twice, many of them are about as useful as a feat. All in all, not bad for freebies - but what else would you expect from rogues? Oh, by the way, the talents:

    • Bleeding attack: for every d6 of sneak attack you inflict, the creature gets a 1 point of bleeding damage each turn until it gets a cure spell (probably an inflict if it’s undead) or a dc15 heal check. Bleeding does not stack with itself; I presume it would count as continuous damage for concentration purposes. Situational, but as I said a nice way to possibly finish off enemies who flee a fight – or maybe make casters’ lives that much harder.

    • Combat trick: a.k.a. combat feat. I don’t have to say how that could be handy, do I?

    • Fast stealth: move stealthily at full speed. Similar to a FR regional feat (although it allowed you to run stealthily with a -20 penalty to the check, but in most cases just faster walk is nice enough)

    • Finesse rogue: weapon finesse, as the feat. This feat is always popular with rogues, for a good reason.

    • Ledge walker: move on narrow surfaces at full speed without penalties to your Acrobatics check. Meh, situational – and worse than fast stealth.

    • Minor magic: pick a wizard/sorcerer cantrip – and you can do it 2/day. Cantrips are generally unimpressive… generally. CL is ½ your rogue level, and any DC is based off your intelligence

    • Major magic: same as minor magic, but with a 1st level spell; now that is handy. Naturally the talent requires you to have minor magic first.

    • Quick disable: disabling a trap takes half the time

    • Resiliency: once per day when brought under 0 HP you get temporary HP equal to your rogue level as an immediate action. These points last for 1 minute. Quite useful – even with a bigger HD, rogues aren’t the hardiest adventurers and tend to get into a fair share of trouble.

    • Rogue crawl: when prone, you can move at ½ your base speed. You provoke AoOs as normal. Well, there may be times when standing up is certainly the worse option – though ideally you shouldn’t end up prone anyway. The key word is “ideally” – though far from my favourite, this ability may come in handy.

    • Slow reactions: if you sneak attack someone, they can’t make AoOs for one round. Depending on your party composition and tactics, this can be useful, but it would not see that much use in normal situations.

    • Stand up: standing up from prone is a free action. You still provoke AoOs for it, though. Another decent option to avoid spending time on the ground, though it carries its own risks.

    • Surprise attack: during a surprise round, any opponent who can be flat-footed (i.e. is not somehow immune to it)… well, is, even if they have acted. I’m not sure how useful this is

    • Weapon training: a.k.a. weapon focus. Not the best combat feat you could get, but an extra feat is an extra feat.

    • Advanced Talents: the former rogue special abilities, now you get them at level 10 and every 2 levels afterwards. Oh, and you can also choose one new option: Dispelling strike. This advanced talent requires major magic, and makes sure that every sneak attack that deals damage hits the target with a targeted dispel magic at the spell/item with lowest CL. Your own CL for the dispel is equal to your rogue levels. Ok, not earthshaking, but quite nice, especially for a build with a large number of attacks.

    • Master Strike: at level 20, a rogue’s sneak attack also forces a Fort save of 20+ the rogue’s Int modifier – or they fall asleep for 1d4 hours, are paralyzed for 2d6 rounds, or slain outright, at the rogue’s choice. An enemy that passes the save (or fails it, for that matter) is immune to this ability for the next 24 hours. Still strikes me as fairly impressive, despite the lackluster save DC (then again… undead are now SA-able and they aren’t famous for a good fort save)
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2008
  3. The Shaman Gems: 28/31
    Latest gem: Star Sapphire


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    Part III: Classes

    Sorcerer:
    The prettyboys of spellcasting were a decent class altogether, but a step or two behind the real masters of spellcasting and with quite a few classes intruding on their shtick. It started with a specialist spontaneous caster – the warmage – and an at-will pseudocaster, the warlock. More variants of both popped up, and between that and competition from other similar classes, from psions to incarnates to binders, sorcerers started losing their charm. The fact that they had one of the blandest class progression tables in the PHB probably didn’t help. Their role has not changed – they are still the Energizer bunnies that keep on casting and casting (especially as now druids and clerics have less spell slots) but they have filled out in other places as well. First of all, they are the beneficiaries of the new HD philosophy, which gave them (and wizards) an HD upgrade to a d6. Their class skills have received a slight improvement, with Use Magic Device being the most important one. Cantrips are at-will as usual, and instead of their familiar they get Eschew materials. Not a great trade, perhaps – but there are ways to get a familiar anyway, so I don’t think it is as bad as it looks; for most people it was just too much bookkeeping anyway. Sorcerers get some bonus feats as well at higher levels (7, 13 and 19) – more on that later. It’s still not enough to keep up with wizards, but at least it’s a start.

    The major change is their new bloodline feature. Sorcerers have magic in their blood, and the bloodline is the source of their mojo – the little special thing that makes Jane Average able to summon beasts from the great beyond, shoot fireballs from her fingertips or cause the very ground to obey her will. Essentially, the bloodline is something like the cleric’s domains or the wizard’s school – it determines the special features of the class. It grants an extra class skill at level one; at levels 3 and above (at every odd level) it grants an extra spell known. However, it also grants additional features at levels 1, 3, 9, 15 and 20 (a few also grant improvements at other levels) and determines what bonus feats you can select from.

    • Aberrant: A sorcerer “tainted” by alien and bizarre blood – which eventually manifests in their body, and often their mind. Fluff aside, the class skill – knowledge (dungeoneering) is unimpressive, and many of the bonus skills are fairly useless to a caster. The bonus spells and abilities, however, are quite good; the spells include favourites like enlarge person, black tentacles, and shapechange. The first ability you get is an acid ray (up to 30 feet, 1d6+ ½ your CL – sounds familiar?) – and acid is definitely one of the better “elements” you can ask for if you want to damage someone or something. At levels 3, 11 and 17 your limbs may elongate, and at each level your reach for melee touch attacks increases by 5 feet. At levels 9 and 13, you get a 25% chance (cumulative) of ignoring a critical hit or a sneak attack, due to your uncommon anatomy. Level 15 leaves you with SR equal to your (sorcerer) level + 10, and at level 20 you get a few nice goodies – full immunity to crits and sneak attacks, blindsight at 60 feet and DR 5/-. Wow.

    • Abyssal: granddaddy had cloven feat #1. Your class skills is planar knowledge, and your class feats… well, you get some possibly decent ones such as augment summoning and empower spell, but most are actually warrior stuff. This could be handy if you want to use polymorph or some similarly exotic method, but come on – what kind of sorcerer would stay for 7+ levels in the class to get improved bull rush or cleave? Anyway, the spells are okay-ish; some buffs (including Tenser’s) and some planar magic such as dismissals, teleport etc. Overall,. nothing to write home about. The powers… eh. The first thing you get are claws – which later get improved damage and the flaming enhancement. Wow. Later on you get demonic resistances (to electricity and poison, resistance 5/ and +2 to saves at levels 3 and 9), and an inherent bonus to your strength at levels 9, 13 and 17. Things pick up a little afterwards, though: at level 15 you summon an additional creature every time you summon a demon or a fiendish creature with a SM spell, and at level 20 you get a couple of demonic goodies such as acid, fire, and cold resistance and 60-feet telepathy. Overall, not recommended unless you want to make a combat sorcerer. In that case, see if your DM will allow you to use the Battle Sorcerer from Unearthed Arcana for a base.

    • Arcane: you’re just a natural at magic; perhaps your parents were wizards or sorcerers themselves and you got the right genes, or perhaps the unexpected byproduct of high background magical radiation. Either way, you pick a knowledge of your choice as a class skill, and your bonus feats include several related to magic – from Combat casting to spell focus to improved counterspell (and others). So far – ok . Your extra spells are an eclectic, but useful: from identify (now with a negligible material component) to dispel magic, overland flight and wish. Your class features include a familiar (with sorcerer levels counting as wizard levels) at level 1 and casting metamagic-enhanced spells without increasing their casting time (1x day at level 3, once more per day at levels 7, 11, 15 and 19). At levels 9 and 17, you get another spell known from the sorcerer list. Level 15 gives you a +2 to the DCs of spells of a school of your choice (this stacks with the spell focus feat) and level 20 turns you into a magical virtuoso that not only can use metamagic without increasing the casting time, but can expend spell slots instead of charges from any magic item that has them. This can be priceless if your DM doesn’t use runestaves (see the MIC for those sorcerer-friendly beauties), but may be a bit late. Very good

    • Celestial: the good equivalent of the abyssal bloodline. Your patron – or relative – is likewise content to leave you on your own path. Your class skill is heal, and your bonus feats are a hodge-podge that has feats related to mobility, riding, and the odd metamagic. Your spells are no less varying; most of the early ones are forgettable such as bless or Magic Circle ag. Evil, but higher ones include greater dispel and gate. You start off with a ray that does 1d6 +1/2 HP of damage to an evil character or heals a good character of the same amount, which would be decent if you could do it more than once per day per character. You get resistance to cold and acid 5 at levels 3 and 9, and a winged flight of 1 minute/CL (good maneuverability, 60 feet) at level 9 again. At level 15 you can reroll any roll once per day (you must take the second result), and at level 20 your infusion with heavenly power gives you immunity to acid, cold and petrification – as well as resistance to electricity and fire 10, +4 bonus to saves vs poisons, and the tongues ability. The higher-level abilities aren’t too bad, but the start is pretty slow. So-so.

    • Destined: power and great deeds have been fated for you, and destiny yourself guards you along the way. Your class skill is knowledge (history), and your bonus feats tend to be related to resilience and maximizing your spell use – oh, and by the way, leadership. The feat has not been particularly nerfed in Pathfinder, so is still the most powerful thing this side of a 1/day wish ring. Anyway, your bonus spells known tend towards protections and divinations – blur and freedom of movement are the most notable ones at low levels, while at higher levels moment of prescience and foresight can be useful. At level one, you can imbue (standard action, touch) a creature with a bonus to an attack roll, skill check, ability check or saving throw equal to half your CL – but the bonus must be used in up to 3 rounds and can only be used once per day). Your 3rd level ability gives you a nice, scalable bonus to your saves – but only if you are surprised or otherwise unaware of the attack, which you should try not to be, bonus or not. At levels 9 and 17 you get a 1/day ability to reroll an attack, critical hit confirmation, or a SR level check roll after you see your original result. At level 15, you can save yourself from a deadly attack with a DC 20 will save (you get your surprise bonus to it); if you save, you are at -9 HP and stabilized. The diehard feat might just start to sound appealing, by the way. Anyway, at level 20 your destiny becomes even more potent. Any critical threats you make are automatically confirmed; any threats on you are only confirmed if the second roll is a natural 20. Oh, and once per day you automatically succeed on a check made to overcome spell resistance. Overall, this bloodline has some sweet abilities and the 15-level one can be optimized to make you all but unkillable.

    • Draconic: at some point an ancestor of yours had a tryst with a dragon. Aside from some questions about your family tree best left unstated, you also have a strong draconic bent to your abilities. Your class skill is perception, and your bonus feats range from toughness (it has been improved, by the way) to improved initiative, blind-fight and quicken spell (which can now be applied on spells with a casting time of 1 full-round action, so it works for sorcerers). Your extra spells start with mage armor, and include fear, fly, some of the draconic polymorph-like spells, and wish. For your bloodline, you must select a draconic type, which determines your favored energy and breath type. At level 1, you get claws – with pretty much the same progression as abyssal, but instead of fire you may be able to get a different energy on them. At levels 3, 9 and 15 you get a bonus to your natural armor and resistance to your chosen energy type, which can be quite nifty. At level 9 you can use a breath weapon for a 1d6*CL points of damage; the reflex save for it is con-based and you get an extra use at levels 17 and 20. Level 15 gets you draconic wngs that give you a basically at-will fly (60 feet, average maneuverability), while level 20 gives still more draconic powers – immunity to sleep, paralysis and your energy type, and blinsense to 60 feet. I’d say this bloodline is about average – it has some useful abilities, but is more of a flavor reason for me.

    • Elemental: Your blood resonates with a certain element, and you can call upon its fury. This may be due to an elemental outsider in your family tree or just being exposed to a powerful elemental phenomenon. Anyway, your class skills is planar knowledge, and your bonus feats tend to involve finesse, hardiness, and – well, empower spell. Your bonus spells include energy-based evocations, protection, and elemental polymorph; at higher levels you get some elemental summons depending on your elemental ancestry..At level one, you get an elemental ray attack corresponding to your favourite element (earth is represented by acid) for 1d6+ ½ CL damage. Levels 3 and 9 give you resistance 10 to your energy, and at level 9 you can also invoke a 20-foot burst of elemental power that does 1d6xCL damage and, if creatures fail their reflex save for half, makes them responsible to your energy type. You get an extra use per day at levels 17 and 20. Level 15 gives you a special movement bonus – a burrow, fly or swim speed, or just a boost to your land speed – and level 20 makes you into a pseudo-elemental creature immune to your energy type, critical hits or sneak attack. An ok bloodline.

    Wizard:
    Arguably the most powerful class in 3rd edition – as well as prior ones – has retained most of its features and is still quite useful. However, there have been some significant changes. They have a few more skills (appraise, linguistics, etc) and a d6 HD, but that does not change much. Also, instead of a familiar they can get a bonded object – weapon, wand, amulet, ring or a similar item. The major change, however, is how schools work; each school now gives several abilities as you progress in level; in many ways they are not quite unlike a cleric’s domains or a sorcerer’s bloodline. Anyway, more on this later.

    • Bonded object/familiar: I assume most of you know the familiar already; there have been few changes about it, mostly in the area of what skills they give a bonus to. The bonded object is an item that you must carry or wield for your casting, and which can, once per day, cast any spell you can cast as if you had cast it, without expending any of your slots. Also, it is harder than normal to destroy and you can select a new one without losing XP. It is otherwise a serviceable item in its own right and can be enchanted – i.e. your magic amulet may be an amulet of health, a ring of wizardry, etc. Still… If I read it right you get penalties if you don’t have it at hand and attempt to cast, so it doesn’t sound terribly useful to me. A familiar seems to be way better.

    • Schools: every wizard has to choose a school, either one of the specialized ones or the generalist one; as they advance in levels they get more abilities related to that school. Also, all schools save generalists get you a special bonus if you have not prepared spells from two prohibited schools you choose. Note that you CAN, actually, learn, prepare and use those spells – just that any day you have them prepared, you don’t get your school specialization ability. Yes, it doesn’t make much sense to me also – so today your understanding of evocation had miraculously increased since you didn’t prepare necromancy and illusion spells, but tomorrow you will lose it because you prepared mirror image? Right.

    Also, you get a number of bonus spells as you advance in levels; this can be a spell of the highest level you can cast once per day, or a lower-level spell (except at level 2, when you get the bonus level 1 spell – you can’t trade it for cantrips, and you wouldn’t need to) twice per day. This spell must be of your specialist school if you have one; if you are a generalist it can be any spell you know. However, once you choose the bonus spell it is fixed – you can not change it later. You get those at every even level from 2 to 18. This is a substitute of sorts for the specialist extra slot/level, but now even generalists get it. Yay for them. Anyway, on to the schools.

    - Abjuration: the special ability you get is a resistance 5 (10 at levels 11 and above) to an energy type of your choice; you can choose a different one every day. At level one, you can spend a standard action to raise a defensive ward within 10 feet, in which your allies have a (scalable) bonus to AC – nice, but standard actions can be used better imo. At level 8 you can absorb a certain amount (3xlevel) of energy damage each day, and at level 20 you choose an energy type and become immune to damage incurred from it. Ok, I guess, if you want to play it safe.
    - Conjuration: your special ability is an armor bonus to AC starting at 2 and going up to 6 as you level – basically a mage armor ability of sorts. At level 1 you can fire an acid dart within 30 feet, doing 1d6 + ½ level damage with a ranged touch attack. Yep, it sounds familiar. At level 8, you get a teleportation ability that lets you teleport up to 30 feet per CL per day, and possibly take allies if you pay for them. At level 20 you can enhance a summoning spell once per day – the summoned creature/s stay for an entire day and gets some useful bonuses. The top ability is nice, but other than that… kind of a joke, really. Of course, the extra conjuration spells do compensate… somewhat.
    - Divination: you can act in surprise rounds, though you are still considered flat-footed before you have acted. At level one, you can bestow an enhancement bonus equal to your CL to someone once per day per creature.At level 8, you always detect when you are being magically observed and become better at scrying yourself. At level 20, you can’t be flat-footed, get a serious bonus to scrying and can bypass (though at a penalty) protections against scrying. Eh…possibly useful, but the abilities are a bit too specialized.
    - Enchantment: the special ability of the school gives you a scaling bonus to bluff, diplomacy and intimidate, and the first-level ability is the dazing touch from the charm clerical domain. At level 8, you can emit an aura of despair (-2 to saves and various other rolls) at 30 feet for a number of levels equal to your CL. At level 20, once per day you can cast a dominate monster spell-like with permanent duration; however, you can have only one such thrall at a time. Fairly good if you like that kind of spells, and the aura at least is useful in many situations.
    - Evocation: the special ability is a scaling damage bonus to damage-dealing spells – basically warmage edge. At level one you can cast an at-will energy identical to the conjuration ability, but you can choose the energy type. Level 8 has you able to create a wall of fire effect (though it can be with ice, electricity or acid) for 1 round per CL. At level 20, energy resistance to your spells is halved, and immunity is treated as resistance 20. Eh… they definitely could have done better by this school. Its spells are already limited in their role, and all the abilities you get are less than impressive. Halving energy resistance? Good grief, a level of archmage can get you much better.
    - Illusion: the special ability of the school allows you to maintain illusion spells that last as you concentrate several rounds (starting at 2, up to 6) after you stop. At your first level, you get a blinding ray attack at up to 30 feet; opponents with HD more than your caster level are dazzled instead. At level 8, you can become invisible (as greater invisibility, note) as a swift action for a number of levels equal to your CL. The capstone ability allows you to assume the likeness of any creature of your size (appearing to carry whatever gear/clothing you want) and mimic perfectly anyone who you have observed for at least 1 minute the last day. The illusion applies to all senses and does not radiate magic; even True seeing and similar effects will only reveal that an illusion is present – but not suppress it. I’m a fan of illusions in the first place, but the abilities seem quite useful anyway.
    - Necromancy: as a special ability, you can control 8 HD of undead per CL (if you lose this ability, excess undead become free-willed) instead of the usual amount. At level one, you get grave touch – an ability that does cold damage and makes enemies fail stabilization checks in the next minute. At level 8, you can animate skeletons and/or zombies with a total number of HD of up to your level each day as if you had cast animate dead (you don’t need the material component. At level 20, you become undead and get all immunities and weaknesses (except you are immune to positive energy). Wizards were generally considered inferior to clerics when it came to having an undead army; these abilities even the score somewhat.
    - Transmutation: as a special ability, you gain an enhancement bonus of 1 +1 per 5 CL (maximum of +5 at lvl 20) to a single physical ability score, chosen when you prepare spells. Your first-level ability is a telekinetic attack similar to the acid ray/energy ray etc in mechanics, except it deals 1d4+1/2 points of bludgeoning damage instead. At level 8, you can change your shape (basically as a 6th level druid) for one round per CL, and at level 20 you can choose among several abilities (blindsense, climb, darkvision, fly, gaseous form, swim) as a swift action; you can have only one at a time, but change them as often as you like and as long as you want. By and large, quite good – and transmutation spells tend to be quite useful anyway, so the bonus spells will be handy.
    - Universal. At level one, you get a mage hand-like ability that can also draw any weapon you carry and are proficient in and attack someone within 30 feet with your BAB+int modifier, like the cleric domain ability. At level 8, you can apply a metamagic feat you know on a spell you are about to cast without changing its level or casting time. You can normally this once per day per two caster levels but if the metamagic increases the spell level by more than one you must spend an equal amount of uses (i.e. 2 to empower a spell). At level 20, you get a +2 bonus to the DCs of all spells and a +4 insight bonus to CL checks to overcome spell resistance. Special ability or no, this school is imo notably better than the rest; being able to choose any spell you like for a bonus spell is just gravy.


    Skills:

    The skill system has seen a few notable changes, some of which may remind you of 4E. First, the skills themselves have been changed. Some similar skills were grouped into compound skills, so the overall number of skills has decreased. While I personally think some of the compound skills cover areas that are too diverse, it makes the entire process somewhat simpler. Here are the changes in the skill types:

    - balance, jump and tumble are now included in the acrobatics skill (jump checks are thus dexterity-based)

    - concentration is a part of the spellcraft skill (and thus based on intelligence)

    - decipher script, forgery and speak languages are now a part of the linguistics skill

    - gather information is covered by the diplomacy skill

    - hide and move silently are now included in the stealth skill

    - listen, spot and search are combined in the perception skill (which now also covers touch, taste and smell)

    - open lock is included in the disable device skill (both are now dexterity-based)

    - use rope has been removed

    - a new skill, fly, was added to cover aerial maneuvers and movement. (you need to be able to fly – through race, class features or spells - in order to benefit from it)

    Second, the skill/class mechanic has changed somewhat. You can spend ranks in any skill you like, but you can only have as many ranks as your HD. Instead of being able to put more ranks in class skills, you get a fixed +3 bonus in any skill that is a class skill for you. Multiclass characters get all class skills of their classes, but they don’t get an added bonus if any skill is a class skill for more than one of their classes. Also, note that first level characters no longer get four times their normal skill points/level as well – the class skills bonus is supposed to compensate for that. Skill synergies – getting a bonus to one skill if you have 5+ ranks in another – have likewise been removed.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2008
  4. Rawgrim Gems: 21/31
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    Quote : Bleeding attack: for every d6 of sneak attack you inflict, the creature gets a 1 point of bleeding damage each turn until it gets a cure spell (probably an inflict if it’s undead)


    Undeads are immune to bleeding damage. Since they are dead, and have no blood-flow.


    Alot of those added thingys in the classes, allthough nifty to have, doesn`t make sense though. Stabbing people so they fall asleep?

    Getting damage reduction while wearing any armour? So their armour just hardens, because the one wearing it is experienced?

    Quote : Deadly performance: eh, while a save-or-die effect against a single enemy at level 20 is nothing to write home about, this effect stuns the enemy for a few rounds if they save, making it a win-win situation. Well, against anything that doesn’t have mettle or is immune to mind-affecting effects (if your DM steps in with such a rule).

    How can this not effect everyone around? Should effect anyone with ears, so to speak.


    Alot of the "improvements" seems to come from Diablo 2, in my opinion. And most of them is just plain old god-moding. But hey: each to themselves. House-rules are house-rules.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2008
  5. Fabius Maximus Gems: 19/31
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    Re damage reduction: That makes kind of sense. The wearer takes hits on his armor. So he can control where the blow lands, and deflect it.
     
  6. The Shaman Gems: 28/31
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    I think you're right on the bleeding attack, but I'm not sure all undead would be immune. Sure, a zombie or skeleton should, but what about a vampire or ghoul?

    Between mundane stuff like pressure points/anatomy (i.e. punching people so they fall unconscious), distractions, and pseudo-magical abilities that rogues now can get (perhaps a way to integrate the spellthief class), that doesn't seem half that strange, really. Hey, it's not quite realistic, but D&D is fantasy.

    Yeah, some of the bardic performances had me a little confused, too. Still, bards were magical class since their creation in D&D so it may be that some of their performance taps into the magical as well. It's not like there weren't precedents for bardic songs having pseudomagical effects, and the idea that music can be related to/gateway to magic is certainly a fairly old one.

    The deadly performance, imo is somewhat strange: it is obvious that the designers wanted to give the class a good (as they understood it) capstone ability, but iirc there is no restrictions as to what kind of a performance can do that. I can somehow imagine a drumming rhythm that drives your foes to madness or even coma, but a ballet? That strikes me as somewhat weird, unless you pull some kind of fey beauty-esque effect or something like it. The flavor, as usual, is mutable.

    I'm not sure what is so diablo-esque about it, especially if you compare it to books such as Tome of Battle, which really involved a lot of specialized strikes (a notion taken a bit further in 4E); these by and large are missing from Pathfinder. Besides, NPCs can have class levels, so the adversaries are no less powerful than the players.

    The classes who got more improvements were, by and large, those that needed them: non-casters; and I think that by and large, they are now better at what they were supposed to do. Overall, I definitely think it's a step in the right direction - probably a better one than 4e.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2008
  7. Rawgrim Gems: 21/31
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    Anything is better than 4ed. By comparison, these enhancements are perfect.
     
  8. Faragon Gems: 25/31
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    One of the campaigns I´m playing in is probably going to switch around. Of course, I´m not playing a core class so things´ll be a bit different, but I´ll post my findings when I have them.

    So far, there´s some things I like and some things I don´t. But overall, it looks like I´m a lot more enthusiastic about Pathfinder than I am about 4th ed.
     
  9. The Shaman Gems: 28/31
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    The skills section has been included. More details would (if time permits) be added later.
     
  10. mgbeach Gems: 1/31
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    I'm new here and starting a Pathfinder campaign on Friday. I'll be playing a sorcerer with the Fire bloodline. I think they've made some really great changes with this system. As far as sorcerers go, bloodline powers and at-will cantrips should really make it great. I'll report back on how the game goes. If anyone is inclined to check it out, I've posted my character background ideas in the following thread, and I'd love to hear what you think:

    http://www.sorcerers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=48746

    Thanks, and I look forward to hanging around here!
     
  11. The Shaman Gems: 28/31
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    Today was the first session of a PF beta/FR game that I'm running, and (aside from almost half of the people NOT showing up, as well as my less-than-experienced DMing) it went reasonably well. Mind you, a paranoid wizard using Detect Magic at any possibility can be less than fun. I should think of something to make him a bit more careful with spamming ;)
     
  12. dingle Gems: 1/31
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    First glance pretty good. Thieves have become alot more powerfull allowing sneak attacks against most creatures and a lot of their skills merging i.e. acrobat, stealh, disable devise and perception.
     
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