4. General Changes - Combat Maneuvers, Spells, and Item Creation
In Pathfinder, Trip, Disarm, Bull Rush, Overrun, Sunder, and Grapple are now handled by one flat roll: 1d20 + your Combat Maneuver Bonus (your BAB + your Strength + your size modifier) vs 10 + the enemy's Combat Maneuver Defence (enemy's BAB + enemy's Strength + enemy's Dex + enemy's size modifier). IMPORTANT NOTE: Size modifiers are much weaker now! Small is -1, Large is +1, Huge is +2, etc.
This seems to be the subject of a lot of debate, so let's look at a specific example. Bob the 2nd-Level Human Fighter with the Improved Trip Feat wants to trip an Ogre.
- Under 3.5 Rules: Bob has Strength 16, a MW weapon, and +2 BAB. First he has to hit the Ogre's touch AC of 8: no problem there. He then needs to win an opposed roll. His bonus is +7, the Ogre's is +9. Not good odds, and the ogre can counter-trip him. Bob will need to get an Enlarge Person off the party wizard for this to be worth trying. That'll push him up to +12 against the Ogre's +9, which makes it worth trying . . . but you can't always count on the wizard buffing you, and you still risk a counter-trip. On the plus side, if he does pull the trip off, heíll get a free follow-up attack.
- Under Pathfinder Rules: Bob has Strength 18, a MW weapon, and +2 BAB (humans in Pathfinder get +2 to one stat, ie Strength for a Fighter). He makes one roll with his Combat Maneuver Bonus of +8 (+4 for Strength, +2 BAB, +2 Improved Trip) against the Ogre's CMD of 17 (10 + 3 BAB + 5 Str -1 Dex +1 Size). 60% chance of success, and you aren't counter-tripped unless you fail by 10 or more (which is impossible in this case). So the odds are more favourable, but the payoff is lower (since Improved Trip doesnít grant a free follow-up attack anymore).
So, the major changes are:
1) Combat maneuvers resolve faster.
2) Size differences matter a LOT less.
In terms of effectiveness, combat maneuvers have gained a bit and lost a bit. Thereís not much in it, IMO, though you could make a good argument for them being slightly better or slightly worse. However, for some reason (partly through not crunching the numbers, and partly as a holdover from the Beta, where CMD was 15+ instead of 10+), a lot of people seem to have decided that combat maneuvers in Pathfinder are useless. Having seen them in play, I can conclusively say that this is one hundred percent wrong. The monk and fighter in my party have been happily tripping and grappling everything in sight.
The most significant change to Pathfinder magic has been the defensive casting nerf. Concentration is no longer a skill - itís an ability check. Concentration checks are calculated by:
1d20 + caster level + relevant ability score
and the DC for casting defensively is now:
15 + (spell level)x2.
As you can see, casting defensively is now a LOT harder, enough to make it a very bad idea unless youíve got no other option. Taking a 5í step away out of an enemyís range is a much better plan. Of course, if the enemy has Step Up (a new Pathfinder feat that lets you take a 5í step as an immediate action) youíre kinda hosed. The moral? In Pathfinder, if youíre planning to spend the fight casting spells, keep your distance.
The Pathfinder spell list is pretty much identical to the 3.5 one, but many of the spells have gotten some significant changes. Here are a few of the highlights for low-level arcane spells.
- Grease - Slightly nerfed. Doesnít flat-foot enemies who donít move, and moving through it is easier (Balance is a part of Acrobatics now, and loads of things have Acrobatics). Still a great spell.
- Ray of Enfeeblement - Nerfed, now allows a save for half.
- Glitterdust - Nerfed, now allows repeated saves to un-blind.
- Alter Self - Heavily nerfed, lasts a tenth as long and can only give a very limited set of abilities.
- Flaming Sphere - Buffed, now does 3d6 damage instead of 2d6. Actually not a bad choice now.
- Mirror Image - Targeting rules have changed.
- Rope Trick - Rope can no longer be removed or hidden.
Probably the biggest change has been to polymorph spells. Polymorph is gone, replaced by a line of specific transmutation spells - Beast Shape, Plant Shape, Elemental Body, and Form of the Dragon. All of them modify your stats rather than replacing them entirely, and can only give benefits from a specified list, rather than giving you anything you can find. In short, polymorph has been dragged out back and beaten with the nerf stick. On the whole, this is probably a good thing, given that 3.5 polymorph is so broken that WotC basically gave up trying to fix it and started printing replacements instead.
Conclusion: Spells in Pathfinder are slightly weaker than in 3.5, as many of the standouts have been nerfed. Note that for every spell that has been nerfed, there are two that havenít, so you can still put together a good spell list, you just have to look a bit harder. However, having played a wizard for several months in Pathfinder now, I have to admit it does limit your options slightly.
XP costs have been removed for everything. That includes magic items. Oh, and you donít need the prerequisite spells to craft a magic item anymore. In fact, with the Master Craftsman feat, you donít even need spells
to craft a magic item anymore. Any
class can go in for crafting - wizard, cleric, bard, sorcerer, fighter, monk, whatever - and it doesnít cost you anything except for the feat you spent to do it. Go hog-wild.