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Thread: The 3.5/Pathfinder Handbook

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    5. The Classes


    Most of the Pathfinder base classes are a fair bit stronger than the 3.5 ones. All of them now keep getting class features, many of which are tied to their class level. This, combined with the new favoured class rules makes single-classing much more attractive compared to multiclassing or taking a PrC. PrCing in Pathfinder has gone from ďalways do itĒ to a bit suboptimal.

    Iíve now seen every one of the Pathfinder core classes in action except for the bard. Each one will be quickly analysed in terms of buffs and nerfs, because let's face it, that's what you guys are interested in. A brief verdict is attached to each.


    Barbarians

    Buffs

    • Slightly improved skill list; having Perception and Acrobatics gives barbarians Spot, Search, Balance, and Tumble, which they didn't have in 3.5. Oh, and barbarians are no longer illiterate.
    • Rage is now measured in rounds, not by rages. Each day the barbarian can rage for a number of rounds equal to 2 + Con mod + (level x 2). This lets you spread your rage out over multiple encounters, so if the enemy you're fighting dies after two rounds, you can save the rest of your rage for later. The stat boosts for rage are unchanged.
    • Rage Powers - this is the main benefit. Every second level a barbarian gets a rage power, which is a special ability that only functions while raging. Most are along the lines of extra abilities like low-light vision or a bonus to skills such as Climb, which frankly isn't all that impressive. But there are a few standouts - Unexpected Strike gives you a free attack once per rage, and Superstition gives you a save bonus against spells and (Su) and (Sp) abilities equal to +2 plus another +1 for every four levels.

    Nerfs

    • The total number of rounds of rage a barbarian gets per day is slightly lower. An 8th-level 3.5 barbarian with a 14 Con and an item that gives him another +2 Con gets to rage for a total of 24 rounds per day. The same barbarian in Pathfinder gets a total of 20 rounds of rage each day - but can split them up. I think the flexibility probably makes this more of a buff than a nerf, but it's still worth noting.
    • Like fighters, barbarians are probably going to be disappointed with the new Power Attack.
    • Going unconscious drops you out of rage! This means that being knocked to negatives while raging is likely death at low levels (and certain death at mid and high levels). A raging barbarian in a dangerous battle now has the life expectancy of a one-legged rabbit.

    Verdict?

    Not great. The barbarian's rage powers look pretty weak compared to what some of the other classes have picked up, and the change regarding unconsciousness and rage is awful. Barbarians were probably the top martial class in core 3.5, but Pathfinderís knocked them down a few pegs.


    Bard

    Buffs

    • d8 Hit Die instead of a d6. Always nice.
    • More spells per day! The progression has changed, but averages to about one extra spell per day per spell level. Spells known have also slightly increased.
    • Improved skill list: like rogues, bards get pretty much all the new amalgamated skills, allowing them to afford far more of the skills they want. They get other skill-related abilities, such as a flat bonus on Knowledge skills, and . . .
    • Versatile Performance: a bard can use specific Perform skills in place of certain other skills! Dance can be substituted for Acrobatics and Fly; Sing can be substituted for Bluff and Sense Motive, etc. Effectively this lets the Bard base many of his skills off his primary stat and save on skill points.
    • Bardic Music can now be used for healing and fear effects, and can be started as a move and even a swift action once you get to a high enough level.

    Nerfs

    • No more Bardic Knowledge; bards and loremasters just get a bonus on Knowledge checks instead.
    • Bardic Performance now only works for a number of rounds per day equal to 2 + Cha mod + (level x2); a huge nerf from 3.5, where a bard could play for ages multiple times per day.
    • The DC against a bard's fascinate/suggestion effect is now 10 + Cha mod + (bard level/2), which is far weaker than 3.5's skill check.

    Verdict?

    Poor Bards. Always the comic relief, and now they get a bunch of nerfs too. Bards used to have two signature tricks which they could do better than anyone else: long-term party buffing, and delivering suggestions at an impossibly high DC, both of which are now pretty weak.

    To make up for their losses, bards have gotten a boost in the skills and spells departments. A bard is now a kind of hybrid between a sorcerer and a rogue - half caster, half skillmonkey - but while both the sorcerer and the rogue picked up huge buffs out of Pathfinder, the bard's been left in the dust.


    Clerics

    Buffs

    • Clerics can use their Turn Undead ability (now renamed Channel Energy) to do a 30' healing burst. Total healed to all targets is 1d6, going up by another 1d6 every odd-numbered levels. Okay at low levels when healing wands arenít always available, but it gets left behind fairly quickly as you go up levels.
    • Cleric domain powers have been buffed a bit. For instance, the Travel (now Liberation) domain's freedom of movement ability now also gives a nice aura effect at level 8 as well. The Luck domain reroll now works once per day at level 6, twice at level 12, and three times at level 18. The Rune domain gives you two powers and Scribe Scroll as a bonus feat into the bargain.


    Nerfs

    • Clerics have lost their heavy armour proficiency - no more fullplate.
    • The cleric's Channel Energy ability is now far weaker against actual undead. Instead of knocking undead out of the battle or destroying them, it can only hit them for some weak AoE damage (you need to spend a feat to actually turn them). The healing ability also doesn't discriminate between allies and enemies, meaning that if you try to heal your allies in the middle of a melee you'll end up healing your enemies as well!
    • Defensive casting is much more difficult. This is more of a problem for clerics and druids than for wizards and sorcerers, since divine casters tend to mix it up in melee a lot more than arcane ones do.

    Verdict?

    Clerics made a net gain of just about zero. While their new domain abilities are nice, the new Channel Energy ability is unimpressive, and the armour and defensive casting changes are a major nuisance.

    However, when you're starting with a power level that's over 9000, gaining nothing isn't exactly a big deal. Clerics are still full casters with free domain spells and they still have spontaneous healing and they still have good saves and a d8 Hit Die. In short, they're still awesome. They just didn't get any awesomer.


    Druid

    Buffs

    • Wild shape can now be accessed quicker, and you get the good forms faster; wild shape at level 4 and elemental form at level 6.
    • Druids can now choose to get a cleric domain instead of an animal companion. Technically a buff, I guess, but I can't imagine that many druids will take it.
    • Animal companions now have their own class table, and a lot more detail about what they get at each level. Not sure if it's a buff or a nerf, but it's nice to see them getting treated more thoroughly.

    Nerfs

    • Shapeshifting in all forms, including wild shape, has been beaten thoroughly with the nerf stick. The new form's physical stats no longer override your own - beast shape II, for instance, only gives you +4 Strength, -2 Dex, +4 Natural Armour. Druids who want to fight in melee will now have significant MAD issues, just like the monk.

    Verdict?

    Out of all the eleven classes, druids are the only one that unquestionably got nerfed. The polymorph change means that druids can no longer dump Strength and Dexterity without crippling their combat ability.

    One nerf doesn't mean the class is weak, though. Druids were arguably the strongest class in core 3.5 due to having three powerful features: animal companion, wild shape, and full casting. Druid wild shape is now half as good as it used to be, but their animal companion and full casting are just as powerful as ever. So they're now two-and-a-half classes instead of three. That's still good, even if they're no longer top of the heap.


    Fighters

    Buffs

    • Bravery: gives a bonus against fear effects. It's not bad, but should have been higher (it's still worse than what a bard gets just for having a good Will save).
    • Armour Training: fighters get to move at full speed in medium and eventually heavy armour, and modify their armour's max Dex and ACP upwards and downwards. Fighters should now be able to have the best AC of all the core martial classes.
    • Weapon Training: this is a the big one. Free Weapon Focus with weapon groups, not specific weapons, and a damage bonus into the bargain. It gets better as you go up levels, and lets you add additional groups too.
    • There are a bunch of new fighter feats which I havenít had the chance to look at yet. Some, like Step Up and the critical feats, seem quite nice.

    Nerfs

    • Various fighter feats are now less exciting than they used to be. Power Attack now gives better damage returns, but can't be adjusted. Cleave is weaker. Improved Trip & co are weaker.
    • Still only 2+Int skill points. I know it's not actually a nerf, but come on, would 4 really have been too much to ask?

    Verdict?

    Fighters are better . . . but they could have done with more. The Weapon Training and Armour Training gives fighters great DPS and AC, but they still suffer from a lack of options. Iíd put the Pathfinder Fighter ahead of the Barbarian, but behind the Paladin.


    Monk

    Buffs

    • Improved skill list due to skill amalgamation. They still only get 4 + Int skill points, but can now afford Acrobatics, Stealth, and Perception, and have points left over. Still no UMD, though. :P
    • More bonus feats, and more choice in their selection.
    • Flurry of blows now works like TWF, giving more attacks but at a lower bonus.
    • Stunning Fist can now apply other conditions instead of stun.
    • Most of the monk's per-day abilities and a handful of new ones now work off a point system called the ki pool, similar to the one the ninja class from Complete Adventurer gets. Gaining an extra attack on a full attack is 1 point, doing a Jedi-style force jump is 1 point, using the abundant step ability is 2 points, etc. A monk gets daily ki points equal to half his level + his Wis modifier.
    • Monks get to use their level instead of BAB on combat maneuvers, making them almost as good at combat maneuvers as a fighter or barbarian. :P

    Nerfs

    • None I can see.

    Verdict?

    Not bad. No huge buffs, but a lot of little ones that do add up. The extra flexibility in bonus feats is nice, as is the ability to use different abilities more often with the ki pool. However, the basic problems of the class haven't changed; monks still have MAD, still don't hit very hard, and still need to stand still to use their extra attacks. At the end of the day the Pathfinder monk does pretty much the same thing as the 3.5 monk; he just does it better. If you hated the 3.5 monk, the Pathfinder one is unlikely to change your mind.


    Paladins

    Buffs

    • Good Will save. Very nice.
    • Casting stat is now Cha! Improves pally spellcasting greatly, and reduces their MAD. Paladins can now dump Wisdom without a qualm and still have a great Will save.
    • Lay on Hands has been buffed. It heals more HP on average (though it's now random), it can remove status conditions, and best of all, it can be done on yourself as a swift action - handy in combat.
    • Smite Evil has been heavily buffed. It now targets one enemy as a swift action, and gives you smite benefits against that target until they're dead. In addition it auto-bypasses DR, does extra damage against evil outsiders, and gives you a deflection bonus to AC equal to your Cha bonus versus that creature's attacks. Smiting evil has never been so much fun!
    • The pally's mount is now as powerful as a druid's animal companion. Also nice.
    • Your Aura of Courage upgrades as you gain levels, giving a variety of handy bonuses.
    • Detect Evil has been sped up. Now your Pally can determine that someone's evil and smite them all in one combat round, meaning Miko-types can fit as much as 300% more killing into their daily schedule. Note: You'll probably see this as a buff, but your party might not.

    Nerfs

    • Lay on Hands can no longer be used to dump all your healing in a single shot. Uh, that's about it.

    Verdict?

    Two thumbs up! Paladins got just about everything they could possibly have wanted out of the Pathfinder change. The only class that can compete with them for sheer number of upgrades is the Sorcerer.


    Rangers

    Buffs

    • D10 hit dice! Much needed.
    • Marginally better skill list due to skill amalgamation - a ranger can afford a couple more skills now.
    • Combat style feats now allow more freedom of choice, and you get slightly more (5 instead of 4).
    • Favoured terrain ability to go with favoured enemy. Very flavourful, and actually quite useful if you know in advance where your campaign's going to be taking place. Interestingly, you're allowed to choose "Urban".
    • Rangers can now exchange their animal companion for a group favoured enemy ability, though it's nothing great. However, if they keep a companion, it now advances levels at druid speed -3, which makes it less of a liability in combat.
    • Caster level is now also level -3.
    • Quarry ability: gain some decent bonuses against a single enemy. Lengthy cooldown, however, and requires 11th-level.
    • The Deadly Aim feat basically lets archer rangers Power Attack. Unfortunately, it's received the same nerfs that Power Attack did.

    Nerfs

    • No Acrobatics. Lame.
    • All characters can now track. The ranger's Tracking ability now gives a 1/2 level bonus, like the rogue's Trapfinding, meaning the ranger's going to be second fiddle to the druid if there's one in the party. This hurts the ranger a bit as it takes away an ability that only he used to have.

    Verdict?

    Rangers did okay out of Pathfinder. Not great, but okay. Their boosts are relatively small, but they were mostly in areas that were badly needed (better companion and spellcasting, better HP, more choice on combat style feats). The favoured terrain is a nice feature, too. Archer rangers are never going to win any awards for power, but they're a decent class as long as you don't expect too much. Unfortunately, TWF rangers are still very weak.


    Rogues

    Buffs

    • Hit Die is now a d8. Helpful.
    • Most of the rogue's primary class skills have been merged; they can max out Stealth, Perception, Acrobatics, and Disable Device and get the same effect that they would have done from maxing about ten skills in 3.5. This means they can now easily afford classic rogue skills like Bluff, Diplomacy, Climb, and Sleight of Hand, which 3.5 rogues struggled to find points for. There's no need to choose between a 'social rogue' and a 'thiefy rogue' anymore, you can do both.
    • Trapfinding now lets a rogue add 1/2 her level to Perception checks to disarm traps, and to all Disable Device checks, including opening locks.
    • Sneak Attack works on everything! All creatures are now vulnerable to Sneak Attack unless they specifically say otherwise in their description. Want to sneak attack undead? Go for it. Golems? No problem. Plants? Bring the blender. This is huge for rogues - being unable to touch anything immune to crits used to be the single biggest handicap of the class.
    • Rogue Talents! Rogues now get a talent every even-numbered level, and they're good - about as good as a bonus feat. In fact, many are feats, like Weapon Finesse, and 'bonus fighter feat' is one of the options.

    Nerfs

    • All classes can now detect traps, though rogues are still the only class that can detect magic ones. This means that at low levels, druids and monks will probably be better trapfinders than rogues. At higher levels, the rogue's trapfinding bonus should put her about on even terms with them.
    • Tumbling to avoid AoOs is now a hell of a lot more difficult. You don't get a synergy bonus from Jump anymore, and the base DC to tumble is now equal to the target's CMD, which can easily be 30 or more for a mid-level enemy.

    Verdict?

    Excellent! Rogues get the ability to sneak attack crit-immune enemies and a truckload of bonus feats, plus a whole bunch of useful minor benefits as well. The only problem is the nerf to Tumble. Rogues will have to come up with new strategies to replace the "tumble, flank, sneak" routine, but they've gained far more than they've lost.


    Sorcerers

    Buffs

    • D6 Hit Die, yay!
    • UMD as a class skill, double yay!
    • Free Eschew Materials. Minor yay, but hey, sorcs really should always have had this.
    • Bloodlines, and this is the big one. Sorcerers now choose a heritage, and get a whole variety of bonuses depending on which one you pick. There's bonus feats, Su, Sp, and Ex abilities, a free class skill, and best of all . . .
    • Bonus spells! A sorcerer now gets a free spell known at every odd-numbered level starting at 3rd! You don't get to pick them, but this gives a massive boost to the Sorcerer's traditional weak point; lack of spells known. Note that you do not get any of these bonuses if you PrC out, so sorcerers have gone overnight from being the class which you most want to PrC out of, to the class which you never want to PrC out of.

    Nerfs

    • Casting defensively is harder.
    • As mentioned, many of the power spells that sorcs used to rely on have been weakened significantly. Alter Self and Glitterdust, the two standouts of Level 2, have both been hit with the nerf stick.

    Verdict?

    Two thumbs up! The variant bloodlines give you loads more options and toys to play with as a Sorcerer. While they're still a bit behind Wizards, the gap has been closed dramatically; a well-played Sorc should be now able to adventure in a party with a Wizard without worrying about being outclassed. Iíd say that sorcerers did the best out of Pathfinder than any other caster, neck and neck with Paladins. See the next chapter for an in-depth look.


    Wizards

    Buffs

    • D6 Hit Die, nice.
    • Slightly improved skill list due to skill amalgamation.
    • Arcane Bond - you get to choose between a familiar and an item that lets you spontaneously cast any spell you know 1/day. The flexibility is huge and you can even enchant it, but beware - if you lose it you can't cast any spells without succeeding on a high Spellcraft check. On the other hand, your spellcasting is dependent on an item anyway . . .
    • School powers. Depending on what you specialise in, you get a small selection of special abilities. These are generally mediocre, though the Illusionist gets some nice stuff. Have a look at the next chapter for a more in-depth look.
    • Item creation. Though all characters can now make items, wizards are the best placed to take advantage of it. Expect the Craft Wondrous Item and Craft Magic Arms and Armour feats to become VERY popular.

    Nerfs

    • Casting defensively is harder.
    • Again, many of the spells Wizards used to rely on have been nerfed.
    • Generalist wizards have been beaten with the nerf stick. Thereís very little reason to play a non-specialist Wizard anymore.

    Verdict?

    Wizards didnít get a huge amount out of the Pathfinder change, but the abilities they did get were useful. The specialist abilities help them through the early levels, and they now have a definite niche as the specialist crafter. Players used to 3.5 will have to adjust their tactics to make up for the minor nerfs, but Wizards still have the most pure spellcasting power of any base class.
    Last edited by Saph; 2010-01-01 at 02:49 PM.