6. The Classes (In-Depth)
For those who like arcane casters, here’s a more detailed look at two of the Pathfinder classes, the sorcerer and the wizard. I’ve picked the Sorcerer because they’ve gained the greatest sheer volume of new class features, and because their new abilities are probably the most fun. The Wizard is in there because my current character is one, and because this forum is obsessed with Wizards. Since I know at least a quarter of the regular posters on this forum are going to jump straight to the bits that deal with Wizards and ignore everything else, I figure I might as well play to my audience.
Class features and other changes that Sorcerers and Wizards get from 3.5 will be rated on the highly scientific scale of Excellent, Good, Meh, and Lame.
Sorcerers In Depth
Every Pathfinder Sorc has a Bloodline, which gives them a different set of abilities. I don't have time to analyse them all, so I'll just do the Arcane Bloodline, as that's the one the Pathfinder rules assume as the 'standard' one.
Stuff All Sorcerers Get
More HP is a good thing. Verdict: Good.Hit Die: d6.
Use Magic Device, the best skill in the game, on a class with Cha as its primary stat! Verdict: Excellent!Class Skills: The sorcerer's class skills are Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Craft (Int), Fly (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Profession (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), and Use Magic Device (Cha).
. . . which they should always have had, really. No real mechanical benefit, but it's occasionally handy, it makes sorcerers more distinct from Wizards flavour-wise, and it's free. Verdict: GoodEschew Materials: A sorcerer gains Eschew Materials as a bonus feat at 1st level.
Flavour text, yadda yadda.Arcane
Your family has always been skilled in the eldritch art of magic. While many of your relatives were accomplished wizards, your powers developed without the need for study and practice.
You already have Know (arcana) and probably not that many spare skill points. Verdict: Meh.Class Skill: Knowledge (any one).
Now this is more like it. Bonus spells are exactly what you want as a Sorc and the list here is pretty damn good. The only spells I'd consider 'meh' on that list are Identify and Wish; the others are all useful, letting you spend your precious spells known slots on stuff you actually want. Verdict: Excellent!Bonus Spells: identify (3rd), invisibility (5th), dispel magic (7th), dimension door (9th), overland flight (11th), true seeing (13th), greater teleport (15th), power word stun (17th), wish (19th).
The list isn't all that amazing, but there are some decent choices on there. Besides . . . hey, free feats. Verdict: Good.Bonus Feats: Combat Casting, Improved Counterspell, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus (Knowledge [arcana]), Spell Focus, Still Spell.
Kind of like Metamagic Spell Focus. Decent if you're a metamagic Sorc, but the spells you're most likely to use metamagic on are probably the ones without a Save DC. Verdict: Meh.Bloodline Arcana: Whenever you apply a metamagic feat to a spell that increases the slot used by at least one level, increase the spell's DC by +1. This bonus does not stack with itself and does not apply to spells modified by the Heighten Spell feat.
Yeah, right. Magic is your chew toy like any other Sorcerer.Bloodline Powers: Magic comes naturally to you, but as you gain levels you must take care to prevent the power from overwhelming you.
This is a good one; either a familiar or the wizard's bonded item. Both are useful. Verdict: Good.Arcane Bond (Su): At 1st level, you gain an arcane bond, as a wizard equal to your sorcerer level. Your sorcerer levels stack with any wizard levels you possess when determining the powers of your familiar or bonded object. This ability does not allow you to have both a familiar and a bonded item.
Kind of like the Rapid Metamagic ACF from the 3.5 PHB2. Would be nicer if you could use it a bit more often. Still, metamagic is useful. Verdict: Good.Metamagic Adept (Ex): At 3rd level, you can apply any one metamagic feat you know to a spell you are about to cast without increasing the casting time. You must still expend a higher-level spell slot to cast this spell. You can use this ability once per day at 3rd level and one additional time per day for every four sorcerer levels you possess beyond 3rd, up to five times per day at 19th level. At 20th level, this ability is replaced by arcane apotheosis.
You just can't ever have enough spells known, and this gives you extras of any level you like. Verdict: Excellent!New Arcana (Ex): At 9th level, you can add any one spell from the sorcerer/wizard spell list to your list of spells known. This spell must be of a level that you are capable of casting. You can also add one additional spell at 13th level and 17th level.
Very nice. It's Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus for free. Verdict: Excellent!School Power (Ex): At 15th level, pick one school of magic. The DC for any spells you cast from that school increases by +2. This bonus stacks with the bonus granted by Spell Focus.
Yeah, like it says. It looks good, but the truth is that by 20th-level you probably won't care about item charges, and you'll almost certainly have already found some way around the metamagic issue. Verdict: Meh.Arcane Apotheosis (Ex): At 20th level, your body surges with arcane power. You can add any metamagic feats that you know to your spells without increasing their casting time, although you must still expend higher-level spell slots. Whenever you use magic items that require charges, you can instead expend spell slots to power the item. For every three levels of spell slots that you expend, you consume one less charge when using a magic item that expends charges.
Wizards In Depth
Pathfinder wizards get notably fewer new class features than sorcerers, so I can cover all of the wizard specialities instead of only one.
Stuff All Wizards Get
HP is nice. Verdict: Good.Hit Die: d6.
Nothing very exciting here. Wizards now get Appraise as well as the equivalent of Forgery and Speak Language, which is okay, but nothing to write home about. Verdict: Meh.Class Skills: The wizard's class skills are Appraise (Int), Craft (Int), Fly (Dex), Knowledge (all) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Profession (Wis), and Spellcraft (Int).
This is nice, very nice. The ability to spontaneously cast any spell from your spellbook, even if it's only once per day, adds a lot of flexibility. In addition you can enchant the bonded item, which is almost as good as getting an item creation feat for free.Arcane Bond (Ex or Sp): At 1st level, wizards form a powerful bond with an object or a creature. This bond can take one of two forms: a familiar or a bonded object . . . Once a wizard makes this choice, it is permanent and cannot be changed . . .
Wizards who select a bonded object begin play with one at no cost. Objects that are the subject of an arcane bond must fall into one of the following categories: amulet, ring, staff, wand, or weapon. These objects are always masterwork quality. Weapons acquired at 1st level are not made of any special material. If the object is an amulet or ring, it must be worn to have effect, while staves, wands, and weapons must be wielded. If a wizard attempts to cast a spell without his bonded object worn or in hand, he must make a concentration check or lose the spell. The DC for this check is equal to 20 + the spell's level. If the object is a ring or amulet, it occupies the ring or neck slot accordingly.
A bonded object can be used once per day to cast any one spell that the wizard has in his spellbook and is capable of casting, even if the spell is not prepared. This spell is treated like any other spell cast by the wizard, including casting time, duration, and other effects dependent on the wizard's level. This spell cannot be modified by metamagic feats or other abilities. The bonded object cannot be used to cast spells from the wizard's opposition schools (see arcane school).
A wizard can add additional magic abilities to his bonded object as if he has the required item creation feats and if he meets the level prerequisites of the feat. For example, a wizard with a bonded dagger must be at least 5th level to add magic abilities to the dagger (see the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat in Feats). If the bonded object is a wand, it loses its wand abilities when its last charge is consumed, but it is not destroyed and it retains all of its bonded object properties and can be used to craft a new wand. The magic properties of a bonded object, including any magic abilities added to the object, only function for the wizard who owns it. If a bonded object's owner dies, or the item is replaced, the object reverts to being an ordinary masterwork item of the appropriate type.
If a bonded object is damaged, it is restored to full hit points the next time the wizard prepares his spells. If the object of an arcane bond is lost or destroyed, it can be replaced after 1 week in a special ritual that costs 200 gp per wizard level plus the cost of the masterwork item. This ritual takes 8 hours to complete. Items replaced in this way do not possess any of the additional enchantments of the previous bonded item. A wizard can designate an existing magic item as his bonded item. This functions in the same way as replacing a lost or destroyed item except that the new magic item retains its abilities while gaining the benefits and drawbacks of becoming a bonded item.
There are, however, two catches. You give up your familiar, which (as those skilled in the art of familiar-fu will know) is a significant loss. In addition, if you lose the item, spellcasting becomes ridiculously difficult. I'd say the benefits probably outweigh the drawbacks, though, and in any case you can choose not to take it if you’re planning to get some use out of your familiar. Verdict: Good.
This is probably the biggest buff for wizards. Now being a specialist doesn't cut you off from schools! While adventuring, you probably still won't make a habit of using opposition schools; the opportunity cost of losing two spell slots is too high. But the ability to use something like, say, Contingency during days off is great. Verdict: Excellent!Arcane School: A wizard can choose to specialize in one school of magic, gaining additional spells and powers based on that school. This choice must be made at 1st level, and once made, it cannot be changed. A wizard that does not select a school receives the universalist school instead.
A wizard that chooses to specialize in one school of magic must select two other schools as his opposition schools, representing knowledge sacrificed in one area of arcane lore to gain mastery in another. A wizard who prepares spells from his opposition schools must use two spell slots of that level to prepare the spell. For example, a wizard with evocation as an opposition school must expend two of his available 3rd-level spell slots to prepare a fireball. In addition, a specialist takes a –4 penalty on any skill checks made when crafting a magic item that has a spell from one of his opposition schools as a prerequisite. A universalist wizard can prepare spells from any school without restriction.
Each arcane school gives the wizard a number of school powers. In addition, specialist wizards receive an additional spell slot of each spell level he can cast, from 1st on up. Each day, a wizard can prepare a spell from his specialty school in that slot. This spell must be in the wizard's spellbook. A wizard can select a spell modified by a metamagic feat to prepare in his school slot, but it uses up a higher-level spell slot. Wizards with the universalist school do not receive a school slot.
So, What Do The Specialists Get?
In general, the answer is "not that much". However, there are a few standouts. Illusionists probably benefit the most, and Diviners get some abilities that are excellent at high levels (but weak at low ones). Universalists and Enchanters do worst out of the deal, with Universalists coming in last by a mile.
SpoilerPretty weak. You're rarely going to know what energy type you'll be attacked by, and 5 points of resistance isn't going to make all that much difference even if you do. Verdict: Meh.Resistance (Ex): You gain resistance 5 to an energy type of your choice, chosen when you prepare spells. This resistance can be changed each day. At 11th level, this resistance increases to 10. At 20th level, this resistance changes to immunity to the chosen energy type.
Contradictory wording aside, this isn't all that impressive. A standard action is a high cost to pay for something with such a small effect and radius. It's also just begging for the enemy to fireball you. Verdict: Meh.Protective Ward (Su): As a standard action, you can create a 10-foot-radius field of protective magic centered on you that lasts for a number of rounds equal to your Intelligence modifier. All allies in this area (including you) receive a +1 deflection bonus to their AC for 1 round. This bonus increases by +1 for every five wizard levels you possess. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
This is more like it. Since it works on any type of energy damage, you can actually expect it to apply frequently. The total protection is still not that high, but it could save your neck. Verdict: Good.Energy Absorption (Su): At 6th level, you gain an amount of energy absorption equal to 3 times your wizard level per day. Whenever you take energy damage, apply immunity, vulnerability (if any), and resistance first and apply the rest to this absorption, reducing your daily total by that amount. Any damage in excess of your absorption is applied to you normally.
Overall Verdict: Mediocre. Abjuration isn't the best of specialities in the first place, and these abilities don't make it any more attractive.
SpoilerAs a general rule, for every round a wizard or sorcerer casts a spell that's on the cleric spell list, for that round he's a sucker. Casting Summon Monster is the cleric's job, and druids do it better anyway. Verdict: Meh.Summoner's Charm (Su): Whenever you cast a conjuration (summoning) spell, increase the duration by a number of rounds equal to 1/2 your wizard level (minimum 1). At 20th level, you can change the duration of all summon monster spells to permanent. You can have no more than one summon monster spell made permanent in this way at one time. If you designate another summon monster spell as permanent, the previous spell immediately ends.
Eh, it beats shooting a crossbow. Verdict: Good.Acid Dart (Sp): As a standard action you can unleash an acid dart targeting any foe within 30 feet as a ranged touch attack. The acid dart deals 1d6 points of acid damage + 1 for every two wizard levels you possess. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier. This attack ignores spell resistance.
Pretty nice. I'm sure you can think of some good uses for this. The ability to divide it up as you wish makes it much more useful. Verdict: Good.Dimensional Steps (Sp): At 8th level, you can use this ability to teleport up to 30 feet per wizard level per day as a standard action. This teleportation must be used in 5-foot increments and such movement does not provoke an attack of opportunity. You can bring other willing creatures with you, but you must expend an equal amount of distance for each additional creature brought with you.
Overall Verdict: Some solid features. The fact that conjuration is probably the strongest school in the game anyway makes the Conjurer one of the best choices.
SpoilerBeing able to act in the surprise round is nice, though situational. The initiative bonus is awesome at high levels, but most games are played in the 1st-10th level range, which makes this less attractive. At 12th-level it's a +6, but at 2nd-level it's only a +1. Still, not bad. Verdict: Meh at level 1 (unless you get surprised REALLY often), Good at level 10, and only gets better from there.Forewarned (Su): You can always act in the surprise round even if you fail to make a Perception roll to notice a foe, but you are still considered flat-footed until you take an action. In addition, you receive a bonus on initiative checks equal to 1/2 your wizard level (minimum +1). At 20th level, anytime you roll initiative, assume the roll resulted in a natural 20.
Again, an ability that's useful at higher levels and sucky at lower ones. Verdict: Meh or Good, as above.Diviner's Fortune (Sp): When you activate this school power, you can touch any creature as a standard action to give it an insight bonus on all of its attack rolls, skill checks, ability checks, and saving throws equal to 1/2 your wizard level (minimum +1) for 1 round. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
If spying and intelligence gathering are a big part of your games, this is excellent. Otherwise, it's pretty much useless. Verdict: Situational, depends heavily on the DM's style of game.Scrying Adept (Su): At 8th level, you are always aware when you are being observed via magic, as if you had a permanent detect scrying. In addition, whenever you scry on a subject, treat the subject as one step more familiar to you. Very familiar subjects get a –10 penalty on their save to avoid your scrying attempts.
Overall Verdict: Diviners are hard to rate. Their information-gathering abilities can be utterly awesome, or totally useless, depending on how the DM runs campaigns. There's also the issue that divination is probably the weakest school to pick your bonus spell slots from. The only thing that can be said for sure is that diviners are much, MUCH better at high levels than at low ones.
SpoilerBonuses to three cross-class skills based on Wizards' second most popular dump stat. You're not the party face. As for the 20th-level ability . . . yeah, as if anyone's going to cast an enchantment spell that allows a save against a 20th-level enchanter. Verdict: Meh.Enchanting Smile (Su): You gain a +2 enhancement bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate skill checks. This bonus increases by +1 for every five wizard levels you possess, up to a maximum of +6 at 20th level. At 20th level, whenever you succeed at a saving throw against a spell of the enchantment school, that spell is reflected back at its caster, as per spell turning.
So let me get this straight. You go into melee, make a touch attack using your lousy Strength and lousy BAB, and in exchange you get to . . . daze a creature for 1 round if it doesn't have more Hit Dice. Except that if the creature's threatening enough to need dazing, it probably DOES have more Hit Dice. Verdict: Lame.Dazing Touch (Sp): You can cause a living creature to become dazed for 1 round as a melee touch attack. Creatures with more Hit Dice than your wizard level are unaffected. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
There seems to be a major split of opinion on this one. Lots of people see the -2 to everything and think it’s great. Personally, I think it’s average at best. The big problem is that it's a (Su) ability that doesn't say what kind of action it takes, and by default, that makes it a standard action (check the Pathfinder SRD). Actions in combat are the currency of D&D, and a standard action for a minor debuff is not a great deal. An additional problem is that to get all the enemies within its radius, you have to stand RIGHT in the middle of them, effectively painting a huge target on yourself.Aura of Despair (Su): At 8th level, you can emit a 30-foot aura of despair for a number of rounds per day equal to your wizard level. Enemies within this aura take a –2 penalty on ability checks, attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, and skill checks. These rounds do not need to be consecutive.
In short, YMMV. If your arcane casters are regularly involved in long battles where you spend a lot of the time within 30’ of lots of enemies, you’ll find Aura of Despair very useful. However, my personal verdict is Meh.
Overall Verdict: Enchanters kinda got the shaft in Pathfinder. Specialising in enchantment isn't a great deal anyway, and the poor abilities just make things worse. The only reason enchanters aren't right on the bottom of the heap is because, bad as their abilities are, they're still better than the universalist.
SpoilerIt's not a huge increase, but hey, free damage. Verdict: Good.Intense Spells (Su): Whenever you cast an evocation spell that deals hit point damage, add 1/2 your wizard level to the damage (minimum +1). This bonus only applies once to a spell, not once per missile or ray, and cannot be split between multiple missiles or rays. This damage is of the same type as the spell. At 20th level, whenever you cast an evocation spell you can roll twice to penetrate a creature's spell resistance and take the better result.
Anything that auto-hits is worth using. It gets a decent rating because it beats using a crossbow or spamming cantrips, but like the conjurer's Acid Dart, you'll use this less and less as you level up. Verdict: Good.Force Missile (Sp): As a standard action you can unleash a force missile that automatically strikes a foe, as magic missile. The force missile deals 1d4 points of damage plus the damage from your intense spells evocation power. This is a force effect. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
It's a wall of fire. Good as far as it goes. Verdict: Good.Elemental Wall (Sp): At 8th level, you can create a wall of energy that lasts for a number of rounds per day equal to your wizard level. These rounds do not need to be consecutive. This wall deals acid, cold, electricity, or fire damage, determined when you create it. The elemental wall otherwise functions like wall of fire.
Overall Verdict: Generally decent stuff for evokers. Nothing all that exciting, but they make you a better blaster, and let's face it, if you're playing an evoker that's what you're going to be doing.
SpoilerThe image spells are some of the most versatile in the game, and this lets you bypass the concentration duration. If you know your stuff, this is very handy. Verdict: Good.Extended Illusions (Su): Any illusion spell you cast with a duration of “concentration” lasts a number of additional rounds equal to 1/2 your wizard level after you stop maintaining concentration (minimum +1 round). At 20th level, you can make one illusion spell with a duration of “concentration” become permanent. You can have no more than one illusion made permanent in this way at one time. If you designate another illusion as permanent, the previous permanent illusion ends.
Ugh, another power that only works on creatures who don't have more Hit Dice. Still, at least you can do this one at range, so you aren't totally screwed if it doesn’t work. Verdict: Meh.Blinding Ray (Sp): As a standard action you can fire a shimmering ray at any foe within 30 feet as a ranged touch attack. The ray causes creatures to be blinded for 1 round. Creatures with more Hit Dice than your wizard level are dazzled for 1 round instead. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
Now this is more like it. Greater invisibility is the kind you want to have, and being able to put it up as a swift action is the kind of speed you want to do it at. This can and will save your life if you get jumped in melee. Verdict: Excellent!Invisibility Field (Sp): At 8th level, you can make yourself invisible as a swift action for a number of rounds per day equal to your wizard level. These rounds do not need to be consecutive. This otherwise functions as greater invisibility.
Overall Verdict: Illusionists got a good deal out of Pathfinder, with abilities that actually make them better at what they're supposed to be good at (invisibility and illusions). Recommended.
SpoilerIf you're playing a necromancer, odds are good you want undead minions, and this gives them to you. The only problem is that the saves are based off Cha, but still. Verdict: Good.Power over Undead (Su): You receive Command Undead or Turn Undead as a bonus feat. You can channel energy a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier, but only to use the selected feat. You can take other feats to add to this ability, such as Extra Channel and Improved Channel, but not feats that alter this ability, such as Elemental Channel and Alignment Channel. The DC to save against these feats is equal to 10 + 1/2 your wizard level + your Charisma modifier. At 20th level, undead cannot add their channel resistance to the save against this ability.
Gah! What is it with melee attacks that only work properly on creatures with equal or fewer HD? To add insult to injury, you have to touch a minion twice to send it running. No thanks. Verdict: Lame.Grave Touch (Sp): As a standard action, you can make a melee touch attack that causes a living creature to become shaken for a number of rounds equal to 1/2 your wizard level (minimum 1). If you touch a shaken creature with this ability, it becomes frightened for 1 round if it has fewer Hit Dice than your wizard level. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
Crappy duration, crappy range, and again requires a standard action to activate. It only avoids a 'lame' rating because even with all those limitations, blindsight is still decent. Verdict: Meh.Life Sight (Su): At 8th level, you gain blindsight to a range of 10 feet for a number of rounds per day equal to your wizard level. This ability only allows you to detect living creatures and undead creatures. This sight also tells you whether a creature is living or undead. Constructs and other creatures that are neither living nor undead cannot be seen with this ability. The range of this ability increases by 10 feet at 12th level, and by an additional 10 feet for every four levels beyond 12th.
Overall Verdict: The necromancer's abilities are very flavourful, but poorly implemented. Could be worse, I suppose.
SpoilerBasically saves you 4,000 gp or so on an Amulet of Health or whatever. Eh, free stat boosts are nice, if not that exciting. Verdict: Good.Physical Enhancement (Su): You gain a +1 enhancement bonus to one physical ability score (Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution). This bonus increases by +1 for every five wizard levels you possess to a maximum of +5 at 20th level. You can change this bonus to a new ability score when you prepare spells. At 20th level, this bonus applies to two physical ability scores of your choice.
Like the Conjurer's acid dart, and the Evoker's force missile, but worse. Verdict: Meh.Telekinetic Fist (Sp): As a standard action you can strike with a telekinetic fist, targeting any foe within 30 feet as a ranged touch attack. The telekinetic fist deals 1d4 points of bludgeoning damage + 1 for every two wizard levels you possess. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
Beast Shape and Elemental Body are a pale shadow of Polymorph, but spontaneous shapeshifting is still handy. Verdict: Good.Change Shape (Sp): At 8th level, you can change your shape for a number of rounds per day equal to your wizard level. These rounds do not need to be consecutive. This ability otherwise functions like beast shape II or elemental body I. At 12th level, this ability functions like beast shape III or elemental body II.
Overall Verdict: Solid bonuses, if nothing very exciting. Like Conjurers, Transmuters benefit from the fact that they're already picking from one of the power schools.
SpoilerAwful. Using your Int on the attack modifier would be good, except for the fact that the damage is still based on Strength. This is the worst of the specialist attacks by far. Verdict: Lame.Hand of the Apprentice (Su): You cause your melee weapon to fly from your grasp and strike a foe before instantly returning to you. As a standard action, you can make a single attack using a melee weapon at a range of 30 feet. This attack is treated as a ranged attack with a thrown weapon, except that you add your Intelligence modifier on the attack roll instead of your Dexterity modifier (damage still relies on Strength). This ability cannot be used to perform a combat maneuver. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
So wait, at level 8, I can use one level of metamagic once per day? But only if I've got the feat already? If you want free metamagic, get a metamagic rod. Normally I'd give this some credit for being free, but it's so bad it's embarassing. Verdict: Lame.Metamagic Mastery (Su): At 8th level, you can apply any one metamagic feat that you know to a spell you are about to cast. This does not alter the level of the spell or the casting time. You can use this ability once per day at 8th level and one additional time per day for every two wizard levels you possess beyond 8th. Any time you use this ability to apply a metamagic feat that increases the spell level by more than 1, you must use an additional daily usage for each level above 1 that the feat adds to the spell. Even though this ability does not modify the spell's actual level, you cannot use this ability to cast a spell whose modified spell level would be above the level of the highest-level spell that you are capable of casting.
Overall Verdict: Universalist wizards in Pathfinder suck horribly. There is literally no reason to play one, with all the benefits specialists get. If you want to play a generalist, either use the Paizo Beta, or stick with 3.5.