The Final Part 4 - Pathfinder Review
by, 10-29-2009 at 12:17 PM (8034 Views)
Hi folks and welcome back to the final part of the Pathfinder Review.
First, I want to expound on the Vital Strike Feat that I talked about previously. The vital strike feat will work on a full attack action as well as a standard action and itís based on your highest BAB. You can only use the vital strike power on one attack but after itís been used, you can still make the rest of your attacks as normal. Sorry for any confusion.
Chapter 11 Ė Prestige classes
Arcane Archer Ė Letís see what changed for Arcane Archer. Hit die bumped to D10. The prerequisites did not change. The enhance arrows power works a bit different, instead of just scaling the magic bonus from +1 to +5. It starts at +1 and then gains different qualities that you can add such as flaming, shock, distance, burst, holy, unholy, anarchic, axiomatic, etc. The arrow death fort save is DC 20 + charisma mod instead of just DC 20. This is the bulk of the changes for this class. Not a whole lot in my opinion and a very popular class either.
Arcane Trickster Ė The arcane trickster got hit die bumped to D6. The prerequisites did not really change other than the reduction in skill ranks but then you can only have a number ranks equal to your level anyway so I knew about that anyway. The big 3 additions is Tricky spells, Invisible Thief and Surprise spells. Tricky spells allows you to cast spells without having to use verbal or somatic components. This is super handy if you get captured and you are bound and gagged. If you have sorcerer levels then you donít have to worry about memorization & spell book problems. Invisible thief allows you to become invisible as if you had the Greater Invisible power for a number rounds per day equal to this PRCís levels. Surprise spells allows to add your sneak attack damage to any spell that deal damage. I could see some huge damage like a 10D6 fireball that also deals another 10D6 sneak damage. Very useful and very powerful.
Assassin Ė Well, the Assassin got quite a change up. A hit die bump up to D8 as expected. The new Assassin no longer has any spellcasting ability but is given a few REALLY powerful abilities that I am going to talk about. Hidden weapons Ė adds your assassin level to all Sleight of Hands checks.
This is nifty but not overly powerful. The big things to note are the ďDeathĒ powers. There are 4 of them. True Death is if you kill someone, it essentially hits the victim with a curse so that a remove curse has to be performed before you can raise dead or resurrect them. The DC for the remove curse is 15 + assassins level. Quiet death allows you to sneak attack / assassinate someone with an increased chance of not getting noticedÖ always a good thing. Swift Death allows you to Once per day use your assassinate power without having to study the target first. The final power - Angel of death Ė ď Once per day, when the assassin makes a successful death attack, he can cause the target's body to crumble to dust. This prevents raise dead and resurrection (although true resurrection works as normal). The assassin must declare the use of this ability before the attack is made. If the attack misses or the target successfully saves against the death attack, this ability is wasted with no effect. ď.
All I can say is that this is really powerful. Almost too powerful and potentially abusive if the GM is allowing evil characters or is playing an evil campaign. The odds that a player might use this on another player is awfully tempting. The usual Save or die effects that I have been seeing at high levels has now become ďSave or dustĒ. I just canít agree with anyone that thinks this is a balanced power. Iím going to have to dock a couple of points for something that I feel breaks the spirit of the game.
Dragon Disciple Ė The Dragon Disciple got a couple of changes that really made it mold into the Base classes better, in particular the Sorcerer. This is really a Sorcerer only prestige class. In theory, you could do it with a bard but I canít see why you would. If you have sorcerer levels, then you must have the draconic bloodline. You also need to speak draconic and have 5 ranks in Knowledge (Arcana). The 2 big changes in this PRC is that you gain actual spellcaster levels rather than just bonus spells so now you gain both more spells & more spell levels which is an awesome thing. The other major bump up is the fact this PRC stacks with sorcerer levels for purposes of gaining most of those nifty draconic powers listed in the sorcerer section. What this really comes down to is that for a loss of 3 caster levels, you effectively gain a huge hit die (D12), an improved BAB (at 20th level it would be +12 instead of +10), and you would effectively be turned into almost a Half-Dragon (+4 strength, +2 con, +2 int, +3 natural armor, Breath weapon 4/day, Claw & Bite attacks, Fly 90 with average maneuverability, blindsense 60 ft , immune to one energy type, 4 bloodline feats and you still have 17 levels of sorcerer spellcasting.
Ummm.. okÖ Whatís not to love about this prestige class. We have a real winner here folks.
Duelist Ė Duelists gain automatic proficiency with light armor that they didnít before. Hereís a list of added powers: No retreat at 9th level, which give the duelist a free AOO when the enemy attempts a full withdrawal. Precise strike changed in that you add your duelist level to your damage but doesnít work on an enemy that is immune to critís. Parry at 2nd level, allows you to save an attack from your previous action in case you think that an enemy might hit you when the enemy attacks, you can then make a roll based on the bab of the attack that you withheld. If you roll higher than the enemy did, then the attack is successfully parried. Crippling Critical allows you to penalties to the enemy if you inflicted damage. Some examples are a reduction in speed, strength damage, dexterity damage, -4 to all saving throws, -4 to AC or 2D6 bleed damage.
Over all, some small improvements to the Duelist, although Iíve never been much of a fan of the duelist.
Eldritch Knight Ė The eldritch knight got some much needed fixing. All Eldritch knight levels count as Fighter levels for feat qualification. This is pretty sweet and long overdue. Your hit die got double bumped from D6 to D10 which is yet another big improvement. You get 3 combat feats in pathfinder vs. only 1 in 3.5 and at 10th level, you get this spell critical power which allows you to cast a spell as a swift action if you got a critical as part of an attack. Your target has to be the one that you hit with the critical. Overall, this is what the consummate Fighter/Mage gish character should have been all along especially when you throw in those arcane armor training feats.
LoreMaster Ė In all honesty, other than a hit die bump to D6. I didnít notice any appreciable change to this class. Iíve never considered this class to be that great to begin with.
Mystic Theurge Ė The mystic theurge was a cool class in that you could cast both arcane & divine spells but it seriously lacked hit points & had other issues. The new version did get a bump up in the Hit die department to D6. Itís BAB did not improve nor are you able to cast spells thru armor.
You are allowed to use spell slots from opposite spell lists to cast your spells but they use up one higher level spell slot. At 10th level, spell synthesis allows you to cast 2 spells at once, one from each type and inflicts a -2 save for each spell if the target is hit by both spells. This class has gotten a few improvements but nothing earth shattering.
Pathfinder Chronicler Ė This is supposed to be the crowning prestige class for Pathfinder but personally, I think this an epic fail. Itís primarily based off the Bard class but offers no spellcasting levels and thatís half of the bard powers. Yes, you gain some pretty cool powers like being able to generate a ďDoomĒ effect and being able to summon 1D4+1 5th level barbarians with magic weapons & armor. I canít help this nagging feeling that few players will actually play this class.
Shadowdancer Ė Shadow Master gains some rogue talents. Itís hit die did not change. You gain the ability to do Shadow Conjurations & Shadow Evocations & the distance for Shadow Jump doubled to 320 feet. You also gain DR 10/- and a +2 luck bonus to all saving throws when you are in a dimly lit area. Over all, some nice improvements but this isnít a sneak attack class, although you might be able to throw in a few levels on top of a Rogue/Assassin gish character for flavor.
Chapter 12 Ė GameMastering
The big thing that changed here is the XP chart for what you killed based on itís challenge rating.
It goes all the way up to a CR 25 which yields something like 1,638,000 xp which is huge. There is a basic summary of how to run a game but there will be a GM guide coming out in 2010 so if you need more information just hold on because it will be out soon.
Chapter 13 Ė Environment
This is a well thought out chapter. It gives out structure values for walls and it gives out a nice long list of traps that involve pits, arrows, & magic attacks. There are also rules for slime & fungusÖ.mmmÖ yummm.
Next up are the rules for terrain such as mountains, desert, aquatic & all of the rest.
The next set of rules are for conducting sieges, specifically rules for Catapults, ballistas, rams & Seige TowersÖ Oh MyÖ !!!
Chapter 14 Ė NPCís
This chapter about NPCís is pretty straight forward. There are 5 basic types of NPCís. Adept, Aristocrat, Commoner, Expert & Warrior. The old spellcaster that was in the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana is not present in this book. The adept is a combo cleric/sorcerer but only had access up to 5th level spells. The classes donít get any special powers, just pick feats. The chart for NPC gear in on page 454 and is well laid out and broken out by types of gear.
Chapter 15 Ė Magic Items
There is a new chart for magic item availability on page 461. I think it could be fun to use it and I think it enforces a little bit more magic item rarity than 3.5 did. The powers available for Armor & Weapons stayed roughly the same. The costs for these powers stayed roughly the same.
Pathfinder does have a few new magic items that bestow multiple bonuses to your ability scores such as the belt of physical might (improves 2 scores) & the Belt of Physical Perfection (boost all 3 physical scores), Headband of Mental Superiority (boosts all 3 mental scores).
As far as magic item creation rules go, XP costs are gone and are replaced by time & gold factors.
You have to make a DC check = 5 + caster level for the item but thatís about it. The gold factor is = Ĺ of all base prices for what you need to make the item. It also take 8 hours per 1,000 gp to make the item with a minimum of 8 hours. You can rush it and do it in 4 hours per 1,000gp but it will add +5 to the DC check. You can only work on one item at a time. If you fail the check then all materials are considered wasted.
Pathfinder vs. 3.5 vs. 4th edition
I suppose no review of any D&D type system would be complete without throwing out the usual comparisons between the reviewed game & 4th edition D&D. The first thing Iíd like to say is that I do not personally feel that there is any way that someone can make any sort of logical argument as to why one system is somehow better than the other. It always boils down to personal taste.
Upon listening to other people comments, Iíve noticed that most sentences of comparison start with the words ďI thinkĒ. This is very important since it denotes an opinion rather than an established fact.
The big difference between Pathfinder & 4th edition is the market that they serve and believe it or not, they actually service 2 separate markets. 4th edition is mass-marketed to the most common denominator and that group is kids. 4th edition is written as a lead-in to roleplay and while it doesnít stifle roleplay in and of itself, itís very mechanics can not actively support it.
The following link explains what I am getting at quite well. http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/3/
An example would be where 4th edition shifted away from feet to squares as an easier way to use miniatures & maps. The problem that Iíve seen at hobby stores is when you try to use your combat powers outside of combat and noticed the blank stare coming from the GM. 4th edition heavily supports gamism & simulationism but only lightly on Narrativism. Iíve rarely ever played a game that did well on all 3 points. Pathfinder is still heavy Narrativism but it has slightly increased itís level of gamism & simulationism in an attempt to maintain a delicate balance between the two and in doing so appeal to as many people as possible especially the 30-something to 40-something crowd that started playing back in the 80ís. Pathfinder also has many adventures tied to it that are much darker & grittier than Iíve seen come from WOTC and the adventures deal with subject matter that would make most PTAís cringe (Slavery, Sexism, Racism, necrophilia, drugs, bestiality, etc).
If you want to play a quicker Smash & Dash game that is light on acting & heavy on high fantasy & magic items then 4th edition is your game. If you want a slower, grittier, darker game with more tailorable characters then Pathfinder might be right up your alley.
All in all, I think that Pathfinder fixes more than it breaks and is a relatively solid upgrade to 3.5 and I think that many 3.5 fans will move to Pathfinder. I have found that combat moves along just as fast if not slightly faster than 3.5 with a few less issues to boot. A few people might not be too keen on the power creep that was instituted in the game but for now, I am going to go with the assumption that the power creep was done with the idea of balancing the classes out which appears to be mostly successful. If I had to take a guess on backwards compatibility then my personal guess would be about 85% as there will be some needed conversion work to make some of the old 3.5 splatbooks compatible.
One of the questions is whether or not, you need to buy this book. For some very intelligent & enterprising GMís, the answer could very well be no, since a few may very well have managed to write their own house rules that already addresses some of 3.5ís drawbacks. If that is the case then you probably donít need to buy the book especially if you are short on cash and in the current state of the economy, I certainly donít blame you if you canít afford it. I hope that Pathfinder is a success for Paizo and I hope that the game grows but not too much. Mass Marketing is always a zero-sum game that usually dilutes gaming down to quantity rather than quality. Iíve never been keen on My hobby being considered an industry because to me, itís a hobby and it should stay that way!!! Happy Gaming !!!
Feat Types consolidated
Combat streamlined (grapple, bull rush, trip, etc)
Difficult powers to adjudicate now more streamlined (Wild Shape, Turn undead).
Most base classes are now much closer in equality as far as relative power curve is concerned.
I like the artwork and the adult feel.
Layout more organized and easier to read.
The single mega-book release is easier to track than multiple smaller books.
This newer, updated version of 3.5 may stimulate the younger generation & the disaffected from other systems to give it a try.
Adding more save or die effects is a poor & lazy way to balance classes.
Some Prestige classes not as balanced as Base Classes. (Ex. Assassin vs. Pathfinder Chronicler)
Magic item creation still not ideal or not what Iím looking for but at least they tried.
If you have a lot of old 3.5 splatbooks, extra conversion work will be required to maintain balance & compatibility.
A few new powers seem odd or donít seem to be well explained. (Ex. Barbarian Rage Powers)
Final Score Ė 8.5 out of 10
I also learned that I need to come up with a shortened bullet point system because this narrative review is too long.