Last week, I gave you a general overview of the new Pathfinder RPG. This week, I'm going to go into a little more detail based on my group's experiences from our first sessions using the new rules starting with our notes from character creation.
Before we received the final version of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook, we had started by making a fresh batch of first level characters using the beta-test rules and running through a session to start getting a feel for the direction Pathfinder was going. Converting over to the final rules was relatively quick for our first level characters even though we had to scour the rulebook to see what changed. Luckily for those of you who will be converting over from an existing 3.5e game, Paizo has promised an in-depth conversion guide that will be released as a PDF at the same time as the core rulebook.
Races of Pathfinder
Although my players settled on playing a band of shorties, all of the core races of 3.5e are present and accounted for, and all of them have received boons in Pathfinder. One of the most noticeable changes was that instead of ability modifiers zeroing out for each race, all characters will now end up with a +2 net stat change from their race. The demi-races each get two bonus ability modifiers at +2 and one ability penalty at -2, while Humans and their Half-Human varieties have the option of choosing a single ability increase in a stat of their choice. The Half-Orc is the biggest winner from this change, since in 3.5e he received the stiffest penalties at +2 Strength, -2 Intelligence, and -2 Charisma ... net -2, ouch!
Pathfinder also does away with the idea of racial favored classes and lets the player pick a class of his choice. This is good news for my mostly Halfling group even though they weren't necessarily planning on multi-classing. Whenever they level in their favored class, they get to choose either an extra skill or hit point. Multi-classing penalties have also been nixed, allowing them to freely pickup additional classes without ever incurring an XP penalty regardless of how many non-favored classes they have or how far apart they are.
GM senses tingling, warning you of danger? Don't worry too much about the multi-class penalty being gone. In the place of penalties, Pathfinder uses incentives to reward characters for leveling up in their own class with cumulative abilities and, of course, the big payouts I mentioned before.
Our group was made up of a Halfling rogue, Halfling fighter, Halfling sorcerer and, the odd ‘man' out, a Dwarven monk -- I know, strange; who wouldn't want to roll a Halfling? I also rolled up a Human cleric who would be accompanying the group, since they would definitely need healing support, and because I have always been very partial to clerics and other holy types.
Wully (the Insane) Halfling Rogue -- At level one, the rogue class isn't much different than it was in 3.5e, but looking down the progression path, he now gets to choose a "rogue talent" every two levels starting at second. These abilities range from things like "Bleeding Attack," that augment the rogue's sneak attack, "Fast Stealth," which lets the rogue move at full speed and hide without penalty, to things like "Minor Magic," which represents a rogue who has dabbled in some magic without actually multi-classing into a wizard or sorcerer. As soon as Wully gets a chance, he is so going to get Mage Hand. Skills
Marra (the Diminutive) Halfling Fighter -- Again, not much different at level one, but this class has a couple new iterative abilities that round it out nicely and ensure that there is never an empty level. By twentieth level, this little Halfling is going to be a little terror on the battlefield. She has all of the fighter bonus feats that she had in 3.5e, but on top of that she automatically gets three new iterative abilities -- Bravery, which gives her bonuses to save versus fear effects; Armor Training, which reduces armor check penalties and increases the maximum dexterity bonus allowed for her armor; and Weapon Training which gives her bonuses to attack and damage rolls on top of any weapon specialization feats she might take.
Boram (Are you talking to me?) Halfling Sorcerer -- The sorcerer is still the artillery of spells that this class always was, but it has now been spiced up with "bloodlines." These bloodlines explain the source of your sorcerer's innate powers and go way beyond being simple flair for your character. Depending on which one you pick, you're character will have different bonus spells (something like the way cleric domains work), bonus powers, and bonus feats to choose from throughout his career. Our Halfling sorcerer chose the Arcane bloodline, which at level one gets him a bonus feat to choose from, an additional knowledge skill of his choice as a class skill, and either a bonded object or a familiar as granted by the "Arcane Bond" ability from the wizard class.
Rogar (The Tall) Dwarven Monk -- Right away, the monk gets a couple of nice boons. "Flurry of blows" has been improved, and is now -1/-1 at level one instead of -2/-2. He also gets "Stunning Fist" for free now in addition to his bonus feat. One of the things that I think has made this class much more attractive than it used to be though is that not only have the penalties been reduced for flurrying, but by ninth level the monk has already pulled ahead with a bonus to his flurry attacks that are higher than his base attack. The game also now effectively gives the monk the two weapon fighting feats, leaving his bonus feats free to use for something else. So, at twentieth level, the Ginsu 2000 monk base flurry of blows looks like this: +18/+18/+13/+13/+8/+8/+3.
Stedd (DM PC FTW) Human Cleric -- There is absolutely no doubt that this class has pulled forward as the definitive healer. At the early levels, the druid used to be somewhat comparable, but the cleric's new "Channel Energy," ability establishes this class as the only healer of choice even at level one. In playing this class through a couple of combats, it also made an immense difference in how long the group could go without having to turn back and let the cleric rest up again. The new domains have also been beefed up. They don't go nearly as far as the specialty priests of old, but they do a good job of adding some flavor to clerics of differing religious persuasions. My priest chooses the Protection and Knowledge domains. In addition to the bonus domain spells, Protection gives him a bonus to his saving throws that he can transfer to an ally with a touch, and Knowledge lets him learn a creature's abilities and weaknesses just by touching it.
The merging of little used or too narrowly defined skills was a big hit with my group. Pathfinder also gets rid of the cross class penalty for skills. Instead, if a skill is on your skill list from any of your classes or prestige classes, you receive a +3 bonus. This is offset by your maximum ranks in a skill now being your class levels or hit dice. This sped up choosing skills at level one, and makes training in a skill outside of your class list a lot less painful that it used to be.
Most of the feats from the core 3.5e rulebook remain, some with minor changes like Dodge that now gives a static +1 dodge bonus. There are a number of new feats, but the ones that my group was most excited about were the new Critical Focus line, which you can start to pickup after reaching a +9 attack bonus. The Critical Focus feat gives you a +4 bonus to confirming criticals, but beyond that it qualifies you for a series of nasty critical effect feats that do such unfriendly things as blind, deafen, sicken, stagger, stun, fatigue, or even exhaust an opponent that is unlucky enough to be at the business end of your critical hit.
My cleric, on the other hand, really appreciated the Extra Channel Energy feat which increased the number of times that he could use his new group heal from five to seven times per day!
Power Creep in Pathfinder
As you can see, Pathfinder really notches up the power level from 3.5e. Every race and class has been improved, and by twentieth level I can already see that this group is going to be way beyond what it would have been if they had been built using the third edition core rulebooks. I imagine this is part of the reason that the base leveling chart in Pathfinder takes much longer to progress than in 3.5. On the other hand, Pathfinder does do an excellent job of giving every class something to look forward to when they level. Overall, I think the changes are good and will keep players excited, but there is a lot of collateral power-creep as a result.