Pathfinder Core Classes

Hi all. The post on Divination is looking to be longer than I intended, so I thought I would give you a little something to think about in the meantime. I’ve been looking more closely at the core classes as presented by the Pathfinder game, and I find elements of them a little complex. So I have have considering a few changes.

Now the cleric, wizard, sorcerer and druid are all due to get a rules make-over anyway – you’ll see the results in the Magic document towards the end of the month. What I’m looking at here is how the abilities of the Pathfinder classes are regulated. Personally, I look at the rules for barbarian rage and think they’re a mite fiddley.

Now, I’ve never played a barbarian in Pathfinder, and never run a Pathfinder game with a barbarian PC. These are my observations as an interested outsider – and as we have a barbarian PC at the retreat in April (Krodluk) I would like to get my head around these mechanics. My goal is to reduce PC book-keeping where-ever possible.

Barbarian Rage

Read the D&D 3.5 Barbarian
Read the Pathfinder Barbarian

The actual mechanic for a barbarian’s rage hasn’t changed between Pathfinder and 3.5. – it’s still +4 Strength, +4 Constitution, +2 Will and -2 to Armour Class. There is also a list of things that a mindless barbarian can’t do while raging (like use any Int, Wis or Cha based skills for example). After raging a barbarian is fatigued until “the end of the current encounter” (in 3.5) or twice the number of rounds spent raging (in Pathfinder). The barbarian is forbidden from raging more than once in any encounter.

He’s the difference I want to talk about: in D&D 3.5 the barbarian can range a number of times per day. He starts off being able to use the ability once per day at first level and gets another use every four levels thereafter. In Pathfinder, the barbarian can rage for a number of rounds equal to 4  + his Con modifier + 2 for every level beyond first each day. The rounds don’t have to be consecutive.

Does that strike anyone as a little too complicated? A second level barbarian with a Con of 18 can rage for 10 rounds per day. The player has to keep track of these rounds individually on his character sheet. Those of you out there who have played barbarians: isn’t that just too much hassle?

Why don’t we just make Barbarian Rage an at-will ability instead?

If you think about it, this isn’t a major power increase for the barbarian. By it’s very nature Rage is a self-limiting ability. We would just need to make two changes. Firstly, Rage would need a set duration (we already have that in the 3.5 version of the ability), and secondly we would need to say that once a barbarian has used Rage, he is fatigued until he takes a short rest.

So the text of Rage in our game would look like this:

Rage (Ex): A barbarian can call upon inner reserves of strength and ferocity, granting her additional combat prowess. While in a rage, a barbarian temporarily gains a +4 bonus to Strength, a +4 bonus to Constitution, and a +2 morale bonus on Will saves, but she takes a -2 penalty to Armour Class. The increase in Constitution increases the barbarian’s hit points by 2 points per level, but these hit points go away at the end of the rage when his Constitution score drops back to normal: these extra hit points are not lost first the way temporary hit points are. While raging, a barbarian cannot use any skills base on Charisma, Dexterity, or Intelligence (except for Acrobatics, Fly, Intimidate or Ride), or any ability that requires patience or concentration.

A fit of rage lasts for a number of rounds equal to 3 + your (newly improved) Con modifier. A barbarian may prematurely end his rage. At the end of the rage, the barbarian loses the rage modifiers and restrictions and becomes fatigued (-2 penalty to Strength, -2 penalty to Dexterity, cannot run or charge) until he has taken a short rest. A barbarian cannot enter a rage while fatigued or exhausted. If a barbarian falls unconscious, then her rage ends immediately placing her in peril of death.

Barbarians enter Rage on their turn as a free action. They may enter a rage at-will as long as they are not fatigued or exhausted. Barbarians who end a rage and are not fatigued (because they are 17th level and have the Tireless Rage ability), or have their fatigued removed (by one of various spells), may rage again within the same encounter.

And there we have it. For the most part, barbarians are limited to raging once per encounter for a number of rounds equal to 3 + Con modifier. This brings the rage ability into line with magic spells that use the recharge mechanic. This modification to the rules doesn’t affect the suite of barbarian rage powers that Pathfinder introduced, and doesn’t affect powers like Tireless Rage or Mighty Rage that a barbarian gets at later levels.

And it’s just a whole lot easier that ticking off rounds per day isn’t it?

Bardic Music/Bardic Performance

Read the D&D 3.5 Bard
Read the Pathfinder Bard

You may think that the bard has the same problem as the barbarian. In Pathfinder he can use his bardic music for a number of rounds equal to 4 + Cha modifier + 2 per level beyond first. Once again, too fiddley for words – can we do something to reduce the book-keeping for the player (and the GM running his NPC bard)?

The bard is not as straight-forward as the barbarian. Some of the bardic music abilities (particularly the new ones introduced by the Pathfinder game) are not the sort of things you want a bard to be able to call upon at will. The bard has numeous utilitarian powers that are darned useful outside combat – bonuses to skills, healing effects and somewhat.

What I would propose to do for the bard is to turn back to the 3.5 rules. Let’s just say that the bard can use bardic music a number of times per day equal to her bard level. That’s worked up until now, and I think that it will be sufficient to regulate the class in Pathfinder as well.

Stunning Fist and Ki

Read the D&D 3.5 monk
Read the Pathfinder monk

As I’m sure INdran would agree, the Pathfinder monk is a great improvement over the 3.5 original. However, there are some mechanics in its make-up that I think are worth highlighting. The monk is the only class in the game to have two separate systems for regulating its powers.

On the one hand it has a reserve of ki points that are used to trigger its supernatural abilities. These ki points equal half his monk level + his Wisdom modifier. They basically work like spell points. I don’t have a big problem with them as (unlike the spell point system we have now) the monk is never going to get so many ki points that it becomes ridiculous. The ninja uses a ki pool as well.

However, the monk is also regulated in the number of times per day that he can use Stunning Fist. This is nothing to do with his ki pool, he can just use it a flat number of times per day equal to his monk level. Does this strike anyone as a bit clumsy. We’re asking the player of the monk to remember to record two things where most other classes have either one or none to worry about.

Of course the problem is that Stunning Fist isn’t a monk ability. It’s a feat that anyone can take, monks just happen to get it for free. Anyone else taking Stunning Fist can use it once per four levels. The monk can use it once per level – so they have an advantage.

Stunning Fist must be a limited use ability. It’s not self-limiting like barbarian rage is. I want to consider whether this is the best way to adjudicate the Stunning Fist. If we tie it into a monk’s ki pool then we are going to have to increase the ki pool accordingly. That will have the effect of giving the monk more uses of all his ki pool related abilities such as dimension door which is not a side-effect I want to see.

So we leave things as they are here, or is there a better way of doing things? I’m a bit lost on this one at the moment.

24 thoughts on “Pathfinder Core Classes

  1. Personally i’d be all for just removing the time limit on Barbarian rages entirely. It’s extremely, unbelievably rare for an encounter to last more than 6 – 7 rounds and most Barbarians won’t poke the rage button unless things look bad, usually a couple of rounds into the fight, so given that the Barb can reasonably expect a 20 Con in rage, a fight is going to have to last around 10 or more rounds for the time limit to ever come into effect, which is not something i think i’ve ever really seen before barring the occasional encounter with lots of faffing about or respawning minions.

    I’d suggest something along the lines of letting Barbarians Rage whenever they like, the Rage lasts until there are no more hostile creatures to fight or until the Barbarian ends it as a whatever action; the Barbarian can’t stay in a mindless battle rage while everyone else has a chat about flowers. After the Rage, the Barbarian is Fatigued until he takes a short rest.

    Just, purely from a practical standpoint, i don’t see a whole lot of reason to have a duration or limit on Rage as it imposes a whole ton of penalties that ensure the Barbarian won’t want to Rage unless he has to anyway.

    No comment on the Bardic Music; i’ve never actually seen a Bard played even remotely seriously nor have i really paid any attention to the class, so i can’t say anything about them really.

    On the Monk with Stunning Fist, it’s not like it’s a huge complex math problem to discover or multiple rounds to mark off; with players already keeping track of their Ki pool, asking them to keep track of daily uses of an ability that only changes when they level up isn’t a huge amount more paperwork. Consider also that those same players are probably keeping track of multiple items with daily abilities too.

    I’d leave the Monk alone in that respect until it’s recieved some play time and then revisit Stunning Fist if it seems to be a bit much to keep track of.

    • And that’s a low level Barb with the 20 con too, higher level Barbs will only have longer and longer rages, it’s pretty rapidly going to reach the point where there’s just no real value in tracking the number of rounds the rage lasts, because it just lasts a bloody long time.

    • I suppose that might work for the barbarian. The key thing should be visible hostile creatures to fight. I will have to have a think on it. I definitely agree that once a barbarian can maintain the rage for more than about seven rounds, he’s never going to be in a position where he runs out of rage halfway through a combat.

      • Yeah, the key would be that the Barbarian has to actually be in or is about to be in a fight to maintain the Rage; that way he doesn’t just turn it on at the start of the day and turn if off before he goes to sleep, which is just silly.

  2. I think I’ll give my comments on the monk as it has major impact on Raza.

    Maths isnt quite so much the problem, but i would agree on a standard ki pool for all monk abilities including stunning attack

    Ki pool allows gives the monk the following abilities

    one additional attack at his highest attack bonus (1kp) L4
    increase his speed by 20 feet for 1 round (1kp) L4
    +4 dodge bonus to AC for 1 round (1kp) L4
    gains a +20 bonus on Acrobatics checks made to jump for 1 round (1kp) L5
    heal a number of hit points of damage equal to his monk level (2kp) L7
    dimension door (2kp) L12
    empty body (3kp) L19

    A monk is a self-contained character, he doesn’t use armour, weapons and there are less magical items that help monk in general compared to other classes, so i i think ki pool system works

    Lets take a fair assumption that a monk should be able to use all of these skills once a day as bare minimum

    So at monk levels:
    L4: 3kp
    L5: 5kp
    L7: 6kp
    L12: 9kp
    L19: 12kp

    Now assume we us pathfinder rules of monk getting ki points at half a level + wisdom bonus. For an average monk, he should get +1 wisdom.

    So, at various level, a monk will have the following ki-points total
    L4: 3kp
    L5: 3kp
    L7: 4kp
    L12: 7kp
    L19: 10kp

    So if you go with pathfinder system, as the monk levels, the amount of ki points he gets insufficient to utilise all the Ki driven skills at least once a day, and that is at a bare minimum of once a day.

    If you want to add stunning fist to go over ki pool, which i think is currently unfair, the monk will be running out over ki pool very quickly.

    now lets says we want to change the ki pool for monks and to include stunning fist into the ki pool, I would go with either 1.5x monk level + wisdom modifier

    so back to the average monk with +1 wisdom, he should now get the following ki points at various levels

    L4: 7kp
    L5: 8kp
    L7: 11kp
    L12: 19kp
    L19: 29kp

    So, lets take some example of monk at different levels, and lets assume stunning fist uses 1kp and the monk uses stunning fist 3x per encounter…

    at L4, a monk can use (7kp)
    2x one additional attack at his highest attack bonus (1kp)
    1x increase his speed by 20 feet for 1 round (1kp)
    1x +4 dodge bonus to AC for 1 round (1kp)
    3x stunning attack

    at L7, a monk can use (11kp)
    2x one additional attack at his highest attack bonus (1kp)
    2x increase his speed by 20 feet for 1 round (1kp)
    1x +4 dodge bonus to AC for 1 round (1kp)
    1x gains a +20 bonus on Acrobatics checks made to jump for 1 round (1kp)
    1x heal a number of hit points of damage equal to his monk level (2kp)
    3x stunning attack

    at L12, a monk can use (19kp)
    3x one additional attack at his highest attack bonus (1kp)
    3x increase his speed by 20 feet for 1 round (1kp)
    3x +4 dodge bonus to AC for 1 round (1kp)
    3x gains a +20 bonus on Acrobatics checks made to jump for 1 round (1kp)
    1x heal a number of hit points of damage equal to his monk level (2kp)
    1x dimension door (2kp)
    3x stunning attack

    at L19, a monk can use (29kp)
    4x one additional attack at his highest attack bonus (1kp)
    4x increase his speed by 20 feet for 1 round (1kp)
    4x +4 dodge bonus to AC for 1 round (1kp)
    3x gains a +20 bonus on Acrobatics checks made to jump for 1 round (1kp)
    2x heal a number of hit points of damage equal to his monk level (2kp)
    2x dimension door (2kp)
    1x empty body (3kp)
    3x stunning attack

    What are your thoughts? btw, before you shoot it down, remember, using 1kp will only heal up to your monk level (not monk level x2), at Raza does use stunning fist more than 3x a round.

    ooh, long email :)

    • Well, my first thought is that your “average monk” is unlikely to have only a +1 ability modifier to wisdom. However, I think we’ll have to keep a close eye on the Ki Pool during play, and assess whether the points you have make you more or less powerful than the other players.

      I am acutely aware of the fact that the Ki Pool as written in the Pathfinder rules is balanced against the traditional D&D spell system: a system where casters have to memorise spells in advance, or have an extremely limited spell choice. Because we’re giving spellcasters more power and utility, I am wondering if the monk’s ki powers could do with a boost.

      However, we’re not going to know that until we start playing.

      I agree with you (and Will) that it’s either unfair or unnecessary to fold Stunning Fist into your ki powers. I was trying to find a more streamlined mechanic for it, but the standard rules of once per day per monk level seems to be sufficient.

  3. ok – to counter what Will says a little.
    Kaledas is a low level Barbarian (multiclassed with Rogue and Cleric IIRC)

    For him to have unlimited rage seems odd.
    In munchkin terms – A fighter would take one level of Barbarian to get his “unlimited” rage.

    I think the duration might be best served as time based (1 + level of Barbarian rounds) until the Barbarian hits say level 7 at which point it becomes unlimited.

    Bards are great – I think Alarius was part bard (neil?)
    I never had a problem regulating/keeping track of times power/abilities used in 3.5 – So I agree go back to 3.5 version.

    Monk – beh..(Sorry INdran) – silly class to pander to the kids who crave to be “bruce lee” or “Jackie Chan”. Do what you like IMnsHO.

  4. Multiclassing is always the kicker isn’t it?

    There is a difference between that is necessary for the rules to work properly, and what we should include in order to make those rules seamlessly connected with the setting.

    By “unlimited rage” do you mean the ability to rage unlimited times per day, or the ability to remain raging for an unlimited time as long as there are enemy’s about to smash?

    If the duration of rage is 1 + barbarian level, then by the time the barbarian reaches level seven then it is effectively unlimited as few fights last longer than 8 rounds.

    I think one of the main limitations of barbarian rage as far as multiclassing is concerned is the line that you can’t attempt “any ability that requires patience or concentration”. I would say that would preclude using certain combat feats or abilities such as Sneak Attack while raging.

    • I was talking duration only – not times/day/encounter etc
      I reply to what you say yes – but lets take the fighter here.
      I could tailor all my “fighting feats” to be non concentration – power attack etc.
      As soon as the combat begins I Rage (knowing this will last until were all finished and there are no more bad guys).

      So effectively by taking one level of Barbarian (and if I were thinking of playing a fighter that would be level 1 to max the HP) I can give a +2 to hit +2 AC & 2 extra HP (just for lvl1 barb) for every combat.

      Not so attractive if at level 2 for example you get the boost for 3 rounds (1 + lvl 2) then spend the remainder of the combat at -2/-2….

      I try not to be a munckin these days… to old and wise…. but this would be to big a loophole to ignore……your choice of course…

      But I can see a std build of 1 level of Barbarian (rage), 2 of Rogue(evasion) then the rest of your “chosen” class for any up-close-and-personal type of character.

      Its just a note of caution – as we have people in our midst who like to, lets be generous, maximise their opportunities…..

      Nothing a Orc Hound can’t deal with mind you!
      you know who you are!

      • Well to be fair, you’ve basically just made a Barbarian by that point. Part of the reason to take Fighter is so that you have more options than hitting the Rage button, once the entire character revolves around activating Rage, you’ve just made a slightly different take on the Barbarian, which i’d say is a good thing.

  5. I didn’t take Pun-Pun to a game. Any sane GM (including Jon) would have put his foot down pretty quickly. Jasmine was a level 6 druid with a vow of poverty who spent most of her time as a fleshraker. Under Iourn house rules wildshape has an unlimited duration, so I used Strength and Dexterity as dump stats. I also had the druid variant that allowed her to rage, the able learner feat so I could choose all of the best skills and a tasty selection of exalted feats. She was pretty effective. Normally I don’t powerplay to quite the same extent, but I don’t think Jon left me any choice . . .

    • How the hell did your Druid get familiar with a Fleshraker Dinosaur?

      While that sounds fairly powergamey, that level of power is pretty much to be expected when a Druid enter the scene. Any time i see a player roll a Druid i brace for cheese.

      • On Iourn, there is a country where dinosaurs are common place, so in her character background she spent a number of years there with the druidic circle, becoming familiar with the local Fauna.

        I agree that Druids looked overpowered compared to the other base classes. It was the first time I actually played one though, and it definitely proved to be the case. I think that the limits Neil is introducing on polymorph (which I presume will include wildshape) and summoning magic might help rrestore the balance though.

      • Druids have three massive things in their favour which contribute to their blatant overpoweredness:

        1: Animal Companion. This will never be balanced, there’s nothing you can do about it. The companion will either be overpowered or useless outside of the occasional utility purpose. Breaking action economy is the simplest way to make a character overpowered and is also why the Leadership feat is fundamentally broken.

        2: Wild Shape. Wild Shape allows druids to dump Strength and Dexterity. They can just ignore those stats entirely. That alone is fairly overpowered, but you then get various Wild Shape enhancing feats like Frozen Wild Shape Frostburn that lets you turn into magical beasts with the [Cold] descriptor. 12 Headed Cryohydra :D

        The downside to Wild Shape is no spellcasty, except for;

        3: Natural Spell. Druids have full caster progression, which is already broken (see Wizard), but Clerics and Wizards have full caster progression too, so it’s not that noticable.

        Natural Spell patches the holes in Wild Shape, allowing a Druid to dump Str and Dex, still have an awesome Str and Dex score, pick up a bunch of awesome extraordinary abilities and grapple modifiers (as well as anything else he can grab) and still use the full force of a full caster.

        Basically, the Druid Class can be considered similar to a Gestalt Wizard\Fighter, -as a normal base class- Druids get all the best perks of Wizards and all the best perks of Fighters at the same time, without sacrificing anything, AND they get an Animal companion, giving them another free Fighter who they can affect with spells that are normally self-buffs.

        There is a very good reason why Druids have changed so fundamentally in 4th edition; the 3.5 interpretation of the Druid class will never be balanced. It’s underlying design dynamic (“Be a Wizard and a Fighter at the same time with a second Fighter on the side for free) is inherantly flawed.

    • You still got pinned by an orc hound which forced you into bird form and left you frightened everytime you came across a foe with four limbs….

      I think – I win.

      • All that means is that he should have turned into a bear :P

        Druids have access to a number of ‘Grapple Shapes’, like bears and crocodiles.

      • Actually, now that i think about it, what the hell was that orc hound on that it was able to out-grapple a Fleshraker and thought that doing so was a good idea? Fleshrakers can use their Rake attacks in a grapple, plus their two claws, bite and tail all with that crazy 1d6 Dex poison. Grappling a Fleshraker is pretty much exactly the last thing you want to do.

      • Some Iourn Orc hounds – are a little… bigger…. than your average.

        This particular species (one of the central PCs has one as a pet)
        is quite….. nasty (its called shredder).

        Steve knows how nasty shredder is – most of the damage was done by Steve fear of Shredder.. it’s all PR dont’ya know.

      • Must be something your esteemed DM made up or modified from another critter; your ‘default’ Orc hound is a Worg, and in a fight between a Worg and a Fleshraker, the Fleshraker would come out significantly on top.

        Of course, once the DM starts making up or modifying critters, all bets are off :P

      • Actually, Worgs are Goblins, Orcs usually use Dire Wolves, which makes more sense. Although i think a Fleshraker would still come out on top more often than not against a Dire Wolf, if mister DM has gotten creative and added bits to it i could definitely see it being somewhat problematic.

  6. The Orc Hounds in Iourn are named as such because they hunt Orcs. They have a strength of 30, improved grapple and get a free grapple attempt when they hit with a bite. As a Fleshraker only has a strength of 17 or 19 (I forget which) and is a smaller size, it didn’t have much chance in a grapple. I switched form to a Desmodu Hunting Bat to use magic on it while out of reach. It was very effective because Orchounds are animals which meant I could use dominate animal on it.

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