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.
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
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
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.