Pathfinder D&D – A slightly deeper analysis

OK so here I am on vacation, eating, sleeping and reading about D&D! I have read the Pathfinder D&D beta rules and I definitely like them and am itching to see how they play out. Granted the rules are not terribly different from D&D 3.5. Some people call this version 3.75 but I think I’d call it 3.5.2.

Even though they made some big changes, combat works the same way, character creation is the same, skills and spells work the same way systematically/structurally.

Classes: Everyone has more to do. Melee classes get more abilities each level and caster classes get some bonus feats, arcane school bonuses for Wizards, Bloodlines for Sorcerors, and even a few spell-like abilities at higher levels. Hit points are beefed up a bit for the casters too (no d4 hit dice). Sneak attack too is open to affecting more targets and is more “finding the weak spot” than “stabbing vital organs”

Skills: many skills were merged together or just ‘absorbed’ by others ex: tumble and balance is now ‘Acrobatics’, hide and move silently is now ‘Stealth’, concentration and spellcraft is now ‘Spellcraft’. Also, skill points work like this: you get a certain amount of points plus your INT bonus per level and don’t get that x2 or x4 multiple at first level. Any class skill you put a rank in gets an automatic +3 bonus, and all skills you gain from multiclassing then join that list of class skills and ranks put in them also benefit from this bonus.

Races: Each race gets a +2 to two stats and a -2 to one stat in addition to racial features listed. Humans can choose to add a +2 to any one stat and get the extra feat and extra skill points.

Feats: some more are added and some old ones got a makeover. Cleave now triggers on a successful hit, and not the death of your opponent, great cleave is the same too; as long as you hit you keep swinging at new targets in reach. Even better is some have reduced prerequisites, opening them up to characters at a lower level or to classes that may not normally have taken them.

Spells: Chain lightning is there and it’s spectacular (a.k.a. unchanged from 3.5) but druids may not like the new wild shape powers. You don’t become the thing in the monster manual – you get bonuses to stats based on what you choose and some basic abilities of the animal. Granted you can shift shapes earlier in your career and I think more often but some power is sacrificed. Also polymorph has been more defined and is broken up into seperate spells like “beast form” and “dragon form” etc.

Combat: Some good changes here. Gone are the confusing old grapple/disarm/sunder rules. Now we have the Combat Maneuver Bonus (CMB).  STR bonus + BAB + size bonus (now not as severe as 3.5, -1 for small +1 for large) + feat bonuses (if any) is your CMB – anyone trying to grapple or trip or disarm you must make a DC 15+your CMB check (1d20 + their cmb). If they win you now have the condition “grappled” placed up on you (which has a small list of what you can and cant do in it). That’s it. much easier so far it seems. Combat is essentially the same thing as before though. Swift, free, immediate, move, and standard actions are still here; initiative, critical hits, full round actions, multiple attacks, saving throws, etc. are all the same as you remember from 3.5.

Items: seems the same with minor changes based on the spells and feats they grant you.

my review: It looks good. We’ll see how it goes for character balance and ease of combat once we try it. My guess is that people who weren’t thrilled with 3.5 in the first place might see this as an improvement but not enough of one to satisfy them fully. For me, I can see all the same freedom and fun I have now in 3.5 occurring again in Pathfinder just without some of the clunkier rules.

**Edited to add some more info**



  1. Very interesting. But I have one question …

    You’re on a cruise and you’re spending it eating, sleeping and reading D&D. Could you not have simply done this from the comfort of your basement?! Dude, go outside!! Look at the ocean. It’s big and lots of things not native to Bayside, Queens live in it (no stray cats that Val will lure with promises of tuna, for example). If you look hard enough into the water, you might actually see one of those things (Krakens are always a possibility, trust me!).

    As your friend, I must suggest that you cast off your current Diggle-like lifestyle and be more Morg-ish. Yes, even if you have to kill and eat people. You’re bound to gain experience before you’re shot down by ship security, and trust me, it’s better to die in combat as a level 2 Faux Barbarian than languish as a level 1 Bachanaler. You also gain an extra feat before you die (I would pick the “Don’t Die” feat, just my two cents).

    Oh, and I like the merger of skills too.

  2. Are you kidding? When I am on vacation I get to do those exact 3 things I love most!

    Ocean? Seen it.
    Fish? Delicious.
    Other people outside of Bayside? Just like everyone else.

  3. Yeah, I’d bring my core books too! Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t read them in a beach chair holding a funny looking drink with an umbrella in it or something, but Pathfinder is good reading. Fact is, I like the 3.5/3.75e rules (and have a considerable library of them), but I think Paizo also does a great job with the *story* … the thing that gets you interested in playing in a particular setting. Have you read through the Campaign setting? Really solid.

  4. I have and I really like the setting as well. They did a great job of describing their world and it’s very rich. I look forward to playing in it someday!

  5. First off, thank you, Rob for your commentary on Pathfinder! It was very enlightening.

    I find myself in an interesting frame of mind regarding Pathfinder. There’s a lot of little issues, like loyalty to D&D, but feeling betrayed by 4.0, and really liking the idea of someone taking the path straight ahead instead of the sharp right turn Wizards opted for. No, what’s really bothering me is the whole, similar but different angle. I had the same issue when I first joined a 3.5 group. I knew D&D, but only up through 2.0 — 3.5 was something else entirely, having the same germ of game flavor, but with vastly different rules. It was much closer to learning a whole new system than just learning a few changes. Pathfinder feels like that — the germ of sameness is there, but the differences are too numerous to list in anything short of their own volume. Basically, the only way to approach it since there is no published addendum listing exactly where and how the rules diverge from 3.5, is as a totally new game system. Which is not only daunting, but in many ways hindered by the things that it has in common with 3.5. I mean, if it were a totally new and unique system, learning it would be daunting, too, but possible, but the fact that it’s 3.5 with changes means we’d be forever falling back, probably accidentally, on 3.5 rules. I suppose that’s okay, but I’ve always been more of an ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ kind of guy. Unfortunately I don’t have the mind, or the patience (my OCD is limited to counting red headed children in year books from schools in Counties starting with ‘T’) to sit down with the PHB on one knee and Pathfinder on the other, and notate exactly where they diverge, but I sure wish someone out in Webland with no life to speak of would do that hard task for me. I’d much rather have a rulebook for Pathfinder that says things like, “Initiative works exactly as it did in 3.5, except for this, this and this.” THAT would be my ideal rulebook! Am I alone on this? Is mine the only mind that sees things this way? Probably, wouldn’t be the first time. If you’re still wondering what the hell I’m talking about here’s an example:

    3.5 — Your Base Blah Score is determined by adding blah, blah and blah.

    Pathfinder — Your Base Blech Score (can’t call it Blah, that’s copyrighted) is determined by adding blech, blech and half your Blargh Score.

    What I want — Your Base Blech Score is exactly like 3.5’s Base Blah Score, except instead of adding blah, you add half your Blargh Score.

    I think, in the end, the difference is that the example I want builds on existing knowlege I already posess, pointing out where it diverges rather than just telling me the rule after divergence. Pathfinder supplants the rules, even when they’re the same, leaving you to wonder if it did diverge, or trying to pick out the divergences.

    Oh well, a wise but dead man once said, “wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which gets full faster”.

    In the end, I would definitely, after full review of the group, not be opposed to a campaign using Pathfinder rules at some point in the future. Wizards dropped the ball, I’m rather pleased somebody else picked it up, dusted it off, and said, ‘Play ball!’.

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