Guidance – Alex’s Top 10: Least Favorite Pathfinder Design Choices

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, Alex is going to be sharing his Top 10 Least Favorite Design Choices in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Author’s Note: The following article includes the author’s thoughts on a number of design decisions made throughout the Pathfinder RPG’s history. Some are his, some aren’t. This article is intended to be reviewed as a self-reflective piece and isn’t intended to be a criticism of any of the authors or designers involved and isn’t intended to be construed as such.

To preface, I want to admit that this is a VERY difficult article for me to write. Not only because I love the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, but also because I am so closely involved in its production as a 3PP and freelancer. However, I think it is important to acknowledge the flaws in something that you love so it can be made stronger, so it is with absolutely no ill intent towards anyone who has ever worked on any of the topics that I am about to mention as being my least favorite design choices in the game.

Don’t worry, folks: I’m the guy who screwed up on Aesthetic Style in the Weapon Master’s Handbook. I know what its like to be responsible for something that drives people crazy.

So today, I’m going to talk about 10 aspects of Pathfinder’s general design that irk me. They don’t make me froathing mad. They don’t make me want to take to the forums and scream profanities. They are, however, things that are on my personal radar as “things to try and fix when I’m given design freedom,” or “things not to do,” if the issue is something that can’t be fixed.

And with that, let’s begin.

Words of Power

I never liked this system for a couple of different reasons. First, words of power never really felt to capture the specifics of the general Spellcasting system. Amusing, right? There are TONS of spells that are iconic to the game that you can’t build well in words of power. The most notable being magic missile; its impossible to have the “never misses” attribute in words of power. Second, I felt like the rules weren’t well organized. This felt like it wanted to be a lot bigger than it was, but it ultimately is something that never gets used, and as far as I’m aware it isn’t even canon for Golarion. That’s disappointing.

How It Can Be Fixed: I think that this concept is something that would work better either as the topic of an independent class (rather than an all-new Spellcasting system) or as a product produced by a 3PP (I’ve heard from friends that Spheres of Power did the concept better). If Pathfinder ever did a truenamer style class, I would want its Spellcasting to be entirely based around words of power. Otherwise, I’ll pass.

Dramatic Reorganization of the Kineticist

One of the most common critiques that I hear of Occult Adventures, even from experienced players, is “I didn’t even bother to try and read the kineticist class. I can’t handle the number of beers it would take to stop the headaches.” Rather than being a byproduct of the class itself, this is mostly an issue with its organization within the Occult Classes chapter, and how it compares to the original version in the playtest document. In the Occult Adventures playtest, all kineticist talents were organized by the minimum kineticist level needed to select them. But when the final printing of Occult Adventures was released, the kineticist talents had an all-new system that was noted only in a single place, in the description of the wild talent class ability itself, and this “new system” was that every talent had an effective spell level, and a kineticist could only choose a talent if her level was equal to twice the talent’s spell level. Quite a few local players missed that change because of the true problem with the kineticist’s organization: information is spread EVERYWHERE in the class description.

What do I mean by this? Well, take a look at Spellcasting and you’ll see the problem. For all classes with Spellcasting, their class features indicated how their spells per day and spells known work for that specific class, and the rest of the rules are handled in a separate section. Kineticists, on the other hand, have everything from rules regarding specific kinds of talents, how they work and function, and general information about all kinds of talents in different places. That’s because “wild talent,” “utility talent,” and “infusion” are all “class abilities” of the kineticist when the rules noted under the “wild talent” section equally apply to both “utility talents” and “infusions.” That juxtaposition combined with the sheer number of talents available has players skipping madly across a sum of 25+ pages in order to find the answer to one tiny question.

How It Could Be Fixed: Layout problems are weird. As a publisher, mucking around with a layout that you’ve already created can be truly disastrous, so I think we’re going to be stuck with the kineticist’s layout problems. The I think it would have been more effective if the section said something like, “At level X, the kineticist gains an infusion wild talent, chosen from the list available to kineticists of her element.” Then you take all of the explanations of WHAT wild talents are and how they work in a separate section, and THEN you list the available wild talents.

In short, lay them out like spells.

Versatile Performance’s Lack of Retraining

James Jacobs talks a lot about how its odd that nearly every versatile performance includes skills that a bard already wants to be good at, but the fact that you can essentially “waste” your skill ranks is a huge problem for a class that basically lives on skill ranks. This gets worse as the bard gets higher in level; not only does it become more likely that you’re already going to have ranks in one of the key social skills that nearly all versatile performances grant to the bard, but the versatile performances even start to overlap with one another, causing the bard to make a choice that is effectively worthless. (I don’t need to substitute both my Perform [sing] and Perform [comedy] for Bluff, after all.)

How It Could Be Fixed: A FAQ and/or an errata. Here’s what I would do.

Versatile Performance (Ex): At 2nd level, a bard can choose one type of Perform skill. He can use his bonus in that skill in place of his bonus in associated skills. When substituting in this way, the bard uses his total Perform skill bonus, including class skill bonus, in place of its associated skill’s bonus. If he had ranks either of the chosen skill’s associated skills, he can reassign skill ranks from those skills to his chosen Perform skill, up to his character level. Any remaining skill ranks are assigned to other, unassociated skills as if the bard had gained those skill ranks from attaining a new level.
At 6th level, and every 4 levels thereafter, the bard can select an additional Perform skill. He adds the chosen Perform skill, as well as any skills associated with that Perform skill, to the list of skills that are associated with the Perform skill that he chose at 2nd level.

The types of Perform and their associated skills are: Act (Bluff, Disguise), Comedy Bluff, Intimidate), Dance (Acrobatics, Fly), Keyboard Instruments (Diplomacy, Intimidate), Oratory (Diplomacy, Sense Motive), Percussion (Handle Animal, Intimidate), Sing (Bluff, Sense Motive), String (Bluff, Diplomacy), and Wind (Diplomacy, Handle Animal).

Not only does this make the class ability cleaner to use, but it prevents versatile performance from becoming a dead ability at high levels; that means instead of being forced to choose the same small number of Perform skills that don’t overlap, you let the bard continue to be good at performances without drastically improving the power of versatile performance.

Feral Combat Training’s Errata

Let me start by saying that as originally written, Feral Combat Training was stupid. I myself have used it in a number of builds, but I never built it to be truly ridiculous. Since joining PFS, I have SEEN the truly ridiculous. I have SEEN the octomonks. I have tried to have fun next to them and failed. I completely understand why the phrase, “effects that augment” doesn’t work from a game design perspective. (Which is why I’m ashamed that I goofed and wrote it into Aesthetic Style.)

However, I also believe that the Feral Combat Training errata swung the feat too far in the other direction. After this year’s errata, Feral Combat Training only works with the effects of feats that have Improved Unarmed Strike as a prerequisite and the flurry of blows class feature. That list is REALLY small, and it totally misses the one REALLY fun thing about Feral Combat Training: having savage monks that used their monk damage progression for Feral Combat Training. That part was never the broken part; it was all of the other effects that you could apply to Feral Combat Training, like Pummeling Style and the like.

How It Could Be Fixed: An errata that makes specific mention that the character can use its unarmed strike damage in place of the natural weapon’s normal damage. Heck, even if you had to add a monk level –4 clause (like the close combat mastery class feature), that would be fine with me.

Unchained Summoner’s Restrictions on Mount

For the most part, I love the Unchained Summoner’s rewrite. I love the focus on existing monsters. I love the theme of being a “X summoner,” where X is a specific kind of monster. I love the pruning some OP evolutions that didn’t fit the summoner’s new theme, I love the reorganizing of the point cost of evolutions and the summoner’s spell list. I love just about every aspect of the unchained summoner … except for one, relatively tiny thing.

The mount evolution.

What don’t I like about the mount evolution? It has subtype restriction. Why? Why does it have a subtype restriction? What if someday Paizo released a blink dog eidolon or a hound of tiranos eidolon? Why can’t I mount it? Why does the current list exclude agathions, which are LITERALLY animal-shaped outsiders? (They even have access to bipedal quadrupedal base forms.) Better yet, why are there any restrictions on what eidolons you can mount at all? The Pathfinder Core Rulebook has NO restrictions on what you can and cannot mount in combat. (Yes, phrasing. STAY WITH ME PEOPLE!) So why does the eidolon put that restriction on you?

I think the current subtype limitation system is going to bite designers in the butt going forward, as it becomes difficult to add old evolutions to new eidolons. And I’m not sure how we’d fix the problem in the current system.

How It Could Be Fixed: Drop the subtype requirements and replace them with base shape requirements.

Dex-to-Damage and “No Dual Wield” Ban

Combat is a dance, and it stands to reason that no one would be better at it then Dex-based fighters, right? I mean, a dexterous flurry of weapons is practically the Iconic image of the ranger class, immortalized by drow ranger Driz’zt DuUrden. Yet at virtually every turn, it seems like the design team has been trying to keep the cap on Dex-to-damage in some regard or another. Nowhere is this more evident then the changes to Slashing Grace, a feat that once allowed you to pick one one-handed slashing weapon and use Dex to damage with it. Nevermind that it didn’t also allow you to finesse said weapon automatically, it also excluded all light slashing weapons from being selected with it, which meant that it was solely for swashbuckler. (Its exact wording included “use the selected weapon as if it were a piercing weapon, which means that a swashbuckler, or a character with a similar finesse ability, could use Weapon Finesse it. But no one else.)

So when the errata came along, light weapons were added to the Slashing Grace feat. But then the feat was also rewritten so one couldn’t be using ANYTHING in their other hand sans a buckler. Again, swashbucklers only. I have a lot of thoughts on why this was done, but without asking a designer I can’t be 100% certain. The first possibility is that the designers want to keep Dex-to-damage as a unique class feature of the new unchained rogue, which I personally frustrating since it’s the swashbuckler, not the rogue, that’s supposed to be the master of finesse fighting. (More on my frustrations with the swashbuckler in a bit.) The other possibility is that the design team views Dex to damage as being too powerful, despite the huge amount of resources needed to pull it off. I have thoughts on this as well, but there’s a good chance that I’m going to be preaching to the choir, so leave a comment in the notes below if you want to hear more on this one; otherwise I’m moving on.

How to Fix It: Remove the “no off-hand attacks,” bit from the feat. Slashing Grace is far more feat-intense then simply going unchained rogue 3, and an unchained rogue can use this feat as well. Dex to damage shouldn’t be a class feature; it should be something everyone can do, because it’s a fighting style. Not a class.

Fighter’s “Exclusion” from Pathfinder Unchained

Pathfinder Unchained is most famous for updating four classes: the barbarian, the monk, the rogue, and the summoner. Of those three, pretty much everyone agrees on the monk, the rogue, and the summoner. But the barbarian? Even though the final outcome is a great improvement over the standard barbarian, I’ve always found myself wondering, “Why?” Without a doubt, the barbarian is the most powerful combatant at Level 1, and it stays relevant into high levels. The redesign focused mostly on simplifying the barbarian’s math and empowering its rage powers, and while I can understand the need to simplify the class’s math, I don’t get boosting the rage powers, because that’s really what happened: nearly all of the rage powers in the Core Rulebook got upgrades.

Meanwhile, improvements to the fighter class happened in a separate, not-a-class section using a system called Stamina and Combat Tricks. This system offers a “totally-not-bound-by-class” system where martial characters can get a pool of points to use to enhance their martial tricks and abilities. Tons of alternate rules went into the section suggesting how it could be adapted to be fighter only, and it was touted as a “way to fix the fighter.” But can a new subsystem REALLY improve an entire class like that?

In my opinion, it does not. The fighter is a decent class on its own; my favorite, in fact. But the stamina and combat tricks system doesn’t improve the fighter because it doesn’t improve the class: it provides suggestions, not rules. It’s the equivalent of a designer writing a whole alternate system in her free time and posting it for free on a forum. The class wasn’t fixed or improved, it was supplemented it. And for PFS players, this attempt might as well not exist because stamina and combat tricks are illegal in Organized Play.

How It Can Be Fixed: The fighter needs a real, honest attempt at an unchaining. I have my thoughts and opinions on this one too, and it starts with the Stamina and Advanced Weapon Training options being core parts of the fighter class. Maybe I’ll share more on that someday….

Brawler / Monk Restrictions on Flurry Weapons

This is one of the BIGGEST pet peeves that I have in my arsenal. (It IS Top 3, after all!) Both the brawler and the monk (including the unchained monk) have class abilities that specifically modify a very small subset of weapons; close weapons for the brawler and monk weapons for the monk. But BOTH of these two classes gain proficiency with a small number of weapons that they CANNOT use in any way. Generally speaking, brawler is the bigger offender; it is proficient with the dagger and the shortsword, two iconic “dirty fighting gladiatorial weapons,” that it CANNOT use with any of its class features! Monk is in a similar boat, as both real-world martial arts AND fantasy shows monks incorporating a huge number of weapons into their monastic practices. Both classes have lists that are simply too narrow for their own good.

How It Can Be Fixed: A simple feat that requires Weapon Focus would do it. “You can use the selected weapon with brawler and monk class features as if it was a monk weapon and a weapon in the close fighter weapon group.” That is literally all it would take, and both the brawler and monk could use the extra love too.

Gunslinger / Swashbuckler Class Progression

I like to think that I’m somewhat famous for my distaste for these two classes from a design standpoint. (So much so that Jason Nelson decided to make me in charge of the Legendary Swashbuckler and Legendary Gunslinger projects, at any rate.) So let me give you the cliff notes version.

First, the classes have absolutely NO player choice in them aside from bonus feats. Deeds are simply gained, not chosen, so all gunslingers and swashbucklers are identical. Second, both classes gain new abilities, but never improve those abilities. Rogue makes you want to take more levels by enticing you with more talents and increased sneak attack damage. Sorcerer/wizard entices you by improving your spells per day and spells known. Ranger improves your favored enemy bonuses. Every class makes the abilities you have better as you improve in power. Gunslinger and swashbuckler, on the hand, opt to drown you in situational abilities that are all tied to the same action: swift action. (Its worse for the swashbuckler than the gunslinger, but not by much.) Instead of improving how panache is gained or making it easier to spend panache on some deeds, you just get more, more, more.

In addition, both classes, two no-spellcasting full BAB martial classes, get fewer feats then the WARPRIEST, a spellcasting class, a resource both classes desperately need. (They also get fewer feats than the monk and the ranger, and they lack the sheer of the only martials that get fewer feats then them, the bloodrager, the cavalier, and the paladin. And yes, the cavalier is mighty because it’s a full BAB class with an animal companion and a massive damage buffing ability.)

As a result, both classes end up only being good until Level 5; when gunslingers get Dex to damage and swashbucklers get early-access Improved Critical. (And yes, GUNSLINGERS get Dex to damage but SWASHBUCKLERS don’t.) Afterwards, the fact that neither class has any substantial ability worth sticking around for means that you’re better off multiclassing OUT of swashbuckler or gunslinger and into something, almost anything, else.

How It Can Be Fixed: Honestly, I don’t know that you can fix these classes without a massive, unchained-style rewrite. They both need incentives to stick to the class beyond 1st level, class features and abilities that are unique, and the ability to use a multitude of different weapons with similar proficiency. I wrote something along those lines for Legendary Games called Legendary Swashbuckler, but even now I’m not entirely convinced that was the best approach either.

Aesthetic Style

Surprise. My least favorite design choice is the one I mad. Who would have guessed it? So for some background info, I wrote large parts of Paizo’s Weapon Master Handbook, including the weapon style feats that appear in that book. One of the styles I wrote was Aesthetic Style, and it was supposed to encapsulate monk weapons as a whole. Now, if you’ve never looked into the list of monk weapons in the game, it is REALLY large and REALLY diverse, so I had no idea what I could do to make a satisfying feat chain for a long while. Ultimately, I decided to make the style based around incorporating your monk weapon into your monastic traditions better, and that’s when I made the biggest mistake of my relatively short career: I used the worst three words in the Pathfinder design industry: effects that augment.

Why is this bad? Well, simply put, “effects that augment” is so incredibly all-encompassing that it literally means EVERYTHING, which has some sticky design problems. When the book came out, I had people asking if they could stack weapon enhancement bonuses with the enhancement bonus from the amulet of mighty fists, or if brawling armor applied to the weapon. I remember someone saying, “Wow I can’t believe it says that so soon after Feral Combat Training got nerfed,” and I thought to myself, “Please tell me I didn’t write it like that…,” but I checked my turnover and I DID. I DID make the BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER. And I was SO ashamed of it!

And that’s the story of how I wrote a feat chain that was instantly banned in PFS!

How to Fix It: Looking at my notes, I intended for Ascetic Style to work different then how it did. I wrote this:

“While using this style and wielding the chosen weapon, you can apply the effects of feats that have Improved Unarmed Strike as a prerequisite, as well as any effects that augment an unarmed strike.”

But what I wanted to write was this:

“While using this style and wielding the chosen weapon, you can apply the effects of feats that have Improved Unarmed Strike as a prerequisite, as well as any feat that augments an unarmed strike.”

This happens to be exactly what Feral Combat Training was changed to post errata. (So despite my wishes earlier, I feel you, PDT! I really do.) The reason is simple: as written Ascetic Style completely invalidates its subsequent feats.

So yup, while there are many design choices that I’m not fond of in Pathfinder, the greatest of them is my own! Oh, the irony! (Not really, Designer 101 is that we’re all HUGELY self-critical people.) So, what do you guys think of my list and the suggestions that I wrote to fix them? What would you do differently from my suggestions, and what items are on your personal list of LFDCs? Leave any comments you have below or on Facebook, but please: keep in civil. Not once did I ever attack or belittle any designer except myself, so I expect all of my readers to do the same. Be cool, or don’t “be” at all. See you next week, folks!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC. If you like Alex's writing and are interested in supporting him while getting professional-quality material for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game while doing so, check out the Everyman Gaming, LLC catalog, which is listed under Rogue Genius Games at the following locations: http://drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/6101/Rogue-Genius-Games/subcategory/19574_25289/Everyman-Gaming-Catalog

23 Comments

  1. Sean Izaakse Reply to Sean

    Interesting article. I would love to hear your thoughts on the Fighter/Unchained Fighter that you briefly mentioned above. I have yet to play a Fighter in Pathfinder despite it being a favourite class of mine as well.

    Best
    -S

    • I completely agree with with Sean. So far the new options for the fighter in Weapon master’s handbook look fantastic, and they go a long way to make the vanilla fighter look more appealing.
      I would love to hear, what else you have in store for the fighter.

  2. Interesting and insightful. Its interesting to see a designer’s take on some of these, although some I feel come from player’s frustrations with the system. I think what intrigues me most is how varied priorities are between players. I think my list would almost exclusively be different then your list, not that i don’t agree with basically all your points, just none of them would have been top ten for me. Some of these are sloppy design, or subsystem stuff, some of it how ever is the 3.5 backbone of Pathfinder just doesn’t bend that way. Great article none the less.

  3. James Krolak Reply to James

    Can you elaborate on the “octomonk” reference a bit? I’ve been confused on what abusive build/approach caused the change to Feral Combat Training in the first place.

  4. Nate Wright Reply to Nate

    Great article there. I especially agree with one of the points made. Let me tell you a little story.

    Once, in a PFS scenario, we had to deal with half of the dungeon being partially flooded. This made it difficult terrain. My character, a halfling Summoner on a spider themed eidolon, was just fine for mobility. Our wayang Rogue, not so much. Figuring her positioning was more important in combat, he offered his mount to help her out.

    What did the halfling do? Why, ride on the dwarf Fighter’s shoulders, of course! I didn’t go full ham on this (No Mounted Combat use) but the DM was okay with the tactic since it didn’t go over the Fighter’s encumbrance.

    So my character ran ride on another PC’s shoulders without effort, thanks in no small part to the somewhat vague mounted rules. But Eidolons, by exclusion, are the ONLY CREATURES IN GOLARION OR THE NEXT WORLD THAT YOU CANNOT RIDE.

    My only possible explanation is that eidolons are excessively proud creatures in nature, and the mount evolution involves some deep mental conditioning to suppress that particular aspect of their free well. Man, that would be a pretty awesome flavoring for the evolution and even explain why Good eidolons seem to lack that evolution. But yeah, I want my Arcane Paladin. Step up, Paizo Senpai.

  5. What was done to the Barbarian wasn’t a boost on rage, it was a nerf on the cheese maneuver known as rage-cycling. the habit of switching rage off and on to get multiple uses of 1/rage powers.

    That and trying to limit the barbarian dying when coming out of rage syndrome.

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      Unchained Barbarian doesn’t take a single hit to rage cycling. If you’re referring to the change from static hp to temporary hit points, that’s an all-around buff for the unchained barbarian because it ensures that the barbarian loses the hit points that it gains from raging before its actual hit points, meaning the chance of “I drop unconscious and now I’m dead” doesn’t happen anymore.

  6. There are some pretty annoying design choices here; many of them don’t bother me at all because they’re either optional rules or things that are easily houseruled away in a non-PFS game, but I think the worst offender has to be dex-to-damage. D&D has been cruel to dex-based fighters and especially dual wielders ever since the beginning. PF is possibly the best it’s ever been, and even then you have to spend several feats and twice as much money to be just as good as any two-handed fighter out of the box. (let’s not talk about 3.0 and Ambidexterity)

    Conceptually, the way I’d like this to work is that it’s simply a character concept choice for melee characters; you’re either dex-based or str-based, depending on your class and weapon, and use that stat for your attack and damage rolls. Other game systems (like 13th Age) do similar things and it works well.

    The problem with doing that in PF is that, aside from a bonus to attack and damage rolls, strength is a useless stat. The only significant thing it affects is your carry weight, and that stops mattering as soon as you have 2000 gp and can buy a Handy Haversack. Oh, and there’s two skills that are highly situational and stop mattering after you have access to mobility-enhancing spells. Depending on your character, a Str somewhere between 8 or 10 is more than good enough to carry any gear you’ll need in-combat, and you there are enchantments that can help you get away with an even lower strength. On the other hand, Dex affects your AC, reflex saves, initiative, and several useful skills. If anybody can apply Dex to attack and damage just by using the right weapons, suddenly the optimal choice is clearly to dump Str and pump Dex.

    Unfortunately, I’ve thought about the problem quite a bit and don’t have a good solution for it that wouldn’t involve considerable amounts of house rules. Strength needs to be more useful, but what do you add to it that wouldn’t make current Str-based characters even more powerful? You could use it as a bonus for Fortitude saves instead of Constitution (which is almost always everybody’s second or third most important stat anyway), maybe. That doesn’t feel very logical, but it’s the best I’ve got. If fighters /did/ have some kind of limited resource pool that they needed to manage, maybe it’d make sense for it to be Str-based… but they don’t, so that’s irrelevant.

    Anyway, off the subject of dex-to-damage, my biggest problem with Pathfinder’s design choices is more of an issue with design philosophy: the use of errata for balancing. Back in 3.5, when WotC issued errata, it was almost always to fix omissions or mechanical errors. Very rarely (if at all) did they ever use errata to change abilities so that they fundamentally functioned differently, nor did they change abilities that functioned as written and intended but ended up being significantly weaker or more powerful than comparable abilities. It was expected that a DM would decide what’s appropriate for their game and talk about it with the players.

    On the other hand, Paizo issues errata to change things for the sake of class balance, which has in several cases led to abilities being modified repeatedly as they over or under-correct, and sometimes they accidentally take good abilities and make them worthless. I see this as a byproduct of the popularity of PFS, where players will bandwagon onto powerful builds and GMs can’t just say that they would rather players not use those abilities. Ultimately it means that having a hard copy of a book is unreliable unless it’s the latest printing… and we’re up to six printings of the core rulebook!

  7. I’ll just note that at a Gen Con seminer about Unchained, Jason Bulhman said that if they had done another Unchained class, it probably would have been the Cavalier, mainly because people find it boring.

    A agree that Dex to Damage is very powerful. The first character I made, before I really understood the game and how much damage one needed to do to be relevent, was a dex based halfling bard. He was pretty wimpy in combat until I discoved the Agile weapon property and put it on his rapier, at which point he became a total badass.

    I think my biggest complaint is just any class that only gets 2 skill ranks per level. There are a lot of character ideas I would like to play in PFS that I decide not to play becuase it is just too painful to be that unskilled in that campaign.

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      You didn’t really “become a badass” when you got Dex to damage, however. You were brought up to the point where a Strength-based character using your choice of weapon would have been. You went from being ineffective to on-par-with-the-Strength-based-guy, and all it costed you was 8,000 gp that Mr. Fighter probably put towards upping his Strength, his enhancement bonus to his weapon, or some other cool ability.

      This is basically what happens with ANY Dex-to-damage option. The Dex characters pays her tax and the Strength character goes on living. If the Str character has a weakness, its that the designers don’t try to make make Strength an attractive option by adding feats or abilities specifically for Strength-based characters to the game. Adding, for example, Strength to Acrobatics checks or Reflex saves as a feat is an easy way this could be accomplished. There could also be additional feats and abilities that give Strength-based characters cool things to do in combat that are applicable to a full-attack (This is Cleave’s problem) or that don’t impose massive penalties onto the fighter (like Dazing Assault and similar feats). The fact that the Two-Weapon Fighting feats are all locked behind a huge Dexterity prerequisite also hurts Strength-based characters, because it makes players think that they can’t do TWF because they don’t want to invest that heavily into Dex.

      • Hey Alex, I forgive you for underestimating the badass-ness of my bard, everyone always did, which made the character really fun to play :). But I must defend the premise that the character ended up far more powerful as a dex-based build than he would have as strength based build. Comparing a character with 12 strength and 20 dex to a character with 20 strength and 12 dex. The high dex character gets:

        +4 init (HUGE for bards)
        +4 AC (a really huge difference when stacked with mirror image)
        +4 on acrobatics, disable device, escape artist, and stealth
        +4 to hit with ranged weapons when needed
        -4 CMB
        -4 climb and swim

        There is no way the strength based character could make up those differences for the 8,000 gp is cost for the agile weapon.

        So, yes I agree with your point that the strength based character needs some more feats or options to allow them to use that bonus on other checks, especially if dex-to-damage is to be fully embraced.

        Thanks for a fun article, and for responding to my comment.

  8. Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

    Dex to damage is my number one hated design standpoint Paizo is afraid of. They are 100% wrong and need to get their head out of their asses in that regard. “Oh no, if they get dex to damage, strength will be a useless stat!” WHO CARES!?!?! Many stats are, essentially, useless depending on the character. Fighter’s don’t give to flying $#%^$ about Intelligence or Charisma, should we change the rules about Int and Cha so that it “matters” again? Most arcane casters don’t care too much about Strength or Con except that they need enough to survive.

    =====================

    The Monk is also a sore point with me and Paizo. Even with Unchained, they still haven’t done it right. They made him a bit better at melee, but he sacrificed a lot to get it. He is, defensively, worse off than the CRB Monk, and he’s all around worse than an Archetyped Monk, especially since the Unchained Monk has only made his Ki consumption worse, by turning everything into an ability that consumes Ki.

    Frankly, they need to stop. They need to let someone else wright a huge errata for the Monk that makes him worthwhile. Dabbler on the Paizo Forums has spent huge amounts of time crunching numbers and wordcount and layouts to make a Monk errata that would bring it up to snuff, fit inside the wordcount and layout of the CRB *and* not play merry hell with the archetypes.

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    The sudden reversal of the SLA FAQ I’ve thought was stupid for awhile. No one was building any super powered builds because of it. What it did, was allowed people to play prestige classes or build characters they wanted, without having to jump through so many hoops it made them turn out to be horribly weak or awful characters. An Eldritch Knight could actually go toe-to-toe with people before 12th level; a Mystic Theurge was actually useful before 15th level, and so on and so forth.

    It also bugs me because some of the arguments were that it didn’t make sense to allow SLA to qualify to take magic item creation feats or early access to prestige class. This is dumb to me, because these races with SLA are inherently magical. They are infused with magic simply for existing; to such a degree, they can manifest spells without even undergoing training. They simply are magical.

    Races like gnomes, tiefling, aasimar *should* have an inherently easier time crafting items, or entering magical prestige classes; because they have an easier time with magic. They have more magical potential due to the very nature of the fact they *are* magical beings. A human Wizard can learn all the spells in the world, but he’ll never have the same magical ancestry as a gnome; he’ll never have magic literally flowing in his veins.

    =====================

    Honestly, a lot of the choices made by the PDT over the years has made me simply stop allowing them to errata things. I no longer accept their errata as official. Unfortunately, this pretty much limits my gaming opportunities because I don’t want to have to sit down and explain which decisions they’ve made over the years are bad ones. I mean, there are so many decisions they’ve made, that they shouldn’t have, I would need to type up an entire anti-errata document just to keep track of them all.

    At this point, I think that getting involved with the Pathfinder forums and the community is amongst the worst things I’ve ever done as far as gaming choices go. If I had never seen the choices they’ve made, maybe I wouldn’t have become so disenfranchised with the system. I just think they’re making a lot of dumb decisions and it’s harming the game for no real good reason.

    • Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

      Oh god, I forgot to talk about Crane Wing. My god… that was an awful decision. Especially since they did it because it was a PFS problem. I didn’t like PFS before Crane Wing, I despised PFS after Crane Wing.

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      I get your passion for what you’re talking about, but I’m going to have to go Steve Rodgers on you and remind you to watch your language; we strive to be a family-friendly site! (Don’t worry, I’ve already blotched out some profanity for you. ;-P)

      I don’t think that the PDT issuing errata is a bad thing, and I don’t think they necessarily handle things because of PFS, since PFS is capable of issuing their own errata and have done so on several occasions; for instance, before the SLA change, PFS had a ruling that stated that you couldn’t use racial SLAs to speed up your entry into the evangelist prestige class. (The one from Inner Sea Gods.) If anything, I think part of the problem is that they DON’T consider PFS for much of anything, because since PFS has specific rules in place for things like rebuilds, sometimes their changes end up completely destroying peoples’ characters and there sometimes isn’t much they can do about it. I have a buddy who was heavy into TWF with double-barrel pistols and after the errata (a much needed one, mind you), his character was basically unplayable for the amount of rebuilding and paperwork that he’d have to do to get it back up on its feat again.

      Even though I too liked the old SLA ruling, I’m not particularly upset about it because the PDt flat-out said that it was subject to reversion. A year is a long time to wait to do so, sure, but they never said it was set in stone. Could it have been handled better as a “think tank” sort of blog post, similar to what they did with their Stealth skill rewrite that ended up going under? Yes, I think it would have in the long run, because what happened instead is that we (the players) got used to something shiny and had it taken away from us abruptly. Not really a great feeling.

      As a content creator myself, I think the PDT should have the ability to errata things, but I also think that they shouldn’t use hyper optimization cases that they see on the board as a reason to point, click, and annihilate. If they had taken their time and created something like the Round 2 Crane Wing errata the first time, I think the community would have been happier overall. Errata isn’t nearly the tool that, say, hotfixing is for World of Warcraft. Blizzard has millions of pages of data to back up their changes. The PDT has one or two crazy-long forum posts that represent the vocal minority of RPG players.

      One thing that I think would be helpful is if the PDT made a weekly blog (Maybe Wednesday, now that Free Fiction Wednesday is gone) to propose a topic for errata and just see what people say about it, then make a more informed opinion from there. Because believe me, even the most skilled rules guru doesn’t know every little aspect about the rules, and that one tiny, little exploit might just be something that one player has been wanting to do for a while and just now got the tools he needed to make it happen.

  9. Robert Best Reply to Robert

    I agree with the problems with the gunslinger, in the game I am in we have a gunslinger that has actually had some major advantages handed to them(magical d20 modern raging bulls) is still consistently behind every other character in the party in battlefield performance. Seems that the class is in need of desperate reworking.

    • Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

      Could you explain more of this? This is one of the very few times I’ve ever seen someone say Gunslingers struggle to contribute on the battlefield. In my experience, the gunslinger is one of, if not the, consistently top damage contributors in the game. Most people consider archery to be one of the best methods of dealing damage, and the gunslinger is just a better version of the archer.

      For the most part, they benefit from all of the exact same feats, except gunslingers also target touch AC, so they hit more often with attacks that would otherwise miss. Especially since several types of gunslingers can make use of the Two-weapon fighting feats to include even more attacks.

      At 5th level, they add dex to damage, and also use dex for attack rolls, making them very SAD martials. It’s pretty common for a gunslinger to be dealing something like 1d6+15 points of damage per shot at around 10th level, and they are consistently able to land 3-4 shots per round. With the ability to do around 60 points of damage a round at 10th level, they are able to kill most creatures they fight in 1 or 2 rounds, and that’s often without needing to move.

      As far as I’m aware, if a gunslinger is struggling in a fight, then there’s some serious issues with the mechanical aspects of the gunslinger build. In my experience anyway.

      • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

        My issue with the gunslinger isn’t the damage; its the mechanics. The class is boring as anything; like the swashbuckler, it has nothing built into the class that makes you care about sticking with it beyond 5th level. What you’re describing can be done by taking 5 levels in gunslinger, then going fighter for the rest of your career which is a huge problem with the gunslinger class. The swashbuckler actually has this worse than the gunslinger does; opportune parry and riposte is literally the only thing the swashbuckler gets over the course of 20 levels that is unique to the class. Nothing else matters, and that’s my problem with the class.

        Although in response to your actual question, have you ever been in a party with a low-level gunslinger whose guns have all exploded? I have, and they’re basically a warrior NPC at that point. Not fun.

  10. I’m also in the “we need dex-to-damage” camp. I’ve already put forward my thoughts in the comments section of you Unchained Cunning Alex (great product BTW. I’ve been meaning to review it but life gets in the way).

    I’m really hoping they use Ultimate Intrigue to finally close that gap. Hopefully after a year of wider play-testing of the Unchained Rogue they see that dex-to-damage is not the Ragnarok they believe it to be. However, I’m not holding my breath that it will be done anytime soon. Oh well. I can keep hoping.

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      My gut instinct is that Dex to damage might get harder to get in the wake of the Unchained Rogue. After all, its gone from the territory of “a thing you can get from a feat” to “a thing you can get from a class.” The PDT could potentially get frugal with Dex to damage and cite the fact that it has become a class feature as a result.

      Personally, I would like to see a generalized “Deadly Grace” feat that allowed you to get Dex to damage with any light weapon or weapon that be used with Weapon Finesse. Let Slashing Grace keep its whole, “gateway into slashing weapons for the swashbuckler” thing, but give more weapons the ability to be finessed effectively.

      • I do like the “Deadly Grace” option.

        How would “Deadly Grace” work with TWF off-hand? I would allow normally x0.5 Dex on the off-hand with Double Slice to allow full Dex for the off-hand.

        And also allow x1.5 Dex for two-handed weapon finesse options? (e.g. Branch Spear and Estoc)

        I do hope you manage to gnaw Owen’s ear off and potentially get this feat into an upcoming Player Companion. You’d be the hero of the people! (Ok, that’s a bit far, but you get the gist).

  11. A little late but hey, what do you do?

    One of the things I think should be looked at is the relative strength of some abilities. All day abilities don’t matter so much because being able to use something 5 times a days is valued as much as always on. Yet being able to do something all day seems to occupy a good space in the power budget.

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