Burst of Insight

Burst of Insight—Rebuilding the Fighter, part two

Two weeks ago I decided to take a stab at redesigning the Fighter to address some of the dissatisfaction my table has had with the existing class. Dissatisfaction that has grown with the advent of more exciting martial-class options from Ultimate Combat and the Advanced Class Guide. Now originally it had been my plan talk a little about where and why I’d like to make changes then —Boom— present the finished class. Unfortunately, between the holidays and the fact I underestimated how much space the design theory would take up the revised playtest version of the fighter will have to wait two more weeks. In the meantime, let’s quickly recap the three primary problems I mentioned: Too few skills, brave cowards, and boring, then talk some solutions.

So while looking at the skill situation I was torn. I really do think skills are too important in Pathfinder for the fighter to begin with only 2 + Int skill points. However, that really goes for all the 2 + classes and I’m not looking to fix all the classes just the fighter, plus the background skills optional rules from Pathfinder Unchained help to really address this issue across the board. Then when you factor in the existing alternate class feature from the 3rd era Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting hardcover, skills don’t seem to be a large enough concern and thus I’ve opted to leave them be.

Bravery brings the fighter’s Will save up to nearly good by about 6th level which is a pretty potent edge even if it’s only good in a narrow range of things you need to make Will save for so I don’t want to tamper too much with the underlying math. Granting an additional +1 to each layer of the Bravery ability seems like a good idea until you start looking at the upper levels of the bravery and how that might stack with Iron Will. But, it is an ability that does need some sort of boost, especially, at low levels otherwise the fighter may become the butt of Supernatural “that was scary,” jokes.

Finally, the fighter doesn’t get any of the advanced options that make so many of the other classes more interesting. Stamina was a great attempt to fix this but as I said last week the application is limited and not for many more casual players who don’t want to juggle multiple rulebooks for every combat feat they take.

My thought then is to look at what a fighter (broadly speaking) does do. Last blog I inelegantly said, “They collect feats that let them hit harder in combat.” While only vaguely true, it’s a good enough summary for this exercise. I want to make the collecting and using feats more interesting for fighter players. I’d also like to implement a resource management pool into the class, not unlike grit, panache, or stamina that doesn’t upset the class balance too much.

Since stamina has an existing rules footprint I want to pick another word and for the moment I’m calling it “vigor.” My thoughts on Vigor right now are that it will fuel the boost I want to see in bravery, It will let the player do some small unique exploits and help make those feats more interesting without adding new abilities to every feat.

Which brings me to my first thoughts on feats. What if fighters had a flexible pool of feats they could “ready” each day like a wizard prepares spells? Now unlike a wizard fighters would need to be adaptable swapping one readied feat for another, sometimes in the middle of combat. How would that work? Vigor. Or more likely, it would require a standard or move action to do it normally but an expenditure of Vigor would allow the fighter to change feats as a move or swift action. I’ll work on the exact mechanics shortly. First, we need to decide how this pool of feats works. My first thought was at every level the fighter would have gained a bonus feat they instead gain two feats but that could be too many feats by the end of a campaign. As a compromise (that still generates a lot of feats and if maximized effectively possibly one more) I’m inclined to go with the normal bonus feats + one feat per point of the character’s Con Modifier. The additional bonus feats from the character’s Constitution would be broken out much like bonus spells are one per level the character earns a bonus feat normally until the Con modifier runs out. Since I want +0 or lower Con character’s to still be an option 1st level fighters would get 2 bonus feats (+ Con) but could only ready one at a time. To err on the side of caution, when I begin playtesting this, I’m going to make it a standard action to change readied feats and allow a character to spend 1 vigor to reduce the time to a move action.

Now, this creates an interesting conundrum. The trade of a bonus feat for skills no longer works really unless it forces the character to wait on taking their flexible feats for two levels. I’m not sure how I feel about that I’m more inclined to rewrite the ability as a feat and make it available to more classes. This would fix many player complaints and bring the rule up to match the current edition. The more I think about it the more I like this idea and I think it might look like this:

Broad Skill Training
You received broader skill training than other members of your class.
Prerequisite: 1st level only, 4 + Intelligence skill points per level or fewer.
Benefit: You may select two additional skills not normally class skills for your character to be class skills and gain 2 additional skill points at each level.

Okay, I have my blueprint of ideas and family holiday festivities are closing in as I write this so I’ll see you in two weeks for the conclusion of this design series.

Andrew Marlowe

placed in the Top 16 of RPG Superstar in 2012 and 2014, one of the few contestants to get that far in the competition twice. Since then, he has contributed to many Paizo and third party Pathfinder products, including one of the network’s favourite releases in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, the Dirty Tactics Toolbox. Every other Tuesday, he will be sharing his Burst of Insight, with design tips for would-be game designers from a decorated freelancer.

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