Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be talking about Dex to damage. Again.
Sometimes I don’t think we’re EVER going to see the end of Dex to Damage arguments, folks. You’ll remember that a while back I did an article on Slashing Grace and how people reacted to its implementation, and it seems that such arguments still crop up occasionally, even though its been almost six months since the Advanced Class Guide was published.
In truth, the Dex to Damage threads have always amused me somewhat because its always seemed strange to me that people would get so tied up about whether or not its overpowered for Dexterity to be in control of as much as it is. You know, because no one seems to give the same concern to Charisma.
Charisma, You’re Fired!
Charisma is a very strange stat. Either it does everything or it does nothing. For instance, even if you aren’t a druid, you probably care about your Wisdom because the game’s most important skill (Perception) and one of its most important saving throws (Will) are based off of it. Having a low Wisdom hurts a lot more than, say, having a low Strength or even a low Intelligence. For instance, Intelligence determines your skill points per level AND your bonus in a large number of skills, but those two areas are interconnected. If your Intelligence is low to the point where you start loosing out on skill points, you probably don’t care about having a penalty on Intelligence-based skills because you wouldn’t put one of your diminished-number of skill points in such a heavily penalized skill anyway. But still, Intelligence having skill points at it back makes it higher on the priority chain for most than, say Charisma.
Charisma’s biggest problem is that by default, it doesn’t have much of an impact in combat. By default, just about all you can do with Charisma is demoralize enemies, but having the Intelligence to put ranks in Intimidate matters a heck of a lot more than your Charisma score. The only time where Charisma seems to matter is in builds that force Charisma to get off the couch and get a job. Builds that involve Charisma-based spellcasting classes (sorcerer/oracle/bard) or classes that have special abilities that specifically work off of Charisma (paladin/swashbuckler/bard).
Dexterity doesn’t have this problem: Dexterity is useful no matter what class you’re playing because it modifies two important statistics: Armor Class and Reflex saving throws. Additionally, nothing really ever threatens to replace Dexterity. It is something of a sacred cow status that the ability score shares with Constitution. (Although technically, undead replace Constitution with Charisma for all effects and purposes.)
So, What Does This Have to do with Dex to Damage?
What does it have to do, indeed? It is interesting how we place Dexterity on this double-edged pedestal; that nothing can take Dexterity’s place, but at the same time Dexterity shouldn’t ever be allowed to take anything else’s place. We seem to allow just about every other substitution without much concern; inquisitors can use Wisdom on virtually all Intelligence-and-Charisma-based skills in the right build, and there are plenty of traits and abilities that substitute Charisma for Intelligence (such as the Bruising Intellect trait). But when we look at what is an obviously iconic fighting style (finesse-based fighting), we get a bit edgy and worried.
What makes this even more amusing is the fact that Dex-based characters have a very obvious weakness: feinting. Next time you have the chance, open up your Core Rulebook and read the section on dodge bonuses in the appendices. According to the rules, every dodge bonus in the game shuts down whenever a character is denied its Dexterity bonus to AC. You know that annoying Crane Style monk that’s been annoying you? All of the dodge bonuses granted by that AND his fighting defensively action are nullified by a simple Bluff check.
But of course, another part of the problem is that as designers, we never design charismatic foes that excel at feinting. Instead, we design big, bad brusiers designed to hit often and deal buckets of damage. But imagine how effective a tyrannosaurus, who only has one attack to his name anyway, would be if he could feint an enemy!
At this point, I feel like I’m starting to ramble so I’m going to end with a final thesis statement: Pathfinder juggles around the mental ability scores so often, rendering so many of them invalid for several different classes that in the long run, making Strength not matter for a specific build is not a problem, especially when that specific build requires an outstanding expenditure of resources (feats). Mental ability scores (Charisma and Intelligence especially) get unceremoniously replaced all the time by class features, things that often don’t require any real trade off or sacrifice, such as with the inquisitor’s cunning initiative class feature, or the conversion domain’s 1st level granted power.
So, I think I’ve pretty much said my piece about Dex to damage (and ability score swapping in general). What do you think? Do the amount of resources that go into Dex to damage make the trade-off fair to you, or is the ultimate outcome (the near invalidation of the Strength score) still beat the cost in doing so? What are your thoughts on Dex to damage? Leave your comments and ideas below, and I’ll see you next time on another exciting installment of Iconic Design! Take care!
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’s favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is changeling swashbuckler. Because I like to change things up every once and a while.