Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Skilled Pathfinder Character

Today, I am going to go over the skills in the core Pathfinder game briefly. Before I do that, I have a confession to make.

As I just started this a few days ago, and you can read about my other Pathfinder discovery posts by clicking on the Pathfinder tag down and to the right there, I had mentioned how I was looking for which books I should be reading. At the same time, I was trying my best to not read those books just yet. I wanted to focus on getting the core book and these blog posts done first. However, I got a little curious yesterday. This especially came into play when helping my wife, +Jennifer Corniuk create a character for a game that will be run by my (digitally) local +Mark Knights. Mark was very helpful in explaining where to find some things for my wife’s character. We talked of armor and weapons to an extent. Anyhow, I ended up flipping through a large number of the books for (mostly) specific information.

I can say that I am really looking forward to reading some of these other books in the very new future. And, while many players get turned off by the fact that there are so many books that can be referenced, I like it. It is not a requirement that you memorize all of this material, although some people will. It is a good idea to have an idea of what is in the different books. And, because of my experience last night, I’m going to touch on that a bit later today.

Anyhow, the topic for today is skills. This is the fourth chapter in the Pathfinder Core Book. Did I mention that I like the little snippets of prose at the beginning of each chapter? I remember the old World of Darkness books doing this pretty well. As the years went on and we moved into New World of Darkness, those snippets got a bit long in the tooth. Those are great pieces of fiction, but perhaps they break up an otherwise good game book a bit too much. Here, in Pathfinder, I think the paragraph-like approach is great. It is just enough to give you an image, an idea of what is going on, and—if you are into that sort of think—what to know what happens next or rush in and join these fictional characters in their fantasy world.

So, skills. This is pretty near and dear to me. The first role playing game I ever played was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness by Palladium. This led to my eventual adoption of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition and the rest of the Palladium universe. I also thoroughly enjoyed Rolemaster. Palladium and Rolemaster games have HUGE skill lists. That bothers some or a lot of people, depending on who you ask, but I never had a problem with it. In fact, I enjoyed the larger skill lists, looking at them as one more way I could both narratively and mechanically customize my character. AD&D 2nd Edition had few skills and the characters were quite limited in the number of skills they could have. When D&D 3E came out, there was a longer list of skills, although not overly exhaustive as the skills list with Palladium or Rolemaster would be. However, it was not as short as say...the Fate Core skill list. There were a couple that perhaps seemed out of place in 3x, but the Pathfinder team seems to have corrected that. For example, there are not separate Hide and Move Silently skills in Pathfinder. They have unified them as a single Stealth skill.

One major change here is the skill points. Old 3e would’ve had each class gain a number of skill ranks for each level, plus a modifier from the character’s intelligence. At first level, that number was multiplied by 4. Oh, of course, don’t forget Humans did (and still do) get a bonus skill point at each level. Here, what they have done with Pathfinder is take away the multiplier at first level. Instead, the characters get skill ranks each level based on their class, Intelligence modifier, and race. Also, skill ranks can no longer be higher than the characters total levels or hit dice. So, a first level character cannot have more than 1 rank in a skill. And, let us not forget the potential extra bonus skill rank one can get from leveling up in a favored class.

Pathfinder tries to balance this out by giving a +3 modifier to character’s class skills. This also means players no longer need to double the value of a cross-class skill. Instead of charging twice the amount for a class skill and limiting the cross-class skill rank by more than the class skill rank, the cross-class skill simply does not get the +3. When Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition came out, I did not like how I could pick that my character was either trained in a skill or not. That meant that, for the most part, unless I had a racial ability or spent some sort of feat, my rogue would be just as good at jumping as my fighter would. Now, this leveled the playing field a bit, but it took away a minute detail of customization. I know a lot of people liked this idea and they like it in Pathfinder as well.

The comment was made in regards to the half hour someone would spend dishing out skill points for a 3rd edition DnD character while it really made very little difference. This is true. However, that was a half an hour I spent separating my character from the rest of the characters that were similar to him.

Moving right along.

I looked back over the skills section when I was done reading it and I then went back and read some of the classes chapter. There has always been something that bothered me with multiclassing and class versus cross class skills. This has some more attention drawn to it with the way Pathfinder handles skills. So, for a class skill, I get a +3 modifier. When I multiclass, I have new class skills. However, as I understood it, the “class skills” were only valid for the character as one was deciding which ranks to put where—so one that is fighter level 3 and goes over to cleric level 1 gets to put ranks in cleric class skills and count them as class skills. If they wanted to put  a rank into a skill the fighter would normally have as the class skill, but not the cleric, it would—as we just leveled up cleric—count as a cross class skill. However, what happens with this built in bonus for class skills? Once a class skill always a class skill? What if someone gets to level three in fighter than gets a level one in cleric then goes back and gets their further level fight. For that time leveling from Cleric 1 to Fighter 4, does the character only get the +3 bonus to their cleric class skills or to both the cleric and the fighter class skills? I didn’t see a specific answer in the text on this. And, to a lot of people, it may not matter. As I mentioned earlier, though, I tend to play skill heavy games, so that kind of difference matters to me.

Now, yes, as the characters level, the points will accumulate. It simply provides slightly less variation and customization than having more points and being allowed to put more points into a single skill.

There are some more typos in this chapter, which is somewhat disappointing. They had a lot of people looking at it and the places where I am seeing typos are not new bits of information. They required the least amount of work, so they apparently got the least amount of editing.

An interesting concept about Taking 20 came to me as I was reading.

Since taking 20 assumes that your character will fail many times before succeeding, your character would automatically incur any penalties for failure before he or she could complete the task (hence why it is generally not allowed with skills that carry such penalties). Common “take 20” skills include Disable Device (when used to open locks), Escape Artist, and Perception (when attempting to find traps).

So, I am a devious DM. How do I rule someone picking a trapped lock? I came up with two solutions to this.

 “Okay, after your first attempt…X happens.”


“Mmmm, no, because you can’t take a 20 when you are going to incur a penalty such as what failure will bring here.”

The rest of the chapter goes over the particular skills, their common uses and some breakdowns suggesting how to use them in the game. I won’t get into that here as that is a bit more in depth than I was looking for.

Pathfinder Characters by MC-the-Lane @ Deviant Art