Pathfinder Alpha 2 Skills Overview

This is my second of probably five posts regarding the new “Pathfinder” rule set based on the 3.5 OGL rules.  Today I will examine the skills section, which includes skill  advancement, ranks and skill descriptions.

The first change is simplified skill point acquisition.  For example, a paladin now receives two skill points, plus his intelligence modifier at each level, including first level. This removes the annoying math at character creation to figure out how many skill points you have.

There is still a maximum based on your level, but it is greatly simplified. You cannot have more ranks in a skill than hit dice.  So a 7th level fighter cannot have any skill with more than 7 ranks in it.

A key change is the removal of “cross-class” skills. Each class can take any skill it likes for the same cost. The “favored skills” mechanic replaces the old “class skill” system from 3.5.  As long as you put at least one rank into  a “favored skill” you receive a +3 bonus when using this favored skill.  You do not receive any bonus on a favored skill check unless you have at least one rank in it.

Skill checks remain essentially unchanged. Assign a DC to a task, pick the appropriate skill and roll a d20. If your d20 roll and ranks (plus favored skill bonus, if any) exceed the DC, you succeed. Although, there are some skills also include a “level of success” mechanic.  Disable device being the classic example. Beat a trap’s disable DC by 5 and you can turn disable the trap. Beat the DC by 10 and you can bypass the trap without disarming it, leaving it for the next poor adventurer to find.

Which brings me to the skills themselves.  There  is the pattern I noticed for many of the Pathfinder skills, increased detail. I  am not a huge fan of very complex rules, but I do prefer specific examples and DCs to help me determine a task’s difficulty. No skill represents this better than the new version of spot and search, called “perception.”

Perception’s detail level is amazing.  There is a helpful DC chart for each sense(hearing, taste etc), including modifiers for distance and environment. Also listed are several  example DCs for each sense.  I think many gamers will find this very useful.

One new skill  I really enjoyed was a “fly” skill. The only requirement to take it is a “reliable” way to fly every day, whether it be magical or natural (wings.) It allows special maneuvers by flying creatures, including DCs to perform said stunts. Now, a PC with a flying habit can actually get better at it, instead of being limited by a “maneuverability rating” on his chosen flight method.

Overall, I am very pleased with the Pathfinder skill changes.  They added flexibility, eliminated some redundancy and reduced ambiguity, making  for a better game. I look forward to further refinements in future versions.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.