Let’s get right down to business, shall we?
In Pathfinder, attributes are no different from 3.x, but races have been beefed up. Pathfinder, in general, makes characters stronger at level 1 – something Paizo and WotC agree on, apparently.
Dwarves have all the usual weird AC and attack bonuses against giants and goblinoids and so on, as well as their usual Stability ability. The main difference compared to 3.x is that Dwarves get a +2 to Constitution and Wisdom to go with their -2 to Charisma. Their fluff is what it always is – gruff blah blah blah honorable blah blah blah stone and metal, etc.
D&D’s metrosexuals get +2 to both Dexterity and Intelligence to balance their -2 to Constitution. Otherwise, they are generally unchanged in fluff and so on.
Based on their artwork in the book, Gnomes seem to be the sort of zany trickster’ race (whereas Halflings tend to be creepy and childlike). Gnomes get a +2 to Constitution and Charisma and the usual -2 to Strength. One additional ability is Obsessive, which gives them a +2 to a Craft and a Profession of their choice. Their fluff is what you’d expect.
The other metrosexual race gets a straight +2 to an ability of their choice. They also receive the Skill Focus Feat for free at 1st level. Lastly, Half-Elves choose 2 favored classes, and they get the +1 HP per level or +1 skill rank per level bonus when they take levels in those two classes (and that’s how favored classes function – you get one of those two bonuses).
Oddly, Half-Orces also get a +2 to an ability of their choice – even though all of their fluff implies a lack of Charisma and their art implies a whole lot of Strength and Constitution. Otherwise, they are Intimidating (they get +2 to Intimidate), and they have Orc Ferocity, which lets them fight on at exactly 0 hit points for one round before they are knocked unconscious.
All in all, I think that Half-Orcs get the short end of the stick…as usual.
The wee ones are still wee – not the enlarged 4E versions. They get a +2 to Dexterity and a +2 to Charisma and the usual -2 to Strength. They also get the bonuses they did in 3.5, so nothing big that’s new here. Halfling fluff has them as scavengers at the fringes of society when they settle down, or nomadic wanderers otherwise.
Like both half-races, Humans get a +2 in any ability, and their usual extra Feat and Skill rank.
Now, to the classes…
In listening to a lot of interviews with the Paizo guys and reading what they’re writing about their work, they had a goal for each class that every level would give you something more than the basic extra HD and so on. Everyone gets candy at every level. You also get a Feat every two levels – but in addition to the Feat, there is still candy.
Oh, good to note – as we get into caster descriptions, all casters (Bards, Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers and Wizards) have 0-level spells that they can cast all day long. This is cool, but I don’t want to repeat it 🙂
The candy that the Barbarian gets is the ability to add effects to her Rage ability, like Animal Fury or Guarded Stance or No Escape (what are these? Buy the book! :). These powers just stack up, so at some point when you Rage, you become a crazy killing-machine. Otherwise, the Barbarian is very recognizeable from 3.5.
Bardic Knowledge is expanded a bit to make it more versatile, and the end result is that the Bard is the master of Knowledge skills, whether she has ranks in them or not. Bardic Music is also expanded in power and versatility, and the Bard retains her spells. The Bard is one of the classes to get a bump in hit dice, so each level you roll a d8 instead of a d6. As they level, Bards also become masters of using skills untrained, and at level 20, a Bard can kill with her musical performance. Nice.
The biggest thing about the Cleric, for me, is the loss of Turn Undead (though it rears its ugly head as a Feat…). Instead, you just channel positive or negative enrgy – if you read the playtest pdf, then you’re already familiar with this, as well as the fact that Clerics can use medium armor but not heavy. Another cool change is with Domains – not only do you get the bonus Domain spells, you also get one of two Domain abilities for each of your Domains – and these are cool, colorful, and useful.
Clerics have Nature’s Bond, which gives one option as having an animal companion. The other option is to have a Cleric Domain: Air, Animal, Earth, Fire, Plant, Water or Weather, including the bonus spell and powers associated with it. Otherwise, actually, Druids haven’t changed much from 3.5.
Fighters get an overhaul and a straight infusion of awesome. They still have bonus Feats as in 3.5, but they also get a Bravery bonus to Will saves against Fear (something I’ve always wanted). They also get Armor Training, which reduces the penalties for heavy armor, as well as Weapon Training, which gives stacking +1 bonuses to categories of weapons so that at 20th level, a Fighter can use one category of weapon and get a +4 to hit and damage, as well as confirming every critical hit automatically.
Monks are also very much the same, except they have a ki pool, a pool of points that the Monk can spend to make extra attacks, go faster for a round or dodge for effectively.
The main difference with Paladins is that their Lay on Hands gets augmented significantly. Now, when a Paladin uses her Lay on Hands, she also has an ability called a Mercy that takes effect. What the Mercy does is it removes one or more conditions from the recipient of the LoH. A Paladin also has overlapping Auras, each granting her immunity to some kind of supernatural effect and granting her nearby allies a bonus to defend against it.
The Ranger gets bumped back up to d10 hit dice, and on top of the Favored Enemes, the Ranger also gets Favored Terrains. The Ranger also has a new Quarry ability, which is a lot like marking abilities from 4E or MMORPGs, meaning the Ranger chooses one target and murders it.
Rogues have talents now that at every even level, alternating with Sneak Attack. Talents include crippling and bleed effects, as well as defensive abilities, some culled from 3.5 supplements and some originals like Dispelling Attack.
Sorcerer bloodlines are expanded upon, and add a lot of coolness to the class. The Sorcerer is assumed to have her abilities because of her ancestry – she has some kind of supernatural blood flowing through her veins, including undead, demonic, draconic or fey. This bloodline gives her specific bonus spells and a few abilities as she goes up in level which are in line with the bloodline.
Wizards now get special abilities when they specialize in a particular school, including some kind of at-will basic attack ability which is a nice bonus for the Wizard, particularly at lower levels when you blow those couple Magic Missiles and then twiddle your thumbs in previous editions.
Basically, every class is improved and made more interesting, as well as more powerful. I can only assume the RPG Bestiary will make all these new powers necessary. Pitting these new classes against ‘classic’ MM critters just seems unfair…
Next up, Skills and Feats