• Pathfinder Upgrades to the D&D 3.5 Ruleset

    Taking a look at the Recruiting Office these past few weeks, I have noticed a disproportionate number of D&D 3.5 games as opposed to Pathfinder, or as it is affectionately called by its players, D&D 3.75. As the reason for this may be as simple as a lack of familiarity with the Pathfinder rules by current D&D 3.5 players, I have compiled this guide to clarify the improvements that Pathfinder offers over the 3.5 ruleset.

    If you love D&D 3.5, never fear: what rules and options the Pathfinder rules don't update from 3.5 are still solidly compatible with Pathfinder. This means that if you love Psionics, you'll be pleased to know that the Psionics Handbook is as compatible with Pathfinder as it is with the 3.5 Player's Handbook. But as all the core races have been made both more interesting and more powerful, you might really start to enjoy playing that cleric . . .


    Without further ado, the Pathfinder Upgrades:

    Racial Stat Modifiers: Humans, half-elves and half-orcs all gain +2 to a stat of their choice. All the other core races receive +2 to two stats and -2 to one.

    Optional Races: There are several additional base races which a GM may wish to allow, such as the Aasimar or Dhampir. These races have been balanced against the core races and as such receive no level adjustment.

    Classes:
    All the core classes have been reworked to be more interesting and balanced against each other. There are also six new base classes with full progression that are designed to compliment the original eleven classes: Alchemist, Cavalier, Inquisitor, Oracle, Summoner and Witch.

    Archetypes: All classes have the option of taking an 'Archetype' which replaces some class abilities with other, different abilities. For example, the Rogue Archetype 'Scout' gives up Uncanny Dodge and Improved Uncanny Dodge and gains the ability at 4th level to deal sneak attack damage if the Scout has moved at least 10 feet before the attack.

    Favored Classes: Taking levels in your favored class gives you a bonus, rather than a penalty for multiclassing. This bonus takes the form of a choice between either a bonus hp or skill point at each level, or other unique bonuses depending upon race/class combination.

    HPs and BAB: Hit Dice for classes have been brought into line with BAB. Low BAB classes get d6's, Moderate BAB classes get d8's, High BAB classes get d10's. Barbarians still gets d12s. No class has to suffer through d4s.

    Feats: Some classic feats have been simplified and rebalanced. For example, Dodge now applies a +1 Dodge bonus to your AC against all opponents so there is no more need to declare who you are using it against.

    Feat Progression: Feat progression is every 2 levels - all characters gain a new feat at 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th levels, etc

    Skills: Several skills have been consolidated: Hide + Move Silently = Stealth; Balance, Tumble and Jump = Acrobatics; Search, Spot and Listen = Perception; Concentration is a unique ability casters automatically get that does not require skill ranks; Open Locks has been rolled into Disable Device, which is now based upon Dexterity rather than Intelligence; Linguistics is a new skill you can take where each rank gives you a new language, but it also has other uses.

    Skill Ranks: Skill Ranks have been greatly simplified: Cross-class skills gain be gained without penalty, and no longer cost double to take a rank. However, Class Skills get a +3 misc bonus when you put your first rank into them. Also, at 1st level you don't start with 4x skill ranks, just 1x skill ranks. So the idea is that if, at first level, you put 1 rank into all class skills, you'll have the normal +4 bonus that you'd have in 3.5. At higher levels you gain extra skill points just like 3.5.

    Spells: Many problematic and broken spells have been rebalanced. Examples include Glitterdust and Hold Person, which now allow a new save every round to throw off their effects.

    Spell XP Cost: Spells no longer cost XP - instead they require a gold cost equal to 5x the former XP cost. Example: Permanency.

    Shapechanging: Polymorph abilities are simplified and accessible earlier by three narrower spell types - Alter Self, Beast Shape, and Elemental Body. Of course, traditional Polymorph gives you the benefits of all three. All four of these have been tremendously simplified to modify (rather than replace) your own physical ability scores. Druid wild shaping is also based upon the new polymorph rules.

    Character Death: You only die if your negative hp total is equal to (or greater than) your Constitution score, rather than simply 10. If you are dying, instead of a mere 10% chance to stabilize you get a Constitution check modified by how close to death's door you happen to be.

    Level Loss: You *never* have to delevel your character, as you cannot lose or spend XP. Instead temporary and permanent negative levels simply give you -1 to all d20 rolls, and -5 total and current HPs. Even permanent negative levels can be removed with a Restoration spell.


    The only book necessary to run a Pathfinder campaign is the Core Rulebook; but GMs may also appreciate having access to the Gamemastery Guide and Bestiary 1 and 2. GMs and Players both would benefit from access to the Advanced Player's Guide. All of these books are available at Paizo, or you can simply view the Pathfinder SRD.

    Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, comments, clarifications or corrections, please feel free to post in this thread or send me a PM.
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Lowthor's Avatar
      Lowthor -
      I'm generally a 4E advocate, but I've been playing in Aerthos' Pathfinder game on a monday night and I reccomend the system. It removes a lot, not all, but a lot of the things that I didn't like about 3.5, whilst maintaining its flexibility.
    1. coboney's Avatar
      coboney -
      To clarify a few things that were said in the above article on Pathfinder that the Author got slightly off (sorry Ausp)...

      On the skills. Also Lingustics is a combination of Forgery, Decipher Script and Speak Language rather then an arcane new set of skills.

      On the spells also most Death effects have been removed or changed to damage rather then save or die quite literally. Still there are a good amount of save or suck but on the whole it takes a bit longer for casters to start getting truly dominating spells.

      On a couple areas not mentioned...

      Magic Item Crafting has been completely revamped. It no longer costs xp though it still takes feats just costing gold to craft. It also requires a spellcraft check and you don't need to meet all pre-reqs and can skip some by increasing the DC by 5.

      Grapple, Trip, Disarm and such have been rolled into a new system (along with some additions in the APG) called Combat Maneuvers. To make these its a fairly simple Combat Maneuver Bonus (CMB) check vs Combat Maneuver Defense (CMD). Your CMB is Base Attack Bonus + Strength + Feat Bonuses + Other Bonuses (such as weapon) if applicable. CMD is basically your Touch AC +BAB and Strength. More formally its 10 + Str + Dex + BAB + Size Mod + Other Non-Armor/shield AC Mods.

      On the whole I recommend PF as it does help with some of the issues that 3.5 has and gives a slightly different feel though not all 3.5 things are compatible with it due to the changes it makes. It doesn't fix all the issues 3.5 has but it does lessen them somewhat and continues to play on its strengths.
    1. Usideann's Avatar
      Usideann -
      I play both PF and 3.5... and while there is no problem with the system, it has taken the bite out of 3.5 and made it more of a Power Gamers dream. Adding feats, increasing ability modifiers, making magic items easier to make, removing things PC are just better left alone... does not make it better, it just makes it so PC's can take more stupid risks.

      Other problems are that PF does not use the 3 dozen 3.5 books we all have. Almost everything in the 3.5 books have been revamped as far as abilities... If you like any of the complete books nearly all of it will need to be modified by the PF DM, if he is indeed to keep the PF game true to PF.

      When it comes down to it D&D and PF while they are simular are two different animals. PF is light and fluffy and D&D has a bite that PF can't deal...
    1. TheTallestDwarf's Avatar
      TheTallestDwarf -
      As a heavy player of3.5 and Pathfinder, I have to say that I heavily prefer PF over 3.5.

      The main reason, as argued as it could be, is that it limits people.

      Now wait, you might be thinking that I've gone insane here, but hear me out for a minute.

      The biggest issue I encountered in the later years of 3.5 was Splat attack, that there were far too many books and far too many rules to handle. Rare was the game where rules of Psionics met with rules of Tome of Battle or Stormwrack, and even rarer still was the DM willing to allow "Any" splat book material.

      With far too many books and options, games would boil into a fest of "How many books does the GM own/approve of" and players would join and leave simply because of a certain splat for flavor.

      PF reduces that, but still allows it. Most PF Dm's just restrict it out of habit.

      Also, beyond the somewhat awkward CMD/CMB systems, PF simplifies a lot of things, so there's a plus there.

      My two bits, anyway.
    1. Chrisdragon's Avatar
      Chrisdragon -
      I am going to say this upfront: I -loathe- pathfinder. Pathfinder simply dosen't work if enemies are played to their intelligence level ( not that vanilla 3.5 does either, really). But, honestly, if it works for you, use it.
    1. Auspician's Avatar
      Auspician -
      Thanks for the clarifications and updates, Coboney. I've been playing Pathfinder for so long now I had forgotten some of the things that existed back in 3.5.

      I also appreciate all the comments that are on topic, discussing the differences between 3.5 and Pathfinder rather than merely vomiting an opinion on the system compared to non-D&D3.x material. Keep the discussion going!
    1. Parliament's Avatar
      Parliament -
      PF has a lot of bad changes. Notably, a lot of spell changes are terrible (necromancy effects now just deal hit point damage, for instance), shapeshifting is utterly worthless as opposed to completely game-breaking, the magic item creation system is even more broken, and the new combat maneuver system severely gimps larger creatures.

      The best way to address the flaws found in 3.5e remains to either houserule them or play something entirely different.
    1. Pyromaster13's Avatar
      Pyromaster13 -
      I've been playing DnD 3.5 for about a year now. But just started getting into Pathfinder. And I believe pathfinder is a better system than 3.5. I'm fully aware of all the "spell flaws" and game mechanics that the 3.5 gamers seem to have alot of trouble understanding.

      But simply put I find the system more realistic in many ways. Lets start with the skill system. In 3.5 it was very easy to get characters who can hear an owl swooping in for a kill, but couldn't spot a giant troll in dim torchlight (in saying you had to split dice pools). Or a rogue who can sneak through all the shadows and hallways, but was always spotted because he couldn't keep quiet (which was always one of my pet peeves to why move silently and hide were two separate skills). I myself always merged those skills when I DM'd for 3.5 because it gives more skill points to the players to add more character to the people they played. Because why can't it be possible that's a Sorcerer that's good at negotiating? Or why can't a fighter spot as well as a rogue? Are they all half-blind when they're born? Or why oh why can't you have a wizard who knows a lot about nature? Just because he's arcane he can't read a nature book?

      Now let's continue on...

      Pathfinder itself DOES give gamers more options, and yes it is easier to make a razor sharp character in the game. But you always have to remember that the game is made for you to have fun. And roleplaying the the original method for you to achieve this, the rules themselves are just so everyone a set method to be able to play together. In pathfinder, I find that I can get any type of character, any, and give it a nice background, and easily just pick up the class, skills and feats to make that a reality. So yes, I was able to make that sorcerer that can negotiate, and yes I was able to make a naturalist wizard. And throughout it all, I had fun.
    1. d00mbring3r's Avatar
      d00mbring3r -
      This is a nice help for a old 3.0/3.5 guy like myself. I am just jumping into pathfinder lately and it has been difficult. One thing I do have to say that pathfinder is a unique expierence for those with an acquired taste.
    1. achernar's Avatar
      achernar -
      I've played and GM'd since the early 80's. Pathfinder is my favorite RPG, hands down.
    1. cailano's Avatar
      cailano -
      I was more of an avid gamer back in the 2e days, but I did learn 3.0 fairly well. I missed 3.5 and haven't so much as cracked the books on 4e as they seem to have taken out character customization in favor of MMO like character roles (from the many reviews I read while deciding to whether or not to invest in the system.)

      I picked up Pathfinder and it was a breath of fresh air that pulled me back into table top RPGs.

      Character Customization is actually improved. Yes, I would say it makes PCs more powerful... but then NPCs could become just as powerful. It simplified preparing games, dealing with combat, and most importantly what books you need.

      What books DO you need with Pathfinder? The Core Rulebook and the Bestiary. That's it. No splats (which I never bought or allowed anyway) you don't really need anything else.

      Want to run your games on Golarion (the official setting?) Then you'll need the Inner Sea World Guide.

      Want to run any of Paizo's excellent, outstanding and amazing Adventure Paths? Which are entire campaigns and the best I've ever read? You'll need copies of whatever AP you decide to run.

      If you just want to homebrew it though, The core rulebook and bestiary. That's it.

      As far as how broken it is vs. D&D3.5... well I'm currently running the Curse of the Crimson Throne AP here on Tangled Web, and that was written as a 3.5e AP. We're playing it with Pathfinder rules, and I haven't been modifying the encounters at all. We're only to 3rd level, but so far the encounters seem balanced and level appropriate.

      I really don't see how GMs can complain about PCs being overpowered. I've never gotten that argument. You can throw dragons at them for crying out loud. Have you ever sat down and stat-ed out a mature adult red dragon??? Throw that at your 12th level PCs and watch them beg for mercy. Add a trap or two to nerf some of their buffs and it gets even more fun. Set up challenging situations. It's not that hard. The game has been playtested extensively by the best minds in the business (Paizo.) Trust me, they make it fun.

      Throw me in on the Pathfinder side of the argument. Paizo is the true inheritor of D&D. I don't know what Hasbro is doing these days.
    1. MrGWillickers's Avatar
      MrGWillickers -
      i've been playing 3.x since it came out (and AD&D since around 1996). Although it had its flaws, I considered it my favorite platform for role-playing. Last year for Christmas one of my players bought me Pathfinder Core Rulebook. At first glance I loved it. No more penalties for cross-classing, no more of that terrible half a skill rank for cross class skills. Basically in general, benefits instead of negatives.
      Then I began to pour through the books. "what do you mean Jump is the same as Tumble!?! and where the heck is Use Rope" I WIldly exclaimed. Some skill combinations I supported full heartedly, such as stealth (why penalize characters by making them buy 2 skills) and it's counterpart Perception. Many base classes were improved, but what about the classes from other books (I still use the 3.5 ninja over the PF one). And simplifying spells? WTF?!? Spells aren't supposed to be simple. Otherwise spellcasters would be like Video games: 4 basic spells, with flavor to make them seem different.
      BUT...and yes this is a big 'but'...i have now been playing PF every week for a year. ANd all those minor issues, became even more minor. Once I used them in play, I realized they smoothly integrated themselves in my game. neither mr nor my players even think about CMB and CMD anymore. It's as automatic as BAB and AC. ANd the skill combinations make my job as a GM a little easier, as well a make it quicker for PC's to look up their skills (and anything that saves time at the table is good to me).
      Soon I was telling all my friends to switch to Pathfinder. It may seem like a chore to switch systems at first, but really it's quite easy to get the hang of and is well worth the improvement. PF has made my game more enjoyable for my players, easier for me as a GM, and better balanced and streamlined than 3.5 could ever be, even with all the house rules I made over the years. Infact i now have only 1 house rule: Use Rope (dex) is still a skill.
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