Pathfinder

By all metrics, Pathfinder is the most satisfying pen-and-paper game I’ve ever played. The class balance feels good, the math isn’t overwhelming, and the community support is outstanding. However, it suffers from one syndrome that haunts the creation of every new character: feat taxes.

Many veteran players lament that you need three feats to go to the bathroom in Pathfinder. It’s a cheeky musing, but one rooted in truth. Pathfinder’s feats are arranged in sprawling tiers, often requiring an investment of three or more feats to unlock a single more advanced one. While it’s satisfying to work towards a goal, many rungs on the feat ladder are considered either undesirable or overtly mundane. These are feat taxes.

Below I’ve highlighted a number of revisions to Pathfinder’s feat tree to help ease the situation. I’ve focused mainly on combat feats, arguably the worst offenders. Feel free to incorporate these changes into your own house rules or make your own suggestions in the comments.

Martial Mastery

Gone. Combat feats like Weapon Focus now apply to weapon groups instead of a specific weapon by default.

Pathfinder frequently forces a player to invest heavily in a single weapon. For instance, two-weapon fighting rogues are stuck with mirrored weapons so their Weapon Finesse and Weapon Focus benefits apply to both their attacks. Expanding these feats to cover the weapon groups mentioned under the fighter’s Weapon Training would make things much more flexible. We might finally see a samurai wielding a daisho.

Weapon Finesse

Gone. The “light weapons” category has been renamed to “finesse weapons.” Characters can choose to use either their dexterity bonus or their strength bonus to hit with these weapons, no feat required. “Finesse” is also now a weapon attribute like “brace” or “trip,” allowing a weapon in another category to be finessed (like the rapier).

Weapon Finesse is the ultimate feat tax. It’s begrudgingly mandatory for most rogues, specifically two-weapon fighting builds. I understand Paizo worries that dexterity might become an uber stat, but weapon finesse still doesn’t grant a damage bonus. It’s really the only thing rogue’s have to compensate for their lackluster BAB.

Agile Maneuvers

Gone. A character adds their dexterity to the CMB if they’re wielding a finesse weapon and their strength otherwise.

This goes hand and hand with the previous change. Making combat maneuvers more accessible will be a recurring theme of this article.

Combat Expertise

Gone. Now simple a combat option for any class with at least +1 BAB.

The most heinous feat tax next to Weapon Finesse. Combat Expertise is taken to progress to better feats then promptly forgotten about. I like it as an option, but it’s not worth spending a feat on.

Improved Trip, Improved Disarm, Improved Dirty Trick, Improved Feint, Improved Reposition, Improved Steal

Gone. Replaced with Deft Maneuvers.

Deft Maneuvers

New. You do not provoke an attack of opportunity when performing a trip, disarm, dirty trick, feint, reposition, or steal combat maneuver. In addition, you receive a +2 bonus on checks with these combat maneuvers. Now a prerequisite for the relevant greater combat maneuver feats.

Why is it so hard to pull off combat maneuvers in this game? It seems like you need three feats before you can attempt to trip someone without impaling yourself on your own polearm. Eliminating Combat Expertise as a prerequisite and wrapping up all these improved combat maneuver feats into a single package simplifies things. It would prevent fighters from being stonewalled if a monster is immune to their combat maneuver of choice and make the feats much more attractive to feat-starved classes.

Pathfinder

Power Attack

Gone. Now simply a combat option for any class with at least +1 BAB.

Power Attack is too useful to be a feat. It’s the first feat taken by any character with the strength and BAB to abuse it and likely ranks as the single most popular feat in Pathfinder. Turning it into a combat option available to anyone with at least +1 BAB is a reasonable change and still stalls caster and hybrid classes from grabbing specialized combat feats too early.

Improved Bull Rush, Improved Drag, Improved Overrun, Improved Sunder

Gone. Replaced with Powerful Maneuvers.

Powerful Maneuvers

New. You do not provoke an attack of opportunity when performing a bull rush, drag, overrun, or sunder combat maneuver. In addition, you receive a +2 bonus on checks with these combat maneuvers. Now a prerequisite for the relevant greater combat maneuver feats.

The same deal as Deft Maneuvers. More combat maneuvers at a lower feat investment is just a good idea all around.

Point-Blank Shot

Gone. Precise Shot replaces it as a prerequisite for further archery feats.

I like Point-Blank Shot, but Precise Shot is the real breadwinner for any ranged build. It’s the one trick every archer wants out of the gate and the one combat feat many wizards and sorcerers would love to cherry pick to aid their ray spells. The loss of Point-Blank Shot can easily be compensated for by Weapon Focus or Weapon Specialization, but it’s not like archery builds are hurting anyhow.

Deadly Aim

Gone. Now simple a combat option for any class with at least +1 BAB.

Like Power Attack, Deadly Aim is another mandatory feat that should be available to everyone. It takes a high BAB to abuse Deadly Aim, so I’m not overly concerned about the change throwing a wrench into class balance.

Mobility

Gone. Merged with Dodge.

Dodge

Revised. You gain a +1 dodge bonus to your AC. This bonus increases to +4 against attacks of opportunity caused when you move out of or within a threatened tile. A condition that makes you lose your Dex bonus to AC also makes you lose the benefits of this feat.

Spring Attack isn’t a great feat, but it lends itself to interesting builds. Unfortunately, the prerequisites of Dodge and Mobility are often too much for a player to stomach. Merging these feats makes Spring Attack more accessible and subsequently transforms two mediocre feats into a single spectacular one.

Improved Two-Weapon Fighting

Gone. Merged with Greater Two-Weapon Fighting

Greater Two-Weapon Fighting

Revised. Prerequisites now Dex 17, Two-Weapon Fighting, BAB +6. In addition to the standard single extra attack you get with an off-hand weapon, you get a second attack with it, albeit at a –5 penalty. Once your BAB reaches +11, you also gain a third attack with your off-hand weapon, albeit at a –10 penalty.

Two-weapon fighting isn’t as good as Paizo seems to think it is. Pathfinder Society scenarios are seemingly designed to prevent full-attacks; I’ve rarely encountered one without difficult terrain, magical entanglement, or some other battlefield hindrance. The massive feat investment only adds insult to injury. Coupled with the Weapon Finesse change, this feat merger puts two-weapon fighting more in line with the generally much stronger two-handed weapon builds.