Core Concept: Nobody will agree with me, but fighters are the most fundamental class in Dungeons and Dragons. Every other PC class could be dropped from the game, and it would still work just fine. Of course, the game is better with several classes to choose from. Suffice to say that I approve of the Fighter’s core concept.
Which is part of why the Fighter’s treatment in D&D 3.x was so disappointing, and why the class’ revitalization in Pathfinder remains (in my view) one of Paizo’s greatest triumphs in designing that product. In fact the fighter class is so close to perfect, that I fear this post may end up being really short.
Bonus Feats: There are problems with the feats system, and since “moar feets” is a class feature of the fighter, the fighter inherits some of these problems. However I’ve already written at great length about the feat system in Pathfinder and what I think should be done with it, so I won’t re-hash old content just to pad out this post.
What I will say is that the fighter feats tend to be some of the stronger feats. Most of them improve upon an ability which is explicitly already available to all players; such as two weapon fighting, improved bull rush, and combat expertise.
So while Fighters certainly suffer from the failings of the feat system, those failings are not as severe as they might have been for a different class.
Bravery: On any other class, I might call this a filler ability. It has all the hallmarks of one: it’s a minor bonus which only applies in a very specific situation. It’s the kind of ability which Paizo added to many classes in an attempt to remove all of the ‘dead levels’ where players didn’t receive any interesting upgrades.
A +1 to saves against fear every four levels doesn’t seem as trivial on the fighter as it would on another class, though. Perhaps that’s because I like the way the fighter is put together, and am thus inclined to view everything about it in a more positive light. I wouldn’t completely discount that idea, but I have an alternative theory.
The fighter has much fewer abilities than other classes in the game. Counting the bonus feats, fighters have a grand total of 6 special abilities. Compare that to the Druid’s 14! When a fighter gets a +1 to saves against fear, it’s special. It represents the fact that the character has spent a lot of time in the very thick of combat, and cannot easily be frightened.
When a Druid gets +2 to Knowledge(Nature) checks, it’s just another piece of class-related minutia that gets tossed upon an ever growing pile of stuff the player will forget to use when it’s relevant.
Armor Training: This is a perfect ability. I know I linked to it, but I’m going to write it out here for all of my non-Pathfinder playing readers, that they might admire its elegance”
“Starting at 3rd level, a fighter learns to be more maneuverable while wearing armor. […] reduces the armor check penalty by 1 (to a minimum of 0) and increases the maximum Dexterity bonus allowed by his armor by 1. Every four levels thereafter (7th, 11th, and 15th), these bonuses increase by +1 each time, to a maximum of -4 reduction of the armor check penalty and a +4 increase of the maximum Dexterity bonus allowed. In addition, a fighter can also move at his normal speed while wearing medium armor. At 7th level, a fighter can move at his normal speed while wearing heavy armor.”
To sum up: fighters gain an expertise with armor which goes beyond simple proficiency. They can dance a jig in full plate and look good doing it.
In 3.X, fighters suffered from being essentially a blank slate of a class. The designer’s intention was that each player would build their own fighter, and I can respect that idea. But they inadvertently made a class which had no personality whatsoever. And it didn’t help that they severely underperformed according to the rules as written.
Armor Training is an ability unique to the fighter. It’s the kind of ability other classes become envious of, and it was accomplished without increasing the armor’s AC bonus even a tiny bit. That’s the kind of ability which makes the game interesting to me.
Weapon Training: While I think this ability is a great addition to the fighter class, it’s much more pedestrian than armor training. The longer I play tabletop games, the less interested I am in performing basic arithmetic.
Functionally, it’s nice that a fighter can become specialized in a certain group of weapons, and grow ever more proficient at using them. It just doesn’t get me excited. As I may have said before in this series, I like dramatic abilities. The type which sound game-breaking when you read them. Some potential alternatives to numerical bonuses, off the top of my head:
- When attacking with X weapon, treat all enemies as flat footed.
- When attacking with X weapon, all attacks are touch attacks.
- When attacking with X weapon, a roll of Y or higher is always a hit. (The monster’s AC is 30, but I’m using a longsword, which is my specialty, so all attack rolls of 25 or higher hit).
- Unique benefits related to the weapon group. Bows allow +50% range increments, flails grant an automatic success on attempts to grapple a foe with the weapon. Blades can have the numerical bonus, so it’s still available to those who want it.
Armor Mastery: I like the idea of armor as damage reduction anyway, so this works fine for me.
Weapon Mastery: This is the kind of thing I’d like to see for Weapon Training; but it’s a perfectly adequate capstone ability.
I guess this didn’t end up being all that short after all. I should never underestimate my own ability to blather.