Reasons to Love Pathfinder
Here's some of what makes Pathfinder work for me:
- Level Loss: Now with far less cheese and book-keeping than any earlier rules: Level Loss
I've never liked level loss as a mechanic. Too much book keeping, especially when "rolling back" multiple levels, plus it makes players feel jerked around--often even more than character death. The Pathfinder technique provides something that hurts, without hurting the game.
- Low Level Character Flexibility: Characters start out being able to do a lot of things. Some call this overpowered, I call it skipping the sucky levels.
Plus, what they can do isn't overwhelming once a player has managed to cope with the basics of making a character in the first place.
- Cleaner Skills Tree: earlier versions of d20 split too many hairs on skills. PFRPG undoes a lot of that without making the skills so general they're meaningless.
There are still a couple of places I see room for consolidation, but overall it's a big improvement for both game masters and players (the Beginner's Box is even better, though there are a couple of skills I'd put back in for a regular game.)
- Levels Mean Something: Pretty much each level has a tangible advancement associated with it, not just more HP and a higher number for power calcs.
It's not just that there's something to every level, most any system can slice and dice to have "something" at every level. It's also that the number of levels is limited, and there's a "capstone" ability associated with each class.
- Core Classes Count: They aren't just where you park your character until you take a prestige class.
The capstone abilities are part of what makes this work, but there's also the fact that the core classes are powerful enough to not put a player who sticks with one at a big game disadvantage at mid and high levels.
It's not that More Power = More Fun, it's that reasonably equal levels of power between core and prestige classes keeps core classes fun. (Personally, I really dislike the entire concept suggested by the term "Prestige Class.")