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While making a character, I noticed that a lot of the rage-powers the barbarians have are vague on level requirements. The Renewed Vigor ability, for example, states that the barbarian must be at least 4th level before they can take it. Would that be character level, or barbarian level?

A lot of the rage powers are vague like this. Raging Climber, Leaper, and Swimmer all say 'adds her level as an enchantment bonus on __" However, they don't define it as character level, or Barbarian level.

I ask because the Paladin Smite and Lay on Hands abilities both specify that their effects are dependent on Paladin level, and not just 'level.'

At first, I figured, 'Meh, it's an oversight on the writers part. No way they'd make multiclassing that OP.' But when I started looking at some of the things you can do with that they really aren't that broken. A multiclass Barbarian/Fighter with 2 levels in each would have the same BAB as a straight 4th level of either, no reflex or will saves to speak of, but a stupid-high fortitude save. Pretty standard, for that build.

If you leveled it right, then you'd have total, Bravey +1, two bonus feats, Rage, Fast movement, a rage power (Renewed Vigor), and Uncanny Dodge. As opposed to a straight fighter, who'd have three bonus feats, and Armor training 1, or a straight Barbarian who'd have Rage, Fast movement, 2 rage powers (one could be Renewed vigor), Uncanny dodge, and trap sense +1.

Yes, the first build would be slightly more min-maxed, as Trap Sense isn't combat-oriented, and armor training isn't all that helpful, but they'd still be giving up the abilities.

So, all that said; How do level-dependent abilities that do not specify character level or class level work among the core classes?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

If listed as part of a class’s description, it is your class level in that class. Rage powers would therefore mean Barbarian class level when they refer to level. Exceptions will specify another level explicitly. “Character level” is used to indicate your total, overall level.

If the ability in question is not a class feature, but rather a feat, item, or something else, then that is probably an oversight; such things should always specify. Check any errata files, and if there’s nothing, ask your DM (or if you are the DM, make a judgment call).

With thanks to Jonathan Hobbs for finding the link, here is a statement by Jason Buhlmann, lead designer, confirming this.

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Can you site a source on this, please? I've never read that rule anywhere, and I know it was true in 3.5, but I can't find it in Pathfinder. And, the catch is, it's a requirement for taking a Rage power, which just says 'must be _th level or higher before she can take it.' It doesn't specifically say Barbarian level, or even character level, which is why I asked in the first place. –  Zach Nov 26 '12 at 2:48
This answer is correct. There's no citation, "level" adapts its meaning to the section of rules you're in. See rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/14619/… –  mxyzplk Nov 26 '12 at 4:10
@mxyzplk I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm asking where it came from. I can't find where that rule came from, which is why I asked in the first place. I know it's standard, excepted practice in 3.0 and 3.5 (and probably other games) but I can't find where it came from. And, so far as I can tell, if it didn't come from anywhere, then it's just a nigh-global house rule, and not raw. Which, considering some of the people I play with, means that it will come up as an argument, eventually. I'd like to be able to put the lid on it before it starts. –  Zach Nov 26 '12 at 4:28
@Zach: No, I that's not how it works. This isn't a function of the rules of the game so much as a function of the rules of English grammar. The first sentence of the Rage Powers section starts with "As a barbarian gains levels," which clearly indicates gaining levels as a barbarian. Level refers to barbarian level only. –  KRyan Nov 26 '12 at 4:49
@KRyan Yes, but that refers to the gaining of rage powers, not meeting the prerequisites for taking them. What I'm really wanting to know is, are the level requirements based on total level, or Barbarian level? And, if the latter, where does it say that. I play with people who redefine 'rules lawyer,' and who make me look downright agreeable. If it's simply something everyone agrees to, fine. That's ruling in and of itself, as it becomes one of those 'if you want to play, you have to agree to x' rules, that are never actually stated. Like using legal dice, and not home-made ones. –  Zach Nov 26 '12 at 4:54
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