From comments by user2227713 on this answer:

Why hasn't Paizo done more to balance these low-tier classes? Don't get me wrong, new classes are great, but I'd like to see balance changes too.

Rather than answering that in another comment, I'm turning the question over to the community: What reasons has Paizo had for not changing the core classes' tiers?

The Pathfinder CRB provides 11 classes: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard. When played vanilla, these classes are T4, T3, T1, T1, T4, T6, T4, T4, T5, T2, and T1, respectively. When played with all Pathfinder published material, the tier of each class is roughly the same, maybe allowing a one-tier change.

It does seem deliberate, since additional material affects the power dynamics between classes so little, and since whenever additional material does have the potential to alter balance, it gets errata in such a manner as to ensure that doesn't happen. If it were entirely due to neglecting balance considerations entirely, one would expect additional material to correct or reverse the errors by way of random chance, if nothing else. What reasons do the Pathfinder developers have for maintaining the original power discrepancies between classes?

Answers from developer quotations are preferred, but experience working for or with Paizo might also work. As usual, remember to "Back it Up", since speculation is not an acceptable answer to SE questions.


2 Answers 2


You know how the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have a problem? Paizo does not acknowledge any balance problems on the extreme levels described by the tiers. Everything else stems from that.

Jason Bulmahn, lead designer of Pathfinder, describes core as the balance point for the game:

Understand that there is no agenda to keep Martials down. The directive is to keep the game relatively stable and balanced, as defined by the core. You may not agree with this philosophy, but I dont really think it is healthy for the game system to wait until book 5 or 10 to go in and try and right all the wrongs of the system. Nor do I think that errata is right way to go about it. There are certain balance aspects and play considerations that we inherited from 3.5 and like it or not, we are stuck with them. If I were to change these issues in a further book down the line, it creates a great number of problems for us in terms of system stability and sustainability. Suddenly the new book becomes a must have, which is a barrier to new players.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer

This is, of course, a reasonable position on its face. He is certainly correct that using later books to improve matters is problematic for the disparities that can cause (though of course, it still happens to some degree). But the problem is that this assumes that core itself is at least a reasonable, stable base to maintain. The tier system argues this is untrue: if you read the descriptions of the tiers, you will see that the gaps between characters—particularly spellcasters versus martials—is extreme. And this answer kind of pretends that the state of core is not their responsibility—see the offloading of responsibility onto 3.5—which of course is not true, they wrote the Core Rulebook and have the authority to errata it. If the tiers are accurate, it would certainly seem that it very much is appropriate to do so, since after all no class is billed as struggling to do anything or capable of mastering everything, but Bulmahn dismisses the possibility.

And that is because they deny the tiers themselves. While they may acknowledge that things are imperfect, they consider the problem mostly minor, denying the extreme problems posited by the tiers. And they are not shy about this opinion—they have gone on the record insulting and denigrating those who claim the problems are severe and in desperate need of addressing. For example, James Jacobs, creative director of Pathfinder, on the subject:

  1. what do you think abut the martial/caster disparity at high levels?
  1. I think it's a myth propagated by people with agendas.

That means that they just keep repeating the same problems over and over. They write new combat feats, but they're balanced against the old ones, actively prevented from getting better—and any better feats that sneak through consistently do get errata-nerfed. They write new spells, but they don’t nerf the old ones, so the new spells are either just as high-power, or are ignored for considering the power of the class with access.

And ultimately, there are just fundamental differences between spellcasting classes and non-spellcasting classes. Spellcasting classes get way, way more spells than non-spellcasting classes get features. That enables massively more versatility than is even possible on non-spellcasting classes. Without actual changes to the classes themselves, that will never get fixed.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Paizo does not acknowledge any balance problems They released a hardcover because they acknowledged balance problems. It's acceptance by the community had mixed results though. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    May 27, 2017 at 13:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Not at the fundamental level the tier system gets at, they don’t. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 27, 2017 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    May 27, 2017 at 21:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a colloquy on whether the large block-quote provided in the answer is accurately characterized by the answer in that ^^ chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    May 27, 2017 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your second quote and more recent analysis of the first quote are much more en pointe. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2017 at 8:30

Because some players want to keep their old tier system.

Paizo did make efforts to balance some classes (the Unchained manual with its buffs to monks and rogues is the proof of that).

Right now if you look for "overpowered pathfinder build" on google you will find... the superstitious barbarian. Yes, a martial class. Then there is the synthesis summoner, still not a top-tier one. Among my circle of players classes like Alchemist, Paladin and Gunslinger are also considered very powerful.

Actually the Pathfinder tier list is written by players from D&D3.5 (at least the first one I found). The tier matter was pretty serious in DD3.5, and it was mostly due to the number of spells that could be exploited very efficiently by any prepared caster when the right situation occurred. Pathfinder did at least an effort to correct that: many spells have been nerfed so they don't break the game anymore. There are still some of them but they are errated one by one (like Marid's Mastery which didn't have the "willing" in the target description and admitted no save).

Of course, a high level wizard is still insanely powerful, but not to the point where a fight between a 20th level Fighter and a 13th level Wizard is considered balanced.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, the wizard's victory is much less of a toss up in Pathfinder; the spellcaster buffs are HUGE. Not sure exactly how that's related to the rest of this text, though. And, overall, this doesn't seem to be citing dev commentary or anything so much as weirdly asserting that the gap between mundane combatants and spellcasters in Pathfinder is less than in 3.5, which I'm pretty sure we can all agree is false. I might be misunderstanding your text, though. In any case, this isn't an answer to my question because it doesn't back up that this is why the devs wanted to do this. \$\endgroup\$ May 29, 2017 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm citing a whole book of rules; Pathfinder Unchained, isn't that enough for you? I made an efforts to bring arguments to comfort my point (that Pathfinder's devs made an effort to reduce the gap) but you just state bluntly: "it's wrong, they didn't". Don't expect to have constructive answers to your problem if you don't even make an effort to accept them. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2017 at 7:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm asking why the devs haven't changed the tier of any core class via the release of additional material. It sounds like your answer is attempting to say 'the devs have released additional material that increases the power of some low tier classes'. Either your answer is intended to imply that this increase is enough to change the tier of the affected classes (it's not), or it's intended to imply that the unchained book was an attempt to do that and it just happened to fail, so the answer is that they are trying, in which case you don't really support that. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2017 at 8:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ You do cite an entire book, but you don't really explain how that book supports your point, nor quote from it at all. The existence of a book that buffs monks and rogues doesn't really say a whole lot about Paizo's goals. You would instead want to cite an interview with authorial staff responsible for the book explaining why the book was developed or something. If your claim is just that the tier differences are smaller in Pathfinder than in 3.5 that is 1) objectively false and 2) irrelevant except as a piece of evidence is a larger 'they are trying' or 'they did what they wanted' answer. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2017 at 8:23

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