Keywords are an integral part of the Pathfinder Online game. Think of keywords as a type of Matching Game--like the ones you may have played when you were a child. This time, however, instead of matching triangles and colors, you are matching words. Matching keywords on Armor, Weapons, Implements, and other Gear can confer excellent bonuses to your Character, so having a clear understanding of the keyword system is crucial to your success and enjoyment of the game.
The following is an overview of the basics of the Keyword system in Pathfinder Online.
The first thing to know about keywords is that the word itself is NOT important: the mechanics and effects in the game would work in the exact same way if the keywords were all replaced with completely different, randomly generated, words.
For example, the keyword "Heavy" that exists on some Armor types might as well be the word "Blueberry," or "Keyword9T," for all the difference it makes to the game.1
What IS important with Keyword Matching is that the word has a matching keyword in the appropriate place. To find out if they do, we need to know where to look.
Where to Look
The second step to fully understanding how the Keyword System works is knowing where to look to see if your keywords match.
Keywords on Gear match to their respective Slotted Feats; therefore, keywords on Armor match to keywords on your slotted Armor Feat, keywords on Weapons match to keywords on your slotted Attack Feats, and keywords on your Feet and Hands equipment match to keywords on your slotted Utility Feats.
Expendables are slightly different in that the keywords do not exist on the Gear itself (the Implement, in this case); instead, the keywords are found on the Expendable. Therefore, the Expendable (Spell or Maneuver) must first be learned (like a Feat) and then equipped to the Implement, then the keywords on that Expendable match to keywords on your slotted Feature Feat,
Keywords from one 'group' cannot match to keywords of other groups, even if they are the same keyword. For example, the keyword "Heavy" can be seen on some Armor types as well as on some Weapon types, but having a weapon with "Heavy" will NOT confer Keyword Bonuses to your Armor Feat if it also requires "Heavy" (and vice versa). Similarly, the keyword "Precise" from Shortswords cannot match to the keyword "Precise" for a Longbow attack feat.
Below is the list of groups and their corresponding match, in table format. Again, Keywords cannot match across different groups.
|Keyword on:||Looks for a match on:|
|Feet, Hands||Utility Feat|
Spell it Out
So, now we know where to look for our Keywords and we know that each keyword group is exclusive.
There are several categories of keywords in PFO:
- Basic (AKA Minor2 )
- Advanced (AKA Major2 )
All Armor, Weapons, Expendables, and other Gear (such as Boots and Hands) possess at least one keyword. More powerful Gear (indicated by the Plus Value (+)) possess more keywords, and those additional keywords require higher level Feats in order to be activated properly.
Expendables have a 'Hybrid Keyword' that is slightly better than a Basic Keyword but not as powerful as an Advanced Keyword (these hybrids apply ONLY to Expendables). These hybrid keywords are referred to as Expendable Keywords.
In terms of strength, Advanced Keywords are four (4) times as strong as Basics, and the Expendable Keywords are one-point-four (1.4) times as strong as Basic Keywords. Unless expressly implied, when an effect or formula indicates "per number of matching Keywords," you should count each Advanced Keyword as 4 Basic Keywords, and each Expendable Keyword as 1.4 Basic Keywords.
Cosmetic and Material Keywords do not count towards Keyword Matching (see Material & Cosmetic Keywords, below).
Material & Cosmetic Keywords
Certain types of Weapons and Armors have 'Material,' or 'Cosmetic,' keywords that do not have matching words on their respective groups. These Keywords have no, or limited, affect on the Keyword Matching system, and may either be completely cosmetic (ex: 'Spiked' Armor), or have other game-play effects (ex: 'Silver' Weapons causing extra damage on Lycanthropes).
Of particular note is the Organic Keyword. On Weapons, this keyword is a Material Keyword, which has no effect on the Keyword Matching system, whereas, on Armor, Organic is a Basic Keyword (see Basic Keywords, above). This reiterates the need for care to be taken when reading Keyword list on Gear and Feats.
Below is a list of the Material and Cosmetic Keywords.
The higher the level the feat, the more keywords it can potentially use. The same thing is for equipment as well, the more pluses they possess, the more keywords that can potentially match. For example, the longsword feat Slash 1 can only apply one keyword (Slashing) to your attacks, but Slash 3 has the ability to apply up to three keywords (Slashing/Sharp/Balanced) to your attacks to do more damage, but only if your longsword also has those same three keywords (you would need at least a tier 1 +2 steel longsword).
All starter gear is at +0, so using the example above a starter steel longsword would be at +0. At +0, gear has only one keyword, in the case of the longsword it has the keyword of Slashing. The longsword attack Slash 1 matches that keyword and adds damage to that attack. Slash 3 has the potential to match two additional keywords to add even more damage to your attacks, but since it is only a starter longsword, it doesn't have the addtional keywords and that potential is now wasted and each attack comes out with the same damage as Slash 1.
In the case of a longsword +5, Slash 6 is the only rank of that physical attack feat than can use all six keywords: Slashing, Sharp, Balanced, Masterworked, Razored, and Vorpal. So it is vital to be able to match as many keywords as possible between the equipment that you are using and the feats that you have acquired.
A good example of keywords not matching is using the Crusader 1 Armor feat, which has the keyword of Heavy with Peasant Clothes, which only has the keywords of Organic and Clothing, giving you zero benefit in wearing that armor, and you would be better off in wearing some +0 Hide and Steel Banded instead, since at even +0 it has the keyword of Heavy.
In regards to armor at least, the plan is to allow for the defense rating to still be active for the character as long as they have proficiency in that armor, regardless of whether any keywords are matching or not, but do note that this is not working as intended right now.
Innate keywords are always granted to an item no matter the + of the item. An example of this is having +0 Robes of the Master, which is a T3 Clothing armor with the innate keywords of Sage, Masterwork, Organic, Inscribed, and Attuned while gaining the keyword of Clothing since it is +0.
Keyword Matching Examples
The tables below illustrate Keyword matching on several Weapons, Armors, and Expendables. It is important to note the Tier of the Weapon as well as its upgrade level (+0, +1, +3, etc.) when determining what keywords are matching and which are not. See Major and Minor Keywords, below, for more information.
|Weapon Name||Tier||Keyword(s) on Weapon||Weapon Category Feat + Level||Example Feat|
|Steel Dagger +2||1||Piercing, Precise, Light||Light Knife Level 3||Rattle, Fan, Shiv|
|Hunter's Longbow +1||1||Piercing, Precise||Longbow Level 2||Overdraw, Parting Shot|
|Silvered Steel Short Sword +2||2||Masterwork, Piercing, Precise, Balanced||One-Handed Fencing Level 4||Parry, Thrust, Press|
|Adept's Psychic Staff +0||2||Masterwork, Arcane||Mage Staff Level 4||Force Hail, Burning Flume|
|Apprentice's Charged Wand +3||1||Arcane, Volatile, Direct, Explosive||Mage Wand Level 5||Frost Ray, Flare, Acid Dart|
|Disciple's Battle Focus +3||2||Masterwork, Divine, Battle, Blessed, War||Focus Level 5||Agile Feet, Battle Rage|
Special attention should be paid when matching caster-type weapons with appropriate attack feats. While all Physical Weapons (Daggers, Longbow, Longsword, etc.) have the exact same Keyword Progression, Caster Weapons (Focus, Staff, Wand) do not. Wizard Staffs could have the Diminishing or the Charged tags. Cleric Focuses could be Occult or Battle focused. These different classes will determine what keywords a particular weapon has.
- There are plans to eventually have some keywords (such as Cold Iron or Silvered, on weapons) have effects other than the normal Keyword Matching effect (such as Silvered doing extra damage to lycanthropes, etc.).
- You may see, and hear, other players and resources refer to the Keyword Categories as "Minor" and "Major", however, the PFO game system uses the terminology used in this article.