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 words. So, the keyword "Heavy" that exists on some Armor types might as well be the word "Blueberry," or the code
"T9," for all the difference it makes!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 Armor match to Keywords on your slotted Armor Feat, Keywords on Weapons match to Keywords on your slotted Attack Feats, Keywords on your slotted Expendables (slotted in the appropriate Implement) match to Keywords on your slotted Feature Feat, and Keywords on your Feet and Hands equipment match to Keywords on your slotted Utility Feats.
Below is the list of groups and their corresponding match, in table format.
|Keyword on:||Looks for a match on:|
|Feet, Hands||Utility 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" on a Longbow attack feat.
Keyword Matching Examples
Special attention must 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.
Major and Minor Keywords
There are two sets of keywords, major and minor, and with the exception of implements (which only have minor keywords), all equipment that has keywords has a particular static set of keywords. An example of this would be Artifact always being a major keyword for weapons, while Adamantine is always a major keyword for armor, but only a minor keyword for weapons.
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.
Listed below is all of the major and minor keywords for all equipment known. Also keep in mind that Masterwork is always a major keyword, and all equipment that use keywords tend to get it at T2 and T3. All other major keywords on equipment won't show up until T3.
Most weapon attacks will usually match no more than four minor and 2 major keywords, anything above the limit of six keywords should be a rarity. The only way this rule breaks is when a weapon might have both a T3 and the Artifact keyword, which will probably be a bug that should be reported. This example does have a higher chance to happen with armor, though not until higher levels, but armor is also capped to four minor and 2 major keywords.
Expendables though break all the rules and can match up to a total of nine keywords, with a mix of major and minor.
While enchanting is not in the game yet, once it does arrive it will continue to add additional keywords to weapons and armor that will interact with magic item feats and some attack feats, and this is where equipment can become +4 and +5 once the customizable keyword system is implemented. It will be different when it comes to misc. gear and will add special abilities or passive bonuses, and matter even more still when it comes to consumables, which scale their bonus directly related to the + on the item.
- 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.).