Well this is one I have been holding off on for a while now. The reason is that I really love this game and I did not want to be gushing all over it without being able to give a balanced review.
Pathfinder by Piazo Publishing did not start out as its own role-playing game, but was originally a setting of sorts for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 by WOTC (Wizards of the Coast) that was presented in Dungeon Magazine’s Adventure Path materials when the magazine was being published by Piazo.
The sordid history regarding WOTC canceling their open licence for 3.5 and canceling contracts for things like the publication of Dragon Magazine by third parties that resulted in Piazo creating D&D 3.75 (aka Pathfinder) is not something I will go into here. There have been enough internet rants and flame wars on the topic over the years to satisfy anyone but the most hardcore troll. Whats done is done, and the end result was Pathfinder. I am also not going to go into my opinion regarding some of their more recent (last four years) products and publication methods. This is also something that has been argued to death in many places and I dont want to waste my time with it. I would rather just enjoy the original game and talk about it. So here goes…
The short form of what makes it different from D&D 3.5 was that it took all the elements of 3.5 and improved on them either slightly or greatly. Some of the things that they improved slightly were things like the overall power progression for every class. They balanced them out and upped the power level overall a little in regards to things like Feats so that everyone could feel more heroic. They made skill progression a little more instinctive (less futzing around with class non class) and rewarding for taking class skills. In regards to combat they did one really big thing that helped the game flow a TON and that was to remove the uniqueness of the different combat maneuvers (each having their own method of resolution) like tripping, or charging, and merging them into a combat stat called Combat Maneuver (Bonus or Defense CMB or CMD). Feats and bonus’ for specific maneuvers were added or subtracted from that value. And they made the math just as simple as Armor Class or Base To Hit. It seriously saves a lot of time and effort if you are playing with people who want to do more than just hit things.
Overall magic remained mostly the same, save for making magic items. They ditched the XP cost for making magic items and made it more challenging skill wise.
Overall they increased the flexibility of the system.
When it came to the publication itself the initial book was basically the equivalent of the Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master Guide in one publication that was big enough that you could beat someone bloody with. The interior art was so good that it would become a challenge for other publishers to meet. I mean really, monks and druids are rare in my games so I have to figure they are fairly uncommon in other groups too.. but look at this halfling druid and human monk…
Seriously does that not look inspiring? These are straight from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Artists are credited there. But seriously does that not make it look cool to be a druid? Or a monk?
And the basics they gave for the setting were enough to titillate a bit but not enough to lock you into any setting specifics other than suggested deities.
Now then what was really interesting was that they had set up Pathfinder so you could grab most anything from D&D 3.5, including their own Adventure Path settings and just run with it. Pathfinder characters would be a bit more powerful, but scaling was easy too when it came to the monsters, so you could just tweak things a bit and get up and running.
Now then I did encounter a number of people who for various reasons did not want to move their campaigns and such over to Pathfinder when D&D 3.5 had the plug pulled. And even though it was a bit frustrating to have something superior on hand to use I always tried to keep myself in check since I had a similar reaction when AD&D 2nd edition came out. It can be hard to let go of something you like and have invested in.
Another thing that I have enjoyed about Pathfinder is teaching the game. With the games layout, art, and presentation I have successfully taught more than one player who was completely new to role-playing games to create a character and be under way in less than two hours. I have had similar success with groups who are mixed being new to games or just new to Pathfinder. Being that easy to teach, and D&D 3.0/3.5 easy to mod, the game is solid and quick to work with.
Now then I said I was not going to go into the later publications but I do have to say that there was something about their publication model from day one that irked me. Shortly after they published their first Bestiary, they published a small press booklet titled the Adventurer’s Armory. Everything in that book came out again in the larger book the Advanced Players Guide. This pattern has meant that if you were on the ball and hot for everything that came out to supplement your game, you would end up buying the same information two or more times. While this does not directly affect the quality and the coolness of the original game book it does impact long term play-ability and affordability. And I have to mention this so that completely new players have a heads up, and can look for the books that have the most content and do not end up paying multiple times.
Ok so I have ranted and rambled lets see what I see by the numbers…
Overall Fluff 5/5 – Ok so there is little back story, and little follow through in setting up a world in the core book. However the style, the art, the look of the overall publication. This, this is just… dang…
Overall Crunch 4/5 – There is a lot of good stuff in the rules. They are well laid out and easy to follow. If you are coming from D&D 3.0 or 3.5 it should take you all of fifteen minutes to convert over. I have taught new players with this book in under two hours. And that is new to gaming. Not just new to the game. There is a bit of editing error… but for that I am only going to take away a point. It is more aesthetically displeasing that really screwing with your enjoyment and how well you can understand things.
Overall Mod 5/5 – It was made to be modded. I have used D&D Basic modules, AD&D both editions and 3.0/3.5 materials and modded them to Pathfinder with little effort. So the modding goes all ways.
Overall Fun 4/5 – Ok so this may seem a little short on score, but I have to say my overall fun was marred badly by their publication tactics and an overall deterioration of quality the further you get from the original product. When the rules first came out it was a 5/5, no questions asked. But with current eyes and experience I cant feel justified scoring it that high.
Total Score 18/20 – Ok so this score is pretty high. It really is worth it though I think. There are a lot of things that could be considered small flaws. And the follow though on future publications is a little… spotty… however I think in the end this really is the right score.
Ok so that is it for this week.
Play hard, play well, and have fun
Now gimme the dice I need to know how many hit dice my random hit die roller can generate.