Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pathfinder Logo.jpeg
RPG published by
Paizo
Authors Jason Buhlman
First Publication 2009

For the weeb infantry unit, see this page

When D&D 4th edition was announced it was immediately rejected with a lot of negative feelings by a rather large number of people. Realizing a lot of 3 and 3.5 material would suddenly become mostly useless and that Wizards would be making a significantly different game, Paizo Publishing decided to cash in on the 4th edition naysayers and appeal to the people who wanted to stick to the old edition, but realized it still needed to be fixed.

Thus the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game came about, usually called D&D 3.75 or 3.PF due to the fact that it largely resembles 3.5's ruleset but with various non-drastic updates, fixes and changes. Notably, grappling now more closely resembles something that might almost be called "sense" (gasp!) and Half-orcs and Half-elves don't suck anymore. Spellcasters are just as crazy as ever once they've got a few levels in them, while melee classes, generally speaking, got buffed across the board. Not enough to make them outshine the wizards, but take what you can get. This is assuming that your DM isn't a newfag incapable of compensating.

Noted for the mishmash campaign world (which contains elements lifted from pretty much everything, ever, from real-world history to crappy pulp Sci-Fi to LotR with a dash of Order of the Stick thrown in for good measure) and entire published campaigns called Adventure Paths set in that world. The setting is both good and total shit at the same time, no better than any decent gamemaster can come up with on their own, and tends to include more annoying politics as time's gone on. As far as the mechanics, it's divisive to say the least. It doubles down on 3.5 in almost every way (hence why it's often referred to as 3.PF), so if you liked 3.5 for its options and crunch, you'll probably like Pathfinder even more. On the other hand, if you disliked 3.5 for its bloat and poor balance, you'll probably hate Pathfinder.

Golarion[edit]

The campaign setting explained in one handy graphic.
Main article: Golarion

The main setting of Pathfinder is the Inner Sea region (basically the equivalent of the Mediterranean sea zone in our world) on a planet called Golarion. Unlike other D&D settings, many of the cultures and civilizations of the Inner Sea region are in severe decline after the only deity which represents humans in the Great Beyond (the outer planes), Aroden, died a few centuries ago. To add salt to the wound, this caused a series of events which fucked up the world: the formation of a massive supernatural stationary hurricane that annihilated two entire nations and allowed pirates to develop their own kingdoms, the obliteration of a noble barbarian empire by a tear in the tissue of reality opened directly into the Abyss, and most of the prophets and diviners committed mass suicide as an imminent prophesied golden age for mankind suddenly faded into nothing. As if this wasn't enough, the two greatest empires started to collapse in the religious hysteria, Cheliax (the Golarion equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire) suffered a civil war that ultimately put on the throne a noble house with links to the Nine Hells, making worship of the devil (Rock me Azmodeus!) the official state religion. Taldor (a mix of the Byzantine Empire and the Spanish Empire during the Habsburg era) started to lose territories at the hands of the Keleshite Empire (the "Persian" ethnicity in Golarion), while banks owned by brass dragons turned its culture completely decadent and stagnated by the bureaucracy. As this happened some provinces declared independence from Cheliax, creating two new countries, Andoran (which is like the 13 colonies after winning the Revolutionary War, so basically America (fuck yeah) with swords and sorcery) and Galt (France during The Terror with some elements which remind you of the Soviet Union after the end of the Russian civil war).

If all these political fuck ups are not enough, Golarion is in fact a cage built by the gods for an entity known as Rovagug, basically a massive worm which works like a black hole and represents entropy. It's also connected with the Plateau of Leng and there are cults to the Old Gods (yes, the H.P. Lovecraft ones, so you can roll a CE cleric of Nyarlathotep for the evulz). Of course all of this is hidden by the Pathfinder Society (imagine National Geographic meets your standard Adventurers' Guild and then, as awesome as that sounds, make them incompetent), one of the many factions and secret societies whose selfish intentions are just helping civilization to sink more into the pile of crap it is mired in instead of helping it come out. The remaining deities and their churches aren't helping either, the veteran gods have already seen an apocalypse obliterate the world once and the new ones are just useless adventurers who can't grasp that they aren't mortals anymore.

Beyond the Inner Sea region there are even more continents and nations, but barely anybody gives a shit about them (including most of Paizo's writers) with the exception of Tian Xia, where weeabooness and furfaggotry meet. There's also the Darklands (the Underdark of Golarion), divided into three levels, each more under and darker than the last. And if the planet seems too shitty for you the whole solar system is full of civilizations and monsters to rip and tear through in your quest for loot, not to mention the shenanigans you can get into in the other planes of the multiverse.

Notable Changes from 3.5 to PF1E[edit]

An extensive guide exists walking players through most of these changes, but highlights in core include the following.

The good:

  • Most things that cause experience points to be lost have been axed, as this was deemed a massive pain in the ass to keep track of everyone having different experience totals, particularly once everyone was different level and got different experience rewards. Most of the time this takes the form of replacing XP costs with GP costs, and changing level loss to negative levels.
    • Familiars no longer eat your experience when they go splat, making them a class feature instead of a liability.
  • Skill system has been changed to make skills less of a pain in the ass for multiclass characters and punish out of class skills less. Many skills have been combined, and two (Concentration and Use Rope) have been axed entirely.
  • Feat rate has been increased from the sluggish first level plus every multiple of three. Feats are now given at every odd level. This makes feat taxes less painful and leaves more room for feats that are fun instead of needed or to make a character versatile (Bow users that take enough feats to make them viable melee combatants are now common).
  • Identifying items no longer requires the costly identify spell. Instead anyone with detect magic and spellcraft can figure out what an item does.
  • Cantrips are now unlimited. Heal/Inflict Minor Wounds have been nerfed to accompany this, only (de)stabilizing characters under 1 hit point.
  • Polymorph effects have been nerfed into the ground. Now they modify your physical ability scores instead of replacing them, their duration are much lower, and they're limited in what abilities they give.
  • Some of the best spells have been nerfed. Glitterdust now gives a new save every round, divine power no longer replaces your base attack bonus and doesn't stack with divine favor, grease isn't nearly as OP (though remains pretty good) and more.
  • Hit die is now tied to base attack bonus with two exceptions. All full BAB bonus classes/hit die have d10 HD (except Barbarian and Dragon, which get to keep their d12), all medium BAB classes/HD have d8, and all low BAB classes/HD have d6.
  • Sneak attack now works on almost everything instead of failing against some of the most common monster types.
  • Only full caster classes have dead levels, and some of them avoid even that.
  • Barbarian and Rogue get a choice of special abilities at every even level. While the ones in core aren't that great, they would be greatly expanded over the system's lifespan and the majority of non-core classes use this design.
  • Bard has slightly better casting progression and genuinely good class features.
  • Paladins are massively buffed and now viable if you aren't fighting non-evil foes. They have gained actual class features, a good will save, casting that works off charisma (meaning they can dump wisdom since they get charisma to their will save), a Caster Level is level -3 instead of half level, a smite that is no longer shit, and support for less draconian codes. They've actually risen from an iffy tier 5 to a comfortable tier 4, as they're now really good at destroying evil things and diplomacy, but struggle to contribute against neutral foes.
  • Rangers now have d10 HD (as above), get to wear medium armor, have better casting, a better animal companion, get their abilities faster, and have a wider variety of combat style options.
  • Sorcerers are now more than merely nerfed wizards. Still progress spells slower for no reason.
  • Wizards are no longer totally locked out of their Opposition schools, they just have a harder time casting form them.
  • The core races have all been buffed, except for maybe Human. Ability score bonuses are now +2 overall instead of a break even, with most races getting a +2 bonus to two ability scores and -2 penalty to a third while others get +2 to their choice of ability score. Other non-Human race abilities are buffed overall.
  • Magic weapons with a proper +3 bonuses bypasses damage reduction overcome by silver and cold iron, +4 does the same for adamantine and +5 does it for alignment DR. This reduces the need for martials to keep a golf bag of weaponry and gives an actual reason to have raw plus bonuses, unlike 3e where they were considered useless because Greater Magic Weapon was a thing.
  • Everything except proper names of setting details is released under the Open Gaming License.

The bad:

  • Maneuvers have been nerfed greatly, killing of the tricks martials had. Now you need to uber specialize to get them functional, as it takes more feats to get the same or less benefit than the 3.5 equivalent and they rely on a busted CMB vs. CMD that never took into account that player characters gain HD slower than monsters.
  • A lot of spells that were ignored because they're were just slightly worse than another spell have remained unnerfed, and many game breaking spells weren't touched at all. Most useless spells are still useless.
  • Except for Paladin and core only Bard, the fixes aren't extensive enough to raise anyone's tier, and martial caster power disparity is still a big thing. Core only Monk is still terrible for anything other than a dip.
  • Power Attack is easier to use, but not as useful. Instead of being able to trade any amount of accuracy for an equal amount of damage, you're locked to a fixed amount dependent on your BAB. The better ratio of the trade for two handed weapons remains untouched and the penalty for using it with light weapons has been removed, so it's still a pretty good feat despite this.
  • Intimidate no longer stacks with itself, ridding the system of yet another trick mundane characters could use.

Other/Mixed:

  • Since character creation and advancement rules weren't covered by the OGL, the experience chart, wealth by level numbers, and point buy are all different.
  • Ability score increasing items are now locked to the belt slot and headband slot. This is good for most classes, since fun items don't have to worry about occupying a slot that may have a mandatory item. Unfortunately it hurts MAD characters even more, as they need to pay even more to boost their ability scores.
  • Level Adjustment no longer exists and there are no rules for playing as monsters. At the same time however all the "enemy" races that were LA +1 for no real reason but what fans deemed "exotic race tax" are now 100% usable as player races. This continued as the system progressed and many "monster" races got mechanical support for player use.
  • Bards and Barbarians now work off a number of rounds they can keep their special abilities active instead of a number of uses that last a certain number of rounds. This has many implications that both help and hurt the two classes.
The Classes of Pathfinder
Core Classes: Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
Advanced
Player's Guide:
Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
Advanced
Class Guide:
Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
Occult
Adventures:
Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
Ultimate X: Gunslinger - Magus - Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante

Pathfinder Tales[edit]

The series of novels written for the setting. There are over thirty of them now, with some Forgotten Realms authors occasionally writing for Paizo, most notably Ed Greenwood who made Forgotten Realms. This may be an indicator of how much Wizards of the Coast messing around with the settings drove people off.

Adventure Paths[edit]

One of the big draws to the system is the pre-written campaigns Paizo puts out called Adventure Paths, or APs. Continuing from the Shackled City, Age of Worms and Savage Tide adventures Paizo created when running Dungeon Magazine, each AP is 6 books long and, unlike the Dungeon Magazine adventures which went 1-21, run on average from levels 1 to ~15, though two go all the way to 20. These are detailed on the Adventure Path page.

Rage[edit]

Pathfinder's barbarians are champion swimmers, but only when raging.

The Pathfinder RPG inspires a large amount of nerdrage over its rules, with frequent bawwing over class balance, perceived nonsensical nerfs to fighters, buffed CoDzilla and wizards and general trollage. Any discussion of the differences between Pathfinder ("3.75" for fanboys) and regular 3.5 is almost guaranteed to produce a flamewar.

Third Party[edit]

Thanks to almost all rules content being released under the Open Gaming License, a generous compatibility license (a publisher can put a "Pathfinder compatible" logo on the cover and reference the hardcover books by name as long as they don't pretend to be official, sell it non-exclusively on Paizo's site and don't try to make a sequel to the Book of Erotic Fantasy) and the system's large market scale have given it substantial third party support. The most notable and high quality non-module third party support include Dreamscarred Press (who have remade 3.5 Psionics, Incarnum and Book of Nine Swords with the love Wizards of the Coast never gave these systems), Drop Dead Studios (Spheres of Power), and Legendary Games (Mythic, but also a good deal of expansion on the less supported parts of Pathfinder). Many third party generic fantasy modules support Pathfinder alongside OSR and 5E.

Second Edition[edit]

Paizo has announced that they are working on the second edition of Pathfinder, which will be released in August of 2019. It make several changes, and will make both goblins and alchemists core choices. Will probably include elements of Starfinder. Also, after decades of deflecting criticism with "4e, bluh bluh," the devs naturally put in a dig at the infamous 4e Forgotten Realms while listing what they would not do to Golarion stating all changes would be the passage of time and that every AP happened. The playtest hit August 2nd 2018.

The dig at 4e is hilarious because, as /tg/ has pointed out, many of the planned mechanics are literally exactly the same kind of mechanics that 4e did itself. Just trading 4e's dry but easy-to-read mechanically focused layout style for "natural" layout style that can make it harder to figure out how the mechanic actually works.

Links[edit]

  • Pathfinder at Paizo Publishing, for convenience.
  • Pathfinder Wiki, because everything has a wiki these days.
  • Pathfinder SRD: Without the hassle of getting the books. Also includes plenty of third-party material, chiefly Psionics and Path of War
  • Archives of Nethys: The SRD for the system. Once a great fanmade alternative to the official SRD, Paizo decided they couldn't be bothered to maintain the official one anymore and hired the owner to make it the official one.