Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

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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.

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.

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.

Noted Changes from 1E (As Gleaned From the Playtest)[edit]

  • Races
    • Goblins are now a default race.
    • Half-Elves and Half-Orcs were briefly racial ancestry feats that humans can take at first level. This was dropped in later stage of the playetest.
      • The 10/24 errata decided to offer all the other races a selection of subraces that gave particular perks based on racial variants. For some, this restored at least one racial feature, but others gained a bit of an environmental theming. This also includes half-elves and half-orcs, whom are now under humans.
    • Each race now adds +2 to two stats, -2 to one stat, and a +2 to any stat you want so long as it wasn't mentioned before. Humans just grab two floating stat boosts.
    • HP is now added between a racial HP value and the Class HP value, which includes Con. Just like Starfinder, but without any stamina to buffer out.
    • Many of the key features of each race has been cut out and moved into ancestry feats that you gain at level 1 and every 4 thereafter. All that remains before factoring in subrace is just their types and whether or not they have darkvision.
  • Classes
    • Alchemists are a core class now. However their pseudo-casting is now replaced with the ability to learn and slap together whatever alchemical items they want by spending their Int-dependent Resonance special resources.
      • The 11/05 errata realized just how crippling using resonance for everything was and instead gave a whole separate pool made just so alchemists can make their things.
      • The 11/05 errata also finally divorces the bombs from the class' progression and gives a choice between four subclasses: bomber, poisoner, medic, and mutagenist. Each gains improvements as the class levels up, including the ability to infinitely produce certain low-level items.
    • Barbarians no longer have a pool of turns per day with which they can rage, but now they can spend it infinitely...for three turns before needing to cool off for a turn. It's...strange to adjust to, and it especially hurts animal totem barbs, who need to rage for their natural attacks.
      • The 11/05 errata made this even weirder by replacing the flat 3 turns with an ongoing save. See, every turn after the first, the barb has to roll an increasingly difficult save to continue raging or run out of fuel instead. This method is contested for the fact that it offers little better for the number of turns to rage (especially when 5E's barbarians could rage for an entire minute without any need to save) while now painting the funny image of all barbarians being asthmatic or running the risk of throwing out their backs with each turn.
        • Well actually it does make sense. Barbarians are effectively redlining their bodies through their rage to pull off superhuman feats. As they grow stronger they can handle doing this for longer periods of time.
      • Totems (a popular addition to Barbarians due to adding new and fantastical abilities) are now a default feature, giving various features from hauling fuckoff-huge weapons to turning into an animal. They also force a taboo that strips any special rage powers if broken, with the exception of the Fury Totem (essentially the vanilla barbarian which instead gives a free extra class feat).
    • Bards get full spell progression.
      • The three main deals of bards (lots of utility in knowledge skills, performance to replace skills, and magical music) into three separate subclasses. The 11/05 errata gated some feats to certain subclasses and adds a feat to enable multi-subclassing.
    • Cleric domains don't grant spells anymore, only powers (which are just spells that require Spell Points to cast). Instead, clerics get extra spells determined by what god they worship (no word on how this'll work with original settings).
      • There are multiple forces that have managed to dethrone the cleric's undisputed rule as healmaster, from the Medicine skill actually being not-shit in healing, healing potions being rather cheap, and errata reducing the uses of channel energy.
    • Druids get subclasses based upon Orders: Canadian Leaf (Casters with Leshys for familiars), Storm (Blaster druids), Wild (Wildshape-focused), and Animal (Pets)
    • Paladins pretty much get three things guaranteed to them: a reaction (giving an ally protection from an attack and striking back), Lay on Hands, and the ability to infuse holy spirits to one thing (weapon, steed, and the newcomer shield). However, the issue with this is that due to how the action economy is, this means that shield-users are trapped every turn between blowing their reactions on their reaction power or using their shields. Forutnately, the 11/05 errata gave a few feats that grant bonus reactions explicitly for reaction powers and shield users (if you decided for some reason to use your divine bond on shields).
      • As of the 11/05 errata, Paladins are no longer forced into being Lawful Good. While the LG types retain the reactive strike power, the Neutral Good and Chaotic Good paladins gain new powers and different laws to enforce (NG can penalize the attack or weaken future ones that turn, CG allows for saves against grappling). Meanwhile, there's nothing known about how they'll do Antipaladins, if at all.
    • Rangers are pretty much gutted. All they really keep is the ability to hunt down targets (replacing the oft-loathed Favored Enemy with something more universal) and their ability to walk through terrain like nobody's business. The only fighting styles they have for them so far are dual-wielding, crossbows, and (as of the 10/26 errata) archery
      • The 11/05 errata enables rangers to do a few things to targeted foes: spam multi-attacks with reduced penalties (the original version), snipe for extra damage, screwing around.
    • Skill ranks have been done away with completely for proficiency ranks that ring more similar to games like Dark Heresy mixed with 5E: Untrained penalizes you for trying a skill, Trained lets you roll with the requisite stat with no penalties, and Expert, Master, and Legendary are bonuses to the roll in question. This proficiency system even spills over to your armor proficiencies, weapon proficiencies (so as to replace BAB), and saves.
      • In a bit of a turn from its sci-fi cousin, Level 3 doesn't automatically grant 1/2 character level to damage with every weapon group they're trained in, but now only certain characters can get a specialization boost that raises the proficiency rank for attacking with a single weapon group as well as gain access to crit effects with them. Casters can raise the proficiency ranks for spellcasting, but that's usually at level 10. Barbarians also lack this system, though level 3 gives them access to all special crits and then gain a rank up for weapons at a later level.
      • Because of how mandatory Perception was, it's now a pseudo-skill that every class gets some sort of training in. It's now also the skill check needed to roll for Initiative. Funnily, Fighters (One of the classes considered most shat upon by 1E) is now an ultra-badass at this skill.
      • Each class also has a selection of "Signature Skills", which permit the player to advance their training in a particular skill to even higher levels for bigger feats. As of the 9/10 errata though, Paizo seemed to get the memo about how pigeonholing this was and just scrapped Signature Skills, letting any skill reach the top-level and gave every class a few default-trained skills as compensation.
    • The spell pool is now drastically shrunk down to 4 types: Arcane (Wizards), Divine (Clerics), Primal (Druids), and Occult (Bards, because Paizo really wants you to rebuy Occult Adventures but doesn't want to make a new spell list just for the bard). Sorcerers are the only casters that are wild-cards, their bloodline feature dictating which spell list they can take.
      • As one can notice, Rangers, Alchemists, and Paladins aren't on the list. Rangers and Alchemists make do by making items (Traps for Rangers, Alchemical Items for Alchemists) while Paladins and Monks (and the other casting classes to a lesser degree) utilize a spell point pool and specific feats to gain new powers.
      • Spellcasters no longer get more spells per day by just getting a high casting stat.
      • Spells now have a rarity, which might be an attempt to limit the rarity of certain really powerful spells. On a similar note, some of the known campaign-ending spells (Wish, Time Stop) are now reserved for 10th-level spellcasting, which is available ONLY if you select a single feat at level 20 for the primary casting classes and you might still need to find them thanks to rarity. Expect this to work out like Paranoia's security clearances played straight.
      • Caster Level no longer affects spell strength. Instead, there are now multiple leveled versions of the same spell, meaning that they have to be "learned" at that level if you want to cast a spell at a "heightened" strength (making it sound like diet metamagic, but in reality just gimping spontaneous casters)
      • Spontaneous casters and Prepared Casters have the exact same spells per day progression (Sorcerers get extra bloodline spell slots, but Wizards get school spell slots, so there's no real difference except Sorcerers have a very finite spell repertoire).
  • Similar to SF, backgrounds are now a mandatory feature. Each gives a boost to two stats (one chosen from a set of two, the other to any stat so long as it's not the same stat as before), a skill feat, and training in a related Lore skill (the new name for Profession, though now only tied to Int).
  • Feats are given practically every level now, split between class feats, general feats, ancestry feats (racial), and skill feats. Expect the feat bloat to explode even harder than fuck.
    • Multiclass feats make a return. In addition to the ones that grant features from established classes, there are some archetypes (Gray Maiden, Cavalier, Pirate) for new perks. You need to sacrifice class feats to make use of this, and once you multiclass, you need to take at least two other multiclass feats before you can multiclass elsewhere (with exception to one human ancestry feat).
    • Skill feats at least add some new uses for the skill, mostly because of how feats and actual abilities are built off the same format.
  • Perhaps the most controversial feature made in the playtest so far is Resonance: a pool based off Level+Charisma (except for Alchemists who use Int for this), this allows folks to make items and allows anyone to use any magical items, either triggering a power or just allowing you to use an item's passive perk. The contention is that you need to spend this crap every day, meaning that those loaded with magical items are stuck having to figure out what items they want to use every day and traps Alchemists who want to make stuff into focusing on a particular set of items/elixirs/mutagens.
    • Magic Weapons now add an extra die of damage per + instead of just adding +1, making them a lot more reliable. The properties are now included in runes, which every weapon has an allotted limit to fill.
    • Magic armor now adds their enhancement value to all saves.
      • Weapon and Armor properties are still tied to fixed slots, but now they don't threaten to absorb than one slot because of their power.
  • Another controversial feature is the action economy: Rather than the typical Standard, Move, Swift action with Free actions sprinkled on, you now get three actions, and everything, from moving to casting, takes an action. In fact, multicomponent spells (Somatic, Verbal, Material, etc.) eat an action for every component the spell needs. Even Metamagic eats up an action to cast with it.
    • While not in itself an issue, some of the things tied to it are indeed stupid. Chief among them are shields, which you need to raise every turn to get their fucking AC bonus. You can then spend a reaction to have this shield block a single attack, likely damaging the shield - and shields break pretty easily if they absorb enough damage on top of only absorbing a limited amount of it before just being overwhelmed and landing on you.

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.