Mike’s Tavern: Introduction/ Pathfinder vs. Dungeons and Dragons

Mike’s Tavern: Introduction/ Pathfinder vs. Dungeons and Dragons

Mike’s Tavern: Introduction/ Pathfinder vs. Dungeons and Dragons

0 comments 📅07 July 2016, 11:19

I love Dungeons and Dragons. It has been one of my favorite hobbies since I discovered it at the age of 8 when my older cousin Tommy introduced me to it. He showed me his stacks and stacks of 2nd edition AD&D books and helped me create my very first character. Unfortunately the system was overwhelming for an 8 year old so my thief Bilbo never saw the light of day. I wouldn’t actually begin playing my first campaign until middle school when some of my friends tried to assemble a group. I created a Paladin that time and loved every second of it. It allowed my imagination to run wild and partly inspired some of the stories I wrote as a kid. I now run full campaigns as a DM and sometimes join as a player when others want to give Dungeon Mastering a shot. Both roles are enjoyable for me and have created interesting anecdotes that have become treasured memories.
Because of this, I feel the need to spread the Gospel of D&D and introduce others to this insanely fun past time. And for that reason, I will be writing a fairly consistent piece here on the podcast website that is D&D themed. The goal is to hopefully encourage other people to give the game a try if they haven’t done so before, or revive a past interest that you might have had at one point. I really want to avoid this series of articles from becoming blog-like, so my posts will be informational. Things like editions comparisons, DM tips, product reviews, and recommendations for new players will be my main focus.

Dungeons and Dragons
So without further ado, let me begin this new series with a brief explanation on a common question I get from both new veteran players of D&D: What is the game Pathfinder and is it similar to D&D?


Short answer

Pathfinder is a revised version of Dungeons and Dragons version 3.5. It is very similar and almost identical. In fact, I have used books and stats, strictly used for 3rd and 3.5 edition D&D directly in my Pathfinder games with little to no modification. The two games are so similar that Pathfinder is sometimes referred to as D&D 3.75.

How it compares

Pathfinder looks, feels, and operates like Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition with a few tweaks. I’ll mention only the most noticeable features.

  • While the same classes exist in Pathfinder as in D&D 3/3.5, they have been expanded to be a little more interesting to play. Powers have been expanded so that players do not feel the need to go into Prestige Classes to be powerful.
  • Pathfinder characters become stronger at a faster rate than their D&D counterparts. This is not just in the rate of XP given per encounter, but more health points, feats, class abilities and skill points are awarded per level. If you use higher level D&D content with Pathfinder characters as I do, you’ll need to compensate by giving enemies more hit points.
  • While Dungeons and Dragons have the Greyhawk, Eberron, and Forgotten Realms campaign settings, Pathfinder has its own unique setting with a Warcraft feel to it. This doesn’t really affect the game too much as you can just change names of locals to match other settings you might play. Or you can just do a home brew campaign.

Brief Background and Why Pathfinder Exists

Wizards of the Coast (WotC), the company behind the Dungeons and Dragons brand, released 3rd edition in 2000 under what’s called an Open Gaming License (OGL). This meant that third party publishers could create content for D&D with very little legal issues as long as the credit for D&D was attributed to WotC (I’m sure there were other minor stipulations as well, but that’s pretty much it for the most part). This had several advantages, the biggest one being that there was a plethora of content for players to enjoy. I’m sure that publishing costs and consequently profits were lower for WotC as well but I can’t speculate anything beyond that. Among these 3rd parties was Paizo Publishing.
In 2007, WotC announced that it would not renew the OGL for the upcoming 4th edition and that it would publish everything exclusively. This worried Paizo Publishing and a few fans of the franchise. For one, content would be released at a much slower rate for the role-playing community. Second, anybody who decided to release third party content for 4.0 could face serious legal trouble. Paizo decided that it would use D&D 3rd edition’s rule set to create their own game under its OGL in hopes to maintain their profits once WotC converted to 4th.
Pathfinder was released at the same time as Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition to great success, which effectively split the role playing community. To the surprise of the loyal fans (myself included), 4th edition was completely different. The biggest and most egregious change was that the game didn’t really have too many mechanics, if any at all, that provided opportunities for role playing. I don’t want to dive too much into this since it is a separate topic all together, but suffice it to say that, aside from one campaign, I decided to stick to 3.5.
Pathfinder had the advantage that it was built to be compatible with all of the D&D 3.5 content that was released in the past. So while 4th edition began with just a Players Handbook, a DM guide, and Monster Manual available at launch, Pathfinder had libraries of various books already at the player’s disposal. 4th edition was also received poorly, so loyal players began to convert to Pathfinder (again, myself included). WotC was forced to design “D&D Next”, the new edition project, years early. They performed extensive play testing and released it as 5th edition under another OGL.

Current Status

The war between Paizo Publishing and WotC still lingers, but has passed for the most part with the release of 5th edition. Players who own Pathfinder games still purchase content fairly often while also going into D&D 5th edition with ease. Some people consider Pathfinder as part of the D&D family of editions. For myself, Pathfinder is Dungeons and Dragons with a slightly different art style. I no longer differentiate between the two games, so when I tell people that I play “3.5” what I’m actually saying is that I play Pathfinder supplemented with Dungeons and Dragons content. I will continue to run 3.5/Pathfinder games in the future while staying away from 4th edition unless I have friends that really want to play it for some reason.

How to try it out

To maintain a profit and to stay within the bounds of the OGL, Paizo makes its content for Pathfinder free to access while selling hard copies of the rule sets in stores and online shops. You can go to http://www.paizo.com to have instant access to all the rules published by Paizo, but you’ll need to find your own copies for content meant for D&D 3/3.5.
The website and all of its rules can be overwhelming if you want to learn the basics of the game. It’s meant more as a quick reference for in-game play or if you want to read about a certain feature in detail. It does not present a concise rule set for beginning players to use however. The hard copy or PDF e-books effectively organize the important rules you need to know in order to begin playing. The rules for creating a character, for example, are easily followed. I suggest that you check out the website and explore a bit. If you think you may like the rule set, buy the players manual for organizational reasons. Even if you can figure out the game with just the website, you’ll support Paizo Publishing by buying the book.

Any comments, questions, or corrections? Feel free to contact me on my Facebook and Twitter. If you’d like me to dive into a particular topic or review, let me know with a comment below.

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