Tabletop Thoughts: Pathfinder

Hello everyone! I’m Monster Review Girl, and welcome!

Today’s article will be talking about Pathfinder, a TTRPG (TableTop Role-Playing Game, for those unfamiliar with the idea) that came out in the late 2000s as an answer to Wizards of the Coast’s fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons.

The company that produced Pathfinder, TSR, was originally a sister company to Wizards of The Coast. They even published two supplementary magazines called Dungeon and Dragon, Dragon running in hard print from 1976 to 2007, only ceasing digital publication in 2013 with 430 issues. It is unknown when Dungeon ceased publication. It is entirely possible that the two publications merged at some point.

Publication History

In 2008 when Wizards published the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the massive system overhauls meant that Dungeon was no longer compatible with the main game. The company that produced Dragon, TSR, renamed to Paizo and published Pathfinder in 2009.

They released Pathfinder instead of continuing to publish content that was compatible with 4th. This was due to concerns about 4th’s more restrictive Game System License. Which is perfectly sensible, all things considered.

Pathfinder’s first edition extends and modifies the System Reference Document based on the revised 3rd edition of D&D (Hereafter referred to as 3.5). 3.5 has what’s called an Open Game License, meaning that its systems and mechanics are free to be altered and published in new incarnations. So if your Game master has things from 3.5 they really liked, point them at Pathfinder.

Announced in March of 2008, Pathfinder came together over a year using an open playtest model. This meant that players could try it out and give feedback on Paizo’s website. Wizards of the coast also used the open playtest model for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons.

Pathfinder’s changes compared to D&D

The first edition is very much like 3.5, resulting in the nickname 3.75, but there have been some critical changes. Pathfinder’s lead designer Jason Bulmahn felt that the basic classes were lackluster and did not provide incentives against multiclassing. Pathfinder, however, adds many incentives to stick with your starting classes such as customization options and ability boosts. The balance of the games also received tweaks. These tweaks included non-combat classes using a higher hit die than in their 3.5 incarnations. The skill system and combat moves like grappling and tripping have also been tweaked.

There’s also a more concrete world. While 3.5 made you go hunting for its world and lore, Pathfinder is very open about the world it uses. It even provides several books to help you fully flesh out the world of Golarion. And by several, I mean close to 200 books, though most of these are standalone novels or short one-shot campaigns.

Pathfinder also introduced an organized gameplay program called the Pathfinder Society. This was where players could catalog their experiences and receive write-up sheets of what happened in-session. These sheets would be preserved for the players’ records keeping.

Awards and Reception

Pathfinder received massive success, being the top-selling TTRPG from spring 2011 to summer 2014. However, the 5th edition has put Dungeons and Dragons back on the number one spot, with pathfinder consistently getting second place. Winning ENnie awards at Gen Con in categories including but not limited to Best Publisher and Best Game. The beta release of the first edition won the 2008 silver ENnie award for “Best Free Production or Web-Enhancement.

The 2nd edition core book received a nomination for a 2020 Origin award. It won the 2019 Techraptor Award for Reader’s choice as TTRPG of the year. Also having card games, a series of 30 novels, a series of audio dramas, comic books, videogames, and a play series with Geek and Sundry, Pathfinder is nothing if not massively diverse in its media.

My thoughts

I have played 3.5, 4th edition, and Pathfinder at various stages in my live. I loved 3.5, it was my first D&D system and was a huge part of my childhood. 4th… the less said about 4th in polite company the better. But Pathfinder… Playing it for the first time felt like I was reviving a childhood friend. I adored it, and still do, playing it when I can with friends.

So, if you’ve been looking for a new system to play with, give Pathfinder a try. Whether you enjoy it or not, you’ve still told a story. And telling stories is the point of playing a Table Top Role Playing game.

This has been MonsterReviewGirl, and I’ll see you again next time.

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