I’m starting to learn Pathfinder

Most of my RPG experience so far has been with D&D Fourth Edition. I only started playing in earnest in early 2010, and it’s mostly been 4e home games, 4e online games, and 4e organized play games. I had the chance to try GURPS, Savage Worlds and Call of Cthulhu at Genghis Con in February. And I had a little bit of experience with D&D 3.0 about eight or nine years ago.

Pathfinder, as I know, is basically D&D 3.75. I know that it’s a pretty popular game, and that their adventure paths receive a lot of praise, even from people who don’t really play Pathfinder. It’s somewhat popular at my local store, too, though there seems to be far more D&D 4e organized play there. The store owner, Jeff, is a big fan of Pathfinder, and he encouraged me to try it out, offering to run a “learn to play” session sometime if I was interested.

I’m more of a book guy, frankly, so I decided to check out a copy of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook from my local library. So far I’ve read the introductory chapter, the Races chapter, a little bit of Classes, and most of the Combat chapter.

I want to reserve judgment on the system until I’ve finished reading more of the book, but I know that lots of folks out there probably have some insights to offer me that might help me better understand the game. What should I be looking for? What might not be obvious from a pure rules read-through that would enhance my understanding of Pathfinder?

Just to be clear, I’m perfectly happy with 4e, but I love lots of games and thought it would be fun to learn another one, just for variety’s sake. This is not an edition war – I’m pretty confident that I’ll find something to love about most RPGs out there. It’s all good!

10 thoughts on “I’m starting to learn Pathfinder

  1. RPGs are a lot about how you play them. 4th Ed seems to be geared towards a more linear, combat based-play by the way the rulebook is presented. Combat is really important in 4ed hence D&D Encounters and such. Hack-n-Slashers have loved it.

    It was suppose to appeal to a new wave of MMORPG and console gamers whose main already-established interest is in combat & quest completion.

    Pathfinder represents an older kind of sword & sorcery RPG that is not so self-referential (no unexplainable healing surges, no powers). It’s presented to promote roleplaying as much as it does combat. People play entire sessions with no combat.

    The truth is though, “3.75″ is just 3rd Edition D&D with upgrades the community thought was needed like improvements to the Skills system and the well revamped Bard and Sorcerer classes.

    So to ask what Pathfinder is and what you should look for becomes generalized to all of 3rd Edition. And the answer I think lies somewhere here:

    to maintain as much of the feel from the old editions (Jack Vance-ian magic & LOTR inspired) as possible while streamlining the rules, doing away with class/race restrictions, game balance issues, and percentage charts which were very popular in the early years of RPGs.

  2. Our group just stuck with Pathfinder instead of moving on to 4E. We had played a lot of 3.x and the transition wasn’t that difficult. Like Fe said, it’s basically 3.x smoothed over. I think one thing you will find is that pathfinder does take more DM prep time than 4e.

  3. Thanks for the comments so far. Is there anything that’s important for really “grokking” Pathfinder that might not be evident from reading the rules alone? For instance, I know that some people say that D&D4e plays much better than it reads. Is there anything similar with Pathfinder?

    For instance, “Oh, the Combat Maneuvers might seem complicated when you read them, but they flow very intuitively at the game table.” That sort of thing. I’m trying to head off misconceptions that I might reach just from reading the book alone. I do plan to play the game at some point, but I plan to write about it both before and after actually playing.

  4. Are you thinking of playing online, by chance? I’ve been trying to find a Pathfinder game for a few weeks now. I’m actually new to tabletop RPGs in general, so I’m not exactly certain how/where to effectively hunt down a playing ground, be it online or IRL.

    I’m afraid I don’t have any real insights to offer you, as I’ve never really played Pathfinder before. I can, however, offer you a cleric if you start playing Pathfinder online somewhere :)

    • Intriguing question! Well, if I do decide to jump into Pathfinder as a DM, it will likely be an online game (you know, given that my blog is called Online Dungeon Master), but I’ll admit that I haven’t really thought about it yet. I expect that I would probably want to get into the game as a player before trying my hand as GM. Also, I’m already running a LOT of games as a GM/DM and I don’t know that I want to add another right now.

      Still, I have a hard time saying no when someone who’s new to gaming says they want to learn to play – I definitely want to encourage that! If you’re interested in Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, I can possibly work something out to get you into a game (since that’s the game I already know how to play and run).

      Thanks for commenting!

      • If you have a spot, I’d be interested in D&D 4e as long as you’re cool with a complete newbie in your game ;P I don’t have any experience playing a game in this format online, but I can learn! Do you typically run play-by-post games or do you use an IRC-ish program?

      • I welcome complete newbies in my game! That’s my favorite type of player, frankly.

        We play using a free program called MapTool for the game map and character tokens, and we use Skype to talk to one another. It’s a ton of fun, and it’s a lot like playing in-person around a table, in my experience.

        I don’t currently have a game with spots open (my current Friday night game already has seven players, and I prefer to run with five), but I’ll see what I can come up with for you. Maybe I can find a few folks to get together to run a one-off game session, just to give you a flavor of the game, and if it goes well perhaps someone else will take over DMing duties. Or maybe I’ll run a campaign I’ve already put together, in which case it’s not very hard for me. Hmm, I’m intrigued now… a newbies-only game could be a lot of fun!

  5. if a newbie only game would be about to start i would be very interested to join i’m completely new to rpg’s of this tye and i would love to start out and learn the game ive heard so much about

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