Sunday, July 31, 2011

Weekend Review - Pathfinder RPG Part 1

During this month of GenCon, my reviews will be concentrating on Pathfinder.  One of the best things to happen to role-playing in the last decade was the creation of 4th edition. True it created a rift in the community for a while, with the edition wars, but though it all came rebirth. People who didn't like 4e were suddenly free to explore new systems, a resurgence in all RPGs occurred. This is how I see what happened, The giant had left the door open, and the smaller companies flooded in. We just need to keep bringing in new gamers. The Golden Age is long gone, the Dark Ages are behind us, time for the Renaissance in gaming. Amongst the new systems leading this Renaissance in gaming is Pathfinder. A new system built on the foundation of old. For a taste of the rules for those unfamiliar with Pathfinder, go to the Pathfinder Reference Document on Paizo's site!

Pathfinder Role-Playing Game Review

This is a review of the core system rules for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, as published by Paizo, under the OGL. This is an update to the 3.5 Ruleset for Dungeons & Dragons.

First Glance: This book is HUGE, and it’s HEAVY; almost 600 pages Full color, glossy print, with gorgeous artwork. Glancing through You see all the familiar faces, from the fighter to the monk, the sorcerer and wizard, druid, cleric, all the core classes are there. No Major changes to equipment, though heavy armors did get a 1 AC Value jump. Only 1 major weapon change, with the spiked chain losing its reach.

Main Review: Pathfinder RPG, premier game line of Paizo publishing. The book gives you all the rules to play the game. All the classes from 3.5 core rules are included in this edition, from the cleric to the sorcerer, the core races included as well. The races received updates, each race receives a +2 to a physical, and a +2 to a mental stat and a -2 to a stat. There are many updates to the system, some sorely needed such as the grapple rules. All maneuvers from disarms to grapple are now covered under the Combat Maneuver system. Some of the updates are just new fluff powers, wizard’s gain new school powers, all the melee classes receive amazing revisions, fighters, rangers, paladins, and rogues. Cleric domains are updated. Many save or die/suck spells were changed to be not quite so brutal. Melee classes got a major boost. However, it is still the core system, thus it still has high level play issues, where combat at the upper levels can take a long, long time, and have a lot of book keeping, though the polymorph updates definitely helped iron out some of the issues by making bonuses static, not dynamically based upon what you changed into.One really interesting change is the Hit Die change, low BAB classes all have d6s, medium have d8s and full have d10s, except the d12 barbarian exception, this makes characters a little more hardy. I like the change, many do not.

As classes were the major update to the rules. I'll concentrate a portion of the review on classes. 
Barbarians: rage powers have been updated with additional rage powers which can be activated grant special abilities such as scent, or the ability to enter a rage even when fatigued.
Bards: Bards get a major updates to the performance abilities. In addition they gain a slew of new tune abilities, culminating in the capstone ability of Deadly performance.
Clerics: Clerics get a updates to their domains, adding additional flavor to the domains, instead of just receiving the single ability, with and additional 8th level power, while the domain spells got updated. Channel energy has been updated to also be used as a healing ability. A much debated change was the loss of Heavy Armor as a starting proficiency.
Druids: Druids received few updates, with a slight shifting of wild shape uses. Wild shape receives the same polymorph updates as the others.
Fighters: Fighters are majorly updated, while the retaining the bonus feats, they gain many new abilities making them a powerful force in world, gaining Armor Training, Weapon Training, Armor Mastery and the Capstone ability Weapon Mastery.
Monks: No major updates to monks in the Core rulebook, however, with so many abilities to modify,, they become very mutable in the Advanced Player's Guide. Flurry of Blows, and Ki (type) mechanics are the only real chance to the core monk.
Paladins: Paladins get a major rework, with smite and mercy abilities, in addition, divine bond, no longer is just a mount, it was be a weapon instead. The mercy ability combines the cure disease, blindness and other powers into a pool with expanded uses. A Code of conduct is added, returning to an earlier less carefree type of Paladin, with great power....

Rangers: Rangers return to being able to take a little more abuse, as they can now wear Medium armor once more. In addition, they gain favored terrains, and hunter's bond, hunter's bond replaces the animal companion rules and allows those rangers that don't want an animal companion to for a bond with his party instead.

Rogues: Used to be a 1 level dip class, now with rogue talents, rogues are fun for much more than just a dip class. Rogue talents include many things, from minor magic or weapon finesse, to the advanced talents of dispelling attack or even an opportunist strike, free AoO one a just struck opponent. The Master Strike capstone adds a sleep, paralysis or kill effect to a sneak attack...deadly!

Sorcerers: Sorcerers, while still trailing a level behind their arcane brethren, have bloodline powers, giving a class skill, bonus known spells, and powers throughout their career, as an example, the draconic bloodline grants, claws (1st), dragon resistance (3rd), breath weapon (9th), wings (15th) and power of wyrms (20th). These bloodlines really make sorcerers different from wizards.

Wizards: Wizards get some love as well with their own schools, granting a 1st and 8th level ability based upon the school. Including a Universalist school, with a nice little metamagic ability allowing free metamagic use based upon level.

Artwork: Epic! The artwork is second only to the artwork in the new Legends of the Five Rings, and pretty much only because I have a few gripes about the equipment illustrations which are recycled from the Equipment Card set.  The solid use of the Iconic characters throughout the book really ties everything together; these iconic figures are carried through the other Paizo products.

Replay Value: Excellent, as an RPG, there’s always good replay value. Pathfinder is amazingly well suited to running long term campaigns, with the advanced books, such as the Advanced Player’s Guide, Ultimate Magic, and the upcoming Ultimate Combat.

Comprehension Level: Good. There’s a lot of information in the Core Rulebook, so much information that it can be daunting. It is well written however, and the website provides plenty of answers to FAQs. The forums at contain hundreds of experienced players willing to help newbies with questions as well.

Humor: Pathfinder RPG is produced as a serious RPG. Not a lot of humor going on here, it’s pretty cut & dry.

Game Mastering: To game master; This game pretty much requires experience in previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons, I personally would not recommend picking up Pathfinder with the intention of running it if you’re not already somehow familiar with the system.

Family Rating: 9 and up, due to complexity of the game.  Lots and lots of number crunching, if you’re a parent looking to pick up something as a present, and you’re not a gamer yourself, you should find a gaming group for the kids.

Price Tag:  The core rulebook will set you back $49.99, however, Paizo has a nice price point for their PDFs and that is only $9.99. The Gamemastery Guide is NOT required to play (This supplement will be reviewed in a future post). To run the game you will also need at a minimum the Bestiary in addition to the Core Rulebook. Other supplements such as the Advanced Player’s Guide and Ultimate Magic are excellent resources, which both have archetypes, which introduce many, many choice options, to your characters. In addition to new classes, and race options.

Value: For me, it’s well worth the money. This is the true successor to 3.5. This is the culmination of 30 years of D&D.

Overall Rating: EPIC! This is quickly becoming THE fantasy RPG. As it uses the base 3.x OGL system, older adventures are easily converted, or useable as is (calculate party value as 1 level higher).

Note: To properly go over this book in detail it will take several reviews, I will return to Pathfinder Core review in a redux review in the future. Truthfully I could spend an entire month reviewing just this book.  Part 2 will cover skills and feats.