Review of Pathfinder RPG

Posted: 22 June 2011 in Reviews

So, I cracked and bought Pathfinder from Paizo. $20 got me a 578 page core rulebook, and a 330-page bestiary, both as PDF downloads – the hardback dead tree versions are roughly five times that price, so maybe later.

A detailed review of a 900 page game in the space of one blog post isn’t viable, so here are the headlines…


  • The core rulebook equates to the D&D player’s handbook and dungeon master’s guide combined, and the bestiary equates to the monster manual. I think it would be viable to run an urban/intrigue style campaign without the bestiary, using the races and classes in the core book only.
  • The rules engine is essentially D&D version 3.5, but the character classes have been buffed to bring their capabilities in line with basic 3.5 plus splatbooks.


  • I can buy all of the components as PDF downloads. This is essential for me these days.
  • The downloads arrive with one version in a single file, and another version where each chapter is a separate file. Nice touch.
  • Pathfinder preserves my investment in D&D 3.5, rather than making it obsolete. Statblocks are pretty much identical, and there is a free 3.5 to Pathfinder conversion guide on the Paizo website.
  • The classes encourage players to stay within a single class. (Rant) Most game systems spend a lot of effort limiting which characters can do what, and then even more effort on adding ways to get around those limitations, which makes character design an exercise in splatbook mastery. Either have character classes and stick with them, or don’t have ’em at all. (End rant. I feel better now.)


I expect my dislikes are irrelevant to the Pathfinder target audience, which is 3.5 players who don’t want to migrate to 4E.

  • No pregenerated characters, setting information, or sample adventure. I’d like half a dozen pre-built PCs so my players and I can just dive in and get on with it. I can live without the setting and adventure stuff, but this suggests to me Pathfinder isn’t aimed at drawing in new players. However, there is a beginners’ boxed set out later this year (2011) which might address that point.
  • No free quickstart edition of the rules. Even WotC eventually realised this is a must.
  • No printer-friendly version of the PDFs. This is a minor niggle as realistically I’m not going to print out 900 pages of rules and lug them around with me anyway. (I would do that for the quickstart version if it existed.)
  • None of the iconic D&D monsters – beholder, mind flayer, carrion crawler etc. This is for copyright reasons, the OGL doesn’t allow their use and Pathfinder depends on the d20 OGL.


$20 well spent, even if I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with it yet; Ptolus or Dungeon Bash, maybe. I’ll probably get one or more of the setting books as well.

WotC, this is how you should have done 4E. ‘Nuff said.

  1. Mike says:

    You should of saved your $20 and just used, thats what some of players in my pathfinder game do
    Its faster to look a rule or a spell on a laptop or smart phone than it is in the hard back books plus you don’t have to carry the books roundwith you

    • andyslack says:

      Thanks for the URL, Mike – I downloaded the PDF compilation from there, and a few other goodies as well. I agree ease of search in a digital version is a big plus. I don’t regret the $20 though, I like the artwork, and I figure buying the occasional thing I like will encourage them to write more. 🙂

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