Is Pathfinder the same as D&D?

Pathfinder game beginner set

If you are interested in fantasy role-playing games, you will also be interested in learning about the differences between D&D and Pathfinder. Some say it’s basically a modified version of D&D, but is this true?

Is Pathfinder the same as D&D? Pathfinder is the spawn of a set of rules designed for Dungeons & Dragons,  but there are several key differences between the games. Pathfinder emphasizes battle mechanisms over the narrative of the play. Pathfinder also provides players with more options to customize their experience.

Players will find that there are many options in Pathfinder when it comes to combat maneuvers, spells, and available classes. Pathfinder also comes in the form of a deck-building card game called the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

In this game, players will be able to level up their characters through combat maneuvers akin to the ones utilized in the board game.

What is the Pathfinder Roleplaying game?

Pathfinder is the brainchild of the team at Paizo Publishing, who had been partners with the developers of Dungeons & Dragons for years. 

They had spent years publishing the Dragon and Dungeon magazines. Their story took a twist as their license with the D&D developers was approaching its expiration, the team at Paizo Publishing were left in the dark regarding their roles in the development of D&D products.

Long before the approaching deadline, Paizo Publishing created an adventure path they called Shackled City. Originally, subscribers of the Dungeon magazine received pieces of the adventure path with every volume of the magazine they received.

This adventure path eventually spawned a standalone product called the Pathfinder Adventure Path.

The first version of Pathfinder was effectively a modified version of Dungeons and Dragons Version 3.5. Except in the first version of Pathfinder:

  • More options were added to classes
  • Classes that aren’t as combat-oriented receive more hit points than they would in D&D 3.5
  • New spells were added
  • Combat maneuvers were added

The path really took on a life of its own for the first time with the release of the Advanced Players Guide. Now the game had classes it never had before:

  • A cavalier
  • An alchemist
  • A summoner
  • A witch
  • An oracle
  • The inquisitor

Pathfinder Second Edition

The Second Edition of Pathfinder was released on August 1, 2019. A review of its release may be found here

The main difference between Pathfinder Second Edition and Dungeons and Dragons Version 5 is that the gameplay emphasizes the storytelling aspect of the fantasy role-playing game. 

  • In recent years, D&D has evolved into a social game centered on the narrative of the adventures and encounters the player experiences. 
  • Pathfinder still emphasizes the technicalities of combat and interactions

As with the previous edition, miniatures of some kind are still needed for combat encounters. A gameplay mat with 1-inch squares is also still the standard.

The Second Edition is designed to be more user-friendly than its predecessor with the inclusion of:

  • Action Economy- refined rules making combat less complicated than it was in the first edition
  • Players can now only perform three actions on one turn
  • Every choice you make in combat has a cost in actions, and the cost of every action is explained clearly
  • 6 ancestries including a goblin
  • 12 fully-playable character classes

How Do You Start Playing Pathfinder?

Experts on the matter tend to agree that Pathfinder is more complex and a more difficult role-playing game to pick up than version 5 of Dungeons & Dragons. 

Pathfinder is more complex mechanically than D&D. Dungeons and Dragons is noted by players of both games to be more readily catered to the person who just wants to pick the game up and play. If you’re looking to get started, check out Pathfinder meetups in your area. 

Pathfinder gives players more opportunity to customize the game than Dungeons and Dragons does. This allows for flexibility and creativity – once you have mastered the basics. 

Though Pathfinder does come with a greater learning curve, the developers of the game have created a special version of the game for those who are not familiar with the ins and outs of gameplay.

Beginner Box

A quality investment for those just getting into the world of fantasy role-playing games is the Pathfinder Beginner Box.

The beginner box comes fully-loaded with these features:

  • Hero Handbook(64 pages): explains character creation, spells, skills, equipment and all the rules of the game
  • Game Master’s Guide (96 pages): includes adventures, monsters, magical treasures, tips for narrating the game and tips on approaching the challenges faced by the heroes
  • Complete Set of Polyhedral Dice
  • 80 full-color pawns
  • Flip-mat playing surface

The Pathfinder Beginner Box teaches players the rules for the first several levels of the four basic classes: Fighter, Cleric, Rogue, and Wizard. 

Per an online review article, the Beginner Box comes with cardboard pop-out miniatures rather than metal or plastic sculpted miniatures.  The reviewer notes that it might’ve been a nice touch to have plastic miniatures included, even if it would have driven up the cost of the beginner box just a little bit.

Still, the Pathfinder Beginner Box is a great option for those just entering the realm of fantasy role-playing games, with the price of the set minimized. 

How Long is a Game of Pathfinder?

According to this RPG-dedicated website, a typical Pathfinder game lasts between 3 and 6 hours, with some continuing past 10 hours. But not all RPG groups will be able to handle longer than the average 3 to 6-hour mark. 

Even convention events and competitions last 4 hours, so that is a good rule of thumb.

What is the Pathfinder Adventure Card game?

The Pathfinder Adventure Card game is a deck-building tabletop card game designed to deliver combative deck-building action. 

The game, as is described here

  • Is designed for 1-4 players
  • Is designed for games to take 60-90 minutes to complete

Though it can be played solo, players report the best gameplay taking place when there are 4 players partaking in the action. The gameplay goes like this:

  1. Each player begins gameplay with a character from the Pathfinder Universe. The typical RPG classes are included in the game: fighter, cleric, rogue, wizard, etc.
  2. Players must work in unison to defeat the main villain in their chosen scenario
  3. The players will fight their way through different location decks until the main villain is found and all avenues of escape for the villain are plugged up
  4. When players win the scenario, 5hey will collect a reward such as a new ability for their character or new cards for their deck

The location decks are composed of random cards from a variety of decks, including monsters, items, traps, and more. 

The encounters make up the bulk of the gameplay experience in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. When a player reaches a location, they will flip the top card of the deck over. The face of the card will usually contain either a monster or some kind of treasure for the player such as items, weapons or blessings.

The game works well as a solo deck-building card game. It provides an intriguing way for a player to level up a character.

Image Credit: Cockburn Libraries