Pathfinder or 5.0

So having finally been introduced to Pathfinder, I wanted to see what list members thought about the system as opposed to D&D.

I don’t have any experience with 5th edition, but have played 4th edition pretty extensively.

How does Pathfinder differ from D&D 5th?
Which do you think is better?
And why?


You won’t get a clear answer on this, I reckon.

Having played and GMed both I can tell you that 5e is very straight forward. Situational bonuses (or penalties) are rare if not nonexistent. It usually boils down to advantage or disadvantage (roll 2 dice and take the more or less favorable result) if a situation is good or bad for the players. Likewise there aren’t that many choices you can make when creating your character. Oftentimes you ‘just’ get a new ability. Feats for example are a rare thing in 5e.
Like in 4e there are some abilities that let you ‘mark’ a target to gain bonuses against it but the positioning was far more important in 4e. In 5e you can relatively easy move around but since there aren’t that many situational bonuses you could gain, it often times doesn’t make much of a difference. So that said, it’s very easy to get into the game.

However this straightforwardness comes at a price. The number of choices for your character is lower than in Pathfinder.
If that strikes your fancy however then you probably won’t see it as a problem.
Pathfinder can be cumbersome to new players but offers a wide range of specializations for your characters. Hundreds of feats, many classes and even more archetypes that let you change character classes based on templates. At the same time it can be played on a more superficial level as well (like in our one-shot) but then you might not get the character you wanted. Creating ‘good’ characters can take a while though - but I gotta say that’s part of the fun for me. Creating several builds and running the numbers to check which one is the ‘best’ in a certain category. I did that for your one-shot characters for example :wink: :slight_smile:

I don’t think the answers to this question will get you anywhere. Just try 5e and see for yourself :wink:

At the end of the day I personally think that each system has pros and cons and it would be cool if some of them existed in the other one as well. But that’s just me.

Pretty much what Tom said.
Both systems are actually fairly similar in many respects and show their common origin.

Pathfinder has more options which is both a blessing and a curse as it is difficult to know every options and it can take a long time to build a character.
Apart from that, both strike a difference balance between verisimilitude and streamliness. So, whichever you like best is more of a matter of taste than any intrinsic value, as far as I am concerned.

Thanks for these responses. Of course one game is not necessarily better than another, as it depends on the style of play that one prefers. In part, this was what I was trying to discern. Also, as @Thopthes pointed out, either game can be played in a variety of ways.

I was struck, though, by the similarity between my experience of 4.0 and the Pathfinder session we played last week. And I was curious about how these two systems (now updated to 5.0 for D&D) compared. Not that I intend to invest in either one at the moment (if anything I’m likely to purchase either Numenara or The Strange). What I could not experience in a single session, I suppose, is the flexibility and nuance that Pathfinder allows for character development. Also, playing pre-gens it is harder to feel a deep affinity for one’s character. I noticed that Siobhan seemed most invested in her character, it had a life, a rich backstory because she built the character. @Icewind did a great job, though, staying in character for a Paladin, refusing to let my sorcerer “steal” the dagger.

I imagine that over the course of a longer campaign the differences between the two systems would become more clear. At the same time, both worlds feel very similar: high fantasy, a band of adventurers, magic, and monsters. The session of Warhammer FRP we played the previous week, for instance, felt very different–a darker, grimmer world. I wonder, though, if that was just me recalling that game from about 30 years ago.

I prefer a more character and story-driven style game in which player agency features highly to a system driven game (hence my interest in the Monte Cook games). Role play versus Roll play, I guess one could call it. So I imagine that Pathfinder, built to allow character customization, might allow for more of that.

My sense from lurking for the past 6 months or so is that most of the campaigns people organize are 5th edition campaigns, and I wondered if that was simply a matter of convenience–most people are familiar with that system, own the books, etc…–or if it was a true preference for the system itself.

Be happy to hear what others think as well!

That’s no coincidence. 4e and Pathfinder have the same predecessor: 3.5. So similarities are to be expected I reckon.
Also I wanted the one-shot to convey the idea of how Pathfinder works on a level that isn’t too much for new players and at the same time allow for some different approaches of how to build a character/they work. (One is focused on touch attacks, another on quick consecutive ones. A.s.o.)

Yes, it does. It would just have been a bit ‘off’ I think if the one-shot had been about more roleplaying when the idea behind it was to show people how the system works. So ‘teaching’ the basics was my main goal for the evening.
And Pathfinder doesn’t have too many social rules anyway - compared to e.g. the Song Of Ice And Fire Roleplaying Game, where you even got intrigue attack and defense.
So there isn’t anything holding you back from roleplaying.

I think that the majority of it comes from the fact that it’s a new system. So some people want to try it, others just tag along and then they stick to it, cause it might even be their first RPG system at all.
The system itself is easy to get into and character creation doesn’t take very long - even for new players. A big bonus for people that don’t wanna do all the number crunching.
Also you shouldn’t forget that ontop of all of that it is Dungeon & Dragons. So it has the whole image and history (which might be different for different people but all in all ‘It’s D&D!’) which even people might know that have never played an RPG before. And then some of their friends ask 'em ‘There is a new version of D&D, wanna try it?’.
On the other hand it is new to veterans as well of course, so they wanna try it too.

We’ll see how it fares in a couple of years, I reckon. I can imagine some people might exchange it for another system, maybe try something completely different.
I for example think that you’ll get to 5e’s ‘borders’ pretty quickly. The system is designed to keep the numbers low and to uphold the flow of action. This can be cool at first but I can imagine that (experienced or even new ) players could be wanting more after a while.

That was @H. @Icewind was the dwarven fighter. Just for clarification. :grinning:

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DISCLAIMER: All of the following is just in my opinion. I appreciate both systems for what they are and they both definitely deserve their place among the system options. I’m looking forward to seeing what Starfinder brings to the table (excuse the pun! :D))

I give Pathfinder a bad rap sometimes, but it’s really not my intention. I don’t dislike the system and personally I like the fact that you can get really deep into it with regards to the numbers. But, I also think that this feature is it’s downfall.

At the time of Pathfinders release, D&D 3.5 had 50+ source books not counting the real GM specific stuff (which can never be enough! ;)) that’s an overwhelming amount. Paizo took that over and added to it. Basically, what you have now is possibly the most customisable pnp RPG. But I feel that by making it so ‘customisable’ it also restricted player options. As soon as you give something a rule, then you have to abide by that rule.

Why is PF so customisable? Because if you can think of it, there’s a rule for it. In one of the multitude of splat books available, there’s a rule written down that you should follow (admittedly, you don’t have to)

In 5e there are quite a few rules ‘missing’ Where are the rules for sleeping in armour? there aren’t any. But, there are rules for exhaustion. So, apply that to sleeping in armour and just roll a disadvantage when required. The ‘rules-lite’ nature of 5e forces the players and DM to use their judgement a lot more. If the players can’t decide on how something should be ruled, they turn to the DM who has the final say. So, in that case there’s a lot more pressure on the DM to decide on how a certain thing should be played out. It also means you’ll have to play with a much more like-minded group of people because so much of it is open to interpretation.

The main disadvantage for me in Pathfinder as a system is the combat. I’ve had this conversation with a couple of people reading this who are no doubt rolling their eyes right now! Pathfinder has the most boring, tedious and downright fourth-wall-destroying system of combat when compared to 5e (now, I realise I’m comparing two systems that are very combat-heavy and there are much better systems to play if you have no interest in combat) but I’ve had PF sessions that consist of 20 minutes roleplay, 30 minutes setting up minis then 3 hours of combat. It’s really disheartening for new players when they’re asking ‘can I do this?’ only to be met with ‘well no, because…’ followed by a page number and paragraph. We spend all our time promising new players that ‘in RPGs you can do anything’ they’ll soon call you out on your BS after a pathfinder combat session.

The problem is (and this goes for both PF and 5e) there aren’t many ways of making rules for roleplaying. There are far more ways of making rules for combat. it’s all stats and numbers so it’s easy to say this number beats that number when this number is x. So, there’s a heavy focus on it. I like 5e because its more the ‘spirit’ of D&D where PF is more the ‘number-crunching’ of D&D.

At the end of the day, both systems have their place. If I had to oversimplify it I’d say that 5e is easier to get into and more newbie-friendly whereas PF caters more towards the RPG veterans.

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Neil’s recurring hate for Pathfinder is its own topic I guess. :joy:

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I have a long history beginning with 3.0 to 3.5 and Pathfinder (I haven’t played 4th or 5th edition yet), so I’ll just add my two cents.

Every game is designed to deliver an experience, and I for my part have discovered with time that the number crunchy, grid based experience of DnD and Pathfinder are not what I seek from an PnP RPG. I prefer a system that has a much more streamlined rule system for combat, but where equal weight is given to rules about other types of conflicts (social, environment, etc…).

And I have to disagree with Thopthes. (Disclaimer: I don’t know the Song of Ice and Fire RPG)

I my experience rules about roleplaying are enabling roleplay and beneficial to it, and not holding you back. Because in the end we are playing games and when playing games we tend to follow the rules and hence the rules will lead to the experience designed by the designers of the game.

Anyways I want to run a game of Mouse Guard in the near future when I’m finished with the rulebook, it should also be a quite different experience.

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How can you disagree with me if you don’t know the game I’m referring to? :smiley:
IIRC the game has complex intrigue mechanics that let you make turn based rolls to gain influence and it goes back and forth - with actual Intrigue Attack and Intrigue Defense stats. But it’s been a while and I haven’t really spent much time in the system.

As usual, there is a book for that.
Ultimate intrigue…

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I did mean the core mechanics, but yes you are right. It’s Pathfinder after all :slight_smile:

I don’t understand. PATHFINDER IS ONLY ONE BOOK.

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One book to rule them all.

Thanks, Neil, for a thoughtful and detailed response to my query. I tend to agree with you that rule-heavy systems, while they often allow for rich world / character development, can detract from player agency in that we often find ourselves reaching for the books to try and identify the specific numbers (rule) that will help us resolve a situation.

Rules-lite systems – which I must confess I prefer – encourage more involvement from both player and GM in trying to build a shared world with some sense of unity and “physics”. Encourage is the operative word. As with any game, we’ll adopt or adapt the rules as we see fit. So there is little stopping a group from deciding that they don’t need to wade through all the rules of Pathfinder to resolve a situation. The group can decide (or leave it to the GM) how to proceed. As long as they are consistent, this works.

But I do think that we invest in a system because we find that it feels right to us. We like the way the rules operate and the kind of experience the system delivers. We might make small refinements, but we’ll probably stick to the major rules throughout.

I’ve often thought about the combat-heavy nature of D&D and Pathfinder, and wondered if it would be possible to create a campaign in these systems that downplays combat and emphasizes instead other aspects of gameplay. I am sure one CAN do this, but would the game still be rewarding. In a way that was really at the root of my original question.

Other systems are designed to do just that. The One Ring campaign I played in had much less combat than any of the D&D games I have ever played. And in preparing to run SoE shortly, I can say that the system is geared to emphasize social interaction rather than physical combat … you can die pretty quickly in a fight.

Speaking of interaction, Social Intrigue in Song of Fire and Ice is pretty much, as @Thopthes noted, a form of combat. It works, but is not perfect. I’ve been trying to develop a similar mechanic for something I want to create for a Regency England era game.

I wonder too, how much we are conflating rules with number crunching. And maybe they are the same thing. But @Icewind and @Thopthes got me thinking about this as @Icewind finds D&D and Pathfinder too number focused but likes a clear rule set. While @Thopthes points out that Pathfinders rules on Social Intrigue are not terribly extensive.

Can one play Pathfinder @Siobhan with just one book? Can one play 5th edition with one book? This is an honest question, I don’t know. 4.0 you could not. Mouseguard you can. Hillfolk, you can.

Pathfinder was originally designed to be just one book. The player’s manual, the DM guide, and the monster manual are all contained in one book, and that was an initial selling point. So yes. PF can be played with one book. BUT. More races/classes/monsters = more to play with. So now there are approximately 1.2 bajillion PF books.

To be honest I find the ‘one book’ discussion a bit pointless.
When and how do you apply this ‘one book’ requirement?
To a group of people that has had no interaction with a new system whatsoever and then tries to run it? Or a group of new players that are playing the new system with an experienced (in that system) GM?
E.g. we just played a oneshot and you guys didn’t need any books to participate. And I’d go even further and say that you wouldn’t even need one for a campaign.

Pathfinder’s biggest advantage to me is the high availability of online resources. Pretty much everything you might need can be found online. So technically you don’t need any books at all.

If you’re talking about “How much information do I need to run/play this?” then I’d say that 5e and PF are equally demanding. The difference is just that one would let you allow to dive deeper into the rabbit hole. If however you need a system to be designed so that you can’t go any deeper then I 'd ask why.

BTW: If you want to run any of the two from scratch with new players and no experience then you’ll probably need the information of 3 books in both systems: Player’s Handbook, GM guide and Monster Manual

It’s a cost factor. The PF Core Rulebook, which contains the Player’s Manual, DM manual, & Monster Manual is 50€. Buying the 3 books separately, as required by 5E, is 110€ (I just checked both on Amazon and rounded a bit for shipping). Although, as @Thopthes pointed out, since everything is online now, you don’t need any books.

Mostly it’s a joke. The IDEA was to play with one book, the DEMAND, and therefore the RESULT, was 1.2 bajillion books.

To be fair PF has been out for a while now whereas the 5e books are newer so I guess different prices are to be expected.

When was that, before it came out? So like 10 years ago? A long time to stick to that ‘requirement’ xD

Wait, are you saying I’m not as funny as I think I am? Unpossible!

Actually, PF was never “one book” as the monster manual was always separated so it was always 2 books

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