Pathfinder Role-Playing Game
The Pathfinder Role-Playing Game
is a retro-clone of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Way back around 2008, Paizo Publishing released Rise of the Runelords in their own unique setting of Golarion and was met with critical acclaim. The following year brought about several more adventure paths and coincided with the release of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
There was still a large contingent of 3rd Edition fans, including Paizo Publishing, who set to work on a new and revised version in 2008. Drawing upon elements of their own setting, it was dubbed the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. The company drew a lot of attention around this year for their public playtest, where people can sign up on their message boards and offer advice and criticism on their developments.
Sometime during late 2009, the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook was released. The 3rd Edition fanbase was still strong, competing with the new 4th Edition in fanbase and sales. Paizo Publishing was right when they said that 3rd Edition not only survived, it thrived.
Tell Me About the Game Mechanics!
The Pathfinder Role-Playing Game is basically an updated 3rd Edition. It makes several changes in the rules, namely increased hit die for classes across the board, consolidated and simplified skill system, the nerfing of a few overpowered spells and classes, boosts and changes to the core race, and similar changes. Overall the system does quite a bit to increase the viability of underpowered concepts, but the designers missed a few problem spells and have an ax to grind against the Monk class, so their efforts haven't been entirely successful.
For those new to the D20 System, Pathfinder is a D&D-esque RPG with a class and level system built around a D20 framework. Most tasks in the game are accomplished with rolling a twenty-sided die with modifiers against a target number, or Dice Challenge. Other forms of dice are used as well, most notably for rolling for damage with successful attacks and hit points gained from level ups.
While it's not required, the generic form of session involves a party of adventurers exploring dangerous and foreboding locations in search of gold and treasure. Player character wealth and equipment is very important in Pathfinder (as it is in D&D), necessary for buying better equipment to stand against stronger adversaries. Player characters also progress in levels (representing power) through experience points, most commonly gained by slaying monsters and other evil folk.
Nonetheless, Pathfinder can support a broad range of games beyond dungeon-delving, although the system's rather combat-heavy and centric. Your party can be crusaders against a demonic invasion, part of a thieves' guild robbing well-guarded homes of nobility, traveling monster-hunters, and other popular fantasy archetypes.The Pathfinder SRD can be found here.
Tell Me About the Setting!
Pathfinder is set in the world of Golarion, a planet which orbits the sun in the far reaches of the Material Plane. It contains eight continents, two of which are the crux of the setting, Garund and Avistan. Avistan is a large peninsula whose civilizations are built on the backs of past empires, while Garund is a mostly unexplored southern continent of warmer climates.
The continents are part of the Inner Sea region, and are a Fantasy Kitchen Sink
of sorts. The Inner Sea is home to all sorts of nations with their own theme and feel: Galt is a Renaissance-era mirror of post-Revolutionary France, their aristocracy overthrown and now ruled by increasingly violent populists; Varisia is a frontier region and adventurer's paradise, home to countless dungeons and monstrous lairs; Cheliax is a tyrannical, expansionist empire, ruled by the Church of Asmodeus, Lord of Hell, and his fiendish servants; the cosmopolitan island city-state of Absalom is the greatest of its kind and the center of human culture; Taldor is a crumbling empire fallen to decadence; while the Worldwound, a rift in reality, spits out demonic hordes to ravage nearby lands.
One of the principal organizations from which the RPG gets its name is the Pathfinder Society.
They are a multi-national organization of scholarly adventurers who seek knowledge all over Golarion. Their headquarters is in the city-state of Absalom, and they have lodges scattered across the Inner Sea region. They have been responsible for the advancement of knowledge, from the discovery of the Drow to the recollection of the Shattered Star artifact. They regularly publish a series of journals known as the Pathfinder Chronicles,
a series of books discussing the mysteries of the world. It is not necessary for the PCs to be part of this organization, but they're an iconic group in the setting.The Pathfinder Wiki can be found here.
Tell Me About the Adventure Paths
Even before the creation of Pathfinder, Paizo was critically acclaimed for its Adventure Paths, linked series of adventures which comprised the majority of a typical campaign. And today is no different. As of this posting Paizo published around 10 Adventure Paths for Pathfinder of varying quality. The most critically acclaimed include Kingmaker, where the PCs set out to found their own nation, and the original Rise of The Runelords, where the PCs set out to learn more about the aforementioned runelords through dungeon delving in Varisia.A list of adventure paths can be found here, but just in case the link does not work...Rise of the Runelords:
An ancient evil stirs to life in the frontier nation of Varisia. A classic dungeon crawl type of campaign with a macabre feel: the PCs will delve into ruins of monsters powered by sin, stop a serial killer in his tracks, assault the lair of a tribe of inbred sadist ogres, and explore vast reaches of inhospitable wilderness.Curse of the Crimson Throne:
An urban-based campaign in the city of Korvosa. The PCs must deal with social unrest, as the King is dead and the Queen is a suspect. To save the city the players must deal with plague outbreaks, the rise of criminal factions, and a tyrant Queen intent on seizing the throne!Second Darkness:
A strange shadow spreads above the city of Riddleport, and the drow of the Darklands are responsible! The PCs must stop them if they are to avert the end of the world!Legacy of Fire:
An Arabian Nights-inspired adventure path, where the armies of two mighty genie lords rise again and threaten to engulf Golarion in strife.Council of Thieves:
A gritty urban adventure of organized crime and devilish scheming set in the Chelish capital of Westcrown.Kingmaker:
Widely considered to be the best Adventure Path of the lot, Kingmaker is where the PCs set out into the Stolen Lands and found their own nation. Includes lots of support for community-building and other kingly duties.Serpent's Skull:
A dungeon-crawling with pulp tropes of dangerous jungles, long-ruined cities, and monstrous reptile men!Carrion Crown:
A Gothic fantasy themed series of adventures set in the horrific land of Ustalav.Jade Regent:
The PCs are hired by a passing caravan to venture to the far-away lands of the Dragon Empires to overthrew the tyrannical Jade Regent. Contains themes of fantasy China and other Asian countries.Skulls & Shackles:
A pirate-themed campaign where the PCs make a name for themselves as swashbucklers among the pirate island chain of the Shackles.Shattered Star:
The spiritual sequel to Rise of the Runelords, the PCs working for the Pathfinder Society set out to recover 6 pieces of the Shattered Star. An ancient artifact once owned by the Emperor of Thassilon, fragments are resurfacing across the lands, and they must be reunited if the PCs hope to avert a great danger from the distant past!Reign of Winter:
Baba Yaga has regularly returned to snowy Irresen to elect its newest ruler, yet when she fails to appear in that frozen realm pockets of winter start springing up all over the Inner Sea region. If she is not stopped soon, eternal winter will engulf the world!Wrath of the Righteous:
The current Adventure Path, WotR focuses on the PCs being righteous holy crusaders against the demonic forces of the Worldwound, a giant tear in reality spreading outward to other lands. Notable for containing one of the first known portrayals of transgender characters in D&D.
I've Heard Enough, Where Do I Start?
Intrigued? Now that I see I whet your appetite, here are some products I'd recommend for starting out.
The Pathfinder Beginner Box
is the perfect first step for your gaming group into the game, especially if you've never played 3rd Edition. It's simplified system was so popular that even experienced players used it as a skimmed-down rules-lite variant.
If you can't spare a dime, I'd recommend looking over the rules in the Pathfinder SRD.
All of the game mechanics from the Core Rulebook are up there, meaning you can totally use the website in conjunction with Play-by-Post and Roll20 gaming sessions.
If you prefer a physical book in your hands, the Core Rulebook
should be your first product after the Beginner Box (or first product period if you're a 3rd Edition veteran). It contains all the rules players need.
For Dungeon Masters, the Bestiary
is Pathfinder's Monster Manual. Goblins, Dragons, Demons, and more are at a conniving DM's fingertips in this tome.
The Advanced Player's Guide
is one of the most popular sourcebooks for its wealth of great material. I highly recommend buying it, as it contains some of the most popular options and archetypes among Pathfinder players.
Pathfinder GoblinsGoblins chew and goblins bite,
Goblins cut and goblins fight,
Stab the dog and cut the horse,
Goblins eat and take by force!
Goblins race and goblins jump,
Goblins slash and goblins bump,
Burn the skin and mash the head,
Goblins here and you be dead!
Chase the baby, catch the pup,
Bonk the head to shut it up!
Bones be cracked, flesh be stewed,
We the goblins—you the food!
Pathfinder reinvented the goblin race in the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path in favor of something more creatively demented. Now the setting's monstrous mascot, goblins are a perfect balance between funny and scary. Their voracious sadism and wickedly jagged blades, combined with their silly songs and crazy superstitions.
1: Horse Hate: Goblins excel at riding animals, but they don't quite get horses. In fact, their hatred of all things horse is matched only by their fear of horses, who tend to step on goblins who get too close.
2: Dog Hate: Although goblins raise horrible rat-faced doglike creatures to use as mounts (and ride wolves or worgs if they can get them—goblins are quick to explain that wolves are NOT dogs), their hatred of ordinary dogs nearly matches their hatred of horses. The feeling is mutual, so if your dog's barking at the woodpile for no reason, chances are good he smells a frightened goblin hiding in there somewhere.
3: Goblins Raid Junkyards: Garbage pits, gutters, sewers… anywhere there's garbage, you can bet goblins are nearby. They're weirdly adept at crafting weapons and armor from refuse, and are fond of killing people with what they throw away.
4: Goblins Love to Sing: Unfortunately, as catchy as their lyrics can be, goblin songs tend to be a bit too creepy and disturbing to catch on in mainstream society.
5: They're Sneaky: An excited or angry goblin is a noisy, chattering, toothy menace, but even then, they can drop into an unsettling silence in a heartbeat. This, matched with their diminutive size, makes them unnervingly adept at hiding in places you'd never expect… stacks of firewood, rain barrels, under logs, under chicken coops, in ovens, etc.
6: They're A Little Crazy: The fact that goblins think of things like ovens as good hiding places reveals much about their inability to think plans through to the most likely outcome. That, and they tend to be easily distracted, particularly by shiny things and animals smaller than them that might make good eating.
7: They're Voracious: Given enough supplies, a goblin generally takes nearly a dozen meals a day. Most goblin tribes don't have enough supplies to accommodate such ravenous appetites, which is why the little menaces are so prone to going on raids.
8: They Like Fire: Burning things is one of the great goblin pastimes, although they're generally pretty careful about lighting fires in their own lairs, especially since goblins tend to live in large tangled thistle patches and sleep in beds of dried leaves and grass. But give a goblin a torch and someone else's home and you've got trouble.
9: They Get Stuck Easily: Goblins have wiry frames but wide heads, and live in cramped warrens. Sometimes too cramped.
10: Goblins Believe Paintings and Writing Steal Your Soul: The walls of goblin lairs and ruins of towns goblins have raided are littered with pictures of their enemies. They never draw pictures of goblins, though—that's mean. Writing steals words out of your head. You can't get them back.
Tell Me About Third-Party Support
Pathfinder utilizes the Open Gaming License, meaning that it's the new 3.X flagship for smaller developers. Like the WotC days of 3rd Edition, there's a massive assortment of Pathfinder-compatible products, ranging from the horrible to the terrific. Naturally I'll be outlining the best of the best here.Psionics Unleashed:
By the esteemed Dreamscarred Press, Psionics Unleashed is a faithful adaption of the 3rd Edition Psionics rules. Critically acclaimed for making the Soulknife a viable PC concept with a much-needed power boost.Path of War:
Another Dreamscarred Press book, this series of supplements implements the martial maneuver systems from 3rd Edition's Tome of Battle for more cinematic and mobile martial characters. Currently available as a subscription, where you can get every new release for $15. The two products currently available are the Stalker class and Warlord class, along with their schools of disciplines.Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting:
By Alluria Publishing. A beautiful book set in an undersea realm. 99% of the world is covered in water, allowing the aquatic races to predominate. Is the best sourcebook regarding rules for underwater adventures and combat for the D20 System, bar none. Cerulean Seas also does a great job of re-configuring existing things in Pathfinder to work underwater, from fire spells generating hot steam to alternate equipment made from undersea creatures and materials (coral armor, holy water is now holy sand, a thick oily liquid heavier than water serves as the basis for alchemical solutions, etc).Midgard Campaign Setting:
A dark fantasy campaign setting which heavily draws upon Central and Eastern European folktales. Notable for its pantheon of deities wearing many disguises (Masks), the clockwork metropolis of Zobeck, a flat world surrounded by a titanic World-Serpent god, and the deadly courts of the Shadow Fey.Way of the Wicked:
The first and only evil adventure path for Pathfinder. The PCs are condemned outcasts working for the cult of Asmodeus, seeking revenge against the virtuous island nation of Talingarde and to build a new diabolic order upon its ruins.Throne of Night:
Same creators as Way of the Wicked. An Underdark sandbox adventure path where the PCs are either surface adventurers, honorable dwarves, or ruthless drow staking out a claim in the deep reaches.Tome of Horrors Complete-Pathfinder Edition:
A compilation of the 3 original Tomes for the Pathfinder RPG, full of hundreds of monsters from old school Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
On a related note, publishers with consistently high production quality include Frog God Games, Kobold Press/Open Design, and Dreamscarred Press.Work In Progess