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Last night we played our first few hours of Pathfinder. Overall I really enjoyed it and it looks like a great system. Very similar to Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 but expanded and refined. I’m hoping Paizo continues on it’s current path with revision as necessary to keep the system balanced and entertaining and avoids the major-revision treadmill that so many manufacturers get on to generate new core rulebook money every five years. I haven’t spent enough time with it to develop more than one critique but it was a fairly major one, which I will elaborate on below.
The one major flaw we experienced was generating characters. It was not as accessible or bullet proof as it should be for a new player. I can see some players running for D&D 4.0 or some other streamlined system if they don’t have other people encouraging them to stick with it.
The core rulebook provides all the data you need, it’s just spread to and fro and there are so many options that character generation becomes crippled rather than empowering for a new player. Paizo provided a section stating that you should perform steps A, B and C in a particular order but once you dig in a bit deeper you find that when they say “Select your feats” that is about as much guidance as you are going to get in selecting them from the long list. I’m only using Feats as a example, this goes for everything from figuring out how much starting gold you get to selecting your equipment. You find yourself flipping from one end of the book to the other digesting large chunks of text in order to identify exactly what you should do or select.
Under D&D 3.5 in the Players Handbook if you looked at a character class it provided a starter build; something that gave you guidance as to how to quickly arm a new character, what skills and feats you needed and what basic supplies to purchase. With Pathfinder it’s green field – you know you have 6 skill points, 2 feats and light armor proficiency – go and pick out your stuff. The problem with that approach is it is daunting when presented with a massive list of options.
Accessibility is a huge part of success in a gaming system. In my opinion D&D 4.0 took it too far in that I think they removed much of the creativity and put people into a World of Warcraft “punch the button” mentality. In the opposite corner Pathfinder needs to include a jumpstart method in the next revision of the core rulebook or issue a intro supplement so that folks who don’t want to use software and are new have a guided path to entering the game. That one change would have dramatically changed our first experience (and probably shortened our first character generation time from 2.5 hours to 1 hour).
The good news is Pathfinder is clearly a loved system and there are various computer-based tools of different types available for those who want assistance.
Based around my Googling and experimenting today here are some of your options…