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My first Pathfinder game

Yesterday I was finally able to sit down with some friends and try out the game that seemingly everyone from AD&D 2nd edition to D&D 3.5 has migrated to.  I have had a borrowed copy of the Pathfinder book kicking around my house for a couple months but haven’t really had the chance to crack it open for more than a few minutes at a time.  When I had the chance I flipped through the pages and was immediately attracted to the colorful illustrations, high quality background and Pathfinder logo at the top of each page.  Although aesthetics should not necessarily be considered when weighing the quality of a RPG product, it is still something people look at and could perhaps be the deciding point on if the book makes it to checkout.  Thus, I am taking into account the attractiveness of the illustrations, backgrounds, logos, and character illos.

Before I get too deep into my personal review of Pathfinder let me explain a bit about my gaming past.  I come from a background of over 20 years DMing AD&D 1st and 2nd edition and the transition to 3.5 was admittedly a little forced.  I basically had no choice as everyone in my player lineup now plays the newer systems.  I had been a steadfast hardcore 2nd edition gamer owning every single 2e book as well as the entire collection of Forgotten Realms books and boxed sets- thanks Ed Greenwood!  One concept I quite enjoyed about 3.5 was the elimination of Thac0 which had served only to confuse new players and those who failed basic math.  Also, more strategy was introduced into the combat system along with an extremely set of detailed rules which served to help solve almost any dispute at the table quickly without much room for argument.  With this new book of rules also came a few annoyances to me as a DM.  Since when did 1st level characters become insanely powerful individuals who could already wield a surprising amount of power?  In 1st and 2nd edition it really felt like you would have to earn those abilities through many gaming sessions and although sometimes frustrating and difficult, you appreciated your earned powers that much more.  Also there are so many books for customizing your character in 3.5 that you basically can make any kind of character class you can imagine.  Although this is great for the players, the DM has a huge headache on his hands trying to figure out how to challenge a group who has a warrior who can psionically recharge and focus his attacks causing massive amounts of damage and slaying almost any enemy you throw at him.  Another challenge is overcoming the rule lawyering that comes into play with the advent of all these new and detailed rules.  Although useful when solving certain scenarios the rules sometimes get in the way of the story and when they do I try and remind my players that we’re here to have fun, not scrutinize every little detail and rule of the game.  That’s just a couple examples of the many challenges I have come across running 3.5 games.  I know that as DM I have the final say on these things, but honestly- who has time to keep track of all of this and scrutinize everyone’s character sheets?  Perhaps in high school on summer vacation, but I’m older now and I want to fill my precious free time with writing and DMing adventure, not being a rules lawyer over your characters.  Would Pathfinder be much different?  I had heard that some of the great annoyances of 3.5 had been removed and some new ideas introduced that would simplify a lot of the silliness that went on.

When I had the chance to sit down yesterday and dig a little further than skin deep I found basically the same rules for character creation as D&D 3.5, but a lot simpler.  We all decided to create characters and although I usually DM I requested the chance to try out this new RPG from the player position.  A fellow player agreed to take the DM throne and run a short and simple game, but first came character creation.  I rolled my stats a couple times and finally decided on a character with one strong stat, a few average and a couple weak.  I like characters that vary a bit and are not powerful across the board.  In fact I believe there is a strong advantage in playing a character that has a handicap.  It requires you to come up with some interesting ways to overcome that weakness.  So, I made a halfling bard with 3 STR named Cardamon Jolst along with a slew of other aliases, his true name being a secret that even he doesn’t remember after all his years traveling from village to village working the locals and extracting information and plundering coin.  The first thing I noticed while generating my character was that the character generation information was all laid out for me similar to the way 3.5 was presented.  If you’re coming from a 3.5 background Pathfinder should be a welcome change of pace without throwing you out of your realm too much.  I followed the directions for my race which were all neatly presented in a little box at the bottom of the page.  Once that was in order I moved on to my class of bard and started from the top working my way down.  It seems that they spent a lot of time narrowing down just the right balance of lore and game rules.  I was able to glean a few ideas for my character while at the same time writing down all my skills and special abilities.  When I filled out my skills one of the first things I noticed was that the Search, Spot, and one other ability I cannot recall but obviously do not miss were absent.  In their place was a familiar skill called “Perception”, something we had come up with on our own when running 2nd edition games all those years ago.  Perception in our games had been obtained by adding up INT, WIS, and CHA, dividing your result by 3 and using that number as a basis for checks involving anything requiring a perception check- the equivalent of spot and search checks in 3.5.  Now in Pathfinder they finally eliminated all those unnecessary redundancies and replaced them with the Perception check.  Simpler is smarter, I like it.  Also when you place a rank in a class skill you automatically get a bonus 3 points in that skill the first time you plug a rank in that slot.  This is nice because you can instantly begin using your new abilities without worrying about constantly failing.  When starting out a new character this is nice because instead of having a sleight of hand of say 5, you end up with an 8 which is much more likely to actually succeed should you decide to use that skill.  You can really concentrate of specific skills and customize your base class character without going bonkers with prestige classes like they did in 3.5.  There is definitely something to be said about the core classes and honing their abilities so that each is unique and a required presence within the party.  You can’t survive without your fighter, priest, thief, or mage.  All four must be present or at least skills distributed equally so that all ground is covered and exploration can take place with each person holding a very specific set of skills or abilities that allow the group to succeed by working together.  I love the group dynamic and I think Pathfinder has found a way to work that in quite well.

After our characters were rolled up (which despite my ignorance in the Pathfinder system didn’t take as long as I would have thought) we started a short intro game to get us accustomed to this new system.  A couple of the guys had already played and run Pathfinder games in the past and were really excited that the rest of us were willing to give it a shot.  Hell, I’ll try anything at least once!  What do I have to lose?  So, we started our adventure of which I must spare the details as this was a pre-made adventure and I do not wish to spoil it for any of my readers.  Throughout the adventure I utilized my skills and special abilities.  As a bard it was very interesting realizing that in combat I was mostly ineffective at causing more than a couple points of damage (if that!) per round.  In fact, I was mostly a support character singing my silly songs (which I made sure were contextually correct and quite emotionally abusive to the goblins we were combating, as well as rhythmically engaging) and buffing up my fellow adventurers.  The Paladin and Monk were tanks while the cleric and I helped keep the party alive and successful in combat.  I had a couple spells of 1st level which I decided to save in case there was a more difficult battle on the horizon which never did come in our short gaming session.  I did not get the chance to use my abilities for adventuring or exploration purposes on this session, but my first experience playing Pathfinder left me with a good enough taste in my mouth that I decided not to rinse and came home, hopped online, and promptly ordered the core book through Amazon.

If you too have been sitting on the fence in regards to the Pathfinder RPG I suggest hopping down on my side and grabbing a copy of this book.  Give it a shot, what have you got to lose?  You’ll be out $30 for a used copy that you could pass onto a friend should you not enjoy the game.  Although if you like everything that the original TSR and WOTC authors produced, I think you will find Pathfinder a welcome addition to your RPG collection.

If you enjoyed these Pathfinder character images you will love the artwork provided in the Pathfinder Core Rules book as this was gleaned from that source!  Well, all of them save one- this last picture is Jenny Poussin, a gorgeous gal who enjoys Pathfinder almost as much as she does modeling!  Check her out on Facebook and add her to your friends. You’ll love her cosplay pictures of various RPG and video game characters!  While you are on Facebook make sure you “like” NERD TREK which will automatically enter you in all of our future contests and giveaways!  Check out our Facebook page or homepage to see what kind of Nerd goodies we’re giving away today!

Here’s a link to some great prices on new and used copies of Pathfinder on Amazon.  When I last checked there was still a brand new copy for $31 with free shipping!  Enjoy!



26 thoughts on “My first Pathfinder game

  1. Glad you like Pathfinder Jonathan!
    I can’t believe you didn’t already try it before! 🙂
    Me I’m new to gaming (less then a year now) but been a fan of fantasy and sci-fi from the 1st time I picked up Dragonlance when I was 11!
    I think I’m starting to get the hang of it and Pathfinder is a really chill system to play! 🙂

    Big Kiss

    Jenny Poussin

  2. I started Role Playing with 3.5 and love Pathfinder as a result, though I confess to loving 2nd Ed more since I got a chance to play it for the first time not long ago. The openness is very appealing to me 🙂

  3. That’s awesome! The first books I read that really helped me immerse myself in the realm of fantasy were also Dragonlance! For most people it’s the Hobbit or LOTR (which I later went on to read), but Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman caught me with the Chronicles books and then Time of the Twins. Have you talked with Margaret Weis on Facebook? She’s super nice and really cool. Here’s her URL just in case you’re not already friends with her:

    Yes, I am looking forward to future games of Pathfinder. Thanks for encouraging me, the core rules book is on it’s way! I love to DM and think that’s where I will once again find myself.

  4. I’m not sure what it is about 2nd edition that is still appealing to me… but perhaps it’s the fact that you can roll up a character and start playing within 20 minutes or less. I guess it’s just because I’m accustomed to that system.

    I’m sure as time goes on I will master Pathfinder as well and it won’t seem so hard. I am actually going to use Pathfinder to play test a new website I have been developing. I can’t give a lot away right now, but it’s a subscription based website for Role-Playing Game Masters! It will utilize the OGL but can really be used for any system with minor changes. I’ll tell you more as we get closer to the launch date! 🙂

  5. If Paizo writers are reading this, great stuff, especially with the Paladin, but could you fix the Planar Binding line? I know you can’t errata the whole thing now, but variant rules that limit the creatures you can safely bind would be good enough. I guess the same goes for Simulacrum.

  6. Great article Jonathan. I had a very similar experience as you did, started with 1 & 2e and had a difficult transition to 3.5 and even harder to 4e. Now that I run Pathfinder, and publish a Pathfinder based Campaign Setting, I really do believe that Pathfinder has done an exceptional job of keeping the spirit alive. Thanks for the great description of your experience which will hopefully help people on the fence give it a shot!

    -Chris, BlackStar Studios

  7. Thanks for the kind words Chris. It’s good to know that there are others who came from the old school yet found solace in Pathfinder. How long have you been developing game material? Do you create the context as well as illos and maps?

  8. I’ve been even more impressed with the setting material Paizo has put out for PF. Part of the reason I got into the RPG industry was because I felt I could make better settings than were available. Not as confident now that Paizo is doing such a good job 😉

  9. I’m not familiar with the campaign setting material yet. What is the most popular PF setting? What is your favorite?

  10. You’re funny Alex! I’m not sure if Paizo came back to read these comments, but if you’re on Facebook I would recommend leaving your comment on their page or messaging them about it. You guys know so many details about these games, how do you find the time with school and work to read and memorize all of these rules, classes, abilities, and spells? I wish I had the time to read the books a bit more, my life is pretty hectic nowadays. I need to win the lottery so I can just write adventure and GM games for you guys all day long. I could pay you guys to play D&D and PF.

  11. So cool to see that you like Pathfinder! I’m pretty new at actual tabletop gaming — I was ten when I first bought the old D&D Red Box, bought all the boxed sets, but found no one to game with. 🙁 Last year I discovered Pathfinder and have been starting my “gaming career,” as you will, at the age of 34.

    I also recommend that you check out the Advanced Player’s Guide: you might be hesitant because of your experience with splatbook bloat during the 3.5 days, but the APG adds a slew of new options, including some 20-level base classes, that are dripping with flavor, and I’m sure will inspire you to come up with new ideas. Also, Paizo’s design philosophy is to not create so many prestige classes like 3.5 did, but to provide more variations called Archetypes on the base character classes. The end result is that there’s just an overall good amount of coolness and good ideas with very little filler. Looking online, it seemed to me that a lot of people who were on the fence about PF were won over by the APG.

    As for campaign setting material, there is only one campaign setting that Paizo is putting out: Golarion. For that, the general “reference guide” would be the Inner Sea World Guide, which just got published a few months ago. However, I would recommend checking out one of the Pathfinder Adventure Paths, series of adventures set in Golarion that are designed to form a campaign taking characters from Level 1 up to around Level 15. Many GMs also just grab bits and pieces for their own purposes as well.

    Before starting Pathfinder, Paizo was getting praise for the quality of its published adventure paths. They are now on their 6th or 7th now, and each AP has its own appeal. However, from my perusing the Paizo messageboards it seems like the 1st (Rise of the Runelords) and Kingmaker have gotten the most praise and “buzz.”

    Lastly, check out the Paizo messageboards — there’s a lot of enthusiasts for the game who are happy to answer questions, argue, etc. The lead designers of Pathfinder also check the boards and post daily.

    Hope that helps! Would love to hear about your further experiences with Pathfinder. Happy gaming! 🙂

  12. Thanks for the cool comments Ronald! Did you ever find people to game with or did you go all those years just reading the books? You seem to know quite a bit about the game, do you by chance work for Paizo?

    I was actually toying with the idea of applying for the Pathfinder developer job available right now at Paizo. I don’t think I know enough about the Pathfinder game yet to apply though. Perhaps I will bide my time and work on my secret RPG project for now and after getting some experience launching my own products under my belt I will apply.

    If you live in WA and are looking for a gaming group let me know! I have some play-testing to do and it’s going to be a ton of fun! 🙂

  13. I eventually did find people to game with — as fate would have it, I have far more friends who would play an RPG now than I did when I was a kid lol. (My kid friends were more into video games.)

    I don’t work for Paizo, but I would imagine that competition is stiff. (What a dream job!) They’re probably looking for examples of completed work to show your talent, and also they look at the “Superstar” competitions they hold on their messageboards. Familiarity with their design philosophy and standards is a must, though; so I would hold off on something like that. You should also make sure to go to PaizoCon and meet the Paizo staff — that’s probably the best route.

    I can see why you thought I worked for Paizo, though. When it comes to things I especially love and am interested in, I often become an evangelist! Or so they tell me. 🙂

  14. I go back and forth between the San Francisco Bay Area and Detroit, Michigan, so I’m not near WA. I would jump at the chance though. Good luck!

  15. Thanks for the tips! After I launch my product I will start working on that! 🙂

    Hope you keep coming back to read my blog. I will be starting a Pathfinder Play-by-Post game in the NERD TALK Forum if you’re interested! I need 4 players total to start.

  16. That sounds fun! Would be fun to know your impressions of the system while you’re playing, too. Happy gaming!

  17. I’ll keep you apprised!

  18. Hey, do you read comments on old posts?

    I’m not sure if your PbP campaign came together (can’t find the forum), but here’s a link to the Paizo Play-By-Post discussion board. You should be able to pull together a group there!

  19. Hey there! Yeah, I still read old post comments. Thanks for commenting!

    In regards to the forum: I found that when NERD TREK hosted it’s own forum it would cause the site to lag up to 10 seconds. I like fast load times for my readers and since 99% of posts are on the articles and 1% or less were using the forum I ditched it. Right now I’m getting ready to launch a new RPG website product so I don’t have time to GM a Pathfinder PbP game, but I hope to get back into that in the near future.

    What systems do you play? Where do you game? I’ll be play-testing my RPG product and if you’re in the area you’re more than welcome to join us!

  20. I’m in the SF Bay Area, but I’m in the middle of a very busy period so I’m taking time off from actual gaming! I also already I have my set group which is missing me and my GMing, perhaps you know how that goes 🙂

    I follow your blog though, so when you launch perhaps you should announce it and I can check it out!


    I haven’t been this excited about playing a rpg system since my old days of D&D and TSR’s Marvel Superheroes RPG. And that was way back in the 80’s. Now I’m 40 and trying to relearn by playing Pathfinder and teaching my 15 year old son at the same time. This time though, I will be the (Game)master and he will be the young apprentice. Or so I hope that’s how it goes. LOL!

  22. Wish you lived nearby! My son and I would invite you and your son to our gaming sessions!

  23. If you’re looking for gamers in your area check out my new website:

  24. Yeah. Not too many gamers in the Buffalo, NY area. Heck, there isn’t even a FLGS anywhere in town! Lots of comic book shops though. But they don’t really carry any gaming stuff. The local Barnes & Noble is the only place to get anything rpg related and they don’t have a great selection or pricing. So I have to buy my goodies online.

  25. One step ahead of ya. The closest gamers I found to me are across the border near Toronto, Canada. I see there is a group looking for Pathfinder players, but they are located in St. Loius.

  26. The site is fairly new but it’s growing quickly. If everyone who is a member keeps promoting it, soon we shall have a rich website full of gamers looking to find others to setup sessions with. I spent a long time getting the map to work just right. I think that’s the best part about the site. You can zoom in on a Google Map and see if your neighbors are playing. Then you can click their avatars to see their names, what games they like, and communicate with them! 🙂

    Good luck!

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