I remember the feeling I used to get as a kid, watching movies of knights defeating dragons and other monsters in epic encounters on-screen from the safety of my couch fort. Thinking to myself, how awesome it would be to wield such powers and possess such courage. That and how they kind of did their own thing, not really answering to anybody or anything but themselves and their code of honor. I guess everybody enjoyed imaging themselves as the hero in a story at some time in their childhoods. I was lucky to have been a kid in the 90’s so we got to read those ‘choose your adventure’ books which to an infant was pretty cool, next best thing as you didn’t want your Gameboy getting confiscated in french class. As a kid I loved being able to take a different path in the story and loved nervously flipping through the pages to see what fate awaited me. Whether I was plowing through a swamp, wrestling with lizardfolk or rescuing the princess it made for good reading to a kid with a wild imagination and a family that could not afford the newest toys and consoles.
My first introduction to Dungeons & Dragons was the animated series that was running on TV when I was reading these books and comics. I never got to watch the entire season back then but I tried to catch it whenever it was on TV and my brother and I would pick which class we were and the next day make our own pretend adventure. The many different roles in the party and the new quests were interesting to me and I never had heard of the role playing game at the time. As I moved up through grade school my brother would take a deeper interest in certain fields of fantasy but it wasn’t until I was 13 that I first saw someone playing a role playing game in the pen and paper sense. Until then I thought it was strictly a console thing to describe games like Zelda and Diablo. It seemed pretty fun to me but after 15 minutes as a spectator I started getting bored because I did not really know what was happening and the party were not using miniatures or other aids to help me visualize what was happening. I did hear some cool words such as Fireball, Enchanted weapon and Rebuke Undead but apart from that I did not get a grasp of how the game was actually played. The only thing I understood was that the GM was a referee of some sort and I figured he was having the least fun- As Dungeons & Dragons was never really that popular at the schools I went to and the crowds I was in it would not be until college that I got my first real opportunity to play D&D and it was the 3.5 edition.
I was intrigued by the mechanics of 3.5 and all the well illustrated books available for it at the time. I started reading more about it, reading the fiction of the talented RA Salvatore and rewatching the first movie. Good thing I remembered that movie in a better light as kid because that movie could have put off a lot of people, just saying if it was not for Jeremy Irons it would have been even more unwatchable. I played the most of this version of D&D and I loved how it gave me, as a player, so many options and the flavor was there in spades for a curious would be Dungeon Master. I have such fond memories of fudging rolls just to get the party past the last demon so they could rest before tackling the next puzzle or minion I had lurking in the shadows behind the next corner. The supplements and companion books allowed me to always throw something new which at times overwhelmed me as a rookie DM just starting out and beginning to tell the story. The writing and artwork made it fun to read and as a player it was fun to pass the books around and see what was coming at you instead of relying solely on my descriptions which can at times put a lot of people off if they lack the vocabulary and language skills. Not for nothing but there are only so many times a ‘big’ ‘scary’ orc, insert other generic baddies or ‘dark’ corridors that are ‘just’ corridors can ya take before calling in with scurvy at the next session.
With the release of D&D 5th Edition I was curious about seeing what Wizards of the Coast had in store for their fans after fumbling with 4th edition so bad they aided in the creation and extension of their prior system under a new publisher (Paizo). The sales were poor and critics slammed it for being entirely way too focused on combat and minimizing the roleplaying aspect of the game. Wizards announced that they were going back to their roots with D&D and re-released the classic Red Box and Basic Set which sold well and helped create anticipation for the new system. They said they wanted to make the new edition feel like the older ones and not be so rules heavy as to allow for the easier introduction of role players and Dungeon Masters alike.
I played it shortly after it had come out and was fortunate enough to get official print outs,folders and merchandise to test the game with. I was given the privilege to run a game for a friend and I decided to get ready. I loved the artwork and the covers for the books and approached this new system with a positive attitude. I got to run the game with the hardcover books and was given some pregenerated characters and a module provided by Wizards of the Coast for free legal download.
The game ran smoother than I had expected but at times I found myself looking for stats and things that were not there or even important. I noticed earlier that alignment was not stressed as much in 5th edition and the minions were falling left, right and center in most of the combat encounters. I mean, the party were really cutting through them and gave me the feeling that the PCs were kind of over powered in this version. It did not feel as suspenseful at the third and final conflict but all in all it was far easier to explain to new players compared to the prior editions and other RPGS I had played at the time.
After returning to 3.5 for a year or so I would spend some time away from the table in which I had heard more about Pathfinder and how it was the same thing just a little easier and it was new. I thought that it would be hard or illegal to deliver the same experience but then remembered the OGL and learned that Paizo and WOTC at one time collborated together. Long story short I liked the idea, the conversion kit made it easy for me to use my older books if I wanted to. What also got me was the under dog story and how their entire business model was based on servicing an existing clientage that Wizardz were not trying to keep or get back.
Pathfinder gave me what I loved in 3.5 concerning resources but in practical pocket editions and paperbacks at affordable prices. Paizo were smart to offer PDFs something that 5th Edition is not going to ever do so it made it easy for me to snatch some decent books at a good price. As a publisher they managed to streamline the original system their game was built on and compress the information without taking away from the game. As a result you do not need a lot of books to start because you can run a game with two books as they have a Core Rulebook which is a players handbook and gm guide in one and a Bestiary (a monsters manual). Also for the classes you have Ultimate Combat which covers all your combat feats, adding some new ones and new classes and so does Ultimate Magic. These are big books but worth every penny and if you are buying this for a party, pennies well spent indeed. DISCLAIMER : Roleplaying does not require hardcopies of the material but for me and most players I know it is the preferred way of playing. We are in no means saying you HAVE to play with these books, merely saying that if you are interested in buying then these are the things we recommend you consider!!!
To be entirely honest I feel if you have already played rpgs and have a party I recommend you start the investment with
- The GM Screen
- Well written and is built just high enough to conceal without taking up too much space. It also features a gallery of charts with everything you might want to check on the fly.
- The Game Masters Guide
- The pocket edition is affordable if you do not mind the small text and provides you with everything you need to craft a campaign and really spends time in the first few sections introducing new Game Masters to the role in a more fun way than 3.5 and in a simpler language as well.
- The Core Rulebook
- The players handbook for Pathfinder and really has everything you need to know as a player if you want to run the core classes. Printed on good materials and will be durable for being passed around in paperback with great artwork.
- A resource that both the players and GM can benefit from as it gives you a visual which is always better than something you print out on paper or show on a cellphone screen. There are more than seven of these on sale but all you really need is the first one to run all your standard monsters.
We recommend that you consider looking at the Ultimate Combat or Magic which works out to be pretty cheap if you break it down on a party level and you can always use it as it really provides you with EVERYTHING you would to know for those casters and the combat orientated classes. To the same note the Advanced Players Guide could be your best bet if you want that little extra in customizing characters as it adds a little for everyone and is pretty cheap and also comes in a pocket version. Also for GMs we suggest Ultimate Campaign as it is a rich source of stats that are well set out to be plucked for use in the writing of you next campaign, but this can be purchased in PDF.
Apart from having great products at decent prices Paizo also offers accessories such as face and items cards that aid Game Masters in telling the story along with a wealth of content available online both free and on sale at their website. Sure it costs you money to buy these books but you don’t have to if you don’t think your group may not stick with it keep the budget low but if you believe in it then propose the idea of pooling your resources because once you have these books you are set for a long time. Paizo have made so many things from mats to minis that you can really get all your gaming needs from one spot. As a Game Master I wanted a system that had support and a publisher that made it as easy as possible for me to tell me my story and Paizo has been able to do that. From offering accessories to the Pathfinder Society that has organized play world-wide yet there are other online communities where you can track down potential players and games.
5th Edition just seemed so basic to me coming from 3.5 which a lot of players do say is crunch heavy (lots of modifiers and numbers you can add to a roll) but after a few sessions you have learned what to look for and when. 5th Edition does not offer many resources and do not offer PDFs on sale. Along with this I feel 5th edition focused on getting a whole new generation of role players, it feels and plays like it was designed with the new player in mind. Which is great and its similarities to the older, DM heavy style of play from AD&D went over well with some of the veteran players. Our group just wanted something we already knew worked and from my research I saw that this would be the system I run for the next 3 to 5 years. That does not mean I think 5th Edition is bad, I just feel that for this generation of players you need options and restrictions to make it both easier for the GM to run and more fun for the players to create their story and characters. Pathfinder gave us both and a decent price where as 5th Edition came off as entirely uninterested in the their older following from 3.5.
I saw that Pathfinder offered me a system that I did not require me to learn an entirely new system from scratch and gave me an affordable price point for entry. I saw that I could get more bang for my buck in a game which already had a lot of things happening and offered me the support and accessories I would need moving forward. Paizo won me over and this is just my preference. At heart an RPG should be players playing out a story in a fun, interesting and exciting way that they want to repeat. Pathfinder is the system for us and I hope by discussing the things I liked I may have helped some people in making their decision.