The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game got its start as an offshoot of Dungeons and Dragons, but has developed a large and loyal following. And deservedly so, as Paizo–the creators of Pathfinder–consistently put out amazing RPG products, routinely demonstrating that they are among the best and most creative developers in nerdlandia.
Still, Pathfinder too often sits in D&D’s shadow. Well, this post is an attempt to bring Pathfinder into the light.
- If you’ve dabbled in pathfinder, but want to understand it better, this post is for you.
- If you are already a Pathfinder fan, but want to take a seriously deep dive, this post if for you.
- If you have a friend you want to introduce to Pathfinder, then this post is for you to share with them.
- If you simply want to learn about amazingly nerdy things, then this post is for you.
This is a post of links and it’s not for the weak. It will serve as your helpful NPC, guiding you along, but all the links are here for you to click. Choose the areas where you want to go deep, then click that link. Ready? Let’s get going.
A Comprehensive Introduction to Pathfinder
The 3rd edition of Dungeons and Dragons (3e) was released in the year 2000 and used an underlying d20 system. Meanwhile, primary support was through D&D’s two long-running magazines, Dungeon and Dragon, which were taken over by Paizo. They did fantastic work with the magazines, debuting something called “adventure paths” that we’ll come back to.
When D&D switched to 4th Edition (4e) many players stuck with 3e and Paizo formed Pathfinder to meet the demand. [More on the history here.] They released the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, which is a wondrous tome that clocks in at about 600 pages.
That can be overwhelming for new players, so Paizo came out with a starter set that just gave the basic rules, and was accompanied by some pregenerated characters and some little cardboard miniatures so new players could get their feet wet. They also released a strategy guide to further help new players break into the complex world of Pathfinder. [You can read more about those here.]
Meanwhile, old reliables like a Monster Manual (that Pathfinder calls a Bestiary) and a Dungeon Master’s Guide (Gamemastery Guide) were added to the Pathfinder line so that DMs would have the core books they needed to run great roleplaying adventures. [More on the Bestiary and the Gamemastery Guide.]
Those are the basics, but the folks at Paizo are among the best in the business creatively…and they are prolific. There is at least one new book a month for Pathfinder, so we’ll bullet some of the main ones below:
- The rules for Pathfinder are comprehensive enough as it is, but Paizo decided even those weren’t advanced enough. Enter the Advanced Guides, which added excellent new options for races, classes, and more. [More on the Advanced Guides here.]
- But even the advanced guides aren’t the ultimate. That honor goes to the hardcovers that add more equipment, magic, and other awesome fantasy stuff to the game. [More on the Ultimate guides here.]
- We mentioned the Bestiary briefly, but there are actually 5 of those. Plus, there are Codex hardcovers that add more NPCs, monsters, and villains to the mix. [See the Codex books here.]
I hope you are picking up on the fact that there is a ton of excellent content for the Pathfinder RPG. The rabbit hole goes crazy deep. But we haven’t even touched adventures yet, which is the main strength of Pathfinder. I mentioned early that Pathfinder developed “adventure paths”, a concept that they brought with them from their old D&D 3e days.
Adventure Paths are monthly 100 page softcover books. Each volume provides one part of an adventure path, as well as a number of background articles to help you run it. Each adventure path is six parts long, and has a connecting theme and story that links all six parts into one epic campaign.
The different adventure paths provide you with different styles and genres of adventures, too.
- “Skull & Shackles” is a pirate-themed adventure path, set on the high seas.
- If you’re looking for a bit of horror, there is “Strange Aeons”, which is heavily influenced by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.
- “Mummy’s Mask” is in an Egyptian-inspired setting.
- The Glass Cannon Podcast plays through the “Giantslayer” Adventure Path.
There are almost two dozen different adventure paths. [You can read more here.] All of Pathfinder’s adventures are set in the world of Golarion, which is a rich a vibrant setting that allows nearly unlimited play, as it contains a multitude of different lands, peoples, and organizations.
There are tons of Pathfinder books that do nothing more than describe a part of Golarion. You can learn more about the more detailed books here, or you can get the Inner Sea World Guide, which is the primary setting hardcover book for Golarion.
It’s not a coincidence that nearly everyone who dips a toe into the world of Pathfinder will ultimately decide to take a deep dive. For those folks, Paizo released the slew of books that you’ve learned more about above. But Paizo also releases lots of aids to make it easy and fun to run games.
Here are some examples:
- Map packs that feature general locales (like a generic dungeon), plus maps that feature the adventure sites from the Adventure Paths.
- Card decks that help with the mechanics of the game, as well as add flavor.
- Pawns, which are cardboard miniatures that represent major characters and monsters.
- And they also have Pathfinder Battles, which is an excellent line of plastic pre-painted miniatures for Pathfinder that I buy way too many of.
There are also Pathfinder comic books that are pulpy high fantasy fun. And each comic has bonus RPG material like maps, new monsters, and NPC stat block in the back. [Here is more on the comics.]
Pathfinder also has a line of pulpy novels called Pathfinder Tales, each set in the world of Golarion and featuring really fun and interesting fantasy characters. The great thing about Pathfinder Tales is they aren’t bogged down in continuity; you can pick up wherever you want and jump right in. [Here is more on Pathfinder Tales.]
Listen, I’m not even finished, but my brain is busted and I’m getting carpal tunnel. I hope you got a great overview of the dragon’s hoard of wealth that is available for the Pathfinder RPG. It’s an excellent game and worthy or a deep dive…if you dare. What’s more, Paizo is now releasing Pocket Editions that make the game even more affordable. [Check those out.]
Remember, every single one of the links above will give you a deeper dive and the books and products from the Pathfinder RPG. I’ve been an admirer of Pathfinder for a while, but now that I’ve dug in to the products listed above, I’ve started writing its name all over my Trapper Keeper. It really is great. Allow Pathfinder to be your new obsession.