Pathfinder RPG Free Beta Is Out

Heard of the new Pathfinder RPG? It’s Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition. Well, not really, but it should have been.

While Wizards took D&D in 4e and fundamentally changed it, Paizo took the OGL part of Third Edition and retooled it into what many people call “D&D 3.75e” – an improved version but still mostly 3e-compatible.

Believing strongly in involving the gamer community in the development of the game, they went through a number of public Alpha drafts and have now released their Beta product. This will be playtested by anyone who wants to for a year and then the final “1.0” version will be released this time next year.

You can buy the Beta in hardcover for $50, softcover for $25, or… download the PDF for free!  That’s right, go to Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder RPG page and get it for free (you have to register, the process to get it is via their online store/shopping cart). Then, you can go and give rules and playtest feedback on their forums.

So far, they’re doing everything I wish Wizards had done with D&D 4e.

  • Continue with open gaming by supporting and releasing content via the OGL? Check.
  • Meaningfully involving the D&D gamer community in the design and development of the game? Check.
  • Developing an awesome campaign setting and adventures to use with it? Check.

Pathfinder RPG Beta – What’s In It

They’ve streamlined and simplified the combat mechanics while making the core classes a bit more bad ass. Races have a bit more put into them, making them more distinctive. The barbarian’s rage powers are very interesting, and there’s more abilities for bards. Fighters get armor and weapon training abilities in addition to their bonus feats so they get something at every level. Sorcerers have “bloodlines” that give them additional powers.

Clerics look about the same, but their “channel energy” ability combines turning undead and healing comrades in a burst, which is a big enhancements. Instead of the one domain spell/spell level they get domain powers, which aren’t notably better. Druids are largely unchanged, just with their wild shape progression spread more evenly across their 20 levels. Monks, too, don’t change much but get a “ki pool” that can power a limited number of boosts.

Paladins get some more powers but still need some sprucing up in my opinion – especially as there’s a cleric option in the Pathfinder setting books that gives up a clerics domain powers for d10 HD and fighter BAB progression – “like a paladin, but can actually cast spells!” Rangers get a bunch more stuff especially in levels 10-20 (which is good, they were totally a dip class before) – favored terrain, more progression of their combat styles, etc.

Rogues get a HD boost to d8 and “rogue talents” at every other level. Wizards now get “school powers” every other level and d6 HD, and can “arcane bond” with an item or familiar, which is great because familiars suck so, so bad.

Skills are a little simplified but not combined up as much as in 4e. Feats are pretty familiar with some nice new ones – they didn’t revamp the metamagic feats, though, and that’s sorely needed. In 3e they’re only good for NPC opponents that won’t get to cast all their spells anyway, so it makes sense to cast an empowered magic missile over, say, a fireball. (Wait, really? No, not really.)

Oh, and by adding some sections on running adventures, XP, and magic items, they remove the need for an expensive and pointless DMG. Yay!

All in all, a great alternative to those who like D&D but don’t like what 4e did to it.

9 responses to “Pathfinder RPG Free Beta Is Out

  1. Woots! I’m checking this out! Looks like my 3.x days aren’t over yet.

  2. You know, Mxy, at this point I don’t even need to summarize my D&D findings ever again.

    I’ll just point to your page and go, “What he said.”

  3. @Erin – lol, thanks, you’re welcome to. But I like reading your thoughts on all this too!

  4. Just a minor correction: the $50 hardcover is for the final release, due out next year. You can only get the beta in the softcover version for $25 (or the free PDF).

  5. I wanted to let you and any of your readers know about a new Pathfinder SRD site I have started. Feel free to check it out and let me know if you have any critiques or suggestions. Thanks!

  6. Cool, a great contribution to the community! Is it the Beta rules I assume? And I think your site is prettier, but I see you link to pfogc which appears to be doing the same thing… Why “another?”

    Functionality-wise, I have a couple suggestions. One, on the search, results should link into the right subsection… Like the search result for flat-footed on the conditions page, it just goes to the top of the conditions page but should go to an anchor specifically for flat-footed in the page. I’d personally break some of the pages up into sub-pages as they get really long – e.g. Magic page. And I’m sure there’s more hyperlinking to come, I know it’s a work in progress, I really love all the linking in the d20srd…

    Thanks for posting!

  7. The site has been fully updated to the final rules now and also includes all monsters released in both the Bonus Bestiary released on FreeRPG Day and the Preview Bestiary. Come on by and check it out!

  8. In response to mxyzplk: I link to because they were my original source of content before the PRD was released. I was a contributor on that site before becoming frustrated enough to start my own. As for breaking up some of the longer pages, I completely agree. Some of that has already been done in the update to the final rules but there are still some very long pages. I’ll get to them, I promise!

  9. So one question. Since Paizo has posted their own SRD, what do you consider to be the value add of your site? OGC compilation from everything else other than the main books? Timeliness? Better linking?

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