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.