8 Reasons D&D 5th Edition Is Better Than Pathfinder

By David N. Scott in Books, Daily Lists, Gaming, Nerdery
Friday, August 15, 2014 at 6:00 am

5. A More Classic Feel

At this point, we've all seen elves and orcs and whatnot done to death. When Pathfinder first hit their open play test, I felt ambivalent about firing up the same old races and classes again. They won me over by releasing their Advanced Player's Guide, which added some weirder options like a vaguely steampunk alchemist and a creepy inquisitor into the lineup - here was new and fun stuff to play. This trend continued, both for good and for ill, until later books have added things like private detectives and gunslingers into the mix. This has made the Pathfinder world its own.

However, at this point it doesn't feel like Pathfinder is D&D anymore. Instead it is its own thing. Our monthly game involved a rat-man with a sentient tumor, a vaguely lecherous frog-man who worshiped the god of drinking, and a hideously scarred priestess who was a pacifist. Are these cool ideas? Yes. Are they the D&D I grew up with? No. I actually feel like stepping away from guns, tumors, and crazy inventors to go on a quest somewhere and stab something with a sword. I enjoy both vaguely steampunk Pathfinder and classic fantasy D&D, but they aren't the same thing and classic fantasy is starting to seem like a fun throwback.

6. Inspiration!

Good artists copy, great artists steal.

RPGs cover a large spectrum of experiences when it comes to fighting. Some games, such as World of Darkness, are great games where you may spend most of your time talking. In other games, like RIFTS, you'll probably be killing a lot of things. I think D&D games work best split down the middle with an equal mix of combat and role-playing. I don't like it when we're trying to infiltrate the Temple of Evil Doom and somebody pulls a sword out, laying into them and generally murdering people. However, I also don't like it when a dragon is dropping down on the party, prepping a fiery cone of Doom Breath, but someone's too busy having wacky "Role Playing Hijinx" to get into the middle of things.

What I really like about the new Inspiration system is that it gives you small mechanical benefits for entertaining everyone with role-playing, so chewing the scenery in between fights now makes you better at fighting! This is a great idea and honestly fairly derivative of FATE, which I love, but I'm going to congratulate D&D 5th for embracing progressive design instead of shaming them for stealing stuff. After all,D&D has been stolen from so much over the years that they deserve to get a little back. Sorry, I don't mean to be an enabler. I promise I'll talk to them about it. I will! For now, can we just agree to support the shit out of them?

7. Backgrounds!

Remember: all the best cowboys have daddy issues

In fairness, Pathfinder actually has a really hilarious system for generating backgrounds for your character. It's in the book Ultimate Campaigns and allows you to create bizarre backstories for the likes of a time traveler, a person raised by vampires in an undead kingdom or a serial killer. It takes a couple of hours to run a group through it and tends to result in lots of laughs. The only problem with it is the fact that it isn't in the main book, it is terribly complicated, and it really doesn't influence your character that much.

The new, not especially cleverly named Backgrounds mechanic, on the other hand, makes up a major part of your character. No longer is your Fighter a graduate from Fighter School in Fighter City. Instead, he started out at a Criminal. He gets to learn deception and stealth and how to use thieves' tools, which is quite an upgrade for a big guy with a sword. He also gets a network of criminal contacts and some role-playing suggestions. Again, this doesn't match the gonzo fun of Pathfinder, where he'd probably end up some half-insane warrior raised by Aberrations and separated from his lost love by the fall of their empire, but it is solid, fun, and meaningful.

8. Better Races!

It will be a familiar refrain at this point, but not only does Pathfinder have dozens of races, they have an entire book that details how to make your own. Also much like Archtypes, there are many exchanges and substitutions that can be made with a Pathfinder race. The Gripplis, a frog-like race, can trade their ability to walk in swamps to jump really high or trade their ability to camouflage themselves with the ability to glide like a sugar glider. Actually, they can even do both since the changes don't overlap. Here's the weird thing, though,humans are a 10 point race and Gripplis are only 6. Clearly Gripplis are underpowered, why not just give them the ability to jump in the first place? You can if you hack the system and redesign frog people from scratch, but can't the powers that be just take care of it?

The reason is that a Grippli race existed before the points existed, and so did the human. Basically the designers are trying to inject a somewhat sophisticated point buy system into Pathfinder, which is a great idea, but they aren't able to go back and change much of anything. Their system just exists nearby and along with the main rules, which most people will use anyway. All told it's another fiddly bit on top of many others. I feel more friendly towards the new D&D races, which fit on a single page and still have some customization (such as choosing between a Hill Dwarf and a Mountain Dwarf). It's new, it looks like it works well, and it looks way easier. I am excited to give it a try and give Pathfinder a bit of a break.

Previously by David N. Scott

10 Reasons David Goyer Must Be Stopped

10 Reasons You Should Be Watching NBC's Hannibal (Really!)

Ten Things We Learned Attending L.A. By Night: The Grey Ghost Masquerade

10 Things Learned Shopping for a PS4 on Black Friday (At Midnight)

10 Things I Learned Running Game Demos at WonderCon

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