Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pathfinder "Basic"

I’ve made no bones about the fact that I’ve been rooting for the success of Paizo Publishing in the wake of Wizards of the Coast’s mishandling of D&D. A while back I wrote about the possibility of Paizo producing a rules light/basic version of its wildly popular (but decidedly rules heavy) Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It appears they’re definitely going forward with the project.

The box (pictured above) looks promising. Eric Mona, of Paizo, has said that this picture is just a mock-up of the box. The art (by Wayne Reynolds) is as it will be in the final product but the name of the product (now simply “Basic Game”), font used, etc., will likely change. Mona has also said that the box is exactly the same dimensions as the board game “Kill Doctor Lucky” (which is 11.5 x 9 x 2.9 inches). If Paizo remains true to their sterling reputation, I’m sure it will easily rival, if not surpass, the D&D 4E Red Box produced last year by WotC in terms of production quality.

However, reading what little has managed to trickle out about the project has taken some of the wind out of my sails. It would appear that Paizo is intending the set to be more of an introduction (i.e., an expensive advertisement) for the monster 500 page Core Rulebook. Black Diamond Games has said: “Some details: It's a full 5-level Pathfinder box set that uses the same rules in a more user friendly format. It should have a DMs book, player's book and adventure. No miniatures but standee figures ala Kill Doctor Lucky. It's $34.95.” Elsewhere, Paizo has said: “This is, unquestionably, still the Pathfinder RPG. We've made it easier to learn and to play, but you could theoretically take your character to a Pathfinder Society event and play level-appropriate scenarios alongside people who created their characters out of the Core Rulebook.”

If it’s “the same rules” then there’s no real need for the new set. Sure, it might hook a few people who were initially scared off by their Core Rulebook, but that’s a bit of a bait and switch in my opinion. If people don’t want to play a game that takes 500+ pages to run/understand, I fail to understand why they’d want a game that introduces them to the same 500+ page rule set, just more gradually (and at $34.95 every 5 levels!). I fear it’s the same tactic WotC used with their new Red Box: the same cumbersome rules with little more than a wink and nod toward boxed set nostalgia. No thanks!

The fact that it will include standee figures is also a complete disappointment for me. I have no love of using strategy heavy/minis-oriented combat in my RPGs and the fact that Paizo is including them in their “Basic Set” shows that they introduce this facet of the game early on. So, get ready for the groundwork being laid for attacks of opportunity, flanking bonuses, and five foot stepping for tactical advantage. Again, no thanks!

According to Paizo’s Technical Director, Vic Wertz, they haven’t ruled out putting out another boxed set to take players beyond levels 5 (perhaps in the style of B/X or, who knows, maybe even BECMI D&D). Mark Moreland, a game developer at Paizo, revealed that the company would be previewing the new boxed set in June at PaizoCon so we can look forward to more details then.

Here’s hoping my initial impressions are wrong. I’d love a true “Basic” version of the game!


  1. While a rules light Pathfinder might be nice, I was never under the impression that this was what Paizo was doing with this box set. From what I understood it was always meant to be a way to introduce new players to the same game they already produce. It always pissed me off when companies would come out with an intro set that was very diffrent than the core product. So Im happy about how Paizo presenting the material.

  2. I'll likely buy this product (based on the cover art alone), but i'm unlikely to play Pathfinder, since I have no interest in purchasing the complete 600 page Pathfinder rulebook.

    I love much of the art that graces the pages of Pathfinder products, and their minis are gorgeous, but the game is too new-school for me.

  3. I also have to wonder why you'd want two different sets of rules for the same product? In many ways that's a big part of the identity problem 4E has right now even with fans of the game.

    I'm really happy that the boxed set is going to be an introduction instead of "different" or "basic."

    As someone who is a fan of all the editions of D&D as well, I gotta say, I find Pathfinder to be a really smooth set of rules that plays like 3.5 but easier (the intent, it seems).

    I don't really use minis with my Pathfinder sessions, but we still use the tactical elements, in terms of giving attack of opportunity, etc. If that part of the game is what disappoints you, why not just ignore it? PF works fine without those elements it seems -- and if you really hate them, why not use PF adventures/settings but run another system like Castles and Crusades or Dragon Age? (I don't mean that as a "you're playing the wrong game" or anything, just a real question).

  4. I desire this game. No, really, you can't imagine. :(

    Cheap international calls