Chad Perrin: SOB

20 June 2008

How Paizo Fixed D&D

Filed under: Geek,RPG — Tags: — apotheon @ 03:47

This is part of my RPG series of entries here at SOB. See the inaugural entry in the series for more details.

The title of this SOB entry is a little misleading, I guess. The truth is that Paizo seems to increasingly fix the problems that have arisen with the Wizards of the Coast Dungeons and Dragons product lines in a series of major changes, each with a broader scope than the last. It’s like a cyclical process of accepting a change, making the best of the change, and significantly improving on the flawed state of affairs that preceded these changes.

The “end” of Dragon and Dungeon magazines:

Paizo really was started by a former Wizards of the Coast employee when the opportunity came up to print the Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Adventures magazines under license from WotC, along with Star Wars Insider. In other words, Paizo was created solely as a magazine printing business, taking over where WotC left off when its purchaser (Hasbro) decided the magazine lines weren’t profitable enough.

Under Paizo management, the general consensus is that Dragon and Dungeon improved in quality, as their formats and contents were adjusted to the needs and desires of the fanbase, the printing quality was attended to with loving care, and in general the fact that magazine publishing was being handled by a company whose sole business line was magazine publishing ensured that Dragon and Dungeon weren’t treated like the red-headed stepchild of corporate strategy.

This is a simplified explanation of what happened, of course. There’s some complexity involving Polyhedron — another magazine line — and I don’t know (nor care much) what happened with Star Wars Insider, for instance. Paizo eventually created the Undefeated magazine and licensed Amazing Stories as well, the latter of which was reinvented as a periodical with much broader appeal than the format it had under the original vision of its creation. The reinvention of Dungeon was really the most successful change, however.

Paizo was actually making a pretty good go of it in the RPG-support periodicals business, expanding on the base to do things like sublicense the magazine lines for Italian, Spanish, and German editions of the magazines. More interestingly for those of us who are in the English-speaking RPG world, Paizo also started publishing Adventure Paths, series of major adventure modules in the pages of Dungeon that fit together into overarching, epic campaigns. A sense of cohesive plot progression was imparted by lines — paths, really — of adventures tied together by a central plot and singular gameworld environment assumptions. The quality of the adventures was widely appreciated by subscribers to Dungeon.

While all of this may not have revolutionized the D&D game itself, it certainly improved the gaming lives of many D&D players, providing them with rich, interesting, fresh ideas, well presented in a relatively inexpensive format — and it made a success of Paizo itself at the same time.

What many feared would be a major blow to certain segments of the D&D fanbase (Hasbro dictating the end of the WotC-published — formerly TSR-published — Dragon and Dungeon magazines) turned out to be of great benefit to everyone involved. Well, maybe not “great benefit” exactly for WotC/Hasbro, but at least it didn’t really hurt WotC. Former WotC employee Lisa Stevens rode to the rescue, holding the reins of Paizo. Paizo proved that periodicals and adventure modules are a natural fit for each other and, well-managed, they can not only fit together well but provide for across the board improvements in both the periodical business and the adventure module business — which had been primarily held as separate businesses before that. All it took was a bit of dedication and loving care, which Lisa Stevens and her team clearly lavished on the whole enterprise with enthusiasm.

Very dramatic.

The real end of Dragon and Dungeon magazines:

While Dungeon‘s appeal was growing, and Dragon was at least a success in its own right — a reversal of the comparative state of affairs for these core gaming magazines from when I read them in the early ’90s, when Dragon was the better periodical — some of the additional magazines didn’t fare quite as well. Both Undefeated and Amazing Stories, while each more successful in some respects than Amazing Stories had been just before Paizo got its hands on the title, simply weren’t successful enough for a magazine-only business to keep pouring money into them. Since Paizo didn’t have another, more important business line than magazines, it couldn’t just write off any losses on its magazines as “marketing” for other revenue streams.

Eventually, however, word came down that the license contract for Dragon and Dungeon magazines would not be renewed. At that point (September 2007), Wizards of the Coast appears to have decided that it could take back control of the magazines and actually make them profitable somehow (probably as revenue support for its non-periodical RPG product lines) by offering them online. As things have shaped up since then, it seems likely that WotC/Hasbro wanted complete control over the content of both magazines in preparation for its release of 4E D&D.

Once again, an apparent death knell for something everyone loved (in this case, the Paizo era of Dragon and Dungeon publication) was turned on its head, and became a significant improvement in fantasy RPGs — because Paizo was forced to transform its business model to stay afloat. Examining the circumstances, Paizo decided to do something unprecedented: it printed adventure modules under a subscription periodical format. Rather than creating a magazine with articles about GMing and (more importantly) at least three adventure modules per issue, Paizo spun off a couple of lines of adventure module subscriptions and an accessories subscription. In the GameMastery subscription, you can get regular releases of gaming accessories delivered regularly, while with the Pathfinder Adventure Path subscription you can get adventure modules from ongoing development of Adventure Paths and with the Pathfinder Modules subscription you get stand-alone modules, in each case as high-quality stand-alone adventure module books. Add to that the Pathfinder Chronicles, which is a subscription that focuses on books that present source material developing the official Pathfinder adventure modules gameworld, and there’s a heck of a lot available from Paizo of very high quality materials, still available as periodical publications, even if the magazine format of Dragon and Dungeon magazines has been abandoned.

That’s not to say that Paizo is out of the magazine business — the company is still publishing magazines, though not Dragon or Dungeon themselves any longer. It’s also not the case that you can’t get these things as stand-alone purchases in stores (whether they be in brick-and-mortar game shops or e-commerce stores like Paizo’s own online store) — you can, but there are definite advantages for those who really like Paizo’s product lines to subscribe to the lines they like best. The really important ongoing change in the area of periodical publication, in terms of Paizo’s effect on the RPG market, is its non-magazine periodical subscriptions, however. In short, Paizo has reinvented the RPG-oriented periodical subscription business model, and the end result is the creation of high quality materials that appeal to a lot of people.

As for Dragon and Dungeon magazines in their new online life under WotC’s direction — well, I’m not sure anyone other than people rushing to adopt 4E cares. There’s the Dragon portal and the Dungeon portal, but it’s likely that, for people still playing D&D 3.5 and likely to continue in that vein for a while (whether simply with old 3.5 books, via the SRD, or through the advances promised by the Pathfinder RPG and the forks presented by other game publishers), Paizo’s periodical and stand-alone materials will prove much more palatable. What WotC/Hasbro has done is not to bring the fantasy RPG fanbase more closely under its control, but to split it down the middle, and its transformation of Dragon and Dungeon from periodicals into subsections of the main WotC Website is a major part of that change.

The end of Dungeons & Dragons as we know it:

The most central, most key element of that bifurcation of its fanbase, and surely the underlying purpose in reassumption of control of Dragon and Dungeon magazines, is the manner in which the release of 4E was handled. The standard set by the release of the core rules (and select additional rules) of D&D 3.x under the OGL was unprecedented in the RPG industry, and revitalized the core of the industry (which, aside from stiff competition from White Wolf for a few years and a scattering of “second tier” game publishers, has always really been about D&D).

While 3.5 brought some much-needed improvements to the game after the transformation of the game that occurred in the migration from 2nd Edition AD&D to 3rd Edition D&D, it didn’t fix enough, and it came too early for many gamers to feel comfortable with it. Eventually, pretty much everyone made the switch, however. Only small pockets of gamers who already own the 3.0 books and never really felt like shifting to a slightly different, but substantially identical system, at a nontrivial cost, resisted the “upgrade”. If I hadn’t started dating someone who owned 3.5 books, I may never have even gotten around to playing D&D 3.5, let alone Pathfinder, for instance.

Fast-forward a few years from the release of 3.5, and we see WotC/Hasbro making the same mistake they did with the too-early and too-minimal alteration of the 3rd Edition rules — but they’re doing it in a novel way. This time, they’re throwing out the old rules entirely rather than improving on them at all, but still doing so much more quickly after the publication of the last edition upgrade (D&D 3.5) than most of the fanbase would like. 4E not only doesn’t directly and substantially draw on any of the game system basis of 3E, which was closer to 2E than 4E is to 3.5, but it came out a mere five years after 3.5 did in 2003. Considering it took 21 years to get to 3E, and much of the fanbase was quite annoyed at how “quickly” 3E came out after 2E, that should tell you something about the apparent philosophy of product churn for the sake of squeezing revenue out of customers that has been adopted by WotC/Hasbro.

Of course, that doesn’t mean business won’t go well for WotC/Hasbro with the release of 4E. Maybe they’ll make a lot of money at it. They’ll sacrifice their hold on a substantial population of hard-core, long-time gamers in the process, however. While that may be fine for their bottom line, it leaves a lot of us with a bad taste in our mouths.

In the process, other problems were introduced, too. For instance, WotC/Hasbro is moving to a more restrictive licensing scheme for third-party publishers of D&D materials — from the OGL to the GSL, forcing publishers in many cases to make a hard decision between “old” and “new” D&D game system support for specific product lines. Worse, the actual uses you may make of GSL materials is substantially restricted as compared with OGL materials. Whereas the OGL was essentially an “open source” license for gaming materials, the GSL is simply a limited licensing system that allows you to refer to WotC materials and support them directly. You can’t even describe character creation, including alternate creation systems (such as alternative systems for determining starting attributes) in anything based on GSL materials.

This can potentially kill off a lot of companies that had been happily providing supporting materials for D&D under the OGL, if 4E effectively replaces 3E and its spin-off products across the board. A number of companies are, understandably, not chasing after the 4E/GSL approach to publication of supporting materials.

So . . . what did Paizo do?

In short, it created D&D 3.6 (though, because of trademark issues, it must of course call it something else — thus the Pathfinder RPG, which some are calling 3P in the spirit of 3E/3.x and 4E). It’s my belief (of course, I’m not an employee of Paizo, so I can only speak of my beliefs in the matter) that Paizo intends the Pathfinder RPG to serve for now as support for its own Adventure Paths, Pathfinder Chronicles source books, and other materials — again, reversing a long-standing traditional relationship between specific product types, generally to good effect. Rather than make the core rulebooks the bread-and-butter (reasonably priced) center of its business model, with ancillary books as their (more expensive per unit) supporting materials, Paizo is intent on the expansion materials as the bread-and-butter (reasonably priced) center of its revenue stream with its own improvement on the core rulebooks (more expensive per unit) as a way to cement its place in the RPG industry.

Looking at the Paizo game materials I’ve come across in stores, they’re obviously of higher quality — both quality of content and design, and printing quality — than the majority of WotC books. Even just downloading the Pathfinder RPG Alpha playtest PDFs, the PRPG rules seem more well considered, balanced, and clearly presented than those in WotC D&D 3E materials, ignoring for the moment minor issues like a problem with one of the fonts in the PDFs — issues that might prevent me from committing actual money to getting their PDFs, but won’t in any way dissuade me from buying “dead tree” hardcopy books. One of these days, I’ll get around to writing up my review of 4E, so you can see my take on how it compares with 3E and Pathfinder, too.

Even better, depending on how well-received the Pathfinder RPG is, Paizo may eventually produce a true edition upgrade in the rules. Having seen the quality and care invested in its products thus far, I’m convinced that such a second edition of PRPG would just continue the company’s tradition of excellent advances in the state of the art in fantasy RPG publishing. Of course, I’ll just have to wait and see.

They all lived happily ever after:

. . . but in any case, if I’m going to make the transition from D&D 3.5 to another edition, the choice seems clear to me: avoid 4E, and go with PRPG, aka 3P, aka D&D 3.6, which (unlike WotC/Hasbro’s new confection) actually represents a significant improvement for the gamer, rather than simply a chance at greater improvement in market growth statistics for WotC/Hasbro.

Otherwise, I might be tempted to pursue other RPGs when interest in 3.5 waned, taking a long-term hiatus from D&D in general as I did with 3E back in its early days when nobody wanted to play 2E any longer and 3E hadn’t been slightly improved by the release of 3.5.

Credit where it’s due, though — the incredible advancements offered by Paizo wouldn’t be possible without WotC/Hasbro’s many serendipitous mistakes, and its biggest consciously positive contribution: the OGL.


  1. Well if you ever get interested in power gaming, I have first edition rules for Rifts (I haven’t invested in 2E rules for Rifts yet ’cause I can’t even get a 1E group going, it seems). Rifts makes for easy online play, too, IMO.

    Comment by Joseph A Nagy Jr — 21 June 2008 @ 10:59

  2. I don’t really have time for online gaming these days, alas. Thanks for the offer, though.

    Comment by apotheon — 21 June 2008 @ 10:04

  3. Well said. I am currently on a gaming hiatus due to burnout, but I think that the PFRPG just might turn things around.

    Comment by Axcalibar — 11 July 2008 @ 12:55

  4. Thanks, Axcalibur.

    I’ve never really been on an intentional hiatus from RPGs, per se — but I was “retired” from GMing for about six or seven years, until last summer.

    Comment by apotheon — 11 July 2008 @ 11:06

  5. I’ve only been gaming for about ten years now, and I’ve seen plenty of games go through particular stages. Hell, I started gaming with Rifts back in 2000 and look at it now… it’s almost a train wreck. I’ve also had to make transitions, like the GURPS 3rd edition to 4th edition, but that one was much like the D&D 3E to 3.5 transition, not too many fundamental changes, but enough to make a difference. When 3.5 first came out I had only played D&D about two or three times and the switch was incredibly easy for me, but I guess I can adapt to that sort of an easy situation. I’ve also read through the new 4E books and almost had to rush to my toilet because I thought I felt some vomit coming up. It was literally a complete disregard for the gamer fanbase. I can tell you that Pathfinder is going to be my savior, as I have already seen the alpha releases and I can say they make the game much more balanced with even more options.

    Though I don’t know if I got off focus, I will say that this was an awesome homage to Paizo and a great overview of what’s going on in gaming.

    Comment by underclocked — 13 July 2008 @ 05:59

  6. Thanks for the comments, underclocked.

    I haven’t touched Rifts in a very long time. 2000 is “new” for me, so even if I’d seen more recent Rifts, I wouldn’t be able to comment on how it has changed between 2000 and now. What kind of changes have you seen?

    The rules for Rifts were essentially a train wreck already when I first encountered the game in the early ’90s. When it takes more than an hour for even an experienced player of a given game to make a throw-away character, there’s something wrong.

    . . . but once the characters were made, Rifts could be a lot of fun, with the right GM.

    Comment by apotheon — 13 July 2008 @ 04:16

  7. Sorry to be a thread necromancer here, but I feel like 4e’s getting a bad rap. I own 3e and 4e, and there’s a vast improvement between the two. 4e has a very smooth system. It’s very balanced, and it’s fast. My wife and I run for each other and friends, and we find the system very friendly to new users.

    Essentially, I think that 4e is introducing new people to gaming, which is what WOTC wants. It’s using a heretofore untapped resource: the hobby gamer. As a father and full-time worker, my gaming time has waned significantly in the last few years, and faster game play is something I really want. The minutiae of 3e is great if you have the time, but I like 4e because of the lightening of the rules. I think what’s going to happen is that games like 4e (and possibly Risus) are going to start introducing new people to gaming, and then systems like Pathfinder, White Wolf, Shadowrun, Rifts will be on the shelves for those gamers who decide to try something else. Essentially, gaming will have a wider audience in general, and our hobby will grow because of it.

    Comment by Ghilemear — 1 September 2008 @ 09:44

  8. Just read this article, and having played 4e quite a bit before giving it up, I totally agree with Underclocked. It really is terrible, and the “balance” Ghilemear mentions is absent, as fighters are now HIGHLY overpowered compared to the Wizard (now the worst class). I could start a rant (believe me, I have) but I won’t. Suffice to say that it’s just plain out not good. However, Ghilemear does bring up a good point about expanding the hobby. The only problem I’ve experienced with that is that everyone who I’ve seen join on because of 4e is definitely not a person I would ever want to converse with, much less game with. Whiny little WoW-obsessed kids. Don’t get me wrong, I like WoW, I have a level 61 Undead Warlock, but I don’t need the same trolls and gankers I meet in WoW disrupting my gaming table. Call me sour, but I have nothing good to say about 4e or the people who I have played it with.

    That aside, I am really enjoying the 3p beta rules. They are a lot more fun and balanced than plain 3.5, and I am having a blast playing them with my group. I really enjoyed this article, and hopefully some people will read it and try out the new Pathfinder rules. Thanks Chad :)

    Comment by that hobo — 22 September 2008 @ 05:45

  9. Ghilemear and that hobo:

    Thanks for commenting. Even when an opinion disagrees with mine, I like it — if it’s thoughtful and well stated (like Ghilemear’s).

    My experience of 4E and WoW players isn’t nearly as bad as that hobo‘s seems to be, but that may be because I’ve been such a casual player of WoW that I’ve never gotten a character past level twenty-something and, while I’ve read much of the core books, I haven’t actually played a session of 4E (still playing 3.5 and PRPG).

    that hobo:

    You’re welcome. I do what I can.

    Comment by apotheon — 22 September 2008 @ 09:06

  10. I’m sorry, but how do you feel justified writing a review of a gaming system that you haven’t even played? I find that rather ridiculous.

    Comment by jim — 24 September 2008 @ 01:24

  11. Where did you get the impression that something about Paizo’s recent history was a review of D&D 4E?

    . . . and even if it was, I’d be completely justified in reviewing it in terms of what I’ve read (which is to say, y’know, the game system).

    Comment by apotheon — 24 September 2008 @ 03:08

  12. I have never really heard about pathfinder, or paizo for that matter, before this. I’m actually pretty intrigued about how this game plays personally, as i liked 3.0 D&D, even if my DM is a min/maxer. I have tried 2E, and while it was fun for a time, i started to long for more character customisation. 3.0 and 3.5 seem to be all about that, whilst 4E seems dedicated to stamping it out.

    My DM and his friends however, belive it is the best thing to hit the game since being able to take out a foe 4-5 levels above you on a regular basis.(yes, he makes his characters that way.) Also, I have a roll-play DM, rather than a role-play DM, and as a rogue afficionado, i have a hard time with that. on a routine basis, our group has been pushed past the point of defeat many times, and our DM is unfamiliar with the concept of Encounter Level, rather opting to throw our characters into a fight with monsters of relative CR vs. level. Worse, they’re all custom monsters. I was wondering where I could find the Pathfinder books? Any information would be deeply appreciated.

    I thank you, everyone who listened through this long-winded post. may you never roll 20s steadily, for then the game would be too easy :D. (yes, that is a stretched reference to a very famous book)

    Peace, Falconer

    Comment by Falconer — 27 September 2008 @ 09:07

  13. You can get a free download of the Pathfinder RPG beta test release in PDF form from Paizo’s site, on the Pathfinder RPG page. You can also buy a physical “softcover” copy of the beta.

    The final release version is supposed to be available next August.

    Paizo has a lot more stuff available, too, of course. Check out stuff like the Adventure Paths and the Golarion campaign setting sourcebooks. It’s all just absurdly high quality, too — the printing quality, flavor text quality, art quality, and so on, is often better than what’s available from Wizards of the Coast.

    Comment by apotheon — 27 September 2008 @ 10:41

  14. As a 25+ year veteran of “the game” (yawn) my group has adopted 4E mainly to stay current and try something new. 3E did prove too difficult to teach to the completely green gamers, save for the most motivated among them. 4E has been a breeze to teach to other. This post, nonetheless, was a pleasure to read. – I’ll no doubt feature a linkback on my own blog in a day or so. Glad I stumbledUpon this… thanks again.

    Comment by jonathan — 9 December 2008 @ 06:13

  15. You’re welcome, jonathan — and thank you for reading and commenting.

    Comment by apotheon — 9 December 2008 @ 07:54

  16. Good article, though I will have to respectfully disagree with you.

    PFRPG is not nor will it be the savior of D&D. I used to frequent the Paizo boards until the beta release came out. Bought two copies of the softcover, as well as the hideously overpriced chronicles hardcover…meh.

    While the chrome has been polished, and the oil changed, it is still the clunky old 3.5 engine under the hood. This being the system that has driven more newbies from my table than all other factors combined.

    I respect your opinion, however, but I will throw out one little caveat. The longer PFRPG is out there, the less it will be like the 3.5 that most of it’s adherents worship. I mean really, they cherry picked the things their surveys said people liked about 4E, but still did nothing to fix the underlying problems with trying to do anything about the game breakdown past level 12 or so.

    They keep saying they’ll get to it, but still nothing. In essence you are buying 3.5 all over again, at an additonal 20% markup. I had high hopes, and was a rabid 4E hater, until I just played the #$%$## game. Since then, every one of my PF and 3.5 books have gone up on e-bay.

    To each their own. As long as you are gaming, I’m happy :)

    Comment by Donny_the_DM — 10 December 2008 @ 10:15


    I linked you to my “review” of PFRPG beta. It sucks, but I can live with that :)

    Comment by Donny_the_DM — 10 December 2008 @ 10:27

  18. Thanks for the link — and while I think you’re somewhere out in left field on some of your opinions of PRPG, I still found what you wrote pretty damned funny in places. In fact, I think I’ll write an entry here at SOB as a response, and say basically that before I delve into what’s wrong with your assessment.

    I have to respond here, rather than in comments at The Fine Art of the TPK, of course, because you’re using — which annoys the hell out of me once I get past reading the actual Weblog post. Maybe I’ll mention that in the response, too.

    Comment by apotheon — 10 December 2008 @ 11:44

  19. As another “old” D&Der, playing since 1983, I can say that I dropped 3.5 once I got a taste of 4e (I had a strong love/hate relationship with 3.5). The first session was what did me in. We used door characters (the stock characters that came with the Keep on the Shadowfell) in an intro adventure and we were all smitten by the smoothness and sheer fun of the game. I had never had a game go so well, and had such a good time being a DM, in all the years I’ve gamed. We laughed a lot that evening.

    Though Pathfinder sounds interesting, and I may take a glance at it, I doubt that I’ll buy it. That said, I enjoyed your post, apotheon. Thank you.

    My group has been swapping out systems every few weeks, CthulhuTech being the latest (I love the dice mechanics!). I’ll also be running a New World of Darkness game in 2009, but I definitely plan on returning to 4e soon as I’ve got some good ideas for a short campaign. We’ll be running a Wild Talents game over the next two sessions to get our fix of being superheroes (SuperCrew is also good for this; it’s also a blast).

    Game on, and no matter what system you use, have fun!

    Comment by Richard — 10 December 2008 @ 03:28

  20. […] been getting a little bit of a surge in traffic to How Paizo Fixed D&D today. It attracted a little bit of attention when it was new, and it is getting more attention […]

    Pingback by Chad Perrin: SOB » re: a couple people who linked to an SOB entry about Paizo — 10 December 2008 @ 04:24

  21. I have to chime in accord with the 4e supporters. It’s a great system, though no system is perfect (for me) without some tweaks. I’ve already done a few things such as 1) give minions a save against death, and 2) halve the hit points of both PCs and monsters, just to make sure the game ran faster. Converse to what others saw, while melee was smoother, it wasn’t faster.

    I’m sure I’ll have other tweaks. I’m considering reintroducing parts of the skill list from 3.5 to allow for more character customization, though certain things like collapsing Move Silently and Hide into a single skill I like.

    In short, at least for our gaming group, 4e was a great benefit. I’m glad WotC introduced it.

    Comment by bilbo — 10 December 2008 @ 10:46

  22. Uhm?

    “It really is terrible, and the “balance” Ghilemear mentions is absent, as fighters are now HIGHLY overpowered compared to the Wizard (now the worst class).”

    Are you looking at the same Fighter and Wizard classes that I am? Are you really looking at the 4E PHB?

    The fighter is great as long as he attacks in his narrow niche… whereas the wizard always seems to have an answer.

    Comment by rekres — 11 December 2008 @ 12:15

  23. […] to coerce others by way of WotC’s market dominance to abandon open licensing as well. Where Paizo has taken up the torch, I will support it, and I think that you should do so as well. It may not be licensed under truly […]

    Pingback by Chad Perrin: SOB » RPGs and Intellectual Protectionism — 11 February 2009 @ 10:23

  24. I played 3E and 3.5 back around the time they were released, and I had a lot of fun with the systems. I haven’t played for a few years now, so I decided to check out 4E and was immediately turned off.

    There are races and classes missing from the 4E PHB (which are coming into the game with PHB2 or PHB3), and I just don’t like some of the mechanics since they don’t make any logical sense to me.

    I’m also a long time WoW player who just quit in December and I can completely see why people bring it up when talking about 4E. It’s nice they are trying to bring in the newer players with what appears to be a prettier game and easier game..but when you are specifically marketing the game at people who don’t know any better, then they will like it no matter what. Yet at the same time you are completely alienating the rest of the fan base.

    Then again when I first started WoW, I was told I could do anything I wanted in that game. First day I played I tried to climb a tree and it didn’t work.

    Comment by Paranitis — 17 February 2009 @ 06:13

  25. Then again when I first started WoW, I was told I could do anything I wanted in that game. First day I played I tried to climb a tree and it didn’t work.

    That’s a hilarious example of the kind of thing that makes me think of MMORPGs and other CRPGs as not being real RPGs. The thing that makes me think of WoW when looking at the differences between 3.5 and 4E is that a lot of the changes seem to be heading for the same kind of “not a real RPG” limitation on the game rules. Sure, you can still climb trees — but the fact that the majority of spells that aren’t designed to directly affect damage dealing have been eliminated from the game, and the remainder have been relegated to second-class status as “rituals” that non-spellcasters can learn, is an example of what I’m talking about, as is the set of severe limitations on customization of character skills.

    Comment by apotheon — 18 February 2009 @ 11:55

  26. I have played 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 and Pathfinder. Honestly, the problems above 12th level and the other problems of 3.5 were the reason for the creation of 4.0. The problem with 4.0 is that it is tied to damage and the board. Noncombat stuff is a second thought.
    I can’t create the characters that inspire fantasy like Gandalf or Aragorn. They no longer really work in the system. Dragonlance makes no sense with 4.0 rules. Hence high fantasy has been destroyed for a strict table top game. The combat is not faster, just quicker decisions because most decisions are AUTO decisions. I feel as though my mind is butter when playing it.
    3.5 was like Magic, 4.0 is like WoW. Both are great systems. But the decision comes down to individual choice. Our players want chrome and decisions. They don’t worry about time because honestly either way we are spending 3.5 hours playing, period.
    Worse the move to end Living Greyhawk and replace it with the very boring now 4.0 Living Forgotten realms killed my interest. If they had transfer LG, I would have continued with 4.0 even though I personally don’t enjoy playing it.
    The worse thing was the end of interactives and fun events at conventions. That was what I played for and my players. I hated the uber characters as much as anyone, but did not blame the system, but blamed the players that abused the rules. (and in many cases did not follow a strict interperation of the rules.
    Anyways, the nice thing about Paizo is that it gives CHOICE in the market place, rather than giving up gaming or playing the game that WOTC gives us. Let everyone play what they want and enjoy. That is the key.

    Comment by Cody Knotts — 28 February 2009 @ 05:28

  27. Welcome to SOB, Cody. Thanks for commenting.

    Pathfinder RPG’s Golarion incorporates a lot of the kind of depth of setting that made Greyhawk good back in the ’80s and ’90s — and feels a bit more dramatic to me than Greyhawk did. In general, I like it more so far. I picked up the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting book from Paizo, which is basically the core setting publication for the world of Golarion, and even just skimming through it when I first got it started inspiring me with ideas for gaming — both ideas for PCs and for running a game.

    I’ve never been a fan of the Forgotten Realms setting. It always struck me as kind of bland, with too much of a mainstream lack of flavor, and too much focus on Mary Sue style über-NPCs. The token attempts to incorporate varying ethnic regions and the like always seemed to fall flat, too, as far as I’m concerned.

    At present I’m involved in a grand total of one game set in Golarion, as a player, though I have some plans to start running one of my own as well. I’m involved in two other Pathfinder RPG campaigns too, each of which is set in its own custom world. A D&D game I had been running since before Pathfinder RPG was even an idea was consigned to indefinite hiatus, in large part because of scheduling problems, recently; if I kick that back into motion at some point, I think I’d like to do so as a Pathfinder RPG campaign as well.

    Even if it was basically just a rewrite and reprint of D&D 3.5 without the changes that have been introduced for PRPG, I’d still prefer it over 4E because of the licensing issues and the higher production quality at Paizo than at WotC, and because the way 4E was constructed and written just doesn’t really work for me. As it is, though, I find PRPG is also quite a bit better than 3.5 — even while it still maintains substantial compatibility with D&D 3.5.

    Comment by apotheon — 1 March 2009 @ 11:19

  28. I didn’t want to upgrade to 4E, feeling that it was too much as some people put it “world of warcraft the RPG” but I do feel the urge to upgrade to Path Finders… funny huh?

    Comment by Alex Warlorn — 11 March 2009 @ 09:05

  29. If that’s funny, my own reaction to the PRPG/4E split must have been hilarious.

    Comment by apotheon — 11 March 2009 @ 07:05

  30. What I really like about Pathfinder is how the Sorceror and Wizard are now two very distinct classes. In 3.5 they only had a few differences, which got kind of annoying. I also like the idea of rage points for Barbarians.

    The artwork was good, too. I like how the Figher wears scarred armour and carries a notched blade. It’s muck more realistic than the 3.5 Regdar is shining armour. The Pathfinder Fighter actually looks like a soldier.

    Comment by Mutti — 13 March 2009 @ 07:56

  31. Yeah, they definitely differentiated the Sorcerer and Wizard classes a bit in PRPG. Unfortunately, I still feel like Sorcerers outclass Wizards enough to make the latter fairly unpalatable as a class choice, unless you’re the type that just likes fiddling with spell lists and find Sorcerers unfulfilling as a result.

    Thanks for commenting, Mutti, and welcome to SOB.

    Comment by apotheon — 15 March 2009 @ 09:58

  32. It’s been 9 months since I last stumbled in here. I have since resumed my game using the Pathfinder Beta and it’s going strong. Great ideas coming out of Paizo… they’re rightful stewards of Gygax & Arneson’s Legacy.

    Comment by Axcalibar — 17 April 2009 @ 08:16

  33. I’m glad to hear things are going well for you with PRPG. I’m chomping at the bit for the August release of the official, complete Pathfinder RPG.

    Comment by apotheon — 17 April 2009 @ 11:59

  34. I think some very interesting games will come out of Paizo Publishing. They seem to want to make things realistic and streamlined. The Playtesting going on now actualy has some Role playing in it. I’ll miss 3.5 but I’m having real problems with the mechanics of 4E I was not happy to see Dragon Magazine go by the wayside.

    Dave Arneson’s massive multi-state and convention campain is being forced to convert to 4E as they could not run in 3.5 and 4E at the same time. This is baloney on the part of Hasbro. [Hey kids you know we own Blackmoore and your gonna have to convert so much for your story arc.]

    This alone makes me shudder at the potential for a 4.5 system [oh, I know they say they won’t do this. They straitfacedly reply they will go right to 5E. I don’t think I can afford this over and over again folks. I’m more of a person to put a Hundred down on three books and have them last more than 5 years! I noticed a lot of Rifts comments out there and the good thing I have to say about that is it took them 20 years to upgrade, and most items can still be used out of your orginal books. Yes the system is clunky but you have to put effort into it and have to have a good Gamemaster.

    I might try 4E Blackmoor because it might have a STORY…something I found Greyhawk and now the 4E Forgotten Realms campains to lack. I found something else that is funny. It’s getting hard to get a player started in Forgotten Realms now. Most people who have been playing from the start have a few levels so new guy is out of tier! Ha! foolish Hasbro your most loyal fans will turn the rest of your buisness away thus securing your demise! Hail Pathfinder!

    Comment by Yoren — 21 April 2009 @ 07:01

  35. QYoren: What, you actually like metaplot?

    Comment by bur — 16 July 2009 @ 12:01

  36. When I want something like metaplot, I use something like an Adventure Path. For the basic campaign world, though, I just like having the world without a plot being an unavoidable part of the world.

    Comment by apotheon — 16 July 2009 @ 01:01

  37. I think this a pretty good overview of the situation. I am willing to try 4e as a player, to see how it works, as I would with any other system, like GURPS, etc. But I am as a GM sticking leaning toward evolution of DnD 3.5. I am also interested in Castles & Crusades, as I always loved 1e and 2e type of rules for the added variety, and CnC seems to be a really well devised clean-up. The thing with Pathfinder and CnC, is that I can easily convert material I have bought over the years, and spin a really good story, as well as provide maps and props. I use a lot of original DnD and Mystara material, as it includes many real-world mythologies and cultures into the fantasy realm.

    Comment by Joaquin Menchaca — 21 July 2009 @ 10:32

  38. I agree with apotheon, the Pathfinder system is great for those who don’t like 4E.

    Me and my players really tried to like 4E, we just found it really bland and lacking imagination, especially in the spell and magic item department. And we found minions to be completely ridiculous. There were some good things about it, but it didn’t outweigh the bad (and they were too major to houserule). Anyway, we tried.

    We wanted something fresh so we looked at Pathfinder. And so far we LOVE what they’re doing to improve 3.5 and it will definitely be the system for us. Also, we love what they are doing with the Pathfinder Organized Society and I think anyone who used to play LG (Living Greyhawk) will like it. Although I don’t like most game settings (I like the old Forgotten Realms only), I really like the Pathfinder world of Golarion as well. They had 10+ of the best world designers design Golarion, so it’s no surprise that it’s so interesting.

    So in short, the excellence of the Pathfinder products has made me a fan boy. :)

    And btw, this article was a really good summary of what happenned. I just kind of stumbled on it.

    Comment by Jason S — 30 July 2009 @ 05:05

  39. I appreciate the comments, Joaquin and Jason.

    I have a very, very long history of disliking published campaign worlds. Most of them — especially those with a generic D&D feel (Greyhawk, Mystara, Forgotten Realms, et cetera) — just bored the heck out of me, and I tend to chafe at the sameness and the lack of concern for verisimilitude in them. The stuff I have liked has tended to be substantially off the beaten track, like Dark Sun and Planescape. I rather like a little-known campaign world published by Fantasy Flight Games, called Midnight, and I like Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms pretty well. Mostly, I’ve created my own campaign worlds and run those — and encouraged other GMs to do the same.

    Golarion is the first “generic D&D” style of campaign world I’ve seen that manages to be middle-of-the-road enough to satisfy the range of mainstream fantasy RPG campaigns that is actually interesting, full of magic and wonder that can really grab my imagination by the throat and force it to pay attention. The way Paizo’s Adventure Paths fit into Golarion help to flesh it out and inject yet more imagination and interest into the campaign world, too.

    It’s really surprising to see how well Golarion is fleshed out. I’m impressed.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 July 2009 @ 08:24

  40. […] The article was uploaded two months ago, but still relevant as the new Pathfinder book is now on sale at GenCon.  You can read more of the article here. […]

    Pingback by Pathfinder RPG « Under the Mountain — 13 August 2009 @ 09:22

  41. As a venerable gamer, I can’t believe how many damned editions these products have gone through. I recommend you all play Pendragon!

    Zephyr — a superhero webcomic in prose

    Comment by Wereviking — 15 August 2009 @ 04:59

  42. I started playing D&D when the original boxed set was released back in the 70s. I love 3e & 3.5. The day 4e hit the shelves my wife and I drove and hour to our fnlgs and bought all three books without even a look. We went to have lunch and read the rules. 1 hour after the purchase, we had returned to the store and swapped the 4e rules for used 3.5 PHB for the gaming club I run at my HS were I teach. All of the kids in the club cut their teeth on 3.5 & have played 4e on their own. Most like 4e ok. I gave up on D&D and went into D20 modern/future and shadowrun for awhile. I got P3 for Christmas and love it. My party loves it. When have 1 copy of the hardcover core rules and everyone has a copy of the download (I only have an e copy of the bestiary). Players who have played 3.5, 3p, 4e, and D20 modern/future love P3. As DM, I love that they changed experience, EC, combat. I find it much easier to run a session that is fun for everyone (including me for a change). Pathfinder, has made running a game FUN again for me. Very playable and teachable. Highest recomendations. P.s. I forsee no problems with higher level characters the balance issue was more with how encounters were created, not the party facing them. P3 seems more DM friendly and looks to have fixed this issue.

    Comment by corax — 31 January 2010 @ 01:28

  43. I too have been playing D&D since the first boxed set came out and I have to say the new 4.0 system of D&D has really left me hungry for a game system that’s not a piece of garbage. I was very excited when I heard about Pathfinder. When 4.0 was about to be released I was excited. I thought they were going to streamline the game and put all the new feats, skills and spells into the core books, so one is not constantly looking through dozens of different books trying to find what you are looking for. Allot of my players were also Magic players and they thought it was endless fun to try and put combinations of feats together to give their characters a set of powers that no else had and as a D.M. I found it annoying to constantly have to back track these powers and feats through all these books. After having bought and read through these 4.0 books I was very angry and immediately wanted my money back! I felt ripped off!! You here that Wizards of coast! YOU RIPPED ME OFF!!! I am of the mind that anybody who plays 4.0 is either someone who has a low IQ, or is a child. They should just call 4.0, Dungeons and Dragons for idiot’s and for children the could market it as Dungeons and Tieflings, or better, you could call it; Dungeons and Feminism! where there are no men and all races can be asexual! That way you don’t have worry about things like how a race like Half orcs were created (since it implies rape) but, it’s alright to chop someone up with a sword! I guess in Dungeons and Feminism you could set it up so all the good races are asexual and all the bad guys are men and that should make it alright to chop them up with your sword! The pages can be streamlined to ‘IT’ at the beginning of the sentence structure as opposed to ‘HE’ one page and ‘SHE’ the next. In my opinion if you play 4.0 over the age of about 18, then you should fall on your sword! If you are going to play a game that simplified and pathetic, then why not just stick to playing the Heroquest board game? If anyone else is foolish enough to spend money on 4.0 then you get what you deserve! All hail the 3.5 system!!

    Comment by Dragonwolf — 6 February 2010 @ 08:26

  44. I have been an avid gamer since the days of 2nd Edition through to 3.0 and then to 3.5. I ran all my own games through each system and I have to admit when I tried to make the transition to 4.0 I was sorely dissapointed, luckily Pathfinder created a new avenue for me and I found myself loving the reworked 3.5 system all over again using the Pathfinder tweaked rules. I found 4.0 to be very much like World Of Warcraft, alot of the roleplaying aspects were almost removed entirely, and alot of the “non-combat” type spells were removed or missing entirely. It made encounters in 4.0 seem to be almost always about killing everything, looting their corpses and moving on to the next bunch – its a very World Of Warcraft mentality that drives the game. WoTC did the same thing they did with their Magic The Gathering card games and so on – they release a whole new product, poorly playtested, and tell everyone the “old system is obsolete” and that it wont be used or allowed at conventions. So what if you spent money akimbo on books and/or cards?, you got no lifespan out of the product ad 4.0 WILL be replaced by 5.0 and those gamers will be forced to buy the new product. My wager would be that it wont be backwards compatible at all and people will be shelling out hundreds to get the whole new collection. Kudos to Pathfdiner for allowing me to use my existing 3.5 library (of which I have almost every book), and barring very simple and quick conversions the books can be used seamlessly which helps the game itself by making it already fit into a large and well supported enviroment. I am aware that ‘certain’ iconic D&D monsters such as the Mindflayer, Beholder and so on are NOT Open Game License material…but so what?, Pathfinder created their own counterparts to these and so much more, plus I frankly think its refreshing they create and use new monsters (it keeps the players on their toes) I also happen to run “Call Of Cthulhu” and I LOVE how they have tried to incorporate aspects of that into the game itself as well (The Shoggoth, etc in the Bestiary), making it a much more riveting setting with that pseudo horror aspect to it.

    In short, I’ll be sticking with Pathfinder, which offers long term playability, is better supported, properly playtested and I’ll get my moneys worth and wont be forced to shell out hundreds all over again for new books from another impending poorly-playtested system that’ll be 5.0…watch this space, it’ll happen within 5 years I guaratee and by then Pathfinder will be a near-perfect system, all the glitches playtested and ironed out.

    Pathfinder is a game made for and by the people who play it, D&D 4.0 was made to make money out of the World-Of-Warcraft market to catch these impressionable young minds who got bored with the game and wanted something to play. WoTC has ALWAYS been about making money fast – look at their card games like Magic The Gathering and so forth and you’ll see how that’ll be D&D 4.0 in a few years.

    Comment by Noble Rakasha — 2 March 2010 @ 11:12

  45. […] Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, and Hasbro. I’m speaking of Chad Perrin’s “How Paizo Fixed D&D.;” It reads like a drama, and if you haven’t read it already then please check it out […]

    Pingback by Of Pathfinder and Paizo — 16 April 2012 @ 05:58

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