My Wrapped Up Experience With Pathfinder, And Why I Normally Don’t Run It

Back when Pathfinder was first released I refused to run the game. I was younger, had only just learned all the ins and outs of DND 3.5, only for a new game to be released. In my stubborn nature, I held off running Pathfinder for a very long time. Eventually, 4th edition DND came out and, well, it was a mess. Don’t get me wrong the game was an okay system, it just was not DND. No narrative, no story, and limited out of combat interaction made for a very dry experience.

Eventually, I shifted into 5th Edition and absolutely loved it. The system was simple enough to convert non-gamers into the fold and still had enough complications to make it interesting to the more advanced players. It seemed like a good balance of the system to really encompass all that DND could be on a modern level. Although 2nd will always be my favorite system 5th really served its part.

Then I ran into Rise of The Runelords, a module written for Pathfinder that told an epic quest of slowly building power that came to a head in the final chapter. The entire experience was revolving around the 7 Sins and 7 Virtues kinda thinking which enchanted me, to say the least. The first attempt I was stubborn and ran it in 5th, just converted the rules down and simplified things. This time though… I chose to run it in Pathfinder.

At low levels the game ran as I expected. It was a natural transition into the storyteller function and most rule conversions were simple. It was not until we hit about level 5 that things started heating up. Slowly my game shifted away from the story and more about the numbers. I do suppose part of the fault is on me not stressing narrative enough but these players have never experienced Pathfinder and, to put it simply, they were excited.

The game gave them options, numbers, and rules. It was a plethora of new content and they explored without hesitation. That being said as we continued to advance the characters slowly the game became about the rules and not about the story. Slowly narrative took a back seat to endless combat mixed with math upon math upon math.

I am a firm believer that the best RPG is the one where you rarely roll the dice. To really encompass the experience of a Role Playing Game you must Role Play. Otherwise you might as well be playing a board game. Combat mechanics are easy to find in the world, I have a shelf of war reenactment games to prove it. If you play DND or Pathfinder strictly for the combat then you are honestly not going to enjoy my table.

So there I am, with a bunch of players trying to get meta answers to both rule and lore questions out of a DM whose primary focus is narrative not mechanics. When I write RPG systems or modules mechanics are the last things on my mind. The main priority is the ability to tell the story. If I can not tell a good story in your game, and trust me I will try my damndest, then honestly the main issue is your rules probably got into my way.

There is a time and a place for complicated rule systems though. I don’t just exile them from my game. I appreciate the complexity of Shadowrun and at the same time enjoy the depth of mechanical understanding that lies behind Pathfinder. There is a lot of good things there that honestly make the game worth playing. The issue I tend to have is when players cant see outside of the rules themselves.

I have put a lot of thought into this topic, mainly whether the blame is on the DM or the players. The only conclusion I can come to is that it is honestly on both parties. There is blame on both sides. The question I then run into is rather or not I should write off a system just because of these bumps.

The answer is no, I won’t write it off entirely. At the same time though I still have run into less issues introducing DND 5e to players than trying to teach Pathfinder. I find beauty in simplicity and Pathfinder, in all its good and bad, is not a simple game. It is not a new player friendly and a lot of my local community of players are rather elitist outside of my closed groups.

So normally I dont run PAthfinder. I find that honestly, it can in the wrong hands corrupt payers. Gamers who enjoy DND feel the lack of options but instead of seeing it as an opportunity of imagination they see a lack of content. The sky is a limit in a RPG. Your imagination is the only limiting factor. I honestly believe that if players say that DND is boring because of less options they just are not thinking big enough.

I am sure we will come back to this topic again but if anyone has had dramatically different experiences with either Pathfinder or DND feel free to let me know. I would love an in-depth discussion about your thoughts on the matter.

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