Pathfinder 1E What are the advantages to Pathfinder -- for DMs?

Mallus

Legend
I'm going to be running a new-ish (we played one session before the holidays) Pathfinder campaign after 1.5 years of running AD&D. Let's just say as I've been prepping I've been experiencing a bit of system shock...

I've never run Pathfinder before. In fact, I've only played one Pathfinder PC, for a few levels at the tail-end of a long-running campaign. But I am familiar with running 3.0/3.5, but it's been awhile since I've done it -- I've only run 4e, and then AD&D, since 2009.

I liked playing PF... but it left me with a strong impression that the system is really better for the players (like 3e before it). There's a ton of bell and whistles and widgets and gizmos for the player to build their character with... which can be a bit much for the person on the other side of the screen.

Help me wrap my mind around the benefits of Pathfinder for a DM. I'm not asking to be talked into using PF (because I'm going to), or talked out of using it (because I'm going to -- it's the group's consensus and I'm fine with that).

I'd just like some help seeing what I'm missing.
 

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delericho

Legend
As far as I can see, there are two:

- It's basically 3.75e. What that means is that most of your experience running 3.5e is immediately transferable. Of course, if you didn't like running 3.5e, you're unlikely to enjoy running PF!

- The designers put quite a lot of work into dealing with the 'problem areas' of 3.5e, notably the higher-level spells and magic items. As such, there are a lot of fairly subtle fixes that go a long way to smoothing out the issues with the game.

However, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to note that I myself decided to stick with 3.5e rather than moving to PF - on my read-through I felt that while it was an incremental improvement over 3.5e, it wasn't "better enough" to persuade me to switch. The biggest issue (for me) was that it added a fair chunk of additional complexity on top of an already over-complicated game.

So, what I'm basically saying, is: take what I've said above with a suitable measure of salt.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
the two approaches taken for 4E and PF to support the DM are interesting.

At its core, 4E is a lot easier to DM then past D&D editions. The "wider sweet spot" delays high level issues (though they are still there), and the approach to monster math and encounter building can dramatically reduce prep time. One side affect of this approach is that 4E can be a little more cookey cutter and less flexible for a particular campaign or particular circumstances: its not really a tool-kit approach like 3E or PF. And the adventure support was so-so, at best.

PF has great, great adventure support. With those, experienced DMs should be fine, though if some 3E legacy issues bug you too much, well, that could be a problem. And its more toolkit in style: want to do some very elaborate custom NPCs or pull your campaign in some totally non standard direction, you can certainly do that. It will take a lot of work, but you can.
 

What level are you starting at?

You have run 3.x, so as long as you were fine with that, you should be fine with Pathfinder. At 1st-level, wizards are stronger, which is cool, due to specialists getting X 1st-level-equivalent spells (as spell-like abilities) per day, finally fixing that "wizards using crossbows" problem.

The standard point buy seems to be different. I'll illustrate an experience you may wish to watch out for. It's not necessarily a Pathfinder-specific thing, but could happen more easily in PF. At 8th-level, one of our players retired his rogue character and showed up with an elf necromancer. In an act of "no social skills" (very surprising for the player, who is an amazing DM, although not of D&D) he brought in a character without any sort of preview on our mailing list or wiki. It was a core-only elf necromancer. In 3.0, the standard point buy was 25 and a typical PC was expected to start with a high stat of only 15. There were no races at the start with any mental stat boosts. (I seriously doubt any group ever played a wizard with starting Int 15, they'd nerf Strength and Charisma and even Wisdom to start with a high stat. Playtesting is supposed to catch stuff like that!) Our DM has us playing the equivalent of 32 point buy (I forget what this is called in Pathfinder). The player's character started with Int 18, +2 for being an elf, and then of course +2 for levels and a +4 item, giving him an Int of 26 and having save DCs of 18 + spell level, plus had Dex and Con scores high enough to not suck. Said PC started curbstomping any and all encounters viewed. Said player is always paranoid of their PC getting hurt and so took all the best defensive spells (always either invisible or mirror image'd, the latter getting a buff it didn't need in PF)... and if they'd been more familiar with 3.x/PF rules and had taken Spell Focus once or twice, would have been even more overpowered.

I would say take 15 point buy (that's the equivalent of 25 point buy), but the high point buy made PC concepts like my druid wildshaped-focused PC vastly more viable than would normally be the case... certain types of cheese are just easier or at least less costly in PF than in 3.x.

I have never run Pathfinder, but I used to run 3.x and have been in two Pathfinder campaigns. (Currently I'm in Kingmaker.) Do yourself a favor and don't allow a lot non-core books, classes or archetypes into the game. Our DM lets us play anything, and there's been quite a lot of cheese, not counting the necromancer all-core example above. We have a barbarian/alchemist, the latter synergizing scarily with the former (especially with the ragechemist archetype), since they're all similar but differently-typed bonuses, plus the barbarian is the armored hulk archetype, taking away the barbarian's only real weakness compared to the fighter. He's dishing out more than a hundred damage as round, and has an incredibly high attack bonus due to the three or so different kinds of Strength bonus he can aamss. This was in stark contrast to the bard/cavalier, who wasn't even as good in combat as his horse. (The player switched to a magus, but using the same character, so he had to give up the horse. My druid then awakened it, terrifying said PC.)

Or perhaps talk to your players about what's crazy and what's not. Learn those first. Between all the new classes and the large number of archetypes, it's not possible to be familiar with all this stuff at start.

Last piece of advice, there's this nice product called the NPC Codex. I prefer 4e to Pathfinder, but Paizo has a much better understanding of their market than WotC, putting out adventure paths and the NPC Codex, which sell like hotcakes. Even though I don't run PF, I bought the NPC Codex anyway, and mine it for 4e NPC ideas. I'm jealous. Since WotC has stopped printing 4e, there's never going to be a 4e version of the product. (Well, not an official one anyway.) NPC generation takes a very long time in 3.x/Pathfinder, and sometimes you'll need an unexpected NPC right now.
 
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Mallus

Legend
And its more toolkit in style: want to do some very elaborate custom NPCs or pull your campaign in some totally non standard direction, you can certainly do that. It will take a lot of work, but you can.
That's what I remember from 3.5e: you could create some really interesting NPCs/opponents, if you spent time on it (I'm still proud of the ghost-ninjas I rained down on the PCs one evening). But I have to remind myself there's no need to do that for every encounter.

What level are you starting at?
2nd.

Last piece of advice, there's this nice product called the NPC Codex.
Thanks -- I'll check it out!
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
One interesting little PF-ism is the quick creation templates, which allow you to build certain monsters or characters on the fly without taking the time to stat them normally.
 



S'mon

Legend
I find 3.5e and Pathfinder work well for open-world exploration type games, much like AD&D but with more stuff. They are ideal for frequent encounters with solo or small group enemies, perhaps in a megadungeon - eg Lost City of Barakus worked great in 3.5 - or wilderness insterspersed with small dungeons. Random encounters work much better than in 4e I think, as long as you have the stats to hand - eg if you want random NPCs you better have something like the Gamemastery Guide, NPC Codex, or at least the Beginner Box NPC stats. PC Class balance in PF is slightly better than in 3.5, but generally barely enough to notice - PF Paladins got a good Will save and are now a pretty decent class, but most noncasters still suck pretty badly unless you routinely have many low-EL fights each day. In general the game works better the more its playstyle resembles AD&D or B/X D&D; it handles frequent 'trash mobs' very well.
 

Siberys

Adventurer
Depending on your plans for the campaign, I'd also recommend running it as an E6 game (IOW, pick a level, and stop advancement there). If I were to run another PF game, I'd do that - it neatly sidesteps a large amount of the character-side issues I (personally) have with 3.x systems while focusing on that sweet spot.

'Course, if you were planning on it being a higher-level game or following an AP, that may not be tenable.
 

S'mon

Legend
Depending on your plans for the campaign, I'd also recommend running it as an E6 game (IOW, pick a level, and stop advancement there). If I were to run another PF game, I'd do that - it neatly sidesteps a large amount of the character-side issues I (personally) have with 3.x systems while focusing on that sweet spot.

'Course, if you were planning on it being a higher-level game or following an AP, that may not be tenable.

If you want it to 'feel like D&D' rather than E6's aim of feeling like literary fantasy, E10 or a 1-10 level game (& no NPCs over 10th) works well, I've done the latter for my last several 3.5 & PF campaigns. E10 lets you have the classic D&Disms like Raise Dead, Teleport, and gear up to +3, without drowning in magic.
 

Mallus

Legend
It's PF; everything is online.

List of templates.
Thanks. I'm still kinda amazed Paizo makes all their content available like that.

I find 3.5e and Pathfinder work well for open-world exploration type games, much like AD&D but with more stuff. They are ideal for frequent encounters with solo or small group enemies, perhaps in a megadungeon - eg Lost City of Barakus worked great in 3.5 - or wilderness insterspersed with small dungeons.
I'm shooting for open-world, exploring both wilderness and decaying urban fantasy mega-city environments.

Depending on your plans for the campaign, I'd also recommend running it as an E6 game (IOW, pick a level, and stop advancement there).

'Course, if you were planning on it being a higher-level game or following an AP, that may not be tenable.
I think the only way we'll play E6 is if the campaign tanks. The player's I've got like higher-powered stuff. Unfortunately for me, the group's previous DM --who used to post a lot around here as shilsen-- was very good at that sort of thing. He set a high bar.

We actually started using an AP, part 1 of Skull and Shackles. It wasn't a good fit, and, at for now, I'm going to be writing the adventures myself. Can anyone recommend some good non-AP, non-Paizo modules? I hate to say it, but I just don't like the way Paizo adventures are written/organized. They seem about 10 times more wordy as necessary.
 

Mallus

Legend
If you want it to 'feel like D&D' rather than E6's aim of feeling like literary fantasy, E10 or a 1-10 level game (& no NPCs over 10th) works well, I've done the latter for my last several 3.5 & PF campaigns. E10 lets you have the classic D&Disms like Raise Dead, Teleport, and gear up to +3, without drowning in magic.
I don't know if this campaign will make it to 10th level, but I'm pretty sure my players want both the 'classic D&D-isms' and a good soaking in magical gear.
 

Dragonblade

Adventurer
The only advantage to a DM is familiarity if you are already comfortable with the system. There is a lot of adventure support, but I have found the adventure quality of even Paizo's lauded AP's to be terribly uneven. Still, its nice to have a campaign laid out for you if your group doesn't mind the railroad tracks.

I personally have found DMing Pathfinder to be a burden. Even running the AP's requires a lot of prep since monster stat blocks are little more than lists of feats, spell and abilities, which often require you to look them up in other books. Over time, with enough experience and familiarity you'll have memorized many of these things which can ease the burden. I also recommend access to d20pfsrd.com. It is indispensible and can ease the burden of looking these things up. But expect a lot of book flipping and notetaking either in play or prior to play.

Depending one the makeup of your party, encounters can be swingy and the resource attrition model doesn't work well. If the party only has one encounter in a day, they can nova all their best abilities and often easily overcome what would have been a tough fight. On the other hand, if they have slogged through a number battles already, they could be weak enough that a few bad die rolls leads to an unexpected TPK from what should have been an easy fight. Be prepared to fudge liberally behind the screen to adjust encounter difficulty on the fly.

The experience for players in a Pathfinder game can be quite rewarding. It offers an amazing degree of player customization and flexibility. But that comes at a price. DMing Pathfinder requires more effort on the DM's part to manage all this and make sure everything works smoothly in play. Don't be afraid to take a break from DMing if you feel yourself getting burned out.

Just remember to have fun!
 

Cybit

First Post
Thanks. I'm still kinda amazed Paizo makes all their content available like that.


I'm shooting for open-world, exploring both wilderness and decaying urban fantasy mega-city environments.


I think the only way we'll play E6 is if the campaign tanks. The player's I've got like higher-powered stuff. Unfortunately for me, the group's previous DM --who used to post a lot around here as shilsen-- was very good at that sort of thing. He set a high bar.

We actually started using an AP, part 1 of Skull and Shackles. It wasn't a good fit, and, at for now, I'm going to be writing the adventures myself. Can anyone recommend some good non-AP, non-Paizo modules? I hate to say it, but I just don't like the way Paizo adventures are written/organized. They seem about 10 times more wordy as necessary.

I'd like to point out that the linked site is not Paizo ran (d20pfsrd.com). :D

AFAIK, they are required to put stuff online because of the SRD / OGL.

Regarding the DM'ing bit; it's a teensy bit easier than 3.5, but it is a ton of preparation. Like all 3E based games, it is definitely a system for the players rather than the DM (Paizo has better tools for their DMs, but it's the equivalent of being given a shovel to dig your way to the center of the earth rather than by hand. It still takes forever). The NPC Codex helps, d20pfsrd.com helps, and frankly, the biggest benefit of Pathfinder are the adventures they write. (If you do Rise of the Runelords, the NPC names are unintentionally hilarious, for the record)

But, if you do have the prep time, the games will usually be remembered forever. :D
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
I'd like to point out that the linked site is not Paizo ran (d20pfsrd.com).
They do, however, run their own PRD site which has a large portion of the content. The pfsrd site is more complete, including esoteric rules published outside the core book and even a variety of 3rd party products. It is also very nicely constructed and easy to use. I use it even though I don't really run PF per se.

AFAIK, they are required to put stuff online because of the SRD / OGL.
And, to their credit, I don't think Paizo had to put all their supplements online, just the stuff that references the original OGL material. They chose to.
 

innerdude

Legend
Regarding fast and dirty balancing encounters on the fly--

One of the things I quickly discovered was that the lack of AC scaling becomes a HUGE deal if you don't like running lots and lots of non-humanoid encounters. I generally prefer people fighting people, with the occasional "monster" thrown in. Once characters hit about level 6, most regular humanoids just don't have the AC to keep up with the Full BAB characters, and even some of the combat-oriented 3/4 BAB characters (cleric, inquisitor).

Basically, after a while, I just stopped justifying why I increased enemy AC ("Oh yeah, his AC is 21, because he's got a +1 Ring of natural Armor, and +3 Studded Leather!"), because otherwise the entire party ends up with massive amounts of magic items granting AC bonuses . . . or you just have to fudge the fact that yes, really, that CR 5 rogue really does have a +6 DEX modifier.

I was exceptionally gratified when I later discovered that Fantasy Craft basically sets up its enemy stat blocks exactly the way I had been GM-ing Pathfinder (set the challenge level as appropriate, and pick the numbers you want, DONE!).
 

Dragonblade

Adventurer
Regarding fast and dirty balancing encounters on the fly--

One of the things I quickly discovered was that the lack of AC scaling becomes a HUGE deal if you don't like running lots and lots of non-humanoid encounters. I generally prefer people fighting people, with the occasional "monster" thrown in. Once characters hit about level 6, most regular humanoids just don't have the AC to keep up with the Full BAB characters, and even some of the combat-oriented 3/4 BAB characters (cleric, inquisitor).

Basically, after a while, I just stopped justifying why I increased enemy AC ("Oh yeah, his AC is 21, because he's got a +1 Ring of natural Armor, and +3 Studded Leather!"), because otherwise the entire party ends up with massive amounts of magic items granting AC bonuses . . . or you just have to fudge the fact that yes, really, that CR 5 rogue really does have a +6 DEX modifier.

I was exceptionally gratified when I later discovered that Fantasy Craft basically sets up its enemy stat blocks exactly the way I had been GM-ing Pathfinder (set the challenge level as appropriate, and pick the numbers you want, DONE!).

Agreed. FantasyCraft and 4e are both excellent models for how to make DM friendly monster stat blocks.
 

Help me wrap my mind around the benefits of Pathfinder for a DM. I'm not asking to be talked into using PF (because I'm going to), or talked out of using it (because I'm going to -- it's the group's consensus and I'm fine with that).

I'd just like some help seeing what I'm missing.
The benefits of Pathfinder are:

1) A flexible game. You can choose to have lots of magic items, or almost none. You can be high level or low. You can level up fast or slow. You can have lots of monstrous opponents or humanoid NPCs.
For my current campaign I started the party with NPC classes and stat arrays and made them play as everyday folk. But I could have just as easily given them 20-point statbuy and let them create level 5 characters. And with the Mythic rules coming, soon there'll been an even greater potential power range.

2) Everything's online/ digital. There's d20pfsrd.com and the official site.
Plus Paizo sells cheap PDFs with simple variants optimized for e-readers like an iPad or Kindle Fire.

3) Lots of adventures. Even if you don't plan on running them, you can mine them for ideas and opponents.

4) Lots of fans. 3.5e/PF is arguably the most popular edition of the game in since 1e. So there are lost of people willing to offer advice, and help. Paizo has a pretty ardent fan-base and active community, so there's lots of people willing to offer advice on their site or here at ENWorld. And Paizo staff-members frequent their message boards.
 

BobROE

Explorer
Regarding fast and dirty balancing encounters on the fly--

One of the things I quickly discovered was that the lack of AC scaling becomes a HUGE deal if you don't like running lots and lots of non-humanoid encounters. I generally prefer people fighting people, with the occasional "monster" thrown in. Once characters hit about level 6, most regular humanoids just don't have the AC to keep up with the Full BAB characters, and even some of the combat-oriented 3/4 BAB characters (cleric, inquisitor).

Basically, after a while, I just stopped justifying why I increased enemy AC ("Oh yeah, his AC is 21, because he's got a +1 Ring of natural Armor, and +3 Studded Leather!"), because otherwise the entire party ends up with massive amounts of magic items granting AC bonuses . . . or you just have to fudge the fact that yes, really, that CR 5 rogue really does have a +6 DEX modifier.

I was exceptionally gratified when I later discovered that Fantasy Craft basically sets up its enemy stat blocks exactly the way I had been GM-ing Pathfinder (set the challenge level as appropriate, and pick the numbers you want, DONE!).

Which is also how PF does monster creation, pick a CR and there's a chart of where the various values should roughly be. This doesn't really work well with humanoid opponents because classed characters stats have to be "justified".
 

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