Which is the better fantasy rpg and why: D&D 5e or Pathfinder 2e?

Zardnaar

Legend
You are surprised that 11 people agree with you when there has been a ton of angst about the amount of content WotC has produced for 5e for about 3+ years on this forum? I'm surprised it is so few actually.
11 upvotes is almost daily for me lol.
I guess I'm out of step, but I though the presentation of Essentials was the best I've seen for an RPG. I didn't have any thought of playing 4E until I came across the Essentials books at my FLGS. Flipping through them, I could look at a stat block and understand what the PC or Monster could do without even knowing the system. Instead of walls of text, I was looking at game information displayed in a clear and intuitive fashion. I finally had, in my hands, an RPG that I knew would be easy to run at the table.

And I love the digest format. The only reason we still present RPG books in 8 1/2" x 11" hardcover format with walls of text in 7.5 pt fonts is legacy. If tabletop RPGs were invented today, there's zero chance they're be delivered in that format. 5E was a huge step back in book design, defying all modern layout and design principles out of, presumably, a goal of feeling familiar rather than being effective at conveying complex information.

Digest format books are light, easy to flip through and reference, easy to pass around and share. And presented with the reasonable font size and spacing between lines in Essentials, easier to read than the walls of tiny text in most RPG books.

Then there's the excellent Rules Compendium, with all the mechanics for the game summarized in a portable handbook you can fit in one hand - such an obvious innovation it's baffling nobody thought of it before.

I'm in the writing business, and I've GMed for over 35 years. The D&D Essentials books were the first RPG books I've seen that were clearly produced by instructional design and layout professionals, and not hobbyists who took a Adobe Publisher course.
Presentation matters. 4E rulebooks came across to much as an instruction manual.

It's like a spell compendium from a previous edition. Useful but not fun to read.
 
Then there's the excellent Rules Compendium, with all the mechanics for the game summarized in a portable handbook you can fit in one hand - such an obvious innovation it's baffling nobody thought of it before.
They may not have been digest format, but any number of games have thoughtfully put all their basic rules in one little book. BPR, back in the early 80s, for starters.
 

Haffrung

Explorer
11 upvotes is almost daily for me lol.

Presentation matters. 4E rulebooks came across to much as an instruction manual.

It's like a spell compendium from a previous edition. Useful but not fun to read.
RPG publishers are trying to server two masters:

1) Readers (often not participating in games) who peruse the books at their leisure for entertainment.

2) Players who need the books as rules references and play aids for tremendously complicated games (by tabletop game standards even 5E is a 10/10 in complexity).

There are real tradeoffs here. The design decisions that make RPGs books attractive to read as entertainment - walls of text, wordy and bloated language, reluctance to use bulletted lists and numbered instructions, old fashioned and outdated layout choices (because nostalgia), did I mention walls of text? - make them harder, often much harder to use as rules references. I've been playing 5E since the Next playtest, I've run several Wizards, and I still have to pore over paragraphs of text in the PHB to find how many spells a level 1 Wizard starts with.

Adventures are the same. The extremely conservative approach to presenting them used by most publishers (some indie publishers have made tremendous strides in adventure presentation) means I no longer buy hardcopies if I can help it. I buy PDFs, so I can cut and paste and hack and summarize in order to turn the adventure into a reference I can use at the table.

The fact publishers who have a lot of market information continue to design and publish books much better suited to readers than players suggest that most of the people who buy RPG books don't use them at the table. IMHO, catering to those buyers contributes to making RPGs difficult to learn, difficult to GM, and often frustrating and awkward to play at the table. It basically relies on one or two alpha gamers in a group memorizing dozens of pages of rules in order for the game to run smoothly at the table.
 
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ad_hoc

Hero
1) Readers (often not participating in games) who peruse the books at their leisure for entertainment.
I like reading what people call 'fluff' and think it is integral to the game, just as much as numbers.

The thing is, it's not a boardgame. It's not just about strategy. All that 'entertainment' stuff is important to understand what the rules actually mean. I think people would have a lot fewer rules arguments if they actually read the whole book, even the parts without numbers.
 

Haffrung

Explorer
I like reading what people call 'fluff' and think it is integral to the game, just as much as numbers.
Presenting clear instruction doesn't mean omitting fluff. It just means the rules content and the fluff aren't blended together in huge walls of text.

The thing is, it's not a boardgame. It's not just about strategy. All that 'entertainment' stuff is important to understand what the rules actually mean. I think people would have a lot fewer rules arguments if they actually read the whole book, even the parts without numbers.
Very, very few people are ever going to read a rulebook longer than about 12 pages. I know RPGs tend to attract hardcore gamers. But in practice, relying on players reading 100+ page books with rules buried in walls of text just means one or two hardcores at a table are going to just hold everyone else's hands and explain everything. Or create play aids for the non-hardcores. IMHO, GMs shouldn't have to create their own play aids when they've paid $60 for a rules book ostensibly written and published by professionals.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
Presenting clear instruction doesn't mean omitting fluff. It just means the rules content and the fluff aren't blended together in huge walls of text.
Here's the thing. I don't think there is 'fluff'.

It's all rules.

Very, very few people are ever going to read a rulebook longer than about 12 pages. I know RPGs tend to attract hardcore gamers. But in practice, relying on players reading 100+ page books with rules buried in walls of text just means one or two hardcores at a table are going to just hold everyone else's hands and explain everything. Or create play aids for the non-hardcores. IMHO, GMs shouldn't have to create their own play aids when they've paid $60 for a rules book ostensibly written and published by professionals.
I won't read boardgame rules. I just end up confused, I want to learn by playing. RPG rules however, when not just a bunch of numbers, are something I will read.

I agree with you on one point, play aids would be a good product. Design them like DM Screens but for the rest of the table. And if they're going to sell character sheets then make ones that are class specific.
 

PMárk

Explorer
Neither.

5E is, at the end of the day, too simple - not enough crunch. New content is mostly just new subclasses that rehash the same abilities just in different configurations. Truly new mechanisms are minimal at best - the Arcane Archer is a good example. There still is no real Beastmaster Ranger, no Warlord that can give its full unrestricted action to others, and no Psionics. (Not as reskinned spells, not at all). You're getting milked, people.

PF2 on the other hand, is too restricted. Yes, it's crunchy. But most of it is empty crunch, since the devs have spent considerable energies on locking down the system. The joy of building a character (an out of game pastime) is almost absent. Juggling your actions at the table can still be fun, but a proper successor to 3.x/PF it is not. Then there are completely bewildering design choices - such as reusing some of the worst aspects of 4th Edition, a game Paizo's fortunes rest on by virtue of their customer base hating it. (I'll just say Talismans and leave it at that).

The unfortunate truth is that the game everybody wants, that is, a friendly accessible 5E with actually fun and powerful magic and items, yet one with deeper crunch, simply isn't on offer.

A game where advantage is replaced/supplemented by more granular bonuses, yet not the feats nightmare of PF2 (where most feats just shuffle around your existing values not actually giving you something nobody else could do).

A game like PF2 with a clear and defined magic economy (unlike 5E where gold is worthless), yet one with actually good and fantastical items that you want to loot or buy.

Monsters-wise PF2 win, hands down. So here I'll just say "a 5E game with PF2 monsters".

A game with actual balance designed by a strong team of good designers. Like WotCs or Paizo's. That is, obscure 3PP efforts doesn't count since these rarely if ever reach the balancing standards that D&D and Pathfinder strive for.

Emphasis added. This. Currently, we're playing 3.5, becouse of that. 5e is too simple and lacks several things I deem important, like real crafting rules, or more costumization on mid-higher levels (and specific concepts getting more through tratment than just a subclass), or more interesting monsters, just to say a few. Not to mention setting material. PF2, on the other hand, has too many 4e-ism in its class (and multiclass) design for me to really like it. Both have many good things I like too, like how PF2 handles magic items, or the 3 action system, or how 5e did several classes.

Ultimately though, neither provides the experience I really want, so, at the time, I'm still using 3.5, which is the closest to that, with liberally porting things from PF1, or even concepts from 5e. We know the system have the books and it's still the closest to what we want.

However, 5e won't last forever and I'm curious about how 5.5, or 6e will look like.
 

teitan

Adventurer
I'm not so sure. If 3e had been between the covers of D&D in 2014 instead of 5e, I think it'd've had much the same results. If the pace of publication had been the same for the last 5 years, as well.
you know you may be right but I’m going to say it is about an 80% chance you are. Fifth edition partly succeeds from the lack of miniatures and the return to theater of the mind, making it easily streamable. 3e itself, not 3.5, still largely had the same assumption so from there I agree.
 
Here's the thing. I don't think there is 'fluff'.
It's all rules.
Oh, the fluff/rules distinction is real enough. How readily they shake out depends on the presentation. You can be fairly clear about what's fluff & what's mechanics, you can prettymuch leave out the fluff, or you can kinda munge them together. The last is a better read (but if you approach it as 'all rules,' they may be really bad rules), the second a starkly efficient reference, and the first a compromise between the two.

Of course, you can go all-fluff - that's a sourcebook... or a novel. ;)

you know you may be right but I’m going to say it is about an 80% chance you are. Fifth edition partly succeeds from the lack of miniatures and the return to theater of the mind, making it easily streamable. 3e itself, not 3.5, still largely had the same assumption so from there I agree.
OT1H, I question that 5e at all facilitates TotM - I've played enough games that actually do have such rules to have an idea what that entails, and exact ranges, speeds, and areas in geometric shapes, definitely aren't part of it. OTOH, I have to wonder if actually going through with the bluff and eschewing a play surface does make the game any easier to capture or more interesting to watch when streaming (not being a fan of such thing, I've no idea, whether/how/why that might follow).

(And the differences between 3.0 & 3.5 with regard to use of a play surface were trivial, inexplicable grognard cries of "grid-dependence" at all WotC eds prior to 5e, notwithstanding.)
 
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So ... again, attempting to restate to prevent misunderstandings ... what both of you are saying is that not enough has been added to the game since the original core books, or that the things that have been added are not substantive/transformative enough for you to find them satisfying?
A combination of the two. I don't think we've seen enough material and it hasn't been substantive enough, and in particular several UAs with good, well-designed material, which just needed more development, most especially the Mystic one, have simply been cast to the wayside. 5E doesn't need transformation, that's more of an edition change thing, but sheer caution and paucity of the material makes it clear they are erring very hard on the side of caution in some regards. I've repeated this example before, but when the sidekick UA, which was solid but needed tweaking, came in, Jeremy Crawford said if you don't like effective and interesting sidekicks, just don't use them. Great, I thought, right direction, put it in the hands of the DM and so on.

Then the official rules come out and sidekicks have been reduced to three generic NPC classes, which don't let you even have cool, exotic or effective sidekicks, and it's like, what is happening at WotC that Crawford says how he likes a UA, clearly supports it, and clearly gets overruled in favour of extreme caution and generic-ness?

Because it's the dominant force, D&D isn't directly harmed by this but I do feel like this could have been the greatest edition in all ways, and it seems like it will just be the edition with the most solid core books.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I have to wonder why it took so long to hear that. The TSR era of D&D was decidedly behind the times (though 2e was at least less overtly offensive), but the WotC versions have been inclusive from the beginning.
They have been better than the TSR versions, but there was still plenty of gratuitous cleavage and pinup posing in 4E. Just look at the 4E PHB cover.
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
They have been better than the TSR versions, but there was still plenty of gratuitous cleavage and pinup posing in 4E. Just look at the 4E PHB cover.
Well, that was just Wayne Reynolds. Such things are characteristic of his artwork (I still love the style, but the poses are oft-unfortunate).
 

Dausuul

Legend
Well, that was just Wayne Reynolds. Such things are characteristic of his artwork (I still love the style, but the poses are oft-unfortunate).
Wizards picked him to set the artistic style, and signed off on stuff like that PHB cover. It isn't like Reynolds snuck into their offices in the dead of night and swapped the art files.
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
Wizards picked him to set the artistic style, and signed off on stuff like that PHB cover. It isn't like Reynolds snuck into their offices in the dead of night and swapped the art files.
True enough. I don't find 4E art particularly egregious, but to each their own I suppose.
 

Warpiglet

Adventurer
I know it's a matter of opinion, but I think the MM is the best designed out of the three. I love how they took time and effort to flesh out the lore and history of each monster. Because to me, that's more important than any ability in a stat block because it tells you how the monster plays in the game. And how something plays in the game has a bigger impact in my games than X ability or Y power. It reinforces how monsters are more than just stat blocks, and for someone who runs their games in a living world, that's important. YMMV of course.
The way they have done this has led to an explosion of DMing ideas for me.

I have tons of stories sprouting from these very seeds in a way that is new and easier for me.

Similarly, the backgrounds for characters also really got me thinking in new directions. I was primarily a 1st edition AD&D player. We messed with 3e for a few years too.

I am more likely to name monsters now and put personality into them.

I know you could do all of this before but there is something about the lore and layout that has inspired this part of play for me.

Cue the naysayers! "We were doing that before, etc. etc. etc.!"

Cool! You're better than me! However, 5e has helped me to grow as a D&D player in many ways. The DMG too has helped me loosen up and go for it too.
 

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