Pathfinder or D&D 5th Ed?

I’ve been DMing D&D campaigns for 20+ years, starting in 1st Ed, spending a lot of time and money on 2nd Ed, and for the last ten years doing 3.5Ed D&D. (I never made the jump to 4th Ed).

I took a break for a while and I’m looking at getting back to it again in the near future.

While I’ll be playing with mainly my old group, I see the restart as an opportunity to update the system. Bit I’m tossing up whether to go with Pathfinder or D&D 5th Ed.

If it makes a difference I’ll be looking at DMing online via an app/website like Roll20. (I’ve moved to the UK, while my group is sill home in Oz.)

Any experiences to share with either system?

I have a feeling most people here will prefer Pathfinder, since it’s based on 3.5. But I think that, if you’re into doing something new, you should try out 5th edition. I really like how it’s working out.

Took me a long time to get into 4e, and only because I had a large group of people to play with at a game store.

Have tried 5e, just not that into it. They basically smooshed it down so that your BAB starts at 2 and only gets to 6 around 20th level. A lot of my gamer buddies like it because turns go so fast (because you have like ONE thing to do), but I just don’t care for it. One of the selling points was making a Kobold still be something worth fighting at all levels. Fuck that. A Kobold should be nothing more than something to kick aside as you go for a real threat even at mid levels, as far as I am concerned.

Been spending a lot of time with the Pathfinder books, as I absolutely loved 3.5, but haven’t looked for a game yet.

Humble Bundle currently has a deal on the Pathfinder books (pdfs).

Both are fine. The geeks love Pathfinder, though, will never give up on it, or recommend 5E over it.

Check out Youtube vids of both or listen to podcasts of gaming sessions.

I enjoy both. They scratch different itches.

D&D 5e is really streamlined. There are still cool things to do, but there’s fairly little number crunching to do: you figure out your to-hit bonus once, and you’re more or less done for a month or so of play. You focus on description, on choosing which cool power to use, on moving the story along. I’m running it for three kids ages 7-9, and they’re having a blast.

Pathfinder is really complicated. My fourth-level bloodrager has a three-page spreadsheet that I use, because programming it is easier than remembering exactly what changes when I rage (to hit, damage, armor class, CMD, CMB, intimidate check, climb check–and my damage bonus on my armor spikes changes differently from my damage bonus on my lucerne hammer, and my intimidate check only changes because of a feat I have, and my combat maneuver defense is changed by three different stats, one of which I wasn’t aware of, and so on and so on). Add in a casting of enlarge person (changes all those things plus weapon base damage), which will be pretty common, and use of power attack (changes damage bonus in a different way for my armor spikes, my lucerne hammer, and my chakrams), and you can see where a spreadsheet becomes helpful.

On car drives I can turn off my radio to muse on feat progression: do I want to take signature skill at fifth level and save power attack for sixth, when I get a bonus feat with limited utility? Do I want power attack at fifth and combat reflexes at sixth, with a quicker attainment of some of my best tricks but less awesomeness at fifteenth level, or do I delay awesomeness now in exchange for improved awesomeness at 11th level? I’ve got five different full feat progressions I’ve considered for the character.

Bloodragers are one of the simpler classes to play in Pathfinder :).

So, what are you looking for? Something really ridiculously complex that satisfies your urge to make spreadsheets? Or something simpler, with a lot less room to geek out about the numbers and a lot less novel shiny toys, that moves the game along quickly?

Both games are great at what they do, IMO. Depends on what you’re looking for.

Thanks everyone for the input. I think it’s leaning me towards Pathfinder, if I change out of 3.5 at all.

Honestly, the only thing major issue that bothers me about 3.5, and this has been an issue in various D&D versions for a long time, is the 30 minute adventuring day. I find the gap between encounters being not challenging at all and requiring a lot of resources causing the players to want to rest for the day to be pretty slim.

I have checked some youtube, but I struggle to watch a lot of those, there are some game groups out there that must play very different styles of games to me.

There’s a lot you can do to make 3.5E more manageable.

Saves: level /2 round down + class bonus + other bonuses.
Reduce the plethora of types of bonuses.
BAB: don’t go by level but sum each progression

The 30-minute adventuring day is very easily stopped: put a time limit on the quest. And if you don’t, have someone beat them to the objective. Bonus points if the other adventurers manage to humiliate the PCs. Or have the enemy counter-attack. Etc.

Don’t throw a huge encounter at your players to start. Start slow and build.

Don’t let them simply walk away after they nova the first encounter.

Time limits before events happen. (ie, “You’re here to save the princess, if you take too long, the Ogres will have cooked and eaten her, and the King will execute you for dilly-dallying instead of saving her”)

Other Adventuring groups. I always do this, going back 30 years.

I’m building a new Pathfinder setting just for fun, and the first adventure is an explosion in the tavern, followed by a Derro grabbing a Halfling merchant and retreating into the sewers. The players are offered money to rescue him alive. The caveats are that there is a wealthy noble who commonly hires adventurer groups in the room, and members of several of those groups in the tavern. He immediately calls for adventurers. The players can volunteer and go down first, but the noble still asks the other teams to gather, intending to send the second group down 10 minutes later, and everyone including the town guards after one hour.

So the players can move their asses, blow through the rats, grindylow and other creatures down below and get to the halfling first, or if they dally or chase rats for experience, the second team will blow past them and get the prize. And if they decide to rest too long or return to the surface, they lose, because other groups will beat them. If that happens, they’ll be embarrassed and labeled as unreliable, and that rich noble will tell them to sod off and find their own adventures. (And the halfling merchant’s buddies will despise them for not making a serious effort to save their bud.)

Three possible solutions:

  1. Enemy response. In general I play as though the GM is going to make enemies respond intelligently. If I’m raiding a dungeon, I want to inflict maximum casualties before retreating, in order to make it harder for the enemies to mount a defense. That means I’ll push myself sometimes past the point of prudence, when I’m low on spells or HP. If you as a GM show enemies responding–patching up holes in defenses, setting extra guards, setting up ambushes at choke points–the players might respond accordingly.
  2. Deal with it. It’s kind of fun to go crazy with all your resources in a single battle. Plan for one large, extended battle, with reinforcements and changing landscapes (say, enemies run down a hall to escape into another room, where more enemies are located, or someone drops a dam to release a flood, or something). These can use up lots of resources over multiple rounds and be really fun.
  3. Use variant HP. One system I saw used wound points and vitality points, where you only took wounds from crits and from energy damage and from hits that took you below zero, and everything else was vitality, and vitality points all healed during a five-minute rest. This would allow PCs to adventure longer.

If you’re going to buy a new game, buy 5E. There is, in my mind, basically no reason to upgrade from 3.5 to Pathfinder. They’re basically the same game with the deck chairs rearranged. Pathfinder will not solve any issues you had with 3.5; Save your money. 5E is at least an appreciably different game. It also suffers from way less supplement bloat, power creep, and all the problems that you get when you add 15 books full of options - whether that is a plus or a minus in your mind will vary from group to group, but I am completely done with games that make me pore over lists of 500 choices to build a character. Basically, it comes down to what you want the game to be about. If you want it to be about lists of feats and spells and math, Pathfinder is your game of choice. If you don’t want it to be about those things, Pathfinder is probably not a good idea.

Actually, I’d encourage you to consider what you want out of your game before even starting to narrow down what systems you are considering. What you’re doing right now is the equivalent of saying “I know I want either a Toyota or a Honda, but I don’t know what kind of car I want.”

As for the “30 minute adventuring day”, that’s as much a GM problem as it is a system problem. What kind of “adventure” is it if you have a perfectly safe place to retreat to every 30 minutes, and no time constraint, so that you can afford to spend the next 8+ hours basically doing nothing? The original “fix” for this rule was called “Random encounters”. It worked reasonably well. There are others. Virtually none of them are system dependent.

One where the wizard has Rope Trick. Or in 5e, one where the wizard has Leomund’s Tiny Hut.

Ook: “Saw dem venturers climb rope here, go away! Mebbe dem come back same way? Oolong, get wood, start big fire here. Keep fire all day!”
Besides the fact that you can’t get up, adventure for 20 minutes, go back to bed, get 8 hours of sleep and get up with full spells by mid-afternoon.

Rope Trick requires you to be 8th level for it to even last long enough to take a rest, and even so, you leave a rope dangling. Sure, eventually you’ll be able to sleep there, but if you haven’t figured out how to pace an adventure by then, you probably have bigger problems.

Leomund’s Tiny Hut, as far as I can tell from reading the Pathfinder version, is basically just a very expensive tent, because it doesn’t actually protect you from wandering monsters at all.

I tend to think it’s not too big a problem, depending on the kind of adventure. We’ve often had sessions with just one to three combats between rests. Safety strategies might entail:
-A wilderness encounter, after which we return to town.
-A very large encounter (e.g., clearing a dozen bandits out of several rooms of a cabin), after which we take over the lair.
-A guerilla-style attack on a fortified lair, after which we spend a lot of the day retreating.

Actual warfare is famously “months of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme terror.” I have no trouble thinking that an adventurer’s day might consist of hours of spell practice, equipment maintenance, hiking, scouting, and tactics discussion, with the life-or-death struggle occupying only a minute of the entire day.

If that play style isn’t fun for the group, of course, then change it. But it’s a pacing that can work very well under certain circumstances.

I’m assuming these are not what GreedySmurf is talking about.

Though honestly, the first one of those sounds a little pointless, and the third makes me wonder why the denizens of the lair would sit around and let you retreat to safety.

The problem here really though is that D&DFinder isn’t DESIGNED for “months of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme terror” because (past the first couple of levels, anyway) D&DFinder combat isn’t scary unless you really up the danger level of the encounters a LOT. And once you do that, the entire system starts to break down and become random and weird in all sorts of unexpected ways. D&DFinder is designed to be a game of attrition where several encounters between rests wears the party down.

If you want to play a game of “months of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme terror” you’re probably better off looking for a different fantasy RPG.

First one happens when a wilderness encounter is both a big fight and not a wandering encounter. Why continue on if your resources are significantly drained?

The third happens when the denizens of the lair don’t know where you came from or went to and so can’t easily counterstrike, or when they aren’t organized enough to counterstrike.

You’re right about what it was designed for. You’re not necessarily right that it breaks down when played in a different way.

In 3.5 or Pathfinder, Leomund’s Tiny Hut is indeed basically just an expensive tent. But in 5th edition, it keeps out everything. And if you have ten minutes free to cast it, it doesn’t even cost you a spell slot.

What? no - you can pull up the rope.

However, any GM who actually knows the rules is gonna screw you over because of your bags of holding or equivalents.

I think you’re quoting 3.5, right? Pathfinder changed it.