Dear Pathfinder,

LS is Breaking up with PathfinderPathfinder and I have had a long and tumultuous relationship.

When I started Papers & Pencils, then called “Comma, Blank_,” I was still a D&D 3.5 player. I was aware of Pathfinder, but preferred to stick with the system I already had 30+ supplements for. About two years ago, by some happenstance, I was chatting with a fellow at my local comic book store, Fantasium. He was interested in starting a Pathfinder campaign, and he seemed cool, so I gave him my email address and purchased the Pathfinder Core Rulebook on an impulse. I never heard from that guy again, which didn’t matter much, because I was thoroughly impressed by Pathfinder’s improvements to 3.5. My initial reaction to the system was nothing but fawning praise, and I immediately started referring to this as a “Pathfinder Blog.”

Then I found Hack & Slash, and from there started to explore more of the OSR. I was exposed to a greater diversity of game design theories than I had known existed, and many of my fundamental ideas were challenged. My opinions began to shift. Issues which I had previously viewed as “the limitations of tabletop games,” became “the limitations of the tabletop games I’ve played.” As an example, I had long been frustrated by how difficult it was to get players to manage their characters on their own, the OSR made me realize that perhaps my game was asking them to manage too much shit.

In the last two years I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with Pathfinder. One reader* recently told me they were surprised I still played, given how critical I am of it. And truth be told, I don’t. Not really. I do still have one Pathfinder game in progress, but I run it in such a modified form that there’s about as much Pathfinder left in that game as there is man left in Darth Vader. And when this campaign ends (presumably when I move away from the players) I doubt if I’ll ever start another game based on the Pathfinder rules.

Put plainly, Pathfinder and I have parted ways.

That doesn’t mean you’ll never see another Pathfinder post here. I’d like to finish my Pathfinder Class Analysis series, because I’ve found that project to be fertile grounds for game design inspiration. I’ve also got at least one pathfinder-specific project which I’ve wanted to finish for years now, but have been putting off because I’m lazy and dumb and lazy. What it does mean is that Colorful Characters, Merciless Monsters, and Magical Marvels won’t be posted with Pathfinder game rules any longer, which is a big relief for me, because fitting everything into the Pathfinder framework was exhausting work.

Since 90% of my readership is non-pathfinder players anyway (somehow I ended up as an honorary initiate in the OSR?) I presume this news is long overdue for most of you.

(*Hi Matt!)

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20 thoughts on “Dear Pathfinder,”

  1. I lurked on a CharOp forum during the Pathfinder “open testing” shenanigans and never had much of a chance to form my own impression before learning of its many, many flaws. The few occasions I’ve participated in a Pathfinder game, I’ve created characters using material that was largely untouched by the system (at least as far as I could tell).

    While I can’t say Pathfinder and I are close, I do hope you two can still be friends, but I’m glad to hear you’re already seeing other systems and not on the rebound. ;)


    1. I have a lot of respect for how Paizo manages the game, actually. I thought the open test was a fantastic idea (though I didn’t participate myself).

      I’d be very interested to see what Paizo would put out if they ever move past propping up the corpse of D&D 3.5.

      Thanks for the comment, by the way! I don’t think I’ve hard from you before.

  2. I can sympathize with this. My group is married to PF for a variety of reasons (books owned, familiarity with rules, habit), but I find there’s as much to dislike as like about the base mechanics. All the major pitfalls from 3/3.5 are still there, so I find myself house ruling the hell out of things into an OSR/PF hybrid. Same with Golarian. It’s probably fine for people that don’t have the time or interest to create a setting, but I personally find it very stock and not particularly engaging.

    I’d be interested to hear what systems you are running or considering. B/X? 1e? Labyrinth Lord? Just wondering if there’s a system that does meet your criteria for ‘good’. Would you consider a post comparing/contrasting various systems that do interest you? I think it might be illuminating for some of us that haven’t had as much experience with a variety of systems.

    On the subject of the posts you mentioned, I don’t think you’re doing any disservice making them system nonspecific. Considering the group of people reading your blog and the many systems used, I doubt anyone is going to have issue integrating ideas for monsters, NPCs or treasure into their games. At the root, it’s the ideas that are interesting, not the numbers.

    1. I’m there with you about Golarion. Supposedly it has won awards, but I could never understand why. It has some interesting elements to it, but nothing so impressive that I ever felt like it was worthy of any title other than “generic.”

      Don’t get me wrong, I think a generic setting is fine. I enjoy generic settings.

      Regarding my future games, I’m working with Lamentations of the Flame Princess right now, but I’m trying to keep my options open.

  3. I entirely understand where you are coming from.

    I use Pathfinder for my players, they can pretty much build the character that they want with the system and I can work with it easily enough. But, yes, statting out monsters is such a drag in Pathfinder. While I love monster, it is hard to find the energy to write them up for my journal as well.

    And, so I do not forget, have been following your class analysis articles even if I have not been commenting. Good work there.

    1. Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying the class analysis posts! They always give me a lot of ideas for how I would develop my own games.

      Statting out monsters in Pathfinder is THE WORST! I eventually just started to ignore most of the rules, and my players went along with it well enough.

      1. Agreed. When I use monster in my Pathfinder game, I usually stat them out on the fly and refine their abilities in play. But when I want to put a monster on my journal . . . so many hoops to jump through to get a creature finished.

  4. I’m actually kinda amused. This blog helped with my switch to Pathfinder from AD&D. I’ll be interested to see where it goes from here. Best of luck in your new ventures!

      1. Amused as in I find it funny. I totally understand! OSR fits you better! I actually think that if you ever for finished Rocksfall I’d switch over completely, based on what you’ve done before.

        As an aside, I’m planning on using the Owlbear NPC you stated up ages ago in my home game.

  5. oh pooh. i just found this blog (as in, just today) and have been looking over some posts and really liking some of what I saw. My group is stuck with Pathfinder (mainly because we don’t have time to learn a new system), although we too see its problems.

    I hope you have fun with whatever system you switch to, and I will keep you bookmarked, since I can still use your older stuff.

    1. Most of what I’ve been putting out for the last year is system independent anyway, and I don’t really see any point in changing that.

      If you and your group all agree that Pathfinder isn’t really suiting you, you may want to look into some of the simpler OSR games. I’m on Lamentations of the Flame Princess right now. It didn’t really take any time to learn. Nothing quite so complex as the feat or skills systems of Pathfinder.

      Regardless, glad to hear you’ve enjoyed the blog, and thanks for commenting! The older articles aren’t going anywhere.

  6. I’ve been reading your posts un silence for far too long.
    I started Gming for PF cause a lot of people made it sound as a god amoungs mortals. As its hard to get the books here in argentina we have only one book and me as Gm manage the rules. I end up house ruleing lots of things and as my players are not that familiar with the rules, they dont even notice. I did and still do use content from past and your class analysis and skill rumble pushed my on a frenzy to make a book, small book, with muy house rules. Still seams so much husle to house rule every thing out, so on this note i will try out Flameing Princess.
    Thx for every good idea i’ll be watching from the shadows.

    PS: im a graphic designer, if ever you need help with your books por something feel free to contact me.

    1. Thank you for commenting! It is nice to hear from you.

      If you’re interested in Lamentations of the Flame Princess, there is a free version of the rules available online. (It has no art, but all the rules are there).

      LotFP is based in Finland, so even in the United States I must import it! But the rules are very simple, and very easy to modify.

      If you are on google+, I am +Beloch Shrike.

  7. You said you would be interested to see what Paizo would put out if they ever move past propping up the corpse of D&D 3.5 and with Pathfinder Unchained they kind off previewed that. A lot of your old posts are addressed somewhat in that book.

    1. Sorry, I thought I replied to this ages ago.

      Based on a casual read of the product page, this seems more like a Pathfinder version of Unearthed Arcana than it does an actual new game. But still, it’s the first Pathfinder book to interest me in a long while. If I ever have spending money again, I might pick this up.

      Thanks for letting me know about it!

  8. I don’t mean to sound whiny or critical or anything like that, but did you ever end up continuing the Class Analysis and I just can’t find it?

    1. You don’t sound critical at all. Unfortunately, I never did post any more of the Class Analysis series. I’m sorry about that.

      1. Not exactly something to be sorry about. You have other things you’d rather write about. Nothing wrong with that. Hell, I have a novel I started in high school that I haven’t continued in about two years because I found other things I’d rather write.

  9. I feel the same. I GMed 3.5 and Pathfinder, and at first I enjoyed what they offered for players as far as allowing diversity in character concepts. But as a GM the rules, were quite frankly, terrible. I also shopped around for a while- and I also landed on Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I added some house rules of my own, but I love the simplicity. I can always add player options when needed, but creating a monster is a snap, and I can focus on story. I’ve run one adventure with it and so far, so good.

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