Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pathfinder Beginner Box

So, apparently, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game has released its Beginner Box, which is Paizo's answer to the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set, I reviewed last year. As you may recall, I was pretty disappointed in the Starter Set, which, my feelings about D&D IV aside, still felt too much like a gimmicky preview product than a true introductory-level set. I honestly have no idea if the Beginner Box is any better in this regard, though the whispers I'm hearing from various parties suggests that it is.

In the final analysis, this doesn't matter much to me personally, since I'm not a Pathfinder player, but I do like many of the folks working at Paizo and wish them every success in the world. So, if anyone out there has gotten hold of a copy of the Beginner Box and wants to share their thoughts, I'd appreciate it. I'm not in the market for a new intro game, as I've already got several I'm quite happy with, but I'm always interested in hearing if a company has finally managed to make a basic RPG that comes close to competing with what TSR did three decades ago.

41 comments:

  1. Given my interest in the Mentzer boxes, I am curious to see how this compares.

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  2. Tenkar of tenkarstavern has posted a review and is posting some more in depth analysis.

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  3. While I have no interest in Pahfinder, I did look through the copy at my FLGS and was impressed. It's very well put together.

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  4. It certainly looks like a fine intro to 3e style gaming. Once again, Paizo out D&D's, WotC.

    Cyclopeatron just passed along the newly released ICv2 Summer Sales report. Paizo is ranked #1, for the second quarter in a row.

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  5. I also looked at a copy at my FLGS, and it is indeed a slick product. However, no matter how simple they may make it, there's no way I can get into Pathfinder these days, as my lifestyle just doesn't allow me the spare time to delve into a system more complex that C&C. But for those so inclined, I have no doubt it is a great intro to the game. I have to say, though, when I opened the box, a horrible plastic-y smell assaulted my nose! I'm not sure what they are using to print their books, etc. but it reeks of noxious fumes!

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  6. @Drance - That would be the perfect opening for an Edition War style shot, but I like Paizo, even if I have no interest in playing their game. :)

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  7. I'm not playing Pathfinder either, but a couple of things made me pick up the box.

    1) I think the cardboard cut-out minis with stands is way cooler than WotC's tokens. I might be inclined to make my own minis this way.

    2) I wanted to see how they boiled Pathfinder down. What did they cut out? I'm not a PF expert, but the game itself as presented in the BBox is pretty straightforward. (I don't see it being much more complex than much OSR stuff.)

    3) Is it for new RPGers or new Pathfinder players? Seems like mostly the former. Perhaps there is a large market of never-played-an-RPG folks out there? A few of them showed up to play Encounters at my FLGS, but they were vastly outnumbered by veterans.

    4) I need to read through it more thoroughly, but I think it's a pretty good intro to a complex game. As a graphic designer I question some of the layout choices, but it works nonetheless. If you wanted to get a taste of how Pathfinder plays, it seems like a good place to start.

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  8. I'm in exactly the same boat, James. Love the company, not so keen on the actual products (although their Gamemastery Guide I found to be very useful even for playing 0/1E style games).

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  9. I'm gonna have to pick up that Gamemastery Guide.

    Though, I haven't picked up the PF Core book yet. It's on the list, about three pages down. :)

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  10. I like the look of the basic box, and it would be the version of Pathfinder I'd play if I had the choice. My group is too fond of the crunchy bits in the full game to let me get away with it, alas.

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  11. My FLGS did a demo. Very nice. They had an experienced GM and four tweens who had never played a tabletop RPG. The play-aids and pre-generated characters made character generation easy and fast, and the players picked up the concepts quickly.

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  12. "I'm always interested in hearing if a company has finally managed to make a basic RPG that comes close to competing with what TSR did three decades ago."

    I think that the Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG excels any version of basic D&D: clearer rules, more examples, better art, etc.

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  13. Whopeee, page layouts and glossiness inspired by skin mags. Components not as good as Talisman 4 revized, which comes with 20 unpainted Minis. Z-man games, Arabian Nights, Camelot Legends, Ninjato, hire better artists and do more original and cutting edge artwork.
    I LIKE the full size and full color charcater sheets. Night and day from the AD&D charcater record sheets of yore. I LIKE the battle map.

    To me, Pathfinder sounds like a clone of D&D 4eth Ed with an altered game mechanic. It ould be nice if someone who played WoTC D&D and Pathfnder would tell us the differences between the two systems and rate the adenture wtiting instruction and ideas in the GM book.

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  14. There are so many things that I think Paizo are doing right, I feel a bit of regret that I don't actually used the Pathfinder rules. I just recently talked about the beginner box.

    Pathfinder Goodness

    I hope you don't mind me linking to it, since it is relevant to discussing the beginner box.

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  15. Its a decent set, you get ALOT in this set considering you can pick it up on Amazon for under 25 bucks (including shipping if you have Prime), its a good value for the money. You can literally play the full game with this. As others have mentioned you get a large amount of paper heroes, etc. It does have a "streamlined" version of the rules in it to walk new players gradually into the full pathfinder game though and that I guess is similar to what WoTC tried to do with their neo-red box thing.

    I have played (currently playing actually) pathfinder, I'm not a big fan of 3.0 through pathfinder ... I'm in the love Paizo kinda Meh on pathfinder itself camp as well. I believe D&D died sometime late in the 2nd ed days and everything since is something else ... a tactical miniatures skirmish board game more than an RPG. Awesome if that is what your looking for ... crappy if you want to do fantasy based RPGing. I play Pathfinder because my gaming group wants to and I'd rather be able to hang out with friends and do actual tabletop gaming than not ... not a one of them has the slightest interest in old school games and I don't have the time nor inclination to find new people to game with so I go with the group ... such is life.

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  16. @ Brooser Bear: "Pathfinder sounds like a clone of D&D 4eth Ed with an altered game mechanic." Uh, what? PF is almost like 3/3.5e and 4e is basically the the antithesis of 3/3.5. What would have led you to think they were similar?

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  17. Pathfinder is a 3e "clone"/variant, not 4e. It has roughly the same purpose as all the other retro-clones -- to have rules in print that support Paizo's line of adventures and supplements that got started in the 3e era. Much as with some retro-clones of older versions, though, PF has proved popular as a rule set in its own right and is growing in its own direction.

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  18. The BB game itself is about the level of complexity of Castles and Crusades. They eliminated a lot of rules from the core rules that are difficult to learn on the fly.
    @Brooser: Pathfinder is a revamping of 3.x that Paizo designed after realizing that 4e was going to have less than friendly publishing rules for 3rd party publishers. 3.x was OGL, so they could basically continue making the same products they had been making and selling an in house version of the same game. Pathfinder is nothing like 4e.
    As for your Talisman 4 comparison, Talisman is a boardgame that costs twice as much. Less utility, better production quality that you pay for. Talisman is a great game, but it's not an rpg.
    This is the first example of an intro box for an rpg that is targeted at new players I have seen in over a decade that is a decent product with any hope of large distribution. No matter what people think of Pathfinder, you have to admit that Paizo has a Gold Standard track record of putting out quality product.

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  19. Ugh. Again with the "iconics" that Paizo must litter everything with.

    Looks like a fun product for a new gamer but I hope it doesn't lead to rules fracture in Pathfinder. I'm sure it will sell very well and Paizo will be hard pressed to resist the temptation of a BB2 and then off we go with a parallel game line (à la Basic/Expert and AD&D).

    With this drawing in the young and casual gamers it seems like Pathfinder is just on the verge of completing its patricide. Those poor 4E designers had they only known...

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  20. "Much as with some retro-clones of older versions, though, PF has proved popular as a rule set in its own right and is growing in its own direction."

    Kind of an understatement, there. :)

    CNN has a review of the PF box on their site:

    Inside Paizo's 'Pathfinder Beginners Box Set'

    This is where WotC may be screwing up with their whole DDI thing. Retail visibility. Granted, it's a small corner of CNN's site, but when's the last time any part of a major news organization talked about a WotC product?

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  21. Chris 6 and Tedopon, thanks for setting me straight with regards to Pathfinder. I write all my own adventure material and use AD&D 1st Edition, never looked at the 4th Ed, and wasn't aware that Paizo and WoTC are in competition. Paizo seems to have a better production value and a better distribution/marleting plan. Who knows, we may have a marketing war of the rpg giants on our hands thast will hopefull turn into unrestricted price warfare ;-)))

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  22. "I write all my own adventure material and use AD&D 1st Edition, never looked at the 4th Ed, and wasn't aware that Paizo and WoTC are in competition. "

    I'm being totally non-cynical when I say that sounds like a marvelous place to live. :)

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  23. I'll be giving the Pathfinder Basic Box a fuller look next week (thanks to Mike for pointing out that I've been enjoying it).

    I'm like many others, love Paizo, not so much Pathfinder. This, however, is a version of the Pathfinder rules I could see myself playing (or maybe even running).

    Definitely giving S&W Complete and ACKS competition in my game reading time at the moment, but as I have Gamer's ADD we'll see how long that lasts. ;)

    tenkarstavern.com is the direct site, but as I said, probably won't have much to say about Pathfinder (or much else) until sunday.

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  24. With this drawing in the young and casual gamers it seems like Pathfinder is just on the verge of completing its patricide.

    Well, according to the ICv2 stats, Pathfinder outsold D&D IV in both the second and third quarters of this year. That's before the Beginner Box shipped. If the Beginner Box really is successful . . .

    Hmm. You know, if you describe Pathfinder as a retro-clone of 3.x (which is a little weird, but it is a game highly compatible with a version of D&D older than the one the owners of the D&D trademark are selling), we're now in an era where retro-clones of D&D are roughly as commercially successful as trademark-blessed D&D.

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  25. Do you reckon that if WotC got a do-over, they'd go back in time and let Paizo keep printing 'Dragon' and 'Dungeon'?

    Seems, from their perspective, that the Devil has made work for idle hands over the past few years...

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  26. If WotC had a do-over, they'd have published "Pathfinder." :)

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  27. If Hasbro had a do-over I bet they would have published "3.75" instead of "4.0". Poor guys, I'm sure they has the best intentions.

    5.0, or "D&D classic", or whatever, will be along soon enough though. Hopefully it will be better.

    For now though they should simply revive Greyhawk to try to take a bite out of the Pathfinder base. If they really wanted to be bold they would publish it as 3.5 or Pathfinder compatible.

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  28. Do you reckon that if WotC got a do-over, they'd go back in time and let Paizo keep printing 'Dragon' and 'Dungeon'?

    Maybe. I think that would turn out to be insufficient, though. There still would have been other 3PPs looking at the GSL, and looking at the anti-4th crowd, and coming to the same conclusion as Paizo—"We can't work with this, and there's a market just waiting for a publisher."

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  29. There were probably a few other publisher's who could have done it, but none were as well positioned as Paizo. The rep and overall goodwill they earned publishing Dragon and Dungeon gave them the edge they needed.

    Also, I think the perception that WotC screwed Paizo over, helped induce that portion of the fanbase who felt they were also betrayed, to throw in their lot with the company.

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  30. They only simplified some aspects of Pathfinder, by removing some options (e.g. the grappling rules) and reducing number of spells, classes, races and feats. But all the rest is "pure" Pathfinder, which means a game more complex than D&D 3.5, where characters get tons of special abilities (just look at the demo character sheets of the 1st level cleric.)
    If one wants a simple d20 experience, there is always the original 3e (3.0) game; at least it still maintains concepts, spells, abilities etc. of the older versions of D&D, which started to get lost by the advent of 3.5.

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  31. If I ever run tabletop '3e D&D' again, I reckon I'll buy this box and use it, probably with slow level advancement and an 'E5' world. Currently I'm happy with my two 4e campaigns though; after 2.5 years DMing 4e I've got reasonable system mastery & I've pushed it into a shape that suits me. Basically a 1e sandboxy sort of shape - I'm now seriously thinking of bringing my 1e DMG to my 4e games, it'd be a hell of a lot more useful than the 4e DMG.

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  32. You'd think that fantasy role-playing games would try to give the impression of being ancient grimoires rather than having a glossy look and feel.

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  33. Cibet: If Hasbro had a do-over I bet they would have published "3.75" instead of "4.0".

    I don't think so. Part of PF's success comes from the fact that it was ANTI-4e. The other part was the good reputation of the PF adventure paths.
    An official "Dragonfinder" 3.75 wouldn't have rallied the fans behind it. Some would have continued to play 3.5, and adoption of the rules would have been a much slower process without visilbility. Similar to 3.0 -> 3.5.

    On the new Basic Box:

    It's glossy, its layout is similar to computer game magazines, everything is explained in a very straightforward manner. I don't like the PF trade dress and style but it as all very flashy.

    The rules themselves are NOT crippleware, and it was noted elsewhere on the blogoshere that this box is almost a complete game. Covering levels 1-5 it is just one level shy of E6, my preferred style of D&Ding.
    And that is the best thing about that box: you don't really need that over-detailed hardback.

    IMO, it's a combination of the best parts of old style Basic D&D and new style 3e.
    A winner.

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  34. Basic Box- It is a well done beginner set. I am not going to compare editions or rulesets, just speak to the product.

    With the beginner box I was able to get a group of my friends to finally play an RPG featuring dice (over a keyboard). They absolutely love it. The rules are trimmed down from the massive- almost 600 page Core Book to a slim Players book, and we did not even need that at first. Everything the players needed was right on the character sheet with highlights in sidebars. A great idea. We were playing within 12 minutes of sitting at the table and me passing out the character sheets. (I timed it)

    While the manuals are written "video game walk through" style, that is to be expected as the layout designers' background is in that industry, and it works for the target audience... young new players.

    The rules trimmed were Combat Manuevers, less feats, less skills, Item Cretion feats, and one thing that makes introduction into a d20 combat system much easier, ; they removed (or do not talk about rather) Attacks of Opportunity. I am very old school, I like 0ed but my favorite edition was AD&D second edition. Problem is I cannot find non-naustalgic players to try either. I CAN get them interested in Pathfinder. The BB was a great inroduction and was well made. They gave the information needed without adding too much. The character sheets are fantastic and the standup tokens are a welcome addition. They beat flat Pogs, and I can think of few "maybe I will try this" type players who are going to drop money on miniatures, painted or otherwise, until into the industry.

    Overall the BB is a great product and is worth the purchase. The intro adventure is short and lays out commonly encountered rules, gives an insane ammount of treasure (which I feel is important to wet the appetite of young players) and features a nice FlipMat in the style that Paizo has been producing for years. Map on one side and blank grids on the back.

    Anyways, it is worth the time to check it out, regardless of what edition or even ruleset you prefer, it is a well made product and worth taking off blinders for.

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  35. As any of you who have seen my blog know, I currently play Pathfinder, but I haven't yet gotten into the higher levels of play where the complexity of the rules truly come into play.

    To answer James' question: Yes, the Beginner Box CAN function as a game on its own, similar to the old TSR boxes. I am in the process of reading the early versions of D&D religiously, and to be honest, the ease of the ruleset (apart from the updated visual presentation) presented in the Beginner Box is comparable to that of the original D&D/Basic intro books.

    This is accomplished by (1) not including various rule subsystems (attacks of opportunity, concentration checks, etc.) and (2) limiting the character-creation options by reducing the races, classes, feats, and skills. There are only 3 races (humans, elves, dwarves) and 4 classes (cleric, fighter, rogue, wizard). For example, it walks you through creating a 1st-level fighter and tells you to take the equivalent of the Weapon Focus feat, without telling you it's a feat. Every spell level has 10 spells, and a 4-line description that suffices for beginning play.

    Although the Beginner Box does a good deal of enticing players into buying the Core Rulebook, the Core Rulebook is optional and functions as a supplement in relation to the Beginner Box. Although the Beginner Box only goes up to Level 5, you can play an "E5" style game and reward 5th level players with additional feats.

    It's interesting that WoTC tried to draw in younger demographic with 4e, given the aging of the player base. Pathfinder's facing the same problem, and the Beginner Box may be the approach that WoTC should have taken instead.

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  36. I think that the Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG excels any version of basic D&D: clearer rules, more examples, better art, etc.

    I like LotFP WFRP a lot, but I think it suffers from a split personality with regards to who it's aimed at. I know Jim intends for it to be an intro game, but I think both its presentation and content work against that goal in places.

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  37. CNN has a review of the PF box on their site

    Wow, CNN. That's perhaps not quite the fabled Big Time, but it's still pretty good attention for the game nonetheless.

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  38. You'd think that fantasy role-playing games would try to give the impression of being ancient grimoires rather than having a glossy look and feel.

    I agree, but I think that particular ship sailed a long time ago.

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  39. True this boxed set stands on its feet, but once you "graduate" to the Core Book you will not use it anymore, except for the map and tokens. Very different from the Basic D&D, which you would still use after going beyond the 3rd level.
    It's a different way of being "crippleware".

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