Thursday, April 18, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: P is for Pathfinder (and Paizo)

 A bit of a divergence today for, well, a bit of divergence.  Let me set the stage a bit. It is 2007, and Wizards of the Coast has decided to end the publication of the wildly successful Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition line and will now produce Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition.  D&D 3e was the edition that brought many back to the game. It was the edition that rekindled my enjoyment of the game after so many years. The idea that this would end only after 7 years (10 years per edition had been the average) seemed a bit odd.

In any case, 4th edition was released, and ... well, I'll talk about that on Sunday. But people were not ready to give up their 3rd Edition rules. Enter Paizo and Pathfinder!

Pathfinder Core Rules

Back when 3rd Edition was popular, Wizards of the Coast had licensed out the RPG Hobby's flagship gaming Magazines, Dragon and Dungeon, to Paizo, Inc. Here they helmed both magazines for many years and built a few 3rd Edition compatible products thanks to the Open Gaming Licence. In 2007 Wizards of the Coast announced 4th edition they did not renew the contract with Paizo to produce material. So Paizo went on to produce their own Pathfinder periodical, a set of publications similar to the Dungeon magazine. 

In 2008 D&D 4e started out with good sales, but soon they began to fall. Fall faster than expected. Paizo saw there was still a market for 3rd-edition compatible material, but they also wanted to make some changes. Thus, in 2009 the Pathfinder RPG rules were born.

So in 2009, we both did D&D 4e, which was not compatible with D&D 3x or any other D&D rules set. And Pathfinder, which was 95% compatible with D&D 3.x.  That last 5% is for the differences in the D&D 3 and 3.5 rules and the extras Pathfinder added in. But honestly, you could take your D&D 3.0 characters, fight D&D 3.5 monsters while the Game Master ran Pathfinder rules, and everyone would be fine.

Sadly, Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro has a very bad habit of firing people. The good news here though is that some of those people would go on to be hired by Paizo to work on Pathfinder. I mentioned before that Pathfinder is often thought of as being "Dungeons & Dragons 3.75" and there is a lot of truth to that. There is a lot here that feels like D&D 3.x perfected. They certainly had the advantage of 9 more years of playing and writing to help them out. 

Pathfinder then did the impossible, it dethroned D&D as the best selling Fantasy RPG. They beat D&D at their own game. If the OGL was one of the reasons 4e got made, it was 4e's failures that got 5e made. In the meantime, Pathfinder just kept moving along and doing its thing.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition came along in 2019. It was different. While the rules were still very much tied to the OGL and the system first created for D&D 3, these rules had more divergence. The Pathfinder 2nd Edition rules were created to go after the D&D 5th edition, which by this time had reclaimed its market superiority. 

This would change again in 2023 when Wizards announced they were going to "revoke" the OGL (something they actually could not do legally). Pathfinder relied on the safe harbor of the OGL (as do many publishers) so in April of 2023 they announced their Pathfinder 2e Remastered. This would be their 2e ruleset, rewritten to avoid using the OGL and instead their own ORC license. While this did not deal the blow to D&D 5e that Pathfinder did to 4e, it was enough to have some people (myself included) move from D&D 5e to Pathfinder 2eR. 

Pathfinder 2e and 2eR
Pathfinder 2e and 2eR. I am still a sucker for a ribbon in my book.

I can find no significant differences between the Pathfinder 2e rules and the Pathfinder 2eR ones. I know Paizo is no longer selling the 2e rules in favor of the 2eR, which is as it should be. Pathfinder 2e is a fine game in its own right, and I like it better as long as I am not trying to compare it to either D&D 3e or 5e. And then only because they can all do the same sorts of games, just in different ways.

Tomorrow is Q Day, and I am going with a tried and true one. I will talk about the various Queens of Dungeons & Dragons.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.


Lily Leung said...

Hi Tim. Have to apologize again for my ignorance of D&D and gaming. It must be such for love for you that you"re devoting a whole month of writing about it every day. You have my admiration. I do not think I can have such a focus or have that much info for one subject.

Srivalli Rekha said...

Oh, so interesting get a sneak peek into the aspects behind the game.

I'm doing Queens too! :D

Jeanine Byers said...

So if I am understanding you correctly, each of those new editions represented a different version of the game, because they effectively changed its rules? For people who have the same love for and loyalty to D&D that you do, I can see how those changes could potentially affect sales. But that is about as far as my understanding goes, I'm afraid. I really admire your passion for the game. I have that kind of love and passion for Christmas and Christmas movies, especially Hallmark movies.

Dick McGee said...

"Pathfinder then did the impossible, it dethroned D&D as the best selling Fantasy RPG. They beat D&D at their own game. If the OGL was one of the reasons 4e got made, it was 4e's failures that got 5e made. In the meantime, Pathfinder just kept moving along and doing its thing."

Except that it wasn't "their own thing" at all. PF1 was D&D 3.75 without the official branding, plain, pure and simple. PF2 has diverged a lot more, but Paizo's really impressive feat wasn't writing a more successful RPG than D&D was, it was proving that you could continue unofficially publishing an older edition of D&D and outsell the current official edition. The WotC logo and official status just didn't matter that much to a lot of people. That's still a remarkable feat, but it couldn't and wouldn't have happened without the OGL and seven years of building an established fan base to do most of the work for them already.

If you want an interesting "What If?" to consider, imagine TSR somehow making a proto-OGL for AD&D and how well 2e would have done in the face of other publishers continuing to put out 1st ed AD&D products with their own tweaks. There wasn't anyone quite like Paizo (who'd been working closely with WotC for years during the 3/3.5 era) back then to compete with TSR, but a mass of smaller publishers might well have made 2e into a sales debacle despite it being a less radical design paradigm shift than 4e.

Tamara said...

From the ashes of D&D 3rd Edition's end rose Pathfinder, a testament to adaptation and innovation in the world of tabletop RPGs. A fascinating journey through gaming history and evolution!

Amrita said...

I am so new to this gaming thing that everyday its a revelation.

Ruprecht said...

I never played Pathfinder but on a superficial level they had wonderful cover art.

Lisa said...

I know nothing about your A to Z theme other than my daughter was in a club in high school where they played D&D during lunch. The DM played favorites so it wasn't much fun for her. I'm old enough to remember it being something "dangerous" when it was new!

Narayana Rao K.V.S.S. said...

Has to read more leisurely.

MP said...

I feel that most of the changes Pathfinder made to 3.5e were solutions in search of problems; attempts to fix things that weren't broken. Although I didn't care for the Pathfinder system itself, I did appreciate having an ongoing source of 3.5e-compatible materials to mine for ideas.

But seeing as how Pathfinder owes its entire existence to backwards compatibility, the fact that its second edition is largely incompatible with the first is a massive betrayal of the players. It's D&D 4e all over again.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Another game that sounds familiar, yet I've never played :-)

Ronel visiting for P: My Languishing TBR: P