Who else would like a pro/con breakdown between modern RPG games like Pathfinder vs. Dungeons & Dragons?
If you’re curious about which Roleplaying game you should play with your friends, this article will dive into the pros & cons of each.
Some tabletop gamers might be thinking that Warhammer, Pathfinder, and D&D are all similar, but they are completely different games.
D&D and Pathfinder are tabletop roleplaying games.
Warhammer is a wargame miniatures confrontation that pits two player’s armies against each other in old-fashioned warfare.
You can use wargames like Warhammer 40k miniature in D&D or Pathfinder, but the games are not the same.
So to decide which is the best roleplaying game - We will rule out Warhammer. Onto Dungeons & Dragons 5e and Pathfinder.
D&D 5e PROS:
- The game is simpler.
- Playing Dungeon Master is easier.
- Characters are easy and quick to create.
- Combat is balanced among all classes & options.
- Combat battles are faster.
- Allows for greater improvisation and interpretation by players and Dungeon Masters
- “More popular”… even with TV shows like Critical Role being created by playing D&D.
D&D 5e CONS:
- There isn’t a large variety of options.
- Lack of options can leave players wanting for something “special”… like [unique race] [strange class] [crazy upbringing] [odd personality] in order to make their character unique.
- Combats are less strategic and more random than Pathfinder.
- Experienced roleplayers will think their characters are weak or underpowered in comparison to the new player who just started last week
- Huge levels of creativity & choices
- More customizable
- Combat is far more strategic and rewarding.
- Huge library of resources, splat books, adventures, monsters, classes, tools, items… Everything and anything is at your disposal
- Huge amount of options means huge amount of rules
- Combat is very complex and can take a very long time.
- High learning curve
- Balance is impossible - one player might play something at a normal power, and another at “unstoppable god mode” power level.
- Riddled with small gimmicks and tricks
D&D 5e PROS Explained:
The pros of Dungeons & Dragons comes down to its straightforward effortless play.
The game is easy to understand, faster to play, the rules more streamlined, characters easier to create, and overall quicker and easier for even brand new players to start playing. The limited number of options make each option effective and balanced so that each player can shine in a slightly unique way.
Wizards, while they carry god-like power, can still be out-damaged by a battle-hardened Fighter. Barbarians cannot hold the power of a Wizard or the damage of a Fighter, will be much harder to kill.
Choices are closely balanced.
D&D 5e is also more popular, even having caused some TV shows to spring up like Critical Role where you can watch some awesome people play the game.
D&D 5e is seen to encourage roleplaying opportunities, with choices the player makes impacting the roleplaying. Some Paladins' mechanical choices will make them holy White Knights in mechanics and roleplaying, and other Paladins will come from a military background and seem like hardened lieutenants.
However, both Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder’s strengths contribute to their weaknesses.
D&D 5e CONS Explained:
The fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons has a limited variety of options.
This can and will leave players wanting for something “special”.
Players will commonly look at the content in the basic core rulebook and think, “meh, this stuff is normal, I’ve seen someone else already do something like that. I don’t want to do that. I want to be unique”.
And there’s nothing wrong with uniqueness, but players will desire to “spice up” the mechanics of the game.
Of course, your character can always have a unique personality.
But as far as mechanics go, every 2nd level Paladin will get a nearly-identical 2nd level ability. 5e combat is faster, which is awesome!
But combat is less strategic and more random.
Combat is still a very central part of the game. Strategists will enjoy the combat, but very experienced players will not receive a massive power-boost because they are better strategists.
The learnability for new players may also cause experienced players to think their knowledge and mastery of the game isn’t making a big impact.
Pathfinder PROS Explained:
Pathfinder, unlike D&D, has a HUGE level of options which breeds creative character creation from the get-go.
Pathfinder has a near-infinite supply of books, Pathfinder miniatures, character classes, races, skills, talents, adventures, monsters, widgets, tools, magic items, spells, rules for war machines… the list goes on and on!
In addition to having a wealth of resources at your fingertips, the game is more customizable - Even if you decide to play a “boring Range”, you can customize your ranger to a wide range of abilities, skills, specialties, and strengths, with your own unique mechanics and weaknesses.
It’s unlikely that your player group would play something just like your character. Combat is also more rewarding as it is more strategic.
Pathfinder Con’s Explained:
With a wealth of resources comes a wealth of rules.
There are rules for everything under the sun, which can and will impede gameplay (often) as players are scratching their head trying to remember something and the game master must pore over the rulebook during a play session.
This, plus the addition of more strategic combat, means you’ll have longer combats as well. The game is complex and takes a lot of time to learn to play, much less master. Not a “pick-up-and-go” game.
Finally, balance is impossible when you have an overwhelming amount of options to choose from.
One player will select the best skills in the game, and be 17521x more powerful than someone who just plays something basic from the core rules.
There are dozens and dozens of small gimmicks, tricks, and hacks in the game that make the game more strategic - but act as a barrier of entry to new or unknowledgeable players.
Knowledge is power in Pathfinder.
Those who are knowledgeable will be infinitely more powerful than those who are not.
Dungeons & Dragons vs. Pathfinder
Both roleplaying games could be a victor, depending on your group and style. D&D 5e is easy to learn and master, and emphasizes additional roleplaying opportunities. Pathfinder has rewarding combat.
Want some awesome miniatures, but not sure where to find them?
Warhammer 40k painting is great for miniature painters because those minis are very detailed. Or finding D&D unpainted miniatures for your Roleplaying games.
Wizards of the Coast have official D&D miniatures painting in the Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures & Nolzur’s Marvelous Pigments collection. So if you’re looking for a mini for your character or a miniature paint set, check the miniatures out here and the paints here.
Let us know if you appreciated this post and what topics you’d like us to dive into for the future.
Written by: Gilean Benton