Paizo's Pathfinder Beginner Box
October 28th, 2011
12:27 PM ET

Inside Paizo's 'Pathfinder Beginners Box Set'

I like to consider myself an avid tabletop role-playing game player. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons with the original 1983 “Red Box." I played through college and now run a regular D&D game at my local gaming store.

But I'm always excited to try out new games. My group does this every other Thursday. Not only do we get to learn new gaming systems but I think it keep us from getting burned out on the campaign we are playing by taking little breaks. So I was excited to get a copy of Paizo’s latest product, the “Pathfinder Beginners Box.”

I knew about Paizo from the other table top products they sell, like maps and source books. I’d seen their RPG “Pathfinders” on the shelf at my local gaming store, but didn't know a lot of the about the game or its history. Paizo Publisher Erik Mona was happy to fill in the blanks.

Mona explained to me that “Pathfinder” is essentially an offshoot version of the 3.5 edition of “Dungeons & Dragons,” produced under the Open Game License (OGL).

When Wizards of the Coast (which owns D&D) decided to develop a new rule set for D&D with the release the 4th Edition “Dungeons & Dragons," they also decided to back away from the open license that allowed other publishers to support their game.

Because the OGL is perpetual and irrevocable, Piazo knew that it would be possible to continue publishing D&D products under the OGL, but that it would be hard to make them for the 4th edition of the game.

So they announced plans to produce the "Pathfinder Roleplaying Game," a new iteration of the 3rd edition D&D rules in 2008.

Pizao published the rules of the “Pathfinder” RPG in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, a 576-page tome, in August of 2009.

So after learning more about how "Pathfinder" fits into the D&D universe, I was ready to dig into this box.

The box art looks great. But once I opened the box, I was disappointed to find ads for other "Pathfinder" products strewn around the bottom of the box.

Aside from the "Pathfinder" spam, the rest of the box looks great. I have to say it all looks well laid out; it’s very visually pleasing. It comes with four pre-generated characters, a nice double-sided map and 80 full-color pawns to represent your characters and the monsters on the board.

One my complaints (and I hear this from other players as well) is that the pawn pieces have the same illustration on the front and the back. Which means you can't tell which way they are facing - not that it really maters for game play, but it seems to matter to game aesthetics.

Both the 64-page “Hero’s Handbook” and the 96-page “Game Master’s Guide” are well presented, with lots of good images and, I believe, easy to follow instructions.

Both books lay out their text in small blocks. That really makes it easy to read as you play - along with good charts and images that keep the game master (GM) and players moving steadily through the game.

Paizo throws in a usable set of dice to play the game. I do wish there were two sets, one for the GM and one for the players. It's not a big deal, but it would have been a nice touch for first-time groups.

It was fun to unpack the box, but I really wanted to see how the game plays. So I asked some players from my regular D&D game if we could give the beginner’s box a try, and they jumped at the chance.

Paizo estimates gamers can figure out how to play the game and start playing  within 15 minutes of opening the box. We started a timer to see if that was true.

I handed the players their pre-generated character sheets and started to read the GM’s book.

About 12 minutes in, we all felt that we had enough information to start playing. I should note that two of the players had already played a single session of “Pathfinder,” but the other two and I had never played. In three hours we got through about five of the 10 encounters in the box.

Don’t worry; I am not going to give you a play-by-play of the game. No spoilers here. But I will say the group and I enjoyed the game. Some of the old-school D&D players said it felt like they where playing the D&D they grew up with and I have to agree. "Pathfinders" is absolutely reminiscent of the games I played in the 80’s.

The game mechanics and vocabulary are different enough from D&D's 4th edition that it's clear you are playing a different game. Any D&D or any fantasy-based RPG gamer should feel right at home. Even inexperienced RPG players could have picked it up quickly.

And it seem to me that Paizo wants to keep the fun going: They've created a bunch of free content on their site for players to pick up where this box leaves off.

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. otto barcelona

    Awesome issues here. I'm very happy to peer your post. Thanks a lot and I am looking ahead to contact you. Will you please drop me a e-mail?

    November 23, 2012 at 3:24 am |
  2. John Tudek

    "I like to consider myself an avid tabletop role-playing game player. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons with the original 1983 “Red Box." I played through college and now run a regular D&D game at my local gaming store."

    Just to clarify – the "Red Box" edition was NOT the first D&D game – and was not even the first 'basic' D&D game. To call yourself an "avid gamer" and pretend to have a knowledge of the history of the game system while getting such a fundamental fact wrong in the FIRST sentence really makes me question your credibility.

    Which is a shame. Paizo (not Pazio or Paozi or anything else) has produced an excellent product and deserves better than this hackneyed journalism. Back to English 101 with you!

    January 19, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • Kaylea

      Play ifnormtvaie for me, Mr. internet writer.

      January 29, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • trrkhwfy

      kvQkIg rgytjqxptmgg

      February 1, 2012 at 4:21 am |
  3. Finn K

    Apparently I can't post my full reply to Mike's and Chris O's failure to understand why 4E isn't the same game, nor is it a legitimate descendant of the old game. I don't know why my attempts to post a reasonable response keep disappearing into the ether, but I'm not going to bother anymore. It's NOT the same game (I played original D&D, and Chainmail), it does not have the spirit of the old game, and while it's kind'a/sort'a "tactical" it has otherwise completely lost the old wargaming roots. Placing miniatures on a map does not make it like the old war-game which was the original root of the game, or bring back anything resembling the old spirit.

    January 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  4. Finn K

    (now I wonder what happened to the other comment I made, since it seems to have never shown up?)

    January 18, 2012 at 5:06 pm |

    Paizo has made a great effort to create a product to simplify the rules of Pathfinder RPG to make them more accessible to a larger audience. Since they started work on Pathfinder, many of the gamers on my Forum were happy to have an updated rule system to play with, as the 4th edition was not what they were interested in playing. Hopefully this new product will help bring even more people into the game who might, eventually, be willing to jump to the larger system that is Pathfinder RPG.

    I am happy for the decision to support Pathfinder RPG with my [3rd party] products! THANK YOU PAIZO!!

    November 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  6. Mike

    My friend is a game store manager, and as soon as he got this in, he popped it open (we use Pathfinder for everything from actual Pathfinder to Iron Kingdoms to an upgraded rules system for the Forgotten Realms D&D setting). The big thing he noticed, and something that is only kind of touched on in the article, is that the book layout is very similar to an RPG game guide like one might expect for a Final Fantasy game. This helps make the game very intuitive for people who are new to tabletop roleplaying games, which is probably the most important aspect of these boxed sets.

    Also, I honestly don't get why people say 4th Edition D&D isn't D&D. I mean, ok, I get that you really, really liked 3rd/3.5... but you do understand that D&D was originally a skirmish style miniatures game, more or less... right? That Gary Gygax (r.i.p.) got his start making miniatures wargames along the same vein as Warhammer, and that D&D was essentially a smaller scale version of those games? If anything, 4th Edition is a lot closer to the "roots" of D&D than 3.5 ever was. It gets back to that miniatures gaming feel while still enabling the roleplaying (which is a function of the players, not the rules) that we know and love. Personally, I love both... but as a GM, I currently find 4th Edition easier to plan for (mostly because of the tools from D&D Insider... I'm planning on creating similar tools for Pathfinder for my own use).

    November 4, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  7. Bobby

    This box set is perfect for anyone who's wanting to try Pathfinder or who wants to continue playing the game that started it all. If all you've played is D&D 4th Edition, this is your chance to actually play Dungeons and Dragons, even if under another name.

    November 1, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Chris O

      If all you've ever played is 3.5, then you obviously won't see how 4th ed is, as Mike said, closer in spirit to the original rules than 3.5 or Pathfinder. I, for one, also like how 4th streamlines and makes the rules consistent, so that the "roll playing" doesn't get int he way of the "role playing"

      November 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
      • jaredy

        Yes, 4e took out the "role"-that's how they streamlined it. Enjoy 5e, lol.

        January 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  8. MJ

    I recall the old Red Box from 1983 as well. It had plastic dice (one set) that you coloured in with a crayon. There was the pregen fighter you could play and it only took an hour to learn the basics from someone who already played. I don't remember any pawns or maps but I keep thinking there was an ad for other TSR stuff; maybe that's just me adding it in from the mags from the time. I was quite happy with the box then; I am than more pleased with Paizo's now.

    October 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  9. Timothy McNeil

    Paizo spams their products within their own products. It gets annoying when the same ones are repeated over and over again. Not that Paizo doesn't (usually) put out quality products, but it gets irksome they way they grub for money.

    October 28, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Mazra

      They are a business. It is more than appropriate for them to include a catalog and flyer of their other offerings. I would not have expected less from any business trying to make, what many think as evil, MONEY.

      BTW- The pawns are just a cheap way to get many of the tools needed to play the game. For those really interested in playing will likely move on to miniatures in a short amount time. Though the pawns are well made; and I much prefer the stands over flat round disk used by other game systems that we will not mention. It is not mentioned in the Pathfinder Beginners box, but Paizo is coming out with a full line of Pathfinder miniatures produced by Wizkids.

      November 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  10. Koushiro

    It's worth pointing out that advertising other products inside of a boxed set has been something that's been done for ages in the RPG market and certainly isn't something new.

    Of course Paizo wants you to know about the full rules and other books! 😀

    October 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  11. Chris

    Just for clarity: the company name is Paizo, not Pizao, and the name of the game is "Pathfinder" not "Pathfinders".

    October 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Laithoron

      Just adding a +1 to verify that Chris' statement is accurate.

      BTW, nice review. The only things I would like to add are:
      * Pathfinder does not use "facing" rules, so I could potentially see pawns with different images on each side confusing that fact (even though I do agree it would have been nice aesthetically).
      * IMO since this set is an introduction to a larger system, Paizo would have been remiss not to provide guidance on additional *key* products for new customers. My only beef here is that their Gamemastery Guide would have made more sense to tout than their novel line. Otherwise I found the ads for the Core Rulebook, Bestiary, and World Guide poignant, useful, and unobtrusive, certainly not spam.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Brian

      Paizo, Pizao, and Piazo all make an appearance in this article. Where is the editor?

      November 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm |