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An Excellent Update
on 24 September 2009
The first thing to understand about this book is that is not a new game. Pathfinder's rules are an evolution of the 3.5 edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game rules. However, that said, it certainly feels like a new game. The people at Paizo have taken the old rules and given them a muchly needed overhaul to produce a game that is old and yet new at the same time. The change are subtle, but there are many of them and while these rules are technically backwards compatible with existing 3.5 products, it stands alone just fine.
The book is big, 576 pages and hardbound and it weighs a fair bit. This is hardly surprising as it is essentially the 3.5 DMG and PHB rolled into one volume. The pages are of good paper stock and there is a lot of art in this (albeit mostly recycled art from other Pathfinder products, but when the art is this good it's worth using it more than once!). The cover is by my favourite fantasy artist Wayne Reynolds, and there's plenty more art from him (and many others) inside too.
So if this is the same rules but yet not, what has changed? A lot of the problems with 3.5 have been tweaked and fixed (Shapechanging spells I'm looking at you), as well as all of the 11 core classes have been given a bit of a boost. Too often before they came across as the poor option and were only taken as a springboard into getting a Prestige Class. Prestige Classes are still present, but the core classes are now much more attractive, Fighters get bonuses for weapons and armour mastery, Monks get a pool of Ki points they can spend to power a multitude of abilities, Sorcerors get a bloodline which adds spells & powers to their repertoire, Barbarians have rage powers, and Paladins can do far more than just restoring hit points when laying on hands.
Races have been tweaked too. There are no new ones here, but the ones present (Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Half-Elf, Half-Orc & Human) have all been subtly revised. Gnomes are now a fey race, Halflings are luckier and Half-Elves are more adapatable than before.
If you love D&D and yet do not like the 4th edition of that game, then I'd strongly advise you to give these rules a try. They are in my opinion a far more faithful continuation of the traditions of D&D than 4th edition will ever be.