The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) that was published in 2009 by Paizo Publishing. The first edition extends and modifies the System Reference Document (SRD) based on the revised 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) published by Wizards of the Coast under the Open Game License (OGL) and is intended to be backward-compatible with that edition. The first major revision of the ruleset, Pathfinder 2nd Edition, was released in August 2019.
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Pathfinder is supported by the official Pathfinder periodicals and various third-party content created to be compatible with the game.
Beginning in 2002, Paizo took over publishing Dragon and Dungeon magazines, which were about the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role-playing game, under contract to the game's publishers Wizards of the Coast. Wizards of the Coast chose not to renew the contract in early 2007 and Paizo began publishing the Pathfinder periodical line as a replacement. In August 2007, Wizards of the Coast announced the pending release of the 4th edition of D&D, which replaced version 3.5. Many of the staff at Paizo were concerned about the more restrictive Game System License under which the 4th edition was being released.
Instead of continuing to support D&D, Paizo released the stand-alone Pathfinder Roleplaying Game as a modified version of the version 3.5 game, under the Open Game License used by the older version. Announced in March 2008, Pathfinder was designed over the course of a year using an open playtest model, where players could try the system and post their feedback on Paizo's website.
Paizo announced a second edition of Pathfinder in 2018. Like the first edition, it made use of an open playtest to refine various mechanics of gameplay.
Informally nicknamed D&D version 3.75, The first edition of Pathfinder is a modification of version 3.5 of Dungeons & Dragons and is intended to be compatible with the older game. Lead Designer Jason Bulmahn felt that the basic classes of D&D version 3.5 were lackluster, as they did not provide incentive to stay with a single class for 20 levels of play. Pathfinder adds many options to the classes and boosts their abilities in their core roles.
The game has also been modified compared to D&D version 3.5. Changes were made involving balance between different game elements. For example, less combat-oriented classes receive more hit points each level than their 3.5 counterparts. Additionally, several aspects of 3.5 have been changed in Pathfinder, including several spells, the skill system and combat maneuvers such as tripping and grappling.
The material published by Paizo for the Pathfinder system has been set in a world called Golarion.
Paizo also introduced the Pathfinder Society, an organized game play program. Players register their characters on Paizo's website, allowing players to use their characters in different play sessions and different groups while continuing to earn experience, money and prestige points. After a session has ended, the player will receive a chronicle sheet, listing what has been earned during the session. The player will use these chronicle sheets to log this information on the website.
In May 2018, Paizo announced it was working on Pathfinder Second Edition to refine elements of the rule set to reflect feedback and clarification on the original system over the prior years. The preliminary ruleset was published in August 2018 as Pathfinder Playtest so that players could test out and provide feedback. The final rule set was released on August 1, 2019.
Among key changes in the second edition is a streamlined action economy. Each round, each character can perform up to three actions on their turn as well as one reaction on their own turn or another character's turn. Most basic moves, such as moving across the ground, drawing a weapon, or making an attack cost a single action, while more complicated maneuvers may require two or three actions. The rules around magic items have been changed to discourage players from hoarding too many items and instead encouraging them to seek out more powerful equipment. Critical hits have also been changed – a critical success now occurs any time a combatant rolls 10 more than the target's armor class. Combatants can also critically succeed when defending which usually results in no effect rather than the reduced effect a save would usually bring. Finally there has been a broad change to all number scaling of skills, armor class, attack rolls, saves, and difficulty classes. All these numbers now scale 1 to 1 with a character's level plus a stat plus a bonus between two and eight depending on their proficiency. This results in extremely bounded values when compared to the first edition. Stats have also had their range lowered when compared to the first edition.
The first edition has been supplemented by expansions and accessory books which contain expanded rules, new classes, spells, equipment, and other optional game features. The books in the Bestiary series contain statistics and descriptions of creatures that player characters may encounter. A related supplement, the Monster Codex (2014), offered a selection of more specialized monsters, such as a "goblin vulture rider." The Advanced Player's Guide (2010) allowed Paizo to expand the game beyond its d20 System roots by adding six new base classes, and added the concept of class "archetypes" – themed variations of the core classes with alternate class features.: 224  The Advanced Class Guide (2014) expanded the options for character development further by adding ten more character classes, including the investigator, the swashbuckler, and the warpriest. Pathfinder Unchained (2015) offered a variety of optional rules to streamline or otherwise customize gameplay, including new rules for skills and magic items, and alternative versions of classes like the summoner. Further Pathfinder supplements include the Advanced Race Guide (2012), which extended the options for player character races; Mythic Adventures (2013), which provided options for "epic level" play beyond the core game's normal limits; and Occult Adventures (2016), which introduced six supernatural classes including the kineticist, medium, and psychic.
Paizo also produced the Pathfinder Beginner Box, a basic version of the Pathfinder rules intended to introduce new gamers to the hobby.: 228
OtherWorld Creations (later renamed to Super Genius Games) published a series of Genius Guide books for Pathfinder, beginning with The Genius Guide to the Shaman (2009), and added Owen K.C. Stephens as their Pathfinder line manager, publishing a new Pathfinder PDF weekly starting in November 2009.: 226–227 OtherWorld Creations was the most prolific licensee for Pathfinder at that time, and compiled their PDFs for print beginning with Adventurer's Handbook: Genius Guide Volume 1 (2010), leading Paizo to significantly promote the company.: 227 The founders of Super Genius Games left the company in 2013, and formed the publisher Rogue Genius Games to take over publishing their Pathfinder releases.: 227
Accessories produced include gridded maps, both specific to adventures and generic. Pathfinder Pawns is a line of boxed sets featuring cardboard illustrations of characters and monsters that can be used as gaming miniatures; Pathfinder Battles, a line of plastic miniatures, is produced under license by WizKids.
Pathfinder was the top-selling role-playing game in spring 2011, fall 2012, spring 2013, fall 2013, and summer 2014. During that four-year period, Pathfinder was at times able to outsell Dungeons & Dragons itself, which was the best-selling game through various editions between 1974 and 2010. Upon the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, that game has regained the top spot since fall 2014, with Pathfinder consistently still ranking second to D&D in sales.
Paizo has won ENnie Awards at Gen Con in a variety of categories including Best Publisher and Best Game. The beta release of the first edition of the game won the 2008 Silver ENnie award for "Best Free Product or Web-Enhancement". The Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebook is a 2020 Origins Award nominee, and winner of the 2019 Techraptor Award (Readers' Choice as Tabletop RPG of the Year).
When reviewing the second edition in August 2019, Charlie Hall of Polygon said it "feels unified and complete, rather than a hodgepodge of errata and exceptions that had accumulated for its previous iteration. As an exercise in graphic design, the Pathfinder Core Rulebook itself is extraordinary. Details that would be relegated to a sidebar or a tiny, bespoke graphic in other game systems get entire pages with elaborate diagrams and drawings. That kind of attention to detail, coupled with the repetition within the text itself, makes it a true reference document".
A card game based on the role-playing game, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, was released at Gen Con 2013. It was designed by Mike Selinker of Lone Shark Games. The initial set for the game, Rise of the Runelords, was followed by the expansions Skull and Shackles , Wrath of the Righteous and Mummy's Mask. A second edition of the core game set introducing a story book element was released in May 2019.
Paizo published a line of novels, Pathfinder Tales, based in the Pathfinder setting. The first book, Prince of Wolves, was released in 2010 and was written by Dave Gross, former editor of Dragon Magazine. Other titles in the series, which numbers over 30 books, include City of the Fallen Sky by Tim Pratt, Winter Witch by Elaine Cunningham, The Wizard's Mask by Ed Greenwood, and Death's Heretic by line editor James L. Sutter.
Dynamite Entertainment has produced a line of Pathfinder comic books,: 228 including a spin-off title, Pathfinder: Goblins, as well as Pathfinder: Worldscape, which also featured characters such as Red Sonja, Tarzan and John Carter.
As a promotion for the 2nd edition of Pathfinder, Paizo teamed up with Geek & Sundry to produce an actual play series called Pathfinder: Knights of Everflame, which sees Jason Bulmahn run a game for five adventurers using this game system. As of November 2019, the series has finished its first 8-episode season, and is currently in the middle of its second season.
Three video games based in the Pathfinder setting have been published. Pathfinder Online, a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, was announced on November 27, 2012, by Paizo and Goblin Works and was successful in attracting crowdfunding on Kickstarter to finance its development. An official alpha test was announced in late June 2014. Early enrollment was announced on July 29, 2015. On September 2, 2015, Lisa Stevens, acting CEO of Goblin Works and CEO of Paizo announced layoffs at Goblin Works of most of the Pathfinder Online development team. The game has never left early enrollment.
On May 17, 2017, another video game, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, was announced by Paizo and developer Owlcat Games. An accompanying Kickstarter campaign was launched in June 2017. The game was released on September 25, 2018. It is an isometric RPG similar to the Infinity Engine games, and adapts the Kingmaker adventure path using the Pathfinder first edition rules.
In February 2020, Owlcat Games launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a sequel entitled Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. It was set for alpha testing in April 2020 and was released on September 2, 2021. The game is an adaptation of Paizo's "Wrath of the Righteous" adventure path.
In November 2020 Paizo and Pinnacle Entertainment Group announced Pathfinder for Savage Worlds, an adaptation of the setting of Pathfinder for use with Pinnacle's Savage Worlds RPG. The initial line will include rulebooks and the first Adventure Path, Rise of the Rune Lords.
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