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D&D 3.5/Pathfinder vs D&D 5 Compare and Contrast

JCServantJCServant Certified PolygameistRPGamer Staff
edited April 2016 in Saving Throw Gaming
Now that D&D 5 has been out for a bit, I'd love to hear thoughts from players/GMs experienced in both...to compare and contrast.... and, of course, which you are enjoying more today. Thank you, in advance, for sharing!

P.S. It has been brought to my attention that I might, accidentally, start an "Edition War" here on our forums. LOL. I honestly just want to hear thoughts and opinions...so, please, be an adult about this. Along those lines, I'd like to encourage 1) thoughts only from those people who have played both editions long enough to have an informed opinion. And 2) ask those who are sharing to share only your opinions on the contrasts and comparisons of the game systems...not your opinions on other's opinions :P It's all about respect.

Thank you!!
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Comments

  • TG BarighmTG Barighm Member Full Members
    edited April 2016
    3.5, but only because it took so long to learn it and the idea of buying a whole new set of books just makes my head spin. We're not talking video games here. 3.5 works just as well as it always has. Well, including the Pathfinder changes, mind you.

    lol Edition war. I've never seen anyone argue about D&D Editions. Campaign setting wars...now, that's something to argue about.
  • TheAnimeManTheAnimeMan Member Full Members
    Oh yeah there were huge arguments over 3.5 and 4E. Heck there are even arguments over 5th and Pathfinder and people are pissed with how well 5th is doing compared to pathfinder at the moment
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  • JCServantJCServant Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    LOLz.

    Well, I've spent the last two days listening and reading over a dozen reviews...with most of them making comparisons to older versions of D&D and/or PF. I've heard a LOT of positive points about D&D 5.0, so this Pathfinder Fanboy (who has dozens of their books and has run PF campaigns for 4 years straight) just bought his first D&D 5.0 rulebooks.

    It is a shame that more discussions didn't happen here... I think its a great discussion to have that may help people (like myself) who never really thought to look at one or the other because of pre-conceived notions or lack of time. While I wait for Amazon to deliver my shiny new books, I shall go and play some Fire Emblem :)
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  • DravDrav A Serious Man Full Members
    edited April 2016
    I've been playing 5E for about six months now, and I'm enjoying it a lot. I think it's a great system, and much easier to get started with than 3.5 (don't have much experience with Pathfinder outside of a few one-shot games). Really love the simplified skill calculations and the advantage/disadvantage system. The Pathfinder players I've spoken to don't feel like they have a reason to switch though, and a lot of them resent the emphasis on pre-set builds over feats (most classes have three main progression paths, with multi-classing and feats as optional rules). 5E seems to have attracted quite a few new players though, and I think WOTC have done a good job providing them with low-cost options to enter into the hobby (the core rules are available as free PDFs, for example), so it'll be interesting to see how the demographics changes in the next few years.

    One thing that's probably worth noting though is that it is definitely NOT an old-school system. It very much emphasizes character skills over player skills (with lots of generous skill bonuses, crazy class superpowers etc.), and if you like games where characters are actually at risk of dying then you'll probably need to modify the rest/death mechanics a bit (I think there are some suggestions for this in the DMG). Our DM expresses regular frustration at how easily we tend to steamroll the encounters from published campaigns. If you're an OD&D or AD&D true believer, you'll probably have less incentive to switch than 3.5/Patherfinder fans.
  • JCServantJCServant Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    Yeah, Drav...in doing my research, I think I'm totally in agreement with you regarding the simplified calculations. I love Pathfinder, don't get me wrong...but after five years of Play, I agree with a YouTuber who stated "Pathfinder is the best D&D system, until you get to 9th-10th level." I have ran multiple campaigns well into the 15th level area, and, boy, do things slow down once you get past 5th and 9th levels.

    As far as lethality. I have a different impression of PF (from experience) and about D&D5th (From reviews/podcasts). Allow me to explain.

    Paizo pre written adventures, especially Pathfinder Society (organized play), tends to be very easy. I imagine this is because they want players to walk away with warm fuzzies...as a lot of this is set up with the new gamer in mind... i.e., you don't really have to have an optimized, balanced party to have a decent chance to win. With that said, with the full blown campaigns they write (which I've ran two dozen books worth), while super easy in 90% of the fights, occasionally throws a curve ball with a monster that's clearly not super balanced for that level of play. Those are fun :)

    On the D&D side, a lot of people say that due to the low magic and the 'bounded accuracy' built into the system, that parties are still pretty squishy and vulnerable for some time. A couple of guys I listened to explained how their 3rd level party had a death against goblins or orcs. One of them commented "When was the last time your third level party in 3.5/PF ever felt threatened by orcs?" ROFL. They painted a picture that death was still very 'alive and well' in 5e.

    Of course, with either one, I imagine your mileage will vary based on your GM...especially with homebrew campaign. After all, nothing stops him from tweaking the encounters in pre writtens and the such (I regularly do this in Pathfinder, and award bonus XP to the players accordingly). Thanks to "Bounded accuracy", I have to imagine that its much easier for GMs to create balanced encounters in D&D5 if they wish. After all, it's not hard to predict, within a few points, what your players To Hit, Saves, HPs, etc will be at any given level, since there are few ways to bump those stats, and buffs are limited.
    The Pathfinder players I've spoken to don't feel like they have a reason to switch though, and a lot of them resent the emphasis on pre-set builds over feats (most classes have three main progression paths, with multi-classing and feats as optional rules).
    Yeah...I've noted this as well with most of my players, which is why I hope discussions like this are helpful. I think for players of 5.0 looking for more class options, choices, depth, Pathfinder is a great alternative.

    On the other hand, as a long time Pathfinder GM, I'll tell you what a simplified system like 5.0 potentially means to me.... it means more chances to focus on other elements of the game outside of character ... such as building keeps, attracting followers, RP'ing intelligent weapons, interesting subsystems such as earned deity favors, etc. Since AD&D, I have always look for ways to add interesting subsystems to further enhance and differentiate each campaign. There's nothing stopping me from doing that with Pathfinder, and I often do. The challenge is that there's SOOOO much going on with the Pathfinder system as written...with so many buffs, debuffs, rules, modifiers, magic items/slots, etc., that when I add something else to the mix, its just too much. So, often times, players forget either a class feature, magic item power, bonus, etc... I can't tell you how many time a player told me, after a high level fight, that they completely forgot their sword's cool power to call down fire, or to use their class feature, etc.

    I say "potentially" because I lack experience with it, at the moment. I'll start running a game this Sunday, and give it a shot. It will take a few campaigns to get a good feeling with it, and see if my initial thoughts bear out through actual experience.
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  • TG BarighmTG Barighm Member Full Members
    JCServant wrote: »
    It is a shame that more discussions didn't happen here...

    Back when I was active, everyone was still learning the D20 system, so nobody saw the need to argue. They were too busy asking questions.
  • JCServantJCServant Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    edited April 2016
    TG Barighm wrote: »
    JCServant wrote: »
    It is a shame that more discussions didn't happen here...

    Back when I was active, everyone was still learning the D20 system, so nobody saw the need to argue. They were too busy asking questions.

    Since I was clearly referring to the more discussion about this particular topic/thread (not in general... I don't really keep tabs on that), I'm not super sure what your point here is...especially since I am asking questions and not asking for an argument.
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  • DravDrav A Serious Man Full Members
    edited May 2016
    JCServant wrote: »
    On the D&D side, a lot of people say that due to the low magic and the 'bounded accuracy' built into the system, that parties are still pretty squishy and vulnerable for some time. A couple of guys I listened to explained how their 3rd level party had a death against goblins or orcs. One of them commented "When was the last time your third level party in 3.5/PF ever felt threatened by orcs?" ROFL. They painted a picture that death was still very 'alive and well' in 5e.
    In order to die in 5E, you either need to be hit with an attack that takes you down past your total HP in the negative, or get knocked out and fail three death saves in a row before someone stabilizes you. That strikes me as really generous and sign that death isn't something that's supposed to happen outside of rare circumstances. I'm surprised someone managed to see a 3rd level character death against orcs; 15 max damage (D12 + 3 for orcs) would have only been just enough to kill our wizard at 3rd level, and only if he was already down to 1 HP when he was hit. Of course they may have had a bastard GM who attacks knocked-out characters just to make sure they get a kill haha.

    Bounded accuracy IS good to making low-level monsters still feel like a valid threat though, because even if they can't feasibly kill you they can still knock you out, and a total party knock-out is as good as a total party kill if you're fighting evil opponents who don't take prisoners.
  • TG BarighmTG Barighm Member Full Members
    JCServant wrote: »
    TG Barighm wrote: »
    JCServant wrote: »
    It is a shame that more discussions didn't happen here...

    Back when I was active, everyone was still learning the D20 system, so nobody saw the need to argue. They were too busy asking questions.

    I'm not super sure what your point here is...especially since I am asking questions and not asking for an argument.

    It was a harmless observation for anyone curious about this forum's past.
  • TheAnimeManTheAnimeMan Member Full Members
    Currently playing the Ravenloft campaign with my group and it's been kinda of touch and go a few times. Heck Saturday we had a 3 hour long combat again'ts some hags. But that had to do part with the Barbarian (me) missing three times. And those three hours we primarily focused on the combat but man was it a pretty brutal fight.
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  • JCServantJCServant Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    edited June 2016
    Update time!! Since I didn't get much answer to my original question...I can now provide some of that insight myself. Hopefully it will encourage mature discussion and/or provide a viewpoint to others looking for more information on the two systems (as I originally was). Well, we are a handful of sessions in. While that's hardly enough to make a detailed analysis of the contrasts between the two systems, here are a few observations I have...

    * D&D is definitely simpler to run, adjudicate and adjust. On one hand, that seems to be a bit of a bummer due to the lack of choices and depth to many of the classes. On the other hand, it gives me a lot more room to customize my games with deeper house rules, items, etc.
    * Along the lines of items... in PF, you have items bloat. Each character has about a dozen 'slots,' and due to the fact that they already have numerous class abilities/powers, they tend to forget consumable items outside of a Wand of Cure Wounds. In fact, on my PF players has a legendary sword that shoots jets of flames. They fought an enemy clearly vulnerable to this attack, and he did not use it because he simply forgot about it in the 3 page character sheet. With D&D, these item abilities stick out a lot more since they do not have to compete with 11 other items and pages of class skills.
    * Leveling up takes 1/5th the time.
    * Combat is a bit too simple for my tastes, coming from Pathfinder...easily addressed with some house rules.

    I think, so far, my initial impression is that D&D 5th offers a great foundation. It's a great system out of the box for new players, and for experienced GMs, it offers a LOT of room to houserule and add extra gaming systems (such as kingdom rules, relationships, complex artifacts, etc). Sure, you can do that with PF, but because it's already so deep, I found adding stuff to it was often overload. Furthermore, you cannot simplify PF easily through houserules (I've tried), as you run into all kinds of balancing issues and upset players. However, you can add complexity easily to D&D.

    Does that mean I'm suddenly a D&D fanboy after 5+ years of towing the PF line? No... not yet! (LOL). I'm still running and enjoying both systems for the time being. But, yeah, I am starting to see why some are finding 5th to be a breath of fresh air.
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  • rakdenrakden New Member Full Members
    I played Pathfinder Society for a few years, and a couple ongoing campaigns. This worked well for me and my limited time. I have a not small but not large collection of Pathfinder material. Recently I have been participating in a Roll20 5e game.

    This has made me realize just how fiddly Pathfinder really is. I've always found playing Pathfinder to be very driven by the mechanics, and inevitably there is always a stickler for the rules at the table. This game has become much more role playing focused. I find we are generally interacting with the world more, describing our actions more, etc... Pathfinder always played out "I am going to do action abc with roll 123" you succeed you fail.

    I'm generally a casual RPG player, I'm just playing to have fun, do a little story building with pals. And of course roll some dice. Subjectively I'm having a much better time with 5e than I ever did with Pathfinder (not that I disliked Pathfinder)
  • DravDrav A Serious Man Full Members
    edited June 5
    Drav wrote: »
    I've been playing 5E for about six months now, and I'm enjoying it a lot. I think it's a great system, and much easier to get started with than 3.5 (don't have much experience with Pathfinder outside of a few one-shot games). Really love the simplified skill calculations and the advantage/disadvantage system. The Pathfinder players I've spoken to don't feel like they have a reason to switch though, and a lot of them resent the emphasis on pre-set builds over feats (most classes have three main progression paths, with multi-classing and feats as optional rules). 5E seems to have attracted quite a few new players though, and I think WOTC have done a good job providing them with low-cost options to enter into the hobby (the core rules are available as free PDFs, for example), so it'll be interesting to see how the demographics changes in the next few years.
    Thought I'd post an addendum to this: over the past year everyone I know who was playing/running Pathfinder has switched to D&D 5E. Why? Partly because it was easier to learn, but mostly because they got a lot more interest from new players if they said they were running "D&D".
  • JCServantJCServant Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    It is hard to deny the draw of a brand name that's been at the front of RPGs for decades...that's for sure. For new players, D&D 5th, hands down, is easier to teach and get people into, than PF. And, there's enough of the old(er) system(s) there to interest long term players. I question whether there's enough meat on the bone, so to speak, to keep PF/D&D 3.5 players interested, however. PF had so much depth and choices to their class/feat system that moving to D&D 5th may feel too shallow once the novelty wears off. So far, I have only been able to pull one of my older PF players into 5th. In playing a rangers for 3-4 levels, he was already commenting how shallow it felt. The new players at the table, on the other hand, seem happy with what they have.

    Another situation... my friend loves using things like Fog Cloud to gain tactical advantages over larger numbers of foes. He plays very intelligently. We quickly found out that while PF would have such rules exactly laid out on how to handle Fog Cloud, D&D 5th left a lot more to the GM's discretion. Situations like that make some long term PF players a bit uncomfy. Those types of players prefer the objectiveness of having black and white rules for nearly every conceivable situation (especially in relation to common spells).

    Luckily, my friend knew all of this going into 5th. While it made him a bit uncomfortable, he rolled with my ruling on the spot. I made a note to create a house rule handling fog moving forward.

    As a GM, I enjoy this new approach, myself. PF's combination of deep class customization, multiple actions per round, increase of feats / level, and rules for everything, ended up making combats at higher levels feel like an absolute slog. And, like most GMs, I always want to add some houserules and campaign specific rules (such as caravan mechanics, kingdom building, ship fights, etc). That only added to the inherent problem with the system. My hope is that 5th ed's simplicity allows me a lot more freedom to add new things / rules / depth specific to each campaign I do, without weighing down an already bloated rules system (PF). So far, after playing 6-7 levels, that has worked out. I'll need a lot more time and games to have a very solid opinion. Right now, my approach of "Add rules where they are needed to build on D&D 5th foundation" seems to be working well enough.

    Along those lines... I created a bunch of house rule trick arrows my PF playing friend could create or buy. This allows him more tactical options than the rules as written, giving him some much desired additional depth. I'm working on fog houserules now to bring consistancy to how I judge that spell since he will use it a lot.

    My bottom line impression after a year... For those who want all of the depth/rules/etc already written out, PF has it. If you can come up with a character concept, PF has rules that absolutely support that concept and really make you feel like it. A pirate (a rogue archtype) has VERY piratey because he has very specific mechanics. Same for, say, a white witch... who can attack with her hair and cackle (as any witch can) to extend her hexes. The problem is that once the game gets to higher levels, and players learn to really milk the system (and they should), combat at higher levels becomes a slog.

    For those who want a much lighter rules experience that allows you to add those rules the way the GM wants, as the party goes along, D&D 5th provides such a framework. GMs will need to work with players who want either a deeper class experience, or more consistency to certain situations, spells, etc. Thankfully, D&D allows *plenty* of room for the GM to do just that. As an added bonus, D&D 5th has a LOT less math, and doesn't require a program to track characters like PF does.
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  • DravDrav A Serious Man Full Members
    edited June 10
    I can fully empathise with your players who love poring over the player's handbook and dreaming up cool character builds; I think that will be a natural impulse for any game with lots of stats and formulas to play around with. Unfortunately I found that that the more time I spent thinking in terms of strategy and tactics, the less I spent thinking about creating a compelling character, and more recently I've found myself gravitating away from even D&D 5E in favour of games with simpler character systems where I can focus on character concepts without worrying about whether I'm going to pull my weight when it comes to combat. I'm still very interested in playing a Basic-rules-only 5E game just to see if that shifts the dynamics/expectations a bit...
  • JCServantJCServant Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    Yeah. I hear ya. I played Savage Worlds for a bit, which is a pretty simple system that you can use for about any setting. In a way, it's more 5e than 5e, lol. Making characters took just a few minutes and you jump right in after doing your character concepts and stuff. We found, though, it was a bit TOO simple for us.

    I think you'll find that 5e lets you do what you seek...focus a bit on character concepts. PF gives you more ways to support that concept from a combat standpoint. If you want to play a pirate swashbuckler, you will find specific combat mechanics that support that. You don't HAVE to make optimized builds in PF at all...presuming your DM/GM doesn't push the CRs of the encounters too high. What I found to be a bigger concern was that in every group there were one or more players who totally went all out in making optimized characters, which made others, who simply focused on a concept, feel a bit useless in combat by contrast. Because Savage Worlds and 5e are much more simplified, and deflated a lot of the number crunching, I see a lot less of those OP'd super-awesome builds outshining the casual or concept focused builds. I just wish there were more options for players who want a different flavor of fighter, wizard, etc.
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