Pathfinder Core Rulebook and D&D Player’s Handbook: Thoughts

I’ve been enjoying table-top roleplaying games for years and years, mainly Dungeons and Dragons although I’ve dipped my toes into other systems here and there.

I’ve been curious about other ttrpg options (there is a lot more out there than some people might think). I’ve also been less than impressed with some of the recent decisions made by Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro, so I figured why not give Pathfinder 2e a try? A good friend was incredibly generous, giving the Pathfinder Core Rulebook to the players in our group, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

On the off chance that anyone is wondering, I’m sharing my thoughts on this new adventure. I’m not going to bash either Pathfinder or D&D, but I will point out things that I like and dislike in both. Whatever system you end up playing in, I hope you have great, creative fun!

First up: The Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook (5e) and the Pathfinder Core Rulebook (2e). Let’s dive in, shall we?

The first thing I noticed is that there is a ridiculously noticeable difference between the sizes of the two books. Pathfinder’s Core Rulebook is a whopping 628 pages as opposed to the 317 pages found in D&D’s Player’s Handbook. I was floored. This Pathfinder chonker came in the mail and I was astonished when I saw how big it was. There is about a ten-dollar difference in price (although it’s pretty easy to find sales on both), but after seeing everything included in the Rulebook, I think it’s worth it.

I should probably mention that both books have separate Game Master guides (Gamemastery Guide in the case of Pathfinder, The Dungeon Master’s Guide in the case of Dungeons and Dragons). I haven’t yet seen Pathfinder’s GM Guide, but D&D’s Dungeon Master’s Guide is incredibly useful. That being said, some of what’s in the Pathfiner’s Rulebook would probably fit nicely in the D&D Dungeon Master Guide. I don’t really have an opinion on that, just thought it was interesting.

So, what’s in this doorstop of a rulebook?

Before getting into that, something I need to mention about both books is that the art is phenomenal. It immediately captures both the eye and- just as importantly- the imagination. I am a huge fan of creative fantasy art and the artists for both books are incredible.

Pathfinder Core Rulebook 2e
Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook

The Pathfinder Core Rulebook has a few noticeable differences from D&D’s Player’s Handbook. There’s a section toward the back of the Rulebook that talks about the world of Pathfinder (Golarion), its different areas, and what would be found there. You won’t find that in the Player’s Handbook, although there are many separate books that explore D&D in other worlds (such as Forgotten Realms, the world of Critical Role, and others). I do think it’s kind of cool that the Rulebook includes some of that. It’s a good way to get started, having all that in one book right at your fingertips.

The big change I’ve noticed, though, is the character customization offered in the Rulebook. Both books have the classes, feats, etc. Where the Rulebook pulls ahead in this area (at least in my opinion) is that it then goes on to offer OPTIONS. Lots and lots of them. For example, a Player’s Handbook Druid Class section comes with feats, skills, etc. There, you’ve got a druid. Then, later on in the book, you can find some information about multiclassing (basically, how to shift the druid to make it uniquely yours). In the Rulebook, you have the stats, feats, etc, to make a druid. Then, you have the stats, feats, etc, to make a Storm Druid. And a Leaf Druid. See the difference?

I feel like it’s a little tougher to do that in D&D. I once tried to make a shadow dancer. It required all kinds of weird multiclassing ideas, multiple books, and an understanding GM who helped make it happen. Not exactly simple. Now, I am not well-versed in Pathfinder yet so I could very well be misreading things, but it seems that it would be a little bit simpler to shift a Pathfinder class into something different with all the options offered in that one Rulebook. Dungeons and Dragons often needs other supplemental books for that.

Now, before all the Pathfinder-only people say, “Ha ha, we’re better” or the D&D-only people say, “You’re just not doing it right, D&D is far superior”, let me just say: on the flip side of the extra customization options in the Rulebook comes that fact that the sheer amount of choices might seem daunting for someone first picking up a ttrpg book. As someone who has played for a long time and likes to make strange and unusual characters (but hates flipping between three or four books to do so), I love the idea of having so many customization options in the Rulebook. It’s awesome. But a newer player could see that very thing as confusing and unnecessary. So take my opinion for what it is: thoughts of a well-seasoned ttrpg player who wants ALL the choices.

Either way, I think both the D&D Player’s Handbook and the Pathfinder Core Rulebook are incredibly useful for playing in these two systems. At least for me, playing without them won’t go as well at first.

Coming soon:

My thoughts on playing Pathfinder 2e for the first time.


12 thoughts on “Pathfinder Core Rulebook and D&D Player’s Handbook: Thoughts

  1. Really interesting look at the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. I agree the sheer amount of info could be overwhelming for someone who is new to TTRPGs. From playing both D&D and Pathfinder, I think your sense that creating customized characters definitely comes more easily/naturally in Pathfinder, Like you said, though, there are pluses and minuses to both systems!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was fun to read, and interesting to see a different perspective. I cut my teeth on D&D 3.5 and PF 1.0 and most people I talk to are the same. There’s a lot of appreciation for D&D 5.0 in that crowd as a nice easy rules-light version of all that, but I’ve never seen it for PF 2.0. Have heard a lot of complaining about there being so many choices that don’t actually make any difference though.

    Liked by 1 person

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