D&D and Pathfinder: What’s the Difference?

Cara asks:

What is Pathfinder and how does it differ from DnD?

I am a fan of both, and I know a lot of people who are! On this topic we’ve got Dave Chalker,  a tabletop RPG fan and game designer.


2014-02-22 20.37.02Dungeons & Dragons has had multiple editions, dating back from the 70s to, well, sometime this year. Each edition changes up the rules, has different authors, different options for what characters you can play, different monsters, even different styles of game that it supports.

Think about something like Windows having a bunch of versions, like how Windows 95 is different than Windows XP which is different than Windows 8. A lot of the broad strokes are the same between each one, generally support the same kind of use, but have different looks, feels, and things they’re better or worse at. Each of these ‘versions’ is called an Edition. See a list of D&D editions.

So one of D&D’s editions was 3.5 (just like a piece of software, it was an update to a previous edition, with just a bunch of stuff patched and a .5 added onto the end.) D&D 3 and 3.5 were (and are!) super popular D&D editions.

Once it was announced there would be a D&D 4, a bunch of the folks who worked on D&D 3.5 (the company Paizo) decided to take the underlying engine that powered it and patch it up some more, but not so much that you had to throw out all the books you already had from D&D 3.5. That game is Pathfinder.

That means Pathfinder is another version of D&D, just made by a different company than who makes the official game with the D&D name on it. (In this author’s opinion, a lot of games are D&D, which I’ll talk about later.) Pathfinder takes D&D 3.5, keeps most of the main concepts, character options, and mostly maintains compatibility between the two. At the same time, Paizo puts out a steady stream of many new books, supplements, adventures, and more.

At the moment, a lot of data points towards Pathfinder being the biggest RPG currently putting out new products, especially while D&D works on its next new edition. That’s one of the big advantages of Pathfinder: new books all the time, and not just official products, there’s also all kinds of smaller companies and fans publishing too.

Between that, and everything made for D&D 3 and 3.5 still floating around out there, there’s sourcebooks, tables, spells, and whatever other super-specific supplements you could ever want for your Pathfinder game. It’s also very well supported with organized play programs for those who don’t just want home campaigns with it’s Pathfinder Society having branches all over the world.

That is all to say: Pathfinder is very closely related to D&D. D&D (in all its editions) and Pathfinder all have their different strengths and fans. Likewise, there are plenty of other games that are great that are related to D&D, including (but not limited to) 13th Age, Dungeon World, Labyrinth, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and many more. Largely they share a lot of the trappings of D&D, even in many cases directly patching up a specific D&D edition, with a lot of the terms being common between them.

I hope that all that explains what Pathfinder is. As for how it differs from D&D… well, what D&D is in the first place varies depending on who you ask: even the original creators of D&D disagreed about it. My only advice on that front is to try as many as you can and see which one is the most D&D to you, and enjoy the heck out of it.

If you want to get started, you might check out ENWorld.org for a forum with people talking about D&D of all kinds.

Dave Chalker is a freelance game designer, game developer, and editor-in-chief of Critical-Hits.com. His RPG credits include work on Dungeons & Dragons, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, and the Firefly RPG. His other tabletop work includes Get Bit!, Criminals, and Heat (currently on Kickstarter.) You can find him at @DaveTheGame on Twitter or on Critical-Hits.com.


Dungeon World: Tabletop RPGs Made Easy

Dungeon World Cover

NotAnNPC asks:

So…I want to know more about Dungeon World. I’ve seen several tweets about it and how easy it is to play. How is it different from other table tops like D&D and Pathfinder?

 To answer this question, we have Jason Pitre. Jason is an indie roleplaying games enthusiast and writer and he loves Dungeon World!

Thanks for asking! Full disclosure, I have been a fan of Dungeon World since the early iterations.

Dungeon World is the brain-child of Adam Koebel and Sage Latorra, who have worked together to produce a really fascinating game that reproduces all of the excitement of nostalgic, classic D&D. It’s a game where you play badass fighters, strange wizards, zealous paladins and devout clerics, fighting orks and dragons. The designers describe it as a love-letter to the way they remember playing Dungeons and Dungeons as kids.

The system behind Dungeon World is quite different from other tabletop games such as modern D&D or Pathfinder, for good reason. Dungeon World is inspired by and derived from the Vincent Baker’s brilliant post-apocalyptic game “Apocalypse World”. Vincent is well known for coming up with innovative mechanics, which Adam and Sage have refined and recreated to fit the dungeon environment.

The basic system is simple. The GM (Game Master, person who decides the story the players are in) asks you what you want to do. You describe your clever thief sneaking into the royal treasury, bypassing a couple tripwires and generally being stealthy. The GM describes the heavy footfalls and clanging of boots heading in your general direction and asks what you would like to do.  You describe hiding behind a bookshelf in the shadows, and everyone agrees that it makes sense that you could do that.  You didn’t roll dice for any of that.

The entire game mechanic revolves around these moves, which are always resolved by rolling 2d6 + your attribute modifier (2d6 means two six-sided dice).  If you get a 10+, you succeed with style. If you get a 7-9, the GM will offer you some hard bargain, drawback or other complication. If you get a 6 or less, then the GM gets to be mean to you, but you get an experience point that will help you level up.

Let’s say that you want to then sneak out of the shadows and steal the key from the passing guard’s belt. In such a case, you would roll 2d6 to use your move “Defy Danger”.  You roll a 7, +1 for your Dexterity modifier, for a total of 8.  The GM smiles and says that you can get the key firmly in your grasp, but you will attract the attention of the guard. Your life gets a little more complicated, but you did get most of what you wanted.

The system pretty much says that you only roll the dice when it’s interesting to do so. It means that you have free-flowing combat, players have authority to define parts of the setting and you don’t get bogged down in the record keeping of exactly how many arrows you have in your quiver. It’s lightweight, needing almost no preparation and supporting the GM with some excellent guidance text.


Jason Pitre is the owner, designer and barista at Genesis of Legend Publishing

Designer of the Spark Roleplaying Game and Posthuman Pathways

More information about Dungeon World is available here. For even more rules information, check out the Dungeon World SRD!

Do you have experience with Dungeon World? What do you like about it?