As someone who has played tabletop RPGs for years, I enjoyed seeing how the genre evolved. The idea for this article came to me recently when I was talking to a friend. It got me thinking about why I enjoy running and playing Pathfinder over D&D 5th Edition. I am not the only one. All the people I have talked to about this are split with very few in the middle. If you are new to d20 systems as a whole, you may be confused about the difference and why people tend to choose one. These two games have many things in common and yet feel different. In this article, I will explain what the difference is between Pathfinder and D&D.
While I may use just Pathfinder or D&D, the games I am referring to are Pathfinder 2 and D&D 5th edition.
The Fallout Syndrome
However, before I get into the main differences between the two, I feel like an analogy will clarify things more. Picture the Bethesda Fallout games with Fallout 3 being D&D 3.5, Fallout New Vegas as Pathfinder, and Fallout 4 as D&D 5th Edition. The reason for D&D 3.5 is that you start to see the shift in Dungeons and Dragons.
Fallout 3 was an RPG where you gained experience doing quests, and after enough experience, you got to level up. During the level up, you earned points to place into skills. The skills gave you access to weapons, harder locks, etc. as long as you met the skill requirement. You had many skills to choose from, some of which seemed spread out. For example, you had big guns and small guns. In Fallout New Vegas, big guns and small guns were combined into guns, and Fallout 4 let you use any weapon. Fallout New Vegas simplified and improved on systems that were already in place. Like D&D, Fallout 4 has been remade to accommodate new players, which is great for some players but terrible for others.
For those familiar with the Fallout games, there are plenty of other examples other than just skills.
The Two Main Parts Of Tabletop RPG
In every tabletop RPG I have played, there are two primary components, diversity and simplicity. Diversity is what the system allows you to do in relation to everyone else. I describe diversity by asking if you have a party of six fighters, roleplaying aside how different they will behave mechanically? The easier it is to distinguish the fighters, the more diverse it is. Simplicity is how hard the game is to learn and how hard it is to keep track of rules that apply to your character. An example is that wizards are more complex than barbarians because of their spells. When I talk about diversity and simplicity, many people first think it is a slider with diversity on one side and simplicity on the other. While it is true that more diverse games can be more complicated, that is not the case. For me, diversity and simplicity are two sliders that work separately from each other. There are are very simple games with many choices to choose from. On the other hand there are complex games with few rules.