Friday, July 11, 2014

To Pathfinder or Not to Pathfinder?

Should I be directing my students toward Paizo's Pathfinder rather than D&D, retro-clones, and indie games?

Here's why I ask: 

Yesterday I got a chance to visit my Friendly Local Games Store and of course I browsed their stock of RPGs.  While they had two copies of D&D Next (or "Fifth Edition" ... though it's actually the 10th ... a rant for another day) the vast majority of their shelf-space (on the order of 80%) was devoted to Pathfinder.
Not actually a battle, but nerds at caught at the very moment
that they realize the Core Rulebook retails for about $50
As it happens, I also got to drop in on my local Books-A-Million yesterday.  If you've never been in one, Books-a-Million is basically Barnes & Noble with a toy store grafted on in place of the e-reader section.  In addition to a surprisingly large section of graphic novels, there are also a couple shelves dedicated to tabletop role-playing.  It's a mixed bag of D&D products (mostly fourth edition, notably NO copies of the newest edition), some anime-themed role-playing stuff and ... yes ... Pathfinder, this time making up about two-thirds of the shelf-space.

This got me to thinking ... what if lightning strikes and I manage to get a handful of students interesting in tabletop outside of school?  Sure, if they are motivated they can find rule books online (free for most stuff these days), but what about community?  If they come into contact with fellow gamers will they just adjust to whatever game is being played with enthusiasm, or will the effort of leaping across systems cause kids to lose interest?

Then there's presentation ... Pathfinder books have the shiny.  No, they aren't classic and evocative Tramp-style art (or even weird Erol Otus stuff), rather the art in Pathfinder books borrow far more from the artistic sensibilities found in the promo art of MMORPGs, but then again, one reason that I went back to page through my AD&D DM's Guide time after time as a kid was the cool, mysterious Jeff Easley cover.

               

Pathfinder
The PROs

  • It's pretty (which can really get kids interested)
  • You can find books for it in my community via retail (if you know where to look)
  • A greater chance of meeting other people who play the same system
The CONs

  • It's expensive: $35 for a beginner's box; $50 for core rules hardback
  • It's dense.  The GM's book in the beginner box is 96 pages ... the player's book 64 ... I just don't know if my students are going to invest that level of time and concentration as a ticket-for-admission
  • It's crunchy (complex) which is a con when you are looking to get people in, but becomes a pro later on for those who stick with it.


So, if I really want to open a door to tabletop for my students, would I be best served if I left a copy of some Pathfinder core book lying around my classroom for kids to page through before class starts?