Book Review: Pathfinder Role Playing Game: Strategy Guide

Pathfinder Role Playing Game:  Strategy Guide, by Wolfgang Baur, Jason Bulmahn, John Compton, Jessica Price, and Sean K. Reynolds

As the GM for an extended tabletop gaming campaign [1], one of my players commented in our most recent sessions that he wished to GM a campaign in Pathfinder when our characters reach level 10 (which is a fair way out–they are just shy of level 3 at this point).  Being the sort of person who is fairly quick to take a hint when it comes to the desirability of getting ahead in my reading, I decided I would read some of the lore and mechanics and strategy of the game before we got to that point, to see what sort of tonal shift it would make in our campaign.  Thus one can expect to see a few of these books in my reading list from time to time over the course of the next few months.  With that fair warning given, it should be noted that the rules to this game ought to be somewhat familiar to those who are used to table top role playing, and who are interested in using a bit more mathematics than is customary, as this game is known as mathfinder, and that name is not given without reason.

One of the aspects of this book, and the insight it gives into the game, is that it is just as heavy on strong narrative elements as frequent rolls of the dice.  This particular book is divided into three sections after its short introduction which gives terms concepts and how to get the most out of the book.  The first section takes about twenty pages to set up what is almost a sort of matchmaking between a person’s idea of character and a character theme that belongs to one of the classes of the game.  These themes are a bit more precise than the larger classes, more or less determining the approach that a character will take to increasing their skills and to dealing with encounters, and even a fair bit as far as role playing is concerned.  After this there is a very brief discussion of the basic races of the game before a substantial bit of ink (roughly half the book in all) is spent talking about the classes and the gains that each class make and the feats and skills that each class gains, with each level between 1 and 20.  The rest of the book, about forty pages or so (a quarter of the book’s total length) is taken up with discussing various aspects of playing the game, including combat, turns (which is fairly complicated), understanding the battlefield, hits and bonuses, tactics and tricks, narrative, diplomacy and gathering information, stealth and scouting, mysteries, and advice for better gaming.  The book closes with a plug for players to join the Pathfinder Society and meet other gamers like them.

It is clear from the fact that there are so many books like this one available in my local library that tabletop gaming is immensely popular.  One might ask why, given the fact that the worlds we create in our imagination are not so different from our own world.  This book at least gives a hint of an answer–the characters in this game level up to the point where they become incredibly powerful, something that is alas not often the case in life where our progress is neither so rapid nor as profound as we would wish.  Likewise, elements of tactics and strategy, logistics and diplomacy that are far more frustrating in real life are enjoyable when one is looting treasure and increasing in power and rank rather than slaving long hours without being able to stay ahead.  There is a certain romance and a certain sense of adventure that is found in such games, and in life these elements are all too often missing.  And so we play games, because even the pale shadows of our imagination are often far richer than what life has to provide in reality.  At least we have our imaginations to comfort us, this book would suggest.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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8 Responses to Book Review: Pathfinder Role Playing Game: Strategy Guide

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