Pathfinder Beginner's Box - First Look

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 27 October 2011

While I was out in Seattle after Geek Girl Con, I stopped by the Paizo offices. Somehow I was able to talk my way into some sweet loot, the Pathfinder beginner's Box. I haven't had the chance to do a full review yet, in part because I'm fairly new to Pathfinder and 3.5 but I want to share some of my initial thoughts.

Choose Your Own Adventure

The box includes a choose your own adventure to introduce new players to the game and its conceits about the world. One of the interesting effects of the depth of the rules is that even relatively small choices, such as the type of weapon one uses against a creature, can matter. For someone unfamiliar with that style of play, the first time she faces a skeleton with a sword can be a frustrating experience. The included adventure highlights that the game includes concepts such as this one in a safe environment.

In addition to introducing the player to a number of specific game concepts, the choose your own adventure does a great job in introducing the player to roleplaying games in general. I really enjoyed that it followed up the solo adventure with an example of play, showing how the story in the solo adventure gets translated to play at the table and how a group works together.

Concise Directions for Building a Character

After a brief introduction to the game rules and an explanation of the dice, the book continues with directions on how to build a character. They did a great job on this. The character sheets provided in the box are coded with letters that correspond to the instructions to make it easy for players to identify where on the character sheet they should put their information. This is something I've struggled with since I started playing D&D. They added these letters not only to the blank character sheets, but also to the pregens. So if a new player is confused about something, he can reference the pregens as an example.

Suggestions for the Finishing Touches

Not only does the book provide a simplified list of skills, feats, and equipment for new players, it provides class-specific suggestions for each of those sections. For a new player who isn't quite sure and is worried that her group will tease her if she makes a poor decision, the suggestions are wonderful. I was nervous about that when I created my first character. Like the rest of the book, these sections have a lot of graphics. Each equipment item has a picture next to it. For some established players or people who grew up looking everything up, this might seem silly. But for a new players and especially younger kids, anything keeps them in the book and not distracted sounds great to me. Plus, sometimes seeing the physical representation right there can fuel the imagination or provide words to a nervous player.

Just What You Need

After that the book has a section on more game rules. At 14 pages, it includes enough information to get a good feel for the game and to play, without being overwhelming. It even includes information for leveling up. One thing I love about this boxed set is that it covers levels 1-5 for the basic classes.

I didn't go over everything, but I hope this gives a good idea of what's in the Beginner's Box for players. I'll write about the DM side of the equation soon. In the meantime, if you'd like to see how they handled character classes, see what the pregens look like, or look at the extra player and DM content they provide (including a beginner's version of the barbarian) check out the Beginner's Box page on their website.

I would be curious how you see it comparing to the 4E Red Box.

Me too! I'm curious about both the material and also the market.

About the material: Would you say it's aimed more at people totally new to (table-top) RPGs, or at people already familiar with D&D-type games but new to PathFinder?

About the market: Intro products are always a weird fit, and I was surprised to see Pathfinder's come out at $35 (+$10 for the PDF).


Hi Chad and Alphastream!

I hope to write about that stuff a bit more in a separate post. The short of it is that I think they did a really good job for new players here. I think I prefer the Pathfinder box over the Red Box as an introduction to tabletop rpgs. When I ran the Red Box for my group, it took us over an hour to get 4 characters made. The Pathfinder box set does a really good job of introducing most of the heavily used rules as you need them. And after running the Red Box for the learn to play crowd for over a year, it definitely has some friction points for me. That said, I haven't run the Pathfinder box yet and I'm sure I'll find some friction points when I do.

The Pathfinder box seems to be aimed more at completely new players although it seems to take some cues, styling and otherwise, from video game interfaces. So I think they felt that the player probably had some RPG experience, but is new to tabletop RPGs. That said, I think they tried to keep it accessible to the completely new person as well.

As for price, given the prices of many board games, I think it's a pretty decent. It includes everything you need for levels 1-5, a reusable, flip mat as the map, and a fair number of monsters and both magic and mundane items. Compared to the 4e Red Box, I think this box will see a lot more reuse and it provides a great set of introductory components. In addition to the map, which is tan on one side and the dungeon on the other, the set includes cardboard characters with stands to use as minis.

Most importantly, to me, is that they didn't have to serve both the new players and the established players with the product, they could concentrated solely on the former. That means they didn't have to provide value in the box for someone who is established or try to find a way to get them to buy it. The value is in getting new people to fall in love with something you love.

While I've been a gamer for two decades, yet never played Pathfinder (or D&D 3x), I'd play this Beginner game in a heartbeat - and I imagine it would be loads of fun.

While I'm not in the target audience (I suppose, having run and played in games for a kabillion years) I'm intrigued by this product. I love the cut-outs on stands as opposed to tokens. I love the choose-your-own-adventure style of intro. I was introduced to D&D by an article in Games magazine in 1979. It included a little map, descriptions, and the writer's impressions of adventuring. There's something magical about adventure and exploration that seems to get lost in some modern games. Game mechanics are all well and good, and will certainly be important to some players, but I still think THE hook is the question of just what exactly is behind that door...

Curious to hear if you found that magic in the Pathfinder box?

I am very fond of 4e, but having just picked up the Pathfinder beginners box, I really like every thing about it. To me the 4e red box now seems like it was meant to inspire one game before you moved on to the books. The Pathfinder box feels like a game that I could be happy with for some time before shifting to the books, and many parts of it could come with that shift.

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