Pathfinder Review, Part 3 — The GM’s Portion

I finished off the Pathfinder Core book while at lunch today. I was nearly done, so it didn’t take too long. This review is of the parts of the book designed for the GM.

Chapter 12: Gamemastering

This chapter gives great words of advice to anyone, new and old, on how to run a game. This includes proper preparation of a session, how to start a campaign, what to do during the game and some tips for higher level/power games. One of the most valuable parts of this chapter was the sidebar about keeping a campaign journal. They are invaluable to any GM that runs a long-term game.

Chapter 13: Environment

Holy cow! The folks at Paizo went all out on this one. There are 35 pages dedicated to all the types of terrain (indoors and out) that could possibly be found on the Material Plane. Sure, there are going to be some weird terrains and places in the outer or elemental planes, but if you’re running a game on an Earth-like planetoid, then I highly recommend this chapter… no matter what game system you’re running. There are some excellent details of terrain, environment, plant life and the difficulties and dangers found in the various terrains. My chief complaint about this chapter is that it is mostly fluff with a few rules scattered about in them. That makes it hard to find the rules.

Chapter 14: Creating NPCs

These 7 pages fell flat for me. I feel that if you’re going to dedicate a “chapter” (it’s in quotes because 7 pages does not a chapter make) to one of the most vital aspects of gaming then it should be at least 20 pages or more. Perhaps they are saving their real work for an “NPCs of Pathfinder” book down the road. If that’s the case, then I’m OK with it. However, the treatment they gave to NPCs was a little too brief. I guess it could be considered a launching pad of sorts, but it doesn’t have much of a runway to allow a new GM to get up to speed before taking flight.

Chapter 15: Magic Items

Like with the spells, I didn’t read every item. I just read the basic rules government magic items and skimmed most of them. I actually found myself reading the artifacts at the end of the magic item listing to see how things were changed or altered. I really liked what I saw in the few items I actually read through. Not much really changed in between D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder other than some rules clarifications. What did change (at least in the writing) was more clarity in the magic item creation process. I thought WotC did a decent enough job with it in 3.0/3.5, but the Paizo folks cleared up a few of the finer points of the rules.

Appendices

The appendices of the book included information about abilities, bonuses, ability damage, level drain (which I really like they way they worked!), curses, poisons, and various special abilities that PCs, NPCs and monsters may have. Lastly, the book closed with the conditions appendix. I like the fact that this came last in the book. It’s so hard to remember which affliction does what, and having them in an easy-to-find location in the book is the best thing ever.

Index

A 4 page index closed out the book, and that’s a decent-sized index for a book of this weight. While scanning through the index, I found most every topic you could think of to look up. This is a good thing. It’s still no match for the quality of the indices that Steve Jackson puts in their GURPS books, but I think that’s because GURPS is a far more complex system and needs the support of a good index.

This closes out my review of Pathfinder. As the game that I’ll be in starts up over the next month or two, I’ll let you know how the system works in play. Thanks for listening… er… reading.