Difference between 3.5 and Pathfinder


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Liberty's Edge

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Hello fellow Pathfinders,

A friend asked me to temporarily join his campaign for a session or few, but they are still using 3.5. Thus, I find myself in need of some quick tips/rundown on the primary differences between 3.5 and Pathfinder (what were the biggest changes when Pathfinder was written?). Is there such a guide out there that will be more efficient that just reading the whole 3.5 rulebook, since this is only going to be for a few sessions?

And fear not that I will revert to their primitive D&D ways. Pathfinder for life!


You may like what you find. :p

I have to ask, what books and sources allowed? 3E changed monumentally over its lifetime as the designers learned (somewhat) from their mistakes. Like, the Tome of Battle was practically a completely different game. "What, warriors can do supernatural things? Cool!"

It's hard to summarize the differences in any brief way. In general, PF is more conservative when it comes to power creep and major change, and reigns in a lot of the multi-use or world-altering spells, whether it be polymorph or instant death spells. 3E is more free and open, and (with splat books) has overall better balance between classes than PF... and then a dozen or so things that completely and utterly destroy any semblance of balance. Fortunately, such things are well known and easy to ban.

Grand Lodge

Lots of changes. If you give us an idea of the character class you are considering it would make it much easier.


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It's not really true that Pathfinder and 3.5 are 100% compatible. There are just too many little differences.

The compatibility is more for modules. A DM/GM can take a 3.5 module and use it with Pathfinder with very little conversion.

Characters, combat, and spells got the most conversion. Pathfinder also has some unique monsters to make up for the lack of "IP" monsters from WOTC. Some SRD monsters received minor tweaks.

Liberty's Edge

For me personallY with the core book I see very little differences between the two. Beyond the CMD/CMB mechanic everything eles feels the same. Yes they are some very minor tweaks to classes, spells, monsters etc. Yet the game still feels and plays the same as 3.5. Which is fine by me at this point because I knew that the core book at least would not be very different to insure backwards compitability. With the books like APG, UC,UM ARG it is coming into it's own. AS for converting between the two it is imo not hard yet not that easy. Depends on the level of what you want to convert.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Wow, had to rewrite this when I realized this was how to convert from Pathfinder to 3.x and not the other way around. Hopefully I managed this...

First of all, you'll probably want to look at the official conversion guide here. While this is from 3.x to Pathfinder and not the other way around, it would hopefully help.

Second of all, main things that 3.5 does that Pathfinder changed:
1. PF introduces the combat maneuver mechanic. In 3.5 each special attack (grapple, trip, etc.) used its own mechanic, which was usually something akin to CMB, but might have require a touch attack sometimes and sometimes not, and the size difference modifiers were much larger.

2. Skills in 3.5--there are more of them (Hide and Move Silently instead of Stealth, Listen and Spot instead of Perception). There is no class bonus to skills--instead, non-class skills cost twice the points to buy up ranks. You start with 4xyour class skill point allotment at first level, and then your skill point allotment from there as usual. Oh, also, Concentration is a skill, not a modified caster level check.

3. You gain a feat every third level instead of every odd level.

4. Core races have fewer abilities.

5. Core classes have fewer abilities. But clerics get heavy armor proficiency. The lowest hit die is 1d4 (sorcerers and wizards) and BAB and Hit Dice are not linked (so Ranger in 3.x is 1d8 HD but still full BAB). Bard and Rogue are 1d6 HD classes.

6. Death occurs at -10 HP regardless of your Constitution.

7. Polymorph was revamped majorly in Pathfinder. The older version had just a Polymorph and Greater Polymorph spell rather than Beast Shape, Elemental Shape, etc.

8. Prestige class save bonuses calculate differently.

9. More creatures are immune to crits and precision damage (all undead, constructs, etc.).

There is more than this but those are the broad changes I remember. Some feats work differently -- Power Attack is more powerful because you choose how much you sacrifice, it doesn't change per hit dice.

Compare the PRD here with d20srd.org

Good luck and have fun!


When people are going the other way (3.x to Pathfinder) I normally tell them that Pathfinder is 3.x on steroids.

A 1st level character from either core book is roughly equivalent in power. Roughly. By 3rd level, that's not really true anymore. By 5th level, a 3.x character is simply outclassed.

Liberty's Edge

You guys have given me some good info so far-- thanks!
I wish I could give more specs on what sources are allowed, but I don't know myself yet. As for material specific to what I'm playing, I haven't fully decided, partially because I think I'm missing some sources. I checked out d20srd, but it looks like that contains only a very small portion of 3.5. For instance, the Feats index (http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/feats.htm) looks like it only contains 100 feats or so. Is 3.5 really that much smaller than pathfinder? There also aren't nearly as many class options. If I'm just missing sources, can someone point me to a better place to find listings of feats, classes, etc.? Normally, I'd just go buy the books, but since this is just going to be for a handful of sessions, it's not worth it.

I guess another way of going about the question is: Since I haven't settled on a class yet, are there any particular classes/builds that someone accustomed to PF would find to be fun or unusual in 3.5? You know, something along the (purely hypothetical) lines of "Oh, Pathfinder nerfed paladins from 3.5 big time" or "3.5 lets you build a much more effective mage hunter than Pathfinder."

Still from what I've seen so far, I'm glad I play Pathfinder instead. I've been surprised at how much I've seen that is simply so much better in the PF system.


3.5 has a LOT of content, but about 95% is closed content, hence why it isn't on the SRD.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Salabrian wrote:
Is 3.5 really that much smaller than pathfinder?

The bulk of pathfinder's rules content is open source. The bulk of 3.5's rules content remains forever closed. What you see on SRD.org was only the tip of the iceberg.

Liberty's Edge

that's kind of what I suspected. Maybe I can convince one of my PF-playing buddies to admit that they have a dark past in classic D&D and let me borrow their books.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Salabrian wrote:
that's kind of what I suspected. Maybe I can convince one of my PF-playing buddies to admit that they have a dark past in classic D&D and let me borrow their books.

You'll have to be selective. Lugging the entire 3.5 rules set is a good route to a hernia.

Liberty's Edge

Differences: starting point link.


The key things are Skills, Feats, CMB/CMD. Those affect every class in PF to 3.5. Then there are the class specifics like wizards and rogues getting 1D6 and 1D8 HD. Double check you spells as they may be different if you are a caster. As well multi-classing and prestige classes were almost required in 3.5 to cover the dead levels in a lot classes.


hustonj wrote:

When people are going the other way (3.x to Pathfinder) I normally tell them that Pathfinder is 3.x on steroids.

A 1st level character from either core book is roughly equivalent in power. Roughly. By 3rd level, that's not really true anymore. By 5th level, a 3.x character is simply outclassed.

With strictly comparing core book to core book, then yes.

However, it changes based on what splat books you are allowing. With the Complete XX series and Book of Vile Darkness/Book of Exalted Deeds, there were a LOT of insane builds you could make that will leave PF characters in the dust.

I like PF because I think balance is a good thing.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

While I see some limited value in bringing 3.5 stuff to Pathfinder, there really isn't any point in doing reverse conversions. 3.5 was overloaded as it was with rules, the last thing it needs is yet another pile of stuff added to it.


Pathfinder is on an accelerating path to follow the 3.5 errors.

Classes which violate the rules previously used for mechanics balance (not Archetype adjustments, the base classes themselves - reference the "base" Summoner having 14 Level 6 spells with 1 being a S/W 7th level, 1 being a S/W 9th level, and the other 12 being S/W 8th level spells AND the Summoner ALSO getting 3+primary casting attribute bonus additional S/W spells of up to [character level +1]/2 per day AND the biggest, most powerful pet in the game engine. No class before the Summoner is that powerful.) and each book providing more mechanics to learn and implement on top of the existing rule set.

These errors are caused by a desire to provide more material to the paying customers (publisher's profit drive) combined with the customer's voracious appetite and ongoing demand for power growth within the system.

No matter how well-built the system is, the more you attach on to it the less time you have left before cruft breaks the system.

The thing is, any system which doesn't keep publishing and expanding, dies. There may be dedicated fans for decades to follow, but the publisher won't be able to keep supporting the system.


Ha, hustonj pretty much has it right ;-)

Ken


If you are looking for a detailed breakdown of changes from 3.5 to Pathfinder, section by section, this summary is pretty useful.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

LazarX wrote:
Salabrian wrote:
that's kind of what I suspected. Maybe I can convince one of my PF-playing buddies to admit that they have a dark past in classic D&D and let me borrow their books.
You'll have to be selective. Lugging the entire 3.5 rules set is a good route to a hernia.

Back when I was DMing 3.5, I used to lug around this football equipment bag filled with all the core books, the Complete series books, my favorite Dragon magazines, and whatever Campaign specific books I needed. The apartment that we normally played at was on the 5th floor... I had shoulders like an NFL defensive lineman by the time the party hit level 6.


Well, if you know what you'd like to play, I can suggest the books you should try to get your hands on.

For example, if you wanted to play a melee rogue, Dungeonscape (for Penetrating Strike alt. class feature) and Complete Adventurer (for Staggering Strike feat, aka "how a rogue can actually survive in melee") are absolute musts. Champions of Ruin is worth it just for a single feat (Craven). That one feat is worth lugging a whole book for. Tome of Battle would also be an excellent pick-up.

In general, any character can benefit GREATLY from Magic Item Compendium. Arguably Spell Compendium, too (even if you can't cast; it means there's more wands, potions, etc...).


Monks have better to hit and damage with Core and Completes in e.5 (Improved Natural attack feat, etc).


Oh, monks are MUCH better in 3E than PF! Archer monks might be the only exception to that. Monks got straight nerfed like crazy in PF.


I'd say that if you are only going to play for a short time, I wouldn't waste too much time with a bunch of splat books. I'd stick with the core classes.

As for the changes, a lot of those have been covered above, but I'll just be repetitive.

  • Base HDs are different for some of the classes, so double check them.

  • Skill points are assigned differently, at first level you get 4x as many as you normally would for other levels. Class skills give one rank for one point, cross class skills give one rank for two points. Max skill ranks for class skills is level+3, cross class skills max out at 1/2(level+3). What this means is if you just max out a few class skills it works out the same as PF would rank wise (of course some of the actual skills are different).

  • Skill and Feat descriptions are a bit different, read up on ones that you are interested in to see how they are different.

  • A lot of the base classes have fewer options, this should make it a bit easier to pick the system up. I would avoid classes like druid, especially if you are very familiar with PF, as the changes are pretty dramatic.

    Sorcerer is probably the easiest spellcaster to pick up, cleric isn't too much trouble. Fighter or barbarian are pretty easy to pick up for warrior types. Rogue is pretty easy to.


  • If you're just playing for a few sessions, I wouldn't worry too much.

    Stay away from crazy shenenigans, they might not work he way you expect in 3.5. Stick to basic classes and concepts.
    Also make sure to read feats and spells even if you think you know what they do. Power Attack for example is called the same in both games but works differently even though it still serves the same purpose.

    Skill points have been mentioned. In PF skilling a cross class skill means you don't get a +3, but otherwise its perfectly viable to do. In 3.5 something being cross class usually means "not worth the effort". Maybe 1 points in a trained-only skill so you can use it, but thats it.

    Best let everyone know that you grew up with the PF rules and 3.5 is new to you. So if you do something wrong they should tell you, so that you learn.
    Maybe ask one of them to help you with character creation too, especially if you start at higher levels.

    All in all though I think the PF rules are more streamlined, more internally consistent and more newbie friendly.

    Liberty's Edge

    Thanks for your help everyone. I ended up going with a Psion. Since Pathfinder doesn't have Psionics (only from 3rd party publishers), I figured this would be a fun chance to try something a little different.

    But the moral of the story is: I sure am glad Pathfinder came around.


    The psionics are basically the same material :-)

    Take a shaper, spam astral constructs!


    If the DM doesn't have/use Complete Psionics, take Expanded Knowledge for Energy Missiles, and pick up Energy Stun and Crystal Shard. These three powers alone can basically handle all of your direct damage needs quite well.

    Silver Crusade

    Might be too late for you, but the 3.x mentality when making a character was, "what prestige class will I take and how do I get there as fast as possible?" Base classes were generally inferior to prestige classes, so you should figure out your [base class X]/[base class Y]/[prestige class OMFG] before you even start building.


    With psionics, all prestige classes were generally a nerf because you lost manifester levels. Psionics was more balanced than casting in this respect. That said, the Anarchic Initiate in C.Psi is basically pure win, and the Thrallherd, while losing some manifester levels is worth it, because it gives you a leadership-like ability, except you keep getting new thralls no matter what awful things happened to the predecessors w/o so much as a penalty to your "leadership score."

    It's basically the Xykon class, for those who read OotS. "Sacrificing minions, what problem can't it solve?"

    The Slayer is a very good "gish" PrC if you don't mind losing some ML for the sake of being beefy and melee capable.


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    Salabrian wrote:
    But the moral of the story is: I sure am glad Pathfinder came around.

    I don't really see reason as to why, since Pathfinder is rather overrated (and not as "fixed" as some people would claim) and still kinda broken. But sure, if that puts a smile on your face, go for it. I'm getting the reprinted 3.5e books (which are coming out in a few days of time) if at all possible, and I'm glad I'll have a chance to play that instead of Pathfinder for a change.

    Shadow Lodge

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    The reprinted books are already out.

    The thing about Pathfinder, especially coming from 3.5, is there are so many tiny changes, or omitions from the 3.5 core that it really is a very different game, but the differences are very hard to see. I'm still finding little things I didn't realize where different.

    I like 3.5 better over all, but there are some nice things about PF I find really hard not to want to use in 3.5. The way they handled skill points (Class/Cross Class skills) is really good for example, and I like that they included a fast, medium, and slow XP advancment. I like the additional Feats per level, (though in general PF Feats are less useful). I like the Sorcerer Bloodlines included as a part of the class.


    Huh, I might need to go check out the local game store tomorrow, then.

    Grand Lodge

    Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

    Not entirely true, our FLGS released them early. Actual street date is the 18th.

    Shadow Lodge

    Ah, I apologize then.

    Grand Lodge

    Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

    Yeah, same problem as the 'we have to map the temple!' I guess. :)

    Shadow Lodge

    No I knew you had gotten it a bit early, I just assumed it was a few days before the weekend and it was out by now.

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