Has Pathfinder Started To Suffer From "Bloat"?

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

The Exchange

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Hey all,

It seems to me that pathfinder has an awful lot of material to keep track of, and seems "bloated". Does anyone else feel this way?

Yes, there are people who feel the same way.

Does this "anyone" include me?
...Maybe, maybe not.

EDIT: As for "bloat," I'd say that most of that feeling comes from archetypes.

It depends on the group. If I understand the bloat right, the two key bad parts would be:

1) a continuing release of new rules where the new consistently overpowers the old
2) the amount of options makes it difficult to play/run the game

If we're on the same page there, I think it's fair to say certain classes are doing just fine with just the core rulebook, while other classes are much better with archetypes or hard to find options hidden in books.

With my group, bloat hasn't been an issue yet. But as a GM, I am getting to that point. It's a lot to keep track of, especially if you are in multiple campaigns with different house rules or interpretations of rules.

Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

You can always play Core

Shadow Lodge

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Nope. You're just suffering from the paralysis of choice.

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I'd say it's bloated, but doesn't really suffer from it. The presence of third party websites and software do a lot to make the abundance of options manageable for the average user.

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TOZ wrote:
Nope. You're just suffering from the paralysis of choice.

And clearly, the paralysis is a feature, not a bug, despite its negative psychological impact.

Shadow Lodge

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I imagine this thread will turn out just like the last.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

They've really stepped it up with the turnover though.

Usually they wait a week before starting a new one.

Shadow Lodge

Why the curmudgeonly attitude, you ask?

I'm sure the answer is out there, somewhere.

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

If you feel like it does, hardcover-only (excluding NPC collections) is pretty good for cutting down bloat. If you really want to cut things down, the Advanced Class Guide classes lets you drop a bunch of classes without as much impact. It's harder to do with people using online sources, admittedly.

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Bloat is not an intrinsic property of systems, it's a problem that certain tables have with systems. I don't think "there are too many rules in too many books" is itself a problem, since GURPS had 84,481 sourcebooks and people just solved the "which ones to use" by not trying to use them all at once." Your high fantasy campaign is not going to use the rules for spaceship battles or Mecha; your space opera probably doesn't need rules for goblins, faeries, and demons. "GURPS Everything At Once" was more or less explicitly a comedy game, so had a looser "make something up" feel.

A cultural problem with Pathfinder is that a lot of people base their understanding of the rules of the game not on printed books, but by looking at various SRDs. You want to know what feat to take and you look at the list of feats and you say "Darn, there are a lot of feats, I'm never going to get through this list", so that people feel daunted by the sheer amount of stuff.

But the solution to a "culture of the game" may not require any sort of systemic change; tables just need to learn to disregard rules and books from sources that are irrelevant to the sorts of games they want to run. If it's not a horror game or an intrigue game, you probably can leave HA and UI on the shelf. One thing I've heard of games doing successfully is limit the rules to hardcover books as well as 1 or 2 splatbooks of each player's choice (you should do 2 if someone's playing a fighter.)

I think a more compelling argument for revising the core rules is not "there's too much stuff, we need to reset" but "there are legacy problems dating back to 3.5 that we can fix now." Where "Bloat" becomes a problem for Paizo is when people, en masse, see a forthcoming product and think "yeah, I'm not going to buy that since it doesn't fit the sort of games I run." Personally I skipped Villain Codex (I like making villains, and didn't feel I needed help) and I'm not that interested in the Adventurer's Guide (since it's Golarion specific.) I expect those books will be helpful to a lot of people though.

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Nope. One man's bloat is another man's boring. I consistently use everything pathfinder has to offer and I'm still looking for more stuff to fill the gaps in my campaigns. AKA, I want more.

when there are umpteen publications that I've not had access to and that people keep referencing, yep, I'd say there's some level of bloat... next question is whether this bloat has grown to undesirable heights.

Liberty's Edge

My usual response to these threads is no their is no bloat. Unless one is forced at gunpoint to use the material no one is forced to use everything. I have a majority of Paizo material and I don't use anything.

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Theliah Strongarm wrote:

Hey all,

It seems to me that pathfinder has an awful lot of material to keep track of, and seems "bloated". Does anyone else feel this way?


Moreover, 10 minutes after a new edition is released where all the options haven't been updated, people will begin asking "When will we get X????!?"

If you don't want to use all the options available, no one is forcing them to be used. Substitute where necessary and play on.

Paizo does a good job of keeping their publications separated between what's considered the core game and what is considered supplemental.

If you include everything, I think you may find a little bloat which requires some filtering through to find what you want.

Keeping things separated cuts bloat down a lot, to the point where you might be starved.

For instance, a game that just uses RPG + Companion Line sources covers most everything, but saying "All Paizo" opens up a lot more that you may not be ready for.

Bloat is relative, and Pathfinder is really well organized, plus the core line doesn't introduce too many bloat options, but most of the time subsystems that add mechanics to things that you could do before, but required a lot of fudging. For instance: Ultimate Campaign really covered the background stuff pretty thoroughly, as well as alignment, magic item crafting, and ways to use downtime. Even if you don't use the kingdom building rules, there's a lot there that most players wished they had anyway. Same can be said of intrigue, with all the rules and text on the various social skills a lot of rules that were not clear before are now.

"Bloat" as it was in 3.5 came down to there being too many classes that offered 1 unique or attractive ability and required you to scour over books to figure out how to get to all the ones you wanted. From various base classes to an unbearable amount of redundant prestige classes there were literally hundreds of options. Pathfinder largely doesn't have this issue and in almost 10 years they still have less than 50 base classes, very few of which are truly redundant.

Advanced Class Guide was the most bloated release thus far, and most of that book is gold for the options it offers to all classes (a symptom of the classes being base on pre-existing classes) rather than a pain for learning all of it. To me that book was more of a "oh we can finally do X" rather than "oh great, now I have to learn Y when I really wanted a book that lets me do X."

PCGen halps out tremendously with bloat, IMO.

"Generate your characters using anything from Core, Advanced Player's, Advanced Class, and Ultimate Intrigue" is a mere few button presses.

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I think it is suffering from "bloat thread" bloat.

Liberty's Edge

Damn autocorrect. I meant to say I don't use every part of the Paizo material.

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Any snacks while we wait for the OP to return???

Liberty's Edge

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I think that Pathfinder is trying to give players options to make the type of character that they want.

1) Define what you mean by 'bloat'.
2) Any and all games (particularly RPG's) that can be or get additional material or expansions rely on such to continue being relevant to their audiences.
3) Nothing, anywhere, says you have to buy, own or use every single product published for a game you play. Some folks (like me) like to have lots and lots of options. I actually prefer more than I could ever use, because that means that if I ever come up with a concept I want to run or play, there will be premade material for me to utilize to make it.

As well such an abundance of material means I may get inspiration for an idea that I would have never have thought of without it.

IMO, bloat only exists if the end user/consumer cannot exert self control over what they allow in their game. Bloat is not the fault of a company trying to stay in business, cater to their customers and making creative and interesting material that will keep their game and business in existence.

Bloat is the fault of a gamer who has some 'need' to use anything and everything all the time.


The Exchange

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'd personally say no. I love to get inspired by new stuff and new options, so the only thing I don't like about it that it's simply too much (3PP material included) for me to peruse it all.

On the other hand, I also don't think that I have to know it all. I'm perfectly happy to ignore new options until myself or a player wants to use them for their character. I also tend to trust my players not to go overboard with their options (or to try to cheat on me), so I don't even feel the need to have a better understanding of their character than they have. Sometimes that leads to surprises at the table, but that's mostly surprises as in "chance for a PC to shine", and I can easily adapt to it if I feel the need to do so. In fact, there's a large part of rule sections in the hardcovers I still have to read, so (especially when running PbP games) chances are that my players know the rules better than me). It's actually great when you can relay on their expertise, so I learn from every game I'm in.

So all those options don't impact my games in a negative way. They might inspire me and my players to try out new things, but there's no pressure on us to use them all at once or at all.

And even if there's a new option I don't like at all, there might be other players that love them, and in the end, if other players enjoy the game because of those options I still win.

So bloat? not an issue for me.

Thread number 1,317 about "bloat".

I don't feel it's bloated at all. I like the new options offered to players and GMs alike. I don't use the modules and Adventure Paths because I homebrew everything and I simply can't afford them, but with careful penny pinching and holidays I get the hardback books when they come out, and I don't even buy all them. To me, that's the cure for "bloat". If you think there's too much stuff, just don't spend the money on it.

And I guarantee that if a PF 2e comes out within a couple of years that the bloat argument would start all over again.

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drumlord wrote:
1) a continuing release of new rules where the new consistently overpowers the old

Not in my opinion.

The bloat issue isn't about the quantity or the high end of the power. It's the quantity and the low end.

Paizo continued WotC's long practice of releasing books full of weak garbage with a few rare gems.

To make matters worse, Paizo usually FAQrattas the martial gems out of existence eventually.

On a technical analysis any tabletop rpg suffers from and falls under the descriptor of "bloat" first thing they release any extra/new materials after the initial release. This includes new modules, settings, adventures, magazine articles, and even errata.

Now, is it bad? Not entirely since much like gurps pathfinder is a fantasy kitchen sink and although everything's in it you don't need to use it all (how many dms use much/if any of the stuff that came out of Numeria?) From a players perspective it CAN seem a bit daunting, but once you know what you're looking to do then that daunting list becomes much more manageable.

Two examples: Playing a melee focused martial? You can ignore the magic section except for how saves work (or if your being disruptive, concentration dcs and how they work) and how cover works vs ranged attacks. Spellcaster? Don't need to worry much bout any other casters spells but your own and most combat feats aren't even for you.

And its pretty much the same thing from the dms side except from the other side. Partys core-only of clerics n druids? Won't need to worry how psionics work (also prepare to clench yer backside If they all really know what they're doing)

Most of the time the reason people feel that bloat is a thing is because they see all of those options and think "damn i have to USE all of that?!" Imagine if that same logic were applied to video game dlc?

So in answer to your question; yes pathfinder does suffer from bloat, but only if you let it affect you.

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I think they way around this is simply let your players make the characters they want with online materials and then check the options they pick rather than trying to learn every single book because they won't use every single book xD

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
I think they way around this is simply let your players make the characters they want with online materials and then check the options they pick rather than trying to learn every single book because they won't use every single book xD

I heartily endorse "If you want to take something and it's from a book I don't own, please show it to me first so I can read it" as a standard to make the "bloat" issue more manageable from a GMing perspective.

If nothing else, "I want to take this feat, it's from [book], take a look at it" is a way to keep a dialogue running between a player and the GM.

Exactly dialogue is key lol

trying to buy and read all the books they put out is expensive and probably pointless in my opinion.

Grand Lodge

Depends on the player/group. I personally don't own everything that Paizo puts out and don't use everything I bought. I own and use Ultimate Magic, Ultimate Combat, and Advanced Player's Guide. I own and use parts of Unchained and I own and don't use Advanced Race Guide, Ultimate Campaign or Game Mastery Guide. From a rules stand point, unless something really catches my eye I am done buying rules for the game.

I own more adventure paths than I could ever hope to run, mostly older ones, so I doubt I will buy any more of those.

I own the Inner Sea World Guide and a couple dozen of the smaller soft cover supplements. All of those get use.

Since I play other games as well I doubt I will buy more Pathfinder products but even if that were not the case I doubt I would buy any more. For me there is too much rule bloat but I am not everyone and let the player base and sales determine when enough is too much.

TOZ wrote:
I imagine this thread will turn out just like the last.

It would be nice if mods cracked down on dupe threads.


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TOZ wrote:
Nope. You're just suffering from the paralysis of choice.


A million times this.

Community & Digital Content Director

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Locking, as this thread is a duplicate.

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