How did Paizo lose control to 5E?


5th Edition (And Beyond)

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RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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When D&D 5E came out in 2014, it was not an immediate smash. Pathfinder 1E was still quite dominant in the marketplace.

What happened?

Liberty's Edge

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4E was not generally regarded as being a good version of D&D (not edition warring, just stating a well-documented fact that a great many D&D fans did not like 4E) which allowed Pathfinder 1E to really take hold.

5E IS generally regarded as an excellent version of D&D, and once the word got it, folks flocked to the game, including people that had never played D&D before, and even many Pathfinder fans.


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Paizo also created new classes(each with their own unique rulesets) to fix ongoing issues in 3.x as opposed to addressing the issues themselves. This resulted in increased sales(which kept the lights on and the doors open), but created a paradigm of increasing system complexity that rewarded system mastery but potentially at the cost of decreasing accessibility for new players who did not want to learn complex rules in order to play a game. Which hurts, because the rule that makes 5e so inviting to new players was a Pathfinder mechanic initially.


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+1 Complexity.

We had one (older) guy running Pathfinder for our group. Once you hit 10th level plus, he couldn't run the game without having a half-dozen spreadsheets/databases open on his laptop.

No thanks.

Also, that old guy died last year and none of the younger gamers have ANY interest in Pathfinder, I'm not even sure they know it exists. So apart from me, who occasionally converts an AP to Savage Worlds, nobody in our group is playing PF at all.

Whereas over 50% of the games we are playing are D&D5E. The system is remarkably intuitive and easy to run, even with minimal prep.

Yes please.

Also, I like the Pathfinder setting and Adventure Paths, but by Christ, do they use a lot of words to say very little. I appreciate you have to hit that word count to pad out the monthly magazine format, but I recall Strength of Thousands book 1 spent 2/3 pages describing how to buy/transport rare chickens. I mean, really?!

The adventure writing for D&D5e generally seems, at least to me, to be a lot more concise. I don't need pages on backstory and/or sexual preferences of an antagonist the PCs are likely going to steamroll without so much as a "How's your father?"

Finally, levelling up in PF2 is a chore. Played it once, never again.

EDIT: The majority of popular RP podcasts seem to gravitate towards D&D5e too, the big daddy being Critical Roll. I listen to and love the Glass Cannon, but even they seem to be constantly talking about how complicated PF is at higher levels.

I do wonder if Paizo would be better off adapting the Golarion setting and existing APs to D&D5e, under the OGL (can they even do that?). I suspect they would sell well.


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mikeawmids wrote:

+1 Complexity.

We had one (older) guy running Pathfinder for our group. Once you hit 10th level plus, he couldn't run the game without having a half-dozen spreadsheets/databases open on his laptop.

No thanks.

Also, that old guy died last year and none of the younger gamers have ANY interest in Pathfinder, I'm not even sure they know it exists. So apart from me, who occasionally converts an AP to Savage Worlds, nobody in our group is playing PF at all.

Whereas over 50% of the games we are playing are D&D5E. The system is remarkably intuitive and easy to run, even with minimal prep.

Yes please.

Also, I like the Pathfinder setting and Adventure Paths, but by Christ, do they use a lot of words to say very little. I appreciate you have to hit that word count to pad out the monthly magazine format, but I recall Strength of Thousands book 1 spent 2/3 pages describing how to buy/transport rare chickens. I mean, really?!

The adventure writing for D&D5e generally seems, at least to me, to be a lot more concise. I don't need pages on backstory and/or sexual preferences of an antagonist the PCs are likely going to steamroll without so much as a "How's your father?"

Finally, levelling up in PF2 is a chore. Played it once, never again.

EDIT: The majority of popular RP podcasts seem to gravitate towards D&D5e too, the big daddy being Critical Roll. I listen to and love the Glass Cannon, but even they seem to be constantly talking about how complicated PF is at higher levels.

I do wonder if Paizo would be better off adapting the Golarion setting and existing APs to D&D5e, under the OGL (can they even do that?). I suspect they would sell well.

Not a fan of 5Es level of simplicity, largely because I'm not a fan of Critical Role style shenanigans that a system that simple leads to.


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Freehold DM wrote:
Not a fan of 5Es level of simplicity, largely because I'm not a fan of Critical Role style shenanigans that a system that simple leads to.

Yeah, I'm not a fan of CR either. I wanted to like it, but I keep bouncing off hard. 3/4 hour episodes, most of which they spend in, as you say, shenanigans - but I'd argue that is not the fault of the system itself, rather Mercer's DM style and the dynamic between that particular group of players.

Also, any game that is presented as a form of entertainment for the masses is gonna' skew in that direction, whereas a home game using the same system is less likely to do so.

I also listen to Drunks & Dragons (rebranded Greetings Adventurer) and Dragon Friends, both of which have shorter episodes and (arguably) fewer shenanigans.

Compare that to Glass Cannon/Giantslayer, where I'd estimate 1/5th to 1/4th of the run time is dedicated to the guys bickering over or trying to get their head around the rules. That may be interesting to some listeners, but it doesn't sell PF as an accessible system for new gamers.

Paizo has painted itself into a corner as the crunchy/grown up d20 game for serious people, when most players I know just want to fight monsters and flirt with imaginary barmaids. Until Paizo change that perception, they're gonna' be stuck with the people who have 'outgrown' D&D5e, although now D&D5e Level Up is a thing, I imagine those numbers will drop off even further.

Liberty's Edge

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HASBRO money and the lack of any need for the actual GAME to anything more than exist as something simple enough that a child with a 4th-grade reading level can understand.

The BRAND itself though, that's been marketed and licensed just about as hard as Pokemon and the company really capitalized on the idea that being a nerd is cool now, so they focused on making the game easy to play and understand, somewhat inexpensive (since they published new source books at a glacial pace), and pushed licensing to sell what effectively boils down to merch, coffee cups, shirts, hats, candy, donuts, coffee, doormats, backpacks, computer/phone cases, decals, bumper stickers, pins, card decks, and even packaged "party packs" for children's birthdays. The company absolutely prints money when it comes to income from those things versus the actual BOOKS or digital services and it's not even close.

In short, they succeeded by breaking into the mainstream popularity with brand recognition, not by making a particularly high-quality game or set of rules.


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I have had issues with Hasbro for many, many years.

This is why.


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I don't play 5th edition, I got the guide to Ravenloft book but that's just for the setting I couldn't tell you what any of the rules stuff means besides I don't like 5th edition.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Lord Fyre wrote:
When D&D 5E came out in 2014, it was not an immediate smash.

I mean it kind of was. When it was released in the last month if Q3 2014 it launched as the #2 selling game. In Q4 it took its place as #1 and hasn’t budged from that spot since.

Yeah it wasn’t the massive success that grew the size of the overall hobby at launch, that part took time, but sales wise it was indeed an immediate smash.


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It was a confluence of zeitgeists. I kept hearing about Critical Role from the younger players in my game at the FLGS for years, but never watched it. Stranger Things all but made D&D a part of their narrative and it sparked interest in a lot of people that had never really thought about the game before. Now, the pandemic has forced people indoors and the availability of virtual table tops has made it easier to find a game and more accessible than ever before.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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mikeawmids wrote:

+1 Complexity.

We had one (older) guy running Pathfinder for our group. Once you hit 10th level plus, he couldn't run the game without having a half-dozen spreadsheets/databases open on his laptop.

No thanks.

This is huge. When Pathfinder 1E came out, it WAS an improvement on the complexity of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. Then Paizo's own power creep recreated the problem.

mikeawmids wrote:
Finally, levelling up in PF2 is a chore. Played it once, never again.

Yes, Paizo missed the mark here. Pathfinder 2E needed to be nearly as intuitive and easy to run/play as D&D 2E. IMO, it didn't need to be as easy, but it needed to be close.

dirtypool wrote:

When it was released in the last month if Q3 2014 it launched as the #2 selling game. In Q4 it took its place as #1 and hasn’t budged from that spot since.

Yeah it wasn’t the massive success that grew the size of the overall hobby at launch, that part took time, but sales wise it was indeed an immediate smash.

Paizo also missed the mark here. They didn't realize how dangerous D&D 5E would be to Pathfinder's continued success. They needed to start building Pathfinder 2E a lot sooner. But, then Paizo was having serious internal problems at that time.

mikeawmids wrote:
I do wonder if Paizo would be better off adapting the Golarion setting and existing APs to D&D5e, under the OGL (can they even do that?). I suspect they would sell well.

I agree. They would do remarkably well.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Lord Fyre wrote:
Paizo also missed the mark here. They didn't realize how dangerous D&D 5E would be to Pathfinder's continued success. They needed to start building Pathfinder 2E a lot sooner. But, then Paizo was having serious internal problems at that time.

There is no reason to believe that D&D 5e did anything to damage Pathfinder’s continued success. Pathfinder entered the industry as the #2 game on the market, and while it did claim the #1 spot for a time it ultimately returned to that spot. 5e grew the overall size of the industry to the point that when PF2e launched, Paizo claimed it did better than PF1 had done at launch - which would indicate that PF2e was more successful as a result of 5e rather than less.

If you view this as a zero sum game where the only thing that matters is the ICV2 top 5 then you’re missing out on the bigger picture. 5e was the rising tide that lifted all boats.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

WotC doesn’t compete with Paizo, or any RPG company. It competes with Nintendo.

5E was good for Paizo and still is.

Liberty's Edge

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Steve Geddes wrote:
WotC doesn’t compete with Paizo, or any RPG company. It competes with Nintendo.

Precisely, the money they make doesn't really come from the games they make, but instead from the branding, product identity, and licensing for their properties. Just like the big N, and fittingly enough, I very much have a TON of personal reservations about the way HASBRO handles their IP and products JUST like how N makes some of the WORST and management and product control decisions that I've seen any corp actually follow through with. I appreciate many of their PRODUCTS greatly, even if I have other personal preferences but the way they actually do business... not so much.

#FreeMelee

Acquisitives

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Short answer is Critical Role, Stranger Things and celebrity players playing said system. That's a lot of eyeballs. Flipside is everyone wants to be in a game that is Mercer's game from it. I love his world building and rather smooth Gm'ing style, but don't appreciate his kid gloves with his players, but I also get they're making bank so yeah.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I’m not sure I understand that as a premise.

Pathfinder was #2 when Critical Role premiered, was still #1 when Stranger Things premiered and remained #2 right up until PF2 was announced and Starfinder claimed the #2 spot. PF2e debuted at number 2 (with declared greater sales than PF1) and remained there until it was dethroned by the Aliens RPG.

The growing of the overall market for D&D, it’s knock on effect for other games sales and Paizo’s position as being the the #1 and #2 competitor seem to be independent of each other.

So how then did Critical Role effect Pathfinder? How did Stranger Things? How have Actual Plays?


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

I think the iCv2 reports are really unhelpful. Almost be better if they just left out D&D, imo. Just to make the point.

Once we measure something we tend to overemphasise its significance just because its objective.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Agreed.


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Lord Fyre wrote:

When D&D 5E came out in 2014, it was not an immediate smash. Pathfinder 1E was still quite dominant in the marketplace.

What happened?

This keeps tabs on the situation with a running tally

PF drops from the #2 spot from time to time, even once to its future self (aka SF). The news from all things Hasbro pretty much confirms that the market has grown enormously over the last seven years. Most of the TTRPG growth has been 5e but along with it a great many other games have increased sales if not market share.

On a personal note:
When 5e Eberron came out it was a no-brainer decision for my cousin to convert his long-running 3.PF campaign over to 5e. Why? One (hyphenated) word, prep-time. And for the players it allowed for more non-rules-lawyer creativity and gave us less consternation with all the downtime leveling up shenanigans. We haven't looked back with regret, that's for sure.


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Quark Blast wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:

When D&D 5E came out in 2014, it was not an immediate smash. Pathfinder 1E was still quite dominant in the marketplace.

What happened?

This keeps tabs on the situation with a running tally

PF drops from the #2 spot from time to time, even once to its future self (aka SF). The news from all things Hasbro pretty much confirms that the market has grown enormously over the last seven years. Most of the TTRPG growth has been 5e but along with it a great many other games have increased sales if not market share.

On a personal note:
When 5e Eberron came out it was a no-brainer decision for my cousin to convert his long-running 3.PF campaign over to 5e. Why? One (hyphenated) word, prep-time. And for the players it allowed for more non-rules-lawyer creativity and gave us less consternation with all the downtime leveling up shenanigans. We haven't looked back with regret, that's for sure.

Pathfinder 2nd edition fixed that, I highly recommend it!


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Oh Captain-not-my-captain,

In theory I agree but there's no way the group is going for that - having each of us just invested in the 5e Eberron book. Also, it's not my campaign and even if it were I already have enough adventures and other gaming flotsam to keep a weekly campaign going for half a decade or more. Buying a new 600 page rule book and associated products is highly unlikely.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I guess that begs a question. If you don’t regret leaving PF1 behind, and it’s highly unlikely that you would switch to PF2, why are you here? I don’t mean this in a gatekeeping “get out” way, but why are you here on the Paizo forums?

There are forums where you can engage in conversations about D&D, about Eberron, about Climate Change, about Movies that are all more intensive on those subjects than the threads you are in here.

What is it about Paizo where their forums are still a draw for you, even though their product isn’t?

Doesn’t that kind of engagement loyalty mean that Paizo does maintain at least some measure of “control.”


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Quark Blast wrote:

Oh Captain-not-my-captain,

In theory I agree but there's no way the group is going for that - having each of us just invested in the 5e Eberron book. Also, it's not my campaign and even if it were I already have enough adventures and other gaming flotsam to keep a weekly campaign going for half a decade or more. Buying a new 600 page rule book and associated products is highly unlikely.

I'm actually starting up an Eberron campaign in a week or two, Pathfinder 2nd edition (especially now with Guns and Gears out) is actually the perfect game for Eberron. Both practically ooze pulpy goodness and Pathfinder 2 is surprisingly well balanced (especially at higher levels) so there is less work and stress for the GM.

Plus with pocket editions so ubiquitous it's cheaper and easier than ever.

All I'm saying is to keep an open mind and give it a try if the opportunity presents itself or I've piqued your interest. I'll do the same with D&D and let you know how it goes. And if you still prefer D&D at least you tried something new.

For the record I was extremely skeptical of 2nd edition but they proved me wrong.


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captain yesterday wrote:
Quark Blast wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:

When D&D 5E came out in 2014, it was not an immediate smash. Pathfinder 1E was still quite dominant in the marketplace.

What happened?

This keeps tabs on the situation with a running tally

PF drops from the #2 spot from time to time, even once to its future self (aka SF). The news from all things Hasbro pretty much confirms that the market has grown enormously over the last seven years. Most of the TTRPG growth has been 5e but along with it a great many other games have increased sales if not market share.

On a personal note:
When 5e Eberron came out it was a no-brainer decision for my cousin to convert his long-running 3.PF campaign over to 5e. Why? One (hyphenated) word, prep-time. And for the players it allowed for more non-rules-lawyer creativity and gave us less consternation with all the downtime leveling up shenanigans. We haven't looked back with regret, that's for sure.

Pathfinder 2nd edition fixed that, I highly recommend it!

Answering this again because there was a post on another thread here that got me thinking about this specifically. In particular the part where the poster says;

"Part of the problem with {Kobolds} and some of the other humanoid races is that they've transitioned from folklore fae beings to a race of basically little human type beings without much thought being put into that change".

That's a lessor but still significant reason why I'm not keen on PF2. Literally every player-character race ancestry option boils down to flavor text*, such that there is quite literally no option that gives one's PC an advantage in the game that no other can claim regardless of ancestry. Humans can be stat'd out as essentially Kobolds, that may or may not look identifiably different than traditional Kobolds. I don't get that as any sort of advantage at all.

OTOH that doesn't preclude me from adapting a amazing PF2 adventure to 5e or otherwise buying an awesome PF2 product as a gift for someone to use as best they see fit.

* I believe that's the non-pejorative term, though to be honest it reminds me of flavor over nutrition and so ironically sounds equally right or wrong (depending on your predilections) as much as does fluff over flavor.... But what can ya do besides except explain yourself so that those who claim to misunderstand you have as little ground to stand on as possible. As I've now done.


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I disagree with that a bit, there's a tremendous amount of customization in each ancestry (or race if you prefer) and this is Pathfinder so it will always be more advantageous being human (or dwarf) then any other ancestry.

But on the flip side to all other ancestries being more balanced all that means is I no longer have to deal with a party full of tieflings and Aasimars (g&##*+n Aasimars!) which is always a win in my book.

I was originally on the fence with how they did ancestries but as I've made characters or watched other people make characters I've come around especially with how they treat the aforementioned tieflings and Aasimars as versatile heritages.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

In reality I think the opposite is true.

The conversation you linked to is about a version of Kobolds and other monster races that has crept into play since 3.0 and exists just as much in 5e as it does in PF2e. The difference between the two being that Ancestry options in PF2e provide meaningful choices for you to make at each level where the Ancestry comes into play (Selecting where your Boosts go and selecting feats) whereas Race in 5e (now Origin) is just about defining where your pluses go.

With Tasha’s, that decision is even more customizable and is less defined by the selected race than ever before to the point where in 5e Origin really is just flavor.


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captain yesterday wrote:

I disagree with that a bit, there's a tremendous amount of customization in each ancestry (or race if you prefer) and this is Pathfinder so it will always be more advantageous being human (or dwarf) then any other ancestry.

But on the flip side to all other ancestries being more balanced all that means is I no longer have to deal with a party full of tieflings and Aasimars (g~&~%$n Aasimars!) which is always a win in my book.

I was originally on the fence with how they did ancestries but as I've made characters or watched other people make characters I've come around especially with how they treat the aforementioned tieflings and Aasimars as versatile heritages.

I won't argue you your narrow point on customization, just that since there's no way I could use that to convince everyone to invest in a 600-page rule book of yet another TTRPG, I don't see the attraction.

As for Tieflings and Aasimars, those were apparently banned from my cousin's campaign before they cast the first die!
:D

5e allows as much customization as you care to put into it. In theory one could make it as crunchy as 3.PF if so inclined. For the few months where I ran a campaign of my own I adapted a 3.5 module, three episodes out of one PF1 AP, some cool story ideas from either 1e or 2e days (pulled from one of the grognard-gifted boxes I've had for years now), and some of my own creations. Prep time was no easier or harder across all those sources.

What engenders a tepid response from me is, like the fellow says in the post I linked to above, that whatever ancestry or other heritage is chosen, they're all now watered down to the same saltless semantic soup.

To be clear, official 5e may not be any more flavorful but with it I'm not seeing an obligatory nature as to how PC heritage affects play. With Eberron being the relevant setting for my current 5e experience, there is a strong egalitarian nature to the setting viz-a-viz ancestry/race/origin but with the easy customization, for the campaign we play in, it makes a great deal of difference what your character's background is. And for RP purposes I really like that. YMMV


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Fair enough, at least you're having fun, that's the important part!


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The fact that Archives of Nethys exists makes the purchase of the 600 page book something that literally no one at the table really needs to do.

The converse of the argument that you can add as much customization to 5e as you would like is that you can remove as much customization from PF2e as you would like, even making it as non-crunchy as 5e if you would like.

More to the point though PF2e’s complexity can be removed with relative ease, while 5e’s simplicity can be added to with copious house ruling and revision.

The final point though is that the “ watered down to the same saltless semantic soup” is more watered down in 5e as published than it is in PF2e


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mikeawmids wrote:
The adventure writing for D&D5e generally seems, at least to me, to be a lot more concise. I don't need pages on backstory and/or sexual preferences of an antagonist the PCs are likely going to steamroll without so much as a "How's your father?"

I generally agree that the reduction in complexity gives 5e a LOT of mass market appeal and makes it easy to learn, but I will add to this point a counterargument that I really haven't liked the writing of the 5e official adventures.

I mean, even the one I like the most needs a heck of a lot of work to make the redemption ending work. As-is it's just "give macguffin and pep talk, baddie good and shiny now".

And the Dragon Queen adventures basically need to be rewritten from scratch. Storm King's Thunder has some big plot holes and that and Princes of the Apocalypse have confusing layouts. Princes is also kinda bland, but it is a ToEE reimagine so it's chasing a particular kind of game that only a segment of players want.

Curse of Strahd is never going to be a part of my gaming table even after they fixed the racism. Just not my speed. I hear it's well-written though.

Dragon Heist has so many issues that my current Sunday group (I play PF 1e Saturdays) is playing a modified version because nobody wanted to do the original version.

That said, with the upcoming massive rules patch expected for 5e, I fully anticipate that there'll be another bump in 5e popularity from the marketing and the game now being possible to play as a Ranger without feeling completely useless.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

There still remains no guarantee that the 50th Anniversary release will be a "massive rules patch."


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Ian G wrote:
mikeawmids wrote:
The adventure writing for D&D5e generally seems, at least to me, to be a lot more concise. I don't need pages on backstory and/or sexual preferences of an antagonist the PCs are likely going to steamroll without so much as a "How's your father?"

I generally agree that the reduction in complexity gives 5e a LOT of mass market appeal and makes it easy to learn, but I will add to this point a counterargument that I really haven't liked the writing of the 5e official adventures....

That said, with the upcoming massive rules patch expected for 5e, I fully anticipate that there'll be another bump in 5e popularity from the marketing and the game now being possible to play as a Ranger without feeling completely useless.

The movie, if done well and marketed right, will give things a boost too. Given the "rulings not rules" mantra with regard to 5e, I'm thinking the 50th whatever-they-do won't really change the game much.


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Quark Blast wrote:
Ian G wrote:
mikeawmids wrote:
The adventure writing for D&D5e generally seems, at least to me, to be a lot more concise. I don't need pages on backstory and/or sexual preferences of an antagonist the PCs are likely going to steamroll without so much as a "How's your father?"

I generally agree that the reduction in complexity gives 5e a LOT of mass market appeal and makes it easy to learn, but I will add to this point a counterargument that I really haven't liked the writing of the 5e official adventures....

That said, with the upcoming massive rules patch expected for 5e, I fully anticipate that there'll be another bump in 5e popularity from the marketing and the game now being possible to play as a Ranger without feeling completely useless.

The movie, if done well and marketed right, will give things a boost too. Given the "rulings not rules" mantra with regard to 5e, I'm thinking the 50th whatever-they-do won't really change the game much.

I'm worried about the movie, it's really hard to do D&D movies right. Closest I've seen to good was Book of Vile Darkness, which was a hot mess of a film that was chock-full of "I cut myself on my own edge" levels of edgelord.

The rules patch is RUMORED, from what I've seen and heard, to be a 3.5-esque "patch the obvious holes" move, possibly including a Ranger update so that you can play ranger without Tasha's and/or have actual fun as a Beastmaster.


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I'll bet the patch is pretty minor in terms of overall fixes. It could just be an updated PHB/DMG incorporating things like we see in Tasha's.

As for film entertainment - there's this, which references this.

The Lombardo wrote:

We have a show, Magic: The Gathering, which is a huge gaming brand under the Wizards of the Coast sector which is their online gaming community....

Our big focus right now is Dungeons & Dragons.... We have a big movie that’s in post right now that will come out first so, we’re trying to also navigate the brand more holistically so that the movie feels not apart from but connected somehow to a bigger universe....

And of course the next D&D HC is another MTG-5e crossover effort.

Liberty's Edge

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Lord Fyre wrote:

When D&D 5E came out in 2014, it was not an immediate smash. Pathfinder 1E was still quite dominant in the marketplace.

What happened?

When 5e came out it actually was a pretty decent smash. As others posted:

https://www.enworld.org/threads/chart-of-icv2-rankings-back-to-2004.670122/
It hit the #2 sales spot in the summer (with just the Starter Set and PHB in late July) and rocketed to #1 in the fall.
It took a few months to really build steam, but quickly matched 4e and 3e for sales. And kept growing in 2015 and 2016. And then never stopped.

Here's the thing, Pathfinder never really competed with D&D. Not really. It was an illusion of success.
Pathfinder inarguably saw a surge of D&D players disenfranchised with 4e, but probably as many players just kept playing 3.5e. And quite a few 4e players kept playing but stopped buying the books, instead using the downloadable tool set. And many just left the hobby.
Pathfinder's sales were higher than D&D at that time, but weren't higher than D&D in general.
And the entire TTRPG market contracted as a result.

When 5e came out most of the 4e players switched AND many the lapsed D&D players returned, from Pathfinder and 3e but also gaming in general. So even if it didn't grow the hobby and attract new players, just by those returning players it quickly passed Pathfinder.
I was one of them. I was tired of 3e in 2008-9 but I didn't like 4e, so Pathfinder was the least-bad option. But 5e just fit my DMing style so much more comfortably I quickly switched.

*

As for why D&D became more popular than Pathfinder... well, complexity is a big factor.

You have two types of gamers: the dedicated ones and the casual ones. This is an oversimplification of course, but it's to illustrate the point. Dedicated players buy the books and know the rules and enjoy spending time away from the game thinking about the game and building characters. They design adventures or build characters or make worlds. Causal players show up and roll dice, seldom thinking about the game between sessions.
Dedicated players often end up as the DM and have to round out their table with casuals. And for casuals, a game like Pathfinder can be fun to play but hard to learn and pure homework between sessions, when they have to spend 15,000 gp to buy magic items, pick out a feat from a list of 50, and a new talent or spell.

It's easier for a casual player to enjoy a more simple game, like 5e (which is still very, very complex compared to almost every other RPG on the market). And there's probably far more casual players than dedicated players.

Simple versions of D&D have always sold better. Because they engage casual gamers, and DMs like being in charge and controlling the table, rather than being managed by the rules. (And half the complexity of 3e/PF and 4e is in many ways trying to manage to DM—to prevent bad DMing and bad calls by giving HARD rules for what PCs can and cannot do.)
Steve Winter (who worked on 2e and was the EiC of Dragon for a time once told me that TSR expected the Red Box and Basic D&D to be purchased by new players while older, experienced players would gravitate to the Advanced version. But in practice, new gamers (mostly young kids) bought AD&D to play the "real" game while older, experienced gamers favoured Basic because they enjoyed the narrative freedom and flexibility.

Then you factor in streaming. Streaming games really benefits from quick play and simple rules. The more time you spend doing crunchy rules talk the harder it becomes for people who don't know the rules to engage. Critical Role wouldn't have worked with Pathfinder. It barely works with D&D.

*

As for the movie...
Well, the MCU is the biggest thing ever in the cinema. And superhero comics are still struggling. Success in one media doesn't translate well to another.
If it was a novel series that'd be one thing. Buy the original book to read. But I doubt many people are going to start a new hobby after watching a popcorn film.


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Jester David wrote:

You have two types of gamers: the dedicated ones and the casual ones. This is an oversimplification of course, but it's to illustrate the point. Dedicated players buy the books and know the rules and enjoy spending time away from the game thinking about the game and building characters. They design adventures or build characters or make worlds. Causal players show up and roll dice, seldom thinking about the game between sessions.

Dedicated players often end up as the DM and have to round out their table with casuals. And for casuals, a game like Pathfinder can be fun to play but hard to learn and pure homework between sessions, when they have to spend 15,000 gp to buy magic items, pick out a feat from a list of 50, and a new talent or spell.

I'd consider myself a dedicated player. For a while, I liked PF number crunching and character customization, but It grew tiresome with time. Too many options that were no-brainers and so many others that were just awful and nobody cared about. In my last games as a player, the idea of creating a character was painful, too much stuff, too much bad stuff, it was just not worth doing the involved math.

Not sure of good or bad is PF2, I'm not interested in learning yet other complicated games, and, more importantly, my old group of players hates it with passion.

If I were to introduce new players to the hobby I would use 5e or some world of darkness.

Liberty's Edge

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Nicos wrote:
Jester David wrote:

You have two types of gamers: the dedicated ones and the casual ones. This is an oversimplification of course, but it's to illustrate the point. Dedicated players buy the books and know the rules and enjoy spending time away from the game thinking about the game and building characters. They design adventures or build characters or make worlds. Causal players show up and roll dice, seldom thinking about the game between sessions.

Dedicated players often end up as the DM and have to round out their table with casuals. And for casuals, a game like Pathfinder can be fun to play but hard to learn and pure homework between sessions, when they have to spend 15,000 gp to buy magic items, pick out a feat from a list of 50, and a new talent or spell.

I'd consider myself a dedicated player. For a while, I liked PF number crunching and character customization, but It grew tiresome with time. Too many options that were no-brainers and so many others that were just awful and nobody cared about. In my last games as a player, the idea of creating a character was painful, too much stuff, too much bad stuff, it was just not worth doing the involved math.

Not sure of good or bad is PF2, I'm not interested in learning yet other complicated games, and, more importantly, my old group of players hates it with passion.

If I were to introduce new players to the hobby I would use 5e or some world of darkness.

I’m not suggesting ALL dedicated players like complexity. As I state later, a large number of experienced (and dedicated) players liked Basic D&D over AD&D.

Dedicated players may or may not like complicated games.
Casual players favour uncomplicated games.

So, inherently, the audience of something like Pathfinder 2–the most complicated game currently in print—will be smaller, and enjoyed by a subset of a subset of gamers.

I was rather astonished during the playtest Paizo doubled down on the complexity for that reason.


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Well, It is not that I don't like complexity, it is more that I found a good chunk of PF complexity to be not worth the effort.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

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Lord Fyre wrote:

When D&D 5E came out in 2014, it was not an immediate smash. Pathfinder 1E was still quite dominant in the marketplace.

What happened?

As far as I recall, the only time Pathfinder was number 1 was the year 2013, and much of 2014, during which WotC didn't release a 4e D&D product at all, and focused their attention on successive iterations of the D&D Next public playtest.

D&D is the brand name for all RPGs. If you ask someone who's even heard of the hobby to name some tabletop RPGs, they'll name D&D and maybe something else. Paizo didn't do something wrong to drop to #2, they just got bumped down by the biggest name in the business returning to publishing again.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Christopher Dudley wrote:
As far as I recall, the only time Pathfinder was number 1 was the year 2013, and much of 2014

Pathfinder took the top sales spot in the 2nd quarter of 2011 and held it until the third quarter of 2014


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Nicos wrote:
Well, It is not that I don't like complexity, it is more that I found a good chunk of PF complexity to be not worth the effort.

Just so! Somewhere in the 3.PF days the game seems to have passed into the zone of labyrinthine-inanity-of-copious-rules and has dug yet deeper with the current incarnation.


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Quark Blast wrote:
Nicos wrote:
Well, It is not that I don't like complexity, it is more that I found a good chunk of PF complexity to be not worth the effort.
Just so! Somewhere in the 3.PF days the game seems to have passed into the zone of labyrinthine-inanity-of-copious-rules and has dug yet deeper with the current incarnation.

For me, it was around the release of the advanced class guide.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Option complexity and Rules complexity are not necessarily the same thing, and I personally find 2e to be less rules heavy than 3.X/PF1

Liberty's Edge

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Nicos wrote:
Quark Blast wrote:
Nicos wrote:
Well, It is not that I don't like complexity, it is more that I found a good chunk of PF complexity to be not worth the effort.
Just so! Somewhere in the 3.PF days the game seems to have passed into the zone of labyrinthine-inanity-of-copious-rules and has dug yet deeper with the current incarnation.
For me, it was around the release of the advanced class guide.

That was where Pathfinder lost me.

Classes are such a big thing and require so much work to balance. Doing that many—each of which being extra complicated—it was like giving up on balance. And there was so mushy extra mechanics in that book but zero fluff and lore. At release I jokingly called it the “advanced bloat guide.”
It was at that point I looked at my library of Pathfinder books and realized many had never been used, and some only saw a single page of use.

Liberty's Edge

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dirtypool wrote:
Option complexity and Rules complexity are not necessarily the same thing, and I personally find 2e to be less rules heavy than 3.X/PF1

Which is like saying rocket science is less complex than brain surgery.

PF2 is certainly slightly more streamlined in a few areas, but isn’t remotely less complex when compared to… pretty much every other game written in the last fifteen years.
There are more conditions, and many that are very specialized (like encumbered) and many rules are 50% more complex than they need to be (the Heal skill, the dying rules, weapon qualities). And the keywords, which can subtly change what a power does in un-obvious ways.
I haven’t played, having bounced hard off the rules (it did the exact opposite I wanted from a revised Pathfinder), and everything seemed way more fiddly and technical than it needed to be,

And the option complexity is a huge feature/bug.
For a subset of a subset of the audience it’s good, as they enjoy building characters between games and reading books of options. But having five choices when you level-up doesn’t make the game more fun to play AT the table. And for many people it’s a chore that acts as a barrier to play. And that’s without considering that option creep = power creep and means a starker difference between an optimized and unoptimized character.

PF2 is what 4th Edition D&D should have been. It’s a far better evolution of the 3.5e ruleset. But it’s still an evolution of a ruleset made in the year 2000 and released as if no other major game was released after 2007.
But I’m not here to slag PF2. People are free to enjoy it if it’s their cup of tea and everyone at their table loves mechanical character building. But the game is deliberately focused, which makes it niche, and thus has more of a challenge to reach mass market popularity.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I don’t know Champions latest edition was written like 8 years ago, so calling an iterative D20 game the most difficult in fifteen years feels like some intense hyperbole.

Particularly when you describe PF2 as behaving in ways in which PF1 did and PF2 does not. The game is specifically designed to not create a wider gulf between an unoptimized and an optimized character. It isn’t exclusively focused on mechanical builds.


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dirtypool wrote:
Option complexity and Rules complexity are not necessarily the same thing, and I personally find 2e to be less rules heavy than 3.X/PF1

One of the things in PF1 is that character creations options are not linked to in-game solving problem options. Good look if your bull rush specialist wants to trip someone (the only reasonable way was with a lore warden but they nerfed it...why? why?).

I really like mage the ascension. It is a really complex game, and it (obviously) has its flaws. But I feel that the complexity of MTA is worth the effort because I don't need a calculator to make my PC and play the game, and the rules allow for a variety of in-game options that are way beyond PF1.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I’ve never found any of the WoD or CoD games to be overly complex, more the in character Disciplines/Powers/Knacks/Rotes to be all that comparable to D20 content.


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dirtypool wrote:
I’ve never found any of the WoD or CoD games to be overly complex, more the in character Disciplines/Powers/Knacks/Rotes to be all that comparable to D20 content.

Mage in particular, at the least the older version I played, required a lot of adjudication in play to settle on what you could actually do.

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