Jason Bulmahn, Sean K. Reynolds
Pathfinder hit the shelves to fill the gap that Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 left behind. The hefty 500-plus page rulebook has everything you need but it can be daunting and seemingly complicated, especially to new gamers, so what better way to introduce new people to the hobby than with an introductory game.
The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Boxset is a lovely looking 23 x 29 cm box and at 6.5 cm deep with a decent weight you immediately feel you’ve got your money’s worth. The Wayne Reynolds cover art is action-packed and dynamic and sets the tone well. The presentation is very good and the design and weight makes for an attractive product.
INSIDE THE BOX
Upon opening the box I’m greeted straight away with a packet of seven red dice of the varying shapes and a packet of black stands for the card pawns that come with the box – more on those later. Under this these packets is an introductory sheet that explains what to read first depending on if you are reading on your own, if you want to be a player, if you want to make your own character or if you want to be the Game Master. It’s basically pointing you in the right direction and telling you what you need to do first depending on what you want to do with the game. Good start.
The 64-page Hero’s Handbook follows and in this full-colour softback book you have all the instructions you need to create and use a character for the game. It starts with a short choose-your-own-adventure gamebook called Skeleton King’s Crypt and it takes you through 23 options in which you get to experience the basic rules and what they mean in a game. This is followed by a clear and well presented example of play, followed by the normal character creation. This book talks you through every aspect of character creation slowly and methodically, with plenty of illustrations, colour coded pointers and detailed explanations. There are plenty of things left out to make the creation process simple for new gamers; the lists of races, classes, feats, spells, and skills have been cut down to a minimum. You can choose form a Dwarf, and Elf or a Human, and your classes are limited to Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard. As this is a beginner’s game the reduction of options is a bonus. The book is illustrated with great art throughout.
Next there are four character pamphlets for each of the four classes, four-page sheets of pre-generated Heroes that detail what the class does, their stats, and a short example character bio on the back. The centre pages have the statistics and are flanked by references to everything on the sheet, explaining what each section does, how it works, and what you can do in a round during combat. It’s a great idea and gives new gamers everything they need for their first outing.
Then you get four full-colour character sheets, easy to use and with details on there, such as a dice recognition chart and references to where you can find details of certain sections.
Next is the 96-page Game Master’s Guide, which contains everything you need to know about running games. It stats with a nest adventure, Black Fang’s Dungeon, and this takes you through a standard dungeon crawl step by step. After that it goes into detail as to what is expected from a Game Master, including basic Game Mastering rules, how to build adventures, using the environment, magic items, a large monsters section, random encounters, and Sandpoint, a fully fleshed out campaign town and area with some adventure ideas for players to game in. At the back there are some reference pages so that first-time Game Masters don’t have to trawl through the books looking for basic details.
The large foldout map is next, which you can use with markers to detail locations. It has plain brown on one side and the map for the introductory adventure on the other. Both sides are squared for use with the pawns that come with the box and normal miniatures.
The three boards of pawns give you more than 80 cardboard minis you can stand up in the plastic stands in the box. They’re fully detailed in colour and represent all the Hero races and classes, in both sexes, and all the monsters in the Game Master’s Guide. They’re hardy and incredibly well made, perfect for both this boxset and gaming in general and will last a long time.
The final one sheet details where to go once the players want to go beyond level 5, and is basically an advert for the full-on Pathfinder Core Rulebook and accessories.
The Pathfinder Beginner Box was designed to act as an introductory game to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It’s obvious that new players would buy this then progress onto the Pathfinder Core Rulebook with its vast options as the sides of the box itself is covered in advertisements for the main rulebooks and the books explain how to move on to them form the boxset. They may have been the intention, but what Paizo have produced is a very good introductory game for the roleplaying hobby in general. Every part of the Pathfinder game and the hobby in general is explained in detail and new gamers are taken step by step through ever aspect. This in itself makes it an excellent game and I’d have no hesitation in buying or recommending this for someone who I know wanted to get into the hobby. You could leave this with them and their friends for a couple of weeks and they’d be ready to get into the hobby no problem. Everything is explained.
This only makes the game accessible to the new gamer, mind you. If you’re an old hat at roleplaying - the Pathfinder game in particular - there’s nothing in here you’d need. Experienced gamers would find the Pathfinder Core Rulebook suited to their needs and wouldn’t have to get this, unless they had new gamers they wanted to bring into the hobby.
But it’s not the experienced gamer this is aimed at. The selling point of this boxset is the fact that it is aimed at brand new gamers interested in getting into the hobby. For that fact alone it excels in its intention.
If you’ve been gaming for a while then there’s not a lot in this boxset that you’ll find useful, unless you’ve never played Pathfinder before and feel a little daunted by the huge Core Rulebook. For new gamers, however, this is the perfect introductory game not only for the Pathfinder system but the roleplaying hobby in general, so for you it’s highly recommended.