Paizo using Pathfinder RPG to stick with 3.5

Paizo Publishing, former publisher of Dragon and Dungeon and the company behind the Pathfinder d20 product line, announced today its plan to produce the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, due to release August 2009. Perhaps more significant was the company’s decision to stick with the D&D 3.5 ruleset as its foundation. Paizo intends for the game to be “designed with backward compatibility as one of its primary goals, so players will continue to enjoy their lifelong fantasy gaming hobby without invalidating their entire game library.” This move could be designed to help Paizo absorb any D&D fans who end up dissatisfied with 4th Edition once it arrives, and additional thunder-stealing is on the horizon – Paizo already has a free 65-page preview PDF available, and plans to release a full-color softcover Pathfinder RPG Beta release book this August for $24.99.

Multiple announcements accompanied the press release (below), including a statement from Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens. Stevens elaborated on the decision to stick with 3.5: “After careful evaluation of our options, we believe that the 3.5 core will continue to be the best system to tell the stories we’ve got planned for Pathfinder. […] We’re sure that lots of roleplayers are going to be thrilled with Wizards of the Coast’s upcoming 4th Edition, and we’re also looking forward to the 4th Edition products that our partner Necromancer Games will be creating. Paizo may also publish 4th Edition products in the future, but if we do, they won’t cross over with our Pathfinder products.”

Paizo publisher Erik Mona cut right to the heart of the matter in his statement: “Basing the Pathfinder RPG on 3.5 also allows Paizo more control over our destiny than simply following along with the latest edition and the newest licensing changes.” Beyond merely taking control of its ruleset, Paizo may be establishing an in-print system that other publishers can adapt for their needs. Interesting developments in the D&D upgrade shake-out, to be sure.

[UPDATE: A follow-up press release, added here, states the free Pathfinder Alpha PDF has already been downloaded 10,000 times]

Paizo press release follows:

Paizo Publishing® Announces the Pathfinder RPG™

Pathfinderâ„¢ to continue under the 3.5 rules.

March 18, 2008 (BELLEVUE, Wash.) – Paizo Publishing today unveiled the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, a tabletop fantasy roleplaying game that will serve as the anchor for the company’s popular line of Pathfinder adventures, sourcebooks, and campaigns. Today marks the beginning of a year-long open playtest of the new rules, which are based upon the popular 3.5 rules available under the Open Game License. The Pathfinder RPG is designed with backward compatibility as one of its primary goals, so players will continue to enjoy their lifelong fantasy gaming hobby without invalidating their entire game library. The first Pathfinder RPG Alpha release is available now as a free 65-page PDF download at Until the finished Pathfinder RPGs release as a hardcover rulebook in August 2009, all of Paizo’s popular Pathfinder-brand products will continue under the current 3.5 rules set.

“I’m really excited to work with the playtesters to make this the best game possible,” said Jason Bulmahn, Paizo’s Lead Designer. “In the spirit of the Open Game movement, the Pathfinder RPG is really your roleplaying game. It’s a huge thrill to get to lead the design process.”

Paizo will issue additional Pathfinder RPG Alpha releases in the coming months, covering new changes and additions to the 3.5 rules. Gamers can download, read, and participate in the free open playtest by setting up a account and joining the discussion with Paizo’s design staff at The Pathfinder RPG will be backward-compatible with the 3.5 rules, and the staff has kept this goal as a primary focus since design began in 2007.

This coming August, Paizo will release a massive, full-color, softcover Pathfinder RPG Beta release for $24.99. This book will be available on, at Gen Con, as well as through hobby distribution at local game stores. Just like the Alpha releases, the Beta release will be available as a free PDF download on As Wizards of the Coast’s core 3.5 rulebooks are expected to go out of print with the release of 4th Edition, Paizo will use the Pathfinder RPG as a replacement for the 3.5 core rules. The Pathfinder RPG Beta release will represent Paizo’s first published take on an updated 3.5 system, and playtesting will continue through spring 2009, when Paizo will incorporate the open playtest feedback and create a hardcover Pathfinder RPG for release in the hobby trade, bookstores, and in August 2009.

Paizo hopes to support 4th Edition with fan-created online conversions of its Pathfinder products and a complete line from its partner company, Necromancer Games, a trend-setter in the original Open Gaming movement. Necromancer has already announced a new 4th Edition version of their award-winning Tome of Horrors monster encyclopedia, and has plans for additional player and GM support products.

Today, Paizo also announced the hiring of Nicolas Logue to run the Pathfinder Society organized play campaign, a massive mega-campaign to launch at this year’s Gen Con. The Pathfinder Society will feature events at major conventions, retail stores, and home play as a way to involve thousands of players in a constantly evolving campaign environment fueled by downloadable scenarios released by Paizo. Nicolas Logue is a long-time Paizo contributor to the print versions of Dragon and Dungeon as well as the Pathfinder Adventure Paths and Pathfinder Modules line. He also co-runs an annual competition at Gen Con called Iron DM that will continue to be co-run by Nicolas Logue and his Iron DM compatriots. Nick begins working at Paizo in April.

“Nicolas Logue is one of the most energetic, personable gamers I have ever met,” said Erik Mona, Paizo’s Publisher and the co-founder during his tenure at Wizards of the Coast of Living Greyhawk, the largest organized play RPG campaign in history. “Running a successful organized play campaign involves a magical combination of cool ideas, organizational skills, and enthusiasm. Nick is absolutely the perfect man for the job, and I’m thrilled that he will be joining us here at Paizo.”

Additional information on the Pathfinder Society campaign can be found at

Paizo Publishing®, LLC is a leading publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, board games, and novels. Paizo’s Pathfinderâ„¢ line of adventures and Pathfinder Chroniclesâ„¢ campaign setting support materials combines decades of game design experience into one evocative system compatible with the 3.5 rules. Paizo’s GameMasteryâ„¢ line offers easy-to-use tools for game masters of any fantasy roleplaying game to improve their gaming experience. Titanic Gamesâ„¢, Paizo’s board game imprint, unleashes fun, challenging games like Kill Doctor Luckyâ„¢ and Yetisburgâ„¢ that appeal to both families and casual gamers alike. Paizo’s Planet Storiesâ„¢ line of science fiction and fantasy novel reprints promises a master class in the genre aimed at building the greatest fantasy and science fiction library ever assembled. is the leading online hobby retail store, offering tens of thousands of products from a variety of publishers to customers all over the world. In the five years since its founding, Paizo Publishing has received more than a dozen major awards and has grown to become one of the most influential companies in the hobby games industry.

Other announcements were made regarding the Pathfinder RPG at


  1. Quite true. And if they’re using 3.5, what do they need a “beta” period for?

    This is, of course, exactly what I predicted would happen on the podcast those many months ago, and exactly who I predicted would do it. The only thing they got wrong is the name. Pathfinder isn’t a bad name, I guess, but I do wish they’d had the stones to go with The World’s Most Popular Fantasy RPG.

  2. I think this is a mistake on Paizo’s part, but I wish them the best. I completely understand why they did not want to throw down 5k for the still mythical 4e SRD and that they were going to continue 3.x support until ’09. (Personally, I thought WotC should have given them a break on the $ for yanking Dungeon and Dragon from them — I’m far more skeptical of DDI than the actual 4e ruleset…)

    I plan to buy 4e and play it before I make up my mind for good. If I don’t like it I will most likely go on to another system entirely or go back to 3.x, unlike some D&D players, I’ve always played a lot of RPGS. This 3.75, or whatever, just seems like a divergent path off of a divergent (withering?) path. I hope the niche market of a niche market works out for them. I have my doubts.

    Again, I wish them my best, but they definitely rode off waaaay too soon and definitely without me…and as others have said, it won’t be out until 4e has been out for months…I think by then much of the nerd rage will turn to nerd love.

  3. I don’t see how you can say they road of without you. There still going to make 4e products with Necromancer. Right now they are going to support both systems and get to dabble in game design at the same time.

    The only thing that isn’t clear, but I suspect it will be the case is if thier adventure paths will remain 3.5. I suspect that it will so people who want to play with thier WOTC books if they want, or if they want to work with Pathfinder RPG they can go that way.

    Either way you have it. Extending the lifespan of 3.5 for a year or two isn’t so bad.

  4. And if they’re using 3.5, what do they need a “beta” period for?

    They’re extending 3.5. Paizo’s making a bid to become the successor to D&D for the players who don’t adopt 4.0 or want to keep using OGL-licensed works. I think it’s a good move. Hasbro’s already botched the GSL “D&D developer’s kit” plan. No third-party publishers will be able to release material anywhere close to the D&D 4 launch date now.

  5. “I guess, but I do wish they’d had the stones to go with The World’s Most Popular Fantasy RPG.”misuba

    Too many syllables.

    “I think this is a mistake on Paizo’s part.”Wayne

    Not to me. I plan to stick with 3e until 2010 or I grow tired of it, whichever comes later.

  6. FWIW, I’m glad the company themselves are adopting a wait-and-see approach while becoming a printinghouse (and distributor) for 4e game design studios like Necromancer Games. Besides, there is no need to flood the market too soon.

  7. I think they want to refine and streamline the 3.5e ruleset. After all, there is so much clutter, despite the popularity.

  8. Seems like Paizo’s off to a roaring start for the Pathfinder RPG – the free download, at least. Here’s the latest press release:

    Paizo press release follows:

    10,000 Gamers Download Pathfinder RPG in One Week
    Kicks off largest open playtest in RPG history.

    March 26, 2008 (BELLEVUE, Wash.) – Paizo Publishing today revealed that more than 10,000 gamers have downloaded the Pathfinder RPG Alpha release 1 since its announcement one week ago. The free PDF is available now at

    “The huge number of downloads has exceeded our expectations, as has the outpouring of support from gamers around the world,” said Paizo Publisher Erik Mona. “Our open playtest forums have exploded with thoughtful commentary on the Alpha release, and I look forward to a long and productive playtest effort going forward.”

    Playtester feedback has already resulted in development changes to the initial Pathfinder RPG Alpha release 1. The changes have been integrated into to a new release 1.1 of the Alpha PDF, and are summarized in the first of a series of Development Notes downloads from Paizo Lead Designer Jason Bulmahn.

    The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is a tabletop fantasy roleplaying game that will serve as the anchor for Paizo’s popular line of Pathfinder adventures, sourcebooks, and campaigns. Last week marked the beginning of a year-long open playtest of the new rules, which are based on the popular 3.5 rules available under the Open Game License. The Pathfinder RPG is designed with backward compatibility as one of its primary goals, so players will continue to enjoy their lifelong fantasy gaming hobby without invalidating their entire game library.

    Paizo intends to release multiple Pathfinder RPG Alpha downloads to flesh out the system with additional classes, spells, magic items, and additional refinements of the core 3.5 system between now and early summer. Playtester feedback on the Pathfinder RPG messageboards will guide the direction of the Pathfinder RPG Beta to be released at Gen Con this August. The Beta release will take all of the Alpha playtest feedback to create a 320+ page, soft-cover, full-color book, available in print for $24.99 on or at your local game store and as a free downloadable PDF on The Beta will serve as the primary playtest document for the Pathfinder RPG until summer 2009 when the rules will be finalized and released as a hardcover rulebook.

    Additional information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game can be found at

  9. The Pathfinder game is essentially a modified version of 3.5. Listen, Search, and Spot are now combined into one skill called Perception. They’ve reworked grappling. They’ve added goodies to sorcerers. Cantrips are now at-will. They have modified 3.5, which is why they need alpha and beta versions. I downloaded it, and frankly, I like what I see. I hope to convert to Pathfinder if my DM will agree to it, but he wants to wait until 4e is released so he can judge that on its merits (instead of hype and speculation).

  10. I’ve purchased 4e PHB, and while I like a lot of what they have done, I’m fairly certain HASBRO/WotC will .5 us again, as well as the fact that 4e is even more of a minis-based game than an RPG, which doesn’t thrill me at all.

    I’ve downloaded the 162pp. Pathfinder Alpha 3 release and already like it Oddles and Gobs more than 3.5. When they bring it out in hardback, I am very likely to purchase it.

    Their plan to continue supporting OGL/3.5 is a smart move, IMO, given the mass of works that were created for it, including my favourite setting: Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms.

    -Kyrinn S. Eis

  11. Hey, I like D&D. Played 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 3.5 editions. None were perfect but the good thing is as a DM I can modify rules to make things right and so it makes sense. I don’t need all to be spell out for me. As long as I liked the game and had fun playing is all that matter. tried 4E, and that is where my loyalty stops. Not playing it anymore but I can still play 3.5 and change and modify things to make it right, fair and above all fun.

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