Review: Pathfinder Strategy Guide
What ho, adventurers!
I recently got my hands on the Pathfinder Strategy Guide, a 159 page hardcover book Paizo has put out to assist folks with the game. It’s funny - this book is what I’d always pictured the D&D Player’s Handbook to be.
Let’s get this out of the way:
- if you are super familiar with how Pathfinder works this book isn’t for your
- if you’ve played a ton, gone through many characters and know the ins and outs of the game (either as a player or as a GM, this book isn’t for you
This book is for you if:
- You’ve been playing the Pathfinder Beginner Box and are looking to move on to the main game
- If you have a bunch of players at your table who are new to the game
- If you’re new to running Pathfinder in general and would like some helping having some of the game’s concepts broken down for you
What’s Inside - Find Your Class
The first thing the book provides is an interesting “find your class” guide that helps unsure players zero in on the type of character they want to play. It asks you a bunch of questions in the same style as an online survey might.
One thing that’s interesting about this is that while the end result ends up pointing you to a class (it’ll say things like “Go to page 96 for the Sorcerer class”), the characters the book ends up showing you are not the default classes found in the rule book.
Having played and run the game a bunch, at first I found this sort of confusing. After going through the survey to find my class I ended up at Angel Born (I just followed random questions to get there) but Angel Born isn’t an actual class. The thing about this is that they’re not really helping you find a class, they’re helping you find a concept. Once you have that, they point you in the direction of the actual class.
What’s Inside - What to Buy
One of the things new players struggle with is spending their gold as they always want to get the best bang for their coin. Every single class outline found in the book has a sidebar that details what a character should have starting out.
What’s Inside - Level Up!
Maybe the best thing in the book, the Strategy Guide has a guide to levelling up characters that covers every single class level up to 20, breaks down exactly what perk you get at each level. It also takes the time to describe what a power is best designed to do and what taking it actually means. On page 56 under Cleric, level 11 when talking about spells the book says “The big gun for healers is - not surprisingly - the spell heal. Its reversed form, harm, is a strong option to drop on your enemies.”
This part of the book is excellent. It actually seems like Paizo is your GM here and you’re sort of getting “tips from the pros” or something. I really like they way they spelled this section out and how they offer ideas and snippets of info to players.
What’s Inside - Combat
Combat, one of the most important parts of many games can also be one of the most confusing. Things like attacks of opportunity (which I’ve removed at my table to keep confusion and time-wasting down) can be difficult for new players to grasp.
To this end, the book has an entire section at the back that covers things like how combat works, how to survey the battlefield, attacks of opportunity, big hits, and even a section called combat tricks that helps you get the most out of your attacks.
Who’s This Book For?
I would recommend this book to anyone just starting out playing Pathfinder. New GMs would benefit from having this to read between games if they feel like they’re not sure how to help players get the most out of the game as well as to get an insight into how best to make the game interesting for the PCs.
The book is also invaluable for new players. Like I said before, this book is what I’d always pictured the Player’s Guide to be before I got into it. I think they should have renamed this book The New Player’s Guide. Not that the book is newer than a past one, but that it’s really designed for new players.
The best way to get this book is to suggest all your new players go together and pay for it. At $30, it’s could seem a bit pricey for 159 pages but if players go in on it together it’s definitely worth it. For example, at my table there are 8 people and it would be easy to convince each of them to throw in $4 to buy a copy.
The way the book is laid out is excellent for new players. Content is easy to reference and it’s written in a way that’s easy to follow and encourages players to read on.
The tables and flow of the information (especially the “find your class” tool and levelling guides) are really well done. It’s easy to figure out what to do next and it’s hard to get lost in pages and pages of data.
Like I said, it also seems like Paizo is talking directly to the PCs. It really seems like they are helping you our from their HQ. This is a great touch.
The combat section is excellent, especially the area that covers what PCs could do on their turn. It helps people unsure about combat know how to make the most of their turn.
The section on character death is great too, esp the “death isn’t always the end!”
The artwork in the book is really nice. Only the cover is by Wayne Reynolds though so if you’re really into his art (like I am) you might feel disappointed.
The “find your class” tool is a bit confusing, especially having seen battle priest in there. Having been looking at War Priest for a while I momentarily got them mixed up and couldn’t figure out where the other classes were.
The book only covers classes (and races) from the core rule book. There are no tengu or kitsune so be ready for that. :)
At just 159 pages, the book seems like it’s skimping on content. It’s very thin and very light and coming from other Pathfinder books, it might throw you off.
If you’re experienced with the game, it’s not really for you. there might be some interesting stuff in there you didn’t know but that’s about it.
The Final Word
So, is the Pathfinder Strategy Guide for you? If you’re new to playing the game or have some questions about it but are sort of embarrassed about asking them, yes this book is for you. Especially if there are a bunch of new players at the table. Going in on a copy of it and sharing it between games or at the table is something I’d strongly suggest. I’m going to be giving this book to my team and have the read it between games to get the most out of their turns.
If you’re an old hat at Pathfinder, and/or have played a bunch before and are looking for some insider tips on how to maximize your character, you probably already know the things in this book.
If I ran a gaming shop, I would have the beginner box on a shelf and then next to it have the core rule book and this book under “NEXT STEP”. It’s honestly perfect for new players.
I hope this helps you decide whether or not this book is for you! Having 6 brand new players (and 2 relatively new players) at my table, I’m definitely going to be sharing it with everyone the next time we get together!