Pathfinder Beginner Box Review


by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)

Last week, I reviewed the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.  As I said then, it is a massive tome of gaming goodness, but due to its $49.99 retail price tag, or its sheer size, it might be intimidating to some who’ve never even attempted to play a role-playing game.  You might want a taste of interactive storytelling, a dipping your foot in the pool so-to-speak, before diving headlong into Pathfinder.   Paizo has realized this as well, and so have introduced the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box.  The set includes everything you need to get going in the world of Pathfinder.

Box Contents

• 64-page Hero’s Handbook

• 96-page Game Master’s Guide

• Complete set of polyhedral dice

• More than 80 cardboard cutouts with stands for the player characters and npcs (non-player characters)

• Four pre-generated character sheets: Valeros the human Warrior, Merisiel the Elf Rogue, Kyra the human Cleric, and Ezren the human Wizard

• Four blank character sheets: if you want to continue with the pre-generated character sheets, you can transfer all the information to the blank sheets when your characters level up, or you can create new characters

• Double-sided Flip-Map: one side is the dungeon used in the included adventure and one side is basic squares so you can draw your own dungeon.  Works with wet or dry erase markers, making it incredibly versatile.

Now that we’ve had a peek inside the box, let’s look at what all these goodies do, and how they do it.  First off, as with most Paizo products, the quality is excellent.  The box itself is of sturdy construction and features original artwork by fantasy great, Wayne Reynolds.  The Hero’s Handbook assumes you have no previous knowledge of roleplaying games, and so right out of the gate, it has a solo adventure–a sort of choose your own adventure, but with dice!  This is a great way to introduce new players to roleplaying. Then the Handbook takes you, step-by-step, through the ability scores and mechanics of Pathfinder, without overwhelming you.  This is a Beginner Box, after all, and so there is quite a bit of information that has been streamlined and simplified from the full game.  But what is not left out is a selection of skills, spells, feats, and equipment that will keep your newly created character in fighting shape for the next five levels.

Like the Hero’s Handbook, the Game Master’s Guide assumes you have no previous experience as a GM (Game Master).  The beginning of the book is the included adventure called, “Black Fang’s Dungeon.”  It goes through each encounter in the adventure, and even gives you descriptions that you read to your players, all the while training you to run your own adventures.  “Black Fang’s Dungeon” is quick and fun, but this book really shines in its introduction to the art of Game Mastering, and creating your own adventures.  It gives you advice, tools, stats, and a veritable smorgasbord of monsters to build dungeons, cities, and create encounters, and an entire low level campaign.  As the new GM, you are presented with different story ideas and a starting village to launch your players into a world of your own making.  Yet, all of this is given to you on a level that is not intimidating.

The other components of the Beginner Box are usual Paizo quality, but I’d like to pay special attention to the character sheets themselves and the Flip-Map.  The character sheets are broken down into sections with corresponding section headers in the Hero’s Handbook for easy reference. If you decide to play the pre-generated characters, you will also find a brief character history, and all sorts of information about what these numbers mean, and what kind of actions you can take, and so on.  The durable Flip-Map is 24” x 30” and is laminated for use with wet or dry erase markers.  As I said earlier, one side is the map for Black Fang’s lair and the other side is a sandy brown that you can use to draw your own dungeon-y inventions.  We use a Flip-Map every session we play, and they are incredibly useful.  The first time you use it, you may want to spread it out and lay some heavy books on the creases so it lays flatter at game time.

Beyond the Box

Now, once you read the contents of the box, you may find yourself still a little uneasy about creating your own adventures, or you may need new character sheets, or you may have more people who want to play the pre-generated characters, OR you are prepared to graduate to the full Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.  Never fear!  Paizo will take care of you.  Go to: where you will find free downloadable adventures, character sheets, a GM kit, a Player Pack, and handy transition guides to keep you and your friends running plenty of adventures for years to come.

Bottom Line

If you love the idea of hanging out with a good group of people and telling stories, but aren’t sure that a full-on roleplaying game is for you, do yourself a tremendous service and get the Pathfinder RPG Beginner Box. It is designed with you in mind, and will keep you and your friends going through many adventures up to 5th level.  It is well worth the price.  I regret that I have but 5 stars to give; it’s that good!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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