Pros and Cons of DnD and Pathfinder

I have questions about systems that I am hoping this might be a good place to dip feet in. Mods can feel free to remove this thread as discussing systems has been known to start Holy Wars…

I have played DnD 3.5, 4th, 5th edition. How does PathFinder 2 compare? Especially in terms of what works better and what works worse? Local game store has a Pathfinder night and a DnD night and trying to decide where I want to spend my time studying rules…

Without explaining why, because that’s hard for me… Love DnD 2.5 (because that’s kind of when I got serious), don’t think I’ve ever played 3.5, hated 4, 5 is okay. Pathfinder I love because it simplifies things somewhat but still manages to be large and cohesive.

Right now, I think if I’d have to advice on jumping into any of those, I’d say Pathfinder…

Having played both and DMd a bit of 5e, I think the first question you want to answer for yourself is would you prefer an easier system or a harder system? D&D 5e has been simplified down from earlier editions of D&D, while I find Pathfinder 2e to be more challenging in terms of gameplay.

Some of my personal opinions of each system in comparison of features and gameplay mechanics.

Class system - I prefer 5e’s class system to PF2e’s system. 5e is better for things like multiclassing and I think it has a better setup for subclasses. Pf2e really doesn’t have subclasses, you pick a certain specialty for the respective class at lvl 1, but you are not gonna get as many extra features out of it compared to 5e sublcasses. Same goes for main classes as well. In 5e you are given certain things at various lvls automatically for your class and subclass, but in PF2e you have to pick one choice from various class features every other lvl so you won’t get access to all the things the class has to offer. This goes for PF2e multiclassing as well, you pick an “archetype” for a second class which gives you access to a much more limited selection of class features to pick from for the second class, or archetype as labeled by PF2e. Classes also feel nerfed to me in Pf2e to a certain extant. Fighters don’t get things like Second Wind or Action Surge, you’re not going to see clerics running around in heavy armor and casters feel gimped a bit in their spellcasting abilities. Gotta go with D&D 5e for class system.

Combat - Mmmmm mixed bag for me here, both systems have their ups and downs. 5e is definitely more simplistic for combat where all classes get one action specifically for movement, then one standard action for attacking/casting, a bonus action and a free or quick action. PF2e has a more open action economy where each character has three actions to use for movement, attacking, casting or whatever as well as having a free/quick action. There are no bonus actions in PF2e and there is no “multi-attack” ability in PF2e as there is in D&D 5e. Anyone can attack multiple times in combat with a weapon per the three actions in PF2e, but consecutive multiple attacks in PF2e suffer from scaling attack penalties. PF2e has better tactical combat with things like flanking modifiers and skill checks to attempt to move through enemy spaces and such. But PF2e has far worse afflictions and negative status modifiers than D&D 5e. For example, getting the status effect of poisoned in PF2e can be way worse than 5e. In PF2e the poison effect will have worse negative status/ability modifiers with the potential to get worse if you fail consecutive saving throws. This goes for a lot of condition/status effects in PF2e. Getting downed can be much worse in PF2e as well, if you get reduced to 0 hp and someone manages to get you back up, you will have a Wounded condition debuff of sorts that can get worse if you go down again before getting rid of the Wounded condition.

Equipment and crafting - PF2e is superior in regards to gear and crafting. There is a rune system for adding effects, armor class modifiers and attack/damage modifiers to weapons and armor that allows players to upgrade weapons and armor that is more limited only by character lvl and funds rather than what good stuff you might happen to find in lot in D&D 5e. By the time you start getting +1 stuff in 5e you will likely have better stuff around the same point in PF2e. Crafting is also better in Pf2e I think, but you have to have the actual crafting skill and rank it up in PF2e as opposed to using tool proficiency in D&D5e. Crafting in PF2e also relies on downtime to make use of it just like 5e.

Spells and casting - This is an area where I prefer 5e, PF2e restricts casters more than 5e I feel and I don’t think spell damage scales as well as the rune system for weapons. In 5e casters generally have a selection of known spells and then spell slots and they are free to cast any of their known spells using these spell slots according to spell lvl and upcasting. In PF2e casters have a selection of known spells and spell slots but they are not free to cast any of their known spells or upcast freely using the spell slots as they wish. If you want to cast a spell in PF2e the caster has to have the spell slotted to a slot, thus the caster’s selection of spells to actually cast is very specific to only spells they have slotted to specific slots. This goes for upcasting too. So by way of example if a caster has three level 3 spell slots and they wanted or expected to cast fireball they would need to slot fireball specifically in one of those three slots and if they want to cast it more than once they would have to slot it more than once. If they intend on upcasting fireball at any point they would need to specifically slot fireball in a higher spell slot. I don’t like this at all, very limiting.

Overall I still prefer 5e, it is less punishing in comparison to PF2e. But I would prefer Pf2e’s rune system for gear in 5e although it would probably make 5e even easier.

It depends on what aspects of fantasy TTRPGs are most important to you.

That said, I like Pathfinder 2e better because for me personally being able to think of a character and having that character mechanically realized in the game’s rule system without having to resort to hand wavy fluff is very important to me. On that point PF2e is very strong. There is just an insane variety of different builds and character options to choose from.

And by variety I don’t mean just on paper. In some other incarnations of the world’s greatest TTRPG you might have tons of options in the various splat books but in reality there are a handful of “viable” (i.e. optimal) builds that are just broken compared to everything else. So in those games yeah there are a lot of choices in theory but not in practice.

But in PF2e the distribution of build effectiveness is much tighter so the very strongest builds are only incrementally better than sub-par builds. This tends to encourage exploration of the game system and build variety and its less common to see the sort of egregious munchkinry that you might see in some other systems with lots of character options.

That said, the game does have its weaknesses. If you have firm expectations about what a particular class should be able to do then you may be disappointed by PF2e. That is just kind of a consequence of opening up so much diversity of character options. For example, the counterspell ability doesn’t come standard with the wizard class. You have to take universalist school (or be a human with the natural ambition ancestry feat) and the first level class feat counterspell to get the ability which means you will have to give up something else. It kind of sucks, but hey, there’s no free lunch. And actually now that I think about it I’m not sure it’s fair to call this a weakness but rather an artifact of player conditioning from previous TTRPG experiences.

Another consequence of the build diversity is that you are somewhat more constrained in the variety of actions that you can take in combat. What I mean is, when you are picking feats you generally have to make compromises about your character’s capabilities such that you might have one or two really strong capabilities and the rest are just mediocre. What this means in gameplay is that very often you will have one or two optimal things to do on a given turn. Depending on how you built your character this could get pretty repetitive. I think the reason this is happens in the game is that in order to for it to be so well balanced (and thus make lots of build options viable) they had to make the math extremely tight and the consequence of the math being tight is that usually there’s a pretty big power gap between a character’s “go to” capability and their secondary capabilities.

I will say that the above issue is somewhat mitigated by the Multiattack Penalty. So in practice what you’ll see is one, maybe two attacks from a PC and then some decision about whether to move or resort to one of the secondary capabilities for the third action. So that does help a bit in terms of variety within the scope of a combat round.

Overall though I really like PF2e. Like I said, the build options are amazing and extremely varied. There are a lot of other aspects of the game that I really like too but I think this is the biggest advantage for me personally.

Anyway I hope this hopes. Good luck and happy gaming!

There is one pod caster I listen whose comment was PF2E gives you the illusion of choice. You have many options on what you can do, but in the end, you will do whatever deals maximum damage to stay alive. From what little I got to play, it was always deadly, encounters were never a push over. You went in full bore or you didn’t come out the other side. 5E can also be challenging, but I don’t always have the feeling that someone in the party is one bad choice / roll from being dying on the floor.

That could also be game master controlled. Some GMs are forgiving on bad tactical decisions and others will punish you every time “until you learn”.

I have to agree with various parts on most the posts above. It really depends on what you are looking for.

in PF2E I haven’t really felt that deadliness that people talk about. I will say that the combat somewhat feels more tactical to me.

PF2E also maintains heavy control over the players with its archetype system in comparison to 5Es multiclassing. I had noticed this before then it was driven home when a youtuber mentioned it in a video i saw recently. PF2E you dont get class optimization videos because everything is so rigid that rarely is one archetype versus another going to make you a more powerful X. Where as in 5e you can totally optimize a character by taking 1 to 5 levels of another class and adding it to your X. Additionally i feel like taking an archetype is taking away from your core class, unless you are of course using the free-archetype rule.


in 5th edition it is almost impossible to kill party members due to the healing/death rules. At least this seemed true to me as a GM (since I didn’t purposely try to kill anyone). We had two deaths during my campaign, and it was due to really dumb decisions. :slight_smile: Hell, I played a lower level game where I was a paladin and the only healer and we still did fine. Maybe at the very top end games, folks drop like flies? :slight_smile:

I’m in a Tomb of Annihilation game atm and we have had five deaths so far, with three of those coming with the party at level 10. We have had multiple people unconscious numerous times and we are sound tactically. That might be why we haven’t lost more so far in the campaign. All three of the recent deaths were due to failed saves.

It’s good to know that tomb of horrors (the old name) is still completely brutal, even in 5th edition :slight_smile:

The only reason PF2e is more deadly is their crit rules, There is more opportunity to crit fail or crit succeed in PF2e. For those that are unfamiliar, + or - 10 of your target number is the threshold of a crit (succeed or fail respectively) a natural 20 or 1 just changes your degree of success by one step. This means that if a fighter who have a better chance to hit than other classes, gets into your backline and starts messing with your mage sitting there in cloth armor, the mage could be in for a world of hurt, cause lets be honest anything higher than a 15 rolled to hit is likely a crit. :smiley: But I also think this is what makes PF2e more tactical, you should be doing everything you can to get more bonuses to hit, and to limit your opponents bonuses/ ability to attack.

The Crit rules combined with the multi-attack penalty also makes crit-fishing less effective. Your best chance to critically succeed is going to be your first attack, with no negative modifiers for multi-attack. Each subsequent attack is increasingly less likely to crit succeed, and opens more potential to crit fail. So even though I could use all three actions and just stand there swinging my weapon at my foe, by that third action I am more likely to crit fail than to crit succeed. It would be far better to use that first action to apply some modifiers to your attack, or the opponents AC, and then attack once or twice, increasing your chance to crit, and at least hit the second time. or alternatively, use your third action to bolster your defenses, so you arent being crit on.

One thing I didnt bring up before, there is one thing I really like about the spellcasting in PF2e, and that is for a spell to have different effects depending on how many actions you spend casting it. I don’t think there are a lot of spells that do so, but I am a fan of the ones that do. It gives some extra versatility even with a limited spell supply.

I think afflictions/debuffs are another contributing factor to the deadliness of Pf2e combat. They are way worse (especially with the increasing stages of awfulness) than in D&D5e.

Sounds like a throw back to older versions of DnD with “Save vs instant death” type mentality. Which newer versions removed those situations that Gary Gygax et al. loved because most players didn’t like their beloved character being insta killed.

Thanks all for the feedback so far. You have made the situation as clear as muddy water :wink:
No, really gave me some differences between the two just not sure how to sum them up. Seems to me once again system is less important than who you are playing with.


I’ve avoided commenting so far since:

  1. I haven’t DMed 5E since 2014 and I’ve been a player in a grand total of 4 sessions(?)

  2. I’m completely biased PF2 lover

My 2cp…


  • easy to learn/teach; great for one-offs, teaching new players to TTRPGs and just for simple pickup games
  • really excels in a face-to-face with a DM you know and are comfortable with
  • huge support from the community whether fan-made content or 3rd party content
  • it’s “D&D”


  • class balance doesn’t exist, by design; linear martials, quadratic casters
  • ^ feat support (or lack thereof) makes build/class balance even worse
  • there’s a reason most published first party adventures end in early to mid teens; high level play is completely unbalanced (like all previous editions of D&D as well as PF1)
  • waaay too much “DM may I” when it comes to rules adjudication; play varies wildly between tables/DMs; DMs have to shoulder a heavy burden


  • it’s better than 5E at everything except I like 5E’s “flat math” which can be copied via PF2’s Proficiency without Level alternate rule


  • obviously more complicated than 5E
  • casters “feel” worse than martials (unlike every other edition of the game) but actually aren’t; “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”