Hey there! Welcome to the first in a series of articles about the vast ecosystem of games in the tabletop world!
If you’re new to the world of tabletop gaming, or even if you’re an old salty adventure telling tales in the local tavern, the sheer number of them can be overwhelming. Are there actually any differences between them? Where do they all come from? What ones have fallen under your radar?
Well, in this series we’re here to help you navigate all of that, and we’re starting with brief introductions to the three that we are asked about the most! Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Warhammer.
Dungeons & Dragons
You’ve probably heard of the proginater of RPGs, if you’re
here on this site you’ve likely even played it! And we are starting this series off talking about it for just that reason. It’s usually the game that all other games are compared to and measured against (for better or worse), and that makes perfect sense. With nearly 50 years of publication history, 10s of millions of players, and decades of merchandise, pop culture references, and licensed properties – it has arguably earned it’s unofficial title of “the world’s most popular role playing game.”
Using a streamlined version of their earlier d20 system, Dungeons & Dragons is now in its fifth edition (5e) and features most of the things that have become synonymous with RPGs. You create a character by picking a class, background, and ancestry (or race) explore fantastical locations and dangerous dungeons, fight monsters and villains, level up and become the hero you were born to be. All with nothing more than a pencil, paper, and a set of polyhedral dice. While you can find every genre imaginable in D&D, Elvish Wizards, Dwarven Barbarians, and Halfling Rogues – all in homage to the works of authors such as Tolkien – are common sights in its worlds.
Paizo’s Pathfinder evolved from D&D’s 3rd edition Open Game License (OGL). When Wizard’s of the Coast released the 4th edition of D&D Paizo decided to continue expanding and creating under the 3rd edition OGL and released their first edition of Pathfinder. This system was an expanded version of the System Reference Document (SRD) for D&D 3.5, and while being fully backwards compatible (often nicknamed 3.75e) the world and system they built is fully their own. Pathfinder was much more rule heavy (crunchy) than the 4th and 5th editions of D&D, something that many players continue to prefer. Unlike D&D’s wide variety of campaign settings spanning multiple genres, Pathfinder (so far) has mostly stuck to their fantasy based campaign setting around the world of Golarion
In 2019 they released a Second Edition of Pathfinder (Pathfinder 2e) with revised and refined changes to the rules. While still crunchier than the 5e rules, many parts of Pathfinder have been streamlined and tweaked to ease the introduction to new players, as well as ease the in game actions. Still relatively new to the market, you may find that many people who talk about Pathfinder games are still referring to its first edition, however there are a growing number of players using the 2e rules.
Warhammer from Games Workshop is set apart from the two earlier games in that it is primarily known for its series of miniature wargaming titles. They do have ttrpgs which have dedicated fans – but for this post we’ll be focusing on the miniatures games, as those are more commonly known. (I promise we’ll talk about the rpgs in a future post.)
Warhammer and D&D share a common history in miniature wargames, but while D&D has moved away from those roots fully into the realm of role play, Warhammer has continued to evolve within wargaming. Played with miniature models on impressive battlefields players simulate warfare and combat through dice rolls. Warhammer players simulate epic battles between opposing armies, whether in the far future (Warhammer 40k) or a medieval fantasy world (Age of Sigmar, the Old World). Now in its 8th edition, Warhammer has been around for nearly 40 years, has an extensive lore that rivals (and perhaps surpasses) D&D, and thousands of miniatures. There are even competitions for painting them! With video games, board games, rpgs, and a new edition in the works, Warhammer is certainly here to stay.
An Multiverse of Fun
Warhammer, Pathfinder, and D&D are now very different games, but all are branches of the same amazing tree with a rich and fascinating history. I hope the (very) brief summary of these games has been a helpful introduction to the world to tabletop gaming, and gave you a little taste of what the differences are between them.
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