posted Tuesday, June 1st 2010 by
Recently I noticed that Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG system uses an alternative XP system from the D&D 3.5 system it’s based on. The observant will recognise a strong similarly to the “Level-Independent XP Awards” variant from Unearthed Arcana (page 213), described as “a way of easing the DM’s job of adventure design and the task of experience-point calculating at the end of a game session.”
The big difference with the Pathfinder/UA experience system is that instead of earning a different amount of XP from a creature depending on your party’s current level, you gain the same XP amount regardless of party level, but higher level monsters give much more XP, and you need more XP to level up. The overall effect is that the XP numbers get much higher (millions of XP to reach level 20), but players still level up at the same rate as normal.
The main benefit here is that DMs can combine monsters in encounters more easily and calculate XP rewards more easily. It’s now possible to calculate the XP total for an encounter in advance even if you don’t know what level the PCs will be. A similar system is employed by fourth edition D&D, although it’s unlikely Pathfinder copied 4E’s rule here: this system originally appeared in 2004′s Unearthed Arcana, four years before 4E.
Another change peculiar to Pathfinder RPG is the choice of three XP rates: slow, medium, and fast. Some groups prefer to level up frequently, while others prefer slower levelling.
Fast is closest to the Unearthed Arcana equivalent and therefore the standard 3.5 progress rate, requiring 1,300 XP or 13 average Pathfinder encounters to reach level 2, and 2,400,000 XP to reach level 20. Medium requires about 50% more XP than Fast, suggesting Pathfinder favours a more gradual levelling rate. Slow requires 50% more XP than Medium, and 2.25 times as much as Fast, with players levelling once every 30 encounters or so.
If you’d like to try Pathfinder RPG, even if only to mine for ideas or house rules for a 3.5 game, the 576 page full-colour PDF is a very reasonable $10 from Paizo.com. The new XP rules appear on pages 30 and 398.