I’ve always admired Paizo and their stance on open content. They spearheaded the ORC license on behalf of the entire RPG community in the face of WOTC’s attack on the RPG industry. Their Pathfinder organized play adventures are so much better than D&D organized play adventures. And they have been putting out consistently good adventure paths over the years. And (at least with their organized play adventures) they have the major encounters keyed to commercial battlemats which they sell, which saves so much time in finding a good map or creating your own.

I tried running Pathfinder 1e for my kids using their Beginner Box. That was easy enough to run, but the specter of complex character creation (if you’re not using a pregen) put me off. Both Pathfinder 1e and Mutants and Masterminds heavily reward system mastery, so if you’re not really up to speed on all the class options, it is easy to build an underpowered character.

When D&D 5e came out I jumped on the 5e bandwagon and have been running it for years. But having run several campaigns (including a level 1 to level 20 campaign), I’ve become frustrated with D&D 5e. My biggest frustrations have been:

  • Long combat times, even at lower levels
  • Broken CR and inability to accurate balance encounters
  • Swingy combat at higher levels; combats are either a cake-walk or a near TPK
  • D&D 5e feels like a superhero game — there is seldom any threat of dying
  • Lack of a quality organized-play program (compared to Paizo at least)

I haven’t paid much attention to Pathfinder 2nd edition until recently. I had assumed it carried over the same issues I had with Pathfinder from the 1st edition, but based on my reading of many discussions from D&D 5e players who have converted to Pathfinder 2e, I’m interested in looking more into Pathfinder 2e. What I’m seeing is encouraging. Here is a summary of what people are saying (and mostly this is from players who have played both D&D 5e and Pathfinder 2e). In a nutshell, it seems most of what bothered me about D&D 5e is solved in Pathfinder 2e.

Speed and Lethality

Here are some notable quotes on speed of play from this great Reddit thread on combat time.

Speed of Play

  • “Pf2e isn’t quite Rocket Tag, but it’s close – most fights are over in about 3 to 4 rounds; for 5e in my experience it’s closer to about 6 to 8 rounds.”
  • “PF2e is indeed faster but some of the reason is the math behind the game. The damage that characters and monsters deal in PF2e increases at a pace that helps the game. Unless you want it or are using the wrong tool for the job (like attacking a golem with a mundane rapier), your damage is enough to take off a good chunk of the enemy health on a good hit and a VERY GOOD chunk on a critical hit. The enemy also can take a lot of health away from you with a single hit. This helps the combat to feel dangerous and be solved on fewer turns. On 5e on ther other hand if you are not min maxing you can end up with 2 attacks that cause 8 damage and trying to kill a thing with 80+ HP and that 80 HP thing is dealing like 10 damage to your 50 HP character.”
  • “I have no idea what magic trick Paizo has done, but the three-action turns in PF2e feel substantially faster than one-action D&D5e turns. By all logic, the relative scarcity of what you can do per turn in 5e should make it faster, but no, the turns take forever. My best guess for the reason is that in 5e, you basically need to confirm everything with the GM running. You never really know just what you can do, and whether you roll that with advantage or something. And since the movement is extra, the GM needs to confirm whether the player is done too. Lots of needless back-and-forth. Whereas in PF2e, it’s all clear. You have distinct actions and modifiers for everything, and accounting for those afterwards is easy. You always know what you can do, and you know you don’t need to really maximize your actions the way you really want to for your singular action in 5e. No messing with bonus actions, or the “extra” movement. The rules being all there makes everything really simple to apply. Which translates to fast turns.”
  • “In the last campaign I played in, we routinely had 3-4 encounters in a 2-3 hour session of PF2e, while the same length session in 5E would be lucky to finish 2 encounters.”
  • “Yep rules over rulings in PF2e means everyone knows what they can do and just does it, and the GM just narrates it. Whereas in 5e rulings over rules means everyone has an idea of what they want to do then spend 10m arguing with the DM fiat that they read on some podcast that they could do this, then they spend another 10m to see if WOTC themselves tweeted about it, only to find six different tweets from the same guy that gave different answers.”
  • “I’ve 100% found this to be my experience. combat in pf2e is so much quicker, it’s insane. my pf2e party can run thru like 3-4 hex battles or an entire dungeon in one session, while one combat in 5e takes at least an hour.”
  • “I don’t know about5e but I can regularly do 4 fights a night in 2e vs 2, maybe 3 in 1e.”
  • “It’s not quite OSR fast but it is still much faster than 5e. There are a lot fewer empty rounds and the math is much tighter, which helps keep things consistent.”

Higher Level Play

  • “The speed of play slows a bit after level 5 or so since the damage to hitpoint ratio decreases, but after that it basically levels off and doesn’t change again. Obviously at high level, decisions get harder to make since there’s more options, so that somewhat slows things down, but not egregiously so.”
  • “…it does not slow down nearly as much as 5e does at high levels.”


  • “I played official content in 5e for years and went down maybe one time. I absolutely love that there is a threat in combat. I missed it so much.”

Rules Complexity

And here are some notable quotes on rules complexity from this great Reddit thread on if Pathfinder 2 is too crunchy.

GM Prep Time and Balanced Encounters

  • “Yup. I put together my entire homebrewed PF2e session in about an hour, this week. Four encounters, with three monsters pulled straight from the Bestiary, one modified opponent, tweaked with a few thematic adjustments to fit the scene, a trap, and a custom-built monster, designed from scratch. Everything was balanced, and flowed effortlessly from one scene to the next. Party was challenged, each person had a moment to shine, tactics were required and rewarded, and a good time was had by all.”
  • “…5e is just busted from a balance perspective, combat encounters will either be cake walks or TPKs. What your party can do is so dependent on if you have casters that use or abuse their game breaking spells. A murder mystery is short cut by Speak with Dead, a cross country adventure by teleport, wilderness survival by good berry or tiny hut… etc. PF2e wisely restricted spells like that so you can actually write adventures.”
  • “Pf2e is a magnitude easier to prep. Numbers make sense. CR works. Much better in all regards.”

Crunch Level

  • “PF2e is undoubtedly crunchy, but is very, very smooth in its crunch. The math is tight and easy to comprehend and the rules are a wonderfully streamlined thing. It has a lot more mechanical weight than DnD 5e, a wee bit less than PF1e or DnD 3.5, but the weight is distributed well so that it is easy to carry.”


One area where Pathfinder has always shined is adventures. A GM on this Reddit thread said:

  • “Well, when comparing pre-written adventures there’s just no contest. Paizo APs are written and organized to play, with clear rules, events and characters. Every D&D adventure isn’t organized so much as it is thrown together, they’re presented as a big box of cool ideas but you’re barely given any guidance on which idea or event to use when, or how to actually get players to engage with it. You still need to do a lot of work writing a 5e module.”

Time to Run Adventure Paths

Adventure paths usually come in six books, each about 96 pages. So a complete adventure path is 576 pages, but they can be run in those 96 page chunks. Based on my forum reading, each book has six adventures, which take about 6-7 hours to complete. So that would be about 12 four-hour sessions worth of adventure from 96 pages of content, or about 8 pages of reading to prep per four hour game. A complete adventure path would probably take 72 four-hour games assuming 7 hours to complete a given adventure.

Most adventure paths end with the PCs between levels 13 and 20, leveling up about every 3rd, 4th, or 5th session.

Two Adventure Paths Worth Looking At

There are a number of Pathfinder 2e adventure paths already published, with 1-2 new adventure paths coming out each year:

  • Age of Ashes
  • Extinction Curse
  • Agents of Edgewatch
  • Abomination Vaults
  • Fists of the Ruby Phoenix
  • Strength of Thousands

Of the above, Age of Ashes and Strength of Thousands are highly regarded.

Here is a nice complete ranking of all the adventure paths from older editions to present.

Co-GMing Option

For a co-GM’d style game, this is a particularly interesting option since each GM could run one 96 page adventure path of about 8-12 sessions, and they hand the baton to the next GM who would run the next book in the adventure path.

Where to Start?

All of this is just based off of reading forum posts. I think to get a real sense of Pathfinder 2e gameplay, I’d pick up the Pathfinder 2e Beginner Box and run their intro adventures.


My go-to D&D game is still going to be B/X D&D (using the Old-School Essentials retroclone). But for organized play or campaigns where players want the tactical, balanced encounter style games, I think Pathfinder 2e is worth a look. I love how they have high production values, including keyed battlemats to use for the adventures.