Review: d20 Pathfinder SRD  

Posted by Spenser Isdahl in ,

As you may know, we here at Rocks Fall are pretty big fans of the Pathfinder RPG, so, naturally, resources for this game are of particular interest to us. One such resource is the d20 Pathfinder SRD.

Much like the legendary Hypertext d20 SRD, the d20 PFSRD is a free site build by and for fans of the game. Indeed, the fan-driven aspect is perhaps even more visible here than with the Hypertext SRD, with many links to Pathfinder forums and related sites as well as original, converted, and OGL content hosted on the site (including a Downloads section with several helpful game aids and a complete download of the site for offline use).

The most obvious comparison to be drawn is with Paizo's own Pathfinder RPG Reference Document. Immediately, the d20 PFSRD's greatest strength and its greatest weakness become apparent. On the one hand, much more information is immediately available from the homepage of the d20 PFSRD, and this is a continuing trend throughout the site; there is (*gasp*) a search box, monster entries generally have pictures and sometimes have other useful information (for example, the goblin entry includes a sidebar on the goblin pantheon), the spells are linked to various related pages (such as their school and the classes that can cast the spell), etc. This is a huge improvement over the relatively sparse Paizo site, which has no pictures and far fewer links. And seriously, why is there not a search box on the Paizo site? The d20 PFSRD also includes a bunch of little goodies hidden around, like a Pathfinder FAQ which clears up a bunch of confusing little inconsistencies

On the other hand, the d20 PFSRD isn't the most aesthetically pleasing site. It seems like the site's owners have been putting all their efforts into adding practical utility to the site, which is great, but it looks reminiscent of a wikipedia page with harsher colors. This is the area where the Paizo reference document wins over the d20 PFSRD, as it has a more parchment-like aesthetic that matches up with the look and feel of the dead tree rulebooks and has a certain visual congruency to it. On a related note, the Pathfinder monster statblock format is much easier to read on the Paizo's site because of the clear divides between the various sections ("Defense," "Offense," etc), which is not implemented in the d20 PFSRD (for example, compare the Paizo and d20 PFSRD presentations of the mummy).

Other elements of the d20 PFSRD have the potential to be really cool, but need more work. For example, the Monster Database has a ton of potential, but is still a little clunky. The same is true of the dice roller, which, even though they have a little disclaimer about the app being hosted off-site, I would expect to run a bit smoother.

However, these are all pretty minor nitpicks in the greater context of how awesome the site as a whole really is. Especially as a DM, being able to look up random rules quickly is of paramount importance, and I've found Paizo's site just a little too slow for on-the-fly use. And really, Paizo, no search box? Are you kidding me?

I give the d20 PFSRD an 8 on a d10. It's an extremely useful site that has great potential for improvement in the future.

This entry was posted on January 15, 2010 at Friday, January 15, 2010 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

5 comments

Good review, your links to the mummy page on Paiso and d20PFSRD are backwards though

January 15, 2010 at 4:54 PM

Fixed! Thanks for watching my back Katallos!

January 15, 2010 at 4:56 PM

Thanks for the review. I'll take an 8! I wanted to respond to some of your points just to clarify where we're at and where we’re heading.

“On the other hand, the d20 PFSRD isn't the most aesthetically pleasing site. It seems like the site's owners have been putting all their efforts into adding practical utility to the site, … this is the area where the Paizo reference document wins over the d20 PFSRD, as it has a more parchment-like aesthetic that matches up with the look and feel of the dead tree rulebooks and has a certain visual congruency to it.”

Just today I used the phrase "function over form" when talking to one of the collaborators on the site. We are trying though to make the site somewhat aesthetically acceptable. We originally copied the d20srd.org layout, background, color scheme and all, but after several requests from users we moved away from the parchment background to what we have now. At the time several posters said they were pleased we were not using parchment "like every other DnD site does."

“On a related note, the Pathfinder monster statblock format is much easier to read on the Paizo's site because of the clear divides between the various sections (‘Defense,’ ‘Offense,’ etc), which is not implemented in the d20 PFSRD (for example, compare the Paizo and d20 PFSRD presentations of the mummy).”

You must not have seen some of the other monsters! The mummy is an unfinished page. Take a look at the bugbear, aboleth, or giant frilled lizard and you'll see some more 'finished quality' monsters. I made a conscious decision to deviate from the official stat-block format by moving the ecology block out of the main stats area to the bottom of the page and moved Special Abilities up into its spot. I felt that ecology information is secondary to the stats that a DM needs in combat and having the two sections separated by the Special Abilities seemed awkward to me. In many cases you could not tell when the last special ability ended and when the general information for the creature began.

We are including Knowledge Check and info from the various “revisited” books (you can see that on the bugbear page). We have completed 30-40% of the monsters already and will be getting back to that after we wrap up our link clean-up phase.

We also have fully statted out summoned monsters, familiars, and virtually every "variant" monster referenced in the PRD (such as the ants, spiders, snakes versions etc).

We also have a ton of monsters and spells from pre-PFRPG Pathfinder Adventure Paths and the campaign setting fully converted.

I know you couldn't go into everything so I'll leave it there :)

“Other elements of the d20 PFSRD have the potential to be really cool, but need more work. For example, the Monster Database has a ton of potential, but is still a little clunky. The same is true of the dice roller, which, even though they have a little disclaimer about the app being hosted off-site, I would expect to run a bit smoother.”

I just did an update on the Magic Items DB today. I linked all of the wondrous items as well as broke the fields down a little more. I've got some grand ideas for how to do some more snazzy things but I really need a knowledgeable DBA or programmer to assist. I can muddle through but it would be a lot faster with someone who also knew the Google Sites API inside out.

“However, these are all pretty minor nitpicks in the greater context of how awesome the site as a whole really is. Especially as a DM, being able to look up random rules quickly is of paramount importance, and I've found Paizo's site just a little too slow for on-the-fly use. And really, Paizo, no search box? Are you kidding me? I give the d20 PFSRD an 8 on a d10. It's an extremely useful site that has great potential for improvement in the future.”

Great comments. I hope by the next time you review it I'll have some of those concerns of yours eliminated so I can shoot for the big 10 :)

Thanks again!

--john

January 15, 2010 at 10:38 PM

You can see another "theme" I was considering at http://sites.google.com/site/d20pfsrdthemetest1/bestiary/monster-lists-and-details/-e/elemental/earth. That page also shows several page elements and how they'd look under the different theme. I just wanted to show how quickly I could change the entire site. Its just a matter of doing it lol

January 16, 2010 at 3:20 PM

I'll freely admit that the matter of aesthetics is pretty subjective, but I do prefer the theme in your second comment, it feels more earthy (and I don't think it's just because of the elemental :P ), which I like. And the monster formatting thing is my mistake, the entries I looked at didn't have it and I assumed they were all formatted the same (and I do love having the Lore entries right there, as you've probably extrapolated from the monsters I've posted on this blog).

Anyway, I look forward to seeing your site grow and develop, it seems it's growing into a nice little hub for Pathfinder fans. Keep up the good work!

January 17, 2010 at 5:07 PM

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