[RPG] Pathfinder/D&D Compatability


I've known for quite some time that the Pathfinder RPG is designed to be compatible with D&D 3.5e, however, I currently don't understand what the benefit of doing such a thing is.

Additionally, I was wondering if there is any way to combine Pathfinder with D&D 5e, and if there would be any benefit to that as well.

As I am not a Pathfinder player, my main question is are there any races, classes, spells, monsters, items, or other things that could be brought into D&D to improve the experience.

Best Answer

Pathfinder essentially exists as a backlash to 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons - it is derived directly from the third edition ruleset, intended to try and fix some of its biggest issues without significantly changing the underlying ruleset - in comparison to 4th edition, which was a drastic change to the system that proved highly unpopular with a large subset of D&D fans. It's also published by a different company, Paizo, taking advantage of the very permissive OGL license that 3/3.5e D&D were published under (another thing which 4e dropped, which people were also unhappy about).

The target audience was essentially people who already liked 3.5e D&D, wanted more 3.5e D&D, and probably already owned a lot of 3.5e products. It was therefore in Paizo's interest to make it a selling point that existing 3.5e material was broadly compatible with their new rules, so that customers would feel able to take advantage of their existing 3.5e content (and the time and money they had invested in that) and would not feel that they were essentially throwing it away by transitioning to a new system.

The "compatibility" is basically that with a little bit of effort you can translate 3.5e content into Pathfinder's rules relatively easily - Paizo produced guides on how to copy 3.5e characters into Pathfinder. As a direct derivative of 3.5e rules, Pathfinder is even sometimes referred to as "3.PF" or "3.75" D&D.

The same cannot be said for Pathfinder and 5e D&D, as that did not exist when Pathfinder was created (and so could not be designed for). Though 5e is certainly closer to the 3e/3.5e ruleset than 4e is, it's still significantly different to the degree that translating material is not the relatively simple job it is for 3.5e->Pathfinder conversion. Wizards of the Coast don't have a great deal of interest in keeping mechanical compatibility with older versions of their own game, let alone the derivative version of their old game published by a third party.