The Beta version of the new Pathfinder RPG from Paizo is now available, for free in PDF format or for $25 in softcover. Pathfinder is Paizo's attempt to pick up the 3.5 mantle for those WOTC D&D players who have decided to join other groups of grognards by continuing to play an out-of-print and out-of-style edition of D&D.
If you get a PDF copy, you can get the game in either of two formats: a single PDF file or a PDF file for each chapter. Better yet, you do not have to choose between them as you can get both. The single DF is a 27 meg download while the per-chapter version is a 32 meg download.
Paizo describes the beta as follows:
This complete stand-alone fantasy RPG takes your fantasy campaigns to new heights of adventure! Backward-compatible with the 3.5 fantasy rules but offering new solutions and options that place it firmly on the cutting edge, the Pathfinder RPG Beta release is the result of the largest open public playtest in RPG history.
* The Pathfinder RPG includes: Revised rules for the seven classic fantasy RPG races
* Updated options for the 11 core classe
* A streamlined skill system that makes things easier for players and GMs
* A host of new and familiar feats, including innovative combat feats and item creation rules
* New equipment
* New and revised combat options aimed at dispelling confusion at the game table without sacrificing versatility
* Overhauled rules for domains, familiars, bonded items, specialty schools, and more
* Dozens of new and revised spells
* Updated rules for NPCs, including quick-generation rules
* New rules for curses, diseases, and poisons
* A completely overhauled experience system with options for slow, medium, and fast advancement
* Hundreds and hundreds of magic items
* AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!
The Pathfinder RPG Beta release is available as a free PDF download and as a 408-page full-color softcover print edition.
I've just downloaded a copy. However, as I'm not a D&D 3.5 fan, I can't comment intelligently on what I've seen other than to say the production values on this beta edition are very high, higher than the production values on fully released games. $25 for a softcover copy would probably not be money wasted for some who wants to seriously playtest the game.
I did notice this note at the end of the Patherfinder Beta PDF:
Although this is the Beta release of the Pathfinder RPG, there are a few rules that are still undergoing significant revision. Here is just a taste of what you can expect to see in the coming months. All of these revisions will be available for free as a PDF at paizo.com.
A fresh look at these exciting character options, from the arcane trickster to the shadowdancer.
Cursed and Intelligent Items
A complete overhaul of these classic magic items.
Game Master Rules
An expanded selection of curses, diseases, and poisons, as well as additional rules to enhance the environment.
Even though I'm not a 3.5 fan, I'm following Pathfinder RPG fairly closely as it seems to be the most interesting use of the OGL I've seen: creating an improved version of the OGL fantasy rules with lots of actual player input -- instead of with input only from carefully selected and screened playtest groups playtesting under NDA. As Pathfinder has evolved through three alpha releases to this beta release, it is obvious that Paizo and their main designer Jason Bulmahn are actually listening to feedback and changing things that many players have problems with or even simply do not like. I think that is the right way to design new editions of popular game systems: designer vision tempered by open playtesting and serious consideration of player input.