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I am new to Pathfinder. I played D&D 3.5 back in the day so I decided to try to pick up Pathfinder because it was familiar and popular. The problem I am facing is with the large barrier to entry.

It seems that you have one of two choices as a new player.

  1. Create a character using only the Core Rulebook. This character will have the same class balance problems that existed in D&D 3.5 (looking at you monk) and will likely be underpowered when compared to characters created by seasoned Pathfinder veterans using multiple books with a plethora of feats/spells/classes not found in the CRB.

or

  1. Spend a week or two of non-stop reading of the Core Rulebook, Advanced Player's Guide, Ultimate Combat/Magic, ... and a few hours research optimal feat/spell combinations for your chosen class so that you don't feel like a weak member of your party.

For those of us who are new and want to feel strong in combat, are there no other options other than "Suck it up and read you weak-willed fool" or "Be fighter or wizard (cuz everything else is weak with CRB only)?"

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Not all Pathfinder groups are optimization focused. The Pathfinder devs, and also components of the Pathfinder play community, have had a little bit of backlash against the late 3.5 era high optimization mentality. My group of veteran Pathfinder players has a core monk in it and he's perfectly happy, because the other characters aren't super-optimized. So you may find that this is not actually a problem when you do join a group; it's not necessarily part of all groups' makeup.

If you do want optimization, and don't want to read the books, then just like in 3.5 you can go find an optimization handbook where someone's done the reading and thinking for you, and you can pick out a recommended build from the options for the class you're interested in, or at least use it to narrow your own scope of analysis.

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The CRB has most tiers of class present in it already. You don't need additional material or anything outside that book for most classes to perform within their expected tier. Furthermore, many classes (like monk) will be very, very low tier regardless of what additional sources you use.

In the CRB you have access to the Wizard, Cleric, and Druid, which are three of the best classes in the game, as well as the Monk, one of the worst classes. You can build a powerful or very weak character using just the CRB without any real problems unless the game is a very high-op game, which would not be an appropriate game for a new player in any case.

If you do want to use additional sources, you don't need to read through all those extra books. Just keep in mind what books are allowed and use the d20PfSRD site. The site contains most of the information from most of the possible sources you might have available, so you can access all your options in one convenient place. While making a character, you could use the site-search options to look through the various available pages quickly to find the things relevant to your character. There are also filter pages for most major resource decisions like traits, feats, and spells, which can further speed up the process.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Furthermore, many classes (like monk) will be very, very low tier regardless of what additional sources you use." Pathfinder has been out a LONG time. Why hasn't paizo done more to balance these low-tier classes? Don't get me wrong, new classes are great, but I'd like to see balance changes too. Am I the only person who thinks that all classes should be the same tier and that Paizo should be working toward that goal? \$\endgroup\$ – user2227713 May 26 '17 at 22:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user2227713 I think that's a good question for the site to answer, rather than just me speculating on it. I've asked it here. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil May 27 '17 at 7:11

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