As the question suggests, I'm interested in the main differences and similarities between Pathfinder and RuneQuest. I'm fairly familiar with the RuneQuest system. I've heard a bit about Pathfinder and am wondering whether I can convert some of my adventures to use either system.

Examples might include:

  • How they differ in magical/ranged/melee combat (if either system has benefits over the other in a particular area)
  • How they fare for low/high level PCs
  • If either system is better suited to a particular style of gameplay (e.g. mainly combat-oriented/mainly lore or mystery oriented/mainly stealth or infiltration oriented)

Don't worry about giving too much detail - just a basic summary of the differences / strengths / weaknesses of the two systems would be fine. Although feel free to whack a load of detail in if you have some!


1 Answer 1


The systems have very little to do with one another. They are both trad games (as opposed to indie) and are both printed on paper. That's it. You won't be porting anything crunch-based from one game to the other (you can crib plots and characters, just not the stats).


Pathfinder has a complex D&D/d20-derived combat system with hit-avoiding armor and hit points that go up with level; everything scales sharply with level and there's huge disparity between high and low level PCs. Despite save-or-die stuff, lethality generally goes down with level because you have so many hit points.

Runequest has a skill-based combat system related to BRP, with damage-soaking armor and hit points that don't go up with level; lethality remains, especially if caught at a disadvantage, as characters progress. You never become a superhero like you do at Pathfinder level 10.


Pathfinder uses the traditional D&D "Vancian" memorize specific spells and cast them system. There's arcane/divine which don't differ all that much.

Runequest uses a spell point system and has spirit, divine, ritual, and sorcery, all of which differ.


Runequest is always going to be grittier and therefore fits investigation and low fantasy well. Too much combat will get you killed.

Pathfinder is always going to be more amped up - there are variants like E6 (never progress past 6th level!) that try to achieve the same thing but it's tuned as more of a mid-high fantasy game where heroes are low-grade superheroes. You don't have to play it as a combat focused game (I don't) but it has support for that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a new version of RuneQuest comming, you can see a preview of it here thedesignmechanism.com/runequest.php \$\endgroup\$
    – altazu
    May 4, 2012 at 20:55
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Let me put it this way: In one of my RQ campaigns years ago, a quite accomplished Storm Bull Rune Lord was fighting three trollkin (think kobolds), when a fourth snuck up behind him and and rolled a critical, impaling him in the lower back. Game over for the Rune Lord. There's no way anything like this would ever happen in Pathfinder. You really have to work hard to become powerful in RuneQuest, and even then you're never immune to a lucky strike from a less powerful opponent. \$\endgroup\$ May 13, 2012 at 6:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ One more difference between PF and RQ: Pathfinder has access to far more settings if you're willing to use D&D 3.5 adventures and campaign settings. \$\endgroup\$
    – RobertF
    Dec 9, 2014 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the first couple of editions of RQ (pre-Avalon Hill), magic was more "Vancian": a character can have only a few Battle (Spirit, in the later editions) Magic spells in mind, but casting them required expending temporary POW points. Rune magic (Divine) spells cast by Rune Priests could usually be used once-per-day-ish. \$\endgroup\$
    – ucbpaladin
    Jan 23, 2019 at 20:15

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