Anything I should keep in mind before I start mixing and matching between D&D 3.5e and Pathfinder?

Off the top of my head, the biggest difference is feats every 2/3 levels. Would it affect balance if I picked every 3 levels instead of 2? I think PF options are still pretty solid regardless...

  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you looking to use PF material in 3.5 or 3.5 material in PF? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 23, 2013 at 8:48

3 Answers 3


Here's a few considerations:

Version Conflicts

Pathfinder has a lot of small, subtle edits to things like feats, spells, and items that make them function very differently from how they were in 3.5; some of these changes were good, others were, in my opinion, terrible, but in either case you/your group will need to decide what version of each thing you decide to use. The easiest thing to do is decide on a case-by-case basis, but that may or may not be workable or desirable for your group. Another solution I've seen is to use mostly one game (say, PF) and hold the material in that game's Core as being "higher", then adapt supplements as needed. Some things that might have version conflicts:

  • Base classes
  • Spells
  • Feats
  • Prestige classes
  • Monsters
  • Combat maneuvers
  • "Detail" rules like creature types, damage reduction, and et cetera. You'll find most of these in the combat section.

The Skills Changed

This is technically a sub-set of the above, but it really deserves its own mention because it reaches further. The entire way skills work in PF changed, including some skills becoming parts of others, the class skill/cross-class skill system changing, and even some subtle changes to how skill ranks work. This can affect feat and prestige class pre-requisites, but also how characters meet skill DCs in modules and adventures. Keep it in mind! A side note: Concentration didn't get rolled into another skill, it vanished entirely to become part of the combat system, so you'll need to find something to replace it for Tome of Battle content and/or spellcaster prestige class pre-reqs.


Pathfinder introduced a ton of Archetypes, which are expansions on 3.5's idea of Alternate Class Features. 3.5 content wasn't necessarily designed with these archetypes in mind - likewise, Pathfinder content wasn't necessarily designed with ACFs in mind. Archetypes and ACFs are both great resources to bring a character concept to life (or snatch at fleeting trails of power), but you should decide if you can combine the two ideas or not.

Pathfinder's Feats are Weaker

Almost without exception, non-magical feats in Pathfinder are weaker (often significantly weaker) than 3.5's, to the point where the extra feats Pathfinder hands out still end up with melee being weaker than ever before (more on that in a minute). Does that mean you should enable 3.5 feats gained at the Pathfinder rate? Eh, maybe. If you notice that spellcasters are dominating your game and making it difficult for other party members to contribute, I'd certainly give that a try. Magical feats are just as strong as ever (more on that later), so you may want to extend that benefit just to melee classes.

Pathfinder Content is Biased

More specifically, they're biased towards spellcasters and well away from melee. 3.5 content is also recognizably biased in this fashion, but I do not exaggerate when I state that in Pathfinder's case, Paizo found a way to make the problem even worse. In almost all cases where there's content conflict for melee between 3.5 and Pathfinder, the Pathfinder content is weaker, costs more resources, or both (a wonderful case-in-point is Improved Trip). Likewise, Pathfinder's spellcasters are natively stronger than 3.5s; in addition to their spells (which remain the most powerful, versatile, and changeable resource in the game) they were granted Real Actual Class Features (like the Sorcerer bloodlines), access to in-house metamagic reducers, and suffered no nerfs to their metamagic and other related feats, like Extra Spells Known. On the whole, spellcasters have less "trap" options and more powerful ones than anyone else. Though this is a general balance concern that all groups eventually address, I bring it up to make perfectly clear that Pathfinder excaberated this problem instead of solving it.

And a side note:

Don't Fix it if it Ain't Broke

If your group hasn't experienced one of the problems I have above, don't worry about it. If you're good at eyeballing quick rules references, you don't have to re-write the rulebook. The idea here is to have fun, and I doubt sitting down and writing a comprehensive conversion guide for your group is fun. My personal suggestion is to make a general statement ("PHB is standard, ask about PF content" or something similar) and then handle other issues on a case-by-case basis.

Don't Go to the Paizo Forums for Help

The culture there tends to be very hostile to conversion attempts; that is, the posters and design team (who remain active on their forums) are very invested in Pathfinder and don't appreciate posters asking how they can "dilute" Pathfinder with legacy content.


We mix and match 3.5 pathfinder. IMO In pathfinder several of the feats are weaker (like cleave) but a few more powerful (like power attack), the skill system is more streamlined (Move Silently + Hide => Stealth) but the classes are generally stronger like fighters and barbarians and there is more reason to play straight classes.

I would recomend making one game King where they conflict rather than mix and matching as there are a lot of quite subtle difference (that we are still only just discovering). Making (and recording) quite so many decisions would slow things down.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Fighters and barbarians have been gimped, true. Wizards and clerics and druids have too. I'm not sure the incomplete truth is good enough to get the idea to user7572. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Jul 8, 2013 at 9:05


I have mixed some 3.5e/Pathfinder material without any problems. Running adventures and stuff is simple, see What are important things to keep in mind when converting a 3e/3.5e module to Pathfinder?


Mixing and matching feats, skills, classes/prestige classes, and other rules bits is harder. Most of the time, you don't really need to, as a lot of things that were in 3.5 have been updated to Pathfinder so you may as well use the Pathfinder version. The Pathfinder versions are basically cleaned up and balanced from the originals, so I'd use Pathfinder as the core ruleset. You certainly don't want to just allow for infinite mixing, such that one guy has Power Attack (3.5) and one has Power Attack (PF), that will add loads of confusion to your game.

The only things you really would need to import are concepts that don't exist in PF - like psionics, or Tome of Battle classes. Since those are really separate mini-rulesets of their own in 3.5e anyway, you only have to check over them a bit in Pathfinder to make sure prereqs still exist etc. If they have integral balance problems (like psionics), you'd want to nerf them in 3.5 or Pathfinder, there's no real difference there.

As long as you have one clear ruleset for the PCs, it's fine even if NPCs/monsters/whatnot use different rules. The first several Paizo Adventure Paths were in 3.5. In fact, we ran through the 3.5e Curse of the Crimson Throne AP with Pathfinder Beta PCs - and in a whole level 1 to 14 campaign, we came across very few mismatches that excited any sort of discussion.


Needless to say, using Golarion in 3.5e or using 3.5e era fluff (FR, whatever) in Pathfinder is zero challenge except for any rules bits attached to it (for those see above).

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ ....3.5 Psionics is one of the best-balanced subsystems in the game. Literally -1 for that comment alone. Spells are far more frequently broken; Psionics provides a very nice, far-better-designed alternative to them. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 24, 2013 at 15:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan 3.5 Psionics are a nice alternative to spells, but they're not a nice compliment to them: Combining the two systems leads to some very confusing situations. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jul 8, 2013 at 5:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Then it's not "balance problems", it's "lots of material problems" to me. Not downvoted but I'd upvote if that assessment went away. (Maybe add a note about how certain powers are broken, like metamorphosis happens to be) \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Jul 8, 2013 at 9:04

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