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I've seen different references to online manuals for Pathfinder at d20pfsrd.com and paizo.com/prd.

What is the difference between these two sites?

Since the core rules are likely to be the same, having a more "official" source of rules seems moot. Are there any distinctive differences in content offered? e.g. Does d20PFSRD offer anything that the PRD doesn't (or things that should be paid for), or does Paizo miss out on anything by people using d20PFSRD that they can invest in making new materials?

Is there any real objective reason to use one instead of the other?

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I use the d20PFSRD almost exclusively because it adds a bunch of stuff that the official PRD does not. They are similar in timeliness of updates of official Paizo content, but the PFSRD also includes...

  1. FAQs and clarifications. On the PFSRD, they look for FAQs and forum posts clarifying twiddly bits about the rules and put them into sidebars on the page and link them to their source. Here, see the Domains & Subdomains page as an example.

  2. More content. The PRD only has content from Paizo's hardback rulebook line, but the d20PFSRD has all the softcovers as well.

  3. Third party support. PFSRD contains lots of third party Pathfinder content as well, clearly labeled as such.

  4. Better organization. Compare the d20PFSRD Elf page to the PRD Elf page. The PFSRD page puts actual relevant info there (random height/weight tables, etc.) while the PRD includes elven equipment and magic items, which are best put in another location. This is way more helpful for most real-play purposes.

  5. Tools - The PFSRD has a bunch of random generators, databases, etc. The PRD is just text. Example: Spell Database

  6. "Labs" - The PFSRD has places for normal people to put their homebrews or other related info (like Treantmonk's Lab links to his class guides). Oh, and even Hero Lab data files.

  7. Better formatting and hyperlinking. The PFSRD does more subheadings and sidebars and stuff, and also takes more care to hyperlink back and forth. Compare Stealth and Stealth.

  8. The one minus of the PFSRD are the prominent ads. But, somebody's gotta pay to run the site. I just wish they formatted those in better, they were tacked on later in the design and it shows.

I guess probably they make them use the PRD for Pathfinder Society play because "it's official" or whatnot, but for normal home gaming/GMing I find the PFSRD way, way more helpful and when I traverse a link to the PRD from somewhere I think "Oh, poor guy... He doesn't know about the PFSRD..."

d20PFSRD doesn't put anything that "should be paid for," only legally OGL'ed content. And I don't believe there's any advantage to Paizo to them using their PRD, they don't even have ads on it. If they were super clever they'd be mining the Web analytics on parts frequently accessed to drive clarity/organization in Pathfinder 2 but that's really tangential (and I bet the d20PFSRD guys would hand over their analytics if they asked, because everyone's nice in the Pathfinder community.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that there are occasionally errors in the d20pfsrd that aren't in the PRD. It's rare, but it does happen. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Jun 27 '14 at 13:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ And if reported they're fixed immediately - the PRD doesn't exactly get loads of editing or curation, so treating it as perfect is not supported by reality either. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Nov 19 '14 at 14:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another point, for me at least - the PRD performs terribly on my phone, randomly scrolling to the top of the page at random times making it almost unusable. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 20 '14 at 0:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd also add a point. You mentioned better organization, but it's also easier to find what you're looking for on the PFSRD \$\endgroup\$ Nov 20 '14 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ The PRD doesn't include errata, like the updated descriptions for the make whole spells, which is another reason to refer to the d20pfsrd. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 16 '14 at 2:30
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If you play Pathfinder Society Organized Play, the PRD is a legal source for rules & content, while the PFSRD is not.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer may have been correct when written, but is no longer. \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Apr 10 '20 at 11:24
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The ads and promotional offers on d20pfsrd support people who clearly support the game. Visiting the PRD does not support Paizo or the gaming community at all. So, ironically, while Paizo doesn't "miss out" on support it would have gotten from you using the PRD instead of the third-party site, it does lose (a probably small amount of average) funding when you visit a site they pay to maintain instead of d20pfsrd.

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I like the use the official site for some things such as feat selection when playing or DM-ing a campaign with a limited book availability.

For the campaign I'm running right now, I made available to the players everything in the standard Paizo books except for mythic adventures. Since they can only pick feats from the standard books, it can be easier to look at the lists directly as it can be a chore to filter out all the books you can't pull from on d20PFSRD.

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There's a point in the timeline of Pathfinder 1e where they simply stopped putting new releases on the PRD. Occult Adventures, Horror Adventures, Pathfinder Unchained, and Ultimate Intrigue content flatly don't exist as far as the PRD's concerned.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you checked those claims? AoN took over the PRD, and seem to show a rules set including the things you cite? aonprd.com/Sources.aspx?ProductLine=RPG \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Apr 10 '20 at 11:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Archives of Nethys is branded as the Archives of Nethys. I'm talking about the thing that calls itself the PRD, which used to be hosted on Paizo's site, then was relegated to a side site on the Archives of Nethys, and now seems to no longer be linked to from there, based on 2 minutes of clicking around. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11 '20 at 2:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's because Paizo handed over maintenance of the PRD to AON, and redirected the older PRD links to AON. I believe this happened a couple of years ago. See if I can find a reference, but it basically means the answer here is obsolete. \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Apr 12 '20 at 12:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well that didn't take long...quick google shows legacy.aonprd.com still exists as the older PRD, and has a link explaining the transition to AON, located at paizo.com/community/blog/… \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Apr 12 '20 at 12:09

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