I recently started playing/GMing Pathfinder (beginner rules) and currently shopping around for the Core Rulebook (planning ahead). The way the PRD puts it, it sounds like the Core Rulebook is entirely unnecessary:

This compendium is NOT the official Pathfinder Roleplaying Game! Players interested in a user-friendly introduction to the Pathfinder system will want to purchase the complete Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook and the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary, which comes complete with more than 350 monsters to menace your player characters.

Both books contain hundreds of beautiful full-color illustrations and lots of descriptive text to explain and introduce key rules concepts necessary to fully enjoy the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game experience. (source)

I do enjoy reading their "user-friendly" material, but if all I'm missing out on is wordiness and pretty pictures I have no problem at all with that and saving $30-$50.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree that this question is a duplicate. I'm specifically asking which parts are not included in the PRD, while the other question is asking if the books are worth it. The accepted answer on the other question mentions that the rules for character creation are not included in the PRD, but doesn't mention anything else. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 23:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're asking what's missing… but the problem you're trying to solve is whether it's worth buying the book(s). Having the same problem, even worded differently, is how we define duplicate. (In fact, a different wording for a duplicate is valued.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 23:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Exactly. You're not really asking what all is missing - in fact you've accepted an answer that doesn't provide that list. You're asking "in general, what's the difference and is it worth it." \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 3:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk no, I accepted that answer because it did provide that - claudekennilol said that the PRD is missing "thematic stuff" and rules for deities. While I would have preferred a more detailed list (and I thought he was missing rules for character creation) this was getting at what I was asking for. By the time I accepted it the question was closed as dupe anyways, so I wasn't super concerned with having a perfect answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 17:40

2 Answers 2


Most of the actual rules are listed in the online PRD. Most of the thematic stuff and deities (important for clerics) are not listed online and are copyrighted material. Most of what is not online, as you put it, is just "wordiness and pretty pictures". That being said, the PDF is available online directly from Paizo for only $10 (contrasted against $50) and includes everything the printed edition has (and you don't have to buy a new one when it's updated)--the rest of the core books are available at this price, as well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for Deities and mention of the Paizo PDF pricing. Many people have a second screen available that can host all of the PDFs. And $10 is a small price to pay. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gates VP
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Although I accepted this answer, it should be mentioned that the PRD does not include the rules for character creation. These rules are also included in the Hero's Handbook, which come with the Beginner Box, in addition to the Core Rulebook. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 23:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Koveras I beg to differ paizo.com/prd/gettingStarted.html \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 23:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't realize that was there. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 0:07

Having a physical book vs using free rules or a pdf

When you are a new player, or a GM with new players, the ability to have a physical object which contains the rules and classes is invaluable. When being bombarded with new concepts, people will generally be much happier with a pretty-looking book that contains evocative pictures and 'wordiness' and the like. People immersed in the idea of roleplaying already can easily make do with the rules - they know what a 'class' is, they understand the idea of pretending to be a fancy male gnome bard while being a female software designer in real life, they understand what 'xp' means and 'leveling up' etc.

People who have played a lot of computer roleplaying games with xp and level-up etc can also skip the 'rulebook' stage as well, although that brings with it a host of other problems, like expectation of railroading.

Overall it has been my experience nearly 100% of the time that new players really appreciate having the book. People who already get it don't need it. With nearly everyone I currently play with, i'd just use pfsrd.com. With a new group, i'd look into purchasing the rulebook.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You're probably right but you don't really answer the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 22:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I dunno about that, it looks like it answers the question just fine. You ask if you're missing anything more than just "wordiness and pretty pictures", and it says you are missing more than just that if you have anyone who needs to learn the game via reading. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 0:35

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