Dungeons and Dragons used to be that weird thing that nerds with buck-teeth and six-inch glasses used to play in their mother’s basement. Nowadays, it has gone mainstream, in the way that Superheros and comic books and Everygame casino bonuses have. Now, I’m not nearly old enough to have been called “Four-eyes” or anything like that in my youth, but I had just started to get into roleplaying at the cusp of this transition.
Not knowing even where to begin, I ended up typing into google “Dungeons and Dragons Review” and somehow ended up stumbling across a video that recommended the Pathfinder Core Rulebook to me.
Years later, I now sit next to a shelf covered in 8 Pathfinder books, the Pathfinder Pawns Bestiary Box, the Starfinder core rulebook, alongside the core rulebooks for a Star Wars Roleplaying Game, Warhammer, and a Marvel Roleplaying game. I regret nothing!
However, one of the most consistently time-consuming parts of preparing for a Pathfinder game (especially with my little brothers) was character creation. The process isn’t so bad, but there are so many rules and powers and spells spread across so many books that it can take forever for them to decide which stuff to pick for their characters. It’s the reason why Pathfinder Society, the official canonical game, only allows players to use the Core rulebook plus one additional book.
But what if there was a way to streamline the process? Let’s take a look at an app that does just that, Pathbuilder.
Pathbuilder is a mobile app made by David Wilson, AKA Redrazor on Reddit. This app is designed to make character creation as quick and easy as possible. To that end, it more or less succeeds.
To date, I have made 7 different characters with the app, which I printed out for my players to choose from. My players just wanted to sit down and play, so I volunteered to make the characters for them so that we could jump into gameplay as quickly as possible.
Upon opening the app, you’re greeted with a simple start page that lets you manage which rule books to use, check updates, or you can press “Start” to jump right into character creation. At the top of the screen, you can change between tabs that allow you to browse character builds you have already created, characters other people have created, or add you’re own custom stuff into the app.
Once you press start, a popup asks which class you would like to play, and a drop-down that allows you to choose from which source to pull the options of classes (Core classes from the Core Rulebook, Base classes from the Advanced Players Guide, etc). This is fine, although I would like an “All” Category- and it can be intimidating if you’re new to the game.
Once that’s done, you jump into character creation proper. You’re brought to a page with eight separate tabs that each relate to a different aspect of the class. The first page lets you fill out the character details, such as your character’s name, race, age, height, and other superficial details. You also fill out basic gameplay information, such as your character’s favored class, your hit points, and your ability scores. I think my only nitpicks here are that you can’t randomly “roll” your stats within the app, which is strange because the app DOES let you randomly “roll” your hit points. It also doesn’t allow you to select ability scores from a predefined point array, but it does tell you how much your ability scores would cost, so there’s that.
One thing to note is that the app allows the player to define different stats, abilities, items, and equipment to your character specific to each level- and allows you to specify which level-up bonuses, likeability increases, get applied were in a simple to understand array of radial buttons.
Beyond that, you can swap tabs to choose what classes get added to the character at every level- so you can specify that at level 3 you want your barbarian to take a level in fighter. The third tab lets you pick what abilities you get to choose from at every level (Barbarian powers, Rogue Tricks, etc). The fourth tab lets you pick from feats. The fifth lets you invest your skill points.
The six is for equipment, and you can specify the armor, weapons, coins, and items that your character is holding. Now, you can define a bunch of different properties for the weapons- the category, the enchantment, the material, cost, and you can even give base weapons a custom amount of damage, and even change which ability score to base the damage roll off of.
However- if I wanted to give the player an entirely custom weapon or item, I would have to exit the character creation process, return to the main menu, and go into the special menu for adding custom items. Only then could I return to the character sheet, add the item to the character, and continue. It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s annoying enough that I wish there was a way to jump to it within the character sheet section.
Thankfully, a useful feature is the ability to copy items across the different levels you set up, so that you don’t have to read every item for all twenty levels.
Lastly, there are the seventh and eighth tabs, which are for spells and pets, respectively.
Once that’s done you have to click on a menu option at the bottom of the app, click “Summary and PDF”, then “Export PDF Character Sheet” to actually see the character sheet. What’s cool here is that you can specify at what level to export the character at.
Like, for a game I ran with my players, I exported a character at level 3, and then for another game exported him at level 5. If I had wanted, I could have defined all of the character’s levels all the way to level 20, and had them ready to go at a moment’s notice if I wished. You just have to be careful- I accidentally exported a character sheet at level 1 instead of level 3, and didn’t realize it until after I had printed it and was sitting down to play with my players. Whoops.
Pathbuilder is a phenomenal tool, and doubly-so considering that it’s made by one guy. And that guy is currently maintaining two other similar apps for Pathfinder 2e AND Starfinder. So I could complain about the lack of polish or the overall lack of content, or nitpick the various features- I don’t really want to.
My goal was to find a quick and easy way to make characters within minutes, and Pathfinder does that. It’s not a perfect tool. A separate review I glanced at mentioned that the stats for one of the included race options (the Dhampir) was incorrect. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I wish that there were more stuff overall- more weapons, and items, with full descriptions that explained exactly what they were and what they do.
But that’s about it. It’s functional, it gets the job done, and unless you’re really looking to min-max the heck of your character, Pathbuilder has all the most important content to get you 90% of the way through most character builds you’ll want to make.
And best of all, it’s completely free, with a single non-intrusive ad at the bottom of the screen! You love to see it.