I had blogged about getting the Pathfinder Beginner Box (PFBB) a while ago, but I just picked up the D&D Red Box too. Which, I swore I wouldn't get, but I found it on sale for $9.50
Talk about totally different attempts at what, I think, was meant to be the same thing; an introduction to 'the' game.
The PFBB was a trip down memory lane. I really enjoyed the solo adventure and all the way through to page 53 of the Hero's Handbook. That is where the crunch began under the heading of "Combat"... I stomached through to the end because it was only an additional ten pages that covered only first through fifth level (the sweat spot for me personally).
The PFBB Game Master's Guide had a nice mini-adventure and, though it was tailored to new GMs, was an enjoyable read.
In short, the whole PFBB screamed quality.
The D&D Red Box (RB), on the other hand, whimpered. From the box and booklet quality, to a Player's Handbook that was 39 pages of solo-adventure ONLY! I did like how they had you develop you character sheet throughout the adventure, but this did not make up for my less than gloomy first impression.
The D&D RB Dungeon Master Book had me crying before I even finished it, which I did not do. The rules where like reading a 60+ page boardgame instruction manual...
Now to admit, I currently play D&D 4e with a great group, and the GM handles it very old school. So I know it is possible, but if I had to start a group with this thing, it probably would never happen.
PFBB on the other hand has me compelled to start a new campaign, should I find the players.
To answer a few questions directed to me from the last post by Erin:
"....looks friendly enough and I'm sorely tempted to pick it up, but is it good enough to launch a whole new campaign..." ~ Absolutely. It is solid, and much more of what I wanted out of PF 3.5 than what it has become. I could totally see repeat playability just by staying in the 1st to 5th level that the box set covers. I must admit that I have always liked the idea of a E6 style game anyway. This scratches my itch!
"...or is it just reference material I can use in my existing game?" ~ I think it can do that too, to a lesser extent. It has an 'old school vibe' to it, but it is obviously a d20 product. It introduces Sandpoint and the neighboring region and gives out a few plot hooks to expound on for sure, but it is an 'introduction' to the game.
"Is it "stand-alone" or will I have to go down the Pathfinder rabbit hole?" ~ it suggests going to the PF Core rulebook, but it is 100% stand-alone. I do not see myself investing in anything other than perhaps the setting book, where I will run a plethora of PBB adventures, should I find an interested group! So, no, no rabbit hole in my future! But I like the setting, so might get the one other book to 'expand' it some.
"I await your judgement..." ~ I recommend it, surprisingly. I honestly didn't expect to like it as much as I do. I wish the entire PF line was like this though. The D&D RB on the other hand... was a waste of my money even at the 'bargain' price. I enjoy my D&D 4e group and game, I do, but reading what I was able to of the box set, well, was torture. I hoped it would have been different, because I do enjoy my face-to-face 4e group game, and assumed, wrongly that perhaps the reviews were not fair or I might like it because I had prior experience... not the case! I thought I might one day want to even GM a 4e game/campaign, but realize I don't have the chops that my current 4e GM has to make it 'old school'.
In closing, get the PFBB, I don't think you will regret it,