I went looking for some modpacks using Hardcore Questing Mode as a guide to get players into learning the mods. The success of Agrarian Skies really put HQM at the forefront, and the mod is now a popular addition to dozens of packs. I'm really happy to see this because HQM can help motivate players who may be unsure or even uninspired to continue with a particular world/pack.
Over the last two weeks I downloaded roughly 10 different packs that were using HQM. Some were focused on magic, others on tech, and many were a mixture of both. Focus aside, most of the packs were so similar that it was hard to really see much difference between them. There was one that stood out for me though, called Pathfinder (found on the FTB launcher).
What Makes Pathfinder Different?
For starters, you begin on a small spaceship floating about the stars. That's a pretty significant change from the typical random world or skyblock starts (which understandably has its pros and cons). In addition, Pathfinder is meant to be played in peaceful mode. Being an adventure addict, I was a bit skeptical about playing on a mob-free map... but I found the pack has other challenges to contend with.
The hunger and crops systems have been altered significantly (thanks to AgriCraft, Harvestcraft and Hunger Overhaul), making it harder to stay fed early on. Spice of Life makes diet diversity important, as eating the same food repeatedly offers diminishing returns.
Tinker's Construct with Iguana Tweaks are also included, making sure you're not mining diamonds right away (but the payoff comes with some pretty sweet tools). Also, your inventory has been reduced to what you can hold in your hotbar and stack sizes are fractions of the norm.
Those are all interesting options to add challenge to the game, but they're not new either. Thankfully, Pathfinder's focus is far broader than any of that stuff. The spaceship you start on contains a number of machines (from RFTools) used for creating new worlds for you to travel to! RFTools is a tech-based alternative to Mystcraft, where you use vast amounts of power (redstone flux, aka RF) to generate, maintain and visit new planets (dimensions/ages). You won't have instability to deal with, but you will have to make sure you have sufficient power to visit new worlds (and be able to return).
Pathfinder is a refreshing change from conventional modpacks, at least in terms of the early game and introduction. I've still got a long way to go before I can comment on much else, but a pack based on creating new dimensions is pretty rare. If you're looking for something different to do in Minecraft, I suggest giving Pathfinder a go.