Pathfinder is a fantasy tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) where you and a group of friends gather to tell a tale of brave heroes and cunning villains in a world filled with terrifying monsters and amazing treasures.
More importantly, Pathfinder is a game where your character’s choices determine how the story unfolds
What Is a Roleplaying Game?
A roleplaying game is an interactive story where one player, the Game Master (GM), sets the scene and presents challenges, while other players take the roles of player characters (PCs) and attempt to overcome those challenges.
Danger comes in the form of monsters, devious traps, and the machinations of adversarial agents, but Pathfinder also provides political schemes, puzzles, interpersonal drama, and much, much more.
The game is typically played in a group of four to seven players, with one of those players serving as the group’s Game Master.
The GM prepares, presents, and presides over the game’s world and story, posing challenges and playing adversaries, allies, and bystanders alike.
As each scene leads into the next, each player contributes to the story, responding to situations according to the personality and abilities of their character.
Dice rolls, combined with preassigned statistics, add an element of chance and determine whether characters succeed or fail at actions they attempt.
The Flow of the Game
Pathfinder is played in sessions, during which players gather in person or online for a few hours to play the game.
A complete Pathfinder story can be as short as a single session, commonly referred to as a “one-shot,” or it can stretch on for multiple sessions, forming a campaign that might last for months or even years.
If the Game Master enjoys telling the story and the players are entertained, the game can go as long as you like.
A session can be mostly action, with battles with vile beasts, escapes from fiendish traps, and the completion of heroic quests.
Alternatively, it could include negotiating with a baron for rights to a fort, infiltrating an army of lumbering frost giants, or bargaining with an angel for a strand of hair required for an elixir to revive a slain friend.
Ultimately it’s up to you and your group to determine what kind of game you are playing, from dungeon exploration to a nuanced political drama, or anything in between.
Everyone involved in a Pathfinder game is a player, including the Game Master, but for the sake of simplicity, “player” usually refers to participants other than the GM.
Before the game begins, players invent a history and personality for their characters, using the rules to determine their characters’ statistics, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
The GM might limit the options available during character creation, but the limits are discussed ahead of time so everyone can create interesting heroes.
In general, the only limits to character concepts are the players’ imaginations and the GM’s guidelines. During the game, players describe the actions their characters take and roll dice, using their characters’ abilities.
The GM resolves the outcome of these actions. Some players enjoy acting out (or roleplaying) what they do as if they were their characters, while others describe their characters’ actions as if narrating a story.
Do whatever feels best! If this is your first experience with a role playing game, it is recommended that you take on the role of a player to familiarize yourself with the rules and the world.
THE FIRST RULE
The first rule of Pathfinder is that this game is yours.
Use it to tell the stories you want to tell, be the character you want to be, and share exciting adventures with friends.
If any other rule gets in the way of your fun, as long as your group agrees, you can alter or ignore it to fit your story.
The true goal of Pathfinder is for everyone to enjoy themselves.
Pathfinder requires a set of polyhedral dice. Each die has a different number of sides—four, six, eight, or more. When these dice are mentioned in the text, they’re indicated by a “d” followed by the number of sides on the die.
Pathfinder uses 4-sided dice (or d4), 6-sided dice (d6), 8-sided dice (d8), 10-sided dice (d10), 12-sided dice (d12), and 20-sided dice (d20).
If you need to roll multiple dice, a number before the “d” tells you how many.
For example, “4d6” means you should roll four dice, all 6-sided. If a rule asks for d%, you generate a number from 1 to 100 by rolling two 10-sided dice, treating one as the tens place and the other as the ones place.
Basics of Play
Before creating your first character or adventure, you should understand a number of basic concepts used in the game.
New concepts are presented in bold to make them easy to find, but this chapter is only an introduction to the basics of play.
The complete game rules are defined in later chapters, and the Glossary and Index in the back of this book will help you find specific rules you need.
- In Pathfinder, the players take on the role of player characters (PCs), while the Game Master portrays nonplayer characters (NPCs) and monsters. While PCs and NPCs are both important to the story, they serve very different purposes in the game.
PCs are the protagonists— the narrative is about them—while NPCs and monsters are allies, contacts, adversaries, and villains. That said, PCs, NPCs, and monsters share several characteristics.
Creating a Narrative:
- Characters and their choices create the story of Pathfinder, but how they interact with each other and the world around them is governed by rules. So, while you might decide that your character undertakes an epic journey to overcome terrifying foes and make the world a safer place, your character’s chance of success is determined by their abilities, the choices you make, and the roll of the dice.