Every character gets 20 points in a point buy system. Higher scores cost increasing points, though any racial modifiers are applied “for free” at the very end. If you still have any points remaining that you can’t figure out how or where to spend, those points are lost.
Starting scores (before racial modifiers) have to be between 7 and 18. You can find a very good point buy calculator here.
Race and Class
Build your character using this site, which has all the info from all the source books. Everything listed from Paizo is legal, though nothing from third party companies is.
Race “alternate traits” and Class “archetypes” offer customization by replacing some parts of your character with others. Anything (Paizo) is fair game. Try these out for some fun twists and to keep classes from getting stale. You can find both these features towards the bottom of any given race or class page.
Multiclassing is very much allowed – they’ve made half-elves in particular excel at it – but the game’s customization can easily give you something that feels similar while still allowing you to reach the coveted high levels in a single class, unlocking its most powerful abilities. This comes in two main forms. The class archetypes mentioned above can offer some wonderful mixing. The second main method are the recently added hybrid classes: each is its own class, though largely defined by mixing two more traditional ones.
Prestige classes are also plentiful. As ever, you typically need to be around character level (CL) 6 or 7 before you meet all the requirements to unlock one. Note that these often still require multiclassing, unless you’re particularly clever with your planning.
Characters in Pathfinder gain feats at every odd level. Fighters also gain (combat) feats at every even level. Finally, most humans also start the game with one extra feat, depending on the racial aspects chosen. It’s a lot more feat heavy than D&D 3.5.
Traits are tiny modifiers that add flavor. Each is roughly the strength of “half a feat.” Every character starts with two for free. They may take a third trait if they also take a penalizing drawback. There is also a specific feat that grants you two more traits, which can be bought as many times as you like. Traits have a few simple rules:
1) Each trait has a category, and you can only ever have a single trait from each. These categories are “Combat, Social, Magic, Faith, Religion, Race, Regional, Faction, Equipment and Campaign.” Due to horrible naming, the first four categories above are also called “Basic” traits. Ignore such wording when you come across it: consider each its own category.
2) Racial traits aren’t the same as “race traits.” . That’s just more horrible naming on Paizo’s part. Racial traits are the powerful modifiers and abilities you’re used to from decades past, and those are solely the province of your character’s race. The race traits we speak of in this list are merely one category of this new Traits rule. You substitute something minor from this list for a race’s intrinsic native abilities; picking up the “Adopted” trait lets you pick an illegal race trait, a racial trait (darkvision, ect).
3) Campaign traits can only be taken doing specific campaigns (we aren’t yet). They always refer to the backstory of that specific adventure.
4) Faith and Religion traits require devout worship of specific Golarion deities.
Next choose a faction that you’d like to pledge (or sell) your loyalty to. Here is the list. Clicking on any faction’s green name will link to their sub-page, where you can see unique rewards and even traits that only their members may select.
Money and Gear
Level 1 characters start wtih 150 gold, though a few rare creation choices alter that number. Any gear sold in Paizo books is fair game, though some are restricted by race or starting region. Note that you cannot buy any faction-specific gear, since a new character doesn’t have enough fame or prestige to (more on that below).
Right now we’re hoping to use the standard Society leveling method: every scenario gives you 1 xp, and every 3 gains you a level.
Some of the crazier, more powerful races also come with an XP penalty though… meaning they level slower than normal. If players want one of these more extreme races, we’ll have figure out a new way to level. I’m not sure if the Society scenarios even list traditional XP rewards or not, but we’ll cross that bridge if it even comes up. Normally, such races are illegal in Society play.
Thankfully such PFS scenarios are based around the “city of cities,” bustling Absalom. Everything is available here, including trainers and rare ritual components needed for some level-ups. They also offer everything you need for retraining (re-specing level-up features down the road) as long as you’ve got the coin and the time to devote to it. Items unique to region or race are probably available, though probably only to those who meet such requirements.
A Few Notes and Tips on Character Growth
In order to make all our lives easier and focus on the fun, we’re focusing on the scenarios from the Pathfinder Society. These were created to handle short adventures with random groupings of players and classes. While we have seven “seasons” of content and evolving story to work with, there are a few aspects I wanted to mention before you get too deep into creation. Nature of the beast sorts of things.
1. The character creation I run will be completely by the book. Use the PFSRD site for the heavy lifting, and then I’ll go through your sheet with you.
2. The scenarios I run will be completely by the book, too. If your party doesn’t have a way to heal, and the scenario doesn’t give you free clerics or potions, I’m not going to give freebies. (Get a job, hippies!) PFS scenarios tend to be three times shorter (ie, you win or lose them in a single session).
3. Dungeon exploration and battle seem to be the constant, and since they want everyone in the group to feel like a participant, most of these enemies seem to be immune to charisma things or talking your way out of the battles. Not postive, just something I’ve noticed in my own time in PFS.
4. In the efforts of quick sessions and no “to be continueds”, it doesn’t sound like there’s tons of travel time. You’re often simply arrive at your destination. So unfortunately, my beloved wildneress survival (focused) rangers will not have much to do. Magic and skills to find food, water and shelter might not be your best bet, though again that’s just an educated guess based on what I’ve seen.
5. Enemy spellcasters that you’ll fight tend to be the ones with innate magic, rather than book-learning. This is to prevent a wizard player from grabbing all the scrolls and spellbooks they can. Wizards aren’t bad by any stretch, as you can still buy spells and you do find a few… but knowing that you won’t find too many could make you lean more towards sorcerers and the like.
6. It’s hard for me to make a character without some sort of end-game destiny, but these particular scenarios don’t fit well into many story arcs. They’re mostly random quests in random places, so you’ll probably find few opportunities to regain your lost throne or work things out with that unrequited love. This was partially to make everyone in a random grouping feel special. We’ll make story edits if they come up if they don’t hinder the pre-made plot in any way. For example, I might replace a trail guide with my trail guide, but only if all the little bits transferred perfectly into place.
7. We’re almost certainly going to play through Fantasy Grounds, even if players are located nearby. That’s because Pathfinder can have a lot of fiddly modifier numbers that FG can mostly do automatically. This will greatly increase the speed of our sessions and focus on the fun. If all players are local and we want to get together in person, it would require the use of tablets and such.
We’re generally using the Pathfinder Society official rules. If you have a question or a doubt, it’s always best to assume the answer is the Society one until you bring it up. That said we have made some changes, as noted below:
- There are restrictions on feats, spells, weapons or races. Most of those PFS bans involve either item creation or controlling NPCs, but as far as we’re concerned anything from the real rules are legal. We’ll only revisit this if the scenarios are woefully unprepared to handle them.
- Characters do not have to retire at level 12. However, most of the pre-made scenarios end about here. Pathfinder does have quite a few options for super high “legendary” characters past 20, but it would probably require a real DM at that point.
- Characters are not forbidden from buying, selling or trading items to another player character.
- In Society, retrieving a unqiue item allows everyone to buy it. This is because the games are made for random pick-up groups that you likely won’t see again, so it allows “you” to have what the party found. In our games, only one of each unique item will be available. It’s not all downside, though. PFS treats special objects just like Mutants and Masterminds does: you can use it for free till the end of the scenario you found it in, then you to buy it if you want it. Since our games follow a more traditional approach, someone gets to keep the item automatically. Likewise, items broken or lost during gameplay do not automatically repair when the scenario ends, and potions do not nonsensically refill.
- Some classes, spells and the like have roleplaying or situational requirements before you can attain the next stage in your advancement. In Society such pre-requisites are waived, but our game plays more traditional and they’re still required.
- The ban on evil alignment characters is lifted. However, characters are still prevented from PVPing each other. This famously falls under two Organized Play rules: no PK and the all-encompassing “Don’t Be A Jerk” rule. :D So if you want to be evil, lawful evil – or at least someone with the presence of mind to get the mission done without political fallout – is the way to go. Pathfinders are often forced to work together, especially from rival factions, so story wise we’re fine as long as we can keep it together with good table manners.
- Obviously, there are none of the PFS re-rolls (once per adventure buffs granted to players that buy further Paizo products, such as t-shirts or novels). “Boons,” however – being rewards for finishing scenarios that use pre-made characters instead of your own – are allowed. They mostly serve to transfer that experienced earned to your real character.
- Keep in mind that even though we’re using many of the rules, none of your characters for this game are officially sanctioned for Pathfinder Society tournament play. The rules just provide a good and simple framework so we don’t have to overthink the rules stuff.
The grand city of Absalom offers many intriguing opportunities, even when you’re not actively playing (unless stated otherwise, it’s assumed that the party (both surviving and dead members) make it back to the capital city of Absalom.) This meets the pre-requisites for pretty much any level up, spell or item you wish to build or make. In those rare times that the story keeps you away from Absalom, you can do most of these options (on a case per case basis) as long as you find yourselves in a city with at least 5000 people in it; every faction has at least one representative in places this large. Very basic items and healing are available even in podunk villages.
Anyone can shop automatically inbetween scenarios for the normal price. Anyone wishing to roll barter checks must do so with the DM they most recently adventured with, and they are bound to whatever price fluctuations they roll (they need not buy the item in question, though they will not find a better price until their next inbetween period). Bartering on behalf of other characters is okay.
Upgrading Magic Items
Following Society’s rules, whenever you’d like to pay to make a masterwork weapon into a +1 (or a +4 into a +5) you do not have to pay the entire cost again. You only have to pay for the difference that you’re adding. This is because the scenarios and their combat difficulty were built with this rule in mind, and they expect you to have pretty good gear. As ever, a mundane item cannot be upgraded to masterwork except through magical means.
In between adventures, any character capable and willing to work a job gets to roll a day job check. This earns them an additional 1 to 150 gp for free between sessions. Certain vanities you unlock can modify this roll.
- You need at least 1 rank in either a Craft or Profession to roll this. The higher you roll, the more you earn. Certain vanities unlock rarer, higher paying jobs based on other skills or abilities.
- You can take a 10 on this. Keep in mind that taking 10 is a “middle of the road” roll. You can’t take a 20 on it however. You also can’t use anything like Aid Other or magic spells to give a bonus, since the job takes place over an extended period of time.
In addition to experience and gold, characters earn a currency called prestige, depending on if they met the sometimes secret “success conditions” of a scenario. There are always two conditions, so you have the opportunity to earn 0 to 2 each time you finish a scenario. (This means you get 0 to 6 PP per character level.) Be sure to make one of the editable blanks on your character sheet’s currency box into prestige. Think of there as being two different prestige stores, each selling different things: one for your specific faction, and another general one for the city of Absalom. Prestige can buy anything from gear and spells, to political titles, or even your own store! Prestige can only be gained by completing scenarios (and meeting their criteria). They are often spent inbetween adventures; some things you can buy during a scenario, though almost never during combat. Prestige cannot be pooled by characters, even of the same faction: being a living legend is a singular endeavor. ;)
If prestige is like a new type of currency, fame is like a new type of ability score. It’s not spent, though it does rise or lower over time, and it acts like a modifer to some things. Where prestige can be spent to buy things, fame determines the menu and quality of the things you can buy with it. It also raises the limit on how much mundane gold you can spend: for example, you won’t be able to buy higher than +1 magic weapons until you’re more famous. Fame is how well your faction knows you, and prestige is how much your faction owes you. Every 10 fame also grants you +1 diplomacy when dealing with your own faction. Generally speaking, fame is usually equal to the total number of prestige you’ve earned over your career, regardless of how much prestige you’ve actually spent.
If a player wants a dead character to come back to life, he and/or the party must pay enough money for the service. Except for extreme story situations, all bodies are assumed to be brought back to Absalom after their death and interred in the manner befitting their religion. With very few racial, religious or circumstance exceptions, coming back to life is merely a matter of spending enough money and rolling the dice. You will, however, most likely have to play a different character for awhile in order to earn the funds. Raising dead characters isn’t prevented by anyone’s “gold limit.” (Note: the series of Damnation feats do just that: granting you increased power along with a higher chance of resurrection failure, since the demons don’t want to give up their end of the bargain. These feats are not illegal, but we won’t hand wave over these penalities. They’re really just for players that want to be evil and are okay with permadeath. Consider it Hardcore Mode.)