Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 1: Running the Game / Special Considerations


Source GM Core pg. 22
The rarity system is a powerful tool that helps you and your group customize your story, your characters, and your world to better match your game’s themes and setting. You can also use it to keep the complexity of your game low by limiting access to unusual options.

The Four Rarities

Source GM Core pg. 22
Let's first review the default usage for the four rarities in the game and how these already start to tell a story about your world.
  • Common elements are prevalent enough, at least among adventurers, that a player is assumed to be able to access them provided they meet the prerequisites (if any).
  • Uncommon elements are difficult to access or regionally specific, but a PC can usually find them eventually with enough effort, potentially by choosing a specific character option or spending substantial downtime tracking them down.
  • Rare elements are lost secrets, ancient magic, and other options that PCs can access only if you specifically make them available.
  • Unique elements are one of a kind, like a specific magical artifact or a named creature. You have full control over whether PCs can access them. Named NPCs are unique creatures, though that doesn't mean their base creature type is unique. For instance, an orc named Graytusk is unique, but that doesn't mean it would be any harder for a PC encountering her to tell she's an orc—just to discern specific information about her.

Rarity and Power

Source GM Core pg. 22
Options of higher rarities aren't necessarily more powerful than common ones, but they might have unusual capabilities with large ramifications for the campaign setting or the types of narrative moments common in a heroic fantasy game. For instance, the raise dead spell is uncommon, since Pathfinder's default setting assumes that the death of important characters, like the leaders of nations or powerful villains, shouldn't be easily reversed by any common priest or spellcaster, only those who have specialized knowledge in these secret arts.

Different Contexts

Source GM Core pg. 22
Just because something is common or uncommon in one context doesn't necessarily mean it's the same in others. This is specifically true when comparing the commonality of a creature and an ancestry. For instance, while hobgoblins are a relatively common monster for adventurers to encounter and are a common creature, in most settings they're still far less prevalent than humans or elves and would be an uncommon ancestry.

Because uncommon elements are available in certain circumstances, they often vary by locale, even within the same setting. For instance, a katana is uncommon in the Inner Sea region of Golarion, but in the Asian fantasy-inspired Tian Xia, a katana would be common and some Inner Sea weapons might be uncommon. Similarly, in an elven kingdom, uncommon elven weapons like the elven curve blade might be common.

Access Entries

Source GM Core pg. 23
Uncommon elements sometimes have an Access entry in their stat block. An Access entry usually speaks to elements of a character’s backstory or experiences, such as “follower of Shelyn,” “member of the Pathfinder Society,” or “from Absalom.” A character who meets the access requirements can freely choose that option just like they would a common option, even though it’s uncommon. Unlike a Prerequisites entry, an Access entry never speaks to mechanical requirements needed to make the rules function, so if you’d like to modify Access requirements, you can do so without worrying about altering game balance.

Starting Elements

Source GM Core pg. 23
Elements like ancestries, backgrounds, classes, and heritages that a player must select at character creation can still be uncommon or rare. Obviously, there’s no opportunity for the player character to search for them during play, but these rarities still indicate the prevalence of adventurers with those elements in the world. You can decide to allow them on a case-by-case basis depending on the campaign and the story your group wants to tell. For instance, a game set in the lizardfolk empire of Droon might have lizardfolk (normally uncommon) as a common ancestry while the typical common ancestries are less common. An official player’s guide for a Pathfinder Adventure Path might have uncommon backgrounds that you can access by playing the Adventure Path.


Source GM Core pg. 23
You might craft a quest involving an uncommon or rare subject. For instance, players might encounter a door that requires a rare spell to open and have to travel to an academy to learn it. If a player has their heart set on an option that’s not common, look for ways to build a story in which their character acquires that option.

World Building

Source GM Core pg. 23
With the rarities at your fingertips, you and your group can start building a unique world using rarity as a tool. Imagine a world where one or more of the core classes are rare. Maybe the gods rarely answer the call of the faithful and a PC cleric is one of the only clerics in the world. Perhaps sorcerers are rare and feared by wizards' guilds, which have a stranglehold on spell access. For a grittier feel, you could make abilities that can remove afflictions uncommon or rare. You could even create a low-magic setting where all magic and magic items are uncommon or rare.

You can add, remove, or alter Access entries to fit your world. For instance, if in your world the goddess of death guards the secrets of resurrection, you might add an Access entry to raise dead and resurrection for characters who worship that goddess.

These are just a few ideas to help get you started. The number of ways you can vary rarities to adjust your setting, story, and game are nearly unlimited.