Rules Index


Chapter 1: Introduction

What is a Roleplaying Game?

Source Core Rulebook pg. 7
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

Source Core Rulebook pg. 7
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.

The Players

Source Core Rulebook pg. 7
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 roleplaying game, it is recommended that you take on the role of a player to familiarize yourself with the rules and the world.

The Game Master

Source Core Rulebook pg. 8
While the other players create and control their characters, the Game Master (or GM) is in charge of the story and world. The GM describes all the situations player characters experience in an adventure, considers how the actions of player characters affect the story, and interprets the rules along the way.

The GM can create a new adventure—crafting a narrative, selecting monsters, and assigning treasure on their own— or they can instead rely on a published adventure, using it as a basis for the session and modifying it as needed to accommodate their individual players and the group’s style of play. Some even run games that combine original and published content, mixed together to form a new narrative.

Being the GM is a challenge, requiring you to adjudicate the rules, narrate the story, and juggle other responsibilities. But it can also be very rewarding and worth all the work required to run a good game. If it is your first time running a game, remember that the only thing that matters is that everyone has a good time, and that includes you. Everything else will come naturally with practice and patience.

Gaming is for All

Source Core Rulebook pg. 8
Whether you are the GM or a player, participating in a tabletop roleplaying game includes a social contract: everyone has gathered together to have fun telling a story. For many, roleplaying is a way to escape the troubles of everyday life. Be mindful of everyone at the table and what they want out of the game, so that everyone can have fun. When a group gathers for the first time, they should talk about what they hope to experience at the table, as well as any topics they want to avoid. Everyone should understand that elements might come up that make some players feel uncomfortable or even unwelcome, and everyone should agree to respect those boundaries during play. That way, everyone can enjoy the game together.

Pathfinder is a game for everyone, regardless of their age, gender, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other identities and life experiences. It is the responsibility of all of the players, not just the GM, to make sure the table is fun and welcoming to all.

Tools of Play

Source Core Rulebook pg. 8
In addition to this book, there are a few things you will need to play Pathfinder. These supplies can be found at your local hobby shop or online at paizo.com.

Character Sheet: Each player will need a character sheet to create their character and to record what happens to that character during play. You can find a character sheet in the back of this book and online as a free pdf.

Dice: The players and GM will need at least one set of polyhedral dice, although most participants bring their own. Six-sided dice are quite common, but all the dice in the set can be found at hobby game stores or online. See the Dice sidebar on page 7 for more on the different kinds of dice and how they are discussed in the text.

Adventure: Every table needs an adventure to play, whether it’s designed by the GM or found in a published resource. You can find a variety of exciting adventures and even entire Adventure Path campaigns at paizo.com.

Bestiary: From terrifying dragons to mischievous gremlins, monsters are a common threat that the PCs might face, and each type has its own statistics and abilities. These can be found in the Pathfinder Bestiary, an absolutely invaluable book for GMs. Monster statistics can also be found online for free at paizo.com/prd.

Maps and Miniatures: The chaos of combat can be difficult to imagine, so many groups use maps to represent the battlefield. These maps are marked with a 1-inch grid, and each square represents 5 feet in the game. Miniatures and illustrated tokens called pawns are used to represent the characters and the adversaries they face.

Additional Accessories: There are a number of additional accessories you can add to your game to enhance the experience, including tools that help you track turns in combat, decks of cards for referencing common rules, digital character-creation tools, and even background music and sound-effect sets.