Rules Index


Character Creation

Source Core Rulebook pg. 19
Unless you’re the GM, the first thing you need to do when playing Pathfinder is create your character. It’s up to you to imagine your character’s past experiences, personality, and worldview, and this will set the stage for your roleplaying during the game. You’ll use the game’s mechanics to determine your character’s ability to perform various tasks and use special abilities during the game.

This section provides a step-by-step guide for creating a character using the Pathfinder rules, preceded by a guide to help you understand ability scores. These scores are a critical part of your character, and you will be asked to make choices about them during many of the following steps. The steps of character creation are presented in a suggested order, but you can complete them in whatever order you prefer.

Many of the steps on pages 21–28 instruct you to fill out fields on your character sheet. The character sheet is shown on pages 24–25; you can find a copy in the back of this book or online as a free pdf. The character sheet is designed to be easy to use when you’re actually playing the game—but creating a character happens in a different order, so you’ll move back and forth through the character sheet as you go through the character creation process. Additionally, the character sheet includes every field you might need, even though not all characters will have something to put in each field. If a field on your character sheet is not applicable to your character, just leave that field blank.

All the steps of character creation are detailed on the following pages; each is marked with a number that corresponds to the sample character sheet on pages 24–25, showing you where the information goes. If the field you need to fill out is on the third or fourth page of the character sheet, which aren’t shown, the text will tell you.

If you’re creating a higher-level character, it’s a good idea to begin with the instructions here, then turn to page 29 for instructions on leveling up characters.

The Six Ability Scores

Source Core Rulebook pg. 19
One of the most important aspects of your character is their ability scores. These scores represent your character’s raw potential and influence nearly every other statistic on your character sheet. Determining your ability scores is not done all at once, but instead happens over several steps during character creation.

Ability scores are split into two main groups: physical and mental. Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution are physical ability scores, measuring your character’s physical power, agility, and stamina. In contrast, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma are mental ability scores and measure your character’s learned prowess, awareness, and force of personality.

Excellence in an ability score improves the checks and statistics related to that ability, as described below. When imagining your character, you should also decide what ability scores you want to focus on to give you the best chance at success.

Strength

Source Core Rulebook pg. 19
Strength measures your character’s physical power. Strength is important if your character plans to engage in hand-to-hand combat. Your Strength modifier gets added to melee damage rolls and determines how much your character can carry.

Dexterity

Source Core Rulebook pg. 19
Dexterity measures your character’s agility, balance, and reflexes. Dexterity is important if your character plans to make attacks with ranged weapons or use stealth to surprise foes. Your Dexterity modifier is also added to your character’s AC and Reflex saving throws.

Constitution

Source Core Rulebook pg. 19
Constitution measures your character’s overall health and stamina. Constitution is an important statistic for all characters, especially those who fight in close combat. Your Constitution modifier is added to your Hit Points and Fortitude saving throws.

Intelligence

Source Core Rulebook pg. 19
Intelligence measures how well your character can learn and reason. A high Intelligence allows your character to analyze situations and understand patterns, and it means they can become trained in additional skills and might be able to master additional languages.

Wisdom

Source Core Rulebook pg. 19
Wisdom measures your character’s common sense, awareness, and intuition. Your Wisdom modifier is added to your Perception and Will saving throws.

Charisma

Source Core Rulebook pg. 19
Charisma measures your character’s personal magnetism and strength of personality. A high Charisma score helps you influence the thoughts and moods of others.

Ability Score Overview

Source Core Rulebook pg. 20
Each ability score starts at 10, representing human average, but as you make character choices, you’ll adjust these scores by applying ability boosts, which increase a score, and ability flaws, which decrease a score. As you build your character, remember to apply ability score adjustments when making the following decisions.

Ancestry: Each ancestry provides ability boosts, and sometimes an ability flaw. If you are taking any voluntary flaws, apply them in this step (see the sidebar on page 24).

Background: Your character’s background provides two ability boosts.

Class: Your character’s class provides an ability boost to the ability score most important to your class, called your key ability score.

Determine Scores: After the other steps, you apply four more ability boosts of your choice. Then, determine your ability modifiers based on those scores.

Ability Boosts

Source Core Rulebook pg. 20
An ability boost normally increases an ability score’s value by 2. However, if the ability score to which you’re applying an ability boost is already 18 or higher, its value increases by only 1. At 1st level, a character can never have any ability score that’s higher than 18.

When your character receives an ability boost, the rules indicate whether it must be applied to a specific ability score or to one of two specific ability scores, or whether it is a “free” ability boost that can be applied to any ability score of your choice. However, when you gain multiple ability boosts at the same time, you must apply each one to a different score. Dwarves, for example, receive an ability boost to their Constitution score and their Wisdom score, as well as one free ability boost, which can be applied to any score other than Constitution or Wisdom.

Ability Flaws

Source Core Rulebook pg. 20
Ability flaws are not nearly as common in Pathfinder as ability boosts. If your character has an ability flaw—likely from their ancestry—you decrease that ability score by 2.

Ability Modifiers

Source Core Rulebook pg. 20
Once you’ve finalized your ability scores, you can use them to determine your ability modifiers, which are used in most other statistics in the game. Find the score in Table 1–1: Ability Modifiers to determine its ability modifier.

Table 1-1: Ability Modifiers

Ability ScoreModifier
1-5
2-3-4
4-5-3
6-7-2
8-9-1
10-11+0
12-13+1
14-15+2
16-17+3
18-19+4
20-21+5
22-23+6
24-25+7
etc.

Step 1 Create a Concept

Source Core Rulebook pg. 21
What sort of hero do you want to play? The answer to this question might be as simple as “a brave warrior,” or as complicated as “the child of elven wanderers, but raised in a city dominated by humans and devoted to Sarenrae, goddess of the sun.” Consider your character’s personality, sketch out a few details about their past, and think about how and why they adventure. You’ll want to peruse Pathfinder’s available ancestries, backgrounds, and classes. The summaries on pages 22–23 might help you match your concept with some of these basic rule elements. Before a game begins, it’s also a good idea for the players to discuss how their characters might know each other and how they’ll work together throughout the course of their adventures.

There are many ways to approach your character concept. Once you have a good idea of the character you’d like to play, move on to Step 2 to start building your character.

Ancestry, Background, Class, or Details

Source Core Rulebook pg. 21
If one of Pathfinder’s character ancestries, backgrounds, or classes particularly intrigues you, it’s easy to build a character concept around these options. The summaries of ancestries and classes on pages 22–23 give a brief overview of these options (full details appear in Chapters 2 and 3, respectively). Each ancestry also has several heritages that might refine your concept further, such as a human with an elf or orc parent, or an arctic or woodland elf. Additionally, the game has many backgrounds to choose from, representing your character’s upbringing, their family’s livelihood, or their earliest profession. Backgrounds are detailed later in Chapter 2, beginning on page 60.

Building a character around a specific ancestry, background, or class can be a fun way to interact with the world’s lore. Would you like to build a typical member of your character’s ancestry or class, as described in the relevant entry, or would you prefer to play a character who defies commonly held notions about their people? For example, you could play a dwarf with a wide-eyed sense of wonder and a zest for change, or a performing rogue capable of amazing acrobatic feats but with little interest in sneaking about.

You can draw your concept from any aspect of a character’s details. You can use roleplaying to challenge not only the norms of Pathfinder’s fictional world, but even real-life societal norms. Your character might challenge gender notions, explore cultural identity, have a disability, or any combination of these suggestions. Your character can live any life you see fit.

Faith

Source Core Rulebook pg. 21
Perhaps you’d like to play a character who is a devout follower of a specific deity. Pathfinder is a rich world with myriad faiths and philosophies spanning a wide range, from Cayden Cailean, the Drunken Hero of good-hearted adventuring; to Desna, the Song of Spheres and goddess of dreaming and the stars; to Iomedae, the Inheritor, goddess of honor, justice, and rulership. Pathfinder’s major deities appear on pages 437–440. Your character might be so drawn to a particular faith that you decide they should be a champion or cleric of that deity; they might instead be a lay worshipper who applies their faith’s teachings to daily life, or simply the child of devout parents.

Your Allies

Source Core Rulebook pg. 21
You might want to coordinate with other players when forming your character concept. Your characters could have something in common already; perhaps they are relatives, or travelers from the same village. You might discuss mechanical aspects with the other players, creating characters whose combat abilities complement each other. In the latter case, it can be helpful for a party to include characters who deal damage, characters who can absorb damage, and characters who can provide healing. However, Pathfinder’s classes include a lot of choices, and there are many options for building each type of character, so don’t let these broad categories restrict your decisions.

Step 2 Start Building Ability Scores

Source Core Rulebook pg. 21
At this point, you need to start building your character’s ability scores. See the overview of ability scores on pages 19–20 for more information about these important aspects of your character and an overview of the process.

Your character’s ability scores each start at 10, and as you select your ancestry, background, and class, you’ll apply ability boosts, which increase a score by 2, and ability flaws, which decrease a score by 2. At this point, just note a 10 in each ability score and familiarize yourself with the rules for ability boosts and flaws on page 20. This is also a good time to identify which ability scores will be most important to your character. See The Six Ability Scores on page 19 and the class summaries on pages 22–23 for more information.

Step 3 Select an Ancestry

Source Core Rulebook pg. 24
Select an ancestry for your character. The ancestry summaries on page 22 provide an overview of Pathfinder’s core ancestry options, and each is fully detailed in Chapter 2. Ancestry determines your character’s size, Speed, and languages, and contributes to their Hit Points. Each also grants ability boosts and ability flaws to represent the ancestry’s basic capabilities.

You’ll make four decisions when you select your character’s ancestry:
  • Pick the ancestry itself.
  • Assign any free ability boosts and decide if you are taking any voluntary flaws.
  • Select a heritage from those available within that ancestry, further defining the traits your character was born with.
  • Choose an ancestry feat, representing an ability your hero learned at an early age.

Step 4 Pick a Background

Source Core Rulebook pg. 24
Your character’s background might represent their upbringing, an aptitude they’ve been honing since their youth, or another aspect of their life before they became an adventurer. Character backgrounds appear in Chapter 2, starting on page 60. They typically provide two ability boosts (one that can be applied to either of two specific ability scores, and one that is free), training in a specific skill, training in a Lore skill, and a specific skill feat.

Step 5 Choose a Class

Source Core Rulebook pg. 25
At this point, you need to decide your character’s class. A class gives your character access to a suite of heroic abilities, determines how effectively they fight, and governs how easily they can shake off or avoid certain harmful effects. Each class is fully detailed in Chapter 3, but the summaries on pages 22–23 provide an overview of each and tells you which ability scores are important when playing that class.

You don’t need to write down all of your character’s class features yet. You simply need to know which class you want to play, which determines the ability scores that will be most important for your character.

Step 6 Determine Ability Scores

Source Core Rulebook pg. 25
Now that you’ve made the main mechanical choices about your character, it’s time to finalize their ability scores. Do these three things:
  • First, make sure you’ve applied all the ability boosts and ability flaws you’ve noted in previous steps (from your ancestry, background, and class).
  • Then, apply four more ability boosts to your character’s ability scores, choosing a different ability score for each and increasing that ability score by 2.
  • Finally, record your starting ability scores and ability modifiers, as determined using Table 1–1: Ability Modifiers.
Remember that each ability boost adds 2 to the base score of 10, and each ability flaw subtracts 2. You should have no ability score lower than 8 or higher than 18.

Step 7 Record Class Details

Source Core Rulebook pg. 26
Now, record all the benefits and class features that your character receives from the class you’ve chosen. While you’ve already noted your key ability score, you’ll want to be sure to record the following class features.
  • To determine your character’s total starting Hit Points, add together the number of Hit Points your character gains from their ancestry (chosen in Step 2) and the number of Hit Points they gain from their class.
  • The Initial Proficiencies section of your class entry indicates your character’s starting proficiency ranks in a number of areas. Choose which skills your character is trained in and record those, along with the ones set by your class. If your class would make you trained in a skill you’re already trained in (typically due to your background), you can select another skill to become trained in.
  • See the class advancement table in your class entry to learn the class features your character gains at 1st level—but remember, you already chose an ancestry and background. Some class features require you to make additional choices, such as selecting spells.

Step 8 Buy Equipment

Source Core Rulebook pg. 26
At 1st level, your character has 15 gold pieces (150 silver pieces) to spend on armor, weapons, and other basic equipment. Your character’s class lists the types of weapons and armor with which they are trained (or better!). Their weapons determine how much damage they deal in combat, and their armor influences their Armor Class; these calculations are covered in more detail in Step 10. Don’t forget essentials such as food and traveling gear! For more on the available equipment and how much it costs, see Chapter 6.

Step 9 Calculate Modifiers

Source Core Rulebook pg. 27
With most of the big decisions for your character made, it’s time to calculate the modifiers for each of the following statistics. If your proficiency rank for a statistic is trained, expert, master, and legendary, your bonus equals your character’s level plus another number based on the rank (2, 4, 6, and 8, respectively). If your character is untrained, your proficiency bonus is +0.

Perception

Source Core Rulebook pg. 27
Your character’s Perception modifier measures how alert they are. This modifier is equal to their proficiency bonus in Perception plus their Wisdom modifier. For more about Perception, see page 448.

Saving Throws

Source Core Rulebook pg. 27
For each kind of saving throw, add your character’s Fortitude, Reflex, or Will proficiency bonus (as appropriate) plus the ability modifier associated with that kind of saving throw. For Fortitude saving throws, use your character’s Constitution modifier. For Reflex saving throws, use your character’s Dexterity modifier. For Will saving throws, use your character’s Wisdom modifier. Then add in any bonuses or penalties from abilities, feats, or items that always apply (but not modifiers, bonuses, or penalties that apply only in certain situations). Record this number on the line for that saving throw.

Melee Strikes and Ranged Strikes

Source Core Rulebook pg. 27
Next to where you’ve written your character’s melee and ranged weapons, calculate the modifier to Strike with each weapon and how much damage that Strike deals. The modifier for a Strike is equal to your character’s proficiency bonus with the weapon plus an ability modifier (usually Strength for melee Strikes and Dexterity for ranged Strikes). You also add any item bonus from the weapon and any other permanent bonuses or penalties. You also need to calculate how much damage each weapon’s Strike deals. Melee weapons usually add your character’s Strength modifier to damage rolls, while ranged weapons might add some or all of your character’s Strength modifier, depending on the weapon’s traits. See the weapon entries in Chapter 6 for more information.

Skills

Source Core Rulebook pg. 27
In the second box to the right of each skill name on your character sheet, there’s an abbreviation that reminds you of the ability score tied to that skill. For each skill in which your character is trained, add your proficiency bonus for that skill (typically +3 for a 1st-level character) to the indicated ability’s modifier, as well as any other applicable bonuses and penalties, to determine the total modifier for that skill. For skills your character is untrained in, use the same method, but your proficiency bonus is +0.

Step 10 Finishing Details

Source Core Rulebook pg. 28
Now add the following details to your character sheet in the appropriate spaces.

Alignment

Source Core Rulebook pg. 28
Your character’s alignment is an indicator of their morality and personality. There are nine possible alignments in Pathfinder, as shown on Table 1–2: The Nine Alignments. If your alignment has any components other than neutral, your character gains the traits of those alignment components. This might affect the way various spells, items, and creatures interact with your character.

Your character’s alignment is measured by two pairs of opposed values: the axis of good and evil and the axis of law and chaos. A character who isn’t committed strongly to either side is neutral on that axis. Keep in mind that alignment is a complicated subject, and even acts that might be considered good can be used for nefarious purposes, and vice versa. The GM is the arbiter of questions about how specific actions might affect your character’s alignment.

If you play a champion, your character’s alignment must be one allowed for their deity and cause (pages 437–440 and 106–107), and if you play a cleric, your character’s alignment must be one allowed for their deity (pages 437–440).

Table 1-2: The Nine Alignments

GoodNeutralEvil
LawfulLawful Good (LG)Lawful Neutral (LN)Lawful Evil (LE)
NeutralNeutral Good (NG)True Neutral (N)Neutral Evil (NE)
ChaoticChaotic Good (CG)Chaotic Neutral (CN)Chaotic Evil (CE)

Good and Evil

Source Core Rulebook pg. 28
Your character has a good alignment if they consider the happiness of others above their own and work selflessly to assist others, even those who aren’t friends and family. They are also good if they value protecting others from harm, even if doing so puts the character in danger. Your character has an evil alignment if they’re willing to victimize others for their own selfish gain, and even more so if they enjoy inflicting harm. If your character falls somewhere in the middle, they’re likely neutral on this axis.

Law and Chaos

Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
Your character has a lawful alignment if they value consistency, stability, and predictability over flexibility. Lawful characters have a set system in life, whether it’s meticulously planning day-to-day activities, carefully following a set of official or unofficial laws, or strictly adhering to a code of honor. On the other hand, if your character values flexibility, creativity, and spontaneity over consistency, they have a chaotic alignment—though this doesn’t mean they make decisions by choosing randomly. Chaotic characters believe that lawful characters are too inflexible to judge each situation by its own merits or take advantage of opportunities, while lawful characters believe that chaotic characters are irresponsible and flighty.

Many characters are in the middle, obeying the law or following a code of conduct in many situations, but bending the rules when the situation requires it. If your character is in the middle, they are neutral on this axis.

Changing Alignment

Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
Alignment can change during play as a character’s beliefs change, or as you realize that your character’s actions reflect a different alignment than the one on your character sheet. In most cases, you can just change their alignment and continue playing. However, if you play a cleric or champion and your character’s alignment changes to one not allowed for their deity (or cause, for champions), your character loses some of their class abilities until they atone (as described in the class).

Deity

Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
Write down the deity your character worships, if any. Champions and clerics must worship a deity. See pages 437–440 for more about Pathfinder’s deities.

Age

Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
Decide your character’s age and note it on the third page of the character sheet. The description for your character’s ancestry in Chapter 2 gives some guidance on the age ranges of members of that ancestry. Beyond that, you can play a character of whatever age you like. There aren’t any mechanical adjustments to your character for being particularly old, but you might want to take it into account when considering your starting ability scores and future advancement. Particularly young characters can change the tone of some of the game’s threats, so it’s recommended that characters are at least young adults.

Gender and Pronouns

Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
Characters of all genders are equally likely to become adventurers. Record your character’s gender, if applicable, and their pronouns on the third page of the character sheet.

Class DC

Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
A class DC sets the difficulty for certain abilities granted by your character’s class. This DC equals 10 plus their proficiency bonus for their class DC (+3 for most 1st-level characters) plus the modifier for the class’s key ability score.

Hero Points

Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
Your character usually begins each game session with 1 Hero Point, and you can gain additional Hero Points during sessions by performing heroic deeds or devising clever strategies. Your character can use Hero Points to gain certain benefits, such as staving off death or rerolling a d20. See page 467 for more about Hero Points.

Armor Class (AC)

Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
Your character’s Armor Class represents how difficult they are to hit in combat. To calculate your AC, add 10 plus your character’s Dexterity modifier (up to their armor’s Dexterity modifier cap; page 274), plus their proficiency bonus with their armor, plus their armor’s item bonus to AC and any other permanent bonuses and penalties.

Bulk

Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
Your character’s maximum Bulk determines how much weight they can comfortably carry. If they’re carrying a total amount of Bulk that exceeds 5 plus their Strength modifier, they are encumbered. A character can’t carry a total amount of Bulk that exceeds 10 plus their Strength modifier. The Bulk your character is carrying equals the sum of all of their items; keep in mind that 10 light items make up 1 Bulk. You can find out more about Bulk in Chapter 6: Equipment.