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Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 4
The focus of every Pathfinder game is the players—their characters are the stars of the show and appear in every scene that plays out in game. But what about those scenes? What stories are being told? What old legends are being discovered, and what new ones are being forged? Who are the villains, the allies, the traitors, the lovers, the monsters, and the gods? Who runs the world? When you’re the Game Master, that’s all up to you!

The Gamemaster

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 4
In a game of Pathfinder, the Game Master (often abbreviated GM) is the player in charge of the story and the world the other players are exploring with their characters. As the GM, you set the stage for the adventure, show how the rest of the world responds to the player characters’ actions, and guide the action along an engaging storyline. It falls to you to describe the characters’ surroundings, the threats facing them, and the creatures they interact with. You’re presenting the challenges the heroes must overcome, whether that’s a deadly trap of haunted blades in a lost tomb full of ancient treasures or a vicious troll threatening the heroes’ home village. It also comes to you to interpret and adjudicate the rules. Game Mastering involves many more components than playing a character, but it’s a fun and tremendously rewarding experience.

Though the word “master” is in the GM’s title, it’s not a role that requires or even benefits from absolutism. Pathfinder is a collaborative experience, and while your role as the Game Master is one of an adjudicator or a moderator, it doesn’t mean you control everything at the table—especially not the players and their characters. Nor does the role require mastery, either of the rules or the setting. You’ll need to understand the game, but you don’t need to have every rule memorized. When everyone shares the goal of having fun and telling a story together, the details will fall into place.

How to Use This Book

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 4
The Gamemastery Guide is one of the central rule books for Pathfinder. It’s not required to play the game, but it builds upon the basic guidelines provided in the Game Mastering chapter of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, and you’ll find it helpful to read that chapter before delving into this book. This book provides more detail on those topics, as well as many more tools to help you make your game a fun and memorable experience for everyone involved.

Throughout most of this book, “you” refers to the Game Master. In some sections of player-facing material, however, such as some player-focused variant rules and the actions for certain subsystems, “you” instead refers to the player using that material.

Pathfinder as a game is all about customization, and this book provides you as the Game Master ways to customize your game just as a player customizes their character. The toolbox nature of the Gamemastery Guide makes it easy to take and use whatever components you need for the game you’re running at any time. As with any toolbox, you won’t need to use everything at once!

Choosing Your Tools

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 5
The tools of this book you’ll use most depend on what kind of Game Master you are, what your players want, and the story you’re telling together.

No two Game Masters are the same. Perhaps you’re a veteran Game Master who’s looking for new ways to customize the game and tailor it to suit your interests and those of your players. Or perhaps you’re a brand new GM and looking for guidance to feel comfortable leading a game of your own. Maybe you’ve been a Game Master for years, but this is your first time running a Pathfinder game. No matter where you are as a Game Master, this book is a valuable tool that can help you tell the stories you want to tell with your players.

If you’re a newer Game Master, you’ll find a wealth of information to help you feel confident in running your games. Chapter 1 in particular can help you better understand how to run a game in the different modes of play, how to adjudicate the rules quickly and fairly, and what to do when special circumstances or problems crop up at your table. This chapter also contains advice on using and determining rarity in your game, working with your players to create a collaborative story, and adapting your game to meet the needs of the players at your table. You’ll also find the NPC Gallery in Chapter 5 useful as a source of stock NPCs to play a role in your game and also for examples to compare against when using the rules in Chapter 2 to build your own monsters and NPCs.

If you’re a Game Master running a published Pathfinder adventure, you’ll find guidance in Chapter 1 specifically for running published adventures, and much of the advice in that chapter about running a game applies to published adventures. A number of adventures— especially scenarios in the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign and Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes— use the subsystems in Chapter 3. The Victory Points subsystem is the most fundamental of these, but many adventures also use the other subsystems found here, such as vehicles, chases, and influence.

If you are looking to create your own Pathfinder adventures, Chapter 1 provides you design guidance ranging from the broad strokes of an entire campaign, to individual adventures, and then to the particular considerations of any given encounter. Chapter 2 is a veritable toolbox you can use to build the creatures, hazards, items, and other elements you want to use in your adventures. If you plan to set your adventures in a world of your own design, the world-building section of Chapter 2 can guide that process and help you establish the details you’ll need to ensure your setting is a vibrant backdrop for fantastic adventure. The NPC Gallery in Chapter 5 can help populate your story and world so that you don’t have to create every element from scratch.

If you’re an experienced Game Master, you will find a wealth of customization options to tailor your games to the needs of players. The advice in Chapter 1, such as the guidance to make encounters more dynamic, can help you fine-tune your GM skills and enrich your game. Using the tools in Chapter 2, you’ll be able to build precisely the option you need for any game. Chapter 3 offers a variety of rules subsystems that provide a framework for specific endeavors and situations, from chases and duels to social influence and overland exploration. In Chapter 4, you’ll find variant rules options that let you tweak specific elements of the game, from backgrounds to the entire mathematical underpinning of the game, to suit your preferences or the needs of a particular setting or story.

Remember the First Rule

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 5
The first rule of Pathfinder is that this game is yours. The rest of the rules exist for you to use to tell the stories you want to tell and share exciting adventures with your friends. There are plenty of rules in this book, but none of them overrule that first rule. Take the rules that help you make the game you want, change those that don’t do quite what you need them to, and leave the ones that aren’t helping. It’s your game. There’s no right or wrong way to GM so long as everyone is having fun—and that includes you!