Pathfinder Society Second Edition Preview: Horizon Hunters & Radiant Oath

Thursday, May 16, 2019

From the early Shadow War for Absalom to the introduction of factions in Season 3 to the transition to non-national factions in Season 6 to the removal of faction missions to Faction Journal Cards and Season 9's many storylines, we've seen factions grow and change so much over the years. And that's with good reason—factions are one of the unique elements that distinguish the Pathfinder Society campaign from the core rules, and they're consistently a big part of what inspires and shapes character concepts. There was no doubt in our mind that Pathfinder Society's second edition campaign would include factions, too.

And we've had a lot of inspiration to draw from. Not only have we learned a lot of lessons from past Pathfinder Society seasons, but we also had the benefit of seeing how Starfinder Society's different approach to factions fared. The latter's worked out really well. Not only does it give PCs the opportunity represent multiple factions (earning Reputation that determines your status within the faction and Fame that lets you buy perks), but it also presents factions as interest groups within the Society rather than ambitious power brokers beyond the Society, boosting the sense of camaraderie rather than highlighting irreconcilable differences.

Yet there's one big factor that Starfinder Society had that Pathfinder Society doesn't: a clean slate. When Thurston Hillman was taking point on Starfinder Society's foundational lore, we were inventing new factions from the ground up (and created some pretty great characters). For those of us handling Pathfinder Society's transition, we have roughly 11 years of history, experience, and emotional connection to consider. How do we balance old loyalties with new possibilities?

The short answer? Through many passionate discussions.

The longer answer? We sussed out that although there were some first edition factions whose stories were wrapping up and others that seem to have many years of fresh stories to tell, the notion of transferring only some of the factions or faction leaders into the second edition campaign would give a sense of winners and losers. What's more, the current factions are very much the products of a decade-long campaign in which they've evolved rather organically—trying to fill particular niches so as not to overlap too heavily with other factions' goals or pivot too strongly from those factions' original goals and character types. So even those factions we thought could do well in the new campaign received closer scrutiny and a verdict of "Good, but not quite what we need."

The end result? The second edition Pathfinder Society campaign features six factions, most of which have familiar faces leading them. These factions are all new and include four major factions and two minor factions.

Nice! Six factions! That should... uh... wait, what? Major and minor factions? (Okay, some of you who have followed a little experiment in Starfinder Society might know where this is going.)

Major and Minor Factions

Narrative, stability, and options. We're going to come back to those words.

Let's start with a bit of history. In Season 3, the org play team doubled the number of playable factions from 5 to 10. It was kinda nice. There were tons of options, there was, at last, a "good guys" faction that didn't occasionally send assassins after people, the Shadow Lodge developed an early following and more. But within a year, the opportunity cost of maintaining all of these factions was already taking its toll (those faction missions didn't write themselves). There were already plans to trim the factions down to 8 by the time I joined in Season 4, and later to 7 factions. Ambitious storyteller that I was, I wanted to tell more faction-facing stories, and the more factions there were to juggle, the more scenarios they needed to tell their stories and the fewer non-faction scenarios we saw. As an added complication, some season storylines were ideal fits for any given faction's main story, whereas others struggled at times to be relevant.

In short, the more factions we had, the harder it was to give each of them the screen time we felt they deserved. And as I mentioned earlier, factions had gone through a lot of changes over the years, and stories sometimes had to focus on how a faction had changed rather than fulfilling that faction's goals. In many cases, it worked out nicely, and at other times, it didn't meet our lofty expectations. Basically, we were having to balance narrative and stability with numerous other factors.

To address these issues, we created major and minor factions. At their core, major and minor factions are about narrative, stability, and options. They aim to give players lots of options while maximizing our storytelling possibilities and affording us the flexibility to present a wide range of adventures.

A major faction is one of the Pathfinder Society's philosophical pillars, promoting values that are central to what the organization's about. When we create each year's storyline and scenario list, we endeavor to include several scenarios that play to each major faction's strengths or advance their own narratives. And because the major factions are fundamentally tied to the Society's goals in different ways, these factions are very unlikely to change.

A minor faction represents a group of like-minded individuals within the Society that's recognized as a significant force and commands its own substantial resources. The faction's goals are not part of the Society's charter, per se, yet the objectives are ones that commonly appeal to Pathfinders or are an excellent fit for adventurers already traveling the world. Minor factions are also an excellent fit for region-based factions that would feature heavily for a specific year's storyline before stepping back from the spotlight, much as the Lantern Lodge was central to Season 3'story. Likewise, although we'll certainly feature stories tied to minor factions every so often, a minor faction isn't guaranteed a particular amount of story content each season. In terms of stability, we're unlikely to remove a minor faction from play (such as when the Shadow Lodge retired), and we'll likely introduce more minor factions slowly throughout the campaign.

If you participate in Starfinder Society, you might have seen one of these minor factions in action: the Manifold Host. The Starfinder Society isn't strictly about recruiting as many strange aliens agents as possible, but it sure is something that tends to happen when you send explorers out to inspect unfamiliar worlds. The Manifold Host delights in expanding the Society's diversity in this way. The minor faction offers a mix of boons, including some borrowed from existing factions and a few that are entirely unique. The "Faction (Manifold Host)" tag hasn't appeared on any scenarios, yet it's nonetheless just the right fit in terms of flavor and rewards for many characters. It's doing what we'd hope a minor faction would do.

Okay, we're already 1,100 or so words in, and I haven't even introduced any of our factions yet! Let's correct that by showing off two of the six new factions, including both a major faction and a minor faction.

Horizon Hunters (Major Faction)

Since its first day when adventurers gathered in Absalom to share drinks and swap stories, the Pathfinder Society has been an organization of explorers. The Horizon Hunters is home to those who carry on the proud tradition of ascending the highest peaks, plumbing the darkest depths, and seeing what lies over the next hill. And as sweet as it is to discover a lost ruin or unknown vista, it's all the better to tell wild tales about the experience and revel in the admiration of peers—particularly if an agent's deeds might be immortalized in the Pathfinder Chronicles, a widely distributed record of the greatest Pathfinders' achievements and discoveries.

Faction Leader: Hailing from the Sodden Lands, Calisro Benarry (N female half-orc) is a pirate-turned-Pathfinder who made her name as venture-captain of the Arcadian Mariner's Lodge, a ship-borne Pathfinder lodge aboard the Grinning Pixie passed between venture-captains every few years. Bucking tradition, Benarry commanded the wheel for a decade, oversaw exploration of the dreaded Gloomspires, and traveled widely before recently being ordered to surrender the ship. That's no excuse for her to settle down, and she's poured her energy into inspiring curiosity, tenacity, and wanderlust in the Society as a whole, spearheading the Horizon Hunters faction.

Objectives: The more untouched, unfamiliar, or unknown a site or treasure, the more exhilarating it is to reach it. The Horizon Hunters encourage exploration for its own sake, yet it's also dedicated to enhancing the reputation of its members—anything from publication in the Pathfinder Chronicles to being the subject of the latest tall tale to circulate the taverns. Iconic objectives include uncovering mythical lost cities, blazing the trail through uncharted territory, and reaching foreboding realms. And if the PCs can look good while doing so, that's all the better.

Radiant Oath (Minor Faction)

The Society's mission doesn't intrinsically involve acts of altruism, heroism, and sacrifice, yet the Pathfinders have a track record for thwarting evil, lending a helping hand, and presenting the Pathfinders as upstanding folk wherever they go. For the Radiant Oath, this benevolence extends beyond incidental assistance. Instead, the faction sees the Society's broad reach as an excellent vector for assisting others the world over. Those who join the Radiant Oath swear simple vows to assist others, expanding on these promises the more they serve the faction.

Faction Leader: No stranger to peril, Valais Durant (LG female aasimar) set out for Numeria after earning her wayfinder and distinguished herself in covert operations there and in Ustalav. When the Society needed agents to investigate the possible misdeeds of Venture-Captain Thurl, she volunteered, directing her practiced senses to uncover his crimes. Unfortunately, she fell prey to his guardians and magic, ultimately being transformed into an amalgam of demonflesh. She fought off her new form's abyssal influence long enough to return to the Society, and there she sought to restore her mortal form. Her journey took her as far away as Heaven, where with other Pathfinders, she uncovered a ritual to remove the demonic corruption safely. The ritual exceeded her greatest expectations. Rather than be restored to her human body, Heaven itself granted her a celestial form.

Even though she's still adjusting to her new body and celestial connection, Valais is committed to helping others as the Society helped her. Rather than crushing her spirit, her exposure to dark rituals and demonic whispers has taught her what's at stake if evil prevails, granting her the strength to defeat fiends and assist the vulnerable in equal measure. Her supernatural powers don't blind her to her own biases, though. Valais knows that her own perspective of justice and benevolence is but one of many the world over, so she recruits faction members of diverse backgrounds to spread good in their own ways while respecting the desires of unfamiliar cultures.

Objectives: Unlike its spiritual predecessor, the Silver Crusade, which threw itself forcefully at the most significant threats and villains, the Radiant Oath emphasizes acts of kindness, compassion, and redemption. However, when dire evils threaten the world, the oathsworn are ready to combat it. By consistently promoting the cause of good and building the faction's reputation, the Radiant Oath strives for greater influence in the Society to direct its resources toward just causes.

Did you catch yesterday's blog about more of the decisions for the continuation of the Pathfinder Society campaign? If not, we encourage you to check it out. Otherwise, join us next week as we preview May's scenario offerings.

John Compton
Organized Play Lead Developer

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Tags: Factions Organized Play Pathfinder Second Edition Pathfinder Society
*** ⦵⦵ Contributor

19 people marked this as a favorite.

Heck yeah, Calisro Benarry and Valais Durant are leading factions!

Grand Lodge

Four philosophical pillars of the Society: Explore, Report, Cooperate, hmmm ... Publish?

Sovereign Court **** ⦵⦵⦵⦵

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Taldor! Taldor Taldor!

Liberty's Edge *

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I like it, and I'm really hoping to see more Minor factions letting some of our more iconic or recurring NPCs to step up in terms of importance as we move into PFS2 :D

Grand Lodge ****

4 people marked this as a favorite.

This is so cool! Can you just release PF2 now so we can get to playing it? Come on!

* RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I have mixed feelings about it. I do like the idea of separating general purpose factions from factions that function as a discrete organization.

Dark Archive **** Venture-Lieutenant, Online—VTT

8 people marked this as a favorite.

Seeing Valais rise to the head of a faction from where she began her journey is fantastic! Looking forwards to both of these :D

Silver Crusade ***

2 people marked this as a favorite.

So, I wonder who else will be come a faction leader... Had some friends say that Nigel would be a funny choice.. Maybe one to document the Dark Archives.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I can't wait to start playing PFS with the new edition. I've been a quiet observer for most of this edition because of life. That will change this fall.


Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

10 people marked this as a favorite.

HUZZAH! Valais returns! Calisro gets a promotion!

Paizo Employee Canadian Maplecakes

23 people marked this as a favorite.

It's so weird to see an NPC I wrote as a "Let's see if a Paladin blindly attacks this person because of how they look" tactic has become such a great fan favorite. Also, I wrote that scenario over 5 years ago... damn, I'm getting old!

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

4 people marked this as a favorite.

The Horizon Hunters sound like a much more dashing take on the Grand Lodge, I'm happy about that.

I'm skeptical about how the Radiant Oath is going to focus more on being nice than on righteous vengeance. Can I be excused for liking the uncomplicated righteous vengeance?

The Silver Crusade already spent a lot of time on mercy missions. The Exo-Guardians also seem busy with soul-searching and mercy missioning.

These are good adventures. I like them. However, can we stop acting like these mercy missions are the exception?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

This, more than anything else to date, now has me stoked to check out PFS 2.0!

Very pleased to see some familiar faces receiving promotions, and looking forward to the new stories to tell in "Season 11" :)

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Agent, Colorado—Denver aka roll4initiative

I hope the faction symbols stay the same. My Grand Lodge pin would look great as a Horizon Hunters symbol.

Dark Archive **** Venture-Agent, Washington—Bothell aka Velisruna

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I think Horizon Hunters seems like a great replacement for the Grand Lodge. The "loyalty to the society above all" thing drove many of my characters away from it that would have perfectly fit Horizon Hunters. Though from the sound of it the factions are likely to more represent the ideals of the society so some of the others may also look like Grand Lodge replacements, just because so many of the factions in PFS 1E were very separate or even partially external groups.

I am hoping the Dark Archive with Zarta as the leader return in some form. I love the theme of that faction and the arc Zarta got in the later seasons. It is also an appropriate faction for the society, seeking out knowledge, and containing and studying dark relics.

Shadow Lodge **

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Does this mean there'll be a return of the Shadow Lodge?

Shadow Lodge *****

Depends on how the last two 1E scenarios play out, I imagine.

The Exchange **

Son of the Sea wrote:
Four philosophical pillars of the Society: Explore, Report, Cooperate, hmmm ... Publish?



An interesting idea for the design of factions. For most players that I've met, factions are NOT a key element of design but rather a final decision after the character design is all but complete. Having the more philosophical factions may make it easier to fit a suitable fit for these characters.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Thursty wrote:
It's so weird to see an NPC I wrote as a "Let's see if a Paladin blindly attacks this person because of how they look" tactic has become such a great fan favorite. Also, I wrote that scenario over 5 years ago... damn, I'm getting old!

Valais is awesome! I used a replay just so I could have my paladin of Arshea meet her, flirt with her, and work towards her redemption.

Grand Lodge ***** ⦵⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Alright, this is wicked cool. Calisro is my Pathfinder goddess. I will follow wherever she leads.


Also neat to see Valais Durant get a faction.

Silver Crusade **

This is a pretty promising setup, I think. Looking forward to seeing the other 4 factions.

Liberty's Edge ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Martinsville aka thaX

2 people marked this as a favorite.

If Drendle Drange is not a venture captain for a faction, there is something seriously wrong.


I want to see more! So hungry for more...

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Horizon Hunters makes me think of the predecessors of the Void Engineers.

Silver Crusade ***** ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Germany—Bavaria

I don't get to write this anywhere near as often as I like, but I am 100% happy with those factions. After having to explain the various factions to new players quite a number of time, the quick sales pitch is essential and these will work great.

Horizon Hunters: Calisro Benarry as faction leader is a great choice locally she is well-liked and more importantly, she is doesn't have any negative baggage ^^
The factions goals are broad enough so that a lot of character could feel drawn to it, while still being distinct enough that I am very much looking forward to their missions.
Not sure what my first Horizon Hunter will be but I have a couple of ideas for PF2 characters and quite a number should be a great fit.

Radiant Oath: I loved championing the cause of the Silver Crusade, but this really is a great improvement. Valais Durant is one of my top 5 characters in all of PFS so it is absolutely amazing to have her as a faction leader.
Even if their status as a minor faction means that they will not get a lot of missions that focus on them, I am very much looking forward to joining that faction several times now that Champion has 3 distinct flavours of goodness ^^


New factions: I think this was the right call to make, while it might be sad to lose some of the old factions, this is the exciting start of something new and I am looking forward to making new amazing memories playing with the new factions.

Silver Crusade ***** ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Germany—Bavaria

5 people marked this as a favorite.

..... so when can we order pins to show some faction pride? ^^

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I'm sad to see Silver Crusade go but I'm excited for Radiant Oath, will see how that turns out ^w^

***** ⦵⦵

Can we get Sczarni back now?


Liberty's Edge *** Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Wow! Two of my favorite NPCs!

Dark Archive ***** Venture-Agent, Ohio—Columbus aka Cirithiel

Shifty wrote:

Can we get Sczarni back now?


I’ll vote for the Sczarni, if you’ll vote to reinstate the Shadow Lodge. :)

But seriously? I’m really liking what we are seeing with factions so far.

Scarab Sages ***** Venture-Captain, Netherlands aka Woran

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Calisro <3 <3 <3

The Exchange **

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Paizo, I love you. Every single one of you.

But especially whoever it was that made the case for Valais Durant to be a Faction Leader. She's been my own personal Venture-Captain ever since she introduced herself amongst a bunch of dusty bookshelves long ago.

I don't fully understand yet how characters will apply themselves to factions, but I assure you my first PFS2 character will be a member of the Radiant Oath.

Liberty's Edge ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Martinsville aka thaX

My question now is, are there going to be other Minor factions added in during the first PF2 season, and are there going to be boons for obscure factions like in Starfinder?

What about Major Factions, is there any others beyond the initial four that can be added in future seasons? Perhaps ones that mirror or pay tribute to the beloved past factions like the Shadow Lodge or Szarni? Four seems to be a low number, though what counts as Minor in Starfinder is... unclear.

Can one of the minor factions in PF2 have a bigger role in the story and with the Pathfinder Society, and become a Major Faction at some point?

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