Making a character in Pathfinder Second Edition is a process that most experienced gamers will find familiar, but wherever possible, we made changes to make the process more intuitive while still giving you a mountain of choices and flexibility. It all starts with imagining the character you want to play. Maybe you want to be a ferocious dwarven warrior who takes on the aspects of an animal in the heat of battle. Maybe you want to play a wise-cracking elven con artist who grew up on the streets, but now plays at being a member of high society. Or maybe you just want to make a mysterious wizard that loves to blow things up. Pathfinder gives you all the tools to make these characters and countless more! Even if you don't have a complete concept in mind, the steps of character creation in Pathfinder are there to help you make the big decisions and focus in on a character that you are excited to play.
Learning your ABCs
With a concept in mind (no matter how fully formed), the next step is to make the major decisions about your character. We call these decisions your ABCs because you need to decide on your character's Ancestry, Background, and Class. By making these big choices, along with any additional decisions that come with each, the character you want to play will take shape!
Think of these choices as deciding the major moments in your character's youth. First off you were born, the details of which are decided by your Ancestry. Next up is your youth, which is molded by your Background. Finally, your Class decides the life you have chosen to live as an adventurer. Along each step of the way, you will make additional decisions that reinforce and shape the image of your character. Chief among these are your ability scores. Each step of your ABCs impacts your ability scores, giving boosts and flaws to these six vital stats, changing your raw potential to accomplish tasks and overcome danger.
Details and Polish
Throughout the character creation process, you must record a variety of details about your character. Many of these are simple proficiency upgrades, noting your character's aptitude at performing specific tasks or resisting effects. Others require you to select from a list of options, like your ancestry's heritage or a feat from your class. Every single choice you make influences what you can accomplish during play, making you different from the others around you. Even if some of the big choices are the same, these smaller decisions can make two clerics, for example, play entirely differently. One might be a virtuous warrior priest, fighting for her deity with blade and shield, while the other is a pious adherent, using spells and sermons to preach a peaceful path.
Once all of the choices have been made, it's time to buy your starting gear and begin filling out all of your statistics. Starting heroes have precious few gold pieces to start with and buying the right gear can mean the difference between a glorious career and a forgotten grave.
Step 1: Create a Concept
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. Many character concepts center around the character's class, their ancestry, or both, so it might be a good idea to flip through the available ancestries and classes to help inspire you. The Core Rulebook includes a helpful spread with a quick summary of each.
Your character's concept might also center around their background, personal identity, deity, relationship to the other characters, or anything else you can imagine!
Step 2: Start Building Ability Scores
Start all ability scores at 10 in preparation for the later steps. This is a good time to start thinking about what ability scores will be important for your character. You can even jot down your ability scores as you adjust them on your character sheet.
Above you'll see a character sheet with numbered indicators to show you where you need to write something in each numbered step.
Step 3: Select an Ancestry
Select an ancestry for your character. 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
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. 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
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. 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
Now that you've made the main mechanical choices about your character, it's time to finalize their ability scores. Do these three things:
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.
- 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.
Step 7: Record Class Details
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 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
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!.
Step 9: Calculate Modifiers
With most of the big decisions for your character made, it's time to calculate the modifiers for your 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.
Illustration by Mariusz Gandzel
Step 10: Finishing Details
At this point, you fill in all the details, including those to breathe more life into your character's personality like alignment, deity, age, and gender and pronouns, and those last mathematical details that weren't part of your modifiers like class DC, hero points, AC, and Bulk.
And that's it! What character are you going to be building first in Pathfinder Second Edition? Let me know in the comments below!
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