Pathfinder Society Preview: Scrolls, Spells, and Swords

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

We're only a few short weeks away from Gen Con, the release of Pathfinder's Second Edition opening books, and the launch of the new Pathfinder Society campaign! Phew! In the coming weeks we'll be previewing scenarios, pregenerated characters, the Guide, but today we're going to talk about one of the final character creation elements. Character creation works in basically the same way as is described in the soon-to-be-released Pathfinder Core Rulebook: choose your ancestry, select a background, pick your class, and you're well on your way. These are the A(ncestry), B(ackground), C(lass)s of character design, and my colleagues Mark Seifter and Linda Zayas-Palmer will be on Know Direction at 9 pm EST/6 pm PST tonight to go through the character creation process.

But there are two special considerations in building your Pathfinder Society character. One of them is factions, which we've described in numerous earlier blogs (check out the three faction previews from May and June). Just as in Starfinder Society, adventuring earns your PC Reputation (which unlocks potential rewards) and Fame (which lets you purchase those rewards). Collectively, these grant your PC an extra edge.

And today we're going to address the other feature: training.

Published well before I started work at Paizo, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Seekers of Secrets has always served as one of the foundational lore resources for the team, from understanding the in-world Society's role to getting a sense of where there are Pathfinder lodges. It also introduces the three deans of the Pathfinder Society—Kreighton Shaine, the Master of Scrolls; Aram Zey, the Master of Spells (since replaced by Sorrina Westyr); and Marcos Farabellus, the Master of Swords—each of who play a role in training initiates for the rigors of the adventuring world. Seekers of Secrets helpfully explains how the Scrolls lessons feature translation and insight, the Spells focus on understanding and surviving magical threats, and the Swords involves a mix of athleticism, combat fundamentals, and spelunking basics. However, we've just never been terribly clear about what's involved in the deans' oversight, what role the three “schools” play in an established field agent's exploits, or whether any of that reflects on the gameplay experience. In designing the Second Edition organized play experience, we wanted to change that.

When you build a player character in the Second Edition Pathfinder Society campaign, you'll have three points to distribute between the three schools, representing how much your PC focused on those school's curricula while training as an initiate. Each point you invest in a school gives a small benefit that's relevant throughout your character's entire career, representing not only the lessons you learned but also the life-long professional contacts you made during that time.

If you'd like to assign one point to each school, you'll receive fairly balanced benefits. This choice opens access to a bunch of options and represents having a Pathfinder with a well-rounded education. If you relish the idea of a more focused character, even mixing unlikely class-school combinations like a barbarian with 3 points in Spells, consider spending your points on just one or two schools. You can easily assign two points to Scrolls and one to Spells, or you could pile all three into Swords. It's your call!

Just what does your Pathfinder training provide? The core mechanic is access to consumable items. These represent colleagues' experimental draughts, tools provided by the Grand Lodge, or additional gear loaned out by a venture-captain from their own inventories. Just after the mission briefing, you'll be able to requisition one consumable item for use during the adventure. If you don't use it by the end of the adventure, your character returns it. As to what consumable items can you acquire - that depends on your school.

1 Point: By investing 1 point in a school, you have access to that school's item list, and at every odd-numbered level, more options become available for each school. In addition, everyone has access to a list of basic healing and bomb options (a bomb refers to the classic “splash” weapons like alchemist's fire and acid flasks). The starting options for these appear later in this blog.

2 Points: By investing a second point in a school, the PC begins with a bonus Lore skill from a list tied to the school. At 5th level, the PC also gains a bonus skill feat from a list tied to that school, representing the PC's ongoing training.

3 Points: By investing all three points in a school, the PC gains a second consumable item at the start of the adventure, though the bonus item's level must be half the PC's level or lower.

Let's take a look at what consumable items are available at 1st level for each school.

All Schools (1): holy water, lesser [bomb], lesser antidote, lesser antiplague, potion
Scrolls (1): feather token (ladder), lesser eagle-eye charm, owlbear charm, sunrod, wolf fang
Spells (1): a scroll with one of the following 1st-level spells: burning hands, charm, fear, harm, heal, mage armor, magic fang, magic missile, magic weapon, or soothe.
Swords (1): lesser leaper's elixir, potency crystal, shining ammunition

When in doubt, you can always choose a healing potion, but having some extra school support means you're more likely to have access to the perfect tool for the job. In return, it's assumed that your PC spends some of their downtime assisting their colleagues in a similar way, whether that's mixing up alchemical elixirs, helping repair a lodge, assisting an old friend from back when you were both initiates together, or mentoring the next generation of explorers. Pay it forward.

What about if you don't care about the training system? No problem—we asked ourselves the same question when first brainstorming this system, and we realized that we could also address one of the other less-explored aspects of the Pathfinder Society: field-commissioned agents. These are the explorers who have already made a name for themselves by the time they cross paths with the Society and for whom a venture-captain chooses to waive the traditional three years of training before sponsoring that adventurer to join the Pathfinders. A field-commissioned agent (i.e. a PC who invests none of those three points in any schools) lacks the deep collegial relationships that a formally trained Pathfinder enjoys, and that's represented as restricted access to those free consumable items. On the other hand, those agents don't have nearly the same obligations as the other Pathfinders, and that means field-commissioned agents earn more Downtime per level than other PCs.

And if being a field-commissioned agent really fits your backstory, but you'd like to use the training points (or maybe your agent was classically trained but eschews assisting colleagues and ignores the training system), that's cool, too. The training system's a bonus to provide your character tools to survive whatever the adventuring life throws their way, not to tie your hands as to the stories you can tell. We're looking forward to seeing it in action, and we're looking forward to seeing many of you at Gen Con!

And again, check out Know Direction's live stream tonight for all the character creation insights!

John Compton
Organized Play Lead Developer

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Tags: Organized Play Pathfinder Second Edition Pathfinder Society

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Neat! This should be a fun little addition to characters. I'm especially glad to see a solid "default" option provided for folks who don't want to bother.

Dark Archive 2/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, Indiana—Huntingdon aka GM GK

Cool. Can't wait to see what is available with the 2 points.


Nice! If they choose to invest all three points in the school, is the second items level half rounded up or half rounded down? If the latter, then looks like it won't have as much benefit until 2nd level, but if the former that's a pretty big boost.

Thanks!

Sovereign Court 3/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Georgia—Savannah aka KitsuneWarlock

Amazing job! I love how much customization this gives our characters right off the bat! 10 additional options, each with their own meaning and RP potential! I've always loved the idea of PCs having focused on the same schools during training, but with the minimal mechanical backing (i.e. just GM star rewards) for the choice it rarely came up at the table.

Sovereign Court 5/5 Venture-Captain, California—Los Angeles aka Neume

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Firstly: Huzzah?

Secondly: Home Run! Well done!

The Exchange 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

Neat.

Seems like we are asking an awful lot of first time players in terms of resource management though.

1/5

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

This has me even more excited to read the new Society Guide (or whatever name it will go by). I want more details on how this works, how downtime works in OP, etc. All good stuff and I love that those schools are now being featured and our characters can form meaningful connections.

5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Chicago aka thunderspirit

Very cool concept. I like what y'all have done here.

3/5

2 people marked this as a favorite.

What a great idea to make that part of Pathfinder Society lore meaningful.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Presumably the dangling potion at the end of the All Schools list is the basic healing potion?

Paizo Employee 5/5 Organized Play Lead Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
First World Bard wrote:
Presumably the dangling potion at the end of the All Schools list is the basic healing potion?

Huh! Yes, that should be the minor healing potion.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Do pregens interact with this system in any way?


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Jason Lillis wrote:

Nice! If they choose to invest all three points in the school, is the second items level half rounded up or half rounded down? If the latter, then looks like it won't have as much benefit until 2nd level, but if the former that's a pretty big boost.

Thanks!

I forget, do items start at Level 1 or Level 0? If the basic items are level zero, then you don't need to round, 1/2 > 0. :)

Dark Archive 4/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Still lukewarm on edition switching, but the story elements are attractive to keep going into 2E

Paizo Employee 5/5 Organized Play Lead Developer

6 people marked this as a favorite.
First World Bard wrote:
Do pregens interact with this system in any way?

Yes and no. In an early version of this system, there was a special option for pregens. As we looked at it more, though, we realized that asking someone picking up a pregenerated character for the first time and asking them to also choose a bonus item in addition to learning the character would be a bit much.

Instead, each pregenerated character has a pre-selected bonus consumable item of their level, representing the edge that Training would have provided.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm a big fan of this, but I am also a big fan of Seeker of Secrets so maybe I'm biased :P

Silver Crusade 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Germany—Bavaria

Sounds interesting, should be quicker to resolve than the old Dark Archive faction card, since it is just one item instead of 3 items with a changing budget.

I wonder who easy this will be to present to new players, I likely have to consider handouts....

EDIT: I am very happy that Pregens will come with a preselected item.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Very cool looking forward to see where this goes.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Denver aka roll4initiative

Slotting boons, spending playtest points, using achievement points, prestige, fame, and now... School Points?

Making a character for PFS 2e with all of this extra stuff just seems too overwhelming.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.

So don’t spend any points? These are options not requirements.

Paizo Employee 5/5 Designer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Christian Dragos wrote:

Slotting boons, spending playtest points, using achievement points, prestige, fame, and now... School Points?

Making a character for PFS 2e with all of this extra stuff just seems too overwhelming.

Tune in to Know Direction tonight for a PFS2 character creation demo! :) To give a bit of a prelude, most of those components you only have to learn about over time as you play and earn them.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Denver aka roll4initiative

Mark Seifter wrote:
Christian Dragos wrote:

Slotting boons, spending playtest points, using achievement points, prestige, fame, and now... School Points?

Making a character for PFS 2e with all of this extra stuff just seems too overwhelming.

Tune in to Know Direction tonight for a PFS2 character creation demo! :) To give a bit of a prelude, most of those components you only have to learn about over time as you play and earn them.

I guess it will get easier as time goes on - just like learning any new system. I will try to check out the podcast in the next couple days.

1/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

This is the sort of character-narrative-building stuff I was hoping a new organized play program will implement!

I do wish factions worked this way.

The Exchange 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

That's a good point Cyrad thus still feels really redundant with Faction.

3/5

It's really not redundant at all. Whether you trained with the Spells, Scrolls, or Swords or received a field commission is part of your backstory. Your faction represent ongoing engagement with elements that make up the society.

The Exchange 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

Or put another way, The manner in which you previously engaged with the elements that make up the society is part of your backstory and the manner in which you interact with the society on an ongoing basis is also a thing represented by a different mechanic in which none of those elements are the same.

Why are they different things? Why do they need to be separate? It just feels really busy and... well redundant. This would have been an interesting mechanical element to tie up with faction but I really don't see the point in highlighting both series of divisions with in the group.

Really just having one or the other would have been sufficient.

The Exchange 1/5

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Maybe look at it like Scrolls, Spells and Swords as your specialty College and factions as your Fraternity or Sorority? Not redundant just another layer of involvement!

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Whatever it is, I like it!

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Douglas Edwards wrote:

Neat.

Seems like we are asking an awful lot of first time players in terms of resource management though.

Yes and no. Previously we expected them to know that they should have stuff for swarms but that could be a rather rude surprise. This could make it easier to be sufficiently prepared.

But when we get the full list, we should probably look into making some good handouts.

Scarab Sages 5/5 Venture-Captain, Netherlands aka Woran

Awesome!

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Denver aka roll4initiative

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Marc Waschle wrote:
Maybe look at it like Scrolls, Spells and Swords as your specialty College and factions as your Fraternity or Sorority? Not redundant just another layer of involvement!

Ahh! That's an awesome way to put it! Makes me understand it better.


Christian Dragos wrote:

Slotting boons, spending playtest points, using achievement points, prestige, fame, and now... School Points?

Making a character for PFS 2e with all of this extra stuff just seems too overwhelming.

While I personally love the deep dive stuff, this is still a lot to keep track of for new players, players who don't care for deep dive stuff, and GM and PC tracking.

Factions within factions? Hmm...

2/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I, for one, think this is a cool idea.

Even though I can see the advantage to focusing, I'm torn between focusing and spreading it out because it fits the character concept for my first character.

This is actually the first time I *actually* understand the Masters' roles.

3/5

I like that there is an easy default for new players. Just take one point in each for a balanced training and pick a minor healing potion unless the briefing suggests something more appropriate.

I agree that forcing people to make choices is not a great thing, but by having an easy default, you can allow people invested in the lore to make meaningful character choices without burdening everyone else with decisions.

1/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If one gets a consumable from say, the Spells path, does it come with a 'How Use A Scroll for Barbarians'?

...because that right there would be plenty amazing to give some spell-casting options to a heavily 'martial' group.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


If one gets a consumable from say, the Spells path, does it come with a 'How Use A Scroll for Barbarians'?

Step 1. This is NOT toilet paper...

3/5

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:

If one gets a consumable from say, the Spells path, does it come with a 'How Use A Scroll for Barbarians'?

...because that right there would be plenty amazing to give some spell-casting options to a heavily 'martial' group.

That does seem like a relevant skill feat to get per above...

The Exchange 1/5

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Step 2. This is NOT to be eaten!

5/5 Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East aka Pirate Rob

Step 2. Hand it to the wizard.


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Interesting! This sounds to me as sort of like a replacement for the Pathfinder Society Traits. But in this case, giving you consistent access to some useful consumables, rather than necessarily some numeric bonus (likely circumstantial) to some skill or attack roll. If you specialize a bit, you can get yourself a skill training however, which is also a little trait-like. I really like the potential for this, and also see it as opening a potential option for a similar type of pick a 'situation' that can act as a similar type of boon for campaigns, that might replace campaign traits. I like that it should encourage the use of consumables a little bit, as it sounds like it says at the start of an adventure you get a choice of consumable. Which would seem to mean each new adventure, you get to restock one if you have used yours already. (or if you hadn't, I'm imagining you would be allowed to swap consumables to something else, if you still had the old one, you'd just turn it in and get a different one)

Some examples I could imagine being choices that could be granted at start of an AP/campaign.
You are friends with NPC (so-n-so) they begin encounters with you as friendly.

You found a key hidden on a friend of yours whom you found murdered. It was hidden someplace you knew they hid things that would have been important to them. [GM Note: key was stolen, and accesses the normally locked barracks room in Encounter C.]

You met a local priestess of Sarenrae, who invited you to a service and offered you a potion of minor healing, or silver holy symbol of the faith to entice you. [GM Note: if a member wearing this holy symbol runs towards and into the recently rebuilt shrine of to Saranrae in Encounter E: The priests at the door will block the thugs attacking them from following the party into the shrine.]

You were a part of a local gang. You left on reasonable terms, so if you have encounters with the gang they will begin as indifferent rather than hostile like normal. [unless some future event sours your relationship with the organization] Diplomacy can be used to improve the relationship up from indifferent.

You made your living as a messenger on the streets for at least a year. You count as being trained in Magnimar Businesses Lore, and can use this skill to find ways to speed up travel or lose tails as long as you remain within the city.

Basically, creating things that can be applicable within the confines of an adventure path, but isn't necessarily a game breaking situation in the long run.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Very much looking forward to seeing this list early next week. Pretty sure my first character will go either Spells 3, or mix in some Scrolls; it'll depend on the Lores and Skill Feats available to those Schools.

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