Society Writ Large

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

When most people hear the name “Pathfinder Society,” they likely associate it with Paizo's real-world organized play program. Yet the Pathfinder Society is a long-established and influential organization within the world of Golarion itself. Explorers from the Society have set foot onto continents basically unknown to the Inner Sea, while the Pathfinder Chronicles have provided evening entertainment for some and inspiration into adventure for others. They have brought distant and long-forgotten sites into the forefront of cultural discussion, and hold some of the most complete libraries on certain subjects as can be found on the planet. Their allies are varied and many, from the crusaders who fought to close the Worldwound in Mendev and who now struggle against the Whispering Tyrant's armies, to the powerful Blakros family of Absalom—which was recently discovered to have gained its riches by sacrificing members of its family to forces in the Shadow Plane. Their enemies are just as disparate, from the exploitative Aspis Consortium to the Peacebuilders of Absalom, who are nothing more than aggravated neighbors who have become collateral damage in the Pathfinders' dealings one too many times.

A human man holds several books in one hand and a large scroll in the other. He is wearing a robe and a pair of glasses to help him read the scroll She is missing her other hand and part of that same arm. She is wearing a tattered kimono kept in place by a sash

Left to right, Illustrations by Bryan Sola and Matheus Dorrow Schwartz

Needless to say, the Pathfinder Society has a very complex and storied history.

The goal of Lost Omens Pathfinder Society Guide is to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the ins and outs of this organization, from the twists of its history to its many everyday operations. For those interested in having their characters join the Pathfinder Society, the first two chapters present a detailed look at life in the Society as a whole, from daily routines and yearly holidays to the many branches of training that Pathfinder recruits are expected to familiarize themselves with. Even those adventurers with little interest in the Society might find themselves picking up a useful trick or two from a Pathfinder ally or rival. Might your character learn a bit of the Society's silent Napsu-Sign to quietly communicate danger to allies (or communicate more accessibly to the deaf and mute)? Could one find a weakness-seeking alignment ampoule useful on her adventures?

Even those characters who find their calling elsewhere are likely to encounter one of the Pathfinders' many lodges on their adventures! From the frozen Lands of the Linnorm Kings to the impossible kingdom of Nex, Pathfinder strongholds can be found, harboring dozens of agents as they prepare to explore even more distant locales. These lodges are more than just a welcome spot of reprieve and resupply for the weary hero—no matter how subtle, the works of the local Pathfinder lodge always have an impact on local politics. From the political turmoil that the seemingly ill-fated Exalted Lodge is causing in Razmiran to Starrise Spire's increasingly tenuous claim to one of Mendev's grandest fortifications, the presence of the Pathfinders provides multiple plot hooks for other heroes to become involved in, be they allies, enemies, or entirely disinterested in the Pathfinder Society itself!

A human man sits in a wooden wheelchair with an open book on his lap. The book has several ribbons, bookmarks, and notes poking out of the edges. A half-elf woman stands with a flintlock pistol in one hand and a whip in the other. She is wearing an outfit suited for desert adventures

Left to right, Illustrations by Sarunas Macijauskas and Carol Azevedo

Finally comes a host of adventuring gear, magic items, and even companions that the Pathfinders commonly use and could provide—but that any hero might desire! From mundane tools such as glass cutters to customized wayfinders and unusual aeon stones, the Lost Omens: Pathfinder Society Guide has many pieces of exciting equipment that PCs can receive (or steal) in their interactions with the Society. Specific Pathfinder teachers can offer lessons in special feats (and who wouldn't want to learn Exploding Death Drop), while society agents might introduce a character to special new familiars such as an aeon wyrd, a wicker poppet, or even an adorable dweomercat cub!

Groups that aren’t part of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign can still have the Pathfinder Society be a part of their campaigns with the help of this book. Groups could include the Pathfinder Society as the core of their campaigns, assign the Society to a supporting role, or even come in direct competition with Pathfinders as rivals. This book is still a great resource for groups not interested in including the Pathfinder Society in their campaigns as the new rules options are broad enough for most adventuring parties to use any time!

The Pathfinder Society is a group built by adventurers, for adventurers. Whether that makes you want to join up or makes you want to run a Society-focused game, the result is sure to make a great story!

Eleanor Ferron
Developer

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Tags: Pathfinder Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Pathfinder Society
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Silver Crusade Contributor

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Also, uh... really excited about all the disability representation in the art. Can we actually play a character who's wheelchair-bound, or missing a limb, or deaf or blind in Organized Play yet?

This isn't facetious or whatever, I'm actually asking.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps Subscriber
Kalindlara wrote:

Also, uh... really excited about all the disability representation in the art. Can we actually play a character who's wheelchair-bound, or missing a limb, or deaf or blind in Organized Play yet?

This isn't facetious or whatever, I'm actually asking.

Michael Sayer had this comment in another thread

Michael Sayre wrote:
CrystalSeas wrote:
BV210 wrote:
Those are pretty cool. How would you adjudicate movement in game? Or just ignore it as long as the character is on a relatively flat surface?

Off the top of my head:

A) It's Magic
No need to impose Earth-physics on a fantasy world.

B)Session 0 Agreement
If running a pre-written module, get everyone to agree to how our story will manage this.

C) Creative Writing
If I'm writing my own adventures, being certain that whatever story I tell does not leave one character disadvantaged compared to all the rest.

Very much this. YMMV, but IMO it's more important for people to have representation of themselves in game than to create hard-coded mechanics that penalize them for playing a character that's like them or open the door for others to try and game a thing people struggle with IRL for a mechanical advantage.

If I'm running the game and a player just wants it to be a non-mechanical fact that their PC is in a wheelchair? Go for it. If they want it to be represented in the mechanics then I'll make some suggestions about balanced ways to do it but I let them take the lead as long as it's respectful representation.

I think we've got room for more prosthetics and mobility aids in our game (and wouldn't be surprised if those show up in one of the books we have or will be announcing....) but I think that when it comes to things like that, representation and accessibility to the concept should always be prioritized over mechanics. I've worked with a lot of vets who have various prostheses or mobility aids and the main thing that's taught me is that the perception of standardly-abled people about what differently-abled people are capable of or how their struggles manifest is almost always off in a variety of ways.


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A question and a thought:

Question about the Decemvirate masks on pp. 54-56 - Eliza Petulengro's "mask of whorled black mesh that wraps the head like a tangle of thorns" is the bottom left on p. 54, correct?

Thought - I'm not sure "faction" is the best term for the new PFS2 factions. To my mind, faction implies a certain amount of conflict and dissention inside an organization. Consider the phrase "faction-ridden" which is almost always used in a negative way. The new Society guide describes the new factions in a fairly positive light, certainly as compared to the previous ones. I don't have a great substitute in mind. "Affiliation" is one term that did occur to me.

Silver Crusade Contributor

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That's good to know, Crystal, and a very good thought.

It's just... I'm used to Society players being very hostile about "players choosing to be worse for no benefit". And I don't really expect to be able to play such a character in Society without getting harassed over it, or being told to knock it off when it could make a difference. "Just get out of the chair and come heal me, your character's not really disabled."

Is that something I have official clearance to push back on?

Grand Archive

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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Kalindlara wrote:

That's good to know, Crystal, and a very good thought.

It's just... I'm used to Society players being very hostile about "players choosing to be worse for no benefit". And I don't really expect to be able to play such a character in Society without getting harassed over it, or being told to knock it off when it could make a difference. "Just get out of the chair and come heal me, your character's not really disabled."

Is that something I have official clearance to push back on?

I think what is to be taken out of Michael's post is that you can just "fluff" your character in a wheelchair and that they don't need to be "worse" than any other character. It would be that instead of jumping a ravine with legs, they do so activating a spring and still roll athletics or something, representing the "effort" the character put into rewinding it.

But yeah, that wheelchair example is maybe the iffiest one (by that I mean "needing a bit more work to explain"), but saying your character is missing a leg but have prosthetics shouldn't, ideally, affect the rules.

Overall, an official precision would be needed for society. I know some GMs that would let someone do it (me included), but there's always the "no official answer = no" people.

Silver Crusade

Hence, Kali’s query :3

Grand Archive

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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Rysky wrote:
Hence, Kali’s query :3

Yeah, I was not clear enough that I was replying specifically to the "players choosing to be worse for no benefit" part. Following Michael's post, it shouldn't be worse.

Liberty's Edge

What if the player wants their character to be "worse", for example by not being able to climb or to reach an ally if terrain is unsuitable for a wheelchair?

Way I read Michael's post, being in a wheelchair or not should have zero impact on the character's abilities.


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If they want to, they can, but the game shouldn't *force* them to be worse. That's a personal decision for them to make.


Kalindlara wrote:

That's good to know, Crystal, and a very good thought.

It's just... I'm used to Society players being very hostile about "players choosing to be worse for no benefit". And I don't really expect to be able to play such a character in Society without getting harassed over it, or being told to knock it off when it could make a difference. "Just get out of the chair and come heal me, your character's not really disabled."

Is that something I have official clearance to push back on?

I'm somewhat speculating here, but it's possible the root of this hostility is the way that min-maxing players would take penalties in one or more areas, ability scores, etc in order to maximize other aspects of their characters. This could cause one to be suspicious of anyone taking a voluntary penalty, thinking this is being done to gain an advantage elsewhere.

It's clear this is not what Kalindlara is asking about, and I also think this will be less of an issue with PF2e.

Wayfinders

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In my experience, a lot of disabled people (myself included) tend to prefer representation wherein a disability has some meaningful effect, informing but emphatically not defining the character's abilities. That's going to be a bit of a spectrum from person to person, as people differ on the whole escapism-to-realism ratio, and there will be complete exceptions too, but I do think that's part of why disabled representation can be difficult to write. Not difficult enough to justify not doing it, mind you, but that's a conversation about a different kind of fiction altogether.

My point is, simply having no effect in-game beyond description might be unappealing to some people who want to represent something of their experience in constructive roleplaying. Not to the point of disruption, of course, but something meaningful, and not because they want to suck but because they want to show that this experience exists and can, despite everything, excel in heroic fantasy.

But how? Amongst the most realistic and resonant aspects of disabled life that can be depicted is problem-solving. It can be genuinely fun working out how to hack around a mechanical limitation, whether in the real world, in writing, or in a game, and that I think is part of what people might want out of in-game representation of disability. As a fictional example, both Avatar cartoon series' and the How To Train Your Dragon movies are golden for this, while media too focused on being InSpIrAtIoNaL tend to miss the problem-solving angle entirely.

Overall, while disability is pretty inevitably going to be a downgrade in some sense, it can also be a huge boon to clever roleplay and planning... But it's gotta be practical. We know that being totally unable to use a staircase is not going to work in a classic dungeon-crawler unless, say, there's a Strong Friend in the party willing to help with that on occasion (which can be pretty seamless). However, just because we're very happy with a little touch of escapism/handwaving/springchairs does not mean that we're comfortable being pushed into a situation wherein that's the only option for everything.

I'm not saying that's what's being suggested, but that's the fear; I do really like Michael Sayre's way of handling it. I think it's great for representation and also probably the only solution that will work uncontroversially for players who mean well but don't see the point. It just might leave room for a bit of jerk behaviour if people start getting annoyed at the decisions you make as-informed by your character's disability, as Kalindlara notes. That said, I'm already away-and-beyond impressed with Pathfinder's communicative approach to disability in contrast to certain other, larger tabletop companies that prefer to play it safe.

---

This is obviously a lot easier with an even slightly permissive GM willing to work with a character concept, but I'm continuing with the discussion prompted by Kalindlara about what is and is not considered appropriate for PFS. Outside of that realm, the Cursed background clearly shows that the game has room for a character with some mechanical disadvantage without everything needing to get all minmaxy. A similar background that replaced "you're cursed, so you got good at getting rid of curse magic" with "you're disabled, so you got good at improvising" could be interesting, and exactly as not-disruptive.

... Just to clarify, I'm not equating disability with an eldritch curse. Even if it feels like that sometimes. The concepts lend themselves to similar background structures.

---

(Sorry if this is a total mess; I'm not particularly well-rested but thought I should try to contribute nonetheless. I also love the look of the book!)

Grand Archive

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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Nitro~Nina wrote:

[snip (not that it isn't an awesome post, I just want to focus on one bit)]

That said, I'm already away-and-beyond impressed with Pathfinder's communicative approach to disability in contrast to certain other, larger tabletop companies that prefer to play it safe.

I agree with this a lot.

For those that haven't found that gem in the CRB:
Characters with Disabilities sidebar


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

An issue for representation in general: it is wonderful to be able to play as ourselves and having that be a meaningful choice in both flavor and mechanics.

It is quite different when you see someone else playing as you, and projecting what they think you would want or do or feel onto a character.

I have zero idea how to reconcile these points.

Silver Crusade

There is one issue in todays pandemic world.

As a not complete a##~&$%# of a human being in real life I'm going to give a LOT of slack to somebody who visibly has a disability in their presentation of their character. Pretty much whatever they want to do is going to be fine with me if they are NOT getting an actual bonus (if they want to play Daredevil that is fine but no free "I'm immune to invisible characters", for example) or if they pay for that bonus in a reasonable fashion (the latter best left for non PFS games so that we have time to come to an agreement).

But in the online world in which I'm currently living the onus is going to be on the player to point out somehow that the player has a handicap or I'm likely (possibly subconsiously) to treat their request differently.

But I don't care what Paizo says officially. I'll let players at my tables flavour away any disabilities their character has that they want to. In all honesty, I suspect Paizo is quite happy with that position even if they never say so for whatever reason (it would be fairly hard to write rules about it that would not be abusable by somebody).

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