Creating an Organized Play Character

Thursday, April 22, 2021

With PaizoCon Online coming up and Year 3 on the horizon, we thought we’d take a moment to talk about how to create a Pathfinder Society character and show you the different options available to players. I’ve got my friends “Zonya” and “Minda” here to help me out; any resemblance to actual persons with whom I work is purely coincidental, I assure you.

For this blog, we’ll be following the steps outlined in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook as well as the Character Creation section of the Guide to Organized Play.

Available Character Options

Pathfinder uses a system of rarity to describe how widespread its rules options are in the game world. When building your character, be sure to check the Pathfinder Society Character Options page, which describes how this rarity system applies in Pathfinder Society. This page lists all of the books that have rules you can use for your character, and details which rules are available to you. It also provides some rules clarifications and other useful information.

The Character Options page also lists the rules for owning copies of the books. Generally, in order to use options from a book outside the Core Sources (the Core Rulebook, Pathfinder Bestiary and the Lost Omens World Guide), you must own the book where the option is published. However, playing some adventures grants boons that let you use the options from that adventure without owning the book.

Many Uncommon or Rare options require a boon which can either be earned as a result of playing a particular adventure or purchasing the boon with Achievement Points. Players/GMs earn Achievement Points every time they play/run a game; if you’re looking for a quick way to boost your AcP, join games at conventions, which grant bonus AcP. Games run at a local game store or other event may also grant this bonus; check with the event’s organizer to see if they qualify.

A half-orc Pathfinder in silver armor, artist Sarunas Macijauskas A beautiful blue catfolk, artist Matheus Dorow Schwartz The most adorable fruit leshy you’ve ever seen, artist Alex Stone

Creating a Concept

Each of our three players have arrived at their concepts differently. You can start wherever you like to find a concept: pick a class or ancestry you’d like to try, a spell or ability you want to build around, or just find inspiration in another fictional character!

Zonya is a seasoned Pathfinder Society (first edition) player, and wants to make the jump to second edition to play with her friends. She knows she wants to play a typical Pathfinder who upholds the core tenets of the Society: Explore, Report and Cooperate.

Alex recently picked up the Advanced Player’s Guide and is enamored by the Oracle options. He thinks they’re fun and full of flavor and looks forward to playing up the curse drawbacks. He also has a ton of Achievement Points, which he earned from playing and GMing Pathfinder Society games, so he’s looking to spend some of them on some options.

Minda only plays leshys, it’s sort of her staple. Looking through the new Lost Omens Ancestry Guide, she sees the art of the fruit leshy and decides she wants to use it as inspiration.

The ABCs of Character Building

Next, our players are going to select their ABCs: Ancestry, Background and Class. These are the basic building blocks of any character; more information can be found in Chapter 1 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.

Zonya had an orc character she loved to play in Pathfinder Society (First Edition), so she’s going to build his daughter using the half-orc heritage. To build for exploration, she decides this character is a ranger with an animal companion, with an eye to taking the Ferocious Beasts feat later. She’s also considering the Pathfinder Agent Archetype for second level, to signify the character’s devotion to the Pathfinder Society. It is an Uncommon archetype, but she sees it’s legal for all characters on the Character Options page. For the background, she considers Herbalist, but eventually settles on Scout, deciding that as a Strength-based ranger, she wants to spend more time ahead of the group in case of an ambush.

Alex is looking through the Boons section of his My Organized Play page, and decides that the time has come to purchase his Catfolk Ancestry boon. He registers the new character and purchases the boon, downloading a copy to save for his records. As a Flames Mystery Oracle, this character is looking to have excellent Reflex saves and Acrobatics, so he decides to lean into that, taking the Catfolk Dance feat and the Flexible Catfolk Heritage. For Background, he goes with the Acrobat background, flavoring this character as a former performer who blended their flames and acrobatic prowess to entertain the crowds.

Minda is very familiar with the process to purchase the Leshy Ancestry boon from her Boons page, and can practically do it in her sleep. Because fruit leshys produce fruit which heals, she decides to make them a Cleric to focus on healing. She’d love to worship a Green Man, but unfortunately Bestiary 3 isn’t available yet on the Character Options page. Instead, she decides her deity is Gozreh. A character can be fully rebuilt until they’re played at level 2, so if Bestiary 3 is sanctioned soon, she might switch! As a Cloistered Cleric, she gains the Domain Initiate Feat so she can get Vibrant Thorns from the Nature domain; it’s an Uncommon Spell, but the Feat grants her access.

The three players finish filling out their character sheets and purchase equipment following the steps in the Core Rulebook. At this point, they have complete Pathfinder characters, but Pathfinder Society adds a couple of extra choices to make prior to your first game.

Society Training and Factions

To represent a character’s involvement with the Society, each character selects a Pathfinder Training option. These options provide additional consumables at the beginning of each scenario, or in the case of a Field Commissioned agent, additional Downtime after each scenario.

Zonya’s half-orc ranger heard about the Society in stories from her parents growing up. As a result, Zonya decides to reflect this by taking the Scrolls training, which grants Pathfinder Society Lore. She also plans to get some good use out of the eagle-eye elixir she’ll get for free each scenario.

Alex goes back and forth, but eventually elects to make his catfolk oracle a Field Commissioned agent. This will give him more Downtime to Earn Income with his Circus Lore, and he takes the Mercantile Lore as his bonus.

Minda trains her leshy cleric with the Spells school, figuring that there’s never a wrong time to have an extra scroll of heal on hand, just in case. She takes the Herbalism Lore the school offers as well.

Factions represent special interests within the Pathfinder Society. Characters don’t have to choose just one faction; at the beginning of each session, you’ll choose what faction to champion and earn reputation for at that table. Still, it’s good to look over the factions and pick the one you’ll likely spend the most time representing.

For our three sample characters, Zonya chooses the Horizon Hunters for her ranger and Minda naturally chooses the Verdant Wheel for her leshy. Alex is unsure, as none of the Factions feel perfectly correct, so he’ll take the opportunity to let his character meet the faction leaders in PFS #1-01: The Absalom Initiation or the upcoming PFS Intro #2: United in Purpose. Until then, he’ll take the default option of the Horizon Hunters.


And that’s it! Our three players now have new Pathfinder Society characters, in no time at all! Have any other tips for character building in PFS, or do you have a cool new build you’re looking forward to fleshing out? Share them below!

If you’re looking for more information on how to get involved with the Pathfinder Society, contact your local Regional Venture Coordinator, who can get you connected with the local lodge in your area.

Come back next week for some Starfinder Society news. Until then, don’t forget to Explore! Report! Cooperate! And roll up some new characters!

Alex Speidel
Organized Play Associate

Linda Zayas-Palmer
Organized Play Managing Developer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Organized Play Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Pathfinder Society Pathfinder Society Scenarios
1/5 5/5

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Interesting.

Today I (re)learned that Horizon Hunters are the 'default option' after having forgotten that.

As a GM, though, I'd probably suggest PFS2 #1-06 Lost on the Spirit Road -- despite being in Tian Xia, it'd be a lot easier to get three other players to show up to fill out the table. :)

Liberty's Edge 3/5 5/5 *** Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

Nice blog! Some really good stuff here!

Liberty's Edge 4/5 ** Venture-Agent, California—Los Angeles (South Bay)

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Will we see a similar blog for Starfinder Society Organized Play?

Silver Crusade 4/5 5/55/5 ****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Alex, you really did not call “Zonya” seasoned there, did you?

Dark Archive 4/5 5/55/5 **** Regional Venture-Coordinator, Midwest

On the other hand,.. has Horizon Hunters been defined as the “default” faction? That is good to know if it is.

3/5 **

Jack Brown wrote:
On the other hand,.. has Horizon Hunters been defined as the “default” faction? That is good to know if it is.

From the guide,

Player Basics, Before the Adventure wrote:
Finally, you must choose which of the Factions, your character would like to earn reputation with this adventure. If you do not choose a different faction, you earn reputation with the Horizon Hunters.

Wayfinders 4/5 5/55/55/55/5 *** Contributor

Today I learned something new. Horizon Hunters is the default faction! I also loved your examples, Alex!

Liberty's Edge 3/5 5/5 *** Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I didn't know that Horizon Hunters was the default either. I thought Grand Archive was.

Good to know!

Dark Archive 4/5 5/55/5 **** Regional Venture-Coordinator, Midwest

GM OfAnything wrote:
Jack Brown wrote:
On the other hand,.. has Horizon Hunters been defined as the “default” faction? That is good to know if it is.

From the guide,

Player Basics, Before the Adventure wrote:
Finally, you must choose which of the Factions, your character would like to earn reputation with this adventure. If you do not choose a different faction, you earn reputation with the Horizon Hunters.

Excellent!

Paizo Employee 5/55/5 * Organized Play Associate

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Faustus Sulpicius Voralius wrote:
Alex, you really did not call “Zonya” seasoned there, did you?

Again, any resemblance to any of my coworkers and/or people who have the power to fire me is entirely coincidental. My lawyers assure me I am untouchable on this matter.

Quote:

Will we see a similar blog for Starfinder Society Organized Play?

Maybe once the new Guide goes up and AcP exists I'll do one with my good friends "Penny" and "Blurston."

The Exchange 2/5 ****

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Looking forward to the web fiction of Zonya, Alex, and Minda's adventures!

Scarab Sages 3/5 **** Venture-Lieutenant, Nebraska—Bellevue

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Interesting article, but I think we're missing an example that would be really useful.

Zonya, Alex and Minda are all players who are experienced with Organized Play. Alex and Minda have played enough to have ACP to buy boons with. Zonya has experience with first edition PFS and can probably figure things out.

What about Bob? Bob is a new player who just finished playing a pre-gen at a convention or game store and would like to build a PF2 organized play character. He enthusiastically bought several books and wants to build a character. I think Bob needs this kind of article more than Zonya, Alex or Minda.

Just my two cents.

Scarab Sages 5/5 5/5 ** Venture-Captain, Netherlands

Alex Speidel wrote:


Maybe once the new Guide goes up and AcP exists I'll do one with my good friends "Penny" and "Blurston."

*snort*

4/5 ***

John Brinkman wrote:

Interesting article, but I think we're missing an example that would be really useful.

Zonya, Alex and Minda are all players who are experienced with Organized Play. Alex and Minda have played enough to have ACP to buy boons with. Zonya has experience with first edition PFS and can probably figure things out.

What about Bob? Bob is a new player who just finished playing a pre-gen at a convention or game store and would like to build a PF2 organized play character. He enthusiastically bought several books and wants to build a character. I think Bob needs this kind of article more than Zonya, Alex or Minda.

Just my two cents.

I have some thoughts in this direction, but I have to wait until certain guide pages go live, as they will make things a little simpler for Bob, but any example using the new options will just be confusing until the pages that have those options go live.

Lantern Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Online Guide Team Lead - JTT wrote:
I have some thoughts in this direction, but I have to wait until certain guide pages go live, as they will make things a little simpler for Bob, but any example using the new options will just be confusing until the pages that have those options go live.

Don't forget to include explanations why Bob can't play any of the examples above right off the bat.

Grand Archive 4/5 ***

Donald wrote:
Online Guide Team Lead - JTT wrote:
I have some thoughts in this direction, but I have to wait until certain guide pages go live, as they will make things a little simpler for Bob, but any example using the new options will just be confusing until the pages that have those options go live.
Don't forget to include explanations why Bob can't play any of the examples above right off the bat.

What is wrong with the Half Orc Ranger? I don't see anything AcP related there?

Of the characters above:

AcP 0, all core rulebook.
AcP 80, 1 additional rulebook. (~ 1 year of play)
AcP 160, 2 aditional rulebooks. (~ 1 year of GMing)

Grand Archive 4/5 ***

For that matter, playing a couple conventions could pretty easily get you a leshy... (5-6 per game, 6-9 games per con.)

**

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I think the concept of "play every two weeks for a year and you get to start a new character that you really want" is way more palatable to the already-committed than new members.

I just went through this with my kids. The number of AcP to do even a fraction of what they want to do is daunting to them (and admittedly part of that is unrealistic expectations on their side, but part of that is on the system too). The idea that they're going to play 20 scenarios (or play/GM 15-ish) with "temporary" characters just to make a "real" character (and by "real" I mean one Uncommon ancestry/heritage, not an android beastkin gunslinger or something equally ridiculous) is unpopular.

We went through 3 scenarios and I don't know if we're going to do more. They were going to try their hand at PFS GMing but it was a lot of work and I also didn't want them grinding through scenarios just to get AcP (the tentative plan had been to rotate GMing through the repeatables, which would have put them at 50-ish AcP). We paused the PFS scenarios after they got the Lost Omens Ancestry Guide because they wanted to play the new ancestries and there's just no way to do even a fraction of that until next year in the PFS context. We're doing The Slithering with LOAG characters, and I'm not even sure they want the PFS credit.

If this needs to be framed in a commercial context, I'd put it this way: the rate at which PFS-locked material is published is high relative to the rate at which a casual PFS player can unlock it; the median player cannot play all the material published. With the LOCG, LOAG, SoM, and G&G coming out in the space of one calendar year, only people who are earning 320 AcP/year will be able to play one Uncommon option from each of those books (not to mention the Rare options).


They're supposed to be cool bonuses you get to do once in awhile, not the only point of the game that you need to grind through the boring characters for.

Liberty's Edge 3/5 5/5 *** Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

If you want to play a PFS legal character that requires an ACP boon, you need to report them. The thing about ACP, they are not tied to the character that earned them.

Another way to accelerate the accumulation of ACP is to play at locations that are part of the retain incentive program. This has been extended to the online community and not hard to find. We in Omaha have 2 tables a week that qualify.

**

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thejeff wrote:
They're supposed to be cool bonuses you get to do once in awhile

For players that play regularly, that's totally understandable. To be clear, I'm a regular player, as probably is anyone else who bothers to read blogs or post in the forums. So it's all cool for us.

But now let's limit the player pool to those who only play "once in awhile" to begin with - casual players who maybe play 1-5 times a year; a new player at a convention who finds the PFS room on a Saturday afternoon and then plays there for the rest of the convention; a browser at a local bookstore who flips through the LOAG and sees something they really like. These are all people you want to draw into PFS, but there's likely a disconnect when they find out that over half of the options recently published aren't playable for some reason.

One of the biggest selling points about Pathfinder is the customizability, the hundreds of thousands of combinations of ancestries and heritages and backgrounds and classes. All that effort is more or less moot for casual PFS players because the time frame to earn AcP to unlock it likely exceeds their interest window. This isn't ideal for PFS (because it gives incentive for people to play PF outside of PFS) and isn't ideal for sales (because people won't buy books with options they don't get to play).

Maybe this has all be considered, and Paizo has priced the AcP purchases knowing they'll pull more out of high-volume players than they'll lose with low-volume players, or OP leadership has considered this and decided that long-term game viability is driven more by high-volume players than low-volume players. If that's the case, then que sera sera.

I'm just pointing out that expecting a new player to play a full year before they can unlock one Uncommon option sounds a lot worse to the new player than it does to us.

Grand Archive 4/5 ***

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Watery Soup wrote:

.

I just went through this with my kids. The number of AcP to do even a fraction of what they want to do is daunting to them (and admittedly part of that is unrealistic expectations on their side, but part of that is on the system too). The idea that they're going to play 20 scenarios (or play/GM 15-ish) with "temporary" characters just to make a "real" character (and by "real" I mean one Uncommon ancestry/heritage, not an android beastkin gunslinger or something equally ridiculous) is unpopular.

This seems like a framing expectations problem.

Playing PFS, you are going to play a lot of different characters. So rather than thinking about the "one real character you are going to play," can you frame it as "Which character are you going to make next?"

And yeah, gonzo 200 ACP plus characters probably are going to take a while to save up for and may be better to just play in home games. (I am currently playing a sprite, a Raxilite and a Spathinae in home games.)

Are you sure there is *no* character concept that does not cost ACP they would enjoy playing?

By the way, the "Median player" will not be able to play all the content released in one year, because they wont *play* enough in one year to play more than one or two characters...

20 games means you have enough games to get *1* character to 8th level, or 2 characters to 3rd or 4th. It doesn't matter that you can't unlock 4 different ancestries, because you don't have 4 characters to put them on...

Grand Archive 4/5 ***

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I am a little sad that Alex want to a lot of work putting together a fun story, to try to get people excited about PaizoCon, and instead of celebrating that, or adding cool new stuff to that, we are sitting here talking about how disappointing it is that people don't get *even more* free things, and how not getting everything they want immediately is driving them away from organized play.

Maybe people could take that discussion it's own thread, and we can have this thread for people sharing their own cool character creation / inspiration stories?

Grand Lodge 4/5

thejeff wrote:
the boring characters

I've created some boring characters, but I've always blamed myself for that. Some of my most enjoyable characters are completely standard.

Horizon Hunters 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Agent, Indiana—Indianapolis

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Jared Thaler - Personal Opinion wrote:

I am a little sad that Alex want to a lot of work putting together a fun story, to try to get people excited about PaizoCon, and instead of celebrating that, or adding cool new stuff to that, we are sitting here talking about how disappointing it is that people don't get *even more* free things, and how not getting everything they want immediately is driving them away from organized play.

Maybe people could take that discussion it's own thread, and we can have this thread for people sharing their own cool character creation / inspiration stories?

That’s certainly one way to frame it, I suppose, but I don’t think it’s accurate or fair. It stems from the original point made elsewhere in this thread that Alex’s examples, while good and clear, omit a necessary component of organized play, and that is the New Player.

Maybe we should have a focus on that somewhere. It is neither a small nor unimportant point.

Lantern Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Jared Thaler - Personal Opinion wrote:

What is wrong with the Half Orc Ranger? I don't see anything AcP related there?

Of the characters above:

AcP 0, all core rulebook.
AcP 80, 1 additional rulebook. (~ 1 year of play)
AcP 160, 2 aditional rulebooks. (~ 1 year of GMing)

My mistake, I saw Orc in the first sentence then my brain went weeooohooooo....

Grand Archive 4/5 ***

1 person marked this as a favorite.

(Responding to Mark)

I acknowledged that at the start. As I said, I have my own examples to add for that. But I have to wait till a page is published to post them.

So let's get some examples from brand new players...

Grand Lodge 4/5 ***** Venture-Captain, Missouri—Columbia

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We definitely need to add more Common ancestries to the game instead of gating all of them behind AcP. The way we are currently gating them is going to lead to some problems over time as we move into live gaming. Most should be gated, but it would be better to open some of these up a bit more.

I would also like to see a Welcome to PFS2 boon like we had in 1e. That was something very special that really caught new players by surprise. All of them used it for their first characters at my lodges.

1/5 *

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Jared Thaler - Personal Opinion wrote:

I am a little sad that Alex want to a lot of work putting together a fun story, to try to get people excited about PaizoCon, and instead of celebrating that, or adding cool new stuff to that, we are sitting here talking about how disappointing it is that people don't get *even more* free things, and how not getting everything they want immediately is driving them away from organized play.

Maybe people could take that discussion it's own thread, and we can have this thread for people sharing their own cool character creation / inspiration stories?

You mean free, after they purchased the resource to use them? Because I don’t consider that free...

**

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Jared Thaler - Personal Opinion wrote:
Maybe people could take that discussion it's own thread

New thread in PFS

**

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Jared Thaler - Personal Opinion wrote:
we can have this thread for people sharing their own cool character creation / inspiration stories?

My characters usually have a specific inspiration.

My -2001 (an alchemist) is based off of a glassblower that was attached to the chemistry department when I was in school. He had worked there for 30+ years and had a decent working knowledge of chemistry despite having zero formal training. On the more practical side, he taught me what types of cracks and breaks in flasks are repairable. On the less practical side, he also taught me how to make little glass birds out of stirring rods. Very cool guy.

My character is a glassblower who used alchemy to make her glass pieces stand out in competitions, and then realized she liked alchemy more.

At my first game, someone asked me if my character recycled broken glass, I said yes, and for the next week I was in a deep Wikipedia rabbithole looking up medieval glass staining techniques.

Scarab Sages 3/5 **** Venture-Lieutenant, Nebraska—Bellevue

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I didn't mean to divert this discussion or spawn off a side discussion when I asked about Bob, the new player. I simply was trying to encourage some thought about how to target this kind of article towards a new player.

That said, back to the point ....

Alex wrote:
Have any other tips for character building in PFS, or do you have a cool new build you’re looking forward to fleshing out? Share them below!

I have ended up building out 10 PF2 Society characters. (Involves a lot of repeatable scenarios as a GM.) I find I have a few different categories.

The first two were characters I pulled from previous games (3.0 and Rolemaster). The main thought was to see how the characters built out mechanically.

The next two were tied story-wise to the ongoing Lost Omens narrative. One was based on a NPC briefly mentioned in a 1st ed scenario. The other was a Champion from a country that ceased to exist recently. Mostly tried to ground these in the narrative.

The remaining ones were based on interesting classes or ancestries - several of which cost me ACP - but not all. Having played/GM'd the first four, I had enough to do some interesting things. I applied backgrounds I earned with other characters, or built a character centered on some element of the story.

My main advice to a new player would be to pick something you're familiar with, from a prior game, a movie or TV. Then build something that resembles that. The character may not perform exactly like you expect. But the character (like the player) is new to this Society stuff. Feel free to let the character evolve with the story as you experience it. That character evolution as you gain experience is the best part of Pathfinder.

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