Save For Half
Summary: What started as a guide for a Pathfinder campaign turned into a column idea for some of my own roleplaying experiences. I hope all you RPG players out there get a kick out of this.
Intro to Pathfinder
This column will cover my experiences with roleplaying of different sorts, but I want to start off with a classic tabletop one: Dungeons and Dragons, and its descendent, Pathfinder. Let me explain what Pathfinder is. We nerds typically enjoy things with lots of numbers and math, hence our interest in tabletop RPGs. Among the most famous of these is Dungeons and Dragons. There have been four editions so far, with the fourth being one of the most controversial. I grew up mostly exposed to the third edition (3E) and 3.5 edition, which had a wealth of third party material written on it due to the Open Gaming License. 3.5 Edition was an attempt to balance some of the exploits Dungeon Masters (DMs or GMs, essentially RPG referees) and players had found. Needless to say, 3.5 also brought some of its own exploits. Fourth edition was a mess in my opinion, and many players grew disenchanted with it.
The Pathfinder RPG was essentially a "3.75" edition, taking most of the rules of 3.5 and balancing them out. A new campaign setting inspired by pulp fantasy, Glorion, was developed for the new setting. A player familiar with 3E or 3.5 should easily be able to jump into the Pathfinder system.
Note that there's things I will not cover in this chapter, such as feats, skills, and saving throws. This chapter is mostly to explain some common terms and concepts in 3E/3.5 Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder.
Now that the history's over with, I'll say a few preferences of my own. In character creation, I typically invite my players to skip the tedious " shopping" for minor supplies (water skins, how much rope, writing equipment, tents, etc.). Instead, I merely have the players purchase armor/weapons and assume they've already got the basic supplies (say, a 20 lb or 10 kg bag of stuff).
This lets me keep food/water as an occasional plot element or player motivator. For example, if they're in a desert region where no magic works and they are almost out of supplies, I can give them incentive to enter that strange oasis or follow a shady smuggler caravan.
I also don't really care to count ammo to a certain point. I keep tabs on player armor and weapon weight to a point, but considering they'll eventually get magic bags and bags of holding that reduce the load, I think it's a rather moot point. If the ranger tries to bluff how many enchanted +2 arrows he's got, well, that's a different story.
Now, the first thing you, the player, will need is a character concept. What kind of hero would you like to be? The sheer variety of classes, archetypes, and feats leaves lots of ways to get there (although some are better at it than others).
First, there's a variety of races, most of them standard Tolkienesque fantasy ones: elves, dwarves, etc. In this case, I ran a humans-only world, so I nixed the others to simplify the process..
I use a point buy system, which you can use to raise your stats with. The ranks go from 3-18, with 10 being the "average human" level. You'll have 6 major stats that determine everything else:
-Strength (STR): How strong you are. Useful for melee fighters, carrying heavy lots, and grapplers. If you use large weapons, a high strength is a good thing.
-Dexterity (DEX): How flexible/agile you are. Useful for ranged fighters, rogues, unarmored characters (to help them dodge better), and light weapon fighters (e.g. relying on smaller/faster weapons like daggers). Helps Reflex saves.
-Constitution (CON): Your toughness. Determines your hit points/health, ability to resist poisons/disease, and stay up. A must for tank characters. Also helps your Fortitude save.
-Intelligence (INT): This determines how many skill points you get (and spells/abilities for some classes). Useful for wizards (as intelligence-based magic users) and rogues (and other skill-heavy players).
-Wisdom (WIS): This is your "insight," and determines how well you can resist mind-screwing abilities. Useful for "divine magic" casters, like clerics. Also adds a defense bonus for monks. Helps Will saves.
-Charisma (CHA): Force of personality. This is the favorite "dump stat" for players who are not bards. Bards need a high charisma for their "perform" skill (which can give the party bonuses). Some spell casters (like sorcerers) use this for their magic instead of intelligence.
Before we get into classes, I'll touch briefly on alignments. Morals and ethics can be pretty fun to debate, but Pathfinder uses D&D's 9 ethics alignments. The two axes are "Good vs. Evil" or "Law vs. Chaos." (The later one is a bit of Michael Moorcock's influence.) Some classes have alignment restrictions, like Paladins must be Lawful Good. A quick summary of alignments:
-Lawful Good: A "by the book" cop trying to help others or individual who works methodically (often preferring to work 'within the system' whenever possible) to help others. Golden Age superheroes often fit this mold.
-Neutral Good: Helps people if they need it, regardless of how others think. A "good Samaritan."
-Chaotic Good: A heroic rebel, battling oppression or trying to shock people into bettering themselves. Robin Hood is the classic example.
-Lawful Neutral: Someone who follows law or protocol without urge to question it too much. Stodgy and bound by "red tape." An obedient worker in a larger organization.
-True Neutral: Can be an animal acting on instinct, a construct fulfilling its programming/orders, or just a person trying to live peacefully by themselves without desire to stick their necks out.
-Chaotic Neutral: An unreliable, fickle, or impulsive person, often stirring stuff up just to see what happens. An Internet troll bugging everyone they can might be this.
-Lawful Evil: Oppression and order at any cost. A dictator or authoritarian ruler. Almost any Evil Overlord. Darth Vader would be Lawful Evil.
-Neutral Evil: Not caring who gets in your way to accomplish your goals. A mugger who extorts and steals from anyone who walks past their back alley is one example.
-Chaotic Evil: Causing death and destruction for its own sake. Psychotic disregard for others' health and wellbeing. The Joker is a great example of this.
Now that moral philosophies are out of the way, let's get to the classes. As I stated before, some have alignment restrictions. A character class is essentially your fighting style and tactical niche.
-Monk: A martial artist with wuxia-style mystical abilities, specializing in unarmed strikes. One of my favorites, especially with Weapon Finesse, and high DEX and WIS.
-Gunslinger: A class specializing with firearms (most often early muzzle loaders that explode in your face), and gains various gunplay tricks as they level up. A favorite class of mine. DEX/INT based.
-Rogue: A sneaky bastard with lots of skills at finding traps, opening lucks, and stabbing people in the back. Another favorite class of mine. DEX is key, but INT is also good for more skills.
-Alchemist: A fantasy version of a mad scientist. Explosive bombs, transformation potions, various drugs to help the party and harm foes. Another favorite of mine, for flavor alone.
-Fighter: The standard "warrior" class and tank. Can specialize in almost any fighting style, from light weapons to tanking.
-Wizard: Plenty of specialist schools and variations, but a high INT is essentially. Magic Missile and Fireball are my favorite offensive spells.
-Ninja: A rogue with monk-like abilities. Needs good DEX, maybe some good INT.
-Ranger: Wilderness survival specialist, with option to do dual weapons or archery. Gets an animal companion and some support spells.
-Cleric: A priest, mostly useful for healing and countering undead. I allow clerics to select domains without a deity, essentially being more of a philosopher. A requirement for most parties.
-Druid: A divine caster able to shapeshift and gets an animal companion. Can "solo" as well as potentially act as a backup healer.
-Paladin: A stereotypical knight in shining armor. A good tank and support class, and comes with a mount and some basic spells. Bound by alignment and must be Lawful Good, however.
-Barbarian: More aptly named the "berserker," specializes in raging (boosts to power but penalties to mental stats). Lots of hit points, but easier to hit.
-Bard: Does lots of things, but nothing particularly well. Useful as party support and for debuffing enemies. They have a lot of "Knowledge" type skills, so they may help in identifying found equipment.
-Sorcerer: They cast arcane magic (offensive stuff) like a wizard, but they use charisma instead of intelligence as their main casting stat, the idea being your magic is hereditary rather than learned. They also have "bloodlines" that can confer your sorcerer a number of advantages and bonuses.
-Inquisitor: A ranger or rogue class with some cleric style portfolios and religious abilities. I haven't seen nor ever played as one, but seems okay.
-Summoner: Calls in a being called an eidolon to help. One variant of this, the broodmaster, can conjure a whole swarm of minions. When done right, can solo fairly well.
-Oracle: A divine caster class with different gimmicks based on which set of "mysteries" they select. I played one and found it to be a serviceable tank with the right gear.
-Witch: An arcane caster with "hexes" in addition to regular spells. Not one I have a lot of experience with.
-Cavalier: A mounted fighter, starting off with a mount. If your campaign involves lots of open space, be sure to have one.
-Samurai: A cavalier with some Japanese-style weapons and flavor feats.
-Magus: The offspring of a mage and a fighter. The actual mechanics as to how they work seem convoluted, but are fun once you get it down.
-Antipaladin: An evil paladin, and fairly stupid as far as PC classes go. Essentially cannot do good things nor associate with good characters. This does make him wonderful for politics, though.
There you have a bit of the summary. I know I skipped over a lot of other stuff (feats, skills, saving throws, etc.), but my goal here was to discuss some of the basic classes/concepts.