Everything You Need to Know About Pathfinder

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Odds are, if you’ve ever been in a game store before, you’ve heard of Pathfinder. Maybe you’ve even its books on the shelves or half-listened to a group of people playing it. But what is it? And more to the point, why should you try playing it?

Pathfinder is a tabletop Adventure RPG

Pathfinder is a tabletop game all about adventure. Before Critical Role was on air, Matt Mercer and Vox Machina played Pathfinder. Most Pathfinder adventures take place in a world of high fantasy called Golarion, a land where untold stories can unfold with your character at the center!

Unlimited Character Options

Between official products and third-party releases, you can literally (and I mean literally) make any character you can dream of. Want to play a Jedi? Take a few levels of monk or fighter and add a few levels of psion or psionic warrior . Do you want to play a game inspired by anime or Japanese mythology? Your character could be an East Asian fantasy creature like a kitsune, or a choose to follow the path of the ninja. And of course, the archetypical fighter, cleric, wizard, and rogue are at your disposal, too.

Oh, and the best part? It’s all free. (Nearly) all of Pathfinder’s character options, monsters, and magic items are free through the Pathfinder System Reference Document. You may want a physical copy of the Core Rulebook, but for the low-budget gamer, Pathfinder is an obvious choice.

What Kind of Gamer Does Pathfinder Serve Best?

With a catalog of products as vast as Pathfinder’s, the easy answer is: all of them! The slightly-more-in-depth answer is that while Pathfinder serves some playstyles best, there’s enough material to fit anyone’s style. You’ll enjoy Pathfinder most if you love tactical combat, heroic fantasy, and character customization.

  • Tactical Combat: Pathfinder has its own line of pre-painted miniatures for use with the roleplaying game. Pathfinder’s combat rules rely a lot on tactical choices, and you need to know where everyone is to make informed decisions. How far away is the orc warleader? Close enough to shoot with my longbow? Or is he hiding behind those boulders?
  • Heroic Fantasy: The world of Golarion, where all Pathfinder adventures are set, is a realm of high fantasy reminiscent of Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Howard’s Hyboria. But, if you’re not into that, there are plenty of adventures that take place in steamy jungles, prehistoric tundras, crashed space cruisers, and even in the streets of post-World War I Russia!
  • Character Customization: Lots of people love creating characters for RPGs more than they like actually playing them. And with a character-creation system like Pathfinder’s, it’s easy to see why. There are so many knobs you can tweak, creating a hero is like a separate game of its own. 

What Sets Pathfinder Apart?


Pathfinder is its adventures. It doesn’t matter what kind of game you want to play, Pathfinder has you covered. And if none of these adventure paths suit you? It’s easy to steal ideas from them and create your own homebrew campaign.

  • High Fantasy: Rise of the Runelords. This fantasy classic hits all the proper notes: an ancient evil unbound, sinister priests, lost empires, and… redneck ogres?
  • Pirates!: Skull and Shackles. Admit it, you’ve wanted to play a game of heroic piracy ever since you watched One Piece. Or Pirates of the Caribbean. Whatever floats your boat.
  • Wuxia: Jade Regent. Set away from Golarion itself, in the mighty land of Tian Xia, the lost ruler of an ancient Dragon Empire must ascend to the throne. Gamers looking for East Asian-inspired fantasy must check out this adventure.
  • Science Fiction: Iron Gods. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, countless spacecraft plummeted to the surface of Golarion. Now, you must uncover the secrets of the Iron Gods.
  • Cthulhu: Strange Aeons. Rumor has it that, in August 2016, the Great Old Ones will return to Golarion…


Paizo is unabashedly devoted to creating a “welcoming place for gamers of all stripes.” Pathfinder developer Wes Schneider gets into the details of canon LGBTQ characters on his blog. Have any other mainstream RPGs featured a transgender iconic character? We don’t want to harp on it, but this is damn important, especially as it sets a precedent for basic respect for players in public settings like Pathfinder Society Organized Play.

Awesome! How do I Get Started?

If you want to test the waters before jumping in, or are new to roleplaying games in general, the Pathfinder Beginner Box is a great way to start. That’s a great way to lead new gamers into a full-blown adventure. If you don’t have a gaming group, or don’t have the time to commit to a full campaign, look for a game store that runs Pathfinder Society games! They’re weekly, low-commitment events that let you explore Golarion with a party of strangers (who may become friends if you game with them!)

Do you want to know more about Pathfinder, or have exciting Pathfinder stories to share? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Paizo Publishing

Featured Image: Paizo Publishing/Wayne Reynolds

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