How to Play Pathfinder: The Unofficial Guide to Playing Pathfinder for Beginners

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How to Play Pathfinder: The Unofficial Guide to Playing Pathfinder for Beginners

Pathfinder is the most popular tabletop role-playing game in the world today. It’s what Dungeons & Dragons wanted to be when it grew up. People in virtually every country are playing Pathfinder, gathering with friends and having fantastic adventures that inspire creativity, flex the imagination, teach coping and problem solving skills, and improve your ability to do math on the fly. Most of all, it’s fun and it gives you something that you and your friends can experience together.

The first time I played a role-playing game, I was a 17-year-old freshman in college. I had heard of Dungeons & Dragons - nobody got out of the 1970’s and 1980’s without at least knowing that much. Even ET the Extraterrestrial had a scene where Elliot and his friends are playing a role-playing game at the kitchen table.

Fast forward thirty years. I’m still playing. I’ve played hundreds, if not thousands, of games. I have been the Game Master for friends and club members alike. I’ve had moving moments, laughed until I cried, and made lifelong friends around a table filled with dice and game books.

If you’ve picked up this book today because you want to play Pathfinder but don’t quite know how to get started, welcome. You’re about to embark on an incredible journey.

The beautiful thing about RPGs is that you can be anyone at all. You can play a character who is just like you in terms of appearance, likes, dislikes, and all the rest. You can also play someone who is completely unlike you in as many ways as they could possibly be. This gives you the chance to experience the world through a lot of different points of view, and after a few games, you might find that you understand your friends and what they’re going through a little better than you did before. This sort of play can help spark empathy for other people. It’s also a really neat way to leave behind your teachers, your boyfriends, your bosses, your work or school stress and everything that makes the real world hard to take. For the duration of your game, you don’t need to worry about deadlines or due dates, because for this little space of time, you’re someone else. It sounds psychotic, but it’s actually a very positive and healthy way to blow off steam. When you go back to your real life, you’ll feel a little more balanced in the face of what you were dealing with, because you’ve given yourself the chance to take a step back and breathe.

So, you can be anyone. Who do you want to be?

So you have your armor and your weapon. You’re ready to hit the open road and find the bad guys, right?

Nope. Not so fast.

You also need equipment. Your extra gear is absolutely essential to success in an adventure game like Pathfinder. You will need ropes for climbing down into holes to retrieve treasure, or sometimes unlucky party members. You will need torches or lanterns so you’ll have light in the dungeons and caves you’ll be exploring. You’ll want a bedroll and trail rations so that you won’t take hardship penalties for neglecting your creature comforts. Everything counts. You can also use your equipment to earn a little money on the side. As an example, wizards can make coin by acting as hired scribes for the general public, many of whom are illiterate (this is the Middle Ages, after all). A thief can have masterwork thieves’ tools, which are basically extremely good and fancy lock picks, to make disabling traps and stealing the mayor’s wife’s jewels much easier. Also, equipment can help you in unexpected ways - when a bad guy is attacking you while under an Invisibility spell, nothing ruins his day like the suitable application of a bag of flour.

About the Expert
Jody Cummings has been playing RPGs since she was a college freshman all the way back in 1987. Today, 29 years later, she’s still playing every chance she gets. She is currently running a Pathfinder Adventure Path for her friends. Under the pen name of J. A. Cummings, she has published.

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