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Getting Started with Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Gwenevere Rothwell

Mar 3, 2023

So you’re interested in Pathfinder 2nd Edition, but now you’re wondering where to start. Look no further to find your answer!

Image by Kiwihug

Pathfinder 2nd Edition is a tabletop roleplaying game set in a high fantasy universe. There’s magic and wizards, brave knights, shapeshifting druids, divine champions, and horrific monsters. Explore alien ruins, extradimensional planes, and terrifying lairs; the possibilities are endless.

What is a Tabletop Roleplaying Game?

Before we really delve into the meat of Pathfinder 2nd Edition, let’s cover some basics. Pathfinder 2nd Edition is a d20 tabletop roleplaying game, but what does that mean?

A tabletop roleplaying game is equal parts board game and collaborative storytelling. At the end of the day, you are telling a story between you and your friends about grandiose and fantastical adventures. The game is run by what is called a Game Master (or GM) which is the equivalent of a story teller, narrator, or Big Brother. They govern the setting you’re in and what sort of situations you’ll be dealing with.

The system relies on die rolls and storytelling—imagination is a big part of the game. The die rolls you’ll be doing are done most often with a twenty sided die (or d20) which is then compared to a difficulty check (or DC) set by the GM. For any given check you add an assortment of modifiers that can help or hinder your roll. So, the results of the game are determined by various rolls which results in the outcome of the narrative. Did you hit the ogre with your sword? Did you sneak past that guard? Did you seduce the maiden? Or did you hit the guard with your sword, sneak past the maiden, and seduce the ogre? The options available are only limited by the rules and your imagination.

The Tools

So, now that you know the basics of the game, what do you need to play? This hobby can be as inexpensive or as expansive as you want it to be thanks to all the tools available online. To start, you’re going to need a set of RPG dice, which you can find in any specialty store. These dice packs contain a d20, two d10, a d8, a d6, and a d4. The ‘d’ in front of each number is simply an abbreviation of how many sides that particular die has, so a d20 has twenty sides, while a d4 has four sides. You get two d10s so you can perform “d% rolls” where you use a d10 that has tens digits and a d10 that has 0-9 to come up with a number between 1 and 100. For example, if you rolled a 20 and a 4, you got 24. If you rolled a 00 and an 8, you got an 8. If you rolled a 00 and a 0, you got 100 (that can be confusing). Dice vary dramatically in price, but if you want something free you can also find a plethora of apps, programs, and websites online. Googling “Dice Roller” gets you a quick and easy tool that has all the dice you’ll need.

Next are the rulebook(s). As stated before, Pathfinder 2nd Edition can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. Below I’ve listed three options depending on your price range.

First, you can go completely free. Yes, that’s right, going free with Pathfinder 2nd Edition is not only doable, but 100% legal as long as the site you use adheres to Paizo’s policies. I personally recommend Archives of Nethys as it is often referred to by Paizo themselves and it is a good source of all the rules you’ll need to play. While it gives you the full list of rules, most of the game’s lore is not accessible through this method, and even the Pathfinder Wiki can be limited (and often outdated).

Alternatively, you can go for paid PDFs which you can find on the official Paizo site. Make sure when browsing the site that you’re looking at Second Edition rulebooks and not First Edition rulebooks (you can tell if it’s Second Edition because it will have that printed somewhere near the top of the cover). These PDFs are much cheaper than the physical copy equivalent. The PDF of the core rulebook goes for $19.99 CAD as opposed to the physical copy which is $59.99 CAD. These PDFs come with a watermark on the top and bottom of each page that has your purchase information, similar to a receipt and will look something like, “ #0000000, John Smith <>, Dec 12, 2019,” and it is used for identification in Society Play.

The third option is to get physical copies of the books which range from $30 to $60 CAD. They usually ship within a week or two, but are sometimes affected by backorder and don’t come with a PDF version unless you subscribe to the Pathfinder Rulebook Ongoing Subscription which gets you both a physical copy and the PDF (with the PDF being free).

Dungeon tiles, miniatures, playmats, and GM screens are optional. My friends and I have played tabletop games since we were kids and only recently started investing in maps, miniatures, and tiles. Imagination can go a long way.

Recommended Rulebooks

Below are my personal recommendations when it comes to purchasing rulebooks.

  1. Pathfinder Core Rulebook: The core rulebook does a really good job at introducing Pathfinder 2nd Edition and roleplaying games in general to new players and GMs. It has all the rules you’ll need to play your own homebrew games aside for the monsters.

  2. Pathfinder Bestiary: The bestaries contain a catalogue of monsters with stats, DCs, roleplay information, and more. This is an essential buy if you plan on playing without the use of something like the Archives of Nethys.

  3. Pathfinder Bestiary 2: Not as essential as the first bestiary, but it adds a vast array of monsters that truly make Pathfinder 2nd Edition feel unique. (Same can also be said about the third Bestiary).

  4. Advanced Player’s Guide: This book is filled to the brim with additional options, classes, and ancestries, but because there are so many options it can be pretty overwhelming to introduce to players from the get go.

  5. Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide: The Pathfinder Core Rulebook includes guides, options, and knowledge for what a GM needs in order to run Pathfinder 2nd Edition. What a Gamemastery Guide offers is a slew of additional options and details, but none of it is essential to running your game.

Pathfinder Lost Omens(Series): Far from required material, the Pathfinder Lost Omens series has everything you need to delve deep into the lore and setting of Pathfinder. These books offer whole new character options, in depth details of their respective focus, and fun toys for players and GMs alike.

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