GM Basics – Pathfinder Society (2nd edition)

Pathfinder Society Guide to Play (Second Edition)  > GM Basics
Current Version: 0.08
Current Version Date 02/10/2020 – 22:00

Running Pathfinder Society games is similar running a home campaign, but has some key differences. In addition to GM Basics, be sure to familiarize yourself with the contents of the Quick Start Guide, Organized Play Basics, and Player Basics. You need to know what players know, what their expectations are, and how their characters are created, played, and advanced.

What Is A Game Master?

A Game Master (GM) is the person who adjudicates the rules and controls all of the elements of the story and world that the players explore. A GM’s duty is to provide a fair and fun game. In Pathfinder Society, a GM has a few other duties, listed in Your Duties as a Game Master below.

Who Can Be A Game Master?

Anyone with a valid Organized Play ID  can run adventures in Pathfinder Society. There are no tests to qualify as a GM, nor are there feedback-based rating systems in which GMs are ranked by their players. While some players are hesitant to transition into the role of Game Master, local Pathfinder Society groups and the campaign as a whole benefit as the pool of Game Masters increases. In many cases, players sitting at a new GM’s table can offer guidance to help build that GM’s skills and confidence, so don’t be afraid to give it a try and give a whole table of players a great Pathfinder Society experience.

Where Can I Buy Adventures?

All available adventures suitable for Pathfinder Society can be purchased at paizo.com. Anyone can purchase an adventure pdf—all you need is a free paizo.com account. Scenarios are generally released during the last week of each month. At least two new scenarios are released each month, with additional OP-specific content released periodically throughout the year. Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes are produced monthly, and Pathfinder Adventures are published several times each year. (See Types of Adventures for more about these products.)

What is an Event Coordinator?

An event coordinator is a person who organizes a Pathfinder Society event. This event can range in size from a single table in a home or game store to a large convention with hundreds of tables. GMs can also be event coordinators, and they often are—for example, a GM organizing and running their own table is also an event coordinator if it’s the only table.

Your Duties As Game Master

As a Pathfinder Society GM, you have the following duties.

  • Work with the event coordinator to schedule an event for you to GM.
  • Prepare an adventure to offer to players, including gathering the necessary supplies such as maps, miniatures, and reference materials.
  • Welcome each player to the table and facilitate introductions, and provide a signup sheet to collect their character’s name, level, faction, and Organized Play ID. If any players don’t have an Organized Play ID, you can obtain one for them from the event coordinator or you can download a set of 10 Organized Play ID numbers on the Create an Event page by clicking on the buttons at the bottom of the page. Don’t forget to introduce yourself.
  • If time permits, spend a few minutes looking over each player’s character sheet and most recent Chronicle sheets for accuracy. If you find any egregious issues that you can’t easily work with the player to fix, the player will need to choose a different character without such errors or play a pregenerated character instead. (See Reviewing Chronicle Sheets below.)
  • Run the scenario as written and within the time constraints of the event.
  • Give each player an accurate Chronicle sheet for that scenario based on the listed adventure rewards (see Filling Out a Chronicle Sheet).  Remember that if you are taking GM credit for the adventure, you must fill out a chronicle sheet for your character as well.  If time is an issue, you can fill this out after the session. (see Applying Chronicle Sheets after the Session Ends)
  • Complete the adventure’s reporting sheet or an alternate reporting sheet provided by your event coordinator. Turn the reporting sheet the event coordinator so that she can report the event at pathfindersociety.club in a timely fashion.

Your Duties as an Event Coordinator

The following duties are universal for event coordinators, regardless of the size of the event. If you are interested in being the primary organizer for a convention or other large event, contact your local Venture-Captain  for more information.

  • Select a time and location for your event. If the location is not your own home, either reserve space or ensure that your tables are welcome at the venue for the number of hours needed to run the type of adventures you plan to offer.
  • Choose what adventures will run at the event.
  • Gather GMs and players to fill up your tables. You can do this by word of mouth, forums, or tools like warhorn.net.
  • Register your event on paizo.com. First, log on to your paizo.com account. Then go to pathfindersociety.club and click on Create an Event. Click the Create Your Event button near the bottom of the page. This will take your new event page. For each section of the page, click the edit button to open up text boxes to fill, enter the information that is relevant to your event and click save changes when you are done.
  • If you might have new players at your event, bring new Organized Play ID numbers for them. You can download a set of 10 Organized Play ID numbers on the Create an Event page by clicking on the buttons at the bottom of the page. If you need more than 10 Organized Play ID numbers for your event, email organizedplay@paizo.com. Alternatively, ask your GMs to bring their own new Organized Play ID numbers.
  • Bring a selection of pregenerated characters to your event, covering all of the character levels for that are appropriate to the adventures being offered. Alternatively, ask your GMs to bring their own pregenerated characters.
  • After the event, input the reporting data into the event on paizo.com. For this task, go back to the Create an Event page, find your event, and click the report button on the right side of the page. This will take you to a page that allows you to report the information for your event, one table at a time. Full instructions for using this reporting form appear at the top of the page. For large events, you may wish to share the reporting task. To enable other people to assist you with reporting event information, go back to your event page and enter their user names in the box below the Delegated Reporters header.

Reviewing Chronicle Sheets

If time permits, GMs and coordinators should spend a few minutes reviewing players’ Chronicle sheets at the start of an event slot. These reviews can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, GMs may need to check to the Adventure Summary section to learn what your character did in a previous adventure, and GMs and coordinators can review Chronicle sheets to ensure that they are filled out correctly. These reviews can help ensure that players understand the rules of Pathfinder and the Pathfinder Society Campaign, as well as catch the errors that naturally crop up in the course of play. When reviewing a Chronicle sheet, if you notice anything that seems amiss, you can ask the player to explain any discrepancies to you. Remember that errors are far more likely to be honest mistakes than intentional cheating, and that it’s possible that they aren’t errors at all. And most errors turn out to be detrimental to characters, not to their advantage!

When you ask the player about a discrepancy, speak with the player calmly, nicely, and with an open mind. Resolve any issues as fairly as possible. For example, if the character selected an option that they did not have access to or that was not available to their character, let them pick another option instead. If they did not pay the full price for an item they have, they can pay for it in full, or, if they haven’t used it yet, simply remove the item from their character’s gear. If they paid too much for an item, refund them the extra they paid in the “items sold” section of their Chronicle sheet. Check with your event coordinator, Venture-Captain, or Venture-Lieutenant if you are unsure of how to fix a mistake, or if you and the player cannot come to an agreement about a fair resolution. Remember that the game is supposed to be fun, so waste as little time as possible on drama and spend as much time as possible providing an exciting, action-packed scenario for your players.

Challenge Points

In a typical home game, the PCs would all be the same level and face challenges tailored to their level. In an organized play environment, though, there needs to be more flexibility to make it easier for players whose characters are of different levels to participate in the same adventure.

To determine how to adjust an adventure to accommodate different character levels, Pathfinder Society uses a system called Challenge Points, in which you assign each PC a number of points based on their level and how it fits into the adventure tier, add up all of the PCs’ points, and compares the sum to a table. Based on the outcome, you’d use either the adventure’s lower or higher subtier, and it might apply a small bonus to the enemy creatures and check DCs to simulate a slightly higher-level adventure.

Some adventures have only one subtier. For these adventures, use the challenge point system to determine any adjustments. If the table would direct you to run the high subtier, instead run the adventure as it the table were CP 12, and apply a level bump in addition. If this is a scenario that uses a “number of players” adjustment, treat it as a table of 6 players, and apply a level bump in addition.

In the future, some special scenarios will have more than two subtiers. When running such a scenario, pick two subtiers that are next to each other and that include all of your PCs, and determine the appropriate challenge based on that. For example, in the case of a Tier 1–6 adventure, you could either use subtiers 1–2 and 3–4 and determine difficulty as if it were a Tier 1–4 scenario or use subtiers 3–4 and 5–6 as if were a Tier 3–6 scenario. If all of your players are in the same subtier, then it does not matter which adjacent subtier you pick—the system will give you the same result.

GMs should adjust the scenario before play begins, following the steps below.

1.  Calculating Challenge Points

To calculate the number of Challenge Points the party represents, take the following steps.

  • Record the PCs’ levels. The number of Challenge Points that each PC contributes is based only on their character levels.  Do not forget to include the extra pregen’s levels if it is a table of 3 players.
  • Determine the Scenario’s “Base Level” Each adventure has a ‘base level.’  The base level is the lowest level allowed to play in the tier of the adventure.  Thus for a tier 1-4, the base level would be 1. For a Tier 5-8, it would be 5, and so on.
  • Convert the PCs’ levels to Challenge Points.   The number of Challenge Points a PC contributes depends on their level, in relation to the base level. Table 1 below notes how many Challenge Points each PC of a given level represents.

Table 1: Challenge points

Character LevelChallenge Points
Base Level2
Base Level +13
Base Level +24
Base Level +36

For example, a Tier 1-4 adventure would have a Base Level of 1.  So a 2nd-level PC in such an adventure has a level of Base Level + 1, and by the chart, contributes 3 Challenge Points. A party of five PCs levels 1, 2, 3, 4, and 4 would contribute 2, 3, 4, 6, and 6 points respectively.

Total the PCs’ Challenge Points. Add these values together to get a sum. In the above example of five PCs, the total number of Challenge Points is 21 (2+3+4+6+6).

2.  Determine the Subtier

Parties with challenge points of 15 or less always play in the lower subtier.  Parties with 19 or more always play in the high sub tier.

Parties with 16-18 play in the high subtier only if they have 4 PC. If they have 5 or more PCs, they play in the low tier.  This allows small parties of high level adventurers to play in the high tier, while large parties of low level adventurers play in the low tier.

Mentorship

To provide low level players a more fun and fair experience, PCs whose level equals the adventure’s base level (such as a 3rd-level PC playing in a Tier 3–6 scenario) gain a temporary boost when playing in the high subtier called a level bump (see Applying Adjustments) to represent the higher-level PCs’ mentorship and support. 

You should also remind higher level PCs to slot any mentor boons they may have purchased.

3.  Determine the Scaling Adjustment

The scenario will normally have instructions on scaling based on the challenge point total of the party.  Some early scenarios have no scaling option for low subtier party with a CP of 16-18. In these cases treat them as if they were CP 12, and apply a level bump to the scenario.  (See “Apply Adjustments” below) If your scenario bases scaling directly on CP, you are done with this step and may move onto step 4.

“Number of Players”

 Some early scenarios use a “number of players” adjustment.  If that is the case, consult the appropriate table below to determine which adjustment to use, and any additional adjustments to apply.  (See “Apply Adjustments” below)

Table 2a: Low Subtier Adjustments

Total PointsAdjustment
8–9No Adjustment
10–115-player adjustment
12–13*6-player adjustment OR 1 level bump
14–155-player adjustment AND 1 level
16-186-player adjustment AND 1 level bump

Table 2b: High Subtier Adjustments

Total PointsAdjustment
16–18No Adjustment
19–225-player adjustment
23–27*6-player adjustment OR 1 level bump
28-325-player adjustment AND 1 level
33–426-player adjustment AND 1 level bump

*Challenge Point totals of 12–13 and 23–27 allow the GM to make a choice between two options that provide a similar degree of challenge. However, each scenario varies slightly in the differences between these two options, and the GM is encouraged to select the option they predict will be a more fun and fair challenge for the group. (Parties often prefer options that give the PCs more monsters to fight.) You can pick between the options individually for each encounter.

4.  Applying the Adjustments

Once you’ve determined the subtier and scaling adjustments based on the group’s Challenge Point total, apply the proper modifications to the adventure to provide a fair challenge. These take four forms: subtier, scaling, level bumps for adventures, and level bumps for PCs.

Subtier:

Nearly all encounters list two different sets of creature statistics, one for each of the two standard subtiers (ranges of levels the adventure is designed for). The adventure often also refers to important skill checks and saving throws in room descriptions or during events, listing one DC for the lower subtier and one for the higher subtier. In each of these cases, use the numbers, creatures, and other information listed for the selected subtier.

Scaling:

Scenarios and quests are designed for four players with ways to scale up the number or severity of threats to accommodate larger groups modeled off the Character Adjustment guidelines found on page 489 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. These adventures list adjustments appropriate for larger groups of PCs of equal level in special sidebars. These sidebars generally have a header reading “Scaling Encounter…” followed by the name or number of the encounter.

Some scenarios may have scaling sidebars that reference the number of players.  In those cases, the GM should consult the appropriate Table 2 in the step above and apply the scaling directed by Table 2, rather than the number of PCs in the party 

Level Bump for Adventures:

Scenarios and quests are designed to challenge PCs whose average level is the lower of the two levels in a given subtier (i.e., Subtier 1–2 is built to challenge 1st-level PCs, and Subtier 3–4 is built to challenge 3rd-level PCs). Normally, when the Challenge Point total determines that the group’s overall power is equivalent to the higher level in a subtier (e.g. 2nd level in Subtier 1–2), the scenario’s scaling will adjust for this. 

However, sometimes it is necessary to add a level bump, such as when the scenario’s scaling is based on the number of players, or if the scenario lacks a low tier 16-18 scaling.

Applying a level bump is a simple calculation:

  • Increase every DC listed in the scenario by 1.
  • Increase the attack modifiers, attack damage, spell damage, saving throw modifiers, skill modifiers, Perception modifiers, and ACs of all enemy creatures by 1.
  • Increase the Hit Point totals of all enemy creatures by 10 or by 10%, whichever is higher.

These straightforward adjustments make the adventure slightly more challenging for higher-level groups, though the adjustments cannot account for the more powerful abilities and spells that higher-level foes would likely have.

Level Bump for PCs:

When a PC of the lowest legal level for an adventure plays in the high subtier, they also gain a level bump for the duration of the adventure, but instead applied to their character’s stats.

  • Increase every DC the PC has by 1.
  • Increase the attack modifiers, attack damage, spell damage, saving throw modifiers, skill modifiers, Perception modifiers, and AC of the PC by 1.
  • Increase the Hit Point totals of the PC by 10 or by 10%, whichever is higher.

These adjustments are less beneficial than gaining a level, yet they provide the PC more survivability and opportunity to contribute to the adventure experience, reducing the degree to which higher-level PCs might overshadow these less experienced Pathfinders.

Example:

Tonya is setting up a Tier 1–4 adventure. Her group consists of six players whose PCs are levels 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, and 4. Tonya determines that the base level of the scenario is 1, and then compares each pc’s level to the chart 1. This gives her 2+3+4+4+6+6 for a Challenge Point total of 25.

Step 2 tells Tonya to run at Subtier 3–4 since her table is 19 CP or more. Consulting Table 2b in Step 3 tells Tonya that she gets to decide whether to use the 6-player adjustment or the level bump. She chooses the 6-player adjustment because that option adds more enemy wererats to the adventure rather than making the wererats stronger, which she thinks will be more fun for the lower-level PCs.

For step 4, for each DC and encounter, Tonya uses the Subtier 3–4 statistics. She also applies the 6-player adjustments listed in any sidebars in the adventure. Finally, she gives the 1st-level PC at her table a level bump, in addition to the benefit of up to two mentor boons slotted by her other players, increasing that PC’s ability to contribute in this higher-level adventure.

Table Variation

While the goal of the Pathfinder Society is to provide an even, balanced experience that is fair to all players, every table is different, every character is different, and each GM has their own strengths and weaknesses. We understand that sometimes a Game Master has to make rules adjudications on the fly, deal with unexpected player choices, or even cope with extremely unlucky (or lucky) dice on both sides of the screen.

Scenarios are meant to be run as written, with no addition or subtraction to the number of monsters (unless indicated in the scenario), or changes to armor, feats, items, skills, spells, statistics, traits, or weapons. However, if the actions of the PCs before or during an encounter invalidate the provided tactics or starting locations, the GM should consider whether changing these would provide a more enjoyable play experience.

As a Pathfinder Society GM, you have the right and responsibility to make whatever judgments, within the rules, that you feel are necessary at your table to ensure everyone has a fair and fun experience. This does not mean you can contradict rules or restrictions outlined in this document, a published Pathfinder source, errata document, or official FAQ on paizo.com. What it does mean is that only you can judge what is right for your table during cases not covered in these sources.

Additionally, the GM can choose to use terrain and environmental conditions when those effects have been written into the flavor of a scenario but the mechanics associated with such conditions in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook have not been added to the encounters. GMs are always encouraged to reward roleplaying when adjudicating the reactions of NPCs or the outcome of in-game encounters.

GMs may not change the mechanics of encounters. Specifically, for combat encounters, the mechanics include the creatures presented, the number of opponents in the encounter, and the information written into the stat blocks for those opponents. If an encounter is a trap, haunt, or skill check that needs to be achieved to bypass a situation then the listed DCs and results are not to be altered, as they are the mechanics of that encounter. Additionally, if an encounter already includes mechanical effects of terrain, weather, or hazards, please be aware that these things are also considered mechanics that may not be altered. GMs also cannot alter the mechanics of player characters, nor can they ban legal character options from public events.

By contrast, the GM can alter aspects of the scenario’s description and story as appropriate for the players at the table. The section A Welcoming Environment on pages 485–486 of the Core Rulebook provides general guidance about how to make your game inviting and inclusive. A few of these sections benefit from additional clarification and examples in the context of Organized Play.

Unlike in long-term campaigns, players and GMs in Organized Play are likely to have limited time in which to set parameters for objectionable content at the beginning of the game. Furthermore, since Organized Play tables often include people who have never met each other before the game, players may not feel comfortable opening up about what they’d rather avoid right from the beginning.  This means that it’s all the more important to start with a common ground for the campaign, to respect what players do share at the beginning of the session, and then be adaptable when it comes to modifying content when problems arise in the course of the session. Pathfinder Society games use the Pathfinder Baseline from page 486 as a starting point when determining what content is appropriate, both for what is present in the published adventures and what is appropriate for player behavior at your table. Add to the Pathfinder Baseline any additional adjustments that are apparent from the situation, such as if you are running a table with children or if you are in a venue with stronger policies about what is appropriate, such as a school.

GMs are empowered to make descriptive adjustments to avoid topics or situations that would cause discomfort for one or more players at the table, such as phobias or other triggering material. For example, a GM could describe a group of spiders as a group of web-shooting lizards or beetles for the comfort of a player with arachnophobia. Mechanically, if a player had an ability that granted benefits against spiders, it would also grant benefits against these other web-shooting creatures during that scenario. Players may not tell you up-front about everything that could cause them trouble; you may learn partway through the session. If this happens, you can “rewind” the description and start over, tweaking the background context of the encounter, or work with the players to create an alternative solution to get around the troublesome aspect of a particular challenge (see Creative Solutions below).

As is the case in general when GMing a table, it is also the GM’s responsibility to ensure that all of the players at the table are respecting each other’s boundaries. If a player refuses to follow along with the adjustment, pushes boundaries, asks insensitive question, or makes fun of a player voicing discomfort with an aspect of the scenario, the GM should intervene. This intervention may just involve giving the player a warning about their inappropriate behavior, but in egregious or continued cases, the GM can remove the offending player from her table (see Community Standards ).

Whatever changes the GM makes, she should remain true to the fundamental mechanical structure and challenge of the encounter. See the Creative Solutions section below for guidance on how to adjudicate solutions that are not explicitly accounted for in the text of the adventure.

If a particular issue comes up repeatedly or causes a significant problem in one of your games, please raise any questions or concerns on the Pathfinder Society forums at pathfindersociety.club, where Venture-Officers, members of Paizo’s organized play team, or fellow GMs can help you resolve it. Even if there were unlimited time to address such concerns, however, there would always be slight table variation and Game Master discretion. The following sections provide advice on addressing some common table variations you should consider before running a Pathfinder Society game.

Creative Solutions

Sometimes during the course of a scenario, your players might surprise you with a creative solution to an encounter (or the entire scenario) that you didn’t see coming and that isn’t expressly covered in the scenario. If, for example, your players manage to roleplay their way through a combat and successfully accomplish the goal of that encounter without killing the antagonist, give the PCs the same reward they would have gained had they defeated their opponent in combat. If that scene specifically calls for the PCs to receive gold piece rewards based on the gear collected from the defeated combatants, instead allow the PCs to find a chest of gold (or something similar) that gives them the same rewards. Additionally, if the PCs miss an NPC who carries a specific potion or scroll that the PCs might be granted access to on the scenario’s Chronicle sheet, don’t cross that item off the sheet—instead, allow the PCs to find the item elsewhere as a reward for creatively resolving the encounter without resorting to combat.

The Pathfinder Society never wants to give the impression that the only way to solve a problem is to kill it. Rewarding the creative use of skills and roleplaying not only make Society games more fun for the players, but it also gives the GM a level of flexibility in ensuring players receive the rewards they are due.

But what if your players accidentally or intentionally kill an important NPC who was supposed to give them a crucial piece of information that’s needed for the scenario to progress? This is a tough problem for the GM and requires improvisation. Don’t decide the scenario is over just because the old man with the letter was caught in a magical crossfire and roasted alive, destroying both him and the important letter. Reveal that the letter survived by some twist of fate (it was in a fire-proof pouch in his pocket) or maybe that the old man had a lackey who was watching from a nearby alley and knows everything the old man did, or another similar explanation. Improvisation will keep your scenario moving forward and help you work around unforeseen obstacles. For more guidance on handling the PCs’ treasure and rewards when they use creative solutions, see the Treasure Bundles section.

Secret Checks

In Pathfinder Second Edition, some checks, such as checks to Recall Knowledge, have the secret trait. Secret checks fall into two broad categories. The first category includes checks that characters do not know exist, such as a check against a hidden threat that the PCs did not notice. The second category includes checks for which players would gain significant extra information that their characters would not have if they knew how well they rolled. Recall Knowledge checks are the broadest type of checks that fall into this category. Characters that critically fail a Recall Knowledge check gain false information, so if players know that they rolled very low, they may have trouble avoiding metagaming. Similarly, if the players all rolled low on a check to Seek, they may find themselves tempted to metagame and have everyone roll again because they know that there is likely something that they didn’t find.

The secret trait is a tool to help separate character knowledge and player knowledge, but, as listed in the secret check rules on page 450 of the Core Rulebook, GMs may at any time allow their players to roll their own results on secret checks. Some scenarios will make recommendations, such as directing GMs to keep a particularly pivotal check’s results hidden or to let players roll a string of checks in the open to keep gameplay moving. Unless a scenario says otherwise, GMs are free to choose how to handle secret checks on a check-by-check basis. GMs can keep all secret checks secret, have players roll all secret checks, or adapt on the fly based on the mood and pacing of the table. If players rolling their own secret checks do metagame—that is, use information that their characters would not have to determine their actions—then inform them that their characters would not have that information and try to steer them away from using it. In general, it can be useful to have players roll their own checks if there are many secret rolls in one section, and useful to roll for the players if you suspect that there will be a strong temptation to metagame or that the extra information of the result could negatively impact the experience for players at the table.

Treasure Bundles

In Pathfinder Society adventures in the Second Edition campaign, PCs recover wealth in the form of Treasure Bundles—a simplified unit that represents an even share of the adventure’s rewards, used for ease of tracking and calculation. Each scenario (designed to grant 4 XP) has a 10 such Treasure Bundles. The Chronicle sheets for quests, Adventure Paths, and Pathfinder Adventures products grant a standardized gold reward.  In the case of quests, the reward is ¼ the max reward of a scenario, and can be found in Table 3, below.

Variation by Level: The Second Edition campaign grants each participating PC an amount of wealth based on that PC’s level, no matter the adventure’s tier or the subtier used. For example, a Tier 1–4 scenario would grant 52 gp for a 1st-level PC and 152 to a 3rd-level PC, whether they played Subtier 1–2 or 3–4.

Tracking Treasure Bundles: Key encounter areas and events in a Pathfinder Society Scenario list how many Treasure Bundles the associated rewards are worth. Each PC earns the same number of Treasure Bundles as the other PCs; some player boons or scenarios might grant an unequal number of Treasure Bundles, but these are infrequent exceptions.

At the end of an adventure, the GM should tally the number of Treasure Bundles the PCs acquired. For non-quest adventures, each PC receives the gold that corresponds to their level on Table 3 below, multiplied by the number of Treasure Bundles they recovered. If you prefer, you can instead multiply the number of missed Treasure Bundles by the corresponding gold value and subtract that from the Chronicle sheet’s maximum reward. The math works out the same either way. If you would prefer to consult a table rather than doing the math, see Table 4 below.

Examples: Tonya is the GM for the scenario, and her players are John (with a 1st-level character), Mike (2nd-level), Thurston (3rd-level), and Linda (4th-level). The team played exceptionally well and found all 10 Treasure Bundles—the maximum reward! Tonya awards each PC the maximum gold piece reward for their respective levels: John’s PC gets 14 gp as a 1st-level PC, Mike’s gets 22 gp, Thurston’s gets 38 gp, and Linda’s gets 64 gp.

Later that weekend, the same group plays another scenario. This time the group struggles, earning only 7 Treasure Bundles. When calculating the gold earned by John’s PC, Tonya takes the Treasure Bundle value on the table for a 1st-level PC (1.4) and multiplies it by the number of Treasure Bundles (7) to get his PC’s final gold earned: 9.8 gp. Alternatively, Tonya could have multiplied the missing Treasure Bundles (3) by the value (1.4) and subtracted the product from the scenario’s maximum reward for 1st level (14 – [3 x 1.4] = 9.8 gp). The other PCs would earn 15.4 gp (Mike), 26.6 gp (Thurston), and 44.8 gp (Linda).

Expectations and Creative Solutions: In the course of completing a scenario, the PCs are likely to acquire all 10 Treasure Bundles as part of overcoming challenges and inspecting their surroundings. That said, a non-linear adventure might include encounter areas (and treasure) the PCs miss entirely, and there might be small portions of treasure that a group would overlook entirely (such as hidden in a concealed room). As a result, even a capable party might not secure all 10 Treasure Bundles. Taking into account the free consumable items granted to PCs at the beginning of adventures, the wealth earned by Pathfinder Society characters is slightly higher than the standard provided in the Core Rulebook. That means that although missing the occasional Treasure Bundle stings, it’s accounted for in the campaign.

However, awarding fewer than the maximum Treasure Bundles shouldn’t be a punitive tool. Unless recovering a Treasure Bundle is tied to succeeding at key skill checks or making key choices, PCs who overcome an encounter with creative solutions should earn the same reward they would have earned by defeating that foe in combat. Adventures call out special exceptions, such as treasure only accessible if the PCs investigate a particular secret door or agree to an NPC’s proposal. If the PCs’ actions allow them to bypass the area or encounter where they would have the chance to recover the treasure, it’s okay to relocate the opportunity to a later point with similar requirements to recover the treasure.

Example: The PCs are supposed to attack a keep, and they successfully trick the guards into escorting the PCs to the final encounter with the evil warlord rather than fighting their way in. By tricking the guards, the PC not only skip the guards fight (which has 2 Treasure Bundles associated with it) and never have a chance to pick up the easily-discovered magic wand in the guardroom (1 additional Treasure Bundle), but they also skip a fight with a minotaur (who guards coins representing 2 Treasure Bundles). The PCs should receive credit for these rewards anyway; they overcame the guards encounter, bypassed the minotaur, and would have easily recovered the treasure afterward.

However, escorting the PCs through the keep also means the PCs neither explore the side rooms nor have a chance to find the secret vault where a golden chalice is hidden (1 Treasure Bundle). Finding this vault would have required a PC Searching during exploration and succeeding at a DC 20 Perception check, and the room’s rewards cite that the PCs should only receive this reward if they find the room and recover the chalice. In this case the PCs should have a fair opportunity to find the chalice anyway, such as the secret door and room being relocated to the warlord’s throne room with the same Perception check DC.

Table 3: Treasure Bundle Value

LevelTreasure BundleScenario Max RewardQuest Reward
11.4143.5
22.2225.5
33.8389.5
46.46416
51010025
61515037.5
72222055
83030075
944440110
1060600150
1186860215
121241240310
131881880470
142742740185
1540840801020
1662062001550
1796096002400
181560156003900
192660266006650
203680368009200

Table 4: Total Value of Treasure Bundles Earned (gp)

Level1

 

Bundle

2 Bundles3 Bundles4 Bundles5 Bundles6 Bundles7 Bundles8 Bundles9 Bundles10 Bundles
11.42.84.25.678.49.811.212.614
22.24.46.68.81113.215.417.619.822
33.87.611.415.21922.826.630.434.238
46.412.819.225.63238.444.851.257.664
5102030405060708090100
6153045607590105120135150
722446688110132154176198220
8306090120150180210240270300
94488132176220264308352396440
1060120180240300360420480540600

Infamy and Ethical Infractions

Players are responsible for their characters’ actions. A player’s perception of what their character would do in a particular situation is never more important than the experience of other players at the table.

Edicts and Anathema in Society Play

Several characters, such as clerics or champions, must abide by the edicts and anathema of their deity to receive divine powers from that deity. To allow a wide variety of characters in Society play, the rules around edicts and anathema are slightly relaxed. It is generally assumed that all characters can participate in Pathfinder Society adventures without running afoul of their deity’s edicts and anathema—attempting to perform the primary objective of an official Pathfinder Society mission by itself will not cause a character to fall out of favor with their deity. For example, Pharasma prohibits robbing tombs, but a cleric of Pharasma can accept a Society mission to retrieve an artifact from a pyramid, confident that the Society has gone through the proper channels to secure the right to retrieve the artifact.

While edicts are valorous actions praised by a deity, a character does not need to perform their deity’s edicts to the exclusion of other activities, or if doing so would prevent the smooth progression of play at the table. When considering anathema, note that a character must actively and personally commit an anathemic act in Society play to incur consequences with their deity, and is not liable for the actions of their party members. For instance, a champion of Sarenrae could not personally lie to a guard when infiltrating a city, but they do not need to force the party’s rogue to tell the truth (though they might look on disapprovingly)

Remember that edicts and anathema exist to create roleplaying opportunities at the table for your character, and should not be used by the GM to pressure PCs, or by PCs to pressure other members of the table toward specific styles of play.

Alignment Infractions

Alignment infractions—evil acts committed by PCs in Organized Play—are a touchy subject. Killing an innocent, wanton destruction, and other acts that can be construed as evil might be considered alignment infractions. Ultimately, you are the final authority at the table, but you must warn any player whose character is deviating from his chosen alignment. This warning must be clear, and you must make sure that the player understands the warning and the actions that initiated the warning. The PC should be given the opportunity to correct the behavior, justify it, or face the consequences. You can issue a warning to the player through a “feeling” he receives from his deity, a vision he is given, his conscience talking to him, or some other similar roleplaying event.

Infamy

When a character expresses the intent to perform a wantonly evil or callously criminal action and you inform them that their action would be considered an evil action, if the character still persists in performing the action, apply a point of Infamy to the character. Up to a certain limit, gaining Infamy does not mandate a change in the character’s alignment, but rather, represents a step towards becoming evil.

Beyond GM intervention, some scenarios and written products may present evil solutions to situations. These actions will be called out within the adventure text as causes to give a character partaking in them a point of Infamy. Still, the GM is the final arbiter on what constitutes an alignment infraction and when Infamy is gained by a character at the table.

Every point of Infamy represents the PC’s reputation for performing evil actions. A character can have a maximum of 3 Infamy before that character must be retired; it is assumed characters with 3 points of Infamy become irrevocably evil and are no longer welcome to join standard Pathfinder Society operations.

Removing Infamy: A player can reduce their character’s Infamy by spending 12 Fame per point or through the Untarnished Reputation faction boon

Effects of Infamy: A character can have an Infamy score between 0 and 3. The following summarizes the effects of Infamy based on the number of points accrued:

0: No effect. The character is considered in excellent moral standing with the Pathfinder Society.

1: The character has earned a reputation for performing unseemly deeds. The maximum item level of equipment the character can purchase decreases by 1 (to a minimum of level 1 equipment). This typically means that the PC can purchase equipment with an item level equal to their level – 1 and can purchase equipment listed on a Chronicle sheet only if its level is at most 1 higher than their level.

2: The character is infamous for her evil exploits in the name of the Pathfinder Society. The maximum item level of equipment the character can purchase decreases by 2 (to a minimum of level 1 equipment). This typically means the PCs can purchase equipment with an item level equal to her level – 2. A PC with this level of Infamy can purchase equipment listed on her Chronicle sheets only if its level is equal to or less than her level.

3: The character has earned such a reputation that they are barred from participating in Pathfinder Society, unless they reduce their Infamy score to 2 or lower at the end of the adventure. If the character don’t reduce their Infamy score, the character is permanently retired from play.

Major Infractions: Characters who become wantonly evil by performing vile actions are retired from the campaign when they reach 3 Infamy and cannot reduce the value by spending Fame. This measure is a last resort; players should endeavor to play their characters in ways that are within the constraints of acceptable alignments, even if their characters have gained some Infamy.

If a character is retired as defined above, you should escalate the report to the event coordinator, or the local Venture-Captain or Regional Venture-Coordinator. If that Venture-Officer agrees with you, then the character is deemed wantonly evil and considered removed from the campaign. Again, these measures should be taken as a very last resort.

In the event of a wantonly evil character, record the character as “dead,” and the person who enters the tracking sheet should check that box as well. If the event coordinator, Venture-Captain, or Regional Venture-Coordinator decides the character fits the criteria for being wantonly evil, she will then e-mail the Organized Play manager to advise her of the situation, including the player’s name, organized play number, and e-mail address. A player must be advised of these actions and be provided with a chance to contact their Regional Venture-Coordinator to present their side of the case.

Dealing with Death

Given the dangers characters face once they become Pathfinders, character death is a very real possibility (and a necessary one to maintain a sense of risk and danger in the game). Consider, however, that for a player new to Pathfinder Society, or to the Pathfinder RPG in general, having his character experience a violent death during his first game can sour him on the campaign and the game altogether. While we don’t advocate fudging die rolls, consider the experience of the players when deciding whether to use especially lethal tactics or if a character is in extreme danger of death, especially when the player is new to the game. Most players whose first experience in a campaign results in a character death don’t return to the campaign.

Similarly, if the entire party is killed and can’t be brought back to life, then the slot is over for everyone in the party. This means those players may have a substantial span of time before their next event at a convention with no game to play. Obviously, we hope that such total party kills never happen (and strive to balance the scenarios to make it unlikely)—but, sometimes, the dice just aren’t with you and everyone passes into the Great Beyond.

Dealing with out of game problems

Sometimes circumstances prevent a player from completing a scenario. Reasons include—but are not limited to—personal emergencies, device battery issues, venue problems, and bad timing. To mitigate the impact on the table, GMs may exercise their discretion by adjusting the scenario’s Subtier or Challenge Point Adjustment to accommodate the table’s new Challenge Point Total, bring in the pregenerated character that most closely resembles the lost PC, or postpone the game until all players are able to complete the scenario. In the event that a character sheet is no longer accessible due to a loss of battery power, the player may play the pregenerated character and apply the scenario’s rewards to his original character. In all cases where the GM applies one of the above remedies, rewards for all players are based on the lowest subtier played during the scenario.

If a player is forced to leave the table, and the game continues, the GM should endeavor to get a chronicle to the player as soon as possible.  When filling out this chronicle the Player should receive 1 XP per hour played for scenarios.  They recieve any fame and reputation rewarded for the tasks the party has completed up to that point, as well as any treasure bundles found, and any items found that were listed on the chronicles. 

In the (hopefully rare) case of a medical emergency (defined as a player needing immediate, unexpected, professional medical treatment) the chronicle should be filled out as if the player stayed for the rest of the game, receiving the same benefits as the rest of the table.  

Dealing with Distractions

No game table is completely free of distractions. However, if something (like an electronic device) creates an ongoing distraction, a GM can request that the player put it away or police his own use of the device (such as not also using a tablet computer to play a video game). If the device continues to be a distraction, the GM has the right to ban that particular item for the duration of the game.

Cheating

Cheating is rare, and it can be a rather heated topic. If you suspect that a player is cheating, it’s always a good idea to take a step back and consider the possibility that they are instead making an honest mistake. Inaccurate numbers on a character sheet or mistakes on a Chronicle sheet are far more likely to be math errors than deliberate cheating. When you see these issues, keep an open mind and work with the player to resolve them. Other issues, such as lying about the results of a dice roll or the contents of their character sheet or breaking the rules even after being informed of what they are, are more clear-cut. If you believe the player to be cheating, record the organized play number of the player in question and then ask her to leave your table. Afterward, send an e-mail to the Pathfinder Society staff at organizedplay@paizo.com, including the player’s number and detailing as much as you can remember about the situation.

GM Glyph Rewards

The Pathfinder Society offers a GM ranking system. This system uses glyphs to denote the activity and experience of a given GM. The glyphs are visible on your Organized Play ID card. You can earn up to four glyphs for running a certain number of reported games, as follows.

  • Report 10 adventures as GM = 1 glyph
  • Report 30 adventures as GM = 2 glyphs
  • Report 60 adventures as GM = 3 glyphs
  • Report 100 adventures as GM = 4 glyphs

There are additional requirements beyond number of tables reported to earn 5 glyphs. More information on the fifth glyph will be added to this page in the future.

All GMs receive the following rewards based on the number of GM glyphs that they have earned.

  • When playing (not GMing) a scenario, they can distribute a number of Hero Points equal to their number of glyphs to the other players at the table. Distribute these Hero Points during the portion of the scenario in which players are slotting boons. A player cannot gain more than one Hero Point from the table’s GM glyphs.
  • They gain the ability to replay an adventure that grants one Chronicle sheet once per glyph earned.

Paizo recognizes all 5-glyph GMs by name on blogs on paizo.com.

Back to: Pathfinder Society Guide to Play (Second Edition)

==Changelog==

0.09: Clarified (we hope) adventure scaling.  Added Dealing with out of game problems and dealing with distractions sections.
0.08.  Clarified a number of rules.  Added Edicts and Anathema to the Table Variation section.

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