Organized Play Basics – Pathfinder Society (2nd edition)

Pathfinder Society Guide to Play (Second Edition) > Organized Play Basics
Current Version: 0.02
Current Version Date 8/5/2019 – 18:00

Pathfinder Society, which is part of Paizo’s organized play program, is a worldwide fantasy roleplaying campaign that puts you in the role of an agent of the Pathfinder Society, a legendary league of explorers, archaeologists, and adventurers dedicated to discovering and chronicling the greatest mysteries and wonders of an ancient world beset by magic and evil. The campaign is set on the world of Golarion, and its home base is Absalom, the so-called City at the Center of the World, which stands astride the great Inner Sea on the mountain-capped Isle of Kortos. A Pathfinder’s adventures range from exploring the dark alleys and political intrigues of Absalom to embarking on far-flung travels to the most exciting locales in the Lost Omens setting.

Pathfinder Society Organized Play uses Pathfinder Second Edition. This guide presents the information you need to participate in this exciting, dynamic campaign. Welcome to the Pathfinder Society!

What Is Organized Play?

In an organized play campaign, your character adventures in a shared setting with thousands of other gamers worldwide. Games can take place anywhere, including homes, game stores, libraries, conventions, and online. Afterward, participants report their adventures’ results, both earning campaign rewards and influencing the fate of the Lost Omens setting. As part of the organized play experience, you can take your characters to any Pathfinder Society event in the world, allowing you to join a game with friends and strangers alike with ease. And after each adventure, your characters grow stronger and can carry their rewards with them to the next adventure, even if your fellow players and Game Masters (GMs) change between adventures. The organized play experience is uniquely immersive, as the diverse range of players, GMs, and characters provide incredible depth. The campaign is also a great way to meet other gamers and play regularly without needing to schedule regular events with a single set of people as you might for a more traditional game.

In order to help the Pathfinder Society program function smoothly in a shared-world environment, the campaign has some additional rules to ensure a fair and equal experience for all participants—no matter who is playing or running the game. The rest of this guide covers that information.

Paizo’s organized play team oversees the campaign’s content, and team members include the Organized Play manager, the Organized Play lead developer, Pathfinder Society developers, and the Pathfinder Society design liaison. Volunteers called Venture-Officers facilitate the campaign by coordinating games worldwide.

Please read over the Quick Start Guide, which provides an overview of the campaign and character creation. Review the rest of this Guide for more details. If you have questions, direct them to the Organized Play manager at organizedplay@paizo.com.

Scenario Tags

Tags are markers that appear both on a scenario’s product page and on its title page that gives key information about the scenario’s contents.

Exclusive: Scenarios with this tag are meant to be run in a specific environment or by a particular cadre of Pathfinder GMs. Common recipients of these sorts of scenarios include distinguished volunteers who’ve run many sessions of Pathfinder Society, GMs running an exclusive scenario at a large convention, or a Paizo staff member. Scenarios with this tag include specific rules on who is eligible to run it, where it may be run, and any other considerations for eligibility of receiving credit.

Faction: Scenarios with this tag list one or more associated factions—for example, “Faction (Envoy’s Alliance).” This tag generally corresponds to scenarios with additional Reputation awards for the associated factions.

Glyph: Scenarios with this tag contribute toward one of the ways that GMs can earn 5 Glyphs. (See GM Glyphs )

Repeatable: Scenarios with this tag can be replayed an unlimited number of times (but only once per character). GMs receive another Chronicle sheet each time they run a scenario with this tag, but can apply credit only once to a given character.

Types of Adventures

Numerous types of adventures are used in the Pathfinder Society campaign.

Pathfinder Society Quests: These are short adventures written for Pathfinder Society and intended to take about 1 hour to play.

Pathfinder Society Scenarios: These are the most common adventure type written for Pathfinder Society, and they typically take about 4–5 hours to complete.

Pathfinder Adventure Paths: These are long campaigns consisting of multiple adventure volumes and often representing dozens of game sessions to complete. Adventure Paths are published for a wider audience than the Pathfinder Society campaign, so such adventures often include a short, downloadable sanctioning document that details any special considerations for running the adventure for organized play, as well as Chronicle sheets for the individual volumes. Adventure Paths often offer the opportunity to experience them in Campaign Mode, which does not use Pathfinder Society rules, allows the GM to freely modify the encounters and story, and still awards a Chronicle sheet afterward.

Pathfinder Adventures: These are large, stand-alone adventure books that typically take numerous game sessions to complete. Like Adventure Paths, Pathfinder Adventures are designed for a wider audience and thus typically receive a short sanctioning document that can be downloaded from the adventure’s product page soon after its publication.

Tiers and Subtiers

Pathfinder Society Scenarios are designed so that players of a variety of levels can participate in a given adventure together. Every scenario has a tier range and many have associated subtiers. For example, a Tier 1–4 scenario has subtiers 1–2 and 3–4. Tiers indicate which character levels are legal for that scenario. If a PC’s level does not fall within the tier, that character cannot play in that scenario.

In the future, some special events will have more than two subtiers. For scenarios with more than two subtiers, no two PCs at a table can be from more that 1 subtier apart. For example, in a Tier 1–6 scenario, with Subtiers 1–2, 3–4, and 5–6, PCs of levels 1–4 can play together, and PCs of levels 3–6 can play together, but a level 1 character and a level 6 character cannot play together at the same table, since challenges that are appropriate for 5th- and 6th-level PCs are likely to leave the 1st-level PC ineffectual at best, if not kill the character outright.

Legal Table Size

The minimum table size for a Pathfinder Society session is four players. The recommended maximum is six players. In cases where you simply cannot seat four players, the GM can run a table of three players, and can play an appropriately leveled pregenerated iconic character (or deputize players to do so) in order to meet the minimum table size of four PCs. Pregenerated iconic characters are available for 1st level and 5th level. Pregenerated characters of more levels will be available in the future.

If seven players show up to an event, rather than turning someone away, the GM can consider adding a seventh person to the table. She should check with the players to determine their preferences before running a seven-person table, as seven-person tables often overpower otherwise challenging adventures and limit the amount of time each player gets to shine in the given scenario.

Tables may not have eight or more players. If eight players show up to an event and there is more table space, see if one of the players can GM a game instead.

Before the Adventure

As you sit down to join a game, take time to introduce yourself and determine which of your characters in the adventure’s tier you wish to play. The GM should pass around a sign-in sheet, on which you should record basic information such as your character’s name, your Organized Play ID, your character’s ID number, their level, and their chosen faction. During this time, you also need to decide whether you are using Standard Advancement or Slow Advancement.

Hero Points

At the beginning of an adventure, each player receives 1 Hero Point. GMs can then hand out additional Hero Points throughout the session in recognition of the characters’ deeds, at a rate of approximately 1 Hero Point per hour of play. When handing out Hero Points, try to spread them out throughout the table rather than giving most of the points to one player.

Players who have earned GM glyphs can hand out one additional hero point per Glyph at the start of the adventure when boons are slotted.  But no player can receive more than 1 hero point this way per adventure.  See GM Glyph Rewards

One Character per Adventure

You can have as many active characters as you want in Pathfinder Society. However, you can play only one of your characters during a specific adventure. If a fourth character is needed to meet the minimum number of characters per table, the fourth character must be a pregenerated character. The GM can assign a player to play the pregenerated character as well as their own character, or the GM can allow the group as a whole to choose the pregenerated character’s actions.

Replaying Adventures

Most scenarios are designed to be played once. You can receive a Chronicle sheet for a given adventure twice: once for playing the adventure and once for running the adventure as a GM—even if you run the adventure multiple times, though each time you GM an adventure contributes to your GM glyph rating and rewards. The following are the several exceptions in which a player can replay an adventure (or a GM can receive a Chronicle sheet more than once).

Glyph Replay (player and GM): A campaign participant who has received one or more GM glyphs as a result of running adventures can earn credit for an adventure an additional time, either as a player or as a GM. A participant can replay one such adventure per glyph earned. Future rewards could allow participants to use their earned glyphs additional times to replay in this way.

Minimum Table Size (player): You can replay an adventure in order to help a group reach the minimum legal table size of three players.

Notify the GM: Inform the GM that you have already played the adventure or run it as a GM. Although a GM should endeavor to be flexible when accommodating you in order to form a table of at least three players, the GM maintains the right to deny running the adventure for you if they feel uncomfortable running the event for players who have foreknowledge of the story.

No Spoilers: When you are replaying an adventure, avoid spoiling the adventure’s plot or using insider information to affect gameplay. Doing so can be grounds for the GM to remove you from the table. In general, be mindful in separating player knowledge from character knowledge, and if you are uncertain how to proceed, speak privately with the GM to determine the best course of action.

Rewards: When you replay to help create a legal table, you do not earn any rewards. The GM should provide you a Chronicle sheet that grants no rewards (including gold pieces, Experience Points, Fame, Reputation, and boons). However, do record any items expended or gold spent on the Chronicle sheet. This is an exception to the restriction that you should never assign more than one copy of a Chronicle sheet to a given character.

Repeatable Tag (player and GM): Some adventure have the Repeatable tag, which indicates that adventure grants a Chronicle sheet and rewards each time it is played or run. However, a particular character still can’t receive credit from a given repeatable scenario more than once.

Special Rewards

The campaign awards several different rewards to players and GMs for participating in the various Pathfinder Society programs.

Achievement Points: By playing, running, and reporting Pathfinder Society games, participants earn Achievement Points (abbreviated ACP), a special online currency with which they can purchase special rewards like access to uncommon ancestries, items, spells, and more. The number of points depends on the size of the adventure and the event where it’s played. Standard events include games played in private residences and many public venues. Premier events include many conventions and special events designated by the Regional Venture-Coordinator. Premier Plus events include special shows (such as the Gen Con, Origins, and PaizoCon conventions) where Pathfinder Society has a special presence and often debuts major adventures.

Adventure Participant Event ACP Earned
Quest Player Standard 1
Quest Player Premier 1
Quest Player Premier Plus 1.5
Quest GM Standard 2
Quest GM Premier Plus 3
Scenario Player Standard 4
Scenario Player Premier 5
Scenario Player Premier Plus 6
Scenario GM Standard 8
Scenario GM Premier 10
Scenario GM Premier Plus 12

You can redeem your Achievement Points for rewards at (Link not yet available). When you purchase a reward, you will need to assign the boon to one of your PCs, and the granted boon will auto-fill the special Chronicle sheet with your organized play number and your character’s number.

Playtest Points (playtest adventures): During the playtest period for Pathfinder Second Edition, players and GMs did not earn Chronicle sheets when playing the 11 playtest adventures. Instead, each participant earned a number of Playtest Points, which can now be redeemed on your Organized Play account at Paizo. These rewards include Limited-Use boons, the ability to start a character at 2nd or 3rd level to reflect the time spent playing the game, and other minor benefits.

Because the playtest period has since closed, it is not currently possible to earn additional Playtest Points.

Legacy Backgrounds (legacy campaign): Even though characters from the First Edition legacy campaign cannot transfer into the current Pathfinder Society campaign, their exploits can shape the Society’s newest adventurers. For each of the 11 seasons of the legacy campaign, a player can unlock a special legacy character background associated with that season by having completed five or more of that season’s scenarios. These backgrounds are unique to the Pathfinder Society campaign, and once they’re unlocked, a player use a legacy background for any number of characters. See Legacy Backgrounds.

Other Rewards: Pathfinder Society Organized Play periodically releases additional prizes for special events. The most common among these are charity prizes, which are in-game benefits sent to authorized charity events to help raise money for good causes.

After the Adventure

Once you’ve completed a Pathfinder Society adventure, you receive a Chronicle sheet that tracks your accomplishments and rewards. The following steps summarize what information appears on a Chronicle sheet and how it impacts your character.

Advancement Speed

Pathfinder Society characters can choose between two different advancement speeds, allowing them to gain levels and rewards more quickly or to slow down their advancement (such as to extend their character’s career or allow new players to catch up). It is entirely possible for different PCs at a table to use different advancement speeds with no impact on the game. At the beginning of the adventure, you choose which of the two advancement speeds to use.

Standard Advancement: You gain the full XP, gp, Downtime, Fame, and Reputation rewards earned in the adventure.

Slow Advancement: You gain half of the XP, gp, Downtime, Fame, and Reputation rewards earned in the adventure.

Experience Points

Each time you play an adventure, your character will gain Experience Points (XP). Typically, you gain 1 XP for completing a quest, 4 XP for completing a scenario, or even 12 XP for completing most sanctioned Pathfinder Adventure or Adventure Path volumes. For every 12 XP your character earns, they advance 1 level. You cannot delay increasing your character’s level once they earn the requisite number of XP.

Fame and Reputation

In each adventure, the PCs can increase their personal renown as well as their standing with a faction, represented by Fame and Reputation. Fame is a form of social currency, allowing your character to call in favors and support. Reputation is a measure of how influential your character is with a particular faction, and higher scores open up new and more powerful ways that the faction can help you. Your character has a different Reputation score for each faction.

How much Fame and Reputation your character earns in an adventure depends on how well you fulfilled the adventure’s primary objectives and secondary objectives. The primary objectives usually represent the main mission that a venture-captain or other influential NPC imparted to the PCs. The secondary objectives might be explicitly stated in a briefing, or they might include opportunities that the PCs can uncover during play. secondary objectives often involve going above and beyond the adventure’s primary objectives (such as recovering all three of the relics, not just the minimum two), strengthening the Society’s status with an important group, acting with professionalism, or completing the main mission without causing undue damage to important sites.

A quest can grant up to 1 Fame and 1 Reputation. A scenario can grant up to 4 Fame and 4 Reputation, though scenarios with the Faction tag typically have an opportunity to gain additional Reputation with the associated faction. Sanctioned Pathfinder Adventures and Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes typically grant up to 12 Fame and 12 Reputation.

Downtime

After each adventure, your character receives Downtime, which is a measure of their additional time between adventures. A quest grants 2 days of Downtime, a scenario grants 8 days, and a sanctioned Pathfinder Adventure or Adventure Path typically grants 24 days of Downtime. If your character is a field-commissioned agent  (rather than having trained with the Scrolls, Spells, and Swords Pathfinder Schools ), they earn an additional 50% as many days of Downtime, earning 3, 12, and 36 days respectively.

A character can use Downtime in a variety of ways, including the Crafting, Earn Income, and retraining options in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Downtime must be spent at the end of the session or it expires; it cannot be stockpiled for later use. (See Downtime.) However, players can spend their Downtime to start or continue an activity such as Crafting an item that requires multiple adventures’ worth of Downtime to complete.

Treasure

Unlike a traditional game in which the PCs would divide recovered magic items and other treasure among themselves, Pathfinder Society awards each participating PC a share of gold pieces based on their respective levels (see Treasure Bundles). Rather than divide up the magic items unequally, PCs have equal access to the special treasure found, represented by the items listed on the Chronicle sheet; simply purchase the item using your PC’s accumulated gold. At the end of the adventure, the GM crosses out any items the PCs did not discover.

Purchasing Guidelines

You can always purchase the following items so long as you’re in a settlement of at least 5,000 residents (and scenarios may sometimes provide additional allowances or limitations):

  • Any common equipment in sanctioned Pathfinder content with an item level equal to or less than your character’s level (minimum 2).
  • Any uncommon equipment in sanctioned Pathfinder content with an item level equal to or less than your character’s level (minimum 2); your character must have access to this uncommon equipment such as through meeting its Access condition.
  • Any equipment listed on your character’s Chronicle sheets with an item level equal to or less than your character’s level + 2. Some items found on Chronicle sheets are available for purchase only a limited number of times.
  • Any items and services purchased with Fame.

Note that accumulating Infamy can reduce the character’s effective level when purchasing equipment (see Infamy and Alignment Infractions).

Chronicle Sheets and Record-Keeping

After completing an adventure for Pathfinder Society, the players and the GM all receive Chronicle sheets. Chronicle sheets record what happened during the adventure, as well as the rewards that the characters earned, such as XP, gold, and Reputation. A character’s Chronicle sheets record everything that they do over the course of their career. Chronicle Sheets are a standardized way of tracking each characters’ progress that allows these characters to be played with many different GMs and events all across the world.

Filling Out a Chronicle Sheet

Image of a Chronicle Sheet for reference

The sections of a Chronicle sheet are detailed below. Sections marked with an asterisk (*) include some element that GMs must address before players leave the table, either by filling it in themselves or asking the players to fill in the appropriate information. Players can fill out other sections between sessions. More information on the player rewards references in this section appears in Player Rewards XXPlayer Basics<Player Rewards.

  1. Character Chronicle #: Players can use this section to number their Chronicle sheets as they see fit to help keep track of their adventures.
  2. Herolab Code: In the future, this code may allow for greater integration between your earned Chronicle sheets and the character builder program HeroLab.
  3. Player Name*: The player’s name goes in this section.
  4. Character Name: The name of the character who receives credit for this adventure goes in this section.
  5. Organized Play # *: The player’s organized play number goes here. A player’s Organized Play ID is the same for Pathfinder Society, First Edition Pathfinder Society, Starfinder Society, and Pathfinder Adventure Card Society.
  6. Character # *: Character numbers for Pathfinder Society begin with 200-, followed by digits that represent the order in which the player registered the character (2001 for their first character, 2002 for their second, etc.)
  7. Faction Reputation*: This section records the factions for which the character earned Reputation and how much reputation they earned.
    GM Instructions: Ask each player which faction that their character chose to champion this scenario. Note that some scenarios grant an additional Reputation for a specific faction. Fill out the earned reputation and the factions here.
  8. Adventure Summary*: This section gives a short summary of the adventure’s events.
    GM Instructions: Sometimes, this section will have checkboxes to represent player choices, which should be recorded before the players leave the table.
  9. Boons*: This section lists the special boons that the character earned, which they can use in future adventures.
    GM Instructions: The GM Resources section of the scenario describes how the players earn any boons listed on the Chronicle sheet. Cross off any boons the players did not earn.
  10. Items*: Characters gain access to the items listed in this section with a level up to their character level +2, as long as they have not acquired infamy (see Infamy and Alignment Infractions).
    GM Instructions: Cross off any items that the players did not earn during the scenario. Unless the GM Resources section says otherwise, players only lose access to an item if they did not earn the treasure bundle that corresponds to that item.
  11. Purchases*: This section records the items that characters buy and sell, as well as conditions that they gain or clear. Players are free to purchase and sell items between sessions. If your character purchases or sells enough items that you run out of space on the Chronicle sheet, you can continue the list on the back of the Chronicle sheet, or simply list everything on the back and write the total value in the box.
    GM Instructions: If the character gained or cleared any conditions that would otherwise persist into the next adventure, note them in these sections.
  12. Rewards*: This section tracks the rewards that the PC earns during the session and totals up the rewards they have at the end of the session. Players can do the calculations between sessions, as long as their new earnings are recorded.
    GM Instructions: Fill out the XP gained, GP gained, Earn Income, Gold Earned, and Fame Earned boxes before the end of the session.
  13. Notes: This section is a catch-all for anything that players or GMs want to record that isn’t already accounted for on the Chronicle sheet.
  14. Downtime*: Use this section to record how much Downtime your character earned from the adventure and how you spent it.
    GM Instructions:
    Be sure to resolve any Downtime activity that requires a check before the players leave the table. If the player is using an activity that does not require a check, they can record what they are doing and take time between sessions to make the decisions needed to resolve the effect fully. For example, players who want to retrain a feat can record that they are retraining a particular feat, and then decide which new feat they want to take between sessions.
  15. GM Information: The event name and event code in this section come from the event’s page on paizo.com. If you are reporting your own events, you may already know this information. If someone else organized the event, they should provide you with these details. This section also includes the date of the scenario and the GM’s organized play number and signature.
    GM Instructions: Fill in each of these sections. While you can choose to let your players fill out any of the other information on this sheet at your discretion, only you can provide your signature.

Community Standards

The Pathfinder Society is an inclusive social event open to everyone. It is our intention that everybody enjoys gaming in a safe and fun environment. While conflict between characters may arise, at no time should a player feel excluded or threatened at the table. We ask all participants to respect their fellow players and to work together to create positive, memorable experiences. To this end, we reserve the right to refuse participation to any person for inappropriate or illegal conduct. All refusals of participation must be accompanied by a reason, duration of refusal, and the criteria for rejoining Pathfinder Society activities.

Inappropriate conduct includes, but is not limited to, the excessive use of foul language, physical or verbal aggression or intimidation, lewd conduct, inappropriate physical contact, unwelcome sexual attention, slander, stalking, and harassment or discrimination based on gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, or religion.

Complaints under this policy should be brought to the Event Organizer or a Venture-Officer, who will work to resolve the issue or escalate the issue to the next level of Venture-Officer. If you are unsatisfied with the ability of Venture-Officers to resolve an issue, or if a Venture-Officer is involved in the issue, you can escalate the issue to a higher level yourself. As an alternative, you can report to the Organized Play manager (OPM) via e-mail at organizedplay@paizo.com. Issues will be resolved at the lowest level possible. In case of escalation, the OPM is the final arbiter of any dispute arising from applying this policy.

Nothing in this policy is intended to discourage any person from calling the police or other appropriate organizations. Event organizers or Venture-Officers are available to help participants contact local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the event. We value your attendance.

While not illegal or even necessarily inappropriate, we recognize that Pathfinder Society organized play campaign includes themes that may result in uncomfortable situations arising at the gaming table. In these instances, we request players identify the issue to the table Game Master (GM), whether vocally or by passing a note. We ask that GMs help the table respect attendees’ sensibilities and reduce or redirect problematic themes once identified. Participants asked to stop any problematic behavior are expected to comply immediately or will be asked to leave the table. More guidance for GMs to resolve these situations appears in Table Variation

It is our intention that everybody participating in Pathfinder Society organized play enjoys gaming in a safe and fun environment. While conflict between characters may arise, at no time should a player feel excluded or threatened at the table. We ask all participants to respect their fellow players and to work together to create positive memorable experiences. The above guidelines reference how we may achieve our goals. By sitting at a Pathfinder Society table, participants are agreeing to the terms and conditions of Pathfinder Society organized play.

Do Not Cheat

Maintain the integrity of the game and do not cheat. This includes, but is not limited to, falsifying rolls, altering Chronicle sheets, using unapproved resources, not owning the sources used by your character, and lying to GMs and event coordinators. Participants caught cheating will be barred from Pathfinder Society events for an amount of time dependent on the severity of the cheating. Repeat offenders will be banned from Pathfinder Society and Paizo’s other organized play programs.

Keep Good Records

Pathfinder Society uses character sheets and Chronicle sheets to track character progression. GMs and event coordinators rely on these documents to keep the campaign honest, fair, and fun for everyone. It is your responsibility to maintain accurate records. Always bring either paper or digital copies of your character sheet and all accompanying Chronicle sheets of any character you wish to play to Pathfinder Society events. If using paper copies, we suggest keeping them all together in a binder, with a folder for each character.

No Character-versus-Character Combat

The motto of the Pathfinder Society is “Explore, report, cooperate.” In keeping with the “cooperate” theme, do not engage in character-versus-character conflict. Accidental friendly fire can happen (due to missed attack rolls or other factors), but players must obtain the consent of other players before deliberately including fellow PCs in damaging effects. In such cases, the damage dealer should offer to assist with necessary healing costs. This rule does not apply in situations where a character is not acting of their own free well, such as if they’re being mind-controlled by an NPC and forced to attack a fellow Pathfinder.

Implementing Changes

Sometimes, whether through errata or campaign clarifications, rules changes are made just before a convention, game day, or other gaming event. In such situations, if the player does not have the time or the access to resources to fix their character, they can wait to apply the changes until after the event. GMs should make a note of this delay in the notes section of the Chronicle sheet. Players must update their characters after the event

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