Running Pathfinder Society games is similar to running a home campaign with a few house rules established by campaign leadership. In addition to GM Basics, be sure to familiarize yourself with the contents of the  Welcome to Pathfinder SocietyCommunity Standards and Expectations, 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 GM?

A Game Master (GM) is the person who presents the story, adjudicates the rules, and establishes the parameters of the player’s exploration. A GM’s duty is to provide a fair and fun game for all involved, including themselves. In the 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 Pathfinder Society adventures. As local Pathfinder Society groups and the campaign as a whole benefit as the pool of Game Masters increases, the venture-officer network provides support and guidance for any who want to GM. 

Your Duties As Game Master

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

  • Communicate with your local event coordinator. 
  • Prepare an adventure to offer to players, including gathering the necessary supplies such as maps, miniatures, and reference materials.
  • Provide a welcoming environment for players.
  • Deliver session results to the player via established recording mechanisms.
  • Report the results of the game.

Where Can I Buy Adventures?

Paizo produces two categories of adventures, available for purchase at paizo.com

Pathfinder Society adventures, including scenarios, quests, and bounties, generally release during the last week of each month. Current production rates include one or two new scenarios monthly, with additional Society content released periodically throughout the year. These adventures are written expressly for use in the Pathfinder Society campaign.

Pathfinder Adventures, including Adventure Paths, Modules, and Stand-alone adventures, are produced monthly. These adventures are oftentimes sanctioned for use in the Pathfinder Society campaign. Information on how to incorporate them into your Society experience is found on each product’s description page at paizo.com. (See  Types of Adventures for more about these products.)

Before the Adventure

Reviewing Chronicles

If time permits, GMs and Event Coordinators should spend a few minutes reviewing players’ Chronicles at the start of an event slot. These reviews can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, GMs might need to check to the Adventure Summary section to learn what a character did in a previous adventure, and GMs and Coordinators can review Chronicles 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.  (See “ Dealing with Chronicle Errors” for more on this.)

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.

Each scenario or quest will list the levels of characters able to play in it, as well one or more level ranges within the adventure.  If an adventure has more than 2 level ranges each table must choose 2 adjacent level ranges for that adventure.  Only Characters of a level that falls within those two level ranges can play in that adventure at that table.

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.  
  • Determine the Adventures “Base Level”.  The base level is the lowest level allowed to play at that table.
  • Convert the PCs’ levels to Challenge Points.   Table 1 below notes how many Challenge Points each PC of a given level represents.
Table: Challenge points

 

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

For example, an adventure for levels 1-4  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. 
  • If playing a table with fewer than 4 PCs, use the following chart to determine what level of Pregens to add, and how many additional challenge points.
Table: Adding Pregens
Base
Level
PCsCPPregensCP adj.
12<82 lvl 1 pregens+4
 28+2 lvl 3 pregens+8
 3<121 lvl 1 pregen+2
 312+1 lvl 3 pregen+4
32<82 lvl 3 pregens+4
 28+2 lvl 5 pregens+8
 3<121 lvl 3 pregen+2
 312+1 lvl 5 pregen+4
52Any2 lvl 5 pregens+4
 3Any1 lvl 5 pregen+2
7+3<12none*+2
 312+none*+4
  • This table is only legal if all players at the table agree.  While we expect this “hard mode” playthrough experience to be satisfying, we want to caution you that, as the adventures are designed for a minimum of four players, they will be more difficult than normal. 

 

2.   Determine the Level Range

Parties with challenge points of 15 or less always play in the lower level range.  Parties with 19 or more always play in the higher level range.

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

Mentorship and PC Level Bumps

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 Level 3–6 scenario) gain a temporary boost when playing in the higher level range called a level bump to represent the higher-level PCs’ mentorship and support. 

  • 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.

You should also remind higher level PCs to apply any mentor boons they might have purchased.

Apply the relevant adjustments to the PC's animal companions, eidolons, and familiars as well. If a value is already increased by applying the adjustment to a PC (such as a familiar's save modifiers and AC), do not increase the value a second time.

3.   Adjusting the Adventure

Once you’ve determined the level range and Challenge Point total, apply the proper modifications to the adventure to provide a fair challenge. 

Level Range: Nearly all encounters list two different sets of creature statistics, one for each of the two level ranges 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 level range and one for the higher level range. In each of these cases, use the numbers, creatures, and other information listed for the selected level range.

Scaling: Within a level range, the scenario will also contain instructions for adjusting the difficulty of the scenario based on the PC’s Challenge Points.  These scaling instructions are generally found in “scaling sidebars” but might also be in the text of the room description or encounter.

Early Scenarios:

Some early scenarios were written before the CP system was fully developed.  If you are GMing  scenario 1-00 through 1-11 or quests 1, 2, or 5 consult the “ Converting Early Scenarios Appendix

During the Adventure

Hero Points: At the beginning of an adventure, each PC receives 1 Hero Point. GMs should then hand out additional Hero Points at a rate of approximately 1 Hero Point per hour of play, following the Guide lines on page 507 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. 

Secret Checks: Unless a scenario says otherwise, GMs are free to choose how to handle secret checks (Core Rulebook 450) on a check-by-check basis and should adapt based on the mood and pacing of the table. 

If players rolling their own secret checks 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.  

Table Variation

A goal of the Pathfinder Society program is to provide a fun, engaging, consistent experience at all tables. GMs should run Pathfinder Society adventures as written, which means:

  • No change to major plot points and interactions
  • No addition or subtraction to the number of monsters other than scaling directed by the scenario
  • No changes to armor, feats, items, skills, spells, statistics, traits, or weapons.
  • No alteration of mechanics of player characters, 
  • Nor banning of  legal character options 

Beyond the above, GMs are encouraged to make choices which would result in the most enjoyable play experience for everyone at the table and that emphasize PCs are the heroes of the story. Some examples of GM discretion include the following.  

  • Creatures tactics that have been invalidated by the player actions.
  • Unclear rules, or situations or player actions not covered by the rules.
  • Terrain or environmental conditions described by the scenario, but not given mechanics.  (If the mechanics are included, however, they cannot be altered.)
  • Reactions of NPCs to good roleplaying, and the effect that has on the outcome of the encounter.
  • Alternate or creative skills used to bypass or overcome traps, haunts, and skill checks.  (Although the DCs and results of the check are part of the mechanics and should not be changed.)
  • Aspects of the scenario’s description and story as appropriate for the players at the table as described in the section A Welcoming Environment on pages 485–486 of the Core Rulebook. 
  • Changes required to comply with the  Acceptable Content provision of Community Standards.
  • Creative solutions presented by players in overcoming obstacles.
  • Moving plot points missed by players to encounterable areas (this does not include moving missed treasure bundles).

More details on each of these can be found in the Table Variation Appendix.

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 where Venture-Officers, members of Paizo’s organized play team, or fellow GMs can help you resolve it.

Ethical Infractions and Infamy

Players are responsible for their characters’ choices and are subject to consequences resulting from those choices actions. In game actions earn characters  Infamy, while code of conduct violations earn players  table sanctions.

Below we list some common issues, which are covered more in the Table Variation Appendix:

  • A player’s perception of what their character would do versus the experience of other players at the table.
  • Deity or class anathemas and edicts as they interact with Pathfinder Society missions.
  • Class opposition such as a paladin and a necromancer on the same mission team.
  • Characters perform evil or criminal acts.

After the Adventure

Advancement Speed

Some players may be making use of the Slow Advancement Additional Character Option. If they are, they should have marked their character as "Slow" on the sign in sheet. In this case divide XP, Primary and Secondary Reputation, and Gold from treasure bundles in half (Do not round). It will also affect downtime, but the player is responsible for handling that.

Fame

Adventures in Year 1 granted Fame as a spendable and trackable currency. As of Year 2, adventures no longer reward Fame.

Reputation

Each adventure lists how much reputation to award.  Typically Scenarios will award 2 Reputation for accomplishing the mission you were sent on and 2 more for going above and beyond expectations (for a total of 4 Reputation gained.)  Scenarios with the Faction tag will often reward an additional 2 Reputation with the highlighted Faction for completing the factions goals.  See the Reputation Reputation Boons appendix for more on reputation.

A quest typically grants 1 Reputation.  Sanctioned Adventures have variable Reputation rewards called out in the sanctioning documentation.

Treasure

Treasure Access: Items that the PCs did not encounter must be crossed off the treasure access list by the GM.

Treasure Bundles

At the end of a scenario, the GM should tally the number of Treasure Bundles (TB) found. The value of a treasure bundle depends on the level of the character earning it. Most scenarios are designed to award 8 Treasure Bundles, with 2 bonus Treasure Bundles available through exceptional play. The chart below gives the value of individual treasure bundles, and the most common values.

Quests, Bounties, and sanctioned adventures  grant standardized gold rewards instead of  Treasure Bundles. In the case of Quests, this is 2.5 Treasure Bundles

Table: Treasure Bundles

LVL 1-4 TREASURE BUNDLE VALUE
LevelTreasure Bundle7 TB 8 TB9 TB 10 TB Quest Reward
11.4 gp9.8 gp11.2 gp12.6 gp14 gp3.5 gp
22.2 gp15.4 gp17.6 gp19.8 gp22 gp5.5 gp
33.8 gp26.6 gp30.4 gp34.2 gp38 gp9.5 gp
46.4 gp42.8 gp49.255.664 gp16 gp

LVL 3-6 TREASURE BUNDLE VALUE
LevelTreasure BundleMax Scenario RewardMax Slow Track RewardQuest Reward
3 3.8 gp38 gp19 gp9.5 gp
46.4 gp64 gp32 gp16 gp
510 gp100 gp50 gp25 gp
615 gp150 gp75 gp37.5 gp

LVL 5-8 TREASURE BUNDLE VALUE
LevelTreasure BundleMax Scenario RewardMax Slow Track RewardQuest Reward
510 gp100 gp50 gp25 gp
615 gp150 gp75 gp37.5 gp
722 gp220 gp110 gp55 gp
830 gp300 gp150 gp75 gp

LVL 7-10 TREASURE BUNDLE VALUE
LevelTreasure BundleMax Scenario RewardMax Slow Track RewardQuest Reward
722 gp220 gp110 gp55 gp
830 gp300 gp150 gp75 gp
944 gp440 gp220 gp110 gp
1060 gp600 gp300 gp150 gp

LVL 9-12 TREASURE BUNDLE VALUE
LevelTreasure BundleMax Scenario RewardMax Slow Track RewardQuest Reward
944 gp440 gp220 gp110 gp
1060 gp600 gp300 gp150 gp
1186 gp860 gp430 gp215 gp
12124 gp1240 gp620 gp310 gp

LVL 11-14 TREASURE BUNDLE VALUE

LVL 13-16 TREASURE BUNDLE VALUE

LVL 15-18 TREASURE BUNDLE VALUE

LVL 17-20 TREASURE BUNDLE VALUE


Filling Out a Chronicle


Sample Chronicles


Chron.jpg
Season 1 Chronicle


Chron2.png
Season 2 Chronicle



The sections of a Chronicle 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. 

  • (A.) Adventure Name/Number: Preprinted on the form.
  • (B.) Character Name: Name of the hero who took part in this adventure.
  • (C.) Character Number:* Unique Identifier for the character who took part in the adventure, including players Organized Play ID and the Character number.
  • (D.) Partner Code: A unique code that identifies the Chronicle. May be used by third-parties to reference the Chronicle.
  • (E.) Adv Summary:  This might contain checkboxes to help remind you which choices you made during the adventure.
  • (F.) Pointer to AcP: Where to find AcP totals on the Paizo Web Page. 
  • (G.) Treasure Access:* Uncommon or high level items found during the adventure.
  • (H.) Variable quantities:* Quantities that depend on character’s level or successes during the adventure, such as treasure earned, reputation, etc.
  • (I.) Event Number*: Unique Identifier provided by the event organizer indicating what event the game occurred at.
  • (J.) Date*:  Date the adventure completed
  • (K.) GM Number*: The GM's Organized Play ID

 

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