Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, Alex is going to be sharing his favorite PFS rules.
I was browsing the Paizo forums the other day, and I came across this rather large thread filled with people ranting about Pathfinder Society Organized play. This time, the topic was, “What if Pathfinder Society Organized Play was the default rules for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game?” Now, considering that this thread was created in the rules forum rather than the Pathfinder Society forum, you can imagine what happened: the thread filled rapidly with people who have never played Pathfinder Society before who promptly began touting a bunch of out of context rules that they honestly believed made Pathfinder Society the worse thing ever.
Now, I want to be fair; some of the rules that were cited, such as the lack of Kingdom Building or meaningful, individual continuity are legitimate things to dislike about Pathfinder Society. But because I am ever a crusader against toxic people on the internet (no matter how futile a cause it is), I’ve decided to honor the Pathfinder Society today by talking about my favorite home campaign rules that can be found on both sides of organized play’s screens. These rules aren’t listed in any particular order; just as they come to mind.
(And yes, I know this is categorized as a Top 10 article despite there only being 6 reasons. This fit the “Top 10 List” style of article the best, so I’m going with it. DON’T JUDGE ME!!!)
#1 – The Research Rules
A number of different PFS scenarios deal with researching as a game mechanic, but by far my absolute favorite one comes from the newish scenario The Blackros Connection, which I ran for my local PFS lodge several weeks ago. In the Blackros Connection, you have to do a LOT of researching in order to follow the trail of a particular artifact and the mechanics involved are really neat. Essentially, each library or research center that you research in had a skill check DC and a number of kp, or Knowledge Points. Every time you beat the skill check DC, you deal damage to the library’s kp based upon your qualifications (such as the number of ranks you have and what feats or class abilities, if any, you possess) and if you roll a natural 20, you can roll to confirm to double the damage dealt to the research center’s kp. As the research center’s kp drops, you find bits of information until you reduce it to 0, signaling that you’ve found all you can learn or you’ve found what you’re looking for.
This is a VERY neat and tidy subsystem that’s a lot of fun to play. Considering how important research is to iconic horror games (see Lovecraft), I’d be very surprised if a mechanic like this didn’t find itself in Horror Adventures. If it doesn’t, Paizo NEEDS to make sure that this rules set gets into official print somewhere. Its fun, innovative, and a great add-on to the PFS line-up.
#2 – Starting Gold
Having randomized starting gold can be fun if you want to have a “rags to riches” character, or if you want to play hard mode. For most GMs, however, variable starting gold is annoying and puts the players on an uneven playing field. By doing away with varying starting gold and balancing wealth between all party members, there’s a nice, even starting field and most importantly, the value is easy to remember. 150 gold. Short, sweet, and no rolling involved.
#3 – Fame as a Means of Wealth Progression
By far, I think this is one of the absolute best things to come out of Pathfinder Society, the mechanic that allows PFS to regulate wealth for its characters. Now, to make it clear, I don’t think that using Fame to limit the GM’s ability to drop loot for his players in a home game is a good idea. Rather, I like the idea of using Fame to determine what PCs can purchase from a given town or organization. (Especially an organization.) In PFS, you can’t purchase an item that exceeds the value associated with your Fame within the Pathfinder Society, because why would the society let an untested recruit purchase expensive, powerful items? This same system would work well when running a game in a large city like Absolam or Oppara in addition to the normal wealth limit of the city. The PFS Fame system would allow you to run a political intrigue game in a large city without having to worry about whether your PCs will ask to buy something that totally throws off their wealth by level or character power. GMs always have the ability to fiat-block whatever they want, but the PFS Fame system is a nice, rulesy way to say, “No, you can’t do that and here’s why” instead of “No, you can’t do that because I said so.” GM the arbiter rather than GM the overlord and all that jazz.
#4 – The Entire Player Etiquette Chapter
Did you know that the Core Rulebook doesn’t once say that cheating is bad or that you should shouldn’t be a jerk towards people in your party? The Pathfinder Society assumes that all players in a party are part of the same organization whose tenants include, “Explore, Report, Cooperate,” and as a result, things like “Don’t be a jerk” are literally written into PFS’s rules. This also includes a rule that states, “You cannot inflict friendly fire damage on an ally unless that ally is okay with you doing so.” Now, I’m sure that plenty of purists don’t like that Pathfinder Society literally has a rule that tells them how they should act, but let’s be honest; Pathfinder is a cooperative game, and you should be doing what PFS tells you to do anyway. This is an awesome rule at the table, in my opinion, because conflict at the table tends to bleed over into real life. A small section on player etiquette in Chapter 1 of the Core Rulebook would have been much appreciated, in my opinion.
#5 – Gear Upgrading
So technically, there’s nothing in the standard Core Rulebook that doesn’t say that upgrading one’s gear is allowed. (As a matter of fact, the wealth-by-level rules flat-out state that players are expected to push their own wealth below the expected totals as a result of selling off gear they don’t want.) Is it a common house rule? Fairly, yes. But its nice to have a system that specifically lets you save money by upgrading old gear into better forms for you.
#6 – Hit Point Progression
Ever been in a game where a character was super squishy because he/she rolled super low for hit points? I have, and it SUCKS. That’s why one thing that I really like about Pathfinder Society is that it does away with rolling for hit points in favorite of average (rounded up). So a bard has 8 hit points + Constitution at Level 1, and gets 5 hit points + Constitution at every level there after. It’s a great way to make sure that players aren’t too powerful for their level or hard to kill. Personally, I’d also keep a retraining mechanic in for getting more hit points for my home games (a la Ultimate Campaign), but while that isn’t an option in PFS, that doesn’t take away the fact that static hp per level is an easy and fair way to keep players balanced against one another.
So those are my top 6 favorite “house rules” in the Pathfinder Society? Are there more that I like? Probably, but I don’t remember them all at the moment. What do you think? Are these home rules good enough to keep you playing (or make you consider trying PFS for the first time)? What rules do you think PFS could use? What rules do you think are too much? What other comments do you have? Leave your questions and answers below, and I’ll be back next Monday for another installment of Guidance!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.