Creating a character is almost certainly the first step that any tabletop RPG player is going to take when preparing to play in a brand new tRPG campaign. The steps that you take to create your character will vary depending on the system that you’ll be playing, but most revolve around some form of statistics generation, followed by various other choices about what abilities you’ll want your character to have, how good they are at various things and, even if you aren’t a heavy roleplayer, you’ll probably make some decisions about who your character is as a person as well. There are quite a few ways to generate characters out there, from rolling up a set of numbers and assigning them to stats, to the increasingly popular Point-Buy system that lets players more directly tailor their character, and it’s often up to the player to decide if they want to start with a character idea and then try to build their character to fit, or see where the stats take them and flesh the character out as the stats hit the paper. Pathfinder Second Edition (Pathfinder 2e for short) is now out in the wild and I figured I’d start my coverage of the game where most players start; with the creation of a 1st level character.
Character creation in Pathfinder Second Edition threw me for a loop when I first jumped into it. I’ve rolled quite a few Pathfinder characters, and Starfinder, which features a similar albeit streamlined system that is based on the original Pathfinder system, is my gaming group’s favorite RPG, so I initially went in thinking that I could grab my character sheet, roll up some stats and have an adventure-ready character within a few minutes. As it turns out, I hit quite a few snags with those assumptions, but not because rolling characters in Pathfinder 2e is particularly difficult, but rather because it blends the mechanics of character creation in with the thematic elements of character creation from the very start, and I wasn’t prepared for the mechanical and thematic to be so intertwined.
Pathfinder 2e’s system is effectively a point-buy system, but it hides the math behind layers of theme. You can still min-max your character, but instead of simply deciding that you want an extra +2 to Charisma and then buying it with your point-buy budget, you instead might decide that your character was a Barkeep before turning to a life of adventure. That decision lets you Boost your Charisma, and it also has some other effects on the Skills that you’ll be trained in, and gives the added benefit of helping you flesh out your backstory with a little nugget of info. You still have the leeway to pre-generate a character concept and then build the stats to match (and there is an optional stat-rolling method) but for newer players who may not know exactly what kind of character they can even be, or for players who like to create their stats first and then follow it up with fleshing out their personal story, the system does a great job of giving you little thematic hooks along with your stats that can help you figure out just who your character is before you’ve even finished filling out their character sheet completely.
Rather than simply talking about the steps for character creation I’m going to create a character from scratch, and walk you through both the steps, my thought process and the results of both, while doing so. Pathfinder 2e lists the first step of character creation as Create a Concept, and the only thing I have to go on currently is a name: Rutlarge Forneyngton. Let’s get started…
When creating a new character, all of their stats start at 10, and then go up or down based on the choices that you make during creation. Currently my stat block looks like this…
My first choice is going to be Race, or in Pathfinder 2e’s case, Ancestry. Each Ancestry comes with some Ability Boosts (read: +2) and Flaws (read: -2). My choices are Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Halfling, and Human (Human also features the Heritages Half-Elf and Half-Orc). Rutlarge is a Halfling. Why? Because Rutlarge sounds like a Halfling to me, and while he may be short in stature, he’s certainly going to have a big personality.
My boosts for Halfling Ancestry are Dex, Wisdom and a free boost (read: my choice) and my Flaw is Strength. Applying the boosts and flaws my stats now look like this…
Each Ancestry also helps determine your starting HP, size, speed, Languages, traits, and some other abilities. As a Halfling Rutlarge will get 6 HP, be small, have 25 feet of movement, speak Common and Halfling, have Halfling and Humanoid traits, and have Keen Eyes, which gives some bonuses to find hidden or undetected creatures.
I now choose a Heritage for my Halfling, which essentially determines the sub-race or ethnicity of my Halfling. Each Ancestry has a few Heritages for you to choose from. Your Heritage choice helps you to customize your Ancestry in a way that both helps give them a bit more backstory, and also determines one of your abilities. After browsing through my choices I choose Twilight Halfling which grants me low-light vision.
Next up is an Ancestry Feat. I have 8 options, and Rutlarge would certainly rather be lucky than good, so I choose Halfling Luck, which grants me a reroll once per day on a failed skill check or saving throw. I’ll be able to choose additional Ancestry Feats at levels 5, 9 13 and 17.
Step 4 involves picking a Background, which grants a few more Ability Boosts, and also determines a few skills that your character is trained in. Pathfinder 2e’s skill list is significantly smaller than the previous edition, and you don’t directly assign points anymore. Instead, you are either untrained, Trained, Expert, Master or Legendary (TEML) with that skill, which grant +2, +4, +6 and +8 respectively, and if your skills are Trained or higher you also add your level to the skill check. Now choosing which skills to be Trained in is more important than deciding which skills you want to apply points to. This is a fundamental shift in the way that Skill checks are calculated, but it fits in much more thematically than simply arbitrarily deciding what to get better at whenever you level up.
I want to keep boosting my Dex and Con, and I’d like to be trained in Athletics and Acrobatics, and reading through the available Backgrounds Acrobat jumps out at me right away. It lets me boost my Str or Dex, gives me a free boost, trains me in Acrobatics and Circus Lore, and gives me the Steady Balance skill feat. Acrobat also gives me some thematic info to flesh out my backstory. Rutlarge was somewhat of a clown before adventuring, and will almost certainly continue to be one after. Adding the boosts, my new stat block looks like this…
Now it’s time to choose a class. You could obviously start here, and I suspect most players will, but I want to follow along with the suggested order, so let’s lay out my choices. Pathfinder 2e has a generous class list that includes Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Champion, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer and Wizard. While Rutlarge’s stat block looks more Rogue-y, his personality tells me that he’s more of a big talking performer than a stealthy sneak-stabber, but he’s not smart nor charismatic enough to be a Bard. His clown act is more physical comedy than skill, so, despite the fact that it may be less than optimal we’re going to go with Fighter.
As a Fighter Rutlarge gets a boost to either Str or Dex, and I’m going to pump up that Dex score even higher. Fighters get 10+Con HP at first level and every level thereafter, so after applying that boost and HP Rutlarge’s stats look like this…
While his HP is going to go up every level, his stats won’t change (without magical intervention anyway) until level 5. Pathfinder 2e takes the same path for stat advancement that Starfinder uses, so at level 5, 10, 15 and 20 Rutlarge will get 4 boosts to increase his stats as I see fit, assuming he lives that long that is.
One VERY interesting change to Pathfinder 2e is the fact that Perception is no longer a skill. Instead, it is now its own separate stat that is calculated like a skill. This is a crucial change, and it means that you no longer have to sacrifice other skills in order to be able to keep your character aware of what is going on around them. Fighters are Experts in Perception, which starts Rutlarge with an excellent +4 from the get-go.
Saving Throws are also converted to the TEML system, and so Rutlarge is an Expert in Fortitude, an Expert in Reflex and Trained in Will saves. Let’s flesh out his stats a touch, and account for his Perception and Saves, which are the sum of their key stat, clvl and training.
Strength 8 Perception 6
Dexterity 16 Fortitude 7
Constitution 14 Reflex 8
Intelligence 10 Will 4
Fighters are Trained in Acrobatics or Athletics, and since our Background already gave us Acrobatics it makes the choice easy. Athletics it is. We also get 3 additional skills to be trained in plus an additional number equal to our Intelligence modifier. Since Rutlarge’s intellect is only average, we get the standard 3. Medicine, Stealth and Survival are my choices. Rutlarge certainly isn’t the most skilled, so I’m going for at least a decent chance to help a wounded ally, hide, and…survive…when he inevitably ends up in a tight spot. Come level 3, and every 2 levels thereafter Rutlarge will gain a Skill increase. These increases let him train an untrained skill, or increase his proficiency from Trained to Expert in one he already knows. After level 7 he can start bumping skills to Master, and after 15 he can move up to Legendary status.
Attacks and Defenses also use the new TEML system, and Rutlarge is an Expert in Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons and Unarmed attacks, and he’s Trained in Advanced Weapons. Rutlarge is Trained in all armor and in unarmored defense, and his Class DC, which pertains to class-specific skills is Trained.
Finally Fighters gain access to Attack of Opportunity (a significant change from 1st edition where attacks of opportunity were simply a part of everyone’s combat repertoire), which uses the new reaction Trigger, a Fighter feat, and the Shield Block general feat, which allows you to use a combat reactions to raise your shield and benefit from whatever AC it has. We’ll go over the new anatomy of Feats and combat actions in another article, but for now I’ll say that based on the Action cost I really like the look of Exacting Strike, which acts like a standard Strike (read:attack) but if Rutlarge misses the attack does not count towards his multiple attack penalty. It has the Press trait, so it can only be used if I’m already under a multiple attack penalty, but if the attack misses or deals no damage I can continue to attack without an even larger penalty. I like the idea of little ole Rutlarge waddling into battle and swinging away like a wild mini-man, so having confidence that miss won’t cost me too dearly makes me feel good about focusing on an all-out attack style of fighting for him.
The last thing to do is outfit our little tough guy with some gear with the default starting wealth of 15gp. The gear selections in the core book are surprisingly limited, although the short lists of available gear make it rather easy to kit out a new character, and there are some suggested starting loadouts for players who either don’t know what they should buy, or don’t want to spend the time to parse out their starting gear for themselves.
After looking things over Rutlarge will start out with a fresh suit of Studded Leather armor, a Steel shield, a Shortsword, a Shortbow with some arrows and various other goodies like a sack and a few belt pouches to keep odds and ends like chalk and candles in.
Last but not least I’m going to pick Neutral Good for our burgeoning hero’s alignment based on how I want him to behave. The alignment system in Pathfinder 2e is essentially the same system you’ve grown to love (or despise, depending on your point of view) that traces its lineage all the way back to classic Dungeons and Dragons. Rutlarge is going to fight for the greater good, but he may not always follow the law when he does so. I don’t think he’s particularly spiritual but little Rutlarge will probably whisper the odd prayer to Cayden Cailean when things get tough, although for players who don’t want to follow any particular deity their is also an atheist option. Here’s a look at my character sheet. I photocopied this sheet out of the back of the book before online versions were available, but both the full color and printer friendly versions of the sheets can be found here.
And that wraps up my first Pathfinder Second Edition character. There are a ton of options, and there is a lot to consider going forward if you are the type of gamer who likes to plan out your character from 1st through 20th levels. There are also a ton of archetype paths that you can tread if you want to dabble in the dealings of other classes, but I’m satisfied with Rutlarge so far, and I’m ready to get him to the table and start playing.
The copy of the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook used for this article was provided by Paizo, INC.