Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

Pathfinder Society: An Argument for Rebuilding

Pathfinder Society Pathfinder Society Organized Play is great. It allows players to participate in short, four-hour Pathfinder adventures without having to commit to the rigorous schedule of a home game. Overall I’m impressed with Paizo’s handling of the initiative, but in recent weeks my local Pathfinder lodge has been faced with a pressing problem: we’ve run out of low level modules to play and lack high enough level characters to progress to the more advanced ones. Half of this is our own fault. Our game masters should have discouraged players from wantonly creating new character after new character. Because of this schizophrenic play style, many of our regulars field four or five different characters that all have yet to hit the crucial level five milestone. However, I feel this drive to cycle through characters is a symptom of an intrinsic shortcoming of Pathfinder Society Organized Play. As it stands, there is no mechanic in Pathfinder Society Organized Play to rebuild an established character. Barring an extreme circumstance such as errata to the core rules, once a skill, feat, or trait is chosen, it is locked in permanently. Put bluntly, this is a draconian measure that only services to discourage players from advancing beyond the first or second tier. Regardless of skill level, a player will inevitably find him or herself in one of the following two situations:

  1. He or she has created a character that is too one-dimensional or weak to meaningfully contribute to the party.
  2. He or she does not enjoy playing a specific class or archetype as much as originally anticipated.

Under current Pathfinder Society rules, the player’s sole recourse is to shelve the unenjoyable character indefinitely and roll up a new one. In a home game this would be fine, but within the rubric of organized play this turnaround becomes exceedingly wasteful. Any modules assigned to the derelict character are essentially void, leaving fewer options for the player’s next character to advance. The capacity to rebuild would encourage players to progress with a single character instead of dabbling. Mistakes could be amended, new ideas could be trialed without hitting the reset button, and no chronicle sheet would end up in the waste bin. That being said, limitations would obviously have to be placed on this privilege. As the choir of purists will eagerly point out, unrestricted rebuilding dilutes the integrity of individual characters and fosters remorseless power gaming. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to award a boon that allows a player to rebuild a single one of his or her characters for every three game master credits they earn. This not only prevents exploitation of an altruistic system, but rewards players for sitting in the oft-maligned game master’s seat. This is a controversial measure, but one I think is necessary to ensure the long term health of Pathfinder Society Organized Play. As the game continues to grow in both scope and popularity, this problem is only going to become more pronounced. Steven Page, will you kindly play me out.


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  • Is there anything that bars a character from being recreated? As far as I can tell, the society only keeps track of gold and experience.

    • There’s nothing immediately stopping you from rebuilding a character on a whim, but that’s largely due to PFS operating on the honour system. From a rules-as-written standpoint, you’re only allowed rebuilding if an aspect of your character has been changed by errata. It’s irritating to say the least.

      • Hey there,

        I assume you’re the one who wrote the article? Although I commend you for your strict adherence to the rules, this line in the newest update (4.2) could give your group the leeway necessary to keep your campaign moving forward.

        ““The leadership of this campaign assumes that you will use common sense in your interpretation of the rules. This includes being courteous and encouraging a mutual interest in playing, not engaging in endless rules discussions.”

        If you’re running up against a brick wall that is purely mechanical, my opinion (and let’s reiterate that it is purely an opinion) is that you’d be justified in making character revisions to move things forward 🙂

By Mathew
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer