Unless you’re the GM, the first thing you need to do when playing Pathfinder is create your character. It’s up to you to imagine your character’s past experiences, personality, and worldview, and this will set the stage for your roleplaying during the game. You’ll use the game’s mechanics to determine your character’s ability to perform various tasks and use special abilities during the game.
This section provides a step-by-step guide for creating a character using the Pathfinder rules, preceded by a guide to help you understand ability scores. These scores are a critical part of your character, and you will be asked to make choices about them during many of the following steps. The steps of character creation are presented in a suggested order, but you can complete them in whatever order you prefer.
Many of the steps instruct you to fill out fields on your character sheet. The character sheet is designed to be easy to use when you’re actually playing the game—but creating a character happens in a different order, so you’ll move back and forth through the character sheet as you go through the character creation process. Additionally, the character sheet includes every field you might need, even though not all characters will have something to put in each field. If a field on your character sheet is not applicable to your character, just leave that field blank.
All the steps of character creation are detailed on the following pages; each is marked with a number that corresponds to the sample character sheet, showing you where the information goes. If the field you need to fill out is on the third or fourth page of the character sheet, which aren’t shown, the text will tell you.
If you’re creating a higher-level character, it’s a good idea to begin with the instructions here, then turn to page 29 for instructions on leveling up characters.
* A character receives an ability boost to their class’s key ability score.
Step 1 – Create a Concept
What sort of hero do you want to play? The answer to this question might be as simple as “a brave warrior,” or as complicated as “the child of elven wanderers, but raised in a city dominated by humans and devoted to The Healing Flame, goddess of the sun.” Consider your character’s personality, sketch out a few details about their past, and think about how and why they adventure. You’ll want to peruse Pathfinder’s available ancestries, backgrounds, and classes. The summaries might help you match your concept with some of these basic rule elements. Before a game begins, it’s also a good idea for the players to discuss how their characters might know each other and how they’ll work together throughout the course of their adventures.
There are many ways to approach your character concept.
Once you have a good idea of the character you’d like to play, move on to Step 2 to start building your character.
Ancestry, Background, Class, or Details
If one of Pathfinder’s character ancestries, backgrounds, or classes particularly intrigues you, it’s easy to build a character concept around these options. The summaries of ancestries and classes give a brief overview of these options. Each ancestry also has several heritages that might refine your concept further, such as a human with an elf or orc parent, or an arctic or woodland elf. Additionally, the game has many backgrounds to choose from, representing your character’s upbringing, their family’s livelihood, or their earliest profession.
Building a character around a specific ancestry, background, or class can be a fun way to interact with the world’s lore. Would you like to build a typical member of your character’s ancestry or class, as described in the relevant entry, or would you prefer to play a character who defies commonly held notions about their people?
For example, you could play a dwarf with a wide-eyed sense of wonder and a zest for change, or a performing rogue capable of amazing acrobatic feats but with little interest in sneaking about.
You can draw your concept from any aspect of a character’s details. You can use roleplaying to challenge not only the norms of Pathfinder’s fictional world, but even real-life societal norms. Your character might challenge gender notions, explore cultural identity, have a disability, or any combination of these suggestions. Your character can live any life you see fit.
Perhaps you’d like to play a character who is a devout follower of a specific deity. Pathfinder is a rich world with myriad faiths and philosophies spanning a wide range, from The Drunken God, the Drunken Hero of good-hearted adventuring; to Goddess of Fortune, the Song of Spheres and goddess of dreaming and the stars; to Lady of Valor, the Inheritor, goddess of honor, justice, and rulership. Your character might be so drawn to a particular faith that you decide they should be a champion or cleric of that deity; they might instead be a lay worshiper who applies their faith’s teachings to daily life, or simply the child of devout parents.
Ancestries and Classes
Each player takes a different approach to creating a character. Some want a character who will fit well into the story, while others look for a combination of abilities that complement each other mechanically. You might combine these two approaches. There is no wrong way!
When you turn the page, you’ll see a graphical representation of ancestries and classes that provide at a glance information for players looking to make the most of their starting ability scores. In the ancestries overview, each entry lists which ability scores it boosts, and also indicates any ability flaws the ancestry might have.
The summaries of the classes list each class’s key ability score—the ability score used to calculate the potency of many of their class abilities. Characters receive an ability boost in that ability score when you choose their class. This summary also lists one or more secondary ability scores important to members of that class.
You might want to coordinate with other players when forming your character concept. Your characters could have something in common already; perhaps they are relatives, or travelers from the same village. You might discuss mechanical aspects with the other players, creating characters whose combat abilities complement each other. In the latter case, it can be helpful for a party to include characters who deal damage, characters who can absorb damage, and characters who can provide Healing.
However, Pathfinder’s classes include a lot of choices, and there are many options for building each type of character, so don’t let these broad categories restrict your decisions.
Once you’ve developed your character’s concept, jot down a few sentences summarizing your ideas under the Notes section on the third page of your character sheet. Record any of the details you’ve already decided, such as your character’s name, on the appropriate lines on the first page.
Step 2 - Start Building Ability Scores
At this point, you need to start building your character’s ability scores. See the overview of ability scores on pages 19–20 for more information about these important aspects of your character and an overview of the process.
Your character’s ability scores each start at 10, and as you select your ancestry, background, and class, you’ll apply ability boosts, which increase a score by 2, and ability flaws, which decrease a score by 2. At this point, just note a 10 in each ability score and familiarize yourself with the rules for ability boosts and flaws on page 20. This is also a good time to identify which ability scores will be most important to your character. See The Six Ability Scores on page 19 and the class summaries on pages 22–23 for more information.
Step 3 - Select an Ancestry
Select an ancestry for your character. The ancestry summaries on page 22 provide an overview of Pathfinder’s core ancestry options, and each is fully detailed in Chapter 2. Ancestry determines your character’s size, Speed, and languages, and contributes to their Hit Points. Each also grants ability boosts and ability flaws to represent the ancestry’s basic capabilities.
You’ll make four decisions when you select your character’s ancestry:
- Pick the ancestry itself.
- Assign any free ability boosts and decide if you are taking any voluntary flaws.
- Select a heritage from those available within that ancestry, further defining the traits your character was born with.
- Choose an ancestry feat, representing an ability your hero learned at an early age.
Step 4 - Pick a Background
Your character’s background might represent their upbringing, an aptitude they’ve been honing since their youth, or another aspect of their life before they became an adventurer. Character backgrounds appear in Chapter 2, starting on page 60. They typically provide two ability boosts (one that can be applied to either of two specific ability scores, and one that is free), training in a specific skill, training in a Lore skill, and a specific skill feat.
Step 5 - Choose a Class
At this point, you need to decide your character’s class. A class gives your character access to a suite of heroic abilities, determines how effectively they fight, and governs how easily they can shake off or avoid certain harmful effects. Each class is fully detailed in Chapter 3, but the summaries on pages 22–23 provide an overview of each and tells you which ability scores are important when playing that class.
You don’t need to write down all of your character’s class features yet. You simply need to know which class you want to play, which determines the ability scores that will be most important for your character.
Step 6 - Determine Ability Scores
Now that you’ve made the main mechanical choices about your character, it’s time to finalize their ability scores. Do these three things:
- First, make sure you’ve applied all the ability boosts and ability flaws you’ve noted in previous steps (from your ancestry, background, and class).
- Then, apply four more ability boosts to your character’s ability scores, choosing a different ability score for each and increasing that ability score by 2.
- Finally, record your starting ability scores and ability modifiers, as determined using Table 1–1: Ability Modifiers.
Remember that each ability boost adds 2 to the base score of 10, and each ability flaw subtracts 2. You should have no ability score lower than 8 or higher than 18.
Step 7 - Record Class Details
Now, record all the benefits and class features that your character receives from the class you’ve chosen. While you’ve already noted your key ability score, you’ll want to be sure to record the following class features.
- To determine your character’s total starting Hit Points, add together the number of Hit Points your character gains from their ancestry (chosen in Step 2) and the number of Hit Points they gain from their class.
- The Initial Proficiencies section of your class entry indicates your character’s starting proficiency ranks in a number of areas. Choose which skills your character is trained in and record those, along with the ones set by your class. If your class would make you trained in a skill you’re already trained in (typically due to your background), you can select another skill to become trained in.
- See the class advancement table in your class entry to learn the class features your character gains at 1st level—but remember, you already chose an ancestry and background. Some class features require you to make additional choices, such as selecting spells.
Step 8 - Buy Equipment
At 1st level, your character has 15 gold pieces (150 silver pieces) to spend on armor, weapons, and other basic equipment. Your character’s class lists the types of weapons and armor with which they are trained (or better!). Their weapons determine how much damage they deal in combat, and their armor influences their Armor Class; these calculations are covered in more detail in Step 10. Don’t forget essentials such as food and traveling gear! For more on the available equipment and how much it costs, see Chapter 6.
Step 9 - Calculate Modifiers
With most of the big decisions for your character made, it’s time to calculate the modifiers for each of the following statistics. If your proficiency rank for a statistic is trained, expert, master, and legendary, your bonus equals your character’s level plus another number based on the rank (2, 4, 6, and 8, respectively). If your character is untrained, your proficiency bonus is +0.
Your character’s Perception modifier measures how alert they are. This modifier is equal to their proficiency bonus in Perception plus their Wisdom modifier. For more about Perception, see page 448.
For each kind of saving throw, add your character’s Fortitude, Reflex, or Will proficiency bonus (as appropriate) plus the ability modifier associated with that kind of saving throw. For Fortitude saving throws, use your character’s Constitution modifier. For Reflex saving throws, use your character’s Dexterity modifier. For Will saving throws, use your character’s Wisdom modifier. Then add in any bonuses or penalties from abilities, feats, or items that always apply (but not modifiers, bonuses, or penalties that apply only in certain situations). Record this number on the line for that saving throw.
Melee Strikes and Ranged Strikes
Next to where you’ve written your character’s melee and ranged weapons, calculate the modifier to Strike with each weapon and how much damage that Strike deals. The modifier for a Strike is equal to your character’s proficiency bonus with the weapon plus an ability modifier (usually Strength for melee Strikes and Dexterity for ranged Strikes). You also add any item bonus from the weapon and any other permanent bonuses or penalties. You also need to calculate how much damage each weapon’s Strike deals. Melee weapons usually add your character’s Strength modifier to damage rolls, while ranged weapons might add some or all of your character’s Strength modifier, depending on the weapon’s traits. See the weapon entries in Chapter 6 for more information.
In the second box to the right of each skill name on your character sheet, there’s an abbreviation that reminds you of the ability score tied to that skill. For each skill in which your character is trained, add your proficiency bonus for that skill (typically +3 for a 1st-level character) to the indicated ability’s modifier, as well as any other applicable bonuses and penalties, to determine the total modifier for that skill. For skills your character is untrained in, use the same method, but your proficiency bonus is +0.
Step 10 - Finishing Details
Now add the following details to your character sheet in the appropriate spaces.
Your character’s alignment is an indicator of their morality and personality. There are nine possible alignments in Pathfinder, as shown on Table 1–2: The Nine Alignments. If your alignment has any components other than neutral, your character gains the traits of those alignment components. This might affect the way various spells, items, and creatures interact with your character.
Your character’s alignment is measured by two pairs of opposed values: the axis of good and evil and the axis of law and chaos. A character who isn’t committed strongly to either side is neutral on that axis. Keep in mind that alignment is a complicated subject, and even acts that might be considered good can be used for nefarious purposes, and vice versa. The GM is the arbiter of questions about how specific actions might affect your character’s alignment.
If you play a champion, your character’s alignment must be one allowed for their deity and cause (pages 437–440 and 106–107), and if you play a cleric, your character’s alignment must be one allowed for their deity (pages 437–440).
Good and Evil
Your character has a good alignment if they consider the happiness of others above their own and work selflessly to assist others, even those who aren’t friends and family. They are also good if they value protecting others from harm, even if doing so puts the character in danger. Your character has an evil alignment if they’re willing to victimize others for their own selfish gain, and even more so if they enjoy inflicting harm. If your character falls somewhere in the middle, they’re likely neutral on this axis.
Law and Chaos
Your character has a lawful alignment if they value consistency, stability, and predictability over flexibility. Lawful characters have a set system in life, whether it’s meticulously planning day-to-day activities, carefully following a set of official or unofficial laws, or strictly adhering to a code of honor. On the other hand, if your character values flexibility, creativity, and spontaneity over consistency, they have a chaotic alignment—though this doesn’t mean they make decisions by choosing randomly. Chaotic characters believe that lawful characters are too inflexible to judge each situation by its own merits or take advantage of opportunities, while lawful characters believe that chaotic characters are irresponsible and flighty.
Many characters are in the middle, obeying the law or following a code of conduct in many situations, but bending the rules when the situation requires it. If your character is in the middle, they are neutral on this axis.
Alignment can change during play as a character’s beliefs change, or as you realize that your character’s actions reflect a different alignment than the one on your character sheet. In most cases, you can just change their alignment and continue playing. However, if you play a cleric or champion and your character’s alignment changes to one not allowed for their deity (or cause, for champions), your character loses some of their class abilities until they atone (as described in the class).
Write down the deity your character worships, if any. Champions and clerics must worship a deity. See pages 437–440 for more about Pathfinder’s deities.
Decide your character’s age and note it on the third page of the character sheet. The description for your character’s ancestry in Chapter 2 gives some guidance on the age ranges of members of that ancestry. Beyond that, you can play a character of whatever age you like. There aren’t any mechanical adjustments to your character for being particularly old, but you might want to take it into account when considering your starting ability scores and future advancement. Particularly young characters can change the tone of some of the game’s threats, so it’s recommended that characters are at least young adults.
Gender and Pronouns
Characters of all genders are equally likely to become adventurers. Record your character’s gender, if applicable, and their pronouns on the third page of the character sheet.
A class DC sets the difficulty for certain abilities granted by your character’s class. This DC equals 10 plus their proficiency bonus for their class DC (+3 for most 1st-level characters) plus the modifier for the class’s key ability score.
Your character usually begins each game session with 1 Hero Point, and you can gain additional Hero Points during sessions by performing heroic deeds or devising clever strategies. Your character can use Hero Points to gain certain benefits, such as staving off death or rerolling a d20. See page 467 for more about Hero Points.
Armor Class (AC)
Your character’s Armor Class represents how difficult they are to hit in combat. To calculate your AC, add 10 plus your character’s Dexterity modifier (up to their armor’s Dexterity modifier cap; page 274), plus their proficiency bonus with their armor, plus their armor’s item bonus to AC and any other permanent bonuses and penalties.
Your character’s maximum Bulk determines how much weight they can comfortably carry. If they’re carrying a total amount of Bulk that exceeds 5 plus their Strength modifier, they are encumbered. A character can’t carry a total amount of Bulk that exceeds 10 plus their Strength modifier. The Bulk your character is carrying equals the sum of all of their items; keep in mind that 10 light items make up 1 Bulk. You can find out more about Bulk in Chapter 6: Equipment.
This step-by-step example illustrates the process of creating a Pathfinder character.
Steps 1 and 2
Adam is making his first Pathfinder character. After talking about it with the rest of the group, he’s decided to make a dwarven druid. After jotting down a few ideas, he begins by writing down a 10 for each ability score.
Adam looks up the dwarf entry in Chapter 2. He records the ability boosts to his Constitution and Wisdom scores (bringing both up to 12). He also applies the ability flaw to his Charisma, dropping it to 8. For his free ability boost, he chooses Dexterity to boost his defenses, raising it to 12 as well. He also records the 10 Hit Points the ancestry gives him. Next, he returns to his character sheet to record the size, Speed, language, and darkvision ability he gets from being a dwarf. Finally, he decides on a heritage, writing “rock dwarf” next to dwarf, and he picks an ancestry feat, deciding on Rock Runner, to show his character’s strong connection to stone.
Looking through the backgrounds, Adam likes the idea of a solitary dwarven druid, and the nomad background makes for a good choice. For the first ability boost granted by the background, Adam chooses Wisdom, and for the free ability boost, he choses Constitution, taking both up to 14. On the second page, he writes “Assurance (Survival)” in the Skill Feats area, on the Background line. Finally, returning to the first page, he writes “cave” next to the first Lore skill entry and checks the box under the “T” for that skill and Survival.
Adam writes “druid” on the class line of his character sheet and fills in the number 1 in the level box. The druid class grants an ability boost to its key ability score, which is Wisdom, so Adam’s character has his Wisdom raised to 16.
Adam applies four more ability boosts to his ability scores to determine his starting scores. After giving it some thought, he applies them to Wisdom (raising it to 18), since that’s the most important ability score for his class, and to Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution (raising them to 12, 14, and 16, respectively) to make him better in combat. He then looks at Table 1–1 to determine the ability modifiers for each score and writes all of his ability scores and modifiers down on his character sheet.
As Adam applies his class, he has a number of things to figure out. First, he starts by recording all of his initial proficiencies, marking the appropriate boxes in the Armor Class, Saving Throws, Weapon Proficiencies, Spell Attack Roll, and Spell DCs areas of his sheet. Turning to skills, he marks Nature as trained and notes that once he picks his druid order, he’ll become trained in another skill determined by that order. He then gets to choose three more skills (if he had a higher Intelligence, he would have gotten more). He decides on Athletics, Diplomacy, and Medicine, marking all of them as trained. Next, he adds the 8 Hit Points from the druid class and his Constitution modifier of +3 to the 10 Hit Points from his dwarf ancestry for an impressive 21 total Hit Points.
Moving on to class features, Adam marks down wild empathy in the class feats and abilities area, as well as the Shield Block feat in the bonus feats area. He makes note of the anathema for being a druid and records Druidic in his language section. Next, he looks through the druid orders and decides upon the wild order, which gives him his final trained skill (Intimidation), the ability to cast wild morph, as well as the Wild Shape feat, which lets him cast a spell to turn into an animal. He writes these spells in the focus spell area of his character sheet and also notes that he has 1 Focus Point to use to cast these spells.
Finally, a druid can cast a limited number of primal spells. Although he can change them every morning, Adam is curious, and he turns to Chapter 7: Spells to decide what spells he might cast. He jots down five cantrips and two 1st-level spells and marks them as prepared.
Next up, Adam turns to Chapter 6: Equipment. He’s trained in medium armor, but since wearing metal armor is anathema to druids, he chooses hide armor. For weapons, he decides on a spear, but he buys two just in case he wants to throw the first one. He writes all of these on the front of his character sheet. Adam lists the spear under both melee Strikes and ranged Strikes, and he also writes the claws he gains from wild morph under his melee Strikes, because he’s sure that he’ll be casting that spell a lot. He records the rest of his gear in the Inventory section on the second page, along with coin left over after buying his starting gear.
Adam records all of the ability modifiers for Perception, saving throws, Strikes, and skills. He then puts a “+3” in the box marked Prof to indicate his proficiency bonus for each statistic he’s trained in (1 for his level, plus 2 for being trained) and "+5" in any that he is an expert. Then, he adds up his modifiers for each statistic.
Finally, Adam fills out the final details of his character, noting his neutral alignment and calculating his AC and Bulk limits. Last but not least, he fills in some last-minute information about his character and decides on a name. Gar the dwarf druid is ready for his first adventure!
The world of Pathfinder is a dangerous place, and your character will face terrifying beasts and deadly traps on their journey into legend. With each challenge resolved, a character earns Experience Points (XP) that allow them to increase in level. Each level grants greater skill, increased resiliency, and new capabilities, allowing your character to face even greater challenges and go on to earn even more impressive rewards.
Each time your character reaches 1,000 Experience Points, their level increases by 1. On your character sheet, indicate your character’s new level beside the name of their class, and deduct 1,000 XP from their XP total. If you have any Experience Points left after this, record them—they count toward your next level, so your character is already on their way to advancing yet again!
Next, return to your character’s class entry. Increase your character’s total Hit Points by the number indicated for your class. Then, take a look at the class advancement table and find the row for your character’s new level. Your character gains all the abilities listed for that level, including new abilities specific to your class and additional benefits all characters gain as they level up. For example, all characters gain four ability boosts at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.
You can find all the new abilities specific to your class, including class feats, right in your class entry, though you can also use class feats to take an archetype (page 219). Your character’s class entry also explains how to apply any ability boosts and skill increases your character gains. If they gain an ancestry feat, head back to the entry for your character’s ancestry in Chapter 2 and select another ancestry feat from the list of options. If they gain a skill increase, refer to Chapter 4 when deciding which skill to apply it to. If they gain a general feat or a skill feat, you can choose from the feats listed in Chapter 5. If they can cast spells, see the class entry for details on adding spell slots and spells. It’s also a good idea to review your character’s spells in Chapter 7 and see if there are heightened versions they can now cast.
Once you’ve made all your choices for your character’s new level, be sure to go over your character sheet and adjust any values that have changed. At a bare minimum, your proficiency bonuses all increase by 1 because you’ve gained a level, so your AC, attack rolls, Perception, saving throws, skill modifiers, spell attack rolls, and class DC all increase by at least 1. You might need to change other values because of skill increases, ability boosts, or class features that either increase your proficiency rank or increase other statistics at certain levels. If an ability boost increases your character’s Constitution modifier, recalculate their maximum Hit Points using their new Constitution modifier (typically this adds 1 Hit Point per level). If an ability boost increases your character’s Intelligence modifier, they become trained in an additional skill and language. Some feats grant a benefit based on your level, such as Toughness, and these benefits are adjusted whenever you gain a level as well.
You can perform the steps in the leveling-up process in whichever order you want. For example, if you wanted to take the skill feat Intimidating Prowess as your skill feat at 10th level, but your character’s Strength score was only 14, you could first increase their Strength score to 16 using the ability boosts gained at 10th level, and then take Intimidating Prowess as a skill feat at the same level.
Every time you gain a level, make sure you do each of the following:
- Increase your level by 1 and subtract 1,000 XP from your XP total.
- Increase your maximum Hit Points by the amount listed in your class entry in Chapter 3.
- Add class features from your class advancement table, including ability boosts and skill increases.
- Select feats as indicated on your class advancement table. For ancestry feats, see Chapter 2. For class feats, see your class entry in Chapter 3. For general feats and skill feats, see Chapter 5.
- Add spells and spell slots if your class grants spellcasting. See Chapter 7 for spells.
- Increase all of your proficiency bonuses by 1 from your new level, and make other increases to your proficiency bonuses as necessary from skill increases or other class features. Increase any other statistics that changed as a result of ability boosts or other abilities.
- Adjust bonuses from feats and other abilities that are based on your level.