- This article is about agents of the Pathfinder Society. See Pathfinder Roleplaying Game for information about the real-world product line. For related prestige classes, see Pathfinder field agent and Pathfinder chronicler.
A Pathfinder is a specially trained and certified member of the world-spanning Pathfinder Society. Often working and traveling solo, these adventurers dedicate their lives to uncovering ancient secrets, lost artifacts, and general knowledge of the world's most exotic locations and cultures.
Pathfinders do not have a formalized set of rules or by-laws, but it is generally understood that the code of behavior is to:
- Explore: Pathfinders are expected to delve the depths of the world, rooting out secrets and untold stories both ancient and modern and pushing the boundaries of explored lands.
- Report: As the Society does not want any discoveries to become "undiscovered" again, a Pathfinder must keep careful and detailed records of their exploits. These are sent in to the Pathfinder's venture-captain and may be compiled into the published Pathfinder Chronicles. It is considered a great honor for a Pathfinder's report to be published in the Chronicles.
- Cooperate: Pathfinders are forbidden from fighting other Society members, especially within a Pathfinder lodge. Pathfinders are expected to stay out of each other's affairs unless to offer help.
Aside from these general expectations, there are no moral obligations affixed to Pathfinders; their motivations are their own. As such, one can find a great variety of races, backgrounds, and alignments among Pathfinders.1
Becoming a Pathfinder
Anyone who wishes to join the society must present themselves at the gates of the Pathfinder Society's Grand Lodge in Absalom. The society does not discriminate by race, age, creed, alignment, or motivations. However, the Society does require that applicants pass a number of tests, both physical and mental, before accepting them into the program. Experienced (and often retired) Pathfinders test new applicants, and while the only specific requirement is the ability to read and write Common, Pathfinders tend to reject those who would not last long in the field.
Occasionally, the Society might invite a non-affiliated adventurer to apply as a Pathfinder after that adventurer submits a report of a discovery. Because of this, many aspiring adventurers will aid Pathfinders on missions in hopes of proving themselves to the Society.2
Initiation and training
If accepted, the initiates undertake a rigorous training program over the next few years within the Grand Lodge's walls, overseen by the three masters of Scrolls, Spells, and Swords. This training covers not only combat and arms training, but also scholarly work in the fields of history, magic theory, and research. While in training, initiates work for the Society in roles ranging from guard duty and research assistance to mundane cleaning, both to help train the initiate and to identify the initiates who are most dedicated to becoming Pathfinders.2
Before becoming full Pathfinders, initiates must pass Confirmation—a custom challenge for each Pathfinder initiate designed by the Three Masters themselves. The Confirmation challenge is designed to emulate the challenges that a Pathfinder might face in the field—it is essentially a Pathfinder's first mission. There are no set time limits or boundaries, and Confirmation tests often take weeks to complete.
As befitting the duties of a full Pathfinder, the initiate is expected to chronicle the adventure and any discoveries. As most Confirmation tests are set in the world outside of the Grand Lodge, their discoveries can make their way back to the Pathfinder Chronicles.
If the initiate passes, the initiate is promoted to field operative in a brief Confirmation ceremony, where the newly minted Pathfinder receives a leather journal and is assigned to a venture-captain for active duty.2
In some exemplary cases, an adventurer or scholar can perform an act so great that it attracts the attention of the Society's secretive authorities, the Decemvirate. While very rare, such people can bypass training and Confirmation and are promoted directly to the rank of field operative. This honor is extended only to those who have truly changed the course of history.2
Many also use diverse forms of covert communication, such as ciphers and sign languages, that vary between regions and venture-captains.4 The most common of these hand signs is Napsu-Sign language, developed by its namesake Kerinha Napsunar and also known as Pathfinder Hand Signs, and while elements of it are widely used among Pathfinders, few are fully fluent in its estimated 1,250 universal signs.5
While Pathfinders are dispersed across Golarion, most travel to the Grand Lodge at least once. The Society also hosts the annual Grand Convocation, a conference and festival that draws many Pathfinders to the Grand Lodge.6
Exemplary Pathfinders are frequently published in the Pathfinder Chronicles, and those who develop followings of their own can be promoted by the Decemvirate to the rank of venture-captain.7 Perhaps the most notable Pathfinder of all is the legendary Durvin Gest, a 20-foot-tall statue of whom stands as a monument in the Grand Lodge.8
Pathfinders might leave active duty for a number of reasons. Some retire on their own terms to settle down, while others face injuries or trauma too great to overcome.
A few, however, quit the Society. The famed author Ailson Kindler, for instance, left the Society after severe disagreements with its operation.910 Others simply walk away, going into hiding or never reporting back from an expedition. Still others betray the Society for personal gain, vengeance, or in service of a rival organization.
In all circumstances relating to the Society and its members, always capitalize the word "Pathfinder".
While all Pathfinders are members of the Society, not all Society members are Pathfinders. Some special affiliates, informants, and advisors to the Society might work for the Society and even hold significant authority within the Grand Lodge, but are not necessarily Pathfinders.11
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- Tim Hitchcock, Erik Mona, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor. (2009). Seekers of Secrets: A Guide to the Pathfinder Society, p. 3–4. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-178-7
- Tim Hitchcock, Erik Mona, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor. (2009). Seekers of Secrets: A Guide to the Pathfinder Society, p. 5–7. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-178-7
- Tim Hitchcock, Erik Mona, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor. (2009). Seekers of Secrets: A Guide to the Pathfinder Society, p. 50. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-178-7
- Tim Hitchcock, Erik Mona, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor. (2009). Seekers of Secrets: A Guide to the Pathfinder Society, p. 25. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-178-7
- Kate Baker et al. (2020). "Introduction". Pathfinder Society Guide, p. 15. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-64078-278-5
- Tim Hitchcock, Erik Mona, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor. (2009). Seekers of Secrets: A Guide to the Pathfinder Society, p. 27. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-178-7
- Tim Hitchcock, Erik Mona, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor. (2009). Seekers of Secrets: A Guide to the Pathfinder Society, p. 24. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-178-7
- Tim Hitchcock, Erik Mona, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor. (2009). Seekers of Secrets: A Guide to the Pathfinder Society, p. 26. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-178-7
- James Jacobs, Rob McCreary, and F. Wesley Schneider. (2010). Classic Horrors Revisited, p. 2–3. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-202-9
- F. Wesley Schneider. (2011). Rule of Fear, p. 13. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-301-9
- For example, see Zarta Dralneen, a person who holds a significant role in the Society but is not a Pathfinder agent or officer. Also see Category:Pathfinder Society/Affiliates.