This article reflects recent canon updates.
chronicling adventures/exotic locales,
publishing guides and tales in the Pathfinder Chronicles
- This article covers the fictional organization in the Pathfinder campaign setting. For the real-world Paizo Organized Play program, see Pathfinder Society (second edition). For the previous First Edition real-world organized play program, see Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild.
The Pathfinder Society is a globe-spanning organization based out of Absalom, the City at the Center of the World. The membership consists primarily of Pathfinders, adventurers who travel throughout Golarion—usually inconspicuously—and explore, delve, and otherwise experience the lesser-seen parts of the world. They send journals documenting their travels back to their venture-captains, who also assigns them new missions and suggests new places to explore. The most exciting and illuminating of these journals are compiled in the Pathfinder Chronicles, an ongoing series of books that collect the history and mystery of Golarion for its membership and the general public.1
The Pathfinder Society generally takes a hands-off approach with its agents, leaving them to pursue their own leads, and chose their own priorities. Pathfinders are only expected to explore the mysteries of the multiverse, report what they find, and cooperate with one another in order to assure the success of the first two duties. Pathfinders are expected to report their findings to their venture-captains, who collect and review these records, and pass on the best to be published in the Pathfinder Chronicles.1
The Pathfinder Society was founded in Absalom on 23 Desnus, 4307 AR,2 by a group of adventurers as a means to share stories and resources.23 The first meeting place was a bar in Absalom's Foreign Quarter called the Wounded Wisp—the final stop of a pub crawl that spanned the Pig's Paunch, Crimson Coin, Vert Pippen and hammered out the group's general structure and principles.2 Adolphus, Durvin Gest, Eylysia, Gregaro Voth, Inali Buvgram, Kerinha Napsunar, Noyta Gleddirow, Selmius Foster, and Toriah al-Myran were among those present for this first meeting.2
After the first few yearly meetings, known as Grand Convocations, returned to the Wounded Wisp,2 meeting locations changed frequently over the next decade to accommodate the growing audiences. The incredible stories shared among members at these early meetings became popular forms of entertainment among the public as well.24 The fledgling society—"Pathfinder" supposedly suggested by Gest, "Society" likely suggested by Napsunar—eventually moved the Convocation to the Blakros Museum in 4314 AR in exchange for the exclusive right to exhibit their findings.2
In 4317 AR, Durvin Gest funded the publication of the Society's best stories in book form.2 The first volume of the Pathfinder Chronicles became wildly successful and began the Society's tradition of publishing the best of its members' exploits,4 though financial requirements for members to fund their own stories' publications meant that some founders' tales, such as Buvgram and al-Myran, did not feature in early volumes at all.2 In the nearly four centuries since, members of the Pathfinder Society have aspired to undertake adventures worthy of publication in the Chronicles.4
In 4320 AR, the Society's Grand Lodge was founded in Absalom in a manor home donated to the Society5 by Selmius Foster.2 As the organization grew, al-Myran led a committee that created a council of ten directors, called the Decemvirate, to help organize its growing interests and shape the future of the Society.2
After an attempted coup in 4411 AR2 as the Society grew in wealth and power, the Decemvirate decided that for its own security and safety its members would mask themselves to hide their identities, even from other Pathfinders. The membership of the Decemvirate has presumably changed many times over the last few centuries, although their identities or how they are chosen remained mysteries to nearly all Pathfinders as well as the general public.16
- 4307 AR: Nine original members2
- 4309 AR: 150 agents, 18 venture-captains2
- 4314 AR: 500 agents, 30 venture-captains2
- 4320 AR: 4,000 agents, 200 venture-captains2
- 4543 AR: 5,000 agents, 112 venture-captains7
The day-to-day management of the Pathfinder Society is handled by its venture-captains. These are usually older, accomplished Pathfinders or long-time allies of the organization who have settled down and claimed a Pathfinder lodge for themselves. They direct Pathfinders in the field toward new and interesting locales, and receive the regular reports that will eventually become part of the Chronicles. Venture-captains are largely autonomous, but occasionally receive directions from the Decemvirate, the Society's secret leadership council. The Decemvirate is composed of ten masked individuals who direct the Society's overall strategies, but little is known about their ultimate goals, or what they do with all the information Pathfinders collect all over Golarion.1
The Pathfinder Society is willing to accept members of all backgrounds, creeds, and morals. Any applicant who does well enough overall on the initial tests is allowed to take the oath and become an initiate. Training is overseen by three deans at the Grand Lodge: the Master of Swords, the Master of Spells, and the Master of Scrolls. The final test, known as the Confirmation, is taken after three years as an initiate (although ambitious or gifted initiates may persuade the deans to allow them to take the test earlier). The test is effectively the initiate's first mission; those who pass become Pathfinders, and those who fail are discharged from the Society (but often remain on good terms with it afterwards).8
Every year, a few non-Pathfinders who manage to uncover historical discoveries of great significance are offered full Pathfinder status by the Decemvirate; this is known as a "field commission". More commonly, anyone who makes a discovery and elects to report it to the Society can be offered the chance to join as an initiate, and to have the initial discovery count towards his final Confirmation. Depending on the individual, the prospective Pathfinder may then be asked to report to the Grand Lodge for further training or invited to attempt the remaining tasks required for Confirmation.9
- See also: Category:Pathfinder Society/Members
Members of the Society are loosely affiliated adventurers who are not required to interact. They are, however, forbidden to attack or otherwise negatively influence one another. This does not stop the more unscrupulous from leading rival parties into dangerous situations and dead ends.10
Most Pathfinders are issued a wayfinder,10 a type of magical compass, and taught to recognize the signs indicating a lodge. Other than that, they are largely free to be and do what they please. This allows for a very varied membership, and a situation where a Chelaxian devil-binder and a Garundi rogue find themselves sharing a night in the same lodge in the far north of Avistan is not uncommon.
Some of the greatest explorers of the last 400 years have been members of the Pathfinder Society. The most famous of these was the legendary Durvin Gest, whose tales fill a number of the first Pathfinder Chronicles. Notable current Pathfinders include the half-elf Koriah Azmeren, the current Master of Swords, Marcos Farabellus, Venture-Captain Sheila Heidmarch of Magnimar, the steward of the Grand Lodge, Ambrus Valsin, and Shevala Iorae, who was the first person to enter and explore the Spire of Nex.111
Pathfinders have no commonly favored familiars—the organization's membership and tasks are too diverse—but they tend to avoid evil outsiders with agendas that could foster internal strife within the Society.12
The Society maintains a number of Pathfinder lodges across the Inner Sea region (see the navbox below). These buildings are sometimes owned by the Society and are typically run by a venture-captain. Pathfinders may stay at a lodge for as long as they like, as long as they are on official Pathfinder business, but most lodges offer little food and few free services in order to discourage freeloaders. Venture-captains also serve as information conduits upon request, passing on messages or requests to other Pathfinder lodges, or the Grand Lodge in Absalom. They also keep a small supply of inexpensive and single-use magic items and mundane gear in stock, and these are available for sale to any Pathfinder who has need of them. More money-hungry venture-captains have been known to greatly overcharge their agents for these supplies if they believe the Pathfinders have come across a large hoard of treasure while exploring.1 Many lodges are also owned and maintained independently by members of the Society, who must show that they meet the basic qualifications of a lodge (rooms to house Pathfinder agents, copies of the Pathfinder Chronicles on hand, etc.) to gain and maintain their status.
The Grand Lodge
The Grand Lodge is a massive fortress complex located in Absalom's Foreign Quarter, and is the center of all Pathfinder Society activity. It serves not only as a training facility for new Pathfinders (see "Training" above), but is also designed to inspire its members. While during the day, its well-tended lawns and monument-strewn plazas are filled with Pathfinders regaling each other with tales of their exploits, at night the paths are lit by witchlights, and the sound of stories and songs can be heard spilling from countless open windows.1
Pathfinder Society expeditions
The Pathfinder Society collects knowledge and artefacts from all over Golarion. The nature of their expeditions is based on the personalities of the Pathfinders involved, and the conditions in which they have to work. As such, no two expeditions are the same.13
The Pathfinder Society in general is too varied and loosely organized to have a single perception shared by all or most of the public. Most venture-captains live in their lodges and are members of their respective communities, and thus have a somewhat more stable and respectable air than the Society as a whole. Individual Pathfinders often clash with the wishes of their venture-captains and with members of the public, but most try to not cause irreparable harm to the reputation of the Society. Of course, the Society takes in all kinds, and occasionally these "bad apples" harm the already precarious view of Pathfinders as legitimate scholars and explorers.1
In societies where information is tightly controlled by the government or used as a commodity or weapon (such as Galt, Nidal, or Cheliax), the Society has a more negative reputation, and Pathfinders are greeted with suspicion or even outright hostility.1 Some of the more ancient races of Golarion also view the society with hostility due to their constant interference on matters they claim dominion over. This is especially true of the elves of Kyonin, who view the Society as guilty of continuing humanity's legacy of unforgivable theft from their race. Even the non-isolationist Queen Telandia Edasseril ordered the Pathfinder group known as the Leaves of Talhindir assassinated, in 4708 AR.9
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 268–269. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Chapter 1: Introduction” in Pathfinder Society Guide, 8. Paizo Inc., 2020 .
- “Welcome to the Pathfinder Society” in Pathfinder Society Primer, 5. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Welcome to the Pathfinder Society” in Seekers of Secrets, 26. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Welcome to the Pathfinder Society” in Seekers of Secrets, 27. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Chapter 1: Introduction” in Pathfinder Society Guide, 10. Paizo Inc., 2020 .
- “Chapter 1: Introduction” in Pathfinder Society Guide, 11. Paizo Inc., 2020 .
- “Welcome to the Pathfinder Society” in Seekers of Secrets, 5–7. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Welcome to the Pathfinder Society” in Seekers of Secrets, 7. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Chapter 4: Organizations” in Campaign Setting, 194–195. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Tools of the Trade” in Seekers of Secrets, 54. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Introduction” in Familiar Folio, 5. Paizo Inc., 2015 .
- “Treasures of the Pathfinders” in What Lies in Dust, 53. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide, 32. Paizo Inc., .