Chapter 3 - The World of the Pathfinder Society

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Pathfinder Society Organized Play is based in the teeming metropolis of Absalom. Absalom’s residents take pride in living in one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the known world—and certainly its most famous. According to myth, Absalom was founded by Aroden himself when the Last of the First Humans raised the Starstone from the ocean depths and left it in its current resting place at the heart of the city. This famous city is thus a living part of Golarion’s mythology.

Absalom sits in the largest natural harbor on the Isle of Kortos, in the eye of the Inner Sea. This location allows the city to control dozens of major shipping lanes and makes it a critical stop on any voyage across that sea. The conf luence of mercantile, strategic, and religious inf luence in Absalom is the source of its title: “City at the Center of the World.” Of course, Absalom also attracts would-be conquerors, although in the nearly 5,000 years since its founding, the city has never fallen. The ruins of dozens of siege castles litter the grounds outside Absalom’s walls, and its harbor is so choked with the masts and hulls of sunken warships that safely reaching the city’s docks requires the steady eye of a paid pilot.

When Aroden raised the Isle of Kortos from the depths of the Inner Sea and founded Absalom, he called the wise and brave from nearby lands to inhabit the new land and bade them protect the Starstone from all who would claim it. Nobles, merchants, and adventurers, particularly those from Andoran, Cheliax, Osirion, Qadira, Taldor, and Thuvia, settled in the new city. The city’s culture draws heavily from all these lands, and many of its noble houses identify closely with elements from those nations. The common folk represent an even wider array of cultural influences, from Mordant Spire elves to Tian traders to travelers from other planes. As a result, food, songs, and clothing from nearly every corner of Golarion can be found here if visitors know where to look. It is said with some seriousness that it is impossible to look out of place on the streets of Absalom.

The Pathfinder Society Field Guide features a brief overview of the city’s districts, presenting general information any Pathfinder might know. For more information on the city’s history, inhabitants, and locales, consult the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Guide to Absalom. Both books are available online at paizo.com or at your local game store or bookstore.

The Pathfinder Society

The Pathfinder Society has existed for more than 400 years. Its history, fraught with the daring exploits of brave heroes, has long enchanted the populace of the Inner Sea. Members include explorers, historians, tomb raiders, treasure hunters, and vagabonds who roam the farthest reaches of the world seeking lost relics of world-shattering power and answers to riddles older than the gods. These heroes brave vine-choked jungle ruins, ascend snow-capped peaks, and comb sun-seared desert sands in search of buried tombs and monuments of bygone ages.

Upon the completion of a particularly notable discovery or journey, Society members send a record of their exploits to their venture-captain superior, who in turn reviews it for accuracy before forwarding the manuscript to the masked leaders of the Pathfinder Society: the cryptic Decemvirate, an inner circle of 10 experienced Pathfinders who guide the Society’s activities. Their subtle guidance allows individual Pathfinder agents to believe they act of their own accord when they are actually doing the bidding of the Ten.

The Society recognizes no formal bylaws, but adherence to a general code of behavior is expected of all members, and reports of activity violating this code are grounds for removal from the organization. The three most important member duties are as follows.

  • Explore: Pathfinders are expected to further the knowledge and reputation of the Society by traveling to distant lands, unearthing forbidden secrets, and piecing together the secret history of the world. Agents are encouraged to travel uncharted lands in search of evermore-fantastic mysteries.
  • Report: In the course of their adventures, Pathfinders are expected to keep detailed journals, maps, and accounts of their exploits. At the conclusion of a successful mission, the agent sends a copy of his notes to his immediate superior, a regional venture-captain, who makes a full analysis (often involving divination). Accounts of especially noteworthy exploits make their way to Absalom and the Decemvirate, who compile the best tales into irregularly published editions of the Pathfinder Chronicles, which make their way back to venture-captains for distribution to Pathfinder agents in the field.
  • Cooperate: The Society places no moral obligations upon its members, so agents span all races, creeds, and motivations. At any given time, a Pathfinder lodge might house a fiend-summoning Chelaxian, a Silver Crusade paladin, an antiquities-obsessed Osirian necromancer, a watchdog Shadow Lodge member, and a friendly Taldan raconteur. Pathfinder agents, no matter which of the 10 factions they belong to, are expected to respect one another’s claims and stay out of each other’s affairs unless offering a helping hand.

The Pathfinder Society Field Guide and Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Seekers of Secrets both contain a wealth of additional information on the history, goals, and methods of the Pathfinder Society, including campaign-legal rules options to help you immerse your character into the campaign’s primary organization.

Venture-Captains and the Grand Lodge

Most Pathfinders wander the world in search of riches and adventure, settling down only long enough to plan their next caper or fully plunder an ancient ruin of its treasure and secrets. But another class of Pathfinder exists, a group unknown to the populace at large yet integral to the success of the organization. These are the venture-captains who manage regional affairs and their sometimes considerable cadres of cohorts, retainers, menials, and guardians. The Grand Lodge of Absalom stands alone among its fellows. Unlike lesser lodges in towns throughout the continent, which often mask their purpose behind facades of commerce or domesticity, the Grand Lodge wears its affiliation proudly. The Glyph of the Open Road, so often hidden in a map’s compass rose or a book’s embellishment to show the covert approval of the Pathf inder Society, blazes above the gate of a sheer-walled redoubt at the heart of Absalom. The wall circles seven sturdy fortresses that date back to the city’s founding, perhaps the estate of a long-dormant noble house or the onetime bastion of a forgotten government. For the last 400 years, the Grand Lodge of Absalom has been the stronghold of the Pathfinder Society, the seat of the Decemvirate, and the legendary repository of the Society’s treasures and legends.