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I've played D&D in the past (including 3.5) and have been looking at Pathfinder because it seemed familiar and popular. I've been thinking of joining a Pathfinder event game at a store (might be Pathfinder Society rules, might not be), but I am concerned about creating a character that an unknown GM will allow. There are just so many books now that character creation is extremely time consuming as you have to consider feats/spells from five different books.

For a home game the obvious answer is "Ask the GM about his rules", but for joining a Pathfinder group at a game store, asking the GM is not possible because I don't know the GM until I show up for my first session.

I don't want to show up without a character created, but I don't want to wait a week before I can join up either. (Doing this once isn't a big deal but doing it every time you join a new group is unpleasant.) In less complicated RPGs I could just roll a character on the spot, but Pathfinder is a great deal more complicated.

Time for a little example of what I'm concerned about happening. Suppose I want to make a punch/kick monk (as opposed to the Qinggong monk or Zen Archer monk) that doesn't feel like a under-powered character when compared to others' characters at a table of Pathfinder enthusiasts. I find out that to do that I need to really plan out my feats, pulling them from the core rulebook, advanced player's guide, ultimate combat, and others. I also use the Unchained monk archetype because it is supposed to bring the monk up to par with other powerful classes. I spend numerous hours creating this guy only to get to my first Pathfinder game and the GM says, "Sorry, but I don't allow Unchained Pathfinder in my game." I would have to re-roll a character (even another monk) from scratch.

How do I make an optimized character for a store's Pathfinder event game with an unknown GM, while dealing with each GM's rules of which books are allowed and which are not?

I feel like if I show up with a CRB character then it will probably be accepted by the GM, but I am likely to feel weak if the rest of the party has optimized characters with feats/spells from numerous books, but if I show up with an optimized character that is more likely to feel relevant in combat, then I risk having my character rejected by the GM.

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If it's a Pathfinder Society game, then there's publicly available rules on what sources are allowed (many of them, but with some specific house rules). Any character in compliance with those rules is acceptable in PFS to any GM, so I won't address that scenario any more.

If it's not, you have all the same basic options anyone does.

  1. Contact the GM and/or a player ahead of time to see "what is the deal"
  2. Bring a couple characters to choose from (probably a good idea in any event, as if you show up with a barbarian and they already have plenty of front-line you might want to fill another role anyway).
  3. Play one character session 1 and switch session 2 if it doesn't work out.
  4. Come and gen characters on site. Level 1 characters aren't that hard, even in Pathfinder, and the GM is going to need to work you into the plot anyway, you're not just going to be standing there in the party with no explanation when the game starts.

But this is clearly a hypothetical not a real problem because it's not based on the real situation with a real group.

  • What if the group is at level 10 already and say "make a level 10 character, not level 1?"
  • What if the whole group is starting a new campaign?
  • What if it's one-shots not a campaign and pregens are provided?
  • What if... any other factor that makes the character you bring with you not a good fit?

"What ifs" don't make for good questions on RPG.SE, or good uses of your worrying time. Maybe the GM will have you run an existing NPC the first session to get used to things. Find out the actual situation and then respond to that.

You're entirely too concerned about exact build for a first session. Show up, do whatever, have fun. If you're worried about turning people off, it's not your build that'll do it, it'll be how you interact with a new group. Relax.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk May 27 '17 at 23:20
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The rules for PFS and any organized play are published online, as long as your character falls within those rules, you are fine.

A few other things (for your first PFS character):

  • Get there early

  • Build as simple a character as you can (using just the Core book). That way any GM will be able to help you without going "huh... I don't know that class very well."

  • Do not ask for advice about your first character from a fellow player, only from a GM (ideally the one who will run for you).

  • Organized play does not have house rules, though it is good practice to ask your GM for any odd interpretation of the rules. Do not assume the GM understands or adjudicates the rules like you do. (See point #2: simpler characters lead to fewer rule adjudications.)

Good luck, and don't sweat it.

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Since PFS was covered already, I'll speak to my experience outside of PFS. Here is a list with relative frequency of content being off-limits.

Nearly all of the material on PFSRD is fair game, with some exceptions:

  • Master Summoner (archetype) is "almost" always banned
  • Sythesist Summoner (archetype) is "almost" always banned
  • Vivisectionist Alchemist (archetype) is frequently banned
  • Zen Archer Monk (archetype) is occasionally banned
  • Dual Cursed Oracle (archetype) is occasionally banned
  • Kineticists (class) are frequently banned
  • Other 'Occult' classes are occasionally banned
  • 'Featured' Races are rarely banned
  • 'Uncommon' Races are occasionally banned
  • 'Standard' Races are occasionally banned
  • Races with over 15 'Race Points' are almost always banned
  • Races with 15 RP are frequently banned
  • Races with over 10 RP are rarely banned
  • Leadership (feat) is almost always banned in the setting you're talking about, but goes down to frequently in other settings
  • The Evil alignment is frequently banned
  • If you play the Chaotic alignment like it's Evil, you'll be talked to
  • The 'Unchained' classes are generally better received than the original classes, but are rarely banned
  • If you're thinking about taking a Prestige Class (PrC), you will have time and should talk to your GM. Many of them have a lot of flavor text associated, particularly in Paizo's Golarion realm, as well as strange mechanics

Side note, I'm leaving out links on content here since it's a list of things you're less likely to use.

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