I am a new player with almost no experience in RPGs. I have joined a public gaming group and the first session is in a week. They are playing Pathfinder. My question: should I buy some Pathfinder books for the game? What others materials is it necessary to have (MORE than ONE set of dice?) ?
Typically it is best to simply ask them. Groups don’t assume new players will magically know things without instruction.
That said, there are some simple things you can do. The Pathfinder System Resource Document is a massive reference guide to just about all the options available in Pathfinder, completely free and legal. You could start to take a look at it. It is designed as a reference first, which can make it difficult to dig into as a new player with no guidance, but Getting Started and the Character Creation Outline should be accessible enough even reading on your own. Note that many (most?) groups have “houserules” that may change some of the details contained even in those most basic pages, but understanding the default rules will help you to understand what the houserules mean.
Caveat: I do not recommend that you create a character from scratch, with no help, and without having met the group and discussed the specifics of the game. That could be a ton of work, fraught with confusion (that can be easily clarified by working through it with someone experienced), and the character may not even fit in the game they’re playing. This is more just about reading how character creation works in general, to understand how to use the system and what some basic terms mean.
Aside from that, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what you would like to do with the game, particularly if you know a little about what the group is doing. I don’t mean the options presented in the PFSRD, but rather purely thinking about what character you want to create, what role it is you’d like to play. A warrior-type or a mage-type or a sneaky-type? Some kind of hybrid mix of two or more of these things? A stalwart dwarf or passionate elf – or passionate dwarf? Someone loyal and faithful, a quintessential exemplar of his race, community, country, or class, or someone who’s unusual, rejecting some or all of those norms?
Again, note that I’m not suggesting that you pick out a class (more like a category of classes; a warrior could be a fighter or cavalier or barbarian or paladin or whatever), much less going through choosing all the class features, feats, and so on. Those details make more sense to figure out once you have met the group and learned more about the game and other characters. Typically, a group doesn’t expect someone who has never played to show up with a ready-made character. Personally, I’d find that to be an extremely unreasonable expectation.
All of these ideas are possible, at least in the right game. Even if the game is set in an unusual setting or has a very specific focus, these kinds of ideas get you thinking about possibilities; you can adapt your idea, or you can just take it as practice and create something new and more tailored for the game when you learn more details.
As for dice, most groups have plenty, but more is never a problem. I have never played in a group where a new player was expected to have their own dice, but it couldn’t hurt (a simple set isn’t usually expensive), and it avoids the potentially-awkward situation where they were expecting you to have your own and you don’t. Along the same lines, pen(cil) and paper; they almost certainly have plenty, but it’d be awkward if they didn’t.
You probably don’t need to buy Pathfinder books, considering the existence of the PFSRD, but some do find that their greater detail and guidance for new players useful. Still, with an experienced group that can show you the ropes, I feel like it’s a fair bit of cash for what is usually pretty generic advice.
Nothing is absolutely required. Some things that I try to always bring to a game, regardless of the circumstances, are:
- A pencil
- Enough dice for me to play the game (for Pathfinder, a seven-die set is a good start, although you later find you want extra instances of a die type; e.g. rogues will want additional d6s)
- My character sheet, if it's already built and the GM expects players to keep their sheets.
If you have the core player book and any supplements necessary for your character, those would be welcome but not expected. It's always nice to have an extra Player's Handbook or equivalent.
Snacks and drinks will always be welcome but not always expected.
A new player should not be required to buy books if the rest of the group already has some on hand. That being said, familiarizing yourself with the rules is very important in keeping gameplay smooth. If the other players are experienced they will probably be willing to help you along with any questions you have along the way.
Other than that, bring a set or two of dice, your character sheet, a pencil, a couple of sheets of loose leaf or printer paper to take notes if necessary (even index cards work, I use them to keep track of spells when I play a caster). Lastly, find out if the group has a policy for food and drinks. My gaming group is always required to bring some kind of snack along to the host house to keep things cheap and easy.
As a frequent GM and gameday organizer, I find it nice when people bring their own character sheet(s), blank if they have not created their character. If your group knows you are coming and inexperienced, they may have this and other such things ready for you, however.
If you intend to use the session to see if you enjoy the RPGs, then you may want to wait and not buy anything until you see if you enjoy it as noted above. However, if you are planning to play long term, I think it worth owning a Core Rulebook sooner than later. I like to peruse my rulebooks before I attend the first session of any new game I play so I have an idea of how the game system works. Even for gaming veterans, every game system plays slightly differently. I would not recommend buying any more materials than that for your first session no matter what your intent. Learn the core game and let your imagination immerse yourself in the rest before you shell out a bunch of cash.
As a player, I also like to have blank paper (besides your character sheet). Many gamers like to take notes about what is going on (critical non-player characters [NPCs], clues, other character's names (even real names), etc). Not everyone does this, so that's just a recommendation especially if you don't know what type of gamer you are.
If you have any miniatures, you might bring something to represent your character though one of your unused dice or a coin may suffice, or likely your compatriots will have something you can borrow temporarily. Small lego men, army men, etc may suffice as well as provide party amusement (my father sometimes uses them even though he has "real" miniatures). Normal "mats" are about 1 inch by 1 inch (think size of a quarter) and try and pick something that won't fall over all the time, if you bring something. Aside: Core rulebook and minis can be purchased at local gamestores which is nice if you did not buy them in advance as thanks to the owners for use of the space.
I won't duplicate what others said above, though I agree with a lot of it. At the end of the day, I think ask them ahead (if possible) and good attitude are the best answers. Good gaming to you!