So you’ve got your character ready, you know their backstory, and you may even know what kind of adventure they’re going to be playing in. What’s left to do? Buy your equipment. But, where to start?
Some equipment can be found in nearly every Pathfinder book in publication, but there are four primary resources for equipment that I highly recommend you check out. First up: Ultimate Equipment. This one book has everything you’ll need from mundane gear to high level magical objects. The second best resource? Your Core Rulebook. It’s got everything you need to get started and many players can go their entire gaming careers by only shopping in this one book. Bonus? Chances are you own it already! The other two books I recommend checking out are extras. They’re not necessary. They’re books for players who want even more gear options. Also, keep in mind that these books focus mostly on mundane gear. That is Adventurer’s Armory and Adventurer’s Armory 2.
Books aside, many people find purchasing gear for their low level characters a lot of work. Particularly if you’re a small sized character and need to work out the math on weight equivalents for all your gear. What follows is intended to be help players select gear quickly and easily for their characters, while still ensuring they’re prepared for any encounter.
Step 1: Determine Wealth
Obviously, depending on what kind of game you’re playing, you will have a different amount of gold to spend on starting gear. For those of you playing in the Pathfinder Society, you will always have 150 gold pieces to spend on your equipment. Those of you playing outside of the society will have to follow your GMs directions to determine your starting gold. Most GMs either give you a single gold value, or tell you to take maximum wealth, average wealth, or roll for wealth. To determine your wealth, first look at your class. Underneath your hit dice you’ll find an entry for Starting Wealth which is expressed in a dice equation (for example: 3d6 x 10 gp), followed by the average wealth for that class in brackets. To calculate maximum wealth assume you have rolled the highest you could on that equation and use the total gold as your starting wealth (for our example that would be 6+6+6 = 18 x 10 gp = 180 gp). Average wealth is already determined for you in brackets (105 gp in our example). Finally, to determine random wealth simply roll out the dice equation. (In our example you would roll 3 six-sided dice and add it all together. Then multiply this result by ten and that is your starting gold.
Once you’ve determined your starting gold it’s time to go shopping. So what’s the first thing you should purchase?
At its core, Pathfinder is a combat game. To succeed you need a way to protect yourself and defeat your enemies. This means that you need a way to increase your AC, a way to attack your enemy in melee, and a way to attack your enemy at range. Now, for most characters you will need to purchase physical armour and weapons, but for other characters, particularly spellcasters and monks, you’ll find that some of these are unnecessary, as you’re already capable of doing so with your class abilities. For example, there’s no need for a monk to invest in a melee weapon if they can already fight with their fists, just as there’s no need for a spellcaster who knows the cantrip ray of frost to invest in a crossbow. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a melee or ranged weapon anyway, it just means that you don’t have to. Similarly, some classes will be unable to use certain types of equipment, either because it interferes with their spellcasting or movement, or because they’re not trained in its use.
Step 2: Determine Proficiency
To figure out what armour and weapons your character is proficient with check out their class entry. Right underneath the chart detailing their abilities (or right before it in some instances), you’ll find an entry marked Weapon and Armour Proficiency. There it will list what weapon types your class is capable of using, which will be listed as either simple, martial, or as a series of specific weapons. After this it will say what kind of armour your class is capable of using, which will be listed as either light armour, medium armour, heavy armour, or shields. Many classes, particularly arcane spellcasters, are not trained to use armour at all. Now, just because something is not listed under your proficiencies, doesn’t mean you can’t use it. It just means that using it will cause you to take penalties. These penalties can be negated by various proficiency feats, which is beyond the scope of this article. Keep in mind that these penalties are considerable, so I do NOT recommend attempting to wear or utilize equipment you are not proficient with. This is particularly true for druids, monks and arcane spellcasters, who will suffer even greater penalties (up to and including the loss of spells, and class abilities).
Step 3: Purchase Weapons
The first thing I suggest purchasing is your weapons. Take a look at your character’s stats and figure out if you are going to be better at melee combat (which typically runs off of your Strength score) or ranged combat (which typically runs off of your Dexterity score). This will be the type of combat you’re probably going to rely on most often and I suggest that you focus your wealth on that option over the other. Next, take a look at your class abilities and see if you have a way to make one of those attack forms repeatedly with your character. If so, there’s no need to purchase a weapon for that type of attack form. Once that’s done look at the weapon entries that you’re proficient with. In addition to being simple, martial or exotic, weapons will also be sorted into light weapons, one-handed weapons, and two-handed weapons. Figure out what kinds you’d like to use and buy them. When looking at ranged weapons, be sure to read the weapons range increment. Daggers and darts have a much shorter range than a crossbow, so if you intend to stay far away from your enemies, the range you can attack from is very important! Also, keep an eye on weight.
All in all, I recommend spending about a third of your wealth on your weapons. Spellcasters will spend less than this, while particularly combat oriented characters can go over that easily, so be careful. You’ll also need to purchase armour and basic gear!
Too many options? For those of you looking for more help in selecting weapons, I’ll share with you some of my favourites. For those of you who want to delve into them yourself, skip ahead to step four.
If you’re proficient in simple weapons be sure to check out the club, quarterstaff and sling, all of which are free. In fact, any character on a budget should take a look at those options. They may not be the most exciting, but they’re affordable and effective!
Daggers are always useful, while sickles make an interesting thematic alternative. Spears of all sizes (short spear, spear and longspear) are great weapons and often overlooked. My personal favourite melee simple weapons are the cestus (which can be worn all the time and are awesome for spellcasters) and the morningstar (which can deal both piercing and bludgeoning damage). If you’re looking for a ranged weapon check out the sling (for those of you with a positive strength modifier), or the light crossbow (for those of you who are of average or weak strength). Both take a move action to reload. If you’re in the market for thrown weapons I recommend darts.
If you’re proficient in melee weapons you have a TON of options, but remember not to overlook simple weapons (which can sometimes be your best choice). For light weapons be sure to check out the handaxe and the short sword, both are solid options that aren’t too expensive. The kukri is also nice. Though it does a bit less damage it has a better critical range. For one-handed weapons the rapier and scimitar are both awesome choices that deal solid damage and have amazing critical threat ranges. Also? You can never go wrong with a longsword! On a budget? For a more affordable options check out the light flail and the heavy pick. For two-handed weapons be sure to check out the greatclub, which does solid damage on a small budget, or the guisarme for a weapon with reach. Looking for the most damage you can deal? That will be the earthbreaker, but beware! It costs a pretty penny! My personal favourite martial melee weapons are the starknife, machete, halberd and scythe. It should be noted that a lot of people in the market for two handed weapons also love the greatsword, greataxe, and falchion, though they’re not my favourites. If you’re looking for a ranged martial weapon I highly suggest a shortbow. They’re free to reload, have great range and deal solid damage. They’re costly, but much cheaper than some other options out there. If you have a high strength score you can also invest in a composite shortbow at higher level to increase the damage you can deal with the bow. Although longbows are also great, they’re also much more expensive. Those of you interested in thrown weapons should check out my personal favourite, the chakram.
The final category of weapons is exotic. Although some classes grant you proficiency with a selection of exotic weapons, typically to be able to use one you need to take the feat ‘exotic weapon proficiency‘ with a single exotic weapon. Now, being exotic doesn’t make a weapon better than any of the others that are simple or martial. So unless you’re really set on using a specific exotic weapon I don’t recommend delving into them much. It’s just not effective. That said, there are a lot of cool weapons hidden away in the exotic section. Whips, hand crossbows and a wide variety of monk weapons are the ones you’ll see most often in use (which bards, rogues and monks are proficient with respectively), along with racial weapons like the elven curveblade, halfling sling staff, gnome hooked hammer, or the dwarven waraxe. I’ve got plenty of favourite exotic weapons, either for their unique abilities, statistics, or their ‘cool factor.’ Curious what made the list? For light weapons I love battle poi, fighting fans, and the scorpion whip. For one-handed weapons I love the khopesh, katana, sawtooth sabre (all of which are on the pricey side). For two-handed weapons check out the bladed scarf, kusarigama, meteor hammer, spiked chain and tetsubo. Finally, for ranged weapons, I love bolas, boomerang, net, and shuriken.
One final note on weapons: If you bought a ranged weapon, be sure to pick up ammunition! A bow is of no use to you if you didn’t buy arrows! So don’t forget your sling stones, bolts and arrows!
Step 4: Purchase Armour
Armour is much easier to purchase than weapons. You need to consider what you’re proficient with, how much weight you can carry and how much money you can spend. If you’re a low level character you can’t afford heavy armour. Chances are you can’t afford most medium armour, either. That means that even if you can wear a lot of different types of armour, you’re likely going to be shopping in the light armour section. If you do want to delve into the medium armour, the only two that you are likely to be able to afford at low level is hide armour, or the armoured coat. An important thing to note is that these two armour aren’t much better at protecting you than some light armour, and that they slow you down and hinder your maneuverability.
But what about light armour? There’s five things you need to consider to find the armour that’s best for your character: AC, cost, weight, check penalty, and max Dex bonus. If you happen to be an arcane spellcaster who wants to wear armour despite the downsides, you’ll also need to worry about the spell failure chance. In general, the lower the AC, the higher the max Dex bonus, and the lower the check penalty and spell failure chance. Heavier, more protective armour has a higher AC, lower max Dex bonus, higher check penalty and higher spell failure chance. What you need will depend on what kind of character you’re making. Arcane spell casters can pick up a haramaki. Characters interested in the lightest of armours should also take a look at a reinforced tunic, or lamellar cuirass. Those who are interested in more protection should check out studded leather armour, leather armour, and wooden armour.
Shield are even easier. First off, lots of classes aren’t proficient with them. And second, even if you are proficient, not everyone will want to purchase a shield. If you’re planning on firing a bow, fighting with two weapons, or fighting with a two handed weapon you don’t want one. If you do still want a shield, the choice is simple. Do you want a buckler or a shield? If it’s a shield, do you want it light or heavy? Next, is it made of metal or wood. And finally, do you want to add spikes onto it? That’s it. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t other shields. There are. And you’re welcome to look at them. But, at it’s core, these are the decisions you’ll be making. If you do want a unique shield, I recommend a quickdraw shield (which is pricier), a klar (for stabbing!), or a tower shield for ultimate protection (if you can use it!).
Step 5: Purchase Necessary Gear
Next you need to buy your necessities. By this I mean, the gear that literally every character needs. Clothes, for starters. Everyone gets a free outfit, so be sure to read up on the affordable ones and take your pick. Once you’re dressed read on! I’ve listed the necessities below with their cost and weight. If you’re small they will instead weigh the amount in brackets.
- Backpack: 2 gp, 2 lbs (0.5 lbs)
- Bedroll: 1 sp, 5 lbs (1.25 lbs)
- Belt Pouch: 1 gp, 1/2 lb (1/8 lb)
- Flint and Steel: 1 gp
- Rations (per day): 5 sp, 1 lb (1/4 lb)
- Waterskin: 1 gp, 4 lbs (1 lb)
I also highly recommend picking up the following:
- Grooming Kit: 1 gp, 2 lbs (1/2 lb)
- Mess Kit: 2 sp, 1 lb
Step 6: Purchase Class Gear
Next you need to buy the gear you’ll need for your class. Spellcasters need spellbooks, and spell component pouches. Bards need a way to perform (likely an instrument, but not necessarily), rogues need thieve’s tools, religious characters need a holy symbol, and anyone with a sharp weapon needs a whetstone. So think about your character class and be sure to buy all those little bits and bobs you need. Don’t forget about any pets you might have! Lastly, if you’ve given yourself a craft, make sure you pick up the tools of your trade.
Step 7: Purchase Extra Gear
Now that you’ve got your necessities you can pick up your extra gear. Typically, this includes writing supplies, survival gear, and other accessories. I’ve compiled the basic below for ease, along with their cost, weight (and small weight in brackets).
- Chalk: 1 cp
- Charcoal: 5 sp
- Ink: 8 gp
- Ink pen: 1 sp
- Journal: 10 gp, 1 lb
- Paper (per page): 4 sp
- Parchment (per page): 2 sp
- Map/Scroll Case: 1 gp, 1/2 lb
- Hooded Lantern: 7 gp, 2 lbs
- Oil (pint): 1 sp, 1 lb
- Rope: 1 gp, 10 lbs
- Silk Rope: 10 gp, 5 lbs
- Tent: 10 gp, 20 lbs (5 lbs)
- Torch: 1 cp, 1 lb
For other accessories you’ll want to give the books a read. You’ll find all kinds of fun things to finish off your characters from pets, dice and toy balls, all the way through to tear-away clothes, pitons, and a wagon. The sky’s the limit! Okay, it’s actually your budget that’s the limit… My personal favourite? The spring-loaded scroll case!
Step 8: Special Considerations
There’s three final things you should consider purchasing if you can afford it. A way to harm a swarm, a way to harm something incorporeal, and a way to heal yourself.
Even the best equipped and most prepared adventurers can be stopped in their tracks by two types of enemies: swarms (which are often immune to weapon damage but can be harmed by area attacks) and incorporeal creatures (which are immune to non-magical attacks and many spells, take only half damage from magical attacks, but can be hurt by force effects and (usually) positive energy. There’s nothing worse than coming across a swarm of spiders that literally no one in your party can hurt. Similarly, many evil outsiders have significant DR that is difficult for low level characters to deal with. So what do you do?
First: pick up some alchemical splash weapons. Acid are the best choice, at 10 gold each and 1 lb weight. Alchemist’s fire are twice as much money at 20 gold each, but they have the same weight and can light your opponents on fire causing them to take more damage the second round.
Second: pick up some holy water. This can deal with incorporeal creatures, undead of all kinds who you may not be able to harm due to DR, and evil outsiders (who, again, typically have DR). Holy Water is the priciest option at 25 gold a vial. Still, it can be invaluable.
Even if you don’t buy some of the above right from level one I recommend picking some up in the future. Eventually you’ll need them, and I promise you’ll be glad you have them.
- Acid: 10 gp, 1 lb
- Alchemist’s Fire: 20 gp, 1 lb
- Holy Water: 25 gp, 1 lb
Lastly, get yourself some healing potions! Even better, if you’re a character capable of casting cure light wounds, pick yourself up a scroll of it. It’s cheaper.
- Potion of cure light wounds: 50 gp, (heals 1d8+1)
- Scroll of cure light wounds: 25 gp (heals 1d8+1)
And that’s it. You’re done! I hope that helps you figure out what you’d like to buy, and eases your calculations. Now it’s time to flip open your books and get shopping!