The Pathfinder Society

Even in Golarion, a world rife with adventure and marvelous beasts, the exploits of heroes still stir hearts and inspire the masses. Those who seek moral lessons from their myths follow the deeds of Aroden, last of the first humans, who emerged from the tumult that sunk the continent of Azlant, gave culture to the people of Taldor, and reclaimed the Starstone from the depths of the Inner Sea. Those who seek excitement prefer saga heroes like Bragi Balehammer or the indefatigable Molaho Khem, whether or not these fanciful adventurers ever really existed. But those who seek to claim the mantle of fame as their own, who seek to enrich themselves by unwinding the secret history of the world, turn to champions whose exploits can be read, verified, and followed. Such bravos tread the footsteps of the elusive Pathfinder Society.

Members of the Society are part archaeologist, part historian, and part foolhardy adrenaline addict. They chase rumors of treasure like miners prospect gold, and often come out richer in the end. Their mother lodes are the crumbling ruins of ancient civilizations and the forgotten funeral chambers of centuries-dead monarchs. Such places often boast powerful guardians or recalcitrant squatters, so the life of a Pathfinder is fraught with danger. Few die in their beds.

The greatest of their exploits live forever in the form of the Pathfinder Chronicles, a multi-volume series of chapbooks published by the order’s inner circle in Absalom and distributed throughout the world by members of the Society. Upon the completion of particularly notable discoveries or journeys, Society members send records of their exploits to their venture-captain superiors, who in turn review them for accuracy before forwarding the manuscripts to the city of Absalom, where the masked rulers of the Pathfinder Society and much of the order’s infrastructure is housed.

Venture-captains work directly for the Decemvirate, a cabal of 10 experienced Pathfinders that publishes the Pathfinder Chronicles and guides the organization’s activities. Because most in the Society consider themselves adamant individualists, this direction is often quite subtle, allowing individual Pathfinder agents to believe they act on their own accord while actually doing the bidding of the Ten. Members of the Society often joke about the inscrutable “will of the Ten” to justify unusual or indefensible orders from above, and few refrain from privately blaming their unknown superiors when some gambit goes terribly wrong.

But when things go right, a Pathfinder agent has much to gain. If his exploits reach the Pathfinder Chronicles, he achieves a certain notoriety and respect in life, and a kind of immortality as well. For as long as the Society itself strives to unlock the world’s secrets, so long as the Chronicles circulate among eager adventurers, the exploits of the greatest Pathfinders will live forever.

The Society recognizes no formal bylaws, but a general code of behavior is expected of all members, and reports of activity contrary to this code are grounds for dismissal from the organization. Most of the time this ostracism involves a venture-captain failing to respond to queries from field agents, but in especially egregious cases powerful Pathfinders have been tasked with eliminating rogue members of the organization who have, as a result of their actions, brought shame to the order. Loosely summarized, the three “understood” 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. The organization first took form in the mighty, ancient city of Absalom, and while countless secrets remain undiscovered even on the ruin-laden Isle of Kortos, agents are encouraged to travel to uncharted lands on the fringes of known cartography in search of ever more 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 venture, the agent sends a copy of his notes to his immediate superior, a regional venture-captain, who makes a full analysis (often involving divination). 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 fiendsummoning Chelaxian, an Andoren freedom fighter, an antiquities-obsessed necromancer, and a friendly halfling raconteur. Anything can (and often does) happen in the field, but the lodge is inviolate, and agents are forbidden from battling within its confines. Even beyond the lodge, Pathfinder agents are expected to respect one another’s claims and stay out of each other’s affairs except to offer a helping hand. According to long-held tradition, Pathfinders must attempt to parley before a potential conflict, regardless of potential enmity based on national affiliation, personal allegiances, or other factors.

This doesn’t always happen, and rogue Pathfinders often gain great wealth and notoriety by manufacturing accidents in the field that leave treasure and arcane lore unclaimed. Many believe that such treachery in the earliest days of the organization led to the masking of the Decemvirate and the subsequent execution or exile of dozens of traitorous agents. To this day, nervous Pathfinders speak of the “twenty eyes” monitoring all Pathfinder behavior, with the implication that the hapless agent about to suffer betrayal might be a favorite of one of the masked leaders of the organization.

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