Pathfinder 2e is published primarily as a series of books, available both as physical copies and as PDFs, but because Pathfinder 2e is published under the Open Gaming License, the rules text is also available legally for free online. There are numerous “SRD” (system reference document) sites, but Paizo’s official online partner is Archives of Nethys.
This guide will make frequent reference to the rulebooks, and I’ll try to provide both page numbers and references to the rules text on Archives of Nethys. Unfortunately, learning the rules of the game via Archives of Nethys is somewhat unpleasant, so I do recommend acquiring a copy of the core rulebook or at least the Beginner Box.
Table of Contents
- The Core Rulebook
- The Gamemaster Guide
- The Beginner Box
- Rules Supplements
- Other Books
The Core Rulebook
The Core Rulebook is the most important sourcebook available. It contains the core rules of the game which you need to play, including such crucial content as how to build a character, how combat works, and how magic works.
The Gamemaster Guide
The Gamemastery Guide provides additional rules which the Game Master uses to run a campaign, as well as general advice on how to run your game well, rules for balancing combat encounters, subsystems for handling specific mechanics which don’t come up in every game, variant rules for adjusting the game to your preferences, and a nearly 50-page collection of NPC stat blocks for common humanoids that the players might encounter.
Pathfinder’s books of monsters, NPCs, and all sorts of creatures for mundane and mystical. These books contain a library of creatures for the Game Master to use in the game. Some will be vicious enemies, some will be unexpected friends, and some will simply be wild beasts that you encounter on your adventures.
Paizo has published several Bestiary books, and more creatures are available in other supplements, so Pathfinder 2e’s roster of creatures is large. If you’re new to the game, don’t be intimidated. Start with the classic Bestiary and consider acquiring new books later once you’ve played a few games.
The Beginner Box
The PF2 Beginner Box is a fantastic resource for new players first learning the game. It contains pre-generated characters and an adventure which will gradually teach both the players and the GM most of the game’s core mechanics by playing a short adventure.
For more on the Beginner Box, see our Pathfinder 2e Beginner Box Guide.
Over time, Paizo has published new sourcebooks which expand upon the core rules. These sourcebooks add new monsters, new player options like ancestries and classes, new spells, new items, and sometimes even new mechanics.
If you’re looking for your first rule supplement beyond the core rulebooks, get the Advanced Player’s Guide. Beyond that, consider supplements which have content that specifically appeals to your preferences, such as Guns and Gears if you want to play a gunslinger or Book of the Dead if you enjoy undead as a concept.
In addition to sourcebooks, there are also official published adventures and “adventure paths” like The Abomination Vaults and Strength of Thousands. Published adventures are great for GMs who don’t like to write their own adventures or don’t have time to do so, and they’re a great way for new GMs to get comfortable in the role before trying their hand at writing their own adventures.