12 minute build

Quickest Pathfinder 2e character build

tip gm rpg pathfinder

In a previous post, I demonstrated how to do a quick D&D 5e character build with new players. The advantage to this idea is that you get a new player into the game within a quarter of an hour. They might not understand everything about the process, but a quick build gives them a taste of what's possible, and then gets them into the part that feels like a game. In the future, after falling in love with the game, a new player can read the rules, appreciate the character build process, and eventually recognize that "downtime" is just as much part of the game as sitting around the table with friends.

I use a similar technique when introducing people to Pathfinder, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Pathfinder 2nd Edition makes it even easier to do a quick build.

Here's how I have new players create their first character.


The character build process is ABC: Ancestry, Background, and Class. In that order.

Start on page 23. It's got a chart with a one-sentence summary of each ancestry ("race" in old terminology), in case someone's never heard of an elf or isn't sure what a friendly goblin might be like. It also gives them a good overview of the classes. This establishes for the new player who they're going to be and what they're going to be doing in the game.

Here are the steps:

Page 34: Ancestry

Ancestries start on page 34, and each ancestry has a side bar on the right side of the right page with the information you need for your character sheet. Say you want to play an elf. That's a pretty common ancestry for new players. According to the side bar, elves hav 6 hit points. That'll go up later, based on class, but for now jot down 6. Size is Medium, and speed is 30.

You don't have to roll for attribute scores in Pathfinder 2e. Instead, everything starts at 10, and then you get ability boosts and ability flaws as you build. Boosts are worth 2 points, and flaws are worth -2 points.

Elves, for example, get a boost to Dexterity and Intelligence, and a boost to any attribute of your choice. Their ability flaw is Constitution, so adjust the Constitution score from 10 to 8.

Elves also get low-light vision. Write that under Perception.

Each ancestry has a heritage option that grants a special feature. For example, the Arctic Elf grants cold resistance equal to half your level with a minimum of 1.

Next, choose a 1st level ancestry feat.

Page 60: Background

Backgrounds are listed on page 60. They're only a paragraph each, so choose one. A background provides an adjustment to your ability scores boost, and training in some skills. Adjust your ability scores, and then find the skills on the character sheet and fill in T for "trained." When you have training in a skill, you get a proficiency bonus of +2 to that skill.


Pathfinder 2e has the concept of training levels, which governs proficiency. So if you mark T for a skill, that translates to a +2 proficiency bonus. There are four tiers: Training, Expertise, Mastery, and Legendary.

  • Trained: +2
  • Expert: +4
  • Mastery: +6
  • Legendary: +8

These kinds of proficiency gets applied to a lot, including skills, weapons, armour, perception, and even spellcasting. It's generally abbreviated as "TEML", and as long as you can count by 2, it doesn't take long to hear "TEML" as "2468".

Page 69: Class

On page 69, there's a description of each class and, more importantly, the page number of that class. I've already done a quick build for a Rogue in 5e so this time, assume you want to play a Bard.

The bard class is on page 94, and just like in the Ancestries section, there's a list of all the character sheet essentials on the right, and in the highlighted table at the top.

All classes have a key ability. The key ability of the bard class, for example, is Charisma. For now, put a star by the key ability in case you need it later.

After you've chosen a class, but before filling in the character sheet with the class stats, it makes sense to resolve ability scores. According to the rules, you get to take 4 more boosts in addition to the boosts and flaws you've already taken. Add 2 points to four attributes, but don't go over 18 in any one ability. Keep your key ability in mind. It's called a key ability for the class you've chosen because many of your abilities are influenced by it, so giving it a boost or two is a good strategy.

Once you've boosted your attributes, turn to the attribute modifier table on page 20 to convert attribute scores to modifier bonuses. (For every even-numbered score above 10, you get 1 modifier bonus: 0 for 10 or 11, 1 for 12 or 13, 2 for 14, and so on.)

Your class grants you more hit points, too. That's listed in the table at the top of the class page. For a bard, it's 8 plus your Constitution modifier, plus whatever hit points you already got when you chose your anscestry.

Classes also provide proficiency bonuses for skills and saving throws. Mark your training level for the skills listed, and fill in the boxes (TEML, Proficiency, and Attribute modifier) for each skill and saving throw you get training in.

If your class grants you training in a skill you're already trained in, you can (only at 1st level) pick another skill instead.

Attacks and defenses are listed in the side bar, too, but you can skip over that for now. It'll come up later.

Classes grant class feats and other features, so take a look at the class table on the next page for a summary of the benefits you get at each level. Special features listed in this table at 1st level have entries immediately following the table, so look over your choices and jot down what you pick. As an example, 1st level bards must choose a "muse" and some spells. There are a few Muses to choose from. For instance, Polymath gives you the Versatile Performance feat and the Unseen servant spell, so write those down on the feat page of your character sheet.

Bards are trained (that's TEML again) in Occult magic. Fill in the values for your spell attacks and your spell DCs on the spellcasting page of your character sheet. This is one example of when your key ability is important: It directly affects your spellcasting ability and is indicated on the character sheet as Key.

Page 307: Spells

To choose spells, first take a look at the spell table of your class. Bards, for example, get 5 cantrips and 2 1st level spells.

Spells are listed on page 307, and they're nicely organized by magic tradition. Bards are Occult casters, and Occult spells are listed on page 311. Choose 5 cantrips and 2 spells and write it on the spellcasting page of your character sheet.

I often allow new players to choose their spells during their first session, as they play. This lets them choose spells that are actually useful.

Some players do better with limited choices, though, at least at first. Sometimes I offer to choose some good spells for them, with the option to swap spells out after the game ends and they have more time to review the spell listing.

Page 289: Equipment

Turn to page 289 to gain your starting equipment. Each class has a kit of items they're guaranteed to be able to use, so write down the gear on your character sheet.

Done in 12 minutes

And that's it. I know, you're wondering about the details, like armor class (AC), or weapon damage types and damage die. I deal with those as they come up.

A new player doesn't need to know what their AC is until it matters. During the first combat, when a monster attacks them, I help a new player calculate their AC. Because it's relevant to them in that specific moment, it helps them remember both what AC means and where to find it on their character sheet.

The same goes for the damage die for their weapon, what their feats let them do, and so on.

The quick build system works really well for me. The next time you introduce somebody to Pathfinder 2e, give this method a try.

Header image of Icewind Dale character sheets by Wizards of the Coast

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