Pathfinder read-through – Chapter 6: Equipment

Well, been a bit since I’ve looked at Pathfinder, so it’s time to return to the read-through.

A retroactive (and oft-repeated) introduction: After an actual-play hiatus where I was mostly writing and playtesting for GURPS. I was invited to play in a Pathfinder game, and after a few sessions, it was time to buy the book and learn the rules! I decided to try and read the Pathfinder rules cover-to-cover and see what inspiration strikes, for good or ill!

This is a compilation of the links to read-throughs of Pathfinder-related material

Pathfinder Core Rulebook

0.  Prelude
1.  Introduction
2.  Races

3a. Classes (Barbarian – Monk)
3b. Classes (Paladin – Wizard)

Please make any comments you have at the individual entries!

So: we continue!

The chapter opens up with a brief discussion of wealth and coinage. Coins are based on a decimal system, from copper to platinum, with 1 platinum piece = 10 gp = 100 sp = 1,000 cp. There are also weights listed (50 to the pound, or about 140 grains or about 9g each). That makes a gold piece roughly the size of an old US Half-Eagle.

It also lists a bunch of other trade goods which are basically as fungible as cash, so that aspiring GMs don’t just have to be “all valuable metal, all the time” if they choose not to be.

Each character class starts out with a variable amount of gold to equip himself when gameplay starts. The monk gets shafted (of course, he doesn’t need much money) at 10-60gp, while the line fighter classes rock out at 50-300gp.

For comparison, a chain shirt and longsword costs 115gp total, toss in a heavy wooden shield for 7gp and it brings a standard sword-and-board guy to 122gp, though even more realistically you’ll go with “chainmail” armor for 150gp if you’re a fighter, making your kit cost 172gp, or about the average provision for fighter-types, and weighs about 54 lbs.

As a comparison, in GURPS Basic Set, mail armor that covers about 50% more than the torso would cost about G$225 (torso and the thighs, interpolated) and 24 lbs, a medium shield (DB +2) is $60 and 15 lbs, and a thrusting broadsword is $600 and 3 lbs. Total of G$885, or just shy of 90% of a character’s starting wealth, and weighs 43 lbs. Using GURPS Low-Tech, a longsword is G$700 and 4 lbs, a heater shield is G$75 and 13 lbs, but mail goes up in cost to G$900 and 22 lbs for the same DR 4 you get in the Basic Set, making the total kit cost G$1675, unaffordable by bog-standard GURPS warriors. Anyway, point is, you can kit yourself out with arms and armor befitting a stereotypical warrior – especially in Dungeon Fantasy/Pathfinder style games.

Note: Mail was very, very labor-intensive to make, and the prices went up accordingly. According to the author of the section on armor, mail was the armor-of-choice for the wealthy up until the protection per pound and dollar went down when plate was introduced and could be made better for less money. The author comes down firmly on the “armor” side of the “armor v. weapons” debates. Not saying he’s absolutely wrong, nor agreeing with that 100%. I did use his work to benchmark my bow article The Deadly Spring. OK, enough in-line footnoting. Moving on.

Selling Stuff

Brief but important: you can sell stuff with no skills or anything for half the listed price. Dungeon Fantasy uses a similar markdown at 40%.


That actually brings us quite naturally to the next big section on weapons. There are classes of weapons that get dealt with in the Class and Feats chapter, and occasionally get added as “you can use these” with Class abilities. There are some oddballs, such as “Double Weapons,” which can be used for two-weapon fighting without actually having two weapons. Reach Weapons are basically pole weapons (and whips) and give you 10′ of reach . . . but lose the ability to attack someone right next to you. Important safety tip.

There are a ton of subtle rules tucked into very brief mentions (like the reach note above). Light weapons are one-handed, can be used more easily in the off-hand, can be used while grappling. A One-Handed weapon can be used in either hand, but you can use it with two hands and get 1.5x the ST bonus you’d usually get(!), or half the bonus in your off-hand. Two-Handed weapons qualify for 1.5x the ST bonus as well, but must be used in two hands.

The Weapon Table

This is the go-to place for the summaries – but you’ll want to read the description and check out the picture, in case what you’re picturing isn’t what is on the table. As an example, they have an actual hammer listed as a Warhammer, when in reality a warhammer is what we would call a pick.

In any case, scanning through the table finds a lot of choices, some with special notes that allow them to do cool stuff. Brace allows doing double damage if you’re charged; Disarm gives you a CMB bonus when used to disarm. Other categories are Double (discussed above), Monk, Nonlethal, Reach, and Trip.

Again, it’s important to read the detail descriptions of each weapon you want to choose, in case there are some rules nuggets tucked in there.

So, let’s see if there are any “I Win!” buttons in each category.

Simple Weapons
Basic stuff that most classes can use.

Light Melee Weapons

These are your basic daggers, knives, and clubs. For 6gp, the 2-lb sickle does good damage and allows a trip maneuver. The basic dagger, for 2gp, has an enhanced critical threat range, but is only 1d4 . . . but it can be thrown if you like. One thing to note: your ST bonus (or DEX, using Weapon Finesse) may wind up being a pretty substantial part of your damage amount – more importantly, it’s the only fixed part, so pay attention to it.

Morningstar. Cheapter and lighter than the heavy mace, does both bash and piercing damage of equal amounts. Shortspears make a nice alternative to a dagger. They’re cheaper and you can throw ’em 20 feet instead of 10.

No candidates for “best ever” here. You have a 1d6 free double-weapon (quarterstaff; anyone can pick up a stick, apparently) that can be used with Monk abilities, and two spears, the long spear is a Reach weapon, but weighs nine freakin’ pounds.

The light and heavy crossbow do 1d8 and 1d10 respectively, but you’ll take time (a move and full-round action, again respectively) to load ’em each turn. Javelins appear to be balanced short spear, but takes penalties if used in melee. Crossbows shoot a long way (80 to 120′), but the world-champ of the thrown melee weapons seems to be . . . the two-handed spear. Granted, you get to do this precisely once per fight.

Martial Weapons
These are the bread-and-butter of fighter types.

Hand-axe is interesting with the x3 critical on a 1d6 weapon, making it superio – on a crit – to a 1d8 weapon with a x2. Low odds, tho. The kukri seems intriguing, with 1d4 and 15% critical threat (18-20) instead of the 1d6 and 10% chance of the shortsword. I’m unimpressed with the starknife.

The one-handers are basically your 1d6- and 1d8-class of weapons. The heavy pick crits for max of 24. . . making it equal to the battleaxe and warhammer only in that case. I’d avoid it. Scimitars (slash) and Rapiers (pierce) trade 1d6 damage for higher crit odds, and that’s basically equivalent to the x3 multiplier with lower odds. The interesting one here is probably the Flail. Disarm and trip, plus only maginally worse damage than the other 1d8s that have improved crits.

We’ve got some d10 and d12 weapons in here, so mwa ha ha to that. The greataxe and greatsword look pretty attractive, with the axe being a lot cheaper. Grab a glaive if you like a reach weapon, the heavy flail if you like the special effects (disarm and trip).

Exotic Weapons

For exotica, dealt with as a whole, the light weapons are unimpressive, though they can have some special stuff (one disarms, the other can trip). I may be wrong, but the bastard sword in one hand does as much oomph as a heavy flail, though it is 35gp. The Dwarven Waraxe is likewise as powerful in one hand as many martial weapons in two. These weapons probably get more interesting as you get higher level and can take appropriate Feats to make yourself a Disarm or Trip master, or can max out double-weapon fighting (two-bladed sword, looking at you).

Armor and Shields
This one seems relatively straight-forward. If you want a certain AC bonus, and you can use the armor (it requires a proficiency), you have few choices. Watch out for the Armor Check penalty, which hurt skill checks (but not combat). If you’re not proficient with that armor or shield, you take the penalty on combat as well.

So, what jumps out?

  • A chain shirt is expensive for that +4 AC bonus, but if you can afford it, it’s better than Hide. 
  • Studded Leather looks like a good choice for those with very high DEX (up to 20).
  • If you can afford the extra 50gp, you want a breastplate for AC6 rather than chainmail.
  • The Heavy armors chop your DEX bonus right out from under you; they’re built for the high STR set.
  • Not sure why you’d get anything other than a light wooden shield at the +1 AC level.
  • Same thing for the heavy wooden shield at +2.
  • Tower shields are very heavy, but for +4 to AC and you can cover behind it, it’s worth considering if you have the proficiency . . . and the STR to use it.

For a flat 300gp to a normal weapon, 600gp to a double weapon, or 150 gp to armor, you get particularly good stuff. It’s worth +1 to attack rolls for weapons, and -1 to the Armor Check penalty for armor. It’s worth doing, especially on the armors that are expensive to begin with.

Special Materials

Some neat stuff here, each with a defined game effect. Some of these options are monumentally expensive.

Adamantine:  Ignores hardness less than 20 (gotta wait for Ch7 for that one), grants damage reduction based on the armor type, and includes the Masterwork property. $3,000 for a weapon, $5,000-$15,000 for armor, depending on it’s type. Yow.

Darkwood: Half the weight, and a great thing to make shields out of. Adds 10gp per pound to the cost of a masterwork version of that item.

Dragonhide: Probably not something to wear around dragons or those related to them. The armor is immune to damage of a type the dragon was immune to – this explicitly doesn’t help the wearer! Druids can wear it, even if it’s “Dragonhide Full Plate,” which has gotta be its rason d’etre. Only costs twice as much to make as regular armor of that type, so there must be a brisk business in dragonslaying.

Cold Iron: Harder to enchant, and weapons cost twice as much to make. Effects demons and fey more than regular weapons.

Mithral: Ah, Tolkien’s gift to Materials Science. Behaves as one category lighter than normal for movement and other limits. Hmm. That means “Mithral Full Plate” counts as medium armor? Sweet. Doesn’t count for proficiency, though. Darn – and the “applies to attack rolls” hits you if you’re not proficient, so watch it. Weighs half as much, and you’re better casting spells in this stuff. Adds a couple thousand gp to the price of most armors. Weapons can be so fashioned, too.

Alchemical Silver: For were-creatures. This is cheap enough to start play with (90gp for a one-handed weapon; 20gp for a light one), and for -1 damage allows smacking down weres.

Goods and Services

Worth scanning the table in full, then checking descriptions. You can buy spellcasting services as well as hooded lanterns. Lots of toolkits, from thieves tools to healers, to Bards’ musical instruments.Clothing. Acid, thunderstone, tanglefoot bag. Lodging and food. And the 30,000gp for a sailing galley I remember from the old AD&D days. Yay, nostalgia!

6 thoughts on “Pathfinder read-through – Chapter 6: Equipment

  1. Interesting. One thing I was interested in was the masterwork stuff. It seems like every monster in the two Pathfinder books I have (Bestiary 2 and 3) have "mwk" next to their weapons. They're all using the best version of whatever they can get. So it started to seem like it was an accepted baseline of weapons. Does that seem true in your experience?

    1. I think Dwarven and Lighten/Fortify are the real monsters there. Balanced too. Fine is still x4 cost (+3 CF) I think, so that tends to eat into things. Double-agree on Lighten/Fortify, especially on armor. I have a new armor kit for Cadmus that's filled with Lighten (3/4) and Fortify +1. It's kewl.

  2. Dwarves have weapon familiarity with the dwarven waraxe, so dwarf barbarians, fighters, paladins and rangers can wield it without a feat. It was always an "I win" feature in my book.

    And something sweet with mithral is the mithral chain shirt. A wizard can wear it, get no armor check penalty and thus no penalty to attack rolls, and only suffer a 10% spell failure. Not quite "I win," but handy nonetheless. And there are a few spells without somatic components.

  3. "One thing to note: your ST bonus (or DEX, using Weapon Finesse) may wind up being a pretty substantial part of your damage amount – more importantly, it's the only fixed part, so pay attention to it."

    I think you miss read the Weapon Finesse feat, it only allows you to use DEX to hit, STR is still used for damage.

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