Do you ever find yourself with downtime between adventures in your Pathfinder campaign? Ever wonder how characters use their professions and crafts to actually do things? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wage war with your own armies from the kingdom you built in a game of Pathfinder? I know I’ve pondered these things, just like many of you. Paizo, the company behind the Pathfinder RPG, has thought of these things too, and they’ve offered players a supplement to explore these very avenues within a game.
To do this, Paizo has released Ultimate Campaign, a supplement to make your downtime between dungeon delves much more interesting. This 253-page hardcover book takes a look at crafting, earning gold, building your own kingdom, and even building armies with which to wage war against other armies in a new style of colossal combat. It’s all here, and we’ll take a glimpse at what it has to offer.
Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign is broken up, as many books are, into sections. Chapter 1 covers character background – the stuff the makes your character who they are. Following this, Chapter 2 goes over downtime, and what characters can do between adventures. Chapter 3 explores different campaign systems, introducing things like exploration and honor to your game. Finally, Chapter 4 introduces kingdoms and war, giving players the ability to find their own kingdom and raise massive armies. By far, chapter 4 is the biggest of them all, though there’s plenty of information wrapped up within the book. We’ll take a brief look at what each chapter covers individually, just to get a taste of what you can produce using this book.
Chapter 1: Character Background
Some players simply want to get into the game, so they roll a character to get going quickly. Others, including myself, like to get a bit more involved in character creation. When I build characters, I like to immerse myself in the world in which they exist. What has made them decide to go on adventures? What sort of childhood did they have? What are their goals and aspirations? The first chapter in Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign caters to players like this, providing tons of ideas to get your character’s back story rolling.
It goes over things like how to create a background, circumstances of birth, social rank and education, whether they can wield magic, what sort of family they have, and much more. It’s a really different way to look at your barbarian, than to just see the blood-soaked savage that they become on the battlefield. With tables to roll on to determine where your character’s homeland is, what type of family you have, and even what sort of adolescence and training they’ve had, this chapter has everything you need to create a rich, elegant storyline for a character you’ll bond with over the course of a campaign.
Chapter 2: Downtime
I think chapter 2 is where a lot of the book’s shine comes in. While I am working on different adventures, I find my players still wanting to play the game when I’ve nothing prepared. What this does is force me to send them through a multitude of dungeons, one after another, which can get old real fast. One way to help clear this up is to offer some downtime play in a city or town. In fact, offering downtime play in a city is a great way for characters to earn gold and use their skills – particularly their crafting and profession skills. By putting characters to work, they have a chance at earning a reputation and making some useful equipment along the way!
Chapter 2 has a long list of things players can do in their downtime. They can do things like build a home, earn more EXP, replace their familiar, start working on a kingdom, gather information for upcoming quests, earn capital, craft items, add spells to their spellbook, heal others, and much more. The book does a great job of explaining in detail how work is done, using skill checks and other systems to calculate rewards. It’s a great way of not only improving your character’s wealth, but their story as well.
Chapter 3: Campaign Systems
Chapter 3 begins looking deeper into your campaign, offering different tweaks to make things more interesting. It explores the different types of Alignment, and gives some detail on how to change your character’s over the course of a campaign. Bargaining tips come next, offering players a way to spice up their interactions with merchants, and throwing out tips on how to get more gold for their sales. It also goes over how to pick up companions, which give your character some company on those long journeys through dungeons and caves. Whether it’s a friendly fighter or a small animal, companions come in many shapes and sizes.
Rogues and bards will make use of contacts, NPCs who possess powerful skills and can aid you throughout your journey. These contacts can be made and strengthened, and in this chapter you’ll find out exactly how to go about it. There’s a strict trust tree that has to be climbed before you can count on the full aid of a contact, but the play is very well worth it. One of the best things about this chapter is its coverage of exploration. Some GMs like to use giant overworld maps for players to explore, and this chapter helps detail just how characters do so, as well as what they receive for their efforts. It details out rules for travel, and gives information on random encounters while exploring.
Perhaps one of the most interesting additions in this chapter is investment. As your character returns from adventures, there’s no doubt that they’ll be bringing home some treasure in their wake. Getting treasure is awesome, but what good is it if you don’t use it to better your character’s way of life? By selling treasure and investing gold in different ways, your character can create a source of income that has potential to provide a nice way of living. There are plenty of details on how to invest your treasure, and what sort of problems you’ll face when doing so. Finally, there’s a section on relationships and lineage, for adding special details to villains and PCs along their journey.
Chapter 4: Kingdoms and War
The “meat and potatoes” comes in during chapter 4 of Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign. In this chapter, the book covers how players can work to build their own kingdoms from the ground up, literally. It describes in detail how to play through your campaign using kingdom phases, and even describes how the people who live in your kingdom help or hinder your plans. It goes over leadership roles, and explains how players can acquire – and maintain – the mantle of the leader of a kingdom. Players will go from starting a settlement to building fortified walls of their kingdom, having all the information they need at their fingertips
With a great kingdom comes great responsibility, however, and it will be up to you to defend your new home. At the end of the chapter there are rules for mass combat, and you’ll need to put them to use to keep your kingdom safe. Humanity has a history of waging war over jealously and greed, and it’s the same for the Pathfinder universe. Rival lords will no doubt send armies to siege your kingdom for its land, wealth, and more. Knowing this, it is important to raise your own armies for defense, or siege yourself if you’re that type of leader.
Chapter 4 breaks down mass combat into rolls using different stat tables for each individual unit in an army. It’s a simple roll-off to see which side wins in a battle, and there are rules for casualties on the battlefield. Details on tactics, gear, and more can be found here, and it all gets put to use in order to keep your home safe from harm. It’s a unique system, and adds a lot of flair to the game.
I think the Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign supplement is a must-have for anyone who runs games. Whether you’re struggling with trying to build sessions between adventures or looking for something to make your games more fruitful, this book has it all. One of my favorite parts about the book is the addition of little tiles that you can photocopy when making kingdoms. These not only come in handy when putting kingdoms together, but they provide ideas for individual maps for your campaign. They’re really nifty
The random generation for character backgrounds is amazing. I like how it is split up according to class, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up for each character! Building a background takes a lot of work and Ultimate Campaign makes the process simpler and more enjoyable. I could have my character be raised by dragons, on the run from bandits, plagued by nightmares, or even on a quest for vengeance. The possibilities are endless.
As a GM, the downtime section is where I turn to the most. It’s great to let my players build their skills, acquire contacts, and add things to their characters. It’s a great way to spend game time while in between adventures, and it takes a lot of the pressure off of me when worrying about what to roll out next. It’s got everything I could need for rewarding characters, setting up problems for them to face, and information when I am looking up how to run a kingdom for them. Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign is something you just need to have on your shelf.