Pathfinder for Beginners: Basic Combat


Combat is one of the biggest parts of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. There are many other aspects as well, but combat is one of most time-consuming and rule-intensive. As such, it’s a good idea to practice some basic combat to get an idea of how the game rules work.

Combat in Pathfinder is turn-based; that is, each character involved in the combat acts in sequence, one at a time. The sequence is determined by how quickly each character reacts at the start of the combat situation. Once everyone involved has acted, a new round begins. One round represents 6 seconds of real time.

ValerosWhen dice need to be rolled, the player rolls dice relevant to her character, and the game master rolls dice for the enemies.

  • Download the Beginner Box GM Kit from the Paizo website and flip to the monster section on page 9. The lizardfolk monster will be your first enemy.
  • Optional: Grab some square grid paper (or draw your own grid of 1 inch squares) and some tokens to represent the player characters (PCs) and the enemies. These tokens can be anything: coins, LEGO minfigs, other small toys. These will allow you to visually represent the combat situation so that everyone can see exactly what’s going on.
    • Place the tokens representing the PCs next to the lizardfolk monster token on your grid.

Start a simple combat between the lizardfolk and the players by following the steps below: (If you are not using a grid and tokens, everyone will need to use their imaginations to picture the battlefield.)

  • Roll one d20 for each PC. Locate the word ‘initiative‘ on the PC’s character sheet and add the listed total to the result of the d20 roll. The game master does the same for the lizardfolk. The character with the highest total goes first, followed by the next highest, and so on. It’s a good idea to write down the order for later reference.
  • The first character takes their action. The simplest action is to attempt to hit the enemy with a melee weapon. Roll 1d20 and add the attack bonus listed under your character’s melee weapon entry.
  • Compare this result against the enemy’s AC (Armour Class) listed under their defenses. If your result is equal to or higher than the AC value, your attack hits. If it is lower, the attack misses.
  • If the attack hits, roll the dice listed in the damage column (in brackets for the lizardfolk). E.g. 1d8 + 4 means roll one eight-sided die and add 4. The total is the amount of damage dealt.
  • Subtract the damage dealt from the enemy’s hit points (HP).
  • If the enemy is still alive, the next person in the initiative order takes their turn.

When all the enemies (or the player characters) are dead or have run away, combat is over. The players can collect any equipment or treasure their enemy may have had with them.

You now have the tools you need to practice some basic Pathfinder combat encounters. I’ll cover more advanced topics in future posts.

This post was originally part of my Getting Started post, but I felt it should be in its own post to make it easier to find. 

Header image by Ben Wootten.

3 thoughts on “Pathfinder for Beginners: Basic Combat

  • Pingback:Pathfinder for Beginners: Getting Started | The Triangular Room

  • January 7, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Thank you. I am experienced wiht D&D and offerd to join an online pathfinder campaign, as was the only thing at the time I was available, but didn’t know much other than similar to d&D but more complex. Actually this looks almost exactly the same as one of the D&D3 games, aside form something about damage being listed next to monster name rather than weapon name. I suppose that counts in the monster’s armor maybe?
    IT was very helpful thank you.

    • January 9, 2018 at 10:22 am

      I’m glad you found my post helpful! Pathfinder is often referred to as D&D 3.75, so it is very similar in a lot of ways to D&D 3.5 🙂

      I’m not too sure about monster stats in D&D, but in Pathfinder, normal monster stat blocks have AC listed under defenses and damage listed next to their weapons. The number next to their name is their difficulty/challenge rating.


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