Dark Places of the Earth
The Pathfinder Society is an international organization based in Absalom with the stated goal of pursuing knowledge and exploring the unknown across Golarion. Founded more than 400 years ago as little more than a gentleman’s club for adventurers, it has grown in the wake of the social upheaval and momentous events following the death of Aroden into a truly international organization, with lodges across the Inner Sea Region and, more recently, in distant Tian Xia as well.
The Pathfinders consider themselves an elite organization, far more noble and knowledgeable than your typical tomb-raiders or soldiers of fortune. In order to become a member one must generally travel to the Grand Lodge in Absalom and undergo years of training and a battery of rigorous tests, though the Society also frequently makes use of various outside agents and very rarely awards field commissions to allies who have proven themselves worthy of membership. The perks of membership include free room and board at Pathfinder lodges, access to the vast libraries accumulated by the Society over the centuries, and the opportunity to receive funding to carry out expeditions approved by the mysterious leaders of the Society, the Decemverate.
Most enticing of all, however, is the fact that only members of the Society are allowed to peruse the contents of the legendary Pathfinder Chronicles, an irregularly published series of journals reporting what the Decemverate considers to be the most important discoveries made by the members of the Society. Only thirty-six volumes of the Chronicles have been published in the whole long history of the Society, but the few that have been leaked to the general public are the stuff of legends, and nearly everyone who seeks membership in the Society dreams of one day having their adventures published in those hallowed pages.
In exchange for these and other, lesser perks, Pathfinders are required to follow a few simple rules in order to remain in good standing with the Society. With the exception of the Venture-Captains who run the various Pathfinder lodges and other officers holding administrative positions, all members are expected to remain active in exploring the world around them. In other words, one cannot simply join the Society for the free room and board and spend ones time lounging around Absalom. Furthermore, Pathfinders returning from any adventure or expedition are required to report on their findings (or lack thereof) in writing to the Decemverate. Knowledge is the Society’s greatest asset (as well as the source of much of its wealth), and its archives contain far more than what is published in the Chronicles. Finally, Pathfinders are expected to cooperate in the field, or at least not to interfere in each other’s investigations, though a certain amount of rivalry between agents (friendly or otherwise) is, sadly, inevitable.
In addition to these rules, the Decemverate periodically calls on those Pathfinders not currently in the field to carry out a variety of missions for the Society. Typically, these involve retrieving certain items or pieces of information of interest the the Society’s leaders, but members have been required to provide services ranging from investigating (or covering up) crimes committed by Pathfinders to wining and dining wealthy would-be patrons of the Society. Those who wish to remain in good standing with the Society carry out their assigned missions without asking too many questions, and many Pathfinders find themselves spending far more time on such tasks than on their own explorations.
It is worth noting that members of the Pathfinder Society are not required to pay any dues to retain their membership, and that any treasure or other articles of interest they might discover while carrying out Society financed expeditions or missions for the Decemverate are considered theirs to keep, assuming the mission wasn’t specifically to return said item to the Society’s leadership. Indeed, a fair number of Pathfinders are more interested in personal profit than in uncovering hidden secrets, and the Society generally doesn’t ask any questions about the methods or motives of its members as long as the reports keep coming in.
This means that, while well-known Pathfinders are often viewed with awe and respect by the people of the Inner Sea, agents of the society don’t always find the warmest welcome out in the field, particularly from local authority figures. Indeed, the Society is outright banned from several nations, though this rarely stops enterprising Pathfinders from operating there anyway.
Overall, the alignment of the Pathfinder Society is Neutral, and it claims members of virtually every alignment, class, and race.