PFS Characters start out with 150 gold, which really limits martial characters while giving spellcasters more money than they know what to do with. This article should help you stretch that money for martial characters while giving those who don’t know what to do with their money some ideas.
Basic Gear – There is a lot of basic gear in the Equipment chapter of the Core Rulebook, and there’s a lot more if you own Ultimate Equipment or Adventurer’s Armory. If you wanted to, you could spend a lot of time going through the chapter and guessing at exactly what you’ll need to bring while trying to keep the weight and cost to as low as possible. For those of us who don’t want to do that, Ultimate Equipment gave us gear kits that contain a bunch of basic gear all wrapped up in one package. Check them out and pick up one that fits your needs. (Although if it doesn’t have rope, you’ll need to pick up some rope.)
Armor – If you are an armor wearer, you’re probably going to have crappy armor for your first mission. Light armored people probably aren’t going to go above studded leather, medium armor wearers aren’t probably going above scale mail and most likely sticking to hide armor, and heavy armor wearers are probably sticking with medium armor for the time being. You’ll be getting much better armor after your first scenario. Shields, on the other hand, are pretty cheap. Pick up wooden shields for now – you can pick up steel ones later if that’s your eventual goal, but there’s no point in spending that extra money.
Melee Weapon – Even the 7 Strength character should have some sort of melee weapon. Fortunately, everyone is proficient with a club, and they are free! Granted, you may not deal a lot of damage with it, but it is at least something. For melee characters, you want to make sure that you have all 3 damage types covered (bludgeoning, piercing and slashing). There are plenty of cheap options in the simple weapons. Slashing users especially can pick up the morningstar to have the other two types taken care of in one weapon. You should also look at having a cold iron weapon early in the game. Cold iron doubles the cost of the weapon, which is very little gold if you pick the right weapon, and DR/cold iron generally tends to be on annoying creatures (like dretches).
Ranged Weapon – Every PFS character should have the ability to attack at range. Every PFS character should have the ability to attack at range. Every PFS character should have the ability to attack at range. Every PFS character should have the ability to attack at range. Hopefully by repeating it 4 times you get the picture. At low levels, even if you’re rolling a flat d20 vs. AC, you’re still hitting around 40% of the time, and there’s plenty of examples where either you can’t get into combat because of terrain features or because the creature is really nasty. (Xtabays are a wonderful example of creatures you don’t really want to stand next to, along with 1st level halfling barbarians.) While not having enough money is a limiting factor for a lot of equipment for this list, slings are free and sling bullets are a silver piece for 10. You have room in your equipment to spend a silver piece on a sling and 10 bullets. Slings are especially good for melee characters since they add your Strength modifier to damage.
A note for archers – it may be really tempting to buy a longbow or a shortbow for your brand new level 1 archer. It’s a trap. You’re going to be upgrading to a masterwork composite longbow or a masterwork composite shortbow after a scenario or two anyway, and a 75gp item or a 30gp item for a moderate damage increase (or maybe not depending on what your strength modifier is) isn’t worth it. Use the sling for an adventure or two, then go get your appropriate masterwork composite bow and spend the money you save initially on other things to help keep you alive.
Method to Deal WIth Swarms – Paizo sure does love their swarms. They were very prominent in the early seasons, and while they’ve toned down on putting swarms in low-level scenarios in recent seasons, they have by no means stopped doing so. While swarms made of Tiny creatures can be attacked by weapons, swarms made of Fine or Diminutive creatures need area of effect attacks to harm them. (source) If you are an arcane caster, Burning Hands is an effective option. For everyone else, alchemical equipment is your best option. An alchemist fire or two give you a good bang for your buck. Many low level swarms can be destroyed by a single alchemist fire and a good damage roll, and if everyone has an alchemist fire or acid flask, generally that will be enough to destroy the swarm.
Method to Heal Downed Party Members – 1st level characters don’t have a lot of hit points. There are of course outliers (aka the Human Barbarian build with 27 hp and 20 Con), but most 1st level characters have somewhere between 7 and 14 hit points. Even a single cure light wounds is very helpful. Most players buy a wand of cure light wounds at some point after their first scenario, but it’s a really good idea to have a potion of cure light wounds available if you can’t use a wand so that you can bring up someone who is close to death. This becomes more important the more brand new 1st level characters you have in the party with you, since there are probably less and less people with lots of healing resources available. If you can cast cure light wounds, a scroll of it might not be a bad idea until you can get access to a wand. A scroll of cure light wounds costs 25gp, and a potion costs 50gp.
Method to Deal With Incorporeal Creatures – Paizo has had a tendency to put shadows as low level fights. While they aren’t common, when they do show up they are brutal. Shadows are incorporeal, which means they take no damage from regular weapons and half damage from magic weapons. Usually if Paizo puts an incorporeal creature into a low-level module or scenario, they provide a way in the game of dealing with it, but a scroll or oil of magic weapon can make the fight much easier for your party. This advice is more important for sanctioned modules than it is for scenarios seeing as shadows seem to show up more often in sanctioned modules. A scroll of magic weapon costs 25gp, and an oil of magic weapon costs 50gp.
This article suggests a lot of gear, especially recommending a bunch of consumables that are going to eat into your budget at character creation. Low level survival is all about budgeting what tools you need and making sure you have the basics covered before you go onto more expensive gear like a chain shirt or an expensive weapon. Low level characters tend to be versatile since they don’t have a lot of class features that pidgeonhole them into certain fighting styles yet. Use that versatility to your advantage and get gear that will help you and your party members anything that the scenario throws at you! And if you’re really worried about your character dying at 1st level, GM a scenario and apply the credit to the character. There’s 500 extra gold to purchase all the equipment you need! No risk involved!