Hullabaloo

I’ve been in the roleplaying business for nearly two decades. Through most of that, I’ve worked for one or the other of the industry leaders. When you work for a corporation, you sometimes have to be evasive. Sometimes you will know production and business plans that could harm the company or the shareholders if it gets out. Sometimes you have to be evasive with friends. For instance, back in the day, I knew with a great deal of advanced warning that Wizards of the Coast was going to end its license for Dragon and Dungeon Magazines with Paizo Publishing. Even then, I had friends over at Paizo. While keeping this knowledge I was participating in an evening D&D game run by one of my best friends (once contractor and Living Greyhawk Circle member and now boss) Jason Bulmahn.

There are many things you might not know about Jason. For instance, his car is a piece of shit, constantly breaking down, yet seeming destined for immortality—at least with copious amounts of upkeep.

More Temple

For our long-running Pathfinder 2nd Edition lunch-time playtest, I chose to run the original Temple of Elemental Evil. It’s still one of my favorite adventures, and its design was fantastic for stress testing some aspects of the system. This is one of the big fights within the Earth Temple.

The week that Paizo found out that it was losing the magazines’ licenses, Jason asked if I could drive him home after our game. He seemed distracted and worried, and by the end of the car ride, he told me the news. My response was a heavy silence. I remember him asking, with maybe just the slightest hint of hurt in his voice, “How long have you known?”

Of course, it all worked out fine. Paizo produced Pathfinder. When Wizards kicked me to the curb, I went and worked for Paizo, and now as I’m sure you all know, my company has just announced the Pathfinder Playtest as we look to creating a new edition of the game.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had to keep a lot of secrets. Starfinder was the first and now this. It’s the way the business goes, but while I can keep secrets the open, honest, and sometimes in-your-face nature of my personality rails against it. In this way, Delve has been my therapy, a sketchpad for other design, and my refuge when the secrets become too heavy, and design becomes a conflict of ideas and personality.

For those of you that are going to Gary Con, you know those charity games Jason and I are running? Well, those are going to use the playtest rules. For those of you who’ve played or will Delve, you are going to notice some shared DNA between the two games. You’ll also notice some sharp differences. Both games use my three action economy system which first appeared in Pathfinder Unchained, but with different iterations. There are some underlying structural similarities, after all, I worked on both games, but Delve affords me some freedoms that Pathfinder does not. Pathfinder is a brand. It has adherents. There are expectations from the fan base, and those create constraints. Constraints aren’t bad, especially when you are creating a commercially viable game. Constraints can breed creativity, but they are not always essential. Delve is my design without constraints. Delve is my druthers incarnated, and honestly, I’ll be overjoyed if it is commercially viable.

But that’s not why I’m making it. I’m making it because I have to. I’m driven to. And I hope some of you like it.

But let’s talk about Pathfinder. What we are releasing is a playtest. It’s going to be nuts, and we are trying some exciting new stuff in the game. I’m sure some, if not all of you, will tell us where we went wrong and what we got right. And that’s what we are looking for. While the playtest version of what will likely be called Pathfinder Second Edition is a huge first step, we need you to tell us what you think. Is it fun? Will it be your new favorite game? Or if not your favorite game, the one that you and your friends can play most often? Is this the game you want to run? Is this the game you’ll daydream about while you are toiling at the wheel of your day job? That’s what we want the game to be.

The playtest version has been the obsession of myself, Logan Bonner, Jason Bulmahn, and Mark Seifter for the past two years. It’s gone through multiple drafts, and it has been playtested by much of Paizo’s staff and some of her business partners. I’ve been running a lunchtime Temple of Elemental Evil game with a group consisting mostly of our Customer Service and Warehouse Staff. It’s been a fun group, and one of the great things about Paizo is that the grand majority of us are passionate gamers. My group has been very patient as we make tweaks, adjustments, and draft changes. Their feedback has been legion, eye-opening and useful. One of my playtesters, in general, sent copious and detailed notes on another passion of his: melee combat, weapons, and martial history. You can’t make a game like, that encompasses a brand and a 10-year legacy, this without a large and dedicated team, and that’s Paizo in a nutshell.

It’s going to be a busy year. I’m going to be running a lot of games. I’m going to be listening to a lot of feedback. Along with the rest of the Paizo team, we are going to be going back to the drawing board, scrapping ideas, perfecting ideas, and doing general tweaks and refinements until the game is out of playtesting and ready for prime time.

And I’m going to continue to work on Delve. Because Delve is a kind of garage band version of a roleplaying game (or maybe more like a busker version of one), it may seem slow and plodding next to the freight train that is Pathfinder. But I promise to make it worth your while.

Hang tight, stay tuned, and enjoy the ride. I hope to see some of you at Gary Con and GAMA tradeshow very soon.

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About neogrognard

Stephen began working on RPGs in 2000, when he became the RPGA editoral assistant at Wizards of the Coast, working on both Polyhedron magazine and Living Greyhawk Journal. Over the years he’s administered the Living Greyhawk campaign, aided in the development of the D&D 3.5 Edition rules, was a developer for D&D 4th Edition and Star Wars Saga Edition, taught numerous game design classes in the Seattle area, and contributed to the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide and Ultimate Magic as a freelance designer. He has worked at Paizo for the past six years and is now the senior designer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. He’s also the guy who designs the Pathfinder Flip-Mats and Map Packs. His current credits include Southlands for Kobold Press, as well as Hell’s Vengeance: For Queen & Empire, Horror Adventure, and Villain Codex, all for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
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