Thursday, October 12, 2017
Sometimes we like to give you nice folks a window into the strange ways that Lone Shark and Paizo do things on the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Here's Chad on our patently rigorous standards for naming cards.
Way back when, we set out to make an adventure card game for the glorious world of Pathfinder. Our friends at Paizo had just the right Adventure Path in mind: Rise of the Runelords was being prepped for the Anniversary Edition. The developers had taken a fresh look at the story, the art was getting refreshed and expanded, and the publisher likes it when products lined up nicely. We—Lone Shark and Paizo both—set up a giant playtest, the results of which included "huge mounds of feedback" and "Vic learning more about various local FedEx policies and peccadilloes than any human should." Everything looked great, but...
While we were busily putting together the game system, the characters, the Adventure Path, and the giant box and tray, that still didn't cover everything. We still needed some introductory material—something to go into the base box alongside the first adventure. And because we knew that the second adventure was going to arrive two months after the first, we thought there was a decent chance that people would play the introduction more than once. (In this, we were both right and very wrong.) We talked to Paizo to see if they had any suggestions, and eventually settled on a few varied scenarios around Sandpoint. We conscripted the dragon Black Fang from an encounter in the Pathfinder RPG Beginner Box, and from the Sandpoint appendix in Rise of the Runelords, we took the alchemist Pillbug Podiker and the handsome bandit leader Jubrayl Vhiski.
Thus armed with a cadre of ne'er's-do-well (I'm pretty sure that's the correct pluralization), we set about building some relatively simple scenarios around them. Black Fang got himself an eponymous Dungeon, Pillbug the poisoner gave us The Poison Pill, and Vhiski... Hmm.
The man with no scenario name.
As it turns out, I've heard at least three versions of this next part. Most agree that it was late, at the end of a long day. We were all sitting around a table, or a couple tables. There's always at least one laptop; sometimes next to piles of rough-cut cardstock, other times next to small fortress-walls made of
Gary's Gaby's mostly-empty beverage containers. We're always tired. Someone always says "I dunno; just give it a name, and we'll figure it out later." Then someone says some version of "I got it" and types into a spreadsheet cell. Often someone looks at the spreadsheet and proclaims it perfect, done, finished, "Ship it!"—sometimes it's even the same person who entered it into the cell.
Now, something that you might not know, but probably could have guessed, is that both Lone Shark and Paizo always do a review pass on the material, just to make sure that everything lines up right—that the art matches the concept matches the name matches the world. Sometimes we catch things like "That is clearly not an Elf," so we change a trait. Other times, we've used a name that might be technically correct but just doesn't sound right—"Force Pike" is a perfectly reasonable Pathfinder weapon that will just not sound right to a huge number of people. And sometimes, the Lone Shark tendency to
sneak perfectly innocently insert puns into the game runs afoul of Standards and Practices. For example...
Not the name his mom gave him.
Mike here, rudely interrupting Chad's soliloquy. Now, just look up there and you'll see: that is one handsome fellow. When we were thinking of dreamy chaps in old-timey naval garb for Skull & Shackles, one image came to mind: Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC production of Horatio Hornblower. So we wrote an art description asking for Cumberbatch in a faux–British naval uniform, just like he wore in that series. But we couldn't just name him "Benedict Cumberbatch," so we hopped over to the YouTube series How to Pronounce, which will teach you many things (but not how to correctly pronounce anything). The entry for Benedict Cumberbatch pronounces his name "Bucket Crunderdunder" (among other things). So that's what we named him. Of course, Vic caught wise to us and made us change that ridiculous name to something less ridiculous, so Heartbreak Hinsin was born. There's only one problem with this story: Benedict Cumberbatch was never actually in Horatio Hornblower—it was Ioan Gruffudd. So we based an ally on a mispronunciation of a mistake. Par for the course round the Lone Shark offices. OK, back to Chad.
In the case of the first base scenario for Runelords, the name Mike chose was in danger of running into this particular filter.
A pun like that only comes around every hundred years.
Brigandoom! It's like Brigadoon but with brigands! How droll!
Thing was, "Standards and Practices" (in this case, Paizo's development staff) had noticed our "clever" name, and flagged it for review. The jig was up, we thought. We'd have to abandon our fun name and come up with something else. Given how late we were in the process, we were starting to resign ourselves to a plain, boring name, when someone else spoke up; the Chief Creative Officer and Publisher, in fact.
"Far be it from me to stand between a man and his pun," Erik Mona said, and cleared the flag.
And we love him for it to this day.
Adventure Card Game Lead Developer