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Mike Selinker on the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

So, there is an announcement on the Paizo blog about the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game going into semi-open playtests. The "collaborative deck-building game" (which is neither completely collaborative nor completely deck-building, but work with me) is probably the best game system I've ever designed, and I'd like to tell you a little bit about it.

The basic concept is this: It's a cooperative game for one to six players. Each player has a unique character composed of a deck of cards and a set of stats. Roleplayers will find the stats very familiar—characters have roles and numbers that define their abilities and skills. As you go through adventures, you'll improve your deck by acquiring new items, allies, weapons, and other cool things as you explore and overcome challenges; over time, you'll be customizing your deck to suit your own individual vision of your character. All adventures are composed of infinitely usable cards and decks. There's no Game Master, no recordkeeping, no expository dialogue. It's everything I want to do in a roleplaying game without the workload. It plays in an hour to an hour and a half.


These playtest cards were designed for single-sided, black-and-white printing. In the finished game, card borders will have colors instead of just shades of grey, and the charts that currently overlap the images on "Them Ogres Ain't Right" and "The Rusty Dragon" will move to the back of the card.

How We Got Here

About a year ago, Rian Sand came to me with a theoretical idea of a design space that hadn't yet been explored much: a card game that mimicked many of the behaviors of a traditional RPG, but without a lot of the time and administrative burden. I had also been thinking about some mechanics for a system like that, and Rian's enthusiasm and support made me invest serious design time into it. There were a lot of problems that had to be solved—persistence, goal development, game speed, and so on—and I'm pretty sure we solved them all.

The original game was for a new intellectual property that I'm not prepared to talk about yet. Suffice it to say that it's really cool, and Mike Vaillancourt and Matt Forbeck had a lot to do with making it cool, and you'll see it someday soon. Not sure when, not sure how, but soon.

But as we were doing this, we were thinking about what our first licensed game had to be. Various ideas were tossed around, but for Rian and me, there was only one choice. Rian was a major fan of the Pathfinder RPG, and I... well, I was a major fan of Paizo. Owners Vic Wertz and Lisa Stevens have shown considerable benevolence and respect my way over the past years, leading to such awesome projects as the Harrow Deck, the Kill Doctor Lucky color edition, Yetisburg, and the American version of Key Largo. Lone Shark has done more games for Paizo than for any other company, and if they were interested in following us down this garden path, they were going to get to do so.

It turns out that after a discussion with Paizo's Publisher Erik Mona and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Alvarez at the GAMA Trade Show, they were very interested. Pathfinder Lead Designer Jason Bulmahn saw a version of the system at the first unveiling at Gamestorm, and brought back much appreciated words of praise. I showed it to the Paizo team back in Redmond, including James Jacobs, Sarah Robinson, and Wes Schneider, and we were underway within a few weeks. And over those weeks, we were bombarded with very heavy books and offers to help from everyone on the Paizo staff. It became a project all of Paizo could participate in.

The game continued to grow and change under the Paizo stewardship. My talented developers Chad Brown, Paul Peterson, and Gaby Weidling quickly came to understand the magnitude of the challenge ahead of us. Pathfinder is huge. Paizo had given us the now-classic Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path as a template for our games, which meant we had to adapt an incredibly deep and involving series of stories into the few words and concepts that fit on cards. It was not so easy, but it made us examine and reexamine every aspect of my system to make it work. It's now much tighter and much more fun.

Under the codename "Project Swallowtail," we showed off a very raw version of it at PaizoCon, and a more robust version at Gen Con. And now we're going into a massive playtest with the Pathfinder Society to get the game exactly right. It's got a ways to get there, but it seems pretty good now. Time will tell.

How the Game Plays

You start by creating a party of adventurers. Each of you gets a character card such as Valeros, Seoni, or Merisiel. That card tells you what cards your deck consists of. A wizard might have more spells than weapons, and a fighter will likely have more weapons than spells.

You'll select an Adventure Path, which consists of several adventures, which consist of several scenarios. A typical scenario tells you what villains and henchmen you'll face (if any), and the locations in which you'll face them. Each location has a deck of cards, drawn at random from appropriate stacks, and then shuffled in with a villain or henchman. You won't know where the villain is until you find him.

Throughout the game, you'll explore locations, encounter monsters, and find new weapons, items, spells, and the like. But you're racing a clock. The adventure deck is a stack of cards that you'll flip one card off of every turn. If the adventure deck runs out of cards before you find and defeat the villain, you lose. If your character deck runs out of cards, you die.

But if you don't die, then you'll advance your character. You'll get to put new cards in your deck, expand your powers and abilities, and rebuild your deck for new adventures. If you defeat all the scenarios in the game, you'll be a mighty adventurer indeed.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you like the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. I can't wait to see what you think.

Mike Selinker
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Playtest Rise of the Runelords
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Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Wow, this looks really cool, can't wait til we get the cards from FedEx so we can get to playtesting this. My group is really excited to be able to participate. And with this preview, I understand a bit better how this will be played. Very cool.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I am not big on card games but this interesting none the less.

Taldor

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Modules Subscriber

I'm really looking forward to this. I sadly missed my chance to playtest this at GenCon, so really can't wait till we can try it out in the new playtest.

Andoran

Cards look pretty awesome. Cant wait for the playtest to start!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Loved the PaizoCon playtest, and am really looking forward to seeing the changes since then. :-)


Are all the playtesters assigned? I tried to follow the instructions but haven't heard anything back...


I'm still not quite clear on how the progression works. All other deck-based games I know fall into one of two categories:

Collectible Card Games (M:tG, Pokemon), where your cards are your cards, you take your deck with you when you're done, and you get more card options by buying more cards (usually randomly) or trading with others.

Deck-building games (Dominion, Thunderstone), where your cards all come from a central set of cards, they all go back into the box when you're done, and you get more card options by buying a complete new set.

This game sounds mostly like the latter, but things like "You'll get to put new cards in your deck, expand your powers and abilities, and rebuild your deck for new adventures." make it sound like you take your deck home with you afterwards. I can't wrap my mind around how this would work.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm honestly intrigued.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Gloom And Doom wrote:
Are all the playtesters assigned? I tried to follow the instructions but haven't heard anything back...

We filled all the playtest slots a while ago, yes.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Bobson wrote:

I'm still not quite clear on how the progression works. All other deck-based games I know fall into one of two categories:

Collectible Card Games (M:tG, Pokemon), where your cards are your cards, you take your deck with you when you're done, and you get more card options by buying more cards (usually randomly) or trading with others.

Deck-building games (Dominion, Thunderstone), where your cards all come from a central set of cards, they all go back into the box when you're done, and you get more card options by buying a complete new set.

This game sounds mostly like the latter, but things like "You'll get to put new cards in your deck, expand your powers and abilities, and rebuild your deck for new adventures." make it sound like you take your deck home with you afterwards. I can't wrap my mind around how this would work.

It's more like the latter group, except that each character has an individual deck that's maintained separately from the other cards as long as you want that character to evolve.

If your play group is fairly consistent, it's like a roleplaying campaign: the same players keep playing the same characters until the end of the campaign.

If your group composition varies from session to session, you can keep your characters in place and just let different people run the same character in different sessions, or you can bust down the character decks and rebuild new ones each time if you like.


Vic Wertz wrote:
Bobson wrote:

I'm still not quite clear on how the progression works. All other deck-based games I know fall into one of two categories:

Collectible Card Games (M:tG, Pokemon), where your cards are your cards, you take your deck with you when you're done, and you get more card options by buying more cards (usually randomly) or trading with others.

Deck-building games (Dominion, Thunderstone), where your cards all come from a central set of cards, they all go back into the box when you're done, and you get more card options by buying a complete new set.

This game sounds mostly like the latter, but things like "You'll get to put new cards in your deck, expand your powers and abilities, and rebuild your deck for new adventures." make it sound like you take your deck home with you afterwards. I can't wrap my mind around how this would work.

It's more like the latter group, except that each character has an individual deck that's maintained separately from the other cards as long as you want that character to evolve.

If your play group is fairly consistent, it's like a roleplaying campaign: the same players keep playing the same characters until the end of the campaign.

If your group composition varies from session to session, you can keep your characters in place and just let different people run the same character in different sessions, or you can bust down the character decks and rebuild new ones each time if you like.

Ah, that makes sense. The character decks stay with the set (or at least part of the set, even if physically removed), but they don't get shuffled back in at the end of the game.

Definitely different, and definitely interesting. I'm looking forward to it!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I demand more spoiler cards! At least.... ten. NO! TWENTY!! Twenty more cards! please


This looks hella fun and amazing

I like that it goes along with the APs I think it might be a nice way to introduce the characters and the story with out giving them everything so they will want to play it and know who everyone is without ruining it

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

You have a rough idea of the cost of the basic deck and of the adventure expansion packs? The game seem interesting and maybe my playing group will chip in to buy it. Or, if the price is affordable I will buy it alone.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

We don't have a price for the Base Set yet, but the Adventure Decks—110-card sets that include all of the new scenarios, villains, monsters, loot, and other stuff that you need to run an entire chapter of an Adventure Path—will be $19.99.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

How is the interaction between Adventure Paths supposed to work? Can I develop my character "wildly"?

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

Bobson wrote:
I'm still not quite clear on how the progression works. All other deck-based games I know fall into one of two categories:

While I don't want to steal Mike's thunder, I will say that the game doesn't use either of those two models.

Your character deck changes during a session, as you gain and lose cards. At the end of a session, everyone rebuilds a new character deck using the cards that they have now, plus any cards that your other players are willing to trade you. Does that make sense?

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

Chad: Feel free to steal my thunder. For those of you who don't know, Chad is one of the developers on the game.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This looks to be another RPG system, not that I am complaining, mind you. But the system looks a bit like the Cortex system, for the card stats.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What do you think will be the "repeatability" of the scenarios?

There will be symbols on the cards to help recognize the content of one package from another, I hope.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

So this is a game you can buy instantly? No random card sets need to be bought like pokemon? ITs a REAL game which you can buy and then buy expansions (which are always the same no random cards) for?

IF its random, no thank you.
IF its a game on its own which you can buy and always get all cards from YES!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Not random. There will be several decks to buy but all of them are pre-packed. Just like the "Living Cardgames" by FFG.


Diego Rossi wrote:
What do you think will be the "repeatability" of the scenarios?

That's my main question as well.

Andoran

I would imagine it would have a decent amount of repeatability to it. It sounds like the bad guys, encounters, etc wont be the same every time, since it comes from the draw of a deck. Also, since there will be multiple heros included in the thing and each one has their own deck, you would probably have different results depending on the party make-up.

I also play FFG's Lord of the Rings LCG and this game is starting to sound a lot like that. Which scenario you are playing through determines which cards are in the encounter deck and all.

Sounds like it's going to be pretty awesome to me. :)

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Hmm, I need to read the blogs more often, I somehow missed the initial announcement... Tarnation!


Can the game be played solo?

Thx

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

I was/am quite interested in FFG's Lord of the Rings Living Card Game (which has some surface and very general similarities in concept, in that it is a cooperative game, with a clock, against an AI deck).

I am MORE enthusiastic about this. I found the solo play really hard with that other game, and very dependent on deck-building. To the degree that scenario solution in solo play was more like a deck building puzzle, I.e the game was mostly about picking the right cards prior to actually playing the game. In fairness that was diminished with another player.

THIS game looks more like something I was hoping for.. Something like roleplaying that I could play with my wife and friends who enjoy roleplaying but don't want to invest in getting past the learning curve.

I think you and the team are on the right track, Mike!


ChadBrown wrote:
Bobson wrote:
I'm still not quite clear on how the progression works. All other deck-based games I know fall into one of two categories:

While I don't want to steal Mike's thunder, I will say that the game doesn't use either of those two models.

Your character deck changes during a session, as you gain and lose cards. At the end of a session, everyone rebuilds a new character deck using the cards that they have now, plus any cards that your other players are willing to trade you. Does that make sense?

Didn't Magic the Gathering originally work that way? As I recall, that quickly changed to a system where cards did not change hands as a result of gameplay.

Andoran

David knott 242 wrote:

Didn't Magic the Gathering originally work that way? As I recall, that quickly changed to a system where cards did not change hands as a result of gameplay.

From my understanding, the cards wouldn't leave the table, but while you are building your character deck and say you're playing the Fighter and in your character deck you drew the dagger while the Rogue character had the greatsword, you could trade the dagger for the greatsword. Which the fighter could use more effectively. That's what I'm gathering anyway.


I'm curious about character generation. Are we tied to tuning iconic characters or will we be able to generate and/or import our own creations?

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

In the current playtest, we're making sure the game works for the iconics. I hope to have a system where you can create your own characters (and adventures, and scenarios, and locations) eventually, but I don't have one yet. Time will tell.

Mike


I hope its just the iconics all the iconics though even the unnammed prestige class ones

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

LoreKeeper wrote:
How is the interaction between Adventure Paths supposed to work?

For now, there's only Rise of the Runelords... assuming we do well, there will be more. Our assumption will be the same as it is with the RPG: a new Adventure Path means starting a new character at the beginning.

LoreKeeper wrote:
Can I develop my character "wildly"?

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "wildly." You develop your character by changing the mix of cards in your decks, and by making certain "level up"-type choices as you complete scenarios. So your version of Ezren will be different from somebody else's Ezren, but both of them will be more similar to one another than they will be to somebody else's Seoni.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

xorial wrote:
This looks to be another RPG system, not that I am complaining, mind you. But the system looks a bit like the Cortex system, for the card stats.

While it has many familiar RPG elements, I think pretty much everyone would consider it a card game.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm definitely looking forward to this. The preview has us that much more excited.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Diego Rossi wrote:
What do you think will be the "repeatability" of the scenarios?

Adventures always contain the same scenarios, and scenarios always use the same locations, villains, and henchmen, but other things will change. Also, different parties with different players and different characters will have different experiences.

I'd say its replay value is much like an actual Adventure Path; for many people, much of the fun is in exploring something for the first time, so they won't play through more than once; for others, that's not the sole appeal, and they may play repeatedly.

At the end of the day, too, you end up with a box full of monsters, items, spells, and locations, and you can use all those bits to build your own scenarios. It's not as unlimited as an RPG, but it is a toolkit that will expand as you acquire more cards.

Diego Rossi wrote:
There will be symbols on the cards to help recognize the content of one package from another, I hope.

Yes. You can see the Rise of the Runelords logo tells you what AP they're from; the number or letter in the upper right tells you what set they're from. Ezren's "B" tells you he's from the Base Set, while "Them Ogres Ain't Right" is from Chapter 3. (Gogmurt's symbol went AWOL for some reason; he should have a "1".)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

mcintma wrote:

Can the game be played solo?

Thx

Yes. The base set supports 1 to 4 players, and the expansion takes it up to 6 players.


Vic Wertz wrote:
I'd say its reply value is much like an actual Adventure Path; for many people, much of the fun is in exploring something for the first time, so they won't play through more than once; for others, that's not the sole appeal, and they may play repeatedly.

A single Adventure Path segment has a heck of a lot more than "an hour to an hour and a half" worth of play time, though!

I know, I know: apples and oranges, have you looked at the price of movie tickets lately?, quality not quantity, etc. :-)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

David knott 242 wrote:
ChadBrown wrote:
Your character deck changes during a session, as you gain and lose cards. At the end of a session, everyone rebuilds a new character deck using the cards that they have now, plus any cards that your other players are willing to trade you. Does that make sense?

Didn't Magic the Gathering originally work that way? As I recall, that quickly changed to a system where cards did not change hands as a result of gameplay.

Apples and oranges. Magic had an ante system, where (usually) one card would change hands at the end of the duel. Players didn't like that they could actually lose ownership of a valuable card—that is, a person's actual possession could be lost—so that went away.

In this case, generally, one person actually *owns* all the cards in the box, and that never changes.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Joey Virtue wrote:
I hope its just the iconics all the iconics though even the unnammed prestige class ones

As of right now, the Base Set includes Valeros, Seoni, Kyra, Merisiel, Ezren, Harsk, and Lem, and the 5–6 Player Expansion adds Seelah, Lini, Amiri, and Sajan. So with the expansion, you can choose from all 11 of the Core Rulebook classes. (Note there are more characters than supported players, so nobody has to get "stuck" with a character they don't want.)

If the game goes well, we may release decks that let you play the iconics/classes from the APG and the Ultimate books.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

hogarth wrote:
A single Adventure Path segment has a heck of a lot more than "an hour to an hour and a half" worth of play time, though!

Each *scenario* will take in the neighborhood of an hour to play (longer for more players, shorter for fewer); the entire AP gives you 30 scenarios to play (plus there are additional scenarios in the Base Set).


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

It looks really interesting. I'd like to see more card art also.


are there going to be mini tie in i could see gogmort and his companion as a mini


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

Nobody's asked the primary question! Will this be subscription-based?

:)

I am so looking forward to this. I think it will be a great way to get semi-interested people more interested in Pathfinder.

How similar will the mechanics/effects/etc. be to the actual Pathfinder RPG? Will someone who plays the adventure game feel right at home switching to the RPG, or will they feel like they're starting from ground zero?


Vic Wertz wrote:
hogarth wrote:
A single Adventure Path segment has a heck of a lot more than "an hour to an hour and a half" worth of play time, though!
Each *scenario* will take in the neighborhood of an hour to play (longer for more players, shorter for fewer); the entire AP gives you 30 scenarios to play (plus there are additional scenarios in the Base Set).

Ah, that makes a lot more sense! I hadn't fully grasped the difference between adventures and scenarios.


The wording on Ezren is interesting:

"Instead of your first exploration on a turn, discard any card to put a spell from your discard pile on the bottom of your character deck"

Does this mean you HAVE to discard a card?


I dont think so they might need to reword it add you may or something

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

derickb81 wrote:
are there going to be mini tie in i could see gogmort and his companion as a mini

There is one appropriate place to use minis: you need something to represent your character as it moves from location to location. We'll be providing cards for that purpose, but using minis or pawns would work very well. We've already made all of the characters you play as unpainted metal minis and pawns, and we've made a bunch of them as prepainted minis; by the time the game comes out, we'll have made even more.

There's not really any point to using other minis with the game. However, this is Rise of the Runelords, and many of the characters that appear here appear as figures in the Pathfinder Battles Rise of the Runelords Miniatures set. (Neither Gogmurt nor his firepelt cougar are in that set, though.)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

gbonehead wrote:
Will this be subscription-based?

Probably, but we're not yet sure what subscriber benefits we can offer, as we won't be distributing it in PDF form.

gbonehead wrote:
How similar will the mechanics/effects/etc. be to the actual Pathfinder RPG? Will someone who plays the adventure game feel right at home switching to the RPG, or will they feel like they're starting from ground zero?

Things will be familiar, but not the same. The goal is to keep the feel of Pathfinder, not to make a direct adaptation.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Ganryu wrote:

The wording on Ezren is interesting:

"Instead of your first exploration on a turn, discard any card to put a spell from your discard pile on the bottom of your character deck"

Does this mean you HAVE to discard a card?

It should say "you may" (and will say that for the playtest—thanks)!

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