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Virtual Kingmaker

Saturday, June 20, 2015

When we first started brainstorming for Pathfinder Online (PFO), I was running the Kingmaker Pathfinder Adventure Path in my home gaming group. We were loving the idea of adventurers forging a kingdom out of the wilderness. It gave an extra dimension and purpose to our adventures, along with an additional set of problems to roleplay through.

So when Ryan and I started to think about PFO, I felt that Kingmaker's setting, the River Kingdoms of Golarion, would be the perfect backdrop for an MMORPG: a cluster of small settlements and kingdoms battling the environment and each other for survival. It would be like playing Kingmaker in coordination with dozens of other gaming groups, with each GM sharing info on what his group is doing, and occasionally the groups would get together and either help or hinder each other. In the Pathfinder RPG, coordinating such a campaign would be a massive feat, but MMORPGs are perfectly set up for just such a scenario, so that's what we're building with PFO.


Jon Hodgson's illustration for Kingmaker was an inspirational focus for Pathfinder Online.

Starting in a little less than two months, PFO players, much like their table-top counterparts, will be able to pick and choose how their settlements are going to be built, developing it all with their own sweat and blood. There will be dozens and dozens of buildings to choose from, and you'll be able to upgrade many of those buildings over time. Will you put up walls? How about a community garden? What deities will your temple support? There will be a legion of decisions, making each settlement as unique as any character.

Right now, you can claim a hex in the game and put up holdings and outposts. In a few weeks, you will be able to contest the claims of others, possibly claiming those holdings for yourself, or burning them to the ground. Remember in the Kingmaker AP when you heard that one of your lumber camps was being attacked and you had to intervene? Well, the same thing will happen in PFO to your lumber camp, or your mine, or any other holding. Defend them, or there will be consequences.

The Political Landscape

One of the unique things about playing in a sandbox MMO is that the players themselves build the things that exist in the world. To jumpstart that effort, we did a Land Rush a few months after the Kickstarter ended, and 30 player settlements were handed out to the 30 groups that had the most players pledging to them. This gave us the starting player settlement landscape for when the game launched. You can check out the current map of the game world, created by one of the players in the game, here.

Once settlement warfare comes into the game and you are able to destroy a settlement or conquer it, this map will change. Already, there are some areas of the world that are more powerful and populated than others. Here is a snippet of the political landscape as it exists today.

The biggest and most powerful alliance in the game is the Everbloom Alliance, or EBA. Made up of the settlements of Brighthaven, Phaeros, Keeper's Pass, Hammerfall and Blackwood Glade; the purpose of the alliance is protection of its member settlements and their members.

EBA's arch-nemesis, the second most powerful alliance in the game, is the Empire of Xeilias, made up of the member settlements of Golgotha, Callambea, Kreuz Bernstein, and Auroral. They are led by their Benevolent Dictator Phyllain, and are the most active PVP contingent. Located in the center of the game map, their exploits against the EBA have already become the stuff of legend in the world.

In the northwest corner of the map lies the third most powerful alliance in the game, the Coal Road Alliance, aka The High Road Covenant. Comprised of the settlements of Stoneroot Glade, Talonguard and Taverhold, they have provided a bastion for folks wanting to steer clear of the drama taking place between EBA and Xeilias. The community there is super-supportive and actively campaigns against the monsters in the area.

In the north, we have the Free Highlanders, consisting of Alderwag, the paladins of Ozem's Vigil, and the dwarves of Forgeholm. This group provides support for each other through trade and defense, especially when troubles flared up between them and Golgotha a month or so back.

Currently, the last significant alliance is the Aeonian League, consisting of Hope's End, Sunholm, and Canis Castrum. For the most part, they have kept to themselves out in the middle western part of the map, with Canis Castrum making a run to become the most significant market town on the western half of the map.

The southwestern corner of the map is a ghost town of hexes overrun with monsters and abandoned settlements and is avoided by most—which will soon mean opportunity for others!

The Emerald Lodge

This leaves the largest non-allied settlement in the game, The Emerald Lodge. Run by Thod, the Emerald Lodge is situated smack-dab in the middle of the map, between the warring factions of the EBA and the Empire of Xeilias. This has made for some harrowing times for Thod and his settlement, but to date, they have navigated the politics, made deals where they had to, and kept themselves viable and thriving in the game without joining one of the larger player blocs.

Player Spotlight: Thod

Five-star Pathfinder Society GM Jens Loesel gives us insight into Pathfinder Online from the point of view of a Pathfinder RPG player, father of two, and the leader of the largest non-alliance group in the game, the Emerald Lodge.


The leader of the Emerald Lodge attacks Ustalavian Invaders.

In his own words:

One of the interesting aspects of a sandbox game is that you can play your own game, bound only by the sand, the other players, and the technology. There is a lot of freedom as a player. And that is what attracted me to Pathfinder Online.

Because I wanted to give everything a Pathfinder Society background, in the early days my main character was Theodum, designed after my very first PFS character. Theodum earned the title of Venture-Captain in the Eyes of the Ten, and now the things he does in Pathfinder Online feed back into his character at the PFS table.

Lately, my dwarf character Thod has taken much of my time. He started as a gatherer because that's probably the most important role to kickstart a settlement economy. Encroaching monsters and the need for victory tokens led to Thod training in fighting, which also makes him fun to play with groups that need someone who can kill monsters in the wild. Most people associate me with Thod now, especially as I post as Thod in my blogs. (A lot of the time I "play" as Thod is actually outside of the game.)

My background as a Pathfinder Society player and 5-Star Game Master in the United Kingdom was invaluable in the Land Rush. To earn a settlement, you needed votes from other players, so I created a background for my proposed settlement that would tie it to the Pathfinder Society. I proposed the Emerald Lodge as a Pathfinder Society lodge located near the Emerald Spire superdungeon. (In game, the Emerald Spire can't yet be explored, but it can be seen, and my son was the first player to see it—or at least to report seeing it—so being close has advantages.) With this background in place, I asked UK PFS players to back me in the Land Rush, which they did. But securing a settlement was only the beginning.

My first nasty surprise came in the first week of the Land Rush, well before anyone was actually able to log into the game. Golgotha, the largest evil group, wanted to position their settlement in a spot that would make them our neighbors. We had several options: join or ally with them; find someone stronger to ally with and hope for their protection; move elsewhere and say goodbye to the background story about being next to the Spire; or ensure that they valued your settlement more alive than dead.

Meanwhile, the Everbloom Alliance was staking out a spot to the other side, albeit further away. This opened up more problems and more options. Do we get between the two, becoming a speedbump when we are overrun, or can we steer a neutral way out of the whole situation? Either side might or might not want us, but they also don't want us to join the opposition. They also don't want the bad publicity from squashing a small, harmless, innocent settlement.

What followed was a year of diplomacy, plotting, building, and interacting with other players. PFO is not just "log in, kill a few monsters, be done." Whatever you do, in game or out of game, has an effect. At times it was a balancing act, especially when we had to take some towers for ourselves or when we tried to ensure nobody tread on our toes. But we are still there. We still have all our towers and, most surprisingly for a lot of gamers, we carved out an oasis between much larger groups that are keen on PvP, yet not only do they let us play our game, they sometimes even support us. We are still around and we plan to be around a lot longer.

There's still a lot to look forward to: growing the settlement further, getting rid of towers... and building our own vision of a Pathfinder Lodge, defended by diplomacy and not force, becoming a neutral meeting point when war rages around us. Oh—and one day being among the first to go down the Spire.

Lisa Stevens
CEO

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Community Jon Hodgson Pathfinder Online
Grand Lodge Goblin Squad Member

Lisa

Thanks for the nice lead in. You never know when you write something how it will end up. So I'm very pleased.
I hope the example of the Emerald Lodge will give some players ideas of their own and might motivate them. We will never be the mainstream - this is why EBA and Xeilias are better organized and bigger.
But a group and place like ours has it's own charm.

Oh - for anyone interested - here is our Guildpage pages

There is more activity inside for members.

Goblin Squad Member

Whish I could have been there for the mass escalation clearing, sounded fun!

By the way, it's Empire of Xeilias, not Xeilius.


this is awesome, too bad my computer sucks and can't run pathfinder online

Grand Lodge Goblin Squad Member

Thod wrote:

Lisa

Thanks for the nice lead in. You never know when you write something how it will end up. So I'm very pleased.
I hope the example of the Emerald Lodge will give some players ideas of their own and might motivate them. We will never be the mainstream - this is why EBA and Xeilias are better organized and bigger.
But a group and place like ours has it's own charm.

Oh - for anyone interested - here is our Guildpage pages

There is more activity inside for members.

Interesting stuff, If you are at PaizoCon UK this year I need to remember to ask you about this. I've been meaning to get back into PFO again!

Liberty's Edge

I am considering joining Pathfinder Online but have an old computer. What are the minimum computer requirements?

Grand Lodge Goblin Squad Member

Martin Kauffman 530 wrote:
I am considering joining Pathfinder Online but have an old computer. What are the minimum computer requirements?

A good graphics card. Age of a computer is less an issue - but without dedicated graphics you tend to have issues. In the past you could get a 15 day trial - good enough to test suitability of a computer.

Edit: just checked - you can do a 15 day trial. You just need to sign up. This is likely the best option to test out if your PC works good enough or not.

'Good enough' and 'old computer' can mean so much that probably only yourself can decide.

Grand Lodge Goblin Squad Member

ratlord wrote:


Interesting stuff, If you are at PaizoCon UK this year I need to remember to ask you about this. I've been meaning to get back into PFO again!

Yes - I'm at PaizoCon UK. I guess you know who I'm. Guess I know you as well but likely not as ratlord.

Goblin Squad Member

1 person marked this as a favorite.

grats on attaining the Improved Celebrity +1 feat, Thod!

Lisa, your blogs are as always wery welcome reading.
Looking forward to other player spotlights. After all, the community is the best asset of PFO!

Goblin Squad Member

I have to say, who wouldn't want to be part of this game after reading this blog. :)

Very nice, I hope we get these with regular intervals. :D

Goblin Squad Member

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Very cool! I'm really happy that Thod got a spotlight! I've always enjoyed his commentary and his stories. We are lucky to have such a colorful persona in our community. Cheers!

Grand Lodge Goblin Squad Member

Doc Foxglove, PFU wrote:

grats on attaining the Improved Celebrity +1 feat, Thod!

Lisa, your blogs are as always wery welcome reading.
Looking forward to other player spotlights. After all, the community is the best asset of PFO!

Foxglove

Thanks for the very kind words. My understanding is that Lisa wants to make this a recurring blog and wants to feature a different players each time.
Thod was pushed out last minute from the very first blog by Laurethoron. But I think he fits much better to this write-up. And I hope we will see many more players featured here.

Some players I would suggest to be featured (please feel free to add your choices and apology if you didn't make the list)

Someone from PFU (Hoffman, Auriga, one of the other Profs?
EBA/Brighthaven as biggest alliance / settlement - Cheatle
Golgotha - representing the evil side - Phyllain (Tink, Rynnik, Midnight)
The more agressive part of the EBA/Phaeros - Nihimon or Decius
Someone from a smaller/quieter group - Aoenien League - Duffy
Someone from Forgeholm - sorry - no name springs into mind
Someone from the Free Highlanders - Bringslite
Someone from the Coal Road
A bandit - Bluddwulf

Well - that should keep us busy.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Is the MMO still PvP oriented?

Goblin Squad Member

It is a PvP sandbox game at its heart...

Goblinworks Executive Founder

Indeed it is PvP. Just yesterday we had our first successful bluff, in which one group threatened to attack and paid to declare three feuds, but didn't, causing the defending group to spend time adjusting to a defensive posture.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.
<Kabal> Daeglin wrote:
It is a PvP sandbox game at its heart...

Sadly, that kind of kills my interest. :(

Grand Lodge Goblin Squad Member

Lord Fyre wrote:
<Kabal> Daeglin wrote:
It is a PvP sandbox game at its heart...
Sadly, that kind of kills my interest. :(

There are areas that are very PvP lite (or even nearly devoid of PvP). This is not by design but by diplomacy / by the way players behave.

PvP only is a true problem if you are clueless about politics and wander around while joining the wrong settlement / company.

I can't say Emerald Lodge members are never attacked - but it is a long while that I got a member protesting about it. Off course in some other regions it could be a daily issue.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Grim Onyxheart wrote:

Whish I could have been there for the mass escalation clearing, sounded fun!

By the way, it's Empire of Xeilias, not Xeilius.

Sorry—fixed!

Goblin Squad Member

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Thod wrote:


Some players I would suggest to be featured (please feel free to add your choices and apology if you didn't make the list)

I didn't dare start that list in public, but I admit I have beeen thinking about many of the same names.

But rather than a "A-list", it might be also interesting to look at different Bartle archetypes and demographics. (Thod already covers politician and RPer to some degree, but there are others)

-a busy guild leader
-a dedicated crafter/trader/economy player
-a focused PvEer (achiever or explorer)
-a focused PvPer (killer)
-a politician/diplomat
-a RPer or other socializer

-a grandmother? (i know at least one)
-someone in a far-away location/timezone (?)
-a random new player togeher with an alpha backer (more relevant when the game is more mature)

Goblin Squad Member

Thod wrote:
Someone from Forgeholm - sorry - no name springs into mind

No apology needed, you are correct our Public Relation department has been...less than effective... and that is something that is going to be addressed now. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. :)

Goblin Squad Member

I think Tagnar is from Forgeholm? He could talk about the epic deal he made with a certain Merchant where he received 10x T2 recipes, a Mass Strength and a Redouble Maneuever for a Hunting Outpost recipe, because the citizens of Callambea needed Food and Tradegoods. :D

Grand Lodge Goblin Squad Member

Doc Foxglove, PFU wrote:


I didn't dare start that list in public, but I admit I have beeen thinking about many of the same names.

But rather than a "A-list", it might be also interesting to look at different Bartle archetypes and demographics. (Thod already covers politician and RPer to some degree, but there are others)

-a busy guild leader
-a dedicated crafter/trader/economy player
-a focused PvEer (achiever or explorer)
-a focused PvPer (killer)
-a politician/diplomat
-a RPer or other socializer

-a grandmother? (i know at least one)
-someone in a far-away location/timezone (?)
-a random new player togeher with an alpha backer (more relevant when the game is more mature)

Great suggestions !! I just wouldn't have been able to easily add possible names. I also tried to be balanced while not spending hours generating my list.

So it will have shortcomings.

@Forgeholm
You are doing a great job - especially on MMORG - but you are too far away to deal with you on a regular basis and I would have had to check out names - something I was too lazy for

Goblin Squad Member

Thod wrote:

A bandit - Bluddwolf

Well - that should keep us busy.

I can only hope that Factions and Outpost / Holding raiding will make this come true.

It will certainly reignite my interest and get me playing on a near daily basis, instead of once per week on weekends.

Goblin Squad Member

Quote:
...Canis Castrum making a run to become the most significant market town on the western half of the map.

Thannon has been doing an awesome job, making Canis Castrum the River Kingdoms' leading trade hub! :)

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