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Sutter's Last Blog

Friday, September 8, 2017

See that photograph? That's the oldest picture I have of me in the Paizo offices, taken by former Paizo Art Director Sean Glenn back in early 2006. At that point, I had already been at Paizo for a year and a half, working my way up from website image wrangler and editorial intern to Paizo's sole customer service person, then at last into a coveted Assistant Editorship on Dungeon. Much like Jon Snow, I knew nothing. While I'd spent my college years practicing to be a journalist, and had a whole adolescence of RPG gaming under my belt, I was a rank amateur when it came to professional game design—living proof of the "fake it till you make it" strategy. (I actually bought my first 3.5 rulebooks with the money from "Shut In," the first Dungeon adventure I co-wrote with Wes Schneider.)

It was a crazy time. All of us in the Editorial Pit were pretty much broke—until Paizo brought me on full-time, I'd been teaching SAT prep classes at night and living off some modest Wheel of Fortune winnings—but it didn't matter, because I was spending every day learning about games and world-building from my coworkers. Folks like James Jacobs, Erik Mona, Wes Schneider, and Jason Bulmahn, who remain in my eyes some of the world's foremost experts on what makes fantasy cool. We would argue furiously. We would go out drinking (once I finally turned 21, that is). We would occasionally all ditch work—with Lisa's approval—and go to the movies in the middle of the day. Wes would orchestrate elaborate pranks. Jacobs and I taped off our combined cubicle and declared it the Independent Republic of Jameslandia, within which he would draw me sticky-note cartoons or perform impromptu puppet shows with his collection of Godzilla plushies.

It was, in short, freakin' magical.

Smash cut to September of 2017, and I've been at Paizo for 13 years, almost to the day. A lot's changed. The company is huge. Pathfinder's a household name in RPG circles. I've run a novel line, managed critical teams through high times and crises, written probably millions of words about Golarion, and now find myself Creative Director of Starfinder—a game which, after more than a year of grueling (but exciting!) work, has just had one of the biggest launches of anything Paizo's ever done. Watching the frenzy at Gen Con this year, walking down the line signing autographs and chatting with folks who'd been waiting for two hours or more to buy the Starfinder Core Rulebook, was one of the most satisfying moments of my career.

Which is why it's time for me to leave. As of September 12th, I'll be stepping down as Starfinder's Creative Director and resigning from Paizo to write full-time.

Sound crazy? Let me explain:

As a kid, I was heartbroken when Bill Watterson ended Calvin & Hobbes. I couldn't understand how somebody could do such great work—work that touched so many people—and then just stop. In the last few years, however, I think I've finally begun to understand. By walking away when he did, Watterson ensured that Calvin & Hobbes would never slowly slide into mediocrity. He'd never burn out and start to resent it. He gave us the best of what he had to give in that arena, and then he moved on. So even as I miss those characters, I salute his artistic integrity. And it's in that same spirit that I'm now leaving Paizo.

I'm extremely proud of everything I've helped to create here at Paizo, but of course Starfinder is my most recent baby. While the world is just now getting its first taste of the game, the production times involved mean that we on the Starfinder team have been living it for a year and a half, and I've actually already overseen the whole first year of releases. But as much as there's still plenty more I'd love to explore with Starfinder, I can't escape the fact that I've been making RPGs at Paizo for my entire adult life, and it's time now to devote more than a few scattered hours each week to my other artistic loves—particularly fiction and comics.

Does that mean I'm done writing for Pathfinder and Starfinder? Heck no! If anything, I hope that no longer working for Paizo full-time means I'll have more time to write for both games as a freelancer. And while it's hard to give up Starfinder's captain's chair, I'm positive that Rob, Sarah, Owen, Jason, and the rest of the team are going to continue to take the game in amazing new directions. As both a fan and a freelancer, I can't wait to see where they go.

After 13 years, there are far too many people to thank, so I hope everyone will forgive me if I keep this short and just shout out a few of my fellow old-timers. To Lisa, who scraped together a job for an ambitious kid. To Erik, the editor-in-chief who slapped a copy of his own adventure "The Whispering Cairn" down on the new editorial intern's desk and challenged him to find things wrong with it. To Jacobs, for educational movie nights and teaching me what makes adventures fun. To Sarah, who taught me how to work well with artists, and Bulmahn, who taught me that you should never bring algebra to a drinking contest. To my longtime partner in creative crime, Wes Schneider, for always having my back and consistently forcing me to up my game. To Chris Carey for being my fiction buddy, and Judy Bauer for kindly but firmly teaching me to be a better, more mindful person. And to everyone else—thank you. There's no one here that I haven't learned from or laughed with at some point.

Last of all, I want to say one giant thank you to everyone reading this. I've always found the Paizo community unbelievably supportive, and for the last 13 years you've been the reason I'm able to live the dream. Whether you're one of the superfans who sent us pizzas during those first big Pathfinder crunches or a new friend trying out Starfinder for the first time—thanks.

All right, no more stalling. It's time for me to cue up the Annie Lennox track from the end of Return of the King and sail off into the west. I hope some of you will continue to drop in and say hi on my Twitter at @jameslsutter and my Facebook author page, or keep up with my latest work on jameslsutter.com.

It's been an amazing adventure. Now on to the next!

James L. Sutter
Creative Director Emeritus

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Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Nobody has linked it yet.

Hmmm...

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Congratulations, James, on a new course for your life.

Thank you for all your hard work. I have met many people and made friends through Pathfinder and now Starfinder. Indeed, one couple I know who later married met while playing a game of Pathfinder.

So, please realize that you have not just brought some more fun into what often seems like a weary world but you have also brought people together.


The road goes ever on and on my friend, may your road be steady and your stride long, we'll miss you


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

Good luck, James! I guess this means we know how the Hermea alignment argument is going to go now! :D

Sovereign Court

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Seltyiel Fangirl wrote:

Nobody has linked it yet.

Hmmm...

In honor of Mr. Sutter's esteemed history of great works, I feel I must link this one last* time. (Contains salty language.)

*not actually the last time


Kalindlara wrote:
Seltyiel Fangirl wrote:

Nobody has linked it yet.

Hmmm...

In honor of Mr. Sutter's esteemed history of great works, I feel I must link this one last* time. (Contains salty language.)

*not actually the last time

Hmm, right, he should probably have his mouth washed out with soap even :3

Shadow Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Modules, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Good luck, James, and thanks for that reply to my inquiry a few years ago. Ultimately, it's what finally opened the door...

All the best for whatever you do next.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

James,
It's been amazing seeing your development from the outside, and I know you'll continue to grow and amaze us with whatever comes next.

Sovereign Court

4 people marked this as a favorite.

James, good luck on your new ventures. I know they are going to Vrock!

--For those about to Vrock. We salute you!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Good luck, mister Sutter.

Contributing Artist

6 people marked this as a favorite.

James, Working with you has been a pleasure. Thanks for your significant contributions to both Pathfinder and throughout the RPG community.
Very best of luck my friend on your new ventures. I know you'll continue to create something amazing.

Jon Brazer Enterprises

We shall miss you, good sir.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Whoa, lots of big news lately!

It was great to meet you at PaizoCon, James, and attend your one on one advice seminar a couple years ago. Your advice meant a lot to me at a time when I was getting a bit discouraged with things.

I'll miss seeing you at the helm of Paizo projects, but hopefully this means we'll get even more writing from you in the future!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I feel just like when Calvin & Hobbes ended.
I'm sad. But the sadness is for us. You, however, are doing what makes you happy. And that's for the best.
Good luck, rock star.

The Exchange

So long, and thanks for all the fish!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

So, um... if you're doing the writing thing more and still gonna freelance with Paizo, does that mean that if/when (cross fingers) Pathfinder Tales resume, we can get more (much more??? pretty please) Salim?

Cuz, best Tales ever. Just sayin'.

Liberty's Edge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Sad to read this, but happy for James. Reading this thread while listening to Hurricane by Thrice kind of hits you in the gut.

I hope you pick up that bass again too, for old times sake and play some metal good sir. I'll never forget our back and forth in the 'Mona and Metal' thread I started all those years ago. You will always be the bass picking Paizo guy to me.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber

Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!

*sniffle*

I'll definitely miss your presence, your Know Direction interviews, and your fervor for *everything*! Don't be a stranger!

My favorite Sutter line: "Yeah, we can totally do this!"

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

You have contributed so much to this pastime of ours for so long it is hard to imagine Paizo without you. I can't wait to see what comes next.

P.S. The video linked above is amazing! After viewing this there can be no doubt of your Rock Star status.

Creative Director, Starfinder

2 people marked this as a favorite.
DrakeRoberts wrote:

So, um... if you're doing the writing thing more and still gonna freelance with Paizo, does that mean that if/when (cross fingers) Pathfinder Tales resume, we can get more (much more??? pretty please) Salim?

Cuz, best Tales ever. Just sayin'.

Thank you! I would love to do another Salim book, but that'll all be up to Paizo and whoever their new publishing partner turns out to be. :)


James Sutter wrote:
DrakeRoberts wrote:

So, um... if you're doing the writing thing more and still gonna freelance with Paizo, does that mean that if/when (cross fingers) Pathfinder Tales resume, we can get more (much more??? pretty please) Salim?

Cuz, best Tales ever. Just sayin'.

Thank you! I would love to do another Salim book, but that'll all be up to Paizo and whoever their new publishing partner turns out to be. :)

*Readies Action to throw money*


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Modules, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Thanks for everything that you've done James! Good luck in all of the awesome stuff that you will work on and always remember to do your effing dishes.

Creative Director, Starfinder

3 people marked this as a favorite.
dmchucky69 wrote:

Sad to read this, but happy for James. Reading this thread while listening to Hurricane by Thrice kind of hits you in the gut.

I hope you pick up that bass again too, for old times sake and play some metal good sir. I'll never forget our back and forth in the 'Mona and Metal' thread I started all those years ago. You will always be the bass picking Paizo guy to me.

Definitely! I've actually got a metal show here in a few weeks, though I'll be playing guitar this time. :) And your post inspired me to go back and see what Thrice has done in the last few years, so thanks! :D

RPG Superstar Season 9

I admire the self-awareness and courage you displayed by choosing to bow out at a high point to pursue your other passions. It's so easy to get caught in the daily grind and lose sight of the big picture, but your decision reminds us all that our parents' age-old advice of "Don't spend it all in one place" applies just as much to our time on earth as it does to our finances. While I will certainly miss having you at the helm, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we see more great work from you.

Best of luck in your future endeavors, and I hope I get to cross paths with you as a freelancer!

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