Never. Really, never.
If someone wants to get that kind of thing out of their system, have people put together PCs for an arena combat style dungeon.
But if you're running a real story, where people are invested in their characters, then this is a crappy, crappy idea
Inevitably, real-world tensions get drawn in and exacerbated by the in-game shenanigans. And it ends badly.
Whenever my players start flirting with these kinds of ideas, I just say it bluntly:
Players have to be nice to each other at the table and PCs have to work as a team in the game. End of conversation.
In my latest session, I had a player who desperately wanted to play a necromancer - in a good party.
I said Fine, so long as you are a good necromancer whose specialty is understanding and killing undead.
He fussed and fumed but within a half hour had completely made peace the idea that he was a badass, cold-eyed zombie slayer.
Finally, to complete the soapboxing, I'll say that I'm not a big fan of "evil" campaigns.
The PCs in my adventure wind up in a lot of morally complex situations, and it's definitely big shades of gray all the way.
But in the end, I don't want to hang around with a bunch of guys and gals on a Saturday night pretending to be psychopaths.
When I first started playing D&D back in the 70s we assumed that this kind of cruel $%&# was just endemic to the game.
People bullied other players, they whacked each others' PCs, screwed pointlessly with the DMs campaign arcs and just generally used the game as a vehicle for lots and lots of ass-hattery.
I really didn't get it that gaming could exist without all that stuff.
Then I started gaming again when 3.0 came out and we all just laid down some basic social contract stuff.
Be on time, within reason. Don't be mean. Have fun. Let everybody play their own characters. No picking on anyone. No player on player violence unless it ABSOLUTELY serves the story.
And so on.
We've also kind of adopted a poker mentality. Which translates roughly as 'Come to play, not to $%*# around.'
As with poker, you can still have a ton of fun and side-chatter and cut-up moments, without a whole lot of distracting crap.
(It's a balance thing, but we lean toward play, not nonsense...)
All of which leads me to my main argument. I'd say you should start over.
Set guidelines from the outset and invite nice people who really want to play Pathfinder.
People who aren't really into it, or who pull stunts like this, give them one blunt clear friendly warning, then cut them loose.
Good thoughts. Thanks. We're still early days, because we've taken so many side trips.
Including a big side adventure trip to Kaer Maga, using elements of Shattered Star -- a detour which I know think was a bit of a misstep on my part. Seemed like a good idea at the time...
So my next step is to get back to Sandpoint and back into the main flow of the AP.
One benefit of the detour is that I feel like my players have a much broader sense of the scope and landscape of Varisia.
The "world building" bit of an adventure, which I like, has fallen into place.
Now I just need to get the tension level back up, the sense of impending doomishness. :)
I think I will also put the game on a two week hiatus, just to let everyone have a break...
So I've been running a really steady ROTRL campaign, with lots of sidetrips, including a big journey to Kaer Maga.
The players have met regularly for about four months now, nearly weekly, occasionally even twice a week.
And here's the truth: It's feeling a little stale.
It's not the adventure. That's great. It's just the energy level in the room, my DMing, and maybe just a little over-familiarity...
I dunno. Anyone else have this problem?
I noticed a guy yawning during a battle with a black dragon today.
I guess I know the fixes. Get back to basic storytelling, make sure the NPCs seem engaging, create narrative tension...
Or maybe it's time to take a little break? I worry about doing that because we have such a good steady game-night going.
When I first started gaming, in middle school, we had no idea about social contracts. It was disastrous usually.
We killed each others' characters, we derailed each others' adventures, we were obnoxious in real life and in character.
When my current group revived after 3.0 came out, we were much more conscious of the need for some accord at the table.
It's a pretty constant negotiation, but the rules are generally a) no killing other characters, b) no deliberately scotching the plot of the adventure, and c) no chronic distracting behaviors at the table.
That means no cell phones, but it also means no neurotic "testing" of dice -- rattle, rattle -- no cross-talk about Skyrim, and so on.
On the other hand, it's important to allow the table to just sort of gaggle for a while occasionally -- over a good joke, a funny moment in the game, or whatever.
I've definitely made the mistake as a DM of clamping down too hard on extra-curricular socializing...
The bottom line is that I try to have our players be roughly as focused as a good group of poker players -- which is pretty darned focused.
Honestly, I think more of this kind of advice would be a worthy addition to the core rulebook.
Explaining to people that group story telling requires a little bit of deliberate buy-in up front might help new groups avoid our awful stumbles.
I'm surprised by the loyalty to the fiction in the AP context, but it sounds like there's a good audience for it. Cool and good.
Question: Can anyone recommend particular AP storylines that really worked and that are worth going back and trying to read back-to-back?
Meanwhile, I'll keep bootlegging encounter maps wherever I can find them... :)
Thanks for the chat,
Yeah, I'm skeptical about that cost argument.
There are really good digital map-making programs all over the place that produce cool content pretty easily.
And AP modules are already really art-rich, so it's not like they'd have to add new colors to their print budget.
Like Azmyth, I can think of a half-dozen specific places in ROTRL and Shattered Star where a maps would have boosted the AP value.
Having a copy-ready map also helps clarify the narrative a bit for DMs. It sort of telegraphs the idea that RIGHT HERE is a significant set-piece moment.
It would also be cool to have maps that would essentially establish iconic places for entire APs -- the main room in the Rusty Dragon, a small section of Sandpoint's wall, a street in Underbridge...
Fair enough preferring/liking the fiction. But why would maps cost more? I'm not talking about removable art or inserts or anything of that sort.
Just an 8 1/2 by 11 map that I can photocopy and bring to the table. Are those expensive to make and print in a format like the AP?
And not to push a rope. But even if you like Golarion fiction...
In the context of an AP's function, do you think the fiction makes more sense than really usable maps?
I love the Adventure Path series and generally like the slow, evolutionary tweaks that have happened over time since the first ROTRL series.
Yes, a few AP's have sputtered and stuttered, but all have been interesting, worthy efforts that captured the imagination of at least some gamer groups.
One element, though, that seems worthy of a major overhaul -- to my eye -- is the fiction that takes up a chunk of each installment.
I love reading fantasy. I even occasionally enjoy short fantastic fiction.
But there's something about the style and the episodic nature of the Pathfinder Journal that just doesn't work for me.
This is no disrespect to the authors. I often recognize some good, solid writing.
And I get the idea that fiction is a way to flesh out the atmosphere of Golarion.
But I just don't ever find myself engaging the stories or the characters in ways that get me to the end.
I wonder if other regular purchasers and players agree that this is real estate that could be better used in other ways?
One MUCH more useful element for my gaming table would be a series of pages devoted to 1" grid maps usable for key battles in each AP installment.
If Paizo printed 3-5 pages of miniature-scaled maps per episode, I'd be over the moon as a DM...and that also seems like an element that would be fairly easy to produce.
Has anybody ever had their credit card information stolen after making a purchase off the Paizo website?
I'm a big believer in transparency.
But for all kinds of reasons, this is an issue to be taken up first, directly and in private, with Paizo's staff.
First for your own security. It's important that, if there really is a problem, they have an opportunity to help you track down the solution.
(And, if possible, the culprit.)
Second, for the sake of Paizo's well being.
It's no good starting rumors about this not being a secure site for transactions until you are absolutely DEAD sure they're at fault.
The truth is that there is every possibility that your security has been compromised some other way.
If you try a direct, private approach and that doesn't work, posting her make some sense.
I have no doubt but that Paizo will be the first to inform the community if it turns out their security is compromised.
In the meantime, I will continue buying here in the conviction that all is well.
I generally really like the multi-author approach to the APs. But I think the OP gets at something real.
I think the APs do need slightly greater cohesion - someone in a kind of show-runner role who can tighten the narrative threads.
I'm sure someone already does something like this for each AP - just wouldn't work otherwise -- but my sense is that this kind of continuity focus needs to be dialed up a bit.
It's just not cool that so many of the modules in each AP now include disclaimers like "this chapter doesn't really contribute much to the overall narrative arc."
And it's not great that fascinating NPCs so often appear just in time to be killed off.
It strikes me that each draft of each chapter of an AP should include specific requirements, like foreshadowing, meta-plot development, and NPC cultivation.
Again, I'm certain that a lot of this happens already, but this is one of the rare areas IMO where there's real room for AP growth.
Easy - just say no. It's easier for me because I DM with some younger players so I have a "no evil PCs" policy at my table. But if your entire party is good or trending that direction, an LE PC is just wrong -- unless there's a very strong story element in favor.
When you realized the guy didn't want to be captain, you should have backed off.
By sentence three of your conversation, it was clear that this wasn't going to work in a way that was going to be fun for anyone.
Furthermore, absolutely none of my players would want to play an entire AP taking orders from one PC.
I don't know this adventure, but if I were DMing, I would urge players to form the S&S Pirate Ship Adventurers' Collective.
I think the OP gets at a problem in the fighter build progression. Generally speaking, building fighters who do a bunch of cool, weird stuff in battle doesn't stack up well with a fighter who is simply built to hit and damage.
I think it would be a worthy tweak to actually encourage builds (through fewer feat taxes, slightly stronger feats, etc.) that do zany things like intimidating, bluffing, tripping, disarming as a major part of their combat approach.
I'm sure there are really astute power gamers who have figured out how to make a non-traditional fighter competitive, but it shouldn't be a hidden cookie. There should be a more or less clear path to alternative builds.
I've thought for a while that one cool art addition to PF books would be flow charts showing attribute-skill-feat progressions that get a PC from 1st level to a really cool, say, 5th level non-trad PC build.
I'm a big fan of the Pathfinder rules.
But I think one "canon" variant that Paizo should introduce is a system of Magic-style cards that interact directly with the RPG.
The first cards issued would pretty much resemble the various spells thrown by different magic users at different levels.
(Divine and arcane)
You would play them as you would currently play a spell in the game as written.
I want to play a magic missile -- I lay it on the table. I want to turn invisible, I place that card next to my character sheet as a buff.
But slightly different rules -- and new cards --would gradually allow the cards (and therefore the spells) to be played in more flexible way.
There would be far more "instant" spell cards, which could be used by any spellcaster at the table to counter, or modify, other spells being cast.
Non-spellcaster PCs carrying magic items might also possess "instant" spell cards, allowing them to counter or mitigate the impact of spell cards played against them.
And so on.
This would allow for magic duels that would, in a small way, resemble the contests that occur in the card game Magic.
Cards could be packaged by Paizo as "spellbook expansions."
New cards could be issued on a regular basis, with commons, rares, and extremely rares mixed in.
Packs of special deluxe "summoning" cards could come pre-packaged with the monster stats printed on the cards, along with mini pawns.
A magic user who summons a new type of creature is ready to play.
This kind of "collectible" product would add a fresh new dimension to the magic rules, and mean cool new spells being introduced to the play environment on a regular basis.
It would also providing Paizo with a new stream of revenue.
Play groups that don't want to spend the extra money, or who prefer to stick with the RAW, can simply ignore the cards-variant system.
(Much as some groups might, say, ignore a psionics variant...)
I know my group would love to be flipping cards on the table, adding immediacy and conflict to the spellcasting simulation.
I adapted the book from a WOTC Call of Cthulu book that came out some years ago.
By reading it, the magus also learned a weird variant insivibility spell that he can use once daily but only by taking temporary intelligence and wisdom damage and leaving himself highly visible (and vulnerable) to creatures from Leng.
I currently have one PC in the campaign infected with lycanthropy, and another going slowly mad from his knowledge of Leng...
Another full house for this week's ROTRL campaign. A summoner, a fighter-thief, an inquisitor, a cleric, a magus, a gunslinger, and a barbarian.
The session was a bit lackluster, simply because I had a crusher work week and wasn't as well prepared as usual. Standard DM woes...
The players picked up some of the slack, doing a fun job of role-playing their efforts to build a full cargo for their trip upriver from Magnimar to Kaer Maga.
Their trade goods include everything from tobacco to alchemist's fire.
They also discovered that there was a sailor in Underbridge being held hostage by derro alchemists who had experience sailing through the dangerous waters near the Mushfen swamp.
They found him and broke him free -- after first battling against a group of mad derro and a queer interdimensional being.
Meanwhile, the magus purchased an ancient book in the Capital District which he was able to decipher.
It told of an ancient time when a runelord named Karzoug did battle against another runelord named Alaznist.
According to the text, Alaznist enlisted the aid of a demon goddess known as The Mother, while Karzoug secured allies from a dimension known as "Leng."
Reading the book with its strange and uncouth runes cost the magus two permanent points of Wisdom drain.
Next game, the groups sets off upriver with a hold full of trade goods -- destination Kaer Maga.
From a creative point of view -- in terms of Paizo continuing to push the envelope on writing, storytelling, and tabletop gaming -- this feels fun and risky.
It feels like a kind of Mike Mignola moment. It bends the genre, forces everybody to blink once, and that's really really good.
Also, the fact that Paizo is still comfortable saying "this isn't for everyone" but it's going to be incredibly cool for the right set of players with the right DM?
Things are going great so far. I've instituted a very deliberate system of leveling up, where PCs gain levels only when it is adventure-appropriate -- very slowly.
But they also gain additional campaign traits as miniature rewards within each level, so that they can continue to mod their characters and gain a sense of power progress.
I plan to end the campaign with three bad guy battles, probably in this order: Karzoug, Xin, Yamasoth.
I think the rules as written do box in the Paladin in unfortunate ways. The heroic knight of romantic literature -- a legitimate part of the fantasy canon -- behaved nothing like the Paladin that has evolved in D&D mythology.
Knights were gritty, worldly and flawed. In romantic poetry and literature, they sought to fulfill various ideals, but they were also ribald, flawed and capable of acts of cunning and malice.
I understand why the rules were written. It's a huge role-playing challenge to square the ethics of "adventuring" with the ethics of saving the world for goodness. But they still kind of stink.
In my games, I just house rule it. I make it clear to my paladins that they can be as gritty and earthy and clever and Machiavellian as necessary, as long as they can always make a strong argument for the fundamental rightness of their crusade.
So after flushing the evil quasit Erylium out of the mysterious temple beneath Sandpoint, the party of adventurers known as the White Yeomen found that the local notables -- even those they trusted -- were eager to hush up the affair.
Letting on that Sandpoint has a goblin problem is one thing. Letting on that there may be an active cult to Lamashtu lurking about murdering people and covering noble folk in melted glass -- that's quite another.
So it was agreed that the Black Arrows would provide security for a while and the monks from Windsong Abbey would take on the task of locking down the underground temple, capping its entrances and keeping an eye on any mysterious activity.
Meanwhile, Shalelu Andosana would monitor activities at Thistletop, where the mysterious figure Nualia is believed to be hiding out with a group of goblin henchmen.
The White Yeomen would head off on a side-trek on behalf of Sandpoint's Mercantile League, working with officials in Magnimar to reopen the trade route via river to the city of Kaer Maga.
So..the group sets off by ship from Sandpoint to Magnimar and in the night is set upon by a mysterious faceless horror that grapples the summoner and flits up with him into the sky.
Using a magical tracking device provided to them by Judge Ironbriar, the group follows the summoner first to Magnimar and then into the slum of Underbridge. There they are ambushed by a group of queerly garbed men wearing hideous masks and wielding war razors.
These fiendish murderers keep muttering about the "Skinsaw man."
The group fights off the attackers and recovers the summoner, who was being held as bait. They discover that the summoner has a seven-pointed scar branded on his cheek.
After recovering a bit back at their ship, the group sets out for a night of revelry in Magnimar. One rogue matches wits with a Varisian card sharp, breaking even in a game of "Magnimar shuffle." A barbarian wrestles a hill giant on a bet -- and loses badly.
The magus, meanwhile, heads into the Capitol District and finds an arcane book store with a tome that appears to be a somewhat bastardized grammar of words made up of runes like the ones seen in the temple of Lamashtu and other sites around Sandpoint.
Next week, the adventure continues with the group selling some magical items, and buying trade goods for the journey by river to Kaer Maga. Their first challenge? Helping a group of troglodytes overcome a band of boggards, in exchange for free passage for Magnimarian traders passing near the Mushfens.
I've been running the hardcover reissue of Rise of the Rune Lords -- and it's been a fantastic ride.
One of the things I really took to heart was the advice in the new edition to slow the time frame down significantly and allow the PCs to sandbox Varisia.
That's worked out beautifully.
While working through the first section of the AP, I started buying Shattered Star and realized that this wasn't/isn't a campaign for my group.
Too many dungeon crawls. To be clear, they're GREAT dungeon crawls. But still, just not right for my group.
Also, we're not big fans of the "Pathfinder Society" as a plot motivator.
But what I've found is that there is a TON of great material in SS that really fleshes out the whole Thassilonian adventure.
Everything from monsters to settings to side trek adventures.
To cite just one example: My players are leaving Sandpoint for a time to lead a trading expedition from Magnimar to Kaer Maga.
SS has a huge amount of material to flesh out that journey. I plan to cannibalize big chunks of book one, Shards of Sin, including small chunks of the dungeon.
Also, one of my PCs is fascinated by the Sczarni -- and he's now bound up in side-plot involving the Tower Girls.
I also suspect that I'll trade out the long side mission in ROTRL to energize weapons -- and replace it with the cleaner quest mechanic of rebuilding the star.
(By the way, the first person who turns out to have a piece of the shattered star in my narrative is Aldern Foxglove - cursed with the pride sin...)
They'll use the star against Karzoug, and inadvertently trigger the apocalyptic events in Dead Heart of Xin.
By incorporating Shattered Star, I'll also be able to flesh out significantly the role of the Denizens of Leng, which is a very cool but underdeveloped aspect of ROTRL.
So...I'll let you know how it goes.
My guess is that by the end of January, we'll have finished most of the plot elements in Shards of Sin and Burnt Offerings.
Capt. Marsh ROTRL Week 7
The adventurers resumed their battle against Erylium, with both sides scoring insignificant amounts of damage.
When Shalelu Andosana appeared with a squad of Black Arrows, the quasit turned invisible and fled.
What followed was a long session of role-playing, with some weird sand-box results.
1. When the fighter/rogue afflicted by lycanthropy was away, the group met with Erin Habe, head of Sandpoint's sanatorium, and agreed to have him committed. They feared his disease and were swayed by Habe's promises that the "specimen" would be cared for "as humanely as possible." This is still unresolved.
2. In a meeting with the Masked Abbess, the group agreed to keep quiet about discovering a shrine of Lamashtu under the feet of the good people of Sandpoint. With Justice Ironbriar advising her, the Abbess concluded that it would start a panic and ruin any chance of growing settlements along the Lost Coast.
3. During that meeting, the group met briefly with Aldern Foxglove, but they were unable to resolve the mystery about his mansion. When they attempted to cast detect magic and detect alignment upon him, they found that their scrying was blocked somehow.
4. During the meeting, the group also learned that a cleric of Pharasma had gone mad at Windsong Abbey, killing several people and stealing a variety of books dealing with the subject of "the evil that came before demons."
5. As a reward for their service, and a respite from their dark experience underground, the group was offered (and accepted) the chance to lead a trading mission upriver from Magnimar to Kaer Maga. Shalelu Andosana and the Black Arrows agreed to keep an eye on the local goblins, and on any machinations by Nualia while the group is away.
Finally, as the group prepared for their departure by ship to Magnimar, they were beset by a group of Hellknights, sent to Varisia to track down renegade members of the suppressed White Yeomen. The battle was bloody and violent, but all but one of the Hellknights were killed. One Chelish sorcerer escaped.
Conclusion: We now have a party made up of:
3rd level magus
DM NOTE: The shift from a party of 2nd level characters to the party of mostly 3rd level characters felt like a big tipping point. The power level of the group jumped more than I expected...
The group also found a cache of magic weapons and items (mostly fairly low powered) so that tipped things as well.
Next week: Off to Magnimar...
Capt Marsh ROTRL Campaign Diary Week 5-6
This is kind of a catch-up post. A lot has happened in Sandpoint.
First, the characters did a lot of exploring and gathering of intel around Sandpoint, with the fighter-rogue trying to establish contact with the Szarni and the alchemist going to visit Aldern Foxglove.
The magus, meanwhile, continued to develop his rudimentary understanding of the strange runes found around the village.
The visit to Foxglove's manor revealed that the place is actually in ruins. The dinner hosted by the young nobleman was apparently conducted under the guise of a powerful illusion.
The alchemist ventured inside alone and nearly died when attacked by what appeared to be an animated Varsian scarf.
Before the rest of the party could investigate the meaning of this curious development, they learned that Ameiko Kaijitsu had been abducted - apparently by her brother.
They gave pursuit to the noble family's glass factory and found Lonjiku Kaijitus sealed in melted glass.
After a brief skirmish with Tsuto Kaijitsu, he fled through a secret tunnel into a pirate tunnel.
This gave way into a curious stone structure deep under Sandpoint - the entrance watched over by the statue of a woman with an expression of rage on her beautiful face.
Searching for Ameiko, the party gave battle first to a series of sinspawn, and then to a dretch demon and a warped, twisted goblin.
The battle went well, until several of the PCs were drawn magically by an enticement to drink from basins of water that sat under statues of three-eyed jackals.
They realized that they were in an ancient temple to Lamashtu.
The water of Lamashtu warped and damaged two of them badly. The party was then set upon by a powerful quasit.
The unlucky alchemist died horribly.
Left behind unconscious in a place that his fellow White Yeoman thought was safe, the quasit found him and slashed his throat.
The rest of the group - grievously wounded and nearly out of spells -- is still deep in the dungeon, confronted by the nasty little witch familiar with her silver dagger.
Meanwhile, from somewhere beneath, there is the sound of baying hellish hounds...
So far in the adventure thus far, two PCs have died, a bard and an alchemist. We resume Wednesday.
I'm DMing the hardback version of ROTRL and it's going really well.
We have between 6 and 8 players at the table every week and the energy level is super. There was even some groaning about taking a week off for the holidays, which I took as a good sign.
But we've just come to the stretch of the first chapter where there are a lot of dungeon crawls -- first the dungeon under the glass factory and then Ripnugget's lair. And it already feels a little draggy.
The bottom line is that I feel like it's really hard for me to find ways to make the mechanics of room-clearing fresh and interesting. In a three-hour session, I find myself (as DM) sort of rushing guys through the combats, sausage-factory style.
I should point out that I already simplify most published dungeons A LOT. I leave in one or two empty rooms for guys to find, just so they don't think there's a monster in every room, and I focus as much as possible on rooms that have cool traps, puzzles, NPC encounters, etc.
I also work at creating interesting combats (3 dimensional battle areas, cleverly arrayed opponents, funky obstacles, etc.)
But even with this pared-down-souped-up approach, it just begins to drag.
So here's my appeal to those of you who love old-school D&D dungeon crawls. How do you make it fun? Not in the first encounter, but in the third or fourth?
I noticed that in the introduction to the first chapter of the Shattered Star AP, James Jacobs acknowledged that "exploring the depths of immense dungeons can get overwhelming -- especially if there's only one goal to achieve at the very end of the delve."
So maybe it's not just me?
Anyway, I'm open to any and all advice. I want the next few sessions to have a really fun, scary vibe...
Having a fairly stupid -- or socially incompetent -- character just isn't fun when you have entire gaming sessions devoted to detective work or diplomacy or the maneuverings of noble houses.
That's what I meant when I said it would break my current game. I suppose I should have said that it would break the story and the rhythm of this particular campaign.
As I say, in most cases, I agree that it's not that big a deal.
In some of my campaigns, I haven't worried overmuch about this sort of power gaming.
But in my current campaign arc, which has a lot of social role-playing and political intrigue, having PCs with CHA 7 or INT 8 would have broken the game.
So I just banned dump stats. In trade I gave players an extra trait apiece. It worked fine.
I want to thank those folks who took part in this conversation - particularly Lisa Stevens, Paizo's CEO.
Before moving on to posting about the latest installment of my ROTRL campaign, let me make one final point.
With rare exceptions, I think Paizo is doing things with RPG narrative storytelling that haven't been done before -- or done as well.
The writing is better, the story arcs are more meaningful (and fun), and the mechanics of the game are so graceful that they allow those things to come through.
There have been other golden ages of gaming in the past, when great companies like Chaosium or GDW or Flying Buffalo were at the top of their form.
This moment with Paizo matches those moments - and maybe ranks among the very best, at least IMO.
And I'll admit it -- I'm greedy -- I want that to go on for a long time.
So when I expressed my anxieties, it wasn't -- trust me -- with any intention of starting a flame war, or disrespecting Ryan Dancey's project or deflating anyone else's fun.
The MMO project is clearly a labor of love and a passionate enterprise, and I wish Dancey and his creative team well.
First, I don't know why my original post looks like agitation. I express real sympathy for Paizo's business conundrum - how to move forward with a mature gaming brand is not easy task.
I also expressed absolute fondness and respect for the folks at Paizo and their acumen. I raised two skeptical -- and entirely legitimate -- questions about the situation moving forward.
So I don't think I need to establish legitimacy as a reasonable conversant. But in the interest of community, I'll try my best.
The thing that offered me the most reassurance is that some of the posters here have clearly thought this through and done research and asked questions and are reasonably comfortable that this won't hurt the core Pathfinder game.
I think that's what I was expecting when I posted.
People saying, "Yeah, I've thought about that too -- here's what I think." Or even, "Here's what I learned."
So some of that's been helpful.
Some of the discussion of exactly how Goblinworks and Paizo will interact has also been helpful - though, in fact, the level of involvement by Paizo in the MMO project is actually larger than I understood.
But I'll be honest. The tone from Ryan and some of the Goblin Squad folks has been jarring.
I don't think I'm trolling - or uninformed - when I say that these gaming communities are fragile constructs.
We have to be nice to each other, especially at a time like this when big changes are afoot.
I feel like a lot of you guys threw some pretty junky pitches to try to brush me off the plate -- on the completely random assumption that I was playing junkball.
I'm serious when I think that's worth you all thinking about.
Why are you talking to other gamers like this? What the heck are you guys doing?
This isn't YOUR community. This is OUR community. Quit being mean. Quit being bullies.
I'm just an average, cheerful, eager gamer. I come here for fun and community. I raised a legitimate, civil set of concerns.
You accuse me of "a narcotic driven conspiracy rant" and then you suggest that I'm the one not conducting the conversation right?
Seriously. You guys need to sort this out. And Paizo needs to look at the tone of how you guys are handling this.
Boy. This has been a bummer. I'm resigning the field. This didn't work for me at all.
I've worked really hard to build a strong gaming community around Paizo's Pathfinder in my rural area.
I've also loved the sense of community I find here on the message boards.
This is the VERY FIRST time I've left a conversation just feeling crummy.
I know you guys are raw about this whole MMO thing, but I really hope this doesn't become the new tone here.
Again, I'm not sure how you reach your assumption about the unquenchable nature of my fears.
In the handful of posts where people have provided me with actual opinions (like yours) or with information (which a couple of people have done) IT HAS IN FACT EASED MY CONCERNS.
What ON EARTH are you talking about?
I didn't say anything about the quality of your MMO. Nothing. Zero.
For all I know, it's going to be brilliant. Really.
If you read my original post, with anything like an open mind, I raised concerns about the impact of this side venture on Paizo's core product, and on the community of gamers who use that core product.
I did so respectfully and civilly -- making a clear and reasonable argument (which people obviously have every right to disagree with).
You of all people should know that my concerns are a very real part of the gaming industry's history.
Companies have repeatedly built success around a new, popular game, and then stumbled - often because of side ventures or ill-considered moves that ruptured their fan base.
But I've acknowledged repeatedly that Paizo has a very strong management team.
And I've said here repeatedly that I have an open mind and that I'm listening.
If you read through my posts on these message boards, you'll find that I have no history whatsoever of trolling subjects or being willfully negative or destructive.
Honestly, I think a lot of the tone here has been pretty bleak - not just from Ryan.
Even the snarky stuff about hyphenating online. I mean, come on. It feels mean-spirited.
This is supposed to be a welcoming, open place. I posted here on that assumption.
Wait a minute - what? Why can't I be convinced? And what do you mean "those like him"?
Good grief. I raised concerns. I expressed an opinion. What the heck are you taking this tone for?
I've been COMPLETELY respectful of Paizo and Goblinworks here. I raised legitimate questions.
There was no flaming, no schism talk, nothing like that.
Paizo has a long tradition of responding earnestly and fully to members of the community who have concerns like mine.
What makes your comment even more bizarre is that I wrote my OP in response to an email that I received from you.
"I'll also invite you to join the conversation between the developers and the community on the messageboards," you wrote.
You seemed to be offering an earnest open conversation about where this was going -- and I responded in good faith.
I sense that nerves are frayed. There must be other flame wars going on somewhere.
But come on. I'm a loyal customer, a veteran gamer, not a flamer or a troll.
Urging people not to converse or engage with me in this community is a direct violation of Paizo's rule, which states expressly that you shouldn't "be a jerk."
Dudes, COME ON.
You think it's fine for you to express your views here, but want me to quietly send a private email to the company. What's that even about?
I say that I'm a regular customer and you make it out like I'm posing as an elitist who thinks my voice is more important than anybody else's.
That's just dopey.
And what's all this about the "hand-wringing mass" of Pathfinder players who "stumble in" and have concerns about this?
That's not the tone Paizo's looking for here.
Paizo has built a really cool community. They clearly want civil open discussion, not to mention open feedback.
If there is indeed a "mass" of their customers who are worried by the company's new venture, then heck yes they should keep hearing about it.
To be clear - I AM listening. I'm NOT certain that I'm right, or that I have all the information.
I've expressed huge respect for Paizo in this thread.
But it seems to me that you guys aren't helping with this "you're with us or against us" stuff.
And even more icky is the gatekeeper, we've already figured this out, so you might as well move along business.
I AM listening. The actual points you've made about Paizo's efforts to safeguard their core product line is interesting and I'm taking it on board.
And yes, the fact that I'm a regular customer to this company matters. Gaming is a hobby but it's also a business.
Community is not about efficiency or "getting over" things. And it's not about being told that ships have sailed.
Maybe the MMO will happen. Maybe it won't.
Whichever way that plays out, having feedback from customers will be a good thing for Paizo as they manage a really complicated business transition.
Finally, more generally, I've always been really grumpy about folks who insist that once a thread has played out here and some small subset of readers has taken part, then it's closed and done forever.
Again, that's not how communities work.
Whether it's a new player wanting to debate (one more time) whether monks are underpowered or an experienced DM wanting to raise questions about this project -- be patient.
The safeguards are built in: If you're not interested in taking part, don't.
But please. Knock it off with the gatekeeper, "we'll let you know when the right time has arrived to talk about this" stuff.
In my business -- which I admit is not running a RPG company -- whenever someone demands your silence it's a marker.
It's a warning sign. It means that more conversation, not less, is warranted.
This is a company's website. But part of the business model is that it's also a community.
So quit hectoring and demanding that people respect your agenda. Converse, talk, listen.
If other members of your community are worried by something -- even if it's something that doesn't worry you -- respect that.
Again, this isn't small stuff.
You guys are part of an effort to encourage lots of our fellow community members to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a start-up venture.
Take that responsibility seriously. Be a little more patient.
And if you're burned out on trying to communicate about this, maybe you should step away.
Finally, I'll answer your question: I'm one of Paizo's best customers.
I buy hundreds of dollars worth of books and other products from the company every year.
It's good for them to hear that what they're doing is making some of their core, loyal customers anxious.
Doesn't mean they have to do what I want. But it's healthy for them to have that feedback.
Okay, now I know I'm going to sound territorial, but PLEASE.
You're suggesting that we TT players are suddenly the ones who need to beg patience and indulgence from MMO fans here?
My question wasn't "Is Paizo there yet?"
My question is "Is Paizo going in the right direction?"
This is important, at least in the limited sense of I love D&D and don't want to see another of my favorite gaming companies and communities implode.
I'm glad that you're excited. But I'm going to keep asking (polite, civil, supportive, friendly) skeptical questions.
If I'm nagging questioner #184, I hope there will be 185 after me, and 186 after that person.
Questions like these can only help Paizo think more carefully about how this will affect their core product, and customers like myself.
And it's more than a little off-putting to have MMO supporters demanding silence, or trying to play gatekeeper.
I can't imagine that's a message that is coming down from Paizo or Goblinworks.
They're far too smart (and cool) for that.
Fair enough. I really do admire the business model and the talent that Paizo's management has shown.
I've expressed my misgivings. But the folks at Paizo know the history of our hobby much better than I do.
If anyone can avoid the pitfalls of this sort of destructive muddle, it will be them.
And Ryan Dancey is certainly a hardened veteran. He's seen people making these mistakes, so hopefully he will help Paizo avoid them this time.
No. I don't want to use my search function. I want to express my views about our game, our hobby, and our community.
If you don't want to join in the conversation here, don't.
I'm not sure what "Goblin Squad Member" means.
If it means that you're supposed to be informing and educating the community about this new initiative, why not give it a try?
Explain what part of what I've expressed concerns about is factually wrong.
Is it wrong that other gaming companies have stumbled badly and divided their communities when they've invested time and energy in new media side ventures?
Is it wrong that Paizo has allowed its brand and its marketing department to be enlisted in this new MMO venture?
Is it wrong that Paizo is encouraging its fan base and audience to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a start-up venture?
Is it wrong that a significant part of the Pathfinder-playing community has real concerns about where this will take the game and Paizo?
I really want to avoid a fight here, but I want you to hear what I'm about to say very clearly.
First, why are you welcoming me? I've been part of Paizo's message board for years, an active DM and gamer since the 1970s.
Why on earth would you be the one to discern whether or not I'm welcome?
And why is it your role to decide whose opinion, offered civilly, is divisive or not?
You apparently think the MMO is a good idea. Great. Support it, argue for it.
But you keep simply stating things without backing them up, including the idea that I have my facts wrong.
In a healthy community, silence isn't healthy.
Talking honestly and frankly about important issues isn't the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded movie theater.
Paizo is encouraging its fan base -- and the company's customers -- to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a new venture.
If we can't talk about what that will mean for our hobby, our community and the company that best supports modern D&D, what is this space for?
But I'm not really asking questions, I'm making a point.
Argue, debate, talk, offer facts. But quit trying to play the role of gate-keeper or silencer.
That's no more your role than it is mine.
Kryzbyn, Tetrix -
When I look at TSR and Wizards, and other gaming companies, I see a cautionary tale that's worth thinking about in this moment.
I'm raising these questions in the community that Paizo has created because I feel welcome here.
I'm doing it civilly, with an open mind, and I'm not being divisive. And I'm not shouting that the sky is falling.
If supporters of the MMO begin suggesting that only people who agree with them are welcome to express their views here, that will be divisive.
Maybe. But there are also companies that thrive for a really long time because they focus with laser-beam clarity on doing one thing really well.
Tabletop roleplaying is a weird cultural phenomenon.
And I think it's safe to say that Paizo is one of maybe three companies in history that have done it well for a sustained period of time.
They've built the brand, improved the narrative storytelling of the game, developed the fan base and the community.
They've also been incredibly disciplined business-people.
This MMO project feels (and I acknowledge this being a gut instinct thing) like the first time they've let a tail wag their dog.
(Forgive the ungraceful writing...)
My sense is that Goblinworks floated a Kickstarter thing, it got a surprising bubble of money, and we were off to the races.
And fair enough. Paizo would be crazy not to explore that opportunity.
But hopefully there are also some really somber conversations going on internally about where these kinds of things have led in the past for other great hobby companies.
It's entirely possible that with proper care the folks at Paizo are so talented that they'll pull off this risk and this bit of multitasking.
Look, factually speaking, the firewall between Paizo and Goblinworks is clearly more of a permeable membrane.
As MicMan points out, Paizo is creating a new product specifically as an incentive to get people to invest in the MMO.
They've invested an enormous part of their brand and goodwill capital in moving customers toward this new product.
Their product name is on the new MMO, for Pete's sake.
The Paizo marketing staff is clearly putting time and effort into this.
I acknowledge cheerfully that Paizo is trying to address a couple of legitimate business concerns.
1. How to leverage the newly popular "Pathfinder" brand
2. How to continue growing after the tabletop market for their products is fairly mature.
I guess I had kind of hoped -- and this is probably unrealistic -- that Paizo would be satisfied to operate as the leading custodian of modern tabletop D&D role-playing.
That would have meant some real limits on growth and potential. But it would have been kind of a cool pop-culture niche to fill.
Instead, Paizo appears to be doing what companies do: searching for opportunities to expand, grow, develop new product lines, etc.
This isn't crazy or bad or weird. But I'll say again -- in our particular hobby, it has proved to be REALLY risky.
For some reason, gaming companies that stop focusing on their core RPG product line in a hugely disciplined way tend to do face plants.
It is ONLY out of affection and loyalty to Paizo that I offer this nudge of caution.
So two reactions to these comments.
1. I don't buy the idea that tabletop gaming is dying. Paizo seems to be doing very well currently as a "D&D" publisher. I agree that the growth potential is limited by the hobby's fairly limited appeal and by constraints that come with the time and social commitments that it requires.
But I worry that avari3's comment reflects exactly the kind of thinking that could get Paizo into trouble. Rather than focus on the product they make well -- and make good money producing -- there could be a growing focus on an entirely different entertainment product.
This isn't simply hand-wringing. This kind of distracted thinking has doomed really great gaming companies before -- it's a big part of our hobby's troubled history.
2. I don't buy the idea that Paizo is clearly firewalled from Goblinworks. It feels less and less like that. Goblinworks has a substantial presence on Paizo's website. I'm receiving letters from Goblinworks promoters via Paizo's distribution list.
I've been a media executive (in a tiny, tiny way) during my career, and I bet I'm not wrong in guessing that Paizo's really talented management team is already spending more and more of their time in meetings and discussions that focus on MMO development rather than new Adventure Paths and other tabletop content.
Even if there is a clear company division here, I think there's a lot of risk that Paizo will get caught up in the ill-will if the MMO thing doesn't work. Paizo has used its enormous credibility to encourage fans to invest a great deal of money in this new venture.
In a gaming industry that hinges enormously on fan loyalty, protecting your image is key. Ask Wizards about that.
I've made comments to this effect in other places, and I'm sure this has been said before by other Pathfinder community members, but after getting an email yesterday from Ryan Dancey, I want to say a couple of things a bit more concretely.
I'm REALLY worried that Paizo is allowing this Online effort to distract the company from what it does well -- which is creating incredibly cool human-to-human games, primarily RPGs, and shepherding the latest, most popular incarnation of Dungeons and Dragons.
Over the decades, experienced gamers have watched again and again as the companies that shape our gaming world come into existence, prosper, lose their focus, and then collapse.
Let me say that I understand the temptation.
D&D -- under whatever name you market it -- has some limitations as a product that must be frustrating for a for-profit company. Growth is almost always desirable for companies like Paizo, and at this point I'm guessing Pathfinder is a fairly mature brand.
If I were Paizo, I'm not sure what I would do about that.
But I would urge real caution about getting distracted by an entirely new medium (MMOs) that requires huge time, talent, and money to tackle well.
Here are my particular worries:
1. Paizo will continue to urge their customers to invest in this speculative venture, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, without having full control over how that relationship develops in the future. There's already a lot of money on the line. If the MMO doesn't materialize, or if it sucks, Paizo will own a lot of the unhappiness that will follow.
2. Paizo will be drawn more and more into the MMO effort, meaning less and less bandwidth for creating the core products that have elevated Pathfinder to the top of the RPG industry. It doesn't take much to distract a small, talented management team from their core expertise and Paizo is already a pretty lean company.
This MMO enterprise comes at a time when Paizo is already venturing into a lot of different areas, from conventions to comic books. That's heady stuff -- and it may ultimately be good for the hobby.
But the history of companies like TSR and Wizards suggest that there's good reason for skepticism.
Finally, let me be clear that I write this out of pure fondness for Paizo and the creative work that's done by the company's writers, editors, and artistic directors. This is a GREAT gaming company. I want it to stay that way.