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Shackled City Design Diary, Part 2

My involvement with the Shackled City started over two years ago, when Chris Thomasson asked me if I'd like to write an installment for it. I feel like I've been living in Cauldron ever since. So when Erik asked me if I'd be willing to develop the 11 adventures into one huge book, I figured "Sure! No problem! I've already developed and edited most of these adventures once… how tough can it be to string them together?"

Turns out? It's pretty tough.

The greatest lesson I've learned while working on Shackled City is that planning ahead is the key. When I started working on "Flood Season," there was almost nothing. Adimarchus was known as "some new demon lord." Cauldron could just as easily have been located in a desert or a temperate woodland as in a jungle. We didn't even know who the leaders of the Cagewrights were, aside from the fact that they were bad guys.

And if we didn't know… the DMs reading the adventures certainly couldn't know.

One of the most important features of a campaign is foreshadowing. Even if you won't be fighting the big bad end guy for over a year, it's nice to have an idea of where your game's heading. Imagine if Star Wars didn't reveal Darth Vader until the last 10 minutes of the movie!

Worse… the lack of exact planning caused a lot of strange, tiny continuity issues to pop up. Hookface was called he and she in different issues. In "Life's Bazaar," Thifirane casts invisibility, but in "Lords of Oblivion" we find out that illusion is a prohibited school for her. Vhalantru's disguise seems to change from human to half-elf to elf randomly.

And then there was all the stuff we had to cut. There's only a certain amount of room in a magazine, and when those Adventure Path writers (myself included) kept turning in manuscripts that were 1,000, 5,000, or 20,000 words over the requested amount, we had to make some hard decisions on what had to go. In some cases, (as in "Lords of Oblivion") we had the author cut material even before it was written, resulting in some encounter areas with LOTS of big empty rooms. In other cases, (as in "Life's Bazaar" or "Flood Season") we cut material and presented it as web enhancements. And in the case of "Foundation of Flame" and "Thirteen Cages," we had to not only cut stuff but split the adventure into two parts.

Going back and rebuilding the 11 (now 12) adventures into one single mega-adventure gave me a chance to fix these errors and compromises. I knew I'd never be able to catch all of them, so I started posting on our messageboards. The amount of advice and observations people posted was almost overwhelming and certainly welcome. In addition, I had to generate about 30,000 new words for the introduction, to fill empty rooms with encounters, and to round out areas that got glossed over the first time around (such as the Flood Festival itself, or several of the outlying areas in the Cauldron region).

What was the hardest part to figure out? I'd have to nominate seven key NPCs: Jenya, the Striders of Fharlanghn, and the Stormblades. The problem was that these NPCs increase in level along with the PCs. Their stats changed with each adventure. Generating a stat block for each NPC for each level would have worked out to about 100 additional stat blocks, so that certainly wasn't an option. Instead, I took a cue from the sample NPC tables in the Dungeon Master's Guide, and built a table for all seven NPCs that summarizes what choices they make as they level up and what types of magical items and spells they gain. I think I gave Art Director Sean Glenn a little bit of a nervous breakdown with them (he was the one who had to figure out how to fit all the information on the tables into the limitations of a two-page spread), but I think it came out pretty nice. Check out the sample PDF to see what you can expect for all seven of these key NPCs.

The best part about the whole thing? I was able to sneak a couple of my characters in there. Turns out to be a pretty cool way to get a cool character portrait for your game!

—James Jacobs
Managing Editor
Dungeon
July 12th, 2005

Shackled City Design Diary, Part 2


Shackled City Adventure Path

Former Webmaster

The downloadable preview is at http://paizo.com/download/shackledCity/preview-statblocks.pdf


That alone will help me save hours over the course of the entire Adventure Path. I start the 3rd installment on Saturday and so there is no doubt that I have a long way to go. The book will improve the quality of my game dramatically.

Thank you for doing this book for us.

Neomorte

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Very interesting!

I see that Paizo took the time to upgrade some of those NPCs to include nifty new classes like the Swashbuckler ...

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Archade wrote:

Very interesting!

I see that Paizo took the time to upgrade some of those NPCs to include nifty new classes like the Swashbuckler ...

Not only that, but now Cora's Intelligence score is high enough to make a difference when she starts taking duelist levels...


It's coming out two weeks too late for my birthday.

This book is going to rock. The next two weeks are going to seem like an eternity!

- Ashavan


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Neato!

I take it 7/27 is the ship date for preorders, correct?


Byron Zibeck wrote:

Neato!

I take it 7/27 is the ship date for preorders, correct?

Byron,

Preorders should ship out to arrive at a customer's home by 7/27. The 27th is also the on-sale date for retail stores as well.

Keith Strohm
Chief Operating Officer
Paizo Publishing, LLC


Keith Strohm wrote:

Byron,

Preorders should ship out to arrive at a customer's home by 7/27. The 27th is also the on-sale date for retail stores as well.

Keith Strohm
Chief Operating Officer
Paizo Publishing, LLC

That means that it should start shipping out any day now. Cool.

Peace and smiles :)

j.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Keith Strohm wrote:


Preorders should ship out to arrive at a customer's home by 7/27. The 27th is also the on-sale date for retail stores as well.

Cool!


Keith Strohm wrote:
Byron Zibeck wrote:

Neato!

I take it 7/27 is the ship date for preorders, correct?

Byron,

Preorders should ship out to arrive at a customer's home by 7/27. The 27th is also the on-sale date for retail stores as well.

Keith Strohm
Chief Operating Officer
Paizo Publishing, LLC

I may have spoken too soon. The latest update from our printers regarding the Shackled City Book puts it on schedule for in-store release of July 27th, but it is likely that we will receive copies too late to ship out to arrive exactly on the 27th for preorders.

Apologies for the earlier misinformation. We'll keep folks updated if anything changes. All of us here are exceptionaly excited at the impending release of this book.

Keith Strohm
Chief Operating Officer
Paizo Publishing, LLC


so will we get them a day or two after the 27th, or how late are we talking?


Keith Strohm wrote:


I may have spoken too soon. The latest update from our printers regarding the Shackled City Book puts it on schedule for in-store release of July 27th, but it is likely that we will receive copies too late to ship out to arrive exactly on the 27th for preorders.

Apologies for the earlier misinformation. We'll keep folks updated if anything changes. All of us here are exceptionaly excited at the impending release of this book.

Keith Strohm
Chief Operating Officer
Paizo Publishing, LLC

Nothing chaps my hide worse than pre-orders for a product showing up later than it does in the stores. It's why I almost never pre-order anything from a vendor and why I almost didn't here. It's like saying "Ha, we got your money already and so we're going to put all our focus on getting it to those we haven't sold it to yet." Now, I know that's not true here but Paizo really should have done anything and everything to make sure their pre-orders got the book the same day as the stores. If not even earlier.

You dropped the ball on an otherwise stellar launch of a highly anticipated product.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Burt the Ogre wrote:
so will we get them a day or two after the 27th, or how late are we talking?

It looks like our large shipment from the printer will be arriving a day or two later than we'd really like, but we should be able to hit people who live in the furthest UPS shipping zones out of the small early shipment, so deliveries might still all sync up nicely within a day or so of the release date, barring unforseen problems.

-Vic.
.


I just realized that we are talking about next week! OMG, I am so excited. I am giddy when I think of getting my hands on this book.

Former Webmaster

Burt the Ogre wrote:
so will we get them a day or two after the 27th, or how late are we talking?

Simply put, we expect pre-orders already placed to arrive on or within a day or two of the release date.

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