If you’ve picked up the brand new Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set and the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path, you may have noticed we reached an important milestone: For the first time, every iconic hero developed by Paizo has now appeared in PACG. How we got here was quite a journey.
We started, of course, with the "Core Eleven," the iconics representing the classes from the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. In August 2013, the wizard Ezren, the cleric Kyra, the ranger Harsk, the bard Lem, the rogue Merisiel, the sorcerer Seoni, and the fighter Valeros became the centerpiece of the Rise of the Runelords Base Set, and are without a doubt the most played characters in PACG history. For those who wanted a slightly more complex set of characters, the barbarian Amiri, the druid Lini, the monk Sajan, and the paladin Seelah were featured in the Rise of the Runelords Character Add-On Deck.
As satisfying and… well, iconic as those characters were, we were hot to introduce a bunch more. While we spooled out alternate options for those 11 classes in our first waves of class decks, we introduced a handful of less traditional iconics in August 2014. The Skull & Shackles Base Set gave us the oracle Alahazra, the swashbuckler Jirelle, the gunslinger Lirianne, and the magus Seltyiel, while the Skull & Shackles Character Add-On Deck was home to the alchemist Damiel (more on him later), the witch Feiya, and the warpriest Oloch.
We’d now introduced roughly half the known Iconics, and people started clamoring for the rest. There was a particularly loud drumbeat for the investigator Quinn, whom people presumed would make his debut in our next set. This did not occur.
May 2015 launched the Wrath of the Righteous Base Set, where the cavalier Alain, the summoner Balazar, the arcanist Enora, and the inquisitor Imrijka arrived. Those first two mandated a whole new card type, the cohort, to account for their respective warhorse Donahan and chicken-snake eidolon Padrig. The Wrath of the Righteous Character Add-On Deck gave spots to the hunter Adowyn, the bloodrager Crowe, and the shaman Shardra, with Adowyn and Shardra accompanied by the wolf cohort Leryn and the stone spirit cohort Kolo. Quinn, an urban character, would have to wait until we were done sacking the Abyss.
We were nearing the goal line, except the RPG folks were moving the goalposts. Suddenly, there were about to be a lot more iconics.
For the next set, we had a choice to make: complete the existing iconics or branch out with a few more story-based characters. The design team was split: yeah, we wanted to wrap up the iconics in a dainty bow, but there were just too many other cool characters we wanted to make. In October 2016, the Mummy’s Mask Base Set featured the slayer Zadim and the first two of our mental-focused iconics, the spiritualist Estra and the kineticist Yoon, along with Estra’s ghost ally Honaire. Another of those, the occultist Mavaro, appeared in the Mummy’s Mask Character Add-On Deck.
But that’s only four new iconics. We slowed our roll a bit, saving room for new non-iconics in our core boxes for the first time: the rogue Simoun (whom we made up), the magus Ahmotep (ditto), the druid Channa Ti (from Elaine Cunningham’s stories), and the cleric Drelm (from Howard Andrew Jones’s stories). This made for a richer story than if we’d dropped Quinn into the middle of the undead-filled desert. We would later follow that inclusion of non-iconic characters from Pathfinder fiction by introducing James Sutter’s Salim in the Inquisitor Class Deck and Dave Gross’s Alase in the Summoner Class Deck. We also added the trio of Dave’s wizard Varian and bodyguard Radovan (both previously seen as a cohorts in Season of the Righteous) and Chris A. Jackson’s lunar naga astrologer Celeste in the Pathfinder Tales Character Deck.
At this point, we needed to make some calls. We didn’t have the next base set on the horizon yet, but we wanted to keep bringing out characters. So the practice of only debuting iconics in Adventure Paths needed to be reconsidered. The other obvious place was the class decks, but were we really going to want to write a class deck solely for mesmerists? We needed a new approach.
In October and November 2017, we debuted the first character decks united around an Adventure Path. The Hell’s Vengeance Adventure Path features six evil characters—the so-called "evil iconics," even though they’re not technically iconics—and we wanted our players to get to play the baddies too. Hell’s Vengeance 1 Character Deck featured the cleric Lazzaro, the hellknight Linxia, and the antipaladin Urgraz, while Hell’s Vengeance 2 contained the assassin Emil, the necromancer Nyctessa, and the torturer Zelhara. I admit that when I designed the first iteration of this game, I did not expect a torturer character. But hey, it takes all kinds.
In the same design cycle, we did it again, this time with all of the iconics from Occult Adventures. In addition to Estra, January 2018’s Occult Adventures 1 Character Deck starred the mesmerist Meligaster (Lem’s bro!) and the psychic Rivani. The next month, Occult Adventures 2 had the return of Mavaro and Yoon, plus the debut of the medium Erasmus. This approach allowed us to make the occult boons that all of them could use, including all the psychic spells.
And now we were down to stragglers. At this point there were only six iconics left, and no clear plan to deal with them. For example, were we ever going to make the Jade Regent Adventure Path? I mean, maybe? But not soon. So what to do with the samurai and the ninja? A Jade Regent Character Deck? Sounded cool, but I had another idea.
Based on complaints I heard at PaizoCon and elsewhere that the first seven class decks had essentially been lapped by the creations we made afterward, I proposed to Paizo a new line of decks designed to supplement the class deck line. Using the four “Ultimate” RPG books as inspiration, we would make four “Ultimate Decks,” each with a bunch of experimental boons and one character each. That character would be one that we probably never would make a class deck for. For example, with the Wizard Class Deck and the Sorcerer Class Deck already in existence, did we really need a deck with three arcanists in it? One would do. So Enora reappeared in April 2018’s Ultimate Magic Add-On Deck.
But now we had a chance to get three more iconics out: the samurai Hayato in March 2018’s Ultimate Combat Add-On Deck, the ninja Reiko in June 2018’s Ultimate Equipment Add-On Deck, and—in one of the most bizarre things we’ve ever done—the dual-character vigilante Aric/the Red Raven in May 2018’s Ultimate Intrigue Add-On Deck. Which would— Hold on. As we were plotting these out, Erik and Vic let slip that a new book called Ultimate Wilderness was on the way, and it would feature a new shifter class with a not-yet-named iconic. After some quick schedule rejiggering, Zova appeared in the Ultimate Wilderness Add-On Deck in July 2018.
All right, just three to go! I had lobbied that our new versatile base set contain all the Core Eleven iconics done from scratch. My co-designers told me this would be challenging—actually, I think the word they used was “impossible.” No single box before could ever hold 11 characters, but I was sure we could do it. Eleven was tight, but we could just make it.
But the folks in RPG R&D had one more surprise first. With the long-awaited Second Edition Pathfinder Core Rulebook underway, they wanted to introduce a goblin iconic. Totally cool by me, I said, and then they said they wanted it to be an alchemist. “But, but… we already have an iconic alchemist,” I said. They would shed no tears for poor Damiel, and neither did I when I saw the crazily goggled nutball they were planning to make. “What’s his name?” I asked. “Oh, he’s still in testing,” they said. “We won’t know that for months.” I don’t draw many lines with Paizo, but this time I had no choice. “Our game comes out three months before yours does,” I said. “So if you don’t name this goblin quickly, he’s gonna be named ‘Gobbo McBoomy.’” Bingo-bongo, the iconic goblin alchemist Fumbus was born. Alongside the other members of the newly expanded “Core Twelve,” Fumbus appeared in May 2019’s Core Set.
Core’s companion Adventure Path, Curse of the Crimson Throne, finally gave us the urban setting we’d been longing for, and we could bring in the last three iconics. Along with a new version of Varian (with Radovan as a cohort), Curse debuted the skald Hakon, the brawler Kess, and, at long last, the investigator Quinn. Iconic collection 100% complete.
That’s 41 iconic characters (since Aric and the Red Raven have separate character cards) plus 6 “evil iconics”, amid—get this—163 total characters and 329 roles. (Why not 326, you ask? At the risk of spoilers, I leave that question for the trivia-minded among you.) It’s been a great journey with a whole lot of great characters. We hope you’ve enjoyed playing each and every one.
Adventure Card Game Lead Designer