...I and Wes Schneider took over the big conference room at Paizo and began to work out what Pathfinder Adventure Path was going to do to follow up its first official campaign for the Pathfinder Roleplaying game. We knew we wanted to do a sandbox-based Adventure Path (in part because we were excited by the challenge, and in part because there was a lot of call and request for something like that from Pathfinder gamers at large), and by the end of an afternoon-suddenly-become-evening-without-us-noticing, we’d sketched out Kingmaker, the idea for building a kingdom, the grid-based settlement-construction concept, and the basic ideas for the region in which the campaign would take place. I went on to craft the outline for the Adventure Path and started hiring authors, while Wes focused on writing a detailed gazetteer for the Stolen Lands that would appear in the Guide to the River Kingdoms alongside the launch of Kingmaker itself.
Kingmaker would go on to become one of our most successful Adventure Paths, inspiring not only a novel, but two different video games and eventually the core of an entire rulebook, Ultimate Campaign. Going back to revise it all was a huge lift, but at the same time, there was a sense of comfort and nostalgia as I returned to the original adventures. Memories of the scramble to get the first volume, Stolen Lands, done in time to get it to the printer returned as well—I had the help of author Tim Hitchcock to create the central encounters for this adventure on a VERY tight schedule but wrote a fair-sized chunk of the framing and “connective tissue” to bring together the Stag Lord’s Fort, the Sootscale Kobolds, and more into one sandbox to explore. Beyond this, though, the task of finishing off the remaining five adventures fell to other amazing authors.
So, without further ado, let me share some of the memories several of the original Kingmaker Adventure Path’s authors had when they looked back on their time helping to create one of Paizo’s most beloved campaigns!
Pathfinder Creative Director
Rivers Run Red
Working on Kingmaker happened at a time of some major changes in my life, so I have some strong memories associated with it. Rivers Run Red was the second Adventure Path volume I wrote for Paizo, and I loved having the opportunity to put in homages to some classic wilderness adventures I had played when I was younger. I was also writing the adventure just before my wedding, and to top everything off, I was on my honeymoon when Paizo offered me a job!
A few months later, following a move from Europe back to the USA that was longer than a trek through the Stolen Lands, I found myself working on Kingmaker as an editor. I felt privileged to contribute to the AP not only as an adventure author, but also as an editor, helping to craft and polish what I still believe is one of the best sandbox wilderness adventure campaigns out there. I’m super pleased to see it updated to Pathfinder Second Edition, giving gamers a whole new chance to chart their destinies and build kingdoms of their own!
War of the River Kings
Kingmaker was a ton of fun to work on, blending PC-level adventure with kingdom-level threats and high-level skullduggery. I started with the tournament, building out not just standard medieval events but also adding some wahoo flair suited to high-level characters in a magical world. The villain was different, too, with Irovetti as a bombastic foil for the PCs, a braggart and pretender but treacherous and dangerous, putting himself forward as this gracious neighbor and really showing them a good time while working to stab them in the back. I never even really saw him as evil, just a rival who had his own ambitions and saw the PCs were in the way. The warfare was a challenge because while we had all the basics of the kingdom rules, we really didn't have the specifics of mass combat done yet, so the original version was more event-based, I think with the villains using fey magic to flood the heroes' capital city. My lasting memory of writing my adventure, though, was somewhat bittersweet, as my brother Brian passed away shortly before I finished it. He and I had picked up the hobby together as kids, and even in his final months, we got together with my kids and played a few more times. I appreciated Paizo including a dedication to him in the original adventure.
Sound of a Thousand Screams I’m beyond excited about seeing Kingmaker released as another fabulous Paizo super-tome and updated to fit Pathfinder Second Edition. What a fantastic adventure path to work on with such talented folks.
One of the things I particularly recall about those days was the Adventure Path segment outlines were much more raw, just over a paragraph of backstory for my section with, “A great menace coming over the PCs’ realm and the nymph’s followers harassing the PCs. With First World blooms heralding the arrival of the nymph.”
My first draft synopsis was a long way from the finished article. I did like that title though.
The line that really strikes me as joyful in looking over the old emails from the wonderful Wes was, “You’ve got a TON of flexibility here, so make it cool.”
Well, I hope the Sound of a Thousand Screams is cool, the sparking ideas back and forth—throwing in the jabberwock for example—was such great fun, and whilst this adventure sticks out as one of the hardest to complete (writing Wormwood Mutiny was slightly trickier with so many untouchable NPCs in a low-level adventure), it was certainly the most rewarding.
The really wonderful thing about working with such talented folks was seeing how the adventure developed and how James performed his incredible magic on my final draft—soaking the adventure with Bestiary 2 monsters and dragons to name but two things.
It was such a great honor to be a part of this wonderful AP and the Paizo family. Thank you, James, and thank you, Wes.
Blood for Blood
Writing for Kingmaker felt like the culmination of a long-held dream and a trial by fire. It was a banner year for me in 2009. I’d won RPG Superstar. I’d finished my turnover for Realm of the Fellnight Queen. And, like every other freelancer, I hoped to someday write for the flagship product line, but fully expected I’d have to work my way up to it over many months or years. Then, out of the blue, Wes Schneider asked if I could take on 30,000 words in two months because Kingmakerhad fallen behind. My exact words to him were: “HOLY CRAP!!! Are you freakin’ serious!?!?!? Yes! YES! A thousand times YES!” I know, because I kept the email. That’s how much it meant to me. I gave everything I could to it, thundering into my word count like a raging barbarian, knowing I couldn’t let Paizo down. It was my first BIG assignment. It tested me in all the right ways. I learned so much from it, and I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity.
Greg A. Vaughan
The Varnhold Vanishing
What to say about designing The Varnhold Vanishing? It came at a perfect time when I was wanting to explore several very different ideas in an adventure or adventures: I was interested in doing something Roanoke-ish... check. And I really liked the idea of a settlement/fortress less well-established than the usual stone keep that had become sort of the adventure standard, something with more of a colonial America feel to it like the blockhouse and stockade at Varnhold... check, check. I had recently read Pressfield’s Last of the Amazons, and the chance to do something with steppes horsefolk really appealed to me as well, not to mention his description of the “Gate to Hell” giving the perfect entry to Vordakai’s tomb... check, check, check! The growing setting that was Golarion and its first foray into a sandbox-style world exploration with Kingmaker gave me the opportunity to do it all at once, and with a powerful undead cyclops to boot. What more could you ask for?
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