Interview: Jason Bulmahn, Pathfinder RPG Lead Designer

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I sat down with Jason Bulmahn, the mastermind behind the Pathfinder RPG, and picked his brain for awhile.

What did you have in mind when you first starting working on the Pathfinder RPG?

Since we first realized a new edition of the game was imminent, Paizo developed several plans for how we would adapt to the new publishing environment. One of those options involved ongoing support of 3.5. Since last summer, I've been experimenting with the rules, tweaking the things I thought needed some work and reinforcing the parts that I liked. When Paizo made the decision to go full steam ahead with ongoing 3.5 support, I brought the rules into the office and we began poring over them as a team. A lot of great work came out of the past few months with nearly everybody in our editorial staff offering up suggestions and ideas to make the rules even better.

What changes (that are made in the Pathfinder RPG) will be the most impactful to the gaming experience?

For me, a lot of the changes enacted by the Pathfinder RPG are designed to smooth out some of the rough spots of 3.5, while adding some spice to some rules elements that have become a bit ordinary. One of my favorites is adjusting the turn undead rules to also heal living creatures. This allows a cleric to actually cast some of his spells instead of saving them for healing. It also allows the party to adventure a bit longer. Combine that with reusable powers for both wizards and clerics and you have a longer adventuring day, something the game sorely needed.

Do you think the Pathfinder RPG will eventually replace 3.5 edition?

Since the core books for the 3.5 edition of the game are about to be out of print, I think that the Pathfinder RPG will replace them as the common reference point for those who are still interested in playing the rules system.

Are there any surprising things in the Pathfinder RPG?

Yes, quite a number of things actually. The changes to domains and arcane schools, the unification of the various combat maneuvers to one simple system, and the alterations to turning all seem to have surprised a number of people. There are a lot of little surprises lurking in the rules too. We changed Intimidate somewhat so that it can demoralize a foe for more than 1 round. It's not a huge change, but it makes the skill a much more interesting option than it was. Changing Dodge so that it is a flat +1 bonus to your Armor Class is another change that works to simplify the game by removing the pesky need to remember who you are using Dodge against. I think a lot of these little surprises have not been spotted quite yet, and I look forward to discussing them with the playtesters.

What are your hopes for the Pathfinder RPG?

We've got a long way to go before the Pathfinder RPG is in its finished form and between now and then I am really looking forward to working with the fans and playtesters to make this the game that we all want to play. I hope that the finished game meets that goal, and I am confident that with more than 5,000 playtesters on board, we will be able to solve any problem that stands in our way.

Carolyn Mull
Paizo Sales & Marketing Assistant

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