Recently, I put up a messageboard thread soliciting questions we might answer in the blog, and now Sutter's tapped me to actually answer one of those questions. So here I go:
Messageboard regular Dungeon Grrrl asks, "When you decide to develop a region, how do you go about it? Is there a process for the writing of a basic bible, or is the final version generated whole-cloth? Is there a development process that happens after the writers tackle it? Do you have big meetings where people spitball ideas?"
Let's take these one at a time.
When you decide to develop a region, how do you go about it?
Once we figure out where we want the book to cover, we need to find someone to write it. For Korvosa, that entailed James Jacobs walking up to me one day and saying, "Do you want to write Korvosa?" You can guess my answer. For Darkmoon Vale, it was Erik who asked me the same question (with the same reply).
At that point, we have where we want to set the book and we have an author. The third step is to brainstorm what we want to see in the book (in terms of NPCs, locations, monsters, and events).
After that, it's just the author putting his nose to the grindstone and writing ~50,000 words.
Is there a process for the writing of a basic bible, or is the final version generated whole-cloth?
The final version is pretty much generated whole-cloth. We have a Golarion world-bible that we can all access and that parts of will turn into the Pathfinder Chronicles Gazetteer, which helps us with world consistency, but the final version of a guidebook becomes the bible for the area in which it focuses.
Is there a development process that happens after the writers tackle it?
Yes. Once I completed Korvosa, James took a read-through to look for things he needed for the adventure path that I forgot to add or didn't know about. Then I took a week or so, added in all that stuff, and handed over Korvosa version 1.2, which Jeremy Walker currently has and is editing. Because there are only four pages of rules stuff in Korvosa, his development pass is probably going to be more like an editing/consistency-check pass.
Do you have big meetings where people spitball ideas?
Yes. We start off with a brainstorming meeting. For Guide to Korvosa, the brainstorm consisted of James Jacobs, Wes Schneider, and myself, with Nick Logue, Richard Pett, and Tito Leati contributing awesome ideas via email. For Guide to Darkmoon Vale, the brainstorm group consisted of the entire R&D staff plus Josh Frost and Jeff Alvarez.
The team sits down and decides what sorts of NPCs, monsters, and locations need to appear in the book. No real details get put out at this point, because we're just trying to hit on the major aspects of the book. The details get left to the author, for the most part.
I hope this helps to give you a glimpse into Paizo Behind the Scenes. Feel free to throw follow-up questions at me and the rest of the R&D gang on the messageboards. Thanks for reading!