As the August 15 release date, and the July 5–7 demos at PaizoCon approach, I've been given the opportunity to pull back the curtains and talk about the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game a bit. As a developer for the game, I've spent much time and effort translating the Rise of the Runelords storyline and elements of the Pathfinder rules and campaign setting into a new medium. One of our biggest challenges was keeping the flavor of the world and of the RPG intact while keeping the card game fun, exciting, and respectful of the established traditions of Pathfinder.
Though much of my focus involved adapting the Rise of the Runelords storyline, the PACG Base Set also offers three introductory scenarios that take place around the town of Sandpoint before the actual Adventure Path kicks off. One of these, Black Fang's Dungeon, was inspired by the introductory adventure in the Pathfinder RPG Beginner Box, and in this blog, I'll use that scenario to illustrate how we developed elements of the PACG to evoke the flavor of the Pathfinder RPG and the Pathfinder campaign setting while meeting the needs of a new kind of Pathfinder game.
We'll start with the Black Fang's Dungeon scenario card itself.
The dragon Black Fang lairs in a cave connected to a network of ancient ruins inhabited by undead. The card back—that's the image on the right—lists a variety of locations that characters will explore during the scenario, and offers some flavor text to set the scene.
On the front of the card—the image on the left—you can see that Black Fang is the villain for this scenario, while the "Henchmen" list indicates that the players will also encounter a number of Ancient Skeletons. The "During this Scenario" text effectively changes each skeleton that a character encounters into a small cadre of undead that attacks everyone at the location. The bottom of the card describes the reward that the players will receive after completing the scenario.
Let's take a look at Black Fang's undead allies.
Fights against animated skeletons have been a staple of adventure roleplaying since its very earliest days. We designed the pieces of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game to fit together in a multitude of ways, for the benefit of the scenarios and adventures we design, and also for any you might put together yourself. The Ancient Skeleton henchman is a great basic opponent for a low-level scenario.
Let's look at the Ancient Skeleton's powers. As befits a creature of animated bone and steel, the Ancient Skeleton is completely unaffected by poison or by magic that targets the mind. And as in the RPG, it's not impossible to take out an Ancient Skeleton with a longbow or longsword, but a savvy adventurer will reach for the mace or sling first. This is represented by increasing the difficulty to defeat the Skeleton—listed in the circle at the upper right—from 8 (which isn't too difficult for even starting characters) up to 11 (which is considerably harder on the unprepared) if you're using a Slashing or Piercing weapon.
In the upper left corner, you'll see the Ancient Skeleton has both the Undead and Skeleton traits. Traits give us ways to have cards interact without being overburdened with special cases. For example, Kyra, the iconic Cleric of Sarenrae, gains a bonus to checks against cards with the Undead trait, and the item card Holy Water will help you deal with any undead you may encounter.
The characters will explore several locations in their hunt for Black Fang, but one in particular is likely to cause trouble: the Desecrated Vault.
In the Desecrated Vault, even after the undead are overcome, they might just rise from the dead again. The PACG rules make it simple to handle things like monsters rising, resurrecting, or magically escaping: they are undefeated, which means they're shuffled back into the location deck; if you continue to explore there, you may face them again.
Each location card in the PACG represents a different part of the Pathfinder world. Some locations are very specific, such as the Sandpoint Cathedral, while others, like the Desecrated Vault, serve multiple duties. The vault is a great way to add some undead flavor to a scenario. While exploring Black Fang's Dungeon, adventurers are very likely to run into at least one undead monster here—perhaps more than one, and perhaps more than once.
Now, let's take a look at the scenario's big bad, Black Fang himself.
In developing the PACG, we looked at various ways to represent the complex, detailed conflicts found in Pathfinder campaigns. Many encounters are handled with a single check, but some are more complicated. Villains such as Black Fang have a very real chance to injure the characters, even before combat.
Dragons have always been tricky challenges, both to design and to defeat, and even a young dragon like Black Fang doesn't disappoint. With a Check to Defeat 50% higher than the Ancient Skeleton, you can tell right away that this fight won't be easy. Black Fang is a young dragon, but he's still a dragon.
Black Fang makes his presence felt before you even begin the fight, spewing acid at every character at his location. While particularly hardy characters such as Valeros or Harsk might withstand the acid with ease, those who are less hale—or just unlucky—might be in serious trouble. Damage in the PACG removes cards from your hand, so those who succumb to Black Fang's acid breath might find themselves ill-prepared for the fight to come.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you like the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. We're all very excited to see you playing it!
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer