In the comments thread to last week's Pathfinder Battles preview, user Pigraven asked several questions about the Pathfinder Battles product line that might be good fodder for a blog. The community thought that would be a good idea, and so do I. So in addition to posting three more figures from the upcoming Reign of Winter set of prepainted plastic gaming figures this evening, I thought I'd also go through Pigraven's questions and provide some quick answers.
Q: How much does ease of sculpt matter? Do they tend to rule out certain characters or creatures because they worry a sculpt might prove too worrisome?
Ease of sculpt informs rarity more than anything else. Most of the figures in a Pathfinder Battles set are composed of between 2 and 8 parts, with the figures that require more pieces generally falling into the rare or uncommon categories. Occasionally, after I've put together a proposed set list, WizKids will consult with their factory and make suggestions for a few "rarity swaps." This is generally a pretty painless process, but it can cause some potential problems. For example, I'm currently working on a set list for an upcoming set that includes an Attic Whisperer, a child skeleton spirit thing that is creepy as hell. I'd slated it at the uncommon rarity, because you really don't need a handful of these (most Attic Whisperer encounters involve a single creature), but because the factory came back saying that it would only require 2 pieces, WizKids suggested that we move it to common. Doing that would result in too many Attic Whisperers in a given case, so I probably won't go along with their suggestion in that case.
To date, the only figure we have chosen not to make due to sculpt complexity is Baba Yaga's Hut, which I really wanted to be the limited edition case incentive figure for Reign of Winter, but the factory said that doing it right would simply be too expensive.
Q: What role does the potential paint process play in their decision-making? As we've seen, this entire line is a process. And like any great artist or musician, part of the process is always working to perfect a craft. We know that there are issues with some Medium-sized, human faces in these lines; does this influence the amount of these characters Paizo chooses?
Not yet. I'm impressed with WizKids' ability to improve the paint process from Legends of Golarion to Wrath of the Righteous, which we've already covered in detail here. I take a look at the overall quality of the paint application both in my own cases and packs that I open here at the office and in reports from consumers on this and other sites, and send along comments on WizKids, who do their best to make improvements. Sometimes that means simplifying paint masters, sometimes that probably means refining the tooling, and sometimes that probably means a manager at the plant standing over someone's shoulder and making sure they do the right thing. Even with all of those controls, we're still talking about a mass-produced product, here, so there are going to be some problems. I've definitely moved a figure from uncommon to rare, for example, because I was dubious that the plant could pull off the quality we needed at the lesser rarity.
Q: Is there a specific ratio per set that they aim for in regards to enemies & good guys? Humans & other creatures?
Not really. I make all of the decisions as to what stuff to include. Sometimes WizKids or some of my colleagues at Paizo make their own suggestions, and I try to accommodate them as much as possible. About my only "rule" is that once per set I like to include one figure simply because I want it. There are certain perks to being the publisher. Just ask my friends the Seaweed Siren and Gibrileth Demon.
Q: Is each set an entirely new entity, or do they allow what they already have released play a role in what makes it into a new set? For example, Wrath of the Righteous is very demon-heavy, so it seems natural to load up on demons for the set. There are a few demons that appear in Reign of Winter, including some Cold-specific ones. Theoretically, would they hesitate to put a demon in the new set after including so many demons and other outsiders in the last set?
"They" is really "I" in this case, and generally speaking I wouldn't hesitate to put a cold demon into the Reign of Winter set if it seemed appropriate and there were not better/cooler figures in the mix. I am a little burned out on winged female demons, however, so my own fatigue with certain types of figures (and my impression of what the audience wants/is tired of) definitely plays a role. That said, I'll probably be laying off demons in general for a while, because we've done so many of them generally. That wouldn't keep me from including a demon we haven't done, but it will keep me from putting another Serpent Demon or Fire Demon in a set for a while.
Q: How much does potential mass appeal play into the decision-making process? Do you ever rule out particular characters or creatures because you don't think they have a wide enough appeal outside the particular adventure? For example, there haven't been too many plant miniatures that appear in your line, despite a fair amount of creative creatures and well drawn illustrations to choose from. Is this because you speculate that if given an opportunity, more people using miniatures would likely choose a devil or aberration to use in their homemade campaign than, say, a Basidirond?
Lack of plant creatures at the moment is more a coincidence than anything else. It does really help to have excellent art that would work with the round base of a size-appropriate figure, meaning that something like a long assassin vine might need a new illustration before I send it to WizKids. I do not have a particular bias toward devils and against basidironds. If I had a good opportunity to put one in where it was thematically appropriate, I'd do so. In fact, I'll make sure to add some plant creatures to an upcoming set specifically due to this question!
Q: How much do other lines-both past and present-matter when making decisions for a set? For example, how about the Reaper Pathfinder minis? Do you look at that line and think "Well, there is already a sculpt for this particular character, so we could keep this out of the pre-painted set for awhile and include him somewhere down the line?" The old D&D pre-painted lines have hundreds of different characters and sculpts and were around for the better part of a decade. Most of them are still readily available on different websites, including plenty at affordable prices. Does this play a role at all when deciding what makes it into the Pathfinder sets?
I'd say this matters a little. When deciding which creatures not to include in the Rise of the Runelords set, for example, I definitely felt better cutting a figure if I knew there was a Reaper version available. I've been collecting prepainted plastic figures since they first came out, so one bias I definitely have is toward figures that are relatively popular creatures of fantasy, but which have never been done in prepainted plastic before. That said, if you fill each set with a ton of obscure corner cases it tends to alienate newer/more casual collectors, so you've really got to balance things carefully.
Q: How much input from these boards are considered when making selections? While I realize this is just a small set of the people who ultimately buy the product, I would assume there are still good ideas to be had from posters on here.
I've incorporated a ton of the feedback provided here into the development of the line in general. From figure suggestions to criticisms of paint applications or sculpts, I read everything and rely on your feedback for most decisions I make about this (or any of our other) product line(s).
Q: When you are in the decision-making process for what miniatures make it into a set based off an Adventure Path, do you have a master list containing each character and creature found in the adventure?
Yes. I generally make this myself, although with newer Adventure Paths that have more art (due to higher art budgets than we enjoyed in 2008, for example) I tend to do a "first pass" based mostly on what art really catches my eye. Luckly, we have good illustrations of most if not all of the really important characters, so they tend to get swept up in this initial dragnet. Then I look at all of the encounters of stuff that you fight, but that are not illustrated in the Adventure Path. If there's a good illustration of that monster elsewhere, and there's room for it in the set, I'll include it.
Q: How much does the artwork of a particular character or creature play into the process?
It is the single most important factor. Up until recently I haven't had the budget allocated to commission new art exclusively for these sets, so if there is no illustration or a bad illustration (which could include simply weird anatomy or a pose that won't really fit on a base), that creature does not get a miniature. Unless I really, really want it to now, in which case I have a little money tucked away to order a new piece. But this has never happened to date.
Q: Are you hoping to eventually produce a line for each Adventure Path series, both past and present?
That would be really cool, but I've learned never to make long-term predictions like that. All I can say is that we will keep making these sets as long as you guys keep buying them. If we keep it up long enough, we'll have no choice BUT to make minis for all of the Adventure Paths!
But enough with the preamble. Let's get to today's minis reveals!
Here we have the Falcon. He is a falcon. The Falcon is a Small figure slated at the common rarity.
We wanted to give the Falcon some sort of companion, and thus I present here the Winter Guard Falconer. The falcon on this gentleman's arm is a little smaller than the stand-alone Falcon miniature, but it still looks great. The original illustration for this guy had him wearing snow shoes, but I decided to remove them for the miniature to increase this figure's versatility. He makes a good elite guard, ranger, or even bird-oriented player character. The Winter Guard Falconer is a Medium uncommon figure.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #69 contains tons of centaurs, but my favorite of all of them is this woman, who we call the Centaur Archer. In the campaign itself, this is a friendly wilderness guide called Erdija, but she works just as well as a generic centaur archer. WizKids did a great job on both the sculpt and painting on this figure, who is probably my favorite centaur yet produced in prepainted plastic. The Centaur Scout is a Large, rare figure.
That's it for this week's Reign of Winter previews. Our previous set, Wrath of the Righteous should start showing up in stores and in the mailboxes of subscribers very shortly, so do keep your eyes out for it!
I hope you enjoyed the Q&A at the beginning of this blog. Please feel free to post additional questions in the comments below, and I'll try to answer them either in the comments section or in a future Friday blog!
Until next week, I remain.