Greetings! I'm Liz Spain, the newest game designer press-ganged to join the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game design team. It's electrifying to work with such an amazing team and get to play with adapting such a rich world. You might know me as the mad mastermind behind the steampunk exploration game, Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis, which hits wide release in January.
Since the work I'm putting into the next set for the Pathfinder ACG remains tightly under secret protection by blood-oath and ninja guards, it seems like a good time to wax rhapsodic on game design.
Designing the Aesthetics of Gameplay
Even the thinkiest of games can be considered an aesthetic experience. The feeling of rolling smooth, cool dice, the laughs you share with friends, and the calculations you run in your head all add up to the experience of the game as a whole. A well-crafted game design builds highs and lows into the gameplay.
The first scenario of "The Wormwood Mutiny" executes this idea beautifully. The adventurers have finished the base scenarios; they've defeated a number of villains and scavenged some good equipment. Spirits are running high. Everyone's excited to open the box of Adventure 1 to continue kicking pirate butt. Instead the table goes quiet as they read the first scenario and it's implications become clear:
Where I come from, the DMs call this "a kick in the teeth." The tricks the players have learned won't help them here. Each person has only the one precious thing they managed to slip in a boot before being captured. A cadre of tough henchmen before you, with one card in hand you feel exposed and desperate. The sudden transition from the highs of finishing the base set to losing nearly everything is a cold-water shock. Starting with only one card in hand makes the stakes of every card draw more intense.
Suddenly, scavenging and cooperation are paramount to the group's survival. Of course, holding this tension is nerve-wracking, so, if successful, the characters ramp back up to their expected power quickly. If our heroes survive, they'll be all the stronger for it and proud of their victory. From high to low and back again. The timing of these feelings is something game designers work to create. And if they're really good, we experience it as a seamless whole, without ever realizing their intent. Mwah ha ha ha!
Events at Board Game Geek Con
Board Game Geek Con in Dallas starts tomorrow! I'll be at Paizo's area running demos and games of Skull and Shackles. We have brand new Organized Play scenarios to test even the briniest of souls, so bring your Class Decks along and get spiffy promo cards. See you there!
Adventure Card Game Designer