Choose Your Own Adventure—How to Make Cards for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Before I get into this week's blog, let me tell you the best thing that happened to me at a fantastic PAX East. Through designer Chad Brown, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game fan Jim Wnorowski contacted me at the con about helping with his wedding proposal to his girlfriend, Sarah. As I came out of my Tabletop Deathmatch panel, Jim flagged me down. He "introduced himself," and then introduced me to Sarah, a self-proclaimed fan of my games. Jim then asked me if I had any promo cards.

"Oh, yeah," I said, "I wasn't going to give those out till my 100 Games You Absolutely Must Know How to Play panel on Sunday, but I think I've got one in my bag." And then I proceeded to fish around in my shoulder bag for at least a minute, unzipping every pocket and shuffling around every piece of paper, while Jim sweated out the delay.

"Oh, here's one!" I said after the agonizing wait, and gave them a card that Jim had created. This one was something special. He got down on one knee as she looked it over.


Jim gives Sarah a card, then begins his move step.
Photos by Eric Neustadter.

I would be lying if I said Sarah said yes immediately. In fact, her brain locked up, discombobulated from all that was going on. But after a paralyzing few seconds, her mind re-engaged and she leapt into Jim's arms and said yes. And that is the best thing that happened to me at PAX East.

I bring up this story both because it's awesome and because Jim created his card on the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Community Card Creator, a spiffy new tool from DriveThruCards that allows you to make your own cards for the game. I've seen lots of fans experimenting with it, so I thought I'd revisit some guidelines I use for making cards of similar power level and compatibility to the ones in the game. Note that not all the features of the card creator are live yet, so some of this won't work on the site today. But eventually, it all will, and you'll have this as a resource. I hope you find this useful as you make cards that work with ours!

Brainstorming

Start with a concept, such as "an underwater fortress," "a divine alchemist," or "a vampire monk." You can come up with something on your own, or take some inspiration from Paizo books, real-world concepts, or other universes. Just make sure it's something where you can say "I thought of something new, and here it is."

Then, for most types of cards, think of what adventure deck number that concept matches. If you imagine your concept as something only really powerful characters can deal with, then maybe a 5 or 6 is appropriate. If it's something that anyone can handle, use B or 1. This decision will affect several aspects of your cards.

Depending on what type of card you're creating, some additional guidelines might be useful.

Banes

Monsters and barriers should scale in difficulty against the ones in the box. For noncombat checks, a good baseline difficulty is 6 to 10 plus twice the adventure deck number. However, if you're aiming solely for a skill that isn't one of the big six (Strength, Dexterity, etc.), keep in mind that most characters will be rolling a d4. So keep the numbers low in that case, unless you really want only those who have the skill to succeed.

For combat checks, consider a difficulty of around 8 to 10 plus 2.5 or 3 times the adventure deck number. You can start adding monsters and barriers with multiple checks after adventure 3 or so. The powers should be reasonably simple through adventure 3, and then start getting more bizarre. If the powers usually reduce the character's ability to fight, such as by dealing damage before you act or by requiring multiple checks, you might want to reduce the difficulty by 2 to 5.

Henchmen should be tougher than the average monster you can imagine in your scenario, so increase the difficulties from the previous paragraph by an amount roughly equal to the adventure deck number. If you expect to want to use the henchman in multiple adventures, consider giving it the Veteran trait and a power that uses the adventure deck number. The henchman should always say it gives a chance to close the location, unless it doesn't.

Villains can have difficulties of as much as 10 higher than your average bane. They should always have something special about encountering them. When a villain shows up, everyone at the table should be invested in the outcome. Villain powers that scale with the number of characters present, the number of locations, or the number of open locations help reinforce this.

Boons

Boons should have checks to acquire in the neighborhood of 4 to 8 plus twice the adventure deck number. Watch out for boons that can only be acquired by skills that not all characters have. If a boon has a recharge check, aim for a difficulty 2 higher than the check to acquire.

Loot should be pretty darn awesome.

Characters, Roles, and Tokens

Characters should be tightly balanced against the ones in the box. Each character should start with 15 cards on her Card List. Add up the dice in your character's skills; if it's more than 42, you're probably aiming too high. The character should have no more than 1d12 in any skill. She should have 15 skill feat checkboxes, 10 card feat checkboxes, and 4 power feat checkboxes on her character card; no skill or card type should have more than 4 checkboxes.

Roles should have 12 power feat checkboxes each, including the 4 from the powers on the characters they advance. Save your craziest powers for the roles.

Tokens should tell intriguing backstories that make you want to play the characters again and again.

Story Cards

Adventure Paths list a set of at least 3 adventures. They should specify what happens to cards in the box as the adventure progresses. You can add adventure path powers that typically refer to things that happen between games.

Adventures need a set of scenarios, usually 3 or more. We recommend that you specify an play order, or it can be hard to keep track of which ones have been completed. Pick a reward that is on the level of "a card feat" or "a skill feat." As with adventure paths, if adventures have powers, they should not be of the kind that you must remember to consult frequently, because players will forget about them.

Scenarios generally need at least one villain and some henchmen that are appropriate for the power level of your characters. Powers can be simple or complex; think of something that sets your scenario apart from others and implement it. Your location list should have eight locations, unless you're doing something wacky. A standard scenario will have two more locations than you have players. Be careful when setting rewards; you don't want to give out too much for success. Make sure to put any lasting benefits in the Rewards section. You want people to be able to replay your scenario multiple times without skewing the rest of the campaign.

Locations and Support Cards

Locations should have fairly simple powers in each section. Watch the difficulty on noncombat checks to close locations, as these do not scale well. If you want a power that continues after closing, put it on the back as well.

Ships should have noncombat checks to defeat in the 6 to 12 range, and similar Craft checks to repair. Most have powers that make them harder to fight in the Encountering section, and they'll usually have a power in the Commanding section that allows you to discard cards from the blessings deck to trigger effects. You're looking for simple, frequently usable powers here, as you'll refer to them a lot during play.

As these new types of cards start to roll out for the Card Creator, experiment with them and see what you come up with. And if you decide to make an Engagement Ring card, be aware that it might take me just a little while to find it in my bag.

And again, congratulations, Sarah and Jim!

Mike Selinker
Adventure Card Game Designer

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Tags: Adventure Card Game Homebrew Community Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I will say that the timing of the release of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Community Card Creator couldn't have been better. :)

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Congratulations again to Jim and Sarah!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Great caption under the two pictures.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I'm glad there are pictures at all actually; we had staged some after the fact but we didn't realize that anyone took proper pictures of the event. (Incidentally, if I could get full resolution copies from whomever took those pictures, should those exist, that would be pretty awesome).

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Hawkmoon269 wrote:
Great caption under the two pictures.

Yeah, I was particularly proud of that.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

First World Bard wrote:
I'm glad there are pictures at all actually; we had staged some after the fact but we didn't realize that anyone took proper pictures of the event. (Incidentally, if I could get full resolution copies from whomever took those pictures, should those exist, that would be pretty awesome).

I gotcha.

Paizo Employee Designer

First World Bard wrote:
I will say that the timing of the release of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Community Card Creator couldn't have been better. :)

Congratulations Jim and Sarah!


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
First World Bard wrote:
I'm glad there are pictures at all actually; we had staged some after the fact but we didn't realize that anyone took proper pictures of the event. (Incidentally, if I could get full resolution copies from whomever took those pictures, should those exist, that would be pretty awesome).

Wait, so is First World Bard Jim? I didn't know that. Congratulations! (Not that I wouldn't have said congratulations anyway, but sort of knowing it is someone on the forums makes it cooler.)

Paizo Employee Assistant Developer

Yay, congratulations guys :D


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

The left picture is seems to be perfectly timed. It appears to be the exact moment when, as she is reading the card, she is just starting to realize what is happening, but hasn't quite fully reacted You can see just a bit of the smile on her face and even the tilt of her head as she appears to be taking a closer inspection of the card suggests something between confusion and epiphany. You can see from everyone else's expression that it is in the moment of the surprise where they are waiting for the realization to set in. The three of them are living in that theory of relativity moment where it feels to them that the 3 seconds or so it is taking her to read the card is much longer.

Definitely taken at the perfect second.

And that is a well written card too.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Hawkmoon269 wrote:
Wait, so is First World Bard Jim? I didn't know that. Congratulations! (Not that I wouldn't have said congratulations anyway, but sort of knowing it is someone on the forums makes it cooler.)

Yep, it's me. My actual name is displayed with this profile on the PFS messageboards, but other than I expect only people that have met me IRL would have known.

And thank you everyone for your congratulatory wishes! We both look forward to coming to PaizoCon this year, hanging out, having fun, and playing some PACG (and some PFS too).


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Hawkmoon269 wrote:

Definitely taken at the perfect second.

And that is a well written card too.

Yeah, the photos are pretty awesome. As for the card, I plan to do a second printing with some slight errata. Mostly I underestimated demand for the first printing, though. :)


Jim, this is super cool. Congratulations! I'm happy for you.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

Hawkmoon269 wrote:

The left picture is seems to be perfectly timed. It appears to be the exact moment when, as she is reading the card, she is just starting to realize what is happening, but hasn't quite fully reacted You can see just a bit of the smile on her face and even the tilt of her head as she appears to be taking a closer inspection of the card suggests something between confusion and epiphany. You can see from everyone else's expression that it is in the moment of the surprise where they are waiting for the realization to set in. The three of them are living in that theory of relativity moment where it feels to them that the 3 seconds or so it is taking her to read the card is much longer.

Definitely taken at the perfect second.

The photos are by Microsoft's Eric Neustadter, who happened to be standing there at the time and realized something big was about to go down.

Liberty's Edge

Congratulations!! This will make a great story to tell through the years!


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Now we just have to write the full adventure path of Sarah and Jim and create all required cards using the creator.

No wait, let's let Mike do that, somehow, even after all his nice advices, he's still THE ONE who knows how to...

No, wait again, hold that thought and the rest, even better, let's let sarah and jim write their own story.

Everyone needs his own happy ending at the end of AP6.

Wishing you the best there can be Sarah and Jim.

Silver Crusade

Congrats, guys! So happy for you!!! :-D

Sovereign Court

Any idea when character cards will be ready? That is the part I'm most anxiously awaiting.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I think it would be awesome to play through my own homebrew as an adventure path for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game but I'm not sure if the terms give Paizo the right to own my character names, backstories and such and therefore making me unable to use them when I write my book based on my characters.
This is how their card creator phrases its terms. By creating a card with the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Community Card Generator you agree:
To use your best efforts to preserve the high standard of Paizo's intellectual property. You agree to present Paizo, its products, and the Paizo Material in a generally positive light. You agree to not use this permission for material that the general public would classify as "adult content," offensive, or inappropriate for minors, and you agree that such use would irreparably harm Paizo. You agree to not do anything illegal in or with cards created.
To hereby transfer and assign to Paizo, Inc. all copyright and trademark rights in the card text you create.
To not use any material in the creation of your card that would infringe on copyrights or trademarks owned by another party. For example, using an image of unknown origination randomly copied from the internet would be forbidden.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

It's a valid concern, but I would suspect that it is there to prevent Paizo from getting hit with an IP lawsuit if they independently come up with something substantially similar to a homebrew card.

Of course, if Paizo got purchased by some evil litigous billionaire, their original intent wouldn't prevent them from abusing the clause and either using your IP or suing you for using your IP. It's highly unlikely, but the chance of it happenng is greater than 0 (though low enough that I don't think most people would worry).

Adventure Card Game Designer

nondeskript wrote:
It's a valid concern, but I would suspect that it is there to prevent Paizo from getting hit with an IP lawsuit if they independently come up with something substantially similar to a homebrew card.

ding ding

Pathfinder ACG Developer

One of the first questions I had when the card creator was launched was if we needed to avoid looking at fan creations. I offered a good friend my house rules for a game he worked on once and he didn't want to see it for legal reasons.

Most people just want to have fun, but the lawyers have to plan around the worst cases.


Is there a defined rule/value on how may points can be dispersed among the 5 different skill bonuses? Such as "no more than 9 total skill bonus points" or "no more than two +2 bonuses per character" or something like that?


My favorite example for balancing skill bonuses versus die size has to be a comparison of Seltyiel from S&S versus Oloch from the same set.

D8+3 Melee versus D12+2. Seltyiel also has a D8+3 Arcane, Oloch has D8+2 Divine. Oloch boasts a tremendous Fortitude of D10+3 while Seltyiel has a Craft of D8+1. I think balancing skills is an exercise that bears in mind a few things: Skill +, Die Rolled, Usefulness.

I think the above numbers are right, it was from memory. Is that what you mean?


Oloch's Fortitude is d8+3. If he had a d10 Constitution, he'd have to have a d4 Dex, Int and Charisma.
Also his Melee is d12+1.

Some characters have +8 in skill bonuses (starting with Merisiel in RotR). Not sure if any have 9 or more. Merisiel has 4 +2 bonuses.

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