This is the story of a man and his horse.
There is a very energetic debate going on the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game forums about the Wrath of the Righteous Base Set character Alain and his trusty equine buddies. The Lancer power of "Recharge a card (▢ or put it on top of your deck) to search your deck or discard pile for a card that has the Mount trait and add it to your hand" allows an already formidable warrior to keep exploring as long as he has at least one Mount in his hand.
After listening to all sides of the debate for several months, we decided to make a change. As of today's post on the Wrath FAQ, the power has been rewritten as "Recharge a weapon or an armor (▢ or put it on top of your deck) to search your deck or discard pile for a card that has the Mount trait and add it to your hand." That slows Alain down, though not so much that he doesn't get anything out of the power.
"Wait," you say, "did you say 'only a month?'" Uh-huh. Sometimes we don't make changes until months after we see the first signs of a problem—usually after Vic writes a quick response that starts with the word "Sigh." We don't panic, because you guys are smart. We expect you to make it through house-ruling it your own way, obeying the social contract while you prompt us for answers. We're not coming to your house and writing on your cards.
Instead, we begin a process. Some people don't understand why it takes as long as it does. The reason is that unlike the rulebook—which we've committed to being a living, breathing, evolving document—our cards don't just update themselves. There's a real overhead to errata that you, the player, have to hold in your head. So we don't change something unless we need to. And when we do, there are several types of FAQ entries we could write. We treat them very differently from each other. Here they are.
Type 1: It's So Trivial, We're Not Even Gonna Mention It
We have several human beings that proof our cards. Human beings miss things. Usually pretty trivial things. So maybe we forget how to spell the name Eustoyriax midway through editing an adventure or even a single card. Or maybe there's this extremely little problem on Infinite Rod.
See that line "You may discard this card to to add 2 dice to any check to defeat a barrier?" You can probably see the double "to" glaring you in the face now. Well, we didn't see that when we were proofing. So when I did spot it, we just fixed it in our file and never mentioned it on the Wrath FAQ page. When we fix mistakes that have no meaningful impact on the game itself, we don't feel a need to bring it up. But if we ever print that card again, it'll be correct.
Type 2: It's Dumb, but Meaningful, and We Should Just Fix It
We forgot the Polearm trait. Since Raz and Tontelizi have powers that care about the Polearm trait, it's a meaningful omission. It's an easy fix, so we make it as soon as we can. If the card has already been released, we do it right away, and if the card isn't out yet, we put it in a queue to add to the FAQ on release. (The "change the Item trait to the Object trait" entry was in the queue for seven months before the cards it affected were released.)
Quite honestly, we hate these things. There shouldn't be any of them. But we have thousands of cards, and we screw up some words sometimes. When we mess up, we fess up.
Type 3: It's Bizarre and Maybe We Should Fix It
With thousands of cards, we try hard to see how they will all interact. Sometimes you guys find things that surprise us. Really strange things.
Another errata we issued today was for Rise of the Runelords Adventure 4—Fortress of the Stone Giants. A particularly bizarre combination of cards—the scenario The Ancient Library, the henchman The Headless Lord, and Kyra's Fireflower role in the Cleric Class Deck—produces a situation where, if you can defeat the Headless Lord with a weapon that has the Sword trait, you might be able to put all the armor from the game box into your deck.
This is the kind of thing we have to think about before acting. We'll consider how likely it is to occur, how damaging it is, and how much fun it sucks out of the game. In this particular case, we almost didn't make the change. But then we looked at some of the armor that's showing up in our class decks and realized that's not something we want to see just pop into your hand. So we killed it.
But then sometimes we don't. An unthinkable card combo made us question what would happen if you Disintegrated the undefeatable dragon turtle henchman Hirgenzosk in the scenario Into the Runeforge—which, y'know, is never gonna happen—and we figured that wouldn't ever get to the step of shuffling Hirgy into his location deck, but then we had to look at the Jorgenfist Stone Giant, which also worked and then we—man, even I'm confused. Anyway, it all worked as intended so we left it alone because for criminy's sake, we have better things to do with our days.
Type 4: It's Bad and We Know How to Fix It, So We Will
By far, the largest number of entries in the FAQ are clarifications, not corrections. They come from us not completely understanding what you will do when you read what we wrote. Here's a recent example, once again about cards that have the Mount trait.
These four-legged friends seemed fine to us. But you guys thought they required another character to move with you for you to use their power. We didn't want that, so we quickly came up with another wording: "Discard this card at the end of your turn to move; you may also move another character at your location to your new location." We applied that to all the cards as soon as they came out.
If only it was always that easy.
Type 5: It's Bad, but We Don't Know How to Fix It, So We'll See What We Can Do
This category includes the majority of the issues that are still open in our bug tracking database. (Yep—we deal with these issues exactly the same way that software developers track bugs.) Sometimes the discussion goes on for a while. We know something has to change, but changing it could cause other problems. So we keep working on it until we have an ironclad answer.
We're still trying to figure out what happens when you fail to defeat a villain at the Abyssal Rift. We're still dealing with ripple effects from Fringes of the Eye and Teleportation Chamber. The spell Steal Soul might be causing us to look at all of our Golem monsters all over again. And so on.
There's always something vexing us. Don't worry. We'll eventually figure it out. But it can take months. Sometimes, issues that seem small have bigger effects on things we're working on for future sets, so we have to consider (and sometimes redesign) piles of cards you haven't seen yet before we consider the problem solved. A few of these issues have been open for over a year, and a few of them have been closed and reopened more times than I care to remember. Big games can have lots of little holes.
Type 6: It Wasn't Broken Until We Fixed Something Else, and Now We Have to Deal With It
We used to think the powers box wasn't something you'd ever need to look at when you played the Runelords spell Summon Monster. You'd just pull a monster out, look at its difficulty, and throw it at whatever you were facing. But then it became clear that the Veteran trait might matter. If you pulled out a Mercenary in Adventure 6, you wouldn't want him to have a difficulty of 10. And what if you pulled out a Giant when the Giant Lair was in play? We needed to address that in the rules.
So we made a rule that made "passive" difficulty mods work—that is, not those that happened before, while, or after you acted. That ruling was nice and clean, but every single Lycanthrope was worded in a way that didn't work with this change. And that meant there were now eight cards to errata. So we did it in one sweeping FAQ entry.
These sorts of changes are likely to become more common as the game becomes deeper. For example, we're going to put the Electricity trait on Lightning Elemental and Comozant Wyrd from Skull & Shackles, and it isn't because there's anything wrong with that set. It's because it will matter next year when Mummy's Mask comes out. It will matter a lot.
Type 7: It's Bad, but The Real Problem is Something Else
This is a tough type of problem. Players think they have found a problem, but the thing that they think is at fault is working just fine. It's something else buried in the system that doesn't work, and we need to figure out what.
At the risk of causing some cardiac events, let's talk about The Elven Entanglement. It's probably your least favorite scenario, at least until you beat it. It's part of a very hard set of B scenarios for Wrath prompted by continued statements from players that the B scenarios in our previous two sets were too easy. So we built a set with a different power curve, one that was hard at the start, but if you beat it, you were well prepared for what was coming your way in adventure 1.
The problem was, The Elven Entanglement—the second scenario in the whole game—looked really broken. Nowhere on either the scenario or the henchmen was there a way to close a location. That meant winning the scenario was super-difficult. So people assumed we meant for the Tangle Traps to have "close the location" text, but we didn't. We intended the Tangle Traps to be "passive" henchmen; they're just vines, so they don't let you close the location. The problem wasn't with them. It was with the cohort Vinst.
The intent here was that you couldn't close the locations the normal way. Instead, you'd sacrifice an exploration to fight a Fiendish Tree; if you beat it, your buddy Vinst would show up. If he was around when you beat a Tangle Trap, you could auto-close the location, and then Vinst would scamper away. Rinse, repeat. That would have worked... except Vinst was worded as "When you would attempt to close a location," and that attempt would never happen. So people didn't see the point of Vinst in the scenario and never went for the Tree.
It took six months for us to realize what the problem here was. Now we've fixed it. Enjoy your Fiendish Trees.
Type 8: It's Not Necessarily Bad, but Some People Really Don't Like It
And while we're on that subject, let's address the elephant in the room: Are the B scenarios in Wrath really too hard? Well, some people love the increased peril, and they tell us that we finally gave them the challenge they wanted. But other people hate it; they write about unfairness and random damage. They specifically focus on these three cards.
So what to do when some people want one thing and others want another? Well, maybe there's a way we can have our cake and eat it too. We're introducing a new type of errata today: the optional kind. This entry has a different flavor to it. It offers a set of changes that involve swapping some cards from one deck to another, and yes, maybe even giving Tangle Traps the ability to let you close locations. We're not going to make an errata deck for these cards, because we're not requiring you to play this way. (Also, Vic notes, the "close the location" text won't actually fit on the Tangle Trap card.)
Type 9: It's Bad, but Some People Really Love It
I speak often about the dual approaches to game design being the "dessert bar" approach and the "salad bar" approach. Dessert bar games give you very few impediments to success and are pretty much empty calories. Salad bar games are a lot less sweet for you, but you might actually be around longer if you play them. PACG is obviously a salad bar game.
But sometimes we give you too much dessert. In very rare cases, we have to think about "nerfing" something. Nerfing is the process of taking something that is written exactly how we intended but causes a potential power imbalance in the game. It's not something we can just ignore (unlike, say, the asinine Headless Lord thing above), but changing it means actually worsening the play experience for some people. Or at least it means something they've played with won't be the same when they play with it again, and usually "in the house's favor."
We've only done this a few times. Our tone is often very different when we make a change like this. For example, Restoration. We know you don't want to play in a manner that doesn't advance the game at all until you win it in one mirthless sweep. But because of organized play and just general courtesy, we can't let anyone do that. So we nuked it from orbit. Arabundi had a problem like this, and so did Radillo. We nuked those too. But not till after we spent a long time debating whether we wanted to nerf something that some players enjoyed exploiting and other players enjoyed using as intended.
That brings us back to Alain and Imrijka. After weighing what people were doing in play and then testing them over and over ourselves, we decided the game would be better if people were playing a different way. So Alain can't do all of his mounted shenanigans any more, and Imrijka can't ignore the blessings deck entirely. Those were tough choices, but we made the decisions to nerf them and move on.
This won't be the last time we errata something. We've done it before and we hope to have to do it less over time. But whenever we do it, we make sure we're ready to do so before we post anything. Because the last thing we want is someone playing incorrectly because we need to errata our errata.
And I want to end on this note. None of this happens without your help. Your posts to the forums have helped us clarify and correct and just really understand the colossal game we've unleashed on the world. Everyone on the design team really appreciates it... even Vic, no matter how often you make him sigh.
Adventure Card Game Designer