Obsidian Tells a Tale

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

With Pathfinder Adventures' imminent release—Thursday, April 28!—it's time we talked about the core strength of both Pathfinder and Obsidian: storytelling.

When Obsidian Entertainment and Paizo started talking about Pathfinder Adventures, I was most excited about the prospect of bringing the story of Rise of the Runelords to life. A little background: I started at Obsidian in 2007 working on Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, and one of the first things I did was join a group of coworkers playing Rise of the Runelords. The story stuck with me. And when I started playing "Burnt Offerings" in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, it all came flooding back. I loved the way Mike Selinker, Chad Brown, and all of the designers at Lone Shark Games used the mechanics of the cards to tell a story. Local Heroes stood out to me right away, as did Foul Misgivings later. Since story has always been a priority at Obsidian, I knew that we could bring the theme and drama of the Adventure Path to the forefront of the digital version.

As mentioned in my first blog, one of the first things we did was put all of the location decks on a map. This helps gives the game instant context and setting without a word being written. As an example, throughout "Burnt Offerings," you were playing in bright and sunny Sandpoint, but when you start "The Skinsaw Murders," things look a little different...


Workin' on our night moves (yeah, you just got Bob Segered).

It's Sandpoint's nighttime look! And it's a good one. Since "The Skinsaw Murders" is a ghost story and a murder mystery, we decided to set the mood.

Where PACG uses text descriptions on the cards to convey the story, we use dialogue. Most of these conversations are driven by the iconic heroes that you choose to play with. Each of the iconics has a distinct voice, so a party of Ezren and Valeros experiences different dialogue than a party of Seoni and Amiri.

Before setting out to write dialogue for RotR's 11 iconic heroes, I worked with Erik Mona and James Jacobs at Paizo (with some helpful insight from Chris Avellone and Matt MacLean at Obsidian) to develop a Character Bible. I use it as a touchstone each time I write to make sure the characters are always true to themselves. Each character has a set of style and story notes to remind me how they speak and how they will develop.

I'll pull back the curtain and show you (most of) Lini's entry:

Style

Having an intimate relationship with animals, Lini sees the world from an animal's perspective. She has a hard time understanding people and their complicated schemes, but she is curious about them. She has tremendous instincts and will trust or mistrust NPCs with a high level of accuracy ([REDACTED] will always smell wrong and Ameiko will be a fast friend). She does not emote in half-measures. She's excitable and fiery, using short declarative sentences for just about every occasion. Dank dungeons make her uncomfortable, but she'll never abandon her pack or the mission in front of her.

She will have a habit of interrupting villainous taunts to attack with an "Aaah-Kii-Yeee!"

Story Notes

She will seem naive at first, not understanding man's cruelty. Her curiosity will continue to drive her though. She will grow to see mankind and those with powers as complex, yet simple as any other force of nature. In Chapters 5 and 6, Lini will have a very specific understanding of what she sees and experiences and will always know with certainty what she must to do to flow with or fight against anything she is faced with.

When each scenario starts and ends, you'll get dialogue that's reactive to the characters you have in your party. Likewise, when you fight the villain for the first time, you'll get some banter determined by who's fighting the villain.

Let's take Crow Bait as an example. Harsk is adventuring solo and having a productive discussion with Ameiko about the Sihedron rune when Maester Grump interrupts with terrible news.


They even ate the dogs!

Harsk will get down to the bottom of it! At various points throughout the game, we'll check to see what cards you have and add a little extra flavor. The game does a quick check of his deck and notes that he has the beloved Deathbane Light Crossbow +1. So he adds:


Nothing beats the old Deathbane!

Harsk comes upon the Farmhouse location. In most scenarios, it's just a country home. In Crow Bait, it's a gruesome scene with a creepy note addressed to Harsk.


The letter reads, "You, and you alone, have brought this fearful harvest. They are dead because of you, and more shall join them soon."

Soon enough, he finds Rogors Craesby, who discusses his ugly intentions:


Harsk is no creature's breakfast.

When all is said and done, Harsk considers what has happened and how it relates to the larger plot:


Harsk thinks in terms of tactics and the hunt.

Where there are opportunities for flavor or exposition, we take them. Certain henchmen will talk with you before they fight. Some ally cards in your deck provide good opportunities as well.

And the haunts in Foul Misgivings! Let me tell you about the haunts. Better yet, let me show you!


In case you didn't know, RotR gets dark! Credit for this amazing art goes to the incomparable Lindsey Laney.

There are eight unique haunts throughout the Foul Misgivings—so many that it's impossible to see all of them in one play through the scenario.

You can be sure that there are a great number of things that I've left out for the sake of spoilers and easter egg hunts. I will say that we track a specific action in Burnt Offerings that has implications in The Skinsaw Murders. And I can't wait to show you what we do with Here Comes the Flood!

Nathan Davis
Game Director, Obsidian Entertainment
@nathan_J_davis
(Previously Harsk in Rise of the Runelords and Ranzak in Skull & Shackles; currently Alain in Wrath of the Righteous)

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Tags: Obsidian Entertainment Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Pathfinder Adventures Rise of the Runelords
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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
JGray wrote:
Is quest mode hanging in the load screen for anyone else?

Yes, it was like that on launch, then it was fixed, now it's at it again, since yesterday.

At any rate , the quest mode is bugged and starts with something like 5-10 blessings on the timer, so it was nearly unplayable. Supposedly, will be fixed with the next update.


Does anyone think the dice roll much more poorly than they do in real life?

I've learned to always add to an important check. Think you can roll a 3 on a d12? Don't assume that.

I just nearly killed Harsk when Lini rolled an 8 against a Slashing Blade with 3d6 + d4 + 1.

I admit that I remember the bad rolls more than the good ones. In my first scenario, Kyra beat the villain on the last turn by making a 10 combat check on 2d6+2.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I have had very bad and very good rolls in the digital version. Wins with allmost impossible situations and loses in sure cases...

Pathfinder ACG Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I did not notice any problem with the dice randomness over dozens of scenarios. When I had access to debug mode, I sometimes ran the same encounter over and over and over, and it seemed fine. Random, of course. Horribly random. But random.

Of course, bugs can always happen, so it is possible things have gotten worse since then. You can always just track your rolls for a couple scenarios (all of them) and look for problems that way.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

Finished Burnt Offerings today. This is an awesome product.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
elcoderdude wrote:

Does anyone think the dice roll much more poorly than they do in real life?

I've learned to always add to an important check. Think you can roll a 3 on a d12? Don't assume that.

I just nearly killed Harsk when Lini rolled an 8 against a Slashing Blade with 3d6 + d4 + 1.

I admit that I remember the bad rolls more than the good ones. In my first scenario, Kyra beat the villain on the last turn by making a 10 combat check on 2d6+2.

Yup. Seems to be especially bad on Location Closing checks. I learned to throw at least two blessings on important checks. Also, the incredibly good rolls always seem to happen when I've guaranteed that failure is impossible by the sheer number of dice. I'm not saying that the dice are loaded, but the thought has certainly crossed my mind...


elcoderdude wrote:

Does anyone think the dice roll much more poorly than they do in real life?

I've learned to always add to an important check. Think you can roll a 3 on a d12? Don't assume that.

I just nearly killed Harsk when Lini rolled an 8 against a Slashing Blade with 3d6 + d4 + 1.

I admit that I remember the bad rolls more than the good ones. In my first scenario, Kyra beat the villain on the last turn by making a 10 combat check on 2d6+2.

Seoni just rolled 1's on two successive d12 rolls. I should have learned by now...

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

The hardest part about the game is dragging things from one place to another. Trying to get Merisiel and Kyra into the character grid to start Brigandoom took many tries. But that might just be my wife's old Galaxy Tab 2. I thought it would be slow as dirt, but it's way better than Hearthstone was (which was: unplayable). I will have to try more of it later on.


Keith Richmond wrote:

I did not notice any problem with the dice randomness over dozens of scenarios. When I had access to debug mode, I sometimes ran the same encounter over and over and over, and it seemed fine. Random, of course. Horribly random. But random.

Of course, bugs can always happen, so it is possible things have gotten worse since then. You can always just track your rolls for a couple scenarios (all of them) and look for problems that way.

Er, that doesn't work. You'd have to track your rolls for at least a few thousands if not tens of thousands of rolls to even remotely attempt to say the randomness is broken or not.

People's heads are just not very random at all and they wouldn't be able to recognize randomness.

Pathfinder ACG Developer

Not really. People remember the outliers, especially the outliers against them. And a few scenarios has a few hundred rolls, which is plenty for a non-scientific analysis. You can also collaborate on it with others to gather more date if you really think you're onto something (though beware of recording results that favor outliers).

It wouldn't take that many to the contrary to show that it's not explicitly out to get them all the time. (Or that it is)

It's entirely possible that it's not as perfectly random as a perfect die, but neither physical dice nor computers tend to be perfectly random. As long as they're close enough and not weighted specifically for or against you at particular moments, then it doesn't matter.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I compute the average result before each roll as a quick way to estimate the likelihood of success / whether I need to find a way to add more dice. Based on playing through several hundred rolls that way I have not noticed any lack of randomness. Results usually come in near the average and outliers above and below occur with roughly equal frequency.


JGray wrote:
Is quest mode hanging in the load screen for anyone else?

Yup


elcoderdude wrote:

Does anyone think the dice roll much more poorly than they do in real life?

I've learned to always add to an important check. Think you can roll a 3 on a d12? Don't assume that.

I just nearly killed Harsk when Lini rolled an 8 against a Slashing Blade with 3d6 + d4 + 1.

I admit that I remember the bad rolls more than the good ones. In my first scenario, Kyra beat the villain on the last turn by making a 10 combat check on 2d6+2.

Maybe these dice are actually more mathematically random than your actual physical dice (which might actually be better than you assume).

Grand Lodge

I'm agreeing with the most recent posts. I'm getting a disproportionate number of 1's and 2's. No, I haven't tracked them but it's gotten to the point I show others as a joke to witness my rolls. When I buffer the rolls with two Blessings it knocks it out of the park. When I don't the results are consistently on the lower third of the number range. When something to the equivalent of rolling a 2d12, 2d6, with a (+4) and hope I make the 10 combat check (which most of the time I don't) is past silly. It's getting me to the point of putting the game aside. I couldn't wait for the game to release and binge played it for a week. Now I play it during a commercial or something because I know I'll fail the scenario, again. I've lost count after my 12th attempt to finish Approach to Thistletop which comes on the heels of similar play experience with the previous scenarios. I would strongly suggest (hope) the designers look at the coding. We - not I, as I'm not alone - think there is an issue.

Edit: also, the modifiers aren't correct when I use a magic weapon. The paladin with a +2 melee bonus and using a +1 weapon shows a modifier of +1 and not +3. Also, when I reveal/discard to set up a combat/check die roll, but then change my mind and tap the "X" to cancel it I've had cards disappear and the dice not being correct when I try a new option (for example, choosing a weapon or spell for the Druid, then backing it out for shape change I don't get a d10. It stays as a d4 and I lose the card I discarded. I try to back out and reapply the same option again hoping it'll correct itself. Closing the app and opening doesn't reset/correct it.)

Edit-edit: I have an iPad Air 2. I'm not experiencing the hang up issues posted by others. I did the quest hang up issue but the workaround is in the Obsidian Entertainment tech forum as a known issue being worked.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Rene Ayala wrote:
Edit: also, the modifiers aren't correct when I use a magic weapon. The paladin with a +2 melee bonus and using a +1 weapon shows a modifier of +1 and not +3.

Any chance you were at the Waterfront and didn't pay attention?

As for the dice, we've discovered something of a rule on the d12:

If you fail on 1-3, you might chance a roll (though you'll probably fail).
If you only fail on 1 - throw those Blessings in right away!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I haven't noticed that the dice rolling is anything but random. I roll good, I roll bad. I'm actually somewhat risky with the blessings since I like to use them to explore, I cut it kind of mathematically close most of the time and end up on the winning end more than not.

Grand Lodge

hfm wrote:
I haven't noticed that the dice rolling is anything but random. I roll good, I roll bad. I'm actually somewhat risky with the blessings since I like to use them to explore, I cut it kind of mathematically close most of the time and end up on the winning end more than not.

wanna swap tablets? Mine must be broke or yours is lucky.

Grand Lodge

Longshot11 wrote:
Rene Ayala wrote:
Edit: also, the modifiers aren't correct when I use a magic weapon. The paladin with a +2 melee bonus and using a +1 weapon shows a modifier of +1 and not +3.

Any chance you were at the Waterfront and didn't pay attention?

As for the dice, we've discovered something of a rule on the d12:

If you fail on 1-3, you might chance a roll (though you'll probably fail).
If you only fail on 1 - throw those Blessings in right away!

Nope.

Pathfinder ACG Developer

Any idea which weapon you were using?


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

In programming there is no such thing as a truly random number. Everything has to be seeded with something and you can make it a really huge number with tons of values like the date and time out to the millionth of a second but even then it isn't truly random but just seems that way. That isn't to say the developers can't or shouldn't do something if there is an issue. Another option is going kind of against using a tablet but to roll your own dice and input the result. The app can still tell you how many of which kind of dice to roll and then the user can input the roll results. Obviously there should an option of which way the user wants to go by either inputting the result or rolling the dice on the screen. This will allow any skeptics to use their own dice if they don't trust the app rolling the dice. This will allow for cheating but then you are just hurting yourself anyways and you can cheat in the card game with rolls as well so I don't see it taking anything away from that standpoint. But Keith is correct where people mostly remember negative outliers more than anything even positive outliers. To be able to tell if anything is random enough you will have to do hundreds of rolls in different situations to see if there is a pattern or not. Unfortunately a handful of results isn't enough results to make that determination.

Grand Lodge

Update: finally, finally - finally got past Thistletop. The next scenario has great cut-aways (is that what they're called) immersing you in the story a lot more. Now I'm bummed I passed that so quickly because the minions were on the top of the deck in most locations and I hit the big boss to know where it retreated.

Yeah I know, in regard to my earlier post I fall under the phrase, "give a gamer a free donut and he'll complain there's a hole in it."

Grand Lodge

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Having a blast with Hook Mountain Massacre. The Black Magga scenario is freaking awesome!!


Any word on whether this will ever come out of for iPhone?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
KSF wrote:
Any word on whether this will ever come out of for iPhone?

http://forums.obsidian.net/blog/8/entry-194-patch-1037-and-new-features/


Longshot11 wrote:
KSF wrote:
Any word on whether this will ever come out of for iPhone?
http://forums.obsidian.net/blog/8/entry-194-patch-1037-and-new-features/

Thanks!

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