Agents of Edgewatch Update

Monday, June 22, 2020

We at Paizo strive to represent our company’s values of inclusivity through the content of our Pathfinder and Starfinder publications. Showcasing diversity in the stories of the cultures, races, sexualities, and gender identities of our characters is something we’ve tried to emphasize since the company’s inception 18 years ago. As we wrote in our public statement earlier this month about the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s an ongoing and vital process.

The murder of George Floyd by police and the resulting political actions, increased visibility around issues of police brutality, and ongoing conversation about the role of policing in our society casts a difficult light upon Agents of Edgewatch, our upcoming Pathfinder Adventure Path in which players take on the roles of members of the city watch in a vast fantasy metropolis. As Paizo’s publisher, I want to take this opportunity to address the situation directly.

When we began work early last year on Agents of Edgewatch, we conceived of the adventures as a pseudo-Victorian crime drama in which a party of Sherlock Holmeses would bring a cult of sinister murderers to justice against the backdrop of a World’s Fair-style celebration in Absalom, the huge city at the center of the Pathfinder world. Along the way, we’d dabble in some buddy cop movie tropes and use the players’ role as new and idealistic town guards as a framing device for a tour of the city as they attempt to thwart the evil cult’s machinations.

In our heads, this was a classic detective story, not a chance for players to act out power fantasies of being militarized police officers oppressing citizens. As publisher, I was confident that we could steer well clear of egregious parallels to modern police violence and handle the material responsibly.

But there’s more to it than that. What I hadn't realized—no doubt a result of my own privilege—is that the very concept of police, the idea of in fact taking on the role of police, makes some members of the Paizo community deeply uncomfortable, no matter how deftly we might try to pull off the execution.

While I remain proud of the work we as a team have put into the Agents of Edgewatch campaign, and I believe that our writers, developers, and editors have ensured that the subject matter has been handled responsibly, I also believe that if we were making the decision about Adventure Path themes today, we would have chosen to go forward with a different idea, or a different take on a similar detective-story theme. For many of us here at Paizo, our understanding has evolved, not just of the horrible impact of police violence, but how some members of our community—especially those who are also members of the Black community—have not had the luxury of ignoring it.

To that end, I should acknowledge that some members of our staff did raise concerns about the campaign’s theme early on. In retrospect, I did not give these concerns the full audience that they deserved, and I regret this oversight. That’s part of the learning process, too.

I remain confident in our ability to create a campaign that lives up to our editorial and moral standards—even while acknowledging that we should have chosen a different approach for this Adventure Path. The events of the Agents of Edgewatch campaign assume empathic, heroic player characters who are there to serve their community. Groups who wish to play the campaign without taking on the role of city guards will be able to remove the law-enforcement element from the story without much work, instead telling the heroic tale of a band of local adventurers who take it upon themselves to rid the city of murderers and evil cultists. The free Agents of Edgewatch Player’s Guide (scheduled to release next week) will offer several suggestions on how to do this, as well as tips on how to utilize and adapt Pathfinder’s non-combat conflict-resolution mechanics as well as non-lethal combat rules when running the campaign.

I’d like to acknowledge the efforts of our editing team, who have been exemplary in helping us to eliminate unintentionally problematic elements, consult with sensitivity readers, and ensure that products come with detailed content warnings. The developers have likewise been striving to be more sensitive to these concerns. I hope that Agents of Edgewatch as a whole will display our ability to listen and present the subject matter respectfully. We will continue to strive to improve our sensitivity and ensure our adventure and plot elements remain firmly in the realm of fantasy.

While we cannot afford to cancel or delay the Adventure Path, we want to show our commitment to remedying our earlier choices through action. As we stated in a previous blog, we’ve contributed the Starfinder Core Rulebook to Humble Bundle’s Fight for Racial Justice charity fundraising campaign, which has already raised more than $3,700,000 for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Race Forward, and the Bail Project. Furthermore, Paizo will donate a portion of proceeds from all volumes of the Agents of Edgewatch Adventure Path sold through the end of 2021 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Lastly, next month, we’ll announce another major fundraising effort focused squarely on Paizo’s products, with charity proceeds to benefit Black-oriented charities. We hope you will join us in these efforts.

We remain committed to the ideals of inclusivity and racial justice. We will continue to listen and will strive to do better in the future.

Erik Mona
Publisher

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Tags: Paizo Pathfinder Adventure Path Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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28 people marked this as a favorite.

Good enough. I respect the admission that this was overall very tone-deaf to begin with. Thank you for the well-written statement.

Donating proceeds is about as much as I'd hoped for so - good job.

Silver Crusade

24 people marked this as a favorite.
Quote:
Furthermore, Paizo will donate a portion of proceeds from all volumes of the Agents of Edgewatch Adventure Path sold through the end of 2021 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Lastly, next month, we’ll announce another major fundraising effort focused squarely on Paizo’s products, with charity proceeds to benefit Black-oriented charities.

Good.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Good to hear.

I think a possible sign that the whole subject would be touchy, something that could have been noticed earlier on, is The Watch novels by Terry Pratchett.
They are formative material in fantasy police adventures, and they are rife with political sentiment, to the point of being a bit hammy some times – like 'Snuff'.

Hope it was really a learning experience, and the statement is appreciated.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Respect.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Kudos. While this was a campaign ideas I would have loved in the past, with recent events I couldn't find myself as interested. Thanks for acknowledging the potential issues.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

Very well done. Thanks

Shadow Lodge

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Yeeeaaahh, even though I trust the people at Paizo to make an adventure where you get to actually help out the community and protect people from getting killed by other people, this is too touchy a subject. I'm glad there are lots of other things I can try, though.


12 people marked this as a favorite.

The admission of fault goes a long way to ease my concerns, as well as taking the time to give the option to not be police and methods of non-lethal capturing of criminals, but most importantly putting your money where your mouth is, thanks for all the effort it is greatly appreciated.


19 people marked this as a favorite.

While I was excited for a campaign set entirely in Absalom, I knew none of my players would want to be cops, and I didn't really want to GM a group of cops, either. I'm heartened to hear those elements can be easily replaced, and that the option to do so is receiving support through the Player's Guide.

I respect the admission that you didn't listen to concerns from staff, but hope it means that moving forward you will listen more closely to those voices. I have a level of respect for Paizo that I do not hold for many companies, and not listening to staff's ethical/political concerns would put that at risk. That said, this type of genuine apology and clear plan about how to move forward goes a long way towards maintaining that respect. I hope to see this level of accountability and dedication to justice continue even as stories of protests and the importance of Black Lives fade from media attention.


42 people marked this as a favorite.

Erik,
Thank you. Deeply, and sincerely.
I cannot imagine there is a better way to handle where you are now, and I appreciate this post, and the actions that accompany it.

Sovereign Court

9 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Thanks for the statement!

I was looking forward to the AP, and still am, but definitely understand people's concerns. A lot of emphasis these days has been on addressing expectations and off-limits behavior at the start of a campaign, and I think Agents of Edgewatch warrants a thorough conversation about it.

A "no dirty cops" rule could be a great starting place, even if it would restrict a lot of potential RP possibilities. A "no evil cop" rule could likewise be a good rule, though a Lawful Evil cop could still technically be a by-the-book cop. But CE and NE could be definite problems (and CN for that matter). If the group can't agree on the morality of the game they'd like to play, and there are strong feelings about it, this would probably be a good one to skip.


90 people marked this as a favorite.

As someone who works in the criminal justice field as a counselor to justice-involved individuals, essentially clients who've been arrested for a multitude of reasons: from domestic violence, to larcenies, to police brutality, we need something like Agents of Edgewatch now more than ever.

There is a serious push for police reform, something that I've been championing ever since I took my job 4 years ago. In order for us to create a new & improved police force, we need to envision ourselves in that position. What should an officer or town guard do in certain situations? How do we determine if someone is guilty or innocent when all we have is a few minutes of interaction? At least through the eyes of our characters, we can see what works/doesn't work.

Maybe this adventure path will provide us with deeper insight into the situation, & we can have more of an appreciation for what needs to be done. I, personally, don't see anything to apologize for (you had no way of knowing), but I respect your humility.


14 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Thank you for this. When I first read about this AP the first image in my head was Sam Vimes from Discworld, but that isn't the image that many immediately saw when they read the announcement and it shows my privilege that my first thought was an idealized version of law enforcement from a fantasy book. It's hard to see your own blind spots, but we can address them when we're made aware and strive to do better in the future.

Sczarni

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Thank you vert much, I alwats trusted Paizo in that regard, but nice that you stated that for everyone to hear.
It´s very painful that we can´t play fantasy cops without having to feel guilty, but it´s not just our fault. This is a rather sad world.

Grand Lodge

22 people marked this as a favorite.

Thank you.

Because you admitted that these issues were addressed by staff previously but were primarily ignored or brushed aside, what steps will you be taking to stop that from happening again in the future?


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Yrrej86 wrote:

As someone who works in the criminal justice field as a counselor to justice-involved individuals, essentially clients who've been arrested for a multitude of reasons: from domestic violence, to larcenies, to police brutality, we need something like Agents of Edgewatch now more than ever.

There is a serious push for police reform, something that I've been championing ever since I took my job 4 years ago. In order for us to create a new & improved police force, we need to envision ourselves in that position. What should an officer or town guard do in certain situations? How do we determine if someone is guilty or innocent when all we have is a few minutes of interaction? At least through the eyes of our characters, we can see what works/doesn't work.

Maybe this adventure path will provide us with deeper insight into the situation, & we can have more of an appreciation for what needs to be done. I, personally, don't see anything to apologize for (you had no way of knowing), but I respect your humility.

I'm excited to play this AP for a lot of these reasons.

Thanks, Paizo, for making this statement. Looking forward to continuing to support you all and enjoying playing Pathfinder 2E. :)


16 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I am thoroughly impressed by this statement. Admission of fault, no deflecting, taking responsibility, and promising up workarounds for players and GM's, and also donating to worthwhile charities. I don't think I've ever seen one as... human and empathic as this come out of any company before. I'm so glad to see that you fulfilled the faith I've built up in this company.

Silver Crusade

26 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

That's probably the best way of getting out of a s*&@ty situation you folks found yourselves in sandwiched in between earnest desire to do some good art and entertainment, the need to keep the company afloat, some lapses in judgment and 2020 being 2020.

Pucker up, learn, live, move onwards.

Silver Crusade

11 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thank you for your clear statement, your acknowledgement of your own mistakes and for your clear action going forward.

There is a reason I feel comfortable voicing concerns in this community, it’s because Paizo as a company and the individuals within really do listen and try their best.

I feel comfortable enough to keep subscribing to the adventure path through Agents of Edgewatch.

I’m sure there are some people for whom this won’t be enough, and I hope folks in this community can accept that and give people who feel as such the ability to voice their feelings without judgement.

Let’s try and be excellent to each other.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I respect you owning up to the mistakes made, and sharing this with us.


16 people marked this as a favorite.

One thing I would like to see is in addition to the guidance in the Player's Guide, it would be appreciated if Paizo could offer volume by volume advice to GMs for "how to adjust things". It doesn't have to be a printed product, and it doesn't have to even be nicely formatted, it would just be a good gesture that you're not just going to leave it at "this statement, and the player's guide, then you're on your own."

Like I'm sure the authors of the various volumes have things that they would have done differently had they written the volume last week instead of whenever they did. So some insight on this would be welcomed.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Mad props Paizo. I was already happy with the work you've done so far and charitable efforts over the past few weeks, but this has me genuinely impressed. Think I'll get hardcovers and PDF's of Agents of Edgewatch now. :)


21 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

We love you very much Paizo. But you shouldn't need to feel like you have to censor yourselves, I'm sure the Adventure Path would have been great either ways. Having the chance to display law enforcement in a positive light as what it should be instead of furthering a divide shouldn't be seen as a bad thing.

Anyway I have been looking forward to playing Sherlock Holmes ever since you announced this AP, and I remain just as excited as ever.


14 people marked this as a favorite.
ThreeEyedSloth wrote:

Thank you.

Because you admitted that these issues were addressed by staff previously but were primarily ignored or brushed aside, what steps will you be taking to stop that from happening again in the future?

Seconding this, hard. It’s a killer apology to be sure, but knowing how this has meaningfully changed would go a long way to soothe some fears; it’s easy to just say sorry, y’know?


8 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

As someone who has been heavily critical of this AP and it's themes I really appreciate this statement.

Ultimately it has confirmed for me that I will not be getting this AP and it is what I feared (The Good Cops TM) but I am glad that they acknowledged why I feel like that, they admit they were at fault, that these mistakes came from a sense of privilege where they are only now being confronted with the true violent existence of the police and have shown clearly that they understand the problems both with the story and in their creation of the story.

I hope that this is a learning experience for them, especially in listening to their employees who they admit brought up these issues earlier in production. The clear apology and recognition of fault here does give me hope that they will.

Having said that I too will back up the earlier calls in this thread for a clear statement on what you are doing going forward to listen more to your staff and not dismiss their concerns


27 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Quote:
this was overall very tone-deaf to begin with

HARD disagree - city watch storylines are quintessential fantasy fare - but nonetheless, I'm happy this statement alleviates some folks' concerns and that the Player's Guide will explore alternative approaches.


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Well said Eric! You were given a lemon and made lemonade, kudos Art and society are funny bedfellows.

I hope Paizo can continue to tell stories that are steeped in Appendix D, while still maintaining a sensitivity to modern society.


18 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I hope everyone who is fired up and felt this blog was necessary plans to vote.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

It's great that Paizo is aware of the implications and is doing something to correct them. The choice to not play as agents of law enforcement is something that is totally warranted, and I'm glad to hear that they are doing their best to write a positive depiction of law enforcement. It is too easy to not pay enough attention to the kind of things player characters are inclined to do and end up with guards doing things they really shouldn't. That said, I feel I must voice a concern.

It's great that folks at Paizo are aware of how uncomfortable the concept of an Adventure Path centering around a police force really is, but I'm worried that Edgewatch won't be written with enough nuance. There's a happy median between "Angels with saps and manacles" and "Guards trained to carry out police brutality," and while I'm confident that the writers are able to reach that, I'm worried that they might overcorrect themselves and end up with an organization that can do no wrong. I'd rather have no Adventure Path than one lacking in subtlety, and writing Edgewatch too positively could lead to much the opposite problem where they seem to deny that law enforcement is capable of screwing up in the first place. I'd prefer an organization that is trying to do the right thing, but with some potential for hiccups. Maybe there's a bad egg here and there, or perhaps they handle a situation poorly, but they own up to it and do their best to correct the issue. This is a much more sensitive way to handle the problem, and it is also more engaging from a narrative perspective. If Paizo ends up going this route, I'm sure they will have to warn players ahead of time, but it would lead to a much more enjoyable adventure that also serves as a much better platform for players to explore these issues. I feel that this is more appropriate for the more mature form of D&D that Pathfinder is intended to be as a whole.

Grand Lodge

22 people marked this as a favorite.
Elorebaen wrote:
I hope everyone who is fired up and felt this blog was necessary plans to vote.

There, fixed that for you. :-D

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

29 people marked this as a favorite.
GM_3826 wrote:


It's great that folks at Paizo are aware of how uncomfortable the concept of an Adventure Path centering around a police force really is, but I'm worried that Edgewatch won't be written with enough nuance.

Without commenting on anything else you've said at this moment in time, I just want to note that Agents of Edgewatch was written over a year ago. The first two volumes are currently in shipping to our warehouse and printing production began months ago. For good or ill, any nuance, structure, etc. inherent to the adventure was decided and locked in long ago. I expect that when my volume releases I'll have more to say on the matter, but for now I think Erik's said things best and anything I might add regarding my particular contributions is best said in the context of the material.

Second Seekers (Roheas)

1 person marked this as a favorite.
keftiu wrote:
ThreeEyedSloth wrote:

Thank you.

Because you admitted that these issues were addressed by staff previously but were primarily ignored or brushed aside, what steps will you be taking to stop that from happening again in the future?

Seconding this, hard. It’s a killer apology to be sure, but knowing how this has meaningfully changed would go a long way to soothe some fears; it’s easy to just say sorry, y’know?

It strikes me that a greater diversity of voices is only valued if those voices are listened to when they raise issues.

I also am struck by how far afield of your mission statement these mission blurbs are. It feels very much like there's a disconnect somewhere even still.

I appreciate the gesture but this feels like a band aid. Band aids are fine if the underlying wounds are being treated.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Not really sure how you can't afford to cancel the AP product line, but you can disown it, which might drive sales down.

If I was a person who had been looking forward to this, I'm not sure how enthusiastic I'd be about wanting to buy a product that's viewed as tainted by the company that made it and disowned by its author.

I'll fully admit, this is my own personal morals talking, but I wouldn't put out a product I didn't believe in or thought was morally corrupt. I'm sure all the very concerned people in this thread would gladly throw money at you not to put it out.


Michael Sayre wrote:
GM_3826 wrote:


It's great that folks at Paizo are aware of how uncomfortable the concept of an Adventure Path centering around a police force really is, but I'm worried that Edgewatch won't be written with enough nuance.
Without commenting on anything else you've said at this moment in time, I just want to note that Agents of Edgewatch was written over a year ago. The first two volumes are currently in shipping to our warehouse and printing production began months ago. For good or ill, any nuance, structure, etc. inherent to the adventure was decided and locked in long ago. I expect that when my volume releases I'll have more to say on the matter, but for now I think Erik's said things best and anything I might add regarding my particular contributions is best said in the context of the material.

Mmm. I didn't fully understand the context. That's good to know. In that case, I agree that it's best to wait until the adventure has been released to comment on it if it had already been written long before recent controversies.

Silver Crusade

11 people marked this as a favorite.
Leon Aquilla wrote:

Not really sure how you can't afford to cancel the AP product line, but you can disown it, which might drive sales down.

If I was a person who had been looking forward to this, I'm not sure how enthusiastic I'd be about wanting to buy a product that's viewed as tainted by the company that made it and disowned by its author.

1) Paizo is a subscription based business, canceling one of their main subscriptions for 6 months might not have been something they could survive.

2) I wasn't enthusiastic for this AP when it was announced, but this blog and Sutter's statement haven't worsened my opinion, since in both cases they're trying to make things right.

Paizo Employee Developer

9 people marked this as a favorite.
Quote:
We remain committed to the ideals of inclusivity and racial justice. We will continue to listen and will strive to do better in the future.

There is no shame in wanting to do better. It is the best we can do, and that attitude of self-reflection and commitment to improvement is a sign of strength.

Every year I've seen an upward trend in encouraging creative non-violent conflict resolution and cultural inclusivity. Both the company and its employees continue to go the extra distance to make sure its customers come first, and this is no exception. Given Paizo's tradition of inclusivity it can be easy to take these steps for granted. But I want to use this post to express my gratitude that Paizo is developing additional pages of free content to provide us with a better product.

This has alleviated my personal concerns about this AP and I will continue my subscription to the Adventure Path line.


This is a mature and understandable decision to come to. While I personally think there is still room for fantastical police forces that represent what law enforcement *should be* while being critical of the current nature of such institutions (see Sir Terry Pratchett's Watch novels) such stories need to be made cautiously and with intent, and in an interactive medium like this it is very reasonable for people to feel uncomfortable with such content, particularly in times like this. The truth is that, regardless of any hypothetical ideal of what police "should" represent, Paizo and many of its fans reside in a nation where that institution is fundamentally flawed and violent, to the point where I myself probably wouldn't be comfortable playing a police character, even though I'm white (though I am disabled which is another risk multiplier for police violence).

I understand why a few people are concerned about this, but while I would be 100% fine with an AP exploring a police force if it was written with care and understanding regarding the issues surrounding real world police institutions, that's not what this is about. I'm not the kind of person who thinks all characters should be shiny paragons of justice, but the issue is if the *work* the police is doing is made to look 100% heroic there will be problems, and by their own admission that seems to be what this AP is doing.

Customer Service Representative

41 people marked this as a favorite.

Removed some posts and their replies.

This blog is meant to address an issue which is important to many members of our community. Paizo has already made a statement to stand in solidarity with individuals who have reason to be concerned about the themes in Agents of Edgewatch. Debating about whether this statement is necessary, or questioning the feelings of those who it speaks to, is harmfully dismissive to those community members. For the health of the discussion, I feel we should steer away from putting the question of value on people's concerns or whether the statement was necessary. This statement exists because we feel it was worth it to address these concerns. Please share this level of respect with everyone in the community.


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
PossibleCabbage wrote:
One thing I would like to see is in addition to the guidance in the Player's Guide, it would be appreciated if Paizo could offer volume by volume advice to GMs for "how to adjust things".

I'd find this useful as well.


28 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I am happy to see you guys so committed the BLM movement (Black Lives Do Matter, full stop), and willing to make socially conscious decisions. Overall statements like this (and the way the RPG products talk the talk) make me proud to support this company, and align with the work I try to do in my own life.

I am simultaneously concerned about the role of social movements in applying coercive pressure to achieve censorship of art and culture, speaking as a Librarian.

Our culture promotes authoritarianism in an endemic way that infects how we all wield power and pursue goals, and while that has manifested in obvious ways (reemergence of facist identification in mainstream discourse, demagogue promising to hurt the vulnerable, normalizing extreme right wing sentiments) it has also manifested in other ways - e.g. cancel culture.

The push to purge 'problematic' content is not something I'm comfortable with, instead we should strive to amplify content we believe in, content that advocates for racial justice and an end to police brutality.

I'd even go so far as to say that rather than an enemy to avoid humanizing, law enforcement should be interpreted as a battlefield, a front in an overall war for racial justice- by infiltrating police departments, and policy at the higher level, white supremacists have effectively been able to leverage them as a weapon that resists reform even as individual law enforcement are indoctrinated into compliance.

It's a microcosm of the rise of facism, where disengagement allows hate groups to take power and turn the apparatus of the system to their nefarious ends.

Silver Crusade

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Thank you for that post, if I am honest I am still kinda looking forward to that AP - mostly because some many people have quoted Terry Pratchett's novels talking about the potential implementation of that AP.

This is certainly an AP where I would have to make it damn clear about what kind of AP this is and what kind of stories I enjoy telling, evil characters and pseudo evil characters are usually not my cup of tea, but for this AP I really want a group of entirely good characters.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

thanks for the post and the sentiments therein....

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