July 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of Paizo as well as the 15th anniversary of the world we now know as the Lost Omens campaign setting. In 2007, with the licenses for Dungeon and Dragon magazines set to expire, Paizo had to take some big risks to stay in business—risks that ultimately paid off. With a much smaller staff taking a stab at something new, Paizo released a series of short standalone adventures telling the tale of the rise (and fall) of the kobold king, Merlokrep, in the northern wilderness of Andoran. Over three adventures, Hollow’s Last Hope, Crown of the Kobold King, and Hungry Are the Dead, authors Jason Bulmahn, Tim Hitchcock, Nicolas Logue, and F. Wesley Schneider established the foundations for what would grow into the Lost Omens setting we continue to explore and expand today.
Paizo’s Director of Game Design, Jason Bulmahn, recounts:
Losing the magazines was a scary time at Paizo. Exciting, but scary. None of us really knew how things were going to shake out long-term, but we had a plan to carry on making Adventure Paths, something we were known for from the pages of Dungeon magazine. The only problem was that we only needed three people to make the Adventure Paths happen, and we had six folks on the editorial staff.
My job back then was to create everything else, from maps and cards to standalone adventures. And that is where Crown of the Kobold King came in. While the Rise of the Runelords was fleshing out Varisia, Mike McArtor, Jeremy Walker, and I worked to create Darkmoon Vale, a small wilderness area in which to set a couple of standalone adventures to get us started. Although Hollow’s Last Hope was technically first, it was a smaller adventure for Free RPG Day, and Crown was set to be our true premier.
We were lucky to get Nicolas Logue as our author. We were still putting together our styles, but Nick’s bombastic encounters made for a fun, exciting dungeon romp. This adventure would also serve as the very first step into a much bigger story. Around this time, we were picking up the pieces of some of our older products, looking for ideas to add to Golarion. One place we searched was the “Compleat Encounter” line of products. One of these was the Vault of the Whispering Tyrant, which introduced an important character to our world. In these very early days, although we knew little else about him, we decided that he was sealed away, kept at bay by three seal stones. One such stone was already broken, and its remains were under the dungeon of this adventure (you can see a hint for it in area 28, the Forsaken Tunnel).
Honestly, looking back at this adventure brings back memories of a Paizo long past, where we were all just scrappy kids making the stories that would come to define a world. I am excited to see this story polished up for a new generation of gamers!
To celebrate Paizo’s anniversary and 15 years of the setting we all love, Paizo is releasing a hardcover compilation of the Crown of the Kobold King saga, updated from its original 3.5e rules (this predates even Pathfinder first edition, after all) to Pathfinder Second Edition, and including a whole new chapter by original Kobold King scribe Nicolas Logue. The book’s lead developer, Creative Director James Jacobs, has the following to say about the process.
It took over half a decade to do it, but we got there eventually. Originally, we planned on doing a compilation of the Kobold King adventures in a big adventure to support first-edition Pathfinder at about halfway through that edition’s life cycle—that’s when I hired Nick Logue to write the “missing level” after all. But then, for various reasons, we didn’t move forward with the project and the final level just sat in limbo on my hard drive. Fast forward to 2021, when we were facing a lot of challenges with the standalone adventure line’s schedule and availability for folks to work on it. With the renewed look and interest on kobolds, it seemed like a good time to go back!
Combining the adventures together into one single adventure presented a few unusual challenges as well, beyond the known challenge of converting from 3.5 rules to Pathfinder Second Edition. Most significantly, the individual plots for the previously published adventures, which were meant to be stand-alone themselves, kind of clashed and didn’t work well together. It was sort of like having three different openings to the story. And so those plots got minimized, turned into background elements, or got written out/replaced entirely, and I focused more on what was itself a “background element” of the original adventures—the presence of one of the seals that helped keep the Whispering Tyrant imprisoned. At the time of the original publication, that plot was very much in the category of “teasing future potential stories” but didn’t have much to do with the main adventures. Today, that plotline is the most important one, and so I focused the revision on those events. In doing so, and in bringing in the final “lost level” that Nick wrote years ago, a brand new plot came into being—one that, for the first time, reveals where the Crown of the Kobold King came from, what it was for, and what might happen if King Merlokrep’s plans come to fruition!
A lot has changed in 15 years, but at its core, the same exciting adventures that launched Pathfinder are still as dangerous and engaging as ever. With fully updated art to reflect our reimagined Second Edition kobolds and the brand’s evolving visual style, the 128-page hardcover is sure to launch a new generation into an adventure-filled exploration of Golarion, or take old veterans back where they first began. Pick your copy up at your local game store or bookseller this fall, or preorder on paizo.com today.
Director of Brand Strategy
Happy Anniversary, Kobold King!
Wednesday July 13, 2022