James Jacob's Rulings


Pathfinder Society


Are James Jacobs' forum posts valid for Pathfinder Society. Version 7.0 of the guide states:

Page 35 wrote:
If a particular issue comes up repeatedly or causes a significant problem in one of your games, please raise any questions or concerns on the Pathfinder Society Messageboards at paizo.com/pathfindersociety, and the campaign management staff or the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game development team will work to provide you with an answer to avoid confusion in the future.

This makes it seems like James' posts are valid rulings, as he is a member of the development team. However, he's not on the design team and he personally admits he's not a rules guy.

Does anyone have a source of him or someone else saying hist posts shouldn't taken to be rules?

Liberty's Edge 5/5 Venture-Agent, United Kingdom—England—Chester aka Paz

In general, that paragraph refers more to the PFS team (past and present) and the Pathfinder Design Team.

James's posts tend to be more 'I'm not a rules guy, but...' so probably don't apply. The exceptions are elements of Golarion lore (e.g. Aasimar age at the same rate as humans) and maybe older posts, when Paizo people tended to involve themselves in other aspects on the boards (as the teams in question were smaller back then).

Do you have specific examples that you're referring to?

Sovereign Court 2/5 RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

It's very messy, but I believe that at the moment, (1) errata, (2) the FAQs, (3) the campaign clarification document, (4) the organized play guide, (5) the additional resources document which includes stealth errata, and (6) any number of forum posts all count as official rules sources, even where they contradict one another. I'm not sure how all GMs are expected to keep track of all of that.

4/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

James Jacob's posts are equivalent to table GM rulings, unless they are about Golarion-specific world content. He is not part of the PDT.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Which is how he likes it. :-)

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

I think you can take them as A valid ruling but not THE valid ruling?

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

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I don't think its fair to say he's not part of the deign team just because of how his position is listed on the staff roster. IMO, "creative director" is a pretty powerful position. Sure, by his own words, he is not a "rules guy" but he does play in campaigns run by and including official members of both the design and development teams. As a member of the Paizo staff, he is in position to have face-to-face conversations with them and be involved, at least tacitly, in the discussions. IMHO, it is wrong to discount the contributions of any of the staff even if they are speaking out of their "specialty." His words may not carry the weight of an official FAQ, but they usually provide insight into the RAI.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

As he has not been called out as a developer or member of the PFS campaign staff, his comments on the rules should not be considered binding.
In situations where there are no rules or official clarifications about the subject, going with his suggestions is a perfectly valid way to resolve ambiguities and GM calls.


Steven, when you say "not called out as a developer", what are you referring to? Is there a specific list of developers not part of the campaign staff? I've always assumed that SKR's forum rulings are (and JJ's aren't) legal for PFS, but SKR is not part of the campaign staff either.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

It depends on what you think "designer" and "developer" means. I've always considered the designers to be the ones creating the rules and cannon that serves as the framework for the game system and world of Golarion. The developers are the ones who create, edit, and modify the modules and scenarios that function within that framework. Course there is A LOT of overlap because Paizo does not limit one's activities to their title. Some developers also write sourcebooks. Some designers also write modules. Hell, staff not involved in related departments (customer service, art, etc.) have created published material.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

jmclaus wrote:
Steven, when you say "not called out as a developer", what are you referring to? Is there a specific list of developers not part of the campaign staff? I've always assumed that SKR's forum rulings are (and JJ's aren't) legal for PFS, but SKR is not part of the campaign staff either.

The contact list shows peoples positions but doesn't really explain them. As Bob said, there is a lot of overlap. SKR was formerly on the design team and so his rulings at the time remain until new ruling override them.


Jacobs' off the cuff rulings were called out as not being official a loooong time ago. That's why he generally asks that people don't ask him rules questions in his "Ask Me" thread any more, because a lot of people were taking his "This is how I'd run this" comments as Word of God.

In a broader sense, the PDT has clarified that forum posts are NEVER meant to be taken as official ruling, no matter who they're from. Only official FAQ and Errata count as rules.

I'm fairly certain this is not changed for PFS, though GMs are allowed (encouraged?) to use forum posts as a guideline for intent when dealing with ambiguous rules.


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James isn't on the design team. His rulings don't have the same weight. On the other hand, he does work with everybody and he hears a lot of rules discussion. I'd rate his rulings higher than Joe-the-GM. When there's nothing more official, I'd tend to go with James' ideas until it is clarified.

Plus, his initials are alliterative. This means that he's secretly a superhero. Don't let his mild-mannered "not a rules guy" alter ego fool you. When night falls, he becomes the Rules Judge.

Paizo Employee 5/5 Designer

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Bob Jonquet wrote:
It depends on what you think "designer" and "developer" means. I've always considered the designers to be the ones creating the rules and cannon that serves as the framework for the game system and world of Golarion. The developers are the ones who create, edit, and modify the modules and scenarios that function within that framework. Course there is A LOT of overlap because Paizo does not limit one's activities to their title. Some developers also write sourcebooks. Some designers also write modules. Hell, staff not involved in related departments (customer service, art, etc.) have created published material.

Helpful lingo clarification:

Designer-The Pathfinder RPG design team (the guide typoed the name as the Pathfinder RPG development team, making it harder to discern this) has designers. Designers work on the fundamental underlying rules of the system and work on the Pathfinder RPG line books (the hardcovers that say "Pathfinder RPG" but not hardcovers that don't like ISWG or ISG). While we might be very familiar with Golarion (especially Jason, who created some regions), the Design Team doesn't really do stuff with Golarion directly day-to-day. The Design Team makes FAQs and rulings on the game's mechanics, but a few years ago, shortly before I joined, there's a policy that our personal posts aren't rulings, only a post using the account named "Pathfinder Design Team". This happened, as I recall, after it was difficult for Stephen to have a conversation about mounted combat because each time he asked questions or tried to talk about it, people were considering those posts as official clarifications.

Developer-Developers work on every other Pathfinder line except the RPG line, from PFS to campaign setting, from modules and APs to Player Companions. They have lots of Golarion stuff because their lines reference Golarion.

Freelancer-Freelancers write the original turnovers for most text before being developed. A designer or developer might also be a freelancer for any Paizo product, as an outside-of-work project, but this doesn't make them official arbiters of those rules (for instance, I wrote most of the archetypes in Familiar Folio as a freelancer, but Owen was the developer of that book).

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

Thanks Mark. Good stuff. So I assume "creative director" (James Jacobs) would be considered part of the development team since his focus seems to be Pathfinder canonical lore and Adventure Paths?

Paizo Employee 5/5 Designer

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Bob Jonquet wrote:
Thanks Mark. Good stuff. So I assume "creative director" (James Jacobs) would be considered part of the development team since his focus seems to be Pathfinder canonical lore and Adventure Paths?

Creative Director means that James is higher up than designers and developers and is more on a tier with Editor in Chief (Wes, who manages all developers and also editors via Sutter) or Lead Designer (Jason, who manages all designers), in that he answers to the Publisher, though he also isn't a manager. That said, while he's more likely to go to developer meetings than design meetings and his books are often APs, which developers like Rob, Adam, and Crystal also work on, James is a font of awesome world lore and gameplay/storytelling experience, which means that it also happens that we designers go ask James a question about things like in-world consequences of a new rules idea for our new book or other things about keeping a consistent and awesome story, since James always has a helpful perspective on those questions. He also is part of the final approvals process on the RPG line books where the higher-ups do a final read-through and make comments. TLDR, though, while it's more complex, it's closer to accurate than the reverse from my perspective. I'm sure James himself can give you a far better answer than I can though. Maybe ask him in his thread!

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

Thanks. Sounds like his comments, while they often contain self-limiting language, are just as meaningful (if not moreso) than those of a designer or developer. Which, IMO, means we should allot him no less importance than those comments provided by other staffers. Certainly they are just as valuable as anyone's when trying to parse ambiguity in the game. Although, I suppose one could adhere strictly to the idea that a rule is not a rule if it only exists in the forums as long as that ideal is applied to all staffers and not an exclusive group based on their position as stated in the contact list.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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Draws out the paizo development structure

Grumbles as an inter-dimensional rift is torn in the universe and swats at the Cthulhu tentacles emerging from it

That was the plan wasn't it?

Paizo Employee 5/5 Designer

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Bob Jonquet wrote:
Thanks. Sounds like his comments, while they often contain self-limiting language, are just as meaningful (if not moreso) than those of a designer or developer. Which, IMO, means we should allot him no less importance than those comments provided by other staffers. Certainly they are just as valuable as anyone's when trying to parse ambiguity in the game. Although, I suppose one could adhere strictly to the idea that a rule is not a rule if it only exists in the forums as long as that ideal is applied to all staffers and not an exclusive group based on their position as stated in the contact list.

It's up to each GM how you come to your decision on ambiguous rules, though I personally agree that giving weight to designers and James is helpful and have long used James's and Sean's (and other staff members but they mainly are the ones that posted) thoughts as one factor to help me decide, even before working here. It's not an official ruling, though, so don't feel constrained to make the same ruling if you don't agree with it. That goes for me too.

For instance, I very recently made some posts in a Rules Forum thread about air elementals, partly because the OP mentioned a PhD in physics being helpful as a joke, so I asked a player in my group with a PhD in physics to help me answer. I personally rule things the way I mentioned in that post, and I think the rules agree (and unexpectedly, physics did too), but I can see the way other people are trying to do it, and if you still want to rule it that way, my post isn't official cause to change your ruling in PFS.

Paizo Employee 5/5 Designer

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BigNorseWolf wrote:

Draws out the paizo development structure

Grumbles as an inter-dimensional rift is torn in the universe and swats at the Cthulhu tentacles emerging from it

That was the plan wasn't it?

Random interesting fact about the company structure: As best I can discern by building recursion trees in my head whenever we have whole company meetings, editors have a higher "managerial recursion depth" than any other employee at 4 (where Lisa, as CEO, is recursion depth 0).

3/5

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BigNorseWolf wrote:

Draws out the paizo development structure

Grumbles as an inter-dimensional rift is torn in the universe and swats at the Cthulhu tentacles emerging from it

That was Cosmo's plan wasn't it?

FTFY :)

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Steven Schopmeyer wrote:

As he has not been called out as a developer or member of the PFS campaign staff, his comments on the rules should not be considered binding.

In situations where there are no rules or official clarifications about the subject, going with his suggestions is a perfectly valid way to resolve ambiguities and GM calls.

Pretty much this.

The guide is referring to PFS campaign leadership team (currently Tonya, John, and Linda; previously Josh Frost, Hyrum Savage, Mark Moreland, and Mike Brock.)

While any post by Sean K Reynolds, Jason Buhlman, Logan Bonner, Stephen Radney McFarland, Mark Seifter, any other designer I forgot, and all the developers should certainly carry weight insofar as informing your own interpretation of a rule, they are not binding to PFS GMs. This includes James Jacobs.

If something is ambiguous, and James posts up an answer to that ambiguity, and there aren't any other posts contradicting what he's said, then as a GM it certainly is ok for you to use that post to inform your interpretation and subsequent ruling. But what he says is not necessarily binding on GMs.

5/5 Venture-Agent, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Azothath

I think generally people are just trying to be helpful and give some guidance. The game can be daunting, complex, and has some rather tricky bits and fiddly little rule interactions. (that was precise, wanna't it?)

I think it's unfair to burden someone with "Official" rule powers when they don't have that responsibility and it's not in their job description. Basically - You'd never hear from them.

hmmm... as a physics guy now I'm gonna have to go read that air elemental post!

5/5 Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East aka Pirate Rob

Andrew Christian wrote:

The guide is referring to PFS campaign leadership team (currently Tonya, John, and Linda; previously Josh Frost, Hyrum Savage, Mark Moreland, and Mike Brock.)

Don't forget Nicholas Logue!

Grand Lodge 2/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
jmclaus wrote:

Version 7.0 of the guide states:

Page 35 wrote:
If a particular issue comes up repeatedly or causes a significant problem in one of your games, please raise any questions or concerns on the Pathfinder Society Messageboards at paizo.com/pathfindersociety, and the campaign management staff or the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game development team will work to provide you with an answer to avoid confusion in the future.

Just rereading the thread, and it occurs to me; doesn't this wording imply that any "ruling" would need to be made in the PFS 'boards to be even considered? After all, GMs aren't meant to have to read every page to keep up, are they?


Darrell Impey UK wrote:
jmclaus wrote:

Version 7.0 of the guide states:

Page 35 wrote:
If a particular issue comes up repeatedly or causes a significant problem in one of your games, please raise any questions or concerns on the Pathfinder Society Messageboards at paizo.com/pathfindersociety, and the campaign management staff or the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game development team will work to provide you with an answer to avoid confusion in the future.
Just rereading the thread, and it occurs to me; doesn't this wording imply that any "ruling" would need to be made in the PFS 'boards to be even considered? After all, GMs aren't meant to have to read every page to keep up, are they?

From the tone of the posting I see, they'd better.

5/5 Venture-Agent, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Azothath

well - that's the problem, you can't read everything. Some have been overcome by events. Several years ago under Mike Brock there was an effort to consolidate the postings by staff in authority, Jiggy was a big help, so I'd assume that has been done. I'm sure they missed one or two but people have tried to save you that effort of rummaging around for rulings.

If you have slot zero games, it's a good idea to pick a topic beforehand and discuss it with your fellow GMs at the game. People can bring some relevant research from the threads. It beats waiting for it to pop up in a game.

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