Ronin Round Table: Pathfinder Update

Hey folks! I’m Owen K.C. Stephens, the newest member of the Green Ronin Staff, and the Pathfinder Developer. I was brought on to (among other things) help see the Pathfinder books for Freeport: City of Adventure and the new Advanced Bestiary through the writing, editing, and development process. I wanted to talk for a bit about where things are and some of the decisions made along the way.

The Freeport project is moving along well, considering its size. The entire text of Freeport: The City of Adventure is in editing, and we’ve begun to look at the process of laying it out. That means that all the classes, feats, archetypes, spells, items, monsters, NPC descriptions, backgrounds, and the new introductory adventure are written and in various stages of editing.

It also means most of the questions about updating Freeport to a broader set of Pathfinder rules have been answered. Do we need all the original classes from the old Freeport Companion: Pathfinder RPG Edition? (Nope.) Do we need any of them? (Yes! Three-and-a-half, to be specific.) How do the Freeport insanity rules interact with the standard Pathfinder madness rules? (They adapt to them, then replace them.) Are we using Freeport firearms, or Ultimate Combat firearms? (Both!) What is the role of ratfolk in Freeport? (No one much trusts them.)

When making these decisions, I had to think about how this book is likely to be used. Obviously, since we’re building it to work with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, it’s safe to assume anyone using Freeport: The City of Adventure has access to everything in the core rules. Equally it seems fair to assume a Gamemaster would have the Bestiary and Gamemastery Guide. But how far can I take that? Will everyone have the Advanced Player’s Guide? Ultimate Combat? Ultimate Magic?? Pirates of the Inner Sea? What about popular pirate-themed products from other companies? How many of our customers are already going to have Razor Coast?

A large part of the point of doing a revised and expanded version of this book was to take advantage of the breadth of new Pathfinder rules, so I didn’t want to be too limiting. On the other hand, I don’t want anyone to buy our core Freeport book, and feel like they can’t use it in their Pathfinder campaign because they don’t have enough rulebooks. In the end, I didn’t draw a hard line at any one rulebook, but I did make some general assumptions. While I kept options from books from other publishers in mind, we never reference anything not produced by either Paizo or Green Ronin. There are places, such as lists of available bonus feats for the freebooter class, where I just went ahead and listed options from the APG, UC, and UM and note what book they’re from. Yes, you’ll need those books (or access to one of the online rules repositories) to use all those feats, but the class itself still functions even if you don’t have all those sources.

The resultant framework is important, because everything and anything that comes after (from the Return to Freeport adventure series to potential follow-up books expanding the world of Freeport setting) now has an updated and consistent set of rules to work from. Not only will any future World of Freeport books assume you own Freeport: The City of Adventure, the approach I decided on for this book is the direction we’ll go for those future books. I think it strikes a solid balance between accessibility and options, but I will be very alert for any signs I need to adjust one way or the other when the first feedback starts to come in.

Advanced Bestiary, by comparison, has very few decisions of that sort to be made. If you have the core rules and the Pathfinder Bestiary, you have what you need to use it. Of course, since it’s a force multiplier, it makes every "monster book" you own for Pathfinder more useful, which is awesome. But while I haven’t had to worry about making the same kinds of accessibility decisions with Advanced Bestiary, it has a lot more moving parts. Each template is a collection of rules designed to change another collection of rules and produce a useable result every time. Just getting them written is only the start of the process, which has to include making sure they are consistent with existing rules and with each other, reality-checking the results when applied to multiple CRs worth of monsters, and actually getting at least some playtesting done. That’s all going well, but I foresee a lot more nights of staring at columns of numbers and options before the book passes out of my hands into layout.

As much work as it is, it’s also an exciting time for me. I’ve been a huge fan of both Pathfinder and Green Ronin for years, and have always loved working for both companies on a freelance basis. Getting to help mold the linchpins of Green Ronin’s line of books that mix those two elements is a thrill, and a responsibility I take seriously. I hope you all enjoy the end results as much as I am enjoying my part in creating them.

Owen K.C. Stephens
Pathfinder Developer
Green Ronin Publishing