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Blood on the Tracks

I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)

I feel like in the past six weeks, I have walked 500 miles and I have walked 500 more.

We asked for your help, and you delivered. Oh boy, did you deliver. In a come-from-behind victory of epic proportions, the Kickstarter for Pathfinder Online funded mid-afternoon on the last day, and then went beyond the goal and finished at almost $1.1 million.

I don't mean to haver, but the last week of the Kickstarter reduced us to a gibbering pool of goo. It seemed that we were jumping from one incentive to the next as fast as we could dream them up, roll them out, and then explain them to the community. By the last hour of the last day we were getting pretty incoherent. It's taken us a week or so to get our bearings and start laying the foundation for the next 18 months of work. Thanks to your help, we're now on track to begin Early Enrollment in the middle of 2014.

Last week we took stock of our success in a series of meetings to map out all the things we have promised and all the interconnections between content Goblinworks needs to produce, things Paizo needs to produce, and materials we're getting from third parties. That all has to be reduced to a manageable flowchart that can be used to make the fulfillment tool that you'll use to tell us how to allocate add-ons, indicate who should get various buddy or guild rewards, and deal with questions about increasing pledges and upping reward levels. Work on that tool is underway; we should be able to roll it out for your use relatively quickly.

I want to take a few moments to thank some people who need special recognition.

First is Reaper Miniatures for applying the paddles and shocking the campaign back to life in its first week when momentum dipped. They worked their mailing list on our behalf and created two cool metal Pathfinder Miniatures that we added to several rewards and add-ons in the final days.

Second is Erik Mona and the game development staff at Paizo Publishing, who stepped up big time with the Emerald Spire products and, in conjunction with WizKids, the Pathfinder Battles prepainted plastic miniatures. These gave us critical content to offer to backers that would give folks a tangible benefit for participating in the campaign long before the MMO will be ready to release. A special note of thanks goes to Jenny Bendel, who was dragooned into providing marketing, PR, and messaging support just days after joining Paizo's staff, and juggled our Kickstarter in with her marketing work for Paizo.

Third is Rich Baker, who came on board on a short-term contract to help me keep all the plates spinning as we dialed up the Kickstarter complexity to 11. Rich helped make sure that the crazy ideas that were being brainstormed got translated into concrete action. I'm super pleased to announce that Rich has joined us full-time and is going to be here for the duration, lending his decades of game design and publishing experience to our team.

I'd also like to thank the multitude of publishers that donated to the PDF Superpack, really making sure there was plenty of bang for your buck if you pledged at the crowdforger level: 0one Games, 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, Abandoned Arts Games, Above Average Creations, AdventureAWeek.com, Alluria Publishing, Clockwork Gnome Publishing, Conflict Games, Dragonwing Games, Dreamscarred Press, Drop Dead Studios, Ennead Games, Eridanus Books, Faceless Entertainment, Fat Goblin Games, Fear the Boot, Four Dollar Dungeons, Frog God Games, Game Room Creations, K2 Games, Kobold Press, Lee's Lore, Legendary Games, Lost Spheres Publishing, Louis Porter Jr. Design, Maps of Mastery, Pelgrane Press, Purple Duck Games, Raging Swan Press, Rising Phoenix Games, Rite Publishing, Roleplaying Tips, Savage Mojo, Shadowland Press, Solace Games, Thor's Gate, Tilquinith's Gaming Tools, Total Party Kill Games, Tricky Owlbear Publishing, Zaboom Press, Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, and Zombie Sky Press.

I also need to thank the all-stars committed to writing the Emerald Spire Superdungeon: Keith Baker, Rich Baker, Wolfgang Baur, Jason Bulmahn, Ed Greenwood, James Jacobs, Frank Mentzer, Erik Mona, Chris Pramas, Mark Rein•Hagen, F. Wesley Schneider, Michael A. Stackpole, Lisa Stevens, James L. Sutter, and Jordan Weisman. Each of them has a unique take on roleplaying design, and I cannot wait to see how they weave their ideas together. Those authors helped us spread the word of the Kickstarter to their own social networks and expanded the footprint of our awareness by several orders of magnitude.

Finally, I want to give a shout-out to all the fans who never said die, who kept the faith even as they faced skepticism from many directions. On the forums, on the Kickstarter comments thread, and on websites all over the internet, they put out fires, countered pessimism with optimism, and were incredible flag bearers for our project. You make me so proud my heart could just burst.

Over the last few blogs, we've been engaged in a lot of discussion about the Kickstarter, the game engine, and the process of organizing to make a game. We'd like to shift the conversation back toward the design philosophy of the game and a discussion of what your experience as a player is going to be like. So, as a big first step in that direction, designer Stephen Cheney has put together a great discussion of PvP and its consequences in Pathfinder Online.

The Consequences of PvP

This updates some content we've presented previously, reflecting a lot of feedback from the community, as well as our sense of how we want to shape the game design to achieve our goals. As always, this essay reflects the state of our thinking at the moment. Based on our efforts to implement these systems—and your feedback—we'll continue to refine and improve these plans throughout the development period.

Goal

In Pathfinder Online, Player vs. Player combat is meant to be the major source of conflict: Defending your resources from enemy players will be a bigger challenge than defending them against AI creatures. However, our goal is to provide a graduated list of risk factors for PvP. A player just exploring should be less at risk than a player gathering rare resources, who in turn should be less at risk than a player in a settlement at war.

This means that PvP includes potential consequences for all players involved, some of them quite strong. Our intent is to direct PvP to serve as an important threat to players attempting to get rich deep in the wilderness while channelling players away from random killing, and particularly away from killing newer players who are just out exploring.

To that end, there are a number of risks inherent in attacking a player with no provocation. These should ideally be strong enough that it's only worthwhile to make an unprovoked attack against another player when there is a large potential payoff. Even then, bandits might try to extort a target rather than making an immediate attack. Fine-tuning these systems will be an ongoing process with a goal of creating the desired level of risk versus reward for PvP.

Note that being at war adjusts a lot of the expectations of PvP, and those will be fully explained in a later discussion about war in PFO.

We are going to follow this blog in a week or so with a more detailed look at the bounty system, death curses, and other systems that interlock with the consequences of PvP.

Flags

There are several types of flags that can be placed on a player character, and these flags are often visible to all players who can see the flagged character. If the player has one of these flags, the consequences for attacking him or her are greatly reduced. A player can have multiple flags at once, and they last for different durations:

  • Attacker: A player that attacks another player character that is not fair game gains the Attacker flag. You can also gain this flag by assisting (buffing or healing) a character with the flag. This flag disappears shortly after leaving combat, but allows the victim and his or her allies to fight back without themselves suffering penalties. This flag is applied anywhere in the world, unless the target has one of these flags or is at war with your settlement.
  • Criminal: This flag is given to players that break a law established by the settlement that controls the hex they're in. This is likely to last for some time after taking the action. Illegal actions are declared via the settlement system by the players in charge, but often include murder (for example, killing a target in an unprovoked attack). You don't gain the flag for breaking a law in a settlement you're at war with.
  • Thief: Characters gain looting rights to NPCs and other players they defeat in combat. Looting rights unlock after about 5 minutes so that anyone can loot a corpse. Looting an unlocked husk that you did not originally have looting rights to will mark you as a Thief. This flag lasts for a decent length of time after the act.
  • Traitor/Betrayer: Leaving a player or NPC group after betraying them may result in a flag: Traitor for PC groups and Betrayer for NPC alliances. These flags last for quite some time to allow the player to be punished for whatever actions were taken against the previous member group.
  • Heinous: Certain incredibly evil actions (like raising undead or using slaves in a construction project) may briefly flag a character with the Heinous flag. These actions are universally considered wrong, and other players are not punished for attempting to stop another player from doing these things.
  • Trespasser: Entering a settlement city that has forbidden you entry (due to too low reputation or other mechanics) applies the Trespasser flag, which persists while you're in the area and briefly after leaving. This might also be applied for entering other areas where your simple entry is sufficient to allow you to be attacked and driven off.

When your character has been flagged in one of these ways, you're going to become a target. Other players who seek PvP with reduced consequences will engage you. Players who are roleplaying the guardians of a given area, or are of a certain ethos, or for any of a hundred other reasons they'll imagine, will run hot on your trail. Depending on the length of the flag and its type, you may find that you have become the content for a lot of other players.

The Most Dangerous Game

When players harvest resources far from civilization and then transport them home, they will be at an elevated risk of being engaged by hostile forces. They'll have to worry about monstrous creatures from the surrounding area, and they'll need to be especially worried about other players seeking to profit from their hard labor.

This creates a powerful game dynamic. Going out to get those resources is a pathway to wealth. But to succeed, you'll need help to protect your harvesting crew and your logistics and transport system. Folks who try to extract wealth without effective protection will likely find themselves beset on all sides by those who would forcefully take what they've harvested.

Ultimately, we feel that it should be pretty likely for players transporting valuable goods to be attacked by other players, with an increasingly likelihood as the value and distance they're transporting goods increases. The game economy will make getting into town with a big haul valuable precisely because there are people out there who want to take it from you: if you can get it to market, you get to charge a premium because of all the people that couldn't.

Deciding how much to carry, how many guards to bring, and whether to fight or try to flee when you see a bandit should be significant choices as a traveler. Conversely, player bandits should have to decide whether attacking just anyone is worth it, and whether it's better to make a surprise attack or actually try to extort goods from the traveler first (if they stand and deliver, it triggers none of the consequences).

If you're interested in PvP, this will be a way for you to constructively pursue that style of play without worrying about being condemned by the community for being a jerk, or facing significant mechanical penalties imposed by the game systems.

At the end of the day, if you're killing other players that are uninterested in PvP for no benefit, we want to make the costs significant enough to convince you to do something else, as that's the kind of thing that drives players away. However, if they know they have something valuable and fighting or fleeing from you is the price of profit, suddenly it's worthwhile for everyone. And those opportunities should be worth risking the consequences.

Discuss this blog on paizo.com.