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Introducing the Crusader Road

Welcome to our second development blog! This material builds on our last blog, where we revealed that the plan for Pathfinder Online is to start with a small player population and limit growth for the first seven months after release to allow the game's social, political, economic and territorial systems to emerge effectively from player interaction.

Today, we're going to talk about the geographic area that will be featured at launch. (Of course, the game's geography—just like the other game systems—will expand over time.) We selected our initial area because it gives the design a sturdy framework to build interesting content on.

To our right is the map of the Inner Sea Region of the planet Golarion, the setting for most Pathfinder products. The red rectangle highlights the River Kingdoms area, home to Pathfinder Online. Just to the north of the River Kingdoms is the Worldwound, a rift through which chaotic evil forces are attempting to enter the world and establish a demonic domain.

Let's zoom in on the River Kingdoms region:

That red rectangle in the northwest highlights the Crusader Road area, our focus for launch.

This area is roughly 11 miles wide and 12 miles tall—about 133 square miles. It contains part of the Echo Wood to the east and is bordered on the west by the West Sellen River. The zone includes the currently abandoned town of Mosswater.

We'll divide this area into 256 hexes—the fundamental territorial unit of Pathfinder Online. The game's underlying technical architecture will likely encapsulate each hex in its own process similar to the way EVE Online manages systems. (This is extremely preliminary thinking; our final choice of middleware may dictate a different underlying architecture, but the logical division of the territory into hexes from the player perspective is the intended design.) To the right is the map of the Crusader Road area with the hex grid overlaid. Hexes that will be primarily forest are green; river hexes are filled with blue.

Let me give you a little perspective on how large this place really is: Below is a similarly scaled map of Philadephia, PA—a city with an area of 134 square miles that supports a real-world population of more than 1.5 million people.


View Larger Map

Even though the Crusader Road is just a tiny part of the River Kingdoms, which in turn is just a small part of the Inner Sea Region, which in turn is just a small part of Golarion, that red rectangle is plenty big. And for a world where horses are the primary means of transportation, crossing this map is a pretty significant journey.

The Crusader Road

An endless stream of adventurers travels the Sellen River to confront the demonic menace at the Worldwound. And just as with Earth's historic crusades, a large number of other folks travel with them: camp followers, traders, thieves. However, there's a problem: an unknown factor has increased the monstrous activity in Mosswater such that it now threatens safety along the Sellen, and the river is impassable near the former town. Crusaders and their fellow travelers have to make an overland detour into the River Kingdoms, creating a constantly shifting population of transients along with more permanent residents who establish services to support the northward migration. Thus, this area has become a rich source of trade, conflict and territorial disputes.

The northern portion of the area is overseen by the righteous and lawful Knights of Iomedae, operating from a stronghold known as Fort Riverwatch. The southern approach is guarded by the ruthless Hellknights, enforcing their rule from Fort Inevitable. And from within the depths of the Echo Wood, a wretched hive of scum and villainy exerts control over much of the forest.

Between these three NPC factions are vast expanses of wilderness claimed by no power, ripe for development by those capable of taking and holding the land against the forces arrayed in opposition to them.

A variety of creatures live in this area. The wilderness is home to tribes of monstrous humanoids, and all manner of magical beasts make lairs in the forest. Undead infest ruins and graveyards. Below the surface lie unending caverns guarded by aberrations. And a few dragons are known to live in seclusion, sleeping on huge mounds of treasure.

To master these lands, players will need to harvest and make use of a wide variety of resources: cutting timber, mining ore, skinning hides, and gathering crops. These resources will need to be processed into materials that in turn can be crafted to create the weapons, vehicles, structures, and consumables that form the heart of the economic system. Combined with rare and exotic materials recovered by explorers who dare to confront the monsters and opposing players in the wilderness, all manner of gear both magical and mundane will circulate within the economy.

Exploration, Development, Adventure and Domination

On the front page of goblinworks.com, we said "Pathfinder Online is a hybrid sandbox/theme park-style MMO where characters explore, develop, find adventure and dominate a wilderness frontier in a land of sword and sorcery." Those four actions—Exploration, Development, Adventure, and Domination—are the key elements of our game design, and we'll be referencing them a lot in future blogs. We expect characters to develop a focus on at least one of those elements, and the Crusader Road area gives us great hooks to build challenging content for all four of these foci.

Start Making Your Mark on the World Today!

What happens in the River Kingdoms will be up to you—starting right now! We mentioned that there's "a wretched hive of scum and villainy" in the depths of the Echo Wood... and it needs a name. Visit this thread on the Pathfinder Online messageboards on paizo.com and vote for the one you like the most. We'll announce the winning name on the January 18 blog!

Discuss this blog on paizo.com.