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Live Through This

Goblinworks has regularly scheduled briefings where each team shares their work with the others and with Paizo, so that we're all working from a common set of assumptions. I've asked that the notes from those meetings be consolidated so that we can start putting that information into a pipeline that gets it into your hands as well! Of course, not everything we talk about can or should go into circulation, as much of it is too theoretical at this point to be actionable; rather than burden the system with a lot of FAQs about stuff that may never happen, we'll try to limit this flow of info to the content that seems likely to move forward in terms of development.

Recently, game designers Lee Hammock and Stephen Cheney gave a presentation on some of the NPC factions that we're going to be highlighting from the inception of Pathfinder Online.

There are a number of factions in Golarion with an interest in the River Kingdoms, and more specifically the area around the Crusader Road; these include the Hellknights and the Knights of Iomedae. In addition to these large international factions, there are smaller local groups, like the Bandits of the Echo Wood and the Daggermark Assassins Guild—groups that are far smaller, but can still be effective in local matters. We intend to include these groups in Pathfinder Online through a system we call alliances.

Each of these groups or factions is considered an alliance. Players can earn their way into the good graces of an alliance or even join it, getting benefits like special training, equipment, etc. Alliances can also provide benefits to settlements, such as special buildings or guard upgrades.

We Take Care of Our Own

For now, the design team is using the term "alliance" to refer to an NPC faction that players can expect to interact with on a level beyond simple combat. In other words, there might be gangs and tribes and cults, but they're mostly just opponents to be slain. Alliances are a deeper and richer vein of content that will help shape our sandbox.

Alliances in Pathfinder Online

Alliances are going to be a major system. Players will be able to join them, access special items, add special buildings to their settlements, etc., but these alliances are not going to be the core of the story. While they will be involved in some escalation cycles (i.e., monster spawn and quest sets that tell a story over time in a specific hex, such as a hex that has been infiltrated by a goblin tribe), they will not be the primary drivers of the story in Pathfinder Online; we want that to be the players. Alliances will provide resources and goals for players to pursue, but they will not be shaping the overall environment outside of the NPC settlements they control. Alliances are for color and story, not to take the limelight away from the players.

Alliance Mechanics

Each alliance could be a major alliance, a minor alliance, or a local group.

  • Major alliances are international groups with vast resources that have a vested interest in the River Kingdoms, such as Hellknights. Major alliances will have significant gameplay elements like distinctive armor and special settlement upgrades.
  • Minor alliances are primarily nation-specific groups that have little interest in the River Kingdoms, such as the Gray Gardeners or the Technic League (both of which border the River Kingdoms but have limited interest in it). Minor alliances will have moderate gameplay elements such as signature clothes and armor or weapons.
  • Local groups call some portion of the River Kingdoms their home, such as the Denizens of the Echo Wood, The Black Eagles of Lambreth, or the Daggermark Assassins Guild. Local groups will have limited gameplay elements: usually a single weapon or piece of clothing or armor.

All PCs have both a rank and a rating with each alliance. The PC's rank is their status with the alliance, while the rating is a more fluid pool of points that must be raised to increase in rank, similar to the relationship between level and experience points in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. As players assist an alliance by completing quests for it or killing its enemies, they gain rating with that alliance and, when their rating has reached certain thresholds, they advance in rank. New ranks allow the character to use special alliance items, train in special alliance abilities, etc. If a player works against an alliance or aids its enemies, their rating with that alliance decreases, decreasing rank when certain thresholds are met. Each alliance has one or more enemy alliance, and if you help one alliance, you lose points with its enemies. You cannot be friends with everyone (and if you're friends with the Cult of Lamashtu, no one else will like you).

Players begin with Rank 1 (neutral) and 0 rating with all alliances, meaning the player will not be killed on sight but will not be welcomed by any given alliance unless another force is involved, such as poor reputation. If a player helps a given alliance, in time they will increase to rank 1, at which point the alliance is friendly to them. On the other hand, if the player works against the alliance, they will become rank 0 and will be attacked on sight by NPCs of that alliance, and may appear as an enemy to other PCs of that alliance.

Players can choose to join a single alliance that they have gained rank 2 with. The player gains access to a title for that alliance and can continue to earn rating and more ranks with the alliance. If you do not actively join an alliance, you cannot advance beyond rank 2, and you can only join one alliance. Advancing your alliance beyond rank 2 is how you access that alliance's special equipment, skills, etc.

You may choose to leave an alliance at any time, or you may be automatically forced out if your alignment is more than one step from the alliance's alignment.

  • If you choose to leave an alliance on good terms, or are forced out, your rank is reduced to 2 and your rating is reduced to be in the middle of the range for rank 2.
  • If you choose to betray your alliance, you immediately go to rank 0 and a negative rating with the alliance you are leaving, but gain half your old rating with a new alliance (that must be selected from your old alliance's enemies and with whom you must be within one alignment step of). You gain a trait, Betrayer, which means you can be killed by members of your old alliance without repercussion in terms of reputation or alignment for a period of time.

Any special gear or skills you learn from an alliance cannot be used if you no longer meet the requirements for getting that item or skill in the first place. This is to stop people from joining every alliance, getting the gear they want, and then moving on. That's not behavior we want to encourage.

Settlements and Alliances

Settlements also have ranks and ratings with alliances (except with local groups, as they do not have enough influence to really support settlements). The alliance rating for a settlement is based on the alliance ratings of all members of that settlement, so if some members of your settlement are working against an alliance the settlement hopes to join, you should go talk to those guys. As the settlement's rating increases, the settlement's rank with the alliance increases as well, unlocking buildings that allow special gear to be made, special training options, and guard upgrades for the settlement. As with a player, a settlement can only join one alliance and advance its rank beyond 2.

When determining if an NPC of an alliance is hostile to a player, the rating of the player's settlement is combined with their personal rating to see if the NPC is hostile… so even if an alliance likes you, if your settlement has done terrible things to them, they may still attack.

If a settlement falls out of being within one alignment step of an alliance it has joined, all buildings in that settlement that require an alliance stop working and all upgrades related to it are lost, but it still costs money for upkeep. If a settlement willingly leaves an alliance, the same thing happens. There is no option for a settlement betraying an alliance.

Selection of Alliances

As play begins, we're going to have a limited number of alliances in the game, concentrating on a smaller number to make sure they get proper resources and attention rather than spread ourselves too thin on a wider number of alliances. For now, we think the initial spread will probably look something like this:

  • Hellknights (Major Alliance—LN—controls Fort Inevitable)
  • Knights of Iomedae (Major Alliance—LG—controls Fort Riverwatch)
  • Pathfinder Society (Major Alliance—N)
  • Denizens of the Echo Wood (Local Group—CN)
  • Various Local Groups in Thornkeep

The Battle of Evermore

We are pushing to get the Technology Demo video in the hands of the Kickstarter backers this week. Art Director Mike Hines has created a 6-minute sequence that takes us through each area of the demo and shows off the characters and the environments. That will be the centerpiece of our efforts, and it's the part that we think everyone is most anxious to see.

In addition, we're recording interviews with the team about their various contributions and workflow—we think a lot of folks are interested to learn a bit about how these games are made and what motivates the people who make them.

And we're assembling some additional "making of" bits to show how we transform a character from a painting by Wayne Reynolds into a living, breathing 3D character. We're also going to give you a glimpse at how the environment takes shape from a concept sketch through to a fully lit and textured space ready for adventure!

As soon as we're ready to begin releasing those videos, you'll get notifications on Kickstarter as a backer-only update!

Discuss this blog on paizo.com.