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Put It in Writing

This week's development blog is a day early due to the US Independence Day holiday. Since the previous blog, we have added our first three full-time Goblinworks staff members: lead animator Michael Wallin and character artists Da Hsia and Stephen Minkin. We had a good kickoff meeting at Paizo to connect the Goblinworks art staff with the Paizo art staff, and Goblinworks will be making its first presentation of work in progress to Paizo this week. We're also busy preparing the presentation we'll be delivering at PaizoCon this weekend, which we'll also show off at Gen Con in August. If you'll be at either convention, look for the Pathfinder Online panel on the program schedule—we'd love to see you there!

In today's blog, we're focusing on the way groups of people define roles and responsibilities for characters' social organizations. Much of this topic involves high-level thinking about the needs of such groups, and as always, it is likely to change based on playtesting, community feedback and additional development.

Every group of people has a "social compact" that describes individuals' relationships to one another and to the community at large. Sometimes, as in the case of the US Constitution, this is a written document intended to be explicit in intent and limits. Other times, it's derived from tradition and ritual, like marriage. In the case of English common law, it's a combination of both. Formal social organizations in Pathfinder Online (chartered companies, settlements and kingdoms) are governed by an agreement called a charter.

The charter is created before the social organization has any members. Everyone who joins the organization must agree to the charter as a condition of membership. This ensures that everyone has the same understanding of what the group aims to do and how it will operate.

The Company You Keep

The most basic formal organization is the chartered company, which we detailed in LFG! (Looking for Group!).

Chartered companies have very basic charters. Forming a chartered company is a multi-step process that begins with the creation of a simple charter that triggers a vote by the members of an ad hoc party. The party leader initiates the voting process, and is responsible for setting up the charter. The charter sets forth the name the company will use, and its mission statement; these will become public information if the party is successful at forming a chartered company. If the vote for the charter is unanimous, the party enters an intermediate status; they have 24 hours to find a sponsor for their party before it becomes permanent. Sponsorship is granted by settlements, and there is an implied web of trust and responsibility between sponsors and companies. Parties will also be able to earn the right to have an NPC settlement sponsor them. Assuming sponsorship is arranged in time, the party converts from its intermediate status into a fully chartered company.

The leader of a chartered company can approve other characters for membership (or deny their applications). The leader receives communications addressed to the company. The leader can delegate the role to a subordinate. If the leader is the only member of a chartered company, the leader can disband it.

More complex organizations will be implemented through similar charters, with similar procedures and a similar user interface.

All Politics Are Local Politics

Player-run settlements are the centerpiece of the Pathfinder Online design; they also begin with a charter.

A character proposing a settlement must define several aspects of the settlement in its charter:

  • The settlement's name
  • The location of the settlement's hex
  • The settlement's alignment—characters must be within one alignment step* to join or remain a member of the settlement
  • The settlement's tax rate
  • Allocation of settlement votes:
    • Feudal: One character has all the votes
    • Oligarchy: A limited group of characters have votes as apportioned by the charter
    • Democracy: Every member of the settlement has an equal vote
  • The membership policy of the settlement
    • Open: New members are automatically approved for membership
    • Restricted: New members must be approved by a majority vote
    • Closed: New members must be approved by a unanimous vote
    • Approved: New members must be approved by a designated existing member

*An alignment step refers to the distance between any two alignments on the standard nine-space alignment grid.

Anyone invited to join the settlement can view these aspects of the charter. Many of these aspects can be changed if the members agree to do so in a vote.

Once the settlement charter has been created, a minimum of 10 characters must sign it. The settlement must begin with a fortress in a wilderness area; if any other parties have a fortress in the chosen hex, it will need to be destroyed. Once the party has successfully defended their own fortress for a specified amount of time (variable depending on factors affecting the hex), a fortress in the hex must be upgraded to a settlement building; this act formally establishes the settlement.


Many important events can trigger settlement votes, so the initial determination of who can vote, and how much weight those votes will have, is critical to understanding the dynamics of the settlement.

Types of Votes

  • Changing the settlement charter (including changes to the political structure or reapportionment of votes between members of the settlement)
  • Locking or unlocking* a valuable item or building
  • Disbursing funds from certain types of settlement accounts
  • Adding or removing a player character to or from the settlement
  • Sponsoring a chartered company (or ceasing sponsorship of one)
  • Changing the access permissions for a settlement

*This enables the organization to ward against the unwanted use or removal of key assets. It complicates their use, but also protects the members of the organization against unscrupulous actions—to some degree—depending on how voting power is concentrated in the organization.

The Voting Process

During the voting period, each eligible voter can cast one ballot. All eligible voters can see how many ballots have been cast, but not by whom or what the current vote totals are. The election is resolved after 24 hours (or after all votes are cast, if less than 24 hours).

  • Any character eligible to vote will receive notice that a vote has been called.
  • Any character eligible to vote will receive notice of the outcome of the vote, even if they didn't vote.
  • If the settlement charter requires the vote to be public, nonvoting members of the settlement will receive these notices as well.
  • If the terms of the vote require it, the election result will also indicate which members voted and how they cast their votes.


The tax rate of a settlement determines a percentage of each member's income that is automatically deducted and placed into the settlement's accounts. It is a critical part of the settlement economy. Members' income includes coin received by settlement members from contracts, quests and loot; settlement income includes coin paid as fees for the use of settlement buildings.

Tax Rates

The tax rate can be set anywhere from 0% to 100%. Settlements with 100% tax rates are assumed to have some internal mechanism for distributing property and coin to members. Settlements with 0% tax rates are assumed to have some internal mechanism for assessing membership for coin needed to pay operating costs and overhead of the settlement. Changing the tax rate requires a vote to change the settlement charter.

To Form a More Perfect Union

The player nation system, by which settlements can join together to form a larger organization, has a charter very similar to the settlement charter. A player nation does not need to mirror the political or tax structures of its constituent settlements, so the details of a player nation charter could be substantially different than those of their constituent settlements.

The political structure of a kingdom has the following options:

  • Democracy: Every player character member of the player nation has an equal vote
  • Executive: One settlement has all the votes
  • Federation: Each settlement has one vote
  • Star Chamber: A limited group of characters have votes as apportioned by the charter
  • Security Council: A limited group of settlements have votes as apportioned by the charter
  • Kingdom: One character has all the votes

No settlement with relationship standing of hostile to any existing settlement in the player nation can be admitted. Settlements must be within one alignment step of the alignment defined in the charter to join the player nation. The alignment of the player nation can never be changed.

On to PaizoCon!

We'll be attending PaizoCon this weekend to meet and greet the community. On Friday at 10:00 am in the Board Room, we're having a one-hour Pathfinder Online panel followed by a one-hour Q&A. We're looking forward to seeing you there!

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