The first interview I was able to negotiate at GenCon this year was with a representative for Paizo Publishing. Being the most popular role playing game there is to find at the moment I felt it was a good place to start. I asked Sean K. Reynolds for a few minutes of his time and we talked. Just as a little background, Sean has worked for TSR, Wizards of the Coast, Black Isle Studios, Upper Deck, and now o course Paizo Publishing. He has done a little bit of just about everything in the gaming industry from the video game side, to card games, and of course rpg design. He has his own personal site at www.seankreynolds.com and if you wish to learn more you can go there to find out.Now, before I continue I have to say that Sean is responsible for one of my most memorable GenCon moments of all time so this interview may come off as a little biased. I do play Pathfinder, and I am a fan of the game. I am also friends with Sean’s wife Jodi. As some of you might know I have a weight loss vlog called The Portly Paladin. I knew Jodi was a fan of my vlog, but didn’t know to what extent she had taken it until I arrived at GenCon last year, wanting to have Sean sign my copy of Ultimate Combat. As can be expected the throngs of fans rushed through the doors, hit the Paizo booth like a tidal wave, and Sean and the other developers were mobbed. I stood off to the side waiting until he was free to talk, and in the meantime I looked around at the Exhibitor’s Hall in awe. That’s when I heard from somewhere beside me… “Sorry, I just have to meet this guy over here real quick.” And then I got a tap on the shoulder. Sean K Reynolds, the person I was looking to get to sign my book wanted a picture with me. Melt a geek’s heart why don’t ya? Well, that’s my sappy story of meeting Sean, and now that I’ve done my due diligence explaining to you why I am biased, on to the actual interview.
The first question I wanted to ask Mr. Reynolds related to using Pathfinder to get new people into the game. At my local gaming store Pathfinder is without a doubt the most popular game we carry. Its popular because we use it as a gateway game to get people back into roleplaying or to try it for the very first time. So I asked, “Do you see this happening a lot?” His answer was a resounding yes. Its something they as a company have actually used as a driving line in what they do. Honestly, that is reflected very much in how they approach their game. You can see it in the use of Pathfinder Society Organized Play, with their development of the Beginner Box, and many more things that they produce. It is definitely something they aim to do and aim to continue doing in the future.
Next, I broached a subject brought to me from someone in the unofficial Paizo Chat. They wanted to know if Paizo as a company felt that a game had a natural life cycle. That if a game doesn’t continually strive to reinvent itself does it remain to be relevant? He responded with “I think the existence of old school rules, people still playing first edition, I think that kinda flies in the face of that.” He went on to explain that there is precedent of games lasting for fifty years and beyond with no changes in rules, citing Monopoly as his example. Moving into roleplaying games, he mentioned that it is in the very nature of game designers to want to continually tinker with a game which can lead to the rules eventually breaking down as more and more burden is laid upon the initial rules. Which in turn leads to the need to rebuild them from the ground up. The final stance though, is that no a game does not necessarily have a natural life cycle. This is something I can very strongly stand behind as I have been working my way through older editions of the world’s oldest roleplaying game and having just as much fun playing that as I am playing the brand new Dungeon Crawl Classics.
I wanted then to talk about Paizo’s work in non-traditional gaming related markets. There was a brand new comics line released at GenCon this year that takes Pathfinder into a new set of households, there was also mention of a team up with Steve Jackson Games to produce a Pathfinder flavored Munchkin set. This all added to a stable that already includes novels, toys, a massively multiplayer online game, and more. I really wanted to know how far they planned to take it. Sean assured me that they aren’t expanding without thought. Each and every avenue they choose to explore is chosen with care. As he says “Paizo’s focus is on quality product.” That they won’t make a product that they don’t feel has a positive impact on either the game or the Pathfinder community. That is something that I can appreciate as a consumer with a very thin wallet.
My wife was helping me to prep questions, and as a non-gamer she wanted me to ask of most of the companies “How would you sell your game to a non-gamer?” Sean had an interesting take on that conundrum. He of course mentioned the Beginner Box which is tailored specifically to that demographic, but he also mentioned that it won’t work for everyone. Because “…there are people who no matter what you do, aren’t going to want to game. Just like there are people who are never going to be football fans. And there are people who are going to be casual level fans, that don’t necessarily know that they are interested in football, or in gaming.” So he says the trick to that is to present a product that doesn’t aim in particular direction. Dropping the standard language and references and instead opting for a more generic feel to the descriptions and notations leads to a more homogenous feel to an entry level product. The visual aspect is important as well. For example you have very nice looking maps and pawns and tokens in the Beginner Box that really grab a new player and make them interested, as well as only introducing them to a much smaller amount of data in the beginning.
With Pathfinder Munchkin now visible on the horizon, will we ever actually get a chance to see a Pathfinder board game? I didn’t get a definite answer, but I did learn about a secret “Project Swallowtail.” Apparently it is a card game by Mike Selnicker that is a whole new way of playing Pathfinder. It’s not a collectable card game or even a trading card game. Its a pseudo board game type of experience using Pathfinder and its setting as a basis.
Because I wanted more than just basic product information, I decided to ask all of my interviews a few questions that leaned more toward their own personal experiences and lives. I asked Sean what his other hobbies were outside of gaming. He loves to play World of Warcraft and paint minis, as well as taking his wonderful wife Jodi to see movies. They also have an interesting person in their area there in Seattle who dresses like a punk rock Slash from Guns n Roses who they tend to see as they go out walking in their area.
The last question I asked of everyone was something I felt was completely imperative that I ask everyone I could at the con. “What makes you a Douchey DM?” Sean says he will not hesitate to shut down someone who is being a jerk at the table. In essence saying “…your character is on a timeout and I don’t care if that means you don’t get to make attack rolls…” That’s quite douchey sir, well done!
Ok, that was all for my interview with Sean K. Reynolds of Paizo Publishing. All in all Mr. Reynolds was a very gracious interview and I enjoyed my time talking to him about Paizo, Pathfinder, and himself. If you’d like to know more about Paizo and the products they have coming out, by all means visit their website at Paizo.com and be sure to read the blog posts that are chock full of fantastic news and new product information.