Tabletop to Desktop: Making Wizards Work in Pathfinder Online

| 11 Apr 2013 19:50
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Greg Tito: Adaptation is hard. Are you attempting to deliver the "spirit" of the original Pathfinder game?

Ryan Dancey, CEO of Goblinworks: Yes, that's exactly what we're focusing on. The rules of D20 and the mechanics of the tabletop just aren't suited for the Online environment. But we can absolutely capture much of the "spirit" in the way we approach the design of the Online game.

Greg Tito: The recent post on the Pathfinder Online website on the magic system was fascinating. How will you prevent wizards from being overpowered in later levels as they are in the tabletop game through spells that can damage so many enemies?

Ryan Dancey, CEO of Goblinworks: Luckily, most problems with magic inherited from Pathfinder tabletop are limited to just a handful of spells and effects. Primarily they're associated with large area of effect direct-damage spells like Fireball and Lightning Bolt.

For the flashy big damage spells we'll make modifications to the way they work to keep their power constrained so that they don't become overpowered. That means that we'll limit the number of such spells that can affect a target in a short period of time, and limit the amount of damage that they can deliver. That requires a lot more alteration to the basic game mechanics from the tabletop, but the value in keeping signature spells in the game outweighs (in our opinion) the downside of making them work differently.

Pathfinder-Online
Pathfinder Online
categories: 3d, fantasy

Based on the tabletop RPG of the same name, Pathfinder Online aims to bring Paizo's famous fantasymworld to the realm of MMORPGs with deep, addictive gameplay and mechanics based on the award-winning pen and paper RPG.

There are classes of magical effects that probably won't make an appearance in the Online game, at least not in any time horizon worth discussing. Things like planar travel, long distance teleportation, telepathy, contacting extraplanar creatures, etc. are just out of scope for the kind of game we're making. There are some "game breaker" spells from the tabletop we won't even try to implement, like Polymorph or Locate Object - spells that could seriously unbalance the game design very quickly. And there are obvious candidates for abuse by players like Dominate and Disintegrate that won't be implemented the same as they are on the tabletop, if they're implemented at all.

The tabletop game provides us with a wealth of interesting magical effects which don't have problems of scale and can be implemented in the Online game without causing imbalances. We can ensure that those kinds of spells make it into the Online game very much intact.

We'll be carefully picking and choosing what spells go into the game in close collaboration with the community as a part of the process of design we call Crowdforging. I'm sure that we'll have more than enough interesting magic to keep everyone happy without stretching the game design to the breaking point.

Greg Tito: Being forced to discover or buy spells to add to your spellbook is a very neat detail. Once the game ages a bit, will the joy of discovery be diluted?

Ryan Dancey, CEO of Goblinworks: For me the key thing is to avoid the pitfall of a small cartel of people who have access to certain spells while the rest of the players don't. There should be no meaningful lasting advantage to being an early adopter of the game other than that built up by consistent careful resource management and large social structures. Mechanically, every player should have a clear path to obtaining any resource the game offers without having to compete against an entrenched cartel.

That implies that spell research should remain a viable part of the game throughout its lifecycle, as new players will constantly be coming to the game and needing to build their libraries of magical effects. It may be that very experienced characters reach a point of diminishing returns on that kind of research, but we should by then have built so many other game systems that there will always be something interesting to challenge them.

Greg Tito: Have you considered a magic point system to limit like ammunition the proposed always available at-will spells called cantrips? Or is that against your design principles?

Ryan Dancey, CEO of Goblinworks: I think the designers have a wide variety of plans for how to limit all types of attacks. A character with a sword is going to have options to apply oils and effects as a consumable to maximize that weapon, and a character with a wand is going to be thinking about charges and spell components.

In order to keep the economy humming, we need players to be constantly exhausting consumables and needing to replenish them. So there will always be some limits on how many "shots" a character can make with a given type of attack, at least how many "shots" can be made at maximum efficiency.

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