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The latest Kickstarter update for Pathfinder: Kingmaker is brought to us by none other than Chris Avellone, the game's Narrative Designer. In his update, Mr. Avellone explains the intricacies of creating a game based on an adventure people may already be familiar with. And then, he introduces a possible companion - Jubilost, the gnome explorer. A peculiar choice for a man who is known to strongly dislike elves. And what are gnomes if not shorter, and as a result more annoying, elves?
Joking aside, it's an interesting read. Here's an excerpt:
So my first thought is - what the hell do you need me for?
…but the next thought was – I wonder how you could take a module and make it a compelling experience, especially if players may have already read it/played it. This wasn’t anything new to me – it happened all the time in my early gamemastering days. Any time a new published module came out, every gamer would buy it, tear off the shrink wrap, then scour every page so they’d know how to find every secret and magic item.
Then innocently, they might prompt their idiot gamemaster to run the adventure. I know because I was one of those GMs. (And um, one of those players.)
But back to the question. So how do you implement a story that others may have already experienced?
There were a few simple answers – one is, what really makes the adventure? The players around the table. In the computer game, those players are you – and your companions. And all of you can bring stories of your own which can be interwoven into the plot and depending on who you travel with, suddenly the adventure has not one story but several, depending on your choices and which allies you've selected.
Second, when implementing a story many hold dear, be respectful to the franchise and the original content. One of the challenges is that the Kingmaker story is one a lot of Pathfinder fans have experienced and loved, so we want to be respectful of that – there are certain touchstone moments that are key to the experience and we want to preserve the moments that are heart and feel of the original story.
Third, expand the story in new ways. With Pathfinder, this is easy to do because the modules themselves are structured with an open-world feel, so the ability to add events, dungeons, and encounters is easy – the Kingmaker plot wasn’t gated in the first place, so the adventure already has room for all these elements.