Forge Your Destiny in Our Exclusive Pathfinder: Kingmaker Interview

By Jeff Francis
Pathfinder: Kingmaker interview

The relationship between pen-and-paper role-playing games, computer rpgs, and mmorpg games is very strong. The first online games and single-player rpgs were inspired by tabletop rpgs, and eventually quite a few rpgs were inspired by the ongoing evolution found in computer and online games. Now one of the most popular narrative arcs from the most popular pen-and-paper rpg is becoming a single-player rpg in the form of Pathfinder: Kingmaker by Owlcat Games. Its Kickstarter campaign has been wildly successful, garnering roughly 16,000 eager backers. We were lucky enough to get to discuss the game with Owlcat Games and what players can expect. Let's grab a table in the shadowy corner of the tavern as we offer our exclusive Pathfinder: Kingmaker interview.

Congratulations upon the success of your Kickstarter for Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Can you describe how you decided upon using the Kingmaker Adventure Path from Pathfinder and how you worked with Paizo to create the computer rpg?

Thank you! We are avid players of pen-and-paper rpgs and played quite a lot of them. World of Golarion stood out for us because it is very rich in lore and mysteries. When you are reading a description of any country or region, you are eager to start a new campaign in each of them. And it is not just commonplace European fantasy; there are a lot of interesting and sometimes wacky components, be it crazy goblins or barbarians fighting robots. We browsed through most of the adventure paths, looked at the forums, and played some of them. They are great, but it takes more than just being a great adventure to make into a great computer game. It should be free enough to provide a lot of possibilities for player actions and player choices, allowing players to live in the story, not just experience it. It must have something to bring to the sophisticated players that love this genre, and it should be fun! And we had a lot of fun playing Kingmaker, building the kingdom of our own, protecting our claim, and choosing our path. Kingmaker’s open-world nature, freedom of exploration, and inherent non-linearity makes it a perfect medium for the computer game, and being most popular adventure path does not hurt either.

We approached Paizo about a year ago with our vision of the game, some concepts, and ideas. We were really excited that they liked our ideas and sketches, and began working together. Paizo is a great partner to work with; we exchange tons of e-mails, discussing all aspects of the game and how to make it feel as Pathfinder-y as possible.

How does the combat system in Pathfinder: Kingmaker work? How close is it to the system in the Pathfinder rpg?

Combat in our game is real-time with tactical pause (you can give orders to your character and party members while the game is paused). In this way, you can think your tactic through and select your actions without worrying about time to make those decisions while still having a visceral feel of the combat, enjoying fluid animations and spectacular visual effects. Of course, this decision will require some changes in the abilities, feats, and spells to work well in the game, but we will make those only when necessary and only when those changes do not break that Pathfinder-y feel. Also for those who would like to fine-tune rules of the game, we will provide a broad range of options to tweak and several pre-made selections as the various difficulty setting. We call one of those settings Core Rules internally, and it is providing an experience as close as possible to the role-playing game itself.

How big is the in-game world of Golarion that players will be able to explore? Can you tell us an approximate number of towns, cities, dungeons, places of interest, etc.? What is the background/lore for this setting? How open is the game's world?

Golarion is huge. Paizo published 20 Adventure Paths, and they did not cover all of Golarion yet, so it will take us at least 20 games to tell all of those stories. We are focusing on the region represented in the Kingmaker Adventure Path – Stolen Lands, as well as neighboring countries – River Kingdoms and Brevoy. There are more than 150 places of interest (some of them very big, while others could be quite small), the game spans five years of game time, and there are 14 regions you will be able to add to your kingdom. We are aiming for 40 hours of gameplay to experience the main story of the game and about 80 hours to explore every nook and cranny. The game world is very open, you can go and explore in any direction you like if you manage to overcome encounters on your way.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker combat

What is really fascinating about Pathfinder: Kingmaker is that it features exploration, dungeon crawling, and kingdom building. How do you tie these features together?

That is a very interesting question, thank you. Exploration is at the core of the Kingmaker as the Stolen Lands eluded being conquered and civilized for a long while. They became a place filled with lairs of monsters and camps of those who escaped neighboring countries. In game terms, it is a great place to explore; there are interesting encounters in the wilderness as well as dungeons to visit. As you find and solve problems in the Stolen Lands, denizens become aware of your actions and consider you… well that depends on the actual actions you made, so let’s say powerful. And they pledge loyalty to your state, adding the region to the kingdom. And with this, they bring you both opportunities and responsibilities. There are ways to help a region even more by solving issues, and you will face some choices while doing so. Depending on those choices, that region will upgrade in a specific way, reflecting your approach.

The kingdom is not only a set of responsibilities; it can be of great help with many things, exploration included. Your scouts will help you uncover hidden places you missed or guide you to the long lost treasure, helping your exploration of the Stolen Lands and allowing to become more powerful to challenge monsters in the regions you previously could not.

Can you go into more detail on managing one's kingdom? Are there events such as assassination attempts, political intrigue, coup attempts, or factions rising to dispute the player's right to rule?

You have a lot to do with the kingdom, but you will have help with your leaders, companions and NPCs with whom you will fill important positions in your government. A lot of events will happen as you govern your kingdom, but most of them will be for your leaders to address, and they will do it according to their alignment and beliefs as well as the position they have. For example, a Treasurer will be thinking more about money and how to fill the kingdom’s Treasury (or his own pockets if he is not trustworthy enough). Political intrigue (and various methods used in it) is in there too, but I cannot elaborate on the topic, as it will be too spoiler-y.

Aside from those events, there is a lot to do in the kingdom. Some issues require your personal presence, while others present you with the challenges that simple guards are not able to overcome. You will be able to construct buildings in your settlements (villages, towns, and cities) and manage kingdom projects (different upgrades for the whole nation, as well as some special research projects with unique goals and results). There are also royal artisans that (after you’ve spent some time and money on them) will provide you with fruits of their labor. Imagine befriending old dwarf, the last one to know how to make ancient dwarven armor. If you sponsor his smithy, he will return to his craft and eventually he will send you a gift of that ancient armor.

Kingdoms are integrated into the Pathfinder: Kingmaker experience in a multitude of ways; we are trying to make the player's kingdom rich both strategically and story-wise. We think of the kingdom as a mirror to reflect your choices and as a companion that has a story of its own based on the choices that you made.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker night

The player will need to recruit companions in Pathfinder: Kingmaker to be successful. How many companions are available in the online rpg and how many can the player have by their side at a time? What do the different companions offer the player? Do some offer purely political advice for one's court while others offer skills in combat for adventuring? How unique and individual are the various companions?

Our game will feature more than ten companions; each is a very detailed character with their own agenda and goals. The player can travel with up to 5 companions at the time (so party size is 6). We are excited that one of the companions is Amiri – the iconic Pathfinder barbarian. As with all other companions, she has a prominent story and some goals and opinions of her own, and she is not shy about them. Companions have different classes and races, philosophies, and attitudes. As you travel with them, you will get to know what makes them excited or sad, and how they come to be the way they are right now. There are also some NPCs that could help you with advice and with governing your kingdom but will not go on the adventures with you.

Are there multiple ways for a player to forge a kingdom? By this, can a player create a kingdom through being pure and altruistic as well as being ruthlessly evil (not to mention shades of grey in-between)?

Your kingdom always starts in the same way due to the events in the adventure (I will not go into them to avoid spoilers). But the way you govern it will affect your kingdom, and it will change both mechanically and aesthetically. For example, people will cheer for you in the Chaotic Good kingdom but will drop to their knees when the tyrant of their Lawful Evil kingdom is strolling through the streets. And the same is true for all nine alignments of the Pathfinder role-playing game. Also, when you adopt some alignment and stay there for a while, a potential ally will approach you. If negotiations are successful, they will construct their embassy, and you will be able to take their representative as a counselor if you like. This alliance will flavor your kingdom even more.

How can the player shape the world around them in the game? How do their actions and morality reflect the choices that they make? Do they have to become the ruler of a kingdom or can they just choose to focus on adventuring?

Thank you for the great question! One of the reasons we chose Kingmaker is because it allowed a lot of freedom for the player regarding exploration and in the choices they can make, and we expand them even further to allow players even more role-playing opportunities. For those choices to work, we need them to be reactive, to affect the world somehow. If you were mean with some NPCs, they could get back to you, or you will hear from them in diplomatic negotiations, and it could affect your kingdom’s reputation. There is also an alignment system that provides you with even more options (and sometimes they are very drastic). For example, an extremely chaotic character can welcome monsters into his kingdom, while characters of other alignments will not be able to do so. So your choices will affect the world and your character, giving you access to even more options to role-play your character.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker thronehall seller

What classes and races do you plan on being available for gamers to play? Will more be added later?

The game will include all the races and classes from the Core Rulebook of the Pathfinder role-playing game. Also, Alchemist and Inquisitor classes will be available for the player character, as well as Magus, which was one of our stretch goals. As for other races and classes – some of them are stretch goals in our Kickstarter campaign.

Can you go into some detail on how skills are used in the virtual world of Pathfinder: Kingmaker and how certain skills can impact gameplay? How many skills are there, and does the leveling system follow that of the Pathfinder pen-and-paper rpg?

Certainly; we are basing skills in the game on the consolidated skill options from Pathfinder Unchained. To those who are not familiar with that, it means that skills from the Core Rulebook are consolidated into bigger, more essential skills. We are trying to provide every skill with both combat and non-combat applications (not every skill has both though, such as Persuasion, which is only useful while you are talking to other characters, not when you are fighting them). We have 11 skills in total and the leveling system follows the Pathfinder one as close as possible. Skills are instrumental in different situations. Physical skills like Athletics can give you access to the places you cannot reach otherwise; different Knowledge skills provide you with additional information and unlock special options in dialogs, while Trickery (several consolidated rogue skills like Disable Device) will disarm traps in the treasure chest and allow you to open it.

Can a player create a dynasty by siring heirs in Pathfinder: Kingmaker (a feature I saw long ago in a computer game called Genghis Khan)? If so, does the player retire their original character and begin playing as their heir or does the game end at a certain point?

While the idea is definitely interesting, Pathfinder: Kingmaker spans only five years of game time, so there will be not enough time to sire an heir.

How is war between kingdoms played out within the game? Can players attempt to disrupt rival kingdoms by attempting to foment rebellion or even hiring assassins?

It will spoil quite a lot of story if we tell you the exact details. What we can say is that your adventuring skills and your kingdom’s power both will come handy.

Do you plan on releasing expansions to Pathfinder: Kingmaker to add more features, regions, or content to the game?

The idea of bringing more features and content to Pathfinder: Kingmaker looks attractive, but right now we are 200% focused on the goal to complete the game and bringing it as soon as possible to the gamers and especially our backers.

Is there anything else you wish to tell our readers about Pathfinder: Kingmaker?

Right now we are in the final days of our Kickstarter campaign, our main goal is already funded, but we have very exciting stretch goals that will allow us to make the Pathfinder: Kingmaker experience even richer and provide even more options and choices for the player. Please support us on the Kickstarter!

As you can see, there's quite a lot to get excited about when it comes to Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Long before I was an mmo player, I was slinging dice on a tabletop and imaging myself adventuring in fantastic worlds that were full of options. It appears that this single-player rpg will definitely scratch that role-playing itch as one seeks to build a powerful kingdom. Our thanks to Owlcat Games for granting us this Pathfinder: Kingmaker interview, and we wish them every success.


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