Gen Con 2019: Interview with John Compton of Paizo

John Compton of Paizo holding Starfinder Special Edition (left) and Aaron Shanks of Paizo holding Pathfinder Second Edition Special Edition (right). Photo by Talon Kane Photography
John Compton of Paizo holding Starfinder Special Edition (left) and Aaron Shanks of Paizo holding Pathfinder Second Edition Special Edition (right). Photo by Talon Kane Photography

Thursday, August 1st was the opening of Gen Con 2019. And at 10 AM ET was the tradition of Opening Ceremonies at the Gen Con Exhibit Hall. The crowd was massive has the doors opened and people poured into the hall looking for the latest and greatest RPGs, board games, card games, and art to purchase. At Booth 103, Gen Con co-sponsor Paizo Inc. had a huge release with Pathfinder Second Edition. The line wrapped around the booth and then some for people to get the chance to pick up their copy. Paizo even had a grab and go booth on the second floor by the Sagamore Ballroom so people didn’t have to go into the Exhibit Hall to pick up their copy. And even that line was huge, stretching down the corridor in front of the Sagamore Ballroom.

Fortunately, I was able to snag some time with John Compton, the Organized Play Lead Developer, at Paizo to talk about the products they had at the booth during Gen Con. From the moment we began talking, I could see how passionate and knowledgeable John is about Paizo’s products. First up was Pathfinder Second Edition. It had been over 10 years since Pathfinder hit the role-playing game market, which was Paizo’s take of the well-known Dungeons and Dragons. And after all this time, Paizo received feedback from their fans and decided it was time to make Pathfinder a better game. John described it as “640 pages of new RPG content.” Players will have the “opportunity of playing new wonderful classes”, John said, “one of the big things about Pathfinder from the beginning has been the customizability of it. There are always so many wonderful options so you can build exactly the character you want to”. Besides the standard race and class and feats to build your character, Pathfinder Second Edition has now included Class Feats to customize your character even further. John stressed two major focuses on Pathfinder Second Edition was “ease of play and ease of learning.” They wanted to ensure the new version was much easier for people to pick up and play while still keeping what people loved about Pathfinder still intact. One of the other pieces Pathfinder Second Edition streamlined is the combat turn. John said, “Instead of having all sorts of different set of action types, the core idea here is you have three actions period per turn. And if it’s a verb, it’s probably an action!” He went on, “It makes it a lot easier to process how long is this action going to take because it’s probably one action.”

For those who have never played Pathfinder, they had opportunities to play it during Gen Con through demos at the Paizo booth and in scheduled registered events. Also, you could learn about it through play podcasts. One of their most famous ones runs every Thursday at 12 PM PST called Oblivion Oath and run by Jason Bulmahn, the Design Lead for Pathfinder. You can find episodes on Paizo’s Official Twitch Channel. Older episodes can also be found on Paizo’s YouTube Channel. Player’s other option is through the Paizo’s Organized Play. This is where people can find events in their own area. And players can opt-in as often as they want so they are not committed to being there every week like some campaigns might require. You can find more about it on Paizo’s Organized Play Page.

On top of the Pathfinder Second Edition, Paizo also has available the Pathfinder Second Edition Special Edition, which is bound in a stunning red faux leatherette cover and includes navigation ribbons. We also got a look at the Pathfinder Second Edition Bestiary, which is an updated version of monsters to battle. And for those who need pre-written adventures to play, Paizo has four playable modules as part of the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild (see Paizo’s Organized Play) available for Second Edition. But, the Pathfinder Adventure Path, will provide pre-written modules for people to play. There are 6 being done for 2019 starting with Age of Ashes: Hellknight Hill and you can get these as an ongoing subscription. Within those is the Adventure Toolbox, which is being expanded in Second Edition. John explains, “This is a new feature we’ve been really expanding in Second Edition. This is going to give you all of the preview of what’s coming up for plot line information for the subsequent adventures. Because this is leading up to showdown with a big, bad evil guy, of course! Why not know what’s coming up so you can start to drop seeds as you run your game.” John also gave us a glimpse of the standalone module The Fall of Plaguestone. You can also purchase with it the dry erasable The Fall of Plaguestone maps so you don’t have to draw out everything for your players. And we can’t forget the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game that released back in May 2019. John said the one thing that drew him into Pathfinder the most was the setting and I could absolutely see why. Paizo has outdone themselves with what they brought to the table with Pathfinder Second Edition.

Pathfinder isn’t the only game Paizo has available. There is a sci-fi fantasy game called Starfinder. “This is sci-fi fantasy,” John explained. “Not only is there the whole sci-fi aspect, there’s a mystical element of it. You might almost think of it like Star Wars and Star Trek have their psychics or their Jedi, and what have you. But, there’s a magical element. So Starfinder brings more of that magical side of things to sci-fi.” The Starfinder Core Rulebook gives you 7 playable ancestries along with 7 playable classes. In relation from Starfinder to Pathfinder John says, “If you know Pathfinder First Edition, you are really close to knowing everything about Starfinder. They’re very, very similar. Pathfinder Second Edition is a bit more of a departure from First Edition in Starfinder, but it’s still a very approachable and familiar feeling. If you know Pathfinder 1, you’re about 90% of the way to start.” John gave us a look at the Starfinder Beginner Box, which is a self-contained version of the game that comes with a playable module, pre-generated characters, players and GM’s book, dice, and punch out pawns for your maps.

One of the biggest things I loved that Paizo did this year at Gen Con was the Starfinder Adventure Society events. These were specifically geared for children to get them at the table for their first look at Starfinder. John also showed us the Starfinder Pact Worlds which is worlds players can visit, the Armory, which provides more weapons and technology, and the Alien Archive books (2 released and a third coming in August) that acts as the bestiary to Starfinder. But, John pointed out, “Some of these guys are aliens, sure. But, they also have playable statistics. Alien Archive, really Starfinder in general, is all about what we call  ‘Cantina Effect’. Where, you know, for Pathfinder you may be like ‘I want my humans, my elves, and my dwarfs’…But, with Starfinder ‘No, I want to play weird aliens! Can I play a blob of ooze in a spacesuit?’ Yes, you can!” The Alien Archive books become great player resources as each book has around 15 playable species, which will make 45 in total when the third book is released. And then John also called out that Starfinder has their own set of Adventure Path books they release monthly. There is currently over 2 years of content for Starfinder. John said what he liked about Starfinder is the ability to tackle tropes from modern times that they can’t do in fantasy. For example, one adventure from the Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild is about playing on a reality TV show.

John also told us he will be moving on from his role as the Organized Play Lead Developer to being a Senior Developer for the Starfinder product line. You can see the full 25-minute interview below.

If you’re new to the RPG world, Paizo’s products of Pathfinder and Starfinder provide great opportunities to get started and play with your friends. And if you don’t know anyone who plays RPGs, Paizo’s Organized Play provides you ability to meet new players through the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild or the Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild. All of Paizo’s products can be purchased directly on their website or at your local gaming retailer.


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