Greetings! It’s been a long time since we last communicated and we’ve both gone through many changes since then. You’ve left the shadow of Wizards of the Coast to pursue your own efforts to produce enjoyable game products for one of the more fickle recreational audiences imaginable, while I’ve gone back to the roots of this hobby and rediscovered my love for the simpler, and often times rougher, systems of the past. We’ve both been quite successful in our endeavors and this has put some distance between us. I nevertheless understand you’re doing well.
I’m writing you today to bridge that distance. The occasion for this is that I recently purchased one of your products. I admit that I’ve not be a supporter of your efforts financially in the past. Previously, I purchased your Classic Monsters Revisited after reading a positive review of that book (and I concur with that review), and some months ago I purchased your Pathfinder Core Rules thanks to a large discount and a gift card from the now-defunct Borders Books. I’ve paged through one or two of your Adventure Paths, but these were loaners, not purchases.
My impression from these books was that your designers are obviously very passionate about the game and world you’ve created. Your artists do a wonderful job of breathing life into this setting (even if I do find the occasional rendering of a barbarian with a sword the size of her own body more laughable than cool) and more often than not I find an illustration that really leaps out and says “Don’t you wish your character encountered/did this?” So, although I’m far from a rabid fan, I do appreciate your hard work even if Pathfinder itself is a bit bloated for my tastes.
Make no mistake—it is bloated. You did a good job cleaning things up from its predecessor, but when my preferred game systems have rule books that number between 64 and 128 pp., it’s a little difficult to get excited when confronted with a rulebook the size of my local telephone directory. As interesting as I’ve found Pathfinder and the adventures you’ve produced for it, rules of that length are simply a deal-breaker for me.
That brings us to my recent purchase: the Pathfinder Beginner Box. Like Classic Monsters Revisited, I heard a few surprised murmurs amongst my colleagues regarding this product recently. And, finding myself confronted by the box at my local Barnes & Noble with a gift card in my wallet, I decided to pays my money and takes my chances. After exchanging $38.00 and change (tax included), I took the box home. Hours later, I opened it.
Perhaps the greatest compliment of my own I can give you is this: I’d play this game. Hell, I’d even run this game! After even a brief overview of the set I could see that you fine folks at Paizo really, really get it. This product is obviously created by gamers with a love of gaming. Folks who at least had some familiarity with old TSR boxed sets, even if they weren’t the gateway into this hobby for all of you. Having seen the Dungeon & Dragons 4E “Red Box,” I can say that the Beginner Box is a vast improvement in comparison.
My immediate impression was that of the old Holmes’ basic set. While the Pathfinder Beginner Box (a name of which I approve of) is not a complete rules set, neither is it “crippleware.” Obviously, it serves your business model to steer newcomers to the game towards the more complete and pricier Core Books, but you’ve nevertheless packed enough material into the Beginner Box to not only allow gamers to extract a sizeable amount of enjoyment from the set, but, for the mad homebrewer or those who prefer a “rules lite” game, you’ve provided a solid skeleton for these types to build their own worlds upon. You deserve both accolades and respect for that. A truly, excellent, excellent job.
A suggestion: If you were to release an Expert or Intermediate Box in a year’s time or so, one that covered levels 6-10 and introduced 3-4 new classes along with new monsters and spell, I think you’d have another hit on your hands. I for one would gladly purchase such a product, as would some of my compatriots amongst us older gamers. You’ve certainly generated some goodwill with the Beginner Box and, given its “Pathfinder lite” rules, may even win some converts from those of us who enjoy simpler and smaller game systems—ascending Armor Class notwithstanding.
Paizo, you stand at this moment the king of the roleplaying heap. You’ve wrested the title from your former masters simply by understanding your audience and respecting them while still turning a profit. The Beginner Box is another step in the right direction and your exalted position in the eyes of both the gaming community at large and the industry is yours to lose. As a friend and a fellow gamer, I offer you this heartfelt advice:
Do not fuck it up.