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Pathfinder 2.0: Erik Mona on Leaning into the Golarion Setting

Expect Golarion to be sprinkled throughout Pathfinder Second Edition.

Nerds on Earth burned a spell slot to cast Command on Erik Mona, Publisher at Paizo, maker of the Pathfinder RPG. Compelled to answer our questions, Erik was interrogated thoroughly, then released (mostly) unharmed.

What follows is part 1 of a three part interview that is in audio form here, as well as in written form below:

1. Leaning into Golarion

2. A Possible Cataclysmic Event

3. Future Adventures in Golarion

And, now, here is Erik Mona, speaking on Pathfinder Second Edition and what that means for the World of Golarion.

Pathfinder 2.0: Leaning into Golarion

Clave: Alright, so folks are stoked about Pathfinder 2.0. Gosh, in our Nerds on Earth Slack channel we banter about it regularly. There is excitement for sure.

Erik: Cool.

Clave: Speaking of Golarion–the setting of Pathfinder–I’m a big fan. If I had my elevator pitch for Golarion I would say that it is objectively the best campaign setting of any RPG of all time.

Erik: Wow. I like that.

Clave: Feel free to use that one. I’m generous.

Erik: I might have to use that on a back cover blurb.

Clave: Yeah, I’m very restrained in my verbiage. But I would love for you to be able to give your elevator pitch. Explain Golarion to folks who may not be familiar.

Erik: Golarion, I mean the very very short elevator pitch is that it’s a kitchen sink setting that doesn’t suck.

But I think the better story is that when we sat down to create Golarion, a bunch of us who had been playing fantasy role playing games for most of our lives thought through, “What kind of campaigns do people like to play?”

Some people would say, “I like a political intrigue campaign where you never leave the city.” Another person would say, “I love a quest where you go from place to place to place.” Another person would say, “I really love the underworld and the dark lands of the Earth where the evil creatures live.” Someone else would say, “I really like guns, and all that kind of stuff.”

We wanted to try to create a setting which, over the course of about 50 different nations on two different continents, gives you kind of whatever flavor you really want to play, and does it in a way that is holistic and that ideally works with their neighbors and things like that. There are sort of geographical regions that align to some thematic similarities.

You kind of get to pick the thing that fits best with the type of game that you want to play. That’s it. You want to play crazy spaceship crashes and everybody’s got a broken old laser? We’ve got that. You want to play a campaign where you’re carving your own kingdom out of wilderness? We’ve got the river kingdoms. You want to play a crazy sort of Narnia land where everything’s under a magical winter? We have that. We’ve got lots of different flavors to choose from. It’s a full service campaign setting.

Clave: For sure. It has a broad flavors, yet it also makes a kind of sense. That’s what I love about it. It gives you that variety, but it also does so in a plausible, logical sense.

Erik: As much as possible.

Clave: Right. Well it is a fantasy setting. Everybody needs to relax and have a little fun with it, right?

Erik: Yeah. That’s exactly what we’re shooting for.

Clave: In our Nerds on Earth Slack channel, I mentioned that we were talking about this. But there are also a couple folks in there that just aren’t familiar. When you’re doing Pathfinder 2.0, what are you guys doing to help make Golarion approachable for folks who might be coming for the first time?

Erik: Within the context of this year’s playtest, everything that we’re doing is still in first edition Pathfinder. In terms of, “How do you understand what the world is all about?”. Well, I would say check out the Inner Sea world guide, which is a 300 page guide to all the different countries in the world.

We of course in the era of second edition will have a whole different slate of products and ways to get people into the setting. We’re kind of in that interregnum period right now where our focus is really on the mechanics of the game, and making sure we’ve got all that solidified. For the purposes of the playtest, our assumption is a little bit that people can go to first edition sources for the campaign setting stuff that they need.

Now that said, we’ve also created this 96 page play test adventure called Doomsday Dawn, which takes you to several different locations throughout Golarion. It really does kind of provide you with everything you need to play test the rules over a series of seven sort of interlinked scenarios.

Also, there is more Golarion in the rules now than there really has ever been before.

Clave: Oh, wow. That’s great.

Erik: Yeah, but I should be really clear about what I mean by that, because it doesn’t mean that the elf section starts with a four page description of the nation of Kyonin and the history of the elves in our world.

But what it does do is assume that the things that are true of elves in Golarion are also true in the Pathfinder rules themselves. You’ll see rules for forlorn elves, for example, which are elves who were brought up among humans and seen generations of their friends pass away ephemerally before their eyes, relatively speaking, and what that does to their psyche.

You’ll see that the gnomes of Golarion have a tie to the first world, the realm of the Fey. There is stuff like that. It’s rooted in Golarion. Some of our initial stuff kind of said ‘it’s infused.’ I think a better way of saying it, at least insofar as the play test book is concerned, is it’s more ‘sprinkled’ with Golarion.

A good example is, and this is a bit of a spoiler, but there’s a belt that gives you a bunch of powers related to dwarves. We changed the name of that belt, and so instead of it just being like, “It’s the dwarf belt”, now it’s the Belt of the Five Kings. We don’t go into depth about what the Five Kings Mountains are or any of that, but Golarion fans will kind of nod and know. I’ve always sort of said that if you look at the first edition D&D rules and the way that Greyhawk and Gary Gygax’s campaign was kind of the setting. Even if it was not explicitly a Greyhawk book, you could assume that the things that were true in the rules were also true in Greyhawk. That is true of second edition Pathfinder from the playtest going forward.

There’s a few places in the magic items where that’s clear. There are a few places sprinkled throughout the book. There are definitely, for example there’s a description of the human ethnicities and some of the languages in the playtest book as well. Not sure how well that’s going to go over. There’s definitely people who just want to use Pathfinder as kind of a generic fantasy engine. But we’re trying to kind of bring things together, and make it so that if you learn the rule book, that works for the main world and will be, as we get into the actual second edition stuff, like I said we’ll be thinking a lot, we already are thinking a lot, but we’ll be doing some thing that are sort of on-ramping people to the campaign setting I think more effectively than even we’ve done in the past.

The Inner Sea region of Golarion.

Clave: I love it. It’s a great setting. Lean into it.

Erik: Well, you know, that’s what you say. Again, it’s like, this whole thing is a playtest. It’s going to be interesting to see what people, how they react and what they say. We’re going to have to measure all that stuff before we do the final book. But we’re eager to get feedback. We are leaning into it. Again, I think somewhat conservatively, but we are learning into it. Some people will find it completely abhorrent. “How dare you say the word Golarion in the rule book?!”

Clave: And they’ll take their opinions straight to the message boards.

Erik: But I think you can expect to get a little more information about Golarion within the context of the core rules. Personally, as someone who likes the setting, I think that’s cool.

All three parts of our three part interview, as well the entire interview in audio form here.

1. Leaning into Golarion

2. A Possible Cataclysmic Event

3. Future Adventures in Golarion

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