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Erik Mona discusses Pathfinder's strategy to compete with D&D

Erik Mona
Erik Mona
Wikimedia

Erik Mona, publisher of Paizo Publishing, LLC, the company behind the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, discussed with ICv2 plans to compete with the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons when the latest iteration is released at Gen Con this year. Mona laid out Paizo's strategy to maintain interest in an increasingly crowded tabletop gaming marketplace. Pathfinder has consistently beat the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, a trend I noticed in 2011:

There seemed to be more Pathfinder players than 4th Edition gamers, but I noticed an interesting trend too – there were more new players in the 4th Edition games than the Pathfinder games. Or to put it another way, the experienced players were in Pathfinder games while the new players were in the 4th Edition games. Using this admittedly small sample size as an indicator of Pathfinder and D&D 4.0, it appears to me that Pathfinder is siphoning off the bulk of the playerbase – those who were playing D&D 3.5 – but D&D 4.0 is growing the playerbase.

ICv2's sales rankings for tabletop games certainly indicated that Pathfinder was on the rise. Pathfinder was neck-and-neck with D&D in sales in Q3 2010 only to slip back to second place in Q1 2011. But it was #1 by Summer 2011, 2012, and 2013. Mona shared some numbers behind Pathfinder's success:

We have 60,000 registered gamers playing in Pathfinder Society campaigns and 350 Pathfinder Society Coordinators around the world. We call them Venture-Captains and Venture-Lieutenants and they help us grow Pathfinder organically in different parts of the world. I think it’s probably easier to find a game of Pathfinder than a game of D&D right now.

To combat the return of D&D, Paizo is taking a three-pronged approach: new classes for the experienced player, a superdungeon for players interested in "more traditional play," and introduce superscience to Pathfinder.

The Pathfinder Advanced Class Guide, which will feature 10 new core classes, will be released in August:

The idea is if you are a very dedicated Pathfinder player, the kind who is super-excited every time we put out new rules, or maybe you’re someone who feels like they’ve seen it all already, we’ve got ten brand new classes in the Advanced Class Guide. Those were put through a rigorous public play test this winter so there are tens of thousands of people who have tried those classes out and are looking forward to the final edition that will incorporate some of the changes suggested from our play testers.

The Emerald Spire Superdungeon, a 160-page hardcover with 16 levels designed by superstar game designers, launches in June:

One of the things I suspect will happen when D&D puts out its new edition is that they’ll have to go back to basics. They’ve already said their monster manual will contain all the main monsters. Having just started the ball rolling on a fantasy roleplaying game edition only a few years ago, logic suggests that you start with the orcs and the dragons and the dungeons and all that stuff, so one of the things we’re doing to make sure Pathfinder has an offering for people who are more interested in that more traditional play is the Emerald Spire Superdungeon.

And finally the Iron Gods Adventure Path will launch from August through January:

...the central conceit of Iron Gods is what happens when an artificial intelligence associated with the future tech of this ship takes on the characteristics of a god, and people start worshipping this artificial intelligence and granting it deific powers. What does that mean for the world of Pathfinder and specifically for the land of Numeria? We’re doing that campaign in a self-contained way. There’s definitely going to be a lot of players who are not interested in adding any kind of technology to their campaign setting, and like other thematic elements of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting, it is as self-contained as you need it to be. We think there’s going to be a lot of people who are not necessarily interested in going back to the very beginning and are going to be interested in trying new things.

Will this stem the tide of D&D nostalgia? The sales numbers out of Gen Con will likely give a better picture of how Pathfinder will fare against the fifth edition.

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