One of the things that has plagued Paizo through most of its existence is that every year, we end up throwing a major project or two on top of an already full product release schedule. In 2005, it was the Shackled City hardcover. In 2006, it was the Dragon Compendium, Monster Ecologies and the Kill Doctor Lucky board game. In 2007, we launched our Adventure Paths and Modules lines as well as the Stonehenge board game. In 2008, we published the hardcover campaign setting sourcebook and launched the Player Companion line, and we ran the Pathfinder RPG playtest as well.

Surprise! 2009 wasn't any different. And this time, we were taking on perhaps the biggest add-ons yet: the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook, weighing in at 576 pages, and the Bestiary, with its hefty 328 pages. All told, we were adding more than 900 pages to our regular workload. It ended up requiring hundreds of hours of overtime and the combined effort of dozens of employees.

One of the first decisions to make was the physical form that our rulebooks would take. Traditionally, the core D&D rules encompassed three volumes: the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, and the Monster Manual. We thought about following a similar format for Pathfinder, but it had always bugged us that players needed to own the DMG if they wanted to look up magic items, so we decided to wrap all of the information that you would need to run a game of Pathfinder, minus the monster writeups, into a single Core Rulebook. The Bestiary would remain its own book.

We also had to make a huge decision about how far we were going to stray from the 3.5 SRD. Our alpha playtest had introduced a number of new systems that pushed the boundaries of backwards compatibility. Ultimately, we decided to keep Pathfinder fairly close to its 3.5 roots while using years and years of GM experiences to update and fine-tune the system. We certainly didn't fix everything we could have in 3.5—some issues are endemic to the math underlying the core system—but we did fix a lot of the problem areas.

The white board lets the editors exercise their inner artistic talents.
So why did we swing the pendulum toward backward compatibility? Because our customers were telling us that they didn't want their trove of 3.0 and 3.5 books to become obsolete. Everyone had a pile of Wizards of the Coast products, of course, but the OGL and the d20 license had also inspired an explosion of print and PDF books the likes of which the gaming industry had never before seen. And we really wanted people to be able to use all of those products with Pathfinder. For the most part, I think that we did a good job striking the balance between compatibility and innovation.

Not surprisingly, the new RPG had a huge effect on the rest of our product lines. Since we were launching a new system at Gen Con, all of the other products scheduled to be released from that date forward needed reflect the new rules. The problem is that we usually contract freelance writers eight months or so before the intended release date of a product, and the rules were still in flux at that point. What to do?

We decided to contract in-house authors to write the first adventures and adventure path volumes for the new game. Since our own people were working with the new rules as they were being written, we figured that they would be in the best position to use those rules to write adventures. Even hedging our bets that way, we still had lots of issues, but at least they could be worked out in person and in real time, rather than via email or telephone. Still, not a task for the faint of heart. Whenever possible, we also planned products that were relatively rules light for much of the year.


Lisa Stevens is flanked by future Paizo employees Liz Courts and Adam Daigle at Gen Con and cover artist Wayne Reynolds poses with his copy of the Core Rulebook.

Read this article at the Paizo blog.