Interview with Aaron Shanks, Paizo's Director of Marketing

Aaron Shanks, Paizo’s Director of Marketing, discusses how the impact of recent events has shaped the company.

During Gen Con, we got a chance to talk to Aaron Shanks, Paizo’s Director of Marketing, about how the impact of recent events has shaped the company.

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A huge amount of talk during the convention was the announcement of Starfinder 2nd Edition, which we covered here, but we did get a chance to discuss the impact of the pandemic and January’s OGL news had on the company as well as the myriad of partnerships they have been announcing.

Post-Pandemic

How did the pandemic change the landscape of the gaming industry? There has been a long-term positive surge in virtual tabletops. Most gaming groups made the leap to gaming online to keep their games going when they couldn’t meet in person.

In addition to the rise in virtual tabletops, the pandemic also impacted the global supply chain, making it hard to predict when products would show up to the warehouse and be for sale. Pretty much a marketer’s nightmare, but now, it is becoming more consistent and easier to get the products into the hands of their customers.

The Impact of the OGL

January’s kerfuffle shocked the entire industry and felt like an attack to many, but it has also brought a breath of fresh air. It motivated Paizo to create an intellectual property separation from its origins. This allowed the Design and Development team the space to create new ideas and fill in some missing lore in their games.

This separation is not without its own growing pains. Books like Starfinder’s Scoured Stars were pushed back and other books were pushed to the forefront to herald in the new ORC license. Pathfinder Rage of Elements was the first book to be published under the new licensing with the Remaster project to follow.

A byproduct of Paizo’s response to the OGL debacle is in the huge amount of partnerships they have been entering into. From comics to video games, the spotlight is on Paizo.

VTTs

With the huge amount of partnerships Paizo has entered into with VTTs, one of the questions people have been asking is if Paizo will build one of their own? Aaron’s response is “No, not at this time. We want to be where the players are. So we are prioritizing the VTTs that our fans choose. Paizo focuses on creating great TTRPGs and board games and we let out digital partners do what they do best.”

The one technological element they are focusing on is their new website. Aaron is hoping that they will be able to better customize the benefits of being a Paizo subscriber, allowing people to opt in and out of different elements of the subscription.

One of the VTTs, Demiplane, is supporting the playtest of the two new Pathfinder 2nd Edition classes for free. This time next year, we should also be seeing the same process for Starfinder 2nd Edition when the formal playtest opens up.

Organized Play

“We’re always going to be welcoming new players.” Aaron wants people to be able to come in to organized play and feel welcome. This includes players who are not giving up on first edition Pathfinder and Starfinder. There will still be legacy play for both games even though Paizo will not be printing any new material for them. We’ll also find out closer to the launch of Starfinder 2nd Edition what the conversion process will be for characters moving from first to second edition.

PaizoCon’s attendance was in the thousands this year. It’s always been a modest convention, but this year’s digital stats were the best they’ve ever been. Aaron promises that next year will be even better now that he has a full marketing team. It will continue to be digital for the foreseeable future as it allows them to reach more people all over the world without them needing to book a hotel to play.

With Paizo’s staff going fully remote, their attendance at conventions is completely opt in. There will be a small contingent at Pax Unplugged. So if you’re going, be sure to stop by and say hi.
 

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Dawn Dalton

Dawn Dalton

Which I think is a stupid mistake. Even a little support would suffice. There's so much in PF2e I want to use in my PF1e games and I can't because converting them doesn't exactly work properly. The systems are too different.

Yet they have the resources to convert all of Abomination Vaults for 5th Edition!? Their rivals!? The BS I smell on Paizo. Them and WotC is why I'm done supporting TTRPG companies.
Yes how dare they support the current version of the game that still sells books.
 

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timbannock

Hero
Supporter
I’m torn about either pf2, levelup, or tales of the valiant. Tales looks like the best alt to d&d, while pf2 seems to be ready sooner. Levelup I’m not sure about.
That's a tough one. The differences are many and fundamental, in some ways, but they are all aimed at the same general "itch."

If it helps at all: Level Up's Monstrous Menagerie is by far my favorite of the current/new school monster books (The Monster Overhaul is my fave for OSR games), but the player and GM side of Level Up ultimately felt a bit too much like added complexity for little reward.

Tales of the Valiant is the closest to core 5E (so far), and it'll work with Monstrous Menagerie beautifully, so that's a win.

PF2 is also a lot of complexity, but it's mostly in the form of player-facing character options. In that way, PF2 lives and dies based on "how much of the character build mini-game do you want at your table?" If you're a forever GM like me, that answer is solely in the hands of my players: I don't mind learning the monsters/magic and running it, but I won't even bother trying to learn all the bajillion of feats and class options and such.
 

Staffan

Legend
PF2 is also a lot of complexity, but it's mostly in the form of player-facing character options. In that way, PF2 lives and dies based on "how much of the character build mini-game do you want at your table?" If you're a forever GM like me, that answer is solely in the hands of my players: I don't mind learning the monsters/magic and running it, but I won't even bother trying to learn all the bajillion of feats and class options and such.
The "millions of feats" things in PF2 is at least partially illusionary. I mean, it's not not complex, but in most cases you have like 5-10 options to pick from (some of which may require prerequisites which you don't have), plus whatever options you've already rejected at earlier levels. For example, an 8th level a ranger in theory has 14 different feats to choose from. Four of these are Rare, meaning you need to fulfil various in-character requirements to take them (e.g. find a particular teacher), three are from the Occult splatbook and mostly useful if you want to be scary/spooky, and two of the remaining ones have prerequisites that mean you only need to bother with them if you're already heading in that direction. So most rangers have 5 feats to choose from, which is pretty manageable.
 

"Mirror Image" is an illusion too. Still does not mean you can FIND that limited spectrum of feats you have if the list is too large. Signal to noise is a ratio, and it should like it applies?
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
The "millions of feats" things in PF2 is at least partially illusionary. I mean, it's not not complex, but in most cases you have like 5-10 options to pick from (some of which may require prerequisites which you don't have), plus whatever options you've already rejected at earlier levels. For example, an 8th level a ranger in theory has 14 different feats to choose from. Four of these are Rare, meaning you need to fulfil various in-character requirements to take them (e.g. find a particular teacher), three are from the Occult splatbook and mostly useful if you want to be scary/spooky, and two of the remaining ones have prerequisites that mean you only need to bother with them if you're already heading in that direction. So most rangers have 5 feats to choose from, which is pretty manageable.

Agreed. I think it's important to remember that class feats basically take the place of class features in other D&D likes. The actual class chassis for most classes (particularly martial ones) are going to be extremely sparse. The build time complexity is definitely higher, but In my experience the run time complexity of martial characters actually feels more manageable to me than 5e. This is particularly the case with a number of classes that in 5e have to manage various resource pools (Monks, Rangers, Paladins) and have a number of passive class features. The lack of passive features and special resource pools mean that Champions and Monks in PF2 feel much more manageable to me than their equivalents in other modern D&D games.
 

"Mirror Image" is an illusion too. Still does not mean you can FIND that limited spectrum of feats you have if the list is too large. Signal to noise is a ratio, and it should like it applies?
For that reason I'd recommend people be careful about allowing more material than they're prepared to deal with. Without using any online tools to filter options, I made a character using just the Core Rulebook and it was pretty easy to know what feats were available. Allowing extra books will naturally increase that decision paralysis effect of not knowing what all your options actually are if you're a new player so I'd recommend avoiding that to start with.

Online tools make it much easier to filter through the noise to see what actually is an option. Much like how D&D Beyond greatly simplifies the time needed to make a 5e PC, Pathbuilder makes knowing what character options are actually choices really easy IME.
 

Staffan

Legend
"Mirror Image" is an illusion too. Still does not mean you can FIND that limited spectrum of feats you have if the list is too large. Signal to noise is a ratio, and it should like it applies?
The feats are in the Core Rulebook and the Advanced Player's Guide, with those in other sources usually being rather specialized (and in the Remaster, they'll be collecting the CRB and the APB feats so they're all with the main class writeup). They are listed by level. Should you want a more expansive overview, you can look them up on Archives of Nethys.

This is not like 3e or PF1 where there's one big pool of feats spread out over dozens of books. The feats in Pathfinder 2 are mostly collected in one or two places for each set of feats. You do have a point with General/Skill feats, which are not collected in a convenient way in the rulebooks for some reason (although Nethys is helpful here too).
 

The feats are in the Core Rulebook and the Advanced Player's Guide, with those in other sources usually being rather specialized (and in the Remaster, they'll be collecting the CRB and the APB feats so they're all with the main class writeup). They are listed by level. Should you want a more expansive overview, you can look them up on Archives of Nethys.

This is not like 3e or PF1 where there's one big pool of feats spread out over dozens of books. The feats in Pathfinder 2 are mostly collected in one or two places for each set of feats. You do have a point with General/Skill feats, which are not collected in a convenient way in the rulebooks for some reason (although Nethys is helpful here too).

Yeah, and the Remaster should do a good job of lessening the books you need, since they'll be combining where most of the alternative feats are (APG) into the two new Cores with their classes.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
"Mirror Image" is an illusion too. Still does not mean you can FIND that limited spectrum of feats you have if the list is too large. Signal to noise is a ratio, and it should like it applies?

The majority of them are in the core book, and all of them are available on Archives of Nethrys. Its really not that hard.
 

I’m torn about either pf2, levelup, or tales of the valiant. Tales looks like the best alt to d&d, while pf2 seems to be ready sooner. Levelup I’m not sure about.
Level Up! is really neat. I picked up the entire set earlier in the year and was very impressed with it. That said, I am also backing Tales of the Valiant. It's a good time to like D&D-styled stuff but maybe not be a WotC fan.
 

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