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Paizo Paizo Apologises For 'Police' Themed Adventure Path

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Agents of Edgewatch is an upcoming adventure path for Pathfinder in which the payers take on the roles of police. Paizo has posted an apology for the themes in this AP, although it will still be published.

"Get ready to shine your badge and report for duty—the Agents of Edgewatch Adventure Path begins! In this thrilling new Pathfinder campaign, players assume the role of fresh recruits of the Edgewatch, the newest division of Absalom's city watch. Tasked with fighting crime during this year's Radiant Festival—a grand centennial gathering of exhibitors and wonders from around the world that this year celebrates the grand reopening of Absalom's treacherous Precipice Quarter, long a ruined haven of monsters and criminals. Soon after taking on the new beat, the detectives learn that the fair has attracted not only cutpurses and vandals, but also poisoners, ransomers, and even a sadistic serial murderer, and it's up to the Agents of Edgewatch to crack the case and bring these villains to justice!"

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The apology, written by Paizo's Erik Mona, also noted that a portion of the proceeds from the adventure path will go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and that the Starfinder core rulebook has been contributed to Humble Bundle's Fight for Racial Justice campaign.

 PRESS RELEASE



We at Paizo strive to represent our company’s values of inclusivity through the content of our Pathfinder and Starfinder publications. Showcasing diversity in the stories of the cultures, races, sexualities, and gender identities of our characters is something we’ve tried to emphasize since the company’s inception 18 years ago. As we wrote in our public statement earlier this month about the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s an ongoing and vital process.

The murder of George Floyd by police and the resulting political actions, increased visibility around issues of police brutality, and ongoing conversation about the role of policing in our society casts a difficult light upon Agents of Edgewatch, our upcoming Pathfinder Adventure Path in which players take on the roles of members of the city watch in a vast fantasy metropolis. As Paizo’s publisher, I want to take this opportunity to address the situation directly.

When we began work early last year on Agents of Edgewatch, we conceived of the adventures as a pseudo-Victorian crime drama in which a party of Sherlock Holmeses would bring a cult of sinister murderers to justice against the backdrop of a World’s Fair-style celebration in Absalom, the huge city at the center of the Pathfinder world. Along the way, we’d dabble in some buddy cop movie tropes and use the players’ role as new and idealistic town guards as a framing device for a tour of the city as they attempt to thwart the evil cult’s machinations.

In our heads, this was a classic detective story, not a chance for players to act out power fantasies of being militarized police officers oppressing citizens. As publisher, I was confident that we could steer well clear of egregious parallels to modern police violence and handle the material responsibly.

But there’s more to it than that. What I hadn't realized—no doubt a result of my own privilege—is that the very concept of police, the idea of in fact taking on the role of police, makes some members of the Paizo community deeply uncomfortable, no matter how deftly we might try to pull off the execution.

While I remain proud of the work we as a team have put into the Agents of Edgewatch campaign, and I believe that our writers, developers, and editors have ensured that the subject matter has been handled responsibly, I also believe that if we were making the decision about Adventure Path themes today, we would have chosen to go forward with a different idea, or a different take on a similar detective-story theme. For many of us here at Paizo, our understanding has evolved, not just of the horrible impact of police violence, but how some members of our community—especially those who are also members of the Black community—have not had the luxury of ignoring it.

To that end, I should acknowledge that some members of our staff did raise concerns about the campaign’s theme early on. In retrospect, I did not give these concerns the full audience that they deserved, and I regret this oversight. That’s part of the learning process, too.

I remain confident in our ability to create a campaign that lives up to our editorial and moral standards—even while acknowledging that we should have chosen a different approach for this Adventure Path. The events of the Agents of Edgewatch campaign assume empathic, heroic player characters who are there to serve their community. Groups who wish to play the campaign without taking on the role of city guards will be able to remove the law-enforcement element from the story without much work, instead telling the heroic tale of a band of local adventurers who take it upon themselves to rid the city of murderers and evil cultists. The free Agents of Edgewatch Player’s Guide (scheduled to release next week) will offer several suggestions on how to do this, as well as tips on how to utilize and adapt Pathfinder’s non-combat conflict-resolution mechanics as well as non-lethal combat rules when running the campaign.

I’d like to acknowledge the efforts of our editing team, who have been exemplary in helping us to eliminate unintentionally problematic elements, consult with sensitivity readers, and ensure that products come with detailed content warnings. The developers have likewise been striving to be more sensitive to these concerns. I hope that Agents of Edgewatch as a whole will display our ability to listen and present the subject matter respectfully. We will continue to strive to improve our sensitivity and ensure our adventure and plot elements remain firmly in the realm of fantasy.

While we cannot afford to cancel or delay the Adventure Path, we want to show our commitment to remedying our earlier choices through action. As we stated in a previous blog, we’ve contributed the Starfinder Core Rulebook to Humble Bundle’s Fight for Racial Justice charity fundraising campaign, which has already raised more than $3,700,000 for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Race Forward, and the Bail Project. Furthermore, Paizo will donate a portion of proceeds from all volumes of the Agents of Edgewatch Adventure Path sold through the end of 2021 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Lastly, next month, we’ll announce another major fundraising effort focused squarely on Paizo’s products, with charity proceeds to benefit Black-oriented charities. We hope you will join us in these efforts.

We remain committed to the ideals of inclusivity and racial justice. We will continue to listen and will strive to do better in the future.


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Russ Morrissey

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Please, this is ridiculous. We know some polices are rotten apples and others are true heroes. Shouldn't we say now to lump all together is injust and dangerous?

If there are troubles with fantasy worlds, I don't want to imagine about TTRPGs set in the real world and historic ages as the cold war, the conquest of the American Far West, colonialism, second world war, civil wars in different countries or the Cristero War in Mexico.
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
It's not like they haven't had PCs as members of the watch before "Curse of the Crimson Throne" springs to mind, does that mean that options going to be off the table for APs going forward.

In our heads, this was a classic detective story, not a chance for players to act out power fantasies of being militarized police officers oppressing citizens.
Are they worried people are going to do that, as they were writing was that what it turned into? Who do they think they are selling to, seem to have a pretty low opinion of their audience.
 




Galandris

Adventurer
1. It is interesting that the very concept of law enforcement has become so despicable to a large enough portion of the player base that Paizo deemed necessary to make this apology. Not "bad, cruel, corrupt members of the city watch" but just "regular law enforcement" as if there was no law unforcement model possible outside the violent one. I suppose this feeling is more localized to the United States and a few other countries as the strain on the relations between police and citizen are less universal than racism.

2. I guess that the problem with police forces is that they are deemed violent (nobody complains about NICE policemen as far as I know) and that Paizo failed its intended goal (we conceived of the adventures as a pseudo-Victorian crime drama in which a party of Sherlock Holmeses would bring a cult of sinister murderers to justice). I am in no way a Sherlock Holmes expert, but I don't think they involved killing culprits. If they feel they made a good adventure for LEO, there should be very few fight to the death, and the crux of the conflict would be to arrest and subdue violent criminals to allow the judicial process to run its course, with NO harm to innocent (not minimal collateral damage... it's the fun of urban adventure fight, where you have to neutralize the bad guy trying to create an undead tyrannosaurus without harming the group of schoolchildren visiting the museum). The preemptive apology make me think that the violent option was either the intended path or at least a path they think the player will take often enough for this to be a problem.

3. Very interestingly, they have another option for PC parties. Instead of law enforcement, they could be telling the heroic tale of a band of local adventurers who take it upon themselves to rid the city of murderers and evil cultists. So basically, vigilantism? Despite the police supposedly being good enough to be made of heroic cops that could be PCs? Why would people be more tolerant of wannabe, self-proclaimed police than regular police? I am really feeling the violent option is a common enough one that it would be more acceptable from free agents than regular, established and legal police forces, so it would be difficult to play the campaign without playing the stereotype of the violent cops. Or I am missing something with the idea of playing free agents... At least Sherlock Holmes was asked by Lestrade to help.

4. I am not surprised with this move, it seems in line with the one discussed in the Infamous Other Thread and I hope the debate in this one will be more civil.
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
This is a weird conversation. I have noted myself that this is an unfortunate time for this sort of AP to come out. And it is interesting to note that people did voice concerns about this theme before - and there are certainly tropes that have more to do with pop culture policing than they do with the historical institutions of town watches and town guards. That said in the context of your average game of faux-Mediterranean fantasy it is easy to get stuck on superficially similar themes.

We do not call adventurers "murderhobos" for nothing. PCs are the bad cops of their worlds, in every campaign: they brutally exterminate the opposition with a wide variety of cruel and excruciating instruments. You cannot really interrogate the morality of these games just by staying away from themes that blatantly remind you of what is icky in the real world. To do the job properly you have to be willing to examine what the function of PCs is relative to real world institutions.

So there is a sense in which this AP comes at the best possible time if we expect RPGs to conform to real world morality. Because now we actually have to articulate what may be wrong with how we approach foundational aspects of this hobby.
 


AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
I don't get how anyone could see a problem with Paizo saying what effectively boils down to "current circumstances in the world make releasing this particular adventure at this time potentially look insensitive, and we didn't mean for that."

They have identified potential sore points among their audience and addressed them so as to not be complicit should the experience anyone has with the adventure when they sit down to play it be something unpleasant.

And to the idea that "We do not call adventurers "murderhobos" for nothing. PCs are the bad cops of their worlds, in every campaign:" is true I say this: keep your words out of my mouth. You do not speak for everyone, and not everyone ascribes to the belief that you're expressing. "Good guys" at my table do not murder.
 



JPL

Adventurer
Others have already said what I was gonna say.

D&D tends to feature an awful lot of lethal force, and almost always exercised by a group with no real accountability, and in the year 2020, seeing that behavior in association with law enforcement is not good.

And saying "good guys don't murder" is tricky. PCs commit homicides all over the place, but it's not like they have to file a report afterwards, or have an investigation of their use of force, and there's rarely even any protocols in place regarding continuum of force, deescalation, etc.

Whether it's Marshall Dillon or Dirty Harry or Riggs and Murtagh, we have the cultural fantasy of a cop who has some combination of personal integrity and infallible judgment, such that he can be trusted with the badge (the state sanctioned enforcer of the law) and the gun (the state sanctioned use of force) without oversight (which usually just slows him down). This is a moment where that archetype is being reexamined.
 

rknop

Explorer
Somehow, pretending to be actual pirates who murder crew and take their cargo (cf: Skull & Shackles, and, arguably, the foundation of the entire "D&D" genre) is OK, because we know this is a game, but pretending to be members of law enforcement, even good members of law enforcement, is somehow not.

How far are we really from looking at a game with Devils and Demons in it and thinking that it's too close to reality?
 

paladinn

Explorer
I agree: this Is ridiculous. I remember when being a policeman was one of the most honorable professions one could take. They are the ones who respond when someone is breaking into your home at 2 am. A few (and they Are few) bad cops have caused the entire profession to be tarred with a very broad brush; and it's no more fair than smearing all members of an ethnic group.

The way cops are treated now, who is going to want to be a cop in the future? Then the whole country will end up like Seattle. And no, that's Not a good thing. Anarchy is bad, and has historically always led to tyrrany. Think the French Revolution.

Blue lives matter
 



wicked cool

Explorer
People have forgotten 9/11 when it was these same police that ran into a crumbling building. This apology makes me sick . the act was horrible and criminal and Justice should be served but the rest

they didn't apologize for clerics and paladins after the ongoing church scandal

they don't apologize for assasins and thieves who in the real world target the innocent and sometimes kill

Lets just fantasize for a moment that this module is run at a convention (I wouldn't be surprised if it gets pulled from shelves and burned) and a player decides to be a evil detective. Should that individual be tossed or shamed from the convention

Its a game-This movement to wipe away any presence of police material is truly disgusting. No paw patrol , lego etc, No police dramas, movies etc. Wont be shocked if toy badges are pulled or even woody from toy Story (he is law enforcement) . Some celebrity will have a picture of them as a kid dressed as a police officer and be shamed

the real people who should be shamed are the people like Kimmel, Fallon , Justin Trudeau-They should be forced the resign after dressing up in black face.

So when there is say another 9/11 will there be a bunch of writers actors going asleep after they woke. Can you say Mea Culpa
 

grimshwiz

Explorer
I agree: this Is ridiculous. I remember when being a policeman was one of the most honorable professions one could take. They are the ones who respond when someone is breaking into your home at 2 am. A few (and they Are few) bad cops have caused the entire profession to be tarred with a very broad brush; and it's no more fair than smearing all members of an ethnic group.

The way cops are treated now, who is going to want to be a cop in the future? Then the whole country will end up like Seattle. And no, that's Not a good thing. Anarchy is bad, and has historically always led to tyrrany. Think the French Revolution.

Blue lives matter
Well said and thank you for not being afraid to speak the truth. This coming from someone who has multiple police officers in their family for multiple generations.
 

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