Interview with Jason Bulmahn – Lead Designer for Pathfinder and the recently released ‘Ultimate Campaign’


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game – Ultimate Campaign

Aside from bringing you on-site coverage of tabletop gaming events across Brisbane and South-East Queensland, one of our other goals here at BTGN is to provide you with interviews of some of the very people who help create and distribute all those wonderful goodies we enjoy so much as tabletop gamers.

We are very proud to present to you our first of such interviews with a very big name in the industry Mr. Jason Bulmahn.  Jason is the Lead Designer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and amongst a multitude of other related material for Pathfinder he was also the man heading up the team for the newly released (on it’s way for us in Australia) ‘Ultimate Campaign’.

I recently contacted Jason with the hope that he might answer a few questions for us regarding ‘Ultimate Campaign’ and he was very kind to take a breathe in his busy schedule and reply to them.

BTGN:  Can you tell us how the idea for Ultimate Campaign came about?  Was it due to an external source, such as the fans asking for a book like this, or and internal source with the team at Paizo seeing this as a natural progression for the game?

 JASON: The idea for Ultimate Campaign came from a combination of internal ideas and fans on our messageboards asking for some guidelines to support other aspects of their game. Over the past few years we’ve put out a lot of material focused on adventuring, but very little on what happens between adventures. While most GMs simply “hand-wave” this part of the campaign, we wanted to give GMs some guidelines to flesh out this part of the game. It adds a great deal of verisimilitude to the system.


BTGN:  I had one Pathfinder player say to me that this book is really for “When you tire of kicking in the door and whacking goblins and instead want something deeper from your campaign”.  Is that the same sort of feeling the team at Paizo have with this book?

JASON: Exactly. Not that anyone should get tired of whacking goblins, but we really wanted this book to be about the parts of your campaign that happen between adventures, from your character’s backstory all the way through to retirement at that inn and tavern you’ve always dreamed about. We wanted to give you the tools to build your own castle, or even kingdom, and of course, if you have a kingdom, you might need to go to war. The entire book was approached from this viewpoint. We tried to cram as many different types of rules systems in the book as possible, each one looking at a different facet of your campaign. The great part is, you can drop in any elements that you want from the book, and leave out the rest. The book is about options after all.


BTGN: The web page blurb for Ultimate Campaign makes mention that “This imaginative tabletop game builds on more than 10 years of system development and an open playtest featuring more than 50,000 gamers”.  Is this testing system an ongoing thing?  How much of it was applicable to Ultimate Campaign?  Can you tell us a little more about how the system works and some of the benefits?

JASON: We try to playtest any of the big, important systems set to appear in any of our books. At the start of the Pathfinder RPG, this was the game itself, but over the years it tended to focus on classes and new big rules components (like the Mythic core rules, set to come out this summer). Our playtests are 100% open, with free to download pdfs of the relevant issues and plenty of discussion boards on our site to get people talking. I spend a great deal of time going through these forums, looking for feedback and ideas to make the rules better. In the case of Ultimate Campaign, this was a little different. The book features the kingdom building and war rules from the Kingmaker Adventure Path, so in this case, the playtest had been ongoing  for quite some time before the book even began. We had a lot of feedback to draw from and we used those notes to refine and improve the systems. I really do feel that playtesting allows us to make better games and I am grateful to our fans for helping us out.


BTGN: Since the beginning of Pathfinder players have been able to craft magical items of all shapes and sizes.  However Ultimate Campaign also includes information on crafting magic items.  How does this differ from what we have seen before?

JASON: It does not really differ, instead it just gives you some tips and advice for making it a more important part of your game. It also ties into our downtime system, a system of rules for managing the time between adventures. While the wizard is crafting a new item, the fighter in the group might be working on gathering the capital necessary to found a warrior’s training school and the rogue might be looking and opening a thieves guild. These rules just tie everything together.


BTGN: I think that most of the excitement for this book revolves around Kingdom creation and mass combat.  I can see a LOT of Pathfinder groups creating fresh campaigns that focus purely on this, perhaps in a “Game of Thrones” fashion or perhaps more like “The Tale of the Industrious Rogue”.  Would Paizo be looking to expand into this area more in the future with more books?

JASON: That was our thought as well. The Kingmaker rules for kingdom building and mass combat were well received and we wanted to expand upon them in this book. Unfortunately, space was a bit limited, so we could not do everything we dreamed off in this one book, but in the future we might revisit the topic.


BTGN: I can see on the Paizo website that the book has been released as both a Hard Cover physical product and also as a digital PDF.  How is the digital market working out for you guys?  Are you seeing a shift in customers moving to digital or are the majority traditionalists (like myself) and enjoy a tangible product?

JASON: PDFs have always been a part of what makes Pathfinder great. We embrace the PDF market, but we also believe that while a PDF can make things easy for reference, nothing beats a real book when it comes to reading and learning the rules of the game. Of course, tastes vary, but we like to ensure that gamers have the options they need to play the game and reference the rules any way they want.


BTGN: Jason, thank-you so much for taking the time to talk to us.  We can’t wait to see what you and Paizo have in store for us next.

JASON: Thank you for this opportunity. Next up on our schedule is Mythic Adventures, due out in August of this year. I am very excited for this book. It takes your game to a whole new level. 


‘Ultimate Campaign’ should be landing on shelves in Australia sometime in the next couple of weeks, I’d contact your local gaming or hobby store for specifics.


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One Comment
  1. May 31, 2013 | Reply

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