Last Monday, July 26th, Paizo announced a change to their Organized Play publication schedule:
Moving forward, we plan to slightly reduce the number of standard scenarios released for both campaigns. Pathfinder Society will release 3 new scenarios for the season launch in August and the standard 2 new scenarios in September, November, and December. In October, we will release 1 new scenario.
For Starfinder Society, we will produce the standard 2 new scenarios per month in August and October, but will release only 1 new scenario in September, November, and December.
Overall, we will see a similar pattern in 2022, with slightly fewer scenarios for both campaigns (but at least 1 new scenario a month for both campaigns, and more than that more often than not). To help our community keep up to date, we will add a section to our monthly update blogs with the upcoming production schedule.
What does this mean for Paizo?
Publisher Erik Mona goes to great lengths to explain that this is not a sign that Paizo is doing poorly, but rather it’s a sign that the Digital Team (which the Organized Play team is recently a part of) is working too many hours. (That’s not exactly what he said; he really said “These changes are an attempt to better balance the breakneck pace of our in-house editorial operation to improve quality overall […]” but we can read between the lines.)
That explanation may seem a bit odd to a lot of people. After all, why not just hire more people if the product lines are doing well? It’s not as farfetched an explanation as it may seem, though.
Organized Play has a notoriously voracious appetite for content, and previous organized play developers had similarly notorious schedules to match–it’s said that John Compton, the long-time indefatigable developer for Pathfinder Society 1st Edition, was regularly working 80 hours a week. The team has expanded since then, but so have the offerings–previously, the team was responsible for at least 2 scenarios a month for Pathfinder Society 2e and another 2 scenarios a month for Starfinder Society, to say nothing of the extra work created by the multi-table interactive specials and the 1-hour adventures released first as quests and now as bounties.
New product lines have since been launched, with Starfinder adventures (formerly known as modules) and now Pathfinder and Starfinder one-shots clamoring for attention.
There are a lot of reasons to play any tabletop RPG nowadays, and Paizo’s got a few claims to fame, but the most well-known trait they bring to the table is their marvelous talent for adventure writing. Even this, though, has sometimes become less of an asset at points–around Gen Con every year, players and GMs would notice that the quality of the editing might drop a bit as the yearly Gen Con crunch demanded two or three new scenarios plus a multi-table interactive special.
We don’t know what’s truly going on inside Paizo–they’re fairly open, but any company can hide problems if they really want to. Even so, the reduction in content isn’t an obvious sign that Paizo is failing. Instead, this might be a signal of Paizo’s belated transition from scrappy start-up to entrenched contender: you work a lot of hours at a start up, but most of us can’t keep it going forever. Eventually you need to transition to positions with decent pay, decent schedules, and a general expectation that you don’t need to find substitute parents for your children three months of out the year.
What does this mean for us?
Well, in the immediate term, it looks like we’re getting less content. How much less content we get depends on the system. Exact numbers aren’t available yet, but it looks like Starfinder will be harder-hit than Pathfinder 2e, with PFS2 losing one scenario before the end of the year and Starfinder losing three.
When Mona described the rationale behind the decision, there were two components: the first was workload. The second was, “[…] to diversify our adventure offerings to provide a wider variety of play experiences, ideally with an eye toward adding more people to the player networks for both games.” With Thurston Hillman spending more time on One-Shots, we can expect those to play a bigger role in our Society gaming diet. Mona also announced 3rd-level Pathfinder Society bounties (which had previously been only for level 1 characters) and Starfinder Society bounties as well. Depending on the eventual distribution, the One-Shots may mostly or entirely make up for the missing PFS2 scenarios.
One last factor that wasn’t mentioned in the blog post is the change from the monthly Starfinder Society Adventure Path (AP) schedule to the bimonthly (okay, okay, once every two months) AP schedule. The other months will be filled with Starfinder Society adventures, and the first of those efforts, Junker’s Delight, is reaching subscribers as we speak. The speed of sanctioning has increased over the past year, and we may be able to mix some adventures in with our regular scenario play.
Expect More Changes
With a new leadership team transitioning into place, it’s not a surprise that Paizo’s making changes, and those changes are going to affect Organized Play in some way. We’ve seen a number of experiments in recent years, some of which have paid off and will stick around a while (mini-adventure-paths, for example) while others may not. (Quests for Pathfinder Society 2e were pretty short-lived, even if their successor, Bounties, looks awfully alike.) We’ll try to minimize the effects these changes have on you, but be flexible! We shouldn’t be surprised if we hear about more experiments and changes in the next year or two.