Code/Switch – How Pathfinder Can Learn From Free-To-Play Games, and Get Better.

Hi, my name is James and welcome to Code/Switch. I have a dirty open-secret that I’m going to air, I’ve by and large stopped plating Pathfinder. I’m about to run my final session of Skulls & Shackles and I still plan to play in The Everyman Gamers Strange Aeons game, but I’ve already tabled my PFS character sheets and eagerly await Pathfinder 2, Pathfinder-er. There is a small tragedy in that the chronicles for Strange Aeons were just released and they’ve just been tacked on to my -69 character number to languish in perpetuity.

The upcoming release Pathfinder 2 has gotten me thinking about things I’d like to see from the game and surprisingly that list reminded me a lot of what I enjoy about Free-To-Play (F2P) mobile games. I fully agree F2P games have a shady reputation and it’s not wholly undeserved, there are many that are just shameless cash grabs, but recent spate of F2P games have started to change that. This wave includes games like; Pokemon GO!, Fate/Grand Order, Hearthstone, and my current favorite, Dan Machi Memoria Freese. I want to go over 4 concepts these games use effectively that may help improve our experience with games like Pathfinder and Starfinder too!

An auto-battle AND a fast forward button! Memoria Freese everything a F2P game needs!

Concept 1: Continuing Support and Bonuses for Previously Purchased Content.

This concept, along with some of the other ideas would require Paizo to adapt their online presence significantly. Who else has a copy of Ultimate Wilderness? This much maligned book received a pretty substantial update to make the Shifter more competitive with other classes, which is pretty cool. You won’t find this update if you re-download your PDF copy and any books you buy of this going forward will still have that underpowered Shifter. Currently the update for the class is buried in the FAQ section of the website, which as of the time of writing was endlessly looping be between signing in and the actual FAQ page. The impetus put on customers to find and apply the fix is less than ideal.

Good F2P games continually support their player-bases interaction with their game. Glitches and exploits are fixed as easily as a player agreeing to download an update, not having them download a .exe file to apply to the games code every time they want to play. Good F2P games also compensate their players for continuing mistakes with in game rewards, sure these are free, but seeing a company go “Our bad” and giving you something to make up for the fact the game wouldn’t load for a day is feels pretty good.

Going along with the theme of supporting your purchasing base, giving your players bonuses for their purchases post-purchase would encourage people to go back and buy older books in the collection, as well as encouraging people to actually buy into a line rather than just consuming the info from a Reference Document. When I first subscribed to the companion line I got some Adventure Card game card and I thought that was slick, the next month I got the same card, and then I got the same card the month after that. The excitement of that same goblin card quickly faded but this idea was good! This can be something open to all the players who bought a particular book or from a specific product line and it doesn’t need to be physical content, it can be small stuff like the spells found in that old Paizo Ultimate Cantrip update bundled as a later bonus to those who purchased Ultimate Magic. Many F2P games have options like this; there’ll be a package deal for some of the in-game premium currency that’s bundled with some extra bonus for the same price as the in-game currency would be by itself.

Concept 2: Limited Time Events

Paizo spends a fair amount of resources to flesh out the backgrounds of their iconic characters, but how much impact have they had in the meta-changes of Golarion or even in Pathfinder Society scenarios? Their iconic characters give so much background in which to expand on with endless play potential. Paizo has given thought to limited time events and scenarios before; the Free RPG day Goblin Modules usually give bonuses based on playing it on Free RPG day versus other days, and Paizo has retired scenarios as well.

There will always be complaints about missing events, but the hype potential of making a scenario, quest, or module that will only be around for so long makes people take notice. The We Be Goblins model of offering better rewards at certain times can be a way to mitigate those complaints. This is also an idea that doesn’t need to be society specific, an iconic can get a small story arc where the players use pre-gens or their own characters to assist them in some part of their backstory or set up a continuing arc. At the end of the adventure maybe you’re able to find a code to redeem with Paizo’s website for an archetype, item, or spell from the published material.

Paid and F2P games use this concept regularly to drum up interest for their games. Overwatch will do seasonal events where they’ll release new game modes, they’ll also promote new competitive events with shortened seasons outside of their normal team-play ladder. Dan Machi Memoria Freese just finished up a month long cross-promotion event with the anime Kino’s Journey where you could get characters from Kino to put in your party for your dungeon diving, but if you didn’t get all the characters once the event ended you were out of luck. This is a concept that I believe could work in Pathfinder and would help the game feel more alive, more active, part of an ongoing experience rather than just a static playset of rules.

I literally put ice on my computers liquid cooling lines to bring this article to you.


This isn’t everything I want to say! I ran out of time because my computer literally would boot because my office was too hot, summer blues yal. Join me in 2 weeks as I go over 2 more concepts I’d like to see applied to Pathfinder; Grind Mitigation and a Random Reward Schedule. Many of these changes would require Paizo to allow you to register FLGS purchases with their website, something I think may currently be beyond its capabilities, but something I think they’d be able to accomplish if they tried. Feel free to chime in using the comment box below or find me on Discord.

James Ballod

James blossomed into geekdom like a piranha plant in the crack of a sidewalk. Watered by the muscle-brained lore of Warhammer 40,000 and nurtured in the rough bosom of World of Warcraft, tabletop RPGs came late in life to James. The rich lore and real-world influences in games like Pathfinder inspire James to explore them from every angle. When not being an annoying anime-fanboy he can be found discussing the history of various cuisines and over-analyzing real world influences in works of fiction.