Founded in 2002, Paizo Publishing specializes in publishing tabletop role-playing games, or RPGs, in particular its flagship Pathfinder Role Playing Game, as well as magazines, books and a wide range of gaming accessories all designed for the fantasy game-playing marketplace. The company originally published materials and magazines focused on Star Wars and Dungeon & Dragons under license before launching its own Pathfinder RPG in 2009.
In role-playing games, players take on the roles of characters in the game. By using specially designed dice to determine the outcomes of battles and other events, players participate in quests and adventures set in fantasy realms of magical kings and queens, monsters, witches, goblins, dragons, peasants, and warriors. More than 55,000 people have registered formally to play Pathfinder, according to a spokesperson, but that’s a fraction of those involved playing informally around the world.
Since its launch in 2009, the Pathfinder RPG supports a publishing operation that generates about 85 books a year and includes everything from rule books and maps to novels, comics and graphic novels, and magazines, as well as related merchandise. One of its more ambitious book projects is Pathfinder Tales, a series of mass market paperbacks set in the fantasy sword and sorcery universe of the Pathfinder RPG, which the company has been producing since 2010, said James Sutter, Paizo senior fiction editor and a Pathfinder author. Sutter said the company has published 17 of the novels to date and will publish the 18th in December. “They’re all stand-alone works set in the Pathfinder world and often written by New York Times bestselling fantasy authors,” Sutter said about Pathfinder Tales. The books are published every other month and can be purchased individually, though “Pathfinder fans generally buy them all,” Sutter said, noting that there is a subscription plan that allows readers to get the books automatically each month. All Pathfinder Tales novels are bundled print and digital together; subscribers get the print titles in the mail and an automatic download of the e-book. (Paizo, based in Redmond, Wash., has about 42 employees and reported revenue of $11.2 million in 2012.)
Among Pathfinder Tales authors are Hugo Award–winning Tim Pratt (City of Fallen); New York Times bestselling authors Elaine Cunningham (Winter Witch) and Ed Greenwood (The Wizard’s Mask); and Sutter (Death’s Heretic), who was ranked #3 on Barnes & Noble’s 2011 list of best fantasy writers. While Sutter declined to give PW specific sales figures, he said sales are growing, albeit from a small base.
Paizo gets its biggest sales from books about the game itself, usually books on rules, strategy, and other aspects of gameplay. Its RPG Core Rulebook is its biggest seller (more than 150,000 copies in print), but others, all hardcovers, provide info on how to play the game, new monsters, equipment, spells, and more. Other game books include the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line, paperback and hardcover “travel guides” to Pathfinder’s imaginary world; Adventure Path, monthly 96-page paperbacks offering a series of linked adventures; and Modules, 64-page paperbacks and hardcovers offering stand-alone adventures.
There are also cards, dice, and maps, all available by subscription and with discounts. Sutter said there are two comics lines: Pathfinder, the main series, features heroes fighting monsters and such in an ongoing six-issue monthly comics series collected into hardcover editions (Dark Waters Rising is out now); it’s written by Jim Zubkavich and penciled by Sean Izakse, and produced by license to comics publisher Dynamite. And there’s Pathfinder Goblins, a new series that features humorous stories about Pathfinder’s notorious goblins that features stories by a number of authors (including Sutter) that will also be collected into a hardcover edition. “Dynamite produces all the comics; we oversee the story lines and approve everything,” Sutter said. The books are distributed by Diamond Book Distributors.
Pathfinder fans range from 30 years old to 50 years old, Sutter said, “and we’ve got kids, too.” He said all you need to start playing Pathfinder is a Beginners Box, an entry-level product that includes the dice and a slimmed-down version of the rules. Pathfinder is “extremely popular with parents of young children, teachers, and librarians,” Sutter said.