Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne looks at Paizo's new program to encourage in-store sales to Pathfinder players.

In case you missed the posting on ICv2 earlier this week, Paizo Inc. announced the implementation of a Pathfinder Society program targeted at encouraging retail sales.  I first heard discussion of some form of incentive tied to purchases at the GAMA Trade Show last March.  One incentive the company said they were considering was a program allowing Pathfinder Society players to receive an in-game boon when they made a purchase at the venue on the day of the game.  Six months later, they announced the program.

If a player in a Pathfinder Society game makes a purchase of $10 or more that day at the location where the game takes place and shows the receipt to the GM, all players at the table get the Harder to Kill benefit.  All character constitutions get figured as if five points higher when determining if damage would kill them.  A combined purchase of $50 by one or more players gets the same benefit but the constitution is figured as if 10 points higher.  A nice boon but not one so powerful as to unbalance game play.

From the venue’s point of view, making the benefit only applicable to the player who  made the $10 purchase would prove more beneficial as currently the program only offers incentive for one player to make the purchase.  Making it a per player boon would give more reason for more players to make purchases and they could still combine them for the $50 10 point bonus.  Also, the benefit applies to any purchase made, not solely Pathfinder material which does not give the players any reason to purchase Pathfinder books when they are there.  Apparently this is to encourage other locales such as community centers that might have a snack bar to host or provide play space for events and to encourage players to spend money there.

While a nice bit of outreach by Paizo, it really does little to encourage players to buy their products in the store as it specifically allows a receipt from "any purchase" to apply to receiving the benefit.

Granted I only have anecdotal evidence, but every store I have communicated with regarding the promotion has already drastically cut back the quantity of Pathfinder products stocked, save for items that need replacing regularly, such as the Player Character Folio, or usable with other games, such as the Flip Mats, both of which are among our best-selling Paizo items this year, and neither of which are easily usable in PDF format.  Several stores commented that sales on Pathfinder products had dropped so much that they had opted to clear the entire line out and expand their D&D selection and stock instead.

When sales of Pathfinder products were high, and stores could reasonably expect to sell two to three copies of a new release at full price or close to it, 'twas easy to overlook Paizo's subscription program and its 20% off savings or its bargain priced PDF line of every print product.  With sales dropping, stores have proven much less likely to stock a product that the publisher is discounting directly to its primary market and I fear it will take more than a $10 purchase incentive to justify stocking more of the line again.  Hopefully, Paizo has some more plans to re-energize its in-store sales.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of