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Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
73,986 backers pledged $3,986,929 to help bring this project to life.

Update #5 - Souls, Technology, and Adventuring Companies

Posted by Obsidian Entertainment (Creator)

Developing setting and atmosphere are very important to us at Obsidian. We try to build worlds that are believable even when they are fantastic. To do that, we strive to create people, cultures, and conflicts that are both strongly defined and heavily interconnected. In observing community discussion about the game, we've noted two recurring requests for more detail: on the nature of souls and on the level of this world's technology. This update deals less with culture details and more specifically with those two topics since they are fundamental to the way the world works. There's also some information at the end about a new $5,000 backer tier we're excited to introduce. Thanks for reading!

N.B.: I know I said I'd talk about mechanics today. I forgot that I had already said I'd talk about technology earlier. Sorry! The next update I do will talk about non-combat skills the nature of classes in Project Eternity. 


As we hinted at in our pitch videos, souls are A Big Deal in Project Eternity's world. The mortal world has not unlocked all of the secrets of how souls "work" and differing schools of metaphysical philosophy can be found in virtually every culture. What is known is that sapient souls move through an endless cycle of waking life and purgatorial slumber among the gods. Often this slumber lasts for years of "real" time, but occasionally it is brief, with a soul immediately moving on to a new life.

Far from being a flawless process, souls are subject to "fracturing" over generations, transforming in myriad ways, and not quite... working right. Some cultures and individuals place a high value on "strong" souls, souls with a "pure" lineage, "awakened" souls that remember past lives, "traveled" souls that have drifted through the divine realms, or those that co-exist with other souls in one body. However, the opposite is also true, resulting in negative discrimination and sometimes outright violence.

Through a variety of techniques (e.g. martial training, meditation, ritualistic evocation, mortification of the flesh), some individuals are able to draw upon the energy of their soul to accomplish extraordinary feats. These abilities range from the mundanely superhuman to the explosively magical. Having a strong soul seems to make this easier, but sometimes even people with fragmented souls are able to accomplish the extraordinary. The individual's body seems to act as a conduit and battery for this power, drawing in replenishment from seemingly omnipresent "fields" of unbound spiritual energy in the world around them.

Thinkers, spiritualists, and scientists of the world have theorized for thousands of years about the nature and purpose of this process, but others have turned to prayer for answer. Rather than illuminate the presumed higher purpose of this cycle, the gods have obfuscated the truth, at times spreading cosmological lies, pitting believers and empowered chosen agents against each other, and tacitly approving the prejudices of their followers to maintain power.

Whatever the fundamental nature of mortal souls is, the people of the world accept the reality of what they have observed: that all mortal bodies contain perceptible energy bound to the individual, and that once they die, their energy will move forward in the eternal cycle that they are all a part of -- that as far as they know, they have always been a part of. 


The cultures of Project Eternity are in a variety of different technological states. Though some remote civilizations are still in the equivalent of Earth's Stone Age or Bronze Age, most large civilizations are in the equivalent of Earth's high or late Middle Ages. The most aggressive and powerful civilizations are in the early stages of what would be our early modern period, technologically, even if they are not culturally undergoing "Renaissance"-style changes.

For most large civilizations, this means that all of the core arms and armor of medieval warfare have reached a high level of development: full suits of articulated plate armor, a variety of military swords, war hammers, polearms, longbows, crossbows, and advanced siege weaponry. Architecturally, these cultures also employ technologies found in Earth's Gothic structures, allowing them to create towering vertical structures.

The most recent technologies seeing use in the world are ocean-going carrack-style ships and black powder firearms (notably absent: the printing press). Cultures with large navies and mercantile traffic are exploring the world, which has led to contact with previously-unknown lands and societies and settlement in new lands. Despite their intense drive, these explorers have been restricted from aggressive long-range exploration by monstrous sea creatures that pose a lethal, seemingly insurmountable threat to even the stoutest, most well-armed ships.

Black powder firearms are of the single-shot wheellock variety. Largely considered complex curiosities, these weapons are not employed extensively by military forces. Their long reload times are considered a liability in battles against foes that are too monstrous to drop with a single volley, foes that fly or move at high speed, and foes that have the power of invisibility. Despite this, some individuals do employ firearms for one specific purpose: close range penetration of the arcane veil, a standard magical defense employed by wizards. The arcane veil is powerful, but it does not react well to the high-velocity projectiles generated by arquebuses and handguns. As a result, more wizards who previously relied on the veil and similar abjurations have turned to traditional armor for additional defense. 

New $5,000 Tier

Bam! We started with a $5,000 tier that allowed the backer to set up an inn and receive some additional items. Fortunately or unfortunately, that sold out almost immediately. We've come up with a new tier that is aimed toward (but not limited to!) the forum communities that have shown (and continue to show) us so much support. Some of the most fun we've had as players, DMs, and game designers has happened when we got to deal with a group of enemy adventurers -- mercenaries, thugs, whatever you want to call them -- squaring off against the party. This new tier allows you to build a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude to throw at the player. We've also switched around a few of the bonuses in this tier, giving out more digital downloads. We can't wait to see what you come up with.

That's all for this update! Tomorrow we'll have some words from Chris Jones about the technology we're using to build Project Eternity.

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    1. light487 - Kickstarter Junkie on

      This "souls" concept reminds me a little of the "Spirits" in Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader..

    2. Missing avatar

      Scotty on

      Please, please, please make it look semi-realistic [Dragon Age, Skyrim] and not cartoony [World of Warcraft, anime, etc] In fact make it look like BG2 except in a modern engine, PLEASE.

    3. theAnton on

      Really looking forward to this.

    4. Sérgio Schüler on

      If this game is 1/10 as awesome as Planescape: Torment, you will have done a super awesome job! :)

    5. PANCZASU on

      Personally I'm not too excited about the firearms (hope they really are a rare "complex curiosity"), but I love the idea of stone/bronze age weapons. At a time when everyone wants to go around with beautiful swords or (blah, I hate them) firearms or crossbows, I want my team warrior to go around with tiger claws attached to his fists and a bronze spear, just to show everyone what he thinks of the fancy tech ^^

    6. Missing avatar

      Tom D on

      Super psyched on Early firearms. So will there be some sort of Tech/engineer class that has an easier time specializing in guns? Really interested to hear what type of classes you guys are cooking up. Hoping for at least one unique one. Diablo 3 had issues, but I enjoyed the creativity of classes that drew on other cultures and were a little unexpected.

    7. Missing avatar

      Dominik on

      Very interesting. I went from kind of iffy to actually liking this idea of technology better than traditional fantasy.

    8. Procopius on

      I for one, look forward to primitive firearms. I want my endgame fighter to be wheeling around an 18-pounder cannon.

    9. Lars Westergren

      Souls will affect magic, and will likely be a major plot driver. I doubt they would recycle the exact soul-eater mechanic though, I think we are going to see something new and creative.

    10. LoatheMe on

      re: souls. is this just lore or is it going to enter into the gameplay via some kind of soul eater-like system like Mask of the Betrayer?

    11. Alan Villarreal on

      I had a suggestion for the upcoming game. I think it would be cool to see cameos of past game heroes in Project Eternity. Of course they would not have the same names (except for Drizzt) but the exact same look/features when you engage in dialog with them. To see Minsc, Imoen, Xan, Edwin from BG series suddenly pop up as a Innkeeper, quest giver or shop owner would be a lot of fun!

    12. Cedros on

      You should spice up your Stretch Goals with some art a little, people tend to like that for some reason on Kickstarter.

      Anyway I know this will be most likely pointless because you guys practically pioneered this, but just make sure every item, every weapon and piece of armor even those most basic ones have some kind of unique description and art (items with their own history were the best part of Planescape: Torment). I don't know why so many developers disregard this but when the items in RPG feel generic and copy/pasted the entire game feel boring, bland and empty (I'm looking at you Bethesda).

      Same thing with GUI and Invetory. Most of the recent RPGs feel like you're doing generic spreadsheets work and they break all immersion with their dullness. Sadly your Fallout New Vegas actually felt kinda like that, implementing PIP Boy as your invetory and overall GUI was pretty neat but having what basically was text-only list in Microsoft Excel of your items wasn't really that satisfying as having hand-drawn icons of your items in Fallout 1/2. Items felt real there, like you REALLY have them on you.

      But I'm pretty sure everyone in Obsidian is well aware of this, what I wanna say is that most of the players notice this and really appreciate it. Your hard work and attention to the detail doesn't go in vain. People usually praise the Planescape: Torment for its story and characters. Items and weapons that were obviously crafted with extensive care are vital part of that incredible immersion Planescape: Torment offers.

    13. VIGIL on

      "(notably absent: the printing press)" Curious. Great update. Thank you very much for all your hard work, dedication and passion.

    14. Johannes 'Waldgeist' Rebhan on

      @Tormod Gjeitnes Hellen
      In the end it's a fantasy world. You should never apply the standard, real world rules in it. It has to be believable on it's own right. Maybe their explosives are not as powerful as the ones we came up with. Maybe, their metal is just ... different and tougher. Maybe they use magic to re-enforce the metal plating. Maybe they have an easy method of hardening and tempering the metal armor, that made it cost effective to produce.

      There are all kinds of very, very good reasons as to why a fantasy world is different, developed different than our world did. That's a good thing. If they wanted to make a medieval game set in our own world history, they would've done so. They don't, so don't try to over-analyse things with logic based on the development of our world.

      Enjoy the difference. It makes for more interesting and varied story telling.

    15. Missing avatar

      George McNamara "Critical - O.O." on

      Fantastic update, a couple things in particular stand out:

      -I like all the possibilities you have created with souls in your lore. I further hope you try and keep the understanding of how souls work under constant questioning and scrutiny by the player. With multiple souls, will that mean we could have a character that could actually switch their skill set around by changing out the souls that inhabit the body (similar to Rift)?

      -Normally I dislike firearms in a Classic Fantasy Setting, mainly because developers turn them into 19th century cartridge based firearms, because they think players will dislike the long reload times of wheel-lock, flintlock and matchlock firearms. However, I love the idea of making them a key weapon against magical barriers. Pirates and Highwaymen we're known to carry several firearms and I hope a character can be built this way as a sort of anti-mage class.

      -Finally, every fantasy game needs a giant sea monster boss. My advice, put us between the Scylla and Charybdis.

    16. Vojta Adalbert Čejka / Dream Traveller on

      Off-topic: Is that PJ Harvey behind your head? This is getting even more Awesome! :D

    17. Missing avatar

      Jens mogensen on

      Great update. Sounds really good that you are mixing high fantasy concepts with late middle age advancements. Also very much looking forward to the update about the technology.

    18. princereynart on

      You guys did a ptich video? I just saw Obsidian and Kickstarter and pledged as much as I could afford. (That's a lie - i threw down slightly more than I could afford)

    19. Missing avatar

      Mamali Kosari on

      Souls that co-exist with another soul in a body?! Man, I can't wait get my dirty little hands on this game!

    20. Tuomo Syrjä on

      Souls, firearms and ships. Sounds alot like Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader

    21. Thomas Wentt on

      Great post! Very intriguing stuff, especially the different sorts of souls and how they might lend themselves to various character types and classes.

    22. Jared87 on

      So, I'm going to be a badass Dwarf in a Tudor frock popping caps in peoples' arses with a flintlock. DONE.

      I'll probably call him Dornidan Stormbrow because I'm lame.

    23. Missing avatar

      Kildayen on

      I'm more excited about this project every time I read an update. Even though it has elves and dwarves.

    24. Ilya Spiridonov on

      Well, I hope in this game will be companions with random classes to make diffenrent parties every signle game.

    25. Missing avatar

      Brian on

      Very pleased that firearms may be implemented. Reminds me of those heady Arcanum days...

    26. Missing avatar

      Mikhael Blackthorne on

      So what I am reading is that the gods are fucking with their followers and magic users can wear armor. I love it.

    27. Laurent Maire on

      Sweet! Really looking forward to finding out a little more on how you guys are planning to build the game from a tech standpoint. Very encouraging update today too. The world you're creating is slowly beginning to coalesce but can I say I really like the vibe of doubt and uncertitude you're seeding. This will open the doors for plenty of metaphysical and philosophical discussions. Wonderful for exploring real-world questions and also for infusing concrete and individual character to the various cultures we will encounter.

    28. Missing avatar

      Michael Haney on

      Sounds awesome! A nice break from pure sword-and-shield RPGs. Granted I imagine both will be used extensively but at least it won't be another "HEY WE'RE AN RPG AND YOU CAN IMAGINE YOU'RE ARAGORN FOR HOURS!!!"

      Love the context given to firearms and exploration. Basically sounds like and alternate (and obviously fantasy) history of the dawn of the European Imperialist era. Safe to say I'm getting more and more psyched with every update. Might even up my pledge. ;) Keep it coming!

    29. foxfirerage on

      Not a fan of firearms D:

    30. Missing avatar

      Fred Doloresco on

      Nice Kentucky Fried Movie quote. Well played.

    31. Jean-Luc Picard on

      Good stuff Obsidian.

    32. Tormod Gjeitnes Hellen on


      Yes, but high-quality plate armor cost more than regular plate armor, and not everyone who can afford plate armor can afford high-quality plate armor and if you just add on more low-quality steel the you'd need to ride on something because you probably can't carry it yourself. This is also highly dependent on the range. What I'm saying is that it changes the economics of war equipment, largely making it futile to use heavy armor on foot unless your armor is ridiculously expensive, for example.
      A level 1 ranged character with an arquebus is to a level 1 fighter-style character what a knife is to butter; the fighter is better off staying at home. That's significant, and it alters the battlefield until it no longer looks quite as middle-age-ish as was impressed on me by this update.

      Oh, and I'm aware that I'm derailing any discussion here. I just care about this game. If this was CoD I wouldn't have bothered :)

    33. Missing avatar

      Emil Svensson on

      Reminder that Gygax statted out arquebuses for D&D and that many D&D settings feature science fantasy-type stuff, like Spelljammer. Doesn't break fantasy for me, just makes it even more fantastic that they are included.

    34. madGamer on

      I want fireams. i like all ideias

    35. Missing avatar

      James on

      Please, God, no firearms... it just breaks the "fantasy" feel. Do it with magic instead...

    36. Jhonrock on

      This is a fantasy game, not a military simulation. So, let's the imagination of the devs control the physics.

    37. Missing avatar

      Emil Svensson on

      Tormod, I believe you are underestimating the strength of plate armour vis a vis a wheellock musket. Muskets weren't adopted primarily because they were the most effective weapon, but that they were powerful and easy to use for the battlefield conditions of Western Europe and in Japan. Armour was and remained prohibitively expensive and fell out of popular use, but high-quality cuirasses were mostly immune to penetration from musket balls.

    38. Tormod Gjeitnes Hellen on


      Yes, but I'm pointing out that the update is self-contradictory. Saying you have the equivalent of arquebuses in the game but that said weapon is no good against plate armor is a self-contradiction. The two statements ' these weapons are not employed extensively by military forces' and 'arquebuses' cannot both be true unless man-vs-man battles in which armor is used are rare or the military leaders are stupid. Early firearms were rarely used in isolation; their wielders often had swords as well or, at a minimum, bayonets which were replacements for spears in contrast to the largely ornamental varieties we have today. The firearm would take down an armored enemy or an enemy at a distance while the melee weapon were used when the enemy came too close to permit reloading.

    39. Johannes 'Waldgeist' Rebhan on

      They already detailed in the text, that people don't use firearms, because they are not useful against the types of creates and enemies they have to fight.

    40. Tormod Gjeitnes Hellen on


      Early firearms like the arquebus are all smooth-bore; their bullets didn't rotate. Besides, the rotation is mostly there for the sake of accuracy, not penetration. I'm basically nitpicking here since it seems quite reasonable that books stop bullets better than frying pans, but not for the reason you state.
      I would rather think books are better because the bullet can bend the steel of the frying pan away, while a book is to thick for that; the pages would need to be forced away at a right angle to the bullet's travel direction. That requires a lot of force.

    41. Missing avatar

      limaxophobiac on

      I for one hope they don't re-treat magic as being in opposition to technology like in Arcanum, which was cool but no need to do the same thing again. Doesn't really seem like that's what they're doing though.

    42. Gusanito on

      Please, do it with the graphics of icewind dale, not beter :P

    43. Missing avatar

      teknoman2 on

      well according to a mythbuster experiment, a book has more chance of stoping a bullet than a frying pan. thick paper and leather generate more friction than a heavier but thinner metal sheet. this way they stop the bullet's rotation, taking away its penetrating ability, thus making it a faster than average slingshot rock that does blunt and not piercing damage

    44. Missing avatar

      limaxophobiac on

      While Arquebuses at close range could penetrate armour, Landsknechts (f.ex.) kept wearing plate for quite some time after that, and crossbow bolts could do the same long before firearms. Also it's possible gunpowder invented by the alchemists of Eternity isn't quite as good as ours while their plate is a bit better.

    45. Missing avatar

      Tsumoro on

      I like the idea that giant sea monsters are stopping people from exploring other parts of the world, kinda makes me think that they are 'reserving' those areas for future content hehe. Obviously if the game world (which is shaping up to being quite nice) has the level of depth that other DnD games have I would quite happily continue to invest in future contributions to the project.

    46. Tormod Gjeitnes Hellen on


      Yeah, but it would also be effective against knights and people relying on armor without magic.

      Basically, arquebuses would inflate the cost of armor since all armor would need to be enchanted in order to be bulletproof. Arquebuses looks like good weapons against the targets that can't afford both plate armor and enchantments.

    47. Missing avatar

      Bieeanshee on

      " a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude..."

      You have our gawatitude.

    48. Thomas O'Leary on

      The veil probably slows the bullet enough that the armor can stop it.