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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. Charles Gielen on

      Yay! this game will be a great addition to RPG gamers!

      Also @Dectilon, Paper and Leather padded armor ( underneath platemetal or chainmail ) can stop a musket ball or even slower rifle ammunition. Samurai's for instance employed thick wadded paper behind their armor to stop even close range musket shots.

    2. Kabraxis on

      Foes that fly sounds very interesting, too!

    3. Tormod Gjeitnes Hellen on

      With regard to plate armor and arquebuses, Wikipedia seems to suggest that arquebuses are very useful against armor, which contradicts the update. In fact, piercing armor seems to have been arquebuses main purpose IRL.

      Quote below:

      "As a low-velocity firearm, the arquebus was used against enemies who were often partially or fully protected by steel-plate armour. Plate armour worn upon the torso was standard in European combat from about 1400 until the middle of the 17th century. Good suits of plate would usually stop an arquebus ball at long range. It was a common practice to "proof" (test) armour by firing a pistol or arquebus at a new breastplate. The small dent would be circled by engraving to call attention to it. However, at close range, it was possible to pierce even heavy cavalry armour, heavily dependent on the power of the arquebus and the quality of the armour. This led to changes in armour usage, such as the three-quarter plate, and finally the retirement of plate armour from most types of infantry." -

    4. Kabraxis on

      Oh please a quest with a giant sea creature <3

    5. Missing avatar

      biggitio on

      I can't explain how amped I am for this game. I hope it is amazing and does super-well. Bring on the isometic RPG renaissance.

    6. Missing avatar

      Alex Vincent on

      Anyone know the estimated timeline for development?

    7. Missing avatar

      whizz on

      Awesome. Just awesome.

    8. Missing avatar

      cpt_freakout on

      This sounds amazing. Looking forward to it like a madman.

    9. Missing avatar

      Ryan on

      Well Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura is a perfect example where technology and magic users were at odds. And Arcanum is one damn good game

    10. Missing avatar

      Mihailo Jesic on

      The part about mages adapting to ballistics sounds quite awesome. I can't think of any other instances, off the top of my head, where magic users had to deal with the advancement of technology.

    11. Dominus on

      Please go wild and crazy with this game setting!
      I wanna see something I've never seen before.
      Go beyond Planescape!

    12. Missing avatar

      Dectilon on

      Nice, I do like the idea of a non-magical tool trumping a magical one. Most of the time magic just hand-waves away anything mundane. Not sure how normal armor would help against guns though. The whole thing with arquebuses (historically at least) was that they made heavy armor pointless.

    13. James McKendrew

      I'd like to think that a blunderbus would be an excellent way to find invisible folk, of they existed...

    14. Missing avatar

      Crysto on

      By far the most amazing in terms of combat strategic was Icewind Dale 2, no monsters were random placed on the field, i really liked the end of each act where you faced harder and harder encounters.

      I`m sorry to point Dragon Age Origins but after the prologue the first fight was brutal, you had to face like 8 bandits and you had like 4 people in party or so, you had no way going back, you cant run trough them, there was no strategic fight at all.. just mindless fight whole game not to mention the low pool of monsters, darkspawns and more darkspawns.

      In Icewind Dale 2 encounters where getting harder slowly not brutally, yes sometimes you were surrounded by monsters in a small chamber but that happened in last parts of the game when i could take care of myself.

      Sometimes rangers on high ground where annoying as hell but don`t trow them at the beginning of the game like DA: Origins did.

      Good luck sorry for long post !

    15. Celeir on

      How pleasant voice, Chris, I agree to listen you Eternity )

    16. Alex Masterson on

      Very, very cool. My head's going wild with all sorts of possibilities and thoughts... You know what would be cool? A companion who keeps having different soul personalities surface, but that mechanic is actually coded to be random within the game. So depending on what soul might be dominant at any one time, that could provide for different conversations / outcomes to events.... That would be quite something!

      Or someone who can absorb fragments of other people's souls, as a way of taking on memories, knowledge, abilities and such... but has to force a fragment of there existing soul-makeup into the person they're taking the soul from. Gah... I'm going to be up a while tonight, I can tell :D

    17. Missing avatar

      redeicarciofi on

      WONDERFUL update! :)

    18. BruceP - Chameleon Prime

      Thanks for the update!

    19. Missing avatar

      leafspring on

      The soul concept kinda reminds me of the Elves in the Bernhard Hennen books, which is a good thing cause I always liked the implications and possibilities of such 'life cycles'.
      It allows for a lot of depth for characters and their behavior. Whatever they do, they aren't simply mad, evil or whatever. There's a story behind it, an explanation and a journey that formed them into what they are.
      It's great to see that we can anticipate this richness from Eternity (not that I ever thought otherwise... :P).

    20. Brandon Zarzyczny on

      I'm loving the World Building in this game, everything sounds very interesting.

    21. Missing avatar

      Carole on

      ooh I wish I could afford to create an enemy party! it will definitely be evil! hahaa!

    22. Damkyan - Obsidian Order on

      @Yosharian Your comment made my day good Sir!

    23. walkir -Obsidian Order ot Goat Kn. Cmdr. on

      "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" - that one is selling far faster than a forum collection can be started, let alone finished... at least on the boards I frequent.

      Anyway, as long as the money helps to improve the game, who cares where it does come from. ;)

    24. arthureloi on

      So Lionheart meets Arcanum right?

    25. Ohad - Obsidian Order's Village Shaman on

      Enemy parties are good news. I never seen them after baldur's gate (I don't mean enemy parties lurking in dungeons but more the rival ones I recall vividly waiting for me in the exit from a dungeon in BG2

    26. Yosharian on

      Could you please stop updating us, thanks. Every time I read one of these updates I go back to being able to think of nothing else but this damn game. I have a life to lead, you know? Jeez.

    27. Jan Smejkal on

      Wonderful concept, so Obsidian-ish. Love it! Thanks, Josh.

    28. TheChosenOne on

      1 or 2 tiers between 500-1000 would be a good idea aswell. Steal the "painting" idea from The Banner Saga!

    29. Saber-Scorpion on

      I prefer not to call this any kind of "-punk", myself. This sounds like a nice, late medieval setting with early firearms and nautical technologies starting to be developed. I say we call it "Late Medieval Fantasy." ;-)

      I hope there is no zany clockwork or steampunk technology present. Nothing that the Ancient Greeks would not have had, anyway. They had some pretty neat devices driven by water-power and gears.

      I wonder, will the terrible accuracy of early firearms be taken into account along with their long reload times? That was another disadvantage they had over bows/crossbows. It would also be nice to have some melee abilities with a firearm, like a bayonet stab and/or crushing blow with the rifle butt.

      Just throwing out ideas. Anyway, everything sounds great!

    30. Sempavor - Bandit of the Obsidian Order on

      I like how that "soul's system" works: seems like a good way to justify a "multiclass" system!

    31. Raphael on

      I really like they use real-life souls for this game :)

    32. Bill Harned on

      Very nice update. we are now getting some where. That is the kind of information I am looking for. The more I see of that could get me yo up my pledge from the 20 dollar tier considerable. Please keep it coming

    33. Tomimt on

      Sounds good to me. No matter what my character is gonna wield those guns.

    34. Leucha on

      I really like the part about magic shields and firearms :D

    35. Missing avatar

      RoedeOurm on

      Impressive :D
      I loved what I read !!!!
      Obsidian <3

    36. Massimo Cesario on

      Ancient civilizations and cultures please! Exploring ruins, learning ancient spells and secrets, ancient soul knowledge...

    37. Jhonrock on

      I want a weapon like this one:
      Produced on year 1597.

    38. Crosmando on

      Wow, nice fluff, is Renaissancepunk already a coined phrase?

    39. Missing avatar

      Dice on

      Utterly amazing reward tier that's making me resent my current life status as being a penniless student.
      I'd just like to also mention that the current background sounds GORGEOUS and that this project is quickly turning into the game I've always wanted to play since wasting my childhood (in the best possibly way, you understand) on your older RPGs.

      Bring it on!!! :D

    40. Missing avatar

      Jack on

      Oh my god yes, this is EXACTLY the kind of update I've been looking forward to from you guys. Absolutely fantabulous, I love it!

    41. Charles Stuard on

      I love the role souls play in the world, I hope this has not only a strong impact on the story and world, but also the character creation and development. Would love to complete spirit quests to discover my former lives or be able to create a "dual class" character built on the concept of two souls in one body... Heck, maybe even a multiple personality concept!

      Really exciting realm for me. I can't wait to explore a world like that.

    42. KlausigerKlaus on

      Sorry, of course it's Josh talking in the video...

    43. Jaesun on

      Awesome update! <3

    44. Jhonrock on

      "Black powder firearms are of the single-shot wheellock variety"
      YAY!!!! These old kind of firearms are so cool, and it fits very well in a world of fantasy (see Guild Wars 2).

    45. Missing avatar

      Douglas Hamer on

      I love all of you so much

    46. KlausigerKlaus on

      Ok, now I understood the news in magazines concerning firearms. The way Chris explained it, it's totally acceptable for me.
      By the way... What a strange German poster is hanging on the wall. Can't see it clearly, but what I see, looks a bit nasty, doesn't it ;)

    47. Gaute Juveth on

      Technology is looking good. I am quite uncertain about the souls thing. Looks a bit to much as spiritualism / new age'ish for me. But it might turn out to work well in game.

    48. Blackstaff on

      Great ! Great ! My soul is fulfilled ^_^

    49. Bakshi Mushailov on

      finally got a better mic :P thanks for the info