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Six Sells

Monday, March 12, 2012


Illustration by Yngvar Asplund

One of the largest benefits of working as developer on a shared-world campaign like Pathfinder Society Organized Play is having the ability to gather data about how the community uses our products and improve them based on that data. In addition to the extremely helpful Pathfinder Society messageboards, where Campaign Coordinator Mike Brock and I can interact directly with some of our most active and engaged GMs and players, we also have the benefit of looking at literally thousands of tables’ worth of reported session data entered by GMs and event coordinators. This goldmine of information lets us keep a close eye on campaign trends, such as what level scenarios are most often played, which are particularly deadly, and what factions have a higher rate of success in their respective missions. When combined, the synergy of objective data from session reports and subjective feedback from the messageboards, direct email and personal interaction with players and GMs, and a mixture of the two from our growing network of volunteer regional coordinators is nearly unmatched, at least compared to the level of feedback we can get on our other product lines.

About this time last year, prompted by community feedback, I started looking closely at the average size of tables in Pathfinder Society games. Specifically, I was looking at what percentage of reported sessions were played by six or more PCs. The evidence was staggering. While seven-person tables are a relative rarity (as they should be), six-person tables are undoubtedly the norm in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. So I took that data and let it simmer for a while as I continued my routine development tasks.

A few months ago, in a conversation with Mike and a few other members of the editorial team, we were bouncing around the idea of giving GMs a little bit more power to scale adventures to accommodate parties of different sizes. Coming up with a means for GMs to scale encounters up proved incredibly difficult, and there wasn’t an elegant or easily implemented solution. But putting in guidelines for scaling encounters down was much easier.

Thus, beginning in Season 4, all Pathfinder Society scenarios will be designed with six PCs in mind, effectively increasing the CR of all encounters to accommodate larger parties. Each adventure will provide specific changes to apply for parties of four PCs, maintaining consistency in how the scenarios are altered, but giving a bit more latitude to account for table variance. Because five- and seven-person tables are both reasonably equipped to handle a six-person challenge, tables of both sizes should be run without any changes.

So that’s the plan! In true Pathfinder Society fashion, however, we’re eager to hear what the community thinks, so be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below! And because we like you all so much, here’s a piece of art from the recently released Pathfinder Society Exclusive Scenario: The Cyphermage Dilemma, which your local regional coordinator or 4- or 5-star GM can run for you.

Mark Moreland
Developer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Pathfinder Society Yngvar Apslund
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Cheliax ***** Owner - Enchanted Grounds

Mark Moreland wrote:
Were the percentage of 6-player tables out of total tables less than it is, I would agree that we may see a large shift in the 6-person:4-person ratio, but there's not very much room for leeway at this point. You'd be surprised to see just how high the 6-person to 4-person ratio really is.

You could always give us numbers. I'm not really sure why you play this stuff so close to the vest. Giving percentage of tables that are 4, 5, and 6 players is hardly the kind of information that competitors can abuse. Just let us in on the numbers, and you will see these kinds of complaints largely disappear.

Silver Crusade ****

Drogon wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
Were the percentage of 6-player tables out of total tables less than it is, I would agree that we may see a large shift in the 6-person:4-person ratio, but there's not very much room for leeway at this point. You'd be surprised to see just how high the 6-person to 4-person ratio really is.
You could always give us numbers. I'm not really sure why you play this stuff so close to the vest. Giving percentage of tables that are 4, 5, and 6 players is hardly the kind of information that competitors can abuse. Just let us in on the numbers, and you will see these kinds of complaints largely disappear.

I'm kind of curious about the data too.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

I understand folks wanting to take a look at some of our data, but it's something we currently have no plans on releasing. We try to keep the campaign as transparent as possible in as many ways as we can, but sales and marketing numbers are not one of those elements.

*

Mark Moreland wrote:
I understand folks wanting to take a look at some of our data, but it's something we currently have no plans on releasing. We try to keep the campaign as transparent as possible in as many ways as we can, but sales and marketing numbers are not one of those elements.

No problem. While it would be interesting to see how the society has developed I completely understand the fact that sales and marketing data should be kept confidential. That is data that you all have worked for and spent money for and there is no real reason to give that up to the competition for free.

Cheliax ***** Owner - Enchanted Grounds

This is one of those things where I just have to say, "Lighten up."

Sorry, Mark, but telling us that 95% of reported tables are 6-players, 4% are 5 players, and 1% are "other" is not sales and marketing information that anyone would be able to use. Nowhere in there do you say how many tables there are, how many players there are, or what the demographic makeup of those tables might be. All it does is put an end to the "debate" (it's in quotes for a reason) about the validity of switching scenario specs to account for your percentages. It merely puts a number on what you have already done by saying "the overwhelming majority" of tables, a number that people cannot dispute.

I understand wanting to keep most of the information available to you to yourselves, but when all it would do is back up statements you have already made that stance comes off as...odd.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

Without the actual data we wouldn't know the context of the results being reported. What about outliers? What is the integrity of the data? What is the error factor? How much of their conclusion is based on unreported data, like forum observations and first-hand from conventions? Merely saying X% of tables are 6-player is incomplete information. In the end, who really cares. The campaign leaders are telling us that the vast majority is six-player tables. Why isn't that evaluation sufficient? Does it somehow gain more validity if the same person just drops a number on us?

Qadira ***

I went and played at a local shop last night.

4 tables were run.

1 seven player (Tier 1)

2 six player

1 five player

so... out of 4 tables we have...
25% 7 player tables.
50% 6 player tables.
25% 5 player tables.
00% 4 player tables

anyone else able to add to this? (hope this helps!)

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

Sure, I'm game to add to it Nosig. I've GMed 112 PFS games in the past 15 months. Of those, only two were four player tables. Only two were seven player tables. The rest were either 5 or 6 player tables.

Those numbers come from personal home game days, public store game days (Tower Games, Raven's Nest, etc..), small local conventions (Atlanta Comic Con), mid-size regional conventions (Con Nooga and Dicehead Siege), and National large conventions (Gen Con and Dragon Con)

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Michael Brock wrote:
I've GMed 112 PFS games in the past 15 months.

Slacker.

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

Slacker? six months since you last GMed a game.......

I'm guessing you forgot about the new 5 star maintenance requirements......

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

W. Kristoph Nolen wrote:
I'm just saying that this validates larger tables, making that be the expectation. The message it gives is "we want you to play with six, but if you have to play, and there's not six, you can technically do it with four, but, you have to make the adventure smaller, or less dangerous, and go through work to modify it."

Does that mean under current rules the exact same applies to four-player tables? If not, why? And if so, it would seem it is not being interpreted that way since the vast majority of tables are at the 6+ level. The reporting does not seem to support this claim.

W. Kristoph Nolen wrote:
If GMs percieve that they have to do extra work to run a four-person table, they will be less likely to do so.

I would argue that there is more work/effort required of a GM to try and make the current scenarios work for a 6-player table than will be required for a future GM to modify the material down to a four-player table.

Silver Crusade **

Heh. I'll jump in just to give you an oddball result to think about. 100% of my PFS GM experiences have been at 4 or 7 player tables, with 0% at 5 or 6 player tables. Of course, I've only GMed two sessions so far...

Andoran *****

W. Kristoph Nolen wrote:
If GMs percieve that they have to do extra work to run a four-person table, they will be less likely to do so.

Anyone wanna admit to being in this group? Bueller? Bueller?

I would be surprised ,Kristoph, if even one GM actually feels they would fall into that group. And for those very few who actually might, are those really the kind of GMs you'd want to play under anyway?

If GMing is a chore for you, then you should probably leave it to someone else.

Cheliax ***** Owner - Enchanted Grounds

Bob Jonquet wrote:
Without the actual data we wouldn't know the context of the results being reported. What about outliers? What is the integrity of the data? What is the error factor? How much of their conclusion is based on unreported data, like forum observations and first-hand from conventions? Merely saying X% of tables are 6-player is incomplete information. In the end, who really cares. The campaign leaders are telling us that the vast majority is six-player tables. Why isn't that evaluation sufficient? Does it somehow gain more validity if the same person just drops a number on us?

It doesn't, really. That's my point.

But with this kind of information:

Mike Brock wrote:
I've GMed 112 PFS games in the past 15 months. Of those, only two were four player tables. Only two were seven player tables. The rest were either 5 or 6 player tables.

...then all the people who are crying "Foul!" due how infrequently they think 5 and 6 player tables happen may actually remain silent and realize that this change is a good thing.

Thanks for the info, Mike and nosig. That is exactly the kind of thing that will help (without revealing Paizo's cards).

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

By the way, the two four player tables were both the first tables at two stores. It was the first PFS game day at both stores.

After word got out, those two stores never ran another four player table in my year as Venture-Captain. All tables were 5-7 players.

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Michael Brock wrote:

Slacker? six months since you last GMed a game.......

I'm guessing you forgot about the new 5 star maintenance requirements......

According to this, I've got a free pass for a bit longer!

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

Drogon wrote:
then all the people who are crying "Foul!" due how infrequently they think 5 and 6 player tables happen may actually remain silent and realize that this change is a good thing

In theory I agree, but we both know what happens when real data is used to support a position. The opponents refute the data as being limited in scope or not applying to their situation, and of course, they more accurately represent the community dynamic. *eyeroll*

I only wish the nay-sayers would relent when an official position is taken, with/without hard data.

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

Kyle Baird wrote:
Michael Brock wrote:

Slacker? six months since you last GMed a game.......

I'm guessing you forgot about the new 5 star maintenance requirements......

According to this, I've got a free pass for a bit longer!

I guess it is a matter who you believe more...Mark or me.... His word against mine.....Fight Fight!!!!!!!! Maybe he doesn't want to take away your 5th star but maybe I do..... Who will win?????

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
"Michael wrote:
I guess it is a matter who you believe more...Mark or me.... His word against mine.....Fight Fight!!!!!!!! Maybe he doesn't want to take away your 5th star but maybe I do..... Who will win?????

Believe? Mark

Fight? Brock
Winner? Me

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

Kyle Baird wrote:
"Michael wrote:
I guess it is a matter who you believe more...Mark or me.... His word against mine.....Fight Fight!!!!!!!! Maybe he doesn't want to take away your 5th star but maybe I do..... Who will win?????

Believe? Mark

Fight? Brock
Winner? Me

Oh, you must be referring to that 3 am dream you were having. Why have you put Mark and I into your dreams? I will speak for Mark and I both and say leave us out of it.

Besides, if you fight as good as you play hockey and drink beer, I have absolutely nothing to worry about.

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Michael Brock wrote:
six months since you last GMed a game.

Did you have that memorized or did you have to look that up?

Cheliax ***** Owner - Enchanted Grounds

Bob Jonquet wrote:
Drogon wrote:
then all the people who are crying "Foul!" due how infrequently they think 5 and 6 player tables happen may actually remain silent and realize that this change is a good thing
In theory I agree, but we both know what happens when real data is used to support a position. The opponents refute the data as being limited in scope or not applying to their situation.

Very true.

Bob Jonquet wrote:
I only wish the nay-sayers would relent when an official position is taken, with/without hard data.

I would agree, but I'd likely be called a hypocrite. After all, up above I harangued them about their "no numbers" stance, and Mike gave me some good ones...

By the way, I'll add to the numbers: I have GM'd 58 tables. Of those, 1 was as Overseer GM for Year of the Shadow Lodge [Edit - "Blood Under Absalom," actually. Apparently my memory isn't as good as I'm about to claim...), and three had only four players. The remaining 54 tables were almost always 6 man tables; maybe 1 out of every 8 was a 5 man table.

Caveat: as I can no longer look at my player lists via the GM Sessions link, I'm doing this off of memory - but my memory is pretty good. Of course, Mike or Mark could correct me (-;

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

Kyle Baird wrote:
Michael Brock wrote:
six months since you last GMed a game.
Did you have that memorized or did you have to look that up?

I had to look it up. I don't like you enough to memorize anything about you.

Shadow Lodge *****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'd like to add to the data: Most of my tables start out with six players.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

After 170+ something tables GM'd, I have no idea how many of them had how many players. As I recall, most were 6-player tables and rarely was there a 3, 4, or 7-player table, but that is all from memory. And it ain't all that sharp these days. ;-)

Osirion ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Tales Subscriber

First, I do greatly appreciate the hard work Mike and Mark put in, and know down to my toes how much they love Pathfinder Society.

That said, I think this change is missing the mark; namely, the center of the playing range 5-player tables. This avoids DM hassles, table stress about sub-tier choice, and would also save the extra development time.

Mark Moreland wrote:
the difference between an encounter designed for 5 and one designed for 6 PC is so negligible...

That being the case, it would seem far preferable to build scenarios for 5 players, which 4 or 6 could play with "neglible difference".

Mini-responses/rants:

Spoiler:

nosig wrote:
I fear the venues that are running 6 player tables will now use this to increase table sizes to 7 players.

I've already heard this from a Venture Lieutenant.

Mark Moreland wrote:
Were the percentage of 6-player tables out of total tables less than it is, I would agree that we may see a large shift in the 6-person:4-person ratio, but there's not very much room for leeway at this point. You'd be surprised to see just how high the 6-person to 4-person ratio really is.

Mark, I believe you that 6 player tables are common. However, if you haven't yet, you might want to run another check on the ratio excluding conventions, and see how big a difference it makes overall.

I personally believe that the high number of 6 player tables is due to the immense popularity PFS is enjoying, and it's tremendous growth. That leads to GM shortages, which leads to 6-player tables. Personally, I have banned 7 player tables from events I organize, and work hard to keep tables at 4-5. Yet I still had three 6-player tables booked for tomorrow, before I had to drag someone off to run twice in a day to make another table.

It's a simple fact that the rate of growth cannot keep pace forever. And when it slows there should be enough GMs to make a more even spread.

godsDMit wrote:
W. Kristoph Nolen wrote:
If GMs percieve that they have to do extra work to run a four-person table, they will be less likely to do so.

Anyone wanna admit to being in this group? Bueller? Bueller?

I would be surprised ,Kristoph, if even one GM actually feels they would fall into that group.

*raises hand* I'm at least less likely to bother with Season 4 scenarios, just over the stress of it.

Simple sample situation: four APL-4 players are scheduled for a T1-5 scenario. Simple, scale down to four players, done. Except a level 1 player joins them as a walk-in. Now you have utter turmoil at the table: do they play sub-tier 4-5, built for 6 players? Do they play down to 1-2 for 6? Did the GM even *prepare* for sub-tier 1-2, knowing there would be 4 L.4's?

The table ends up in the situation of facing a much harder challenge with more a vulnerability added than a strength, or "waltzing through" at lower tier. Similar situations could happen before, but it was never a choice of facing weaker or stronger, just the same or weaker, or the same or stronger. This rule, potentially, pulls the rug out from under them. It will put a 4,4,4,4,1 table in the equivalent of a 5-6 tier scenario, unless they choose to play in a 2-3 tier equivalent scenario.

For my personal experience, with what I've reported (I don't pretend to be typical, since this data is included in the total numbers):

  • 3-player: 23%
  • 4-player: 12%
  • 5-player: 12%
  • 6-player: 48%
  • 7-player: 4%
  • Or: <6: 48% vs. 6: 48%
  • Qadira ***

    At our usual Tuesday night game this week at a local shop, again we had 4 tables.

    2 at 7
    2 at 6
    0 at 5
    0 at 4
    (I think - one of the 6 person tables may have been 5 players and an observer...)

    I expect it to be this way for a while - at least until they split off another table (I expect to see 5 tables this coming tuesday, we'll see what numbers they have then.)

    ****

    If I were running that example table of four level fours I would give the additional player a choice to play a level four pregen or sit out unless all the other players were ok with having a level one at the table bumping the difficulty up (unless they opt to play down).

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