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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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Sovereign Court ***** Owner - Enchanted Grounds

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yay!

Thank all the powers that be.

Now, for the inevitable: how do we apply this to Season 0-3 scenarios? 'cuz, you know, give a mouse a cookie...

Sovereign Court *****

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Modules Subscriber

Hmm...6 person table as the norm. Not sure how I like that. I guess I normally do get 5 or 6 players most games, but I much prefer running a table of 4. I think this might help make scenarios a bit more challenging though. Thanks for listening and adjusting course though. That's one of the best things about Pathfinder as whole IMO.

Also, love the art. Can't say as I've seen that particular artist credited in anything before, but would like to.

Sovereign Court ***

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Definately seems a wiser idea to treat 4 player tables as the special case needing attention for challenge difficulty and assume 6 player tables in programming the scenario.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Did not see that coming, but I like it! Bravo, M&M!

Also, am I the first to notice what you did with the title? ;)

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

Drogon wrote:

Yay!

Thank all the powers that be.

Now, for the inevitable: how do we apply this to Season 0-3 scenarios? 'cuz, you know, give a mouse a cookie...

They will remain as they are. Currently, we don't have the resources to update past scenarios.

Scarab Sages *****

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

*Sigh of relieve*

Thanks Mike for doing this by putting in rules and guidelines for it instead of leaving it up to each GM to decide how that want to make Scenarios more difficult.

After your post this weekend, I was worried that I would start seeing GMs adjusting scenarios where ever I go as they they see fit.

So quick question, can a 4 player group still decide to play the scenario at the CR of the 6 player group?

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

Jiggy wrote:


Also, am I the first to notice what you did with the title? ;)

Yes :-)

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

Dragnmoon wrote:


So quick question, can a 4 player group still decide to play the scenario at the CR of the 6 player group?

I don't see why not. There is no additional treasure. The only change would be more of a challenge. So, if a group of 4 wants to take on a scenario written for 6, good luck!

Shadow Lodge ** Star Voter 2014

Thanks!! This will help a LOT!


Does this also mean that when calculating APL for Season Four scenarios, that a +1 will not be applied if you have six or seven players?

***** Dedicated Voter 2013

Great work Mark and Mike.

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Enevhar Aldarion wrote:
Does this also mean that when calculating APL for Season Four scenarios, that a +1 will not be applied if you have six or seven players?

I believe that is correct. If different, I'm sure Mark will correct me.

Dark Archive **** Star Voter 2013

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber
Enevhar Aldarion wrote:
Does this also mean that when calculating APL for Season Four scenarios, that a +1 will not be applied if you have six or seven players?

This would seem to be a natural consequence, thus an effective -1 APL for 4 players (the lower CR track).

I do read this as stating 4.2 will have a two-track APL calculation section similar to the two-track faction mission paragraphs.

Mike?

Paizo Employee ** Developer

We haven't written 4.2 yet, so we can't say exactly how it will be handled. Much of what we'll be doing in the ramp-up to Season 4, in addition to the normal development of new scenarios, is working on the revisions to the campaign documentation to reflect this change in design philosophy. Many of the specifics haven't been nailed down yet and are still under discussion.


Mark Moreland wrote:
We haven't written 4.2 yet, so we can't say exactly how it will be handled. Much of what we'll be doing in the ramp-up to Season 4, in addition to the normal development of new scenarios, is working on the revisions to the campaign documentation to reflect this change in design philosophy. Many of the specifics haven't been nailed down yet and are still under discussion.

Wouldn't Season Four stuff be in version 5.0 of the Guide anyway, since that is how the numbering seems to go? And while it would be nice to see a preview of the new rules before Season Four starts, I can already see the confused posts and threads that would cause.

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

1 person marked this as a favorite.

No. We want to line the Guide up with the current season's number to cause less confusion for new players. So, for season four, we will continue adding numbers after the dot.


That is cool. And I agree that this will help with any confusion of Guide version versus Season number. Does this mean that 4.2 will not be released until the start of Season Four? Or will there be a 4.11 coming out between now and then that would include some of the fixes and changes the two of you have been getting feedback on?


Yay for scaling guidelines!

Boo for making scenarios more difficult in general.

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

I think we are going to try our best for the next guide to be released at the start of Season 4.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'd like to see this for APs, as well.

The Exchange

Love it. Most of our tables tend to be 6 players and they get blown through the majority of the time (and not every one gets a chance to shine). Its much easier being able to strip down the encounters for 4 if needed. Eagerly awaiting S4 here :)

Silver Crusade **

Good call! This should make it far more exciting in our local area, as we fit the norm and run 6 player tables. Can't wait to see Season 4!

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

1 person marked this as a favorite.

As a GM with lots of PFS under my belt, I feel all of the GMs' pains with scenarios that prove to be cakewalks when there are 5-7 players at the table. This is the first change to help GMs also have an enjoyable experience at the table. We are listening, I promise, and Mark and I will continue to strive to make PFS an even better experience than it currently is. I want to thank everyone in advance for your patience. It does take time as it is a slow process, but if you stick it out with us, I think the large majority of you will be happy where we are headed and were we end up. As always, your feedback, thoughts, suggestions, and ideas are always welcome as it makes improving the campaign that much easier.

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

I'm boarding my plane now for Vegas. I wil catch up to questions when I land.

Sovereign Court ***

Michael Brock wrote:
As a GM with lots of PFS under my belt, I feel all f the GMs' pains with scenarios that prove to be cakewalks when there are 5-7 players at the table. This is the first change to help GMs also have an enjoyable experience at the table. We are listening, I promise, and Mark and I will continue to strive to make PFS an even better experience than it currently is. I want to thank everyone in advance or your patience. It does take time as it is a slow process, but if you stick it out with us, I think the large majority of you I'll be happy where we are headed and were we end up. As always, our feedback, thoughts, suggestions, and ideas are always welcome as it makes improving the campaign that much easier.

It's not the GMs who suffer when it's a cakewalk, it's the players who are bored with anticlimactic fights.

At least, in my experience.

Anyway, I'll echo my appreciation for you guys not only recognizing that there's a problem, but attempting to fix it.

Liberty's Edge ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Good call. I like it. Roughly 90% of the tables I have run were for 6 players so I like the approach.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Michael Brock wrote:
As a GM with lots of PFS under my belt, I feel all f the GMs' pains with scenarios that prove to be cakewalks when there are 5-7 players at the table. This is the first change to help GMs also have an enjoyable experience at the table.

What about scenarios from previous years? Will there be any guidelines about scaling those scenarios up in difficulty?

Personally, I don't care if scenarios are easy or hard or somewhere in between (well, I'd probably prefer the latter). But I really don't care for a wildly varying mix of difficulties. Then I end up in a situation where if I make a character strong enough to survive Season 4, then I might be bored playing a Season 0 adventure, for instance.

Grand Lodge ***

After all of the stuff I read this past weekend about peoples's qualms with lack of scaling for tables, this is most excellent news. Now you won't have to scale for larger tables.

And the second part of this announcement assuages my immediate fears from reading the first part. Right now, I'm running a table of four. Though I've run elsewhere, after only two weeks of running here in Albuquerque, I've only had two sessions of four.

I honestly didn't, at all, see this coming. I never saw this exact suggestion (scaling up was mentioned, and mentioned, and mentioned…at length, and debated, but I didn't see scaling down suggested—that doesn't mean it wasn't presented as an idea).

**** Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Richmond , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka thunderspirit

This is a creative solution, and an innovative take on scaling. Nicely done!

The Exchange *** Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

I like this.

Excellent.

I patiently look forward to what's next, Mike & Mark.

Well done.

-Pain

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
hogarth wrote:
Michael Brock wrote:
As a GM with lots of PFS under my belt, I feel all f the GMs' pains with scenarios that prove to be cakewalks when there are 5-7 players at the table. This is the first change to help GMs also have an enjoyable experience at the table.

What about scenarios from previous years? Will there be any guidelines about scaling those scenarios up in difficulty?

Personally, I don't care if scenarios are easy or hard or somewhere in between (well, I'd probably prefer the latter). But I really don't care for a wildly varying mix of difficulties. Then I end up in a situation where if I make a character strong enough to survive Season 4, then I might be bored playing a Season 0 adventure, for instance.

Mike said higher up that they don't have the resources to go back and update everything in the past

Dark Archive ****

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Could there be possible rewards to 4 person tables who play hard mode for effectively "playing up to 6"?

Paizo Employee ** Developer

As I said above, all we really know at this point is what I outlined in the blog post itself. Details about rewards, APL calculations, etc. have not yet been discussed at length and I'd rather not give an answer now that isn't completely decided upon. Believe me, though, that we'll let everyone know as soon as we know more specifics, just as we've let the community know this early about the pending 6-person-party change.

The Exchange ***

I love the fact that you're digging into the data for this information, but I wonder how much granularity you have. It should be fairly easy to determine what scenarios are particularly prone to TPKs when looking at number of TPKs with 4 players vs number with 6 players, but a lot of the deaths I see, particularly at higher level tables, are surprise round one-shots.

That's not a question, but this is: It appears that after looking at the data, the decision was made that it was too much work (statement of fact, not a dig) to come up with rules for making existing scenarios harder, so only future scenarios would be altered. The implication I got was that creating guidelines for making things easier wasn't going to be that difficult, but it still wasn't going to be done for older scenarios. Does this mean that there weren't any scenarios that you thought were too hard for 4, only ones that were too easy for 6? Or that although easier, it would still be too much work?

*

Loving the scaling of scenarios based on 4 or 6 player tables.

I think that ditching the +1 APL for large tables playing season 4 scenarios would work out well. It would simplify the rules for scenarios going forward. Unfortunately, since season 0-3 will probably never be rewritten, the rule will probably be kept for those seasons. Anyway, great change, can't wait to see how it plays out and use the extra difficulty to swat down those pesky players who scream for playing up.

Grand Lodge ****

I somewhat wonder how encounters with solo boss NPCs will be scaled in season 4.

Silver Crusade ***

I like it. Thanks for all the hard work!

Dark Archive *

Bravissimo!!

Paizo Employee ** Developer

One of the largest pieces of any decision making process regarding the campaign is how much time a change to either rules or other processes would take to implement not only on roll-out, but on an ongoing basis. Sometimes we feel changes will take more time or resources but are worth it for the benefit of the campaign. But even for our most ambitious, super-awesome ideas, sometimes you just don't have the time or resources to implement them. Such is why some changes take longer to implement and some grand plans never come to fruition. There are still rules, stories, and processes I've wanted to explore since I started that just haven't ripened yet. In the case of this change, it will add extra time to the development process, but our hope is that it addresses enough ongoing issues with the campaign (assessed from both reporting data and feedback) that the extra expenditure of resources will be worth it. On;y one way to find out, though.

*

Kelly Youngblood wrote:
I somewhat wonder how encounters with solo boss NPCs will be scaled in season 4.

Slightly stronger / weaker boss - class level difference, monster template, add a trap to the encounter, etc. I don't think it will be too difficult but scaling of solo encounters may take up more print space in season 4 because there have to be 2 versions of the enemy.

Scarab Sages *** Venture-Captain, Texas—San Antonio aka Gornil

This is something I did not foresee as well, though I do appreciate it as a GM and also as a player. As a GM, I would hope that my tables have enjoyed themselves regardless of how easy/hard combat may have been, but this will certainly make combats a mite more enjoyable for me. I always feel let down when the really cool evil-doers seem to go down so easily ;)

As a player, large tables have always seemed fairly boring for me, as with so much going on it is hard to focus on what's important and so my mind drifts, a LOT! [I blame my mental facilities for this one ;)] Hopefully these changes will help me overcome that, thanks.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Just a word of caution: 6-PC parties tend to make for a slower table (especially if the encounters are ramped up to accommodate that party size). This is fine for "home PFS", but for official gatherings fitting a scenario wholly into the time slots can be daunting.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

LoreKeeper wrote:

Just a word of caution: 6-PC parties tend to make for a slower table (especially if the encounters are ramped up to accommodate that party size). This is fine for "home PFS", but for official gatherings fitting a scenario wholly into the time slots can be daunting.

True. But it's what people are doing a vast majority of the time already. We're not making this change to prompt people to increase their table size, but rather in reaction to the table sizes people are already employing in practice.

Lantern Lodge **** Dedicated Voter 2013

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Oh, I'm not sure. My experience probably is the exception, but my local games run at four people and conventions run at six (sometimes seven). At conventions, in spite of the larger table, groups are less likely to be synergistic. Sometimes you wind up with parties that have too many of one thing or not enough of another and unless you've brought a group to play, you probably don't know one another. I have yet to run into a situation where things were so easy that the game was boring, in part because the quality of scenarios is quite high and there is enjoyment aside from a tough fight with the final boss. In fact, I think I've seen more near TPKs at this point in larger groups at conventions than smaller ones at the FLGS. Now, some of that may because of playing up and this probably makes that less likely, but I worry. I'm really glad you're going to provide guidelines to scale down, but I think you might need to watch things.

Dark Archive ****

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I will also be one to add that I almost always push to have 3-4 person tables, even if we need to strong-arm some of our players into GMing; that's simply because we typically have 3 1/2 to 4 hours per slot, and a 6-7 person table means not enough time for anyone.

The Exchange ****

I fear the venues that are running 6 player tables will now use this to increase table sizes to 7 players. (and up them to 8 around the edges - "just reverse the reduction for a 4 player table to make it work for an 8").

Yeah, I know, I'm a pessimist sometimes. Sorry.

Hope for the best, fear the worst.

Liberty's Edge *****

Does this mean Kyle's mod will kill all 4 player tables? :) Nice work Mike and Mark.

Mike

*** Dedicated Voter 2014

Although I share a bit of nosig's concerns, I like this too! Thank you, thank you to all involved. Let's hope it all works out for the best.

Sovereign Court ***** Owner - Enchanted Grounds

nosig wrote:

I fear the venues that are running 6 player tables will now use this to increase table sizes to 7 players. (and up them to 8 around the edges - "just reverse the reduction for a 4 player table to make it work for an 8").

Yeah, I know, I'm a pessimist sometimes. Sorry.

Hope for the best, fear the worst.

Ugh. I can't even imagine. I know I won't.

As they are able to watch the numbers, I'm sure Mark and Mike will notice the uptick in 7-player tables if that happens. It'll be pretty easy to identify the offenders and send them a "cease & desist" order.

Mergy wrote:
Could there be possible rewards to 4 person tables who play hard mode for effectively "playing up to 6"?

Sorry, Mergy, but I can't agree with you, here. This will simply encourage people to boot other players from their table so they can squeak in more money on their chronicle sheet. Or, worse, allow for GMs to "mistakenly" mark the 4-person award rather than the 6-person award.

Dark Archive ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Florida—Tampa aka Dominick

It should be thus!

Thanks for everything you do guys!

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