First of all, kudos to you for stepping up to promote PFS! Be warned, convention organizing is addictive. It can be challenging, especially if you are unprepared, but when the con ends you will feel the urge to do it again, to do it bigger and better the next time. It's exhausting but exhilarating.
If you are going to be the only GM, then what you are doing is very similar to starting a gameday at a local store. PFS has a 'Starting a Local Chapter' handout at the top of the Free Downloads section on the GM Resources page. Take a look at it if you haven't already.
Understand that you may not get enough interested players to run a legal game. I still remember sitting at a BASHCon table by myself in 2009 for several slots. Don't get discouraged. If so much as one player sits down to play, you can still work with them to build a character or give them a 7th level pre-gen and throw some low-CR monsters at them so they can learn the mechanics. It doesn't have to be a PFS-legal event to have some fun. What you are doing is building on the future. That one player has friends, and word-of-mouth is your best recruiting tool. Bend over backwards to win over local players because they'll probably be back next year.
If you do get a legal table off the ground, be prepared for success. Make some business cards with your contact information, and try (in a non-pushy way) to get the players to share their e-mail with you. Have a follow-up event planned in a couple of weeks, so if the players enjoy themselves they won't have to wait until next year to play again.
Make sure that you have the items mentioned in the handout from the first paragraph: pre-generated character sheets, blank character sheets, PFS membership cards, extra dice, pens and paper, miniatures for players to use, table tents, etc.
Don't think of yourself as a Game Master. Think of yourself as a cuentista; you are trying to get the players to imagine they are there, in the adventure, in mortal danger, fighting against despicable enemies. Don't get bogged down in the rules mechanics if your players are new to the system. Track their hit points for them. Describe the wounds they take in a way that they can understand. Be dramatic, keep the players engaged.
One of the issues with the star system, though, is the lack of visibility. I have no idea how many stars some of the GMs at my lodge have - I can guess, and I can look up the ones that I've played under, but I don't know unless they tell me.
You should demand to see their PFS membership card! Their stars are included along with their PFS number. If they say they don't have it on them or they left it in the car, they are likely a saboteur from another RPG company. Seize their dice and call for the nearest Venture Officer.
It's telling that there's such a wide range of motivators. These messageboards are just a small sample of the active GMs out there. Can you imagine how hard it is for the campaign leadership to upgrade the GM Rewards model without disappointing some of us? I think the Stars next to our names have been very effective. You can tell by every time Matthew rolls his eyes ;) that peer recognition is a huge motivator in PFS. Sure, players saying "Thanks for the game" has gotten many a GM to their first star. But what keeps the donkey pulling the cart for 30-40 scenarios? It's the enticing carrot dangling a mere foot ahead of it.
What has gotten you to this point as a GM?
Here are my thoughts: While a rewards system beyond what’s been established is attractive, we have to face reality. Paizo has gotten where it is today by being tight-fisted. With John Compton being brought aboard as a PFS Developer, I am encouraged that the campaign is providing Paizo with a return on its investment. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should expect free merchandise and product discounts to follow. The company finances are the first hurdle. Next comes the time it will take an employee to develop the system and weight the rewards. Finally, and I don’t think this point has been raised yet, is the tendency of gamers to game the system. “I can get a 15% discount on PFS product if I GM 30 scenarios? And the PFS session reporting system has no identity verification capability? Time to make some ghost accounts and get me a discount!” Any rewards system that grants boons, merchandise or store credit is going to be abused. The only way to curb abuse is a more stringent reporting system, which may cost Paizo more than it’s worth.
Let’s say Paizo accepts that the rewards system will be abused. Those exclusive boons you want for GMing 60 scenarios? You’ll be able to buy them on e-Bay a month after the rewards program starts. Yes, that does happen already, but I’d anticipate it becomes widespread with a program where all you provide is an e-mail account and a birthday. Sorry for being so cynical.
I’ve gotten my rewards already. You know what motivates me? Recognition from my peers. I was the first 5-Star GM, the only one for a full year. I was one of the first 13 Venture-Captains created. I was Paizo’s Volunteer of the Year for 2011. I don’t need any more incentives to GM, I feel like I need to pay Paizo back for all the esteem I have received. Just as we all have our own idea of what makes a fun scenario, we all have our own personal motivators was well. Paizo found mine with the Star system. I can buy merchandise if I want it, I don’t need store credit. I think boons are a nice touch, but race boons are just making the campaign into a cartoon. There’s not anything that Paizo could give me as a reward me beyond saying ‘thank you’. Unless they grant my wish to prevent Dragnmoon from ever hitting 5-Stars ;-) Therefore my views aren’t really relevant to this thread, other than to shoot down other people’s ideas, which is why the internet was made.
There are several Season 0 scenarios where missions appear to be in direct opposition. Back when PFS was conceived the intent was to have a more competitive campaign with a winning faction named at the end of the season. Then things got watered down... (grumble). So, there are no clear-cut instructions on how to handle players who believe their missions are in opposition. Until it happens and there's a specific situation, we can sit and play the "What if..." game all day long. Use good judgment. Allow for creative solutions. If your players end up at each other's throats, gently explain that the rules were created so players wouldn't get bullied and they can't start a PVP fight. The people responsible for creating the conflict have moved on, and so should your players. Give both sides their PP. Everybody wins, hooray for mediocrity and fairness.
One of the great things about our Campaign Coordinator being a former police detective IRL is he doesn't jump to conclusions.
In a previous organized play campaign, Living Greyhawk, and in Season 0 & 1 of PFS, GMs received no credit for running scenarios. I was against the idea when Joshua Frost asked for our thoughts. I understand I am biased, so my argument against increasing the already generous GM rewards won't have much traction with those who are in favor. I suggest that a GM motivated by getting another Chronicle sheet may do more harm than good. I'd rather play under a GM who enjoys GMing for the sake of the community, because he or she wants to hone their skills or because they just have more fun that way. When someone says they're capable of GMing but won't do it because there is nothing in it for them, it makes a statement. Yes, the campaign needs more GMs. We might net a few more through further relaxing the rules. But I dislike what our community is losing in the exchange.
I welcome discussion, but I have said my piece. If Mike Brock comes into this thread and says he's considering this proposal, I'll be concerned. Otherwise, enjoy the academic discussion :)
The issue is that not everyone has fun the same way as you. I share a similar disappointment, but I try and remind myself that my job is to make sure the players are having fun. If having "fun" means they steamroll over the encounters and abuse the NPCs, then I shouldn't try and foil that. You may be recognizing a generation gap. Anyway, it's not me vs. them. It's entertainment. I blame the system that has become more mechanical since Edition 3.0, it's shifted the emphasis away from story and role-play.
I don't really start to enjoy a scenario until I have run it 3 or 4 times as a GM. That is my motivation to run a scenario multiple times; the players get a progressively better experience. I concur with TetsujinOni. In addition, all the work prepping a scenario is done on the front end. GMing the same scenario multiple times is like running downhill.
Patrick Renie wrote:
Oh, and P.S.: No promises about this book actually putting an end to all those paladin threads.
Maybe Paizo could develop a Player Companion about netiquette and the futility of academic arguments with total strangers? Oh, nevermind. No one would have any interest in reading that.
You are legally allowed to play the second one--with a new 1st level PC.
As you suspected a level 6 PC would be "out of tier" in a Tier 1-5 scenario. This would be a good opportunity in your timeline to start a new PC anyway. You don't want there to be too large of a gap between the characters you can play. What will happen when you level up to 8 and then the only scenario offered is a 3-7? Now you can't bring in a new 1st level character and you can't play with your existing one. Time to make a new PC. In fact, make a few new characters. That way you will have some flexibility if the Tier 1-2 party is lacking an important party role.
This has been an ongoing problem in the campaign, and certainly one that continues to plague my region. When I first started PFS it was easy to find GMs since most of the new membership were hardcore RPGA gamers. As the campaign grew it attracted more players who were new to organized play and did not have a tabletop gaming background. Locally we had to rely on a pool of GMs that were getting used again and again to the point of burnout.
Enough moping. Solutions? The best thing to do is to directly approach regular players. They know the rules and how the game flows, they just would rather play. Don't send a group e-mail. They'll ignore it. Address each individually. Put them on the spot. Those who play the most owe the community the most. They don't have to GM every week, if you wrangle enough of them you can schedule them once every couple months and cover your tables.
You will need to schedule scenarios several months in advance. Throwing a scenario at a new GM and telling them they'll need to run it in a couple of days will frighten them off. See if your VC will loan them maps and miniatures also.
The problem is that good players do not always make good GMs. But beggars can't be choosers :) If players feel let down by the new GM, then challenge them to try it themselves.
If players say that they don't feel prepared to GM, organize a GM 101 session. You might need to throw some incentives at them (tell them there will be punch and pie, gamers like punch and pie). Even if you only net a few willing converts, you're still better off than you were when you started.
I think the most important things are to 1) Approach people directly, 2) Publicly praise your volunteers, 3) Plan well ahead, 4) Did I mention approach people directly?.
Edit: Another angle to work is cross-campaign GMs. Do you have any D&D Encounters, Legends of Arcanis, Savage Worlds, Neo-Exodus, etc happening at your store? Approach the GMs for those games and ask if they'll help out with PFS. In exchange, see if your regular GMs will serve those campaigns and give their counterparts a chance to play. This is not a silver bullet for your problems, but it may be something you had not considered. Good GMs don't need to completely understand the rules in order to tell a story.
Thursday, August 15
What is to prevent them from doing this? That would be the rules. Read Summon Monster:
Creatures summoned using this spell cannot use spells or spell-like abilities that duplicate spells with expensive material components (such as wish).
"There's an elf in front of you."
Eric Saxon wrote:
Or is killing an immobile prisoner ALWAYS an act of EVIL?
You can handle it a couple of different ways:1) Let the necromancer free, hand him a dagger, yell "He's coming right for me!" and then the barbarian can kill him free of consequence.
2) Keep a mook alive and offer him his freedom if he'll kill the helpless necromancer and take the evil act for you.
3) Go ahead and kill the necromancer, but be sure to throw the body into a lake along with any evidence. Then everyone in the party has to swear a pact to never tell anyone what happened over your summer vacation.
Remember, if you can make the GM laugh it'll lessen the chances of an evil act being recorded.
PaizoCon's not even in the running, but I have been given leave to GM at GenCon if I'm not on Mike's naughty list.
I remember Josh asking me if I could assist a GM volunteer at GenCon 2009 who showed up with no maps, no minis. Apparently this guy thought that stuff was provided by Paizo. You never know what you are going to get when you are asking for that many volunteers. You can only learn from experience. I bet Dave Christ has a very long naughty list.
Damn, it's going to be harder to fly under the radar without those worse GMs running interference for me. I'll have to fake an injury if anyone gets too disgruntled. I got lots more uses in my lame GM's bag of excuses ;)
I first met Thea at Origins 2010. She had volunteered for a few slots but after I was unable to handle the demand she ended up ditching her plans and volunteering for nearly the entire 10 slots. She was able to run a table so quickly that they played two scenarios in a single slot, so as far as I am concerned she GMed the whole con. I still remember her impression of a shrieker stopping play and drawing applause from all over the room. Thea has been a workhorse GM at cons across the Midwest ever since. She deserves all the praise and more. It's not cheap to travel to conventions and pay for hotel rooms. It takes a special type of person to volunteer as much as she has. Congratulations Thea, welcome to the Mountain.
Other 5-Stars, our days of lounging around in underpants, having fart contests and drinking out of milk cartons are over.
Actually this move to the Sagamore Ballroom was spurred by a single entity. Last year there were a lot of complaints about the size of Kyle Baird's ego. There were some kids that got blocked in on Friday. One of them had a panic attack and ended up missing a lot of the convention due to the ER visit. Several unattended iPads were crushed. The ego did apologize, but I'm not sure if I believe it was an accident. Guys, I'm afraid after the Special last year, Kyle's ego really let itself go. Since the Vendor Hall was out of the question, the only solution was the Sagamore Ballroom. Oddly, Kyle's ego qualifies for reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act so Kyle's ego would definitely sue if it weren't allowed into the PFS room to massacre PCs. Lisa has tried to keep this all low-key, but as a favor to Peter Adkison she's being a sport and budgeted the upgrade. So if you want to thank anyone for the Sagamore, thank Kyle's ego.
My personal rule is as long as everyone is having fun, go nuts. Evil, schmevil. The whole reason we can't play evil characters is the conflict it creates at the table. When players have open minds and appreciate the spirit of shared fun, white/grey/black doesn't matter. Conflict begins when one player's concept of fun intrudes on another player's. That's when everyone needs to be adults and curb the behavior back to neutral. Failure to do so creates acrimony and tension. It downright sucks to be at the table when it's happening. Unfortunately there are players who enjoy creating these situations. These players aren't exclusive to the ones who play evil-leaning characters. I'm in favor of players policing themselves and not trying to add more rules to the Guide. We have seen that players are very adept at working around/exploiting rules.
What really saddens me is when new players come onto the boards and read the bickering on these threads and say to themselves "I'm staying away from this campaign!".
The problem here isn't necromancers, paladins or morality. It's players being selfish. They are unwilling to tone it down so everyone can have fun. You can remove undead use from the game, but that isn't going to fix the selfish player problem.
So putting it all together:
GM: As you approach the ancient doorway in the side of the cliff, you fail to notice a figure lurking in the field of boulders adjacent to the your pathway. The figure springs from the shadows, quickly advancing to menace you. Roll initiative please.
[Rogue goes first]
And so on.
First, I only allow a PC to make a Knowledge Check when their turn in the initiative order comes up. This prevents metagaming by the other players. The DC of the check is based on 10 + the monster's CR. For example, a ghast is a CR 2 monster, so the DC to identify it is 12. All that tells the player is it is an undead creature known as a ghast. If the Knowledge check exceeded the base DC by 5, the PC remembers a piece of useful knowledge about the monster. For every increment of 5 they get another piece of knowledge.
Arcana (constructs, dragons, magical beasts)
You have several choices, all which are acceptable.
1) Many GMs allow the player who made the Knowledge check to ask specific questions, such as "What's the creature's Damage Resistance?" or "What are its Special Attacks?".
2) You can make your own answer sheet up as part of your scenario prep, such as:
Undead Traits: Darkvision 60 feet. Immunity to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms). Immunity to bleed, death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep effects, and stunning. Not subject to nonlethal damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Immune to damage to its physical ability scores (Constitution, Dexterity, and Strength), as well as to exhaustion and fatigue effects.
3) You can purchase a 3PP like 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming's GM's Aid VIII: Monster Knowledge Cards. This covers the Bestiary only, however.
Everyone who uses undead should keep this in mind: Animate Dead (and similar abilities) is a privilege. We aren't going to see the Paladin class banned from PFS (although I concur with Jonathan Cary's post above). Right now there have been conflicts at isolated tables. The Guide to PFS Organized Play has given us guidelines for flirting with the "dark side" and getting along with other players/PCs. If we can't police our own behavior and these problems continue, we will see Mike Brock step in and change those guidelines to rules. As in "Animate Dead and similar abilities are added to the banned list". We can make all the 'what is good/evil?' arguments we want, but once Mike makes a decision we will be stuck with it. Right now we have a privilege; it's up to us to keep it. Let's play nice, cooperate, and not rub the paladins' noses in the rumps of our undead minions. Don't force the campaign leadership to step in and eliminate a fun character concept.
Just leave it alone, guys. He's not going to be swayed from his position. He's expressing his disappointment. He'll never be your GM so it's not your problem to confront. It's a hypothetical situation until that happens.
PFS Guide 4.3 Errata wrote:
Page 40: Removed the maintenance requirements for 5-star GMs.
Mike is going to institute the new 5-Star Maintenance Program at GenCon this August. It is going to be based on the 1st Edition D&D high-level Druid advancement system. You want to stay a 5-Star? Be ready to bleed for it.
AD&D Druid advancement after 11th level:
There are only nine druids of level twelve; each has three assistants. A character may only achieve twelfth-level Druid if there is a vacancy or he bests one of the nine current Druids in spell or hand-to-hand combat. If the combat is not mortal, the loser drops to the beginning of level eleven, initiate of the ninth circle. This process is repeated for becoming the thirteenth-level Archdruid (with the loser reverting to Druid) and the fourteenth-level Great Druid (with the loser reverting to Archdruid).
I am sure that Mark would love the luxury of going back to all the Season 0s (save for Mists of Mwangi) and revising them. Both he and Mike are aware of the interest in this project, but it has been stated time and time again that until PFS gets a larger budget we aren't going to see these updates. Bugging Mike & Mark about it is like preaching to the choir. What we can do is recruit more local players, organize more games, be diligent about our reporting sessions, buy our PFS material from Paizo and discourage file sharing. If we aren't doing this, then don't bother requesting more scenarios be released.
I would like to see Stay of Execution revised and expanded. It had great potential and the blasted word count limit just ruined what might have been a great scenario. I also loved Blood at Dralkard Manor. It was always challenging to keep the PCs alive.
It does present a sticky issue because of the public nature of gamedays. Grolick may not have the authority to dismiss the player, although the player may not know that. I suggest that prior to the "take him aside and talk to him" advice is attempted, Grolick has a conversation with the site manager or event coordinator. This person should be present when the problem player is spoken to, to drive home the point and ensure that the player doesn't interpret the issue as "Grolick doesn't like me". Sadly, this is like counseling an employee*. When a game begins to turn into work it's just not fun anymore. But if you don't try it, your choices become:
*Handled poorly, this may result in the players organizing into a union. Contract talks may lead to setting an acceptable number of boogers which may be consumed per slot.
**Alcohol may be consumed prior to entering the store, or disguised in a soft drink container.
Todd Morgan wrote:
What I want to know is will this boon be PFS legal? This is the first Paizo Blog post where someone hasn't asked that yet and I NEED to know otherwise I will tear out my beard and yell at children and puppies!
It's only PFS legal when used at an official Pathfinder Society game table. Since the boon won't be released until January, I expect to see the new line of Paizo gaming furniture introduced in early 2013.
When used at an official Pathfinder Society game table...
So now Paizo is selling gaming furniture? Did I miss a store blog? Do we get a reroll if we used an official Pathfinder Society table in our games? Do I have to wear the table or can I just keep it in my backpack until I need it?
We've got our own local professor of sociology. When you want professional work, you hire a professional.
I'm not looking to report a GM to the convention for sucking or being awesome, I'm looking to make the oblivious GM aware they are missing the mark or give the GM looking to constantly refine some constructive feedback.
This assumes a convention-type situation where there is no time to go over things between slots. I envision it being handed out at the start of the scenario so players could fill it out as things progressed. Categories may include preparation, storytelling, role-play, rules knowledge, time management and friendliness rated on a scale of 1 - 5 with 5 being the best. Any ideas?
So I ran this module on Black Friday with the following group:
I imagined from the outset that they would end up trapped in the Mirror and I'd have to figure out a way for the Society to recover them. Everything started fine. The PCs were a colorful bunch, and the introduction that I used worked nicely--although the "leader" of the team kept the information about the mission very close to his chest. The other players said they felt like they were kept in the dark.
They did fine for Part 1, and after 2.5 hours of role-play and screwing around we finally rolled initiative for the first time. The Lurker blinded two PCs, but the sorcerer managed to glitterdust it (immune to blindness though) and force it to flee. They lost the loot but found some valuable clues. They laid down the evidence in front of the Baron and he fessed up. One interesting thing was after they learned about the Baron trading places with Nicasor, they questioned him thoroughly about the other occupants of the Mirror--which I didn't foresee. Into the Mirror they went.
One more thing I did in Part 1 was drop some hints that a messenger had been sent to Pangolias to request assistance against the 'shadow creatures'. The town priest said he expected a detachment of clerics and inquisitors of Zon-Kuthon to be arriving in Karpad soon. This lit a fire under their behinds, especially the cleric of Desna ;)
Two more PCs were blinded by the fetchling sorceress (why does she have darkvision as a spell again?). They chose to talk and negotiate with the rest of the prisoners they met. They tried to enlist their help, but the shae & fetchlings were too cowed by The Heart to risk it.
When they met Nicasor they argued that he should help them out as well. He offered to tell them what he knew of The Heart in exchange for free reign when he escaped. I imagine that at some point early in their imprisonment, when their numbers were greater, the prisoners had tried to destroy The Heart unsuccessfully. Having been around to observe The Heart in combat, Nicasor could bargain with what he knew of its hefty capabilities. One of the good-aligned PCs was concerned about the innocent being harmed by Nicasor, so he promised that he wouldn't kill anyone but the Baron and he would leave Karpad after his revenge was complete. At the time I was thinking Nicasor won't hurt anyone, but his followers aren't bound by that promise.
Thus prepared (and knowing is half the battle!) the players started to strategasize. I resolved that I wasn't going to pull any punches, even if it looked hopeless. They broke down the wall and things immediately looked bad. The barbarian won init, stepped up and slashed with the shard--and got nailed 3 times in return. It failed to grab him, however, which I had been hoping for since at least that way he wouldn't take a full attack again. Then the tide turned. The sorcerer produced a scroll of haste which was crucial. The Heart missed the barbarian twice but managed a grab with a tentacle. This made an opportunity for the rest of the party to swarm into the room and surround The Heart. The cleric laid a bestow curse and The Heart failed the save. The cleric chose CON loss, which amounted to 27HP--a huge hit. My dice went cold. Like Iammars said, there's no helping it when you roll 1s on your attacks. Hope welled in my chest as the barbarian slashed madly with the benefit of the haste. After four rounds The Heart collapsed. And then the world began to come apart.
The party ran upstairs, grabbed Sorin and made it out of the Mirror in time. Nicasor gathered his followers and reminded the PCs of their promise. He headed upstairs to find the Baron. The fetchlings began their bloody revenge and they PCs had to intervene as the Baronness and her infant were set upon. After a confrontation the fetchlings agreed to leave the Baroness to the PCs and departed with their red-handed master. The PCs explained to the Baroness about Iozef and Sorin. She was not happy, but Karpad was no longer a safe place to stay so she decided to return to her family for the time being.
Kyle Baird wrote:
Oh, I'm sorry for showing you such a great time at your first PFS table that you got addicted enough to become the campaign's coordinator. Yep, I definitely failed.
Or the table experience may have been so bad he decided that no one deserved to suffer like that and changed the direction of his PFS career to protect Atlantans from getting Bairded again.
Congratulations to the first Campaign Coordinator to earn all five stars.
If we would have known when you'd get here we would have cleaned up the place, but welcome to 5-Star Mountain. Sorry about the smell. We have to do something about that before the ladies from Iowa City & Atlanta get here...