|Alex Augunas Venture-Agent aka Golden-Esque|
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Some of the more prolific posts on the Paizo forums might recall a few months ago when I proposed an alternate rewards system for GMs who run Pathfinder Society games. While many people agreed with me that coordinators need a way to reward GMs more, a surprising number of people seemed utterly against rewarding people who take time out of their busy lives to prepare our games for us on a regular basis. I was surprised by this result, but went back to the grindstone to ponder ideas for an alternate rewards system regardless. Then life happened. One thing lead to another, and now I’m a Venture-Agent for my favorite place to play PFS. Go figure.
The place that I’m currently running is old. We’re not talking Season 0 old, but old enough that I have a backlog of data spanning roughly four years in front of me. Yikes. Part of the turf that comes with inheriting a location with such an oppressive amount of data is that it becomes REALLY hard to run Game Days. Why? Well, there’s a few different reasons. First, our gamers tend to be fairly hard-core. They play a lot, and they play often. Most sit down to at least two tables a week, with some managing nearly four a week. Sometimes as GMs, sometimes as players. Crazy, right? Although numbers differ between people, let’s say that as a safe average, roughly half of my store’s player and GM base is sitting down to an average of 10 games a month. Now, it doesn’t take Albert Einstein to realize that the amount of games being played at my store drastically exceeds Paizo’s ability to publish scenarios, so in a nutshell, the problem that I’m running into is that it is getting increasingly hard to deliver games for my store that people can play.
One of the common responses to my issue is, “Well, tell them to GM.” Obviously, if they’ve played a piece of content before, my players should be able to run the game and get twice as much out of the content. Putting aside the implications that my players should “GM or stop whining,” mathematically that’s impossible; it requires all of the players present to perfectly swap with one another; the GM and players from Table 1 switching with the GM and players from Table 2. How often does that happen in practice? The net result is that I have people scattered all over the place, and not a whole lot of flexibility when it comes to offering them things that they can enjoy. It’s sad, really.
Now, what can we not as organizers, but as an organization, do about this? How can we keep people who are interested in playing, but who are almost entirely prevented from doing so? One idea that I had, funny enough, was by employing the Sky Key. Yes, that Sky Key. The fictitious artifact, or at least, its concept. Let me explain.
When we talk replying scenarios, typically the answer is a big, resounding, “NO.” Usually the reasons are twofold; first, we’re afraid that the replayer will spoil the story for people who haven’t yet experienced it. Second, we’re certain that people will use the ability to replay scenarios to farm desirable boons on their characters. In terms of replaying content, that already exists in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. The rules clearly allow replaying for no credit, so long as everyone at the table is aware and accepting of the replayer. Furthermore, we allow GMs to replay scenarios if they possess a specific boon. I think that if we can trust GMs to replay scenarios for credit fairly, we can trust every player to. That being said, I think that the issue regarding boon farming is, sadly, an apt one. Which is where my Sky Key suggestion comes in. Basically, we use the Sky Key as an in-universe excuse to allow players and GMs to replay scenarios for reduced credit. Each scenario is worth its normal amount of XP and gold (because both wealth and experience are factored into the game’s balance), but the character gets all boons crossed off her chronicle sheet, save for those that inflict conditions that must be removed via the expenditure of resources (like curses, diseases, or Bonekeep’s debuffs). The excuse for this lies with the Sky Key:
In 7-00: The Sky Key Solution, we see that the Sky Key has the power to catapult someone back through time for the Society’s purposes. After the catastrophic events of that scenario, we can say that the Pathfinder Society is attempting to perfect technology that will allow a Pathfinder to experience any moment in time of the society’s choosing, regardless to the agent’s relative distance to the place where that event occurred. This would not only provide a useful plot point for future scenarios and give players who have experienced that storyline a sense of fruition, but it would also explain why the boons don’t stick with the Pathfinder unless they’re detrimental; the Pathfinder wasn’t truly there for the event, so she doesn’t get any of the rewards for actually being there.
Whether or not we stick with this fluff or come up with something else, I personally think that laxing a bit on replaying is good for the Society as a whole. We want people wandering into our game stores seeing a full, excited, and energetic crowd to make them curious about what, exactly, is going on with this “Pathfinder Society” thing, and we’re not going to get that happen if our gaming rules make it difficult or undesirable for people to play together. This isn’t so much about, “accommodating the few people who are locked out,” as it is, “making it easier for friends old and new to enjoy the game together, without punishing people who are willing to take another trip on an old ride for the sake of newer players,” which I believe is something we should promote and commend, not ban.