Greta Greeneyes was born in the Realm of the Mammoth Lords to a family of the Whitepaw following. From the very beginning she didn't fit in - she wasn't a preemie, but she sure looked like one. Even as an adult, this Ulfen woman only just tops 4' tall. She was converted by a traveling lay priest of Pharasma as a teenager and eventually manifested clerical powers of that very southern god. Her following hoped that she would grow out of her strange "southern god" phase, but when her powers manifested they realized that would never happen. So they gave her a simple choice: actively abandon Pharasma and TRY to live as a proper person of her people, or go south and find her own way. She's a pathfinder, so you can guess what she chose.
A lot of her small mechanical choices stem from her long journey south on foot. She doesn't believe in owning anything she couldn't herself carry in a pinch, though these days she is willing to leave some useless junk (royal outfits, for instance) at the Grand Lodge. She still has the superstitions of her family, only reinforced by the countries you have to get through to get out of the RoML.
Of course, when your GM doesn't ask about these things, funny things happen like your ulfen midget character being hit on for being a "tall lady"... ;)
I played Father Stumpen Leadfoot, a bardic priest of "the Wanderer". He was a master of the lap dulcimer, had a lovely bass voice, wore a holy symbol, had learned a few thief tricks, and was dedicated to aiding travelers in the name of his god or offering wise advice based on his many years of traveling. As a side note, a pure point of practicality he didn't find to be important, he was a straight classed dwarven fighter who dual wielded short swords like a madman.
This drove the DM a little bit crazy, because the rest of the party took his lay priesthood just as seriously as he did. He had a series of prayer rituals that could only be done with earth from his home stronghold (any dwarven religion needs to be a little grounded, even the Wanderer). He used up his last pouch of dirt while being menaced by a shadow dragon. After defeating the dragon, the DM thought we were going to go forward with our previous plans, but no one in the party could countenance Stumpen having to go without his holy dirt. He was aghast when we explained that instead we were going to have to go back to our homeworld and then travel overland to Stumpen's home before getting anything else done. "But they don't DO anything!" he exclaimed. Our seriousness overcame his reluctance, and finally he decided the best thing he could do to get us back on track was to make a ride home and then a teleport there and back immediately available. ;)
Selling them back at full price does the least damage to the campaign. The illegal items are gone, no one feels personally attacked out of character, and in character they can complain about aggressive merchants sending out messengers forcing full refunds.
This isn't a normal campaign, where the difference can be worked out with the character. (Although it has inspired a mini-adventure where the party is caught up with by a merchant's messenger offering a full refund or to collect the difference. If that party is helpful, they gain a merchant NPC ally and a good reputation. If they ignore it, they gain a bad reputation in the weapon merchant community, which slowly overcharges them enough that they make up the money. If they kill the messenger, the guild of weapon merchants suddenly becomes a recurrent opponent, with agents spread throughout the gameworld!)
No, in this situation it is the player who bears the loss if there is one, and it is more than just money for their character to spend. The loss could include trust in the fairness of the leadership, morale, enthusiasm about their character, etc. That isn't worth doing just because someone thought the examples from Ultimate Equipment were doing it correctly!
The recent discussion on retired scenarios perked my interest. Our local gang is starting a dedicated module playing group of characters, so that when the characters get stuck in the module due to scheduling it won't be a problem. We also would like a little more storyline, but all our gaming prep time goes to our real home game.
I have pondered running one of the low level retired ones as a character prehistory "combat simulation". Obviously the characters won't get any credit, xp, or money, but it would be a good team building exercise. I have this idea of a holodeck like thing done via illusion spells, and breaks to say "what did you do wrong there?" or "how could we have done better?"
There's no replayability questions, we can explore our team's weaknesses and address them before doing a module and losing all but one of our rebuild opportunities, and it should be a fun night. For sure, none of our folks have actually played these things, so it will be fresh, too!
Man, though, if you really need something replayable that you haven't done very recently... you're down to just modules, aren't you?
My paladin is a loyal member of his family, the Scarzni... perhaps too loyal for their own comfort. So they shipped him off with the request that he take his family reforming project to the society, a place where he does a lot less damage to their operations. So he is a terrible faction member, but as a sleight-of-handing paladin long accustomed to working the "long game" to redeem his friends and family, he makes a pretty good PFS member. And unlike my other good character, never has serious temptations to leave, as he doesn't want to disappoint the family.
For my gaming group, PFS has helped us incorporate some Pathfinder material into our home campaign. I don't think we would have if it hadn't turned our friend (a VL) into a bit of an evangelist.
The biggest negative effect has been an association between the term "Pathfinder" and PFS. People will say dismissively of some character option or home rule "oh, you can't do that, it's Pathfinder". Pathfinder as a whole gains the reputation of PFS - restrictive, often forcibly shallow, doesn't make much sense oftentimes.
So when my friend says, "Hey, let's play Pathfinder for our next big campaign!" a lot of people respond with "erhnnh" or some other non-commital and vaguely negative noise. This is true despite the fact that they know the world their characters (from another D20 system) adventure in is entirely Pathfinder! The term still evokes the wrong image, though.
The second issue has been on of world adoption. On our group's limited budget, we have to assemble a collection of hardback, rules centric books to make the characters advertised by the PRD's haunting calls legal. We need enough copies to split up at cons. This means the only setting book we own is the Inner Sea Primer, and we learn only bits and pieces about the world, tangentially. That's fine for our home brewed, pathfinder including home games, but doesn't lend towards wanting to play an AP or anything like that. We certainly won't be basing a game in Golarion.
In gaming, I prize a world that makes sense, feels internally consistent, and lets whoever is playing just fall into it for a few hours. I am a pretty hardcore roleplayer, and I feel that it is this situation in which it is easiest to play one's character fully. To me a great gaming session is one in which, no matter how badly things went:
1. I feel like whatever happened is exactly what made sense to have happened in the game world
2. My character was absolutely true to himself. That is as true if he ends the session dead or dishonored as when it is a victorious ending.
I suppose that puts me squarely in the "GM snob/creative control freak" categories. Other GM's are often great at many things, but naturally they have their own priorities. So generally, the only way for me get my priorities central is to be the GM. Also, for the purposes of my enjoyment, playing my NPCs as fully themselves is just as satisfying as doing it for a PC of mine. So GMing is a good fit, and I have been our group's primary GM for many years.
In PFS specifically, the things that make GMing more fun for me are less available by design. Overall I would still vote GMing is more fun, though. You are in a better position as the GM to bring what you love into a PFS session and share it with the players you get. As a player, you can gently try to pry more of what you love about gaming out of a GM, but only to the level that they have it to give.
This is actually a real feature of occasional PFS play in my life. I have found when I GM for too many years without sitting on the other side of the table, I lose any sense of player perspective, and my ability to run a fun game decreases somewhat. PFS lets me play without much committment and regain that perspective.
To play more than once every week or two though, I'd have to GM. I am glad they exist, but I don't understand those who like to play more than that. This is about as much playing as this snob/control freak can take. ;)
In the only one of Netopalis's examples that I had run already and thus could read without spoilers, The Silken Caravan, the secondard success actually is directly contrary to one of the faction missions. If you hand them out for "fun and flavor" and the Quadira player actually follows it, he will literally eliminate the prestige point, to quote his faction letter: "with extreme prejudice".
Patrick, while I am sure it was never even in your imagination, it does fall under the same "good for the goose, good for the gander" defense. Someone who follows your logic, but isn't as sane, might say "Well online GM's aren't required to print chronicles, why am I?"
Thus, it is good for Don to point out that this could only work from the player side. The GM has to account for all kinds of players, but the player only has to account for himself.
Look at it the other way, too. What it is about PFS that makes you refuse to run anything else? If it is about credit and leveling your PC's for cons and the like, then that would be hard to compromise. But if it is the low prep nature, not wanting to write your own scenarios, self contained sessions, etc, then consider this:
PFS scenarios do not need to be run in PFS. They could be used in a home game with a persistent group whose plothook is that they work for the Pathfinder Society (the in game group). Then you can note the results of various scenarios and make appropriate changes to future ones. It would only be slightly more prep work than normal PFS, but it would give your players the feeling of continuity.
- If they develop an adversarial relationship with a particular VC, play that up (they could actually be sent on one of those punishing scenarios out of pettiness) or have them "transferred" to a different lodge, and they play the normal scenario but under a different VC.
- Keep an eye on chronology, so if in their play chronology a certain NPC should be dead or on the outs with society, replace him/her.
- Make the NPC's somewhat less one-shots. If the scenario calls for them to meet a centaur, and they forged a good relationship with a centaur in this area previously, plug in the friendly centaur. If an Aspis member escaped their grasp, plug him in where a slighly higher level aspis one shot NPC is in their next meeting - boom, recurring villain!
- Keep any effect they have on an area. If they go back into the same big Andoran forest, describe how it is a better or worse place than before, depending on their actions. Anywhere they adventure frequently they should have "their" inn, where they are greeted with room keys and asked if they want their usual beverage order.
You don't need to change stat blocks, encounter orders, etc any more than you want to. If continuity is all they really need, you just need the world to be a more solid and real place, and those little touches are all it takes. The rest will be made up in their minds. "Oh no you don't curse OUR forest! We have worked very hard over several scenarios to keep it safe from cults, bandits, and evil fey!"
Of course, if what they really hate is how PFS does loot/xp/etc or what you require out of the situation is GM credits, then this won't be effective.
Our home group's preference (including when we run PFS sessions) is to have to Heal check for more than basic percentage/description of HP reports. I think it is so ingrained that we never even noticed these newfangled editions don't list a DC for it!
But we also favor a goose-gander philosophy. The NPC's have to heal check also, and sometimes that has hilarious results. Just this past week, in our home campaign, one my NPC's not only died, but wasted seven rounds of actions, because his team (all 13 of them!) could not make a Heal check in the double digits. Their specialized healer was dead, and the remaining oracle had healing spells but didn't bother to put any effort into learning about Heal.
I think when I finally get around to running PFS outside our gang, I'll just take a table poll before game starts, making clear that whichever way the players decide, the NPC's will do the same. Our group does this with a lot of other things too, but the tactics following requirements in PFS have made it a lot harder here. The players can have the choice of whether they want more uncertainty or not.
I completely see your point of view, there, Jeff, and it's certainly not uncommon. I go the other way with my characters - lacking any meaningful affect on the world around them and the characters they play with, I dig into their personal story harder. It is the only continuity they will ever get.
If I ever adopt your approach, I've considered playing someone with memory loss. It would fit in really well with the way most PFS gms run knowledge checks! And it would be fun trying to guess how I learned this bit of trivia in the past. ;)
I was responding to rangerjeff's "his piece of s&~+ roleplay dog that would be worthless in 2 levels" comment. It seemed unnecessary to me.
Hopefully it is obvious if you are going to bring an animal to an adventuring party that goes dangerous places, you should take a few ranks in Handle Animal. With a bard's charisma, that should go fine.
What's wrong with a chararacter's flavor including a pet? They don't need to be useful anymore than our real life pets are useful, except maybe to bark when someone is at the door in the middle of the night. One of my favorite 2e fighters started as a lone traveler with a dog, and I don't think he ever came up mechanically. He died when we were level 10ish because the only way to survive a particular situation was by casting Earthquake off of a scroll, and he didn't make it. The party priest felt really, really bad. It was 8 or 9 years ago now, and I still remember it.
There's no need to be rude about his dog. Roleplaying games are more than just tactical combat simulations. Sometimes they can be tactical combat simulations with in-character emotional attachments.
There's some fun to be had in that part of AoOs, isn't there? They clearly see the guy take a chunk out of their buddy as he tries to force by. Then their character is thinking, "Can he do that again, or is he off balance?" as the player is thinking, "Does that guy seem like he'd have combat reflexes? I don't think so, I'm going to risk it." A few second later, "Yeah, yeah he completely has combat reflexes. Could I get a heal?" It creates an enjoyable table banter to accompany all of the die rolling.
This subject has caused some of my greatest challenges in playing PFS. I understand why the society can be a good deal at the lower levels, but why would my characters stay in it later on? It certainly isn't because the economic math works out!
My personal approach to the problem is to try and create characters around motivations that fit well with the PFS. Whatever PFS is providing them has to be more interesting than just money or levels.
My first attempt at it is a sorceror who has delusions of being LE, but is so paranoid about being found out that he actually is LN. He thinks that a guaranteed adventuring party that can't actually directly stop him from doing things is a great deal, one that can't be found elsewhere. In the long term, he wants to become some kind of powerful figure in hell, and he sees the PFS as a good tool to get to that goal. He figures that at worst if he crosses the line when they are looking he'll get kicked out, but that can be long after 12th level as long as he's careful. In the meantime, should he ever actually think up a cool villainous scheme, heroes are unlikely to come stop him. He is ridiculously fun to play.
My second has been less successful, a cleric who prizes knowledge and exploration and trying to be a helpful member of her following, which is currently PFS. PFS works for her because it hooks her up with groups traveling all over the world to explore with and support with her magic. She hates the way the Decemvirate operates, was one of those good aligned naive shadow lodgers, and almost quit at the end of Rivalry's End. Season 5's focus on actually doing useful things in Mendev has saved her from leaving the society so far.
My third attempt is still too young to be sure how it's working. He's a paladin born into the Scarzni family. He is as loyal to the family as any other member, but obviously doesn't agree with their goals. They sent him to the PFS to get him out of the way, stressing how important to the family and the world it was that he be a part. So far PFS is a place he can do right by Erastil and Scarzni, although sometimes they send him misguided letters showing they still don't understand the true path. Those have stopped recently, which has been great! And his family was right, this PFS thing definitely needs some help with it's own understanding of the true path...
When I play a cleric with friends, I keep a running tally on looseleaf of whose wands I am holding, how many charges they started with and how many I have used. We have an informal agreement to try and spread the cost of out of combat healing around, so on the ideal day they all end up with approximately the same number of hash marks next to them. During the chronicle writing phase I tell each person how many charges to mark off of their particular wand.
I, the OP, hadn't actually opined on play styles up until this point. In my med-induced hazed I posted a wall of text about the campaign's meta rules and the ways in which we as a culture often seem to miss the forest and argue down the the tenths the diameter of the trees. Apparently I really didn't explain that those meta-rules, the GtPFSOP was what I talking about, and so things went crazy after that.
My opinion on how the game is played "best" would be quite boring, I think. I enjoy roleplaying to the point of letting my character die because it is in character, I enjoy character building and put a lot of work into every PC and NPC I build, and I am known for creating complex world with great verisimilitude. I have taken part in openly DM vs the Players campaigns, shared story telling campaigns, and everything in between. It's all fun!
When it comes to how we should play at the table, I'll go whichever way the majority of vocal people leans. We roleplayed so cheerfully and loudly during WBG2 at Gencon that two tables stopped in mid sentence to stare at us, and my favorite PFS character is ridiculously quirky to the point of being far from mechanically perfect. But if that isn't where the rest of the table seems to want to go, I'll pull out my quiet, solid cleric and play a round of let's smash bad guys. Neither kind of gaming evening will leave me disappointed.
This might be a crazy idea, and I could see where it would have some legal issues that need to be ironed out, but here goes:
There could be a subscription option for the PRD. For some dollar figure each month, you could be a financial contributor to the PRD. Something as simple as paper car insurance cards could be distributed by email to those who request them: name, #, and what the start and end date of your paid for subscription is. These would be mere vanity items for those who don't play PFS, but for PFS they could authorize you in that time period to use the PRD on your phone, photocopies of hardcopy books the PRD includes, or direct PRD print outs. The player would be responsible for having the material ready to access, but it would be considered a legal source. When Paizo decides on an end date for the PRD, when they are taking down, they stop selling subscriptions for anything after that date. Like an MMORPG, the license agreement would have normal provisos about server maintenance and downtime and whatnot.
This would give interested people the ability to pay Paizo for the great service the PRD is. Even those of us who own many of the books in the PRD in some form still reference the PRD often. I own 7/12 of those books, but they are not hyperlinked, and when doing my gaming homework it is much faster to bop around the PRD than through my 7 books. This would let people in that position put defray the cost of Paizo's that it is costing Paizo. People who prefer physical books could have the convenience of electronic print outs without guilt, and those in the PRD represent most of the really heavy ones. Those with little income could have a way of contributing to Paizo when they can.
The physical books, the PRD, and PDFs have very different strengths and weaknesses.
The PDFs let you own a Paizo book for a very affordable sum, they give you that "ctrl-F" ability, but otherwise are less readable, and you rarely discover new things by flipping the way you do with a book. They are very light to carry, and don't require internet access. PDF versions of books have extra info that doesn't make the PRD, such as which god grants which subdomains in the APG. Many more books are available in PDF than the PRD or physical books. PDF's have some copyright issues that make them less than ideal for a gaming group that buys its books together.
The PRD requires and app or internet access, but allows you to search all 12 books currently included in a single search box. The hyperlinking is great, as is the fact that it is always up to date. You can't own the PRD, so it doesn't help long term game collectors in that way, but in the present it is a fantastic resource. The PRD doesn't have some of the world-specific details, but those tend to be much more important when building your character at home than running it at the table. It is much more accessible to screen readers and easier to make visible via other software for the visually impaired. You can't forget to bring it, lose it, or have it stolen from you. It is also not heavy.
Physical books don't require batteries, and have a very different reading experience for some folks. You can sell or lend them, or even physically modify them to your needs. They are a lot easier to pass around a table without fear of breaking your device. You can keep them for posterity without worrying about backwards compatible software. They are heavy, and they don't have the convenience of electronic searching.
In my mind, the perfect price point would be $5/month. That would leave you the option of either buying a PDF every 2-3 months or subscribing, whichever was better for you. Individually it would be very affordable, but if it turned out to be popular it could add a nice monthly income for Paizo. Permanent book ownership matters to most people enough that I don't think it would just replace purchasing the hardcover line.
In terms of "is it worth it for Paizo", I think that comes down to how much it costs to run a program like this, send out the little insurance cards, and deal with billing and complaints. I know it costs something, but how much is outside my experience.
I think AD&D viewed balance as a thing between the party as a team and the encounter as a team. Between player classes, they made them so dissimilar that there was a point in very class's life when they felt awesome and another when they felt useless. The big exceptions to that are probably the 1st ed Monk and the 2nd ed Rogue, but otherwise that is how it felt to me.
As long as there is an agreed upon standard (in this case Pathfinder RAW with messageboard clarifications), any system of rules for tabletop can work as long as it is well communicated. The vast majority of people playing it might think a given rule for initiative is silly, but as long as they are expecting it they can make intelligent decisions based on it. For organized play, GM rulings are indeed not enough and reducing table variation is a good goal. So no, these aren't the kinds of rules I meant.
In your terms, NN959 I am speaking entirely of Society rules, the organized play mechanics. The unwritten etiquette sometimes derives from them as a reaction to the society rules, but that is a different topic.
As a bit of a case study, let's look at the introduction of Inventory Tracking Sheets.
In the prototype Guide 5.0 and then the immediate words of the campaign leadership, they were described in a very juridical manner. They were presented as a new requirement for purchasing items for your character, eventually those of 25 gp or more, and went so far as to say that if you were using a different sheet to track your inventory you could finish that off and then should have a GM sign it. At that point you were directed to use this new sheet.
The threads that followed largely became inflamed by a lot of arguments that centered on the responsibility of GM's to sign off on things, whether buying items had to be done at the table, and then a slew of debates on the how and why of audits. I myself even contributed to this legalistic approach by pointing out that this added a new requirement to PFS participation, access to a printer. All this took a lot of Mike Brock's time before Gencon to address, and posing our questions in these terms led to necessarily inefficient communication.
Then a few people saw the forest instead of the trees, and focused their questions on how they could best conform to the intention of the new inventory tracking rules. They were primarily people worried about using a lot of consumables, people for whom the "wands" corner of the sheet was highly insufficient. Some of them took the time to make their own version of the ITS and present it. This led to a much more fruitful conversation, and one that led us to the place we are now in regards to inventory tracking.
Ultimately, it turned out most people who were arguing really had nothing against tracking their inventory in a more clear and standard way. They had concerns with the specifics of how that requirement would be implemented, but not the intention of it. There were some real questions, even some very real legal questions that needed to be answered, but when viewed in that light those were wrapped up fairly quickly. There was a willingness to conform to a standard of inventory tracking, to come to a common compromise.
The ruling that came together out of all that doesn't sound nearly so legalistic. Every character, as part of their documentation, needs a sheet detailing their purchases of 25 gp and above since mid-August. It needs to conform to a fairly standard format so that GM's can read it, and include certain bits of information: the name of the item, it's cost, on which chronicle it was acquired, on which chronicle you sold or expended it.
It's actually a great tool that lowered overall paperwork by uniting cramped little chronicle purchase boxes and character inventory areas into an easier to use whole, all while giving us a standard to see if our own paperwork measures up. It makes PFS both more organized and it's paperwork more streamlined in one stroke.
So when I say "rules-positive" I mean not looking at a rule and concentrating on what it says I must do, then doing whatever the minimum required is. We are in a position to look at the rules as meant to support our PFS hobby, then concentrate on stepping up to fulfill that intention as best we can, even if that means going beyond what the rules require. If that became the more dominant part of the culture, it would free the campaign leadership to be more open in their communication, which in turn would give us more input into structure they are building for us.
Obviously, none of us can make other people see things this way. This is something that grows as individuals make the intentional choice to look at it this way, to respond in this manner. Cultural drift happens one person at a time, whether positive or negative. The more of us live the spirit of the law, the more generous the letter of law can become. The more we as individuals live the spirit of the law, the more common those practices become by default.
This is why I categorized the approach as ascetical. This doesn't make a policy you can put on other people, it is a personal self discipline and rigor. It may inspire other people, but the only person you spend time judging is yourself.
And that's the last reply I'll be able to give for a while. The ogre shadowknight in my home game has decided that the party needs to finish trying to take over an island of goblinoids before we can get back the part of the world I have prepped, so I have a bit of gaming homework to do. ;)
Thanks for your response, NN959. While I think you misunderstood me quite a bit I'll take full responsibility for communicating unclearly. I really wasn't in the best mental shape when I posted.
I never meant that PFS was in any way an involuntary community, it is 100% voluntary. There was supposed to be a contrast there between communities that are forced to use a heavily juridical approach (like countries) and those that don't have to (hobby organizations). There is much more room for other approaches in fully voluntary organizations. The very fact that people have volunteered to be a part suggests that they think at least most of the existing rules and structure contribute to something they want to see happen.
There are of course a wide variety of gaming preferences in PFS, but we do have something of a shared community goal: to be able to play in a global Pathfinder campaign, a campaign not tethered to a particular venue or GM. Whether you prefer roleplay or combat, long fights or short ones, this playstyle or that, this core mission I think we can agree on.
In a voluntary community with a common mission, rules are used to build structure and demarcate boundaries. I agree with you that they have a defining function as well. They help us align our pockets of attempted PFS into a succesful whole. They can be used to prevent harmful practices from becoming the norm and damaging the society as a whole.
This rules-positive approach that is possible within a voluntary community is what makes the honor system work. We apparently disagree about what level of putting aside one's own preferences for the group or mission is a "sacrifice", so I won't use that language. The operation of an honor system is based on the participants choosing to limit what they do to what they are supposed to do. Conformity is achieved by free choice rather than duress.
With that in view, I wasn't suggesting socially pressuring people, but rather I envisioned something more akin to inspiration and offering help. People doing things they really believe in enthusiastically make doing the same more attractive to others.
Similarly, I see the rules at the best when they too inspire and help people to measure up more to PFS's expectations, and weakest when they try to enforce things without much to back it up. Both kinds are sometimes necessary, but I think the former is more productive.
On a personal level, I found a lot of the discussions and clarifications and such about the 5.0 guide rather demoralizing. In contrast, putting those rules into practice amidst engaged people at Gencon was invigorating. So think of this as my naive wish that our conversational tone regarding such things and even the process of making the rules itself could be as winsome as the reality of playing PFS.
Actually, what I am assuming is that we are already on some level sharing ascetical practices: the rules of the campaign.
Imagine a home group that has PFS sessions. They take up all the limitations of PFS, then fill out all of the paperwork. They don't do these things out of preference, there are certainly parts of them they don't like. They don't do them out of fear, no one will ever see whether that guy really earned his second prestige point or not. They do these things out of a desire to be apart of PFS as a community and in order to attain the goals these rules are meant to facilitate.
The rules work best when we see them not as something to fight against or about, but rather when we realize that they are part of what unifies our scattered gaming groups, gamedays at stores, and convention slots into a community. The structure is supposed to be a support, not an obstacle to climb or the point of the exercise.
Anyhow, I'm not sure I would have shared these thoughts with the world if I hadn't been adjust to a new pain medicine, that was probably a failed wisdom check on my point. But that's what I was trying to get at.
Pathfinder Society is an organized international community with unifying goals. One primary goal is promoting the existence of pathfinder gaming sessions outside of closed home group gaming, with the ability to progress the same characters in many different real life settings. In order for an voluntary organized community to exist, there must be a mutually understood language, at least a begrudging commitment of its members, and common practices. This post is primarily aimed at discussing how we best maintain our common practices.
The juridical approach is one of creating rules and enforcing them often enough to at least scare most of the members of the community into abiding by enough of them to keep things working. It is the approach used by most governments. Indeed, communities that aren't strictly voluntary are somewhat forced into this approach. The members of these communities are often part of it by chance, and don't always have the practical ability to leave.
In a way, the juridical path is actually the easier one for members as well as leaders. It facilitates the members' considerations to be things like: "What am I required to do?" or "How far can I push it before I hit enforcement?" or "How can I avoid getting caught?". It makes it easier to for someone whose natural inclination would be absolve themselves of responsibility to follow up on that temptation.
It makes it easy to see one's personal conflict as being against the system of rules and enforcement itself. The result of this conflict is that the people creating the rules start to adjust them to be more stringent than what they actually desire, aiming at the point at which member's willingness to push against the rules will land them at the desired action. (For instance, see the many jurisdictions that set their speed limits to 5 mph under the average speed the road was designed to carry traffic at.) Equilibrium comes, but at the price of some people feeling arbitrarily singled out for following the common practice on the occasions that the letter of the law is strictly enforced.
On the messageboard and in the guide, PFS feels like a very juridical culture. It is felt most the very rules lawyering threads, discussions of possible loopholes, but also in the posts of people seeking advice on how and when to enforce the rules. This messageboard section of PFS's culture seems to have forced Mike Brock and the rest of the leadership into strict language and endless clarifications, sometimes with great cost to common sense rulings.
With little to no enforcement powers, however, PFS on the ground is generally not run in a juridical manner. Making bad notes on chronicle sheets can be instantly "rectified" by throwing the chronicle in the trash bin, a practice that would never be found out by the next GM unless the perpetrator tried to replay it. The most permanent effect a GM can have is to ban a player from their table, something that doesn't change their life at their next venue at all.
In reality, the approach that is keeping practices common from one region and group to another isn't juridical at all, it is ascetical. The community is kept functional by thousands of individuals putting aside their personal preferences in order to stay in step with the campaign as a whole. As with any ascetical community, which sacrifices hurt the most varies from member to member, but it is those sacrifices being made by all that makes PFS exist. The success of the society as a whole is advanced by the integrity and willing rigor of its members to police themselves.
Some of these choices are made just by electing to participate in PFS at all. Compared to a home game situation, we instantly give up any palpable feeling of affecting the game world's future. We put aside character building options from unapproved sources, as well as the ability to build a character who is immediately going to be able to play with our friends' favorite characters. We relinquish the ability to replay an adventure with rewards, no matter how badly it was run or how little of it we saw the first time. We surrender the full roleplaying of our characters, limiting them to fit within the rules of the campaign (no evil actions, no being a jerk, no direct confrontation) and the constraints of the scenario.
There are a lot of less automatic sacrifices, and this is really where self-discipline comes into it. To support the campaign financially, we need to spend more money on Paizo materials than pure pragmatism requires. To maintain our interoperability and accountability, we need to keep clear and accurate documentation. To keep the community healthy and growing, we need to make choices as we play with the fun of all the other players in mind. We also need to be willing to teach new players in a winsome manner. Instead of cheating the details that would seem to make the session less fun, we should play them honestly and then report the problem so it can be fixed for everyone. We need to do whatever is in our ability to keep our GMs from burning out, whether that be taking our turn or buying them tasty snacks. Ultimately, we should make decisions with more than ourselves in mind, considering the impact on our gaming group, our local gaming store, our GMs, and the campaign as a whole.
Intentional asceticism is a very different throught process than just following the rules. Instead of saying, "What am I required to do?" we ask ourselves "How could I/we be doing better?", and that is a huge difference. We look at our personal situation and abilities and then see how we can best contribute and align ourselves to the society's ways.
A huge swath of PFS is already in practice run this way, or it wouldn't be functioning at all. My challenge to us all is to encourage this part of PFS culture. If you're still here, PFS must have some value to you, something worth working for. If we all stepped up our self-enforcement, if we encouraged those around us to be responsible society players, there would be a strong social pressure in that direction. Instead of wielding the rules as weapons in debate, our rules debates could center on what would work best for the society as a whole, not how to evade the current rule. In the end, it could make much more room for common sense and dispensations for those who need them.
On the leadership side, this is greatly aided whenever you guys let us know what the spirit of the law really is. Those times when you post about where you want to go with the campaign are fantastic, especially when you seek feedback. I think those sorts of things really add morale to those trying to follow the rules as best as they can, which is at least a plurality of PFS members.
Hi, Jon, I'm Brian's wheelchair using friend. I ran disability access for a convention for several years, so I understand how hard this part of conventions is.
Access isn't all about physically making a path to where someone wants to go. As Jon said, the tables in the middle of the pile are never going to be accessible. That's completely ok, it's life. Chairs around tables isn't naturally a very friendly wheelchair situation. PFS's setup this year was actually more accessible in that regard than a family party I was invited to once - at least they weren't blocking off the only bathrooms in the place!
The most important part of access is actually information. If there is no way to make an event doable by someone with some kind of disability, the best kind of access you are going to get is communicating that to them in advance. (Not being able to participate in something rankles a lot less if you didn't spend time waiting around for the thing you can't do.) If it is doable, but has obstacles, or requires some pre-setup, communicate that. The better the communication, the better the accessibility, even if the physical situation isn't great.
As an example, we had a building we ran programming in where the elevator was broken before the con started. We obviously couldn't fix that, but we could make sure that as each person with a visible disability picked up their badge or anyone visited our disability desk they got a list of what rooms this elevator served and a description of what made it hard to get to them without it. In this case it was 5 really broad, shallow stairs. Both those for whom that was insurmountable and those for whom that was not a big deal due to curb hopping skills or well trained friends expressed gratitude for the information.
This was my first Gencon playing PFS. I didn't know what an "HQ" was, or that shouting up at this really tall black mountain was the way you were supposed to go about getting help. Even just know that approaching HQ was the first step would have been great, and accomplishable with just a blue wheelchair sign tacked on it somewhere. That would at least lead someone in my position to mill around below it where we could be noticed. A poster with information on what we needed to do to get a table we could get to would have been even better. (By this poster, I don't mean like the "how to muster" posters that were entirely blocked from view by the standing people, but up by HQ itself.) Even better would have been a post on these boards here setting up a point of contact, instructions about how early someone with a disability should show up, etc.
You guys have talked about how hard finding the musterers was. Now imagine that if you're only 4' tall! Brian's wife forged through to a few, but until we were right there, I had no idea that a musterer existed in that spot. I'm staring at leg level, t-shirts and clipboards don't particularly help someone in my situation.
Finally, if your own HQ staff is all on the same page regarding access, that shows. I got a little token with a table assignment. No one collected it ultimately, so I tried to send it back to HQ with a runner who was grabbing tickets and things, and he had no idea what it was or that it belonged to you all. I hope the musterer (if I'd found one) would have known?
Thurston, thank you for the special. It was overall very enjoyable, even with our particular table problems. We had a great time!
We never actually experienced the "endless waves" of the end. Once we had hit the maximum thing on the table and it only had one turn, the GM just sort of stopped running. (He had some special circumstances that made this not as unreasonable as it sounds.) So we ended up waiting about 30-40 minutes for the end of the special. It honestly wasn't as dull as you'd think - I mean, we were a table full of gamers, we had plenty to make small talk about! We also used the time to make elaborate theories about a certain venture captain and what was really going on with him. Our biggest worry was that we were failing the group as a whole by not being able to contribute more points to whatever our points were supposed to be doing. If that was not present, and we were assured we had done our bit, waiting for the more complicated high tiers to finish would not have been objectionable at all.
Mike, thanks very much for responding so actively to our feedback. I just wanted to chime in to say that being allowed to make our own variation of the ITS to our own needs and ability completely voids my concerns. I can print them out when possible, and make a nice one on paper with a pen in those more usual housebound times. That makes all the difference.
Eric Clingenpeel wrote:
I don't know of any library that doesn't have a copy machine. They shouldn't be that expensive to get copies made. My local library charges I think $.25 for print outs, I'm not sure if it is the same price for copies or not. Also, if you play with others, I'm sure you could ask nicely, and they'll print extra copies that you can have on hand. Generally the people I've met that play PFS are generous, and willing to help if they can, all you need to do is ask.
I appreciate your response, Eric. It is things like this that made me say that it doesn't make PFS unplayable, just less accessible. PFS has to require jumping through some hoops to remain organized the way it is, I realize that. This was a particular instance where I thought that the powers that be might not even realize they had indeed erected a hoop that required jumping (the obtaining of a copy of the sheet, I'm sure they realized that filling it out was a hoop!) Mike Brock knows a lot better than I do what PFS needs, and it is definitely a "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" kind of place. I have no problem with that whatsoever.
Actually, the very generous nature of PFS players in person is why I posed the question in a generalized fashion. I sincerely doubt that anyone who actually had me roll up to their table in real life would put me through the wringer for anything. Even generally jerkish people are outwardly nice to most people with visible disabilities, and nice people bend over backwards.
That is very generous of you Mike! For Gencon specifically I am covered, I am rooming with a VL friend who is one of our big motivations to go to Indianapolis. I am sure he will get my husband and I set up to start.
What I am wondering about is what happens after that. My character sheets are indeed hand-written, as are those of a some of folks I game with. None of us have consistent access to printing. I don't know how common our situation is, but surely there must be a few others like us. How people could lack consistent printing access is certainly variable - for some friends it is lack of money to put in for printer ink, for others a disability that means even with money they can't just go to a print shop. I'm trying to keep personal stuff out of this, and just talk about the general limited-printing situation.
I think of just this past Monday, going to a game that had been scheduled on just two days notice. I realized a few hours before the game that the character I had claimed I was playing had leveled on his last GM credit and was no longer appropriate. So I wrote out a new paladin who would be appropriate, and we had a great time. Under a stickler version of this new setup, by my understanding he wouldn't even have been allowed to purchase his starting equipment.
When I agree to GM, we have time to talk about who in the group that is going to play will make the chronicle printing happen. If no one has the ability, we can't play. That is a requirement of the organized campaign I can plan around. I'm not excited about addding to that planning the requirement that someone commit to making enough inventory sheets for any printerless folks that need one as well, but again, I could plan around it.
As a player, the inability to take my paper, pencil, hardcopy PF books and make a legal PFS character with equipment on the fly for me or a new person to the group is something I can't plan around as easily. I don't know in advance when I will need or want to do that. I could even be put in a situation where I wouldn't feel comfortable purchasing flavorful and occasionally useful adventuring gear because it would take the remaining slots on my sheet and I don't know when I will get a chance to procure a new one. That doesn't make PFS unplayable or anything, but it does make it a little less accessible.
All that said, the fact that I am the first person to ask about this does make it seem that my situation is not very common (at least among forum readers!), and I understand if we're not a big enough demographic to make rules for.
Edit: The mundanity rules help, thanks!
This may seem like a stupid question, but where are we supposed to get these sheets from, physically speaking? Will it be GM's handing them out with chronicles? Or is there now a sudden requirement to be able to print things out to play PFS? If we write out a looseleaf sheet with the same sort of information, is that good enough?