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Out of curiosity, I went through the Finnish PFS wiki that hosts its own reviews, with a requirement that the reviewer has GM'd the scenario. These scenarios have at least two ratings with an average of at least 4.5 stars:
4-11: The Disappeared (3 reviews, average 5.0)
Scenarios with at least two reviews at an average of 2.0 stars or less (not including retired scenarios):
32: Drow of the Darklands Pyramid (3 reviews, 0.66 [yes, one reviewer refused to give even 1 star])
I generally tend to agree with the ratings there so I could almost as well give the first list as my own favorites.
The no-PvP section of the Guide has been pretty much the same for years, but the prevailing interpretation on the boards has always been that given the permission of the target, it is perfectly fine to harm them (usually with collateral damage from AoE). Yet while the text in the Guide has been made less ambiguous in many other parts, the part on PvP remains vague - in particular, it only mentions killing other PCs rather than merely harming them.
For those advocating the strict interpretation of no PvP damage, ever, even with permission, consider that given the above, the only point in the current text that supports that interpretation is the section title - "No Player-versus-Player Combat" - and if you have the other player's permission, it's not really combat, is it? Also note that the last sentence of the section is written such that it implies that while mind-controlled PCs may attack other PC's, the other PCs may not harm the mind-controlled PC.
This issue comes up regularly on the boards. So yes, this is, and has been for a long while, in need of treatment in an FAQ or the Guide.
I'm generally agree with the posters above. I see the Pathfinder Society as a neutral organization that can (and should) ally itself with whoever it can to advance its own goals. For the sake of balance in the Society, if they ally with good groups, they should definitely make friends with some evil-leaning organizations as well. I would certainly be excited to play a season of PFS that revolved around dealings between the Society and some more nefarious groups in Golarion.
I generally think that the no-evil-characters rule has its place in PFS, in keeping in line some players who would use their character's evil alignment as an excuse to detract from the fun of others. But in the hypothetical situation that either that rule or the evil-leaning factions must go, I'd much rather allow evil characters in than drop those factions from the game.
Michael Brock wrote:
Well, to be fair, the cost of traveling country to country in Europe is comparable to state-to-state travel in the US (as long as you fly - gas is about $8-$9 per gallon US equivalent here). Still, not a lot of people are traveling to cons outside our region.
I love the global aspect of PFS, but I agree with Mike and others in that I don't think that exclusive scenarios are worth the resources needed to support them. Something smaller to reward playing outside your home region - say, a boon that needs to be signed by GMs in three different regions, with benefits comparable to a con boon - would be nice, though.
Tonight, Finland finally got its first in-game Venture-Captains when a party of five characters finished Eyes of the Ten, pt. IV. It was an honor for me to GM the Eyes of the Ten series for them, as these were characters who had often played with each other for a long time.
They completed most of the Season 4 high-level arc together, and defeated Krune before starting the Eyes arc. Three of them (Cadwynn, Karim and Trinie) played together already in their first PFS game, First Steps pt. 1 in October 2011, which was also my very first session as a PFS GM. Kresentius (a character dating all the way back to Season 0) and Arna joined in a bit later and they could be considered a party on their own right already a year ago.
Also, I have to say that Eyes of the Ten was an absolute blast to run. The only complaints I have are that a well prepared, Season-4 hardened party will find the encounters mostly very easy, and that with Requiem rising the bar incredibly high (please, can we have more of these?), the rest of the series can't quite reach that level of awesome.
So let me introduce and congratulate:
Venture-Captain, Eagle Knight Arna Kaarnatar - Human Fighter 1 / Ranger 12
Venture-Captain Cadwynn Ablamar - Human Inquisitor of Asmodeus 12 / Shadowdancer 1
Venture-Captain Karim "Sword of the Grand Lodge" Izanor - Half-Orc Barbarian 13
Venture-Captain Kresentius Chartagnian - Human Wizard (Conjurer) 13
Venture-Captain Trinie Valrune, Human Sorcerer 13
Now I'd like to invite those members of the party who lurk these boards as characters who shared adventures with them to share some memories.
Interestingly, a PC could try to resolve the situation with another bluff check, which might be quite believable:
PC: *tells a lie*
The party I ran this for had a pretty easy time with Krune to begin with as they disabled all the runes (the party had a wizard with enough knowledge to automatically know exactly how to), and got past the Lashmistress so fast that (combined with a high roll for Krune's resurrection time) they were able to buff up, fully heal and start right next to Krune's resurrection square.
And they had figured out just the right things to do. First thing of all, they beat him in initiative and slapped him with a dimensional anchor that ate his contingency. He was able to teleport away with quickened dimension door, and got away a maximized empowered cloudkill to cover himself, but any later attempts to cast nasty offensive spells were defeated by readied attacks against spellcasting - probably the best defense against lone casters. In the end, his undoing was a readied fireball that fizzled his casting of maximized empowered horrid wilting.
Lessons learned? You know you are up against an incredibly powerful conjurer in this scenario. That enables a lot of preparation (without any real metagaming), which my players did to good effect. Combine that with smart tactics against wizards, and it's not that difficult. The characters were reasonably optimized but mostly not really min-maxed, so I don't see that as necessary.
Of course, it did help that three of these PCs played together already in their very first scenario nearly two years ago, and all six were at 32 XP before this one. Today, I'm going to start running Eyes of the Ten for five of them.
If you want to help your party with healing, make a Cleric, Oracle or Druid, and you'll have a fairly effective healer with just that. You should find that if you don't optimize everything toward healing, you'll still have room to do other things with that character.
The healing classes are all quite versatile. Put some points in Str and a feat into Power Attack, and you'll get a fairly effective melee character as well as a healer. Pick some interesting domains for a Cleric or the right mystery for an Oracle, and you can make a ranged attack build. And there's my Oracle of Life, who is one of the more efficient healers around here and yet his first-level feats were Spell Focus (Conjuration) and Augment Summoning (since then, I've taken Selective Channeling to heal better).
Chris Mortika wrote:
Change them from potions to elixirs.
I'd be hesitant to do this as there are (as far as I know) no rules for creating custom elixirs (which are wondrous items) in PFS. Also, spells with a "personal" range are not allowed as potions for game balance reasons, so an equivalent elixir should at least cost more to compensate - but how much would that be?
I am given to understand that items can exist on a chronicle sheet that are not otherwise available.
Yes, but usually these are items that are legal by Pathfinder rules but not generally available for PFS: for example, poisons outside the usual list or magic items with a higher-than-usual caster level. This is slightly different as the listed item would be illegal to create under Pathfinder rules.
The chronicle sheet for the Pathfinder Module The Harrowing lists a potion of see invisibility as a found item. As far as I understand, it should not be possible to create this item, as the corresponding spell has a range of "personal". I don't suppose that the purpose of the chronicle is to allow the purchase of an otherwise illegal item, so should I just cross this item out from the chronicle sheet?
Also, since these items are found as treasure during the module, should I allow the PCs to use them during the module itself?
For a melee, I agree on Fighter. As for casters, I would recommend Sorcerer or Oracle, as they have limited spell lists, so you only need to know those spells that you chose for yourself. With a Cleric, you can pick any spells from the Cleric list for a given day, so should have a decent knowledge of what's available for you.
As a physicist, I can tell you that computers are generally able to generate random numbers that are far more random than a roll of a plastic die.
With plastic dice, we're neatly in the realm of classical mechanics where things work deterministically. If you know the position, speed, rotation etc. of the die right after it's rolled, as well as the properties of the surfaces it bounces off, you can, in principle, compute exactly the results of the roll beforehand.
Computers are often able to use thermal noise as a source of randomness. This is true randomness of nature, with its origin in the weirdness of quantum mechanics. In practice, what they tend to do is use a "true" random number to initialize a pseudorandom number generator, then use numbers from that generator (the randomness properties of the generators themselves are a subject of hundreds of scientific papers; the long story short is that the modern ones are very good).
In practice, though, randomness comes down to unpredictability, and both methods are quite unpredictable enough. So it's a matter of which tend to be fairer and how verifiable the fairness is. Unless a die is so grossly miscast that you can actually see it's not symmetric, you would have to resort to roll testing to figure out if the die is fair. Detecting subtle bias (such as rolling 20 10% more than usual) would require way too much rolling and statistical work to fit in a gaming session. The same goes for a computer, except it might be able to give you a million rolls in a second or so, so you could actually do the analysis if you're so inclined. Furthermore, because dice are mechanical things, I would expect them to have unintentional biases far more often than computers.
tl;dr: If you really, really want properly random numbers, use a computer instead of a die. Dice are a nice tradition and social convention, though, because nothing quite excites roll-players like the sound of them rolling around and coming up as 1/20...
From my experience, not GMing is often a matter of not being confident in one's own competence to run a game. The concept of organized play may seem to raise the bar there, as GMs are expected to know the rules and not just to improvise when they don't. But for such prospetive GMs, there's actually a key thing about PFS that makes it quite approachable compared to most RPG GM jobs: PFS is run one session at a time. If someone realizes that GMing is not for them or it's something they would rather do only every few months or so, they can (unlike in a campaign/AP) make that decision without failing a social obligation to their gaming group. Telling your players that they can try GMing without committing themselves in the long term makes it socially easier to step up as a GM.
New GMs will generally encounter the most significant gaps in their rules knowledge during the first few games they run. You should use those games to build their confidence. If possible, have them run their first games to familiar players who will enjoy the game even with a few mistakes made, and whose comments the new GM won't take too hard. If the GM trusts you, play in his/her table yourself if you can. Give them easy scenarios to run, too: the First Steps series is a safe choice, but anything that's Tier 1-2 without highly complicated plots should work.
The above assumes that you don't take any exotic options that replace the default class/race bonuses, but as you seem to be new to Pathfinder, you probably shouldn't do that anyway.
I'm surprised to see experienced GMs advocating fudging, given that the Guide clearly discourages it:
While we do not advocate fudging die rolls, consider the experience of the player when deciding whether to use especially lethal tactics or if a character is in extreme danger of death, especially when such a player is new to the game.
I never fudge die rolls, and while on the short term that might lead to a lame PC death, on the long term it builds player confidence on getting a fair treatment, and the existence of real risk adds suspense to the game. I also would feel cheated to have the GM in my table fudging, even if it was to save my own PC. I do adjust tactics to player experience and tactics, though, and that seems to me like a much fairer way to give new players a good experience.
I stopped using a screen some time ago when I realized it made the players hear me worse and made it harder for me to see the middle of the table. I now keep it opened on the table in front of me, text side up, to be able to see the reference. I would appreciate a handy way to keep some material out of sight of the players while visible to me, though - any hints on how to do that with something less massive than the GM screen?
Then Jussi brought up another that is even more applicable, and it is exactly what my argument is - one is not supposed to look up loot lists and choose scenarios based on that. But the current system will lead players to do that, and there isn't really anything we can do to prevent them from doing it. If they knew they could safely replay it, they would not care about the loot or boons, and would focus on the roleplaying experience. It's true there is a downside to knowing where you are going, but honestly - how much do you remember about a scenario after a year, especially if you play tabletop RPGs relatively often? I would simply enjoy it much more if i could just choose to play a scenario with any character i think would be fun to play in it, instead of having to do all of this metagame planning.
(For what it's worth, I can remember story outlines and the most interesting encounters from scenarios I haven't touched in over a year. But that is beside the rest of the point.)
You seem to be saying "will lead players to do that" with an awful lot of certainty, but there is no need for that to happen. I certainly haven't seen that among the players in our lodge. They come to a PFS sessions and generally don't seem to give a damn about the loot and boons beforehand. They pick a character that is tier appropriate, balanced with others in the party and (if they still have more than one choice) perhaps sounds compatible with the scenario description, and enjoy the ride.
So this seems more like a matter with the culture in the local lodge than with campaign rules, though I do realize that it's hard to bring a change if people are set in their ways.
My previous post was an opinion from a design/VO perspective. Let me give you another from my GM perspective. When I run games, I don't just want to play "against" them in encounters. I want to surprise them, awe them, to give them drama. I want to see them react and make decisions based on incomplete (sometimes false) information. Hell, I even want to see their faces when they realize they are screwed. If I knew that players come to my table knowing beforehand what's going to happen, GMing would lose its charm for me.
Pathfinder Society is not designed to be the sort of game where you look up loot lists and design your character advancement around them. It's supposed to be a game where you have a character who ventures into the unknown, and you, as a player, are not supposed to know what is going to happen. Meta-knowledge should be limited to reading the scenario descriptions on the web page (I prefer not to read even them, if I have the chance). The story aspect of the game is eliminated if you have played the scenario previously, and the game is reduced to mindless running from encounter to encounter. Also, many encounters are partially designed around the element of surprise.
Having a limited number of scenarios to play is an unfortunate side-effect of this design decision, but you can do some planning for your character by finding the tiers of scenarios without spoiling the plot for yourself.
While you can't outright stop players from using metagame information, you can discourage it. If I remember correctly, there have been discussions on the GM board as to what to do if players get caught using knowledge from reading the scenario. The usual suggestions ranged from clever GM tricks to counter their cheating (or turn it against them) to booting them from the table.
As for GMs being allowed to play a scenario after they run it, this is a pragmatic exception to the rule that exists so that GMs are not punished for running a scenario. GMs overall are hard to find, and GMs who are willing to read and run a scenario without the experience of playing it first are even harder to get. In those (in my experience, fairly uncommon) occasions where there is are players on the table who have previously run the scenario, they are supposed to show discretion and not use their knowledge to get unfair advantage.
As far as I know, you can't register a new character under the same number as a deleted one, at least not without help from Paizo staff. If you can somehow reach your GM, or whoever is responsible for reporting the scenario, the easiest thing would be just tell them what happened. They can just edit the scenario report and swap in the new number.
Scott Young wrote:
If you want to match the campaign background, then make a character that reflects the training the Pathfinders gave you. If you don't, don't complain that you should get such benefits for free.
I agree with you to a degree, but the problem is the way knowledge checks are currently implemented. The core problem, I suppose, is that there are so many Knowledge skills and they are all trained-only.
Let's say your character wants to have some basic knowledge about monsters, without going to the specifics. For example:
Now, that kind of basic information is something most people would learn in a day or two, and strikes me as maybe one skill rank worth of knowledge. But the way the knowledge skills are now implemented, you would have to invest at least one rank in each of 10 knowledge skills to learn that, which doesn't make any sense.
If I was running Pathfinders as characters in a home game, I would probably implement a skill Knowledge (pathfinding) or something to make up for this.
As the grapple rules in the official material seem to be inconsistent, this is an area where GMs have to make their own interpretation. A forum post by Paizo staff other than PFS leadership is not technically binding as such.
That said, I'd consider it extremely inappropriate behavior from a GM to just ignore the expressed intent of the game designers just because of a technicality in the campaign rules. Especially if said GM uses that to give the PCs a considerable disadvantage.
It looks like we can celebrate the independence day of Finland by announcing the winners of our little "race" to three GM stars.
VC Jukka Särkijärvi and a GM known as Deussu on these boards, both PFS actives who have been around since Season 0, are the first in Finland to have reached 3-star status. Apparently, Jukka beat Deussu to it by the tiny margin of a single day.
I, alas, am trailing them by some ten scenarios, so my runner-up's prize is to be able to congratulate them for the achievement. Keep it up - next stop: four stars! :)
Jeff Mahood wrote:
Also worth noting that Jussi has been to play/GM Pathfinder Society in Toronto twice in the past year. Talk about dedication! :)
My work brought me to Toronto twice this year and both times, and I was lucky enough to find time to make it to a gaming night of the Southern Ontario Lodge. I think that one of the best things about organized play campaigns is that you can be in any place in the world with a local lodge and go to play with them - the campaign rules set common standards, so the rules are the same and you get credit for playing as normal.
You have a very enthusiastic and friendly group of Pathfinders in Toronto. I felt welcome and had plenty of fun on both occasions.
Most alcoholic drinks, I believe, got started as a way to preserve drinking water. Stronger drinks like wine are just easier to store as you get more alcohol in the same volume. The wine would typically then be diluted with plenty of water to make stuff that was just strong enough to kill off the germs. In fact, I recall hearing of an ancient Greek text complaining about the terrible habits of the "barbarians" who drink wine undiluted in the harbor.
Not that I run many games for kids, but if this ever occurred to me, I'd explain the above and, if that doesn't work, give the players a strong hint that they might be in need of reevaluating their moral standards if they're offended about their characters receiving some alcohol while on the way to kill some people.
One of the players in my area routinely threatens to just quit the scenario before the last encounter, boasting that he will get all the same credit as everyone else.
If there ever was a violation of the "don't be a jerk" rule, it's here. Tell him that if he quits for that reason, he's not welcome to play in your table ever again. Also inform your local Venture Officer and he will likely pass on the information to other GMs in the area.
Unless it's an obvious misprint or an logical inconsistency that cannot be resolved, if a number in a stat block is inconsistent with the rest of the stats, I use that number regardless. In my opinion, if a scenario author believes that a monster needs (say) +2 AC, he has full right to add that bonus even if it doesn't come from "anywhere". As long as it results in a more balanced encounter, it's all fine.
That said, how about re-listing the unavailable resources from the Core Rulebook on the Additional Resources page, for the convenience of finding everything in the same place? This sounds like a one-time addition that doesn't require much maintenance later, so it wouldn't take too much work, either.
I had some reservations while reading this... but I ran this tonight and have to admit: Jim Groves scores again!
I usually give them after the briefing, but if there are spoilers or there is some roleplaying reason to give them later, I do that. For example, in
those PCs who have a faction representative present get their missions directly from them.
I've had some hilarious roleplaying ensue from the GM forgetting to give the faction missions, though. For example, there was one scenario where we were investigating an abandoned house, and when we were about to enter, the GM remembered that he hadn't given out the missions yet. He described something visible in the mailbox of the house. We went to investigate, and found a named letter for each of us.
I haven't yet read it, but I've heard that The Citadel of Flame has a great Cheliax faction mission.
The downside of the strong storyline in the new season is that we'll see less of the classic Pathfinder locations (other than Varisia, that is). Having played Council of Thieves, I'd love a scenario in Westcrown.
Any recommendations on a character sheet app or method of electronically storing and still be editable?
I use an editable Google Drive spreadsheet template. It's based on this template, and I make a fresh copy for each new character. I like a spreadsheet because it updates most things automatically (e.g. raising your Cha automatically increases your Diplomacy bonus accordingly), but it's also very easy to replace/modify the formulas whenever you have class features that change the standard behavior. I also added a Log tab to keep track of XP, Gold, PP and Fame. Here is an example of an (admittedly cheesy) Society character built using that template.