I agree that scenarios seem to be a bit easy, but I recognize my experience isn't representative. I always hear people talk about Bonekeep as if it was a player killer, a tough-as-nails scenario where people die. My characters have done all stages of Bonekeep, and never did the party wipe or come close to TPK, and Bonekeep 3 was all pregens except for my buddy and I! This year at GenCon, they made an announcement that if your player died, you had to go to the HQ/front area and tell them you were dead and they would announce it. About 5 minutes in one person had already died, but then we literally didn’t hear another death announced for hours.
None of the regular scenarios I’ve played in as a character have been too challenging. Never* have my PCs even came close to death except my rogue in Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment and that was due in part to playing up. As a GM, though, I have killed about 5 PCs over the past two years, but these were inexperienced players. In the 4 years I’ve played at GenCon alone, only 3 characters in my party have ever died…ever. Is this representative? Who knows?
What about more reward for GMs, in order to attract more GMs? Perhaps allowing them the entire GM chronicle sheet and additional benefits. I play with a group of about 7 or 8 (not all at once) and nobody is interested in being a GM in part because it’s a lot of work for little reward, in their minds. I would like to see GM credit given for all scenarios GMed, even if it’s something like a “slow track” count. I don’t plan on re-GMing any scenario because I won’t get anything for it.
Table size can be a problem. I’d argue that most of the time (50%+1) it is an “issue” but not a problem. Almost always at PFS events when I’m an active player, there is newbie who (rightfully so) can slow the game down and that long-term, active player who also slows things down in various sorts of ways. 6-7 people are a lot of time in combat, especially when GMs are not prepared. This year at GenCon was the worst year ever for me as a player. Most of my GMs were lackluster; one was wholly unprepared and didn’t even know basic rules. The Sunday morning games are par for the course laid back and fraught with bad possibilities due to burnout, which I can understand. I’m burnt out by that point as well.
I will say being a GM for a Con, which I have never done and will not do (as this is the only time I get to actually play a character), must be very hard work, especially if you’re running several different scenarios. I’d pull my hair out by Friday afternoon. I don’t know what it was this year, maybe overworked GMs?
Player material could be an issue. There are so many options for players to min/max while the monsters usually aren’t made to take advantage of the new options (in my low opinion). I believe many GMs aren’t even aware of some of the options and usually ask to check it out. There is also no audit system whatsoever. I know we are supposed to keep track of gold spent and items bought, but honestly, I don’t use the tracking sheet and I’ve never seen anyone else, either. I use herolab, so fortunately it shows my value, total spent, etc. I know for certain on many occasions people had the wrong numbers on their sheet; as a GM myself, if something seems off I’ll ask to check it out- I’ve only seen this once at GenCon since I’ve been going (2010).
I hate more paperwork, though, so I’m not sure how to audit or make players honest; although I’d say the majority of the time they are honest mistakes. I saw one guy who was getting huge AC bonuses incorrectly, wielding a two-handed polearm while carrying a tower shield and a heavy crossbow…the GM was not very perceptive.
Trying to tweak balance, though, is extremely hard. I hate killing player characters (contrary to my players’ beliefs), especially in PFS. Adding a monster here and there can affect groups differently. Adding a high hit point monster to a group with majority melee will have a different result than one with majority magic….perhaps the devs are erring on the side of allowing players to live over player death. On the face of it having BBEG know the party’s strengths and buff ahead of time may be a strategy that could work, as the PFS Guide does say the GM can do this. I always like it, though, when high level players in home games are aghast and shocked that an enemy is buffed, had used divination, or gotten themselves ready just like the PCs did, as if the enemy lived in a vacuum! Sometimes players simply don’t realize that the powerful evil guy has the same access to magic, resources, etc. as they do? If the PC is min-maxing, then the evil guy would, too!
I agree on “vital info.” I just finished RotRL in my home campaign, and “vital info” was all over the place. I noticed this was Season 5, too. This slows down GMs, unless they repeatedly GM a scenario and commit it to heart (which some won’t do because they only run it once or twice as GM). I do like Season 5 brought in more roleplaying other than strictly combat events. The most memorable scenarios I’ve had were ones where roleplaying stood out (usually by the GM).
One thing is for certain- I don’t want to turn away new players by making the game difficult to play, to learn, or having fun by being bored.
I would love to see numbers on class, race, player death, scenario success breakdown from year to year.
I suppose as well that “easy” and “hard” refer to the combats in a scenario, too. Sometimes the “hard” is the roleplaying challenges but the party is so good at that they fail to realize it and since the combat went easy they may say as a whole it was easy. The entire idea is very complex because you have so many different variables in the GM, each player, each scenario, each character. It’s nearly impossible to balance to all those, on top of making everyone happy (which is not feasible, as I know, I’m in politics). I love the strategy of the combat in the game, but my most fun moments are from roleplaying; beauty is in the eye of the beholder (whatever that is) ;)