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RPG Superstar 2015

Clarification and Statement for Campaign Cohesion


Pathfinder Society® General Discussion

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

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I've been in this job for almost 6 months. I started out where many of you are right now: as a local coordinator about 3 years ago.

I started with a playerbase of 5 in Atlanta. When I left for Paizo, it was 174. We ran 56 game days in 48 weeks in my year as VC. I also spent more than $3000 to print scenarios, maps, buy con prize support, set up GM rewards program, and the like. I've been in those ranks where I was just a GM for the love and promotion of the game and nothing more. That love of the game is why I took a paycut, left a secure career for one up in the air, and moved my family from our large house across country to a small, two bedroom apartment.

Just know that I love PFS with all my heart and soul. In the future, I'll be sharing with you my vision for the future of PFS in a sort of state of the region blog post.

However, before I can get there, I'd like to re-address an issue. I know my please don't cheat post caused a lot of discussion and dialogue and not quite in the way I had hoped. I realize that my post and tone did not achieve what I really wanted: to encourage the Community to work with me on making the PFS campaign as good as it can be.
This post isn't about those issues necessarily, but a call for you to join me in creating campaign cohesion.

I want this Society to grow and be successful.

I want you all to be working with me on addressing the issues that we face in common.

I want you to know that I read these boards every day and am trying to make the Pathfinder Society better each day.

The kicker - I want everyone working with me, working with each other, as we do this.
The 'Please Do Not Cheat' post was meant to address a few issues...but with this post I want to address *why* they are issues.

First instance: We know that some local coordinators have allowed 8 player tables (and choose to report them as one 8 player table or two 4 player tables).

We know this is a problem. However, our response (both from me and the community) should not just be "Don't do that. Period." The response from all of us should be: "Running 8 player tables really cheats your players of the best experience they can have of the scenario. We want all PFS players to have a chance to shine, contribute, and enjoy every scenario. How can we help you get more judges, play space, or XYZ, so that this doesn't happen again? How can we help you deliver a better play experience for your players?" I don't want our players playing at an 8 person table. It's a disservice to their experience of the campaign.

Second instance: We had reports of playing out of tier and applying a Chronicle incorrectly (i.e. Playing a 6th level PC in a Tier 7-11 game and applying a Chronicle to that 6th level PC).

We know this is a problem as well. Again, our response should be more than "Don't do that." We should explain that PFS is better when there are clear rewards for play. We want our players to understand that their characters matter and that, through their experiences, they get trusted for more and more dangerous work. We want rewards for continuous play to matter. We want our players to see the value in that and, in turn, value their PFS experiences. In a way, the players themselves are being cheated when allowed to skip tiers. We should all want our players to have chances to earn their rewards properly. This is what makes PFS special: our higher level players have earned where they are.

Third instance: We have even had cases where a group would play pre-gens, not take credit, and then turn around a month or so later and play the same scenario with their real characters so they know what risks they faced.

Like the above, this is a problem. We want all our players to have the best possible experience with all PFS play opportunities and that involves having a vested interest in the game: I want choices to matter. I want character decisions to matter. In allowing re-playing (via pregens or otherwise), we are cheating that experience and we are allowing those re-players to cheapen the scenario for others. Our response (both from me and the community) should reflect that focus. Our goal should be making sure that each run of every scenario is a new, exciting experience where a player doesn't feel like he or she has wasted their time.

Fourth instance: GMs adjusting scenarios on the fly...adding to the difficulty or challenge of a scenario.

This is a different kind of problem, but one that we need to address as a community. When GMs change scenarios, Mark and I have no metric to look at, to see where we need to make changes for future scenarios. If GMs add creatures or stats to scenarios, or any other mechanical changes, the players all say it was a great experience, and no one is the wiser for it. I feel this may have been one of the problem in the past, especially with Seasons 0 and 1 scenarios presenting little to no challenge. People changed scenarios, added to the scenarios, or otherwise altered them mechanically, and the campaign staff was unaware there were some serious problems with the scenarios.

Campaign cohesion requires that we need accurate reporting in order to properly evaluate our scenarios going forward. I want you to join me in helping us rate the difficulty in our scenarios so we can address the problem on a larger scale. Scenarios have a rating system in place. It was put there so campaign staff can evaluate scenarios and make changes in accordance to what the playerbase wants or expects. Thus far, it has been a very under utilized tool, and I encourage each of you to take a few minutes after playing each scenario to give current campaign staff feedback on scenarios, let us know where you see problems, let us know how we can make future scenarios better for all of you, and what we did wrong and right in each scenario. Only with your help can we make future scenarios a better experience that don't feel like a waste of time for you.

As a GM before, I know what challenges all of you PFS GMs face because I have been there and done that. I have the 14th most games GMed in PFS worldwide. It is why I worked with Mark for the start of season 4, for having scenarios written with six players in mind instead of four, and to have guidelines included in the scenario to run the scenario for a table of four. We're making these changes because of your direct feedback.

I truly understand there are a lot of mixed feelings about the rules, our player base, and the negativity that has been present on these very message boards. I want passion and I want your thoughts, but I want all of you to join me in creating a friendly, cohesive community, one that is a great, fun, inclusive Pathfinder Society.

Scarab Sages *****

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

That is good stuff Mike.

Finding ideas how to fix those issues would be useful. Have you thought about starting a thread for each one so the Community could talk about it?

I am surprised though that your Third instance happens enough to be an issue, just seems like a waste of player time to me, and a player that would do that would just buy the scenario instead of wasting his time. Have People brought this problem up with you? That seems like something coordinator could easily control unless it was a player that traveled a lot or the coordinator was complicit with the act.

*

Thanks, Mike, for a post that greatly eases my mind as a player and customer. I appreciate the great amount of effort and commitment you have put into your work, and the great care you put into crafting this post. It reaffirms my respect for you and Paizo as a company.

The added detail about the specific problems is very helpful—especially your framing of the Fourth Instance. This was the substantive area of most concern to me in discussion around your previous post. It makes sense that you would want clear feedback about mods, not just have judges tweak without any sort of consistency, and without any sort of feedback or communication when a mod proves clunky.

As a sometimes-judge, I would be more than happy to provide more immediate feedback about scenarios (and that includes positive as well as corrective feedback), especially if there were a standardized form with specific prompts.

It's a pleasure to be able to have open, respectful dialogue with you and the rest of the Paizo community on these matters. Thanks again for being receptive while also taking on leadership of this society of grave robbers.

Liberty's Edge ***

THANK YOU MIKE!!! GREAT job you are doing. I know it cant be easy. You have taken over a job that has lost it's last 3 pretty quick, and this has hurt the game, I believe. Thank you for sharing with us your thoughts and goals for PFS. It will be a slow process inwhich not everyone will be happy all the time, but that is okay. As one of the guilty that reported an 8 as 2 4's, I will tell you now it wont happen again at mine. I look forward to helping you grow a better GAME.


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Just a shout out to doing an awesome job. The decision to uproot the entire family and move must have been difficult process. I will say being happy and passionate at work, carries over into family life. It's amazing coming home at night happy and thankful.

Your changes and direction are building this community.

Scarab Sages *** Venture-Captain, Texas—San Antonio aka Gornil

jjaamm wrote:
THANK YOU MIKE!!! GREAT job you are doing. I know it cant be easy. You have taken over a job that has lost it's last 3 pretty quick, and this has hurt the game, I believe. Thank you for sharing with us your thoughts and goals for PFS. It will be a slow process inwhich not everyone will be happy all the time, but that is okay. As one of the guilty that reported an 8 as 2 4's, I will tell you now it wont happen again at mine. I look forward to helping you grow a better GAME.

+1

I may not agree with all of your changes, but I know I can also be a disagreeable fellow from time to time, so I take it all in stride. The pros definitely outweigh the cons in my mind, so thanks for what you're doing =)

Paizo Employee ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Another point of clarification. It has come to my attention that a lot of people think when I talk about GMs not changing things, they think I'm referring only to adding extra HPs or three extra mooks to an encounter. My frustration extends farther than that in regard to GMs changing things in scenario.

Let me give some examples:

1) a GM changed the white dragon in shades of ice 2 to red because he thought red would be cooler. He also aged it to the next category and wiped the party, three of the five irrevocably dead.

2) a GM put a beholder in a 7-11 game because he thought it would be more of a challenge in Kortos Envoy instead of the Minotaur. I am guessing he used a 3.5 monster manual for this.

3) a GM didn't like the witch class so he changed the BBEG in the end of #3-06 from being a witch to a barbarian class to give the party more of a challenge.

4) a GM didn't like the investigation murder mystery adventure that is Throaty Mermaid. So, he changed it to a pirate mutiny scenario instead and let the win condition of the scenario be the PCs taking over the ship and sailing off into the sunset. This was not the players desires to do this. This was complete GM fiat.

I can go on and on and on. Ive got another 30-40 more examples. GMs fiat to change the base elements of a scenario are just not acceptable.

If a scenario goes off the rails and the GM has to use some fiat to get them back on track, I completely understand and I would rather a GM do that instead of just saying no you can't. I UNDERSTAND THE GM NEEDING TO MAKE SOME ADJUSTMENTS. I'm not saying GMs are handcuffed with not being able to GM the game and change certain aspects of the adventure to make it more interesting. I'm referring to the GMs that change things as noted above because they don't like what is written. Adding hps or three extra guys is not the primary empahsis of what I'm talking about. It is changing things wholesale in the scenario.

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Michael Brock wrote:
If a scenario goes off the rails and the GM has to use some fiat to get them back on track, I completely understand and I would rather a GM do that instead of just saying no you can't.

Rebel's Ransom w/ Three VCs:
Kyle, Nani, and Doug decided to let the fire oracle go until the cunning linguist pathfinder told them the oracle was behind it all. The group decided to try to chase her down. So began a desert chase scene that ended with the party invading her camp in the middle of the night. That's how the scenario ended, with a dead oracle of fire in the middle of the desert. Not exactly what was supposed to happen. ;-)
*

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Michael Brock wrote:
I'm not saying GMs are handcuffed with not being able to GM the game and change certain aspects of the adventure to make it more interesting. I'm referring to the GMs that change things as noted above because they don't like what is written. Adding hps or three extra guys is not the primary empahsis of what I'm talking about. It is changing things wholesale in the scenario.

Thanks for another very helpful point of clarification!

The Exchange *** Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I appreciate this post, Mike. I know you're working hard to make this campaign better.

Thanks.

-Pain

The Exchange *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kyle Baird wrote:
Awesome Rebel's Ransom Game

Spoiler:
She was going to die, damnit. And she did. Goes to show you how having a ton of arrows written on your character sheet, knowing expeditious retreat, and being an elf with the moon out versus a human can help you snipe someone from hundreds of feet away :)

Just a note to say I'm behind you 100% Mike.

Scarab Sages **

Michael Brock wrote:
stuff

I think much of the problem comes form the fact that their is really no way to enforce many of these rules. There is a certain amount of trust that players and GM's across the world will follow the rules and use their best judgment. And of course, some people are going to break that trust and break the rules with varying levels of intention and success or just simply use poor judgment. The fear somee people have is that in an effort to try and stop some of the shenanigans, that rules will become increasingly restrictive. example. I for one am not a fan of reskinning animal companion rule that seemed to spawn from one incident. Not that I have a problem with the rules itself, I just think that trying to create a rule for every little problem that comes up can quickly get cumbersome and become counter productive. Creating more rules to try and stop people from finding ways around them is like trying to stop a dog from chewing by giving them more toys.

So my advice to Mike, who I think is doing a fine job despite any minor criticisms I might have, would be to make certain that you are not thinking like the local coordinator that by all accounts you were very successful at and instead remember that you are the campaign coordinator and need to handle some problems according to a global standard. Accept that a certain amount of chaos is inevitable.

Just my two copper.

Dark Archive ***

You have some serious rule breaking examples there as well as none-issues with volunteer GMs genuinely trying to do the right thing. Seems odd to even mix those two things in the same post.

However, deliberately trying to go around the rules is not something that more rules, or pleas, are likely to fix in a volunteer and honor system community. Getting heavy handed is likely to be counter productive. Only by achieving your goal of "creating a friendly, cohesive community" can that start to be addressed. Even then it is likely there will always be some level of "griefers".

Unfortunately I think you have hacked off a lot of volunteer GMs with your previous "cheating" post - just to make the task harder. I hope you like a challenge.

Sovereign Court ****

Often I see tactics being disregarded, but in good taste. A lonely BBEG is last in initiative and starts casting Summon Monster IV in subtier 10-11? How about no.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

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Why did you necro this?

Grand Lodge ****

Jiggy wrote:
Why did you necro this?

I assume because it was linked in a recent thread, and he didn't realize it was a really old post.

** Star Voter 2014

Honestly there is a lot of leeway in the scenarios as they are written and how they can be defined.

The position of monsters is often left out and can change this drastically depending the party make up. What monster you summon, where you summon them. Who you target with attacks and spells. These kind of things can change the table drastically. To make a game easier I am within tactics to attack the high AC guy. To make it harder, target that guy in heavy armor will saves. A moderately high level caster should be well aware that is usually the easiest target.

I have seen poor tactics of DMs make scenarios super easy for hard fights, and easy fights hard.

You can easily do this all within run as written

I read every scenario several times. Constantly checking the PRD for the rulings on things. I never want a player to feel cheated the way I ran a scenario.

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