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Balancing the needs of old and new players

Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

**** Venture-Agent aka Rycaut

So I am organizing a new PFS game night here in San Francisco (see for the registration & Warhorn link, mailing lists etc) and one aspect I am working on - but don't (yet) have a perfect solution is how to balance the needs of experienced players with those of new players.

I got some great suggestions for scenarios to introduce new players to Pathfinder Society - beyond just the Intro paths classic scenarios such as Mists of Mwangi, Among the Living etc.

But the problem I face is twofold - experienced players have mostly played those scenarios and newer players may want to play with experienced players to really get a feel for PFS play.

One option might be to run Season 4 scenarios as they come out (though many players may play them at other Bay Area PFS games) however there are only a limited number of scenarios so far for low-tier players. I could ask newer players to start by playing a few games at a higher tier with pregens (at level 4 most likely - asking new players to play a level 7 pregen might be a bit much) but that delays their own new characters progressions - so may just delay things.

So here are the things I'm considering:

1) Once we have an established core of players I'm going to look at running some sanctioned modules. The positive note here is that experienced and new players a like probably haven't played many modules before - so hopefully this could result in a "mixed" table of old & new players. But the negative is that for the best experience it requires that the same group of players (and DM) are able to make the game night multiple nights in a row to complete the module (since most take far more than one 4-5 hour session - I've heard the typical module takes 10-15 hours perhaps more. So doable perhaps in three game nights but potentially it would take four.

2) When possible schedule special scenarios when the right DMs are available (this week Joshua Archer is running The Cyphermage Dilemma for example) which many experienced players may not yet have had an opportunity to play - and which is still new player friendly.

3) Try to schedule some mid-tier modules once we have a core group of players (and I know how many have mid-tier characters) and hope that some of the new players advance characters quickly enough to play with the experienced players in a few weeks (before those players move on to higher tier scenarios...)

Anything else I should consider or do? I'd really love to see another couple of sets of scenarios which can be replayed to allow for experienced players to play with newer players on a more regular basis. Perhaps an new intro series could be created that has some built-in mechanics to emphasize replayability? (wandering monsters perhaps plus mechanics to change up the "solution" on each play?)


I have had to deal with this kind of situation as well, and there's no quick answer.

Sanctioned modules are a great option, and since I coordinate a game day on a Saturday we are able to get the whole module in during two slots of play. We ran the series Crypt of the Everflame, Masks of the Living Gods and the City of Golden Death over three months and it was quite popular with old and new players alike.

However, when coordinating my new location, I had the potential issue of competing against the other local game day. The answer I found to that problem is that I tried to avoid playing the same scenarios they did and particularly avoided the newest stuff since that was always run at the other game day. Instead I ran a bunch of older stuff, or older scenarios from the newest season. This brought in the new players who hadn't had the opportunity to play the older stuff, and it brought in the older players as GMs or players for those who missed it the first (or second or third) time around.

Now with the level 3-7 scenarios, it's also much easier to schedule something that newer and older players alike can play. I've found those a very useful tool to have in my toolbox.

Shadow Lodge

Contact some Venture-Captians and ask them how they deal with it. All VCs are listed in the back of the free "A Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play." I know my VC runs our area well (Sacramento).

**** Venture-Agent aka Rycaut

I know the local Venture Captains and in fact had a local Venture Lieutenant run one of our first games last night but yes getting their advice is a good idea.

The Bay Area presents an interesting challenge since there are some 13 other locations running PFS with a game going off nearly every night somewhere around the Bay (yup we're lucky - though oddly there hasn't been a regular game in SF itself)

Very good point about running 3-7 tier scenarios - which might be a great thing to schedule so that many newer players can play alongside more experienced players.

Tonight we had two experienced players, one VL judge, one new to PFS judge, three slightly experienced players and two entirely new to Pathfinder players. All in all I'd say that was a success (and we had a bunch of people playing non-PFS games as well)


Its definately a matter of getting to know your players. My advice.... Start with a set of the newest Tier 1-2 scenarios that you can get your hands on. That way, you cast the widest net (You got new players covered and older players who have run stuff before, but proabably haven't hit up the newest low level stuff).

Once you've had a few sessions, you can talk with them as a group. What one of our Utah groups did was split into two days. On Wednesday, they play higher tier stuff (that tends to be a smaller group) and on Friday's they do the lower tiers. Generally they don't advertise the Wed group, but they keep pre-gens handy for walk ins just in case.

I've just run the intro series myself, so running it again soon would be detrimental to my established players. I don't have enough GMs in my area to run a seperate intro table. So, one of the things I'm doing is running the Intro Series as an online deal. If a new player walks up and wants to join, or at least shows strong interest, I let them know that we're running Intro online (they can do both if they want). It has the added benefit of allowing me to play with others in my region who cannot make it to the store.

**** Venture-Agent aka Rycaut

Well to clarify my game night isn't in a store - it is in an open gaming night I'm organizing here in SF (at a large coworking space for game companies). So some of the dynamics will be different. No plans to run multiple days a week at this venue - and the community of players will be fairly large and varied - as PFS players from around the Bay Area make time to come into SF and as we attract and cultivate new PFS players in SF.

Thus we likely will have a steady stream of new players. I will run a bunch of low tier tables - I think my plan is going to be to run some classic low-tier mods possibly in place of running the Intro Paths (so more new players can play with experienced players playing scenarios they might not have played yet) and then start running some 3-7 tier newer scenarios which should allow newer players to play with experienced players fairly soon.

I'm also going to look at running some low level modules once we have a pretty solid regular group.

For our first night we had 9 PFS players and judges but nearly 20 people at the game night. Next week I anticipate likely having 30-40 people at the game night and fully expect that we'll reach 50+ (perhaps a lot more than 50) in a month or so. The space can accommodate a few 100 people playing games so it is perhaps best to think about this like coordinating a mini-con. Thus I think I always want at least one table (assuming I get enough PFS judges) that can handle walkup new players - though in some weeks that may mean handing someone a level 4 pregen to play in a 3-7 tier scenario.


When you have veteran players that have almost all the early games played you have a couple options to get a game going.

1) Have your veterans start new lvl 1 characters (heck they probably have 5 or 6 characters in the bull pen ready to try) and play some new season 4 scenarios.

2) Get your veterans to GM the newby tables and get second credit for all those earlier scenarios.

3) Run newby tables and let the veterans have a table for themselves.

Ideally you want to do a mix of all 3 of these things. This will keep the veterans happy and help to mix in the new players to the group.

I get really judgmental if there are no or very few traps.

That is something from old gaming that I really want in. Sometimes new dms don't deliver it to me, and the pathfinder adventure paths that I've played seem pretty light on traps (not light on ambushes). Which makes me a bit sad. Especially if there is perfect opportunity for traps, or there really should be traps given what we are hunting/looting.

**** Venture-Agent aka Rycaut

3.5 Loyalist - there are PFS scenarios with traps aplenty. In fact in a few so many traps it starts to get a bit silly (i.e. we go back to the "search the next 5 feet"... okay search the next 5 feet... repeatedly

I've triggered plenty of traps in PFS - sometimes deliberately, more often by not having a rogue with trapfinding in the party - and frequently the traps have been quite brutal.

In one case taking a fully healed, mid-level character from full to neg-CON in one blow (that was pretty brutal)

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Agent aka kinevon

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Agreed. There was one low-tier scenario I played in that had traps with DCs too high for a good finder to find, even knowing they were there.

Perils of the Pirate Pact has these pit traps that require something like DC 30 Survival checks to find.

Grand Lodge ****

3.5 Loyalist, you should play Wonders of the Weave part 1 and Golden Serpent. Those scenarios will keep your eyes firmly planted on the floor :)

Dark Archive ****

Wonders of the Weave part 1:
Setting off the early traps in Wonders of the Weave part 1 is a good thing though, it allows the water to drain out of the room, there is a faction mission at the bottom of one of the pit traps (at least im pretty sure there was some amulet or something like that which was faction based), and it stops the swarm from doing much as it cant pass over the 5ft gap so you can pelt it with fire, or just watch an optimised blaster 1 shot them with fireball


I know one scenario with a CL 15 empowered disintegrate trap in it.

Liberty's Edge *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber


You may want to simply take a poll of your experienced players to determine if there are level 1-2 scenarios they are missing. This could help shape your calendar.



You can have the experienced players GM stuff they've already played as players. That will allow them to get XP and level a toon at the same rate as the new players, of course some will have other toons at higher levels, etc that they'll want to get to play again when the overall character levels are higher.

Also Mask of the Living God is a level 2-4 module that could support a mix of old and new players at low levels.

Mostly just ask for help from your gamers. People will volunteer and be eager to help out if they can.

Ask for help. It will appear.

**** Venture-Agent aka Rycaut

Indeed - I am asking for help (but thanks for the suggestions and reminders) one challenge is scheduling the first few weeks of a new event before you have a regular group of players to call upon (luckily I started with folks who play at other nearby PFS games)

Masks of the Living God is a good suggestion - I may also look at running a Level 1 module since I think many experienced players as well as new players might be interested - but I won't start that until likely next month when we have a better sense of how many tables we'll have each week and who can make it for multiple weeks in a row to complete a module.


Modules take longer than scenario's. Crypt of the Everflame is a great Module.

It probably the most played module in my area, and it is replayable. It is also part of a series of 3 modules. (do the research) Masks is another. Godsmouth is another 1-2 module a bit harder than Crypt, as well as a big complicated map.

So after running Crypt and Godsmouth, which are replayable the next thing to consider is the remaining modules are not replayable. For instance Masks and Feast of Ravenmoor are good mods, at this juncture these are great training oppurtunities for new GM's.

If I were in your shoes not knowing anything about your area. I would pick up the Dungeon Flip Map for Crypt. Run this module only if a player will run it for the next group. The following week I would run Godsmouth as long as a player will re-run Godsmouth for the next group, and provide the uses of the flip map for Crypt to the next GM. I would then run Masks providing a the maps for Godsmouth to the player/GM for its running then repeat.

Keep module table size for specific modules down to 1 an event to help gather GM's for the next running.

**** Venture-Agent aka Rycaut

Well if I run a module (or schedule one) it would be scheduled to occur over multiple days - we are meeting on Wednesdays (mostly) after work so I don't want to run too late - I'd rather have a group play through the full module than rush it. I've played Feast and it took three long sessions to complete. I haven't, yet, played or run Crypt or Godsmouth but based on the other modules I've seen they would probably take longer than one 4-5 hour play session (or are they really that quick?)

I'm also not going to get too complicated about requiring people to DM after playing etc - at the moment I'm concentrating on building up the weekly event. I suspect we'll hit 50+ regular attendees (not all playing PFS) fairly quickly - and may reach well over 100 in a month or two. When we do that, we'll have a steady stream of new PFS players - and my focus will be on recruiting judges as well as scheduling sufficient intro scenarios to accommodate new players as well as mid & high tier players to attract experienced players.

Here in San Francisco we also benefit from the very large and established PFS presence throughout the Bay Area - SF makes 14 regular weekly events and there are 100's of players (with local cons running sometimes as many as 10 or more tables per session).

Grand Lodge ****

Well the local VC up here in Jax is working on coordinating a 'played' list to keep from having this problem (as well as polling the GMs like me to see what they have)

James has a good knowledge of what sesions will be fun and playable. We have had a mix of seasons 0-3 with only Rise of the Goblin Guild from season 4 so far.

I have an affection towards 'multi-part' scenarios like the 'Among the.." and "The Devil you know... " and I am looking forward to the Heresy of Man when we get the local crowd up a bit more.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Captain, New Mexico—Roswell aka Rob Duncan

I'm on board for a Crypt of the Everflame and I love the train-the-trainer aspect that Chris is using.

That's how I manage my 'old hands' and 'new recruits'.

I promise to run a high-tier game for my 'old hands' who have to GM a lower-tier game for the 'new recruits'.

They get new games, I get GMs, they know the old stuff because they played it, everybody is happy.

This usually works out because I get 6 GMs, who run games for 6 new kids each, or 36 players. ^_^

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