Is it Worth Being a PFS DM?


Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild

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I have been DMing PFS online for about a year now and am really beginning to wonder if it is worth it.

First of all, the cost of products has to be eaten up by the DM. I have to buy the scenario. There is no discount unless I am a subscriber to other things.

and I got in trouble for asking a player who already had the scenario if they could set up the maps on a Google Slide. So it seems that players can't be asked to do anything like that even though they benefit from the interaction.

It is nice that a chronicle can be applied to you as a DM but in the end is that worth it? If there are no opportunities to really advance a character other than what you are supplying is that fair?

Also, most players that I have DMed for lately have been really unappreciative. Only 2 people on 3 tables that I ran lately (about 12 or 14 people) even bothered to say thank you.

Thanks for hearing the rant.

Scarab Sages *****

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Despite those difficulties, and my own personal rants about how complicated and difficult the game has become now with several new classes from Advanced Class Guide, Occult Adventures, etc., I think it is worth it. I know that my own personal GM'ing has become better.

But if you are feeling underappreciated and burnt out, my suggestion is to take a step back and just play for awhile. The itch will return, but honor that itch frugally, and let it always be a new joyous experience rather than a burdensome slog.


I've only really played in homebrew myself. Pathfinder Society just looks a bit too complicated for my liking. But my DM certainly feels pretty underappreciated as well. It's something I've noticed a lot with players, both online and offline.

I may not explicitly say "thank you" after every game, but I definitely let the DM know that I appreciate the work he has put into the world and our play.

In the game I'm in now, I'm the only player that hasn't missed a session. And we're only six sessions in. In the previous one, we had one player who kept saying how excited she was to play and that she really wanted to, so the DM worked to add her character in and integrate her backstory, only for her to call out the night before with, "I really want to play, but I'm just not feeling it right now."

I would say that if you have a group that is actually invested in the game and thoroughly enjoys what you've put in front of them, then knowing and seeing how happy you are making them should mostly be thanks enough. But if you have players that just call out or not show up without a word, and don't really care... Well, then, it's not worth being a DM at all, regardless of what system or game.

**** Venture-Agent, Netherlands—Utrecht aka Quentin Coldwater

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Yes, it costs time, money, and effort to GM. But there are also non-tangible rewards for it. I like to GM because I like storytelling and entertaining people. I get to spend a few hours with friends and people I like. Online play (whether PbP or through videochat) is a very different beast, I find. There's less direct interaction, and I miss the physicality of it. Maybe that's part of why you're burnt out about it, I don't know. And yeah, I always thank my table for joining me, and they usually thank me in return. Not everyone might, but I usually feel it's implied, anyway.

If you're feeling burnt out, just stop for a while. You shouldn't force yourself, and if you stop GMing, maybe your players will start to poke you again for more games. Then you know you're appreciated, because without you, they can't play.

** ⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

For me, it is totally worth it. I GM quite a bit, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. But I'm fortunate enough that I get to play even more than I GM.

I'm going to second Kwinten here. You sound like you need a break. Take some time away from the GM seat. Hopefully, another player can take up the mantle for a little while. (And that is one substantial benefit of PFS over other campaigns: it's very easy to switch out GMs for each scenario.) Even if no one else wants to try out the hot seat, don't feel obligated to keep pushing yourself when it's not fun. That's the kind of thing that leads to leaving gaming altogether.

I hope you get a chance to play for a while, and I hope you can find whatever spark made you start GMing in the first place.

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I dont know that I am feeling burnt you but under appreciated, yes.

Silver Crusade ** Venture-Agent, Online—PbP aka Redelia

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Terevalis, the rewards are not supposed to be 'worth it.' The rewards are supposed to be nice extras for doing something you already enjoy. If you don't enjoy GMing, then don't. If you enjoy it, then do it, and don't worry about the rewards.

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So then we shouldnt even enter into the discussion, Redelia? These types of dismissiveness really don't add to the conversation now do they? What I think you are saying is that people shouldn't be asking these questions.

Silver Crusade ** Venture-Agent, Online—PbP aka Redelia

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How am I being dismissive? I answered your question. That is entering into the discussion. If you enjoy it, that enjoyment makes it worth it. If you don't enjoy it, then no, it's not going to be worth it.


Non-PFS GM's have similar struggles. Sometimes you get a good bunch of players, and other times you don't.

As for being appreciative, most of the time you will get more "thank you's" from players who have also GM'd.

Until someone does it, they don't really know what goes into it.

For them the game just happens, but when they have to prep their own games they realize that it doesn't just happen.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
wraithstrike wrote:

Non-PFS GM's have similar struggles. Sometimes you get a good bunch of players, and other times you don't.

As for being appreciative, most of the time you will get more "thank you's" from players who have also GM'd.

Until someone does it, they don't really know what goes into it.

For them the game just happens, but when they have to prep their own games they realize that it doesn't just happen.

This right here. A lot of players, especially newer ones, simply do not understand the effort that goes into GMing. I have even experienced some who think that if your are running a scenario/module that there is even less work. Because "all the hard work has already been done." They don't realize that in some way, pre-made missions can be harder when the players "go off the rails."

PFS can cause this to happen more often than home games, as you can get new players more often. However as someone who GMs many games and systems every week, I can say that you will slowly get a group of players who have come to fully respect your work and show their appreciation openly.

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It's not dismissive; it's reality. If you do not enjoy GMing for the sake of GMing, then it is not 'worth it' because you need to spend time and money for a random group of people who may or may not even enjoy what you're serving.

Terevalis Unctio of House Mysti wrote:
Also, most players that I have DMed for lately have been really unappreciative. Only 2 people on 3 tables that I ran lately (about 12 or 14 people) even bothered to say thank you.

I'm entering dangerous territory here because I think there's only a sliver of a chance of this producing growth and, as an injured party, am emotionally invested. That said, I proceed.

You should look at yourself as to why players have been unappreciative.

This was my last interaction with you as a GM:

Terevalis Unctio of House Mysti wrote:
For some reason this particular scenario is not so fun online, Would anyone be remiss if we stopped, I awarded the chronicle and we did a module? That seems to be easier to run.

That was after the very first encounter in Master of the Fallen Fortress. It took a month to climb onto the second floor because you disappeared for weeks at a time without warning or explanation. On multiple occasions we could have (and should have) requested a replacement GM for game abandonment. Did you have a good reason for disappearing? I'm willing to believe that you did. Were the players left cold, confused, and anxious about the state of their characters? Yes, we were, repeatedly.

I have no reason to believe that you've behaved differently in other sessions that you've run, so I'm not at all surprised that the players felt unappreciative.

My advice, specific to you, is this:

1. Read Painlord's Guide to PbP GMing and internalize it.
2. Respect your players before you expect them to shower you with gratitude.
3. Run no more than one table at a time.

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"Rewards are not supposed to be worth it". Really? I think more people would DM if things are/ were more equitable for the DM.

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I think the first and most important step is to identify what, exactly, you would hope to gain from GMing PFS - and those 'gains' can be anything from earning things like GM stars or boons, being able to match chronicles to the characters that would get the most use from them, receiving accolades and compliments from your players, or just the general experience and joy of being a GM and storyteller. I really don't think that there's a 'wrong' answer here, especially not when I sometimes see it suggested to people to run games in order to earn race boons and such. However, I *do* hope that you genuinely enjoy GMing for the sake of GMing to some degree because I think that would certainly make the process easier for you.

That being said, you need to decide how important any and all of the above reasons are to you versus the stresses and occasional disappointments that also go along with GMing. And no matter what your reasons for GMing might be, you (a 'general you') always need to be sure to give each game your all and do everything within your power to show your players how excited you are to be running for them and to show them a good time. There will always be some players that don't seem to appreciate or acknowledge that effort but in my (admittedly limited) experience, the more effort you put into running your games, the more effort and positive response you'll receive from your players in return.

*edit* To be clear, I fully agree that a person should GM because they find the process of GMing to be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience in its own right partly because that's what makes the most sense to me (why do something if you don't enjoy it) and partly because people tend to do better at things they enjoy. But I don't see anything wrong with combining that with a desire to earn some of the 'perks' built into Organized Play for those that GM, either.

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I dont think players care what DMs have to put into things.

*** Venture-Agent, Minnesota—St. Louis Park aka BretI

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Jason,

I have never played under you as a GM, so far my only real interaction was when you applied to my first PBP offering.

I would like to echo others who have said if you don't enjoy it, please don't GM. In my opinion, a GM needs to find something they enjoy about it if they are going to give the players a fun time. Just going through the motions with minimal investment is not going to make it.

There are several things that people can find rewarding about GMing. I think the answers are more varied than the reasons that people play the game. You get a chance to see how other players run their characters, perhaps picking up techniques that you will find useful. You get a chance to experiment with a wide variety of character classes and see how they perform as you try to run the NPCs. You get to meet and interact with new people.

If all you are out for is free stuff, you probably will not find it rewarding. It costs more materials and time to GM than it does to play. That has always been my experience, regardless of campaign or game system.

Even if you don't find it rewarding, perhaps you can get something out of your experiences so far. Look at what you do as a player and see if it is what you wanted your characters to give you. Look at how your characters interact with the other characters and see if that is how you would have wanted one of your characters to have interacted with the others. Learn from your experiences and try to apply that to what you do as a player.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Terevalis Unctio of House Mysti wrote:
I dont think players care what DMs have to put into things.

While I can attest to the opposite, at least in my area. You sound extremely burnt out on this Terevalis. I agree with the others that you are probably best served stepping back from being a GM for a little while. We would hate for you to get so burnt out to leave the game entirely.

Grand Lodge ***** Regional Venture-Coordinator, Eastern Eurasia-Africa

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As a player in your current game, I'm more than willing to help.

If you are interested in some constructive criticism, just send me a PM.

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I think I got into PFS DMing to give back to DMs who had been nice enough to offers games that I could play in.

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Lady Ladile wrote:
But I don't see anything wrong with combining that with a desire to earn some of the 'perks' built into Organized Play for those that GM, either.

I certainly don't find anything wrong with desiring a perk for GMing. I would probably GM less if I didn't get character credit to balance the time I give up by running instead of playing (live or online). It's even completely fine to to wish there was something more (I wish I could earn an Aasimar boon GMing PbP because my wife won't let me play live enough to earn one through RSP).

Lamenting that I spent $10 per month to run PFS scenarios, not to mention the cost of the pawn sets, maps, paper, ink, etc, and wish that I could recover something more than character participation credit, replay options, and bonuses on my promotional re-rolls is one thing. Perfectly reasonable desires.

However, that's different than criticizing players for not doing my GM prep for me or not saying thank you enough (and I thanked him for the Confirmation that he ran and for the botched MoFF).

Sczarni *****

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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

My suggestion, as someone who dropped from one of your games, is to cut down on the amount of PbP you do. By my last count you were involved in over two dozen games.

I expressed concern to you at the time, and your response several days later was something to the effect of "I do my best".

I have no reason to doubt that you want to do your best, but I have reason to doubt that you are able to do your best.

Liberty's Edge ** Venture-Agent, Online

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Terevalis,

The reason the online VO team was contacted about your requests for help with the maps was likely due to miscommunication between you and your players. Your players felt that you were not asking someone to help you create maps for them, but rather that you were demanding that they do so. Asking is cool, demanding is not cool. The only advice I can give you there, is to try to think how to word such a request to help the players understand you are making a request rather than an order.

A lot of our online interactions can become muddled because a written medium often fails to adequately confer tone. This is something we all need to remember from time to time.

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There is a reason I'm *very, very* picky about what I run and how much I volunteer.

It's not because I don't want to, it's because I want to do a good job at it, and I want it to be fair and fun for my players.

Is it worth it?

Yes.

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Blake's Tiger wrote:
Lady Ladile wrote:
But I don't see anything wrong with combining that with a desire to earn some of the 'perks' built into Organized Play for those that GM, either.

I certainly don't find anything wrong with desiring a perk for GMing. I would probably GM less if I didn't get character credit to balance the time I give up by running instead of playing (live or online). It's even completely fine to to wish there was something more (I wish I could earn an Aasimar boon GMing PbP because my wife won't let me play live enough to earn one through RSP).

Lamenting that I spent $10 per month to run PFS scenarios, not to mention the cost of the pawn sets, maps, paper, ink, etc, and wish that I could recover something more than character participation credit, replay options, and bonuses on my promotional re-rolls is one thing. Perfectly reasonable desires.

However, that's different than criticizing players for not doing my GM prep for me or not saying thank you enough (and I thanked him for the Confirmation that he ran and for the botched MoFF).

I dont recall asking you to help with maps, I simply let you guys know that I was new to DMing PbP and asked for patience, which you seemed unable to give.

Liberty's Edge ** Venture-Agent, Online

I have seen case where GMs refuse to take on certain players and players refuse to play with certain GMs.

If a player is being disruptive you have the right to ask them to stop. If they don't stop, you have the right to boot them from the table.

You can certainly contact us, especially if you feel the issue with the player goes beyond the game you are running.

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

It’s not so bad this time, is it? You’re getting your chance to vent, and I am listening.

Sometimes when I PM, I have to put on the Official VC Cranky Pants. (They issue them out of HQ along with red shirts when you become a VC, alas.) Other times I can listen, talk, or be a sounding board.

I will try to put the cranky pants in the closet. They don’t fit me well, anyway.

Hmm

Shadow Lodge *****

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Oh, no wonder it was so confusing to read that...

Paizo Employee Customer Service Manager

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Removed some posts and replies. Do not get into personal disputes in the middle of threads on our forums.

Sidenote: for Pathfinder and Starfinder we use "GM" for "GameMaster."

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Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:

It’s not so bad this time, is it? You’re getting your chance to vent, and I am listening.

Sometimes when I PM, I have to put on the Official VC Cranky Pants. (They issue them out of HQ along with red shirts when you become a VC, alas.) Other times I can listen, talk, or be a sounding board.

I will try to put the cranky pants in the closet. They don’t fit me well, anyway.

Hmm

Since I have not received my PM I cannot comment on what was said or not said.

Paizo Employee Customer Service Manager

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TOZ wrote:
Oh, no wonder it was so confusing to read that...

I just finished up removing the duplicate posts within the thread which should help with readability.

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

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So... I have been thinking about the original question. Is it worth GMing?

For me the answer has been unequivocally yes. However my experience with GMing has been mostly positive in PFS. I have a blast with the story, and enjoy helping the player characters interact with both my absurd NPCs and the setting. Because I am having a great time, my players tend to have a great time too.

I have had great luck with my tables. Just about every table that I have run has been full of awesome people. About the only time that I have not enjoyed it is when I have been overloaded or overwhelmed. (Cosmic Captive, I am looking at you.)

If GMing has become a chore though, that might be part of the problem. If you’re not having fun, neither will the players.

Hmm
.

Sczarni *****

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Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Sara Marie wrote:
Sidenote: for Pathfinder and Starfinder we use "GM" for "GameMaster".

Thank you so much for saying this! I've been pointing this out for years, and people think I'm being nitpicky. You're the first Paizo employee I've seen mention it.

<3

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Part of the issue is that there is not a functioning PFS community locally.

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On the question expressed in the subject:

Yes, it is worth it to me to be a PFS GM. I enjoy logging in to see what crazy tactic my players are going to throw at the problem that I left them with. I enjoy crafting the maps and trying to find new and more efficient ways to communicate tactical information. I enjoy making players laugh, groan, slap themselves on the face, snort, smile (and not so much making them cry).

For me, the experience is a cycle of energy whether from the GM or player side of the table. Interest and interaction fuel my response. In one game I'm in, the GM posts once a week. That table's not getting my best as a player. In one SFS I ran, half the table or more wasn't posting in any given encounter and I was botting them through combat, and I wasn't writing interesting posts to entertain myself, so the players didn't get my best as a GM.

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Nefreet wrote:
[Sara Marie is] the first Paizo employee I've seen mention it.

Heh. I see them do it fairly often. :)


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Terevalis Unctio of House Mysti wrote:
I dont think players care what DMs have to put into things.

That is very much a YMMV situation. Most of the people I play with are very appreciative.

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How much of the responsibility for the fun falls on the players though?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I wouldn't even know where to begin GMing PbP!

So kudos for trying!

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Quote:
So it seems that players can't be asked to do anything like that even though they benefit from the interaction.

On this issue: That is appropriate.

If I am GMing at my local FORGE Game Day, and John Doe from Out-of-Town shows up at my table, I should not expect him to provide anything other than his character sheet, dice, and reference material. I don't ask him, "Can you give me your Map Packs?" Or even, "Can I borrow your dice?"

I'm the GM. I expect myself and my players expect me to be prepared.

Now, among regulars, there is often a lot of sharing, and that's great. The VL will loan miniatures to new players (and regulars who just can't afford them). Anyone with a dry erase marker is happy to share when the GM's marker dies.

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Terevalis Unctio of House Mysti wrote:
How much of the responsibility for the fun falls on the players though?

That's probably impossible to quantify.

The player is expected to:

1. Be respectful and polite
2. Participate

As the GM, I am there to make sure 4-6 players have fun.

The player is not there to entertain me or the other 3-5 players.

If they are fulfilling #1 & #2, then they are holding up their end of the contract.

Scarab Sages *****

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Dennis Muldoon wrote:
Terevalis Unctio of House Mysti wrote:
How much of the responsibility for the fun falls on the players though?
The GM sets the tone for the table. Yes the players have a responsibility as well, but it starts with the GM. If you're not holding up your end, it doesn't matter what the players do.

On this note: it sounds like from above comments, you've overwhelmed yourself with the number of PBP games you are GM'ing. If you don't have the time to fully prep a scenario, then pull back on the number you are running so you have time to do the ones you can do all simultaneously, justice.

Don't do so much that the results of each iteration is worse than those people not getting to play at all.

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