Occult Society Revisited

Monday, December 1, 2014

Almost a week has passed since the Occult Adventures playtest closed, and I've heard very positive feedback from the Design Team about the playtest contributions of Pathfinder Society players. Thank you for participating in the playtest and helping us tweak the classes and make Occult Adventures the best Gen Con release yet. Note that as of the playtest's conclusion, creating characters using the playtest versions of the Occult Adventures classes is no longer legal; only those who unlocked the ability to play a psychic character can continue to use that PC before the book's publication and inclusion on the Additional Resources page.

This year we put together something different for Pathfinder Society: we offered a four-part boon to incentivize playtesting and reward those who ran a lot of tests across a wide range of levels. The Chronicle sheet addressed a few concerns we have had during past RPG hardcover playtests, such as limited higher-level playtest reports and a glut of playtest characters running around the campaign between December and August using non-final versions of the classes. Mark Seifter and I worked together to build an incentive to assist the designers while also keeping the impact of the playtest to a minimum after it wrapped up. We also knew that unlocking that fourth and final boon would be difficult but that we wanted to reward anyone who was so dedicated to the playtest process.

I'm certain there are ways to improve the process even further, and I would like to hear your feedback on what went well and what could be better in the organized play playtest. Did this Chronicle sheet inspire you to try a class and provide feedback? Were you more inclined to test just one character to unlock as many boons as possible, or did you try out several classes? Did you or anyone you know unlock the third boon (6 play credits) or the fourth boon (9 credits)? Did the boons strike a good balance between being attractive and not being game-breaking? Did you find the Chronicle sheet easy to use and understand? These are just a few questions on my mind, and if you have related feedback about some other aspect of how we handled the playtest for Pathfinder Society, let me know here.

John Compton
Developer

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Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Society Playtest
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3/5 RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

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I agree with Mark that Paizo-built pregens won't add enough useful feedback. I like the idea of building playtest characters as pregens, but GMs would need the ability to veto them, or even have a requirement that the build be discussed with the GM beforehand. This would ideally leave the option open for close-knit groups who can pre-plan and communicate, or for those players that a GM trusts to get the rules more-or-less correct, but keep people from foisting dysfunctional characters on an unprepared GM.

My main concern is that it could be disruptive on a social level if a player reacts badly to his or her playtest character getting vetoed, or a GM feels pressured to accept a character he or she is confused by.

Sovereign Court 1/5

I am very surprised that Paizo got the feedback they wanted on this, especially at anything above level 1.

Locally I did not see one Occult character used in the 8 games I played during the playtest period.

Paizo Employee 5/5 Designer

Quadstriker wrote:

I am very surprised that Paizo got the feedback they wanted on this, especially at anything above level 1.

Locally I did not see one Occult character used in the 8 games I played during the playtest period.

It may have varied from place to place. I only saw two non-occult characters during that period.

Caveat: I was playing 1-5 and 3-7 and the like to use my own occult character

2/5

I would support having pregenerated options available for future playtests-- as long as they're built by Mr. Seifter! I'm a huge fan of the current crop of ACG pregens, which if I recall you're largely responsible for, Mark.

Paizo Employee 5/5 Designer

Exguardi wrote:
I would support having pregenerated options available for future playtests-- as long as they're built by Mr. Seifter! I'm a huge fan of the current crop of ACG pregens, which if I recall you're largely responsible for, Mark.

[tangent]They were all my babies originally, but it's certainly true that the development passes helped work out the kinks (and for instance John found a super-cool staff for level 7 Enora, etc).[/tangent]

Even so, though, I wanted to see what you guys came up with. For actual Occult pregens when the book comes up, it's possible you'll see those by me though!

Silver Crusade 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Germany—Bavaria

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Some kind of playtest framework could be useful, like:

Level 7:

Budget for permanent protective items: X gold
Budget for weapons/shields: X gold
Budget for expendable magic items: X Gold
Budget free allocate: X Gold

This way you could a limit the amount of money players can spend (to account for the usual expenses characters have while leveling. Maybe limit it to straight classed characters, if you feel that this gives a clearer picture. Personally quite a number of the occult classes seem to scream for a 1 level dip, to get the heaviest armor.

Since playtests are an attempt at escalation (ok guys show us the worst game breaking things you can come up with ^^ ) letting people play something like this could be very informative. Of course giving GM the option not to allow such a playtest pregen should always be the norm, after all even with the current playtest system, what is actually in the PDF, and how the class is supposed to play are two different things. (Just look at the kineticist and the clarifications in the thread).

2/5

Continued tangent on iconic pregens:

Mark Seifter wrote:
[tangent]They were all my babies originally, but it's certainly true that the development passes helped work out the kinks (and for instance John found a super-cool staff for level 7 Enora, etc).[/tangent]

I'm particularly a fan of the Shaman in her high-level incarnation, as due to the choice of Arcane Enlightenment as her wandering hex, combined with the natural flexibility of Wandering Spirit, the player gets some huge options to customize her on a game-by-game basis. I hope to see a similarly-flexible Medium creation when the time comes Mark!

Silver Crusade 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Germany—Bavaria

Mark Seifter wrote:
Exguardi wrote:
I would support having pregenerated options available for future playtests-- as long as they're built by Mr. Seifter! I'm a huge fan of the current crop of ACG pregens, which if I recall you're largely responsible for, Mark.

[tangent]They were all my babies originally, but it's certainly true that the development passes helped work out the kinks (and for instance John found a super-cool staff for level 7 Enora, etc).[/tangent]

Even so, though, I wanted to see what you guys came up with. For actual Occult pregens when the book comes up, it's possible you'll see those by me though!

I actually had the chance to use level 7 Enora in Fortress of the Nail on monday, and yeah the staff is very cool (....in other scenarios, not this one ). Some more spells in the spellbook would have been nice, Potent Magic seemed to cry out for slow and the lowers levels could have used some more spells to benefit from the DC bump. (I assume that word count on the iconic was a factor here).

I have to say, that I didn't use the metamagic feat, or the metamagic rod, but they seem like decent choices. I will play her again, ideally in an adventure with frost giants^^


Sebastian Hirsch wrote:

Some kind of playtest framework could be useful, like:

Level 7:

Budget for permanent protective items: X gold
Budget for weapons/shields: X gold
Budget for expendable magic items: X Gold
Budget free allocate: X Gold

This way you could a limit the amount of money players can spend (to account for the usual expenses characters have while leveling. Maybe limit it to straight classed characters, if you feel that this gives a clearer picture. Personally quite a number of the occult classes seem to scream for a 1 level dip, to get the heaviest armor.

Since playtests are an attempt at escalation (ok guys show us the worst game breaking things you can come up with ^^ ) letting people play something like this could be very informative. Of course giving GM the option not to allow such a playtest pregen should always be the norm, after all even with the current playtest system, what is actually in the PDF, and how the class is supposed to play are two different things. (Just look at the kineticist and the clarifications in the thread).

I would agree with this, the idea of pre-gen templates isn't going to help much because as Mark said he could just as easily play these pregens himself, its about how players create the characters and what discoveries they find.

I would think it would be much better to have strict guidelines on how to create a high level character and play them as a pregen (for instance the gold restrictions suggested by Hirsch) and the ability for GMs to Veto. Players who want to play these high level characters should in fact have to talk to their GM before the game to ensure they are ok with the idea.

The Exchange 5/5 RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

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Frankly, it sounds like useful playtest experience, but it doesn't sound like PFS sessions.

"Campaign mode" is a way for AP volumes and long modules to earn play credit for PFS characters. Maybe there could be an analogous "Playtest mode" where players make up higher-level versions of playtest-class characters, run them through their paces, report, and get PFS rewards. It almost directly embodies the oath: "Cooperate (with Paizo developers)! Explore! Report!"

Grand Lodge 2/5

The boons were an awesome idea. However, the final boon being so good and so hard to obtain within such a limited time really put me off. So between that and having a lot of characters that are already in the low level range I ended up playing characters I've already planned out and have made rather than a new one.

Mark Seifter wrote:
Quadstriker wrote:

I am very surprised that Paizo got the feedback they wanted on this, especially at anything above level 1.

Locally I did not see one Occult character used in the 8 games I played during the playtest period.

It may have varied from place to place. I only saw two non-occult characters during that period.

Caveat: I was playing 1-5 and 3-7 and the like to use my own occult character

In the central Indiana area I play (PFS) about twice a week and I only saw one guy that had an occult character.

Sovereign Court Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area South & West aka Yasumoto

+1 to a 'Playtest mode' or something that would allow for at least one game of higher-level play to kick the tires like that. Only once when I GMed did I have a Playtest character, but that was still interesting to see.

I would love to be able to help others Playtest by GMing, but I have a feeling we can actually give GMs credit vs. 'eating' one of their few chances to participate in the Playtest. What if there was a quest or two provided in the same PDF as the boon.. but the climactic encounter said 'Hey GM- for the evil archenemy, create a level 4 Mesmerist, and use up to NNNN gp for items." Then, for GMs who run that adventure/quest set, they can get credit (and players get to feel the brunt of these new classes too!)

I was able to play once for the Playtest (but this was an out-of-schedule game a few of us did because we knew we wouldn't have a chance otherwise) and had a great time. Perhaps VOs can take the lead to nsure lots of Playtest-level-friendly scenarios are scheduled during this time? Not sure if that happened, but leveraging this would ensure we're not running high level play, which for now, isn't conducive to most Playtest characters.

Overall I had a blast- thanks for working to make it better!

Grand Lodge 2/5

The classes sound like they should be fun, but the playtest period was too short for our small market. I imagine it was fine for online play and larger metro areas, but we only scheduled one event during that time. Our second event of the month was after the window.

I built a level one playtest character for the 1-5 scenario we scheduled, but based on the players who attended, we played subtier 3-5 and I didn't get a chance to try it out.

I like the recent ideas discussing playtests and pregen credit. That could make it easier to get playtest results from higher level characters and not lock you into a class you won't enjoy later on. If you use GM credit to build a character beyond level one, that is a big expense if you decide the class isn't something you'd play in the future.

It was nice that the ACG playtest ran longer and revised the classes during that time, so I hope any changes here get ironed out before it is published. I like the concept of these a lot.

Grand Lodge 5/5

Mark Seifter wrote:

That's fantastic! Any chance that you have any playtest data for levels 6 and up?

If so, this isn't the right thread probably, but I'm always interested in more.

I did the survey, but I'll head over to the official and try and post some stuff.

The main thing I noticed is that with newer GM's they got a little flustered by some of the things that sort of break their assumptions.

Particular case is a room with an antimagic field preventing flying/airwalk type options. The flamejet/self telekinesis ability should bypass this, since after the launch you are basically falling in that direction. The GM didn't know how to handle this breaking the trap, so disallowed it.
So instead we took tens and navigated the trapped room successfully.

The thing that would help decide how this stuff works is determining which abilities are magic and which aren't.

Paizo Employee 5/5 Designer

Michael Thompson wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:

That's fantastic! Any chance that you have any playtest data for levels 6 and up?

If so, this isn't the right thread probably, but I'm always interested in more.

I did the survey, but I'll head over to the official and try and post some stuff.

The main thing I noticed is that with newer GM's they got a little flustered by some of the things that sort of break their assumptions.

Particular case is a room with an antimagic field preventing flying/airwalk type options. The flamejet/self telekinesis ability should bypass this, since after the launch you are basically falling in that direction. The GM didn't know how to handle this breaking the trap, so disallowed it.
So instead we took tens and navigated the trapped room successfully.

The thing that would help decide how this stuff works is determining which abilities are magic and which aren't.

Certainly you can't activate any of those abilities when you're already within an AMF, since they are not Ex. Whether or not you get to continue the 60 feet of propulsion you started outside the AMF, I'd say is definitely a GM judgment call, and an interesting one.

Dark Archive 5/5 Venture-Agent, Washington—Redmond

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The 2 things which stood out to me about the playtest format was the time frame, and the no GM credit.

I understand that 1 month is the best time frame for the design team, however I plan-out the PFS event I organize several months out and did not find time to play a PFS game during the span of time. Probably poor foresight on my part for not realizing when the upcoming playtest window was, but even 1-2 extra weeks would have made a difference.

I did find time to read-up on a few of the classes and even start GMing a game specifically for playtesting them, but it was something I had already done most of the prep-work for GMing anyway. The toughest part was finding the time to read-up all of the appropriate rules for my players to assist them with character building and rules; which caused a few of them to change their mind about playing a playtest class b/c I was unable to answer questions as quickly as usual.

I understand that when GMing you are not providing as much feedback on the playtest as you would be if you were playing one of the new classes, but there is definitely an investment in learning and adjudicating the interaction of the new abilities with the existing rules - and I feel that for the PFS boon, this would merit some GM incentive. I really liked the way the boon worked that John and Mark put together; I would suggest that maybe 1 line be able to be applied as GM credit for a game where you had one or more playtesting players. This way those who would like to contribute to the playtest do not feel like they HAVE to be playing, and they can GM at least one time around.

Liberty's Edge

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The chronicle sheet definitely inspired me to get a table together. I like the idea that you need the chronicle to continue playing the class after the playtest. That made me want to get in on it. Plus, the classes have so much flavor, I was looking forward to playing one. As far as I know we only mustered one table here in SF, although I think our VC had several PbPs going. In the wider Bay Area there may have been more, but I haven't heard.

However, in the end, the classes fell short, as is the risk in a playtest. No one at my game was in love with how their class played. I think I'm the only one from our table who played his character twice (a spiritualist) and I don't know if I'll play him a third time now that the playtest is over, even with the chronicle.

But, I think the chronicle was still successful as it encouraged us to play, and a few of us wrote up some playtest feedback, and that's really what it was all about.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Washington—Seattle aka Taenia

I ran into two major problems with this Playtest, both resolves around a lack of GM credit.

First, as a GM I run more games than I play. During this period I managed to only get three games in on my playtest character and only on one of them. I usually play/run 3 times a week. Not being able to apply GM credit meant that I could not get the boons on the sheet even though many of the tables I ran had at least 1 if not up to 6 occult characters. Including John, Mark and the Mediums three.

Second, a number of normal GMs that volunteer actually didn't run many games during the playtest as they were all trying to get credit on their occult characters. So not only did they push for games they could play at the lower tier, limiting our options but forcing many of our store coordinators and VOs to run more often to fill in the gap.

Having a special line for run a game with an occult character could, with a little organization on our parts, have assured that GMS could get a chance to play, people working to the boons would try to run and we might even get some new people wanting to try to GM for the first time.

Sovereign Court 3/5

My only comment is - unfortunately i didn't get to playtest.

Our local gaming shop hosts PFS games on the first sunday of each month, and the playtest landed exactly in at the wrong time when we already had adventures planned and characters picked out.

Due to knowing i wouldn't get to playtest i didn't even read the playtest document fully. I did skim over to get an idea of what it was all about though.

I am looking forward to more base classes though - i love having options and new ways to play the game :)

Scarab Sages

Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
For future playtest, it would be very nice to get some customizeable pregen options (like a kineticist with set stats/race, but the choice to choose the element).
Mark Seifter wrote:
I honestly considered something similar before the playtest. In the end, I decided it wouldn't have helped me too much, since by the point I built the standard character chassis, I could just run playtests with that build, probably more than the number of people who would post playtest results. What I personally wanted, and this may be different for me than the other designers, was to see people finding things I didn't expect.

Sample characters would still be useful, even if they weren't to be used as official PFS pregens.

They would give prospective players guidance on how some of the class abilities work together, and what design assumptions are being made by the staff, especially regarding power level.
One of the criticisms levelled at D&D3.0 was that the material was playtested using suboptimal characters (and I don't mean 'inferior to what you'd get from the optimisation forums', but 'inferior to what would be built by an average, casual player').

By having an indication of what the design staff consider to be a baseline, we can better gauge whether the characters we build are operating above or below expectation.

5/5 Venture-Captain, Georgia—Savannah

Tsriel wrote:
I probably speak for a minority here, but I generally had a hard time justifying spending what remaining unplayed scenarios I have on these characters.

While I'm not in that boat yet, I completely understand the hesitation there. If you only have a few scenarios left that you can play, 'risking' them on a playtest can seem less-than-attractive. But the experienced players in that situation would be the one's whose feedback would be the most valuable! (More valuable in the sense of "I've seen a lot of stuff and have formed opinions based on extensive personal experience" not in the sense of "I've been playing PFS for 27 years, so my opinions matter more than a newbie's".)

How about allowing scenarios played with a playtest PC during the playtest period be able to be replayed once?

For example: during the playtest, I played my Medium in Assault on the Kingdom of the Impossible. That chronicle sheet could have a special note from the GM on it, noting that it was played during the playtest. Because of that note, I can still play Assault with any 1 of my other PCs (informing the GM of the replay as required by the Guide, of course). This would only apply to scenarios played during the playtest window. So, in January 2015, say I play my Medium in The Stolen Heir. The playtest window has closed, so I'm not eligible to replay The Stolen Heir with a non-playtest PC.

Since playtest windows tend to be fairly brief (though this one way way too brief IMHO), these extra replays wouldn't throw things off too badly, and would encourage those players with limited unplayed scenarios to be more involved with the playtests. We could even make it retroactive, and say, "Oh, you played Assault 4 years ago? Sure, you can replay it during the playtest window, with the same GM notation."

Just a thought.

4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Washington—Seattle aka Gwen Smith

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Louis Manko Levite wrote:

I ran into two major problems with this Playtest, both resolves around a lack of GM credit.

First, as a GM I run more games than I play. During this period I managed to only get three games in on my playtest character and only on one of them. I usually play/run 3 times a week. Not being able to apply GM credit meant that I could not get the boons on the sheet even though many of the tables I ran had at least 1 if not up to 6 occult characters. Including John, Mark and the Mediums three.

Having a special line for run a game with an occult character could, with a little organization on our parts, have assured that GMS could get a chance to play, people working to the boons would try to run and we might even get some new people wanting to try to GM for the first time.

I think that having GMs be able to get boons for running during the playtest would encourage them to submit feedback, too. I don't know how much feedback GMs gave in general, but it seems like "when running this class, here were the problems I had as a GM" is at least as valuable as player feedback.

As a GM, I had some general difficulties with the playtest players. I was still in the process of absorbing the rules from ACG and AC Origins, prepping for new scenarios, etc., and I hadn't even had a chance to look at OA before the playtest started. Some kind of conceptual summary would have been helpful: the players were focused the specifics of their build, but I didn't have any idea what the general concepts behind the whole book were.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Canada—Manitoba—Brandon aka kevin_video

Just wanted to note that I did a kineticist pyro for the playtest last year, and our PFS group ended taking a break for a couple of months until Feb. My character was 3rd level at the time. I've recently started GMing the scenarios, and I need to ask a couple of questions as I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now think I could be hooped.
1) the playtest is over, but are we allowed to still play and apply credit to the already created character(s)? If not, how do we move the credit away to other characters that are legal to play?
2) with the official release not out yet, can we still gain access to the boons? Or, are those done and further ones can't be accessed after last Dec?

Grand Lodge 3/5

kevin_video wrote:

Just wanted to note that I did a kineticist pyro for the playtest last year, and our PFS group ended taking a break for a couple of months until Feb. My character was 3rd level at the time. I've recently started GMing the scenarios, and I need to ask a couple of questions as I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now think I could be hooped.

1) the playtest is over, but are we allowed to still play and apply credit to the already created character(s)? If not, how do we move the credit away to other characters that are legal to play?
2) with the official release not out yet, can we still gain access to the boons? Or, are those done and further ones can't be accessed after last Dec?

if you have at least one experience on the character, it is legal to play, but may need to have special abilities and whatnot changed to reflect the book when it comes out. As for the books, unfortunately they are not accessible after the play test period. Time to huck some boulders at people........

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Canada—Manitoba—Brandon aka kevin_video

Morrin the Stout wrote:
kevin_video wrote:

Just wanted to note that I did a kineticist pyro for the playtest last year, and our PFS group ended taking a break for a couple of months until Feb. My character was 3rd level at the time. I've recently started GMing the scenarios, and I need to ask a couple of questions as I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now think I could be hooped.

1) the playtest is over, but are we allowed to still play and apply credit to the already created character(s)? If not, how do we move the credit away to other characters that are legal to play?
2) with the official release not out yet, can we still gain access to the boons? Or, are those done and further ones can't be accessed after last Dec?
if you have at least one experience on the character, it is legal to play, but may need to have special abilities and whatnot changed to reflect the book when it comes out. As for the books, unfortunately they are not accessible after the play test period. Time to huck some boulders at people........

You said books, but I'm guessing you meant boons. So basically there's no reason to continue with this character. At least I managed to get the first four.

2/5

kevin_video wrote:


You said books, but I'm guessing you meant boons. So basically there's no reason to continue with this character. At least I managed to get the first four.

You can still play the character. But once the actual book comes out the playtest version will no longer be legal and they will provide some retraining rules for that process. What you can't do is continue getting games marked off on the playtest boon, because those had a deadline.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Canada—Manitoba—Brandon aka kevin_video

StFrancisss wrote:
You can still play the character. But once the actual book comes out the playtest version will no longer be legal and they will provide some retraining rules for that process. What you can't do is continue getting games marked off on the playtest boon, because those had a deadline.

Yeah, that last part's all I actually cared about because the boons were actually pretty good, and gave me a reason to play. As for the continuing to play and then retrain, I figured as much on that as that's how it was with the magus and gunslinger when they first came out.

Grand Lodge 3/5

@Kevin, I did say boons, but my tablet autocorrected it into books, haha. It's what I get for not double checking my post before submitting it.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Canada—Manitoba—Brandon aka kevin_video

Morrin the Stout wrote:
@Kevin, I did say boons, but my tablet autocorrected it into books, haha. It's what I get for not double checking my post before submitting it.

It's a pain we all sadly know too well.

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