Comic Cons and GM Stars

Monday, March 6, 2017

Last night the Pathfinder Society community of Seattle and I wrapped four days of demonstrating Pathfinder games at Emerald City Comic Con. Before working at Paizo I traveled to a fair number of cons, but they were mostly gaming-focused. My first exposure to the world of comic con style events was Fan Expo in Toronto. Larger than anything I attended prior and packed with big names in the film industry, it exceeded any expectations. Over the past two years, I've attended several other comic cons and come to enjoy the loads of people, colorful costumes, and variety of activities the shows present.

As I worked the information desk in the Pathfinder Society area, I compared the differences between comic cons I'd attended and other large conventions like Gen Con, PaizoCon, DragonCon, and Origins. In the latter, we have many tables of Pathfinder Society, but most of the attendees are there to play our games. They come bearing dice and characters, ready to play games, win boons, and enjoy themselves for scenario-sized blocks of time. At Emerald City, and by association other comic con style events, our audience is mostly people who have not heard of Pathfinder and their schedule is determined by gaps in panels they want to attend. This got me brainstorming about how best to approach this style of event and what sort of presentation would work best to intrigue those walking by enough to pull them in to see our games.

With my experience of comic cons being limited to a few events, I ask those that attend these gatherings and who plan events for this style of "demonstration" environment: How do you approach the event? What tools would make your event pop more? As an attendee, what does a group do that motivates you to spend more time in an area? Please comment below with your thoughts!

One of the items that we need, no matter what style of convention or show we attend, is GMs. And GMs who spend lots of time at conventions or local game days start tallying up the number of games they've offered to the community. Soon, a GM reaches the 10-game mark and earns their first star. Many go on to achieve their 2nd star by running 30 games, 3rd star by running 50 games, and 4th star by running 100 games. A small portion of the overall GM pool makes the milestone of 150+ games, of an expansive variety of scenarios and with ten of them being special events. These GMs achieve their 5th star and the acknowledgement of the time and effort it took to reach the milestone. This month, I am please to introduce your newest 5-star GMs:

  • Jerad Bailey
  • David Creighton
  • Ryan Force
  • Brian J Fruzen
  • Dan Hennessey
  • Roy Lewis
  • David Neilson
  • Matthew Owens
  • O.J. Pinckert
  • Caedmon Tracey
  • Emery VanderHart
  • Jeremy Wenrich

This week my to-do list includes sending out letters to Gen Con and PaizoCon volunteers and preparing materials for next week's GAMA Trade Show. Hosted by Game Manufacturers of America, it is a week conference for hobby retailers and industry professionals in Las Vegas. But before I take off for GAMA, the team and I have a bit of information to share with the community. Come back Wednesday and check out the blog for our not-to-miss newsflash!

Tonya Woldridge
Organized Play Coordinator

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Tags: Community Conventions Pathfinder Society
Scarab Sages 5/5 Venture-Captain, Washington—Spokane

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Congratulations to all the new 5 star GMs! Thank you for your contributions to both your local PFS communities as well as the global PFS community.

Liberty's Edge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Indiana—Hammond

Congratulations to our new five star GMs!! Thanks for your hard work on behalf of PFS!

Liberty's Edge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Virginia—Richmond aka Slothsy

Woo, congrats to the new 5 star GMS!

5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Massachusetts—Boston Metro

Congratulations dear! I should be joining you on 5 star island soon...

Also, congrats to all the other new 5 stars, including our very own VA Dan!

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Captain, Iceland

Congrats to the new 5 stars !

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Welcome to the club, gang!

As an attendee of Phoenix Comicon for the past four years, and organizer for PFS at PCC 2016, I've learned that not everyone can play at once. What this means is that slots cannot start after previous slots have finished. The higher walk-in traffic we receive means games need to be starting every hour, otherwise you'll miss introducing a new player to Pathfinder when you say "we can get you on a table in three hours". Players aren't going to come back for that! Not when there is so much else to see and do.

This year at PCC 2017, Arizona has moved to a "rolling" schedule to better accomodate people stopping in. Our 5 hour slots start every 2 hours, and every hour has a new 1 hour quest starting. This way, our HQ staff can say "we've got a game kicking off in 10 or 15 minutes, you can go sit down there and the GM will get you ready". It requires a bit more coordination of GMs, as they get locked into a table that removes them from other table opportunities. And you need dedicated quest GMs, who are on a different schedule than the full scenario tracks. Definitely a logistical exercise!

Shameless plug.

3/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Louisiana—New Orleans aka Duncan7291

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Slight correction, isn't it 60 tables for 3 stars? Grats to new 5 stars! Well done.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

Congratulations to all the new 5 stars! Yes, it is totally 60 tables for 3 stars.

Love the details on your rolling game schedule, TOZ. That sounds very cool.


5/5 ⦵⦵⦵


3/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Louisiana—New Orleans aka Duncan7291

Oh, and quests work very well in these settings as they can play one part and if interested come back and play another later.

5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Chicago aka thunderspirit

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Yay, new 5-stars! Congrats to them all!

Even Brian Fruzen! ;-)

Dark Archive 5/5

Congratulations to all of our new 5 Star GM's.

Liberty's Edge 1/5

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Congrats. I cant wait to see what the Wednesday announcement is! :D

(I do hope it's the AR Update.... :D)

Shadow Lodge 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8 aka WalterGM

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Good, more troops for Season 9.

The Concordance 4/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Congrats to everyone! One of my favorite GenCon experiences was a Sunday morning table of Ancients' Anguish that Caedmon ran superbly.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Here is to another 150! :)

Scarab Sages 5/5 Venture-Captain, Netherlands aka Woran

So many new 5 stars! Congratulations everyone!

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

Congratulations, to all the new 5 star GMs!

Sovereign Court 4/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Tonya wrote:
How do you approach the event? What tools would make your event pop more? As an attendee, what does a group do that motivates you to spend more time in an area? Please comment below with your thoughts!

Honestly, most people from comic type conventions, visuals are a big thing. It was a few years back at Paizo Con, and I think at GenCon that there was the 3D terrain set up with a random encounter.

I remember the PaizoCon one was can you survive it with the pregens (not the best for recruiting but great for us more experienced). Something like that with say a more expanded pregen for those who don't know the rules. Say the back of Mersiel having here's how you search and disable a trap instead of the pre-gen text blobs a new person wouldn't understand. Here's how and why sneak attack works.

Make it fun and memorable, isn't there recordings of goblin songs out there somewhere? Perhaps let the recruits be the goblins instead of the pregens, have Rita, Poog and the rest of the goblins (or new goblins) be the characters. I forget which one it was where you had to impress the tribe, but something like that isn't just here's traps and a monster to defeat. They are used to story and depth, and something like that would showcase that.
I'd be willing to make a goblin village for you all if that's an idea in 3D terrain.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Woooo, made it to the island! Thanks all!

Liberty's Edge 3/5 Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

Good Job to All! I look forward to sitting at each of your tables!

Silver Crusade 5/5 ⦵⦵⦵ RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 aka GreySector

Congratulations everybody!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

We just had a mixed sci-fi/fantasy con this past weekend (CoastCon) in Biloxi, MS. We had a lot of walk-ups interested in playing.

4 of the 6 people at my low level scenario table were brand new. None had dice. One guy had a dice roller on his phone. I only had so many dice I could loan out. Also, a couple of them kept getting up and going off to different mini-events and coming back.

- Maybe a good idea to have extra dice sets as boons/gifts/loans for new people.

- Many of the people at these events don't realize a PFS session can take 4-5 hours and only have time for 30-60 minutes at a time. Try to steer them toward Quests, or offer more Quests if they have played them. (We did have a Quest table running but spots were full).


Thank you guys! The last five years have been one hell of a ride. Thank you all for being awesome and supportive. :)

Dark Archive

Congrats to all the 5 stars, two of which are from my local lodge!

Paizo Employee 5/5 Organized Play Coordinator

Thanks for the con feedback and suggestions.

To all those achieving 5-star status - huzzah!!

5/5 ⦵⦵

I notices that the MTG crew is always at the Comic Cons we have here in Aus - and at some of the other 'geek culture' conventions too.

When you turn up to their stand they have a bunch of tables and a bunch of volunteers, and they do a good job of being able to take you through a quick game or two right there and then. People can have a crack at it, and then move on.

From an RPG perspective, I suppose it similarly has to be a quick and dirty process 'rules lite' where they can get into it quickly, but also get out relatively quickly so we can turn the tables over - and I suspect they didn't want to pay $40+ for day entry into a convention to spend almost the entirety of their attendance at one table playing one game they don't know about.

A one hour quest would likely be the limit.

Oz Comic-con

I know there was a long thread in the PFS section about getting new players where these ideas were also thrashed out a bit too.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Congrats to all the new 5-stars, especially the PDX folks!!!

Sovereign Court 5/5 ⦵⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, Missouri—St. Louis aka bluesman95

Thanks it's nice to join the ranks of the 5 stars GMs

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