Pathfinder Society Playtest—September Update

Thursday, September 27, 2018

We're reaching the two-month mark, and playtest results for our first three Pathfinder Playtest scenarios are rolling in. By far, we're seeing that the largest amount of feedback came in over the first two weeks of the playtest, with the two 5th-level scenarios steadily receiving survey results each week. This feedback's been really valuable in analyzing what does and doesn't work in these adventures, so please do continue to playtest and encourage everyone to let us know what they think. The surveys have been averaging about 3-5 minutes for player surveys and about 5-7 minutes for GM surveys.

We're not just here to talk about surveys, though. I'd also like to highlight a few special topics: an updated appendix format in Pathfinder Playtest #4: The Frozen Oath and our imminent re-release of Pathfinder Playtest #2: Raiders of Shrieking Peak to test out the updated resonance rules.

The Frozen Oath

As a quick reminder, this 10th-level scenario is available for download now. However, unlike the other playtest scenarios so far, this adventure does not include any pregenerated characters. It's important to either schedule time during the event for your players to create their own, or have everyone create a character before the game.

We'll have the player, GM, and open response surveys up on the site shortly.

A New Appendix

I've been going back and forth on different ideas to make the creature appendices more useful. Right now, scenarios print and custom creatures directly in the encounter, and any reprinted creatures (such as from a hardcover Bestiary) are reprinted in an appendix at the back of the adventure. On one hand, that's nice because it should cut down on the number of resources a GM needs to have on hand while running the adventure. That said, there's room for improvement, especially because this can lead to a fair amount of page flipping between the encounter description and the appendix during play.

That means experimenting with new creature stat block organization. Because scenarios are digital-only products with somewhat flexible page counts, we have a few options.

  • Include all of the creature stat blocks—custom and reprinted—directly into the encounter description.
  • Include none of the creature stat blocks in the encounter description. Instead place everything into the appendices.
  • Include the custom stat blocks in the encounter description, and expand the appendices to include all of the stat blocks that are necessary to run the adventure.

The first option is certainly tempting because it places all of the information where a GM needs it, but in some cases that can be numerous pages of stat blocks across several subtiers. Based on some past scenarios with 3 subtiers, it's easy to start losing track of the adventure amid the many stat blocks—especially once they're interspersed with sidebars and creature illustrations. That also complicates one of the strong requests I've seen in the GM surveys: a desire to have stat blocks start and end on one page. The more those stat blocks are competing with other material, the harder it is to make them fit cleanly.

Well, the playtest is a time for experimentation! While developing "The Frozen Oath," I tried to fit in as much as I could. You'll find that the essential stat blocks for running a 4-player table appear directly in the encounters. Given this scenario doesn't have multiple subtiers, I could manage that; however, each of these stat block sections would be roughly double the length were this to be, say, a Tier 9-12 adventure. In practice, that might be too much to jam into a typical scenario's text.

I also changed how the stat block appendix looks. Rather than including all of the stat blocks in the same section and alphabetizing them, I broke down the appendix by encounter area, starting each one on a different page. Each encounter area's appendix now prints all of the stat blocks—both the ones already appearing in the adventure as well as every stat block necessary for scaling the encounter for larger groups. That way you can find all of the creature statistics all in one place, flipping pages less often or just printing off the pages you need.

Take a look, and let us know what you think.

Raiders of Resonance Peak

As the design team reviews playtest feedback, they've been busily revising systems and exploring new solutions. One of the major topics is resonance, which influences how often a PC can attune to and activate magic items. They've developed a new approach that's launching in the coming weeks, and to provide more avenues for playtesting it, the design team has created an updated version of "Pathfinder Playtest #2: Raiders of Shrieking Peak" that includes revised rules for all of the treasure you could find. In addition, they're updated the 5th-level pregenerated characters to reflect this new resonance approach and the recent playtest errata to characters' starting skills (plus some minor corrections here and there). Once this new version comes out, you'll still be able to run either version for credit, and you'll report them both in the same way. Expect to see a special survey for this new version of the adventure.

John Compton

Organized Play Lead Developer

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Tags: Organized Play Pathfinder Playtest Pathfinder Society
Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Huzzah!

Liberty's Edge ***

I bet there will be an uptick in reporting on the play test PFS scenarios after the Doomsday Dawn chapters are played through. I know I plan on playing/running the PFS scenarios but my group is doing DD first.

Sczarni **** RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16

John Compton[/quote wrote:
Rather than including all of the stat blocks in the same section and alphabetizing them, I broke down the appendix by encounter area, starting each one on a different page. Each encounter area's appendix now prints all of the stat blocks—both the ones already appearing in the adventure as well as every stat block necessary for scaling the encounter for larger groups. That way you can find all of the creature statistics all in one place, flipping pages less often or just printing off the pages you need.

This is fantastic! I almost always run my scenarios off an iPad, so while flipping forward and back a few pages is a little annoying, it's way easier than jumping several pages at a time. For encounters with multiple different opponents, having them all grouped together is extremely helpful!

One thought that might be worth exploring would be to have the statblocks ordered by subtier, then by encounter area, rather than the reverse. I say this because a GM is only ever running one subtier at any given time, and having them organized this way would help make it less likely that we'd flip a page too far and accidentally give our players a much harder challenge than we should :-P


Personally, when I run a scenario, I only use the scenario. Therefore, I would prefer that either all of the stat blocks were in the text or that all of the stat blocks were in the appendix. Splitting them between two locations based upon whether or not they are also in another book (that I may or may not own) and which I am not using adds to the difficulty of running the scenario.

I agree with Tamago that organizing the appendix by tier would be far more useful than by encounter area. I have found myself making life more difficult than it should be for a party purely by looking at the wrong stat block for a creature when both stat blocks are adjacent.

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

Yeah, I like the idea of having them grouped by tier (like they are in Solstice Scar). Then you could print out or bookmark just the tier you need.

Liberty's Edge

For hard copies, I would really prefer two booklets. One with the adventure and one with all of the NPCs/new items. Would it be impossible to organize stat blocks by encounters? If you can get 6ish on a page, you can probably get nearly every encounter pieced together so there is no flipping at all.

Liberty's Edge ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Martinsville aka thaX

I would do the same as a lot of GM's do for Prep and on the GM Prep site, having the statblocks in a separate section by Tier, if PFS has more than one tier in a scenario for PF2.

I also think that those scenarios that have particular NPC's that need interaction from the characters need to have their write ups in a separate "GM handouts" instead of dispersed in paragraphs within the scenario.

This would likely need to take the form of synopsis for each character in the section, and more details in the GM forms.

Sovereign Court *****

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Class Deck, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I said this on Facebook but I'll say it here too: The Frozen Oath is the closest I have ever seen to a PFS scenario where I don't feel like I need to make a prep document. That's saying something.

I plan on testing GMing this without doing my prep document to see how it feels.

Dark Archive *

B.

Quote:
I also changed how the stat block appendix looks. Rather than including all of the stat blocks in the same section and alphabetizing them, I broke down the appendix by encounter area, starting each one on a different page. Each encounter area's appendix now prints all of the stat blocks—both the ones already appearing in the adventure as well as every stat block necessary for scaling the encounter for larger groups. That way you can find all of the creature statistics all in one place, flipping pages less often or just printing off the pages you need.

Yes, please! And please write the orders for the adjustments also in the appendix. This is exactly how I prepare the combats of scenarios. I am only printing these stat blocks for running it, to have them before me, while I read the scenario on the laptop.

Shadow Lodge ***** ⦵⦵

1) include the creature in the adventure. An appendix doesn't work very well for a digital reader.kindle.tablet like more and more dms are using

2) Don't break the character up over multiple pages

2b: under no circumstances do you stick a map in between the first and second half of the fight, much less the monster.

Scarab Sages ***** Venture-Captain, Netherlands aka Woran

Include none of the creature stat blocks in the encounter description. Instead place everything into the appendices.

Would have my preference. That way I can put the appendix in a diferent folder then the print out, and just have it open at the creatures. Organising Appendices by encounter, instead of alphabetical would be real nice too.

Silver Crusade ***** ⦵⦵⦵ RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 aka GreySector

Irranshalee wrote:
For hard copies, I would really prefer two booklets. One with the adventure and one with all of the NPCs/new items.

Please no. I already have a million files, I don't want to double that.

Grand Lodge ***** Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

2 people marked this as a favorite.

My preference is for all the stat blocks including the custom ones to be at the back in an appendix format. There should just be a very brief and truncated reference block in the narrative text. Just enough to reference which blocks to look at in the back. Its fairly rare to have to reference the narrative text during a combat encounter so having the blocks in the back rarely causes a flipping problem. Having the blocks split over multiple pages and having the blocks from multiple sub-tiers in the same place can be problematic and confusing during the chaos of combat.

As long as the stat blocks do not share a page with narrative info, an appendix format serves the same function as a separate booklet and can be printed separately. For myself, I typically print the blocks for reference during combat, but run the narrative from my iPad. This also has the advantage that I can look at both areas at the same time when necessary such as when there is a hazard or other environmental effects I need to be aware of.

As an aside, I also tend to rebuild the stat blocks as a document so I can add rules explanations at the bottom such as feats I am not familiar with, domain powers, unique magic equipment, etc. Saves me from looking them up during gameplay.

Another advantage of having the stat blocks printed is I can pull up spells from pdfs on my iPad at the same time so I don't have to go back and forth between the scenario and the Paizo book.

I would also like to see us change the map format as well. For those who still print their scenarios, having full-page, full color maps, especially ones with large blocks of solid color like Darklands is super-problematic for ink. I would like to see the maps moved to an appendix and just a reference to the map made in the narrative. That way the GM can chose to print the narrative without the map and without having to do manual page printing, especially if they duplex print or booklet print. List the stat blocks and related maps by encounter in the appendix. This would be especially helpful with specials that tend to have lots of both. Due to the way specials have been organized the last few years with some encounters expected to not run, but not knowing which ones, it would allow the GM to organize the materials by encounter and only grab what they need based on the choices the players make.

These are of course just my process and preference so YMMV.

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

BigNorseWolf wrote:
1) include the creature in the adventure. An appendix doesn't work very well for a digital reader.kindle.tablet like more and more dms are using

Appendices work great for me in GoodReader on my iPad, but I cheat.

I always mark up my scenario in GoodReader with highlighting and underlining, which creates a second annotated copy. I run from the annotated copy, but keep the original open in another tab. This allows me to flip back and forth seamlessly between the encounter and the appendix without losing my spot in either.

My preference: everything in the appendix organized by tier, then encounter.

BNW wrote:

2) Don't break the character up over multiple pages

2b: under no circumstances do you stick a map in between the first and second half of the fight, much less the monster.

Agreed!

Silver Crusade ***** Venture-Captain, Germany—Aschaffenburg-Würzburg

I usually run scenarios from a tablet or preferably from my notebook, thus excessive scrolling really is the worst, though I often do make temporary copies of the scenario I am running to have it open in several tabs of my PDF reader at once.

1. Do not under any circumstances every break up a stat block with a full-page map, it is extremely annoying.

2. If possible I would love to get ALL the monster stats (reprinted monsters and custom NPCs) in the back. I have printed 100s of pages of Iammars prep documents for multi-tables over the years and good presentation and grouping are essential.

For Starfinder, would it be possible to not just list the relevant summon templates, but give proper stat blocks for all the summoned monsters, that can already save precious seconds (and thus far I haven't had the time to use hero lab to create statblocks for ALL the summons)?

3. If a scenario has multiple subtiers, please first separate them by sub-tier and then by location, thus making it extra hard for GMs like me to accidentally scroll down to the high-level version... which is almost impossible if the low-level stats are on page 20-25 and high-level on 26-32.

Thank you for asking about things like this, changes like this are a major quality of life improvement for GMs who GM using an electronic device.

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