Pathfinder Society 2: Boons and Sheets

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Since the beginning of the year, many of our organized play meetings have revolved around the second edition of Pathfinder in one way or another—especially since we launched a series of sticky threads asking for your feedback. As a team we've each been monitoring a few of these threads and incorporating their ideas, critiques, and concerns into our discussions. We began revisiting those topics in blogs last month with Linda's and Tonya's examination of tiers, level gain, and the structure of the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide. This week we're exploring two related topics: boons and Chronicle sheets.

Boons in Second Edition

Boons were one of the first elements I brought up in the very first Pathfinder Society playtest blog because they're so important to so many people. At the time, I brought up the boon format used in Starfinder Society, which provides a character six fixed slots: Ally, Faction, Personal, Promotional, Social, and Starship. Just after the mission briefing, a player can activate one boon of each type, representing the favors she's calling in, the special equipment she's requesting, the faction she's actively representing, or the non-combatant friend that she's bringing along. In addition, there are some slotless boons that represent obligations, reminders, and other extras that we don't want taking up a space or feeling optional (e.g. "Oh, you're out of luck, Mr. Villain, for I didn't slot my 'Mr. Villain will get his revenge' boon today!").

From a design perspective, we've been really happy with Starfinder Society's model. It helps us make informed decisions about scenario power level knowing that each PC only has a handful of upgrades not normally assumed in the RPG, rather than having several dozen upgrades. This is even more important in Starfinder than it is in Pathfinder RPG's first edition because the former has fewer bonus types and thus tighter math, so it behooves us not to throw off the math too much by inundating players with modifier-altering boons. The same is true for Pathfinder's second edition, and we have the same concerns about providing so many campaign bonuses that the gameplay or character design feels drastically different from a "classic" game.

That's nice in theory, at least. At this point, we've had more than a year to see the Starfinder Society boon system in action, and I've been following the boons discussion thread since it began. There are really mixed feelings about boon slots. Some people really like them, in some cases even citing the balance-related reasons above. Some folks feel that the boon slots are too restrictive, preventing someone from using a boon on the fly that they may have kept in their back pocket. For others, the boon slots are confusing or cumbersome, and I've read some very cross commentary that slotting boons just after the mission briefing breaks immersion or grinds play to a halt. For others still, the concept of slotless boons seems very jarring, as though including slotless boons undermines the concept of boon slots as a whole.

In compiling the messageboard feedback and discussing this with the rest of the team, we see three primary ways forward: typed boon slots, universal boon slots, and limited boons. For each of these, there's still a good chance that we'd tag each boon with a type (e.g. Ally or Social) because it provides more design space for us later (e.g. an assassin kills one of your Ally boons—how morbid).

  • In the Typed Boon Slots model, Pathfinder Society's boon system would look a lot like that of Starfinder Society. We would swap out one or more of the boon types (e.g. Starship) for something more befitting the setting and system. For example, we might have a Relic slot that's for especially strange or special gear (like an intelligent weapon), a Downtime slot that provides special uses of the downtime mechanic in second edition, or a Legacy slot that references some reward from a different campaign (like something carried over from first edition or earned in the Adventure Card Guild).
  • In the Universal Boon Slots model, a PC would still have a limited number of slots; however, there would be no Ally boon slot, Social boon slot, or the like. Instead, every slot would be equal. Do you want to slot a pile of Ally boons? Sure. Want to have several Downtime benefits at once? Go for it. Want to represent several factions at a time, gaining all of their benefits? Okay, that would theoretically be possible, even though we haven't worked out quite what it would mean to champion multiple factions simultaneously. Whatever mix of boons you'd want to use, you could do so with universal boon slots. My suspicion is that this would also be a little easier to manage with boon slotting during an adventure, for it would be easier to have a default array of boons that a player tweaks as necessary based on the adventure.
  • If we don't go with boon slots, we really have to consider a Limited Boons model to rein in the potential for mechanical bloat—the gradual increase in character power as more options or rewards become available. Limited boons could translate as awarding roughly the same number of boons as in first edition yet with each boon doing less, yet that's not a terribly fun approach; I can already hear some folks quipping that some First Edition boons are too weak as is. Instead, a Limited Boons model would be one in which boons are overall rarer so that their likelihood of stacking in a disruptive way is reduced. On the other hand, this wouldn't involve boon slots at all. The main complication is what happens to "convention boons," the incentives distributed at conventions, special events, and game days participating in the Regional Support Program. If boons are more rare overall, does that risk making convention rewards overly potent? No doubt we could find a solution, but it's one more hurdle.

What does this mean for slotless boons? Well, there would likely still be some form of Chronicle sheet tracking for events that we want to reference later, but depending on the Chronicle sheet format (see Mike's section below), there might be a means to record some of that in a non-boon format. That way, when you earn the "Grandmaster Torch's cat always hisses at you" outcome, you might not need a boon to remember it; it might instead appear in the adventure summary.

As an aside, one of the fun considerations to come out of our boon slot discussions was the idea of Events, which are ongoing situations that last for one or more scenarios. During the event (or at its end), some special effect would take place. For example, an investment might mature and give you extra gold at the end of an event, or you might earn the assistance of someone important for only a limited time. A Voluntary Event would be one that you could activate between scenarios, but it would likely occupy a boon slot during that time. A Forced Event would be one that happens whether you intended it or not, such as being the subject of negative propaganda that haunts your character for three scenarios—all the while taking up a boon slot. I'm mostly bringing these up as a possibility, and if it's something we want to explore more, we'll likely do so in an upcoming blog.

All told, there are lots of possibilities, and they intersect in many places with our exploration of Chronicle sheets. Michael Sayre takes it from here.

Chronicle Sheets

In addition to the threads we've opened to gather feedback from the community, we've worked internally to find solutions that can make Pathfinder Society more accessible, affordable, and interesting. I'll be discussing some of the proposals we have for what Chronicle sheets will look at in the new campaign and what goals the various styles are trying to address. Before I can do that to any meaningful degree though, you'll want to check out four different references: Chronicle sheet 1, Chronicle sheet 2, Chronicle sheet 3, Chronicle sheet 4, and a sample log sheet. I'll be referencing these below as well as in our Chronicle sheet survey.

One of the major goals we'd like to accomplish is maximizing the real estate on each Chronicle sheet, and we're looking to tackle that in a few different ways. First, most Chronicle sheets would present a single significant boon related to the adventure, as well as only small selection of magic items that would not commonly be available to players. Wealth would be evenly distributed across scenarios, rather than having the current situation that can occur where some adventures which give somewhat more wealth are preferable to play over other adventures that give somewhat less. Ultimately, if something appears on a Chronicle sheet, we want it to be significant and as broadly applicable as possible for the largest number of characters, though this doesn't mean we won't include particularly cool items that appeal more to (for example) fighters than wizards or vice versa when the adventure calls for it.

We quickly discovered that the community had all kinds of feedback on how Chronicle sheets are currently handled and what pieces of the Chronicle sheets people felt were pulling their weight and which were lagging behind. We also heard from a lot of event coordinators concerned with the growing costs of printing Chronicle sheets at events. In addition we're considering various proposals to allow players to experience stories in the manner most appealing to them, normalizing the value of Chronicle sheets in wealth, number and value of boons, and other areas across scenarios.

Chronicle sheet proposal 1 is the closest approximation to our current Chronicle sheet that we believe would be viable going into the new system. This full sheet style should be easily stored in a standard binder or character folio and has space for us to include a brief synopsis of the adventure in which you earned the Chronicle sheet, a small space for tracking purchases, and room for adventure-specific notes.

Chronicle sheet proposal 2 uses a 2-by-2, four-to-a-page style that should reduce costs for GMs and event coordinators who would normally be printing off 6 separate sheets of paper. Since this style only has room for a boon and item, it would need to be used in conjunction with the Scenario Logsheet (see the link above) or a similar tracking sheet.

Chronicle sheet proposal 3 features a 3-column, landscape oriented Chronicle sheet that gives us more room for boons and unique items while still reducing the print-load on GMs and event coordinators. This version would also require the Scenario Logsheet or a similar tracking sheet.

Chronicle sheet proposal 4 is a cardstock style sheet where each Chronicle sheet would be a single boon card. In this example we would generally not include magic items on Chronicles, unless the item was of Uncommon or greater rarity; instead Common rarity items would be broadly available based on your character's level. Beyond just the printing cost, though, this has the advantage of providing a smaller surface area that could let a player keep any slotted or active boons very accessible at the table.

Let us know what you think of the new proposals, and which options you'd most like to use going forward! We're including a link to both the Boons survey and the Chronicle sheet survey here, each of which include optional free response sections.

Pathfinder Society Boon Survey

Pathfinder Society Chronicle Sheet Survey

John Compton and Michael Sayre
Organized Play Lead Developer and Developer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Organized Play Pathfinder Playtest Pathfinder Society
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***** ⦵⦵⦵

Mekkis wrote:
Alex Wreschnig wrote:

Cost-savings is an interesting proposition, because only one of these proposals (the business card proposal) actually saves money, and the amount of money saved is pretty miniscule unless you're at the scale of a Gencon or something. I don't think we should be making cost decisions for a massive organized play campaign based on the tiny sample size that is very large conventions.

** spoiler omitted **...

One thing you've missed is that as a GM (or organiser), you'll need to have Log Sheets printed out and available to your players too. At a minimum, it'll be one page per three player-slots, but let's be honest. With walk-ins, new players and lost sheets, I'd be surprised that it'd be less than one page per two player-slots.

So even the business-card sized pages would not be significantly cheaper.

1) you'd only need to print off one sheet per new player or character, or 1 per 25th or however many rows there are.

2) and this is the real saver, because the logbook is universal you make 1 trip to the copier print off 100 of them, and they're good for this con, that game day, and the next con, and probably the one after that. As opposed to needing 7 copies of Cupcakes and Crumpets when 3 people show up, tossing those 4 and then needing to print off 7 copies of Death by Pie for the next gameday/convnetion.

*****

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Mekkis wrote:


One thing you've missed is that as a GM (or organiser), you'll need to have Log Sheets printed out and available to your players too. At a minimum, it'll be one page per three player-slots, but let's be honest. With walk-ins, new players and lost sheets, I'd be surprised that it'd be less than one page per two player-slots.

So even the business-card sized pages would not be significantly cheaper.

1) you'd only need to print off one sheet per new player or character, or 1 per 25th or however many rows there are.

There are three rows in the Sample Logsheet. Hence 1 per three player-slots is the minimum.

Scarab Sages ****

How does online handle the ACG logsheets? How is it proposed online handle one for PFS?

***** ⦵⦵⦵

Mekkis wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Mekkis wrote:


One thing you've missed is that as a GM (or organiser), you'll need to have Log Sheets printed out and available to your players too. At a minimum, it'll be one page per three player-slots, but let's be honest. With walk-ins, new players and lost sheets, I'd be surprised that it'd be less than one page per two player-slots.

So even the business-card sized pages would not be significantly cheaper.

1) you'd only need to print off one sheet per new player or character, or 1 per 25th or however many rows there are.

There are three rows in the Sample Logsheet. Hence 1 per three player-slots is the minimum.

Ahh okay Missed that turn.

***

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Mekkis wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Mekkis wrote:


One thing you've missed is that as a GM (or organiser), you'll need to have Log Sheets printed out and available to your players too. At a minimum, it'll be one page per three player-slots, but let's be honest. With walk-ins, new players and lost sheets, I'd be surprised that it'd be less than one page per two player-slots.

So even the business-card sized pages would not be significantly cheaper.

1) you'd only need to print off one sheet per new player or character, or 1 per 25th or however many rows there are.

There are three rows in the Sample Logsheet. Hence 1 per three player-slots is the minimum.
Ahh okay Missed that turn.

Three adventures to a sheet of paper is still a big reduction, and completely eliminates the waste of unused sheets. The unused sheet waste is a big draw for me for a log sheet system.

***

Ferious Thune wrote:
How does online handle the ACG logsheets? How is it proposed online handle one for PFS?

I'm not sure how ACG handles online logs, but if the GM fills out the top entry of a fresh sheet, the player can keep separate files for each adventure log, or edit their logs together as they like.

Scarab Sages ****

GM OfAnything wrote:
Ferious Thune wrote:
How does online handle the ACG logsheets? How is it proposed online handle one for PFS?
I'm not sure how ACG handles online logs, but if the GM fills out the top entry of a fresh sheet, the player can keep separate files for each adventure log, or edit their logs together as they like.

It seems like it will get trickier if you’re playig both in person and online. Either you end up with several extra sheets, or you have to scan in your in person sheets and do a lot of copy and paste.

I like the idea in general. I just want to make sure that all of the play venues are considered, so those issues don’t have to be worked through after the fact.

*****

So signatures from the GM will no longer be required if we move away from Sheet 1?

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

3 people marked this as a favorite.

The signature is an essential part of the validation/audit system. It’s why we have to answer that question before we can really decide on what experience tracking will look like for PFS2. If we decide that GMs/organizers are no longer expect to check chronicles, audit characters, etc and we go to a 100% “trust the player” model, then there is really no reason to have chronicles at all and a simple ledger-based tracker will suffice. Just something for the player to track the character’s history.

If OTOH, we continue with the expectation of audits, then we have to have a healthy records program that allows and supports up to full character audits and requires the signature of the GMs to validate the player actually played the games and earned the rewards.

***** ⦵⦵⦵

Bob Jonquet wrote:

The signature is an essential part of the validation/audit system. It’s why we have to answer that question before we can really decide on what experience tracking will look like for PFS2. If we decide that GMs/organizers are no longer expect to check chronicles, audit characters, etc and we go to a 100% “trust the player” model, then there is really no reason to have chronicles at all and a simple ledger-based tracker will suffice. Just something for the player to track the character’s history.

If OTOH, we continue with the expectation of audits, then we have to have a healthy records program that allows and supports up to full character audits and requires the signature of the GMs to validate the player actually played the games and earned the rewards.

I don't see any connection, at all, between chronicle vs ledger and audits or no audits. Its like do you want to be chaotic or do you want to be good.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Because I'm me, I dummied up a couple of ideas for baseball/Magic/trading card size (2.5 inches x 3.5 inches) boon handouts. Of all the non-full page options, I think everyone agrees that's the easiest to keep track of because there are many commercial storage options available.

The first example is a handout with basic lore and a download code. The GM would scratch out boons not earned. The players type in all the codes for the boons they earned in that scenario and get a single full-page chronicle with those boons.

The second example is using a Starfinder-type slotted boon system. The full text of the boon is on the card (one boon per card) and the GM hands out the boon cards that are earned. The players don't need anything else.

I played around with putting the full text of all the boons on one card, but the typeface is just too small.

***

I like your second example, but I'd prefer the text rotated to portrait. I think it would be neat to have a format that could be sent to a print-on-demand service for trading cards for your favorite characters.

With this format, I imagine I would sleeve the boons with penny cards and keep them in a box with labeled separators.


Y'know, we as a society have iterated and optimize on the practice of hard-copy record keeping for centuries, and we've landed on the letter/A4 sized paper being the most common - I see no reason to move away from that.

My personal preference is that any time a character is interacted with, it has a record - this is to make a history of the character, and make it clear to whoever decides to look at it what has happened to that character over its life. To me, the gap in that is the period BETWEEN sessions (which, frankly, I spend almost as much time on as in the session it seems). Equipment purchases/upgrades, level advancement, retraining, etc. All the things I spend hours at my desk mulling over - and they have no real place in the character's current records. The sale/purchases/notes sections of the chronicles should, in my mind, be limited to what is done during the session. I don't think I should be spending a ton of time writing all over a chronicle sheet that has already been signed by a gm, and it doesn't make sense to wait until AFTER the next session to record those things that were done before the session on the next chronicle sheet.

I know many here are adverse to 'more paper', but I honestly can't imagine a better way to track it than to have a sheet that a player CAN use between sessions, if for no other reason than it is just easier for them to do in their leisure, and it makes the chronicle given out AT the session limited in scope to the session itself.

CraziFuzzy's Downtime Tracking Sheet

Something like this would be able to be printed at home, BY THE PLAYER (for those concerned about chronicle printing costs), and at their leisure. They would not be compulsory, but the purchases/retraining need to be recorded somewhere, so it's up to them to use it or keep it in some form that can then be recorded on the next chronicle. And of course, there are times when nothing is done between sessions, in which case, no downtime sheet would be needed.


I'm not sure I get how the boon card ideas being floated about would work, in practice. When I compare my practice of having a report folder for each character, with his/her series of chronicles in chronological order, all letter sized, and neatly bound, to a stack of cards, kept separate from my letter sized character sheets, my head hurts.

Scarab Sages ****

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I think the idea is that they would fit into playing card/baseball card plastic sheets, which hold multiple cards to a page. So you could keep them in a binder like normal, provided you buy some of those card holding sheets.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Are baseball cards the same size as Magic cards? Because MtG is actually a more internationally standardized format for both folders and sleeves than Letter/A4. You can pick up suitable binders for anything MtG-card sized in any game store.

Scarab Sages ****

That's what I meant by playing cards. I'm pretty sure MtG cards are roughly the same size as a standard deck of cards. Though it's been a while since I've played.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

Baseball/Trading/Magic cards are standardized at 2.5 inches x 3.5 inches.

Playing Cards (A,K,Q..Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades) are usually slightly narrower at 2.25 inches x 3.5 inches.

Scarab Sages ****

Thanks. They would all fit in the magic card sleeves, anyway.


How is needing thicker, and heavier, plastic sheets to hold a few boons each, in addition to other half or third sized chronicles (not as common a sleeve), better than just a single full sized chronicle sheet that has the boon on it, that don't require any sort of extra accessory over a project folder for the entire character?

***** ⦵⦵⦵

CraziFuzzy wrote:
How is needing thicker, and heavier, plastic sheets to hold a few boons each, in addition to other half or third sized chronicles (not as common a sleeve), better than just a single full sized chronicle sheet that has the boon on it, that don't require any sort of extra accessory over a project folder for the entire character?

1 sheet holds all your boons Or of you need to see them all laid out 1 sheet holds 18 boons.

Scarab Sages ****

I’m not saying it’s better or worse. Just offering my understanding of why it’s being presented as an option. Personally, I’m not thrilled about having to cut up the boons as a GM. But that’s a minor inconvenience.

The other thing it allows is separating the gold/prestige earned from the boons. Which opens up the possibility of having a single log sheet to track all of your rewards from all of your scenarios.

Sovereign Court **** ⦵⦵⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, Georgia—Atlanta aka The Masked Ferret

You can still have a single log sheet for your numerical rewards, you just also have to have it on the chronicle sheets.

Scarab Sages ****

I'm not sure I understand what you're suggesting? Do you just mean you can include all of the totals on the chronicle?

What I mean is, instead of getting a chronicle, the GM would fill in a row on your Adventure Record or whatever you want to call it. That was suggested upthread. I don't remember by who. So you wouldn't get a chronicle for every adventure. Just a line on your record. If there is a boon earned, you would get a separate, card-sized paper with the boon on it. So instead of 20 adventures played, 20 full sized sheets of paper, you would have 1 sheet of paper with 20 adventures recorded on it, and some number of smaller cards with boons.

Again, I don't know if I prefer that or not, but that's part of what moving to separating the boons from the chronicle/record/whatever for the adventure makes possible. I think I like the idea of a single sheet record, but my main concerns continue to be around managing that in an online environment, and whether it then becomes more time consuming than just issuing a chronicle.

Sovereign Court **** ⦵⦵⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, Georgia—Atlanta aka The Masked Ferret

Well, I would personally prefer keeping it to 1 Letter/A4 page, myself.

I also keep a separate single sheet log sometimes.

Scarab Sages ****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I finally listened to most of the Know Direction podcast from yesterday. On it, John said they are strongly leaning toward keeping it a full page, based on the feedback from the survey. So that answers that.

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