Organized Play Sanctioning Update - April 2022

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Greetings, players! With the Book of the Dead release coming next week, we wanted to take a moment to talk about sanctioning content. The rulebook resulted in a fair amount of discussion internally, and we thought it was a good idea to take a step back and look at how our sanctioning works.

Why We Sanction Content

Regularly, the OP team is asked (directly or indirectly) why we sanction content. After all, other campaigns just let people play whatever they want whenever they want, so why don’t we? While that would be a lot less work, it’s important to us that the campaign remains as balanced and fair as possible. One of the hallmarks of Paizo Organized Play is that no matter what table you’re playing at worldwide, the players at the table are all playing with the same general rules and power level.

To that end, there are three main reasons why we might ban or restrict an option in the campaign these days:

  1. It’s evil. Evil options are banned by default in the campaign, so any evil deities are right out. This extends to options that have evil or unsavory flavor to them; in Book of the Dead, for example, there’s a familiar that’s made with the blood of a murder victim. That’s a little beyond the pale for us, so it’s not likely to be allowed.
  2. It’s unbalanced. This one is pretty rare in Pathfinder Society these days and is much more likely to come up in Starfinder Society. Still, occasionally options sneak through that skew the power balance and require us to bring down the metaphorical banhammer.
  3. There’s too much GM adjudication. These sorts of options are great for home campaigns where you can work with your GM to either determine their ruling for an unclear rule, or set up a legendary quest to obtain your one-of-a-kind soulforged armor. However, in a global campaign where the Organized Play staff is the GM, some of these options require too much adjudication to ensure a uniform table experience.

There are other reasons why an option might be removed, of course, but these are the three major ones. To that end, let’s talk about Book of the Dead.

A ghostly female cleric of Desna

Illustration by Jason Artuz


Book of the Dead

Let’s start with the bad news: the playable undead options won’t be available in the campaign when the book is released next week. We discussed them extensively during our sanctioning review, and ultimately we decided that, for now, they aren’t going to be accessible. This is due to a combo of some of the reasons we discussed above: there are balance concerns with some of them, but all of them come with a little bit more evil than we’re comfortable with.

Consider the zombie archetype, which requires a zombie to consume the brain of one sentient creature per day. This has a little too much potential to disrupt scenarios in our view; we certainly don’t want to incentivize players to attack otherwise friendly NPCs just to get their daily serving of brains, and not all players will be comfortable with the idea of a fellow PC chowing down on a recently-defeated enemy spellcaster.

Despite the existence of playable undead options, the design team has confirmed that undead are still pretty uniformly evil, and universally still abhorrent to the natural cycle of life in Golarion. Certainly there are options for PCs that are both undead and neutral, but with this guidance from the design team, we felt it was best to keep the undead in the ground for the moment. All that being said, we’ve got a plan to integrate the skeleton ancestry early in PFS Year 4, so start saving your Achievement Points and stay tuned for that information. It’s also possible that some of the less-problematic undead archetypes might see play as the result of actions in a scenario, or as a charity boon sent out to conventions.

As a point of good news, we’ll be sanctioning the adventure contained within the book, “March of the Dead,” for Pathfinder Society credit in adventure mode! We’re trying something a little new with this one; we felt the adventure was longer than one session of play, but shorter than a full adventure, so this adventure will provide credit for two sessions worth of XP, treasure and Reputation. The chronicle can be applied to any of your Pathfinder Society characters. Let us know how it goes and if this level of credit is useful or if it just causes you problems.

Closing Reminders & Updates

During our discussions on the undead-related options as a whole, a couple of recurring topics came up that we wanted to remind players of or clarify.

First of all, evil characters are prohibited in the campaign. This extends beyond alignment; your characters should be willing and capable of working together with a group to complete your mission. Your characters should not disrupt play by randomly attacking other characters or NPCs, performing evil actions, or otherwise causing chaos unless such chaos is both warranted within the scenario and enjoyed by all at the table, including the GM. As options with eviler flavor come into the campaign, such as undead companions and eidolons, players should maintain the same level of respect and decorum. “But it’s what my character would do!” is not justification for mayhem and disrespect.

Second of all, a character never violates their anathema simply by joining a mission. This has come up before with superstition instinct barbarians, but once again, the undead threaten to disrupt this. Characters that follow Pharasma or other deities that abhor undead are not obligated to immediately smite a skeleton PC or a ghostly animal companion. The gods will not bring down righteous fury simply because you were unlucky enough to sit at the wrong table. (Now, if you encounter different skeletons in a tomb and don’t smite them, then Pharasma will be very displeased.)

We hope you enjoy playing with the options in Book of the Dead that are sanctioned when it’s released next week. There are still plenty of legal options for those players who want to more effectively fight against undead as well as those who want to give their characters a bit more undead flavor. Until next time—Explore! Report! Cooperate! And don’t forget to check under your bed!

Alex Speidel
Organized Play Coordinator

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Tags: Organized Play Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Pathfinder Society Pathfinder Society Scenarios
Sovereign Court 1/5 *** Venture-Agent, Indiana—Indianapolis

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Understandable all around. I look forward to seeing what other content from BotD is sanctioned in the future.
One question I do have about sanctioning is if any of the adventures from Beadle and Grimm's Absalom Gold Edition will be sanctioned for Society? Thanks

Liberty's Edge 5/5 **** Venture-Lieutenant, Virginia—Fairfax

I look forward to early Season 4. I suspect around Halloween to really see it come out.

Dark Archive 4/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Turku

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Understandable, and I appreciate a lot that you took the time to explain why and how stuff is (or rather, isn't) sanctioned.

Skeleton ancestry sounds super exciting, though, and it certainly brings hope that maybe one day we'll see other undead options too! (Looking at you, ghost and lich archetypes >.>)

5/5 5/55/55/5

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Tomppa wrote:


Skeleton ancestry sounds super exciting, though, and it certainly brings hope that maybe one day we'll see other undead options too! (Looking at you, ghost and lich archetypes >.>)

Aren't we all skeletons though?

5/5 5/55/55/5

13 people marked this as a favorite.

Pharasmite in robes looking through an enormous book

"Where does it say I can adventure with you but have to kill every other skeleton and necromancer I find? "

"It's the pathfinder section, right after the begats "

"Huh, and WHY do pathfinders have an exception in the holy book of pharasma?"

"Bulk discount"

Dark Archive *

I knew the chances were low, but I was really holding my breath on the Lich Archetype being allowed. Oh well.. Just means I don't have to spend my AcP to buy the boon and rebuild a PC to fit the build.

Sczarni 5/5 5/55/5 ***

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Thank you for providing something to point to when we encounter the random Murderhobo during online play ^_^

1/5 * RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Understandable but disappointing. I would have liked to play a Gebbite spy for the society.

Silver Crusade 5/5 5/55/5 **** Venture-Captain, Germany—Bavaria

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Great blog I am looking forward to how the team is integrating the Skeletons into the Society with season 4. Thank you for that very thoughtful blog entry.

Grand Lodge 2/5 Pathfinder Society Developer

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I'm excited about the story justification we came up with for skeletons (eventually) becoming an option in Pathfinder Society, and the author of the adventure in question did an excellent job making our idea come to life (pun intended).

Wish I could say more, as I'm just as excited as everyone else for Year 4... but I can't!

Scarab Sages 1/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Virginia—Richmond

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I wasn't expecting to be able to play undead at all, so the playable skeletons come as a surprise.

I wonder if it's related to the Season 3 closing special.

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Captain, Online—VTT

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Nefreet wrote:
Thank you for providing something to point to when we encounter the random Murderhobo during online play ^_^

Or IRL play! The MH's know no limits on where they spawn.

Very much looking forwards to the season 4 stuff, sounds like some very neat plans in the offing! :D

Second Seekers (Jadnura) 5/55/55/55/5

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Thanks for the great explanation Alex!

1/5 **

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Good blog and much appreciated. Thank you, Alex and team.

The Exchange 2/5 ****

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I've still got 10gp on

Spoiler:
Ollysta Zadrian not being dead enough to come back as a skeleton and rejoin the Society.

But I get why other dead types likely aren't recruited. I guess my Lich wannabe concept will have to be relegated to a home campaign somewhere.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder PF Special Edition Subscriber

Not surprising at all but still very disappointing :c

Guess my lich bard and reanimator summoner—or even reanimator Bard( who doesn't want to control rag tag group of undead via harpsichord?)—won't make it to Society play.

I get the "no gods of very awful stuff"; that's just for keeping tables approachable and sidestepping difficult scenarios and any possible triggers someone may have. Keep it clean, no Kabriri or Zura holidays.

"Imma go munch the evil merc bodies y'all laid out rq, anyone want anything?"
"Okay, you eat your fill and are sated... For now'

I don't see how the above is much different than many neutral players' behavior in Society. Not that I have an issue with it, it's a breath of fresh air tbqh.

Honestly, I was hoping BotD would make Society play more diverse and exciting and open up a whole new world of wild possibilities with Blood Lords on the horizon.

What if undead wanting to change the nature of what it means to be undead? What if there is a way to be at peace with your inner discord and celebrate it?

With everything else that has happened, including a canonical adventure on our Earth, I find the line a little silly to be drawn there lol. We're past Young Frankenstein levels of shenanigans, adding some alignment seasoning I would figure wouldn't be a problem.

2/5 ***

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I for one am quite glad that a lot of the options from the book will not be playable in the society. I like some black and white in fantasy, and undead have always been one of the last bastions of truly evil things that are universally abhored. It always irked me that we have people summoning undead in society play regularly, and many of my more good-aligned or pharasma adjacen characters have to be bent to play with those. A new wave of even more sinister undead type characters is something I can very much live without.

NikkiGrimm wrote:


"Imma go munch the evil merc bodies y'all laid out rq, anyone want anything?"
"Okay, you eat your fill and are sated... For now'

I don't see how the above is much different than many neutral players' behavior in Society. Not that I have an issue with it, it's a breath of fresh air tbqh.

I have never witnessed anything from a neutral aligned character that even comes CLOSE to cannibalism (is it still cannibalism if it is a different species?). Yes, the society has some less than nice people in it, but eating sentient creatures is something I will never be comfortable with, so I am glad that we won't have that at our tables in the near future.

Dataphiles

1 person marked this as a favorite.
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Tomppa wrote:


Skeleton ancestry sounds super exciting, though, and it certainly brings hope that maybe one day we'll see other undead options too! (Looking at you, ghost and lich archetypes >.>)

Aren't we all skeletons though?

That's probably why they are making the exception. Got to get the Skeleton War rolling somehow...

Sovereign Court 5/5 5/5 ** Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Thank you for the reminder of no evil at the table, and thank you for being ahead of the issue of Skeletons with Pharasma/Sarenrae worshippers at the table. I figure for every Sans, there'll be 3 Skeletors and a Spawn.

Horizon Hunters **

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hmmm. A bit more restrictive than I was expecting. I wasn't expecting any of the undead archetypes and skeleton I was expecting 160+ ACP, but I feel like Hallowed Necromancer really fills in a playstyle gap that the campaign is missing. And I may have wanted to turn my lost pet into a ghost familiar.

Such is un-life.

Grand Lodge 3/5 5/55/55/55/5 ****

I didn't see anything saying reanimator or any of the archetypes from Prayers for the Living would be banned. Just the playable undead like ghouls and zombies.

Lantern Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Aren't we all skeletons though?

<Angry Leshy noises>

5/5 5/55/55/5

Donald wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Aren't we all skeletons though?
<Angry Leshy noises>

rustle clack xylem shake shake phloem pith heartwood creak


Brent Bowser wrote:
I figure for every Sans, there'll be 3 Skeletors and a Spawn.

SANESSwww

Dataphiles

9 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber
Quote:
“But it’s what my character would do!” is not justification for mayhem and disrespect.

So I just want to say Alex, thank you VERY much for incorporating this line.

I'd also like to echo it, through a megaphone, for everybody in the back.

I'm a 90s kid and came into TTRPGs via Vampire in that era, which is a game system which gained a following which very heavily emphasized what'd be considered PvP type of play - either by combat or social. A lot of my early interaction with gamers was based on listening to stories about who dicked over who's characters, and when I expanded to other game systems I came to learn about the 'rogue stereotype'; the kind of play style which involved screwing over other people's characters, derailing the game for your own amusement, and generally disrupting the fun of everybody else at the table. "It's what my character would do" was always used as an excuse - and I've seen that excuse not only be treated with genuine recognition and respect in the community over the years, but at times even held up as a shining example of 'good roleplaying'.

It's about damn time that was chucked right in the bin. And the bin set on fire.

Advocates

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Alison-Cybe wrote:
Quote:
“But it’s what my character would do!” is not justification for mayhem and disrespect.

So I just want to say Alex, thank you VERY much for incorporating this line.

I'd also like to echo it, through a megaphone, for everybody in the back.

I'm a 90s kid and came into TTRPGs via Vampire in that era, which is a game system which gained a following which very heavily emphasized what'd be considered PvP type of play - either by combat or social. A lot of my early interaction with gamers was based on listening to stories about who dicked over who's characters, and when I expanded to other game systems I came to learn about the 'rogue stereotype'; the kind of play style which involved screwing over other people's characters, derailing the game for your own amusement, and generally disrupting the fun of everybody else at the table. "It's what my character would do" was always used as an excuse - and I've seen that excuse not only be treated with genuine recognition and respect in the community over the years, but at times even held up as a shining example of 'good roleplaying'.

It's about damn time that was chucked right in the bin. And the bin set on fire.

No no, hear me out, you chuck it in the bin, set the attack bin chickens on it, then when they're done ripping it to shreds, then you extract the bin chickens and set the result on fire.

VtM and other games have their place. But that place is not Pathfinder Society tables (and I say that as someone who plays CN "I'mma thwart your plan to get my jollies" well, but only towards the enemies).

3/5

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Cassi wrote:
Alison-Cybe wrote:
Quote:
“But it’s what my character would do!” is not justification for mayhem and disrespect.

So I just want to say Alex, thank you VERY much for incorporating this line.

I'd also like to echo it, through a megaphone, for everybody in the back.

I'm a 90s kid and came into TTRPGs via Vampire in that era, which is a game system which gained a following which very heavily emphasized what'd be considered PvP type of play - either by combat or social.

VtM and other games have their place. But that place is not Pathfinder Society tables (and I say that as someone who plays CN "I'mma thwart your plan to get my jollies" well, but only towards the enemies).

I don’t want to go off-rails here, but let’s leave the maligning of other systems out of this please? This is not a problem with systems, but with players, and one that I have encountered more times than I wish at Pathfinder Society tables. There is a time for role-playing and a time for acting in a meta-fashion, and the latter occurs when the former would spoil the fun for others at the table. Roleplaying games are a chance to mutually tell a story, with an emphasis on the “mutually”. Explore, report, and most importantly… cooperate!

Silver Crusade 5/5 5/5 **

DrakeRoberts wrote:


I don’t want to go off-rails here, but let’s leave the maligning of other systems out of this please? !

I don't think anybody was intending to malign other systems. I think it is fair and truthful to point out that different games consider different types of behaviour to be acceptable. PvP (or anything that comes very close to it) is NOT acceptable in PFS games. That doesn't mean its bad or poor roleplaying or anything of the sort.

Dataphiles

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Let me represent myself clearly here. I am not in the habit of maligning any game systems; especially not games which, like in this example, I've been a writer for. Please don't interpret any games I've named anecdotally while describing my history of interacting with the TTRPG hobby and industry as any comment on the game itself. It isn't. I don't do that, and I wouldn't damage my professional standing in the industry to do so. Games differ, game design philosophies differ, how the audiences interact with them differs, and how they interact with games in regards to (or sometimes despite) the game design philosophy differs. So if I'm speaking about my own journey through TTRPG history and how I've experienced the community, and name a game while mentioning the way I've seen gamers interact with it, I'm not maligning that game. I'm discussing player behavior.

Anecdotally (and I'll preference again, ANECDOTALLY) I'm not a fan of PvP content in TTRPGs. I have seen, more times than I like, it result in one or two players having fun, while others either have their fun put on hold or disrupted. I am a big proponent of everybody at a gaming table having fun, inclusively. This means in the TTRPG club which I co-manage, we have a simple and straightforward rule involving such content, which is that it must be enthusiastically approved by all players at the table before and during its inclusion. This ensures consensual enjoyment. It also requires unanimous agreement from all players because its inclusion impacts on all parties involved. The argument of "It's what my character would do" subverts the consensual nature of that agreement; it allows one single player to push for the content against other players, sometimes against their will and consent. I'm not okay with that, and I'm glad it isn't a part of the org play format.

3/5 **

Some of the class archetypes look fun!

Paizo Employee 5/55/5 * Organized Play Coordinator

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Psilo Anthro wrote:
One question I do have about sanctioning is if any of the adventures from Beadle and Grimm's Absalom Gold Edition will be sanctioned for Society? Thanks

While I'm sure the adventures are delightful, they were created by B&G and thusly are third-party adventures. We have no plans to sanction them.

Sovereign Court 1/5 *** Venture-Agent, Indiana—Indianapolis

Alex Speidel wrote:
Psilo Anthro wrote:
One question I do have about sanctioning is if any of the adventures from Beadle and Grimm's Absalom Gold Edition will be sanctioned for Society? Thanks
While I'm sure the adventures are delightful, they were created by B&G and thusly are third-party adventures. We have no plans to sanction them.

Thank you. I only asked because I wasn't sure if Paizo had a hand in creating them or not.

Grand Archive 4/5 ***

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Mike Kimmel wrote:

I'm excited about the story justification we came up with for skeletons (eventually) becoming an option in Pathfinder Society, and the author of the adventure in question did an excellent job making our idea come to life (pun intended).

Wish I could say more, as I'm just as excited as everyone else for Year 4... but I can't!

Spoilers for scenario

Name of scenario
Spoiler:
3-10

Actual Spoiler
Spoiler:
I have my money on this necromancer who apparently makes humanoid skeletons out of animal bones...

Dark Archive 4/5 ** Venture-Agent, Finland—Tampere

Mike Kimmel wrote:

I'm excited about the story justification we came up with for skeletons (eventually) becoming an option in Pathfinder Society, and the author of the adventure in question did an excellent job making our idea come to life (pun intended).

Wish I could say more, as I'm just as excited as everyone else for Year 4... but I can't!

I'm sad if it doesn't involve lodges in Geb ;D

3/5 **

Has the sanctioning document for Book 9f the Dead been released?

2/5 *** Venture-Agent, Texas—Austin

It was released immediately. It's on the Character Options page and all of the boons for sanctioned uncommon content are available.

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber

I hope ghost archetype along with skeletons will be sanctioned. The ghost hunger is not necessarily evil or even off putting.


I was hoping BotD would make Society play more diverse and exciting and open up a whole new world of wild possibilities with Blood Lords on the horizon.

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