Let's Talk Meta-Plot


Pathfinder Society

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Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

At Gen Con I heard some grousing about the lack of a coherent meta-plot for the Pathfinder Society campaign. I suspect this is in part driven by the focus of the faction prestige system changing from a competition of team vs. team to a personal goal related to availability of rewards. And the fact that we haven't announced which faction "won" season 0.

I've heard people requesting more linkages between adventures, more of a sense of "something going on" in the campaign beyond the events of a given scenario.

Do you feel this way?

Do you disagree, and prefer things the way they are now?

Do you wish your in-character actions had more of an impact on the overall "plot" of the campaign?

Should the campaign have an overall "plot" at all?

Please discuss.

Liberty's Edge 2/5 5/5

Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Erik Mona wrote:
Do you feel this way?

Absolutely. For me, the sense of things moving and shifting in the world - preferably combined with the sense of me personally having been part of that shift - is a large part of what appeals to me about living campaigns, and moreover has a great deal of potential for moving PFS beyond a series of simple hack and slash mods to something that presents a larger vision.

Erik Mona wrote:
Do you wish your in-character actions had more of an impact on the overall "plot" of the campaign?

Again, definitely. A mechanism - any mechanism, really, though I have my preferences - for representing character actions within the scope of the campaign and the campaign world on a permanent, shared-world basis would be a huge advantage for me. If I want to, say, establish a shrine to Erastil within Absalom, it would be awesome to have some means to accomplish that. If, for instance, there were a scenario wherein the Pathfinder Lodge came under attack and my group went above and beyond to save Venture-Captain Hestram's life, it would be nice to know that it mattered - and if we failed, it would be nice to know that that mattered too.

For examples of how this might work, I would direct you to the Shadowrun Missions and Heroes of Rokugan shared-world campaigns, both of which have mechanisms that specifically reflect player actions within the larger plotlines.

Erik Mona wrote:
Should the campaign have an overall "plot" at all?

Plots are what separate relatively meaningless dungeon crawls from actual storytelling. Please, please, please, bring one in.

Silver Crusade

Oh, by Sarenrae, Iomedae, and Cayden Cailien, no! I really was put off by the notion of Faction competition, and am really glad to see Presige Awards change function. I don't want too much meta-plot either. I saw that a lot in Living Greyhawk, and it really irritated me since I didn't play all that often, and could sometimes end up playing mods out of order.


Personally, I think that, while recurring characters and themes might be fun, having an overall meta plot would be a mistake. I'm not saying that a meta plot in Organized Play is automatically a bad thing, but I don't think it fits for Organized Play that is focused on the Pathfinder Society.

If the meta plot turns into say, a race to activate or deactivate a super artifact before it does X or before Y can activate it or whatever, instead of individual missions where Pathfinders go on adventures for fame and glory, you have an organization that now has the appearance of being in the hero business.

While I get that the initial idea of one of the factions "winning" and it having an effect on the campaign, I think it sounds great in theory, but I do think it would be detrimental overall, and I can see why it was dropped. I also think telling people who won and then telling them that it has no effect will tend to open up a can of worms where people will complain for years to come about how their faction did all this hard work and it was never recognized.

I love the Pathfinder Society as a construct for organized play precisely because it can allow for very episodic missions. You, individually, can be proud of what your adventurer has done, and look at his wealth and abilities that he has gained, and you can take the character to another table and still enjoy the fruits of your labor. You can share that character with new people at a convention, then come home and play with your friends again, and bring new stories back to your home table.

I really think trying to create too much of a meta plot erodes the magic of what really does work about the Pathfinder Society.


Anything that helps the world come alive is a definite plus. Meta-plot, when carefully used, is a great tool for making players come back to the game time and time again. Meta-plot works. Proof positive, the immense popularity of television series with strong, elaborate and very long meta-plot structures. I for one would really like my character's actions to matter. There should be more in-game reasons for accomplishing missions, otherwise you're just looking for excuses to kill people and take their stuff.


I understand what you are saying, but I just don't think it works as well in practice as it might seem.

For one thing, what if a major resolution to a meta plot isn't played in the right order, or at all? In that case, for some players there still isn't a meta plot, and you have editors and writers jumping through hoops to try and establish something that won't even be fully effective unless someone plays the adventures in order, and the majority of them.

I agree that adventures should go out of their way to make sure to add established Golarion tropes to adventures, but I think you can do this without a meta plot.

I also think that its really hard to establish motive for characters outside of a home game unless players kind of agree to what the reasons for being in the campaign are to begin with. In the case of the Pathfinder Society, the motivation of the players are that they are restless adventurers, people that want to get rich and famous and people that tend to be adrenaline junkies.

This is the baseline assumption for a character even joining the Pathfinder Society. If a character in PFS OP isn't already willing to risk his life for a bit of a thrill, the chance to do something no one else has done, and the glint of gold, then that character is a bit of a odd ball within the baseline of the OP campaign.

Sovereign Court

Erik Mona wrote:


I've heard people requesting more linkages between adventures, more of a sense of "something going on" in the campaign beyond the events of a given scenario.
Do you feel this way?

Yes I do, I think a meta-plot is essential for character buy in. Giving some of the modules tie-ins creates a more complex world and our opportunity to be part of it. I have worked in administering several living campaigns and found that people really crave the meta-plot or multiple story-line modules. Anytime we published a module that was a one off or dealt with an old unresolved issue we got a bit of grumbling that they wanted to be involved in the current themes of the campaign. This enhances their ability to roleplay gives them additional hooks and buy in to the story. One off modules really only allow you to develop shallow rp shtick, where as when a player is faced with an ongoing storyline/plot the things that happen may influence them to grow more depth and become more involved.

You are releasing 36 modules each year? That is really quite a bit. After 36 random adventures I think things would begin to become stale, it lends itself to frivolous and seemly meaningless assignments. It becomes hard to make changes in the world or create consistency when things are not related and may lead to some odd inconstancies in the future. What is the impact of our characters, what is really developing in the world. These are important questions from an rp standpoint and a character enjoyment standpoint. Currently there is none, which is somewhat disappointing.

Being part of a story that is unfolding has far longer lasting impressions on a player then one off adventures. Pathfinder has amazing supplemental information rich detailed world books, complex religions and fascinating political content. A one off module really only lets us dip our toes into the wonderful world that is created. A longer story path will delve deeper into issues, explore things that can’t be done by single modules and give us the sense of depth and wonder that reading the pathfinder books do. The more time invested in a story increases our commitment and investment in its outcome. People will want to save characters for various storylines so they don’t out level content, they may create specific characters inspired by an ongoing story line. I think that a meta-plot is essential for continued growth of the campaign and to retain interest beyond the basic game play enjoyment.

I was really hoping that when season 1 started the modules would be more on the lines of the adventure paths. Those are amazingly good, detailed rich stories that are a campaign. What we have now is a series of games and fails to feel like a campaign to me.

Erik Mona wrote:


Do you wish your in-character actions had more of an impact on the overall "plot" of the campaign?

Should the campaign have an overall "plot" at all?

Yes! Yes! Yes! Actually I think that with 36 modules a year you desperately need one. Otherwise you may end up with a world that doesn’t really make any sense when people try to put the modules together to understand the world.

I would suggest that you have 4 or 5 main story lines and devote 4-6 modules to each story line every year so there are still room for the one off adventures that can be used to explore smaller topics. Now some of those story lines may complete after a year or two but just create more. The 4 or 5 main story lines will tie into the meta-plot or the direction you want the overall story /campaign to go.


So, to bring this together with another PFS thread, once we get a meta plot going, and I have players wanting to play part 2, 3, or 4 of a linked series so they know how it turns out, and I have to play these in order, and some of the people at my table have already played a few of them out of sequence, and you can't replay them . . . what happens?

Potentially half my table can't play?

In the pursuit of a meta plot that is just as engaging as a home game tailored for the specific characters, its very easy to turn this into a juggernaut that really only works if someone is running it as their home campaign.


Erik Mona wrote:
Do you feel this way?

I'm new to the campaign, but if others feel that it's lacking, I'd like to request, "more linkages between adventures, more of a sense of 'something going on' in the campaign beyond the events of a given scenario."

Erik Mona wrote:
Do you wish your in-character actions had more of an impact on the overall "plot" of the campaign?

Again, new, but I'd like in-character actions to have a big impact on the plot.

Erik Mona wrote:
Should the campaign have an overall "plot" at all?

Absolutely!

Liberty's Edge

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

I agree wholeheartedly with KEJr. A metaplot with modules that can be played in any order is incredibly difficult to achieve. In fact, I'm not sure it's achievable without forcing an order on people, which is not what I want in PFS, especially as I get to play so few of them.

Now, linked modules is another matter and I don't mind extended 2 or 3 part mini campaigns as long as they're clearly labelled. Recurring characters are also a cool idea that more advantage should be taken of,. Especially reusing adventure captains to give the missions occasionally.


i think having one overarching metaplot is a bad idea. i think having multiple, smaller meta-plots is a much better way to go... more of the idea of linked adventures that folks have been talking about.

one of the things that i loved most about LG was the feeling of taking part in an unfolding storyline (or storylines) rather than just playing a bunch of random four hour scenarios. in my opinion, this is one of things that an Organized Play environment is really about.

what i'd really love to see sometime in the future is a much wider, regionalized "Living Golarion" sort of campaign. the PFS is great, and a wonderful tool for why a random bunch of adventurers are thrown together, but sometimes the "This famous Pathfinder is missing and we need you to find him" hook gets a little old (it's actually a bit of a running joke at the beginning of our local PFS sessions).

Dark Archive

Paul Watson wrote:

I agree wholeheartedly with KEJr. A metaplot with modules that can be played in any order is incredibly difficult to achieve. In fact, I'm not sure it's achievable without forcing an order on people, which is not what I want in PFS, especially as I get to play so few of them.

Now, linked modules is another matter and I don't mind extended 2 or 3 part mini campaigns as long as they're clearly labeled. Recurring characters are also a cool idea that more advantage should be taken of,. Especially reusing adventure captains to give the missions occasionally.

Ditto what KEJr & PW said. With replaying outlawed, the best we can hope for is linked modules like The Devil We Know parts 1 & 2. I haven't had a chance to play them yet, so I don't know how "linked" they are or if they are any more satisfying to play than two unrelated scenarios.

Dark Archive

If 'meta-plot' is used in the sense of the average TV show, where a storyline that happened earlier might be referenced in a later episode, or a couple of events in a 'season' foreshadow / tie in to something big at the end, cool.

It would be neat, for instance, if a faction's mission throughout a 'season' led up to something near the end. Say, the Osirioni have been gathering up relics and map fragments and ancient tales that lead them to an item or location that becomes relevant in one of the 'final five episodes' while all of the money that the Qadirans have been amassing is spent on a mercenary unit whose fate is the cornerstone of another of the 'final five' episodes, or something. (Tying all five faction missions together into one climactic final episode would also be an option, but I require coffee before I could flesh out an example.)

If 'meta-plot' is used in the way it was (IMO, horribly mis-)used in the end of the World of Darkness, the Aberrant setting (which had an exciting 'adventure' where the party stood by and watched as two of the settings uber-NPCs duked it out) or the Forgotten Realms (where entire classes, nations and even *gods* came and went as part of NPC-driven world-altering 'storylines'), then, no, thank you.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Set wrote:

If 'meta-plot' is used in the sense of the average TV show, where a storyline that happened earlier might be referenced in a later episode, or a couple of events in a 'season' foreshadow / tie in to something big at the end, cool.

It would be neat, for instance, if a faction's mission throughout a 'season' led up to something near the end. Say, the Osirioni have been gathering up relics and map fragments and ancient tales that lead them to an item or location that becomes relevant in one of the 'final five episodes' while all of the money that the Qadirans have been amassing is spent on a mercenary unit whose fate is the cornerstone of another of the 'final five' episodes, or something. (Tying all five faction missions together into one climactic final episode would also be an option, but I require coffee before I could flesh out an example.)

If 'meta-plot' is used in the way it was (IMO, horribly mis-)used in the end of the World of Darkness, the Aberrant setting (which had an exciting 'adventure' where the party stood by and watched as two of the settings uber-NPCs duked it out) or the Forgotten Realms (where entire classes, nations and even *gods* came and went as part of NPC-driven world-altering 'storylines'), then, no, thank you.

This captures my opinion pretty well, too.

I also think the best way to do the links would probably be to link across tiers, as characters progress, rather than to try and pull off closely linked mods.


I don't know, it seems to me that it will be a lot of work and only pay off for a few people that manage to play through the season in order. In fact, if the "build up" works a certain way, not only will the PCs not feel the payoff, the adventure will be confusing because the way they played, the "effect" will happen before the "cause."

That having been said, once there are more adventures, a few two or three part adventures probably wouldn't be bad, since it wouldn't be as hard to play those sequentially, and if you don't, it doesn't feel like as much of a waste.

I guess I'm thinking that an episodic plot structure is fine for organized play.


A metaplot would be a good thing. The adventures would be a lot more meaningful if their outcome actually mattered at all. Currently they're just excuses to roll some dice, without any real meaning behind it beyond the current scenario.

A well done metaplot will get characters to care more about the world they adventure in and less about the gold and prestige award they get at the end of each scenario. This reason is enough for me to desire a metaplot.

Edit: Also, I'll echo everything Set and logic_poet said.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Erik Mona wrote:

I've heard people requesting more linkages between adventures, more of a sense of "something going on" in the campaign beyond the events of a given scenario.

Do you feel this way?

Do you disagree, and prefer things the way they are now?

Do you wish your in-character actions had more of an impact on the overall "plot" of the campaign?

Should the campaign have an overall "plot" at all?

I am firmly in the group that believes dropping the group faction rewards was a bad thing. Our entire group of people didn't know about it going into this year, and our two new members were very excited that we were going to be able to influence something and spent literally hours hemming and hawing over factions because they wanted to make sure they got "just the right one". Hearing now that it's all based on personal rewards turns the entire society into something "less". That sense of community with the casual "nods" to those at your table who are playing with your (not just with you as a Pathfinder group) was fun and added something to the gameplay experience.

I also agree that you need to be very careful with your meta-plot. Having an overreaching story line where at the end of a "season" the background is modified and influences the next season's events in a more behind-the-scenes manner might be a more manageable way of dealing with things. It could be as simple as having more adventures in the winner's territory, or providing a minor boon to all involved with that side, or simply influencing the story for the next year.

Another option is to reward the winners with an instant gratification (the minor boon I was talking about) but provide all those who participated in losing factions some kind of ongoing advantage against the winners the next year as their factions struggle to maintain the balance (for example once Cheliax wins, maybe Taldor and Qadira need start "working together" behind the scenes for the next season).

The possibilities are endless, and the important thing is that we get to feel like we're a part of something. Sure the adventures are fun, but losing this element where I felt like a part of a larger community sitting at my table was really unfortunate.


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

Some initial thoughts I had as I began chewing on this question.

I think that just about every DnD player wants meta-plots and general connectivity, BUT ...

PFS will never replace the dynamics and richness of an ongoing group campaign. You have to approach OPs differently, and as long as you do, you will enjoy it. This is why I believe the conceits of the Pathfinder Society work well - fame, glory, and gold. The mindset KE described above seems like the one that makes the most sense with OP:

KnightErrantJR wrote:
I love the Pathfinder Society as a construct for organized play precisely because it can allow for very episodic missions. You, individually, can be proud of what your adventurer has done, and look at his wealth and abilities that he has gained, and you can take the character to another table and still enjoy the fruits of your labor. You can share that character with new people at a convention, then come home and play with your friends again, and bring new stories back to your home table.

What I see forming out of this discussion is a push to make PFS like an ongoing group campaign, which it cannot possibly be.

So, I suppose I'm sort of back to the original question: Do we want a meta-plot (within the dynamics of OP)?

I am enjoying things the way they are, but if there was a way to add an element of a meta-plot where character actions mattered in some fashion I would also enjoy that. Perhaps an inventory of the ways other OPs do these things would helpful.

Best.

Liberty's Edge 2/5 5/5

Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Elorebaen wrote:
I am enjoying things the way they are, but if there was a way to add an element of a meta-plot where character actions mattered in some fashion I would also enjoy that. Perhaps an inventory of the ways other OPs do these things would helpful.

The two I mentioned above (SR Missions and HoR) both use surveys to determine the outcome of notable events in modules - SRM via their online reporting (within a certain window of time) and HoR via informal discussions with the GMs who ran the adventure at the con(s) where the modules debuted. HoR supplements this with opportunities for players to use favors accumulated in-game, along with fan fiction, to achieve personal goals or add elements to the setting, with the approval of the campaign admin.

Since PFS already uses online reporting and has a means for accumulating influence in-game, it seems like there should be some means of adapting these ideas fairly easily to PFS.

Sovereign Court

Personally I quite liked the idea of competing factions, but I guess that it’s not to everyone’s taste. It’s better to miss out on a little extra fun if it stops ruining the game for others.

As for the meta-plot, I think that while it would be interesting to have long story-arcs, the difficulties of playing them all in order (mentioned by multiple posters above,) do make it a little infeasible. Perhaps some semblance of an ongoing storyline could be made possible if instead of story-arcs, there are groups of interrelated adventures that do not need to be played in a particular order, but all relate to a particular plot. The result of these adventures could be taken at the end of each season to impact the next season’s adventures. I imagine playing one season’s adventures before the next would be reasonably easy to accomplish, even for those who only play occasionally.


While I'm unlikely to actually play in the PFS, I do think that a meta plot is important. Without a meta plot, or some means of allowing player's actions to influence the world, the PFS comes off as a big, bulky, MMO. However one of the major turn offs for me in Living Arcanis, was the video game feel of it, the "walls" I kept bouncing off of (more an adventure problem than a problem with the LA itself, other than IMO poor control of quality of DM's and Adventures), and the fact that all the "plot" stuff seemed to be based off what happened at Cons -- something that I can't attend.


Another problem (man, I hate being the naysayer here) is that if you even have a "tally X to see if Y changes" issue, is that one of two things happens:

1. You have to make previous seasons void since Y has changed and previous seasons don't reflect this.

2. You again loose the point of the metaplot as Y has not changed in some of the other adventures that the players play in. In fact, you make it even harder to maintain a suspension of disbelief because there IS a meta plot, but one that you are obviously "breaking."

Liberty's Edge 3/5

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

When I first read the original post my first thought was 'yes' to meta-plots, but there have been a lot of good reponses on both sides of the issue so I have to take a step back.

I do believe there should be some meta-type aspects of PFS. Count me in for bringing back the friendly competition of the Factions. It is something like this that could make sure people report their scenarios in order to keep up on the competition.

As I think of it now I can only guess as to how my season one adventures would play out if we had a faction winner to talk about. I bet it would be fun!

I also like the idea of seeing recurring NPCs in adventures and having linked adventures every so often.

Silver Crusade

Continuity and plot belong in Adventure Paths and home games to me. I know some folks collect ARs like tweens collect Pokemons, but some of us just want a pick up game that we can come to and move away from in the same sitting. I get more of a sense of accomplishment from a short, complete scenario than trying to get every mod for a complete "season" to have it all make sense. Longer 2-3 slot mods might be interesting for a change of pace, but I still prefer to keep organized play more episodic.

Dark Archive

Yes I do believe that metaplot is important in any kind of organized play setup. Does it have to be world spanning, earth shattering metaplots like Living Greyhawk had? No I don't believe so. However some sense of connection, continuity, and a sense that the players are having an effect on the world around them is important to help establish the suspension of disbelief and to keep players coming back for more.

The Exchange

I agree that the mods should be kept flexible and not be tied to a grand plot.
Recurring characters, multi-part scenarios and sequels (especially in different tiers) would be ok occasionally but shouldn't be the norm.

I would like to see something done with the faction missions.
Introduce seasonal plot lines/faction goals in the missions so that the players will feel like they are really helping their faction accomplish something and not just using them to get better stuff.
So for this season maybe Cheliax is trying to negotiate with Asmo for a great boon for all its people. Faction missions have the player gathering widgets, talking to people, etc... to further this goal.
At the end of the season based on team performance each faction is judged to see if they accomplished their goal.
Maybe none did, maybe all did. Most likely some will and some won't.

All characters on a team that did succeed are given a small boon effective for the upcoming season to acknowledge their faction's accomplishment. (+1 diplomacy rolls, +1 temp HP/day, 1 casting of light/day... who knows)

Of course... before each season the flavor text of all the missions for the existing mods will need to be updated to bring them inline with the current season's faction plot line.
but hey in 5 years that's only what... 900 updates?

hmm...

Sovereign Court

Lylo wrote:

I agree that the mods should be kept flexible and not be tied to a grand plot.

Recurring characters, multi-part scenarios and sequels (especially in different tiers) would be ok occasionally but shouldn't be the norm.

I would like to see something done with the faction missions.
Introduce seasonal plot lines/faction goals in the missions so that the players will feel like they are really helping their faction accomplish something and not just using them to get better stuff.
So for this season maybe Cheliax is trying to negotiate with Asmo for a great boon for all its people. Faction missions have the player gathering widgets, talking to people, etc... to further this goal.
At the end of the season based on team performance each faction is judged to see if they accomplished their goal.
Maybe none did, maybe all did. Most likely some will and some won't.

All characters on a team that did succeed are given a small boon effective for the upcoming season to acknowledge their faction's accomplishment. (+1 diplomacy rolls, +1 temp HP/day, 1 casting of light/day... who knows)

Of course... before each season the flavor text of all the missions for the existing mods will need to be updated to bring them inline with the current season's faction plot line.
but hey in 5 years that's only what... 900 updates?

hmm...

You know, I really like this idea. Admittedly, updating every faction mission at the end of each season is a little daunting. But perhaps this could be implemented on a smaller scale, maybe only 5 or 6 missions for each faction counting towards this goal (and perhaps different adventures are important for different factions goals)...

Sovereign Court

Yes for metaplot. It gives depth to the campaign. That pretty much sums it up.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

I concur with everything Set wrote. (In fact, I've looked over the Season 0 faction missions of each faction, trying to imagine what grand plot might require all those tasks.)

Some people here have played through some of the Living Arcanis modules, which just finished a 6-year story-arc. throughout the LA adventures, many had no connection to the overall plot. Some had hints, introducing shadowy organizations or cryptic symbols that would be revealed in later adventures. And some, the "hardpoints" of each year, were the backbone of the storyarc.

I came into Living Arcanis late, somewhere in Year 4. And what I saw was: (1) the meta-plot didn't distract from the particular adventures. Ignorant as I was about the Big Picture, I could play just about any adventure and enjoy it. But (2) those players who were paying attention would notice that a character from a particular bloodline as interested in a particular artifact, and they started to see patterns and make connections that they found very exciting.

Having said all that, I would imagine that long story-arcs would require a different arrangement of scenario writers than PFS has no. All the Living Arcanis hardpoints were written by a team of two or three PCI designers, and other long arcs were the responsibility of teams of GMs/writers.

Liberty's Edge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Maryland— Baltimore aka Qstor

I love the idea of a meta plot. I think Josh should/will have to accept 'event summarys for new modules' or like was done in Greyhawk assume that a module went a certain way.

I'd love to return to spots in modules or have NPCs come up again. Maybe the events in the interactive from GenCon could be referenced in a module. Or maybe a series of modules are linked parts 1-3 in a series.

Maybe the rivalry with the Aspis Consortium could be played up too.

Mike

The Exchange

Calixymenthillian wrote:


... But perhaps this could be implemented on a smaller scale, maybe only 5 or 6 missions for each faction counting towards this goal (and perhaps different adventures are important for different factions goals)...

So have 5 or 6 (or 8 or 10) missions/faction each season that contribute to the seasonal plot line for the faction.

Then, after the season is over, replace those missions with more generic mission text so that the mods can be used in future seasons and not seem illogical.

That would only require 25 - 50 updates/season


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
Chris Mortika wrote:

I concur with everything Set wrote. (In fact, I've looked over the Season 0 faction missions of each faction, trying to imagine what grand plot might require all those tasks.)

Some people here have played through some of the Living Arcanis modules, which just finished a 6-year story-arc. throughout the LA adventures, many had no connection to the overall plot. Some had hints, introducing shadowy organizations or cryptic symbols that would be revealed in later adventures. And some, the "hardpoints" of each year, were the backbone of the storyarc.

I came into Living Arcanis late, somewhere in Year 4. And what I saw was: (1) the meta-plot didn't distract from the particular adventures. Ignorant as I was about the Big Picture, I could play just about any adventure and enjoy it. But (2) those players who were paying attention would notice that a character from a particular bloodline as interested in a particular artifact, and they started to see patterns and make connections that they found very exciting.

Having said all that, I would imagine that long story-arcs would require a different arrangement of scenario writers than PFS has no. All the Living Arcanis hardpoints were written by a team of two or three PCI designers, and other long arcs were the responsibility of teams of GMs/writers.

Your experience with LA is what I hope a meta-plot situation for PFS would play out. You can still jump in completely oblivious to the big picture, or you can get involved.

Also, like LA, I think certain special mods each season would be "hardpoints," as LA calls it, basically the really important meta-plot modules that must be played in order, and perhaps even handled in a special, specific way.

I definitely think Faction is ripe for use in overall plot elements. Even if there were "hardpoints," the acumulation of Faction points (from all other scenarios) would still apply (a certain percentage) to the resolution of the plot of that season.

Side note, I like the idea of Faction competion. Similiar to what has been mentioned above, I think it can be organized in a way such that it is -interesting- for all Factions regardless of which Faction "wins" in a particular season.

Good discussion thus far.


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
Lylo wrote:
Calixymenthillian wrote:


... But perhaps this could be implemented on a smaller scale, maybe only 5 or 6 missions for each faction counting towards this goal (and perhaps different adventures are important for different factions goals)...

So have 5 or 6 (or 8 or 10) missions/faction each season that contribute to the seasonal plot line for the faction.

Then, after the season is over, replace those missions with more generic mission text so that the mods can be used in future seasons and not seem illogical.

That would only require 25 - 50 updates/season

Or just retire those plot-scenarios for PFS play.

Sovereign Court

Lylo wrote:

So have 5 or 6 (or 8 or 10) missions/faction each season that contribute to the seasonal plot line for the faction.

Then, after the season is over, replace those missions with more generic mission text so that the mods can be used in future seasons and not seem illogical.

That would only require 25 - 50 updates/season

And it probably wouldn't take much effort to write the generic version of the mission at the same time as the season specific one.

Sovereign Court

Elorebaen wrote:
Or just retire those plot-scenarios for PFS play.

I'm not sure retiring scenarios is such a great idea, it seems pretty wasteful - Especially if an adventure only has plot specific missions for a couple of factions.


Do it like X-Files. Some times it's a Monster of the Week episode, sometimes it's a Mythology episode, and some times the Cigarette Smoking Man is in the MotW episode...

If they're Mythology ones, try and do them in order for maximum sense/enjoyment...


Erik Mona:
I'm imagining all sorts of problems arising if you introduce meta-plots which, frankly, I think will need a team specifically dedicated to handling PFS and only Pathfinder Society there at Paizo HQ to deal with. And as PFS registered members and the number of games taking place grow, more time and resources will have to be devoted to handling the games and metaplot if you want to continue to do it whilst maintaining quality of metaplot service....

However it would have been nice to know which faction 'won' season zero, just for the bragging rights (and to presumably encourage members of other factions to game harder next year). Just a 1st-5th place ranking, and not necessarily with the actual figures (ie Cheliax successfully completed xxxx missions, Andoran completed yyyy missions, etc) involved.

Edit:
The most important thing, I suppose, must be to ensure that an atmosphere of (relatively) friendly rivalry is maintained. Up the stakes too much, and things might tip over into unpleasant behaviour at some games, with deliberate sabotage of suspected missions of rival factions and a souring of the atmosphere.


Erik Mona wrote:

At Gen Con I heard some grousing about the lack of a coherent meta-plot for the Pathfinder Society campaign. I suspect this is in part driven by the focus of the faction prestige system changing from a competition of team vs. team to a personal goal related to availability of rewards. And the fact that we haven't announced which faction "won" season 0.

I've heard people requesting more linkages between adventures, more of a sense of "something going on" in the campaign beyond the events of a given scenario.

Do you feel this way?

Do you disagree, and prefer things the way they are now?

Do you wish your in-character actions had more of an impact on the overall "plot" of the campaign?

Should the campaign have an overall "plot" at all?

Please discuss.

I would say that having most of the scenarios remain episodic (the current structure) with one six-part, two three-part or six two-part "Pathfinder Society Arcs", such as the 2-parter Joshua Frost did for Year 1. Having an overall plot that is perhaps hinted at by the "arcs" would good, while the episodic scenarios have either a requirement when written to mention 'something about Bob the Eldritch Torble' or, more often, nothing at all.

One way to view the episodic scenarios are as 'side quests' while the 'arcs' cover the 'main quest'. The side quests may inadvertently tie into the main arc, but that could be a happy coincidence. (Or deliberate malfeasance - mwahhahahahhah!!)

Dark Archive 4/5

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I think the word "meta-plot" is loaded and should be avoided. It brings up nasty memories of the worst aspects of Vampire: the Masqurade and Forgotten Realms. It is a word tainted by its associations. A far better one under the circumstances would be "continuity".

And yeah, Pathfinder Society should have continuity. It needs continuity. Without continuity, what we've got is thirty self-contained modules without any consequences. We're already bleeding players in Finland because there is no continuity. Having continuity would not only lead to an undoubtedly better campaign - it would also lead to there actually being a campaign. We've got players jumping ship to play through their collection of downloaded Living Greyhawk modules or quitting out of sheer apathy.

A plot tying together two or more modules helps bring the world alive, and through that, makes the players invest in it more strongly. It is difficult to uphold player interest in the long term with short, self-contained modules. To make it work, there must be continuity. There needs to be plot. Recurring NPCs we're already getting, which is good, but that's no quite sufficient, regardless of how many props and pictures I use to make the Venture-Captains distinguishable and memorable. However, we need something beyond Venture-Captains, NPCs we can actually interact with. Guys like Grandmaster Torch and Osprey should be used more.

Mini-series like The Devil We Know are good, too, and if nothing else, I would like to see more of them. In fact, they're probably the best way to handle direct sequels in Pathfinder Society. They shouldn't be too long, though. I can see the problem inherent in playing modules out of order, but this can be avoided by clearly tagging them as part of a series.

Then there are the longer plotlines. The key here, I think, is to avoid being too overt about it. I think Silent Tide and The Many Fortunes of Grandmaster Torch could easily be tied together into a longer continuity that perhaps might culminate in a mini-series. However, waiting thirteen modules between installments is perhaps a bit too long-term.

Finally, consequences. Success should have consequences. Failure should have consequences. This applies to both faction missions and the primary objectives of the modules. It is not perhaps a thing for all modules to have, but I would like to see a system similar to the campaign consequences of Living Greyhawk be implemented, where widespread enough success or failure in a given module had consequences in future modules. It helped bring the campaign to life, made it matter.

As for the criticisms... yeah, occasionally you play something out of order. Sometimes it happens that the campaign consequences went the other way from what your party did. It sucks, occasionally. Then, you deal with it and move on, because it is worth it. Continuity creates the campaign, otherwise it's just thirty separate adventure modules with no connection aside from the player characters hacking through them.


Obviously, if the campaign is loosing people due to a lack of continuity, there is nothing I can do about that, and if its serious enough to be a problem, it should probably be addressed. On the other hand, if its just a matter of "your group isn't organized enough to fully participate," then I'll probably give up the headache of trying to "do it right," start up a regular campaign, and wish everyone luck.

I appreciate that players want this or that, but the GMs/Coordinators are volunteers as well, and if doing things in order and juggling these things become too much of a chore, you may have a ton of players thrilled with a meta-plot laden brilliant sequential campaign that no one has time to coordinate or run.

Dark Archive

Just an additional 2cp, but unless you are running a dungeon a week campaign then any campaign a person is likely to play in is already using metaplots, whether they know it or not. Every time a GM connects one adventure to the next, or comes up with an over arching theme, they are creating a metaplot. I have seen a lot of concern expressed about metaplots in this thread, but it happens all the time. That is the style of campaign that most players and GM are used to running. I'm always impressed by the fact that putting a name on something that people naturally do somehow makes it scary and taboo when people are already doing it without thinking about it.


Regarding Grandmaster Torch:

Spoiler:
I ran Silent Tide several times at Gen Con last year, and people liked the NPC. I was excited when he was in another adventure. However, the way he was introduced, half the table, since they were new, had no idea who he was, and immediately assumed that the rest of the Many Fortunes of Grandmaster Torch was about finding evidence to nail Grandmaster Torch, and were frustrated when it turned out that they really weren't suppose to be busting the Grandmaster. This is exactly the type of thing I'm concerned about with too much stressing on the meta-plot.

Regarding GM ad-libbed meta-plot. I can run Venture Captains as knowing PCs since he or she has sent them on missions before, and I can tell people that I have GMed that they have been to this part of Absalom before, but that's not the same as what I detailed in the spoiler above as an example of what's assumed with references like this.

Dark Archive

KnightErrantJR wrote:


Regarding GM ad-libbed meta-plot. I can run Venture Captains as knowing PCs since he or she has sent them on missions before, and I can tell people that I have GMed that they have been to this part of Absalom before, but that's not the same as what I detailed in the spoiler above as an example of what's assumed with references like this.

Actually I was refering to the tendency to say that metaplot in PFS is bad when most people are already doing it in their home games anyway. I was not refering to GMs trying to create metaplot for PFS on their own.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
David Fryer wrote:
KnightErrantJR wrote:


Regarding GM ad-libbed meta-plot. I can run Venture Captains as knowing PCs since he or she has sent them on missions before, and I can tell people that I have GMed that they have been to this part of Absalom before, but that's not the same as what I detailed in the spoiler above as an example of what's assumed with references like this.
Actually I was refering to the tendency to say that metaplot in PFS is bad when most people are already doing it in their home games anyway. I was not refering to GMs trying to create metaplot for PFS on their own.

David,

I think KEJr is talking about those of us who play PFS occasionally as pickup games, intro games or convention games only. For us, and we are supposed to be a big part of the PFS audience, a metaplot really screws things over as we have no idea or control of what order or even if we get to play the scenarios. If you want to add meta-lot to your home campaign, then great, but for those of us without a home game, having a metaplot is a big problem.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

I made a post about this the other day here which pretty much says everything I have to say on the subject.

I think that the addition of a meta-plot would be one of the two largest changes I'd like to see in PFS (the other being more unique and fun favors). It needn't even be overt, or linear within a season. Paizo has an incredible knack for telling stories, especially large-arc paths. I don't see why at least some of the scenarios couldn't be part of a meta-plot, even if played out of order, which reveals itself at GenCon or PaizoCon or whenever before moving on to the next season's plot.

I don't think you have to make each scenario episodic, but using recurring NPCs and having organizations set global plans into motion multiple places at once (so that you can stop them in any order in any number of locations), would go a long way to making the world feel alive. The Aspis Consortium has been playing the role so far of "generic opposing organization" but I have yet to get a sense that any of the missions involving them are at all connected. I'd love for the Decemvirate to hear of a plot to take over the world by some group and then send Pathfinders to all corners of the world to get relics needed to stop them, assassinate/kidnap key players on the other side, build allies through diplomacy or doing favors, etc. Of course, the Pathfinder Society isn't that altruistic, but if the plot were against the Decimvirate or something like that, perhaps it could fit within their motives.

Dark Archive 4/5

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber
KnightErrantJR wrote:

Regarding Grandmaster Torch:

** spoiler omitted **

I'm not quite sure I follow the logic. Would the players' reaction have been any different if the character had not appeared in a previous module? To me, it appears the issue was in the module's writing or possibly the players themselves, not in any continuity between scenarios.


NiTessine wrote:


I'm not quite sure I follow the logic. Would the players' reaction have been any different if the character had not appeared in a previous module? To me, it appears the issue was in the module's writing or possibly the players themselves, not in any continuity between scenarios.

The problem is as followers:

Spoiler:
Those people that had played Silent Tide knew that the character was an information broker from Absalom, and thus was probably there to advance the plot as a recurring character.

Those that didn't play in that adventure assumed that he was the villain of the piece that needed to be busted to solve the adventure.

Part of this was indeed a problem with the writing of the adventure, but at the same time, this is a problem that starts to develop if you assume too much regarding the meta-plot.

Yes, had Grandmaster Torch showed up as a "helper" NPC in the adventure as he did in the original, it would have been a nice reward for those that dealt with him before, but potentially implicating him and more or less hoping that PCs didn't spend a great deal of time trying to prove his guilt because the characters don't know the guy causes problems.


Regarding the comments about meta-plot elements forcing you to play scenarios in a specific order: I can think of several ways of implementing a meta-plot -structure or other continuity elements without actually forcing anyone to play scenarios in any a particular order.

I'll give you an example. Say the meta-plot element is the rise of a new member to the decemvirate. Let's call him Sir Gull.

Scenario #3: The Pathfinders are sent on a mission to retrieve an important artifact. Sir Gull is personally overseeing this mission. If the mission succeeds, Sir Gull will get a personal prestige boost.

Scenario #9: The Pathfinders are sent to investigate a misdemeanor by a prominent member of the Society. If the mission succeeds, said prominent member gets b+&$! slapped by the society leadership, opening up a position for Sir Gull's ascension to the decemvirate.

Scenario #17: The Pathfinders are sent on a ruse mission, which gets botched at the first hurdle. The real mission turns out to be something different involving the double dealings of competing venture-captains. If the mission succeeds, one of the venture-captains (Mr. Gull again) comes out ahead. Clues uncovered (foreshadowing for the future) casts a shadow of doubt on the real motives of said venture-captain.

There, three modules involving the short storyline The Rise of Sir Gull. These can be played in any order.

Dark Archive 4/5

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber
KnightErrantJR wrote:


The problem is as followers:

** spoiler omitted **

You are still describing a problem stemming from either the writing of the module or the people around the table, not from any continuity (which there really wasn't much of, anyway). Personally, I never witnessed a problem such as you describe, even though back when I played it, most of the group was unfamiliar with Silent Tide.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

And, Navto, if someone just plays one of your first two sample scenarios, there's nothing that jumps out as an oddly-shaped fact or piece of plot.

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