Painlord's Guide to PFS Coordination


Pathfinder Society

The Exchange

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Greeting Mortals--

As PFS continues to expand and we welcome in new players and new groups every week, I would offer humble suggestions for PFS Coordinators.

As usual, nothing I say is perfect, but represents my best practices to date. I encourage other game day organizers to offer their tips and suggestions as well.

Overarching Theory:

I want my players to have the most fun possible while maintaining my sanity and giving players an opportunity to contribute as well. I believe that organized gaming will not survive on the backs of one or two people: it takes a community of players to make things work.

As such, most of my suggestions are about building community and creating guidelines for play within that community. A gaming community is a social group and I strongly believe that cultivating the social aspect of PFS is an essential part of the coordinator job.

Your Players:

Admittedly, I'm old...old and grumpy and I've lost my youthful enthusiasm so take these comments filtered by the lenses of experience and crankiness:

As organizers, we are never going to be able to make everyone happy all the time. I will do the best I can, but recognize this is a fight that I cannot 'win'. There will be players who just won't be able to or be willing to follow basic directions or adhere to the Society rules. There will be some that will try your patience and make you sad...and others who fill you with awe.

It's your job to makes things work for players as best you can while giving yourself the leeway to do things to keep your sanity. I find that players manage themselves better when they have clear instructions and expectations. I try to communicate that when they do their job, they make my job easier. In general, people want to help things work out.

There will be some players who aspire to do more than just help out...they'll have to contribute in significant ways. My advice is simple: give them everything they need (advice, organizational help, whatever) to promote and grow Pathfinder in your area. One guy has even built a website for our Bay Area Pathfinder group with all the information about local game stores and whatnot.

On Atmosphere:

I try to create an environment where gamers are free to be gamers. I try to encourage roleplaying and free expression and individual tastes at all times. I try (but often fail...I'm getting better) to learn all my players' names and greet them when I see them. I will always try to make sure that people at tables know each other and *especially* know the GM. I will do introductions. Yeah, I know it's strange....but it helps create the friendly environment that I want.

However <thunderclap>, part of having a safe and fun environment is setting boundaries.

I do not feel that I need to bend over backwards for players, especially ones that repeatedly break rules, show up late, overtly metagame, or piddlespot around. There will be players in every group who do this...it's up to you to decide where your line is.

The truth is that I do not feel like I have to kowtow to rude or obnoxious players nor subject my players to inappropriate behavior. I will give them firm warning about behaviors are unacceptable and, if bad behaviors exist, I'll dis-invite them to events that I run.

I am *NOT* shy about protecting my players, neither should you be. If there is a player who is making you hurt inside every time he shows up OR is causing massive mustering problems because no one wants to play with him: give him a chance to amend....or get rid of him. It just isn't worth it. Mods are too few to have them ruined by bad players. Do *not* feel guilty about this. Also, if you're giving negative feedback to someone, never do it at the table or in front of others....this should be handled privately and professionally. Having open loud spats are bad for everyone around.

(As a side note: you don't ever have to let someone play with you that you don't want despite popular belief. If you're organizing, it's your party. There is no Paizo Ninja-Pirate Police force that is going to swoop in and tell you who to play with. Handle your job as a professional, adult manner and you'll have few problems.)

Nuts and Bolts Organization:

For me, there are two essential tools to the being a Coordinator: our Yahoo group and Warhorn sites. With them, I am able to adequately communicate and organize with my players. You can use other tools (Google groups, etc.), but to be successful, imho, you need a way to communicate effectively (push communications) and a way to muster/sign up.

Yahoo Group:

I founded BAPS, Bay Area Pathfinder Society, Yahoo group, on 12/3/2009. In the first month using current contacts and players I knew, I had 29 members. After a year of inconsistent marketing and promotion, I have just under 90 members. (PFS is growing!)

It is essential to our communication over and scheduling. Furthermore, it serves as a social focus for our community. We have banter and discussion about Pathfinder and Pathfinder Society topics....as well as off topics. The ability for anyone to participate is great...as is the daily digest or individual email options.

We use it for:
Posting upcoming games
People being awesome!
Tool tips and Info, Rules, etc.
Special Events
Shout outs!
Calls for Judges
Announcing and coordinating local Conventions
Coordinating Adventure Paths

Our database has all blurbs and tiers of all the mods.

Our file section has useful downloads (blank char sheets, BAPS logos, etc.).

The big challenge with Yahoo groups is getting people to sign up for it. However, it's power is worth the hassle of trying to get people on the system.

Warhorn:

Warhorn is our scheduling and mustering tool of choice. I can't imagine running a recurring game night without it. It gives our players the ability to plan and prepare their schedule and characters well ahead of time.

Our FLGS, Endgame Oakland has THIS Warhorn site. While it's not perfectly easy to use, it helps tremendously with sign ups and mustering.

While it can be difficult to get players on the system, once installed and the players trained on it, it is an invaluable resource.

Random Organizational Notes:

1) I train my judges to bring 7 chronicles, 3 copies of each faction mission, and whatever tools they need to judge. In return, I ensure a table of players, the Reporting sheet, and whatever support they need to run the mod. I also handle the reporting/data entry back to Paizo.
2) I act as Head Judge when I am there to handle any disputes during gameplay. I pretty much *always* stand by my judge and his rulings at the table. It's amazingly rare for me to override him...in fact, I can't remember ever having done it. I try to trust my judges to run the best mod possible and give them the freedom to run it.
3) I work hard at maintaining relationships with my FLGS...we try to foster the necessary symbiotic relationship that is, obviously, mutually beneficial: we bring in the players/customers, they provide the space and seating. Since I started at my FLGS in December 2009, I expanded to another gamestore in March 2010, and PFS has hit three more again after that. It's difficult to get all the players from the different groups to join the Yahoo Group, but that is part of the challenge of Coordinating in a big area. Your challenges may vary.
4) Marketing is probably my weakest suit. I do what I can in terms of promotion at conventions and local game stores, but it's still slow. I probably need to do a better job of motivating my player base to help me in this process. We have a couple of local PFS all-stars (you know who you are) who are doing a lot to promote PFS in our area...and I cheer them on like no one's business. I cannot do it all alone...and that's the point of this post: we're a community and we need to work together to make things happen.
5) VC Azmyth has been a wonderful breath of life into our community. I try to work with him often to make things happen in our area. If you don't know your local Venture Captain yet, make yourself known.

I believe that not everyone is going to make a good judge...some players have the ability, some players do not. Not all capable players have the desire or drive to judge. As a coordinator, it is your job to help capable players become judges. I trust you to know how hard and when to push your players to become judges.

Judges and Judge Recruitment:

I do not like to judge too much...my comfort level is once a day at conventions, at most every other week during normal times. I stay fresher and motivated when I have a decent break between judging sessions...my sessions can take a lot out of me. As such, I've earned my first two stars over the last 12 months. I mean 30+ mods over 12 months feels right to me...but that's a slow weekend for someone like DougDoug. YMMV. I don't feel shy about trying to pace myself. And I don't feel shy about pushing others to judge.

In general, I ask my judges to judge one out of every 4 times that they play. Yep, play 3, judge 1. That seems to be the right ratio for keeping games stocked and judges fresh.

As Coordiator, I try to schedule myself to judge and play with every new player that comes to my games. I like to help them develop as players and scout out future judge talent. I tend to be pretty good about knowing who is ready to judge...I look for players who play nicely with others and have a character at level 4 or above. That's all it takes. Really. Charisma and a bit of experience and you're ready to go. Often, I'll give a mod that I've just run to prospective judges to get them to read it and understand what's going on behind the curtain. It's very effective in subtly laying the groundwork for a future judge invite.

Here are some of the arguments that I'll make, as appropriate, to perspective judges:

1) Do your part to help the community. When you contribute, we all succeed. (this works well)
2) When you judge, you become a better player. I want you to take that next step. Be amazing. (this works well)
3) Guilt. "When are you going to pull your weight?" (rarely used)
4) External rewards. I have players in an AP who are committed to judging once a month as 'payment' for entry into the AP. Actually, any external reward (above and outside of usual GM credit) helps. Two FLGS give $5 in store credit to the judge. Another FLGS charges $6 per person to play...the judge gets it all!
5) Outright flattery: "You're a great judge and I want this group of players to have you on this mod." "I'd like to play...and I want to play at your table. I'd be stoked!"
6) Challenge them. "Do it so you can put your mark on this mod/adventure. Let's see what you got." Or "These pathfinders here really want a challenge. I know you can give it to them!"
7) Highlight the GM credit rules: "You get full XP, gold, and PA for judging this. It's a great way to level!"
8) Intrigue: "You'll learn that different parties will solve the same mod differently. You'll be awed how things turned out. Compare how this new party with how you did it."
9) <activate Painlord Rage power> "JUDGE, YOU LAZY PIDDLESPOT OR I'LL BEAT YOU TO DEATH WITH YOUR OWN DICE!!! REALLY, HOW MANY MINIS DO YOU THINK I CAN CRAM UP YOUR NOSE!?!" (never used outside of my own head)
10) <please add your argument/thought below>

Most experienced judges know that there is a significant mental initial barrier to entry into judgeship, however, once that barrier is crossed, judging becomes much easier and less of a mystery. Most judges do not start judging out of fear...fear of not knowing the rules, not being good enough, not blahblahblah. As coordinators, we need to motivate beyond that and get the player to be comfortable enough to step up to judge.

Excuses are excuses....they are nothing but a smokestick in the way. I try to focus on ways to assuage their worries and support them.

Here are some of the typical excuses and comebacks that I'll use in return:

Excuse #1) "I don't have the time." (of course, this is just a stalling tactic)
Response) "No worries. Here's the mod now...I'll schedule you to run in a month. Surely, you can find time over the next month to prep."
Response if the above doesn't work) "You can't prepare a mod in a month. Really? How about 2 months? Or is there another issue that is really causing the problem?" (proceed to excuse 2, usually)

Excuse #2) "I'm not good enough./I don't know the rules well enough."
Response a) "I'm asking you because I know you know enough....you're good enough and you're ready."
Response b) "Knowing the exact rules doesn't matter. You know enough to look things up as appropriate and find solutions. Use your players as a resource...and as a check when you are unclear. They will be happy to help...they always are."
Response c) Here are some handy guides to help you get ready:
Introducing Faction Missions to Players
What makes a good GM
Painlord's How to Be a Better Judge
Response d) "This forum is great for additional information about the mod you're running. Check it out...the judges there have lots of insight into the mod."
Response e) (Before they play the mod) "PlayerX, I may ask you to run this mod at a future time...be sure to pay attention to what happens." (Immediately after the mod, hand them a copy.) "Here you go...read it and see what just happened. I think you'll run it just fine."

Excuse #3) "I don't have the supplies/mats/pens/minis/grognards."
Response a) "Here borrow mine. Anything else?"

Excuse #4) "I don't want to."
Response a) "I understand that, but you're good enough and smart enough to run a fantastic mod. Sadly, if you won't contribute back to the community, I may not have room for you at my games anymore. I hope you'll want to stay playing with us and want to be part of our community. I need you to step up every once in a while." I suspect many of you will think this is harsh, but I don't think so. In order for the community to grow and survive, you need people to contribute...everyone has to pull their share. And, as Coordinator, you have to make it happen...there is no one else!

Feedback: I encourage my judges to ask for feedback on their judgings. Often, I'll ask how things went to offer constructive thoughts to new judges. Sometimes, when appropriate, I'll have an experienced player at the table with the new judge to specifically give feedback. I think reflection and review are essential processes for becoming a better judge. PFS will grow on the strength of its judges.

It should be stated that once a judge has repeatedly given good faith efforts and failed to achieve quality judgemanship, I would relent and remove them from my judge pool. It's never happened...but I've had bad judges before and I'll try to keep them away from my players.

Here is the email I send to prospective judges about becoming a judge. I usually follow up with a private conversation to reinforce what I've asked and to answer any questions. Feel free to re-jiggerify for your own use.

Judge Email:

"Hey Joe--

Though we haven't talked to you about this before, I wanted to touch base about getting you into the judging pool at Endgame.

I've seen you play and I know you know you stuff and so I think it's natural that you would begin to think about contributing back to the Endgame community. Of course, there is no pressure to do so, but the system works better when everyone judges at least once in a while. We have lots of new players and need judges to fill all the tables.

Consider this a formal invite to getting started.

This is what I do to prepare for a game:
1) Read the mod and make notes on the combats and anything that I want to add.
2) Pre-draw the maps.
3) Re-read the mod again, paying special attention to tactics (this helps after I've drawn the maps).
4) Plan how the monsters will fight in the different encounters.
5) Run it and have fun with it.

I know you can totally make it happen and I could schedule you at an approaching game night of your choosing. You will get player credit for judging, so that shouldn't be an issue.

You help would be appreciated. Just once every month or two would make a big difference.

Thanks,
Pain

Fun:

I like to have fun with my players. I want to encourage the social aspect of the game.

That's why I send messages like this.

Oh well, it made me laugh. After all, if you had a player who choose to name his character "Ruddy Piddlespot", wouldn't you have some fun with it?

Again, feel free to post your comments and ideas below. I'm a huge fan of feedback and getting multiple inputs to find solutions.

If you've liked/hated the above, you may also love/hate the following posts:
How to be a Better Judge
What to Expect at a PFS Table
How to be a Better PFS Player

-Pain

Liberty's Edge 5/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Alaska—Anchorage aka Dragnmoon

This is really good stuff!

One thing I would add is that I can't stress enough how Important it is to track your players and what they have played, this will make scheduling a breeze and cause less problems with conflicts!

There are many methods of doing this but I personally use an Excel spreadsheet, but you can anything you feel comfortable with.

Another thing you will notice, you will have a hard time getting all your players to join what ever site you decide to use for scheduling and communication. I used incentives (Hey I have this free book I don't need if you finally join our site! stuff like that) and threats (If you don't join you won't be scheduled into the game and those on the site get first come!), to get them to join, but it will get annoying!

Grand Lodge 5/5

Thanks for taking time to put this together. I picked up a few nuggets I plan to use here in Atlanta. As we currently have seven stores in our network and expanding to 10 come 2011, I have had to add store liaisons as a personal representative for each store (That, and the fact we have PFS somewhere every weekend, as well as two weeknights). With such a large area, and so many different PFS Game Days going on, having that extra personal touch at each store really helps.

Shadow Lodge 2/5

Brilliant as always... too long as always... but I can never find a good spot to cut!

...maybe at the jugular. :D


Dragnmoon wrote:
One thing I would add is that I can't stress enough how Important it is to track your players and what they have played, this will make scheduling a breeze and cause less problems with conflicts!

I would argue that it's the player's responsibility to keep track of this. It's a coordinators job to facilitate it.

If you can't keep track of what you've played, you have to learn to live with situations where you show up and have played everything being offered.

Liberty's Edge 5/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Alaska—Anchorage aka Dragnmoon

Kyle Baird wrote:
Dragnmoon wrote:
One thing I would add is that I can't stress enough how Important it is to track your players and what they have played, this will make scheduling a breeze and cause less problems with conflicts!

I would argue that it's the player's responsibility to keep track of this. It's a coordinators job to facilitate it.

If you can't keep track of what you've played, you have to learn to live with situations where you show up and have played everything being offered.

It is important for a player to know what they have played so they have that knowledge when they play outside of their local game

But for coordination and scheduling for your local players if the coordinator does not know what his players have played, there is more of a chance he will schedule a scenario they already played so they will lose out on playing that week.

I could not imagination trying to schedule games blind to the knowledge of what my players already played, which is just asking for a disaster!

Dark Archive 3/5

Dragnmoon wrote:


It is important for a player to know what they have played so they have that knowledge when they play outside of their local game

But for coordination and scheduling for your local players if the coordinator does not know what his players have played, there is more of a chance he will schedule a scenario they already played so they will lose out on playing that week.

I could not imagination trying to schedule games blind to the knowledge of what my players already played, which is just asking for a disaster!

In the past, I've found that using databases/polls on Yahoo Groups is a good way to track things. (IE Once every month or so remind people to fill in what they've played). This is especially useful for groups when many players go to conventions or other game days on a regular basis.

Liberty's Edge 5/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Alaska—Anchorage aka Dragnmoon

bdk86 wrote:
Dragnmoon wrote:


It is important for a player to know what they have played so they have that knowledge when they play outside of their local game

But for coordination and scheduling for your local players if the coordinator does not know what his players have played, there is more of a chance he will schedule a scenario they already played so they will lose out on playing that week.

I could not imagination trying to schedule games blind to the knowledge of what my players already played, which is just asking for a disaster!

In the past, I've found that using databases/polls on Yahoo Groups is a good way to track things. (IE Once every month or so remind people to fill in what they've played). This is especially useful for groups when many players go to conventions or other game days on a regular basis.

I know the Crew In Austin is doing that right now.

I find it to limited myself. I am sure others have better systems then me.

The Exchange

Dragnmoon wrote:

One thing I would add is that I can't stress enough how Important it is to track your players and what they have played, this will make scheduling a breeze and cause less problems with conflicts!

bdk86 wrote:


In the past, I've found that using databases/polls on Yahoo Groups is a good way to track things. (IE Once every month or so remind people to fill in what they've played). This is especially useful for groups when many players go to conventions or other game days on a regular basis.

Oh yeah! Tracking...excellent points, 'Moon and BDK.

Personally, I can't quite 'muster' (teehee) the energy to ask players to keep track of things nor keep a tracking sheet up to date. Different methods will work for different groups or for different Coordinators.

Painlord Method:
1) Announce that a new 3-month schedule is in the works, give the players 3 days to submit requests/desires.
2) Do the schedule as best I can to accommodate requests. Usually involves additional input from higher sources, like my cat, tossing darts, and reading mountain dew tea leaves.
3) Post the schedule and give a 3 day grace period in case I've made mistakes or someone really needs things changed.
4) Hope for the best.
5) Go back to crying in the corner.

-Pain

The Exchange 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Mediterranean aka Wintergreen

Painlord wrote:


Personally, I can't quite 'muster' (teehee) the energy to ask players to keep track of things nor keep a tracking sheet up to date. Different methods will work for different groups or for different Coordinators.

Painlord Method:
1) Announce that a new 3-month schedule is in the works, give the players 3 days to submit requests/desires.
2) Do the schedule as best I can to accommodate requests. Usually involves additional input from higher sources, like my cat, tossing darts, and reading mountain dew tea leaves.
3) Post the schedule and give a 3 day grace period in case I've made mistakes or someone really needs things changed.
4) Hope for the best.
5) Go back to crying in the corner.

-Pain

Hey that's my method!

The Exchange

David Harrison wrote:
Painlord wrote:


Personally, I can't quite 'muster' (teehee) the energy to ask players to keep track of things nor keep a tracking sheet up to date. Different methods will work for different groups or for different Coordinators.

Painlord Method:
1) Announce that a new 3-month schedule is in the works, give the players 3 days to submit requests/desires.
2) Do the schedule as best I can to accommodate requests. Usually involves additional input from higher sources, like my cat, tossing darts, and reading mountain dew tea leaves.
3) Post the schedule and give a 3 day grace period in case I've made mistakes or someone really needs things changed.
4) Hope for the best.
5) Go back to crying in the corner.

-Pain

Hey that's my method!

Hey hey hey! Quit pushing!!! This is my crying corner! The corner for VCs to cry in is that one over there!! Yeah, yeah...go stand next to JP...there you go...on your way now...

-Pain

The Exchange 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Mediterranean aka Wintergreen

Painlord wrote:
David Harrison wrote:


Hey that's my method!

Hey hey hey! Quit pushing!!! This is my crying corner! The corner for VCs to cry in is that one over there!! Yeah, yeah...go stand next to JP...there you go...on your way now...

-Pain

I'll just be moving on then...

Nobody understands the tough life of a VC... :(

Grand Lodge

Nicely done Sir!

I suspect that a Painlord compilation .pdf might be in order at some point...

Grand Lodge

Thanks, Painlord! Very helpful, and I am totally stealing...er, borrowing, all those ideas. Same goes for you excel spreadsheet, Dragnmoon. :)

Dark Archive 3/5

Dragnmoon wrote:


I know the Crew In Austin is doing that right now.

I find it to limited myself. I am sure others have better systems then me.

Personal preference of the coordinator should always trump anything else =D They're the ones having to sort the information out. I think my main point was you NEED to track what your group is playing in some fashion to avoid 3 person tables some weekends and more players than you have judges others.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/5

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

We've been running since May and haven't needed much in the way of coordination so far. I am looking towards the future however and starting to keep track of what is being played by who more often. Luckily as we only have 6 months in our belt, we arent even close to running out of mods at any level, tho I would like to see more level 5s locally.

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Agent, Kentucky—Lexington

Hey pain, do you have a link to that sheet you use to track what you have/have not played?

The Exchange

James Risner wrote:
Hey pain, do you have a link to that sheet you use to track what you have/have not played?

You mean THIS?!?

It's a sample, but works GREAT for me and what I'm doing and have done.

Let me know if the link works.

-Pain

Liberty's Edge 5/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Alaska—Anchorage aka Dragnmoon

Painlord wrote:
James Risner wrote:
Hey pain, do you have a link to that sheet you use to track what you have/have not played?

You mean THIS?!?

<b>It's a sample</b>, but works GREAT for me and what I'm doing and have done.

Let me know if the link works.

-Pain

I saw all these D.Moon as judge, and I was like, what I never GM a game with you in it!... Then I noticed it was only a sample...

5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Arizona—Tucson aka Sir_Wulf

Dragnmoon wrote:
I saw all these D.Moon as judge, and I was like, what I never GM a game with you in it!... Then I noticed it was only a sample...

I saw the same thing and was going, "Hey! I ran that one!"

Thanks for posting that: I was working on much the same thing and you saved me a crapton of work!

The Exchange

Sir_Wulf wrote:

I saw the same thing and was going, "Hey! I ran that one!"

Thanks for posting that: I was working on much the same thing and you saved me a crapton of work!

Don't worry, Sir Wulf, you are correctly designated on the original for #31 and #40; and will forever have me in awe of thy judging prowess. I was honored.

I'm glad you like the doc. Feel free to share/copy/use for whatever lupus desires you have.

-Pain

5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Arizona—Tucson aka Sir_Wulf

Painlord wrote:
Don't worry, Sir Wulf, you are correctly designated on the original for #31 and #40; and will forever have me in awe of thy judging prowess. I was honored.

If I were a REALLY good GM, I wouldn't have missed the opportunity to inflict "Caiden Cailean Karioke" on the party...

"Sometimes it's hard, to be a woman...
Giv'n all your love, to jest one man..."

The Exchange

**Shameless and Purposeful Bump**

After seeing the growth in our Bay Area Pathfinder Society and adding to that our growth at Kublacon and then adding to that yet two more local stores that want to be a part of BAPS, I figure that there might be others out there that might find this useful.

So there.

Please continue to add your thoughts and experiences to this post so that others can learn from you.

-Pain

Dark Archive

Being new to the messagboards and PFS in general, this thread has already helped get things started in the right direction for my area! Thanks people, keep up the good work!

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