Painlord's Core Tenets for PFS


Pathfinder Society

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Greetings Mortals--

Disclaimer of Pain:
To be honest, the thoughts below are ideas that keep recurring for me and I recognize that not everything fits where it should. I share them here to gain insights from denizens of the forum and respect thoughtful opposition or further continuance of my ideas. Not all of the below are fully baked ideas, I recognize that there is much room for discussion. Please share your thoughts.

We know that PFS is a self-described as an "Organized Play" campaign. Everybody probably has a different understanding of what that means. I probably have a different understanding built upon my previous experiences in LG and LFR than someone who hasn't played either. Which means that I have been operating under some different assumptions than most of you, and maybe most of the staff feels about the Pathfinder Society.

I am not sure if Paizo yet has a coherent vision or overarching theory for the Pathfinder Society. Sure, they have some basic rules, but no stated or printed theory, core tenets, or goals. If they exist, I would love to have them shared with the Community.

I think PFS needs to decide what kind of campaign it wants to be and clearly state for players, coordinators, and *themselves* upon what tenets the campaign is built. Once those tenets are posted and discussed, then the community and designers can begin working together to build the kind of campaign that PFS should be...an established goal with a set of principles behind it.

I do feel some dissonance in both how I organize my gamedays/conventions, how I run modules for my players, and the current PFS rule set. I just believe in certain things about what PFS should be that I'm not sure that PFS is...or ever will be...but I wish they were. Let me 'splain:

Painlord's Dream Core Tenets for the Pathfinder Society
(in no particular order)

Core Tenet #1: Character Choices Should Matter:
Perhaps this is too narrow a description, but I think it's very important: player choices (in terms of the build/personality/etc.) and character choices (in terms of what they do/accomplish, brave deeds, etc.) should be meaningful for the greatest enjoyment of this role-playing game. When players know that their decisions will have impact and effect within the game, they will take more care and enjoy the outcome more. When actions/decisions have consequences, they have *value*. I want PFS to have value...and I want people to care about it.

Core Tenet #2: Ensure Promotions of In-Game Goals and Rewards:
PFS will thrive as long as there is very clear and meaningful goals and rewards for play. Most of the time, rewards are as simple as a good time, gold, XP, and/or PA. However, built upon that, as equally as important, is that there are additional opportunities for the player to earn more chances for rewards. There *should be* a meaning full tier system, i.e.: higher tier mods for higher tier characters only. There should be rewards for continued play. Most people will be happy to 'work' to get their reward...in fact, they will enjoy and value the experience more when they have earned their way there. Again, it's about creating *value* within the game.

A story: My VC, Azmyth, was telling me about his experience at GenCon. One of Josh Frost's hardcore rules was that you just can't play mods out of tier. Azmyth described Josh as describing it as "earning the right to be there." I really like that...it made sense.

Core Tenet #3: Money and Growth Flows From Happy Customers:
This is pretty simple, but also pretty important. Happy contented players and coordinators will lead to happy full purses within Paizo. However, it doesn't mean that PFS *needs* to be structured to generate profit for Paizo, rather that profit will be a by-product of a well-run campaign.

As PFS has grown, PFS has recruited a player base above and beyond the early converts. That is, newer players are *no* longer prominently Paizo regulars. As such, what was true 6 or 12 months ago, is less true now. With growth, timely and consistent rules updates are more necessary than ever before. The player pool is already changing and PFS needs to be able to quickly adapt and change with it. As it stands now, there is some fraying around the edges of the campaign, which causes chaos and uncertainty in the campaign. I believe it's better to address these issues in a timely manner.

Core Tenet #4: High Value on Community Volunteer Leadership and Community Input:
It's no secret that I played LG and it's also no secret that many people had differing views of LG and the volunteer leadership. We know that many of Paizo management started their careers with LG as volunteers. LG was able to build an amazing, if imperfect, organized play environment utilizing the talents of volunteers. I am currently unsure about what role the VCs will have in this in the near future...so far, it seems limited to outreach, promotion, and judging.

Truth is that technology has advanced significantly over the last 5 years, as has our understanding of organized play. This is a new era and we have new chances to create a great working partnership between the volunteer community and Paizo management. A volunteer team can coordinate along with Paizo staff in ways that just couldn't be done 5 years ago.

In the future, we can build upon what we learned in LG. I believe a cooperative team could manage:
#1) Timely updates of the Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play
#2) Promotion and acquisition of new PFS Players
#3) Appropriate Judge and Player Rewards
#4) New modules and/or Community Driven Storylines
#5) New PFS rules as necessary
#6) Handling community inquiries about PFS play (not rules) with full authority
When the community has more say into the campaign, they will *value* it more. It will become part of them and grow even more.

Core Tenet #5: PFS is an open, social, consistent, and friendly play environment wherever you go.:
As most of you know from my previous posts, I value the social, friendly aspect of PFS above all else. The game is just a vehicle for enjoying the interactions of others while enjoined in a common activity. As long as this tenet holds, things are good.

I believe the concept of "Play, Play, Play" fits under this tenet: it makes sense and fits well. We will do everything we can to welcome and accommodate players who show up for games.

I think it's great to promote that you can travel to conventions, play online, or play at many local gamestores and, generally, have the same experience under the same ruleset. Not is ever going to be perfectly consistent, but, generally, I think things are the same the world of PFS.

Core Tenet #6: Reward Should Equal Risk/Don't Screw with the XP/Gold Curve:
I believe in logical and balanced rules for advancement, risk, and reward for all players within PFS. I believe there is a wide range of feelings on this topic, but to make choices matter (and add value), death and reward must be balanced within the campaign. I am very hesitant to change anything that messes with the XP/GP/PA curve or minimizes the chance of death within the campaign.

Core Tenet #7: New interesting, content needs to be consistently available.:
Need more detail? Thought not. For the most part, this is well done. It is clear, however, that current supply does not meet demand. At some future time, this needs to be addressed as it is essential to keep PFS alive.

Core Tenet #8: Trust in local coordinators to know their players, run the games.:
I believe that local coordinators should be allowed to adjust the PFS rules to fit the needs of their players, provided they don't run afoul of the core tenets.

Paizo seems to mostly trust (in a way, it has to) gameday coordinators to follow their basic rules. What they need to do next is realize that if they can trust coordinators to properly organize and run events, then they can trust them in others ways.

For example, I won't kill new players at my tables. I just won't do it, though previously it wasn't discouraged.

I will change the encounters of modules to fit the abilities and desires of the players at my tables at gamedays that I organize. And I will trust certain of my judges to do the same. There is *no* doubt in my mind that some tables are completely overpowered for the encounters in some modules....heck, the entirety of modules. And I know that my players want a good, fun, challenging module and I believe in my ability to deliver it correctly. As long as I don't mess with the XP/GP/PA curve, I think this is in the best interests of PFS.

Core Tenet #9: Promote the purity of a well run module.:
I believe in the infinite purity of a well run module by players playing it for the first time. This, to me, is the single biggest selling point of PFS play. As a coordinator, if I all do is make each and every single running of a module the best it can be, then I think I've given an incredible gift. PFS modules are almost sacred, IMHO, because you only get to experience them for the first time once and because there are so few.

I believe that Paizo, in general, puts out quality modules and I want to play them once and have the best gaming experience possible. I want the same for my players and new players to the game.

I believe in keeping this experience as pure and good as possible.

That's just some of what I believe. I wish all of them were true for the Pathfinder Society. I would love to hear your thoughts.

-Pain

PaizoCon Meetup?:
Hyrum & Mark: any chance you guys want to organize a PFS-focused discussion or Q&A at PaizoCon where we can discuss issues like this and others?

Obligatory Pain Spoiler:

Shadow Lodge 2/5

I don't know if I agree with all of Painlords post, but one thing I back completely - there is chaos in PFS and it comes from the top I think.

For the most part, decisions that come out of Paizo are well reasoned and well balanced. However, I don't have faith that those decisions will continue as they have in the past as there is no continuity. At least none that I can see.

I don't think Paizo is doing it wrong, not by any stretch. I just think a central group of beliefs (that we can all fight about) will help them make decisions, and help us understand them.

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

Thank you Pain for doing what I asked a few days ago... ;)

Character Choices Should Matter

I am not sure what you mean by Character Choices Should Matter? Do you want a Living Campaign? I have never seen PFS as Living Campaign, and I must admit I am wary on that.

Ensure Promotions of In-Game Goals and Rewards

Ok, ummm, huh? Isn't this being done now?

Money and Growth Flows From Happy Customers

You know as well as I do, you can't make everyone happy, so what exactly are you looking for here? What makes you happy may not make others happy.

High Value on Community Volunteer Leadership and Community Input

Some of this stuff I agree with, But I would rather have a "Centralized" rule of authority then a Community Authority, though input and advice is fine.

PFS is an open, social, consistent, and friendly play environment wherever you go.

Play, Play, Play! is broken as hell and needs cleaning up, there are parts of it that are useful, but too many people use it to do things they should not. So quoting Play, Play, Play! rules and consistency in the same sentence is non productive since a lot of inconsistency from game to game is caused by Play, Play, Play!

Reward Should Equal Risk/Don't Screw with the XP/Gold Curve

This could lead to our Module argument again, so I will leave it alone, though In general with Scenarios this is already done.

New interesting, content needs to be consistently available

Yeah they need to work on this, but they have indicated that currently there is no plans in the foreseeable future of adding more scenarios, other then the other play option outside of scenarios of adding Modules that your PFS character can play in for PFS credit, which is not really a fix to this problem for many reasons, since it is only really adding a different Play experience and not really feasible for the limited time available for play at Home games and Cons.

Trust in local coordinators to know their players, run the games.

You ask for consistent rules from area to area in one section but in another you ask to let the coordinators change the rules as needed, is that not a bit contradictory? I would rather have Consistent rules, I have already seen what happens when that is not the case.

Promote the purity of a well run module

This I can agree with.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

I strongly approve of trying to improve PFS but as usual I find myself strongly disagreeing with several of your specific points. Although I agree with others, sometimes, piddlespot.

I'm also certain my individual experience has colored my opinions.
(I tried to play LG several times and was unable to. It was rather late into the campaign but nobody I found was ever willing to play low-level at that point. I literally went 0/4 for groups I found that were willing to let me play. So I find myself fairly sensitive towards exclusion. I however did play a lot of Heroic Tier LFR. I think I managed to play AKAN 1-1 on 8/8 characters.)

Here are my thoughts on your various tenets. (Fort Save DC 20 vs Massive Text)

#1 I would like to see a lot more of this. There's plenty of room on most chronicle sheets for story based rewards. There are occasional bits of this from modules such as owing Grandmaster Torch a favor but there's a disappointing lack of it.

#2 "Earning the Right to be there"
So you want to trash all the pregens above 1? While I enjoy advancing my characters and understand that adventures need to be tiered, "Earning the Right" makes me think of MMO grinding, well gee I'm not really interested in this mod because Mr.SadFace is judging and the other 3 players have serious brain damage but if I want to play in that 7-11 next week I have to "earn the right" by grinding out this unfun experience. (Make no mistake I don't think lvl 1s should be in adventures with lvl5s but I don't like the "Earning the Right" concept.

#3 Good point there. 1 year ago everybody was new. As the fan base continues tricky balancing is necessary to keep both the youngins and the oldies happy.

#4 Paizo has been really slow about getting the guide updated and it feels like everything PFS related happens at super Molasses speed. I'm not sure what moving more control to the Community would do but it's an idea I'd be willing to explore further, but with strong reservations.

#5 This bit really grinds my gears.

Rant:
"We will do everything we can to welcome and accommodate players who show up for games." When the replay rules were less firm you asked me not to show up to EndGame since I'd be replaying. I guess this tenet doesn't actually apply to me since I'm not showing up, but I feel this statement is really disingenuous of you considering your attitude towards replayers

#6 Risk, Reward, Balance Good! While I agree with these statements I don't agree with your stated opinions regarding modules. I find it ok that the modules work somewhat differently that scenarios. Are they perfect at the moment? No, but I'm ok with them being different.

#7 More Content! This is the leading reason I don't go to local cons. All they do it run me out of content quicker and cost lots of money and complicate my health. I would like to attend one to play the Con-Special but sadly that has not been offered at any of the recent local cons.

#8 You talk about making modules more difficult, what about suboptimal groups filled with brain dead half-zombie hags. They would almost certainly have more fun with an easier module. What about a mixed table? What about players you don't know? Also who counts as a "local coordinator" with the magical ability to make extra changes and what changes do you think they should be able to make?

#9 A table without replaying is generally more enjoyable than one with replaying. My feelings here are definitely mixed. What I would like to see is the 1xp limit for judging removed. Most modules I have only judged once due to the lack of reward for judging multiple times. I like the feeling of advancing my characters. I also feel like I could generally do a better job judging a module my second or third time.

PS. Pain I still owe you a drink, over Gee Ledo(uche)

The Exchange

AxeMurder0 wrote:
#5 This bit really grinds my gears....

At the time, the rules were different, AM0. You wanted to sit in at tables (with 4 or more players already) for credit. I would have welcomed you to play for non-credit.

Ain't no thang. You can come and play for non-credit anytime you want. Glad we could clear that up and it ain't worth arguing about here.

Dragnmoon wrote:

Play, Play, Play! is broken as hell and needs cleaning up, there are parts of it that are useful, but too many people use it to do things they should not. So quoting Play, Play, Play! rules and consistency in the same sentence is non productive since a lot of inconsistency from game to game is caused by Play, Play, Play!

Funny how you completely missed the point on a lot of these, DMoon. :(

I think the feeling behind PlayPlayPlay is a great one, but that doesn't mean I think it's perfectly consistent. Please don't confuse what I wish were true (really nice consistent timely-updated rules) and reality.

AxeMurder0 wrote:
#8 You talk about making modules more difficult, what about suboptimal groups filled with brain dead half-zombie hags.

I think you've missed the point. I *do* trust local coordinators to empower local judges (or not) to make intelligent and rational decisions for their players. That may or may not include not killing new players or adjusting mods to fit their tables when appropriate.

I count as a local coordinator as someone who is responsible for setting up, reporting, and managing a table of PFS. Not necessarily the judge, mind you...but the person whose interest is a fun gaming experience.

DragnMoon. AM0: I believe that local coordinators should, in general, follow the core tenets, whatever they may be.

The real point of my post is that PFS needs to create/find/establish tenets/ethos upon which we can build together. We won't agree with everything (we never, ever will), but the lack of something is quite evident.

-Pain

Grand Lodge

Painlord - thanks, as always, for something though provoking. Obviously everyone is not going to agree with all of it, and that's kind of the point.

I do buy in to the core idea though, as I'm a big time framework guy. Give me a framework to utilize and demonstrate understanding of, then get out of my way and let me utilize the framework. Having a strong core and understanding of that core allows for autonomous decision making that remains consistent with the core. The great promise of the Organized Play system is the kind of hegemony of experience that is possible across the world for players in this shared environment. That's pretty fantastic. Each PFS module is a beautiful snowflake and should be treated as such.

The Exchange

I too like this thread. It is making me, as a new coordinator/judge take a step back and think about many things. I also do not agree with everything. however i also agree that we never will %100. rather than argue with what i do not like i will highlight what i do like, in an effort to be positive.

I like the idea of more community involvement. Volunteers overseen by the Paizo staff has the potential to allow Paizo to focus on creating new stuff. while the volunteers revise/update old stuff and handle some of the more mundane work that i am sure litters the desks of Paizo staffers rite now. some of us have worked in offices that get summer interns. we love it when they show up because they can literally clear off mountains of minor jobs that keep getting put aside for priority ones. I think Volunteers can do the same for Paizo staff :)

I like the focus on making each and every table as fun as possible for those playing it. will this happen all the time. no, Judges and coordinators are after all human and have bad days too. but giving coordinators and Judges more tools to ensure this can not hurt. what those tools can be is obviously up for debate.

I do want to also stress something however. I do not think anyone posting on these thread or even the whole forum thinks PFS is broken. I think we all just want to improve it in our own quirky ways. Hyrum and gang, you guys and those that went before you, have done a great job so far. Keep up the good work!

Shadow Lodge

I'm not 100% behind all the ideas presented here but I love the overarching concept and agree with most of the ideas.

Scarab Sages

"I love you, man."

For the most part, I agree with your points.

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