Painlord's "What We Teach New PFS Players" (meta)


GM Discussion

The Exchange

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Greetings Judges, VCs, and Local Coordinators--

With GenCon coming up, I have been thinking about what we teach PFS to new players. I am primarily interested in developing 'good players' in my area and teaching them to play the game 'the right way'. Of course, this means different things to different people. This is meant to be a community wide meta-discussion on how to introduce new players to the game and what is important.

I have playing PFS for a while now and have brought in quite a few new PFS players. I have run many players in their first games, pointed countless others to the PFS online resources, and organized a fairly large community (145 members and growing!) in the Bay Area.

I have established strong feelings about what constitutes a 'good player'. For the purposes of this post, that will what I will be referring to. Your reality, needs, dreams, and desires may differ. Keep in mind: the PFS metagame is different from what you'll have in a home campaign or previous editions of the game.

GOAL: My goal is to have a healthy, social, and vibrant PFS (and Pathfinder) player base. I *want* to play with new, interesting, and different play styles and I want many opportunities for play. By teaching our new players correctly, we lay the foundation for that community to grow.

Caveat #1:
Not every new player is attracted to the same facets in PFS. Every player has preferences either for combat crunch, or fluff, or roleplaying (and those factors may change from day to day based on mood, energy level, tiredness, etc.). Of course, it is best to tailor any approach to new players building on what they have interest in.

Caveat #2:
Not every new player comes in at the same starting point. You could have new PFS players who:
1) Never played any roleplaying game, let alone any version of DnD.
2) Play in a Pathfinder home campaign.
3) Took acting in college, played a bit of DnD in the '80s.
4) Played DnD when it first came out, haven't played since.
5) Come over from 4e/LFR or other living campaigns.
So, people previous experiences should be taken into account and that should play a part in what you stress to the new PFS player.

Here is what I would love every new player to get and understand as they begin to play PFS. Not a lot of this is Pathfinder ruleset or Golarion/Pathfinder Society trivia...this is Meta-PFS information, i.e. the stuff behind the stuff.

Point #1: The game is about having fun, whether you like roleplaying or rolling dice. You can be into your character or into the combat or both. Play as it makes you happy and in the way that makes it fun for you while not making it unfun for others. Advanced: Trying to help others have fun, asking yourself: "What can I do to make the game more fun for them?"

Point #2: Pathfinder is a roleplaying game. It is a social, group roleplaying game. We don't want to tell them they have to talk in a funny voice or dress up in costume, but we should stress how important the ability to build a character then be able to enact that concept at the table is. This game isn't about playing you, but playing the character. It's about reacting to situations as your character might react. It's about creating an interesting play concept then bringing that into the PFS module. I'm not saying that new players should be made to roleplay or that they need to do it on the spot, only of the importance and place in the game. Advanced: Try to bring up the level of roleplaying for everyone at the table. Roleplaying becomes easier and funner the more people are involved in doing it. And when the judge can handle and magnify it as well, the game becomes much more fun. Being able to bounce off other characters and their personalities is a key ingredient.

Point #3: Pathfinder is a social game. Not all new players will remember any or all of the names of the other players when they sit down at their first PFS table. They may or may not...but they should remember that they were introduced to and greeted warmly by the judge and those players. Personal introductions are of *CRITICAL* importance. I have made lots of friends in Organized Play and that's why I continue to play PFS: the chance to meet and hang out with fun like-minded people enjoying a common pastime. This game *is* about making friends that you can see and play with on a regular basis. I want new players to know this the moment they sit down. And that they can expect the same warmth wherever they go to play PFS.

Point #4: You have time to learn and people will be patient with you. I want new players to have an immediate sense of ease and comfort with their learning process and their development in PFS. There is a lot of focus on mechanics when teaching a new player to play because it's important and easiest thing to teach. The reason that we all teach the mechanics of how to attack, cast a spell, or use a skill is that it quickly allows the new player to achieve some competence in the game and allows them to concentrate on learning. However, the important thing about teaching the crunch/mechanics, is that it helps put the new player at ease. Of equal importance is teaching the new player that they have room for roleplay and creating a comfort area for that as well. Advanced: When the new player feels comfortable helping other new players get involved.

Point #5: The importance of being flexible. After all, this isn't a living campaign, nor a home game, nor LFR, nor Living Greyhawk or Living Arcanis for that matter. It's not Xendrick Expeditations nor Living City. It's piddlespotting Pathfinder Society. We do things differently...and one of the skills that is necessary is flexibility.

5a: Be flexible in your expectations. The rules are not perfect...neither are the other players, judges or anything else. We should all forgive, forget, and embrace that imperfection...while striving to be better. Scenarios are more likely to be difficult based on human error, either GM-side or player side, rather than mod as written difficulty. There is nothing wrong with this...we are all human. Players do dumb things. Players purposely have their characters do dumb things because of character. GMs misread or misinterpret things. GMs are imperfectly prepared. It all happens, but it is part of the game. Advanced: Realizing that those things also make the game interesting. Roll with them and learn to use them to have more fun.

5b: Be flexible with your character and within your party. Having a 'balanced' party is much less important than having a party that works well together. You never need a 'balanced' party to succeed in Pathfinder Society play. You can succeed without a front line figther type, without a rogue, without a dedicated healer, and without any spellcasting. A motto should be taken from the Marines or even a favorite of mine, the movie Heartbreak Ridge wherein soldiers are encouraged to "Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome"...come in with the will to find a way to succeed. Avoid: I will never, ever teach a new player that you need an X, Y, or Z roles in your PFS party. It simply isn't true and leads them to the wrong expectations as they play going forward. Good experienced PFS players never ask "who is going play the healer/fighter/blahblah?" Good players and good judges find a way to work together to 'win'.

5c: Be flexible in play style. One reason everyone plays this game is the opportunity to be the center of attention. Each player should have a chance to shine and each player needs to feel like their contributions matter. Equally important is having a play style that understand that the GM is not your adversary, but there to facilitate the fun of a well-run PFS scenario. Advanced: As AdAstraGames once wrote: "Understand that the goal is to enjoy the game, not win it without expending any resources, getting hurt, or without any challenge." I hope we teach new players the same.

Point #6: Where to find all the tools they need to learn more. Some players like to learn by reading on their own, others want to ask questions directly to people, yet others like email, yet others want to ask anonymously...we want to be able to accommodate all of them. When a new player shows up, I want them to have a handout that gives them all the following as a way to learn more:

# The local Yahoo! Group or email list
# Their Local coordinator or VC's email address
# URL of the Pathfinder Society Boards
# Address to the Pathfinder SRD or other online resource
# Where to download the Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play

Point #7: Understanding of the PFS volunteer community. This is a tough one to convey, but I think it's important for new players to realize that judges and coordinators are all volunteers, donating their time to make the game run. As part of this, it is important to invite new players to join the community and eventually be part of giving back to the community, whether through judging, organizng, setting up or whatever. I know this point may be hard for some people, but I can stress the importance enough to teach new players that giving back is an important part of PFS. Advanced: When new players ask what is takes to become a judge.

Okay, those are my yahoo thoughts. What am I missing?

What would you want to teach all new players from a meta perspective?

-Pain

Dark Archive

Nice list. One thing I would say makes you a good player is being proactive and actually trying to learn the game, and better your own ability at the table, and then passing that on to those who are new. This is something I have had to work on, for some reason I just could not remember the details of my spells for example. So I made cards so people at the table do not have to wait for me to look them up. Little things like that seem to go a long way.


Painlord wrote:
Avoid: I will never, ever teach a new player that you need an X, Y, or Z roles in your PFS party. It simply isn't true and leads them to the wrong expectations as they play going forward. Good experienced PFS players never ask "who is going play the healer/fighter/blahblah?" Good players and good judges find a way to work together to 'win'.

Caveat here: It IS acceptable to ask "is anyone playing X role." There are numerous reasons for this question, most of them valid and refer to adapting to the table conditions presented. A few people may even end up with multiple characters in range for a table and want to choose one that will mesh better.

This is probably really advanced, because it's a fine distinction. But I do think it's a valid one.

Dark Archive 3/5

You forgot to mention the pizza... ;)

No, I wholeheartedly endorse this list. I think the points are in the correct order too.

Shadow Lodge 2/5

Chris Kenney wrote:

Caveat here: It IS acceptable to ask "is anyone playing X role." There are numerous reasons for this question, most of them valid and refer to adapting to the table conditions presented. A few people may even end up with multiple characters in range for a table and want to choose one that will mesh better.

This is probably really advanced, because it's a fine distinction. But I do think it's a valid one.

That's a tricky one though. Sure I've sat at a table with multiple options and don't mind playing to the table's needs. However Pain is correct - a good group of people (including the judge) can generally manage any PFS mod. They may not be ideal, but they'll muddle through - and maybe have more fun doing it!

We should try and avoid thinking of each other as 'the cleric' or 'the fighter' and instead focus on the character, the personality, the things that make them unique beyond their class.

...'course I also hate being the third fighter - and one or two levels lower to boot - which can lead to feeling totally superfluous. So your point has validity. :)

Sovereign Court

You have written many of these types of 'guides' in the past - a good GM, player and even how to write semi-canon articles.
I agree with 99% of what you are saying - however implementation is often hard or difficult. Even those that read your posts might not understand the objective or know how to utilize the information.
This is true with GM's as well. I know a couple of players - they know the rules quite well and believe they can be good GM's because they've had success as a player. With the above, I think it's important to note that while the above is true for a player, it 'can' be only half true for a GM.
The final point about being a volunteer - this goes both ways. The players are volunteering their time to help the other players and GM have a good time. As such, having a good time should be the first priority. As such, just because your first experience with a group was poor, doesn't mean they don't like you, don't want you there or it has anything to do with anyone thing in particular. Maybe the GM isn't the best, even with players that know what to expect from the GM, add in a player that's not focused and the whole table can go sour. So make sure you look around at whats going on when you join. Sometimes it just might not be the best night to play.

The Exchange

Theocrat Issak wrote:
I agree with 99% of what you are saying - however implementation is often hard or difficult. Even those that read your posts might not understand the objective or know how to utilize the information.

Yeah, this is something I wrestle with often when I write these things. "Is it even going to be useful?" is a common thought that goes through my head.

I know it can be tough to do everything I suggest...in fact, I know that I fail more often than not. For instance, just Sunday night I ran Mists of Mwangi for 4 new-to-PFS players, 1 somewhat new player, and 1 old hand.

It was a pretty good run, I spent a lot of time on the background to the society, the organized play campaign, and the in-game rules. The players seemed to have a lot of fun. However, when I got home, I re-read this post and realized that I had forgotten some salient points during my running.

So I really get how hard it is to do, but I like that there are ideals out there and things to think about when you run for new players. In the end, I hope a few coordinators read this and vary their approach a bit when teaching new players. In the end, if a few teachers stop teaching that PFS needs balanced tables, I'd be happy...it takes a while for that to be un-taught.

Meh. Or maybe I just like to babble.

Theocrat Issak wrote:
This is true with GM's as well. I know a couple of players - they know the rules quite well and believe they can be good GM's because they've had success as a player. With the above, I think it's important to note that while the above is true for a player, it 'can' be only half true for a GM.

I put a lot of faith in the Local Coordinator. I trust them to make good decisions about who they let judge for them.

I do think all players should be willing to give back to the PFS community as a whole. I don't think all of the them should be judges. I do believe in having a standard that helping out is almost mandatory...do something to make your community better.

Then again, I like to dream.

Thanks for the feedback.

-Pain

p.s. I think I just really believe in writing up what is ideal for me, posting it, and then letting the PFS Community adapt that ideal so they know what is possible and what they can do. I know that I don't always reach my own ideals, but I like having something to shoot for.

Dark Archive

Perhaps it is just my own frustration as a fledgling coordinator, but I think that point number seven is a big deal and perhaps needs a sub point:

Don't make more work for the coordinators and GMs by neglecting your paperwork. Yes, we try to be flexible, but if your paperwork is sloppy or missing it is no fun for everyone. I as a coordinator need the GMs to fill out the session sheets so that I can report them. Players Need GMs to fill out chronicle sheets promptly, and GMs need players to keep track of their chronicle sheets.

I've been having a lot of trouble with this. I understand that the players may not enjoy paperwork as much as I do, but it's very frustrating.

Grand Lodge

Painlord

Thanks for the effort and great work. It is very much appreciated.

Here is one point I miss. It is a difficult one - as it takes time - but I think it's a worthwhile one.

9) The Pathfinder Society is located in Golarion - a continent with lots of history and background that does help to place your character into a world.

I try - as I introduce most new local players here at home - to give them a quick tour of the inner sea with some background centring around the five original factions. I helps a lot that since a few weeks I have the large Golarion map on one of the Walls in the gaming room.

I tend to start with Taldor and show what region they originally dominated. Followed by Cheliax, that they broke off, mentioning Aroden and the cataclysm when he didn't come back and that this is the reason for the eye of abendengo as well as the devil worship. Andoran follows. Then Quadira and Osirion.

It takes me some 20-30 minutes - but players get a better idea which faction to take and with the map can follow where they go on an adventure.

At a CON this is reduced to 5 min - but I feel a map of Golarion tends to help a lot (and yes - imperfect as I'm I have one now at home but tend to Roget to take the smaller version with me to games). A map also helps when introducing an adventure - you go to Ustalav - pointing finger up the map. You go to Geb - finger elsewhere on the map, etc.

Grand Lodge Venture-Agent, Texas—Mansfield aka sieylianna

Euan wrote:
That's a tricky one though. Sure I've sat at a table with multiple options and don't mind playing to the table's needs. However Pain is correct - a good group of people (including the judge) can generally manage any PFS mod. They may not be ideal, but they'll muddle through - and maybe have more fun doing it!

It's not much of a factor in a guide for new players, but it is definitely something which you should consider when the party is faced with a decision to "play up".

The Exchange

**Cast Raise Thread**

I meant to bump this before Kublacon as I was thinking that we would likely have lots of new players and I wanted to remind my players and GMs of what I think is important to teach new players.

We handed out about 100 new PFS numbers at Kublacon, but wonder how many saw many of my points above.

Meh.

Duly bumped, for good or evil.

-Pain

Grand Lodge

Yo Pain,
I made this list for another thread about party conflict occurring from 'cowardly casters' not contributing. I thought this list might be useful for new players playing full arcane casters.
Hope it's helpful.

KestlerGunner wrote:

Here's a quick list of five things that an arcane caster needs to be aware of in order you do not build a status as a coward.

1. Ensure your character can see the fight. If you are so far from the fight that the clouds of the sky, the foliage of the forest or the fog of the underworld would mean you're not even in sight of the enemy, then you're effectively not 'in there' and not in distance to move to your friends and feed them a potion if needs be.

2. Never, ever, EVER, make mention of how much damage you took. Do not call it to attention. It's like comparing apples and oranges in play style and it'll cause the fighters to resent you and it'll cause the GM to make a Chuul appear and grapple you. Not good.

3. Buff intelligently. I get it that you're squishy. I get it. But if your friends are being cut to ribbons while you're casting your third defensive spell, your party tactics are out of order. Discuss as a party your tactics and make sure people know how much buffing will occur.

4. A true hero has nothing but contempt for the 15 minute work day. If you are constantly whining to the party to rest to restore spells because you 'can't' fight without having all your best spells ready, that's being a coward. Be brave with resources.

5. Never, ever use the word 'meat shield.' Your party members are your friends. They're not hired muscle. They're not your sidekicks. They're your equals, whether they can cast spells or not. Respect them. They put their bodies on the line to protect you. Reciprocate once in a while.

Silver Crusade

Again, Pain has some exceedingly helpful thoughts for every PFS player, new or more seasoned.

The Exchange

Point #8: Not every overpowered monster in PFS is an illusion.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

you have a very good approach, i'll personally try to implement #6 better from now on.

as for #4, i have a great deal of experience introducing players to RPG's from PFS, Shadowrun, Star Wars, D&D, etc. and my approach (tried and true) to develop a true newbie into a productive player is to simply tell them in the first few games that all they need to do is let you as the GM know what they are attempting to accomplish with each action and you will tell them the rolls/rules/restrictions that accompany that decision. brass tacks; it's their job to play a character in a fictional world... it's your job to know the rules that govern that world. that being said, as a GM, i always ask what an ability or spell does from a newer player so that they learn their characters capabilities and where to find that info, even though i may have the specifics memorized, it's never bad to have it refreshed and you are reinforcing the rules of the game and how to use them in the player without throwing a pile of books in their lap or flooding them with a seemingly endless wash of rules. rules heavy games like Pathfinder and D&D can be very intimidating to new players because of this! having them recite their effects takes a little more time... but they quickly get the hang of what to do and when, at which point much of the guidance/proofing can stop.

i always advocate reading every word of the skills chapter to new players even if they skim the rest of the book(s). i encourage the same of the combat and magic chapters depending on the focus of the character. the latter i'm more lax on with the numerous cheat-sheets for combat actions/maneuvers and spell flash-cards available online. as i see it, knowing what you want the character to do and how to do it are the biggest parts of the game. role playing is how it's carried out and the reaction of events in the game... which becomes automatic after a few sessions. rules and the like are either asked about directly or researched in depth alone as the player becomes more accustomed to the game, and more or less takes care of it'self in my experience.

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