Talk me down off the ledge... I'm losing hope in PFS and I don't want to


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Hello PFS,

I took a break from organized play for college and picked up PFS maybe a little more than a year and a half ago. During my short time in PFS, I've lived in three different cities (career) and been to a decent amount of conventions, and I keep encountering reoccurring themes that are just bothering me...PFS is starting to lose it's luster.

I keep telling myself, "maybe I should quit?" and I keep not wanting to, because the system (both PF and PFS) has so much amazing potential. I am visiting yet another city for work, and signed up for three games during my trip, and I can already tell that it's just more of the same.

I guess I'm asking you to help me here. Show me what I'm doing wrong...show me how I'm wrong...or agree with me and maybe we can find some way to fix this

1. Most players are really, really bad.

I am so sick of 16 strength rangers, bards that sing and do nothing else, and 10 con melee rogues, there is some kind of huge bell-curve; there seem to be a few really decent players, and it's like everyone else makes bad choices on purpose. I've essentially solo'ed or two-manned a scenario more times that I can count.

However, this doesn't stop at stats and numbers. These same decent players are the ones that also get into their character, use different voices, have unique and interesting character concepts, use things like table-tents and pictures to tell a story about who they are. Everyone else (the majority) uses their regular people voices, have completely uninspired character concepts ("I'm a fighter, I have a chain shirt...that's about it") and don't do anything except just act like themselves playing a non-role playing game.

It's not the new players either. I just played three slots at a convention where the only thing standing between a horrific thornekeep TPK on every single encounter were two second level wizards, played myself and an 18 year old teenager who had *never in his entire life played anything resembling a roleplaying game*. We burned through two entire wands of magic missile, because we were evidently the only characters capable of doing any damage to anything.

I finally had to switch out characters in the last part of the module, because the judge (one of the decent guys as described above) strongly hinted that we would be annihilated if we tried to play it as-is. The judge later confided in me that he had actually killed everyone (except me) at least several times and didn't have the heart to ruin the convention for us.

What the hell happened here? It wasn't like this in Living Greyhawk. LFR wasn't even this bad.

2. It's impossible to find one anything higher than 3-7

Every game day everywhere is always the same. 1-5. 3-7 Every time. I've got one character that I've managed to sneak to 10th level, and everyone else is locked under seven. When I find the decent players I was talking about, half the time it's because they are running a game for me or pulling out their hair trying to keep a scene in one piece.

Is it fair to me to have to keep coming up with new characters? Is it fair to me to just have some kind of early retirement? The only time I can ever escape this problem is by going to conventions (where problem 1 and 3 still occur), and as a father and career-minded person, I just can't do this more than a few times a year anyway.

3. You can't ever play up

Pathfinder is incredibly boring when you play down, with a few exceptions. Of course, half the time everyone only has the lowest tier of characters that the scenario can handle (usually 1-5) and the other half of the time, it falls in the middle and people are either "trying to play it safe" or "providing a good experience for the newer players".

Well, what about me? I'm not having fun anymore, and I have just as much right to have fun as anyone else. Is a new person more valuable than me? Should I just quit so it can only be fun for them? I've played up *once* in the past 12 scenarios I've played; when is enough enough?

4. People like me are despised

I am sick of the guilt trip. Yes, I've optimized my character in XYZ fashion. Yes, my character has a high AC, and/or hits really hard, and/or has really high save DCs on their really well thought out spell list. Yes, my character killed the big monster in the first round (that's why I wanted to play up). As a result, people just don't want me at their table, until they are knee-deep in a TPK and I have to save them.

It's not that I'm some kind of incredible prodigy. It's that when you combine problems 1, 2, and 3, you get a party of characters with extremely sub-optimal choices, played by strategically-challenged players, that are 2-3 levels lower than me. *Of course* my seventh level character stole the thunder from a party of 3 and 4th level monks and rogues. How is that my fault?

I get "the look". My math gets checked. I have to bring rules clarifications with me. Judges rule incorrectly against me on simple things on purpose (like "taking 10" on things outside of combat, I mean, seriously?!?)

Why? I'm not ignorant to people. This post here is the *first* time I've ever openly and publicly commented disparagingly about anyone, their character, their choices, or anything. I'm nice, I'm helpful, I'm encouraging. I offer suggestions if they are welcomed, and I don't if they aren't. I'm held accountable because I don't fit into the group of people described in problem 1. That's it. My characters are pretty effective; what a jerk.

5. It's not the geo.

It's everywhere. Each of the three cities I've lived. Every con that I've gone to outside of these cities. The crew that I used to run with has found this in countless cities and conventions all over the country.

Finale:

So, talk me off the ledge, or bid me good riddance. GO!

5/5

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...I've got nothing man. My experience has been completely different. I hope you have better luck with your games in the future. :(


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Where do you live? Can I move there? :D

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Phoenix. I played my first 7-11 here! We've got three locations with games every weekend.

Previously, I was at Fort Hood and had to build the community myself. Then, by the time we reached our first 5-9 mod, I had to leave. I spent time back home in Ohio, building a group with my old friends and family, but of course that had to end when we completed our move down to here.

The best I can say is to try and build the group you're looking for, as Horselord suggested below.

Scarab Sages

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It sounds like you don't have a regular group. Admittedly it loses some of the "benefits" of meeting new and varied people, but it allows you to carve out your own rut with people who can grow with you. It also allows the whole group to advance a group of characters to retirement (unless character death gets in the way).

The main benefit of a regular group is the people in it will become experienced at the game if they are not fairly quickly, or at least the experienced of the group can prevent glaring character weaknesses from entering a character build. It becomes a lot less individual, the experienced of the group can vet character builds (and play, through suggestion, encouragement, etc.) and help the inexperienced make the kind of character they will enjoy playing.

Admittedly, travelling makes a regular group really hard to keep up.

Scarab Sages

Yea my area doesn't seem to have these issues either. We used to be much larger, but then a great number of people quit due to life things/poor LGS/etc. We are rebuilding, but occasionally we get a 7-11 going but at this point it is mainly 1-8 is the main group mostly lower.

TOZ- Who GMed and what scenario?

Sovereign Court 5/5 5/5 Venture-Captain, West Virginia—Charleston aka Netopalis

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Well, I don't feel qualified to address your specific problems that you list. It sounds like you've had some rough players and GMs, as well as some organizational issues at your local store. All that I can offer is a countervailing anecdote that I hope will show the good of it.

I am 26 years old, and for most of my life, I've been looking for a group. I've now found one, and it was all thanks to PFS.

For the first 20-odd years of my life, I lived in secluded areas, where there really wasn't access to games like D&D. I had an interest in RPGs and board gaming, but I just didn't have any players to foster those interests. That carried through college, and again, through law school. I could sometimes find groups for board games, but nothing regular, and certainly never a longstanding group to play a full RPG campaign. I had the books, which I read, but...never the players.

I moved to my current city in August 2012. I knew few people. That changed at my first local con, CharCon. It was a small event, but I was really looking forward to it. I had hoped to meet up with some people for RPG and board gaming and find a regular gaming group. I certainly managed to do so.

My first PFS experience was amazing, even though we had to surrender to a certain first-level boss. Although I didn't know the rules that well, I had a very patient and understanding GM, a GM that I sadly haven't met since then. My second session was under my now-VC, Matt Smith, an amazing person who I've grown to respect and appreciate in a lot of ways.

My follow-up scenarios were less great, in part due to bad party composition, but things looked up eventually. I grew, tried running some games, and found that I had a knack for GMming. I quickly found that I loved the other side of the GM screen, where I could prepare for RP and combat, and really put in the effort to give my players a fantastic experience that was worth their time.

Now, as I approach 1 year in this campaign and 100 games GMmed, I have to say that joining it has been one of the best choices of my life. I have made a ton of friends, both locally and elsewhere. I really think that it has helped me grow as a person, as well as provided me with great opportunities to actually get out of the house and socialize. At times I may get crabby, at times I may be snarky...but in the end, I have to say that I love this campaign, and I really have enjoyed meeting the friends that I have met - many of whom I expect will be lifelong friends even after this particular campaign ends.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Chris Mullican wrote:
TOZ- Who GMed and what scenario?

That was Dust Raven's run of Words of the Ancients. :)


HorseLord: My career and family allows me to only play in spurts, and as mentioned, I've moved twice within the last year.

Chris, it sounds like you have at least two of the problems mentioned.

Net: This was my Living Greyhawk experience. All of these amazing people have slowly left over the years, and I moved away from the few that remain. There are more amazing people I've met, but the just seem to be fewer and further between

EDIT Net- but, admittedly, that was fairly uplifting and insiring. Ok. Talked off the proverbial ledge...I'm going to stick it out

Scarab Sages

Tanath- I live in a Army Town of 50k people. We used to run 4 solid tables a week in 1 slot. Then we split to 2 slots with 2 tables in the AM and 3 in the PM. Then the LGS "irritated" some of the people with kids adn we had some people transfer away. We moved our morning slot to the base and re-acquired some of our players. We still have a solid 3 tables a week, but we got through highs and lows as people transfer in and out, some of the veteran players have stepped up to GMing which makes it harder at times to get some of those high level people all together. I don't really see these as problems. I see it as I live in a Military town and people have real life stuff and the nature of military towns is people move.

Toz- Cool Scenario. Never had that player as a GM.

Scarab Sages

If you are looking for people that might spur your diversity and creativity, you can also look into the online PFS. They got tons of people that you can mingle with that might be different that the ones you have at your current locale.

Silver Crusade

It's pros and cons of society play. Sounds like your players need some development, and maybe you can use an online organizing tool to get higher level games together.

Dark Archive

I feel your pain and as someone that has already jumped so to speak I agree with much of what you have said. Lucky for me I do not move as much and have created a solid home group hand-picking individuals that have a similar game style to myself from PFS.

I will second Cao Phen's remark that online play might be a new avenue of approach. I have had some good PbP experiences on this site and others.

Dark Archive

Come on out to the west coast my friend, we're all pretty solid out here and if you make it up to Seattle...we got some solid games running everyday of the week (almost ;p ).

Shadow Lodge

You've had a run of very bad luck. I've never seen nor heard of that happening in several years of play.

Online play will give you a better pool of players and GMs to find a better experience.

Sovereign Court

Tanath,
If work/play brings you to the Denver/Colorado Springs area let us know we can set up a game(s) of any level you like. Hope to see you soon.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Can I have your stuff?

Spoiler:
Funny enough, I find consistently that I have the opposite problem. Everyone I play around and with optimizes to the Nth degree to the point that I find myself struggling to participate in most scenarios. In the last con special I played the monster got a surprise round and in that round killed half the party (not me) and I still didn't get to act as the next in initiative one-shot it.

I would much prefer the party of inexperienced poorly built characters where I have to bear the load. At least then, I'd get to see what monsters can do.

Grand Lodge

Tanath.
Organized play differs in different geographical areas. This is to be expected. Yes you have lived in 3 different areas but players tend to play the way they want to and unfortunately there is not much you can do about it. When you get new players in to a community they start with new characters so low level play is going to happen.

Now.. as others have said you yourself has some remedies for this.

1. Wait until some people in your area have leveled up their core characters and form your own events and organize events featuring the higher level scenarios available. Encourage the newer players to play a core character and level them up. and only play the newer ones as needed only.

2. Partly to do with #1. Organize your own events and or your own group. Go online and form a community there that showcases the events like Meet-up.com or some other site like Warhorn. Post things at your local game store or stores. Maybe host the event at it or one of them. Get the store involved in getting something together too. Advertise it and encourage walk-ins. This encourages a community to form and they in turn will tell others. By doing this they see you running it and how you might play and or GM and it encourages them to maybe play like minded characters or portrayals

3. Not all players no matter what you do, say or want till always be "Role" players. But some will come around if they see others doing so.. especially the GM. There are alot of shy people out there that want to play and they are the ones that have a hard time with doing the voices things and such. I am one of the people that loves to do voices but if I did my voice will give out with in an hour or two and I am limited quite a bit then. But I do "role" play my character and enjoy doing so. But this could hamper other players in how they might play theirs too. It is a bunch of pros and cons here on how and what you should do with your character. Not every one will agree that Role Playing is a good thing either even though the very premise of this game is about role playing. So again try and encourage it when ever you can but accept when it does not happen.

4. Just break off and make your own group and play or don't play PFS. You can play at home just as well online too.

5. If moving alot like you have been.. the ideal would probably be playing PFS online for you then. There they DO role play A LOT more then you will see at the table top.

Organized play is not for everyone, but if you accept the foibles of a diverse style of play (which is what makes organized nplay so good in my opinion) then you can excel in the community that you might form. But if you can't accept that people are going to play the way you wouldn't then you might want to form that group of like minded individuals and see where that leads you. Keeping in mind with your frequent moves this is a tough thing too because it is hard to form a lasting group if they know you might move at a moments notice.

Even the shy people do eventually come around when they start feeling more welcome to their little community. But what I personally think is not relevant because what works for me may not for you. You ultimately have to decide what YOU want. write down the pro's and con's of PFS as both and organization and it's players/community. Every where you go there will always be niches like this. Some may be what you want.. some may not be what you want. It is a crap shoot at best, but one thing you will know it WILL be different where ever you end up and play. But no matter what anyone says here. We can not talk you off of this so called edge, unless YOU are willing to accept that players are what they are. Encourage other behavior with subtlety and grace and you might see some of them change. But accept that some will not and you might be happier about playing. If not, just simply move on.

Sovereign Court

Beaten to the punch by Todd.

I used to play very regularly here in Denver* and it seems the games planned run the gamut of level ranges. Not to mention the two cons held annually. Most of the characters I've come across are planned and useful to the utmost, and the players are always willing to offer guidance when asked when stumped with your own character. The VO's are great and approachable, as are the organizers.

Sorry, this it turning into a neiner-neiner tease, was trying to show it's not like that EVERYwhere.

* Only reason I don't play often anymore is the job I'm currently in. Working nights and weekends doesn't help the play schedule. That's why I'm GMing online games weekday mornings now.

Liberty's Edge

Many of your comments strike a chord with me, and others not so much. I've only been playing PFS since May (of this year). I've played under just 3 GM's at the table and in only one location with a single character. But again, your post made me think a bit.

Tanath wrote:

Hello PFS,

1. Most players are really, really bad.

I am so sick of 16 strength rangers, bards that sing and do nothing else, and 10 con melee rogues, there is some kind of huge bell-curve; there seem to be a few really decent players, and it's like everyone else makes bad choices on purpose.

I've seen this. Heck, I *do* this. My own style of play forbids me from taking over a 17 in any starting stat. That's not optimized. Tough crap. I want my character to have some chance of failure. It's not a lack of rules knowledge. As a CPA trust me, I can fully comprehend some of the most byzantine rules you've ever read (I hope).

Optimization, in my experience, doesn't matter that much. A party of 6 character with nothing over 16 in their main stat can still curbstomp most PFS encounters, especially at lower levels. I've been part of groups that steamrolled Tier 1-2 with 4 players.

Tanath wrote:

However, this doesn't stop at stats and numbers. These same decent players are the ones that also get into their character, use different voices, have unique and interesting character concepts, use things like table-tents and pictures to tell a story about who they are. Everyone else (the majority) uses their regular people voices, have completely uninspired character concepts ("I'm a fighter, I have a chain shirt...that's about it") and don't do anything except just act like themselves playing a non-role playing game.

I don't really like to use different voices. I'm bad at it. No one wants to hear me butcher a Cockney, Scottish, or Russian accent for a few hours, and those are the only ones I'd even dare to try publicly. Some players in our area use accents well, others don't. I don't even see that as part of the character.

To me the key is actually speaking in character. I try to do this more and more as I get comfortable with my group. Too often I hear players describing what their character is saying to an NPC, rather than trying to actually say it in character. That, to me, is a more important hallmark of roleplaying.

Tanath wrote:


It's not that I'm some kind of incredible prodigy. It's that when you combine problems 1, 2, and 3, you get a party of characters with extremely sub-optimal choices, played by strategically-challenged players, that are 2-3 levels lower than me. *Of course* my seventh level character stole the thunder from a party of 3 and 4th level monks and rogues. How is that my fault?

Not to be a complete jerk, but that sounds off. You should never be allowed to play a character that is more than one level out of subtier, in my understanding. So a 7th level should not be in a scenario with level 3's and 4's.

On another point, I am very sorry that you feel picked on with regard to sheet checking and rules lookups. I have decided that as a GM I have a firm policy on checking everyone's sheets if I feel the need to inspect any one player's. It's the CPA in me. No tax return leaves my office without at least two or three sets of eyes cross-checking it. Mistakes, even ones that harm the player, are easily and frequently made. Still, it should never be done in a manner that insults the player, and I try very hard to avoid that when I GM (ok, so it's only been a few times, but still).

Now I've vented my spleen on a number of issues, and some of them don't touch on your main point.

In just a short time, I've met several players who I really look forward to seeing at the tables. None of them have the same style of play, and none are really like me. I still look forward to PFS every week I can get out. PFS is the only reason I have been roleplaying at all after a 15+ year hiatus.

I have also had great success with doing play-by post games here on the boards. I have especially liked to GM these kinds of games, and generally have had 2-3 going at any given time. I've played with a number of really solid online GM's as well. The roleplaying in these games BLOWS AWAY the average tabletop game, in my opinion.

Maybe I'm still too new, but I hope to illustrate that PFS is really a global community with a wide variety of players and play styles. I feel for you considering your poor experiences recently.

Deanoth's advice is *amazing*. I have been inspired to better play myself by the example set for me by others. Also, there are some folks that just aren't ever going to be comfortable changing in that way. I wish you the best of luck, whatever you decide!

Grand Lodge 4/5

I have seen issues with 1 locally. However, we have enough good players where it rarely becomes an issue. The key point is that most of the people who are in that situation around here are open to learning. They WANT to get better at doing what they want to do. I suspect your area's low tier players feel the same. The thing is that it's not a matter of if your new of not. It's a matter of play skill. Some people learn and pick things up faster then others. System mastery in PFS is pretty high on complexity. Also a lot of these players don't get that they can't do EVERYTHING. They need to pick and prioritize what the bring to a table. This is all a matter of teaching however...and without input of people like you, this won't happen on it's own.

Issue 2 is an interesting bit. The reason that there are more 1-5 and 3-7 then anything else is that there are people who actually JUST like the low level play. The game changes fairly radically by level 7. The games in the 5-9 and 7-11 don't play like 1-5 or 3-7. So you have some people not even interested in those. New players also need to go through the lower level stuff and so do any of YOUR characters you want to play high level games with. That means you will see more lower levels games then higher by a decent margin...in some areas, by a HUGE margin. And then there is the issue with issue one. You can have a pretty sub par character and do fine at lower levels...not so much at higher ones. So you have more deaths at higher ones and then you have to start over. I have suggested that we need a first steps series for higher tier play because we have a good chunk of players who don't understand it. But while that would help, this area is always gonna be an issue in ANY organized play unless you have a create character at not starting option.

Issue 3...well issue 3 just got a WHOLE lot worse in some ways. The new tiering system is fairly rigid so there is much less options to choose which sub-tier to play in. However when given the option of play up or down, it is to the benefit mechanically for anyone not in the upper sub tier to play down. So with some table manipulation, you can easily force a table down or at least allow the option and then play down. So basically expect more play downs.

Issue 4...yeah...I get called a munchkin often. Not sure why...I'm not even doing the REALLY bad stuff. I tone my characters down pretty far down for PFS. I used an EK for my first character for crying out loud. Heck I played my level 1 straight up with no re-build with 13 str, light armor and 11 con and I was STILL called a munchkin. When a smartly played fighter with 13 str and 11 con elicits that response, I have to go with Inago Montoya...I do not think that word means what you think it means. That said, people who call me a munchkin still listen to advice I give them...so they learn to play better and they we have better games.

Issue 5...come out here...it's different here.

Shadow Lodge

Derek Weil wrote:
Not to be a complete jerk, but that sounds off. You should never be allowed to play a character that is more than one level out of subtier, in my understanding. So a 7th level should not be in a scenario with level 3's and 4's.

Uh... no. You can only play one subtier away from your own level, not one level. This rule only factors in for the older Tier 1-7 scenarios, which had three subtiers; level one or two characters couldn't play in subtier 6-7, and level five, six, and seven characters couldn't play in subtier 1-2.

That said, a level seven character could TOTALLY play in subtier 3-4, just like level three and four characters can play in subtier 6-7.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I think it really does depend on where you are at man. I know from my experiences here in my neck of the woods in Cincinnati you can have situations where literally 3 games a week are occurring on one side of town while it is deader then dirt on the other. My suggestion is to try and either get some online games like others have mentioned before or maybe try to use the boards to find others in your area who are looking for game and establish one for when you are around. Trust me I've had those players who have 0 clue and they are annoying as hell but there are plenty of us out there who are ready and raring to run with those players who really want to get into a character and a tale, ask my half-orc shadow lodge vet on the hunt to restore the shadow lodge or my apocalypse god worshiping cleric and ally of the silver crusade.

Liberty's Edge

SCPRedMage wrote:
Derek Weil wrote:
Not to be a complete jerk, but that sounds off. You should never be allowed to play a character that is more than one level out of subtier, in my understanding. So a 7th level should not be in a scenario with level 3's and 4's.

Uh... no. You can only play one subtier away from your own level, not one level. This rule only factors in for the older Tier 1-7 scenarios, which had three subtiers; level one or two characters couldn't play in subtier 6-7, and level five, six, and seven characters couldn't play in subtier 1-2.

That said, a level seven character could TOTALLY play in subtier 3-4, just like level three and four characters can play in subtier 6-7.

Fair enough, my mistake! Fortunately, it hasn't come up for me in an actual game situation yet. And this is what I get for posting late at night, or at all, really...


Yes, I see this problem all the time... "I'm a great player, and everyone around me just sucks and has a crappy attitude." It's usually a highly accurate description of the situation, too. /sarc


I wish I could play with crappy characters. maybe then my own pcs could get to do something more often than not.

Sovereign Court 5/5 RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Huh, We've got a 'high level store' at Ravenstone, then the other stores bop around (I'd not mind making Packrat a 'low level store') I know one of our veteran GMs and a few others are trying to get an 11th level party for Eot10, I'm not helping*.

So it's fairly spread around central Ohio.

*

Spoiler:
Because I want to put Broken Chains on Ksenia, I'm slow playing her right now to enjoy the mid level range.

Grand Lodge

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Calybos1 wrote:

Yes, I see this problem all the time... "I'm a great player, and everyone around me just sucks and has a crappy attitude." It's usually a highly accurate description of the situation, too. /sarc

No need for sarcasm :(


I don't have much sympathy for complaints that boil down to "Stop playing the game wrong!!"

As noted above, the only real solution is to find out in advance if the other players agree with your style of play.

Sczarni 4/5

@Tanath

Regarding 4)

People like you aren't despised. Problem is that same sort of people tend to steal spotlight and can't turn their ego off. I have seen both people who optimize good and are lovely to play with and the other "kind".

People tend to memorize bad things more often then good ones, so players that optimize and brag about it, tend to stay in your head longer.

I believe that your main problem is constant moving in and out. While over the years I can say that I can count less then half experienced players in PFS at my home town, it took a while to meet them. It might take a while for you too.

Scarab Sages

Tanath wrote:

Hello PFS,

...stuff...

Well, I don't know you, but it's obvious you are pretty dissatisfied with your PFS experiences so far. Perhaps telling my PFS tale as a sort of counter-example will give you a different perspective.

I've been playing PFS since last November. I had played other role-playing games off and on since 1986 or so. I played for 5 of the 8 years of LG, and the first 3 years of LFR. So, I was not a newbie to organized play.

In my time playing PFS, I have been to 4 conventions, 2 local, and 2 national. We have 3 stores in my area that run games. I regularly attend two of them, often playing twice a week.

I have 6 characters now at levels 16, 11, 7, 7, 3, and 1.

When I first started playing in my area, there was a lack of high level tables. There was a core of people here who had been playing since season 0 and had a number of characters stuck in the 7-9 range. I joined the campaign with a couple of friends from the LG days and we came on a regular basis, sticking with the same characters and that enabled the VC to start scheduling some 5-9s and then 7-11s. Some of the people in the core group were excited to be able to bring out their old characters who had been stuck, and we pushed a number through to retirement. All you really have to do is find 3 or 4 people who want to level up with you and show up regularly.

So, there are usually 3-4 tables each Wed and Fri night here in my town, and yes, most of the tables are 1-5, and always will be. However, 1 of the tables is a 5-9 or 7-11 when we need it, and I have not yet had a character get stuck.

Through GMing and mentoring of new players I've helped reduce the number of 10con melee characters around here. I've killed some and scared the crap out of others. Also, there are the times when other players have asked why my character isn't dead yet, so they get a vivid example of how buying a decent con score and a con belt can improve your survivability. Basically, not everyone is a natural tactical wargamer. Some have to be taught, and some don't care to learn. Most players do want to contribute to the table though, and can be taught to do the basic things like flank, not block charge paths, and buy enough con to not be paste after the first NPC drops a fireball.

The key is following the prime directive of PFS, "Don't be a jerk."

In my experience, when I display the right attitude, most less experienced, less tactical, or less in-character, players will approach me for advice in improving their own experience at the table. Similarly, when someone else displays a great character concept, table tent, painted mini, or mechanically interesting character, I can learn something from him/her.

Best wishes for your future PFS endeavors.

5/5 5/55/55/5

malag wrote:
People like you aren't despised. Problem is that same sort of people tend to steal spotlight and can't turn their ego off. I have seen both people who optimize good and are lovely to play with and the other "kind".

There's no shortage of ego no matter where someone's optimization level lies. Some people are "Oh yeah i'm awesome 11nty billion points of damage!" and some people take pride in their lack of optimization, thinking it equals better role play.

It doesn't matter if you don't say a thing, some people don't like having the shortcommings of their builds pointed out.

Dark Archive

Tom, Bert, Will and Tanath.

Silver Crusade

The issue with the "don't be a jerk" rule is this: is it a jerk move to bring an ineffective PC to the table?

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Hi Tanath,
I'm familiar with some of the issues you're talking about, so I'll offer what I can.

Tanath wrote:

1. Most players are really, really bad.

I am so sick of 16 strength rangers, bards that sing and do nothing else, and 10 con melee rogues, there is some kind of huge bell-curve; there seem to be a few really decent players, and it's like everyone else makes bad choices on purpose. I've essentially solo'ed or two-manned a scenario more times that I can count.

This one has the potential to be a matter of perception and/or bad luck. On the perception side, it's possible you've fallen into the trap of thinking that a PC can't be effective without stats beyond a certain threshold. For instance, you mention a 16 STR ranger as an example of "really, really bad". However, that's not an uncommon start for a solid switch-hitter build. Similarly, I have not a ranger but a cleric who wades into melee and started with 16 STR. He's doing great (and has less BAB than that ranger), typically hitting at least as reliably as most fighters while almost always having the highest AC in the party.

You also give the example of a 10 CON rogue. Though it's definitely risky, I actually recently GM'd for a 3rd-level bard/rogue multiclass (1 point of BAB at 3rd level) and she was pretty much the MVP of the scenario.
Point is, just because a PC doesn't meet typical stat expectations doesn't mean they're necessarily going to be a problem. Of course, they could be a problem, so I imagine what might have happened is that you encountered a legitimately poorly-made PC a time or two, then also encountered some competently-atypical builds which you then lumped into that same category due to past experience when really they were doing just fine.

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However, this doesn't stop at stats and numbers. These same decent players are the ones that also get into their character, use different voices, have unique and interesting character concepts, use things like table-tents and pictures to tell a story about who they are. Everyone else (the majority) uses their regular people voices, have completely uninspired character concepts ("I'm a fighter, I have a chain shirt...that's about it") and don't do anything except just act like themselves playing a non-role playing game.

This could also be a matter of your perceptions. For instance, lots of people aren't very good at doing different voices, but that doesn't mean they aren't roleplaying. Maybe they made a character with a completely different moral orientation than their own and is having that character make decisions that the player would never make in real life. But since you don't know the player (since as you said, you travel so much) you just sort of assume that he's acting like himself. So you might just be shooting yourself in the foot by assuming that those who don't use funny voices must not be roleplaying.

Of course there will be players not interested in roleplaying. But they may well be a smaller number than you think.

Quote:

It's not the new players either. I just played three slots at a convention where the only thing standing between a horrific thornekeep TPK on every single encounter were two second level wizards, played myself and an 18 year old teenager who had *never in his entire life played anything resembling a roleplaying game*. We burned through two entire wands of magic missile, because we were evidently the only characters capable of doing any damage to anything.

I finally had to switch out characters in the last part of the module, because the judge (one of the decent guys as described above) strongly hinted that we would be annihilated if we tried to play it as-is. The judge later confided in me that he had actually killed everyone (except me) at least several times and didn't have the heart to ruin the convention for us.

I haven't played it, but I hear Thornkeep is exceptionally difficult. I wouldn't use that as a metric for determining that somebody's "really, really bad" at this game. PCs who would TPK there might curbstomp most scenarios (especially older ones, as they used to be much easier than the last season and a half).

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2. It's impossible to find one anything higher than 3-7

Every game day everywhere is always the same. 1-5. 3-7 Every time. I've got one character that I've managed to sneak to 10th level, and everyone else is locked under seven. When I find the decent players I was talking about, half the time it's because they are running a game for me or pulling out their hair trying to keep a scene in one piece.

Is it fair to me to have to keep coming up with new characters? Is it fair to me to just have some kind of early retirement? The only time I can ever escape this problem is by going to conventions (where problem 1 and 3 still occur), and as a father and career-minded person, I just can't do this more than a few times a year anyway.

"Bottom-heavy" is sort of a function of organized play. The things you can do about it have already been suggested by others, so I won't waste time with repetition here. :) But yes, it is kind of an expectation that to play PFS consistently you're going to need multiple characters at different levels. The fewer PCs you play, the more your session frequency will start to slow down as you level.

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3. You can't ever play up

Pathfinder is incredibly boring when you play down, with a few exceptions. Of course, half the time everyone only has the lowest tier of characters that the scenario can handle (usually 1-5) and the other half of the time, it falls in the middle and people are either "trying to play it safe" or "providing a good experience for the newer players".

Well, what about me? I'm not having fun anymore, and I have just as much right to have fun as anyone else. Is a new person more valuable than me? Should I just quit so it can only be fun for them? I've played up *once* in the past 12 scenarios I've played; when is enough enough?

You're not supposed to play up. Or play down. Playing up or down is not a difficulty setting that you're supposed to be able to opt into. You're supposed to play within your own subtier every single game. It's only because the realities of scheduling make that impossible that subtiers even exist, as a way to help a table go off instead of needing a perfectly-even party before a game can happen. But playing in-tier is always supposed to be the goal. It's what the game as a whole, as well as this campaign, is structured around. If something about how you're playing makes it so that your best experience is when you're playing outside how the campaign is structured, then something about how you're playing is itself outside the baseline expectations of the game. If you're willing to readjust whatever aspect of your playstyle that might be such that you're more in line with how the campaign is built, you might find it less objectionable to not be able to play up.

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4. People like me are despised

I am sick of the guilt trip. Yes, I've optimized my character in XYZ fashion. Yes, my character has a high AC, and/or hits really hard, and/or has really high save DCs on their really well thought out spell list. Yes, my character killed the big monster in the first round (that's why I wanted to play up). As a result, people just don't want me at their table, until they are knee-deep in a TPK and I have to save them.

It's not that I'm some kind of incredible prodigy. It's that when you combine problems 1, 2, and 3, you get a party of characters with extremely sub-optimal choices, played by strategically-challenged players, that are 2-3 levels lower than me. *Of course* my seventh level character stole the thunder from a party of 3 and 4th level monks and rogues. How is that my fault?

I get "the look". My math gets checked. I have to bring rules clarifications with me. Judges rule incorrectly against me on simple things on purpose (like "taking 10" on things outside of combat, I mean, seriously?!?)

Why? I'm not ignorant to people. This post here is the *first* time I've ever openly and publicly commented disparagingly about anyone, their character, their choices, or anything. I'm nice, I'm helpful, I'm encouraging. I offer suggestions if they are welcomed, and I don't if they aren't. I'm held accountable because I don't fit into the group of people described in problem 1. That's it. My characters are pretty effective; what a jerk.

Look at the next-to-last sentence of your first paragraph there: "Yes, my character killed the big monster in the first round".

Unless there's another monster in the same encounter, you just denied everyone else the chance to play that part of the game. At that point, it (almost) stops mattering how jolly you've been at the table. No matter how politely you steal someone's ice cream, you still stole their ice cream.
As a side note, the above-referenced sentence of yours also adds a parenthetical comment: "that's why I wanted to play up". This would be what I was talking about a minute ago. If people are upset that you one-shotted the BBEG, it's not their fault for not letting you play up. Rather, it's a function of you playing outside the expected parameters around which the game system is oriented and with which the encounters are designed.

Hope all that helps! :)

5/5

Jiggy wrote:
You're not supposed to play up. Or play down. Playing up or down is not a difficulty setting that you're supposed to be able to opt into. You're supposed to play within your own subtier every single game.

Jiggy, I believe you've misunderstood Tanath because of terminology--when he says he wanted to play up, he means he wanted a mixed table to play up so that he could play at his own subtier with his level 7 in a 3-7, rather than the table play down so that the level 4s can play at their own subtier. When he says "Of course I killed the 3-4 enemy in one round with my level 7" that's what he meant.

Sovereign Court 5/5 5/5 Venture-Captain, West Virginia—Charleston aka Netopalis

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Well, in that regard, I believe that players, especially experienced players, need to be patient. It takes time to build up a player base that can reliably run high-tier adventures - my local lodge only reached that point a few months ago. Part of being patient is being willing to run lower-leveled PCs to mix and mingle, or to offer to GM.

Edit: Also, if the OP really, really wants to get PCs to higher level, he could run Dragon's Demand once the chronicles are published.

Liberty's Edge

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Tanath wrote:

Hello PFS,

...stuff

I personally looked after the new players, and taught them the Pathfinder system with my fiance at college for a number of years. One thing you definitely need to remember is that everyone is different.

I had players who wanted to simply make characters that they thought were fun. I personally first think of a basckstory for my character, and THEN make stats and skills. This often makes what you would call "suboptimal". My cavalier is a frontline damage SOAKER, not dealer. I got surprise at my third session when we role played downtime and he took off his helmet and everyone was surprised both in and out of character that he was an elf. Went OOC and gave my stat outline. STR 16, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 10, and CHA 12. Honestly, a horrible stat line for a front line shieldwall. But I built him off his background, and even with those stats he still did very well. Stats are good, knowing the game is better, which brings me to my second point.

Teach them. A lot of people continuously join PFS, and a lot of them have never played Pathfinder. They don't understand the advanced tactics of 5 footing, or holding your turn, or preparing an action to counter a spell, etc. As a veteran its your responsibility not to complain about it, but to teach them. These players will never become true comrades in arms, capable of having your back if they don't learn, and most wont learn unless they are mentored in some capacity. You can know the rules, but don't know the game.

As for role play, that in itself is a difficult topic. Some people enjoy playing the game more than the characters. Some enjoy playing the characters more than the game. Some people may want to play a character, like a gnome bard who enjoys talking a lot and quickly, but have a deep bass voice and slow talking pattern. You can't fault these players for ... well...literally being a human. I personally make characters who speak much the way I do in real life, so I don't have to worry about voices because my voice does NOT like changing for very long periods. You can role play or not without voices, and honestly, role playing is very disconcerting for shy people. In those cases, just role play to them constantly, or role play responses, even if they do not. Eventually they may come out of their shells. Constantly poking and proding them to role play though will do nothing but make them worry more.

This is coming from experiences VERY similar to your own. With a new PFS community here in Richmond all of the "problems" you expressed are here, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I teach new people how they might get the most out of their characters, I help with players creating their backgrounds, and I enjoy introducing the world of Golarion and its AMAZING background to any who would listen. Do we run into problems? Of course, these people are learning. But my fiances (running a suboptimal cleric herself) and I look after the younguns, and use these moments, both roleplay, and not, as learning experiences.

Scarab Sages

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Tanath wrote:

Hello PFS,

1. Most players are really, really bad.

I am so sick of 16 strength rangers,

..
use different voices, have unique and interesting character concepts,

...
don't do anything except just act like themselves playing a non-role playing game.

I guess I don't know what is so horrible about a 16 strength ranger.

However, the lack of "good" players and the lack of games above 7th might be connected. The game gets much harder in the 7-11 games and if a person is not much interested in the fancy tactical stuff then once they get to 8th and have their clocks cleaned, they don't go much higher. I've seen it first hand. A CON 10 will be okay up to the mid levels - but I can't tell you the number of times I have seen someone go from low number of hit points to dead - 3 hit points left to -10 for example because of one hit. So those characters die off a couple time and are dropped.

On my part, I find the 6th to 8th level range the most fun on Pathfinder (or Greyhawk for that matter) - not that it didn't stop me from getting at 14th level - but that was more for the group of players than the joy of high level combat. And no doubt what I did to my 14th mostly caster would be ruining my character in your eyes, but I did it to survive more often.

As for voices, it takes an ear for accents - I couldn't do a consistent voice or accent ever (and being consistent is important) - and being a little face blind does not help either. The best I do is lower the pitch for one character and even then one forgets. PLUS sometimes GMs just tell you to stop it and talk normally (especially if you are bad at it like I am).

You have fun optimizing they have fun not worrying about it - this almost sounds like a rant on your part that people don't play like you so you'll go home. If you blow through encounters with just one of you how boring would the game be if there were 6 of you?

Silver Crusade 3/5

First of all, what's wrong with a 16 Strength ranger?

I understand your frustration. Several people I game with on a regular basis just don't seem to fully grasp the rules. We have rogues that don't attempt to flank unless you remind them - EVERY TIME, barbarians that refuse to enter melee, melee fighters who stand back and shoot into combat (without any archery feats), mages who provoke from the creature with reach and grab, and many players who want to fight each opponent one-on-one (don't kill this guy - he's mine!) instead of concentrating fire. Granted, there may be a time when each of my examples above can not be avoided, but the rogue participating in multiple combats with no attempt to sneak attack is frustrating.

We fortunately have two very understanding GMs, who, along with myself and a few other players are doing our best to teach them how the game works. The good news is, several of the players really are improving. Hopefully if you stay in an area for a while you will find a regular gaming group. Even if they aren't the best players at first, try to help them improve! That's a win for everyone.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

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Starfinder Superscriber
David Bowles wrote:
The issue with the "don't be a jerk" rule is this: is it a jerk move to bring an ineffective PC to the table?

Maybe. Depends on context.

If you bring an ineffective PC to the table because you want to play a slob who would never have been given a field commission or survived training in the Pathfinder Society, because you think that the most fun part of the game is laughing when you and everybody else around you fail, then, yes, that's a jerk move.

On the other hand: if you bring an ineffective PC to the table because you're an inexperienced player and don't know what is good and what isn't, then it's definitely not a jerk move.

There's another wrinkle: people mean different things when they say "ineffective". For instance, somebody above mentioned that he never creates characters with stats above 16 to start with. Some other people might call that "ineffective", but I certainly do not. There are optimizers out there (and I suspect the OP may be one of them) who look down on people who aren't at least 75% optimizing. A PC that I would call perfectly reasonable and effective, those hardcore optimizers would call ineffective and might complain about them just as the OP has complained. They might think it's a jerk move not to be "better" at the game, and not to bring a highly optimized character to the game, as if you were playing an online FPS against an opposing team that itself you should expect to be completely optimized. I, personally, would strongly disagree. Pathfinder isn't a board or a card game, it's a roleplaying game, and the roleplaying aspect should come first.

That doesn't mean that you really should bring a legitimately ineffective character to the game; in the context of the PFS, that doesn't make sense. The Society would never commission somebody who was completely unable to take care of themselves in the field. But as the scenarios are written, if the characters come to the game reasonably competent and able to do their job, they should be able to succeed even if there are no optimizers present.

I'm trying to find a fuzzy grey area here; I personally think that the extreme optimizers who look down on non-optimizers, and the joke-off folks who deliberately bring gimped characters to the table, are both being antisocial and violating the conventions of organized play.

Liberty's Edge

Tanath, lots of low level, inexperienced players indicates a relatively new PFS location. It's possible that it has only been running organized play for 6 months and maybe biweekly or monthly at that. It also may mean inexperienced GMs, perhaps ones that use house rules extensively in home games, so your math gets checked frequently since they may not allow/be aware of some of the boosts. It took me well over a year and half before I could get into an 8th level mission simply because the organized play wasn't there. Now it is possible to be 9th level in less than 6 months since the scene is so vibrant.

PFS games last 3 or 4 hours and are limited by how long the store owner is willing to stay open. Due to this a lot of GMs skip over back story and RP opportunities to allow time to complete the encounters. I have noticed a lot of PFs players don't care about the back story anyhow, they fixate on the mission and nothing else matters (which will burn them in season 5).

You have 1st, 5th and placeholder PFS characters, so finding a suitable tier is easy enough. Perhaps you should GM and look at the group from the other side of the screen. Treat the low tiers as training missions and hint to the weak players how to improve their play.


What's wrong with 16 STR rangers or 10 con melee rogues?

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

I don't know about the ranger, but every 10 Con ninja/rogue I've come across has died in short order.

Silver Crusade

Not sure about 16 STR rangers. Switch hitter builds usually have a bit more STR than DEX. Nothing wrong there. Depends on his feats and the rest of his stats really.

Any PC with 10 CON or less is really taking a huge gamble. Again, this goes back to whether it's a jerk move to bring a glass-jawed PC to the table. Myself, I find its always worthwhile to put the 2 build points in for a 12 CON. And then usually favored class as well.

Players who won't learn are especially frustrating. I come on the boards here whenever one of my PCs is not performing at least *adequately*. As in a party of six, I can contribute 1/6 of the DPR and/or skill rolls. And not be a healing sink.

Healing sink: a concept that dates back to Everquest MMORPG. An easy to hit/damage PC that is always having to be healed, and so runs the healer out of resources prematurely.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
I don't know about the ranger, but every 10 Con ninja/rogue I've come across has died in short order.

*shrugs* Never been an issue in the games I've played in. The trick is not getting hit, really...

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Sadly, when you're the only one in melee with the stone guardian....

Silver Crusade

As the tiers go up, this becomes less and less possible. In fact, at high level, CON is arguably the most important stat for everyone.

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