Pathfinder Society: A Review


Pathfinder Society


First up, some important provisos. I was reluctant to start playing Pathfinder Society, but decided to it and then give my (hopefully) unbiased feelings about it in a forum post to give myself an objective to stride for. I had been encouraged by other posters to give it a try after expressing my reservations. I'm also a GM with about five years of experience with various games, 3.5/PF being a constant through that time so that may bias my opinions. No names or locations will be given to protect the privacy and anonymity of those involved. I'm not here to embarrass anybody or call them out. With that said, let's get started.

Step One: Registration and Character Creation

This was rather easy. The steps made sense and were fairly intuitive. I had a pair of characters built within a fifteen minutes. Everything made sense and worked as intended. Had my ID Number and everything else ready to go.

Step Two: Finding a Game

This was also rather easy. I looked around on Facebook in my area and found that none other than the Venture Captain for my area was going to be starting a weekly game at a store near me. So talked to some friends and they were game. Awesome! This was working out great!

Step Three: First Game

I arrived at the session with two friends, So that makes 3 players and one GM. Each of us had their ID numbers, and had a filled out character sheet, model, dice, etc. We were chatting and enjoying ourselves. The VC arrived and we did quick introductions and then we got started.

This was where things started to sit poorly with me. Everything felt like it was extremely rushed with no time for role play. We were sent off on various tasks that felt like a strung together series of encounters rather than a story. Character interactions were extremely limited and were about class and name and what you generally looked like before the combat started. It was a whirlwind of dice rolling and a few lines of vague description from encounter to encounter. Players looked bored or disinterested which I think pushed the VC to make things even faster. The whirlwind session ended with us being official Pathfinders or something, I guess? Total time 2 1/2 hours. We were handed out chronicle sheets to fill out with stuff with the VC promising to email us something about session credits/experience? Never received.

VC however did an exemplary job on the few NPC's who talked in terms of voice modulation and expression. Wish I was that good, all of mine end up sounding the same.

Step Four: Second Game

Next week, more players showed up this time! Seven in total plus me, several of which were completely new role players. Volunteered to sit the game out, as did several others. Waited about forty five minutes and the VC never showed up. Another player volunteered to run a game since they were a registered PFS GM and I was not and they had modules on hand. Significant other of the GM had played in this module before, so volunteered to sit out so they could help GM. New Players took pregenerated characters that the experienced players walked them through while the GM prepped. What followed was remarkably like the first game. An infodump by somebody in the Pathfinder society before being hustled out of the door and into assaulting some cold abandoned castle or something through a tapestry? There was a vague reason why, but it was forgotten as soon as we were through and characters and players had to ask each other why they were there again.

However, this impromptu GM did a much better job with setting the mood and overall feeling of the area. With the degree of difficulty involved in running a game like that on such short notice they probably did a better job than the VC. Character interaction/faction/personality played almost no factor, and it was one giant combat encounter. Session finished in three hours. Whatever experience or chronicle sheets were filled out and handed back to the GM to receive something via e-mail? Never received.

Step Five: Third Game?

At this point I decided to investigate becoming a Society GM myself. I downloaded the handbook and GM 101 and read through it. Some good advice there, especially in GM 101. After reviewing the bookkeeping requirements to take in additional to normal gaming, I judged the time better spent on scenarios and encounters for my existing groups.

As far as I know no new games were scheduled after the second game.

In review: Online support was excellent and easy. Things were clearly explained and reasonably understandable. GM 101 in particular earns a head nod from me for good advice to newbie GM's, with some caveats due to PFS specific directions. Additional Resources page is a bit of a bear, but not that bad.

Actual playing experience was abysmal in both circumstances. Players seemed bored and disinterested with most time spent checking phones/electronic devices, even experienced players who I know for a fact can be engaged. Felt bad for the new players, but did not want to disrespect the GM by trying to tell them things like "it gets better" offered to stay in touch with them but never heard from them again, or the VC.

All in all it was real rough. The game thrives in my local area due to the popularity of the base ruleset and the Adventure Paths with at least me and two other GM's running a different AP at the same time for various groups. The player base is quite large and varied, but Pathfinder Society continues to struggle here.

5/5 5/55/55/5

I'm pretty sure the things you're "not recieving by email" aren't supposed to be emailed. They're recording the sessions on the website.

If you right click the pathfinder society logo in the upper left

Go to "my pathfinder society" in the grey bar

And scroll down to your character where it says "Sessions" you should see where you've played.

It sounds like you played first steps. Chances are pretty good first steps has been played... a lot. It can take the dms energy down a little bit.

Like anything else in this game, a LOT depends on the DM. If you think the games are boring well... you've found the solution there yourself :) and kudos for that.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
I'm pretty sure the things you're "not recieving by email" aren't supposed to be emailed. They're recording the sessions on the website.

Checked and nothing was there for either. I did some reading and poking around before forming this to try and make as much as an informed critique as possible.

On the point of table variance...that is a good point. Perhaps what is needed is a class of people who is specifically geared to being a "First Steps" GM who has shown particular experience/talent for playing cold tables with new role players? As perhaps VC's are overloaded with administration work for their very large areas. Just an outsider's perspective.

It is getting late in the day, so I will probably post back tomorrow after some time to think on it about what exactly went wrong and perhaps how it could of gone differently and add some ideas.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator

Sent you a PM

5/5 Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East aka Pirate Rob

Just wanted to poke my head in and say thanks Riv. I always love hearing about how the PFS experience is different for everybody.

I'm sorry that your experience has been bumpy so far

I really think you've hit the nail on the head about the wonderful online support. In addition to things like GM 101 have you seen the GM discussion forum?

There's a thread for every scenario out there and I find them invaluable for giving my players the best experience possible. If you do decide to try running a game I strongly recommend you read through the thread for whatever scenario you decide to run.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Based on your explanation, it does sound like you were rushed through with little chance to actually experience the scenarios.

But two things to remember:

1) Running a scenario cold should just not happen. Yes, there are exceptions. If you have a table that wants to play and everyone agrees that they know the GM is running cold and are ok with the potential for a worse experience than if the GM was prepared. Typically this can be solved by having scenarios chosen ahead of time and an RSVP system in place so that players can know what's being offered for that game day in advance, and then sign up or not based on whether they have already played whats being offered. This allows the game day coordinator to get GM's lined up well in advance.

2) The nature of organized play is that typically you have about 4 to 6 hours to run a scenario based on venue and time. You have to get through between 4 to 6 encounters in that 4 to 6 hours to finish the scenario. Because of this, lengthy roleplay is probably not going to be the norm. That isn't to say though, that you can't have some roleplay. You just have to know how to condense it and make it meaningful in less time than you might be used to in a Vampire: The Masquerade home game. However, if you have 4 to 5 hours for a session, and the scenario only took you 2-1/2 or 3 hours to play, then certainly more roleplay could have filled that extra couple hours. It takes a pretty savvy GM to keep timing right when allowing extra roleplay opportunities though, so be patient with that.

4/5

Just to add to what Andrew said. Sometimes due to the nature of PFS deep roleplaying may not be possible due to time and constraints of making sure the players complete at least 3 encounters so you can get credit for the scenario. Sometime Gming a scenario your not familiar with is not good for the GM or the players. These things happen.

I know Oklahoma has a large PFS base and its fertile ground for RPG's so it could be just a fluke and you will get better experiences in the future, I'm sure of it. Don't let the first few bumps in the road be a detractor. I'm glad you play AP's this allows you ultimate time to roleplay and is not tightly structured like PFS.

I'm also happy to hear you've decided to GM for PFS - think of the things you felt could have been better in your first experiences as a PFS player and make it better for other players.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 Venture-Captain aka TwilightKnight

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Riv, come play at my table. I never finish early. Just ask someone...anyone. :-)

Shadow Lodge

Fantastic feedback, especially considering some of it is constructive criticism. Good with the bad.

The VC's "wall of text" (or "infodump" as you call it) at the beginning has always bothered me as well. In the books, this just isn't set out well. GMs are allowed to pass out this information however they see fit, but none ever do that I've seen, myself included (and I blame my limited roleplay ability here). As a player, I will, more often than not, miss a lot of information, potentially hampering my whole session. I know I'm not alone in this.

Props to GMs who are willing to give decent answers when I ask "sorry, can you give me a quick summary what our mission is?" without some passive-aggressive scolding or head-shaking.

I think the solution to this is that the person handing out the mission to the characters should have a proper conversation with them. Janira in The Confirmation does this extremely well (the VC doesn't).


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FWIW Avatar, I almost always pass out a handout with the VC's name, picture, a blurb about them and on the back is the entire opening "wall of text" with important sentences/words bolded.

Saves a ton of time for everyone involved (and voices at large conventions).

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

Kyle Baird wrote:

FWIW Avatar, I almost always pass out a handout with the VC's name, picture, a blurb about them and on the back is the entire opening "wall of text" with important sentences/words bolded.

Saves a ton of time for everyone involved (and voices at large conventions).

I may steal this. Good idea!

5/5 5/55/55/5

Bob Jonquet wrote:
Riv, come play at my table. I never finish early. Just ask someone...anyone. :-)

He would but they're still busy in your game apparently... :)

5/5 5/55/55/5

Avatar-1 wrote:

Fantastic feedback, especially considering some of it is constructive criticism. Good with the bad.

The VC's "wall of text" (or "infodump" as you call it) at the beginning has always bothered me as well. In the books, this just isn't set out well. GMs are allowed to pass out this information however they see fit, but none ever do that I've seen, myself included (and I blame my limited roleplay ability here).

With the extra credit goals now in play, my habit is to circle the information the characters absolutely NEED to get that and the main mission and make absolutely sure to say that (more than once) and then ad lib the rest, and then put it as brief as possible (Go to orc town. Look for someone to take you to next adventure)

The info dumps are a bit much: there are usually too many names, too many places, and above all too many new NPCs with weird relationships to keep track of.

Shadow Lodge

In online games, I usually start off the VTT with a picture of the Golarion map portion provided in the book. If a map isn't available, I'll use the picture of the VC (clearly I should use both).

Until I started GMing, I really couldn't comprehend any importance of the VC's or Golarion and its countries/cities. It's nice to know you've come back to Cheliax or Taldor or Qadira or Tian Xia for a new mission. It can set the tone and it's great for setup.

Liberty's Edge

Feel free to add to the VC Speech too. If characters start talking whilst the VC is, then Ill have the VC stop. He or she might make a comment and then wait for the people to stop and then continue.

One of the big things I have locally is that 2 players will talk during my Block text. 9/10. Occasionally its about the game, generally its about a feat or spell they recently have picked up. As a GM I generally stop talking and hope I can shame into silence (Generally this dosnt work though). Its almost like they dont realise I am speaking!, and it does get me down occasionally.

I especially like it (because I used to be really bad at this myself) when a player picks up on something I said way back when when he/she encounters it in game.

I promote people writing this stuff down on a scratch pad/ blank piece of paper. It shows good planning and foresight and the fact that someone is listening. You dont have to take detailed notes but its helpful.

Recently, Ive had people facebooking during my games. Originally it was because a player had just died, I assumed he was just telling everyone. In another game a player started a thread in which he thought a TPK was possible (it didnt happen). Generally Im not fond of people using their mobile (or cell phone as Americans like to call it) during games. Or Laptops if you are a player. Tablets are okay because of the herolab connection.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Nevada—Las Vegas aka kinevon

Avatar, I am not sure if IRC supports doing it easily, but when I GM online in Roll20, I usually try to include the VC wall'o'text as a handout for the players. If available, I include a picture of the VC, as well. And, usually, for the front page, the start page, I include (or try to include) the Where on Golarion bit from the front of the scenario.

For face-to-face play, there are other constraints, but I try not to rush through the scenario early. I have wound up in trouble because of that, though, with a "simple" scenario taking 6+ hours, instead of 4. Then again, some scenarios just seem to go fast, even for me.

Sovereign Court Venture-Captain, New Mexico—Roswell aka Rob Duncan

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While I appreciate Riv's willingness to provide some privacy and anonymity in his reviews, I received an email from Mike Brock about this post and am certain that it involves games at Wizard's Asylum in Tulsa, Oklahoma with me as the “first” GM. The second GMs were Don and Lisa Richardson, both players in my weekly “home” PFS game.

As such, I think it’s important to address some of the concerns that Riv has and discuss PFS in the Tulsa region. My hope is that it will serve as a “lessons learned” for other Pathfinder Society GMs and Venture-Captains.

There are some “lessons learned” as a result of Riv's post. Here's some history:

The Oklahoma-Tulsa region is divided into Tulsa, with several sizeable universities (each with one or two weekly PFS games with 6-7 people), and Stillwater, which has Oklahoma State University Main Campus and a huge PFS base (40-80 people weekly).

Riv's comments focus mainly on one game store in Tulsa (http://paizo.com/paizo/about/retailers): Wizard’s Asylum.

It’s owned and operated by a small father/son team and has daily “special events” such as MTG (Monday), Warhammer 40k (Tuesday), MTG Draft (Wednesday), D&D 4th Edition Encounters (Thursday), and Pokemon (Friday) that have prevented them from opening the shop up to PFS.

(By comparison, Stillwater has a PFS-exclusive game store, Knight’s Arms, that has twice weekly PFS and a mini-con every 2d Saturday of the month.)

After months of talking with the owner’s son, he finally agreed to talk his dad into hosting a Pathfinder Society night. My plan was pretty basic: have the one night as a GM 101, get a local GM cadre together, and then run them through a session of First Steps so they can see how to prepare for a session and do session sheets. The goal was to make sure that Wizard’s Asylum had a sustainable GM cadre (rather than depending on me to run a game every week).

Rather than scheduling it, the store simply selected a date, advertised it, and called that afternoon to let me know that they had “two or three people” but were looking forward to better attendance “next time”. I assumed that the group would be prospective GMs (and packed accordingly) and thought a small turnout for a first time GM event would be okay.

Lesson learned: You should always control your own sign-up and scheduling and make sure you make it clear that unless you confirm a date and time by email that it will not happen.

When I arrived, I found that the three person group was a very enthusiastic group of first time players (Riv and his two friends) rather than prospective GMs. I was also told that we had three hours until the store closed.

That presented some challenges: new PFS players, less than four players for a table, constrained time limit, having only scenario on hand (First Steps I: In Search of Lore) with no pre-drawn maps since I was planning to use Chris Perkin’s very excellent “map-fu” tutorial to demonstrate how to use Paizo blank flip mats.

Rather than just send them home, I tried to make the best of it (in hindsight, I probably should have explained what happened and offered a "rain check" for a proper game).

Lessons learned: If you’re going to use a location, check to make sure you have the room for the time you will need it. Make sure you have access to bathrooms and wi-fi if you’re going to do online reporting (or be prepared to bring your own wi-fi with a cell phone/hotspot). You should always have two “go to” scenarios prepped and with maps drawn that you can run cold anywhere. (Icebound Outpost and Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment are my new “go to” scenarios now).

Riv’s account is a fairly accurate one. We finished in 2hr 45min for First Steps: In Service to Lore after we did the introductions and I will readily admit to it being a pretty “railroad” series of fetch quests. (Riv’s group seemed to enjoy the Varisian shopkeeper as much as I enjoyed playing him, so I’m glad there was at least one “highlight” there.)

Lessons learned: Having good NPCs and throwing in some voice acting is appreciated far more than I expected. I would have never guessed that some throwaway NPC interaction would be the highlight of an otherwise dismal night. Some of the comments also demonstrate that having additional time to add roleplaying interactions can easily turn a fetch quest scenario into something memorable.

Following that game, I spoke with the staff at Wizard’s Asylum and offered to try again to do another GM 101 night and build a local GM cadre the following month.

I found out through local players (the GM and significant other) that a game was up on Facebook; they offered to help me cover it since I had a work conflict.

Lessons learned: Have a backup GM on hand who can fill in for events if you’re conflicted out with schedules.

Given my experiences with the game store setting dates and advertising them without having confirmed GMs, I’m not planning to schedule any more events with them; I’ve been spoiled working with the Stillwater store using Warhorn, having a local GM cadre, and making sure events are confirmed before they are announced.

Riv and I agree on a very crucial point: “The game thrives in my local area due to the popularity of the base ruleset and the Adventure Paths with at least me and two other GM's running a different AP at the same time for various groups. The player base is quite large and varied, but Pathfinder Society continues to struggle here.”

Based on his remarks and my experiences, I think the cooperation of game stores is the critical point. Stillwater has an amazing PFS experience because it has a game store willing to open its doors, support the product, and make sure it has consistent dates/times with confirmed GMs.
They look at it from the viewpoint of “if you build it, they will come.”
Wizard’s Asylum has a fantastic store with lots of events that generate revenue: Magic, Warhammer, Pokemon all have an entry fee, a huge player base, and dedicated nights that people expect to play.

I’ve discussed all this with the owner and his son, and he makes a very valid point: he has to keep on staff for a game that is free, that doesn’t have products he can sell (all the PFS scenarios are purchased online or given to GMs through VC/VL by way of Mike Brock), and that he doesn’t have people to run games for him. There is very little incentive for him, as a game store owner with utility bills and personnel costs, to try to schedule nights that work for one GM and a handful of players when he has other games and product lines that make more money and demand less of him. I can’t help but respect his position; I doubt PFS will be successful at that shop.

Rather than trying to force it to work, I’m open to going to nearly any public venue in the Tulsa metro instead. I have a standing offer to put on a GM 101, running GMs through scenarios, building a GM cadre, and offering workshops/classes in any aspect of GM prep. Stillwater has been a wonderful place to play in and I would love to see Tulsa take off the same way.

Riv: I know it took a lot of interest in making PFS awesome to post this. If you know of a local player base that is looking to make PFS happen, I’m willing to meet them and start gaming with them. I also think you would really enjoy meeting the local GM crew; if you can’t make it for one of the Saturday game days at Knight’s Arms one of my Thursday games in Muskogee, PM me and I will personally buy you a gaming pass for Tokyo in Tulsa 2014 and guarantee you a player seat so we can meet up and share ideas.

Other Oklahoma players: My email address is tulsapathfinder@gmail.com. If you know of a good place to play or people who want to host a game in Tulsa (or some of the metro like Broken Arrow, Jenks, etc.) email me, PM me or reply. I would love to have PFS be as successful in Tulsa as we’ve been in Stillwater and Muskogee.

Other GMs/VCs/VLs: I really need your constructive criticism. Riv has shared his experience as a player and I’ve tried to give a look at some of the things I have dealt with in finding a venue. Tulsa PFS really NEEDS to get better and have a more active playerbase, and I’m open to any suggestion that you may have. Please re-read Riv's comments, look at my post, and help me with some brainstorming! If you have tips or tricks, this is the place for them.

4/5

Excellent post Robert!

I too have some issues in my area getting the player base into PFS - They play pathfinder , but they rather play AP's and home groups that use the structured. I also have three locals that are not enthusiastic /or have no interest running PFS when MTG, and other type games are the real-money makers for the stores.

Perhaps we need to incentivize the FLGS in order to elicit local support. Maybe a quarterly Pathfinder Society Store Support Pack that has exclusive events, posters, Paizo swag is needed.

I'm working on a propsal for beginner player support pack proposal as soon as I wrap up a few details on it(look in the VC board soon).

Sovereign Court Venture-Captain, New Mexico—Roswell aka Rob Duncan

June Soler wrote:

Excellent post Robert!

I too have some issues in my area getting the player base into PFS - They play pathfinder , but they rather play AP's and home groups that use the structured. I also have three locals that are not enthusiastic /or have no interest running PFS when MTG, and other type games are the real-money makers for the stores.

Perhaps we need to incentivize the FLGS in order to elicit local support. Maybe a quarterly Pathfinder Society Store Support Pack that has exclusive events, posters, Paizo swag is needed.

I'm working on a propsal for beginner player support pack proposal as soon as I wrap up a few details on it(look in the VC board soon).

June,

I think Riv's post made it clear to me that "looking behind the curtain" and sharing some of the issues we're having may help players understand some of these challenges and get them working /with/ their local VC/VL and game day coordinators.

Colleges/schools are usually very supportive of PFS: it's a student activity that don't spend any money on, they have loads of empty space at night, and have (practically free) student workers in libraries that are there anyway. Swag bags would be absolutely perfect for that setup.

FLGS are a different issue.

FLGS /usually/ have people that love games running them. However, PFS is not always their game of choice and love of the game isn't always a factor that goes above the need to pay people and bills.

The incentive needed to justify blocking off a day, paying employees, keeping the lights and heat on, advertising, etc. has to be financial, and product sales aren't going to do it because there just isn't anything to buy for PFS.

(And to be honest, I'm probably the worst one because I have all my books on my iPad and Kindle and don't buy physical product. A FLGS really can't expect to squeeze any cash out of me, so why should I get to complain that they won't pay people to babysit my friends and I when I play in the store and use their toilet paper and internet for free..?)

If you play MTG or Warhammer, Wizard's Asylum in Tulsa is amazing. They have great games, lots of people, the staff play with you, they have painting and everything you could need for minis.. They're personally engaged and interested, PLUS they sell loads of cards/minis and supplies so they win on "personal interest" and "having money to stay open".

They're a great store, and they tell me they sell LOTS of Pathfinder AP.

But there's nothing that the players buy for PFS, the store doesn't have personal interest, so why divert their attentions? If I was running the store, after thinking about Riv's post and mine, PFS is actually /bad/ for Wizard's Asylum.

If they have people buying APs and splatbooks for home groups, what advantage is there to people playing Pathfinder with them instead of staying at home, buying books with non-legal stuff in it, and playing with that..?

That's exactly what Riv's comment points out to me:

"The game thrives in my local area due to the popularity of the base ruleset and the Adventure Paths with at least me and two other GM's running a different AP at the same time for various groups. The player base is quite large and varied, but Pathfinder Society continues to struggle here."

My games are always free (and I usually buy pizza for my Thursday tables when I GM), but even assuming three tables a weeknight at $5/head and a full room, that's 3*6*5 = $90 for six hours (setup, session, "slack" for a long session, and shutting down the store afterwards). That's only $15/hr to pay for staff, utilities, etc.. breakeven at best.

That's why I'm stuck practically begging for ideas of how I can show a benefit to PFS organized play that offsets the cost for a FLGS; something that will make venues WANT to have PFS and hopefully avoid some of the problems I had with Riv's group (bad scheduling, limited time).

I'm not there yet. The more I think about it, the less sense it makes when I try to explain it to a FLGS. Maybe some owners can chime in with ideas for incentives...?

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

Rob: A store can, in fact, charge an entry fee for PFS. It's not preferred, and will certainly cut back on player interest if they can game elsewhere for free, but it can be done. Most stores are just happy to get the foot traffic, but if a store like Wizard's Asylum is already getting plenty of foot traffic from other game nights and they want to sweeten the deal, it's an option. Stores also generate revenue from free entry PFS games by selling Pathfinder books, dice, miniatures, other gaming accessories, and concessions.

Another way to do it would be to negotiate a fee between the local PFS group and the store for use of the premises, then ask for donations to cover that fee. Players that might be put off by a straight up entry fee are often still willing to chip in a few dollars--after all, it's more fun than going to see a $10 movie, right? But you want to avoid any arrangement that would put you personally on the hook for the money if, for instance, a game night is cancelled or not enough folks show up.

Colleges and universities can also be good places to meet up since they have student facilities that stay open at odd hours. Libraries might be another option, but their hours are more restrictive. The trick with both is advertising in the right places to bring in players.

EDIT: ninja'd by your post explaining why those things haven't worked.

Grand Lodge 4/5

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Robert, I've had the same problem coming up with a weekday venue in my area. What I've found is that most of the stores are happy to host PFS if it's on a weekend during the day. We have games on Saturdays and Sundays down here. I would love to get something started on a weekday, but stores close at 9 or 10 PM at the latest. That means there has to be some (financial) incentive to keeping the lights on later, or starting your games at 4 or 5 PM -- which is just too early for most working adults.

If I find a store that's consistently open late on weekdays, I'll jump at the chance to run games there. Until then, our gamedays will be weekend-only.

There are other venues that I haven't explored too much, to be honest. One of our weekend gamedays is at a University Center, but again they close at 10 PM and kick everyone out. I'm not sure if there's a good venue that would be open late other than an all-night diner of some sort.


I haven't done any face-to-face PFS (and admittedly only one VTT session), but I have learned of some unusual locations that welcome Pathfinder groups. Restaurants like Steak & Shake. No joke; a year ago I had one game day be mostly a bust on account of a schedule mixup at the FLGS. My sister, a friend, and myself found ourselves going to a Steak & Shake to play a deckbuilding game for at least some laughs. While we were there, it turned out that a regular D&D group met there on Friday nights. The arrangement was quite simple. The players played the game and would order fries, shakes, and other food when hungry. Since these were paying customers who made sure not to disturb the rest of the restaurant, the staff was more than welcome to having them around.

My advice is to consider FLGS that can't build around PFS to work more as an initial meeting place, and to then work something out with nearby eateries for your gaming location. Find the slower hours with not too much traffic and build up the business there.

Sovereign Court Venture-Captain, New Mexico—Roswell aka Rob Duncan

Charlie,
Jon,
Kalvit,

I think you're all hitting on something important that I missed; trying to match up timing and venue.

There is, in fact, a Steak and Shake near the FLGS as well as a few other places that might be interested in hosting a PFS. I had never thought about using them.

I suppose a Golden Corral/Ponderosa/Sizzler type place might also be a good fit; if you were going to pay $5 for an entry fee, you may as well just buy dinner for a few dollars more!

(For Tulsa, there's a Golden Corral on 71st and Mingo that I will call this afternoon and get some group reservation info about.)

Weekend days might also be the best logical thing to consider, as well as just doing it once a month instead of once a week.

Everyone else,

Please keep ideas coming (especially if you are from Tulsa)!

Grand Lodge 5/5 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

My area too has had problems with competing for game store space. There are three game stores in our area and only one of them can host more than two tables worth of games (any games) at a time. Since we almost always have at least 3 tables worth of players we are pretty much limited to only using the one store. Since the stores makes good, demonstrable money off of MtG, Warhammer and HeroClix tournaments, and it is very difficult to demonstrate the income having PFS at the store generates, the only way we can even play at these stores is if we tell the store they can charge the players a $2.00 per slot table fee. Even then it is not uncommon to get our regularly scheduled games bumped because of pre-release tournaments and special in store events.

Grand Lodge 2/5

Robert: Could you please direct me to "Chris Perkin’s very excellent “map-fu” tutorial"?

Liberty's Edge

Robert,

One thing I saw done at a Seattle area gameday was that they charged 1$ per player (not GM) at each gameday. The gameday coordinator would take that money and buy two gift certificates to the store where the gameday was held. Then, between the two slots, the gameday coordinator would hold a drawing for the players that had pre-registered for the event on-line, and a drawing for the GM's. While this amount of money expenditure at the store hardly competes with what they did daily in CCG's or minatures, it did serve three important purposes:

1.) Guaranteed that at least $20 per gameday (in this case 2 x $10 gift certificates) was spent by 'the Gameday attendees' at the store, which did a lot to ingratiate the event to the owners/managers.
2.) Encouraged people to sign up for the gameday on-line, making it easier for the coordinator to determine how many GM's would be needed (and for what scenarios).
3.) Provided a potential reward to the folks that volunteered to prep and run the scenarios.

If there was more than $20 collected for a gameday, it was saved for the next gameday in case less than 20 players showed up. Some surplus was also used to defray the gameday coordinator's printing costs (back when I was attending this event, running scenarios from one's lap top or tablet had not been very common).

Anyway, in the case of a start-up like yours, you could make it a drawing just for the players at the one table, letting the gamestore manager/owner know that as the event grew, the size and/or number of gift certificates that the group would be buying would increase.

Anyway, hope any/some of that might help.

William

EDITED for subject-verb agreement

Silver Crusade

In my area, the main PFS store charges each player $2, then gives that amount to the GM as store credit. It's a good arrangement.

Grand Lodge

Robert Duncan wrote:
I was planning to use Chris Perkin’s very excellent “map-fu” tutorial to demonstrate how to use Paizo blank flip mats.

Is this something you can share online or that I can read someplace?

Grand Lodge 4/5

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I believe Robert was referring to this article on the Wizards site.

Shadow Lodge

kinevon wrote:
Avatar, I am not sure if IRC supports doing it easily, but when I GM online in Roll20, I usually try to include the VC wall'o'text as a handout for the players.

I cut-paste any highlighted text in the scenario (including the wall of text) into the chat room. It doesn't paste well directly from the PDF, so during prep, I'll remove any double- or triple-spaces and line breaks first (this is maybe 5-10 minutes of extra prep time) from notepad.

Whenever I mention important people, places or items, I'll type them out during the game (or cut-paste from notepad if there's a lot).

Images either go on either CA or get an imgur link cut-pasted to the chat room.

Sovereign Court Venture-Captain, New Mexico—Roswell aka Rob Duncan

Talbanus,

I think that you have some great suggestions which I plan to steal and use immediately; having small denomination gift certificates will certainly encourage some local spending and hopefully get the FLGS to be a little more interested!

Bristor and Seth,

Jon has the link posted. I would also point you to a game session of his:
https://www.wizards.com/dnd/videos.aspx His maps are outstanding.

Joe,

My hardest part is getting a venue for weekday evening play. I have loads of local GMs that do it for free (or even buy pizza and extra books for some of the new players), but nowhere to really be organized and play at. Part of Riv's experience was a very hurried experience because of closing times and other factors involving the venue, and trollbill's post mirrors my experiences pretty closely. I think that merging your idea and Talabanus' idea of having an online pre-paid signup with funds going to the game store and a drawing for certificates might work out pretty well. I'm sorely tempted by the Steak and Shake/Golden Corral suggestion.

All great ideas that I'll try to put into practice! I'm hoping Riv can chime in, along with some other local players, with some ideas as well.

Liberty's Edge

The whole gift certificate thing is a good idea...

Locally we divide our games between 3 venues.

A) Gamers guild: A local roleplaying club which runs on a Saturday at a city location. We can normally squeeze in 3 tables here (but generally its 1 or two at a time). Its not connected to a university club which makes it a little unusual and it charges 5 dollars per session. Which looking on comparison to the previous posters seems a little higher. its generally has good aircon though.

B) TGA Central: A Wargaming club that operates on a Sunday out of a Tennis Club hall. They let us have some table space and charge us about 3 dollars a person.

C) Good Games : A National chain of .. gaming suppliers ( catering primarily to magic.. a lot of table space) this one has a back circular 'rpg' room that we use. It can get a little cramped in there and we run games there on Thursday night and Sunday.

I know encounters happens there as well, and there is a magic tournament seemingly happening there every time I go. I personally try to buy either product or dice whilst I am there. We also dont get charged to use the place although the whole voucher thing does seem kinda cool.

I might even suggest that to our guys locally.

Silver Crusade

To the OP, I found your criticism fair and honest. To add my review after a few months of playing PFS in a very active market as well I will say there are good days and bad.

For every problem PFS solves, it creates the inverse problem. The wonderful thing about PFS that I have enjoyed is it allowed me who was completely new to Pathfinder 5 months ago, with no connections, ties, or experiences, to be introduced to the game in a very structured and sound environment and provided a vehicle to allow me to meet and establish myself in a network of people that I otherwise would not have been apart of. The variety of people you can play with and the GMs you can play under allows for unique experiences some great and some terrible. The nice thing is that it allows me to quickly figure out what I like and hate not only in GM styles but in other players, speed of the game, RP opportunities, strategic thinking, etc etc....

The problem that the first point creates is that once you know what you like and the type of people you like to play with and the GM you like to play under, it makes the bad experiences worse cause you are thinking this could or should be a whole lot better. So people who are not having a great time get bored and start checking phones and facebooks etc. while the people who are enjoying it get annoyed at the phone people. Then you have some people who love the RP and not as much the combat versus people who love the combat and not as much the RP. These people get put at the same tables all the time. Then you have experienced players paired with complete newbies who are asking what a 5 foot step is which leads to a whole different set of issues. PFS treats all these situations the exact same way. A very structured set of rules and tight margins for play. It has to due to the nature of the beast. You need a similar experience every time you sit down to play so you know what to expect.

Without going on and on, here's a few pluses and minues

Pros:
Quantity of players you meet
Variety of playstyles
Low barriers for new players
consistency in expectations
decently balanced scenarios, encounters, and classes

Cons:
Wildly varied quality from table to table depending on the GM/Players
Can not concentrate on the things you really enjoy doing
Dealing with other styles of GM/players you don't like
limited customizability of play (PFS is very structured)
limited time to complete the tasks expected for the rewards
allows MAJORLY for metagaming (which I hate)

When I think about my experience in PFS, I think of it as sort of the minor leagues of Pathfinder. Its a great introduction and a great way to network with a large amount of people, but to really enjoy Pathfinder (the big leagues), you have to go home game with people/gm/environment/styles that can be controlled and agreed upon by everyone. Most of every 'established' person in PFS is also in a homegame or 3 that most would admit is a better overall experience. But they also stay in PFS games in order to keep meeting new people and helping the pathfinder community to grow as a whole which is a really awesome thing in my opinion.

I am of the same mind where I am now currently looking for a homegame or 2 with people I really enjoy gaming with but will keep up in PFS with a healthy amount of patience in order to meet more cool people and contribute my part to the community's growth.

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