Thoughts and musings on tier design... Or... "Why can't I play anymore?"


Pathfinder Society


This is a more recent thing,

After a ton of fun in PFS in about 2.5 months I have hit a wall... One that I can't overcome just yet... That is effecting both my main and even my prospects of backup characters.

Mostly I have to play online.

Because of how PFS is structured, it encourages people to run only evergreens, evergreens are only useful for level 1's, and for the first two pips of level 3. If you are level 6... Forget it... I pretty much have retired my main because of it.

This is... Problematic.

Why does it encourage this?

Well, if you run a non-evergreen you get GM credit to apply to a character only once.

This means, at least in the online community, there is a pattern.

At level 1 you play:

2 Evergreens, then level 1 Emerald Spire, try to find a 1-5 that runs a non-evergreen to get to level 3, at level 3 do the two 3-7 Evergreens to get you to 3.2, then hope you can grab a random 1-5 non-evergreen to reach level 4, burn through 6 precious scenarios to reach 6... Then... Pretty much give up.

If you're primarily online... That is it. You might be able to get into a game at that point once a month.

I know this, because I have had to start running games, specifically so that I could advance my own backup lowbie who got stuck because I didn't know about this pattern when I signed up.

To see how weird this is... I am having to spend money, and hours and hours of time, to run 3-7 online, and 1-5, tables, so that I can advance my own level 6, and my own level 2, so that I can't play them because they are going to get credit for games when they do actually crop up.

So now I am in a gulf where online is almost exclusively 1-5 evergreen, or the same 5 scenarios I have already played. Unfortunately this has bled over into the real-life PFS here too as the games being offered are the same ones offered before and I can't do them because either:

1. I have already done them on one character once.
2. I am out of level for them.

This is... An issue... I say this because I came into PFS late... This may not have been an issue for people who came in earlier, it is an issue with me. I assume that if it is an issue with me then it must be an issue with others.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

My suggestion to address this is to open up more games for "evergreen" status, that way more scenarios get run than just the current crop of 5-6 that do.

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

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HWalsh wrote:

Why does it encourage this?

Well, if you run a non-evergreen you get GM credit to apply to a character only once.

I don't see this. High volume GMs actually stop taking GM credit, because every GM credit is one less game you can play with the character. Nearly all of my 7-11 GM credits go to brand new 1st level characters so that I can get them out of Tier 1-2, as I've played that level range to death.

EDIT: Shameless plug, if anyone is looking for high level play and has a night owl schedule, I'm running something next Sunday night.


Steven Schopmeyer wrote:
HWalsh wrote:

Why does it encourage this?

Well, if you run a non-evergreen you get GM credit to apply to a character only once.

I don't see this. High volume GMs actually stop taking GM credit, because every GM credit is one less game you can play with the character. Nearly all of my 7-11 GM credits go to brand new 1st level characters so that I can get them out of Tier 1-2, as I've played that level range to death.

EDIT: Shameless plug, if anyone is looking for high level play and has a night owl schedule, I'm running something next Sunday night.

I'd love to sign up, but I can't. I am still stuck in the level 6 gulch and can't get out. (Haven't been able to play my Paladin in 3 weeks despite checking every day.)

5/5

Three weeks is really not very long. I think your expectations may be a little unrealistic. Compare it to how you would do at a physical location, I suspect you have levelled far faster than most do in face to face environments.

Also, lots of us in the online community will run stuff on request. If there is a game you really want to play then speak up.


andreww wrote:

Three weeks is really not very long. I think your expectations may be a little unrealistic. Compare it to how you would do at a physical location, I suspect you have levelled far faster than most do in face to face environments.

Also, lots of us in the online community will run stuff on request. If there is a game you really want to play then speak up.

Oh I know I have. 3 months for reaching level 6 is fairly fast. Not quite home group fast, but fast.

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

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If you are having problems finding appropriate games online, you should reach out to the online Venture-Officer team. They can direct you to games. The online community is much larger than most people realize and is our fastest growing “region.”

Silver Crusade 3/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Online—PbP aka Redelia

HWalsh, what kind of online play are you looking for? We have both PbP and VT.

Scarab Sages 5/5 5/5 Venture-Captain, Netherlands aka Woran

HWalsh wrote:
andreww wrote:

Three weeks is really not very long. I think your expectations may be a little unrealistic. Compare it to how you would do at a physical location, I suspect you have levelled far faster than most do in face to face environments.

Also, lots of us in the online community will run stuff on request. If there is a game you really want to play then speak up.

Oh I know I have. 3 months for reaching level 6 is fairly fast. Not quite home group fast, but fast.

That is *extremely* fast. Most physical locations host games monthly or bi-monthly.

If two locations are close together you might get 4 games a month in.

4/5

Steven Schopmeyer wrote:
HWalsh wrote:

Why does it encourage this?

Well, if you run a non-evergreen you get GM credit to apply to a character only once.

I don't see this. High volume GMs actually stop taking GM credit, because every GM credit is one less game you can play with the character. Nearly all of my 7-11 GM credits go to brand new 1st level characters so that I can get them out of Tier 1-2, as I've played that level range to death.

EDIT: Shameless plug, if anyone is looking for high level play and has a night owl schedule, I'm running something next Sunday night.

Steven, a great alternative I've found for this is to apply level 7-11 GM credit on slow track to characters that have not reached level seven yet, preferably 3 adventures worth. When the character hits level seven, they get a gold boost and boons, but can finish up level 7 on slow track and still play three adventures before leveling, without suffering the wealth penalty that is usually associated with slow track.

Sczarni 5/5 5/55/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Level 6 is a "gulch" for everyone. Level 3 and 9 as well, but Level 6 specifically has the fewest number of available adventures.

Although you mentioned something that I don't understand:

"I say this because I came into PFS late... This may not have been an issue for people who came in earlier"

This was actually a real problem for people who came in early. The small number of available scenarios, and lack of sanctioned modules, actually *did* prevent people from levelling up.

Today there are almost 100 adventures that a Level 6 can play in, and there are two replayable Tier 3-7s. So new players really have it the best right now.

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

Mimo Tomblebur wrote:
Steven, a great alternative I've found for this is to apply level 7-11 GM credit on slow track to characters that have not reached level seven yet, preferably 3 adventures worth. When the character hits level seven, they get a gold boost and boons, but can finish up level 7 on slow track and still play three adventures before leveling, without suffering the wealth penalty that is usually associated with slow track.

I'll have to look at it, but having less than 20-odd scenarios left to actually play makes slow track a poor choice.

5/5 5/55/55/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Online—VTT aka Hels

Hello :-)

Have you checked the google group as well? Many people don’t post all their games on discord. I know that for Tarracon, I will somtimes post links to my games on discord but not every time. The same is true of many gms. Have you checked directly on Warhorn?
As Andrew says, many gms will happily run a requested game.

Drop me a message on discord and we will see what we can do :)

Hels


Nefreet wrote:

Level 6 is a "gulch" for everyone. Level 3 and 9 as well, but Level 6 specifically has the fewest number of available adventures.

Although you mentioned something that I don't understand:

"I say this because I came into PFS late... This may not have been an issue for people who came in earlier"

This was actually a real problem for people who came in early. The small number of available scenarios, and lack of sanctioned modules, actually *did* prevent people from levelling up.

Today there are almost 100 adventures that a Level 6 can play in, and there are two replayable Tier 3-7s. So new players really have it the best right now.

Well - I'll give you my experience between two characters:

Gwyn did:
First 8-22 IRL
Then 8-16 online
Then 6-10 Online - lvl 2
Then ES 1 Online - lvl 3
Then 09-06 IRL
Then 09-08 IRL
Then 04-01 Online - lvl 4
Then 09-09 Online
Then 03-09 Online
Then 03-11 Online - lvl 5
Then 03-13 Online
Then ES 7 Online - lvl 6

After that... I haven't been able to find a game for Gwyn so I made Meili...

Meili did:
First 09-04 IRL
Then 06-10 Online (second time I have done 6-10)
Then Gallows of Madness pt. II Online
Then 05-12 GM Credit
Then 05-15 GM Credit

Why, you might ask, did I run 05-12 and 05-15?

Because I literally could not find a non-evergreen *or* Scenario being run online that I hadn't already played and she was level 2.

I'll be running 05-16 sometime next week so that I can apply it to Gwyn. So... I ended up getting all of season 6, and I've already set up a virtual table and am further customizing it so that I can run tons of 3-7 and non-evergreen 1-5 content to not only level my own characters, but because I figure that there have to be other online newer players who are stuck at 6 and someone has to run things to get them over the hump.

This is... I think... Because we have so many veterans, which isn't a bad thing, but what it means is you can't make a table for 1-5 easily that is non-evergreen because they can't play them.

So, you end up with a bunch of newer players doing level 2's and 3's with veterans running 1's.

Which is good for morale of new players, as they shine, and that builds the community, and this is a good thing. However, when those same newer players hit level 5-ish and start their new characters, they run into a problem after level 1.

Because they have done a bunch of the evergreens at level 2-3 not really understanding the slimness of pickings.

So you get a bunch of frontload games, then you suddenly hit a wall.

5/5 5/55/55/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Online—VTT aka Hels

Where are you looking for games?

Sczarni 5/5 5/55/5

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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

I don't think your perceived problem is exclusive to online play. That's the nature of any hobby or event with limited content. As you consume more and more content, especially at a rate faster than it's published, your choices narrow.

I have several characters that haven't been played in years, and you'll see anecdotes from many veterans along the same line.

It's recommended that your characters have a 2-3 level difference to account for this. If you have a Level 6, you should also have a 3-4 and a 1-2 so you're not artificially limiting yourself.

That way if you can't find a high/mid/low tier game, you'll have something available. Being able to play online only improves your odds.

Scarab Sages 4/5 5/5

Something you may want to look into is starting a new level 1 character. Start off looking for games for your ‘main’ to play (your level 6) but if you can’t find anything at that particular time, do your lower-level character.

But yeah, it’s a problem. Mainly because you have new players who can only play 1-5s, and then seasoned players who wanna play their high-level characters. So everyone kinda gets stuck in the ‘level six gultch.’

Another option if you just wanna level out of that level six is to offer to GM 3 scenarios (3-7s or 5-9s), and just GM credit them out of the gultch, if you are up to GMing.

Scarab Sages 5/5 Venture-Agent, United Kingdom—England—Thames Valley aka chris manning

on Tarracon we run approx 200 games per year - only a fraction of those are replayables, most are normal scenarios and modules. But we have an active player base of over 200 players, so the games fill up without us ever having to advertise.

I understand our timezone (GMT/BST) isnt ideal for everyone, but we seem to get players from across the globe. Feel free to join our warhorn and jump on some games, as Hels & Andreww said, we are happy to take requests from our players too

Scarab Sages 4/5

There's also the issue of older content just not being offered as much, both locally and online. There are several reasons that might explain that, such as newer players and veteran players needing to be accommodated at the same table. For Season 4, I can only play the special (which I'm saving for level 19.2) and Bonekeep. For season 1-3, there are only a handful each season, and most of those are 7-11s.

Other players are in the same boat as me, but don't necessarily have the same handful of scenarios they can play.

So when it comes to pickup games, which is how a lot of them happen on Discord, evergreens are what can consistently find a table. And even those can be problematic. I had a table of Silverhex fall apart Friday night, because we only had 2 players show, and a table of 6-1 Between the Lines (not an evergreen, but 1-5) fall apart Saturday night for the same reason.

At some point, along with the pickup games, scheduling things ahead of time for requested scenarios becomes beneficial, because you can tailor the scenario to pick something the specific people haven't played. That's what we've had to start doing locally. It's the only way we're getting high level games off now. And online GMs have been accommodating as well. Andreww is true to his word about taking requests. He put together a table of Beacon Below because I mentioned needing it on the message boards here. Even that was a replay for me, because I wanted my Scarab Sages character to have it for completeness before playing Salvation of the Sages.

Right now, everyone is focused on the Scarab Sages scenarios, because of the faction ending. So those have been getting run a lot. And newer scenarios tend to be run a lot when they first come out. But every once in a while, something older will be offered.

Case in point, someone is advertising Mists of Mwangi on Discord running tonight.
EDIT: Ah, didn't look at the time zone. It's happening right now. But it also looks like you may have jumped into it, so happy gaming!


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Go check out the Flaxseed Pathfinder Lounge. There are a lot of opportunities right now. And even better, some GMs will take requests.
Flaxseed Pathfinder Lounge Recruiting thread

Grand Lodge 4/5

I will note that Online play and the fact that it's so accessible regardless of time or location does mean you can go through content a *lot* faster. It's been almost a month to the day since I got you your Welcome to PFS boon on Discord (happy 1 month anniversary :P ) and going by that list you've played in 11 online games (and GM'd 2, thank you!) vs 4 irl games.

That's 15 games over two characters in a month, almost 3/4 of them online, that's... a lot of games. I don't think it's exactly fair to judge the long term viability of how evergreens are done and the workability of the the system over such a short term, especially one where as Steven noted we get a *lot* of new players since it is growing so fast, many of those are new both to PFS and PF in general so there is a significant number of introductory scenarios played which allows these new players to find their feet and get to know the system and world, ideally with some veteran players in the group (thanks to the evergreen status).

I think you will find that once you've been playing in the Online community for a bit longer you will have no trouble finding games to get you to higher levels, perhaps not quite as fast as the first 5 or 6, but still plenty fast enough.


Stunt_Monkey wrote:

I will note that Online play and the fact that it's so accessible regardless of time or location does mean you can go through content a *lot* faster. It's been almost a month to the day since I got you your Welcome to PFS boon on Discord (happy 1 month anniversary :P ) and going by that list you've played in 11 online games (and GM'd 2, thank you!) vs 4 irl games.

That's 15 games over two characters in a month, almost 3/4 of them online, that's... a lot of games. I don't think it's exactly fair to judge the long term viability of how evergreens are done and the workability of the the system over such a short term, especially one where as Steven noted we get a *lot* of new players since it is growing so fast, many of those are new both to PFS and PF in general so there is a significant number of introductory scenarios played which allows these new players to find their feet and get to know the system and world, ideally with some veteran players in the group (thanks to the evergreen status).

I think you will find that once you've been playing in the Online community for a bit longer you will have no trouble finding games to get you to higher levels, perhaps not quite as fast as the first 5 or 6, but still plenty fast enough.

Note that it took me almost 2 months to track down how to get that boon. So it is 3 months. :P

The Holiday Party also helped a bunch.

Grand Lodge 5/5 5/55/5 Venture-Agent, Texas—Austin aka Partizanski

Tineke Bolleman wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
andreww wrote:
...

That is *extremely* fast. Most physical locations host games monthly or bi-monthly.

If two locations are close together you might get 4 games a month in.

Side Note:
Unless you are our crazy location. We do two regular games a week, usually with 3-5 full tables each of those nights. Even on weeks we do game days on Saturday, we regularly fill 3 tables
Sczarni 5/5 5/55/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Regarding "Tier Design", you may want to try Starfinder.

The reason Pathfinder has "gulches" at 3rd, 6th and 9th levels is because those are the Out-of-Tier levels. Starfinder has no gulches, because those scenarios span four levels, rather than five.

This is one reason why the newer Seeker level scenarios, like Unleashing the Untouchable and All for Immortality, also only have a four level span.


Nefreet wrote:

Regarding "Tier Design", you may want to try Starfinder.

The reason Pathfinder has "gulches" at 3rd, 6th and 9th levels is because those are the Out-of-Tier levels. Starfinder has no gulches, because those scenarios span four levels, rather than five.

This is one reason why the newer Seeker level scenarios, like Unleashing the Untouchable and All for Immortality, also only have a four level span.

4 does make sense over 5.

Ideally I think the issue is that having evergreens at levels other than just 1 and 3 would help over all.

1/5 5/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Evergreens at L1 were an experiment.

It was a fantastic success (for the most part)

Evergreens at L3 were an experiment.

They seem to be reasonably successful.

The 'trick', as much as I've discovered, is to find a 'story arc' or two to play/GM for a given character to 'fill in' the non-evergreen spots, and save/hoard those precious 'evergreens' for the 'bumps' at L1 and L6.

Something that gets brought up every so often but there has been a reluctance to pursue is the idea of 'loosening' the restrictions on being able to play a L2 more than once in the L1-2 evergreens, mostly out of a concern that it would be less than challenging for a L2 character.

...most of my play experience would indicate otherwise, but mileage may vary.


Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


Evergreens at L1 were an experiment.

It was a fantastic success (for the most part)

Evergreens at L3 were an experiment.

They seem to be reasonably successful.

The 'trick', as much as I've discovered, is to find a 'story arc' or two to play/GM for a given character to 'fill in' the non-evergreen spots, and save/hoard those precious 'evergreens' for the 'bumps' at L1 and L6.

Something that gets brought up every so often but there has been a reluctance to pursue is the idea of 'loosening' the restrictions on being able to play a L2 more than once in the L1-2 evergreens, mostly out of a concern that it would be less than challenging for a L2 character.

...most of my play experience would indicate otherwise, but mileage may vary.

Honestly I wish it were that any character can do any scenario so long as that character hasn't already done it.

The reason for that, for me, is that I think veterans outnumber the new players and thus you are seeing so many evergreens.

The con for this, of course, is that PFS is a marketing tool for Paizo. By only allowing one character of all of the characters a player has to play a scenario it continually forces GMs to buy new modules. A GM can buy an evergreen and run it for as many level 1s as they want. If they buy a non-evergreen they can run it until they run out of players, which in some cases is only a handful.

If they allowed every character to do every scenario once then there would be no need for GMs to buy as many books and, as such, that hurts Paizo's bottom line.

In addition to the marketing tool, by limiting the number of games you can play the GM star incentive to re-play scenarios also encourages players to run games, thus potentially widening the player base.

I think, in a perfect world, there would be:

3 Scenarios that were Evergreen for level 1.
3 Scenarios that were Evergreen for level 2.
3 Scenarios that were Evergreen for level 3.
3 Scenarios that were Evergreen for level 4.
Etc etc...

So in theory there would always be a game that *anyone* could play you would never get stuck because you couldn't find a game you either haven't done. Though that is just my opinion.


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Note to self: see about marketing revolving doors to the cult of Lissala. Maybe invest in an ochre gemstone mine...

Scarab Sages 4/5

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My guess is that they're working towards having 3 replayable 3-7s. We have 3 regular scenarios replayable at 1, 4 quest series, plus a ton of modules and AP parts. Last year we got a 3-7. This year we got a 3-7. Save those for level 6 when you can, and hopefully we'll get a third next year.

That leaves out level 2, but 1-5s come out about once a month, so there are opportunities there.

I would, however, like to see House of Harmonius Wisdom opened up to be replayable in general, not just for level 1s. It doesn't have the customization that the 3-7s do, but it's in the quest format, which originally meant replayable (when quests didn't grant XP or gold).

Sczarni 5/5 5/55/5

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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber
Timothy, Tusk Trainer wrote:
Note to self: see about marketing revolving doors to the cult of Lissala. Maybe invest in an ochre gemstone mine...

Played it, GMed it, GM Star'd it, CORE'd it, and just need to GM it in CORE.

Say... Maybe that'll be my next PbP...

Grand Lodge 3/5 Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Diego aka Michael_Hopkins

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Just the stone, and no cookies? SHAAAAAAAAAME!

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