Unpopular Opinion: I enjoy how PFS limits GM fiat.


Pathfinder Society

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I'll probably be tarred, feathered, and run out of town for this one, but I think it needs to be said.

There are a lot of reasons why I play Society over traditional home games. I like how consistent and scheduled it is, for one. It's nice knowing that come rain or shine, there will be a table or two full of players at my local lodge every Thursday. I like how the strict 4-hour time slot fits into my busy schedule. I enjoy the persistence of it, and the fact that my characters can seamlessly hop into a scenario at a convention on the other side of the country and not miss a beat (though I rarely get to exercise that option). I also like the friendships and camaraderie that PFS encourages; seeing old friends week after week as well as making new ones on occasion.

But if I'm being honest with myself, one of the things I like best about PFS is that it puts the GM and the PCs on a level playing field. They are bound and restricted by the written rules just as much as I am, and frankly, I love it!

You see, I am probably what most of you would label a "power gamer". I tend to build powerful, well-rounded, optimized PCs. I can't help myself. Fully half of my enjoyment of this game comes from theory-crafting builds and combing every book and PDF for the perfect feat, trait, or piece of equipment that compliments my character. To me, every character is a work of art, painstakingly built piece by piece with the greatest care taken to make sure that whatever their "schtick" is is entirely 100% legal by RAW.

I abhor cheating. Can't stand it. Part of the thrill of making optimized PCs is knowing that they will stand up to intense scrutiny, and the OCD part of me delights in carefully making sure every purchase, item expenditure, and other bit of record-keeping minutiae is done by-the-book (even though my GMs groan when I have them initial ALL my transactions).

Now, mind you, I am not one of those limelight-stealing power gamers who completely shut down encounters and deprive others of fun. I am content to sit back, happy to default to my character's "Option B" but knowing that I have a nuclear option to deploy should the need arise.

In most of the home games I've played, I've noticed the GMs tend to get upset when my characters unleash their full potential. Some of this is due to just poor, adversarial GMing, but even good GMs become a little off-put when you suddenly trivialize an encounter that was on the brink of becoming a TPK. Inevitably, though, once they go over my character with a fine-toothed comb and realize that everything is above board, most of them resort to that all-powerful prerogative of GMs everywhere: fiat.

I hate GM fiat. It feels too much like cheating to me, and I feel it can be disrespectful to the players. With nothing but a hand wave, a GM can completely invalidate my PCs, some of whom I have spent dozens or even hundreds of hours planning and building. Nothing tanks my enjoyment of the game faster than when my GM tells me that the one thing my character has dedicated his entire life to simply doesn't work.

Enter PFS. My first Society game was something of a revelation. I was playing a pregen, and we were in a encounter that was quickly turning hairy. One of the other PCs, a witch, cast slumber on the BBEG, and it was immediately effective. Lights out, game over, we won. I fully expected the GM to balk at this, but he simply asked the player to explain her character's admittedly higher than normal save DC, which she did. Then he nodded and moved on, and that was it. I was amazed, and instantly hooked. I have never played a home game since. And I have never again had to experience a GM telling me that my highly-optimized sunder barbarian failed his sunder check just because.

Sczarni 5/5 ⦵⦵

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

*thumbs up*

2/5

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There’s another side to the coin. By and large, Pfs scenarios are not balanced around hyper optimized characters. It’s not a lot of fun to have everyone else’s characters marginalized by your monstrosity trivializing encounters.

If you aren’t having fun because of arbitrary dm fiat, that’s just bad gming. Home games can have the cr adjusted to keep an appropriate challenge rather than have heavily optimized PCs roflstomp everything.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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I like how PFS limits DM fiat.

I dislike a few ideas people have about how much it limits fiat.

"Its SOLA RAAAAAW!!!!

Yeah, no.

Some abilities are powerful to the point of being annoying (cough slumberhex, cough cough) but they work. Many times however someone has some uber combination that they got to off three logical fallacies two equivocations and asmodean level rules lawyering. The DM has the ability, even the job, of reading the rules as intended and applying that. It is still the rules. RAW in pfs is Run As Written. The monsters. The scenario. Not deliberate absurd misreadings of text in pursuit of more power!

There's no roleplay! Its all the same!

Yeah. No.

Characters are allowed and even encouraged to role play. Find creative solutions. Use abilities and tactics the scenario didn't expect, or even have the scenario react in an organic way to the party. I've had a white tengu walk into a town called white rook and get a much beter reception than normal. I've had the party talk their way past a combat encounter, who threw the treasure at them and gave them an angry lecture about littering. The party can do anything you can do in a home game and the DM can react to it with the tools at their disposal, we just have to limit the damage to our own game. So yes, the T rex CAN follow you home but no you can't keep him.

Grand Lodge 3/5

Dealing with Slumber Hex:
Witch: "I use my Slumber Hex on the BBEG!"
GM: He fails his save.
"Yay, we win, right?"
GM: Let's see if him falling to the ground will cause enough damage to wake him up."
"Wait... what?!"
GM: He is precariously standing on some stairs. Any injury should wake him up. If someone threw you down a flight of stairs, asleep, wouldn't you wake up?
"... ... I guess. You're just trying to drag out the fight, aren't you?"
GM: *rolls dice; rolls some more dices." Okay. Next up is-
"He's awake?!"
GM: You don't know that. You're on the other side of the room.
Fighter: *grumbles* I'll go over and chop his head off.
GM: Good, reflexx save.
Wha?
GM: It was his turn, he readied a spell when someone came close enough.
Fighter *rolls; high number*
GM: Good, a pit opens up beneath the BBEG- and while you jump out of the way, he floats down to the bottom. And now, the pits moves to the other side of the room, next to the altar.
ALL: WHAT THE HELL?!
GM: Spellcraft rolls, then. *after rolls* ROAMING PIT bwahahahahaha.

i've had an boss encounter end with Color Spray. I've had a boss get cheesed by an out of tier ranger.
Sometimes a Monsters' tactics are poorly written, and as a GM I wish i could use better, more effective tactics.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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Having them wake up when they hit the ground is less tactic and more ruling in your own favor and declaring it clever. Its really something you should avoid.

Dark Archive 3/5

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I think PFS' curb on GM fiat is great when I have to play with GMs I don't know. I'm completely comfortable with GM fiat when the GM is someone I trust.

Shadow Lodge

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BigNorseWolf wrote:
Having them wake up when they hit the ground is less tactic and more ruling in your own favor and declaring it clever. Its really something you should avoid.

I don't know why you'd say something that would instantly make every single player at the table call BS as something to avoid, I thought the whole point of the game is to make the players feel like the GM will pull any absurd justification to screw them over and make their abilities just not work.

I mean, it's not like that exact example happening would prompt me to avoid that GM from then on. I would just completely coincidentally never sign up for their tables again, and if they ended up GMing a table I had signed up for, well, wouldn't you know it but I left my iron on in the oven (which is also on), so I guess I can't play tonight.

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

GM Fiat can be used for good or for ill. The problem is that when it gets used for ill is has far more of a negative impact than the positive impact using it for good does. Part of the reason for this is that when a GM fiat is used properly, the players don't notice it, but it is painfully obvious when it is used for ill. The net result then, when applied to the unpredictability of who your GM is in an organized play environment, means that the bad will stick with you more than the good. Which means limiting GM Fiat so that bad GMs can't abuse it gives more benefits than having unlimited GM Fiat so that good GMs can shine.

Sovereign Court 5/5 Venture-Captain, Canada—Manitoba aka Kess, Humble Servant of Abadar

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Its all fine and dandy that you can create a character that can trivialize every encounter. It's even legal. Until you've been behind the screen as a GM in those situations, you can't understand the abject hatred that GMs have of those PC tactics/abilities when we cannot change anything about the scenario. DC23 Will save at level 1 or die? Congrats. You win at Pathfinder.

Do I allow that and simply sigh to myself and die a little inside each time it happens? Absolutely. Do I consider adding that person to the list of people for whom I'd rather not GM for? Absolutely. I do this for my enjoyment as well, not just players.

I have no fun as a GM when this happens at my table. GM fun is at least 4x greater than player fun, since without a GM, there is no game. Consider that when making characters. Enough bad GM experiences, and people stop wanting to GM, since the 4+ hours of prep will be for not.

And as far as written tactics go, as soon as they're invalidated by PC actions, they go out the window.

I do agree that damage from falling down stairs is a bit of a stretch.

Silver Crusade 5/5

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Selvaxri wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

GM: Let's see if him falling to the ground will cause enough damage to wake him up.

I absolutely and completely agree with BNW on how rules should be interpreted. I very, very often take advantage of the "PC tactics invalidate NPCs tactics" clause to have the NPC fight more intelligently.

But if a GM did that level of complete b~*!$@@% I'd either walk out of the game or never play with them again. Falling wakes you up? Unless the NPC was perched on a very narrow perch above a pit of lava, no. That is a very transparent and obvious attempt to rule by fiat.

Now, I WOULD accept a
Player: I cast sleep hex on him
GM : Your character would realize that he is standing precariously at the top of the stairs and he MIGHT fall and MIGHT then take enough damage to wake him up. Still cast sleep?

But to expect the player to realize that you're going to arbitrarily screw with him is just NOT on

As to the OP :
I love the way that PFS limits bad GMs. I hate the way that it limits good GMs. I accept that the rules have to err on the side of limiting bad GMs :-)

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

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This happened in a module I ran a couple of weeks ago
PC - I use slumber on the boss
me - he fails the save and falls over
me - next up is henchman A - he moves to the boss and kicks him awake
PC on next turn - i slumber henchman A
me - henchman B moves to henchman A and kicks him awake - next..

Also put me in the camp of GM's who despair of spending hours prepping a scenario for a couple of power PC's to close it down flat, not by clever tactics, but by using the same relentless cheese in every encounter.

I recently ran an adventure where the mythic creature who can take 20 on initiative (for 35) went third in the round..

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

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chris manning wrote:

This happened in a module I ran a couple of weeks ago

PC - I use slumber on the boss
me - he fails the save and falls over
me - next up is henchman A - he moves to the boss and kicks him awake
PC on next turn - i slumber henchman A
me - henchman B moves to henchman A and kicks him awake - next..

It's a perfectly valid tactic for the PCs when they get slept (spent lots of time doing that back when sleep was a more effective, and thus common, spell), ergo, it is a perfectly valid tactic of the NPCs.

Scarab Sages 5/5

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This is another instances of appropriating terms to make them mean something negative. GM's use Fiat all the time. They have to. The rules cannot possibly cover all circumstances or conjunctions of rules sets as they collide, inevitably, in the middle of a chaotic combat. They have to make decisions on the outcome of something all the time. Other options would be to completely shut a player down on an action if the rules don't explicitly cover it. Or to let players do whatever they want, whenever they want, without adjudicating anything. Neither of those are really optimal decision making processes.

But just like anything else, having power can corrupt. And sometimes GMs can make unfortunate decisions that are more about "getting someone" or "stopping someone" than they are about "telling a good story." That being said, there are plenty of players who make perfectly legal character build decisions that are more about "destroying everything" than they are about "telling a good story." Far be it for me to say who plays the game correctly or not, but I know what type of game I personally prefer to play.

And the preponderance of characters that are built to destroy everything rather than tell a good story, in PFS, is why I rarely engage in public PFS anymore.

Shadow Lodge

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Chris Manning wrote:

This happened in a module I ran a couple of weeks ago

PC - I use slumber on the boss
me - he fails the save and falls over
me - next up is henchman A - he moves to the boss and kicks him awake
PC on next turn - i slumber henchman A
me - henchman B moves to henchman A and kicks him awake - next..

Henchman A and B both lost a turn waking someone up instead of attacking, and the boss and henchman A both have to spend actions standing up... and possibly picking their weapons up off the floor, each of which provoke.

In this case, the GM is taking the obvious response that limits Slumber's usefulness (especially since you can't recast it on a previous target for 24 hours), without completely negating a successful use of a character's powers. The use of Slumber here had a huge effect on the enemy's action economy, but didn't automatically take them out of the fight.

I guess what I'm trying to say is you did good. :P

5/5 ⦵⦵

I don't think the opinion is too unpopular - I enjoy it too!

5/5 ⦵⦵

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Yes I agree with restricting the GM Fiat is nice. Recently in a home game The GM's creature failed his save vs. blindness. Then right there on the spot the GM gave the creature the Blindfight feat. And it ended up killing my character before I even received another action. That was some GM BS in my opinion. It's his game he can do what he wants to do. But I won't be playing with that GM anytime soon, even if he is one of my closest friends otherwise.

5/5

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Bryan Bloomer wrote:

But if I'm being honest with myself, one of the things I like best about PFS is that it puts the GM and the PCs on a level playing field. They are bound and restricted by the written rules just as much as I am, and frankly, I love it!

You see, I am probably what most of you would label a "power gamer". I tend to build powerful, well-rounded, optimized PCs. I can't help myself. Fully half of my enjoyment of this game comes from theory-crafting builds and combing every book and PDF for the perfect feat, trait, or piece of equipment that compliments my character. To me, every character is a work of art, painstakingly built piece by piece with the greatest care taken to make sure that whatever their "schtick" is is entirely 100% legal by RAW.

But the playing field isn't level. It's being tilted way in favour of the player who theory-crafts builds and combs every book and PDF for the perfect feat, trait or piece of equipment that compliments their character.

In a home game, the GM is able to regulate characters either by restricting options or modifying encounters. These are not available to PFS GMs, so the only regulation possible is self-regulation by the players.

PFS scenarios aren't updated when new material comes out.

If you enjoy beating the system as you so claim, more power to you. But don't claim that it's a level playing field.

2/5

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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

It's funny, but one of the reasons I like PFS so much is that I *don't* have to optimize my characters. I know the scenarios are very well-balanced (and perhaps even a bit on the easy side) compared to some home games I've played in, and I like being able to experiment with a variety of builds that are fun and flavourful even if they're not mechanically great.

2/5

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Mekkis wrote:

PFS scenarios aren't updated when new material comes out.

If you enjoy beating the system as you so claim, more power to you. But don't claim that it's a level playing field.

This is a really critical point, and one that I hope PFS2 can address. As additional classes, archetypes, etc. come out for PF2e, there needs to be a way to update older PFS2 scenarios, similar to the revised secondary success conditions document for the earlier seasons of PFS1.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Southcoast aka JDDyslexia

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Having them wake up when they hit the ground is less tactic and more ruling in your own favor and declaring it clever. Its really something you should avoid.

I disagree with this statement regarding the given example. I've done the same thing in the past; the specific example mentions on stairs. If you were standing on a flight of stairs and suddenly dropped limp, what are the odds you're going to fall down them? Sounds like an impromptu reflex save to me. But, I wouldn't do something like this if a creature was on flat or slanted ground.

I applaud people who go out of their way to make interesting characters that I haven't seen before, even if they're OP. What bothers me (and this is a general table-top RPG thing, not PFS) is when people find builds online and bring them to the table. There have been a couple of times where I've GM'd nearly identical characters from different players, and I just shake my head. But, it is what it is, so I accept that with the territory of being a GM of an RPG.

Personally, I have exercised GM fiat only for flavor reasons, and especially when an overpowered party ROFLstomps through a scenario. It's never anything detrimental to players at the table, but I've definitely let rules ambiguity slide my way if I'm making the scenario more fun for people at the table (without putting any characters in harm's way).

1/5

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I had a table recently at a convention that was horribly o/p for the scenario I was running.

Despite that, and without deviating from 'as written' we were able to have a great time with the scenario -- BECAUSE the table Explored, Reported, and Cooperated with each other.

And I think that gets lost in these discussions.

The team working together is the primary (non-prestige point) goal of any PFS table.

If a random table of three to seven folks can sit down, work together, and have fun and make it fun for the GM rather than a chore, that's when everyone 'wins at Pathfinder Society'.


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watches her thoroughly oppressed players polish her +5 adamantine throne of fiat

...sorry, I wasn't listening. What are we talking about?

Seriously though:

I'm a bit ambivalent about this. I've obviously been a longtime supporter of GM authority, but I understand the feeling of those who've been abused by terrible GMs.

To my mind, the GM's role (especially in PFS) should be to make sure everyone has the most fun possible. If that means letting someone do their awesome thing, so be it. If that means interpreting an ambiguous situation in the enemies' favor to give the PCs a worthy challenge, so be it. If that means having to counterbalance multiple players' differing desires... well, do your best. As long as you're not actively violating PFS rules in the process, Rule 0 really should be another tool in the best GMs' toolbox.

3/5 Venture-Agent, Canada—Alberta—Grand Prairie aka DM Livgin

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Jhaeman wrote:
It's funny, but one of the reasons I like PFS so much is that I *don't* have to optimize my characters. I know the scenarios are very well-balanced (and perhaps even a bit on the easy side) compared to some home games I've played in, and I like being able to experiment with a variety of builds that are fun and flavourful even if they're not mechanically great.

This is huge for me. The powergame arms race (Player vs GM) needs two to tangle. I made a weak character that used bad tactics, he died. I made a few very powerful characters, they steamrolled scenarios. My characters changed but the campaign didn't. The campaign was predictable.

Now I have a good feel for the average challenge of PFS scenarios and build fun characters that are a little weaker but allow me to explore more components of the game (abilities that are not combat oriented, classes and class features that are considered sub-par).

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

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I love that I can build a character without having to spend hours tweaking it. I grab some good options and maybe some really effective ones that I only break out in dire situations. I don't have to agonize over my character, and when we get into trouble, teamwork and effective play win the day.

What I don't like is when powergamers waltz in and crush everything with a flippant attitude. I understand the appeal, I've fallen prey to it a few times when my characters were perfectly suited to the challenge. I try to incorporate it into my roleplay, on both sides of the table. But when the player is not playing to the group, just themselves, it becomes a problem.

Build to competency, play to have fun, only break the power out to save the party.

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

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Mekkis wrote:
But the playing field isn't level. It's being tilted way in favour of the player who theory-crafts builds and combs every book and PDF for the perfect feat, trait or piece of equipment that compliments their character.

Rewarding players for investing in the game is what builds a dedicated fan-base. While this causes certain problems, this is not a bad thing, overall.

Quote:
In a home game, the GM is able to regulate characters either by restricting options or modifying encounters. These are not available to PFS GMs, so the only regulation possible is self-regulation by the players.

I have been playing D&D for over 40 years. Prior to 3rd edition, the game was heavily skewed in favor of the GM when it came to table control. From an abstract point of view, this makes sense. The DM was the primary organizer of the game, the primary story teller and the guy that did most of the work. Besides, he is call the Dungeon MASTER. So, it’s logical she has complete control over the game. But here’s the rub. Most players don’t like being controlled. It isn’t fun, and they play the game for fun. If you had a good GM, she ruled fairly, and players felt like they had control of their characters. But if you got a bad one, draconian control tactics like ‘Ban Hammers’, deliberately killing players to ‘show them whose boss’, and other petty tyrant attitudes can completely ruin the game. Unfortunately, its too easy to fall into the latter than the former, and by the time the 90s rolled around, I was finding there were so many petty tyrants GMs that I almost quit playing.

Then 3E came out and the scales tipped. The 3E rules set empowered the players, and IMHO, saved the game. So, when it comes to GM Fiat, I am leery of giving GMs too much power, especially when it comes to the things like Ban Hammers, especially reactionary Ban Hammers, where the GM decides he doesn’t like something on the spot and just bans it because of that, without studying it or discussing with the players. We are supposed to be adults. We should be discussing problems at the table, not giving any one person free reign to dominate the group, be she a GM or a player. Self-regulation will always be the best possible solution. So, I am definitely against allowing PFS GMs to have the power to restrict options.

In regard to letting GMs modify encounters. Well, I have played in an Organized Play campaign that allowed this. The basic problem here is that, like any Organized Play campaign, the GM usually doesn’t have long term experience with the players/characters. So, his ability to judge how powerful a group is, is limited to what he sees at that table. In one game I played in that campaign, our party managed to take out the boss in the first round of combat (though there were plenty of tough minions left) by essentially blowing our wad. The GM saw how easy we took out the boss and decided to increase the difficulty by adding another copy of the boss to the encounter in the second round. But the GM didn’t know our characters well enough to know we had just exhausted a good deal of our resources to take the boss out in one round and could not longer do that. So, what was initially a quick win turned into a TPF with half the party ending up dead and the others fleeing. So, no, I am not fond of this solution in Organized Play either.

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

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Steven Schopmeyer wrote:
Build to competency, play to have fun, only break the power out to save the party.

"Explore, report, and cooperate," is the in-game motto of the Pathfinder Society.

"Build to competency, play to have fun, only break the power out to save the party," should be the out-of-game motto of the Pathfinder Society.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

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That may be the nicest thing you've ever said to me. :)

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

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TOZ wrote:
That may be the nicest thing you've ever said to me. :)

Knowing me, that's probably true. :-)

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

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I find the vast majority of problems with GM fiat stem from either a poor (IMO) GM or a personality conflict between player and GM, either of which may be that the two should not be playing together. A good home-game GM will know the strengths and weaknesses of each PC in their campaign and will use that information to make the game better. Sometimes that means you stream-roll the challenge, sometimes the encounter will neutralize most of your strengths and expose your weaknesses. As long as it is being applied fairly there should be more problem. I would posit if you find yourself at odds with GM fiat on a regular basis, you should find a new GM or group of players to play with.

There is nothing wrong with limiting GM fiat in organized play. Its a necessary evil because we're in a social community and the GMs do not know "who's coming to dinner" nor do the players know if the GM's personal style (and preferred home rules) will be to their liking. There are certainly times when a more liberal GM fiat policy would help the GM adapt the scenario to the players at the table, but generally speaking our limitations work just fine.

Silver Crusade 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh aka Terminalmancer

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Yeah, I agree. PFS puts limitations and restrictions on how a GM can manage the game. These restrictions are generally pretty good and set a good "floor" on how bad a GM can be. They do take away some of the flexibility that a good GM can make use of, however.

If you mostly have bad or inexperienced home game / campaign GMs in your area, PFS is probably going to be a good thing.

If you have a crop of excellent home game GMs, though, PFS isn't going to be as appealing.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

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Alex Wreschnig wrote:
If you have a crop of excellent home game GMs, though, PFS isn't going to be as appealing.

...where is this mythical land?

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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Joe Bouchard wrote:


I disagree with this statement regarding the given example. I've done the same thing in the past; the specific example mentions on stairs. If you were standing on a flight of stairs and suddenly dropped limp, what are the odds you're going to fall down them?

That depends a lot on a lot of unwritten assumptions.

How does slumber hex work? Do you suddenly feel sleepy and lie down or does your brain shut off like a switch? How deeply are you sleeping, obviously deep enough that when you thud to the ground you don't wake up, but what about sliding down the stairs? How many picoseconds does the slumber keep you deeply under to keep that from happening? Are we talking steep spiral staircase or peasant steps into the attic?

A lot needs to go against the player for something as simple as stairs to negate their signature ability. Now to be clear, i absolutely HATE that signature ability , but the player took it, invested in it, and in order to be a fair PFS dm i feel that i should have a better reason for it not working than "it MIGHT work this way". Even if i want a mjolnir strength banhammer on the ability. ESPECIALLY if i want a mjolnir strength banhammer on the ability.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

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TOZ wrote:
...where is this mythical land?

My Carrion Crown players would say they live there he said smuggly

Shadow Lodge 5/5

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Bob Jonquet wrote:
TOZ wrote:
...where is this mythical land?
My Carrion Crown players would say they live there he said smuggly

But you are merely one man...

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsbo) 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

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One thing I love about season 9 and seasons 1-3 is that there is a lot more GM leeway written into the scenarios.

I dislike when the monster tactics are dictated to you for no purpose

Oath of the Overwatched:
situations like an encounter with a certain doll in season 9 are different situation altogether.
, but once we got the 'player tactics can invalidate GM tactics' clause it all sort of evened out anyway.

What I enjoy is the PFS is easy enough to GM that I do feel comfortable stepping onto the player side of the screen now and again and handing things off to people I know to be less experienced.


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roysier wrote:
Recently in a home game The GM's creature failed his save vs. blindness. Then right there on the spot the GM gave the creature the Blindfight feat. And it ended up killing my character before I even received another action.

I probably know who you're speaking of, but even if I'm wrong, I know plenty of GMs who do similar things. I have a friend right now who will tell you straight up that he hates it when the players can end fights quickly. He is fully invested in altering the game and the encounters to his favor. If this were just for making fights a little more surprising or challenging, I'd go with it. However, he's really bad at it. Characters die. Often. He feels this is good gaming.

Knowing this, I tend to make characters that are extremely cautious in his game world. They avoid all direct confrontation, as it's almost always a loss. He noticed this at one point, and started taunting me that I was playing a fighter who was a coward. I replied that I had 100 hit points and his monsters always hit and always did about 100 points of damage. Meaning, I can maybe survive 1 hit, and then I must retreat. So, that's what I did, every fight.

Finally, his taunting got to me, and so I asked him what HE would do, and he asserted that he'd stay and fight. Thinking he must have some great plan -- even if it's just GM fiat in my favor -- I decided to keep my character with 10 hit points in the fight. On the monsters' turn, they did about 100 hit points of damage, and my warpriest was super-super dead. Oh.

I sat out of the game for about 3 hours until my character could be raised from the dead, quite a bit poorer. The GM smiled at me and said, "See? Nothing even happened in that fight. You're fine. Why were you worried?"

My character died, and I lost a huge chunk of my wealth to come back. I sat out of the game for 3 hours. I'd say my worries were well-founded.

As you might guess, becoming poorer in that game meant I couldn't gear up effectively, and so the character died again, and I eventually retired him.

I think some GMs have forgotten that the stated plan for encounters in D&D 3.5 (and the unstated carry-over plan for Pathfinder) was that PCs could handle about 5 fights in a normal adventuring day, and only 1 was supposed to be very difficult (another 2 or 3 should be average fights, and 1 should be easy). That's on page 49 of the 3.5 DMG. It didn't get copied over to the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, but what did carry over is the idea of it. We can all see it in most Pathfinder Society products, which usually offer 3 to 6 encounters in an adventuring day, one of which is a boss fight, and one of which is easy.

For some GMs, an easy fight is antithetical to a good game. All fights must leave the PCs barely alive, or the game isn't viable. I'm really grateful that Pathfinder Society has mostly done away with that thinking.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

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Why do you continue to play with him?

I'm befuddled to how someone could be so oblivious.


We're all good friends, we have a nice community with Roysier and tons of others. He's also very fun as a player. As such, we just gently rotate the GMs and get others to do more work. So we find ways to make things bearable, it just takes time & tact.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Southcoast aka JDDyslexia

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Joe Bouchard wrote:


I disagree with this statement regarding the given example. I've done the same thing in the past; the specific example mentions on stairs. If you were standing on a flight of stairs and suddenly dropped limp, what are the odds you're going to fall down them?

That depends a lot on a lot of unwritten assumptions.

How does slumber hex work? Do you suddenly feel sleepy and lie down or does your brain shut off like a switch? How deeply are you sleeping, obviously deep enough that when you thud to the ground you don't wake up, but what about sliding down the stairs? How many picoseconds does the slumber keep you deeply under to keep that from happening? Are we talking steep spiral staircase or peasant steps into the attic?

A lot needs to go against the player for something as simple as stairs to negate their signature ability. Now to be clear, i absolutely HATE that signature ability , but the player took it, invested in it, and in order to be a fair PFS dm i feel that i should have a better reason for it not working than "it MIGHT work this way". Even if i want a mjolnir strength banhammer on the ability. ESPECIALLY if i want a mjolnir strength banhammer on the ability.

If you used a sleep effect on a flying creature, do they take the time to land safely first? Maybe instead of just falling asleep where they are standing, they go to find a comfy place to lie down?

I've always ruled that sleep causes an "immediate action" of falling prone in your square, as the effect occurs literally against your will. If you put someone asleep that's on stairs, it's an impromptu roll to see if they fall down (though in these situations, the players would benefit from an enemy with a high Reflex save). If there are descriptions of the stairs themselves regarding steepness/shallowness, then that's taken into consideration.
In a similar vein, if you cast sleep on a flying creature, they're going to fall asleep but wake up from all that sweet sweet falling damage you were hoping for.

The Exchange 5/5

Brother Fen wrote:
I'm glad PFS exists to keep you away from my table.

and the same could be said from the other side of the GM screen... "we are glad PSF exists to keep you away from my table" can be heard from the Player side of the screen...

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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*bites the table and jauntily walks off with it in his teeth*

3/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, Ohio—Dayton aka Athos710

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BigNorseWolf wrote:
*bites the table and jauntily walks off with it in his teeth*

Now see, these are exactly the type of shenanigans we were trying to avoid.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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Joe Bouchard wrote:
If you used a sleep effect on a flying creature, do they take the time to land safely first?

If they fall asleep while standing on a goosed down mattress do they wake up? No. Then obviously they don't wake up on stairs.

You can pick an extreme at any example and argue that the middle case is just like it. The problem is that while they fall over backwards down the steps and wake up, there's a random die roll, or they slump forward onto the steps and sit there are all things that might happen they're not things that all players are really expecting when they made their character, there's no mechanics for it, and its not like there's a gentle landing feat or something that automatically casts feather fall on the sleeper.

If thats how the laws of physics are working today the player needs to know that in advance. (so they can do something like memorize featherfall) . . A sleeper falling off a tightrope is really obvious. Stairs.. not so much. I don't like to pull unexpected surprises on the player when there's question about how something works in organized play.

1/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

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The biggest issue I have lies with a GM's limited ability to make up for a scenario's poor design. If an encounter is no fun because a player took them out in a single turn, that's not the player's fault. That's the designer's fault for creating an encounter easily defeated by common tactics.

I see way too many instances of rogue NPCs trying to 1v6 the party or bad guys backing themselves into counters or mages whose strategy involves casting spells almost within melee range or monsters who fight in terrain unfavorable to their powers.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

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On the other hand, there is no way to prepare the encounter to challenge the pouncing eidolon or archer fighter that can do triple the enemies HP in damage.

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

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Cyrad wrote:

The biggest issue I have lies with a GM's limited ability to make up for a scenario's poor design. If an encounter is no fun because a player took them out in a single turn, that's not the player's fault. That's the designer's fault for creating an encounter easily defeated by common tactics.

I see way too many instances of rogue NPCs trying to 1v6 the party or bad guys backing themselves into counters or mages whose strategy involves casting spells almost within melee range or monsters who fight in terrain unfavorable to their powers.

Sorry, but as an adventure writer, I have to take these comments to task.

1) In a home game, where the GM knows all of his PCs’ abilities, you could argue an easily trounced encounter is the GM/author's fault, but the adventure authors cannot build for every possible PC/party build combination that may play their adventure. This isn't poor design. It's reality.

2) Some encounters are deliberately designed to be easy. When every encounter becomes a near-death experience, the game becomes both stressful and depressing. Throwing in an occasional easy encounter keeps up PC self-confidence, eases tensions and keeps them guessing on the next encounter.

3) Adventure writers have to write with the consideration that all types of players may be playing their adventure; from inexperienced casual newbs to highly experienced, heavily focus power gamers. Building an encounter to challenge the latter will TPK the former. So, if a PCs Nova-wipes an encounter designed to challenge the average party because he built an uber-cracked-out character that he never throttles back on, then it is very much the player’s fault.

4) Difficulty changes over time, while encounters are stagnant. New rules always inch up the potential power level of PCs but seldom help old encounters. You can’t write an encounter to deal with what is currently a common spell when that spell didn’t exist when the encounter was written.

I realize some of these comments might be considered a reason to let GMs modify encounters, but I have covered this issue previously. Because Organized Play GMs may not know their group very well for any given adventure, they are much more likely to misjudge the level of competency of the individual players, the group as a whole, and the effectiveness of their characters. And this misjudgment can easily lead to a bad gaming experience.

Scarab Sages 5/5

Bill Baldwin wrote:
Cyrad wrote:

The biggest issue I have lies with a GM's limited ability to make up for a scenario's poor design. If an encounter is no fun because a player took them out in a single turn, that's not the player's fault. That's the designer's fault for creating an encounter easily defeated by common tactics.

I see way too many instances of rogue NPCs trying to 1v6 the party or bad guys backing themselves into counters or mages whose strategy involves casting spells almost within melee range or monsters who fight in terrain unfavorable to their powers.

Sorry, but as an adventure writer, I have to take these comments to task.

1) In a home game, where the GM knows all of his PCs’ abilities, you could argue an easily trounced encounter is the GM/author's fault, but the adventure authors cannot build for every possible PC/party build combination that may play their adventure. This isn't poor design. It's reality.

2) Some encounters are deliberately designed to be easy. When every encounter becomes a near-death experience, the game becomes both stressful and depressing. Throwing in an occasional easy encounter keeps up PC self-confidence, eases tensions and keeps them guessing on the next encounter.

3) Adventure writers have to write with the consideration that all types of players may be playing their adventure; from inexperienced casual newbs to highly experienced, heavily focus power gamers. Building an encounter to challenge the latter will TPK the former. So, if a PCs Nova-wipes an encounter designed to challenge the average party because he built an uber-cracked-out character that he never throttles back on, then it is very much the player’s fault.

4) Difficulty changes over time, while encounters are stagnant. New rules always inch up the potential power level of PCs but seldom help old encounters. You can’t write an encounter to deal with what is currently a common spell when that spell didn’t exist when the encounter was written.

I realize some of these comments might be...

I pretty much agree with all of this.

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