Gameplay experience at the PACG Open (2019)


Paizo Events


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Overall, I did have a good time at PaizoCon this year, but I do feel that I need to share what happened at this event, since it was pretty anomalous and an officially run event. TL;DR: wow, what a clusterfumble -- missing personnel and poor management of the event.

I didn't know a lot about the structure of the Open going in, except to know that there was often team elimination through the days of the event, and the game was time-delimited -- it needed to end when the slot ended.

Because I hadn't been in an official event in the ballroom before, I didn't know there would be a long line of people taking tickets at the door. I arrived at close to Friday at 7:00, so I was delayed getting in. Also earlier that day I had seen a ticket for my team's slot, Team 3, on the pick-up table, but I also looked again later and saw it was gone.

So I get to the table at around 7:10 or 7:15. So far, all of this is my fault.

When I get to the table, I'm alone save for the GM, and I continue to be alone until about 7:25 when I point out there isn't a line of people trying to get in anymore. While four people apparently decided they didn't want to play this, the fact that I'm alone isn't anybody's fault. It's not going to help for what's going forward, but no one is to blame.

At this point, the GM starts the game. There is no team elimination; everyone will play all three days. He tells me, out loud, that I will need to make my own characters. I don't know if this event is going to be run again somewhere, so:

I am given a time-consuming job to do:
I am handed five class decks: Fighter, Cleric, Druid, Rogue and Bard, each with a corresponding Ultimate deck. I was given the task of building four characters from scratch for a Tier 3 game. The class decks contains only cards from the B's and 1's, and the Ultimate decks were complete. I was told nothing of the coming scenario so I could make decisions on how to anticipate what was coming.

I figure I now have about an hour and a half to get through that and the game, so I get moving. By eight o'clock, I have completed two of the four parts of that task, and I'm most of the way toward completing a third when another player walks up. I'm not going to shame anybody here and I don't know this person's name in any case, but he tells the GM that he has a ticket for this game... at 10 pm for Team 4.

I'm not listening very carefully, because I'm panicking, but the task I've been given would be fair for four people but not really fair for one -- again, not anyone's fault, since it's designed and intended for a team of four. The upshot is that he offers to help, and I believe he's joining my team. He says he's very familiar with, um,

the thing I'm working on.:
Kyra as a character, and so I hand him my partially constructed deck and tell him to make whatever changes he sees fit. He also takes the Merisiel deck. I've already eliminated Lini, since I'm not familiar with that character at all and was expecting to have to play alone.

And the new guy carefully. Looks. Through. The cards. It's 8:40 when he's done, but the GM allows me? us? to use the one-hour gap between the games because of the circumstances, which I appreciate. The GM now reveals the details of the scenario. It's not designed to be hellish this year, merely hard, and I'll be playing all three days (though he won't be GMming the other two because of his schedule). However,

it's sure not going to be easy.:
all characters start with Curse of Withering, knocking the top dice in any check down a peg, and instead of the expected six locations for four characters, this scenario has eight. Also, we are told which location has the villain.
Go.

Valeros plays first, and the first card turned is the henchman. The GM shuffled all the locations, so this is above-board and very encouraging. Valeros's opening hand has only one weapon, but the combat check isn't that bad, actually, and the closing cost is an even lower combat check, so I elect to shuffle that weapon into my deck for extra dice and save my blessing for the close.

The new guy interrupts me -- am I sure I want to do that? I tell him that Val should have no problem with the check. And he says, "But if he doesn't have a weapon, his Melee goes down to a d4." And a chill runs down my spine.

The GM and I explain the facts of life to him, and this guy is going to return home a hero after he tells whatever people he's been playing with how much less horrible their game is going to be. Reread your rulebooks, New Guy.

But in the here and now, I figure I'm perhaps more alone than I would have been running all four characters, since I have to watch him. He nearly fails a check against a barrier when I have a Blessing of Abadar and the incentive to use it, and I play with my hand on the table so you can see what I have. He just didn't look. Or ask. That kind of thing.

Overall, I? we? close three locations and we've examined the henchman on top of a fourth when three more people roll up to get their 10 o'clock game started. So I'm done.

The New Guy then joins his appointed Team 4, with all the intel from the game he's played, plus his part of that preliminary task completed with extensive use of my time slot.

I debate whether to go back for the next day, given that there's probably no chance I could win. I decide to anyway because I know what I'm getting myself into, and it could be fun. (And New Guy is no longer welcome at my table.)

The setup for the official schedule for this event is that sign-ups are only available for the Friday sessions, and if you're in one of those, you are automatically in for the other two, but no tickets are available (since having any random other person sign up for those days will only cause problems, but on the upside, it might have given me a teammate).

There are lines to get into the main ballroom again. I arrive early this time, but I do not belong in either line. I do not have a ticket to this event -- no such tickets exist -- and I am not hoping to get into the event without a ticket, since I am supposed to be there. So I have to talk my way into the ballroom to avoid being late again. The people at the door have no idea what I'm talking about, but they let me enter.

I find the table with the sheets detailing the next stage of the Open, and the same deck boxes containing the characters I had used the previous day. There is no GM, and there is no table nearby that isn't full of people, and no one told me, J/K, your team of one was eliminated in a game with no team elimination. I wait for 20 minutes, and then I bail and weasel my way into cartmanbeck &Co's game instead.

I don't bother to come back for Sunday's Open event.

I know some people at Lone Shark and otherwise associated with PACG, including the author of the Open scenarios, Jen McTeague. I know people that have seen these scenarios run before. They tell me that I was supposed to be handed the scenario sheet at the beginning so I would know what was coming before I even started that preliminary task, not read aloud small sections from it (so the ten or fifteen minutes I lost waiting for people could have been spent reading that and getting started), and that additionally

a rule was not introduced at all.:
all my checks were supposed to be worse by one for every location that was closed.
I don't know how much of this is true, since I never got to read the sheet (I didn't peek while I was alone at the table on Saturday).

This event is billed as a competitive event, and some of us as gamers take the idea of "competitive" seriously. If players are allowed to gain unfair advantages, if the rules aren't going to be enforced as the scenario writers intend, and if Paizo volunteers are not going to show up for their appointed times possibly due to the wobbly, quantum nature of the slots themselves, maybe don't bill them as competitive and let people know what they're getting themselves into.

If I return to PaizoCon at all, right now the main draw is going to be {cartmanbeck et al.}'s next game, which I simply won't be able to play anywhere else, and I'll stay far away from the officially run events, if they're run like this. And that's probably not the conclusion Paizo wants its players to come to.


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I was the GM in question for your game. I'm sorry that you had a negative play experience and I thank you for your candor. I don't necessarily have complete control for everything that has transpired, but I will own up to the parts I flubbed and strive to do better next year. I will also give my perspective on what happened, not for the purposes of blame, but because I believe in continual improvement and the only way to do that is to look at what had happened and correct it.

So, the rule that wasn't introduced - I had actually missed it due to the chaos. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done at that point. I was careful to apply it to every group when I figured that out, so no group had an unfair advantage. While I may take competitiveness less seriously, I do value fairness at a premium. I've run the scenario before, but my memory of it was old, and I didn't have a copy of the scenario beforehand, so I had maybe 15 minutes to prep it.

The fact that the scenario sheet was supposed to be handed to the players was actually new to me. I don't remember if we had done this during GenCon last year - I'll talk to Jen about this.

With regards to the actual running of the Open:
-There's no department head running ACG at PaizoCon, which means there isn't really anyone specifically responsible for the ACG area. This causes problems, as you have noticed, since there isn't a central authority to ask questions to, nor is there anyone to be responsible for relaying things like the fact that you were allowed to be in the banquet hall.
-The Open isn't described very well in the online game descriptions, and even I had gotten wind of the format change to the Open at PaizoCon on Friday.
-Groups 3 and 4 were in a "phantom" time slot. They weren't supposed to be there, but it was too late to correct that by the time PaizoCon had started.
-You weren't eliminated. What actually happened was that because of the phantom time slot, there wasn't a person assigned to it. This meant that the GM that was running the midslot on Saturday and Sunday and I had to run 2 tables in the mid slot at the same time. I had given instructions to the GM during that time slot to expect you and texted him prior to the slot and again at 3pm, but somehow you missed each other.

Thing we can do to improve (I will relay these in the After Action report, which means they will be seen by the OP coordinator):
-Have better relaying between ACG organization between PaizoCon and GenCon. Continuity is good. We have a better way of doing this now, so I'll keep an open line of communication with Jen.
-Have a better description on how the Open format is run. The number of threads that ask about how the Open is run has convinced me this is necessary (right now, we describe what we did last year, rather than what we should be doing). In tournament card games there's a concept of floor rules that governs the rules of interaction that isn't part of the game ruleset. This is a bit of a heavy handed solution to a problem that occurs once a year, but at the very least it would allow us to prep.
-Have the scenario distributed to the GMs who will run it beforehand. If operational security of the scenario is a problem, only distribute it to the head who can relay information as necessary.
-Allow groups to form before the groups start to allow for pickup groups to form easily. The main reason you were alone was that a lot of people signed up for the slot and dropped out, so I'm making them make a commitment by anyone who signed up come to the initial slot and assign slots that way. That way we can work out schedule conflicts.
-Have a separate box for the Open prepped beforehand, with scoring and character sheets as necessary. This would require having someone being responsible for that being able to access stuff before the convention starts.

Again, I truly apologize for the negative play experience and strive to do better, even though I have limited power to affect things. I want this game to be played more, and I want it to be played at PaizoCon.


Also having played in the open the above changes would help play experience a lot. Definitely knowing the requirements for attendance before the lottery as it seems to change year to year and makes a difference.

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