How to Become an official GM with Paizo?

Paizo General Discussion

Does anyone know how?

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

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It depends on what you mean by "official GM."

If you're interested in running games for the organized play programs (Pathfinder Society, Starfinder Society, or Pathfinder Adventure Card Society), there aren't any special qualifications. It's important to take a look at the respective documents: the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide, the Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide, or the Pathfinder Adventure Card Society Guide to get a sense of the ways in which those games can differ from a typical home game. On the plus side, you can run those games from home, in game stores, at conventions, and more. To get involved in your area, you can contact the venture-officers in your area to learn about events happening in the region, including annual conventions and recurring game days.

If you're looking for information about some other sense of being an "official GM," I'd need some more context. There's no official stamp of approval that Paizo hands out to say "This person's an upstanding GM"—at least not outside of the organized play programs.

I have developed a campaign using pathfinder and starfinder combined. The character sheet is pathfinder as well as races and classes. I have a friend in another state that runs games and has anywhere from 6 to 10 players at 1 time. I also have a friend local that hosts 3 to 6 players. And a third that hosts 4 to 11 players. The campaign has 3 factions. Each group of players are under 1 of the factions. Right now I use skip to monitor each game seccecion. I use the THREE to co gm for me. We would like to be able unit others in this and be able to get local shops to sponsor or host the games. One shop owner told me if I was a licensed or official GM, he would be interested. That is the reason for trying to find out why.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

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Based on what you've conveyed, I believe the store owner is asking something of you that doesn't exist. Outside of organized play programs and a handful of sponsorships/partnerships with actual play podcasts/streams, Paizo doesn't really endorse anyone as an "official GM." Instead, we prefer empowering anyone who wants to GM to do so, running their games the way that work best for their respective groups. The goal's to have fun.

Organized play awards GMs a "ranking" in the form of some number of stars (for Pathfinder Society) and novas (for Starfinder Society), but these are less an assessment of quality than they are an indication of how many games that the person's GMed for each campaign. Running lots of games often improves a person's GMing, particularly if those games were for a wide range of people. However, the GM stars and novas carry no official weight outside of the organized play programs, and earning them involves very little sign-off or direct endorsement from Paizo.

It sounds as though what you're doing is overseeing a shared-world campaign with several different active groups, and that's cool. There are some similarities between that and an organized play program, but your being involved in Paizo's official organized play programs wouldn't do anything to make you more or less official; what you're doing isn't a part of Paizo's programs.


So let's assume for now that the option of being a "licensed or official GM" isn't a possibility. What else is possible? I've organized events at a handful of stores with good success, so maybe my experience can help.

It sounds like you're requesting space and possibly financial support from an independent place of business. Consider what the store owner's thinking: "I have a shop with limited space and need to maximize the means by which I bring in profit." Hobby retail isn't a wildly lucrative business, and the game stores I've frequented often look for ways to use their space to attract more customers. I've seen three different models:

1. The store gives space to whoever wants to play, often for love of the hobby.
2. The store rents out space to gaming groups. Anecdotally, this is more common for stores with private gaming areas, such as a large booth or actual spare room.
3. The store doesn't charge for space (but might partition how much space is available for certain brands/hobbies) because the owner's demonstrated that the additional traffic brings in additional revenue—often through reliable product sales or because the shop also sells food/drinks.

Option 1 is tough to pull off, depending on the location, financing, and hobbies represented. And trying to convince an owner to support a multi-table, recurring event out of altruism is not terribly fair to them. Option 2 brings in a very clear amount of money. Option 3 can be harder to prove, but developing a relationship with the store owner can allow you to see if your events do bring in more revenue, if your presence makes for a better store environment, or offers some other benefit.

When I organized games in Georgia, I used Option 3. I would encourage participants at the 2–3 tables to be sure to show their appreciation by purchasing things at the store, whether it was dice, a box of miniatures, the latest book, or a drink—and our players were really good about remarking how appreciative they were of the Pathfinder Society events while making the payments, meaning the cashier knew that it was our event helping attract and drive those sales. We also endeavored to be good guests and citizens, actively cleaning up our gaming areas and respecting the manager's request to lower the volume (one of the stores was smaller and got pretty noisy). We started with just one table at a bunch of those sites, and the owners were happy enough that they made more space available for us on our scheduled game days.

So to reinforce a point, provide the store owners cause to believe that your games will help them make money (main priority) and make their stores more appealing (secondary). A store owner might not be interested in your particular proposal. An owner might be willing to try hosting only one table of your game on a trial basis, waiting to see results before expanding the amount of space.

But above all, remember that what is a hobby for you is that store owner's livelihood. Go into any discussion respecting that. I hope your discussions go well.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Keep in mind also that the more customized your campaign is, the harder it is for the venue to use your game as a means to promote sales.

That may be what the owner is trying to garner from you by asking you if you are an "official GM" - if you are running official Organized Play games, it's easy for them to point a customer who wanders in where the products are that they need to join in. Since Society adventures often involve promoting accessory products that have recently been released or hardbound rulebooks, it's easier for them to justify giving up table space that could be used for game store bread-and-butter CCG players.

In general around here, game stores often have a "RPG room" or two that can be rented for a reasonable fee, and prefer that you use them for private games, but often will allow use of their general use tables during off-hours when the store is open but there isn't a lot of traffic. You may wish to ask your store owner when their slow times are, and try to work your games into those slots; chances are if you are asking about table space on Friday or Saturday night, no amount of appeal is going to make them interested in giving up a table because an RPG table is never going to generate the sales that a table full of CCG players will. That's like going to a football stadium and asking for to use the place on a Saturday night in October to host a quilting bee.

That being said, often a store owner would rather have people playing games whenever they are open, even if those games aren't going to make them a lot of money, just because a store that has people in it having fun is a more inviting place for new customers.

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