Restrictive over relaxed rules?


Pathfinder Society

Grand Lodge 5/5

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First off, I just want to say that I am an a PFS vet and former Venture Officer that played, GM'ed, and ran games all over from Season 0 through 2013. I've been on a Pathfinder hiatus for awhile, but the release of 2E has awakened these sleeping bones. It's exciting!

However, a lot has changed in the organized play world since I burned out on PFS and moved on. I spent a fair amount of time assisting our local game store and area conventions with the launch of Adventurer's League, and it was refreshing to see WOTC's more relaxed approach rather than the very restrictive and exhaustive bookkeeping that was required of PFS organizers.

So, coming back to assist in organizing and running PFS2 after several years away, I'm a bit bummed to see that not much has changed, despite the fact that D&DAL has done a lot to bring in people to participate in organized play. I do like the new faction and boon system that's been imported from SFS, and the smaller tiers of play (1-4 rather than 1-5) is much better IMO. However, there are two specific rules that I am particularly frustrated to see still in place.

1. Replay. I was there in the beginning of PFS during Season 0 and Season 1, and I remember the ongoing discussions about replaying scenarios back then. I get it. Trying to close loopholes to prevent abuse of the OP campaign makes sense. I get annoyed by AL players wanting to replay the same handful of adventures with new characters just to get access to specific magic item certificates.

However, the line in the PFS2 Guide that talks about undersized tables is extremely disappointing.

PFS2 Guide wrote:

You can replay an adventure in order to help a group reach the minimum legal table size of three players.

When you replay to help create a legal table, you do not earn any rewards. The GM should provide you a Chronicle sheet that grants no rewards (including gold pieces, Experience Points, Fame, Reputation, and boons). However, do record any items expended or gold spent on the Chronicle sheet.

So, someone that steps in to help get a table off the ground not only receives absolutely nothing for their 4+ hours of time, but technically loses because they still have to count anything spent and consumed. That's brutal, and I would never ask anyone to step in to be a third player at a table to get nothing for their time. That type of draconian fear of letting people get replay credit doesn't promote any sort of community, at all. This should be an exception that DOES allow player credit, with a special note on the chronicle that the replay credit is approved via creating an undersized table.

2. Sanctioning adventures. I can't wrap my head around the fact that official Paizo-published adventures still have to go through a PFS-sanctioning process, where players only get "partial" PFS credit for their time.

One of the things that has greatly driven interest to D&D at our local game store is the use of published adventures as OP content. When someone creates an OP-legal character and plays through an entire book with them, that character keeps all the XP and treasure that was earned and becomes a regular OP character to be used for any Adventurer's League scenarios. It keeps things open rather than isolated and silo-ed off.

I would love to organize a weekly Fall of Plaguestone PFS event at our game store, where GMs run players through the Adventure for a couple of hours each week until completion. And at the end of that, they get to keep those characters and use them for PFS2 scenarios. Instead, they get a chronicle sheet that awards them for roughly 1/4 of their time, and it would require them to make a new character anyway to apply it to.

It's a very confusing and unfriendly system to new people wanting to play a more traditional ongoing game, while also getting to participate in the organized play system. It especially doesn't help that even weeks after release, books don't get sanctioned/approved immediately, leading to hesitation to even offer to run something special for organized play players.

I would really love Paizo to take a look at some of the things that WOTC is accomplishing with D&DAL. I know there's an aversion to "copying the competitor," but when the competition is offering options that encourage flexibility and casual play rather than strict, inflexible rules that require a level of record keeping that many casual players don't have time or a desire to participate in... It's just hard in 2019 to convince folk why they should give PFS2 a chance, when the current OP system doesn't seem particularly interested in providing an incentive for casual players.

I know this is going to come across very angry-sounding, but I'm not. I'm genuinely excited about Pathfinder again, when I wasn't sure if I ever would be again. But I know I'm also not alone in wishing that things were more flexible and accurately rewarded people for their time instead of assuming everyone is trying to cheat the system.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

ThreeEyedSloth wrote:

However, the line in the PFS2 Guide that talks about undersized tables is extremely disappointing.

PFS2 Guide wrote:

You can replay an adventure in order to help a group reach the minimum legal table size of three players.

When you replay to help create a legal table, you do not earn any rewards. The GM should provide you a Chronicle sheet that grants no rewards (including gold pieces, Experience Points, Fame, Reputation, and boons). However, do record any items expended or gold spent on the Chronicle sheet.

So, someone that steps in to help get a table off the ground not only receives absolutely nothing for their 4+ hours of time, but technically loses because they still have to count anything spent and consumed. That's brutal, and I would never ask anyone to step in to be a third player at a table to get nothing for their time. That type of draconian fear of letting people get replay credit doesn't promote any sort of community, at all. This should be an exception that DOES allow player credit, with a special note on the chronicle that the replay credit is approved via creating an undersized table.

Well to begin with I think both as a GM but also as a group of players, if you make the fourth player feel like they're doing unpaid labor instead of playing a game, then you need to take a long hard look at your attitude. Why isn't playing for the sake of playing fun?

So yeah, there's some costs for stuff consumed, but most of the time (in PFS1 and Starfinder) these costs have been pretty negligible. We rarely use consumables in SFS, and in PFS1 it's mostly some CLW wand charges, nothing to be really concerned about.

The big problem with giving people full credit for being the fourth player is that the situation is very easy to contrive.

Also, it has an unhealthy synergy with the convention tier system that encourages organizers to try to maximize their table count to access higher convention support packages. So you'd get more a push to split into small tables "because people can replay for credit to make the table". (Yeah, Paizo's unhealthy obsession with the quantity of tables at convention is a pet peeve of mine.)

ThreeEyedSloth wrote:

2. Sanctioning adventures. I can't wrap my head around the fact that official Paizo-published adventures still have to go through a PFS-sanctioning process, where players only get "partial" PFS credit for their time.

(...)

I would love to organize a weekly Fall of Plaguestone PFS event at our game store, where GMs run players through the Adventure for a couple of hours each week until completion. And at the end of that, they get to keep those characters and use them for PFS2 scenarios. Instead, they get a chronicle sheet that awards them for roughly 1/4 of their time, and it would require them to make a new character anyway to apply it to.

I come at this from the other direction. We've seen more and mode modules being sanctioned with "campaign mode", which means that you are allowed to deviate far more as a GM from standard PFS rules, for example revising scenes or allowing players entirely different races and class options that fit the campaign more. That's only possible because your AP/Module character doesn't have to be a standard PFS character.

But it's entirely possible to build a PFS character that's largely similar in build to your campaign character. The "missed out on XP" means the character doesn't immediately zap through their PFS career and becomes too high level to play any scenarios.

Grand Lodge 5/5

In my experience in organizing Adventurer's League, players that want to come back from a completed adventure and play scenarios aren't concerned about being too high level. If they want to play the lower level ones they blew past, they will make a new character to experience them. And it allows them access to a higher level character to join their friends at the higher-tier tables.

I also agree that players could cheese the system to get a "free" replay at a small table. And you know what? That's fine, honestly. If one person technically fudges the system to allow 2-3 other people the opportunity to actually get to play? That's a positive, player-friendly approach to organized play, instead of antagonistic.

3/5 Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Boston Metro aka MadScientistWorking

ThreeEyedSloth wrote:

One of the things that has greatly driven interest to D&D at our local game store is the use of published adventures as OP content. When someone creates an OP-legal character and plays through an entire book with them, that character keeps all the XP and treasure that was earned and becomes a regular OP character to be used for any Adventurer's League scenarios. It keeps things open rather than isolated and silo-ed off.

That hasn't been true since 2017 and has been getting more restrictive since then because of how horrid of an idea it is. And that isn't to knock Adventurer's League but some adventures give you the equivalent of a nuclear bomb to play with where as PFS gives you a little taste of the nuclear bomb by turning it into a boon.

Grand Lodge 5/5

I didn't realize it had changed. Play is still happening just like I described locally, so I dunno.

And it definitely hasn't been horrid in our area. Our local game store literally runs 10-12 tables of D&D a week. Pathfinder has dropped to 1-2 tables a week over the years.

Liberty's Edge 3/5 Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

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I have been playing PFS for about 5 years now. I have been a VO for the last 2 years. I feel the guidelines we have in place have been vetted and matured over the 10 years of organized play and are good for our game.

The last thing we should do is start making wholesale changes to appease a small group of players who what everything as many times as they can get it.

As for making a table, it happens rarely in my experience. It only happens when there are 2 players able to play and a third would make a legal table (a pregen is used to make the 4 character minmum).

The limited replay is good for PFS and SFS.

3/5 Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Boston Metro aka MadScientistWorking

ThreeEyedSloth wrote:

I didn't realize it had changed. Play is still happening just like I described locally, so I dunno.

And it definitely hasn't been horrid in our area. Our local game store literally runs 10-12 tables of D&D a week. Pathfinder has dropped to 1-2 tables a week over the years.

Yeah that has to do with granting players access to certain items being a bad idea. I kind of raised an eyebrow at this seasons guide because of that style of play having issues.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, France—Paris

I quitted AL because it was way too relaxed on the rules at the time. So in comparison I find how PFS1/PFS2/SFS handle it is a way lesser evil. Wizards of the Coast probably tightened things up so I'll give it another go later, just not now (because of my Magic the Gathering commitments)

Allowing several replays of a same scenario in Paizo Organized Play would akin to sending up a nuclear bomb, and I'm not exaggerating much.

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

Some people prefer AL, some people prefer OPF. Not everyone likes the same thing so it’s to our benefit not to have both campaigns exactly the same. You like the relaxed rules. Many of us prefer the more rigid rules of OPF. If D&D makes you happy and Pathfinder makes us happy, then just do that. I prefer OPF as my primary campaigns, but I also play in an AL reoccurring event. I like that they aren’t the same.

Generally speaking organized play is not intended to be 100% completely free and open. The word “organized” has some inherent limitations in order to maintain consistency across the community. If you want to have a wide open campaign, then play a home game. That’s the roll it fills.

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