PFS GM Reviews?


Pathfinder Society


The last time I played PFS2, the GM seemed like he was being coerced into GMing. He clearly didn't want to be there and as a result the game was not fun for any of the participants.

Other than simply avoiding games with him going forward, is there someplace to share a review, perhaps? On the one hand, I don't like to call people out by name in case they are just having a bad day. But a "Star Rating" or something would probably help people steer clear of GMs with overwhelmingly, consistently bad ratings and avoid wasting 4 hours of their weekend time.

Thoughts?


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Who "coerced" him? That's who needs to hear about your concerns

If this was an official Pathfinder Society game, then send emails with your concerns to the Venture Lieutenant and Venture Captain for your region.

Here's a list, but it doesn't look up-to-date
Orginized Play Coordinators

I'm going to flag this thread to be moved into the Organized Play, Pathfinder Society forum

Liberty's Edge 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area South & West

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Yep — flagged to be moved.

PFS is a big campaign with lots of different personalities and playstyles. A subjective rating would be pretty useless: your ideal game might not be someone else's.

Subjective ratings from strangers would also put extra pressure on new GMs in an environment where we already have a hard time getting individuals to step up.

I recommend you simply make an effort to sign up with the GMs you enjoy playing with. If it becomes an issue of a GM always being unprepared or not following rules, the definitely talk to the event coordinator in private.

And if you want to foster a culture with the kind of game you personally find fun, you can always volunteer to GM yourself! Nothing better than leading by example.


CrystalSeas wrote:
Who "coerced" him?

I think he was either an employee of the game store hosting the event, or possibly even the PFS guy for that location. He indicated that he "always has to" GM, and didn't seem too happy about it.

Doug Hahn wrote:
A subjective rating would be pretty useless: your ideal game might not be someone else's.

I'm talking about a bad attitude, not a style of play. It was like having the bailiff from traffic court be your GM - condescending and rude.

I find subjective ratings to be very useful if the sample size is large enough. Think Amazon product ratings and reviews.


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Amazon - and other companies that use ratings systems like Yelp - spend millions of dollars maintaining that ranking system. They have to deal with people using dummy accounts to upvote themselves, criminals abusing the downvoting to blackmail businesses, screen posts for relevance, and more.

They make the investment because their customer pool is millions of people worldwide.

Your local PFS player pool is probably 10-15 people who all know each other by name. It is undoubtedly easier to have a friendly conversation with the GM and give constructive critism. He'll probably ask you to GM, and you can use that opportunity to show everyone how to do it correctly.


I tend to think that this would be a bad idea. As WaterySoup points out, rating systems are pretty complex and need to deal with things like dummy reports and bias by individuals. Beyond this, I mean, to say Paizo isn't super technically savvy is maybe an understatement :-P. Or at least, investing in their online infrastructure is not something they see value in.

Beyond this, I'd worry a people getting upset about stuff like this. Perhaps your GM had a bad day. If anything, talk to them or a local coordinator about it. If it goes beyond a bad experience and moves into the territory of a harassing one (note, clearly not something that happened here) then I think you should make your case more strongly. Otherwise, something less formal is probably the way to go.


Valid points.

Watery Soup wrote:
It is undoubtedly easier to have a friendly conversation with the GM and give constructive critism. He'll probably ask you to GM, and you can use that opportunity to show everyone how to do it correctly.

Mmmm, no. This (again) is not about style of play or mechanics, it is about attitude. Maybe you know of some techniques for having a "friendly" conversation with someone you don't really know, who has a bad attitude, and have that conversation turn out well. I do not, and so I don't do it.

Just thought I'd ask in case there was already a place people used for such things. Looks like the answer is no.

As for "showing everyone how to do it correctly", most PFS players demonstrate that every game by trying to be nice. It's not something I could demonstrate any better as a GM than as a player. The reason the GMs attitude matters more is because he has a much greater impact on enjoyment of the game for everyone else.

Liberty's Edge 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area South & West

mrspaghetti wrote:
Mmmm, no. This (again) is not about style of play or mechanics, it is about attitude. Maybe you know of some techniques for having a "friendly" conversation with someone you don't really know, who has a bad attitude, and have that conversation turn out well. I do not, and so I don't do it.

If this person’s behavior is so toxic that it’s preventing you from playing, then you need to email your local Venture-Agent about it.

These things are usually self-corrective (i.e. bad GM tables stop mustering, and they soon stop GMing); if not, they’re taken care of on a local, granular level by community leaders.

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

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Reach out to the event organizer with feedback. They will appreciate all constructive comments, whether they are positive, neutral or bad.

The event organizer should be the local venture agent, if the GM was the venture agent, then give your comments to the venture lieutenant or captain. They coordinate GMs and make sure the burnt out GMs get the breaks they need.

It can sometimes be hard to figure out who the local venture characters are, so you can always email the Captain or Region Coordinator for the area with the location and time, so that they can get the feedback to the right organizers. Link to captains and regionals upthread.

Grand Lodge 4/5

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GMs already have star ratings for PFS1, Glyph ratings for PFS2, and Nova ratings for SFS. Unfortunately, these are not up to date yet as the Glyphs are still not showing and the stars take a while to be advanced in the case of earning a fifth star (can't say about Novas). Also, the Coordinator list is wildly out of date for a year now and getting worse.

Best bet is to ask who the Venture Agent or Venture Officer is. A GM who doesn't want to GM is not going to deliver a good session. They have to want to GM. Right now part of the problem is it is a new set of rules so more people want to play instead of GM.

As Doug pointed out, this is usually a self-correcting problem. In my case, I just won't play when certain GMs are running a game. For the area I oversee, I work with the GMs to become better GMs so as to deliver an enjoyable and exciting game session. It is far more fun when everyone is into the scenario, both the players and the GM.

My schtick is I'm going to mercilessly slaughter the characters, but everyone at the table knows I never do. Dead characters don't make for fun sessions. Brutally bruised, hideously maimed, and mentally assaulted but still breathing and functioning characters who have "won" the scenario's goals make for some great and memorable sessions.

PF2 has really made it a lot more fun to GM in my opinion. The death and dying rules are wonderful. They've added so much more depth via the choices that come up because of them. As a GM, they increase the tension of an encounter in a good way while allowing the characters to take actions that fit right into what they can do. It's wonderful!

Hope you get a good GM and enjoy your sessions from here on out!

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Finland—Turku aka Tomppa

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I don't think this sounds like a problem that a rating system would fix.

We're all volunteers - nobody is forced to GM. If the GM feels like they *must* GM and this affects their attitude and thus their GMing, there's a problem in the local system. Either there aren't enough GM's and he's burned out, or he's a store employee and store wants him to GM, or maybe he feels like he has to get a GM RSP boon. In any case, a break would probably be in order.

You could just ask the GM what they meant by with being "forced" to GM, or ask about the local venture officers, and talk with them.

4/5

mrspaghetti wrote:
CrystalSeas wrote:
Who "coerced" him?
I think he was either an employee of the game store hosting the event, or possibly even the PFS guy for that location. He indicated that he "always has to" GM, and didn't seem too happy about it.

Sounds like you're going to be out of luck.

If your GM always has to GM, that means no one is willing to do it. No amount of bad rating for that GM is going to fix the issue. It sounds like either that person GM's or no one does.

Seems like your choice is bad gaming, or no gaming.

mrspaghetti wrote:
As for "showing everyone how to do it correctly", most PFS players demonstrate that every game by trying to be nice. It's not something I could demonstrate any better as a GM than as a player. The reason the GMs attitude matters more is because he has a much greater impact on enjoyment of the game for everyone else.

It's not just about showing people how to do it correctly, it's also about getting the right people for the job. Right now it seems you only have the choice of the wrong person.

Also, because GMing is so important for the group, like you said, that means that trying to be nice as you put it, is more valuable as a GM trait than a player trait.

1/5

I'm going to ask a somewhat controversial question -- was it the Edition the GM was feeling compelled to run or GMing in general, if you could tell?

I realized after running at Gen Con I really wasn't comfortable with PF2E, and it DRAMATICALLY impacted my GM style.

In fact, it's kind of forced me to take a backseat to a lot of local GMing due to the focus on PF2.

Dark Archive 3/5

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mrspaghetti wrote:


I find subjective ratings to be very useful if the sample size is large enough. Think Amazon product ratings and reviews.

Amazon has a customer base of 95 million people and it still has a problem with malicious reviews. The PFS player base is about 80,000 people.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
theshoveller wrote:
mrspaghetti wrote:


I find subjective ratings to be very useful if the sample size is large enough. Think Amazon product ratings and reviews.
Amazon has a customer base of 95 million people and it still has a problem with malicious reviews. The PFS player base is about 80,000 people.

And [Paizo] has a problem with malicious reviews.

4/5

Rysky wrote:
theshoveller wrote:
mrspaghetti wrote:


I find subjective ratings to be very useful if the sample size is large enough. Think Amazon product ratings and reviews.
Amazon has a customer base of 95 million people and it still has a problem with malicious reviews. The PFS player base is about 80,000 people.
And [Paizo] has a problem with malicious reviews.

And malicious reviews will likely shrink the available GM pool further as GMs see them and decide to "take their dice and go home."

Silver Crusade 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Germany—Bavaria

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I am honestly more interested in why the GM felt that he needed to GM than his related lack of performance to be honest.

I would not be surprised if he had to step up because of a GM falling through or for other reasons that were outside of his control, and while that is not an excuse to deliver a bad table... sometimes the right thing is not to step up and cancel the game (though that is a hard lesson to learn).
If you already supply the market there is no need for others to try it, or in other words, if a player always finds a game, the desire to take that daunting step to GM is likely not quite as strong.

Stepping behind the GM screen is seen as a daunting task, and usually involves a number of hours of prep.

My suggestion would be to avoid that GM if you feel like you did not enjoy his table, and potentially ask your local VOs. Since the list is not really up to date, maybe just ask your local RVC though those also just changed for some areas.

I fear that any sort of rating would require a lot of oversight for little to no benefit, so I repeat:

"If you do not enjoy playing at a GMs table, do not play at that GM's table. If you do not enjoy playing with another player, do not sit down to play with that player (and inform your local organizers about your choice). If you are unwilling to run for a particular player, don't do that, nobody can force you to GM (and again inform your local organizers and VOs)"

Grand Lodge 5/5 ⦵⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

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And let's face it, we all have bad days. I ran the SFS Special at SkalCon after being sick for a week. As a result, I wasn't bringing my 'A' game. I was able to get through it because I had studied the special early, and because I am an experienced Specials GM. I made it through it on instinct, but it wasn't as awesome as I wanted it to be.

I know that GM reviews would likely be a deterrent to me GMing because I would not be able to ignore them. I am a good GM in general because I love to GM. But I want to focus on having fun with my players, not worrying about GM reviews.

Also... There are always going to be players who have inherent rating biases that would have little to do with a GM's performance. Some people only ever offer 4 stars, even for great games, because they feel 5 stars is a perfect score. Some people rate you against yourself, and give you a meh review if you did a great job, but the scenario was a little less exciting than last week. Some people rate you badly if you have a player at the table that they don't happen to like, and it affects their enjoyment of the game.

If we introduced GM rating, I would likely give up GMing.

Hmm

Grand Lodge 4/5

Let's look at the current and proposed rating changes for the 5 Star/Glyph/Nova system we use here. The idea of requiring more VC adjudication sessions was proposed along with a rubric to put more qualitative measurements into the current quantitative measurement system.

Will that work? In my opinion almost certainly not. It will just create a larger barrier to achieving the fifth X rank, but in the end will not provide for a better GM. It will create more requirements for the VCs more than anything else.

Would it be wonderful to have a system that develops an awesome GM? Yes, definitely. However, to do that would require a lot of resources involving time and money on both the part of the people training the GMs and the GMs themselves. I just do not see Paizo doing that. I see educational institutions pouring resources and money into teacher development and we still end up with instructors that just are not that good at teaching. (We also have awesome instructors, so they're not failing. It's just not going to have 100% success, so don't take it as a knock on education).

Truthfully, the best way to create a good GM is for the players and the GM to work together to develop that good GM. Positive feedback, constructive criticism, reinforcement of what is working, open communications on what players expect and desire, and maybe even a reward system for the GM (a drink or snack) would go a long way to accomplishing that. Like it or not, we are all part of the process.

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

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1) We are currently is a golden age of TTRPGs. There are more people playing TTRPGs than ever before. However, this means there are tons of newbs wanting to play and not nearly enough GMs to go around. A rating system would likely diminish the supply more as it puts additional pressure on GMs (making it a less fun experience for them). Remember, GMs are volunteers. They don't get paid to GM you and you aren't entitled to have them GM for you. They GM because the want to and if you make them not want to, then everyone loses. I suspect GMs that feel coerced are likely doing it because of the lack of GMs. In my 44 years of experience, the number of people who would rather play than GM compared to those who would rather GM than play is much higher of a ratio than the needed 7-1. Especially now.

2) Different players value different things in their GMs. Some value rules knowledge, others value their RP ability, and still others value preparedness and professionalism. Without some way of breaking the rating system down into sub-categories, GM ratings would be very limited in usefulness to the players.

3) Unless we are talking large Cons, the GM is probably going to have a good idea as to who at a particular table is rating them poorly and that can create friction IRL.

4) It can often be easy to confuse a bad GM with a bad adventure, and vise versa.

5) Previous campaigns that have attempted a GM rating system found it to be a bad idea due to the high level of subjectivity. The only one I saw that gave a reasonable result was a rating system that tested GM rules knowledge, and nothing else. And even then, it was only a pass/fail system.

6) People tend to only rate things they have a negative experience with. So unless there is a mandatory rating requirement at every table, most rated GMs will be rated more poorly than their average would really be.

To boil this down, GM rating systems do more to punish GMs than reward them. And when it comes to a group of volunteers that are in short supply and desperately needed in order of everyone to have fun, that is not a good thing.


mrspaghetti wrote:
Maybe you know of some techniques for having a "friendly" conversation with someone you don't really know, who has a bad attitude, and have that conversation turn out well.

1. Start with common ground. Do you both like Pathfinder? Do you both like Pathfinder Society? Do you both want a Pathfinder game to thrive at the location? Do you both want a Pathfinder Society game to thrive at the location?

Keep in mind that some of these answers may be no. Maybe he loves Pathfinder but hates Pathfinder Society; he volunteered to GM but doesn't like the additional Society rules. Maybe he's a store employee who was forced by his boss to GM, and would prefer to piss everyone off so he can do other things.

If your goals line up, then ...

2. Continue with what you perceive as the major barriers. Make "I" statements and not "you" statements. "I would prefer to play at a more leisurely pace" vs "You rush things" etc. "I would be happy to rotate GMing" vs "You suck at GMing."

Skip the small stuff. The goal here is to move on to ...

3. Agree on a set of things to try. It helps to frame things as "let's try this once" or "let's do this for an hour and see if people like it," as it limits the scope of your request.

And finally ...

4. Practice.

Next time something bothers you at a restaurant, don't just steam internally and then go mash out an anonymous negative review on Yelp. Call the waiter over and make it a goal to end the interaction with both of you happy.

Protip: Not every interaction will. But that's part of the reason to practice, so you see a full spectrum of things that are your fault and things that are their fault; things that can be fixed and things that can't be fixed. Sometimes, at the end of the interaction, you'll wish you had just walked out and trashed them on Yelp.

I don't think this is one of those cases. To be brutally honest, I can't believe you're giving up so easily. You want someone to create a massive online ranking system, but you can't be uncomfortable for a 15 minute conversation with someone who shares a common interest? Nobody is born with a silver tongue, none of those hostage negotiators and international diplomats got the way they are by throwing their hands in the air and saying, "Mehhhh ... **** it."

What is the downside to trying?

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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Watery Soup wrote:
What is the downside to trying?

Charisma is a dump stat for many players as well as their characters and telling someone their DMing sucks, even when you try to do it indirectly, has a high chance of getting some hackles up. It's not a court of law where "I didn't SAY that" holds any weight, if someone takes that as your meaning, they're going to respond to that no matter how you phrase it. Sometimes with a one fingered wave.

In a small social circle you can easily get kicked to the curb or set off a WWI esque balance of friendship where you've not only ticked off the DM but also their friends.

In 400? games i think i've had two that were so horrifically bad that running that risk MIGHT be worth it if avoidance wasn't possible.

Some games are the equivalent of dominoes pizza: meh. So you decide if you're hungry enough for dominoes or not. Some are pinapple pizza: some people like it. Some people don't. Now you know thats pinaple hut, don't go there.

1/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The problem with such reviews and surveys, as noted above by Da Wolf(and others), is that we live in an age where one of the the immediate reactions for the net-connected is to post a scathing review and demand recompense for said perceived slights.

...and in most cases, the visceral sensations are what make it to print.

So a GM that is having a bad day? 'Zero Stars, would not sit at their table again!'

A GM that's legitimately an a-hole, but they're the reviewer's kind of a-hole? 'Five Stars, loved their characterizations!'

Neither of these reviews help. Yet they would become prevalent over time.

This is based on fifteen years of my IRL Employer using the same sort of metric to rate 'Customer Satisfaction'. Either we get an exceptionally rare heart-felt tale of awesomeness followed by back-handed comments or we get all the hate all the time. ...and the IRL Employer is PAYING us to do a job.

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

Its also visibility and willingness to use a system.

They tried with heromuster

So far I havent seen the website wildly used.

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

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Not a lot of reviewers can claim being completely neutral/unbiased/analyze the circumstances of the game on their reviews. That pretty much sums up what I think about the topic.

5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Australia—NSW—Sydney aka Nik B.

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Chat with the local Venture Officer.

Online reviews of people and GM's are just a really weak way of making a complaint - the GM doesn't get to make any rebuttal, and that review sticks around forever - and it's all based on your subjective opinion based on a couple of hours of interaction at best.

I wouldn't support any system that put my GMs into a 'Yelp for gaming'.

The Exchange 5/5

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Input from an old gamer dude...

I can recall back in the early days of Living Greyhawk, when both Table Judges and Players were more formally "evaluated", and we filled out "judge feedback cards" and "MVP award sheets". Those are not times I want to return to. Heck, we even stopped doing them before the transition to 3.5 rules. And the game was better for it. (notice the fact that those grading systems didn't make it into PFS?)

side note:

I really do not think this view is "sour grapes" on my part. I actually did quite well on both kinds of "grade cards". But it did regularly bother me to see the sorts of things people would engage in to get better scores - to "win" at the "contest". Both player and judge actions.

(some examples would be):
3 friends who all played together would before the game agree to vote as a block, insuring that the one they voted for "won" the Table MVP Award, (the Table Prize, which was normally a "die-bump-cert"). Each game they would rotate which of them would win.

A judge arranging to have selected players at their tables, and insuring that other "potential problem" players did NOT play for them - but went to other tables. After all, a player who has a reputation for rating a Judge highly would be an asset to have at your table... Thus insuring that their Judge Ratings (evaluations) were always high, while other judges always seemed to have problems, and are rated on average lower. This would go so far as to have judges "pad" the sign-up sheets for their tables with non-existent players that they could replace at the last minute with "selected" individuals or even leave as an empty seat. (3 high ratings from a 4 player table gives a better ranking than 3 high ratings from a 6 player table). And if they were not judging a game this slot? they would play at other tables and be sure to rate those other judges poorly, insuring their own overall rating was better.

There were LOTS of other gimmicks to try to "game the system"... After all, there are a lot of people in our hobby who see everything as a contest and look for every possible loophole to exploit to "win the game". I am sure that other people will be able to come up with things I never saw and cannot even imagine now.

Personal Evaluations:

Concerning evaluations, as a judge and as a player, I try to deal with this in a very informal way. For myself, for my enjoyment of the game, to improve my game - which is very selfish, I like to have fun. Please understand, I DON'T want to push this on other people, it's just what I do for MYSELF...

As a judge/organizer, on the back of each chronicle that I print for a scenario, I try to have printed the scenario Summary and Conclusion, and then the following paragraph:
As always: Thanks for playing, and I hope you had an enjoyable game!
I am always interested in feedback from my players on what parts you enjoyed and what parts you didn't. What I did that might have made the game more fun, or less fun - what I might be able to do to make the next game (with this scenario or a different one) better. So, feel free to email me feedback to:
and then I list my email address.

As a Player: "At the end of each game I play in, I try to get feedback from the judge/players on how well I played my PC. Was it fun to game with her? did she add to the group? Would they like to see/play with her again?" if we have time while walking out to the car, or between games...

Thus I get feedback from those persons important to me - the people that have played for me.

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

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tivadar27 wrote:

I tend to think that this would be a bad idea. As WaterySoup points out, rating systems are pretty complex and need to deal with things like dummy reports and bias by individuals. Beyond this, I mean, to say Paizo isn't super technically savvy is maybe an understatement :-P. Or at least, investing in their online infrastructure is not something they see value in.

Beyond this, I'd worry a people getting upset about stuff like this. Perhaps your GM had a bad day. If anything, talk to them or a local coordinator about it. If it goes beyond a bad experience and moves into the territory of a harassing one (note, clearly not something that happened here) then I think you should make your case more strongly. Otherwise, something less formal is probably the way to go.

Just out of curiosity how do you know it's not going to turn into a harassing situation? I've seen bad experiences pogo jump so far into disaster that I'll often just bite my lip. Especially when very often my issues have involved transphobia. More often than not people are just going to people walk away than even potentially risk it.

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