Explore, Report, and... ?


Pathfinder Society


A player in one of our recent Org Play sessions pointed out that the Society motto should be updated to "explore, report, and never cooperate because it's fatal."

Thanks to 2nd Edition mechanics, Aid Another now has a DC of 20, which means that starting (low-level) agents will fail a lot more than they succeed if they try to work together. And thanks to the critical failure mechanic, an attempt to assist your teammates can actually do more harm than good--up to and including (in the case of Medicine) killing them! (This is in addition to any per-scenario mechanic of taking away success points for a story goal, mind you.)

So really, newly minted graduates of the Grand Lodge should have it drummed into their heads that they're expected to be solo specialists in their field, but to never try to come to each other's assistance. Cooperation is a bad idea, with the worst outcomes being most frequent at level 1, where beginning players start. I'm sure this wasn't the design goal, but that's how it comes across.

Any thoughts on this?

2/5 5/5 ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Massachusetts—Boston

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Cooperate is much broader than "aid another". Its "I'll handle this, while you handle that and we'll share information." Its "I'll protect you while you disarm that trap", etc

1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I would also not that Aid does not have a fixed DC. 20 is a rule of thumb, but the DC can be higher or lower at GM discretion based on what you're trying to Aid, and how.

Scarab Sages 1/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Virginia—Richmond

HammerJack wrote:
I would also not that Aid does not have a fixed DC. 20 is a rule of thumb, but the DC can be higher or lower at GM discretion based on what you're trying to Aid, and how.

Not in the Pathfinder Society Organized Play Program, IME, where there's little room for GM discretion.

That said, there's more to cooperation than Aid Another. Flanking, buffing and healing come to mind.

1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

2 people marked this as a favorite.

That is not accurate on this mechanic. Aid actions having their viability, traits, requirements and DC determined by exactly what the attempt to aid is, narratively, is the core mechanic. No rule in the Guide to Organized Play modifies the CRB mechanic. Therefore, the CRB rules stand. There are a number of mechanics like that in 2E that use GM discretion, and that continue to use GM discretion in society, like using Lore skills for appropriate recall knowledge or other tasks, and possibly adjusting DCs based on how specifically appropriate they are.

One of the scenarios has even used alternate Aid DC for a written skill check.

EDIT: While GMs in society don't have the GM discretion to change the things that are written into a scenario (creatures, hazards, mechanical things like that) or to allow character build choices (allowing Uncommon or Rare options, applying houserules for PCs, etc), that is VERY different from the idea that we don't adjudicate things that happen in play, when the PCs attempt something that isn't written into the scenario (which can certainly include Aid attempts). It doesn't mean that Aiding will always be easy or should be thrown around recklessly every time, but if you've got a plan on how to help with something that makes sense and has a good chance of working, no one is obligated to use DC 20 for you to put that plan into action.

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

The concept of changing the Aid DC from 20 is new to Society GMs. I have seen debate on that point for a while now. What I have not seen is any direct guidance from OP Leadership on it.

So it will be a "table variance" situation. There will be GMs that will "nope, book says 20" and there will be GMs who will let the player present their reasons for why the DC should be different.

As for Cooperate, agree with Eric that it implies much more than just aiding.

Scarab Sages 1/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Virginia—Richmond

HammerJack wrote:

That is not accurate on this mechanic. Aid actions having their viability, traits, requirements and DC determined by exactly what the attempt to aid is, narratively, is the core mechanic. No rule in the Guide to Organized Play modifies the CRB mechanic. Therefore, the CRB rules stand. There are a number of mechanics like that in 2E that use GM discretion, and that continue to use GM discretion in society, like using Lore skills for appropriate recall knowledge or other tasks, and possibly adjusting DCs based on how specifically appropriate they are.

One of the scenarios has even used alternate Aid DC for a written skill check.

I'm familiar with one such scenario, but that's evidence for my argument that GMs are not supposed to lower DCs by themselves. If a lower DC to Aid is called for, then the text will include lower DCs. The scneario writer, not the GM, makes that decision.

HammerJack wrote:
EDIT: While GMs in society don't have the GM discretion to change the things that are written into a scenario (creatures, hazards, mechanical things like that) or to allow character build choices (allowing Uncommon or Rare options, applying houserules for PCs, etc), that is VERY different from the idea that we don't adjudicate things that happen in play, when the PCs attempt something that isn't written into the scenario (which can certainly include Aid attempts). It doesn't mean that Aiding will always be easy or should be thrown around recklessly every time, but if you've got a plan on how to help with something that makes sense and has a good chance of working, no one is obligated to use DC 20 for you to put that plan into action.

I can tell that you, like me, GM for PFS. In my experience, GMs can decide what players can do, but the text provides the DC. For example, GMs decide what Lore skills are relevant for Recall Knowledge, but the DC is written into the scenario (usually a -2 to the regular DC)

For that same scenario I mentioned earlier, there was a scene where players where encouraged to solve a problem creatively, but the DCs were set as level-appropriate.

In PFS, GMs aren't supposed to lower the DCs of skill checks unless the text calls for it. In a home game, I might reduce Aid checks for lower levels since 20 is too high, IMHO. But I would never do it in Society.

1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

2 people marked this as a favorite.

In PFS, GMS aren't supposed to lower the DCs for skill checks, yes.

That only applies when there is a set DC to lower from. When the PCs do something that isn't written, the GM needs to set the DC as appropriately as they can.

Unless you're seeing something in the guide that modifies the Aid action from normal use, there is not a fixed starting point. There's a usual rule of thumb, but that isn't the same thing.

You're expanding a rule that society does have into something that it does not cover.

Silver Crusade 5/5 5/5 **

NECR0G1ANT wrote:
HammerJack wrote:
I would also not that Aid does not have a fixed DC. 20 is a rule of thumb, but the DC can be higher or lower at GM discretion based on what you're trying to Aid, and how.

Not in the Pathfinder Society Organized Play Program, IME, where there's little room for GM discretion.

That said, there's more to cooperation than Aid Another. Flanking, buffing and healing come to mind.

There are starting to be scenarios where the Aid DC is explicitly set at less than 20.

20 as the DC was always a mistake IMAO

Scarab Sages 1/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Virginia—Richmond

pauljathome wrote:
NECR0G1ANT wrote:
HammerJack wrote:
I would also not that Aid does not have a fixed DC. 20 is a rule of thumb, but the DC can be higher or lower at GM discretion based on what you're trying to Aid, and how.

Not in the Pathfinder Society Organized Play Program, IME, where there's little room for GM discretion.

That said, there's more to cooperation than Aid Another. Flanking, buffing and healing come to mind.

There are starting to be scenarios where the Aid DC is explicitly set at less than 20.

What you say is true, but those lower DCs are written into the text. They're not lowered at GM discretion.

Dark Archive 4/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Turku

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Also, it's not "never aid another!", it's merely "Don't try to aid if you haven't got the slightest clue what you are trying to do!"

Even with DC 20 aid another check, a fresh lvl 1 PC trained in a skill has +3 in proficiency (2 from trained and 1 from level), plus their ability score. Assuming a moderate ability score (+2)(why else would you have unlocked the skill by training in it?), you are at +5. That gives you 5% chance of +2, 25% chance giving +1, 25% chance of giving -1, with 45% chance of not affecting the check. End result is that on average, aid another -is- helpful, it's just that you shouldn't try it if you aren't trained in the skill, and the chance of success just gets better with levels.

(even with a +1 in ability score, it may be beneficial in some situations to try and help: 30% chance of -1, 20% chance of +1, and 5% chance of +2)

As to the first aid - "most people" seem to pick up assurance once they get to level 3 to ensure that they don't fail the check when it really matters. Until they do - don't try to revive me with medicine, just pour my healing potion down my throat, thanks. (Exploration mode healing with medicine is just fine, since any setbacks can be corrected by just taking longer time and trying again).

It's also true that cooperation is -a lot more- than just "aid another" checks.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

2 people marked this as a favorite.
NECR0G1ANT wrote:
...that's evidence for my argument that GMs are not supposed to lower DCs by themselves. If a lower DC to Aid is called for, then the text will include lower DCs. The scneario writer, not the GM, makes that decision.

Guess I have an obligation to warn players that I am a cheater then. 20 is rarely the target DC for Aid at my table. I’ve set it as low as 10 and as high as 22.

Scarab Sages 1/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Virginia—Richmond

TwilightKnight wrote:
NECR0G1ANT wrote:
...that's evidence for my argument that GMs are not supposed to lower DCs by themselves. If a lower DC to Aid is called for, then the text will include lower DCs. The scneario writer, not the GM, makes that decision.
Guess I have an obligation to warn players that I am a cheater then. 20 is rarely the target DC for Aid at my table. I’ve set it as low as 10 and as high as 22.

Yeah, you should stop doing that in PFS games.

1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Lets say we have a hypothetical scenario where PCs want to get into a building with a locked door. The scenario give's a thievery DC of 25 to pick the lock on the door, or an Athletics DC of 25 to force the door open.

In this case, if the GM decided to change the Thievery DC to 20 because the only cha racer with the skill trained is lower level and has por dexterity, that would be changing the DC and should not be done. If one of the players wants to climb the tree across the street from the building, and nothing is written in the scenario about how hard that tree is to climb, then the GM sets the DC to climb, which is absolutely legal and appropriate.

When PCs have a particulately good way to attempt to aid an activity (possibly with clever preparations and supporting equipment to make it a particularly easy way to help) that is not referred to by the scenario in any way, that is also a case of setting a DC, per the standard rules of Aid, not of changing a scenario mechanic.

We cannot reasonably assume that exceptionally well suited aid solutions can only occur when written into a scenario, because scenarios do not, can not, and are not expected to account for every possible solution to a situation.

If there is some written society rule that suggests those standard rules should not be used, it would be helpful to cite that rule before saying people should follow it. Otherwise it seems like setting a DC for an action not planned for in the scenario is being conflated with changing mechanics in the scenario.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Cooperation at level 1 consists almost entirely of skill checks and emergency first aid. There are no potions, there is no Assurance; crit-fail = killing your teammate, and scenario rules often mean that crit-fails reduce the party's chance of mission success. That is at level 1, where new players are introduced to the game.

Sure, there are still ways to contribute to party success--by being solo specialists each playing a solo-specialist role, as Eric Nielsen and I both mentioned, e.g. "You check that door for traps while she watches the entrance and I translate these runes." That's teamwork (of a sort), but it's far short of true cooperation.

Level 1 is where first impressions of Society play are made, and the message of level 1 is "No, don't try to help me--you'll only make things worse."

Dark Archive 4/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Turku

Calybos1 wrote:

Cooperation at level 1 consists almost entirely of skill checks and emergency first aid. There are no potions, there is no Assurance; crit-fail = killing your teammate, and scenario rules often mean that crit-fails reduce the party's chance of mission success. That is at level 1, where new players are introduced to the game.

Sure, there are still ways to contribute to party success--by being solo specialists each playing a solo-specialist role, as Eric Nielsen and I both mentioned, e.g. "You check that door for traps while she watches the entrance and I translate these runes." That's teamwork (of a sort), but it's far short of true cooperation.

Level 1 is where first impressions of Society play are made, and the message of level 1 is "No, don't try to help me--you'll only make things worse."

As the math demonstrated, that last sentece is true only if someone who isn't trained in a skill tries to assist you.

As to the potions - There should be potions, really. At the very least, each of the party members has 1 free minor healing potion from their school training -unless they specifically chose something else-, and buying a back-up potion is highly recommended.
It's true that Medicine isn't very effective at first level, though, since even if you have assurance in it, you won't reach the crucial "assurance 15" until third level. Remember though that the target takes damage/dying increases by 1 -only on a critical failure-, and that's only on a nat 1 unless you somehow have just 1 person trained in medicine and they happen to have wisdom 10. In that case though, you probably should buy another healing potion, if that "medicine 3" guy is your only healing option...

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

1 person marked this as a favorite.
NECR0G1ANT wrote:
Yeah, you should stop doing that in PFS games.

No thank you. The core rules support it.

Dark Archive 4/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Turku

Oh, yeah. Even if you are bleeding out, the guy with medicine has a better chance to save you than what you have if you were just bleeding out and rolling recovery checks, so it's certainly a misrepresentation to claim that they shouldn't help you:

Your check to recover is flat DC 11, 12, or 13 and it only sets you back 1 on the dying track.
Check to stabilize you with first aid is DC 16, 17, or 18, but the roller has at least 3+wisdom for that check. Difference is that if they fail, nothing bad happens - if they succeed, you are completely stable. Only a crit fail advances your dying condition. With even a moderate wisdom score of +2, their chance to succeed is the same as yours, and they only fail critically on the same rolls that you'd critically fail, except your crit fails advances you 2 on the dying track while theirs only move you by 1. Trying to recover alone when unconscious is usually a slow but losing battle, having a friend help you is nearly guaranteed to succeed. If we assume that neither of you roll any crits and you started out on dying 1, they'll get three attempts to save you, and the chance to fail all three of those is roughly 16.5%, so chance to save you is 83.5%. Your chance to just miraculously stabilize starts at 50% on the first round, and the longer it takes, the worse the chance comes since the DC goes up.

Grand Archive 4/5 ***

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I GMed a low level table where 4 of the 5 players grabbed the bad guy and piled on top of him, while the Alchemist (the only one who could hurt him) lobed various alchemical weapons at him. Sure, they had a pretty crappy chance of holding him, but with him prone and held down one or two of them would succeed each round, meaning to get to the person who was hurting him, he had to keep making escape checks.

Persistent damage eventually killed him, after the Alchemist ran out of bombs.

If you can't ways to cooperate, maybe the problem is not the system.

Sometimes "Cooperate" comes down to "be a team player, don't try to steal the spot light, let the expert work." Sure, I know you want to trade banter with the NPC, but maybe if you are untrained in diplomacy and have a -1 cha, let the person trained in the skill take the lead. If they miss an important point, whisper it in their ear, don't try to sell it yourself and risk the crit fail.

5/5 *** Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Aid DCs are something I've been thinking about recently...

Nearly 100 games in I'm getting more and more comfortable with the basics on both sides on the screen and think especially at low levels it's appropriate for the GM to set Aid DC to be quite a bit lower than 20 in many cases.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

2 people marked this as a favorite.

IMO, a good target for Aid is roughly the DC by level chart. The DC for the skill check listed in the scenario are generally scaled by level, so it stands to reason Aiding someone on that check should also be scaled. Also, it seems odd to me that the Aid DC would be higher than the DC to actually do the task.

4/5 5/55/55/55/5 ***

In Organized Play we have a standing rule that, we the table GMs, are not allowed to make the 'GM discretion' rules, as the GM is Campaign Leadership.

We are to run following the written rules, as modified by Campaign Leadership and the Scenario... GM discretion is called out for dealing with unclear rules and 'creative' solutions...

3/5 **

It's perfectly appropriate for a PFS GM to apply the Easy or Very Easy adjustment to the DC 20 for Aid. That will depend on the difficulty/complexity of the task the character is attempting to Aid, but it's clearly in the rules.

Scarab Sages 3/5

If it's depends on the difficulty/complexity then it's GM discretion which we don't really have. So default is 20 unless stated otherwise.

4/5 5/55/55/55/5 ***

GM OfAnything wrote:
It's perfectly appropriate for a PFS GM to apply the Easy or Very Easy adjustment to the DC 20 for Aid. That will depend on the difficulty/complexity of the task the character is attempting to Aid, but it's clearly in the rules.

As 'GM discretion'... something we required, in Society play, to defer to Campaign Leadership...

The Exceptions are only for things not covered/unclear in the rules or 'Creative Solutions' (arguably the same thing...)...

Dark Archive 4/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Turku

1 person marked this as a favorite.

The Guide allows for Creative solutions, in which case you'll have to adjudicate the situation by yourself, and clever ways to aid could be among them. The GM may also apply a circumstance bonus or penalty, up to +4 or -4 for special circumstances - both of these could be used to make the aid DC easier.

Also, just read the guide.

Table Variation wrote:


A goal of the Pathfinder Society program is to provide a fun, engaging, consistent experience at all tables. GMs should run Pathfinder Society adventures as written, which means:

No change to major plot points and interactions
No addition or subtraction to the number of monsters other than scaling directed by the scenario
No changes to armor, feats, items, skills, spells, statistics, traits, or weapons.
No alteration of mechanics of player characters,
Nor banning of legal character options

And

Quote:
Beyond the above, GMs are encouraged to make choices which would result in the most enjoyable play experience for everyone at the table and that emphasize PCs are the heroes of the story. Some examples of GM discretion include the following.
Quote:

Creatures tactics that have been invalidated by the player actions.

Unclear rules, or situations or player actions not covered by the rules.
Terrain or environmental conditions described by the scenario, but not given mechanics. (If the mechanics are included, however, they cannot be altered.)
Reactions of NPCs to good roleplaying, and the effect that has on the outcome of the encounter.
Alternate or creative skills used to bypass or overcome traps, haunts, and skill checks. (Although the DCs and results of the check are part of the mechanics and should not be changed.)
Aspects of the scenario’s description and story as appropriate for the players at the table as described in the section A Welcoming Environment on pages 485–486 of the Core Rulebook.
Changes required to comply with the Acceptable Content provision of Community Standards.
Creative solutions presented by players in overcoming obstacles.
Moving plot points missed by players to encounterable areas (this does not include moving missed treasure bundles).

The "Run as Written" isn't as strict as you think, it allows for a lot of adjustments. If you want to assist someone in diplomacy by shouting profanities at the target, the DC is probably higher than the 20. If you try to help them by providing good arguments, the DC is probably lower. If you make good points, GM might just straight up give a circumstance bonus for the person making the check.

The "GM discrection" you're talking about is basically just choices the players make about the characters, like special mounts or equipments or access to uncommon or rare items - because your decision to allow those would mean that everybody else would need to allow them too, or the PC will run into trouble when they next play in a different table. Basically, you can't tell the champion that they can take a giant bat as their mount, but you can give them a bonus on their nature check to calm the bat down when they roleplay it well.

On table Variation.

Dark Archive 4/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Turku

Anyway, that's off the topic - Point was that Even if the DC is 20, aiding is still worth it as long as you're trained.

**

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Eric Nielsen wrote:
Cooperate is much broader than "aid another". Its "I'll handle this, while you handle that and we'll share information." Its "I'll protect you while you disarm that trap", etc

To refocus the discussion on the real question, I think "cooperate" goes even beyond what Eric posted above.

People bringing a different character to the session to fill a gap in party composition is cooperation.

Fighters taking an action to Step so the rogue can flank is cooperation.

As an overarching rule, I'd channel my inner Bill Lumbergh and ask, "Is this good for the company?" Is this action that I'm about to take maximizing the success for the team? In the movie, the line is a joke because none of the workers benefit when the company does; in PFS everyone's XP and TB are the same, so everyone benefits.

Scarab Sages 1/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Virginia—Richmond

Tommi Ketonen wrote:
The Guide allows for Creative solutions, in which case you'll have to adjudicate the situation by yourself, and clever ways to aid could be among them. The GM may also apply a circumstance bonus or penalty, up to +4 or -4 for special circumstances - both of these could be used to make the aid DC easier.

I looked for "plus-or-minus-four" rule in the Guide, but I couldn't find it. What page is it on?

Table Variation wrote:
Beyond the above, GMs are encouraged to make choices which would result in the most enjoyable play experience for everyone at the table and that emphasize PCs are the heroes of the story. Some examples of GM discretion include the following.
Quote:

Creatures tactics that have been invalidated by the player actions.

Unclear rules, or situations or player actions not covered by the rules.
Terrain or environmental conditions described by the scenario, but not given mechanics. (If the mechanics are included, however, they cannot be altered.)
Reactions of NPCs to good roleplaying, and the effect that has on the outcome of the encounter.
Alternate or creative skills used to bypass or overcome traps, haunts, and skill checks. (Although the DCs and results of the check are part of the mechanics and should not be changed.)

The bolded part is key. The GM might decide to allow a skill to be used, but shouldn't change the actual DC of the check.

5/5 *** Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

NECR0G1ANT wrote:

I looked for "plus-or-minus-four" rule in the Guide, but I couldn't find it. What page is it on?

CRB pg 492.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

7 people marked this as a favorite.

Whenever the org play leadership (Paizo, not VOs) wants to stop by and rule on the DC of the Aid action, they are welcome to. Until then, some of us will continue our interpretations of the CRB. If the DC is listed in the scenario then we have an answer, if not, we’ll let GM discretion rule the day as it always has.

Community / Forums / Organized Play / Pathfinder Society / Explore, Report, and... ? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Pathfinder Society