Brian Darnell, Venture Lieutenant in Los Angeles and the man behind Know Direction’s Pathfinder Society Minute.
Pathfinder Socialite is a twice monthly series on the Private Companion blog in which we speak with people of interest in the Pathfinder Society Organized Play community, the Venture Officers and 5-star Game Masters whose tireless volunteer efforts make Pathfinder Society possible.
Brian Darnell (BD): First off, thanks for doing this interview. It’s a great idea to help people get to know the Venture Officers and 5 star GMs and learn about what they do.
Private Companion: What is your gaming background, and how did you come to be so invested in the Pathfinder RPG?
I’ve been gaming for 22 years. I started with AD&D 2nd edition. Over the years, I mostly stuck with D&D but dabbled in a lot of other games including AD&D 1E, TORG, Underground, Marvel Superheroes, WoD, All the D&Ds up to Pathfinder but not including 4e, and all the Palladium RPGs, especially Rifts and Ninjas and Superspies. Currently in addition to Pathfinder Society I’m in 4 home games – Playing Kingmaker, a Pathfinder- Greyhawk campaign, and a Serenity RPG home game. I run a Rise of the Runelords home game and right now I am getting ready to run my Sword of the Serpent Adventure path which is a series based in the World of Golarion where the players take on the role of agents of the Aspis Consortium.
PC: What does Pathfinder Society mean to you?
Pathfinder Society, to me is a community of gamers devoted to promoting the hobby, meeting new gamer friends, and experience games from different perspectives.
PC: How did you come to be a Venture Lieutenant in Los Angeles?
Robyn Nixon, the LA Venture Captain noticed that I was promoting a lot of games on the Southern California Pathfinder Society Facebook Group (http://tinyurl.com/pfsgroup) and asked me if I would like to continue to the same thing officially.
PC: What are some of your responsibilities as a Venture Lieutenant?
Responsibilities of a Venture Lieutenant vary by region as responsibilities are dictated by the needs of the region by the Venture Captain. My minimum responsibilities are to coordinate one game a month and promote existing games on the Facebook group and to assist at conventions when I can; I also operate as a backup to the venture captain. There are 3 other venture officers in the LA area, we all regularly coordinate games in our area and attend the Strategicon conventions (http://strategicon.net), my area is the Inland Empire of Southern California which is a large area that covers over two counties, and about 10 regular GMs and 50 regular players. We have 2 stores in this area that have regular monthly games, I operate at one as a home store where I run a biweekly Tuesday night game and a Bimonthly all-day game day that runs on second Saturdays. The community has a good relationship with other SoCal regions (LA and San Diego) so we share a lot of players and GMs, if you wanted to you could play PFS just about every weekend in Southern California, a few people actually do this including 5 star GM Bruce Higa who regularly makes the 2 hour drive to our community to run and play games.
PC: What are some of the advantages and other differences PFS play has over play at home?
That is a big question. PFS, being organized play, allows players to participate in individual one-off adventures as often as they want. The main advantage is flexibility; a player doesn’t have to commit to a regularly scheduled game so players can play once, don’t play for a while, come back later and continue advancing characters without having to worry about schedules. This allows busy gamers to continue to game when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to commit to a regular game. This is the reason I got into PFS as I have friends that I gamed with 22 years ago that I can never match schedules with for regular home games, thanks to PFS I can regularly game with the people that helped introduce me to gaming.
PC: How often do you run PFS games, and how often do you get to play in them?
I started playing PFS in June of 2011 and GMing in September 2011 and I have run 97 games (I’ll have my fourth star as of Strategicon Orccon on 2/15). I have characters at 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, 12th, and 12th and I GM more often than I play but his is by design as I enjoy GMing more. I play more at cons then I do at stores but I am playing for the first time at my home store since November on Tuesday and I am playing in 5 games at Orccon.
PC: You’ve been a big help for the Know Direction podcast, answering listener questions about Pathfinder Society. What does getting to interact with fans in this way mean to you?
I love the podcast, and as I told you at Gencon, I want to support in in any way I can. I had no idea that would mean being on the podcast. So for me, I get the ultimate fanboy dream to be on one of my favorite podcasts and help promote the game, answer questions personally, and share some help for beginner players.
PC: What lessons have you learned from the PFS community?
Due to the amazingly diverse community I’ve learned that you can’t take any player or GM at face value. Everyone is awesome! For example, we have a 13 year old GM who can run games better than some veterans, we’ve had 11 year olds shrug it off when a character dies more maturely than adults, and we’ve had people lift each other up in life crisis like health etc. I game with students, cops, lawyers, engineers, kids, elderly, moms, dads, etc. PFS has introduced me to so many people and I wouldn’t trade those friendships for anything.
I’ve learned as a GM that the best strategy for a GM is to remember that as a GM, you are also playing the game so remember to have fun, constantly read your table and don’t be afraid to shift your style of gaming. If the table is not having fun, shift the style of the game, if the table is having fun (including you, the GM), you’re doing it right.PC: If you could change one thing about PFS, what would it be?
Pathfinder society has made a lot of changes and is constantly growing and changing. We have an awesome campaign coordinator, Mike Brock, who has implemented several changes including instituting the venture lieutenants, fleshing out and improving the guide to organized play, adding Holiday boons, new convention boons, and a lot more. Since everything done so far has been awesome, I expect them to get even better.
Pathfinder Society scenarios are getting more involved with big metaplot changes, high role play scenarios, and the ability for players actions to change the campaign by their choices, successes, and failures in a scenario. To be completely honest, I really like where this is going and I want to continue on the path that these changes are going which are deeper role playing opportunities and more involvement in the grander story.
I would like to see more Intro scenarios like First Steps and a better way to gauge the difficulty of scenarios from a playing and GMing perspective.
PC: What is a highlight of your PFS experience?
The highlights in my PFS experience always involve Paizocon. Getting to meet writers, community supporters, and other venture officers is always the best part. Thanks to Paizocon I can now count a lot of people who help make this game as friends and I find that to be awesome!