Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be talking about Scenario Replays in Pathfinder Society.
I put the PFS people through a lot, don’t I? I mean, I share my blogs and stuff with them, but those blogs aren’t always relevant to PFS interests. So for the next two Mondays, I’ve decided that now that I have six months of PFS experience under my belt, I’m going to talk a bit about some PFS concerns that I have.
WARNING: THIS IS AN OPINION PIECE WHERE I EXPRESS MY OPINION ON A TOPIC. YOU’RE WELCOME TO DISAGREE AND ENCOURAGED TO SHARE YOUR PERSPECTIVE, BUT DON’T BE A JERK.
A few weeks ago, Know Direction had John Compton, one of the two PFS bigwigs on the show. Now, I like to lurk in the comments section of the show when I’m able to, and today was such an occasion where I was able to lurk and watch the show. Ryan and Perram always take audience questions, so I asked John one. I don’t remember my exact word choice, but the basic premise was: “Why are scenario replays so limited?”
John’s response was simple: people on the PFS team had strong feelings about replaying scenarios, and all of those feelings leaned towards restriction. Personally, I find this policy to be frustrating. Why? Well, that’s the center of today’s blog topic, but before we get there we need to talk about replays currently work in PFS.
In Pathfinder Society, the general assumption is that you’re only ever going to get to play a given scenario once. Ever. Once you play that scenario, you’re not allowed to get credit on it ever again. The reasoning makes sense: the scenario writers don’t want you to A) play a scenario, know how its going down, skip right to the end, and finish quickly or B) constantly play the same scenario(s) over and over again on all of your characters because you know which ones grant the best boons.
That said, there are some specific ways to reply some content on your characters. First, a small number of scenarios are designated “replayable,” which will allow you to play them on multiple characters, if you choose. Second, as you run more games for your players as a GM, you’ll gain credit in the form of GM stars. Every time you earn a GM star, you gain the ability to replay one scenario once. So if you really liked Scars of the Third Crusade for some reason, you could use that GM credit to play that scenario a second time on one of your characters.
So with this knowledge, what’s the issue? Well, I have more thing to review before we get there, and that’s how reporting deaths work in Pathfinder Society.
Death and PFS
Death happens in PFS. Scenarios aren’t all balanced on the same cutting edge, and a designer can never be sure what sort of group will be sitting down at his table. (In Philadelphia, for instance, I’ve noticed a shortage of tanks / healers in the 5–7 Tier.) Now, when your character dies in PFS, you pretty much have one shot at bringing him back to life; if the death “condition” isn’t resolved by the end of the scenario, your character’s basically done, but the fact that the scenario was played is still recorded.
Win or lose, basically, you’ve played that scenario and now you can’t ever play it again on any of your characters. Even if you died on the first fight and never got to SEE the ending.
Death and Modules / Chained Scenarios
For me, the biggest problem in the current set-up is in scenarios that work together to tell a story and modules, such as Wardens of the Reborn Forge. For Pathfinder Society purposes, if you die during a module like that, you never get to play it again in the Pathfinder Society. You’re done forever. This means that if you die during a Level 1 scenario, especially if you’re a new character, you’ll never be able to experience that scenario in its entirety ever again. In this way, death doesn’t penalize just your dead character, but every character that you’ll ever play.
The Finite Pool of Scenarios
Now, in Season 6 (going on Season 7), there are a good number of Pathfinder Society scenarios. But regardless, there is still a finite number of scenarios; Paizo can only release so many a month, after all. Because of this, its very easy to play yourself to the point where you can’t play again at all; as a matter of fact, there are a number of Philadelphia gamers who’ve done just that, which (in my experience), hurts the Society overall if a number of its most passionate players are actually unable to play. I’ve only been with the Pathfinder Society for a few months now, but I can honestly say that new people are somewhat hard to come by. Its sort of like the Goblinworks model of XP taken to its logical extreme; these people who have been with PFS for a longtime are accidentally punished for it because they’ve done and seen almost everything that the society has to offer. They can turn around and GM if they want to, but in my experience if you’ve hit that cap then you’re likely to have a passion for playing. GMing might not be your thing, and the Society should seek to reward GMs for running great games, not strong arm experienced players into GMing just to continue playing Pathfinder.
Now, with all of this said, I don’t think that the solution is to simply allow unlimited replays of every scenario in existence. The concerns about allowing too many replays are valid. However, I would argue that the restriction is currently too tight, to the point where it isn’t fun for the players. So here’s my proposition to fix the problem:
Step #1 — Every player gets a new number added to their PFS number: xxxxxx–0. Character #0 isn’t a character at all; it is the player’s personal GM record. Each time that the player GMs a game, that scenario is reported under Character #0, 2 Prestige Points are tracked, and then that scenario is applied to the character of the GM’s choice, as usual.
Step #2 — Institute a System of GM Prestige Points. The Prestige Points tracked on Character #0 aren’t just for show: GMs can spend them for additional rewards and benefits. Specifically, the GM could spend them on things like race boons, scenario replays, and dead character resurrections (more on that next week). Instead of having to kill hundreds of trees for Con Boons each season, a special Con Event could be recorded as being a Special Con Event, and additional Prestige Points could be credited to the GM (or even to the players) for participating in that special event. And of course, when a GM earns a new GM star, that star is recorded on Character #0 as a “scenario” of sorts and grants the GM additional Prestige, likely enough to buy a scenario replay if he desired, or something else. Whatever the GM wants as thanks for his service to his Pathfinder Society Lodge.
Is it the perfect solution? No, I’m sure it has some kinks that could be ironed out. But ultimately, giving GMs an actual system of rewards to incentify players into running games AND redesigning the system so that GMs can replay scenarios at the expense of other, fantastic rewards that they can choose from is a strategy that could help people like me, who have friends that they can’t play with because of the scenario ceiling, get to actually play with their friends every once and a while.
(PS. If you’re reading this, John Compton, remember that guy who played, like, 30 scenarios in a single month? He’s Philadelphian, and he’s one of the people I’m talking about. Another is our Venture Lieutenant.)
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex’s favorite color is blue and his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is wayang hunter. I got a PFS bud that I don’t see enough of anymore who had a wicked-cool wayang hunter. Rode a big, scary, shadowy wolf and everything.