Behind the Screens – Prep With Me: Prepping PFS with Alex

Hello, everyone! This is Alex Augunas of Guidance fame, Anthony’s co-host on the Private Sanctuary Podcast. So where’s the REAL Man Behind the Screens? Well, he’s sick with something he’s calling “norovirus.” At least, that’s the American name. A quick Google Search told me that in the UK they call it “winter vomiting bug.” Thanks for being terse and to the point, UK! So as you might expect, it is rather difficult to write a blog article when you’re vomiting your brains out so today you’re going to get to experience the Everyman Gamer’s version of Prep With Me! Hopefully that makes for an acceptable consolation prize for everyone. 😉

Lately, most of my Game Prepping has been for PFS (although I’m getting ready to run Jade Regent soon). Since Anthony asked me to fill in SUPER last minute, however, and because I don’t have anything put together for Jade Regent yet, today I’m going to share with you my quick and easy process for prepping for a Pathfinder Society game!

Materials

Here’s what you’ll need to Prep the Everyman Gamer way.

  1. A laptop or tablet. I use a 12-inch Mac Air, personally, but anything that will allow you to  make cropped screen captures will work fine. I like Mac because I have tons of Mac gadgets that all sync together, but I recognize that individually, there are more powerful options for your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone.
  2. PDFs! I used to be THAT guy who lugged all of his books with him to games, but when I started going to PFS I no longer felt comfortable bringing my hardcover collection with me. After all, I sometimes put stuff down and wander the store or go pick up a quick bite to eat. The less stuff I have to keep track of, the better. So for a short time I started going to Staples to print out pages (sometimes entire scenarios) to use in games. I didn’t want to print out pages on my printer because that would DESTROY my ink budget. However, while Staples was more affordable then printing the pages out myself, going there weekly became a hassle REAL fast. As a result, laptop + PDFs turned out to be the powerhouse combo for me.
  3. A bag of bases and a bag of Starbursts. At the Philly Lodge, we had a tradition of rewarding players with candy when they kill monsters. Typically, we use Starbursts because they’re roughly the size of a square on the grid, don’t melt, and come in enough flavors that everyone is generally happy to have them. I’ve started trying to find other ways to reward people with candy for beating encounters, like beating important Diplomacy checks and the like to try to make sure that people who participate but don’t deal damage get candy, but its still a work in progress. As for the bases, I like to have Large and Huge bases to slap on the table when the adventure calls for such creatures. Currently, I’m slowly started to transfer over to Pathfinder Pawns, but I’m not there yet. In six months, maybe a year, I’d likely replace the “bag of bases” with “Pathfinder Pawns.” Now, if you’re cheap like me and just want to throw bases down on the table, I got mine from Reaper Miniatures. They gave us a big bag of bases as part of their second Kickstarter, but since I don’t base my minis on Reaper bases I had nothing else to do with them. What I base my minis on (and what I would totally recommend if you’re needing blank bases to throw down as proxies on the table) is Warsenal’s wooden bases. They are SUPER cost-efficient; $4.00 will get you 25 Medium-sized bases and the larger ones are similarly priced. If you need bases and are on a budget, I’d get them.

And that’s really all you 100% NEED to Prep for PFS my way. I’m like Mark Seifter; utterly hopeless when it comes to props, so even though I have Syrinscape I don’t use it often at PFS. (Though again, that’s something I want to fix.) At any rate, let’s talk about how I prep for a game!

Prepping Scenarios and Modules

Here’s what I do when I’m prepping a Pathfinder Society Module or Scenario.

  1. Read the Scenario or Module. Shocker, right? My first step is to thoroughly read whatever I’m running so I’m familiar with what’s going to happen in the module. Sometimes, I open Microsoft Word and take notes depending on how complex whatever I’m running is. An example would be when I ran The Blakros Connection, which included rules for an all-new subsystem that (to the best of my knowledge) has only ever appeared in one other source. I’m talking about the Research Rules, and I wanted to make sure that I always had them at quick disposal if I needed them. (Plus I wanted to print out the rules to hand to my players. Ultimately I forgot to do that, but its the thought that counts!)
  2. Outline the Events / Plot. Using my notes, I write a quick summary of how the events in the adventure are to unfold. Namely, “Here’s Part I, here’s Part II, and here’s Part III.” I usually write what triggers each act change, as well. Such as “When the PCs do X, begin Act Y.” Its helpful to have a firm idea of when to move things along in my head, after all.
  3. Copy Stat Blocks and Highlight Important Info: Next, I reread the module or adventure, scanning for two things: stat blocks that don’t appear in the adventure (or that are relegated to an appendix) and important information in the stat block itself. Currently, I haven’t been able to get my PDFs to highlight important info in-document yet, so instead I make a Word Document and title it “Things to Remember” and copy the information there. (Paizo’s PDFs seem to be protected against this, so if others know how to bypass that and put highlights into the physical file I’d be SUPER appreciative.) While I’m doing this, I use my Mac’s screenshot mode (Shift + Apple + 4) to take screen shots of JUST those stat blocks. Then I name them and store them within a folder with all my other notes and digital preparation materials. If a stat block refers to a Bestiary or some other PDF, I open that PDF and take a picture of that specific stat block too and store it within the file. That way, I can quickly open exactly what I’m looking for without needing to scroll through multiple PDFs, and I can have multiple stat blocks open in front of me from the same source. It really helps keep everything together and organized in front of me.

With all those materials together, I’m ready to run PFS! I’ll usually skim through the adventure one final time before heading out to keep it fresh in my mind, and then I’ll run it! So tell me, readers, how do YOU Prep for short games like Pathfinder Society Scenarios or Paizo Modules? What would you do differently than what I listed here? Do you know how to highlight info in Paizo PDFs in a manner that’ll have the highlights saved to the file? What strategies do you use when prepping big things like scenarios or home games? Anthony and I look forward to your answers, but until then this is the Everyman Gamer, signing off from Behind the Screens!

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 also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC.

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1 Comment

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