Why Organized Play has been an Awesome Experience

Steel_Wind

Adventurer
In a recent thread, some people were expressing their frustration and recounting their own negative experiences with RPGs and Organized Play. While venting can be cathartic, it is always easy to lose sight of the positive elements from any gaming experience by discussing the negative on a public forum. Instead of the negative, I wanted to take the time here to talk about the incredibly positive experiences I have had with Organized Play in the past 18 months through Pathfinder Society.

First, a bit about me: I have been playing since 1978/79. My first DM in 1979 is still a very close friend. Another member of my gaming circle is another player from that era. Together, we have all been gaming together for 32+ years. The “new” additions to our gaming circle were acquired in the early 90s. Consequently, I am in the absurd position of describing the “new players” to the group as people I have only been gaming with for sixteen years! As many of you also know, I am also a podcaster and co-host of the Chronicles: Pathfinder Podcast. I am the new ENWorld Paizo/Pathfinder Correspondent, too.

So, with that out of the way, let me explain how it is that a gamer with one of the longer established gaming circles on ENWorld still somehow found himself involved with Organized Play and Pathfinder Society.

“Sweetheart, I Think We Should Start Seeing Other People”

Late in the spring of 2010, as a consequence of starting up Chronicles: PFPC, my co-host @Azmyth and I felt that we needed to cover and review the Kingmaker Adventure Path for the podcast. In order to do that most effectively, we believed that we needed to start playing the campaign immediately. For a number of reasons, my own long established group could not commence Kingmaker at that exact moment. It also appeared at the time, that due to competing campaigns, my local group would not be able to play Kingmaker as frequently as Azmyth and I thought we needed to be playing it. If we didn’t play weekly, Azmyth and I felt that we could not “keep up” with the scheduled reviews of the Kingmaker Adventure Path for the podcast.

In the result, Azmyth and I determined that he would GM the campaign for his local group. Both I and one other player would play in his Kingmaker campaign remotely, via Skype video.



In truth, explaining initially to my local group that I was going to play Kingmaker with another gaming group on a regular basis was damned awkward. I was nervous about it. To be honest, after 30+ years, it felt a little bit like I was approaching my wife to have The Talk: “Sweetheart? I think it’s time that we start to see other people”. Yeah, it felt kinda like that. Or perhaps, a more close analogy was that I was going to propose that we start swinging.

Whatever the case, it was a bit disconcerting. In explaining it to them, I relied upon the truth: it was for “podcast purposes” and I hoped they would all understand. They said they understood; or at least, they had the grace to pretend to.

As it turned out, the remote play experience proved to work out extremely well. Far more importantly, it turns out that Azmyth is an outstanding GM with some great players, too.

Azmyth is not all that great when it comes to rules; clearly, that is not his strength and he readily admits it. His combat tactics, while good, are not as razor sharp as my local group’s either. However, he has a lot of other strengths that I was not used to. For one, his role-playing was simply excellent. We all referred to each other around the table in character. This is a good role-playing habit that my local group just can’t stick with no matter how many times we all insist that we try to play that way.

Azmyth’s ability to do a variety of voices and to play engaging and different personas -- of either gender -- was not only an exception to the norm from my local group’s play style; he was AWESOME at it, too. His ability to move the encounters forward and how he managed combat flow around the table was also very strong. Not necessarily stronger than how I handle the flow around the table with my own group (I would say it was about equivalent in that respect) but the real point is: it was different. It was only after a month of our Kingmaker sessions before I realized that simply by his style and manner being different, it allowed me to add those differences to my own style when and where necessary.

He had all these new one liners he used at the table, too. I later learned that some of them were regional traditions in California while others were just unique to him and his group. Whatever the case, some of them were quite cool and I STOLE them.

I had not yet fully realized it at the time, but the truth of it was simple: by exposing my own gaming style to that of another gaming group from another region, I was adding his GMing and role-playing tools to my own. Many of his tools were the same – but some were not. I soon recognized that I was a better GM simply by being one of his regular players. By playing with his group, I found that I now had more tools to work with when running my own home campaign.

They Want us to GM HOW MANY Slots?

Neither of us had planned on coming to Gencon in 2010 and we had not booked rooms. After we started the podcast in May 2010 that all changed. Not only did we have to meet face-to-face (Azmyth is in San Francisco while I live in Toronto) but we felt that we needed to meet personally with Paizo staff and freelancers at Gencon in order to let them know who we were.

An opportunity to do all of this soon presented itself. While we had left booking a hotel room at Indy far too late, Paizo had a number of rooms available to their Tier 1 GMs. If you agreed to run at least eight slots of Pathfinder Society (”PFS”) at Gencon – they would pay for our badges and give us a room together (which we would share with two other PFS GMs).

“Run Pathfinder at Gencon? How hard could that be?”, I said to myself. Azmyth agreed it was a perfect solution to our quandary. Azmyth had an advantage over me – he had been running PFS at his local game store for about 4 months already, so he knew the idiosyncrasies of PFS play vs. normal “at home” play. I asked Azmyth to run a PFS session for me online and show me the differences and he readily agreed.

It turns out that PFS has a few rules peculiar to it that differ from home play. PFS is set up with a rigid structure in terms of how treasure, magic items, and experience are gained. These particular rules in PFS were implemented as a reaction against the experiences that had emerged from Living Forgotten Realms at the time, especially in how players acquired magic items. At the time in LFR, getting a DM to “sign off” on a player’s acquisition of a magic time was all it took in order for a PC to acquire a valuable magic weapon, say. While that was fine where most LFR DMs were concerned, all it took was a few bad apples to wreck everybody else’s play experience, as the Drow Rangers with their pair of matching +4 Defenders inevitably started to turn up at somebody else’s LFR session with a character sheet which had been “signed” by another DM.

Pathfinder Society play avoids all of those “portability” issues between tables with a rigid structure in how Experience Points, Prestige, wealth, and magic items are obtained. It is a little quirky vs. the way it is handled in a typical home game, but Azmyth assured me that it made sense for a living campaign like PFS. He showed me how the Chronicle sheet system worked and how treasure was awarded. I agreed that it was a simple -- if not elegant -- way of avoiding play balance issues and conflicts in game sessions between player characters.

I played a few PFS sessions to acclimatize myself with the rules and norms of PFS play (there really aren’t many at all, the game session is essentially run per RAW) and before we knew it, we were off at Gencon 2010 as Tier 1 GMs for Paizo. We ran eight slots of Pathfinder Society each that year. The schedule became a little gruelling as the con unfolded, but the experience was well worth it.

I had experienced convention one-shot play before at Gencon many times (and other conventions) of course. All one-shot events have a distinctive type of play style that differs from home campaigns. To be honest, I do not like one-shot events all that much. One-shot events tend to encourage foolish risks and abnormal play choices that an ongoing campaign does not. People tend not to know one another at the table, and this can make for awkward role-playing. I expected the same hallmarks from my PFS sessions at Gencon 2010.

It never really happened. The closest that it came to was from one group of players who were entirely new to Pathfinder and PFS.

Pathfinder Society At Gencon 2010

The large majority of the people who showed up to my table to play PFS had their own characters and they were not using the pre-gens available at the desk. Those people who had a PFS character treated their character’s actions very carefully. Hell, given the cost of raising the dead and the penalties which go along with it in PFS play (gold and Prestige Awards in PFS is hard to come by) , I found the players were, if anything, treating their characters’ choices with an abundance of caution. It was a style that I would expect to see in a rather conservative, grim, and gritty home campaign. The players took heroic risks, sure -- but no established PFS player character took foolish ones.



The play style varied, too. The players knew their characters, knew their abilities and most of the players who sat at my table knew at least a few other people at the table as well. All the typical indicia of “one-shot” convention gaming melted away – except with players who had never played PFS before. Even that almost entirely stopped as the convention wore on and those players invested in their Pathfinder Society characters.

Instead, what I saw at the table amazed me, both in terms of the level of cooperation among players and the varied tactics they used. One established group of PFS players from Lansing, Michigan played through the ancient temple in Rebel’s Ransom like they owned the place. They certainly pwned me, using overrun and bull rush tactics combined with some combination of feats on their PCs that I had never seen before. Some of these whippersnappers had only been gaming for half as long as I have been. That did not stop them from giving me an advanced education in 3.xx tactics. They played at Azmyth’s table too and we ended up memorializing their contribution to our Pathfinder education by devoting a character build to their group in our Character Concept Workshop segment on the podcast. We called it the “Lansing Linebacker’ in honour of that PFS group.

Some of the players’ choices at my table were sub-optimal, but most of them were not. What happened every time I ran a session was that somebody brought something new to the table I had not seen before. Whether it was a role-playing style, a tactical choice during combat, or a feat combination (and usually all three), I realized that the diversity of all of these players was their greatest strength. What seems obvious to one group is entirely overlooked by another. When you expose yourself as a GM to all of these players, in all of their diversity – you become a better GM and a better player for it, too.

My PFS education and rewards did not stop there. I had a chance to run a Father and his teenage son through Shadows over Absalom and saw them work closely together to defeat a number of bad guys during combat. They were having an awesome father/son moment – and I was privileged to be a part of it, too.

I left Gencon 2010 tired as hell, but with a growing admiration of Organized Play.

A Bad Encounter with D&D Encounters

When Xmas 2010 rolled around, I had resolved to give my then 11-year-old son a great Xmas gift. I was going to give him the entire D&D Essentials line. I was not a big 4E fan, but I reasoned that he would have a much easier time recruiting players at his school then he would if I gave him the Pathfinder Core Rules. So I gave him the entire set for Xmas; if it was branded D&D Essentials on the box (or book) then he got it. I already had a box of the hardcover Core Rules for 4E and had given him a PHB1 the year before. Surely now he would have enough to get going. All I needed to do was to help him learn the game and get gaming with those who knew 4E.



So I resolved to find some in-store Organized Play in Toronto to help him with that.

To be honest, it was not an easy time. That Holiday and throughout January, 2011, I looked for D&D Encounters being run out of local stores. Supposedly, it was being conducted from one store according to the ads in the store and notices online on the store’s website. Sadly, the ads and notices provide to be misleading and incorrect.

It turns out that whoever has been in charge of it at the store had quit doing it and had not bothered to update his notices or in-store flyer – or tell the store management. We showed up to play and there was nobody there. My son was understandably upset. As the month unspooled, I had a heartbroken kid when I told him I could not find him a local D&D Encounters game. I resolved at that moment to make sure that if I ever ran a PFS event in Toronto that I would ensure that any ads for the session were up to date and would remain that way, too. My time is valuable, sure, but nothing is as important to me as seeing my son happy and excited about gaming. I do not ever want it to be a source of frustration or tears. My guess is that whoever had been running D&D Encounters before did not have kids and didn’t “get it.”

Local Con to the Rescue: PFS @ Spellstorm

I would have brought him to a PFS event in Toronto, but as it turns out, in early 2011 there was nobody running PFS at a regular in-store event in Toronto itself. The exception to this coincided with my son’s birthday in February 2011. I brought him to a local gaming convention, Spellstorm, for his first day of Pathfinder Society. (In addition, of course, he got new Pathfinder rulebooks for his birthday, too.)

I ran him through his first scenario (Voice in the Void) and he played with several other local players. My son had a BLAST. Later that night, we played in a PFS session run by Michael Kortes, a fellow lawyer and a freelancer for Paizo (Michael Kortes won the ENnie last month for Best Adventure with his The Haunting of Harrowstone). Michael was a great GM and he was totally grooving on the fact that from among the six players at the table, one was only 12 and another was a teen around 16 years old or so. Both were new to gaming and everyone else at the table could see the excitement and the shiny-brand-newness-of-it-all through their eyes as they were playing that night. It was inspiring for everyone else present.

In addition, that is when I recognized something else that Organized Play provides: the chance to see the game through the eyes of a child again. You can OSR your games all you like and be as nostalgic as you prefer. Truth is, you can’t ever go back to being tabula rasa, no matter how hard you try. You only get to be a gaming noob at one stage of your life. However, you can vicariously experience that feeling all over again by teaching kids and teens to play the game. It is a HUGE plus that you get from participating and running event in an Organized Play program every week – and you cannot get that experience that from playing in your typical home game with the same group, week-in and week-out.

Besides, how else are we to pass on our experience in this hobby to another generation if we don’t step up and take on that role as Teacher/Sensei?

PFS @ Gencon 2011

Once again, at Gencon 2011, I ran more PFS sessions, though less than I did in 2010 as we had the whole ENnies thing going on with the podcast. Still, I had a great time. A young woman in her mid-20s from Chicago showed me a few things about playing a rogue I had never seen before. Another woman from New Jersey in her late-20s played the best damn Oracle. Ever. In addition to being a paragon of selfless play, she was an excellent role-player, too. Both of these 20-something gamer chicks would have been welcome at my table any day.

The same can be said for every other player who was at my sessions last month, too. One player from Kentucky put on a clinic on why the Summoner Class can be over-powered and unbalancing during PFS play. By the end of the session, he was looking guiltily at me as he had his Eidolon spontaneously evolve wings to solve the encounter. “Sorry man, but it is RAW,” he apologized. I smiled and agreed with him. I had already resolved to never appear unhappy with a PFS player for making the optimal rules choice, even if it “breaks” the encounter. It’s not a bad credo to adopt at your home game, either.



This leads me to another aspect of PFS play that you don’t get from a home game. Because RAW are the rules of the road at a PFS session, the GM must know them and stay on top of the rules. Accordingly, your motivation for doing so is FAR stronger than it is for a home game. That motivation is strong and it keeps you frosty and on your toes. Moreover, what you often think is RAW at your home group? Well, it often isn’t. I have seen this time and again at the table, where players bring with them their own interpretation of what the RAW is to cover a situation. Sometimes they are wrong – and sometimes they are not (and I am). When you have an opportunity to play with so many players from so many different home games, you can quickly see how other groups approach rule interpretations differently. It can be a real eye-opener and it is always an education.

Organizing Pathfinder Society in Toronto

Just prior to Gencon 2011, I resolved that I would stop waiting for somebody to start up PFS in Toronto area and that I would take on that task myself. As it turned out, apart from the help of the local PFS Venture-Captain, I got assistance from another GM who was planning to do exactly the same thing at a different store. We combined our efforts and he put up a webpage for us to use to coordinate our efforts. Pathfinder Society in Toronto is finally taking off as a result.

As I expected, it has been a blast. We have a good mix of players: those very experienced with Pathfinder; those who are experienced gamers but whose group won’t play Pathfinder; and some who are complete noobs to both Pathfinder and RPGs. The sessions have gone extremely well. Everybody involved has been polite and great to game with. While I would not necessarily invite every one of them to my home game – I would do so for most of them.

Further, after the game sessions at 401 Games a group of us head over to a nearby pizza place for a slice and some chit chat about games and gaming and get to know one another without dice in front of us on the table. That is an obvious thing to me and one that has not been the subject of comment by those for whom OP has been a bad experience.

For me? It has been great and the turnout at the events has been excellent and growing. Between the two stores where we are currently offering PFS, only three people (out of 25 so far) have not returned another night. In addition, two of those have not re-attended so far because of work or vacation commitments, but have assured me they will do so. If they were having as bad a time as many seem to experience in their own Organized Play experience– then why are all these players coming back so regularly and so enthusiastically?

3rd Level Spell: Dispel Myth/Stereotype

I can tell you that it is not because those players do not have a home group to play with. Over 90% of the people who play PFS at my event already have a home group they are playing with. For some it is Pathfinder, for others its 3.5 or 4E. They came to PFS to check it out, or because they heard me shill on the podcast – or because they read positive reviews about PFS on a local Meet-Up.com game discussion. Some others came just to get a chance to play Pathfinder for a change instead of 3.5 or 4E and we were ready and available.

Why they come back is a little more complicated. On this matter, there is a real difference between the Organized Play programs put on by WotC, the RPGA and by Paizo’s Pathfinder Society.

The Differences in Corporate Philosophy and Objectives

Looking at the common ground between WotC and Paizo, both companies see that one of the purposes of Organized Play is to act as a gateway to the game in terms of learning the rules and teaching people how to play.



The second shared purpose between both companies' approach to Organized Play is that they support OP so that they can facilitate gamers to meet with other gamers in order to attach themselves to a local gaming group. Attachment to a group is the most important aspect of OP, because it is the true entry to the hobby. Moreover, as Ryan Dancey has told us before on ENWorld, market research at WotC has demonstrated that one of the greatest determining factors in whether a gamer becomes a “lapsed gamer” is when a gamer’s local group “breaks up.” Usually, this occurs because of leaving high school (or college/university) or because people moving away for marriage or employment reasons. Whatever the case, once a gamer sticks with the hobby for two or three years, usually, the only way they become a lapsed gamer is by losing their old group and not being able to find a new gaming group.

So either entering the game or finding a new group (when they already know how to game) are the most important aspects of the Organized Play programs offered by both WotC and Paizo. Those are the two principal objectives of D&D Encounters. (With the added proviso that D&D Encounters sessions are designed to be shorter so that stores that close at 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. during the week can still offer those sessions for in-store play without having to stay open later as they would for LFR or PFS.)

Paizo’s Approach to Organized Play

Paizo, however, goes a step further than that in terms of its approach to PFS. This objective is the main reason that Paizo pays for full-time staff to develop and edit their Pathfinder Scenario line. Paizo has also recently hired a new full-time Manager of Organized Play (the official announcement will soon be made).



Paizo has made this commitment because at the highest levels of the company, Lisa Stevens, Erik Mona and Jason Bulmahn (and several other staffers) were deeply involved with Living Greyhawk and the RPGA while at WotC. Erik Mona has often repeated the story how after college, he lost his local gaming group that he had growing up. That could have been the end of “Erik Mona, Gamer” except for OP. Mona reacquired a gaming group through the RPGA.

More importantly, as others at Paizo also recognized, Mona noticed that the people who stuck with the RPGA and became long-time members of it (as opposed to just treating the RPGA as a temporary meet ‘n greet at which to recruit players), were the players who were the most hardcore fans of the game. They gamed at home, they gamed at stores, and they gamed at conventions. They gamed often, were passionate about the game, actively recruited new players, taught new people how to play, provided the best “word of mouth” about the game, and, above all, tended to buy far more products and accessories for the game. They were not just core customers – they were the best core customers TSR and later, WotC, would ever have.

Therefore, that was a cadre of gamers that it made sense to nurture and encourage. Consequently, Paizo spends significant money on writing, developing, editing and for scenario specific cartography, too. Paizo also uses the products to feel out new designers and writers, before they are moved to the print side of their adventure products line.

In the result, Paizo’s commitment to PFS is expensive, sincere, and real. Each season of a PFS campaign now has a metaplot with recurring characters, locales, and plot threads to keep bringing players back to the table for in-store play. Paizo wants you to buy their product and wants you to participate in a home game, yes, but here is the difference: Paizo does not want you to stop playing PFS after you attach yourself to a home group. They still want you to continue to keep playing PFS. That is a central difference in how Paizo and WotC approach the marketing and purpose of their Organized Play programs.

Great Gamers Play Either Game

I cannot comment on whether or not the players and GMs at your local PFS group are better than they are ones at your local D&D Encounters or LFR gaming sessions. They may be – and they may well not be, too.

However, what I am certain about is that the money and time devoted by Paizo to the program is larger than WotC’s expenditure on D&D Encounters and forms a central part of Paizo’s ongoing vision for the brand and the product line. This commitment of money on the bottom line results in better modules that are edited illustrated and developed by professionals. Sadly, when it comes to the RPGA and LFR, WotC has cut this group loose such that it is now entirely volunteer run, with modules authored by the community itself. I am sure that the passion and commitment by the RPGA’s organizers is every bit as strong (if not stronger) than those concerned with PFS. The difference is the RPGA does not get the ongoing direct support that Paizo brings to the table for Pathfinder Society.

How to address this? Well, maybe if you are a fan of 4E – you can send an e-mail to WotC or post about it and express your wish that they would do more for the RPGA. When enough people talk – people higher up sometimes pay attention.

Organized Play - Features and Benefits for Grognards

So what does all this mean? Well, I would summarize my experience and conclusions as follows:



  • the suggestion that the only people who show up for Organized Play are people who are too weird to find a home game is a stereotypical pile of crap;
  • similarly, the suggestion that the only people who show up for Organized Play are those who don’t have a home game at all is, also, a pile of crap;
  • the hardcore cadre of players in PFS and the RPGA are among the very best customers that Paizo and WotC has and are among the best players and GMs you will find, too;
  • In store-play provides a venue for you to teach new players how to play – and then to expand on that knowledge by running them through an ongoing campaign. This brings personal rewards that you simply DO NOT get every week in a home campaign playing with the same old group of gamers;
  • With Pathfinder Society at least, the rules of character advancement and the overall metaplot of the campaign ensure that people keep coming back each week, providing you with an in-store game experience where you come to know the players you are playing with fairly well. Pathfinder Society is, by design, not intended to be a one-shot event and is not treated that way by its participants; and
  • ABOVE ALL, the different modes of play styles and GM styles that you expose yourself to through OP events both in-store and at conventions will make you a better player – and a better GM, too. Playing at either PFS or RPGA LFR events will make you a better gamer and a better GM – even if you play or run a different system at home. Stick with it and I believe that experience is certain.


Jump in; The Water is Warm

The entire PFS experience to me has been a positive one. I do my damndest to bring my “A” game to the table every week for PFS and the other GMs I coordinate with feel the same way. We are not there to “mail it in.” We are there to build an event, build a following for Pathfinder in our area, have fun, improve our own games (and gaming styles) and to turn new players into life-long gamers.

If your local PFS or RPGA gig could use better DMs and GMs? Why don’t you lend a hand instead of just kvetch and complain? Get involved and give back to a game and a hobby that has treated you so well. It is not hard. Just playing in one event once per month in your area and later offering to GM just once a month is all you need to do to get your feet wet.

Really -- I mean it -- Jump in! The water is warm!

What’s more? You will probably find out that you AREN’T as good a GM as you thought you were; that you AREN’T quite as good a player as you thought you were, either. You will probably find out, as I have, that that even after 10, or 20, or 30 years+, this game and the people who play it all have a lot we can still teach one another. You will discover that the best way to share that knowledge is not to type at one another on some message forum where the context is so often lost, but to game with one another over a table, a battlemat, some minis, and a d20. You know, just play Dungeons and Dragons with each other.

Tearing things down is relatively easy. Building them up is not only more difficult – it is VASTLY more rewarding, too. I invite you and others to do exactly that in your own home areas and gaming stores.
 

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Roland55

First Post
I quite enjoyed that. I see why you got your recent ENWorld position.

I seem to be out of XP today, but you clearly deserve quite a bit for this Thread.

I believe I'll continue to follow you from here on out.


[Ahem. But not in any 'stalkerish' way.]
 


Is_907

First Post
Thanks for sharing so much info! Recently we've started a PFS group at a library nearby (I say "we," when really it's mostly a couple guys and a couple of us experienced players helping teach the rules.) Soon I think I'll be DMing some of the modules, as we are growing so quickly that we'll need two tables running each night!

Given a choice, I'll still take a good homebrew game over PFS, just because I like the creative control over the game and setting.
However, for all the reasons you mentioned, I'm enjoying PFS!
We have a good number of new players, so it's fun to introduce them to roleplaying.

Anyway, whatever form it comes in... more gaming and more gamers!
 

Hussar

Legend
To be fair, I agree that most experiences are great in organized play. Even online play, which I have more experience with, is typically positive. Unfortunately, there are wingnuts everywhere which can lead to some seriously negative experiences.

/edit - Steel Winds, a question. 401 games has a bi-weekly Encounters game and I see on their site that they have weekly Living FR games. How are they doing?
 
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Feeroper

Explorer
Great post Steel_Wind!

My organized play experiences have been great as well, both with PFS and 4e. Im one of those players that enjoys both PF and 4e at the same level and Ive found the groups that Ive played with have been very good. I find that one thing that the organized play has done for me is to help fan the flames of my enthusiasm with gaming. When you meet new people in gaming, weather they are new to gaming or veterans, its always fun to hear everyones stories.

Something I used to let aggitate me would be the online edition warring. It gets really out of hand as any online "debate" can get (especially in the niche hobbies like this). It would bother me because like i said before, I love both 4e and PF, so I always felt in the middle. Of course nowadays I just ignore the wars when they pop up, but i found that when I went to go out for OP, one of my fears was "if the 4e people find out I like PF, will they rip me a new one?" or "What happens if the PF group finds out that I really like 4e as well?". The answer to that was, no one cared, or at least no one cared the way I feared. Everyone has their own tastes, some hate one edition or the other, but i have found in both groups I have played with, there is respect. We are all gamers regardless of what you are playing, and a feeking of belonging that trancends any silly edition wars.

I think if you pay too much attention to the message boards for too long, you will get a skewed idea of who you will meet at an OP session. Who you are going to meet is quite likely someone just like you. As with anything, sure you might have a bad experience sometimes, or have a bad apple every once in a while, but that shouldnt be enough to discourage you if you are interested. In my experiences, its been really rewarding to be a part of this community, and it has made the games feel all the more richer because of it. I highly recommend that anyone give it a shot, even if you have a home game, it may be worth your while.

[MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]: I cant speak for 401 myself, but if you were interested in the Encounters program at all, Deuling Grounds by the Dufferin subway station has a regular Wednesday Encounters game that runs at 6pm. There are generally 2 to 3 tables every week, and sometimes there is an influx of new players (usually at the beginning of a new season) pushing it to 4. They are very accomodating as well (just make sure to get there on time!) and are an all around relaxed fun group.
 
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Is_907

First Post
Interestingly, the PFS group at the nearby library I'm playing in started as an outgrowth of a very successful 4th edition game run for teens. A nice bloke has been running it for, I think, nearly two years now and an acquaintance of his offered to organize PFS for adults.
Now we have some recent high school graduates in the group, including one who started in the 4th edition teen group, and it's been great.

An open format / homebrew game, even offered at a public venue, could fill the same niche in the community, but it would be more difficult. PFS easily allows players to drop in and out both mechanically and within the story.
 

Ladybam

First Post
401 games holds a weekly 4e game that people can sign up for on the warhorn site.

As for encounter, It was being held on Monday Every other week... if there was enough people to have to go. :confused:
 


manhammer

Explorer
Good to see you here

Steel,

Been a listener since Ep. 1 and I'm glad to see you on EN World. Love the podcast and your methodical approach. Looking forward to seeing your reports here.

Dave
 

Given the amount of amazing free swag I have received from running D&D Encounters at my local store, I don't know if Paizo spends more money on their OP or not. Both spend a lot, and the designers of the Neverwinter setting wrote the Neverwinter Encounters adventure.

My experience with OP, both Paizo and Encounters, has been universally good. One thing that changed from pre-Encounters to the new Encounters/Assault format (which also came with sweet swag), is that it is store driven and for store support. In the old days, before the now times, I used to register with RPGA that I was running a "living" game at my local store and people would show up. For Encounters/Assault, it is the store itself that must sign up.

I don't know if "FLGS" driven is the way to go, but I think that Hasbro's focus on supporting stores in organized play -- versus supporting e-tailers and flea markets -- has some benefits. It also has some big drawbacks.

Great article, but I think both are spending a lot on OP. If you are ever in LA -- far from Toronto I know -- stop by Emerald Knights. They run organized Pathfinder and 4e, and are a great store. I might even be the guy running the game for you.
 

Erik Mona

Adventurer
I'm actually pretty certain that WotC spends more on Organized Play than Paizo does, mostly due to the quality of their swag and their signage/presence at major industry conventions.

That stuff ain't cheap!

--Erik
 

Dykstrav

Adventurer
On a recent thread, I shared my experiences with Pathfinder Society. That post actually solicited a response from the local Pathfinder Society venture-captain. I have to share the good with the bad, which I did not do well in my previous posts.

To be entirely fair, two of the sessions I played were excellent. Among the Living and Voice in the Void were fun and I played with good groups that I'd play with again. The GMs were excellent and I genuinely appreciate them taking their time to entertain me and the other players. Unfortunately, the other sessions were enough to convince me to drop Pathfinder Society.

The Raleigh venture-captain contacted me through email about my post. He's far more gracious than he has any reason to be, given how open I was with my experiences... We discussed it through email, and basically, I was getting misinformation. I've been informed of the correct policies and administration procedures, and after my current project wraps, I'll give Pathfinder Society another go.

Consider me impressed and humbled by the graciousness and goodwill of Pathfinder Society's administration.
 

Steel_Wind

Adventurer
I'm actually pretty certain that WotC spends more on Organized Play than Paizo does, mostly due to the quality of their swag and their signage/presence at major industry conventions.

That stuff ain't cheap!

--Erik

In fairness, I said "D&D Encounters" -- not "OP". The money WotC spends directly and indirectly through Baldman Games at Gencon and D&D Experience for signage, ballrooms, judges et al is for OP = but I did not attribute it to the $$ spent on their D&D Encounters in-store program.

Lawyers; words. We're like that. :)
 

Matt James

Game Developer
In fairness, I said "D&D Encounters" -- not "OP". The money WotC spends directly and indirectly through Baldman Games at Gencon and D&D Experience for signage, ballrooms, judges et al is for OP = but I did not attribute it to the $$ spent on their D&D Encounters in-store program.

Lawyers; words. We're like that. :)

I fell into the trap as well. The title of your article is "Why Organized Play has been an Awesome Experience"
 


Steel_Wind

Adventurer
I've had a good experience with D&D Encounters. Too bad your organizer flaked out on you.

It was a brief paragraph of a hundred+ words in a 5400 word pice. It was not the focus of the piece and I would be saddened if you take that element away after reading it. It was not the purpose or thrust of the article. Nor was this intended as another battle in the Edition Wars, conducted as some "stealthy" ENWorld front page Black Op, either.

Stuff happens. A few hours after posting this article on Monday, the organizer involved contacted me and subsequently explained what had been happening at or about that time which lead to my misunderstanding.

In fact we met last night and gamed together, too, at Tuesday Night PFS @ 401 Games.

So it's all good.

"Mending" isn't just a 0 level cantrip. Among gamers at least, you can cast it with the following:

V,S,M
: Civil words; handshakes; smiles; eye-contact; minis; a battlemat; a d20.
Casting Time: 3-4 hours
Duration: Permanent
Effect: There may be a lot of wrong in this world that won't be fixed by this simple approach. But among gamers? There's not much that cannot be mended with this 3-4 hour ritual.

As I said, I urge you all to give it a try.
 
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Alphastream

Adventurer
It was a brief paragraph of a hundred+ words in a 5400 word pice. It was not the focus of the piece

I'm confused as to what the focus of the piece was supposed to be vs. what it ended up being. The article title led me to believe you were writing about organized play. I would have really liked an article about the benefits of organized play, because I love OP. It needs more proponents. Your column was really about D&D organized play and seemed to devote a lot of time on how much you like one type (Pathfinder) over the other (LFR and Encounters).

This contradicts something you say in your first paragraph:
Instead of the negative, I wanted to take the time here to talk about the incredibly positive experiences I have had with Organized Play in the past 18 months through Pathfinder Society.
I would have liked the column to be that way as well. Instead, several times you compare the programs in ways that are biased and incorrect (the declaration that Paizo clearly cares more about OP, for example).

There is some terrific organized play out there: Shadowrun Missions, Heroes of Rokugan, Pathfinder, LFR, Spycraft, Lair Assault, Encounters, Ashes of Athas, Living Divine, Living Traveler, Shining Jewel, and others. For many reasons a good portion of the gamer community has formed a bias against organized play / RPGA. The reality is that organized play is full of options and just about any player can find a campaign that fits their style. Perhaps more importantly, organized play provides gamers with the ability to become part of a community. It allows them to be a part of something bigger than themselves and their small group and to contribute to better gaming... often on a global scale.

As gamers that enjoy organized play, we can accomplish more if we work as a team. We all have the same problems around informing store owners, motivating DMs, retaining invested players while attracting new and casual players, keeping rules simple, etc. I would very much like to read more from you about organized play but without a bias toward one system. It is fine to have a column on Pathfinder. There is an audience for that and the lessons will carry. It just doesn't do anyone any good to introduce bias and put down other programs. Ideally, our joint hobby grows. People come and play RPGs in stores. They play in cons. They play in their homes. We win when more people join our ranks as gamers, not when either Pathfinder or WotC is crowned victor and all other RPGs fail. That's actually how we lose.
 

Hussar

Legend
Steel Wind said:
It was a brief paragraph of a hundred+ words in a 5400 word pice. It was not the focus of the piece and I would be saddened if you take that element away after reading it. It was not the purpose or thrust of the article. Nor was this intended as another battle in the Edition Wars, conducted as some "stealthy" ENWorld front page Black Op, either.

SW, I have to admit, that after the first reading of you article, that thought occurred to me. Mostly because you were so gushingly high with your praise of Paizo Open Play and your comments about WOTC's Open Play are all negative. Sure, it's not a major part of the piece, but, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

In a thread where you want to talk about how great Open Play is, why bother being negative about anything? It really does stand out like a sore thumb.
 

Steel_Wind

Adventurer
Hussar, they weren't all negative. I described the RPGA as having the best players and GMs that WotC had. And if you read the features and benefits that OP offers to grognards those comments were directed at both games.

It was also pretty clear that I said that great gamers play either game, too.

I was very emphatic that no matter what game you play at home, that if you go to play a 4E game in stores, that will make you a better gamer and GM at home.

Moreover, this was an opinion post that I wrote and posted in the general section -- not on the front page. Russ chose to move it to the front page, not me.

You can take that decision up with him if you like.
 

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