Monday, July 6, 2015

First time as a regular PFS GM

So, I ran my first Pathfinder Society scenario.  Technically, I'd run a Pathfinder Society scenario back during the winter during GadCon, but I was a last-minute fill-in GM, so I don't really feel like it counts.  Plus, the GadCon scenario was a convention special and this one was a regularly-released scenario, so the types of players and the expectations were totally different.

I ran Out of Anarchy on the Monday after it came out. I was not expecting a scenario so long or so convoluted. While I hadn't had a lot of time to digest this scenario, I had reread the Pezzack entry from Towns of the Inner Sea, which really helped with the background. Without that base to work with, I would have had a MUCH harder time GMing this thing.  There are some PFS scenarios that require almost no background.  For instance, I introduced a gaming group to Pathfinder using [druidy scenario] and it didn't require much background knowledge at all.  In the Pezzack scenario, I'd have had no idea what was going on.

So, what are my takeaways from GMing a regular old PFS scenario?  First of all, GMing is all in the art of presentation.  I'm a lobbyist by trade during the day, so faking it is something I'm trained to do anyway.  But, while you can fake a lot of things, players have certain expectations.  And, unsurprisingly, how your players see you changes how they play at your table.  What caught me out?  Well, I was running short on time.  I'd printed color copies of the mad grids, but I hadn't had time to cut them so that they connected without white paper overlap.  One of my players caught me, called it a rookie mistake, and everything changed--at least as far as that player was concerned.  It wasn't bad or anything and fortunately we both knew what the rules were in all the situations that game up.  But, if there had been a disagreement, it would not have been pretty.  That said, I hope that he still had a good time even after I hadn't cut the edges off of things.

PFS in DC is also a lot more roll-playing focused than it is role-playing focused.  I don't mind that--both mixed together are what make for a fun game.  That said, there's a lot of role-playing going on in this scenario.  It was over an hour before the PCs got into their first fight (some parties might consider getting into a fight at all a liability, but not I) and everyone was excited when the time to actually roll something more than skill checks came about.

All in all, I really, really enjoyed this session.  The scenario as written gives GMs and players the opportunity to do a lot of roleplaying.  PCs should also expect to have to do some critical thinking, which was fun for a scenario.  They also tried to design a scenario that was as sandboxy as possible.  That's where knowledge of the previous, underlying gazetteer product was so helpful--I was able to lean on the knowledge (that's mentioned as being cannon in the scenario, for all you PFS rules lawyers out there) that was used to build the scenario and therefore fill in some of the plugs.

I think I enjoy convention GMing more.  For one thing, convention players are just so damned grateful to have someone running their game.  For another, there's much more time to prepare!  Also, at conventions, I don't feel as rushed (which is ironic, because you actually have a time slot at a convention).  I also feel like people really appreciate GMs that get into having terrain and real miniatures rather than just having to fly through hand-drawns maps, flip maps, and map print outs.

I've got 8 more games till I get my first GM star.  I have decided I can really opine with thoughts about PFS after that.  Until then, these are impressions based upon just two instances.  One thing I am sure about though: I'd always rather play outside of organized play at all with a set of players dedicated to telling a long-term dedicated story.