Mid MD/PA Pathfinder Society and Frederick RPG Consortium Message Board › PFS Season 5 changes coming next week!

PFS Season 5 changes coming next week!

Dan S.
Alexandria, VA

Big changes are coming to PFS in the next week! In preparation for GenCon, version 5.0 of the “Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play” will be released. Once it does, you just need to go to your Downloads page on Paizo.com and download the file again, the new version will automatically be downloaded. Remember to save it as version 5.0!

If you listened to the 3.5 Private Sanctuary/Know Direction podcast a few months ago, and/or you pay attention to the PFS messageboards on Paizo.com, then you have heard some of the preliminary discussions of some of these changes. Others will be new to many of you.

At PaizoCon last month Mike Brock, John Compton, and Mark Moreland hosted a one hour panel discussion entitled “PFS Q&A,” during which they gave some more detailed information on these upcoming changes. To listen to this panel, go to the Know Direction podcast at http://www.35privatesanctuary.com/index.php?option=com_podcast&view=feed&format=raw­ and listen to the one titled “PaizoCon 2013 Special 015 – PFS Q&A.”

In short summary, here are a few of the things about to change:

1. Playing up/down and gold received

Right now if your character plays up in the higher sub-tier of a scenario you get that amount of gold, even if your character was only of a level that would normally qualify for the lower sub-tier. (For example, a level 2 character in a tier 1-5 scenario that ends up at a table that has to, or chooses to, play sub-tier 4-5.) However, a few players intentionally gamed the system so that they always sat with higher level characters and consistently got more gold than the Wealth By Level chart said they should have. Those are the players that would buy lots of high level magic items earlier than everyone else, then complain that PFS was “too easy” and demanded harder scenarios! Those players also earned a reputation for bullying other players into playing up regardless of whether or not that player wanted to risk his character needlessly. Those of you that struggled in some of the Season 4 scenarios have this small group of powergamers to blame, at least in part. Those of us that had to play up once in a while aren’t the problem, only those few people that did it habitually in every single scenario.

On the flip side, sometimes a higher level character has to play with a group of lower level characters at the lower sub-tier, which results in sub-par gold earned for that character. Do that a few too many times and now you’re falling behind other characters of your level, raising the risk of death when you do finally get to play in the appropriate sub-tier.

In recognition of the fact that these low level characters usually do less of the work required, and in reverse a higher level character helping out a group of low level characters typically has to carry more of the responsibility for the party’s success, the following change is being implemented. (For the exact wording please be sure to read the updated Guide to PFS OP when v5.0 is released next week, I’m just paraphrasing here and could very well have a few things wrong.) Characters that are playing a scenario out-of-sub-tier will get an amount of gold somewhere in the middle of the two listed reward amounts. Listening to the podcast, it also sounds like any character that falls between the sub-tiers (for example a level 3 character in a 1-5 scenario) will get that out-of-sub-tier amount of gold regardless of the sub-tier played, although I could have heard them wrong. I look forward to reading the new Guide when it comes out so I can see exactly how it’s going to be worded.

2. Choosing to play up/down

Currently, if the Average Party Level (APL) of the party falls between the sub-tiers of the scenario, then the party has the option of choosing to play up or play down. That choice is going to be taken away.

The way it was explained on the podcast, if a party’s APL happens to fall between sub-tiers then the number of players at the table will determine sub-tier played, with modifications to still try to keep things challenging either way. You GMs know that Season 0-3 scenarios were written with the assumption there would only be four players, hence six man tables were typically not challenged much, whereas Season 4 scenarios assume that the table has six players, but most encounters have an “easy-mode” (well, easier-mode) adjustment or two that GMs must make if the table only has four players.

Under the new system, if a party’s APL falls in the middle the sub-tier choice will be determined by party size. A four player party will automatically have to play the lower sub-tier, but in order to keep the challenge level up it will be without the four-man difficulty adjustment to easier mode. If you have a six player table, the table must play the higher sub-tier, but to scale the difficulty back to a more reasonable level the GM will apply the four-man difficulty adjustment to easier mode. In either case, I believe you earn the between-tier amount of gold, but I’m not 100% sure about that. They didn’t mention on the podcast what happens if you have a five player table (probably play down at six player difficulty like a four player table), and they also didn’t mention what you have to do when running a Season 0-3 scenario, since those scenarios didn’t have the six player assumption and the four player easier mode adjustment. I trust that those situations will be covered in the Guide v5.0 next week, and if not there will be a dozen messageboard threads asking those same questions.

3. Faction Missions in Season 5

Instead of everyone doing a bunch of tacked-on faction missions unrelated to the plot, in Season 5 only a few factions will get a faction mission, but they will have actual ties to the scenario’s plot. I presume that each faction will get an overall equal number of missions over the course of the season, but you may not get one for a few scenarios in a row, too.

Also, the new faction missions will have some tough choices inherent in them when the players try to complete them, and how the characters decide to complete these faction missions will now be reported on-line and will have an impact on the faction’s overall goals over the course of the season.

Immediate questions that come to mind are, “How do we earn Prestige/Fame?” and “What about the older season scenarios?” I don’t know, we’ll all read it together next week.

4. New GM reward

This one wasn’t announced on the podcast, but it was the subject of this week’s Paizo Blog post on Monday, which is almost always PFS-related. http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lf1s?Guide-to-Pathfinder-Society-Organized-Play­

When there were far fewer scenarios available back in Seasons 0 and 1, players were allowed to replay scenarios so long as they did it with a character of a different faction. Replay went away years ago, although the topic rears its ugly head on the PFS messageboards every few weeks.

On a separate note, the more scenarios you GM you earn ”GM Stars” that appear next to your name in the messageboards and in your “My Pathfinder Society” section on Paizo.com, to a maximum of five stars after GMing 150 scenarios. We do have one four star and one five star GM locally, with several one, two, and a few three star GMs working on it. For more info, check the Guide to PFS OP.

Now, as a way to reward those players that put in time behind the GM screen so that our hobby can thrive, a limited replay system will be reinstated. For every GM star earned, a player can choose to replay one scenario and get another chronicle for it, so long as that character doesn’t have a player or GM chronicle already assigned for that scenario. (First level only scenarios and modules do not count against this GM reward since everyone can replay them.) This number of replays is hard limited right now, but might get reset with every new Season if it proves to be popular. If there’s a scenario you want to replay because you liked the plot, or it has some boon that would be PERFECT for one of your new characters, volunteer to GM once in a while and you’ll earn your first star before you know it! Who knows, you might even like GMing.

5. “Evergreen” first level scenarios replacing First Steps

With two of the factions retiring in two weeks, the First Steps scenarios now feel a bit dated, plus few players ever get to play all three parts of First Steps before going on to regular scenarios. Paizo will now start to release occasional “Evergreen” stand-alone scenarios just for first level characters. This makes them replayable at will, and they’ll be designed so that player choice can lead to different plot development so they don’t get so stale. They’ll also be good for new player introductions at a game day or convention. Nothing on the immediate schedule, so more news to follow later.

See you at the table,

Dan Simons
Venture-Captain, Washington, DC
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