RPG Blog Carnival – Things to Love, Things to Hate about Organized Play
This month’s theme for the RPG Blog Carnival is Things to Love, Things to Hate. It seems like a fairly broad topic, as nerd devotion/rage towards RPGs knows no bounds. The host this month, Jonathan Jacobs of Nevermet Press, suggested we focus on game system or adventures that we love or hate and why.
We’re going to take a little different angle and talk about what we love/hate about organized play. This is mostly going to be about Pathfinder Society, as that has been the majority of my organized play experience. I met the other guys that make up Skyland Games through the D&D Encounters program. I’ve had a little Living Forgotten Realms play, and I know some of the other Skyland guys have extensive Living Greyhawk experience. If they want to chime in, all the better.
First let’s talk broad generalizations about organized play, and things that are pretty common occurrences regardless of system. I really enjoy meeting other players, and observing a lot of different play styles and picking up tips. One of our more popular articles about tracking initiative and speeding up combat was something I observed the guys doing at a D&D encounters game. It’s great to get to know other gamers in the community and talk about RPGs.
The flip-side of this is meeting a problem player. Problem players can manifest in many forms, but most commonly those who excessively arguing with the GM, excessive rules-lawyering, trying to find some rules loophole to make a “broken” character, selfish players that act in ways that may be “in character” but their character is a bastard to the party, hogging the spotlight, random egregiously evil acts, the list could go on and on. In a home game there are several ways to deal with problem players: taking them aside and talking to them, calling them out in game, and finally if all else fails just not telling them when your group gets together. A public game is a bit different. People may not know each other very well or may feel uncomfortable calling out somebody who is causing a problem for everybody. In extreme cases, one of our FLGS has a list of banned players who are not allowed to game in store. Its a shame when it comes to that, but can be a relief to the rest of the organized players.
Another potential pitfall is a problem GM. This tends to happen less frequently, but can happen quite a bit at larger conventions when perks are given to GMs, and they are unprepared, unfocused, or “phone it in.” This can also be a problem at regular organized events if the GM is just doing it for perks given by publishers for running organized games. This is an even more difficult situation to deal with because it maybe very difficult to approach an organizer and say, “Hey, your GM sucks,” without bruising some egos. The best alternative is to probably start your own thing, at either another game store, or playing a different system. If you’re motivated enough, get your own group going. Enthusiasm is contagious, and before you know it, you can have a big group of eager gamers coming back week after week.
I’m not a big fan of Living Forgotten Realms. I’ve played a few modules with friends and I think “hate” is probably too strong a word but there are aspects I dislike. For one, story lines that link some modules together can be several levels apart. Oh, did you like the first part of this story line on level one? Hope you can remember all these NPCs and what the crap was going on when you reach level 7 and play part two! Boo. Also, at the end of every adventure, the loot can endlessly replicate. Did the big bad guy have a Raven Cloak that lets you reroll a save once a day and give you resist 5 cold and necrotic? Super! Now everyone in the party has one! With #DnDnext LFG is a long forgotten after thought, but it never was very well supported in the WotC community pages, and the official LFR WotC pages themselves. I think I can figure out why.
I’m a bit of an evangelist for Pathfinder Society. Most of my feelings for PFS are going to fall squarely in the love category. Paizo seems to have this pretty well figured out. Modules that have multi-parts can be played in order, and have multiple level tiers. Once you’ve played that module you have access to the treasure from it, but must by it with the ample gold awarded at the end of each session. If you don’t have enough for the item you want, save up after a few more modules and by it later. The more modules you play, the larger your inventory of available gear. Experience is also brilliantly easy. Completed three modules? Level up. Want to let your friends catch up to your character so you can play the same modules? Take the slow-track advancement at your next level, and only gain a level after 6 modules. The faction missions and prestige points add some awesome roleplaying opportunities, as well as a mechanical way to express your characters growing renown in the world of Golarion. You can earn prestige points by completing faction missions, which are different for each faction on each adventure. Turn in prestige points to call in favors from your faction for magic healing, or items. It’s awesome! If there isn’t a game around you at your FLGS or bookstore, look in to starting one. Its been the best organized experience I’ve ever been a part of.
We’re all going to have things that we love and hate about organized play. In the end, it can be a great way to grow the hobby and meet some fun people. Let us know some of your best/worst organized experiences in the comments!