The focus of today’s attention will be given to Pathfinder Society RPG. I promise, as always, that I will not sugar coat my comments and will be true to myself and to you, my readers.
I see lots of value in organized play that is run effectively and efficiently and I believe the folks over at Paizo have done a good job in this area. There are lots of Society games happening at regular intervals all over the country and the world for that matter. To me, the most important aspect of organized play is the coming together of gamers for fellowship and a common interest–the game. There are other companies out there try to get their organized play program up and running or trying to make them better. Paizo has set the bar pretty here. I look forward to a day when there are more organized play programs that are as prolific as Pathfinder Society.
Ok, now that I got the niceties out the way, I hate the domineering presence of Pathfinder Society on local gaming communities and especially the convention scene. Let me qualify my position with as much fact as personal opinion!
1. The popularity of Pathfinder is awesome, but more times than not gamers are drawn into Pathfinder to the exclusion of other RPGs. I know this is not the case for every person in every location, but I consistently find that many local gamers that play Pathfinder Society typically do not play a wide variety of other RPGs. Why is this? I think part of the problem is that the nature of Pathfinder and Pathfinder Society is such that the player is required to have such a level of depth into their characters that it takes a lot to keep them invested in the development of the character. Another reason players seem to be engrossed in this game is that the money that have to shell out to get the books. God knows Paizo loves to flood the market with product. I wonder if they are working from the same play book at Wizards if the Coast?
2. Pathfinder Society games at conventions are very prevalent, but there is a cost associated with having these games at conventions. More than a year ago, Paizo decreed that all Society slots at conventions had to be 5 hours in length to receive official support from them. This decision pissed off many convention directors, myself being one of them. If you didn’t know, most conventions run on a 4 hour block schedule and the Paizo change to Society scheduling forces conventions to bow down and accommodate the 800 lb. gorilla that looms large. Convention directors and schedulers are forced to either change the programming to 5 hour blocks or reduce the number of Society games to keep a balance within their own schedules.
I know an equal number of convention directors, from all over the country) that have gone one way or the other. Some have bowed down in an attempt to get or keep offiial Society support (boons and swag), but require the players to suffer by having to start Society session earlier than other sessions to keep things lined up or even running them later into the wee hours of the night for the same reason. The GM’s suffer as well. I have witnessed Society GMs running games for 15 hours straight. This is due to several factors such as, a shortage of Society GMs, GM compensation programs (GMs love to get their registrations comped), trying to maintain a high number of Society games to get the swag and boons or some other factor.
3. Locally, Society play is not well thought of except by the handful of players in my area. The only local game club has a dedicated society group that numbers about 10 or 12 players and three of them are also GMs. No local stores promote Society play and for good reason! One doesn’t have the space, one can’t get enough of an interested crowd for it to form into anything with substance and the last store and the largest by far, appears to not want to promote Society play. From casual water cooler conversations, I get the sense that to bring in official society play events, with enough GMs to run multiple tables and make it worth the store’s time, there is a price that must be paid. The price isn’t monetary, but one of free advertisement for an out of the area convention that the store may not want to promote. Officially I have no idea if the store supports said convention or not. I will leave it at that….
From what I have personally seen and from the numerous convention directors I speak to on a regular basis, Paizo is pressing hard to gain more ground for Society play, which is both good and bad. Good that it gets gamers playing a game they are enjoying, but bad in the sense that dedicated society players tend to (from my observations) not play much else in the way of RPGs. Paizo, may, in the long run push away the very people they need for their organized play program to be continually successful, the convention organizers. There could also be a domino effect on the players as well; only time will tell how this will resolve itself.
My official position is: There are better RPGs to spend my time playing and my money. Paizo will not be getting my time or my money!