Friday, November 26, 2010

Guest Blog Post - Becoming a Venture Captain for Pathfinder Society by JP Chapleau

Today's Guest post comes from JP Chapleau.  I met JP when he can to help me create understand what the Pathfinder Society was and how I could incorporate what they were doing into our upcoming Pathfinder setting, NeoExodus: A House Divided. And just as he started getting onto the good stuff, Paizo snatched him away to become a Venture Captain in the Pathfinder Socity (Curse to you Paizo, you foiled my plans again!).  So I though it would be nice for him to tell everyone how he did it.  So here we go...

The making of a Venture Captain 

In October, I was chosen by Hyrum Savage to become one of the Venture Captains for Paizo’s Pathfinder Society Campaign. I now bask in the glory and adoration of everyone who bow down as I pass, who listen intently to every word I utter seeking to drink from the cup of wisdom that is my mind, who gasp as enter a room, who burn incense to effigies of me and who venerate any Snickers-bar wrapper I discard. Okay, okay, I may have an inflated sense of self…

Starting in September of 2009, my gaming interest shifted from 4e to the Pathfinder RPG. Pathfinder is an awesome descendant of the 3.5 rule set. It is filled with little gems, gems I keep finding to this day. Well done Paizo!

What are Organized Play Campaigns?
Organized Play (OP) campaigns - sometimes called “Living” Campaigns - allows you to take your character from one table to the next, anywhere in the world. Thus your character can adventure at Gencon, your local game store, a friend’s house, that “weird local DM”’s place, and a nearby convention gaining experience, gold and rewards, going up in levels and meeting many new people.

Every tabletop role-player has experienced the following scenario. You found a table you enjoy, good players, a fun GM and a schedule that works for everyone. After a few sessions, someone is missing, so the party trudges on OR plays something else.  Pretty soon, the campaign grinds to a halt and sputters out.
In organized play, the GM is not always the same, the party members change one or two missing players do not prevent game play. The adventures are all pre-published so preparation time is less than for a full campaign. This also allows the DM to really add his personal touch and style to the adventures. You can share GM-duties, meaning that everyone gets to play and GM. Okay, okay, I know not everyone has it in them to be a GM. But the opportunity is there for someone willing to try their hand at it.

Another perk of the OP campaigns is that if you miss an adventure with your usual group, you can find another group playing the same adventure and play the adventure with them. The net result is that it creates a community of players instead of a number of splinter groups each playing apart with limited contact with each other.

Do you have to mingle with other players? Only if you want to! I was wary when I started but I quickly met new friends around the gaming table. Through them, I learned new character building techniques, playing styles and gaming tips. If you want to play the adventures of an OP Campaign at home with your friends and never meet others, you sure can.

Most OP campaigns today allow for on-line play. I irregularly play with some friends in the Montreal/Quebec City region. They are a great way to meet with old friends!

What is the Pathfinder Society Campaign?
Now before going further, that this is written by a huge fan of Paizo and PFS.

Paizo’s Pathfinder Society (PFS) is an Organized Play campaign where the characters belong to a society of archeologist, scholars and adventurers (sometimes known as tomb robbers, thieves and thugs). Presented in the very affordable PDFs, players experience the world of Golarion through the many adventures published for PFS.

The biggest “kicker” or unique toy of PFS is the faction system. Although every character works for the society, their loyalties rest with one of the major nations of Golarion. Every adventure, your faction gives you small tasks to perform during the adventure. They rarely go against the grain of the adventure but often lead to unique role-play opportunities. “Dude! Why did you push that guy into the sewer water? We just rescued him!” or “You’re an embalmer, why are you taking that mummy’s body?” Thus Fighter Joe and Fighter Fred could vow allegiance to different nations. Players are encouraged to keep their factions secret, and it often adds to the tension in the part.

Each faction has a lot of flavor to it. From the mercantile Qadira to the devious Cheliax to the freedom-obsessed Andoran, each has an alignment (of the five, only one is good and one is evil) and that comes into play during the game. In other words, if you are a paladin who wishes to keep his status, do not work for Cheliax…

PFS players bring a wide variety of backgrounds, spell selections and character builds to the table. But what I have seen thus far in different areas of play (I was lucky enough to play PFS in Denver, Las Vegas and Montreal) is that the players bring to the table interesting *characters*, and I’m not just talking about builds and stats. I’m talking about accents, funny quirks, unique backgrounds, and intra-party interaction I haven’t seen in a while.

All this creates a unique atmosphere where role-play can flourish, even in the course of a 4h session.
Since adventures are designed for 4h timeslots, you can play them in an evening. Because there are many authors with different styles what you do changes from one adventure to the next. Some adventures are dungeon crawls, some adventures are more investigative, some deal with exploration, others are more complex. Over the course of a few adventures, you play very different adventures, in style and content.

Why becoming a Venture Captain?
Before applying to a leadership position with PFS, I thought long and hard about a number of things about the position. What would I get out of it? Could I do a good job? How much time would I have to invest into the campaign? Would my wife kill me? I have always been a fan of working within the system to make it better, so one of the biggest questions was: would my appointment help the local community or hinder it?

After all that thinking, I believed I could do a good job of it and help the local community grow and thrive. I had previous experience in two of the RPGA’s biggest campaigns, Living Greyhawk and Living Forgotten Realms. I worked for the RPGA for seven years (2003-10) and I held mostly editorial and story-related positions. This position with PFS would be quite different, being a Point-of-Contact or facilitator type position, allowing the campaign leadership to let go of some of the day-to-day operations, and delegate to Venture-Captains.

I will say that we are very blessed in the Denver region to have a lot of quality volunteers, people who coordinate events at their favorite/ local store, guys who volunteer to GM adventures to make sure the campaign runs smoothly. And I really thank and support these guys.

To those of you out there who think it’s easy; it’s just like any position of leadership. There is a lot of crap/grind to go through to reap the rewards. Seeing events form and happen regularly, offering special content to the local community, serving as facilitator and generally be the face of the campaign. I do not expect adulation or any of the fantastic worship I mentioned in my intro. Though it would be fun…

About my fellow Venture-Captains (many who of whom I met at Neoncon in Las Vegas), their selection was no random affair. They are tied to the pulse of their local community and champion ideas of all sorts, some I agree with others not, but the discussion is extremely dynamic and open-ended (and –minded). The leadership of the campaign is very responsive, dynamic and engaged in the campaign.

The Future of PFS?
I cannot give you a lot of specifics, but I can say the following. I have never been part of a campaign as dynamic as PFS. There are so many good things that are just about to be announced or released that keeping silent about it is SO hard. Those announcements will enhance the play experience and role-play opportunities at the game table.

Important Web sites to know: PaizoPathfinder Society, and my blog JP’s Blog.

I could sit here and keep writing on and on (I cut about 2 pages of text from my first draft!) about Pathfinder Society: why it is so great, why I love it, why the role-play experience is of high quality, why the players and GMs really shine in the system, why the quality and challenge of the adventures is really without par, why and how the writing and quality has been improving over the last year.
But all that is just talk. Talk is cheap.

The only way is to get you to a Pathfinder Society table. Join us and play. Then you will understand everything in this article. Chances are, you will meet some new players and have a good time. At the time I write this, MANY good things should be announced shortly. It is a good time to be involved – or start – with Pathfinder Society. New adventures are released monthly and play opportunities grow all the time. If you haven’t checked us out, you are missing out. Seriously. Come and join us.  If you are in the Denver area, do not be afraid to drop me a line!

Thanks to JP for this great over view of how he did it.  If you are interested in the Pathfinder Society why do you get in contact with him and I am sure he will be helpful to you.  Talk to you later...