Monday, April 25, 2011

Random Pointed Question

Why is it that since Josh Frost left Paizo, and his role as OP Campaign Manager was filled by not one, but two people, that the rules of that game have become even less clear, and that every single rule now appears to be up for grabs?


  1. 1) New coordinators take some time to get their feet wet.
    2) New coordinators bring new biases and techniques, which sometimes conflict with the old way of doing things.
    3) Probably three times as many players means three times the questions.
    4) More rulebooks = more opportunities for rules exploits and issues that require clarification.

    There are probably other reasons as well, but those are the big ones.

    --Erik Mona
    Paizo Publishing

  2. Erik,

    I appreciate you taking time to comment, but would respectfully disagree. I understand that you are "inside" and see much more than I do on the "outside", but as someone who has invested a lot of time and money in your products and who continues to recommend them to players at my FLGS, despite my misgivings about OP, maybe I can respond to your points with how I see things.

    1) I can understand it taking time to get your feet wet, but it's been (nearly a year?) and it seems like the lack of continuity is increasing, rather than decreasing.

    2) I think this is where I have real issues. Part of the promise of a "living" campaign is that one can take a character from table to table and see a consistency in rules. ie, you won't have one GM at a convention allowing your necromancer, while another screams "EVIL!!!" and banishes you from his table. I think of this as a "GOOD THING". By extrapolation, once players have invested time and money in a character, there is (to me at least) the implication that the rules should be consistent not only from GM to GM but from OP Manager to OP Manager.

    This is where PFS broke down for me. I had a character that was created under rules that I took the time to verify, and that I ran since Season 0. I played the character every few months, and then after Josh left, and Hyrum and Mark came in, features of the character that had been explicitly ruled as legal were then ruled illegal - with the further caveat that rebuilds would not be allowed. As Hyrum and Mark are essentially the GM's for all of PFS, this is within their right to do. But to me, this is the equivalent of having played in a campaign for 2 1/2 years, and having the GM show up at the table one night, and tell me that he decided that the character he told me that I could make would no longer be legal, and that I would either have to abandon the character entirely or play it without any form of rebuild. Of our local play group and the GM's who I'm not currently in games with, the general consensus is that none of them would decide to houserule out a character concept without allowing the affected player the opportunity to rebuild the nerfed character. Anyway...

    Did Hyrum and Mark bring new biases and techniques? Yes. Did this affect the game rules? Yes. Did this affect me negatively? Yes. I'll admit that this probably colours my viewpoint at least a bit. I think I would have had far less of a problem if there had been some path to rectify my character, or if the entire issue had been dealt with in a more ordered way. ("Beginning with the release of PFSOG Guide 4.0, these rules will change. If you have a character that you feel is seriously impacted by this rules change, you are allowed to rebuild your character, following the rules outlined here:[link]. Players are encouraged to minimize their rebuilds so as to provide continuity of play experience for other players who might already know your character.")

  3. (Continued...)

    3) I saw you use the number 14K players recently. I really haven't seen that big of an increase in the PFS section of the message boards. Is the growth linear? Exponential? Tapering off? (I understand if you consider this confidential information, and don't want to answer. I ask just out of curiosity.)

    4) Here's another section where I respectfully disagree, though not as stridently. From my observations, the rules questions in the PFS section continue to focus on Core Rules issues, rather than new material. And what we are seeing is changes in how the core rules are interpreted. Animal Companions (I know I've beaten that horse to death). Paladin Mounts. Buying of scrolls now being considered "spellcasting services" rather than magic items. Duration of spells ending at end of module (even instantaneous spells are put under this umbrella, which in practice should mean that every healing spell and healing effect (since they seem to be under the same umbrella) should end at end of module. "You arrive back at the Pathfinder Lodge, get your rewards, and everyone dies as their heal spells end, and their wounds reappear!") Anyway. What I'm seeing is not a lot of new issues created by new material, but rather a rehashing of old issues. I have a suspicion that this is because once H&M started making rules reversals, that suddenly everything was viewed as fair game and at least worth trying to change if you didn't like the status quo. And so far, it seems to be working for these people, at least in a limited way.

    I've said before, I'm a rules junkie. Tell me the rules, and I'll live within them. But when the rules are a moving target, I just can't be happy. It really looks from the boards that I'm in the minority with this opinion, so rather than keep fighting the same battle over and over again, I've simply stopped posting on the boards.

    Again. None of this was written with malice. I really like the Pathfinder product line, and have continuously recommended it to friends and strangers alike. I may go back on my pledge and buy Ultimate Magic when it comes out - I'm still undecided. (There is the Hero System Advanced Rulebook that I saw at the Gopher this last weekend.) If you were to ask, "What do I want to happen here?" (Which is probably every customer service rep's bottom line - not that you are CS) I would simply say that:

    a) I hope that the rules changes will slow to a trickle, and that H&M devise a more smooth implementation path within PFS.
    b) I hope that Paizo continues to release quality products that I can continue to recommend to others. (I have reservations about this near term, given your very fast paced release schedule, and from seeing some of the obvious technical errors that have shown up just in the preview material for Ultimate Magic).

  4. Erik,

    Oh, hey. If you happen to still be reading this. I have a programming project for a gaming aid that I'm working on that I'd love to figure out how to monetize.

  5. I can't really get into the minutia of the specific animal companion or paladin mounts rules issues you cite, but as a long-time OP player (I had one of the highest-level characters for the RPGA's Living City campaign and wrote about a dozen scenarios for it, and also co-created and administered the Living Greyhawk campaign), I can certainly understand your frustrations regarding the rules shifting under you.

    And I think the idea that you had no rebuild options for your now invalid character is indeed hugely frustrating and not how I think the campaign should be run. In fact, it is my understanding that players were given the ability to re-work their characters if this ruling made them invalid, so either you are mistaken on this or I am, and I hope you'll understand if I say I hope the confusion is yours. :)

    Due to the recent concerns expressed about the way changes to rules have been handled recently, I recently asked Mark and Hyrum to revise the way they handle rulings and clarifications.

    You can read the post here:

    Our internal numbers show a large increase in Pathfinder Society activity (reporting, message board participation, new members and character registrations, etc.) supported by anecdotal evidence from Gen Con, convention reports from all over, and our growing network of venture-captain regional coordinators, who are also helping to set up activity at local conventions and game stores. Sales of Pathfinder Society scenarios are also significantly increased from last year. So while I do not have perfect knowledge, I certainly know that Pathfinder Society is taking up more staff time and budget resources than ever before, and that it is doing so because demand and interest has increased significantly.

    --Erik Mona

  6. Re: No rebuild Options. It would have been nice if the confusion were mine, but the "no rebuild" was made quite clear in this specific instance.

    The relevant posts are: "If you have a build that was optimized for a different interpretation of the rules, you may still make Handle Animal or Ride checks untrained, and have the opportunity to put skill ranks in either with your next level; this is not an occasion to warrant a rebuild."

    and "Since this was specifically called out in the Guide to PFS, if someone has purchased equipment for their halberd-wielding ape animal companion to use, it may be sold at full price and the animal companion may retrain any weapon or armor proficiency feats. This is the only rebuilding allowed based on this alterations of the campaign specific rules, which are being made to bring the campaign rules closer in line with the Core Rulebook, errata, and FAQs. You may not retrain your PC's skills or feat allotment."

    Again. Water under the bridge at this point. Local players have expressed the thought that perhaps I was expecting more from PFS (and organized play in general) than would reasonably be expected. I'm inclined to respect their various opinions, and have been much happier with my Pathfinder gaming experience since I stopped playing PFS, I continue to play in two PFS campaigns (Council of Thieves and a Shackled City conversion) and both GMs do an awesome job.

    The new policy on rules clarifications I think is a step in the right direction. (I have issues with it, but then I seem to have issues about a lot of things )

    I really think it's a great thing that PFS is growing. I have the highest hopes that all of my concerns are really just growing pains, and that in time, everything will settle down into a nice organized chaos. Thanks for taking the time to respond!