Dealing with the Unexpected

Pathfinder Society (Second Edition) Guide to Organized Play -> Game Master

While the GM basics contains all the rules you need as a GM, sometimes unexpected things happen. This page contains general advice for when that happens. Remember, you can always consult your Event Coordinator or local Venture Officers for advice on any of these issues.

Dealing with Chronicle Errors.

When reviewing a Chronicle, if you notice anything that seems amiss, you can ask the player to explain any discrepancies to you. Remember that errors are far more likely to be honest mistakes than intentional cheating, and that it’s possible that they aren’t errors at all.  Most errors turn out to be detrimental to characters, not to their advantage!

When you ask the player about a discrepancy, speak with the player calmly, nicely, and with an open mind. Resolve any issues as fairly as possible. For example, if the character selected an option that they did not have access to or that was not available to their character, let them pick another option instead. If they did not pay the full price for an item they have, they can pay for it in full, or, if they haven’t used it yet, simply remove the item from their character’s gear. If they paid too much for an item, refund them the extra they paid in the “items sold” section of their Chronicle. Check with your event coordinator, Venture-Captain, or Venture-Lieutenant if you are unsure of how to fix a mistake, or if you and the player cannot come to an agreement about a fair resolution. Remember that the game is supposed to be fun, so waste as little time as possible on drama and spend as much time as possible providing an exciting, action-packed scenario for your players.

Dealing with Death

Given the dangers characters face once they become Pathfinders, character death is a very real possibility (and a necessary one to maintain a sense of risk and danger in the game). Consider, however, that for a player new to Pathfinder Society, or to the Pathfinder RPG in general, having their character experience a violent death during their first game can sour him on the campaign and the game altogether. While we don’t advocate fudging die rolls, consider the experience of the players when deciding whether to use especially lethal tactics or if a character is in extreme danger of death, especially when the player is new to the game. Most players whose first experience in a campaign results in a character death don’t return to the campaign.

Similarly, if the entire party is killed and can’t be brought back to life, then the table is over for everyone in the party. This means those players might have a substantial span of time before their next event at a convention with no game to play. Obviously, we hope that such total party kills never happen (and strive to balance the scenarios to make it unlikely)—but, sometimes, the dice just aren’t with you and everyone passes into the Great Beyond.

Dealing with out of game problems

Sometimes circumstances prevent a player from completing a scenario. Reasons include—but are not limited to—personal emergencies, device battery issues, venue problems, and bad timing. To mitigate the impact on the table, GMs can exercise their discretion by adjusting the scenario’s level range or Challenge Point Adjustment to accommodate the table’s new Challenge Point Total, bring in the pregenerated character that most closely resembles the lost PC, or postpone the game until all players are able to complete the scenario. In the event that a character sheet is no longer accessible due to a loss of battery power, the player can play the pregenerated character and apply the scenario’s rewards to their original character. In all cases where the GM applies one of the above remedies, rewards for all players are based on the lowest level range played during the scenario.

If a player is forced to leave the table, and the game continues, the GM should endeavor to get a chronicle to the player as soon as possible.  When filling out this chronicle the Player should receive 1 XP per hour played for scenarios.  They recieve any reputation rewarded for the tasks the party has completed up to that point, as well as any treasure bundles found, and any items found that were listed on the chronicles. 

In the (hopefully rare) case of a medical emergency (defined as a player needing immediate, unexpected, professional medical treatment) the chronicle should be filled out as if the player stayed for the rest of the game, receiving the same benefits as the rest of the table.  

Dealing with Distractions

No game table is completely free of distractions. However, if something (like an electronic device) creates an ongoing distraction, a GM can request that the player put it away or police their use of the device (such as not also using a tablet computer to play a video game). If the device continues to be a distraction, the GM has the right to ban that particular item for the duration of the game.

Cheating

Cheating is rare, and it can be a rather heated topic. If you suspect that a player is cheating, it’s always a good idea to take a step back and consider the possibility that they are instead making an honest mistake. Inaccurate numbers on a character or mistakes on a Chronicle are far more likely to be math errors than deliberate cheating. When you see these issues, keep an open mind and work with the player to resolve them. Other issues, such as lying about the results of a dice roll or the contents of their character sheet or breaking the rules even after being informed of what they are, are more clear-cut. If you believe the player to be cheating, record the organized play number of the player in question and then ask them to leave your table. Afterward, send an e-mail to the Pathfinder Society staff at organizedplay@paizo.com, including the player’s number and detailing as much as you can remember about the situation.