The highlight of Day Two was, of course, the Pathfinder Society Gencon Special. My introduction to Pathfinder Society came through playing in the Gencon Special back in 2010, so I was excited to be a part of the GM team this time around.
I won’t talk a lot about the story of the Special, because a) I’m not supposed to and b) I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you when it gets released for general play. And if you don’t play Pathfinder, well, you just won’t care. But it was a big, sweeping adventure full of dark tension and fear. Yeah, that about sums it up.
So what puts the “special” in the Gencon Special? When you play Pathfinder Society at your local store or game day, it plays out as most table-top sessions do: you play your adventure at your table, and it doesn’t affect the play at tables next to you. At the Special, however, all tables taking part in the session are playing the same scenario at the same time, and results at your table can (depending on the scenario written) have an impact on what happens at other tables. And of course other tables can change how things run at yours.
That itself would be cool enough, even with just five or six tables playing. This year’s Special was run simultaneously at over 100 tables, in two rooms. All tables played through the same story events, and all contributed to the eventual success (or failure) of the mission. Add to that Paizo bringing in people in costume to LARP the scenario NPC’s, and an actual life-size prop of the main plot item and the Special becomes a high energy role-playing romp!
I’ll be honest, the night was sort of a blur for me. Up to this point in my Paizo Con-Volunteer career they have scheduled me to run low level scenarios (in PFS terms, Tier 1-5). Which made sense; it is my first year volunteering at the “big two” (Paizocon and Gencon) as a Venture-Captain, they might want to test me out where I would do the least harm to players/characters. I guess for the Special they wanted to test other things, because I was tasked with Tier 10-11, the second highest tier in PFS. I had, of course, read the information for all the tiers when they sent me the scenario, because I’m like that. But I hadn’t focused on the higher tiers because it never occurred to me I’d run them.
A combination of luck, preparation and having easy access to all the sourcebooks I needed on my handy “HAL Friday” (my laptop), meant I was able to surmount a little thing like a full four tier jump in difficulty like a champ. I mean, I assume. Like I said, it was a blur. My table seemed to have a great time, we got along famously and they were super excited to be presented with the actual plot prop at the end. Discussing it with other GMs doing the same tier, it didn’t seem like I missed anything I was supposed to do and I did about as well as they did. This might mean Paizo will trust me with some higher tiers in the future. Which I’d love, but maybe we could do a few Tier 3-7 scenarios, just to ease me in? Please?
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Con GMing Pro-Tip: Go digital and save your back and brain. The math for the back is pretty easy: HAL Friday weighs maybe 3-4lbs, compared to the (conservative estimate) 60lbs+ of all my Pathfinder resources. As for the brain…well, with the right PDF reader (I highly recommend Foxit Reader, though your mileage may vary) You can pre-tab the bookmarks in your reference books. In PDF terms, this means avoiding the “page flipping” needed to find what you need during a game. I just open the file, click on the tab I need and roll for initiative. It may take some adjustment, especially if you are a dedicated bibliophile like me. But when I’m GMing at a con, and especially an event that is timed, nothing makes my players happier than not having to wait for me to find something in a book.
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We wrapped the 2012 Gencon Special at 1:15am, and tired, happy Pathfinders spilled into the night. After that I hobbled back to my room and tried to grab a few hours sleep for Day Three! Which didn’t work out so well, but that is a story for next time.