An Army of One
There is beauty in organized play, tabletop RPGs, like the Pathfinder Society or the Adventurers League. To be sure, it’s a different kind of beauty than is to be found in a ongoing campaign with its engaging story arcs and sense of consistency, both player and plot. In many ways, organized play is more analogous to MMORPGs, like EverQuest or WoW – lots of players interacting anonymously in concert to nudge megaplots along. The purpose of organized play, however, is not really to save (or damn) the world. Rather, the goal is to provide opportunities for players to engage with each other, play the RPG, and participate in the community. In a sense, to borrow from the Pathfinder Society motto, the metagame goal of organized play is to Explore, Report, and Cooperate.
But playing in organized play requires a slightly different mindset. You will not always be playing with your friends. You cannot guarantee an optimal party skill mix. You may not be able to predict what resources will be required of your PC before you arrive at the table. Instead, this paradigm will hone your self-reliance and tactical play. The world will not shape your PC; you will. Your ability to adapt will determine your PC’s survivability. But don’t let that intimidate you! It should excite you! Organized play will teach you to be a better player, and you’ll meet a lot of new people while you are at it. Period.
"Organized play will teach you to be a better player."
To survive your first few levels of organized play, I’ve compiled this list of my top 5 tips. Some of them were in fact passed down to me when I first started playing. Others are based on my own experience. I’ve listed the in order of priority. So, if you only take away one thing, 14-Constitution is a must. These tips are just as valid now for PFS as they were to Living Greyhawk when I first started going to cons. I do not promise my tips are full proof nor exhaustive so feel free to add; post what other lessons or sites you’ve found helpful.
14 Con for the Win! This was the original bit of advice given to me when I was rolling up my first ever Living Greyhawk PC around midnight at GenCon. It has served me well ever since. Thus, consider constitution a primary stat no matter what your class. Hit points are not only your PC’s bulwark, but also a party’s shared resource. Does it matter if you can cast 15 spells at 2nd level if you die the first time you get pants’d by a goblin? Your PC still may go unconscious occasionally, but the odds of her dying will be exponentially reduced.
BYOB (Bring Your Own Buffs). Like to be healed? Want to see invisible? Desire greater AC? Nothing will make you more respected at a table than if you show up prepared to help others help you. And if you are a caster, nothing will annoy you more than a player who demands you spend your PC’s valuable resources on his PC alone. So, get a wand of Cure Light Wounds (in PFS using your first 2PA). Doesn’t matter if your PC can’t use it. Odds are that one of the PCs at your table can use it on your PC. Buy Pearls of Power to loan out; purchase scrolls (which are cheaper than potions) for others to use. In organized play, you do not have the luxury of other PCs consistently covering your PC’s weaknesses. So come prepared to mitigate them yourself.
Be memorable. Don’t try to create the min-max’iest PC ever seen. Don’t read forums looking for the best build for the class you always wanted to play. There are a lot of crunchy munchkins out there already. Create a PC that you envision being fun. There are a lot of options just from the Core Rulebook and Advanced Players Guide already. You don’t have to delve for hours into the obscure books or esoteric guides. Give her some quirks. Make her good at odd things – like my Ulfin two-handed weapon fighter with lots of survivability feats (vs. damage feats), a fascination with engineering and a penchant for tailoring with fur. Build that gnome barbarian who uses an unseen servant or that dwarven sorcerer who has memorized Golarion’s heraldry. Years later, no one will remember the tenth mobile fighter/disarm-master, but everyone will remember the pirate swinging from the chandelier, even if she fell – rather, especially if she fell.
Showcase skill savvy. Be careful dumping intelligence. Most modules (and all PFS faction missions) involve skills, if not for social interaction or knowledge use, then for some physical challenge. Many great scenarios include swimming, climbing, or sneaking about. Extra coin can be earned through professions. Mysteries can be solved with heal, and wands activated with use magic device. There is nothing more hilarious or more rewarding than busting out a barbarian’s diplomatic skills when no one at the table was expecting it. Don’t get left out of two hours of gaming because your PC had nothing to provide except muscle. If your PC’s class doesn’t have very many skill points per level, that’s ok. Spread them out. Your PC also doesn’t need to be perfect, she just needs to participate.
Pack for anything. Remember that you are an army of one. You cannot count on other players to provide the winning ingredient. In other words, don’t forget all those mundane and alchemical supplies. Buy that adventurers or class kit, and then add to it. I have seen near TPKs of mid-level PCs from a single swarm because no PC was carrying a 20gp alchemical fire. What should you buy? Imagine the worst party makeup in the worst possible situation – a party of 2nd level wizards climbing a mountain, a party of fighters taking on a rust monster, a party of clerics killing a construct. Then ask what would your PC need to beat that encounter. There have been several blogs written about essentials every PC should carry, but a quick search found this useful one. Oh, and to haul all this crap, you may wish to invest in a Handy Haversack early in your PCs career.
So get out there, create an organized play character and meet some gamers!
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