Hot action from the start
The players who come to games conventions are expecting an exciting, entertaining adventure that keeps them on the edge of their seat from the very first moment. Pathfinder Society adventures are written to start bang in the middle of the action and the pace needs to stay hot to hit that finish time of four and a half hours and half an hour for marking chronicle sheets.
You are the Star – the Producer, Casting Agent, Set Designer and Director
Most of the Society modules, so far, have been of a very high standard but that’s not to say they haven’t had their little problems… a loophole in the plot… a potential TPK… an anticlimax ending ...or an unmapped section that really needs sorting out. Players don’t want to hear excuses. They don’t want to hear GMs blaming a problem on the writer. They are there to have fun and your job as GM is to give it to them. If you have taken on this tough job then wingeing won’t hack it. Harsh? No. It has always been a GM’s job to busk it, to fly by the seat of the pants and to fill in the gaps wherever they appear.
Your job is to give your players the best adventure they have ever had – regardless! That means some hard work on your part. You need to read and re-read the adventure. Get to know all the characters. Make sure you understand the plot and the sub-plots. You need to know the story like an actor learns a script. Go through it with your weasel mind and spot the plot holes and the missing information and get it sorted before you leave home. You need it printed out and marked-up with your notes so you can run the damn thing without fumbling through books every few minutes.
Look up the obscure rules and spells in advance so you don’t slow down the action. If something unusual comes up, get the player to roll their D20 and if they roll very low you can probably move on without bothering to look up the legalities. Have your rule books with you but try to leave them in the bag unless you need them. Often an obscure rule can be judged on-the-fly by the GM, to everyone’s satisfaction, or you can move the action on while you delegate a player to look it up.
You need your miniatures sorted and ready to grab. (Don’t fuss. Generic figures or jelly babies are fine.) Have your dice handy. (I’ve seen GM’s without !!!!) Get comfortable with your battle mat or tiles and pens. Whatever is good for you will be fine with your players. Control combat with a magnetic chart or initiative cards. Or, if you prefer, there is nothing wrong with spotting a smart player and getting them to track combat. (It’s also a good way of keeping a smartarse player out of mischief.) And make sure you have the module printed out with plenty of copies of the Handouts, and Chronicle Sheets for players. (Someone is sure to spill coffee all over theirs and need another copy!)
If you run from a laptop then charge it up and don’t assume that a power socket will be within reach. Have a printout as a backup. Warning: we frequently get complaints from players who say the game ran very slowly because the GM found it difficult to find information on their iPad or laptop. It's much easier to use red pens, sticky notes and highlighters when you prep an adventure on a printout.
It’s more than numbers
Make it visceral. Describe the true horror and the drama of a heroic adventure. Make those NPCs come to life with larger than life desciptions. Hit, miss, hit, dead, doesn't hack it.
Pathfinder and Starfinder adventures are a bit different
One big advantage to Society adventures is that when they are released they are usually hotly debated by GMs and players on the Paizo messageboards – often with input by the author. That’s a great source of valuable tips about running the adventure and warnings of potential pitfalls or unusually dangerous or complex adventures. Look out for these comments on the Paizo Message boards.
See the GM discussions on the Pathfinder Society Adventures [watch out for spoilers]
Many GMs have uploaded their preparation work to Google Docs so it can be shared with other GMs. You can sign in to Google and download the prep right here.
If a player sits down at your table with no character prepared then ask the convention organiser for a pre-generated character so they can choose a faction, do a quick customisation, and play immediately. (There will NOT be time to generate a character from scratch while everyone else sits and waits!) Similarly, if a player hasn’t gone online to get themselves a Society number then don’t delay your table, the organiser of the convention should have a supply of PFS numbers.
Be aware that before the game starts, players may want to buy items. Mundane items come straight from the books. Some magic items are available but maybe restricted to low-level items which are listed in the “Roleplaying Guild Guide”.
Make sure your players’ levels fall within the Tier of the adventure. (If they have no viable character they can use a Pre-Gen and apply the benefits to their "real" character when they achieve the level of that PreGen.) Check the Guide to Organised Play to work out which Tier and if you need to make adjustments for 4 players. Don't accept more than 6 players on your table. It is no longer a legal table for Organised Play.
You may need to prompt players to remind them of their faction goals before you start the game. Don’t forget to track who achieves their faction missions so you can score them at the end of the session.
If characters pick up diseases etc in the adventure then be aware that players may want to buy curative magic afterwards. The restorative spells that are available are listed in the “Roleplaying Guild Guide”. Some characters can earn a few gold pieces or credits at the end of a game by performing a skill on a dice roll for their "day job". The "Guide" has a chart of rewards.
At the end of the session you need to fill in the XP, Prestige Award and Gold award on the Pathfinder Chronicle for each player. Cross out any levels of treasure they aren’t entitled to. Then pass them back so they can fill out the rest and choose items to purchase. Then get it back and do a quick check for errors and sign it off.
Finally, you will need to fill out a very, very short report so the convention organiser can report the results of the game for that character. This only requires their Character Name and Pathfinder Number; and tick boxes for Mission completed successfully; Prestige Points; Faction; Died. Easy! Some smart GMs fill in the event name and number, their own name and number before the Convention. They pass the sheet around before the game to get players to fill in their own details leaving you to just complete the PPs and Died.