GM Checklist for Organized Play Convention Games
I’ve compiled a list (with some of my own additions) of 12 steps to take in preparing to run Pathfinder Society games at a convention.
- Read the module. Read it before you get there and again at the con before you run the game. Reading the mod before you get there allows you to do the following.
- Prepare the encounters. Highlight the key passages, DC rolls and traps. Set aside monster figs that you know you’re going to use for a particular encounter and keep them ready. One way to organize is to use ziplock bags with post-it notes or note cards noting the encounter.
- Prepare the maps. I either draw them out ahead of time and move a book to ‘reveal’ the map to pcs or (recently) shell out $0.75 for a black and white rendition of the map at the local Fed-ex. Drawing the map saves on precious time. You can also get large sheets of 1 inch ruled graph paper and draw your maps before going to the convention. Fold them up with each adventure. Gaming paper is another great option. If you have some flip-mats or map packs that correspond to the adventures, use them, if you have the space. They look great and a blank side can be used when you need to draw an unplanned map (or run a random adventure).
- Print out the stats for any monsters named without stats in the adventure. You can usually find them in the PRD. Do this for every adventure. And any animals you may need as a player. The extra pages will be a lot easier to lug around than the Bestiaries.
- Prepare the certificates. Sign everything on the bottom. Know your GM number, know the event code, and write your name legibly on the certificate in case a player has questions.
- If you have the funds, get a good tablet, laptop or netbook. You can load it with PDFs of the books and adventures or access the online PRD if you have internet access. Don’t settle for a device that takes more than a few seconds to load a PDF or turn a page. You won’t use it (at least for checking books at the table).
- Bring a few extra PC minis and dice for new players to borrow or for players who forgot theirs.
- Bring a map of the Inner Sea to show players where they will be.
- Bring printed copies of the PFS character sheets (found on the last 2 pages of the PFS Guide) and copies of the 4 standard pregen PCs at each tier for the adventures you will run.
- Don’t forget pens, markers and pencils (with erasers).
- Index cards. Great for tracking initiative, makeshift table tents, large or huge monster tokens, etc.
- Bring a copy of the current PFS Guide, Traits doc, PFS FAQ, Additional Resources and maybe an extra copy or two of Chapter 2 from the PFS Guide (character creation).
Get all this together well before the convention (or game day) and keep it up-to-date and well stocked so you don’t have to spend time on this in the last few days before the con when you should be getting plenty of sleep and reviewing your adventures.
In your game announcements, consider these rules:
Tell players to show up 15 minutes before the game if they have new (non-pregen) characters so you can review the characters and check the math. If you show up just as the game begins, expect to play a pregen which the GM will provide.
Announce a break schedule before the game begins and in your game announcement — one 10 minute break around the midpoint of the game often works well. 4 hours is a long time to sit at a table, and players will often simply walk off to take a break if you don’t give them one and they don’t know one is coming up.
No cell phones allowed at the table during game play — restrict checking Facebook, texting, or taking calls to the breaks. source
Other ideas include:
Initiative cards with blanks for Player name, character name, Character Faction, Init bonus (and 4 rolls), Perception bonus, Sense Motive bonus, and six d20 random rolls from the players. This can speed up play and helps you remember the player/character names.
Alternatively, have tent-style name plates with both character name and player name to pass out.
Create “feat sheets”. Take the feats you’re not familiar with and write them out interspersed throughout the scenario when needed so that I have the information at hand.
Use wet wipes for hand-drawn wet-erase map mats. Also include some paper towels. Alternatively, keep a small spray bottle containing water with you. The perfect one for this application is the small spray bottle for cleaning eye-glasses.
Bring a sheet of new Pathfinder Society player numbers to pass out to any new players. source