Getting Started as a GM

First of all, thank you for volunteering to be a GM for Pathfinder Society! It’s a tough job, but very rewarding! While there are no hard and fast steps for GMing, here is a general process to help you prepare for your first session as a GM:

  1. Get access to the scenario. There are a couple ways of doing this. If you are running for a convention like Unseelie Court, then you should have access to the scenarios ahead of time. The venue might be able to provide access for you ahead of time, but otherwise you’re going to need to pick up the scenario. All of the scenarios are available here. If you’re running something from Season 0-4, then you will also need to make sure that you have the Secondary Success Conditions.
  2. Read over the scenario. You’re looking to get the flow of the scenario. Is it a fast-paced scenario, moving from combat to combat in quick succession, or is it a slow with lots of roleplaying? Somewhere in between?
  3. Read it again, focusing on the individual encounters. Get the statblocks of any creatures that aren’t already in the adventure from the prd, applying templates as needed. Highlight or underline important terrain features or NPC motivations. Come up with some possible things NPCs might say to players so you don’t have to ad-lib everything. Look over all the spells the spellcaster has so you’re not looking at them for the first time. The PFS Shared Drive is really helpful for this and can save you a lot of work.
  4. Search the GM Discussion board on the PFS Boards for threads about the scenario. If you have questions about a scenario, you might not be the only person who had them and they might already be answered for you. A little bit of searching might provide quick answers.
  5. Prepare maps and minis. Predrawing the maps if you can is good, but if you can’t, make sure you have access to a map and markers. Flip maps and map packs help out a lot with this if you have access to them, but aren’t necessary. Feel free to draw approximations of maps if you need to save time. For minis, anything from prepainted plastic to painted minis to paizo pawns to starbursts to Monopoly pieces will work. Just have something to represent the enemies and everything should be fine.
  6. Print out the important parts of the scenario. Make sure you have all handouts printed out and ready to hand to the players. You should print out enough copies of the chronicle sheet to give to each of the players. Make sure that you have a reporting form (although your venue might have these for you). If you are running a Season 5 scenario, you should copies of the relevant faction letters on you for players to reference at the beginning of the game.
  7. Make sure you have some way of tracking initiative. We’ve been training GMs to use index card tents to keep track as initiative, but that only works if you have index cards. If you wish to use some other method, such as the magnetic Combat Pad or just writing down the order on scratch paper, make sure you have it on you.
  8. Don’t be hard on yourself! No matter how prepared you are or how much experience you have, you will make mistakes. We all do. The important thing is that you recognize those mistakes and learn from them. At the end of the game, ask yourself if there was anything you would change and work to fix that for future games. And if you have any questions or want to talk about the game you ran with someone, please don’t hesitate to send an email to Jeff or James. We are perfectly willing to help new and old GMs get better at running games.

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