Archive for May, 2017

The GM for hire experiment

Posted: May 20, 2017 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Local Scene, Roleplaying Games

For the past month I’ve been experimenting with offering paid games to the general gaming public.

While this sounds near-heretical to some people, I’ve actually discovered that it has a few interesting elements

  1. More effort from the GM

    While I’m not certain if this will be the case in all the games, I found myself with much more motivation to go over the usual preparation that I do in my games. This meant adding stuff like a soundtrack, better looking handouts, and improving quality across the game in general.

  2. More effort from the players

    Now that they’re actually spending for it, Players are more on the ball when playing. They don’t dither around with their phones or waste time in idle chatter or side stories. They’re on the clock and they know it.

  3. Less likelihood of piracy

    Let’s face it, here in the Philippines, most gaming groups rely on the GM to have the books. By running paid games, a GM has more disposable income to actually buy legitimate PDFs or physical books and bolstering the industry.

  4. A different kind of market

    Another interesting discovery is that offering paid games caters to a different audience. These are the lapsed or busy gamers who are only able to commit a small amount of time to gaming, and would rather pay than spend hours poring over rulebooks.

    They’re also a godsend to people who can’t get a gaming group up and running. A paid game ensures that everyone shows up (barring uncontrollable circumstances.)

  5. Rare games are easier to sell

    In a community where everyone and their second cousin can play D&D, people put a premium on GMs that can run games that simply don’t have enough GMs. I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of reaction I would get when I offered Call of Cthulhu, but it turned out to be a quite the sleeper hit.



This isn’t to say that paid games are the only way to go. I still reserve my Saturdays to run games for my close friends for free. If anything this serves as a good alternative to address the need for games by busy people in a manner that incentivizes everyone.

I’m a rather introverted sort, but I do like running games. Paid games helps me get out there to offer what I can do to others, and we all have fun doing so!


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We’re at book 2 of Symbaroum, after having had a chance to absorb a bit about the setting of the game it’s finally time to make our character.


One of the earliest bits of the Player’s section of the game talks about is having Goals. This is a neat little thing as it ties in nicely to the fact that Symbaroum feels a bit sandbox, and that it relies on the initiative, drive, and determination of the players to make things happen. People don’t just sit on their thumbs all day waiting for a Mysterious Stranger(tm) to walk through the door and declare a need for adventurers after all!

These goals define what it is that a character wants to achieve. A couple of goals suggested by the game include: Restore your family’s honour, become leader of a guild, chapter or an organisation, or take revenge upon a person or creature.

It’s a neat way to tie a character into the setting by giving them stakes right away.

The game also suggests having Goals for the group, just so everyone has a reason to work together. Whether it’s glory, coin or a higher purpose. The game also gives a few examples for these like: Lead a large group of people to safety, establish an organisation together or overthrow a leader.

Goals don’t always have to be epic, it could just very well be the next step in a bigger plan. What matters is that you give your group a direction to go.


Characters come from three archetypal backgrounds: Warrior, Mystic and Rogue. Each of these specialises in a different way of engaging with the world and game-wise it gives everyone a chance to shine.

For today let’s go with a standard Warrior Archetype.

Looking it up I see that there are further options. Among these I choose to go for Sellsword. This suggests that I take the following abilities: Iron Fist, Man-at-arms, Polearm Mastery, Shield Fighter


Characters in Symbaroum are defined by their eight Attributes: Accurate, Cunning, Discreet, Persuasive, Quick, Resolute, Strong and Vigilant. In the game, the player rolls a d20 and compares the result with the value of one of the Attribute. If the outcome of the roll is equal to or less than the Attribute, then the test is successful.

There are two ways to generate Attributes in the game: an Array Distribution (with adjustments), and Point Buy. For this example let’s go with the Array where we assign the following values: 5, 7, 9, 10, 10 , 11, 13, 15

Accurate 13
Cunning 5
Discreet 7
Persuasive 10
Quick 11
Resolute 10
Strong 15
Vigilant 9

We’re definitely looking at a beefy guy with more brawn than brain, but does have a way about him that makes him somewhat likeable given his middle of the road Persuasive stat.

From this, we now derive his secondary attributes:

Toughness (= Strong): 15
Pain Threshold (Strong / 2): 8
Defense (Quick -Armor): 11
Corruption Threshold (Resolute / 2) 5

Success Tests

A quick segue into systems. While I mentioned the basic die roll of d20 vs Attribute. However when the roll is opposed by another character, this roll is modified by a value set by the opposing characters’ Defense. If the Defense Attribute is low (like 5) then the roll gets a bonus of +5, while high Defense Attributes like 15 apply a -5 penalty to the roll.


For my character’s Race (and Name) I’m going for a Ambrian Human, which gives me access to either Contacts or Privileged traits.

Looking up the Ambrian Names, I think I’ll go for the male name “Karlio”


Starting characters get an option of having two Abilities or Powers at Novice Level, and one at Adept, but also have the option of starting with five abilities at Novice and no Adept level abilities instead.

For Karlio, I’ve decided on taking the standard Two Novice and one Adept

  • Shield Fighter (Novice) – The damage dealt by weapons held in the character’s sword arm is increased by one step; to 1D10 if the character fights with a single-handed weapon or to 1D8 if using a Short wea – pon. The novice Shield Fighter also wields its shield as an instrument of protection with greater efficiency and therefore receives a +2 Defense bonus instead of the usual +1 when using a shield.
  • Recovery (Novice) – Active. With a successful die roll against Resolute, the character regains 1D4 Toughness. Multiple attempts can be made, but only one successful attempt is allowed per day.
  • Man-at-Arms (Novice) – Passive. The character knows how to use its armor for maximum effect, which increases the armor’s Armor tier by one step: light armor protects 1D6, medium armor protects 1D8 and heavy armor protects 1D10.
  • Man at arms (Adept) – Passive. The character is used to wearing armor and can adapt his or hers actions to its limitations. The armor no longer has a negative effect on Quick or abilities based on Quick (including Defense). The Impeding quality of the armor still has a negative effect when using mystical powers.

With this, Karlio is one tough cookie.


Every character in Symbaroum has a Shadow (not that shadow, silly, a big “S” Shadow) which represents their spiritual connection to nature or civilisation.  In Karlio’s case, he’s a city boy of moderate standing, so I’m making his Shadow that of Copper, one that could tarnish into a sickly green with Corruption, or a different shade as his connection to Davokar improves.


Karlio begins with Medium Armor and a Shield thanks to his Abilities. For a weapon he starts with a sturdy one-handed sword and a dagger.

He also starts with 5 thaler in his purse.

And that’s it! With that Karlio is complete.

Symbaroum’s character creation system is quick and easy, and the Abilities are really fun to look into. There’s a lot of room for character customisation here, and I’m glad that it’s easy to make characters while being able to retain the kind of mood that fits such an atmospheric setting.

Next up we’ll take a look at the Combat mechanics, as we toss Karlio into a fight!

For those interested in checking it out and following along, you can purchase Symbaroum on PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $18.99


Today we’re talking to the local Venture Agent of the Pathfinder Society, CJ Masungsong!

For the uninitiated, the Pathfinder Society is the Pathfinder RPG’s Organized Play initiative! Here’s a quick in-character look at their lore:

We are the Pathfinder Society, a legendary league of explorers, archaeologists, and adventurers dedicated to discovering and chronicling the greatest mysteries and wonders of an ancient world beset by magic and evil.

The society’s home base is sprawling Absalom, the so-called City at the Center of the World that stands astride the great Inner Sea on the mountain-capped Isle of Kortos.

A Pathfinder explores the dark alleys and political intrigues of Absalom between far-flung travels to the most interesting and exotic locales in the world.

It’s no secret that Pathfinder was a huge deal when it came out, and I’m a little suprised that it took us this long to get our very own Venture Agent for the Philippines.  But hey, I’m just glad we finally do! Organized Play organizations are a great way to push the hobby, so having more can only be a good thing to the hobby.

But enough talk about PFS, let’s have a quick interview with CJ.

1) So, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into the hobby in general.

Sure thing! I’ve always been a hardcore video game geek growing up. The moment I figured out how to operate our 486 PC back in 92′, I already saw my future as a RPG fanatic.

It wasn’t long until I came across Baldur’s gate and Neverwinter Nights, that introduced me to the D20 system. I started getting curious about the so called table top franchise that these games originated from. I have to tell you, it wasn’t easy. Up where I was, Novaliches, to be exact, tabletop RPGs were not really readily available at the time, even in the 2000s.  I never gave up though.     I was able to get my hands on old D&D scans and started briefing my gaming group about it. It was met with utter disapproval at first, mainly because we were coming from a long line of PC games, and yeah WoW was awesome then lol.
I was able convince majority of them though which led to a couple of 3.5 games that lasted for about a couple of months. Then we stopped because we didn’t see the value. It was too much work at the time, for so small a return we thought.
After a year or so, I saw the D&D episode of the “community”. It was so much fun that I decided to give it another shot. But this time, I told a friend at work that I knew was running small private events. It turned out, they were using the Pathfinder system, and I was exposed to the main differences between the two, like power attack reducing your attack rolls instead of your AC. And for me that made a lot of sense.
I challenged myself to run an adventure path with my guys of about 10 – 11 players. Took us two and a half years to finish, but gave us a front row seat of character development from level 1 to 20. And the rest is history.

2) How did you get into Pathfinder, and why did you pick the Pathfinder Society over the Dungeons & Dragons Adventurer’s League?

PF came from D&D 3.5, which to me is a classic. Some might say that the math is not noob-friendly, but everybody starts at level 1. And at level 1, the math isn’t that difficult. You just need to understand the logic behind the computations and your all set. More importantly though, it’s the customizations that got me. They are limitless… You see a character you like in a TV show? You can probably recreate a PF version.
I haven’t really tried AL, but I’ve read enough to have an idea how it goes. I think it’s pretty awesome too, I just prefer to play games in hard mode. :p

3) What are the requirements to join the Pathfinder Society?’

Well, pen and paper and a whole lot of imagination lol. But seriously though, you need the core rule book to to start. If you want customizations, you need to get the specific book where the feature is. A PDF costs about $9.99, so pretty manageable.

4) What kind of adventures and experiences does the PFS offer to players? Do they have any sort of reward system in place?

To give you a brief background of who the Pathfinders are, think about them like a guild of Lara Crofts. Archaeologists, Adventurers, Scholars, who stumble on different legends/artifacts, and end up making the world a safer place to live in. A scenario can run from 4 – 6 hours depends on the performance of players. Just right for any casual or hardcore player to enjoy.
In terms of rewards, players are awarded prestige points and boons by their specific factions which they can use to purchase equipment or to train their characters.

5) You mentioned that you were very impressed with the Factions of the Pathfinder Society, can you tell us a bit about them, and how they operate? Do they often have opposing agendas?

Indeed! I think the factions are what makes every game interesting. Each player is given a sub-quest by their respective faction. If you fulfill it along with the main quest, you get additional prestige points. And yes they sometimes end-up opposing each other, so it’s up to the players how they can find a compromise.
Explore. Report. Cooperate. These are the pillars of the society. If anybody goes against it, you become the enemy.

6) What other activities do you have in store for the community?

Since our launch, we’re planning on running bi-monthly events on either North and South locations to cater to all players. We’ve also asked, the publishers for support programs so we can give out freebies to faithful members.
Also, they’ve recently released multi-table campaigns which I find really interesting. They are scenarios that have to run with a minimum of 6 tables. There are DMs per table, but there’s one head DM to rule them all. It’ll be awesome to try that!

7) Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers to get them to join the Pathfinder Society?

Absalom is the great city at the center of the world. For centuries, different nations have tried conquer it only to find themselves falling victim to it’s strategic position and stalwart defenders. A few more years pass, and there’s relative peace. Little does the city know that there’s an armada of ancient, forgotten invaders, just waiting for the signal to strike. And this time, they will not be stopped.
So that’s a sample of what a single scenario awaits you. PFS has combined the roleplaying magic of the classic D&D 3.5 classic modules with superior story-telling.
Lastly, I’m a firm believer that bi-monthly creative conflict resolution exercises are essential to one’s experience and career growth. So tabletop roleplaying games are a must.
You don’t believe me? Then try dropping by any of our upcoming events, and I’ll show you 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, CJ! Next up I’ll put up a few answers fro the point of view of a player of the PFS games!