Stars, Novas, & Glyphs

We are back from Winter War 48 in Champaign, Illinois. I have to say I had a wonderful time there. It was my first time at Winter War and definitely will not be my last. David Gilbert and Cordaro Boughton also attended. David broke in his brand new KIA with a road trip to a gaming con. You can’t top that for breaking in your new vehicle!

Winter War 48

There were plenty of tables of Pathfinder Second Edition and Starfinder at Winter War. I have a rough count of around 34 tables that fired across 7 time slots. Three of those slots had a PFS2 or SFS special running in them which is pretty ambitious for a non-major con. Winter War is one of the more well attended cons for Organized Play and thus able to make it happen. The specials were PFS2 2-00, PFS2 3-99, and SFS 3-99. The turnout was pretty good for all three specials as well as the overall con when you factor in pandemic issues. I don’t have an exact count of players who attended the Org Play part, but Winter War itself had 180 attendees. Judging by the action in our section of the con, I would say that we had close to 50 different attendees which makes Org Play one of the single biggest draws at this year’s Winter War.

I want to thank Jerry Wayne for organizing the Organized Play portion of the con and Gregg Homerding for spearheading the specials. They did a great job of getting things organized and set up for Winter War. We just had to show up and play or run at the tables. When a table was cancelled because a GM tested positive, they promptly got a volunteer and got the players seated. They also did that when extra players walked in. As a GM, I just had to sit down at a table and do my thing because they had everything else completely under control. Folks, let me tell you from my own experiences of organizing Society tables at a con, that is not always the case. I also want to thank Jerry for not only organizing the con, but for evaluating my 5th Glyph table. He did not have to do that and he quickly volunteered to do it as a favor to me which I greatly appreciate. I am hoping I get to return that favor by evaluating him or any of the GMs in his lodge when their time comes.

I am going to toot my own horn here and then David’s to a lesser extent, but I am also doing it to draw your attention to the Stars, Novas, and Glyphs that GMs earn by running tables. Okay, so I’m also doing it to brag, but hey! It is a big deal to me. Each of the three Organized Play campaigns has a GM recognition program going. There are five stages to each of the campaigns and each has their own special designation that GMs earn. Pathfinder Society First Edition GMs earn Stars, Starfinder GMs earn Novas, and Pathfinder Second Edition GMs earn Glyphs. These are visible on your Organized Play ID card and in the forums. GMs obtain the first four levels automatically by running and reporting games.

  • 1 Star, Nova, or Glyph = 10 GM credits
  • 2 Stars, Novas, or Glyphs = 30 GM credits
  • 3 Stars, Novas, or Glyphs = 60 GM credits 
  • 4 Stars, Novas, or Glyphs = 100 GM credits 

Each Scenario run Grants 1 credit. Quests grant 1/4 credit. Other products grant varying amounts of credits.

To earn 5 Stars, Novas, or Glyphs, a GM must fulfill the following criteria: 

  • Earn 150 GM credits
  • Run and report 50 unique adventures
  • Run and report 10 adventures with the Exclusive tag

Complete 3 evaluation games (1 for PFS1 GMs) in the presence of a venture-captain, regional venture-coordinator, or Paizo Organized Play staffer using the Organized Play rubric (see below).

Paizo recognizes all 5 Star, Nova, or Glyph GMs by name on blogs on

Organized Play Rubric

AspectDoes Not Meet ExpectationsMeets ExpectationsExceeds Expectations
The GM’s preparation allowed for smooth game flow.The GM had to check on information repeatedly throughout the session, and/or took long pauses to figure out what happens next.The GM had to check on things throughout, but the game did not experience extensive delays.The GM was able to keep the flow of the game consistent, and the GM dealt with unforeseen challenges by exercising skilled time management.
The GM had a solid understanding of the rules to the gameThe GM has basic rules knowledge, but frequent breaks or questions impacted the flow of the game. GM did not know the majority of the rules. GM defaulted to arbitrary ad hoc rulings. GM confused rules between game systems consistently. GM did not allow players to question GM rulings made at the table.The GM had average rules knowledge, and questions did not impact the flow of the game. GM knew the most common rules of the game well and and GM did not have confusion between game systems. GM allowed players to question GM rulings and resolved questions in a professional manner.The GM had solid rules knowledge, and kept the game flowing while handling questions. GM acknowledged when a rule is unclear or when the GM made a mistake. GM did not have confusion between game systems. If a rules challenge arose, the GM handled it fairly and consistently.
The GM took efforts to make the game distinct and interesting.The GM made little attempt at tying in setting, NPCs, or imagery to convey an imaginative setting. GM did not provide opportunities for players to engage with the storyline.The GM made a reasonable effort to make the game distinct in at least one meaningful way, such as deeply roleplaying the NPCs, using setting specific terms and lore to increase immersion, or using words with imagery to describe the environment, situations.The GM put in an excellent effort to make the game distinct, using multiple techniques off the “meets expectation” list.
GM presented the scenario as written.The GM followed the gist of the storyline but adjusted content. The GM did not run encounters as written. The GM ran the wrong sub-tier encounters.The GM ran the adventure as written. The GM did not allow for creative solutions by the PC to resolve situations.The GM stayed true to the storyline while allowing for creative solutions and player interest.
The GM understood and applied the rules of the Organized Play Program.The GM was not familiar with core organized play concepts. GM was unfamiliar with the contents of the Guide.The GM was familiar with the majority of organized play concepts and applies the rules of organized play consistently. GM knows where to look up general guidelines in the Guide.The GM was markedly familiar with the majority of organized play concepts and applies the rules of organized play consistently. GM knew where to find obscure corner case answers in the Guide.
Pretty basic stuff there.

David Gilbert picked up his first PFS2 GM Glyph Saturday afternoon by running his 10th PFS2 table. That also happened to be his third PFS2 special which are often the hardest part to complete because they are usually only available through conventions. Congratulations, David!

When PFS2 was first announced I had just hit my third PFS1 Star. I was just beginning to ramp up my prolific GMing and I sort of kicked it in overdrive at that point. I wanted to be in on the ground floor of 2e and one of the first 5 Glyph GMs, but I needed to get that 5th Star too. In September of 2019 I picked up my evaluation running 10-00 The Hao Jin Cataclysm at Cog Con in Rolla. It was a very satisfying experience to earn that Star with those players and also with my peers because there were several 5 Star GMs running tables at that con. By that time I had already ran 21 tables of PFS2 and earned my first PFS2 Glyph.

What the past looks like at times

There were several players who wanted to earn the right to be the first PFS2 5 Glyph GM, but the problem with a new campaign was that there were no specials as of yet. The first one was 2-00 The King in Thorns which came out for Gen Con of 2020. However, as we all know, the pandemic has struck and this really changed how we all played and ran tables. It unfortunately still does to a lesser degree today. It made it easier if GMs ran online and could run specials online instead of at live cons which were being cancelled daily in 2020 and for the first part of 2021. Only now are we able to get back into live cons and even then only by requiring vaccinations and masks. Yes, Winter War required both. Everyone’s vaccination status was the first check at the registration table.

One of the cool things about PFS1 and earning those Stars was that 4 and 5 Star GMs were allowed to run special scenarios which were only available to them and Venture Officers. That meant you got a lot of invites to conventions. In the early days of PFS1, conventions would advertise that they had specific GMs with 4 and 5 Stars coming to run those games. Those GMs were literally walking attractions who gave Star status to conventions. I’m not kidding you, players went to conventions just to play those games because that was the only way most could get into those tables.

As of yet, PFS2 does not have any scenarios that can only be ran by a 4 or 5 Glyph GM. Starfinder only has one at this point and it is in Season 4. That’s about the point where PFS1 started to put out some special scenarios and that went on into Season 8 if I recall correctly. It was during Season 9 that PF2 was announced and no more Star specific scenarios came out after that. The main problem is that you have to have enough GMs to run them to justify creating them. Back in the early days of PFS1 they had different rules for earning the Stars and they eventually codified to what they are today. As of the last Paizo Organized Play Update on January 6th, we only had four 5 Glyph GMs.

That is going to change this month because at least one more GM reached their 5th Glyph Saturday morning. There could be some others who completed the requirements as well over the last month. I have a friend in Virginia who just needs a few specials and a couple evaluations. Getting the 150 games is not the most difficult part if you run online, but you can do it live as well if you want to drive. With three lodges in the League of Aroden and two more in the planning stages, picking up a lot of games can be done. In any event, I am proud to announce that I earned my 5th Glyph Saturday morning. Thank you to every player who ever sat at any of those 181 tables of PFS2 I ran in getting to that point. Thank you to every GM whose table I have been at. Thank you to my evaluators who took time out of their schedule to do the evaluation and fill out the paperwork. You see, it’s not just the GM running the games. It is everyone who offered suggestions and constructive criticism that helped me reach this point.

With all that said, I want to acknowledge our roster of active GMs in the League of Aroden. We are truly blessed to have an abundance of GMs in our area. I know of so many VOs out there who wish they could have half the number of GMs we have. That would be twice or even three times the number of GMs they have available. Not only do we have the quantity, but we have quality GMs as well. To be a good GM, one has to be willing to throw themself in front of others and to make embarrassing mistakes. One has to reveal they do not know nearly as much as others think they know. But one has to be willing to learn, not just the rules, but to learn from their mistakes in making decisions. One has to have the desire to improve and the flexibility to acknowledge their imperfections so they can learn from those mistakes. Believe it or not, but some people struggle with that. My point here is that if players want good GMs, they need to help them learn and grow. Again, we are blessed to have GMs willing to learn and grow. I think that reflects well of them and of our players.

Of the 11 active GMs in the League of Aroden, we have four who have at least one of the Stars, Novas, and Glyphs. David Gilbert has 1 Glyph, Stephen Ingram has 3 Stars and 2 Novas, and Bill McQuegge has a Star and a Glyph. There are other inactive GMs with Stars who hopefully will return to GMing now and then once the pandemic is over. I may not have everyone listed correctly on my list, so if I left anyone off this short list, I apologize. I am expecting this list to grow over 2022. Our first GM Academy had six GMs at it and I am pretty sure all six will have their first Glyphs this year and maybe even their second. I am hoping to get Starfinder restarted as well so we can see some Novas in that list too.

Who will be the next GM to earn a Glyph or a Nova? It could be you!

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