Hi Pathfinders and Starfinders,
It’s us, your local organizers! We wanted to share a brief update with all of you regarding COVID-19 and how we might be impacted.
As you are no doubt aware, the emergence in humans of a new coronavirus is leading to disruptions worldwide. You’re probably familiar with the name COVID-19, which refers to the disease the virus causes. You might also see the virus referred to as SARS-CoV-2, which is the proper name of the virus itself.
The disease is minor in a majority of sufferers, but for some people, the disease is serious and results in inability to breathe unaided and subsequent hospitalization. The overall mortality rate appears to be low, but even so, estimates do place the mortality rate higher than many other comparable diseases such as influenza.
We shouldn’t panic, but the threat posed by the virus is real and should be taken seriously. If you would like to stay informed, there are many good sources of information:
- PA Department of Health
- US Centers for DIsease Control and Prevention
- A deeper dive on the virus from Ars Technica
Coronavirus in Western Pennsylvania
As of this writing, there have been ten confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, all of which are several hours east of us or further. However, there is very good evidence for what’s known as “community transmission” in the U.S., primarily in Washington state. Community transmission means that the virus is being spread silently in the community. That—combined with the very limited testing that has been available—are indicators that the exact geographic progression of the virus is unknown.
All publicly available estimates of the current risk in Western Pennsylvania is low. That does not mean that we will not be impacted; simply that we are unlikely to come into contact with the virus at this time.
What does this mean for gaming?
The widespread transmission of the coronavirus has led to the cancellation or postponement of a number of public events to date, but has yet to impact Pennsylvania. Measures that may be put in place by health authorities include cancellation of public events, or the avoidance of crowds or air travel. Other organizations, like your employer, may take other steps like asking you to work from home if you are able. The University of Pittsburgh and other local universities are examining the possibility of moving classes online should the virus appear in the area.
At this stage, we don’t know and cannot easily predict when we will be affected, but it is very likely that we will be affected at some point.
COSCON (March 20th-22nd)
We don’t know and can’t say whether Coscon will run at full capacity. It’s entirely possible that existing measures will contain the outbreak long enough for us to enjoy our convention. It is, however, also possible that the coronavirus’s spread will be fast enough that we will be impacted, either with reduced attendance or with the cancellation of the event altogether.
As of Friday, the Circle of Swords was not making contingency plans due to the uncertainty. They are monitoring the situation and will respond as they feel appropriate.
Those of us leading the Pittsburgh chapter of the Organized Play Foundation are also keeping abreast of new developments. As of this time, we are planning for the convention to proceed as planned and with full attendance. However, should events lead to a significant reduction in attendance or the cancellation of Coscon 2020, we are examining the possibility of running some of our scheduled games online.
In the event of interruption, all GMs receiving their GM boons for PFS1 and SFS as expected, even if their tables do not happen, or if they need to cancel their appearance at the convention due to coronavirus concerns. We are at this point unable to provide comparable PFS2 credit due to differences in how the system is administered.
If you need to cancel your attendance due to health concerns, please let us know as soon as you reasonably can!
We do not have immediate plans to run make-up games for other conventions (primarily Tekko) should they be affected.
Local Game Days
Although we do not know when, it is very likely that we will need to cancel our in-person game days at some point in the future. We are tentatively planning to schedule gaming sessions online during the expected disruption.
How Can I Play Pathfinder or Starfinder Online?
There are a number of approaches to playing online. The approach that translates most easily to in-person play is one that uses a virtual tabletop, or VTT, to display the map to participants. The most popular VTT in the Pathfinder and Starfinder communities is a free web application called Roll20. (It has paid tiers, but basic membership is free.) A member of the Organized Play community has written a guide to getting acclimated to Roll20:
Another approach is to play at a slower pace in writing. Commonly done on forums or in other text communication tools like Discord, this format is known as Play-by-Post. (The Discord variant is becoming known as Play-by-Discord.)
Should we move to online gaming, we expect to schedule games on Roll20, since it has a free version and games on a VTT are the closest parallels to the in-person experience.
Once the disruption is over, we anticipate fully returning to in-person games.