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Patrick Zoch
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A question suggested by

Roger Hobden
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Play by Forum Preventative Etiquette: What to do to prevent GMs or players from vanishing from PbFs without a trace without any explanation whatsoever?


Do you have a question you want asked as QOTD? Post here!

And if you want to find an old QOTD: The big QOTD Summary and Subscription Thread Volume 3
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Patrick Zoch
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I do not know if there is really a good answer for this question because I am not sure if there is anything that can be done. Nonetheless, I decided to bring it forward as a QOTD in case someone else has better insights.

The below thread has some really good tips on running a PbF. Running a good PbF is a good part of keeping people in the PbF game:
Tips For Running A PbF From An Old Tortoise Of Gaming


JIm's fantastic geeklist does tons to inform players of what to expect in each PbF game. While it may be overwhelming amount of information, it does tell the novice (and experienced) the basics of all the rulesets and how each game will function on PbF.
I Love Play-by-Forum (And So Can You!) -- Quick-Start Game Formatting for GMs and Players


In the end, it comes down to the group relationship. I kinda view PbF games like the open tables in the FLGS. You never know who is going to show up to play and you hope they make every session. Sometimes, they don't, you don't know why, and the games starts to fall apart. I think many PbF players know who the regulars are and who the new players are. The experienced PbF players tend to let everyone know why they have to leave the game, but that is not always the case. Notice that I said that even an experienced, well-known PbF players leaves a game. Life happens: work, health, death, births, financial, family, conflicts, (even romance! yay!), and many other important events or life crises require a player or GM to bow out of the PbF. I make no judgement if they disappear -- because I do not know the situation that caused the drop. And frankly, the PbF game does not trump life events. Its just a game.

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I'm not saying I am personally in favor of this, but banning such people from participating in future PbF games might prove to be an effective method.
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Rebus Carnival
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Why do you want to stop anyone from doing what they want to do?

I have had the same module fall to pieces with the same DM 3 times in 2 years. If he came back (as he likely will) to run it again, I would probably sign up a fourth time.

For advice, I would suggest pbf is not especially well suited for the traditional, long form RPG experiences that we get in person. There are many games better designed for this sort of play. This will not stop me from signing up for the next B/X module, but I do so knowing that it will almost certainly end prematurely. Folks that don't think they can commit should consider these short form games, which are often much more rewarding than the long slog.

Don't take it personally.
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Paul T
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What Patrick said!
Stuff happens. Additionally there are new games you try that don't fit your style or the system proves a bad fit for your preferred gaming experience. State your apologies and reasons and bow out. If you can do that at a thematically opportune moment in the game so much the better. It only takes a few minutes to write out a short explanation in OOC and add a farewell post for a character IC.
As for those that just stop... Things happen so again I defer to Patrick's post above.
As regards banning I wouldn't go that far myself. Anyone who frequents PbFs for any length of time gets to know the dynamics of those they share the forums with and build experience of different players styles. You bank that knowledge as you go along and apply it when you look to start or join new games. Dare I say that you also get to know those whose staying power might not be as robust as others? In which case your experience dictates whether you decide to be involved in such games.

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Roger Hobden
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What surprised me the most after now a year of gaming using PbF or Play by Post on RPGG or elsewhere, is the number of Game Masters that have simply dropped off from the map, without a word, leaving us players baffled and confused.

This does not appear to be related to the type of game, as for example medieval fantasy, both past or contemporary horror, and secret agent types of games have all been implicated in this phenomenon.

A half-dozen of GMs in about 15 games: that appears to me a very high proportion of GM drop-outs.

Except in one instance, there were no impending signs that things might turn out that way.

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I haven't run any pbf games yet:

The reason being the necessity of a PBF centered game system. Just like Larps, they're not table top. All the parameters are different and this includes the eventual disappearance of players.

So if the system somewhat lets players come in and out as they can(wish) then you probably got something there.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Another reason is that text is not my medium. What I try to say gets interpreted in weird ways... my fault.

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Paul T
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Games Mastering is the toughest and most time consuming job in PbF (or any RPG for that matter) so I would expect that position to be the most at risk from external time and commitment pressures? I don't GM because I know I don't have the steady consistent time to devote to it or the right skill set.
Players can take a 'time out' or 'tick over the PC engine' a lot easier than a GM. I have bursts of PC creativity and input but things crop up where it means I have to reign back my PC input to a lower level because I don't have the time to go full on detailed, flowery post mode!
Some GMs have life crop up or grow tired of the process or realize GMing isn't for them I suppose. It is a shame in those instances where people could give a reason, don't give reason, but as has been said it is just a question of not taking it personally and accepting it'll happen on occasion.

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sos1 wrote:
BRB AFK


Is the 21st century "dad just went out for a pack of smokes"?
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No one can predict the future and things will come up that may force a player or GM to drop out of a game. That's understandable. Letting the other participants know that you're about to drop out is good practice and should be done whenever possible. Sure, it's only a game, but recognize that others have made the same commitment as yourself and do them the courtesy of being up front about your intentions.

Every time we do a PbF Initiative, potential participants are asked in advance to be sure that they can commit the time to see it through. Almost every time we have a GM do a disappearing act without warning. It happens.

So, what can you do to limit this occurrence?

For potential GMs:

d10-1 It's easy to get swept up in the excitement of starting a game. Consider the weeks and months that will follow. Be honest with yourself.

d10-2 Be up front with your players. Let them know what sort of commitment they should be making as well. Make them aware of any house rules you'll be using. Give them some insight to the style of game you will be running. Let them know what kind of posting rate you're expecting!

d10-3 If this isn't the first game you've run, look back to previous games. Did you finish them? Did all of the players see it through until conclusion? Consider reaching out to one or more of those players when recruiting. While it's great to have open recruiting, there's nothing wrong with stacking the deck with a couple road tested players.

d10-4 If this is your first time running a PbF game, start small! Shoot for what would amount to a single session in real life. Shelf that epic campaign for now. Once you have one or two completed games under your belt you'll have a better idea of what it takes to get there and probably have a few reliable players that you can use to fill some of the spots in your campaign.

d10-5 When you do recruit players via a sign up thread, it's likely you'll get more responses than needed to fill the open seats. Stick to the number of players you originally aimed to recruit. Maybe you let one extra in. Let those who don't make the cut know that you'll put them on a reserve list in case someone does drop out. When a player does go missing, send them ONE geekmail to inquire as to why. Don't chase after them beyond that.


For players many of the same ideas apply.

d10-1 Make sure you're willing to commit the time it takes to participate. Consider the posting rate that your GM is shooting for and whether or not you can meet that. Realize that the game may take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. If the GM hasn't given you an idea of how long the game will take, ask them!

d10-2 Ask questions about the game. Will the GM be providing premade characters? If not, are there any restrictions on what characters you can build? Will you be required to purchase any materials or read any lengthy rules or will the rules be taught to you?

d10-3 Do some research. Is this the first game your GM has run via PbF? If not, what kind of track record do they have?

d10-4 Be up front with the GM. If you know that you'll be unavailable three months from now, make sure that's okay. If you do have to drop out, let them know right away.


Life is unpredictable and no one will argue that real life doesn't come first. No one will fault you from dropping from a game if you're up front about it. If you sign up to play in a game you're taking a virtual seat that someone else could have had. At least do the other players and the GM the courtesy of being honest about your intent to drop out so that they can fill the empty spot and keep moving.
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Chuck Dee
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I've only ever had this happen once, and my emotions to having it just disappear surprised me. It sucked. Especially as because of the platform, I lost my character and any connection to the other players. I just didn't expect it. And to add insult to injury, I had to just assume that's what happened because the platform just gave me a 404 when I tried to visit the game.

That said, as much as it was a bad experience, I don't think that there's anything you can do. Other than to not take for granted that everyone will be there, and try to get to know them outside of the gaming environment so that you can at least follow up to make sure that they're OK. Real Life happens, and what happened to the person that disappeared might have been out of their control.
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Roger Hobden
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sos1 wrote:
BRB AFK


And comes back twenty years later ...
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Mallet wrote:


What surprised me the most after now a year of gaming using PbF or Play by Post on RPGG or elsewhere, is the number of Game Maters that have simply dropped off from the map, without a word, leaving us players baffled and confused.


I have no suggestions for your problems, but I would like to point out that this is a cultural problem that is expanding. It turns out that people are "ghosting" their employers. Instead of telling their boss that they are quitting, they simply don't come to work. They do not respond to emails or phone calls.
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It's not preventable. Do try to make the game a positive experience for everyone, communicate, etc., and (as mentioned) don't take it personally.

As a GM, run games in such a way that players can leave and be replaced (or done without). If a game involves a prophecy a character is meant to fulfill, the losing that character's player is going to be inconvenient. Same if the characters are in the middle of nowhere with no possibility of meeting new allies. Just do what you can not to set the game in a precarious situation.
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William Hostman
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There really isn't a good way, IMO, that doesn't involve payments.
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aramis wrote:
There really isn't a good way, IMO, that doesn't involve payments.


This, or "everyone tells someone else a dark secret that would be revealed if they quit".

I would call this sort of defence "blackmail armor chainblackmail".

For the record, I played in about twelve PBFs in the 2000s. Maybe two came to a conclusion. I quit one because of a clash with the gm, for all others it came from disappearing players or the gm saying "I cannot carry this anymore". Today the forum is empty safe for two slumbering games.
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Peter Robben
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I don't know since I only play FtF.
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I have one real suggestion (although I enjoyed the sharing secrets and black mail suggestion!). I would suggest running a game with many mini-arcs on at least a vague schedule. This would push players and GMs to stay through that arc before quitting.

Personally, I get intimidated thinking I might play a game with strangers until the end of time with weeks of little progress so if a game starts slow on PbF, I tend to drop out. Although, I at least try to message that I am done and not ghost the game....although I have stopped playing for a week or so before I determined I would really drop out.

I also think just messaging players that have not responded for a few days is helpful to keep the game on track and also to show that you care about their engagement in the game.
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Make it socially acceptable to end a game. Even abruptly with little justification.

In my limited experience, it is quite common for people to have wildly different emotional investment in any game, especially PbF. There's little incentive to stick with something that doesn't interest you.

Too often in RPGs in general, there's a culture of the forever story. One GM, one campaign, regularly meeting, forever. That's just not realistic. Things change. Things end just like things start.

If you're really into it, you need to step up and keep it going yourself. With those present who want to. Or new recruits.

But nothing is forever.
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aramis wrote:
There really isn't a good way, IMO, that doesn't involve payments.


People find new jobs.
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Mallet wrote:
A half-dozen of GMs in about 15 games: that appears to me a very high proportion of GM drop-outs.


The solution if you want to continue? Your character becomes an NPC and you take on the mantle of GM. Don't want to?

Now you know why they quit.
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aramis wrote:
There really isn't a good way, IMO, that doesn't involve payments.


Wait, like GG escrow accounts? or cash?


... or dare I say GG tontines?

Last one in the PbF takes all.
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Caroline Berg
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Emperors Grace wrote:
aramis wrote:
There really isn't a good way, IMO, that doesn't involve payments.


Wait, like GG escrow accounts? or cash?


... or dare I say GG tontines?

Last one in the PbF takes all.

Sounds like a Fiasco scenario!
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Caroline Berg
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...124 to run fleeing from the mountain. ...125 to use a rope to climb the cliff. ...126 to quickly cast "summon stairs." ...127 to dodge under the falling rocks.
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I've had GMs and players vanish, some for known reasons, some for unknown. Known reasons sometimes were telegraphed before, sometimes were mentioned in a hasty e-mail after right before they deleted their RPGG account.

There have been a wide variety of reasons, and, as much fun as PbF games are: personal health and real life do come first. If you need to drop out for health reasons or to spend more time with loved ones, I totally get it.

I might grumble a bit, but I've had GMs peace out in real life too (stop coming with no warning, year later e-mail from states away). So it's not like this issue is only in PbF games.
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