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RPG» Forums » Actual Play » Play by Forum

Subject: Play by post: timing for DM rss

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King of the Dead
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I’m sure there’s probably a massive tome of knowledge about this somewhere that I haven’t bothered to look for, so, first off: sorry for being lazy.

Having said that...

What are some good ways of handling cross posts for the next “turn” in a play by post game?
Onviusly not talking about combat with structured turns and initiative.
But about exploration and RP aspects of the game.

Like, what if someone is online when I am (I’d be running it) and they just post a bunch of shit. Can I just run with them, basically ignoring the wants and plans of the other players since they’re not there?

That seems shitty. And a good way to lose players pretty fast.

Is there an established format or protocol to handle everyone getting a say before the next “play” by the DM goes into effect with decisions made by the party?

Thanks in advance for any advice or links to places talking about this.
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Cagey McCageface
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I usually recommend people thumb a post once they've read it. If they don't then post, I know they're caught up but don't have anything they want to contribute. It doesn't solve your problem completely, but can help.

I've also been in situations like you describe and have run with one or two players posting quickly, usually until they hit an inflection point. Then I would say, 'ok, let's make sure everyone's on board before we move on'.
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If I have a player who tends to dominate discussion, I’ll post something asking the other characters for actions/input/etc. Sometimes this also means explicitly telling the dominating player that I am waiting on everyone else’s response before continuing. Sometimes this means no, you did not open that door yet, or an npc looks at the rest of the group expectantly.

There’s no perfect method. PbF is somewhat unstable in the first place, sometimes people have to drop for days/months/forever, so I find it best to keep SOMETHING happening so the game doesn’t feel like it’s dying out
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Well

That makes intuitive sense and I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that...


I’ve also seen things about rules about minimum posts per day, but that seems weird. I like the thumb idea better.
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Unknown Ediology
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The one-post-per-day rule, for me, is just a way of announcing to players that I'd like things to move quickly; and it puts the players on notice that I will move on without them, if they are slow. It isn't a hard rule.

That being said, most folks I've met via PbF usually announce when they are going to be posting at a slower rate.

I usually use the once per day post rule along with the thumbs. Just so things won't wither away.
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Oliver S
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jmayDET wrote:
I usually recommend people thumb a post once they've read it. If they don't then post, I know they're caught up but don't have anything they want to contribute.


I've seen this and I think it's a good practice, generally.

I do think that if it's a short back-and-forth around a series of connecting actions - searching a room produces an object that can be examined, and the results of the examination described, etc. - you can just run that out with one player without really waiting. It's sort of how it plays out around a physical table - an exchange like that doesn't need everyone's approval, and if you can do it quickly because a certain player is online at the same time as you, it can help the pace of the game a lot.
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Unknown Ediology wrote:
The one-post-per-day rule, for me, is just a way of announcing to players that I'd like things to move quickly; and it puts the players on notice that I will move on without them, if they are slow. It isn't a hard rule.

That being said, most folks I've met via PbF usually announce when they are going to be posting at a slower rate.

I usually use the once per day post rule along with the thumbs. Just so things won't wither away.


Aaaahhhh. Ok, that does make sense and now I’m back on board with it.
I didn’t understand what was meant by that when I’d first read it.
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Jeff Woodman
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This same idea plays in when one character is more central for a scene as well, I'm likely to play a back and forth hushed conversation between a player and an NPC as quickly as that player posts since the scene rotates around them, until the scene moves on.
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King of the Dead
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oberon166 wrote:
I do think that if it's a short back-and-forth around a series of connecting actions - searching a room produces an object that can be examined, and the results of the examination described, etc. - you can just run that out with one player without really waiting. It's sort of how it plays out around a physical table - an exchange like that doesn't need everyone's approval, and if you can do it quickly because a certain player is online at the same time as you, it can help the pace of the game a lot.


That totally makes sense.
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Jeff Woodman
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oh, and most games I've played in relax the one post per day rule over the weekend, something to keep in mind.
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Ok, this is all great.
Really gives me a better idea of how to do this.

I actually tried to play some PBF games here and it didn’t work out. That was years ago.

Now I want to try to get together a PBF on a discoed with some friends. With the idea that we can PBF most of the time, but switch to discord voice (or google hangouts or whatever) every once in a while using the dice bot for the crunch, assuming we can all get together on the same time slot.
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The thinking is that if we can keep the game going, however slowly, on PBF, then switch to real time voip, that can make the game go quick but keep the interest up during the non fave to face time.
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Jeff Woodman
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There's some interesting things you can do in PbF that are more difficult in person, like hidden information/plots points. You can easily drop into a series of geekmails or sub-forums to play out something hidden from the other players, remind them of possible boons or banes that may come into effect at certain moments.

Stuff like a Warlocks patron suddenly 'getting involved' or a player going through some kind of withdrawl.
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Jamie Tang
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There are players who post frequently and ones who are less chatty. Just occasionally remind both ends that everyone has actions. Sometimes you have to do this with in-person games. The thumbing is really helpful and I occasionally check that the quiet ones have logged in recently.

Set expectations: daily, 3x/week, weekly. Ask if they have a default action. In my first ever play by post, I was a paladin so every room was [enter, cast detect evil, smite if necessary] with role play as needed. The player whom I wonder is following along in my current game does the thumbing, happily reads along, has a default action, and once rushed headlong into battle which drove things forward handily.

I think your idea of linking occasional play by voice with play by post is fantastic.
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Nazhuret wrote:
What are some good ways of handling cross posts for the next “turn” in a play by post game?
Onviusly not talking about combat with structured turns and initiative.
But about exploration and RP aspects of the game.

Exploration and combat are roleplaying. But I guess you mean "interaction" roleplaying as opposed to exploration or combat roleplaying.

Nazhuret wrote:
Like, what if someone is online when I am (I’d be running it) and they just post a bunch of shit. Can I just run with them, basically ignoring the wants and plans of the other players since they’re not there?

That seems shitty. And a good way to lose players pretty fast.

Momentum in play-by-post (and at the table, but especially in play-by-post) is like gold, so if someone moves the game ahead, I generally want to use that, or at least not go backwards.

The way I see it is that if a player hasn't clearly and explicitly stated a "want or plan," then it doesn't need to be considered, mainly because it can't be. If someone says they bust down a door and someone else says "Wait, I wanted to cast invisibility first!" well, they can't. They can cast it after the door has been busted down, but the door has been busted down, because someone wrote that the door has been busted down. Things written down are true, and things not written down are not yet true.

In my games, I try to mitigate this by giving players a lot of control (and also by avoiding choices like whether or not to kick in a door), to the point that they might know what the coming danger is because they helped create it. I also try to build their trust in me as DM that no matter what happens to their characters, I want the game to be fun for them. This is because I feel that most discussion between players is about each one of them trying to make the game fun for themselves and each other. If the wizard wants to block the barbarian from rushing into a fight, it's in large part because the wizard player is worried that the barbarian's action will lead to deaths of everyone's characters, which tends not to be fun. If the players can trust that the game will be fun even if everyone's character dies, there's much less incentive to make sure everyone weighs in before taking action.

So, I try to make room for players' wants and plans, but not for any unspoken wants or plans, because we need to keep moving. I make this as clear as I can up front, so if players would prefer handling choices in a more democratic way they can decide against joining my game.

Nazhuret wrote:
Is there an established format or protocol to handle everyone getting a say before the next “play” by the DM goes into effect with decisions made by the party?

Nothing about play-by-post is established, nor should it be, beyond one's own playstyle.

I generally post a description about the current situation and what led up to it, and then I ask the players what they do about it. My standard approach is to give everyone about a day from my last post to weigh in, and then decide based on player responses and my own schedule whether or not to slide that further. Usually I make it 24 hours from some particular post, mine or someone elses.

Sometimes I'll get a sense for what everyone is doing and then I'll let them know that I will post soon. Sometimes someone posts after I'm started on something, and that's fine, but it might necessitate a slight revision of what I've written.

Quite often, though, it's difficult to get players to make a decision in part because everyone is worried about stepping on someone's preference. Players often write "Well, we could do this... or this. What do you all think?" or "I'll go along with whatever the party decides." It's rare for anyone to say "We should do this," and even rarer for them to do anything that might keep anyone else from doing anything. I've never actually seen anyone kick in a door without taking a vote, even after everyone else has indicated that they're fine with anything.

So, bottom line, do everything you can up front not to cause the players regret making choices, or letting others make choices. If the party really is badly hurt, and the players discomfitted, when the barbarian kicks down the door, the DM has ensured that the next such situation will require a unanimous decision and that anything less will stress people out. It's highly likely that one or more of one's players has already had a DM do something like that to them, meaning you might have to retrain their impulses for your game. It can be done, though.
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Chuck Dee
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I found 10 general rules, courtesy of Tony Lower-Basch, that I base my PbEM games around, and most of it would also apply to PbP, I'd think.

The Rules:

Quote:

1. Thou shalt not BLOCK.
2. Thou shalt always retain FOCUS.
3. Thou shalt not SHINE above thy fellow players.
4. Thou shalt not be a GAG.
5. Thou shalt be CHANGED by the world.
6. Thou shalt not WAFFLE.
7. When in doubt, BREAK THE ROUTINE.
8. To WIMP is to show thy true self.
9. He that tries to be CLEVER is not, while he that is clever, doesn’t try.
10. When thy faith is low, thy spirit weak, thy good fortune strained, and thy team losing, be comforted and smile, because IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!



A little more meaning to these - to BLOCK is to try to remove obstacles and conflict without resolving them, to FOCUS is to keep your primary concern on the characterization as it is much harder to establish when not face-to-face, to SHINE is to make your character impressive at the expense of others, and to GAG is similar, except on a level of not letting others talk. To be CHANGED is to work within the world, instead of using it as a backdrop, to WAFFLE is not to decide. To BREAK THE ROUTINE is to change up what you normally would do in a situation, and to WIMP is to take the easy way out to avoid conflict.

The reason that I find that these particular aspects are important is that there is a different dynamic in this paradigm than face-to-face gaming, which brings it more into the realm of creative writing, even with rules. And this should be encouraged; in situations like this, bad writing can bring a game down pretty quickly.
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chuckdee68 wrote:
A little more meaning to these - to BLOCK is to try to remove obstacles and conflict without resolving them,

It's interesting that you'd define it that way, since "removing obstacles" might seem like the opposite of blocking. It seems that "block" here is used in the improv sense of doing anything that keeps someone else's idea from working. The GM's idea is that there should be an obstacle or conflict, so removing that obstacle or conflict by something other than playing through it is a "block."

chuckdee68 wrote:
to WAFFLE is not to decide.

Agreed. This chokes pbp games.

chuckdee68 wrote:
To BREAK THE ROUTINE is to change up what you normally would do in a situation, and to WIMP is to take the easy way out to avoid conflict.

As I read it, there is a total of three strictures against not engaging in the conflict of the game, assuming "breaking the routine" is something someone does to get around something (as in "When you get to work this morning, you see that the building is on fire so--" "Oh, I wouldn't have gone to work this morning." Which is essentially a block.)

Its a separate discussion, but it should make one wonder why players might want to block the conflict in a game from affecting them and how, other than directives, one can convince them not to. I have thoughts, but like I said it's a different discussion.
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enduran wrote:
chuckdee68 wrote:
A little more meaning to these - to BLOCK is to try to remove obstacles and conflict without resolving them,

It's interesting that you'd define it that way, since "removing obstacles" might seem like the opposite of blocking. It seems that "block" here is used in the improv sense of doing anything that keeps someone else's idea from working. The GM's idea is that there should be an obstacle or conflict, so removing that obstacle or conflict by something other than playing through it is a "block."


A better way of putting what I wrote That's exactly what I meant. That also goes to the bit about being clever. Sometimes, instead of playing the game, people try to game the game. Especially in these types of mediums. That's sort of an admonition against doing that.

enduran wrote:

Its a separate discussion, but it should make one wonder why players might want to block the conflict in a game from affecting them and how, other than directives, one can convince them not to. I have thoughts, but like I said it's a different discussion.


I think that people can sometimes get into oneupmanship and the mindset of winning rather than solving a problem or creating a narrative. That's usually where you run into trouble.
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chuckdee68 wrote:
enduran wrote:
Its a separate discussion, but it should make one wonder why players might want to block the conflict in a game from affecting them and how, other than directives, one can convince them not to. I have thoughts, but like I said it's a different discussion.
I think that people can sometimes get into oneupmanship and the mindset of winning rather than solving a problem or creating a narrative. That's usually where you run into trouble.

I think you're right. It's not always easy for someone to see an upside to losing when one is faced with it. Anyone you talk to here would say that of course the risk of failure is important, because otherwise there's no "challenge." But many of those same people would be happy to explain how to all but eliminate the risk of failure in their game of choice, and to engage in that approach when they play.

"It makes a better story" is an effective motivation for some players to take interesting risks, but I don't think that's the way to bet. Hence the approach of some games to try to directly reward players for making things harder for their characters. Oddly, these rewards tend to be in terms of ultimately making the character better.

In Fate, a player who gets their character into trouble can earn a fate point, which can be used to make the character better in a subsequent (or even the current) situation. In Dungeon World, characters who fail rolls (which can be more easily accomplished by attempting things at which the character does not excel, or just otherwise pressing their luck) earn experience points, which allow the character to improve.

My approach is usually to just make failure much more likely by stacking the odds against the characters, and explaining and assuring and then demonstrating that even if they fail, we'll find a way to make the game enjoyable. I find it helps to give the opposition a goal other than killing the characters, so the characters can lose even if they don't die.
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enduran wrote:
I find it helps to give the opposition a goal other than killing the characters, so the characters can lose even if they don't die.


I think that's the reason that in most of these types of games, death is a shared decision rather than random chance. Sure, things lead to it, but when it comes down to it, there's some element of choice in whether to "shuffle off this mortal coil."
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