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Old 05-02-2020, 06:09 PM
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I'd like to follow up on this wall of text will a little bit about combat. I also give my players the DC to hit their target, so they can describe whether they hit and roll for damage, and describe what they're doing to the antagonist, but keep the actual hits points a secret. As for initiative, in the past I just DM-ruled it out but the way Aeth described it really sounds great, so I'm going to take that and try that, and we'll see where it goes. I think initiative is also driven by the type of game you're running, and whether the characters would be the aggressors or not. In the game I'm crafting, players being the aggressors is a lower change than being attacked, so that'll have repressions in how I handle initiative, compared to a game where I'm expecting the PCs to be on the attack - in the latter, I just hand-wave init because they're heroes. It's a small boon to give to players to help empower them (which is great when they're fighting unusual creatures that they've may've never encountered before, as a player).

The other combat thing I'll use is telling everyone the "status" of each enemy in a combat encounter. Here's the table I use, which I lifted off of Elfman6, who in turn took it from... mountainbound or Ronars or someone like that. One of those mythological entities we see around from time to time.

Enemy StatusCumulative damage against any enemy is listed in the Combat Notes at the bottom of a post. To give players an idea of how badly wounded a creature is, without giving away its total max HP, I use the following descriptions:

Undamaged... creature is at max HP.
Unconscious... creature has been dealt its max nonlethal damage, and is unconscious for 1d4 hours, or 1d10 minutes when someone attempts to revive said creature.
Wounded... creature has been damaged, but is still above 30% max HP.
Seriously Wounded... creature is close to or has dropped below 30% max HP.
Dead (or Destroyed)... creature is either dead or so close to dead that it no longer poses a serious threat to the party.

Additionally, you will be given the AC of the foe needed to be overcome by your attack roll in order to damage the creature.

As for unconscious, that's something that I modified into PF1e, so the characters could have an alternative to straight killing an NPC, and I'll be modding it into PF2e if they haven't built in something usable. Especially if you want stealth encounters or use a sub-system like reputation, it seems better to provide a means to players to incapacitate opponents.
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Last edited by Atalla Wanderer; 05-02-2020 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 05-07-2020, 08:33 PM
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Excellent points, all.

On the topic of zone-based combat, I'd like to submit the variation used in the first iteration of D20 Star Wars from WotC. They used an interesting range-band and compass-pivot system for starship combat and maneuvering. It made piloting an intrinsic aspect of combat, so it wasn't just a straight ranged attack at X range increment, but also the potential to out-maneuver your opponent or experience greater difficulty as a result of flubbing the motion. It was far from perfect, but it was very interesting.

Mars' post gave me a good think about the role of tables in RPGs. In meat-space RPGs, and even real-time virtual settings, there are few things less interesting than a core mechanic of roll-flip-reference index-flip-reference table-describe result. A lot of amazing design has gone into streamlining the real-time experience to minimize reference-time and increase active participation between players and GMs in manipulating game mechanics.

However, PbP is not meat-space, and rarely played in real-time.

Games that use bidding/bargaining and other forms of active agency-economy can bog down PbP with the lag-time between posts. This is similar to the problem of the roll-and-wait form of RP that people have had to get clever about to overcome. Meanwhile, the need to avoid referencing tables to speed up gameplay doesn't exist for PbP. I would go so far as to say that ease of creating, navigating, referencing, and modifying tables is actually a strength of the PbP format.

I've been playing the Dawn of Worlds game mentioned in a previous post, as run by MarsComulus. It's a fun, simple game in which payers take on the roles of gods to create a fantasy world and history. The basic mechanics are: you roll dice at the beginning of the round, which gives you a number of points. You then spend (or just bank) those points on a simple table of powers that let you change the world as a fantasy deity would. You spend the points, the thing happens. Nothing can interfere with what you've created except other players spending points to mess with your work, or the GM acting as an agent that spends points against you. This simple exchange rate works well to represent god-level power dynamics.

There would need to be more complexity, opposition, and room for failure in a more regular RPG experience, but the fundamentals are there and work really well for a PbP game. This is especially true when combined with the agreement that the game being played is focused on creating a fun story, rather than focused on "winning." Tables could be organized by thread, and sub-categorized by folder. Each round players could spend dice, based on attribute/skill and type by rolling them to specific table threads, thus recording the result in an easily-trackable way. With this setup, character stats would revolve around what dice are available to spend and what tables are available to them by situation. This could include the potential to roll against cool-thing and bad-thing tables as the mechanical economy dictates.

I'm super intrigued by this idea. It's a lot of front-loaded work (especially creating an initial selection of action-result tables), but that's always true of a good RPG.
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Old 05-08-2020, 11:03 AM
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@orcbane, your talk of tables, applied to my favorite game makes me think of this.

In Monster of the Week, an PbtA game, almost all of the basic moves follow the (previously mentioned) format roll 2d6+ability mod. 10+ is a success, 7-9 is a mixed success, 6 or less is a miss, the GM makes a hard move (not always a "failure" of the attempted move, sometimes a "be careful what you wish for.." outcome). But some of the moves have lists of effects and glitches, usually the player chooses the effects and the GM chooses the glitches (glitches come into effect on mixed success).

Here's an example of such a move. As a note, I'm copy/pasting from a document that I've put together for my own purposes as a GM so it also includes some notes that don't appear on the official player's reference materials. My added notes specifically help to cue me when arbitrating a result of a 6 or less. Also as a note, to folks unfamiliar with the system, this is by far the wordiest of all of the basic moves.

Use MagicWhen you use magic, say what you’re trying to achieve and how you do the spell, then roll +Weird.
On a 10+, the magic works without issues: choose your effect.
On a 7-9, it works imperfectly: choose your effect and a glitch. The Keeper will decide what effect the glitch has.
Advanced: On a 12+ the Keeper will offer you some added benefit. (the ability to use Advanced basic moves are an advanced character improvement choice)
• Inflict harm (1-harm ignore- armour magic obvious).
• Enchant a weapon. It gets +1 harm and +magic.
• Do one thing that is beyond human limitations.
• Bar a place or portal to a specific person or a type of creature.
• Trap a specific person, minion, or monster.
• Banish a spirit or curse from the person, object, or place it inhabits.
• Summon a monster into the world.
• Communicate with something that you do not share a language with.
• Observe another place or time.
• Heal 1-harm from an injury, or cure a disease, or neutralize a poison.
• The effect is weakened.
• The effect is of short duration.
• You take 1-harm ignore-armour.
• The magic draws immediate, unwelcome attention.
• It has a problematic side effect.
The Keeper may say that...
• The spell requires weird materials.
• The spell will take 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or 1 minute to cast.
• The spell requires ritual chanting and gestures.
• The spell requires you to draw arcane symbols.
• You need one or two people to help cast the spell.
• You need to refer to a tome of magic for the details.

6 or less: Magic is reversed/off the wall effects: portals open, change the nearby laws of physics, etc. (This prompt is paraphrased from the core book but it's not usually on the reference sheet in front of the players)

In the campaign that I just started running on RPGx I'm concerned about how to handle the back and forth that usually happens with the arbitration of a mixed success for all the usual, momentum-killing, PbP reasons. However, perhaps in a PbP optimized system, the glitches are a rollable table or they are left to the players to decide upon seeing the result of their roll. Maybe the players even write some portion of their own table of glitches upon character creation.

Furthermore, perhaps in a PbP optimized system the player also has access to some sort of a similar prompt that cues how to narrate their "Miss" on a 6 or less as opposed to the GM/Keeper always doing it.

**I'm sorry for the super long post, and I'm sorry that some of it retreads some previously covered ground by myself and others but recent posts have expanded some of my thoughts.**
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Last edited by Baefild; 05-08-2020 at 11:09 AM.
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Old 05-15-2020, 08:16 PM
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Here's a little bit of the basic ideas I've been exploring.

Fundamental mechanic:
Roll 1+ dice against a specified table
The rolled result = number of points to spend on that table
A table will offer a variety of effects, each with a related point-cost
The player can spend all of their points on one (more more) effects, spend some points a save the rest to the table for future use, or save all of the points to the table for future use

I'm also tinkering with an attribute system that goes a little something like this:

Attribute Green: Factor A / Factor B
Attribute Orange: Factor A / Factor B
Consequences: Complication / Misfortune / Harm

Each Attribute and Consequence would have a die value associated with it. A player can roll one Attribute Factor Die (AFD) for free each round. If they want to roll a second AFD, they would also have to roll a Consequence Die (CD). If a player wanted to roll all 4 AFD, they would also have to roll all 3 CD. No AFD or CD may be rolled twice in the same round.

Players would roll AFD against Action Tables. Each Action Table would offer a menu of Effects with related AFD-point costs. Basic Effects would cost an amount of AFD-points of a single color, while Advanced Effects would cost an amount of Green AFD-points and an amount of Orange AFD-points. Once AFD have been rolled against a table, they can be spent or saved against that table at the player's discretion.

CDs are rolled against unique tables. There will be a variety of Consequence Tables for the 3 types of CDs, and further divided by activity-appropriate categories. A player can choose to spend all of the rolled CD-points against the appropriate table, spend some and save some, or save all of them against that table. The GM may, at any point, spend player-saved CD-points as part of the narrative.

Character creation and advancement would revolve around the naming conventions and values of these dice, the tables that the player has access to, and possibly even character-specific modifications to the tables.

I'm playing around with the scaling and power dynamics of this setup, including the die-value and amount rolled, variety of Attributes and Factors, relative value of Consequences, and other avenues of deploying these ideas.

I am still concerned with the fun-factor of this kind of system, but I'm really starting to believe that it could work, even if the ideas I'm applying to it aren't necessarily the best. One of the critical challenges and opportunities of this would be the creation and customization of the tables. It would require a good bit of work to build the starting tables and fundamental maths, but could also prove to be a lot of fun in the realm of customization.
How would you design an RPG for PbP? Share your ideas HERE!
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Old 05-16-2020, 07:13 AM
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So I was just exposed to the Star Wars: Age of Rebellion system. I think they refer to the mechanics as GeneSys? And hoo boy that seems to be a pretty great system for PbP since you roll and can know if an action succeeds or not and what additional things are allowed. I need to get this system in some form and read more on it, but it seems almost perfect.
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Old 05-16-2020, 03:54 PM
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I am planning a game myself (the first PbP game I have ever tried to do), but am seriously trepid about the prospect of a combat encounter taking weeks or more to resolve. The matter is made worse by my intent to use a highly nuanced system, the Hero System. That game system allows the most extraordinary flexibility in character design (point buy) but it also has a highly tactical combat resolution system that would most certainly bog down if implemented in PbP using initiative ranked turns, map movement, and players rolling all requisite dice.

Here is what I have written for what I am currently planning. I'd love to get feedback from the posters here about this.

This is a Play By Post game (PBP). That creates both an opportunity and a problem. PBP is fantastic for roleplaying, really accentuating that aspect of play. PBP is truly dreadful if attempting any sort of complex combat, all the more so for a detailed system like Hero. While role playing can easily proceed at a pace equal to the desire of the participants, a combat could just as easily take weeks (or longer) to resolve. I intend to resolve the problem of combat taking so long by handling most of the mechanics out of game, and narrating the result.

The current plan (which I may modify) is to resolve the action in three 'theater of the mind' narrative 'acts'. When a fight is about to start, the players will have the opportunity to describe their intent as to how they will proceed, and any unusual tactics they intend to employ. I will then adjudicate how the initial engagement proceeds, essentially gaming out in each 'act' the mechanics using the rules of the Hero System with the character sheets in hand. I will assume the best possible tactics on the part of the players based on anything they have already outlined. I will endeavor to game out what I believe will be one third of the fight duration. Players will roll no dice.

That done I will make a post narratively describing how the combat has proceeded thus far, describing any damage the characters have witnessed, both their own and what they can see of their opponents. The players then have an opportunity to describe their actions and any changes they might wish to make to their tactics. This will be followed by the GM gaming out the second phase of the fight, and then coming back with a post narrating the results of that.

The players then of course may post their reactions, tactics and intention for the upcoming third and final part of the encounter. The fight will then be resolved to it's conclusion followed by a post narrating those results. Play will then proceed roleplaying as normal.

Another thing I want to make players aware of is while that experience points in most tabletop games are often awarded largely based upon the power of the opponents the players have vanquished, I intend to award most XP in this PBP game for quality of posting and advancing the narrative. To an extent, frequency of posts will also help, as long as the quality is maintained. So someone consistently making quality posts but doing so more frequently than someone else 'also' consistently making quality posts but doing so less frequently, the one posting more frequently will earn more XP. Spamming posts, or writing long tedious tracts of lower quality will not aid XP, and if it gets bad enough to detract from the game, could actually reduce XP.
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Old 05-18-2020, 03:28 AM
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I haven't had a read through this thread yet (though, it looks interesting!). but Aethera asked me to post this, so here are some thoughts (specifically around running big groups on PbP)

(i) The secret to having 20+ players at once is to divide them into groups. Then, you're not really running a game for 20+ players, but 5+ games for 4 players! Much easier to handle!

(ii) Over-drafting by a few (say, 8 players for a 5 player game) is something I would always recommend. It helps with the initial drops, it gives more of a solid core to continue with, and it allows you to update at a set regular point, even if everyone hasn't updated. For example, running a combat for 8 characters, you can build it for 5, and update once a given time has expired, even if only 5 out of 8 PCs have responded. It remains roughly balanced (and if all PCs post, then it's just a bit easy for them), it maintains momentum, and it doesn't cause people stress over having to get a post in, if life's kicked them on that particular day / week.

(iii) something not mentioned in my other post, but worthwhile here: for PbP, use initiative as a DC. I average out monsters initiatives, assume they rolled a 10 (round down), and get PCs to roll against this score. Any who beat it go first; then I update the monsters; then all the PCs go. The cycle thus continues (all PCs, all monsters). Effectively, what I am doing is updating mid-round each round, but how it plays out is those who act before the monsters get a "bonus" round, then all PCs act together.

Also, once initiative is rolled, actions are purely done in posting order, unless people want to delay (I don't want to slow things down - so whoever posts first acts first; but, I don't want to slow things down, o if you want to delay for another PC, or act depending on what they do - post *now*, and give some options of what you want to do).

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