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  #16  
Old 04-23-2020, 04:03 PM
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I'm very new to RPGx, and am just in the beginning phases of GMing my first game here, but I've been thinking a lot about XP in general and I'm very excited to see how the XP system translates to PbP in the game I'm running. It's Monster of the Week, a Powered by the Apocalypse game. In MotW, players mark a point of experience every time their character rolls a 6 or less (usually a miss/failure/expose themselves to danger). When they've marked 5 points they take a character advancement, erase their experience marks, and continue playing (starting the count over). There are a few other ways of gaining XP too, but this is the main way.

I like this because leveling feels way more organic, and it feels like growth as if characters are learning from their mistakes. It also shifts emphasis away from the necessity of combat, which some systems seem to reward with greater primacy.

I'm scheming ways of homebrewing a similar advancement system to use in D&D 5e.
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  #17  
Old 04-23-2020, 04:50 PM
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Yeah, I think Nasrith's got it right. I've not played Gloomhaven but I think going with a more player based process for combat could cut down a lot of the issues, providing you have a group who are interested in writing a story rather than just playing a game, so to speak.

Perhaps it could be combined with a simplified dice system? like you get given all the monster info then roll a d6- 1 means it goes awful for you, 6 means it goes great for you, could fill in the middle points as you see fit or let players decide if you trust them.
I kinda did that here with a mini prompt, but you can see how you might adapt it to combat and say... 4="you slay the beast but sustain 2 injuries" or 2="you barely make it out alive" then let the players just do their thing! maybe have some special conditions for 1s and 6s?

great thread
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  #18  
Old 04-23-2020, 06:28 PM
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I agree, this is absolutely a great thread.

Regarding some of the combat-related issues, Scimmy and kingmonkey talked a bit about this on the most recent episode of their podcast. Which is of pretty darned good quality! Bravo to them.

I've really enjoyed the past few posts, and they've got my gears turning. I don't have anything worthwhile to add other than I like what you guys have done.
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Old 04-23-2020, 08:58 PM
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Heh love seeing this talked about! It’s something I’ve thought a lot about as well, pacing is the key issue it seems. Combat can slow things down, even massive Role play that doesn’t involve the entire party can slow things down. What’s a good way to always keep forward momentum and how do we bake that into a game for PbP I think is the thing to answer.
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  #20  
Old 04-23-2020, 11:33 PM
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For me the two things to creating and maintaining combat in a PBP game is:
  • Player Expectations
  • Pacing

For expectations, to be successful you can either meet your player's expectations of what the combat encounter will be like, exceed them, or subvert them. You can also fail them, which is obviously bad. All of the successful ones have benefits and drawbacks, and balancing those three are critical to success. The other half of that is knowing your players, and I think that's a lot more difficult in PBP, so as the DM you really have to go out of your way to talk to your players and figure out what page they're on, and there's a good chance that at any given time everyone in the game is on a different page.

So an example of exceeding expectations that I've experienced as a player and also used as a DM is having your character almost killed right out the gate - finding your group in that life or death situation ahead of when I was, and then my players were, expecting it to be. In fact, when I used it as a DM one of the players did drop into the negative and barely escaped death, which made finishing off the encounter even more dramatic for the other members of the group. Furthermore, the lead-up to both encounters were mundane - stealing a cart of supplies for my players, and shopping for starting gear when I was the player. The juxtaposition of starting game mundane and over-the-top combat really made the combat have a great impact, even in PBP - it made the experience worth it. But if the combat is always like, it becomes draining, which is what I experienced as a player. Writing combat is no easy feat, it takes a lot of energy - and most of the time in PBP it's a tactical combat scenario simply because the players have so much time to think. So if you're going to exceed expectations, do so with adequate recovery breaks in-between. You don't want the game to become grueling.

So this brings me to the second type, which is meeting expectations. If I'm running a group that's starting out, and they're out exploring a dungeon, they're not expecting any big baddies to be hiding in the first room. Leaning into their expectations can also create fun encounters - for example, tossing a glorified giant cricket their way, which pretty much takes one combat round to mop up. Especially if the characters are going from one puzzle or social section to the next, throwing in a combat encounter that meets their expectations will help balance the overall impact of the game section.

The third type is to subvert the player's expectations, and this can take many forms. For example, introduce a major antagonist early on, put on the pressure with the antagonist's lackeys, and then make the big bad a pushover to give your characters a break. Or, have that big baddie actually be an ally, and the players acted on incomplete information. Subverting expectations is this way is more difficult because you're walking a thin like where you don't want to lie to your players or lead them astray - instead you want to present information in such a way that they draw conclusions different from your intent, so that when the subversion occurs they will be able to say "Duh! That totally makes sense!". Another way to subvert the player's expectations is to take my above example of starting the game out with a shock-and-awe segment, and then have them expecting to get into another difficult fight and be prepared, only to resolve the encounter without any combat at all (a nobody's home scenario). You can also subvert be presenting an encounter with a creature / monster that is portrayed as one thing in the player's culture or media, and then make that creature / monster very different.

So, balance those three - subvert when you have the opportunity, exceed for maximum effect, and meet to give them a mental break - I think meeting is the highest percentage that should be done, and the other two should be thrown in to mix it up. And as you DM and gain notoriety, expectations will chance. For example, I've kicked off several successful games with a bang, so many players of mine will not be expecting my next game to start out that way - which means that rolling out a super encounter would meet their expectations, while introducing a traditional encounter - or no combat encounter at all, would subvert them. So knowing your players is just as critical as finding the balance in expectations.

Pacing, meanwhile is not just exclusive to combat, it's the core of the game. But I think reducing combat encounters and focusing on puzzles, role play, and skill checks (as well as other DC-type checks) is important to a successful PBP game. Learn what pacing is working for your players, and give them plenty of breaks - or the opportunity for breaks - between combat setups. Knowing you players also comes in here, because some people want to fight a lot, and some people don't want to fight at all, and invariably players will leave a game because the pacing doesn't match the expectations they developed from the advertisement. I think a good RPG example of pacing and player choice is the Dishonored series, because you can stealth and puzzle your way through it, or go full combat, or land somewhere in-between. Setting up encounters and sections of the PBP game in a way in which there's "multiple paths" to the same outcome or ending is important - it's the player choice necessary to maintain enjoyment and engagement within some structure, without going full sandbox (which is almost always a death sentence to PBP games). This route allows combat to be paced into the larger structure appropriately - and for different kinds of groups of players to engage in the level of combat they want, if any.
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  #21  
Old 04-24-2020, 01:27 AM
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Something that just popped into my mind would be to designate a number of turns a combat will take place. Like if it’s just for the players to flex a bit, maybe it’s a two turn combat and each player rolls whatever they would in a turn and narrates what happens. You play a little more cinematically and close ones perhaps come with consequences. The downside is someone may not be sure how to contribute and/or some systems (pf and d&d I’m looking at you) are more geared to combat. But I think a system that uses something like this could work well on PbP.

Consistent DM posts can help as well, sure there is real life for all of us, but if you are a weekly game try and have a regular posting day and things move forward that day, that way there is always forward movement and everyone knows when the update is coming.
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Old 04-24-2020, 08:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scimmy View Post
Something that just popped into my mind would be to designate a number of turns a combat will take place. Like if it’s just for the players to flex a bit, maybe it’s a two turn combat and each player rolls whatever they would in a turn and narrates what happens. You play a little more cinematically and close ones perhaps come with consequences. The downside is someone may not be sure how to contribute and/or some systems (pf and d&d I’m looking at you) are more geared to combat. But I think a system that uses something like this could work well on PbP.
You could even give these guidelines without just shortening combat. Instead of saying "Okay, this combat lasts 2 rounds" you could say "Okay, you have two rounds of posts to do as you will (PCs act, enemies act, etc) and then something happens."

One of the biggest differences between PbP and Traditional DnD/PF/etc is that we don't need a DM's screen. In my opinion, more information for the players is better in PbP. Instead of getting bogged down by the back and forth between player and DM that's usually needed to resolve actions, give the players what they need. "Hey, if you make a DC 15 perception check, click this spoiler." "This skeleton has an AC of 13."

Being able to resolve those call and response situations without DM/PC interaction saves like a week of posting.
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  #23  
Old 04-24-2020, 11:15 PM
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In regards to the subject itself, I actually think designing a system with PbP specifically in mind isn't a good idea as there are too many variables. If you're making a system it needs to be something functional that works and trying to tailor to the umpteen thousand variables you face in PbP that aren't even factors in an online/IRL session is going to put some serious strain on your design. IMO it's better to tweak around PbP restrictions than attempting to tailor specifically for it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by telcontar View Post
I think defaulting to a Passive Check in most cases also helps.
Works for D&D, but not so much for literally any system that doesn't have a passive perception mechanic and if you were going to do this, you'd have to have a method for working out 'passives' of each skill in order to determine the outcome of certain scenarios, which then raises questions about how you can have Passive Strength or Passive Endurance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by telcontar View Post
Only if the passive score of the Skill is not good enough to beat the DC would you hold up play and ask for a roll.
Why should they roll? In my eyes when you roll for something like perception or deceit, it's you actively doing something IC; If a player rolls high enough to beat someone's passive perception why should they suddenly be aware of this and have the opportunity to foil it if they're not actively hiding something? Just because the instigator had a good roll? It seems like a punishment more than anything to me.
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  #24  
Old 04-25-2020, 09:28 AM
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I've added a list of ideas discussed to the first post. I'll try to keep it updated as long as this topic remains active.

Thank you all for your ideas!

One of the veins I'm exceptionally interested in is the narrative>winning and known difficulties lines of thought. I've noticed that describing character actions can be a little unfulfilling when it follows the format of "describe trying to do the thing" -> (roll dice) -> *wait for GM to tell you what your character did*

If a player knows what their roll means, they can describe the result in the post, success or failure, in a manner that's most satisfying to them (and maybe more enjoyable for the GM and other players to read).

If this idea was to be applied beyond combat, one of the problems could be the GM's need to preemptively arrange difficulties for any of the possible actions the characters may take. This could work easily enough if there are a limited number of action-categories, but the difficulty of enacting this would increase with the variety of action-categories permitted by the system. For example, providing stat blocks and DCs for every combat, spell, and skill option available in D&D5e would be toilsome, but providing 6 attribute-based DCs would only require a small investment of careful thought.

There's also the possibility of making basic action-category difficulty one of the character's stat levers. A character's attribute could set the difficulty and their skill could provide the dice that roll against it. If this were the case, the GM would only need to adjust difficulties of exceptional situations or to encourage the action out of repetitive patterns.

Exmaple A: action-category 4 difficulty increased by 20%, because of the presence of a powerful act-cat-4 enemy.
Example B: action-category 2 difficulty decreased by 33%, because of the jovial celebration
Example C: action-category 3 difficulty increased by 50%, action categories 1 and 5 decreased by 25%, because act-cat-3 would be quite rude in this situation.
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  #25  
Old 04-26-2020, 11:24 PM
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I designed this quick combat method partly with PbP in mind, but it works well in any dungeon crawl. Instead of rolling all the stuff for a combat the PCs are sure to win, roll one die each and discuss what happens next.

https://www.rpgcrossing.com/showthread.php?t=188071
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  #26  
Old 04-28-2020, 08:53 PM
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It could be interesting to design something entirely new for PbP. Rather than designing new mechanics for linear actions, we could try to imagine ways of making the game more parallel.

For example, an RPG with a working title of "Force of Will" could consist of players and a DM as usual, but rather than playing the characters themselves, the players are rival lesser deities (RLD), while the DM is the "Arbiter of Fate" (AF).

The AF would establish a short conflict/encounter, and each RLD would then attempt to force their will upon the world by narrating a sequence of events while wielding the powers of their Divine Domain (Class abilities).

Each player would narrate the same event in a different way, and then the AF would determine the player's "Force of Will" based on plausibility of a given narrative (circumstance modifiers) and how effectively they used their Divine abilities (skill checks).

The Arbiter would then reveal the "True" narrative as influenced by the Lesser Gods. Common themes in the individual narratives could stack to improve their probability of occurring, while exceptional and conflicting narrative elements might manifest in unexpected ways.


Essentially, this RPG would be a Worldbuilding RPG and rather than measuring gameplay in hours and days, it would be in Events and Eras.

The players would gain experience, gain new abilities, and climb within the pantheon.

They would have "Spell Slots" as usual, so they would have to be careful when and how they use them, as expending their divine reserves at the beginning of an Era would exhaust their powers by the end of the cycle, giving the other Gods an edge.

There could potentially be NPC Gods that mess things up for everyone.

This would be a very "Rashomon"-style of gameplay and heavily emphasize writing, so it would have niche appeal.
Edit: I suppose this might not technically qualify as an RPG, per se. So, with a little tweaking, the Divine Realm could be explored the same way that the Material Plane would be, except that Combat and other mechanics would be dominated by this parallel story-telling tool.
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Last edited by Gaijin; 04-28-2020 at 09:17 PM.
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  #27  
Old 04-29-2020, 11:24 AM
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@Gaijin, That's a super cool idea! I'm thinking maybe there's a possibility of after The Arbiter decides which narrative prevails, maybe there's a roll of some kind that might introduce the possibility of extra glitches, effects, or faults to the narrative as originally written? I'm thinking maybe in the style of a PbtA move.

I don't know, that just where your description lead my mind to wander.

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  #28  
Old 05-01-2020, 11:54 AM
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This is a fun idea, similar to the Dawn of Worlds Worldbuilding Game, but with a bit of D&D flair for individual power growth/advancement. Could be fun!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gaijin View Post
It could be interesting to design something entirely new for PbP. Rather than designing new mechanics for linear actions, we could try to imagine ways of making the game more parallel.

For example, an RPG with a working title of "Force of Will" could consist of players and a DM as usual, but rather than playing the characters themselves, the players are rival lesser deities (RLD), while the DM is the "Arbiter of Fate" (AF).

The AF would establish a short conflict/encounter, and each RLD would then attempt to force their will upon the world by narrating a sequence of events while wielding the powers of their Divine Domain (Class abilities).

Each player would narrate the same event in a different way, and then the AF would determine the player's "Force of Will" based on plausibility of a given narrative (circumstance modifiers) and how effectively they used their Divine abilities (skill checks).

The Arbiter would then reveal the "True" narrative as influenced by the Lesser Gods. Common themes in the individual narratives could stack to improve their probability of occurring, while exceptional and conflicting narrative elements might manifest in unexpected ways.


Essentially, this RPG would be a Worldbuilding RPG and rather than measuring gameplay in hours and days, it would be in Events and Eras.

The players would gain experience, gain new abilities, and climb within the pantheon.

They would have "Spell Slots" as usual, so they would have to be careful when and how they use them, as expending their divine reserves at the beginning of an Era would exhaust their powers by the end of the cycle, giving the other Gods an edge.

There could potentially be NPC Gods that mess things up for everyone.

This would be a very "Rashomon"-style of gameplay and heavily emphasize writing, so it would have niche appeal.
Edit: I suppose this might not technically qualify as an RPG, per se. So, with a little tweaking, the Divine Realm could be explored the same way that the Material Plane would be, except that Combat and other mechanics would be dominated by this parallel story-telling tool.
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  #29  
Old 05-02-2020, 02:28 AM
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Example of taking free written work and adapting it to PBP

Disclaimer: much of the ideas come from Jeff Moore who has made his stuff available thru the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. If you don’t know what this is, it boils down to you are free to use the material and change it as long as you include credits to Jeff Moore. Other parts are copyrighted by Christopher Johnstone with the caveat that it can be used as long as there is no profit involved.

RankChanceExample
-23 in 18Trouble
-1 No roll. Automatic failure.Unskilled with a Rank Penalty
05 in 18Unskilled (Default)
16 in 18Novice
27 in 18Apprentice
38 in 18Journeyman
49 in 18Adept
510 in 18Expert
611 in 18Master
712 in 18Grand Master
813 in 18Elite
914 in 18World Class
1015 in 18Legendary
11 No roll. Automatic Success.Legendary with a Rank Bonus
Rank Bonus - the GM may allow you to treat your trait as one rank higher if circumstances are particularly favorable. Rank Penalty - the GM may require you to treat your trait as one rank lower if the task is unusually tough or circumstances are particularly poor.
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Old 05-02-2020, 11:07 AM
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This is a great thread! I've already opened my houserules and compared to a lot of the suggestions here. This is going to be a long post after reading and digesting all of this, so sorry if it comes out as a wall of text. I tried to use bold text to highlight the focus of specific sections in case people don't care about one paragraph but might about others. I'm not trying to push 13th Age, and I'm sorry if I come off that way. I just like some of the things it does for a reason. My personal reaction to "how to design for PbP" is partly that you really don't need to (as Marshmallow said), just tweak things, and the rest is that you don't need to fight your system to make it work in certain cases. Find another system that's similar and use its strengths, whatever you need to make your games run as smoothly as they can. This would probably result in my games being 13th Age/5e, while still tied to classes because they're built that way, but I could see eventually making a broader interpretation of both systems which tended to group a few things as "roguish" or "arcane caster" strengths and then let other things be picked up by whomever wanted them. Homebrew might answer the smoothest in PbP question, but I prefer to take a rule set as is so that everyone is on the same page. If you add a feature from another system, make it a chunk of rules that cover only certain things, and ideally only where they would enhance game play, not just change for an arbitrary reason like 'it might speed up combat'. If it's better, good. If it's not, don't stress about it.

I'm finding that some of the issues don't arise in 13th Age (a system designed by some of the D&D 3e and 4e people that's sort of 4.5e in the way that PF is sort of 3.75e, and some of it made it into 5e), just because of how they've changed things, but the system is laid out as a more narrative-focused rule set. For instance, they've removed specific distances and added relative positioning (usually done theater-of-the-mind) which sounds exactly like what Unko Talok mentioned about Zones in Fate and that link to a convention DM who did something similar. I would actually recommend any 5e DMs who are interested in "zone" combat breakdowns check the 13th Age site (and poke me if you want to discuss), as much of it would transfer directly, including how some of the spells (like Burning Hands) called out in that linked article are handled. There are some differences with 13th Age leveling and skills, but most of the combat sections would transfer without any sort of conversion required, or very minimal changes (like adding proficiency bonus to spell attacks).

Most of what I do for combat streamlining I learned from hugga when he ran that massive Vault of the Dracolich game with forty players in eight parties that were ALL in the final boss fight. It was epic, and honestly frightening to consider GMing myself! (Highly recommend that game, would probably nominate it for Hall of Fame if I weren't the mod facilitating that.) Most of it comes down to making a few things easier. First, treating initiative differently, based on groups instead of each person and each enemy individually; I assign a monster DC essentially in combat. Anyone who rolls higher can go first, then the monsters happen, then everything goes as normal with the unlucky PCs finishing their first round and the lucky PCs starting their second round at the same time. It alters the combat a bit, since I'm acting in the middle of the round usually, not the end, but it has helped a lot. Perhaps changing it to "highest PC vs monster DC" would simplify it further, I'm not sure, but I think that would almost always result in the PCs acting first, so at least for my system, I'd need to figure out a way to make it slightly more random, whether the monsters get a static bonus to compensate or they just get an extra d6 if they're prepared for battle. I also specify target numbers up front. There are three defense scores in my rule set, so I give the players that information immediately, and they can resolve their own actions. I don't give out the hit points, just because that's not obvious within the game scenario. You can tell if you hit hard enough to make the monster wince, but you don't necessarily know how badly you hurt it. There is a "bloodied" condition defined as less than or equal to half HP (sometimes with mechanics attached), so I do tell them that, which usually gives them a sense of how well they are doing. Another mechanic that is 13th Age specific that pushes combat forward is the escalation die. Essentially, a +0 to +6 that increases every round which the PCs add to their attacks. It does cap at +6 and actually roll back to +0 again, but I've only actually seen combat last longer than six rounds once. It favors the PCs and keeps the combat moving. I prefer that to some of the quicker combat options mentioned Scimmy and goatmeal, as it keeps the risk and reward of combat without dragging things out longer than necessary.

I think a number of people have mentioned getting away from classes and traditional XP but are working within rulesets that are specifically class focused (namely PF and D&D). I'd recommend looking elsewhere, really, because there are other methods out there which help considerably. I'm most familiar with a few different systems that do milestone XP which merges well with PbP flow, or skips leveling completely and removes the class-based system. 13th Age does leveling by increments, giving one of the next level's features after each chapter and then announcing when the full level is reached (milestones, pretty much). This approach allows the characters to progress along the way (and in the directions chosen by the player) without just arbitrarily handing them an upgrade to everything they do at once. World of Darkness ignores classes completely. In Vampire, you pick a clan which gives you certain abilities and strengths, but that doesn't prevent you from learning other clans' abilities if you can narratively explain how and where you'd pick it up (since your own clan wouldn't be able to teach you, necessarily). XP is done as points awarded (my RPGX Storyteller Kapera does it by night, which is similar to a by chapter approach), and then you advance skills or abilities based on XP post costs associated; the ability to dominate the mind of another being is harder than getting better at being alert and noticing important clues around you. I like it a lot better than class-based levels, because you're not always focused on your class in class-based systems. The barbarian in Unko's 5e Eberron game is totally out of her comfort zone investigating missing staff and property with the party, but if the barbarian weren't tied directly to barbarian-specific things, there'd be a way to spend XP and boost the skills being utilized and experienced. (My two cents, anyway, and not commentary on Still_Pond's character or Unko's game. Just the first example to come to mind.) In WoD games, you still get characters that take up different roles, simply because you can only do so many things well, and the system is better utilized with each character doing a few things well than everyone being decent at most things.

Sorry, orcbane, this post hits a lot of your table's topics, so you might be adding me to a lot of lines.
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