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  #1  
Old 01-13-2020, 07:10 PM
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Play by post and pacing

So, I'm not necessarily new to DMing. I wouldn't call myself the best, but I'd say I have a general idea of how to run a game in real life. The thing is, play by post is an entirely different beast. It's a slow, lumbering beast that I find can be great for storytelling, but keeping players involved and interested is a concern.

Normally, I take a hands-off approach to DMing. I like to let my players explore and roleplay with each other, and only offer up small bits of information when they become relevant or a question is asked. This gives the players time to do a bunch of stuff, meet NPCs, shop for gear, collect some potential questlines for future adventures, etc. Of course, that all assumes that everything is happening over the course of a few hours; not a few months. I suppose the question is, how does one keep players engaged in a play by post format? How does a DM drive the story forward without railroading the players when everything in the game is running at approximately 1/40 of the speed a real life game would be running?
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Old 01-13-2020, 07:22 PM
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I try my darndest to keep a tight posting schedule. Is it time for a post but I have nothing to say? Well then it's time for an establishing shot about the scenery or maybe a cut away to what other NPCs are up to.

I also have no qualms about NPCing a PC who hasn't responded in the allotted time. Diving for cover and taking full defense are the order of the day for tardy players.

Another thing I've noticed is that the most successful games have vibrant OOC threads. Share jokes and memes, talk about good/bad rolls and just shoot the breeze. It helps the players stay connected with each other and gives people something to do even if their character has nothing to do.

Don't be afraid to use the poking stick either. I'll send PMs to players who are still active but have gone quite. It may even help of they've gone dark on the site of they have email notifications.

Lastly, don't be afraid to re up recruitment. People leave, it happens, don't let your momentum suffer for it.

Lucky rabbit's foot and a four leaf clover couldn't hurt either!

Good luck chummer!!!
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Old 01-13-2020, 10:32 PM
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I have a few game ideas that I'd like to try out here. But I've decided that I need to play in a few games first for exactly the reasons outlined by the OP. Although I have a lot of experience GMing around a table, I have no experience with PBP games (and only a little experience with PBEM games from quite a long time ago). And I'm concerned that PBP games would require a different approach, and suit different types of games, from tabletop gaming.

I suspect that tactical play, particularly combat, would become cumbersome in a PBP game, and that you'd either need to minimise the amount of combat or find a way to streamline it (or both). I suspect that a PBP game's strengths lie in how it gives players time to think about their responses and thus be more creative and witty. I suspect it favours roleplaying over the gaming aspects.

But I think I'd need to actually be part of a game or two to figure out to what extent that is actually true, in reality, and what kinds of playstyle actually seem to work best in PBP.
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Old 01-13-2020, 10:47 PM
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I find that combat works well in PBP, but I like combat a lot. I suspect that people who love role playing more than spellcasting, etc., will say that they find role play opportunities work best. I think it all works, it's partly a matter of what you like most, and remember most, that makes it exciting (and obviously, memorable). What you like, you do, so if you like games with X, you are more likely to post in them and remain involved in them.

As for how to keep the pacing:

1) Try like heck to match yourself to the game and players. Be honest, and up front, and then live up to it. I LOVE daily posting, but I have a game where I know the pace is slower... so I work like heck to remind myself to be slower. I have a game I run, where I aim for M/W/F posts, to keep things moving. I have a game that I have simply told myself "eh, whatever. Once a month, when the DM posts, I'll post. Don't stress." (that one is hard to bear, but so far, I have kept my sanity).

2) Remind everyone of their posting commitments. Chide them, encourage them, reward them... nag just a little. It's a fine line between being a driver, and driving them away, but aim for some honest reminders, bumps, etc.. Imveros is right, a poke stick may work, if used delicately.

3) Review and remind, over and over: what's fresh to you may not be to them. You may remember all the NPC's and clues, but it's been months since they saw them. And, they may be in four other games, too. So, perhaps, be a bit more obvious, be a bit more remindful, and keep tossing them plot lines and leads, a bit more than you would in a table top. It's easy, after 18 months of an adventure, to forget who said what in the bar, and where you got that jewel, and what that key was supposed to open.
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Old 01-16-2020, 09:52 AM
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Its a learning curve, it really is. Finding that nice balance between guiding Players yet leaving them their freedom.

My advice;
1) If you want them to explore then sprinkle in some 'seeds' or hooks into your narrative.

Nothing like a giant neon sign saying "SIDEQUEST HERE," just a tiny little quip such as "the unusual sight of a minotaur hammering away in the forge" while describing a bustling town.

When injected into a paragraph some might glance over it while others might go "hold on, why is a minotaur here?" and have their PC investigate.

2) Be up front in your ad about pacing and don't be afraid to cut those who can't commit.
It sounds mean but trust me - life will get in the way and there will be players who say they can commit but then falter almost immediately. Of course, talk to them first and give them a chance but don't put your game pace at risk due to them. If you slow for one person the whole game slows and then risks falling apart.

3) Echoing Imveros - OOC threads; being able to connect with your players out of game and establish a report with them increases the odds of them hanging around. Because we want to play in our friend's game, right? Some folks opt to use discord for ooc discussions and jokes as well but that carries with it its own pros and cons, especially if not everyone wants to use it.

4) In my opinion, combat can slow things down greatly depending on the post rates of your players. I would suggest checking how other DMs handle combat and find what best works for you and your game as everyone tends to handle it differently.
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Old 01-18-2020, 03:05 PM
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Hey, nice thread, already answered some questions I wanted to ask coming from a similar standpoint- I'm keen to DM a game but feel like i need to play in a few first to get the hang of things!

I was wondering how many players people find managable with a mind to keeping a pace going? I see a lot of games with up to 8 players and find the idea of wrangling so many pcs mind boggling, especialy if you are trying to stick to x post per week. but likewise i suppose with less characters the chance of fizzle out seems stronger?

also what combat styles do you prefer? you said that standard tt dice rolling can be a laborious task, what are other options for simplifying/speeing it up? gonna actualy read some threads, sorry XD
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Old 01-19-2020, 04:48 PM
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I've tried to stick to 3-5 players in the couple games I'm running. Though I'll probably increase that to 6 for my current advert. I can't imagine trying to handle 8 players, but I imagine with proper management, that many players could effectively run the game by themselves through the sheer power of RP, with minimal input from me.
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Old 01-19-2020, 05:22 PM
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At the end of the day its heavily dependent on the players and the line of communication between dm and player(s).

I personally stick to around four but have gone up to seven without issue.

Many times players will only rp so much before a sudden stop occurs because theyre waiting for the dm. Youre likely to get a lot of rp going on at the start of a game but after the first month when that imaginary "new" status falls off the rate will likely drop as players get settled in.
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Old 01-19-2020, 06:33 PM
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I second the honeymoon phenomenon.

Seems to happen in every game. Post rate is high and role-playing is high as everyone tries to find their place in the group hierarchy. They've also likely been waiting for weeks for those first posts so have a lot of pent up creativity!

My most recent game had near daily 500+ word posts from everyone and the advertised rate was once or twice a week. We kept that breakneck pace up for almost three weeks and have slowed to a more reasonable pace.

To their credit, our GM really stepped up and encouraged that insane pace.

Not every games honeymoon phase is that intense, but every game I've ever been on here has had one!
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Old 01-30-2020, 11:48 AM
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I jotted down a list of things I do, and I encourage my players to do, to keep things moving. The ideas lean combat-centric, as I an I think my players enjoy working the tactical details of the game. I make no claims to originality; much of this list I've copied, some I've stumbled upon as my own game style:

1) Always be pushing. Experience is awarded primarily for posting wll; and for posts that advance the game situation in some manner. Posts that have a character idle don't earn XP. "Advancing" could be either tactical (e.g. combat, movement) or role-playing -- advancing a plot not just repeating what we already know about your character. ("Fenrana takes another centipede leg from her pocket, and chews on it." -- OK, but if that's it probably doesn't move the plot.)

2) Drop multiple hooks. Include several details or actions that another player of the GM can respond to; if there are multiple things happening with each post, and they don't have to be complicated, it gives others actions to anchor and build on.

3) Post and roll contingently. If you don't know exactly the state of the world, post and roll maybe your 2 major options. Make it clear what you would do in preference, or by default. Don't wait for communication round-trips. ("If Bellis reaches the door, she checks for traps before Pieter opens it.")

4) If you are going to be gone a while, post your intent (e.g. "stay in cover and shoot at any opponent you can see for the next 3 rounds") -- or ask the GM or other players to NPC you.

5) Presume common sense. If I NPC someone in order to keep the game moving, then I'll usually have them do something safe, and/or obvious. If the situation has evolved since you posted your move plan, I'll have you apply common sense like not provoking needless AoOs by rigidly sticking to a post.

6) Presume consensus. If one character proposes a party action, the party takes it if another character seconds the proposal and no one has raised a red flag requiring discussion. Act "assuming no one objects", rather than asking and waiting (unless the asking is about something that is truly important and needs a response.)

7) Flexible initiative and chronology. We wait for somebody's initiative rank only when it really matters -- otherwise I'll resolve actions out-of-order if it allows play within a round to advance. Generally: allow actions to occur somewhat out-of-order so that players can "catch up" a little on activities they would have done while other characters have moved past them in time.

8) Action stacking. If someone's post for a round of battle is late, I may skip them (especially if the monster actions are not likely contingent on them), and then ask them to post 2 rounds of action on the next turn.

9) Batch rolling of initiative and perception at the start of encounters. I have a table that rolls all the dice that I cut and paste. Players can batch up a bunch of skill checks (e.g. knowledge, craft and perception checks, etc.) This is more helpful out-of-combat or in non time-critical situations; if it is in melee I might ignore your skill checks that might take multiple rounds or that would cause you to forfeit.

10) Maps and exact positions/exact time tracking only in level-appropriate combat, otherwise mind's-eye theater where possible. If you are not it combat, or the combat is trivial -- I'll dispense with putting positions on a map. (As Level 1 characters, nothing is trivial for the party at the moment.)

--

Happy to see the suggestions & ideas already on this thread, and to receive other feedbacks on sustaining pace.
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Old 02-12-2020, 08:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admin Dirk View Post
I find that combat works well in PBP, but I like combat a lot. I suspect that people who love role playing more than spellcasting, etc., will say that they find role play opportunities work best.
Sorry for going off topic a bit, but this touches on some of the big themes of "roll vs role" and "what works best for PBP?" that I've been trying to understand as I read through some of the HOFs and active game threads.

I notice that the HOF games seem (at least to me) to be roleplaying heavy. Which makes sense, because I think a judge or reader can enjoy the roleplaying text, but only the player feels the excitement of rolling--so roleplaying games have an advantage for the HOF.

But I am intrigued by how you adapt roll-heavy games to PBP. Are there any HOF games, or Posts of the Month, or just simply some solid personal favs in the archives that you think represent the best of roll-centric games? If so, I'd love to read them and try to wrap my head around their mechanics and narration. (Or maybe there is a thread from 20xx about this that I totally missed...if so, apologies for being a rotten searcher.)
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Old 02-12-2020, 11:56 PM
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The City of Endless Arenas strikes me as our most prominent (and award winning) example of a roll-intensive game.
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Old 02-12-2020, 11:57 PM
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Thanks! Off to read it.
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Old 02-13-2020, 08:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wishkamon View Post
I was wondering how many players people find managable with a mind to keeping a pace going? I see a lot of games with up to 8 players and find the idea of wrangling so many pcs mind boggling, especialy if you are trying to stick to x post per week. but likewise i suppose with less characters the chance of fizzle out seems stronger?

also what combat styles do you prefer? you said that standard tt dice rolling can be a laborious task, what are other options for simplifying/speeing it up? gonna actualy read some threads, sorry XD
I like 4... three is okay if they are really, really dedicated to posting, but 4 is a good party number, and seems a core that helps keep the others going. With three, if one stops posting, that's a big cut into your game. With 4, and one slows down, the others can keep going, and it's not so bad.

Five is a good number too, if you can handle it. The trick is that finding three good posters is easier than finding 4, and finding 4 is easier than finding 5, etc..

So, you try to balance between the odds of getting X good posters who won't drop out, and getting so many people that you are bound to have one that does slow things down.

Long story short: 4 to 5 works well for me.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admin Dirk View Post
Long story short: 4 to 5 works well for me.
From having applied for games, and being in the process of starting up my own game, I think the problem is that games get so many good applications that you're always tempted to increase your intake. But I think 4-5 will be about right for me too.
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