Play By Post and Email

So when it comes to doing it wrong, I was having trouble with Play by Post games. I could not wrap my head around how the game should be run. Pacing that you come to expect in a face to face game is non-existant. Involvement by players can be spotty because they start out wanting to play but life throws a curve ball and they disappear. System mechanics that have always worked intuitively in a face to face setting completely fall apart. I wasn’t able to find a handy dandy guide to fix my PBP woes but I stumbled on some answers, one of my players gave me some more and the rest got stitched together by some of the PBP players on RPG.net.

So what’s the result?

#1 Slow it down

It sounds obvious but your play style has to fundamentally change to accommodate the pace. Be prepared to write more than you would just say. GMs have a little more experience with describing scenes at some length so it may not be a problem for the GM. Players on the other hand can be short and to the point because they’re used to having to state what they want to do quickly which is not a consideration in this situation.

#2 Players get to narrate more

This is really vital to a good game. The players have to have the freedom to narrate their own plot elements. As long as it doesn’t contradict what has already been stated, doesn’t take away another player’s agency  (including the GM’s over NPCs) and is reasonable, it should be allowed.

#3 Forget about initiative

With the time scales involved and the possibility that a player could suddenly be unavailable can bring an initiative order to a screeching halt. In PBP initiative order is who posts first.

#4 Take it easy on rolling dice

Rolling dice is slightly problematic. Players should just assume they should roll for their actions even if they’re confident of passing. Nothing brings PBP to a screeching halt like a player saying “I’m going to hit him”. Then the GM saying “okay roll” and the player not posting for the next two days.

#5 Have a post frequency

At the beginning of the game have everyone agree to check and post in a certain length of time. Usually a once a day is good. If a player slows down the game, give them a friendly warning. If it keeps happening, let them know you’re going to have to proceed without them.

#6 Use a static defense difficulty

This one’s going to play havoc with a lot of systems but it makes sense when you think about it. A static value is assigned to defense, now a player can roll and know if he hit the NPC without waiting for the GM to roll. He can then figure out damage in one post instead of three or four.

#7 Let the players know the stats

Be more open about stats and rolls, this way they can apply the rules themselves instead of waiting on the GM’s ruling. This greatly speeds play if you have players that are willing to heft some of the burden of the rules.

#8 Color code

Color code your IC and OOC conversation. I use dark blue for OOC conversation and regular black for IC discussion.

What other methods do you use? I’m finding that Steampunkfitters rule system fits these criteria very nicely.

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