Play by Post, Part II: Internet Advice

Now we reach the research portion of my quest to continue my Demon: the Descent group via play by post. I’ve played in several Play By Post games before but as I mentioned two weeks ago, they didn’t work out. Let’s see what the experts have to say.

Play by Post, Part II: Internet Advice

I intend to sum up the advice I’ve encountered but I figure I’ll start by listing what resources I’ve found. Let me know if you know of any others I should be including.

Bibliography

Some selected resources include:

Synopsis

After reviewing these and other sources, a few common points emerged.

The Setup

There is a lot of good advice for where to stage your play by post game and what sort of media to incorporate. You want a place for your logs and/or forums, some way to include pictures (which are, as they say, worth a thousand words), defined places or styles for OOC (Out-Of-Character) material and especially ways to recruit both initial players and most likely their replacements.

For my purposes however this advice doesn’t really help me. I already have my players and we use Obsidian Portal for most of our needs. That checks off the boxes for pictures, forums, logs and more.

Sometime down the road I could see recruitment becoming useful but that’s really more of a matter for once my current players make this semi-successful.

Post Structure

Make sure your forum threads or email subjects are descriptive of where you are in the game. This helps players keep track of where they are in the game especially if they are involved in several plot threads.

The suggestion of creating new threads for new scenes seems sensible for the same reasons. I haven’t done that the best with my first week of the game but I’ll keep it in mind as the story moves along.

Post Content

Post enough details for your players to get a sense of the situation. They need to know where they are, who they are dealing with, the context of the event, and what the likely consequences are of any likely actions (or inaction).

Also you should end on a decision point so that the players have something to work with when they begin their response. A question of how does their character responds is a good choice as are requests for descriptions of locations belonging to their character or how they dress or act.

Good description is good but you also want the post to be readable. Check spelling, check grammar. Break up text into paragraphs of sensible lengths. Use coloring or font styling to call out characters and rules text.

Make sure your dice conventions are clear. Do the players roll their actions? Does the GM? Does your forum include some mechanism for doing the rolls automatically or do you work on the honor system? There are no wrong choices but make the decision clear to everyone involved.

In my earlier Hangout games I always went with honor system and had my players roll. But with the goal of speeding the game along, this provides a number important decisions to make.

Player Advice

I found plenty of advice for players and it mostly repeats the best practices for game masters.

Post detailed descriptions. Write out those inner thoughts. Show us your character, how they act and feel.

Keep posting even if you don’t do anything. Ask for help if you get stuck. Make it clear when you don’t want to get involved. Don’t leave the other players hanging.

Lastly be proactive. Find problems to solve. Introduce new details, items characters within the limits of the game. Push the game forward.

Tempo

The single most repeated and important piece of advice I saw was to maintain momentum. Set a posting frequency (one a day, twice a week, whatever) and stick to it.

If people go missing, NPC them to keep the other players’ scenes moving. If they can’t commit to maintaining the posting frequency then you need to replace them.

It is harsh but necessary advice. If the game masters in my previous play by post games had committed to it perhaps those campaigns might not have died.

Conclusion

Obviously communication is critical to an online game as it is for any game. The difference is that with a slower more limited medium (no facial expressions or intonation) you need to work extra hard at it.

Next week I’ll outline how I intend to put this advice to use in my own game.