I’m now two months into the transition from online play (via Hangouts) to Play By Post (PbP) (via email and text chat). It has been generally successful and I’ve learned a few lesson so far.
The Unusual Suspects: Play By Post Thoughts
This is hard.
I suppose I realized this going in. Only once has a PbP game that I’ve been involved in successfully finished even a single story. The others died within weeks of being launched. Now I’m starting to understand why.
First off, I have to be always on. The usual pattern of planning a game, preparing materials, playing and then having time to reflect isn’t there. Or rather it is but highly compressed with several concurrent and interlocking games occurring at once. To keep the game going I need to respond to any specific player within a few days while still juggling all of my other commitments. This pressure of constant work is weighing on me. I’ve experienced similar issues in some of my other jobs (like Technical Support or being a father) and it is stressful. Hopefully I’ll find my groove eventually.
Additionally my plan for scheduling posts has not worked out as well as I hoped. Both sides of the game have been late in their posts. My players have their lives and commitments which means some people don’t get back to me for a week or longer. My wife is particularly busy between kids, teaching, and prep for teaching . Given the choice of watching a few minutes of the Defenders and this, you can guess which wins. This means the pace of the game is much slower in general than I expected.
But the game is still alive and well.
I’ve found writing the log both easier and harder. There is less work in the final write-up since I write as I go. The chat sessions are less clear but even there I don’t need to worry about transcribing or working from memory.
On the other hand, all that focus on writing means I’m producing much more material per “chapter”. Using the same amount of plot, when I work from memory I write a log with 3 to 4 thousand words. When I used from audio transcripts, the resulting novelisation was 6 to 10 thousand words. After two months and an equivalent amount of story, I have over 15 thousand words. My players contribute to this word bloat but I’m responsible for probably 80% of the words.
The big upside is that I’m getting to work on my writing skills, especially dialogue which I otherwise don’t have as much reason to practice.
Going forward though I plan to place my chapter breaks more frequently. I’m seeing a natural pattern emerging for break points of every dozen scenes or so. That is two scenes per PC plus a group scene or two. That would make a chapter roughly 5 to 8 thousand words. It should keep the size of the posts to the blog to a manageable level.
The more even distribution of scenes however has been great for my quieter players. The Weaver’s player is getting much more attention, both as the group’s research master and in pursuit of her character’s own goals. Everyone gets to focus on their subplots from building a Cover to individual obsessions to working on the main plot (gasp!). The best part is that the story moves forward roughly as fast as people reply back (something the Naturalist’s player is unconsciously exploiting).
That’s all for now.
I’m also starting to codify some house rules as I pay more attention to the rules as written and their flaws. I plan to post them once they get a bit more substantial.