Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to play by forum

A friend of mine started a game by post a while ago. It was an attempt to try out the principles in Matt Finch primer, using S&W and a big dungeon. I had tried games like that before, with differing results, but since I had no game and felt the urge to get some gaming done I joined in.

It has now ground to a halt, or at least found such a glacial pace that I doubt it will continue. This time I felt I should summarize some lessons learned.

1. Decide on a posting schedule - This I think is crucial. Everyone involved should know that they are expected to send something in, on schedule. I remember way back when there was such a thing as postal PBM, you had a deadline before sending in your orders. Keep it regular, and time should flow constantly in the game. The GM should move things on if no input is forthcoming.

2. Have a well known way to handle out of character chatter and logistical information - Everyone should have the ground rules down. If you leave town, or had some tense days at work, let everyone know - beforehand.

3. The GM should re-frame the scene in a clear way when collating the player input, either at every new dungeon room, or at each suitable dramatic interval. If you feel up to it, do it every time players have sent in their "orders". In that way players will see the GM rephrase their intents and it will be clear if there's a misunderstanding. It is quite annoying when you expect everyone to be present in a scene/room and suddenly realize one PC is not there.

Using those principles is key, in my experience.


  1. Slow style play-by-forum makes little sense to me, but then I've never done it. How do they even handle it when they're in a combat and someone doesn't post for a couple weeks?

    Short intense bursts with everyone present and playing like a real game makes more sense to me. You can support a lot of players and the ones who aren't present can be 'in town'.

    I think it's why text is losing to google+. IRC or IM seems like a better medium.

  2. Furthermore, whatever you do, as a DM, NEVER EVER tie a character's plot to an inactive player. I can't tell you the number of WOD games where the DM tried to tie me to this plot that they developed for another character who had left, without *telling* me, and completely ignored the stated character motivations and plot which I gave them so that they had a way to weave me into an existing story, or better yet tell me *no*.

    Even worse, dropping a character developed for a specific type of plot (say, investigation), and then deny them access to that style of play, because you are too busy setting up scene, and not move time at all while the players wait for weeks for a situation or opening, while the rest of the game moves forward several days because they have more 'interesting' things.

    .... I just am so tired of joining PbF's, and either becoming totally ignored, or left clueless about what to do because the player that they want me to help or be part of is Non-Persona.


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