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Success and failures in PbP

May 10, 2016 3:20 pm
As many of you have been around for a while and in many games, others having only been on GP a bit but run into realization moments, and I'm sure a number of you with plenty of PbP experience before GP or on other sites right now, I pose this (question comes from when I was on Modifier Podcast):

What have you noticed is good/necessary for a long lasting PbP game? What are common things that lead to games dying soon? What are rarer things that are likely to kill a PbP game?
May 10, 2016 3:32 pm
Funny you should mention it, I was just writing up a little guide on just that subject. I'm not at my computer right now but I'll post some notes shortly.
May 10, 2016 4:08 pm
I haven't been on GP for as long or as in many games as others, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

• Intuitive GM and player aids. Now, GP seems to be doing pretty well with those (tools, character sheets, notes, etc.), but there are still areas where improvement could be made (see the threads about the touch and flat-footed AC and class skills for PF sheets for example). Another good example is that one of my players did not notice he could add a separate description for his feats/class features/racial features/etc. so he ended up cramming everything in the field meant for the ability's name... Clearly, this implies that the notes/description field is not as obvious as it should be.

• Good participation. I've noticed that the slower the post count gets in a game, the less it seems to encourage others to post. If a game slows down, it might signal the beginning of the end... This might be the time for a GM to inject new blood in his game.

• Setting the mood. Don't be shy about elaborate description of the surrounding or NPCs. You're on a PBP after all, so you won't get complain from players wishing to skip the descriptions and go back to gameplay... Find some appropriate soundtracks on youtube and link them with your posts, your players will appreciate them. Images also work well for that. Work on some players handouts and include them in your posts. You can probably find the illustrations for the module you're running online somewhere...
May 10, 2016 4:57 pm
Players is what makes the game great.

I would have to say participation would be the biggest key to the demise of a game.

In general I like how Gamerplane runs. I think its the perfect way to be able to play a game everyday.
May 10, 2016 6:02 pm
Low activity level is the number 1 killer, second to players not subscribing to the main game threads. It's why I will skip a player's turn if they don't post within 24 hrs and it's their turn in combat (I give them a double turn next round to compensate); it's why I will happily let one player whose posting actively for a couple days drive the plot forward (instead of waiting days for others to post); it's why I rapidly replace 'fading' players who are inactive for 2 or more weeks (but I always welcome them back if they do return; once you are in one of my games, you are 'in it' as long as I'm still running it).

There are rare cases, my Red Hand of Doom is one. While I've kept activity at a steady level, it dropped off pretty harshly in Mar/Apr, but my group is a dedicated group (presumably held here by other active games), and so now that I'm back on top of things, I'm happy to see the game is still alive and well (the same is true of my other games, by Red Hand has been much longer running).

So, along with keeping the game itself active, an activity community around the game is good too (a good sign that a player may start to flake is if they are *only* playing in your game; players in many games are checking the site regularly and so won't drop off as easily).
May 10, 2016 6:32 pm
For me character development is key each with their own story arcs running throughout a game. Make a player really care about their character and they always come back for more.
May 10, 2016 7:24 pm
-Post regularly. If you know you won't be able to post let everyone know.
-Not every post needs to be a masterpiece, but when it's appropriate to do so, take your time to write something good.
-Don't neglect the OOC thread, just like at a table half the fun is in the chat!
-Pre-game; think about a character which will be fun, don't worry about whether it's cliche or not.
-If the adventure takes an unexpected turn, roll with it!
-Make an effort to ensure your writing is of good quality. If people enjoy reading what you write they will keep coming back.
-Agree when you start what will happen if a player doesn't post; they get left behind, the GM takes over, etc.
-If the game falls into a bit of a lull add something unexpected to spice things up. It could be a random encounter or obstacle, an NPC from a character's past, a new player, whatever.
May 10, 2016 8:16 pm
An unexplained decrease in posting frequency is the killer. I've found that if something happens and a break occurs, then people get out of the habit of checking to see if they are "up". It is very difficult to regain the momentum once lost.

Maybe there is a strategy to recover from diminished participation, involving the GM direct messaging inactive players you remind them that they are needed. But there is an obvious negative feedback to a GM when activity dwindles.

Best just be honest with your players and ask them periodically for feedback if you sense a change. Don't just assume, I suppose.
May 10, 2016 10:59 pm
As a GM:
- Having an active player's participation drop off can really hurt. I have guidelines as to what I expect as far as posting frequencies and I need to do a better job enforcing them. Never liked the thought of replacing a player but it's almost unfair to the other participants not too if it's hurting the game.

- As Candi mentioned, having established players in your game helps. I've been on the site for a while now (October 2014) and I know who I can count on when I'm running a game. I have a game that I'm running now that was specifically for newbies to the site, lost 2 out of the 5 already, and it sucks because the other three are active and want to play. (Hat tip to Qralloq for filling in so we can keep going!)

- Certain things that work well at a table just don't play out well in PbP. A combat that lasts four or five rounds when you're playing face to face is great, but after four pages of posts, and a weeks worth of time I think players might be ready to move onto something else. Still learning this one and I have a situation that will occur in one of my games that will test this a bit - hope it works out.


As a Player:
- Posting schedules. I don't have access during the day and at times I'll get on in the evening to check a game and find there's been two pages of postings where my character didn't participate. Great for the game (and I'm not suggesting that it should be otherwise or changed in any way) but it kills my flow so I end up doing the old "My Character Follows Everyone Else" post and wait for a chance to be relative. Repeat this for a couple of days and I'm basically out of the story at this point and my enthusiasm drops a bit. (I eventually jump in where I can though)

- GM prodding, especially during combat and scenes where there is a lot going on. The old, "Oh, didn't realize it was my turn in the initiative order" thing. Particularly useful when your involved in multiple games. A brief status description of what's going on when the GM posts is REALLY helpful to me.


General Bad Things:
- Too many players. Too many chances someone will slow things down, too many chances other players will get lost as to what's happening (which happens to me a lot), too much time (real life time) between actions, etc.
May 11, 2016 12:23 pm
Yeah, I agree that the OOC thread and general atmosphere of the game are good to keep the momentum up. How long the game lasts mostly depends on how invested the players are in the game, just like in normal tabletop!

I don't agree at all with the GM having to tell players what is going on ALL the time though. As a GM I reread previous posts and character sheets many times, and I expect my players to do the same if they want to remember what is goin' on.

//Handle
May 11, 2016 1:26 pm
For me it's all about the story, If the game system is focused on combat I get why it's there, I'll slash and shoot with the best of my ability and plan out how to do that just fine but for the most part I look at RPGs like movies that unfold in the mind's eye one scene at a time. I don't have to be the guy who storms the castle and gets the plot quest item. Being the cowardly rogue who does something selfless and brave to save the party member or the Wizard who steps in to save the fighter from a monster with a well placed and very lucky kick so he doesn't die, those character persona break points are what I like to see and be a part of, those little snippets in time that to be define the character, not the talents/feats/levels/gear that time the group walks into the tavern and the fighter has five kids around him since the mother split and he didn't know what else to do besides take care of him, the cleric's faith in his deity wavering over things he's seen in the adventures versus their teachings.

It's great to know the rules or how the system can work for you mechanically but I've been mostly interested in what isn't in the rules that's based off roleplay that make the GM and players go 'Yes, THAT happens! It's canon!'
May 11, 2016 10:31 pm
handle says:
I don't agree at all with the GM having to tell players what is going on ALL the time though. As a GM I reread previous posts and character sheets many times, and I expect my players to do the same if they want to remember what is goin' on.
Agreed - every post would be too much and there should be an expectation that the players are actually paying attention to what has been going on. I guess what I was trying to get across is that an occasional status message, especially during combat situations, can really help to make sure everyone is on the same page as to what is going on. It's easy for me as a GM to leave out details and just assume everyone else is thinking the same thing that I am.
May 16, 2016 8:03 pm
For me, the main driver keeping games going is long term consistent posting. Doesn't have to be frequent; more than once a day is a bonus for sure, but not vital. Long gaps will kill the enthusiasm though. I have one game I was super excited about, but has now been idle for a month due to missing players and a busy GM. Its tough to maintain enthusiasm for a story under those circumstances.

PbP is a long game format. One cannot expect narrative to move forward in the way it does in a face to face game. It just takes time. Once you get used to a slower pace, it just comes down to a slow burn of consistent posts.

Another thing I've noticed is that PbP lends itself to certain types of games over others. PbP seems great for a narrative, character centric game. Lots of space for people to dialog and give their characters personality. PbP is less well suited to combat heavy, tactical and traditional dungeon crawl style games. I think this may have a lot to do with the slow pace of PbP.
May 18, 2016 8:28 pm
Friar_Tuk says:
For me, the main driver keeping games going is long term consistent posting. Doesn't have to be frequent; more than once a day is a bonus for sure, but not vital. Long gaps will kill the enthusiasm though.
Forever this. With having a kid recently some of my games lapsed a few weeks, up to a month for some, and it's very easy for things to stall out. Especially if in the time another player goes dormant. I'm not too shy about replacing inactive players after about two weeks, any longer than that and I worry about the game as a whole stalling.

Plus new recruits in a longer campaign can help breath new life into the story and change things up enough to renew interest.
May 18, 2016 8:34 pm
I agree with all of this. I'd also like to add that I've never done PBP gaming before up until a couple of months ago, and I have never been more invested in a game or more interested in participating until I was part of a huge in character OOC thread for a star wars game. it was hilarious and fun to keep contributing to and it really helps keep the banter going in the game. I think once you have players invested like that, they want to entertain the other players and that can keep posting up and keep interest going.
May 18, 2016 8:58 pm
I think the problem I have hit with pbp is that when you are weighing options for life, like me for instance. Work is a killer, kids and family are full steam with school and life, etc. It becomes easy to say I can "Drop this" and get back to it. The hard part is getting back to it once you cleared it out, even if the idea was to temporarily put something on hiatus. So now I want to plug it back into my schedule of things to cover on a daily basis, but when your head is spinning already, it's easy to just skip it.

It's not the games, the people, the site, it's just easier then say backing out of a table group due to the anonymity of the internet.

Life usually comes in waves for everyone. You might go full bore at this for a while, then find yourself trying to just squeeze it in enough to keep it going. I myself don't like that personally. I have what I feel could/would/should be a pretty epic game on here, and if I can't devote myself to it, and risk doing it half-hearted, I put it on hold. The problem is finding a way to squeeze that level back into it. Perhaps I set the bar too high, or it's just the way I am, but I found it hard to go back to it as I fear the same trend will happen. I will get too busy with everything else for it to go how I want.

Now the beauty of this format is you can operate like this to an extent, but perhaps the best approach is to not bite off more than you can chew. Like my "epic" game for instance, perhaps if I had started it more casually, and less epic then I wouldn't feel like it always needs to be "epic". (I use the term epic loosely, as that is an opinion based judgement.)

Casual seems to be the way to go on here. Not taking it too seriously, and be prepared for lose of interest, life interference, etc when running game and conversely playing a game on here.
May 18, 2016 9:09 pm
DMKiado says:
I think the problem I have hit with pbp is that when you are weighing options for life, like me for instance. Work is a killer, kids and family are full steam with school and life, etc. It becomes easy to say I can "Drop this" and get back to it. The hard part is getting back to it once you cleared it out, even if the idea was to temporarily put something on hiatus. So now I want to plug it back into my schedule of things to cover on a daily basis, but when your head is spinning already, it's easy to just skip it.

It's not the games, the people, the site, it's just easier then say backing out of a table group due to the anonymity of the internet.

Life usually comes in waves for everyone. You might go full bore at this for a while, then find yourself trying to just squeeze it in enough to keep it going. I myself don't like that personally. I have what I feel could/would/should be a pretty epic game on here, and if I can't devote myself to it, and risk doing it half-hearted, I put it on hold. The problem is finding a way to squeeze that level back into it. Perhaps I set the bar too high, or it's just the way I am, but I found it hard to go back to it as I fear the same trend will happen. I will get too busy with everything else for it to go how I want.

Now the beauty of this format is you can operate like this to an extent, but perhaps the best approach is to not bite off more than you can chew. Like my "epic" game for instance, perhaps if I had started it more casually, and less epic then I wouldn't feel like it always needs to be "epic". (I use the term epic loosely, as that is an opinion based judgement.)

Casual seems to be the way to go on here. Not taking it too seriously, and be prepared for lose of interest, life interference, etc when running game and conversely playing a game on here.
I'm in your game, and I will tell you that it is no more or less epic, from a player perspective, than any other games I'm in on GP (and you know my enthusiasm for that character and that game). Epic is as epic does. In any game, in any format, every moment can't be epic. And when it takes two days to have a relatively innocuous conversation, or close to a week to complete a combat encounter, the game is not going to "feel epic".

That is what I mean about the slow burn. PbP games can be just as epic and significant as face to face games, they just don't always feel like it all the time. IMHO, PbP lends itself quite well to in-depth character development and growth, which we had in your game!

The reason your game stalled is because you didn't update it for weeks. I think because you thought you had to put so much in to each post. You don't. Especially when you have engaged players who enjoy interacting in character. Now we've lost two players; both have gone dormant on the site, so the game is even more difficult to get up and running again.

However, I'll tell you right here and now: If you made a post in that game, all the rest of us who are still active here would be all over it!
May 18, 2016 9:41 pm
That's my point in a way. I put more expectation on myself then I should of, right. So I feel like I am not delivering if I don't deliver it the way I want it to. That's a personal problem for me, and because I have this format, where I can write things out and each post should be this or that, then I find myself struggling to make each post what "I" feel like it should be. If that makes sense.

My point is to kind of share that out there. If others find themselves thinking too big, or that it could become a monster on you as the DM, then it probably will. Take it down a notch and don't make any extra stress on it.

I think it's easier at a game table to do things and think about them later. Like "oh man, it would of been cooler if I did X instead of Y" but what's done is done. While I am composing for a game on here, I don't feel like I have an excuse for that, despite that fact that I am not going to hit that mark even if I spend days on each post. There is always other things.

That's not really the problem in most cases though. For me for instance it was the "life is in the way" or this, only temporarily, but then finding a way to slide it back in when you have moved it out of it's "slot" if you will, isn't the easiest.

That game will play again, my daughter is out of school in a week and half, and job hunt is still on for a more reasonable job. So I am again trying to strike that balance of work vs play, and real life is winning for a while now.
May 18, 2016 11:21 pm
@DMKiado

honestly i would have been happy to just done the whole campaign int the fricking tavern. I think the group could have just role played the whole time you were gone honestly. we pretty much did for a long time before you even got involved. reason we stopped was 3 people were gone you and the other 2.

which brings me to the point of the common curiosity of saying bye. I hate waiting some times. atleast you gave us heads up

and yes i would def play still if you started again. that game was my favorite... because you let us rp as much as we wanted.
May 26, 2016 1:24 pm
Something I have consistently failed at on PbP: Learning a new system as a player. There's been three games now where I wanted to jump in, but didn't know the system well. I've had to drop all three.

I'm fine with teaching a system. I've got multiple players in my Star Wars games who are new to the system, and I've really enjoyed pushing the knowledge to them.
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