And now for something completely different...


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Post Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:22 pm

And now for something completely different...

A friend of mine is working on a new method of running a PbP game. It will be starting up soon and I thought some of you might be interested to see how it plays out.

I don't know if it is new or not, but I've not seen anything done like it on a forum before. Here is the general concept:

The Premise: One of the drawbacks to Play-by-Post gaming is that it is so easy to META game certain things. If some people break off from the main group, you can start up a new thread and request only those players breaking off read that thread, but we all know everyone is going to read the thread. You can try to run that smaller group via PMs, but there are obvious issues with that, as well. What you need is a new thread that only a select few can see.

Another drawback of Play-by-Post gaming is that everyone can see everyone else's character sheets. You know who has 50' of rope and who has torches and who has flasks of oil. What's more, you know everyone's class. You know their alignment, what spells they have available to them and what spells they have left to cast for the day! You even know their hit point total (and remaining hit points)!

We all see this every day, so it has become the norm. But what if you DIDN'T see it every day? What if you didn't have ESP and a ring of Xray vision so you couldn't know what someone was thinking (unless they said it out loud) or see the contents of the inside of their pack?

There is a way to run such a game...

In the phpBB-based forum, there is a way of making private sub-folders under a main thread. You can control who can see these folders, allowing just the GM and one player, for example, to see it. The idea is to give each player a sub-folder. Under that sub-folder, the player maintains their character sheet. They make their dice rolls. They have their OOC conversations with the GM. They even have their own IC threads. They always post, whether it is IC or OOC, in their own their own sub-folder.

At set times, the GM updates the main threads on the main folder. The GM's job in that respect is more one of a storyteller. They are summing up what has happened in the sub-threads.

Since you can't even see the sub-threads, unless you have that ability, then you can't see any other character sheets. You can't scan inventory lists to see who has rope or torches or oil. You can't look to see who has the highest STR to open the door or the highest DEX to make the jump. You can't tell, by number alone, who is down to just five hit points and who needs the most amount of healing! You can't see who is Lawful or Chaotic or who just doesn't give a damn. You don't know if the guy standing in front of you is a ranger or a fighter who likes to wear browns and greens and carry a hunting bow... or maybe he's a fighter/mage. Or a mage/thief dressed light a fighter. The medallion around his neck? A good luck charm? Or his holy symbol?

To you, he's just a man.

So the DM posts main story in the main thread. You respond to the story in your personal folder. He relays responses in your thread. Occasionally the main thread is updated.

This game could be a huge failure. It will take a lot of RIGHT things to make it work. Players need to be well-spoken and creative. They need to know HOW to write according to the guidelines.

Your posts can have as much, "Steve ponders the situation. Does he follow the wet footprints down the eastern corridor, hoping to track down the creature that attacked his dog? Or does he follow the trail of blood, sure to be his dog, down the northern corridor, hoping to find him and see if he needs medical aid? He rubs his chin thoughtfully."

But all that will be relayed in the main thread is, "The man pauses as the corridor branches. He alternates between staring at the wet footprints and the drops of blood as he rubs his chin thoughtfully." Only what is said and physically described will be relayed.

This method will cause lots of challenges in situations we take for granted! No more OOC planning of an attack! It has to be communicated, it has to be said between characters, or else it will be a big wet mess. If you're wounded, it's up to you to relay to the rest of the party that you have sustained a severe amount of damage and require aid or if you merely have a scratch on your arm that you've bound and cared for yourself.

The list of challenges is probably almost endless, so I won't elaborate more.

But what are the benefits? Hopefully a highly realistic game! One where you don't KNOW unless you find out. This should drive players to examine more, to explore more, to talk more, to PLAY the game and not just dial it in.

So... what are your thoughts? Does it sound intriguing? Believe me, we know there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid. Like I said, it can either be the coolest thing ever or it could crash and burn.

This is the first attempt. Follow along and see what you think...

http://www.unseenservant.us/forum/viewforum.php?f=105
[f=4]Leudigar the Tracker (MV 9", AC 3/5, HD 2-2, hp 2/6, FC Man+1, L) mail+helm, silvered sword+Torch
Desmond/Mondes the Hobbet Hero/Burglar (MV 9", AC 5/7, HD 4/2+2, hp 19/19, FC Hero, N) leather+helm, short sword+main gauche[/f]
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Post Tue Feb 11, 2014 11:39 pm

Re: And now for something completely different...

Many moons ago--in the days before internet forums were commonplace--I tried something similar. I ran several PBP games by email.

As the referee, I managed which "email threads" existed, and who was CC'd and BCC'd on each thread. The players were required to always "reply to all" to each mail, and thus maintain the audience for each thread. The players were not meant to create new "threads" including other players.

The net result was more-or-less the same as what is being proposed here; each player would only ever "see" information that his PC was directly participating in. And every player had a private, ongoing discussion with the referee going in the background.

So, did it work?

I'd say that technically it worked. But those games never lasted longer than a year.


With hindsight I generally wouldn't recommend that approach for a number of reasons:

1) RPGs are, at their core, social games. Having each player into his own private silo eliminates the "group engagement" which is a big loss for everyone.
2) It gives each player less to read, and most players will therefore conclude that the game is "slower" than it really is. Many PBPs experience issues with pace already, so making it seem slower might be a problem.
3) It really does make it a whole lot more work for ref. In the open forum, when a player posts his action, everyone can read it, so the the ref only needs to respond to it. In the closed forum, the ref will often have to repeat what players have posted privately so that others can see it (or a version of it). He might have to repeat the same thing numerous times if players are coming and going. And not only that, he may also need to repeat what he himself has posted multiple times, because not everyone may have read it the first (or second or third...) time he posted it.

That's my advice for PBPs in general.


On the other hand, for a specific type of player, the proposed format could work well.

I think it could work well for a small group of "expert" players who are more into an intimate, thoughtful, story-telling type of game than a tactical combat/treasure hunting type of game. For a group of players who are each willing (and able!) to "write their own story", and to intertwine it around each other's stories, then it could work very well indeed.

Like any PBP game, it is going to depend heavily on the level and quality of participation.

Just my two coppers ;)
[f=32]Golgildir the Elf Medium (MV 12", AC 9, HD 1, hp 1/1, AL N) great cloak, lantern; spells: color spray; scrolls: sleep, sleep, charm person
Hirelings: Georges; torch[/f]
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Post Wed Feb 12, 2014 12:20 am

Re: And now for something completely different...


On the other hand, for a specific type of player, the proposed format could work well.

I think it could work well for a small group of "expert" players who are more into an intimate, thoughtful, story-telling type of game than a tactical combat/treasure hunting type of game. For a group of players who are each willing (and able!) to "write their own story", and to intertwine it around each other's stories, then it could work very well indeed.

Like any PBP game, it is going to depend heavily on the level and quality of participation.

Just my two coppers ;)


Yes, this IS key. And something I guess I neglected to mention. This isn't the kind of game where you post an LFM and take the first four people to join. It is, as you say, geared towards expert players who fit a number of requirements, including a certain posting rate, writing capabilities, and, yes, playing capabilities.

From the social interaction perspective, the idea was to keep the limit to 3 or 4 players. But that doesn't mean you only interact with three of four players... The GM can add as many fully interactive NPCs to the game as they want. Your party could be three PCs and two replicants (more human than human).

The player shouldn't know who is which.

But thanks for the input.

Like I said, could be a total bomb. At least were giving it a whirl...
[f=4]Leudigar the Tracker (MV 9", AC 3/5, HD 2-2, hp 2/6, FC Man+1, L) mail+helm, silvered sword+Torch
Desmond/Mondes the Hobbet Hero/Burglar (MV 9", AC 5/7, HD 4/2+2, hp 19/19, FC Hero, N) leather+helm, short sword+main gauche[/f]

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Post Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:52 pm

Re: And now for something completely different...

Yeah, like Ways, I've played in and run games like this in the past via email. I posted a narrative that everyone got, but all posts from players came to me and we ran private conversations outside the narrative posts. The games never lasted long and it was mainly because of a lack of social interaction among the *players*. Sure characters interacted, but the players did not and that quickly became very isolating and games bogged down and died.

I still run a couple of email rpg's...one Traveller and one D&D. I use a mailing list where everyone posts and the list echos each post out to everyone on the list. Yes, I have private (off list) email exchanges with players from time to time, but most of the time they *do* know the things you mentioned in your original post. Do they have to pretend not to know some things? Sure, but that's true in FTF games as well.

In a FTF game, the players sitting around the table are meta-gaming all the time. They chat, look over each other's shoulder, make out of character comments and plans. They share who has what spell memorized, what weapons they are packing, and even truly meta-game info like Attribute and Skill levels. That's okay, though, it's all part of the *social interaction* that makes role playing fun...IMO anyway.

The email games I'm running have lasted for over a decade each, and I strongly put forth that it is because the players are very social with each other on the lists. As you may know, I've been very slow and sporadic about posting for the past couple of months due to work and family problems, in both my PBEM games the players have told me, "Just post something IG every week or two and we'll keep things going in between."...and they have. A lot of what they've done has been out of game chat, out of character planning and chatter, with only a little in character plot progression scattered here and there based on what I've been able to give them. They've had fun, though, and when I've had time and energy to post I've had fun, too. Heck, just reading their chatter posts has been fun, because we're all friends and enjoy talking with each other.

Good luck to your friend on his experiment, though. When it comes to role playing there is no one correct way to do it, IMO, it's whatever is fun and makes you happy. If he and his friends enjoy this way, then more power to them!

And that's my two cents...well, probably more like 6 cents. ;)
[f=4]Manfreid the Fighter (MV 9", AC 3/5, HD 1+2, hp 2/7, FC Man+1, N) silver mail+helm, sword+shield[/f]
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Post Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:59 pm

Re: And now for something completely different...

Thanks for the input, Eris.
[f=4]Leudigar the Tracker (MV 9", AC 3/5, HD 2-2, hp 2/6, FC Man+1, L) mail+helm, silvered sword+Torch
Desmond/Mondes the Hobbet Hero/Burglar (MV 9", AC 5/7, HD 4/2+2, hp 19/19, FC Hero, N) leather+helm, short sword+main gauche[/f]
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Post Thu Feb 13, 2014 2:29 am

Re: And now for something completely different...

I have played in at least one game sort of like this. There weren't a lot of private threads; rather, the DM implored/cajoled/ordered the players to only post what they said and did, not what they thought.

The hope was that you would be encouraged to be more descriptive in your posts instead of pretending that everyone has ESP. It's tough to do, both because the typical PbP posts have a lot of "thought broadcasting", so there are ingrained habits to break, and because some folks aren't all that interested in creative writing.

I thought it was fun, and I enjoyed the challenge while it lasted. But as has been mentioned before, it takes the right kind of players to make it work. I wish you luck!
Chiron the Medium (MV 12", AC 9, HD 1, hp 4/4, FC Man, L) dagger+lantern, The Mellifluent Concord
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Post Thu Feb 13, 2014 4:17 am

Re: And now for something completely different...

RolePlay onLine! actually handles the first two issues mentioned rather well. The GM can set up separate thread that can only be viewed by certain members. I've used that to great effect before in games I've run. Also, players cannot access each others character sheets; the only way for someone to know what you have is for you to tell them. The same goes for attributes, alignment, spells, etc. This can also be a lot of fun, increasing the unknown factor.

As far as controlling what is posted, character thoughts and OOC chatter, that would be tough to do but certainly a worthwhile experiment.
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Post Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:17 am

Re: And now for something completely different...

There are plenty of outlets for social interaction on the Unseen Servant forums and in most of the US Forum games. I think what we're trying to create is an environment where the players can find something different.

While I readily admit to the occasional OOC joke in the IC thread, it seems like many games are riff with smilie faces in IC posts and blatant META gaming where people admit to going through character sheets to locate information they need. Another common thing we see is where a player continually makes posts that do not advance the action of the game in any way. This eventually causes frustrated DMs who are trying to avoid stall.

Honestly, there is a lot of the DM giving way too much information to the players, too. Information before they ask for it and information they shouldn't even have.

I think there is a group of players out there who is looking for more. They want more of an immersive experience, where you only know what you see and can figure out yourself, where the game doesn't stall for 5 real days because of OOC strategy discussions.

I don't think there is a HUGE group of players out there who want that. And I don't know if it will work or not. But we're giving it a try.

If, after a certain amount of time it doesn't appear to be working, then we'll probably open up the main threads to have everyone post their actions there and have limited OOC chatting. But most everything else will still remain hidden.

Anyway, thanks again for all of the input. We're certainly hoping for positive things but ready to make adjustments if it doesn't work out the way we want.

ehiker
[f=4]Leudigar the Tracker (MV 9", AC 3/5, HD 2-2, hp 2/6, FC Man+1, L) mail+helm, silvered sword+Torch
Desmond/Mondes the Hobbet Hero/Burglar (MV 9", AC 5/7, HD 4/2+2, hp 19/19, FC Hero, N) leather+helm, short sword+main gauche[/f]
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Post Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:38 am

Re: And now for something completely different...

ehiker133 wrote:I think there is a group of players out there who is looking for more.


I agree! I'm probably one of them... if only I wasn't so over-committed already :)

Good luck with your game; I'm sure it could work, and I hope it does! Be sure to let us know in a few months time how it's playing out... it's the kind of thing we can all learn from :)
[f=32]Golgildir the Elf Medium (MV 12", AC 9, HD 1, hp 1/1, AL N) great cloak, lantern; spells: color spray; scrolls: sleep, sleep, charm person
Hirelings: Georges; torch[/f]
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Post Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:43 pm

Re: And now for something completely different...

Of course I will!

It's a chance to write, innit? Never passed up one of those...
[f=4]Leudigar the Tracker (MV 9", AC 3/5, HD 2-2, hp 2/6, FC Man+1, L) mail+helm, silvered sword+Torch
Desmond/Mondes the Hobbet Hero/Burglar (MV 9", AC 5/7, HD 4/2+2, hp 19/19, FC Hero, N) leather+helm, short sword+main gauche[/f]
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