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...