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  #1  
Unread 18th of April, 2002, 01:58
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Post Pseudo Article: PBP Gaming 101

Play by Post Gaming 101 as written by Ryal of the 3ebb in the long, long ago.

"What are some ground rules for play by post gaming?"

Since the topic was raised by one of the players in a PbP game I was in, I figured I’d take the time to write a brief post about some tips on making PbP games more fun and easier for all involved. The post turned into a pretty long read and I thought that it would be beneficial to anyone playing in a play by post game, so I elected to reformat it a little and turn it into an article. To answer the above question, I can say only this: There are no rules, only guidelines to make the game flow more easily. In the play by post style of gaming (and it is its own style), flow is the key to success. A game that crawls along is boring and a game that moves at lighting speed is hard to keep up with and usually not much more than sparse descriptions and out of character action declaration. I propose a few guidelines to make the game flow at a good pace and still provide vivid imagery and exciting action.

Never let the medium limit your creativity.
We are all in this game because the DM felt we had the creative and literary ability to make it interesting for all participants AND for the readers who choose to follow along. Don’t let some stupid technicality get in the way of your creativity and role-playing ability. This medium is slow in general, so if you’re having a conversation with another character, it can REALLY slow the game down. Don’t be afraid to generate the 'expected' response. In a forum medium, you have to make a lot of assumptions. Using elaborate if...then...else... statements rapidly turns the game into a boring read. You don’t always have to wait to find out what’s going to happen if you're the one making it happen. Make assumptions. A tip for resolving conversations is to hold them on a faster medium then work with the character you're conversing with to determine who will post what. It’s perfectly acceptable for one person to post both sides of a conversation. ICQ, AIM, or IRC are all excellent media for performing quick conversations that would otherwise take DAYS on a forum.


Perform more than one action per post Just because you don’t necessarily know how one of your actions is going to turn out doesn’t mean you cant post the next one, ESPECIALLY in a non combat situation. When we enter combat, things work differently. When outside combat, however, feel free to post 2, 3 or even 4 actions at a time. If you have 5 trivial actions to perform, you don’t necessarily need DM approval for every one. We aren't here to make the DM’s life difficult. HELP the DM, don’t try to slip one by him. I hardly feel it's a problem with most groups, and I'm sure if it becomes one, your DM will be the first to step on it.

In combat, you can really only post 1 action at a time, so this is where you get to shine. Make your action descriptions elaborate and interesting to read. Don’t just "hit the skeleton", instead "Parry a weak blow that was little more than an attempt to throw you off balance then respond in turn with a fierce mace swing to the skeleton’s left femur, chipping bone and metal alike, sending sounds like crunching eggshells into the small room." Note that the above description need not be a "hit". Making contact with the skeleton doesn’t mean you "hit" the skeleton to do damage as per the PHB.

Keep most correspondence on the forum, but in appropriate threads Make use of Out Of Character (OOC) threads for more than just idle banter. Ask legitimate OOC questions there. Obviously, minor notes like "I’m going to take a 5' step to avoid the AoO for casting my spell" should be made in the game threads where they can be read and understood clearly. For the most part, the DM will easily be able to extract your intent from the post, but exact game effects should be noted with a brief OOC comment. Detailed questions about setting, character information, or rule topics should be discussed in the OOC threads, along with all the off topic info. Don’t be annoyed that the OOC thread takes up almost 60% of the forum's volume, that’s just part of the game.

Most game information can easily be shared with other players in an OOC context. Private emails are obviously needed at some points for secret character information, but a good group can avoid metagaming anyway so this isn’t usually an issue. Keeping an open policy on the information makes it easier for everyone to follow along and keeps readers interested. Elements of mystery are great hooks though, so don’t reveal everything all at once!

Quality over Quantity Nothing sucks more than reading a 600 word post that says nothing interesting. Description and creativity are great, but irrelevant information and boring text are not. If you plan on writing a novel of a post, please please please make it interesting to read. Be careful how you take this one: I’m not saying don’t make long posts, because I actually enjoy long descriptive passages. What I’m saying is that redundant (repetitive) information and information that has no purpose other than to exist (e.g. a 400 word digression on the history of your character's boots while describing a combat action) do not belong in the game thread. If you feel the need to generate this much detail, do so in your character's personal thread.

Proof Read Carefully Before you submit your post, cut and paste the text into a word processor and spell check it. It only takes 5 minutes and can save you editing the post later, or being horribly embarrassed by a plethora of typos and spelling errors. It also makes it more enjoyable to read if the reader doesn’t have to stop every 30 seconds and figure out what you were TRYING to say, instead of what you ACTUALLY said.

Do not include forum signatures in roleplay posts This is just bad form. Sigs are great for regular board posting and maybe even in the OOC threads, but in the roleplay threads signatures are a HUGE distraction and detract from the game. It's not something blatant that you'll scream at when you see it, but when you see the difference between a roleplay thread with sigs and a roleplay thread without them, you'll understand why leaving them out is desireable.

The bottom line here is that Play by Post gaming is a unique medium. It is a balance between the ancient days of play by email and the real time experience of IRC or tabletop gaming. As such, it requires its own style of play and it's own group of devoted players in order to be successful. I personally feel PbP games allow a freedom of expression that is not present in tabletop games, but maintains a fast pace that Pbem games cannot deliver. I would not say one medium is better than the other, but that they are different. As a result, one has to adopt certain ideas about how to utilize the particular medium (in this case an online forum). The ideas presented above are guidelines that I’ve pulled from my own experience and from suggestions by others to help facilitate game play in our medium of choice. I hope you found it helpful.
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  #2  
Unread 24th of June, 2004, 22:23
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Time has passed and the forum has grown. I think that most of us have formed our own strong opinions on good form for PBP gaming. So I thought I'd dig this old thread up to post a few of my own thoughts and invite others to share their own

The OOC thread and OOC comments in the IC.

Although a good proportion of these threads tends to be taken up by rather off-topic issues (which is far from a bad thing), players and DMs shouldn't be afraid of trying to use this thread for something on topic. The IC thread(s) should try to read something like a story, in a rather odd action->result post by post manner.
A player/DM will often leave a short OOC comment at the bottom of a length IC post in an attempt to clarrify his action (a detailed description of the character's thoughts as he on to a table and charges in a blood-frenzy towards a villian is excellent, adding a few words to explain game terms is even better). This isn't hard and need not be intrusive. A DM normally has a preference with the recording of these clarrifications, such as :

[charge at half-orc leader, using power attack +3dam]

Some players like to take things a step further and include relevant details in their ooc clarrifcation. My hat goes off to you for this practice which makes my complicated life as a DM easier, it is one however that I frequently neglect when I play.

[charge at half-orc leader, using power attack +3. +7 to hit, 1d6+9damage]

A OOC comment in the IC thread should not ever be without an IC partner. If you are making a post in the IC which includes no IC then it simply does not belong in the IC thread. Having a conversation in OOC comments inside an IC thread is really bad form, if it's s stand-alone conversation which is not accompanying IC progress then it is a terrible blashemy and players should not be suprised if their DM hunts them down and explains the problem with his friend Mr Chair

A direct question (to player or DM) is a good example of what belongs in the OOC thread. Let's assume the players have just entered a room which the DM lovingly and in great detail described, but he neglected to explain just how many orcs it contained! The player should here head to the OOC thread and ask, the DM will then reply (possibly editing his former IC post to include the missing details) and the world will be saved without sullying the IC thread

Quoting and Emoticons

No doubt everyone is familiar with quote tags, these make it clear what your message is in response to in the message board medium. An IC post should be inherently clear as to what it is in response to, quoting is inelegant and distracting. In short don't quote using quote tags in the IC without good reason. Good reason can exist but in a huge majority of cases there is a better way.

Emoticons should be our friends and I personally use them in my day to day jibber jabber and posting, they help to explain the tone you are employing and prevent undue offense being taken. However they do not belong in an IC post, here it is up to your writing skills to express the information concealed a yellow expressive circle. There is no excuse for using emoticons in an IC thread (I even find their inclusion in an OOC comment in the IC thread to be very distasteful)

Character Sheets

A character sheet contains all the crunchy aspects of a character. A clear up to date sheet is essential. Spending long periods of time hunting through a sheet for a particular number is no one's idea of fun. Sheets can be clarrifed by using our friends Colour and Style, along with other devices such as code tags and multiple posts. As soon as someone works out a perfect method of recording character stats I assume there will be some form of huge international party, until then do your best. Don't squash everything into a few lines, take the space you need.

Upon occasion multiple posts find themselves beneath a character's thread which are simply the DM/ other players explaining any issues with the sheet (your fort save is +3, it should be +4 etc), these aren't too much of an issue in most cases. However, from time to time they occur between useful posts. A player may have split his sheet into three posts, stats, spells and background. Having random, now irrelevant ,comments between posts is unnappealing and increases search time. It's a good idea to remove them

There are tools which can help store character sheets. I've recently had this pointed out to me which could solve a good deal of problems




And that's all I can think of right now. Basically make things are clear as you can and treat IC threads as sacred places they shouldn't be defiled and everyone will be happy
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Unread 24th of June, 2004, 22:46
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Some of this can be clarified by the DM at the start of the game such laying the ground rules for use of colors in languages (or as an alternative means of quoting another character). Although as someone who tends to write rather voluminous posts, I'd like to fancy that it's quality and quantity...but I imagine my players and fellow-gamers might disagree.

Otherwise it's good advice, and I think I actually caught the original article at some point.
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Unread 25th of June, 2004, 04:49
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I agree with all of this, but I especially agree on the OOC comments in an IC thread part. They are great if they are attached at the bottom or top of an IC post, but if they are by themselves they should be placed in the OOC thread.

I think I'll put a link to this in my own OOC thread...
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Unread 25th of June, 2004, 04:59
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If OOC comments are included in an IC post, I much prefer them to be grouped together in one block at the bottom of the IC post.

That is, I find this acceptable:
“ Summoning his inner reserves of emotion, Barbzilla charges the orc leader, shifting to a two handed grip on his mighty battle axe. He launches a ferocious blow at the chieftan's ugly face with all of his strength.
<ooc: initiate rage, charge the leader, and power attack for +3.>
”

and this annoying:
“ Summoning his inner reserves of emotion <ooc: initiate rage>, Barbzilla charges the orc leader <ooc: charge at +2 to hit, -2 to AC>, shifting to a two handed grip on his mighty battle axe <ooc: for 2x strength bonus>. He launches a ferocious blow at the chieftan's ugly face with all of his strength <ooc: power attack at +3>. ”
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Unread 25th of June, 2004, 05:15
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indeed, I would have thought that was common sense. Good catch Gral

Looking back at Ryal's original article I don't quite agree with it so strongly...
His first point and advice on combat posts seem a little counter-productive
Yes, make more exciting combat posts but presuming anything is rather bad form (with the possible exception of little RP excursions that have little no actual game impact)
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Unread 25th of June, 2004, 05:31
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And I would have thought it was common sense that we aren't battling it out with pixellated characters, but people constantly surprise me.
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Unread 25th of June, 2004, 05:46
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We never did get our pixelated characters did we?
Damn you Danny!

It's a fair point though, some people seem to arrive at the site expecting everything but PBP roleplaying
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Unread 8th of July, 2004, 09:06
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The DM Advice Thread is an excellent place for those of you who want to run games, but are unsure about how to begin. Hell, I even got a few ideas from reading it.

As an interesting sidenote our supposedly deceased ex-member Nestro contributed to it. Strangely there weren't any mentions of level 20 ghostly cohorts.
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Unread 17th of July, 2006, 06:23
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Oho! The rating system works! Check the upper right corner of the thread.
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Unread 17th of July, 2006, 06:28
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The biggest thing here is the authority of the GM within their own game. They need to set rules down, or affirm the usage of these.
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Unread 17th of July, 2006, 06:51
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Definately so, Night.

A question, though: how does the community feel about tags (color, size, etc) for IC posts, either on the part of the GM or the players? Is it distracting or helpful? I've experimented a bit in the past with using colors to code out parts of my GM posts relevant to particular players (which seemed to work quite well) and also to try and add ambiance to the threads. (Obviously bolds and italics are good for emphasis but Quote can be good for written works or flashbacks and colors, used sparingly, can make exceptional voices stick out.)
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Unread 17th of July, 2006, 07:01
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I personally use colours for languages.
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Unread 17th of July, 2006, 07:16
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I personally like what my GM is doing:

“ Killswitch

Initial Initiative Order:
Human: 21
Killswitch: 18
Troll: 15

The red bolt struck home on its target, causing the troll's persona to shake violently, his body spasming with the intensity of the algorithms that were ripping apart its icon's code. Blood coursed from a cut above the troll's eye, his vision partially obscured by the virtual red liquid. The troll's other eye regarded Killswitch violently, "No good deed goes unpunished, omae."

Before Killswitch could realize what was happening, the human had leaped forward, a glistening sword of circuitry materializing in his hand, bringing it down towards Killswitch, "You're going to pay for messing with Isis-9, bub!"

The sword digs into the swirling vapors of Killswitch's avatar, sending some of the fiery mass soaring into the virtual plane. The human grins wickedly, and steps back before melding into the grass of the virtual park.


Current Initiative:
Human: 21
Killswitch: 16 (+2 to TNs)
Troll: 12 (+3 to TNs)

((SKILL RESULTS:
To Hit Troll: Computer (Decking) (5): 10, 9, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 2, 2, 6 Successes;
Staged up to 7D
0 Host Successes
Security Tally: 4

Troll stages damage down to Serious, does not take additional Overload Damage

To Hit Killswitch:
2 Successes, Stages Damage to 4S

Bod Resistance (4): 4, 4, 2, 1, 3 Successes;
Killswitch stages damage down to Moderate, does not take additional Overload Damage

Human achieves 4 successes on Evade Detection (Evasion) test, Killswitch achieves 2 successes. Human requires a Locate Decker operation to find.
))
”
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Unread 17th of July, 2006, 09:25
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“ Originally Posted by AbusePuppy Is it distracting or helpful? ”
Usually distracting. In my opinion a game is likely a strangely formatted novel, you should keep as close to that as possible.

“ I've experimented a bit in the past with using colors to code out parts of my GM posts relevant to particular players (which seemed to work quite well) and also to try and add ambiance to the threads. ”
I don't sprinkle in random colours, although one or two people I play with use a different colour for spoken text. In my games I use the pretty much standard different colours for languages (largely as it was a pain to have to keep inserting the langiage into the prose)

“ (Obviously bolds and italics are good for emphasis but Quote can be good for written works or flashbacks and colors, used sparingly, can make exceptional voices stick ”
I've used bold in speech once or twice, italicised text in speech is emphasis while out of speech is thought (again, as seems standard).
Quotes, however, have about as much place in an IC thread as emoticons.

I don't like using the irony map tool largely due to the need to fill your IC with frequent blocks of gibberish.
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Unread 17th of July, 2006, 09:45
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The times we've used quote blocks in an IC thread, and usually the most acceptable way to use them, is when someone's replying to a post several posts up, or even a page back, if they weren't able to reply to a direct comment right away and other players posted in the meantime. Or, if responding to a large or multi-part conversation. It tends to happen, but most people are pretty good about avoiding those unless necessary.

I'm not a big fan of color-changes myself, unless necessary. I've it once so far, in MEHSV, for a special emphasis in one post. I don't tend to see the need to use much else but italics and bold when necessary. Anything else gets distracting, or glaring, unless one is really careful about which colors they use. Quotation marks work just fine for delineating speech. I suppose I can see using a variant color for a different language. My other forum uses {these brackets} for that. But then, it's not as easy to change colors on that board, either.

Last edited by LynMars; 18th of July, 2006 at 13:50.
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Unread 18th of July, 2006, 13:18
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Usually I choose a color simply for the character's speech to stand out amongst the narrative. The color for a language change is useful but I am not in favor of language coded systems. So hin=white, green=elven, etc is not to my liking.

For consistency just about every game I am in my speech is bolded and in quotes, thoughts are italicized.
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Unread 19th of July, 2006, 07:35
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Here is an example of formatting that I use (unless told so otherwise by the DM) and prefer:

---------
Silithus walked up to the chest, examining the ornate sculpting that culminated in the rather obvious keyhole.
Huh. That's interesting... the sage said that it was opened by a command.
He looked back to his friend, Waron.
"I'm going to go through the addressing process... be on the lookout, since the sage said that it sometimes summons things."

He composed himself, then walked in front of the chest.
"Hail, che..."
There was a slight rumbling, and he suddenly remembered that it was to be spoken to in Abyssal, not common.
"Er, Hail, Chest of the Holder's Basalt. I am Silithus, and come on the advice of Gerond from Hir-on-the-Dale."

He paused, waiting for the response.

---------

Normal action text is in plaintext, done in the past tense.
Speech in common adds "quotes."
Thoughts are italicized.
Whispers (of any language) are "italicized w/ quotes."
Languages other than common are done in a color. Usually the color is standardized, but if not, an appropriate one for the flavor of the language is chosen on the fly, and the language is mentioned.
Usually, extraplanar languages use harder colors, like a deep red for abyssal or a really obnoxious yellow for celestial, while commoner languages use muted ones, like paler green for gnomic or orange for orcish.

This is all rather exact, but I find it works well for games that have many languages and other things.
Also, for telepathy, I used to denote that it's telepathy and just put it in italics, but have picked up LeadPal's idea of using italic angle brackets for telepathy <like this.>

Also, any stats for actions are done at the end, like so:
[attack with short sword, +6, 1d6+2, then move to b13]
or
[diplomacy +12, bluff +14]

Does this seem reasonable, or have I missed something?
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Unread 21st of July, 2006, 12:10
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Yes. You forgot that abyssal is not spoken in "deep red," but rather in "paleish violet words of DOOM."

I like to mask OOC comments as much as possible, as well (so long as they're still visible, of course.)

[OOC: Small, dark grey text in larger bright brackets are preferred.]
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Unread 22nd of July, 2006, 03:45
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In your games, maybe.

Violet is undercommon.


OR goblin.
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Unread 22nd of July, 2006, 15:14
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Violet isn't even a language in my games.
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Unread 20th of September, 2006, 00:12
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I speak fluent violet.
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Unread 20th of October, 2006, 18:43
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Personally, whatever the native speach of the Far Realm is should be 'violet.'

Language, instead of sound, is based on color.


Which is somehow percieved by the ears, and understood like language and sound.



BUT IT IS COLOR!!!
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Unread 21st of October, 2006, 13:43
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Local colour, to be precise.

An interesting snapshot of PbP, where the actual sound of speech is irrelevant.
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Unread 21st of October, 2006, 13:56
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Personally, I like to give them real world parallels.

Like, English is to Common as French is to Elvish.
When someone speaks elvish and I want to make some random wordage without just saying "speaking elvish," I use my amazing powers of low-quality french.

This seems as logical as using english for common - it's obvious that the "real" people aren't actually speaking english, they're speaking common, so same thing with using french.

However, elvish does sort of sound like (really nice) french, just as common does sort of sound like english, so it makes sense.



Also, quote from a game I was in a while ago:

"This reminds me of a couplet from my native home."
"Mmm?"
"Rain sleeps and dreams, but never the hardest downpour is a nightmare."
"...that doesn't rhyme."
"Eh, it does in elvish. Sounds a lot nicer, too."
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