View Full Version : Casually paced game?

05-17-2010, 07:20 PM
I'm a bit stuck this summer, my wife and I are having twins in a couple of months. I'm pretty sure that means I won't have any sort of useful free time for a normal campaign. However, I really don't want to give up on my hobby. I suspect my only real free time will be lunch breaks at work and whatever time the twins are napping.

I was thinking that a Play By Post game might be the way to go with it. Since the pace is far more casual and I don't need large blocks of time to play. I'm willing to DM it, I just don't have any idea how that type of game works.

Since I'm a 4E fan I'd like to go that route, which leads me to believe that something inside of Google Wave might be a better choice since it has widgets to create little combat maps if they are needed. I understand the Play By Post style tends to favor more RP than combat since the slower pace makes combat turns extremely slow. Still though, a lot of fun in 4E comes from the combat so I wouldn't want to cut them out entirely.

So after all that rambling we come to my questions. Has anyone tried out these sort of things in Google Wave? Has it proved to be advantageous over the standard forum posts? Am I perhaps better off with a different rule set than 4E?

Thanks for any advice or tips you offer. I did a quick search to see if a similar topic exists, and either my search-fu sucks or there wasn't one. I'm willing to admit that my searching was too brief, so just pointing me at relevant threads will be fine too.

05-17-2010, 07:33 PM
I think you need to differentiate first if you are talking about forums or realtime when you say "pbp", as that usually means play-by-post, which originally and I think still mostly means forums, and not realtime, in which case any forum would technically work. But since you're talking about Google Wave and all that, it sounds like realtime which I don't have much experience with, only pbp, so I'd direct you to maybe see if you can find resource in "virtual tabletop" searches that might also help with your needs.

On the subject of rules systems, I'd like to add my two cents.

I don't know how people do RPGs online, in forums or realtime vtt, using full systems, especially things as laboriously bulky as D20, or just enumerated as games with hundreds of skills like Call of Cthulhu and such. Even using Feng Shui, which is fairly small, framework-wise, for my forum game, I'm cutting it down considerably, to make it manageable.

I've ran about half a dozen forum games and found that my best friend was Dan Bayn's Wushu, which is a super rules lite system which could be adapted I'm sure in some way to any play style, but is geared to stunty cinematic action - the players make up about four stats of their choosing, one being a combat stat, and they roll dice against them. I'm lead to understand it is vaguely similar to Exalted (or vice versa, not sure which was first), as the more detail a player posts for an action/stunt, the more dice you get, and you roll your dice, and for each success (each die that comes up your skill or less), you reduce the Threat level, or get a point off the objective of the scene or whatever. You'd need to read the free Wushu SRD to get a better idea (I bought the $5.00 PDF too).

Probably something between this and full D20 is what you're looking for, as I lean heavily toward rules lite myself. I'm playing in two 3.5 games right now on another forum, fairly casual, I'm not keeping track of a lot of stuff, as I don't like the system, but the GM isn't pressing the mechanics a lot, which is good, but I feel like the mechanics are seriously getting in the way a LOT - requiring a LOT of back and forth between the players and GM and causing a LOT of unnecessary waiting and confusion and bookkeeping and such that using simpler systems avoid altogether.

I personally like play-by-post format, as the people I play with are in other places and if we had the time to set aside each week or whatever, we'd play face to face regularly to begin with. I never could get into doing "raids" and stuff in online games - I just can't put real life on "hold" to go do something on the computer if someone else is wanting/needing something, so I can't commit to realtime online gaming schedules, but play by post is great because as long as everyone posts within a couple of days to keep things going (whatever gets decided at the start by everybody), then everyone can take their turns at their own pace without pressure or missing real-life things. There are a lot of situational improv rules that you have to learn and discover yourself while running these types of games, like what people are likely to do, how to keep interest, what to do and not do, what to expect, how to tell the players what you expect, etc. but overall I like pbp second best to face to face at the table and I recommend you give it a try.

I recently got to try realtime gaming via OpenRPG and while it was ok, I didn't like the system (D20), the "DM" was iffy at best (not a fault of the format of course), and I just kept thinking "if someone calls and invites me somewhere, I can't justify saying no to sit here and do this".

05-17-2010, 08:30 PM
Well for this I don't mean a real time game. I don't think I'll have that kind of time. I've never done any play by post so I'm not sure what the time requirements actually are. As I'm envisioning the game in my head (which may or may not have any relationship to reality) I'd check in on the game, be it either a form thread or Google Wave, once or twice a day as I find a few minutes to kill. Respond to player actions, either NPC commentary or requesting various dice rolls. Allowing the game to continue at a fairly slow pace as players and myself post our actions and dialog.

My main experience with DMing is either in person or in online table tops, like MapTool, where everyone has several hours in a single night devoted to the game. Obviously that's not an option with my upcoming schedule, so I figured a play by post setup would give it a far more causal time frame where I could give it a few minutes at a time throughout the week to keep things going.

I should mention, for any that aren't familiar, that Google Wave is essentially an elaborate forum. The mechanics are very similar, the only interesting bit is that it allows you to program various widgets that you can use to add extra functionality to your thread. These can be as elaborate as embedding web pages, or as simple as sharing an image. The map widget I mentioned was an extension by which you use a variant of Google maps to present a battle map with various icons on it to show the positions of creatures and characters.

05-17-2010, 09:18 PM
:lol: Now Q-man, are you really thinking that the twins will nap at the same time? Congrats on the future additions to the family. Since we're in relatively the same area, let me know if you are trying to find a particular type of item for the little ones.

I would suggest trying to speak with some of the other folks that are running pbp games. From what I know about pbp games, which is rather limited, it may be the better way for you to go at first with the new little ones. With any luck, maybe you would be able to get players that are all in our area and then when the kids are older, you could change the group from pbp to tabletop.

05-17-2010, 09:49 PM
I had no idea what Google Wave was, my apologies - I've seen it mentioned but just know it's by invite and people kept talking about gaming with it, and I couldn't imagine what use it would be unless it was a realtime tool. If it's a forum type thing, it might be a good thing for you.

As far as time investment, it depends on how you do it - it can come down to as little as a few minutes when you post as GM (or player for that matter, once you figure out what you want to do). I often read a post and then go surf and think about my actions or GM reply, then come back and post, so it's not really a direct sit there and do it all at once process, which helps - sometimes I do of course.

I guess there are PbP games going on in this site in a ton of places you can look through and find out how they look and the kind of style the GM and players use, better and probably more standardized than what I've done, but I can give you the "benefit" of my limited knowledge if you have questions, but I'll be sure and tell you if I have no clue, which just might happen a couple of times. =)

05-19-2010, 01:19 AM
Casual is the word. With PbP you do want to cut way back on combat. A couple of rounds can take a couple of days. It is better suited ot role-playing social situations.

05-19-2010, 07:20 AM
I looked through some of the play by post forums on here, and from an RP perspective they seem to work out really well. Reading through them doesn't give you a sense of the pace though. I thought about pulling off the posting time stamps and arranged them into a spreadsheet to figure out the trends, but then I realized that it would be dangerously close to what I do all day at work and I didn't want to taint my hobby with that kind of stuff.

I can see how combat would be very painful though, with all the delays waiting for posts to show up it would be pretty dull. Assuming I DMed one of those I'd need to really rethink the encounters. I suppose skill challenges would still work well, assuming you don't go in initiative order. That still leaves something to mix into the dialog. I've just gotten used to mixing the play modes (RP, combat, and puzzles) in the other games I've run, so it'll just be a different way of putting things together.

I like cplmac's idea of using local folks for it, then changing it to in person once I get my free time back. I wonder how easily a change like that could be made?

05-19-2010, 08:31 AM
I'll give my two cents as a super recent father and pbp'er. First off, twins would be difficult so can't really comment. Second, if you could find people who are understanding of your situation, maybe you could find a convenient 3-4 hr block to play live. Finally, check out the unquiet lands game here. It is the pbp game I am in, and it is pretty low impact. It is pretty good paced for a pbp game. Also, we do have a good mix of combat and RP. We even have maps and such. Umiushi is the GM, and he does a wonderful job, so you may want to PM him for advice.

Best thing he does, sets up a schedule. You have till X time to post, and if you don't, your character does nothing. And he always posts his response in a timely manner. For players, you should encourage, if/then/else sort of structures for their actions. Even if their init won't get resolved before they post, they can give you likely scenarios for what happened. Best of all, if things don't get included in their if/then/else, you can go back and edit what happened.

Also, we scale back how much XP is required for level up. I think we are trying to use certain "milestones" in the storyline to mark leveling up. I put milestones in quotes as to not mistake them for the game component of milestones.

We have 3-4 OFFICIAL posts a week, and I think after a year we are 2nd level, and have gone through 6-8 encounters. But we have met up, uncovered the plot to destroy the village with a huge flood, and are on our way to save the priest's daughter. At first the game was too slow paced, but it picked up well. I think the problem at first was how much time was spent on the mundane things like taking a shower or ordering dinner. Details like that are best resolved with a lot of "hand-waving." (in my opinion). Real RPing that is story-centered and plot-driven shouldn't be skipped, but what you order for dinner should be if you want an involved game.

If you run it here (not google wave), I may participate. I like pbp games

05-19-2010, 11:18 AM
I looked through some of the play by post forums on here, and from an RP perspective they seem to work out really well. Reading through them doesn't give you a sense of the pace though.

No readling through them does not give the real pace of the game. I have been doing play by post for ghodd, ten years now. Sometimes in can be painfully slow.

Best thing he does, sets up a schedule. You have till X time to post, and if you don't, your character does nothing. And he always posts his response in a timely manner.

Post nazi. I don't particularly like it, but sometimes you have to. the larger the group, the more you have to.

The more people you have the slower the pace of the game. 2 people will work at t2. 3 people at t9, 4 at t16 and so forth.

On the plus side it allows you to consider your move and do some decent writing along the way.

05-24-2010, 06:38 PM
I mostly play PbP, here and on some of the other forums that have a variety of PbP games. I don't have the concentrated blocks of time that one needs for on-line gaming. I do a bit of real-life gaming, but it's difficult because of the aforementioned blocks-of-time issues. I play D&D 4E.

Patience is necessary. The game is slower-paced. You don't need to stint on the combat or role-playing, though. You don't necessarily need to set any kind of schedule. The game pace may ebb and flow; the pace at one point won't necessarily be the same as it used to be or as it will be in the future.

Here is what I've learned so far from playing and DMing.

1. People will disappear. Start with more people than you really need and expect some to drop out. At some point, you'll need to recruit more people. This is not a reflection on you as a DM. It's the way PbP goes.

2. People say that they want more role-playing, but they don't always know what to do when they get it. Sometimes you'll get a good exchange between characters. Other times, no one will post anything at all because they don't know what to post. Be ready to move the plot along once everyone goes silent. In general, I try to end a DM post with something that will give the players some ideas of what to do next if they don't already have some other idea in mind.

3. There are several ways to handle combat. Often, DMs will make a few adaptations so that it moves a bit quicker. Waiting for each person to post actions, in pure initiative order, is the slowest. Taking turns between enemies and players is a bit faster. Some people group monsters and players in initiative blocks, so that a few of each go at a time. Also, you can set up a system for letting people know immediately whether they've hit or not, and exactly how damaging the attack is. Or not. There are trade-offs, and you will have to decide how to balance them all.

4. It would be good to find a way to post maps for combat. The maps can be crude or elaborate.

5. Many games will allow the players to gain enough XP for leveling on a reasonable schedule. Other times, a DM will have the players level up at a point that makes sense in the story. Any missing XP can be considered to be given out for role-playing, problem-solving, and other intangibles.

6. There are plenty of good PbP websites out there (including this one!), often with good dice-rolling support and other tools for DMs and players. I'd recommend one of those over Google Wave -- might as well support the RPG PbP community.

Congrats on the upcoming kids! Maybe you can get a few posts in while holding a napping baby.

05-25-2010, 07:46 AM
I'd like to reply to the "post nazi" comment. This applies to the DM too. By keeping to a schedule as a DM, you set an example and encourage more posting.

Another pbp game I am playing "started" early april. The characters haven't even met each other. I have made one official post, but no reply to that post. The DM and players never post, so the pace of the game isn't even interesting enough to keep up with it.

At least with pbp, if done right, when you post frequently, there is enough tidbits to want to come back and post more. It's like reading a book. Yes you can read it all in one night, but it isn't a big deal to read it one chapter a day. It is frequent enough to keep me enthralled, but not so demanding I have to set aside a huge block of time to commit to it.

While my wife was pregnant, I read 1 chapter a night to her and the baby (once I was told the baby could hear) so the baby would recognize my voice upon birth. I read the entire series of Harry potter. Normally, you could probably finish all 7 books within a week or two. It may have taken 5 months to read all of them, but I was still enthralled enough to want to read the next chapter the next day, but patient enough to wait to read the next day and not read multiples in one night.

05-28-2010, 09:20 AM
Thanks for all the tips and info on the play by post games. I'm planning on running one soon, after I get a bit more work done on the story for it.

It sounds like they have the same difficulties as any other game really. Player's come and go, their interest fades and returns. You just gotta press on through it and hope a few like how things go well enough to work around real life concerns to see it through to the end :)