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Kickstarting Pen & Paper Games
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    Question Kickstarting Pen & Paper Games

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    First, no, I don't mean actually doing a Kick Starter campaign -- aren't there enough of those already?! What I mean is that Pen & Paper Games has been coasting along as it is for a couple years now with not much in the way up updates, innovation, or to be frank, involvement from myself to move it forward.

    And, I want to change that. But, I think P&PG needs to figure out what it is going to be. A lot of the focus of the original site was on connecting players through the Player Registry, but this in and of itself isn't enough to create a vibrant and active community. So, I tried to create a place for gamers to not only meet, but a space where they could chat and exchange ideas through our forums. Since I started up P&PG though, social media has changed a LOT. Facebook has become one of the biggest sites (maybe the biggest?) on the planet, and "tweeting" has become an integral part of our collective lexicon.

    The way we communicate online continues to change -- enough so that I'm not even sure what role traditional Forums such as this one have... I looked down this barrel a long time ago when things moved from local BBS's -- some of you are probably too young to even know what that is -- and now I find myself looking down that barrel again. As I see it, P&PG has two choices if it has any future. It has to embrace the old and become the best at it that it can possibly be; competing for audience among sites like RPG.net and ENWorld. OR, it has to evolve, and to be honest, I'm not really sure what that would look like.

    So, I put the question to you. Though we have many, many members, if you are reading this, you are probably among a much smaller group that visits these forums on a regular basis. So, I am wondering, what is it that brings you back? What is it that you feel like P&PG offers that you can't readily get elsewhere? And, what do you think this site could do better? ... If this was your site, what would you do with it?

    I'm open to any ideas you all have. Hit me with it, because I do want this site to succeed and not simply fold up and disappear into the digital ether as so many others have.
    Robert A. Howard
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    Soft Serve is offline Cascade Failure FTW Community Supporter
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    Intelligent conversations in the chat and the ability to host play-by-chat games there. All of the regulars I can name, I run into in chat with the exception of Nijineko.

    If this were my site, I'd put emphasis on what the community is creating. Putting spotlights on homebrew RPGs or settings, and making an upgrade to the ability to host games by chat here. Part of the appeal of RPGs is that it's something you created. A place where anyone can get their projects 5 minutes of fame doesn't exist. Put high rated creations on the front page or in their own category or what have you.

    Maybe a panel of reviewers, a collaborative effort with Roll20, or anyone else I could get a hold of, since it can't hurt to ask. More is better.

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    Funny you mention that. I do come back because of the lack of a "social media" feeling to the site. The internet has changed a lot, but not really for the better. I do like reading forum posts that span several paragraphs of thought, even if I find those thoughts disagreeable. I do like popping into the chat room to see what's going on, instead of reading random chatter milked out of a user to fill up an advertiser's database.

    But of course, I'm not everybody. The second part of the question is really the tricky part. If it were up to me, I'd keep everything the same, except make it bigger. I remember a time when this place was bursting at the seams. But... how that's supposed to be done is beyond me.

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    MicahWedemeyer is offline Special Guest Community Supporter
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    Very tough questions, but I'd say it probably comes down to what you want. Unless you move things in a direction that you are passionate about, it's doubtful that you'll have the drive to see it through the hard times to a conclusion.

    Letting the community guide decisions like this doesn't usually work (imho), because the community isn't the one spending their nights and weekends doing the work.

    What keeps you coming back? What are you excited about in the RPG realm? Are you more interested in a community site (ie. ENWolrd/RPG.net) or a specific feature set (the player registry)? It's okay not to do it all. Much better to focus on one thing and do that well.

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    I love coming here to read about the games that people are playing. It really helps me out as a designer. You are broad enough that you are targeting a specific game (like specialty sites: EN World, et al.) but are targeted towards tabletop games. Find a specialty and hammer that home. People should think about that specialty and then immediately have PnPG come to mind.

    I'll try to be more active in posting. I browse all the time.
    Matt James
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    Hey Farcaster,

    Long time no see. I have to admit I've fallen away from active use of the site awhile back, I think mostly because of involvement with gaming elsewhere. I at one time hosted a PBP game here, but due to time constraints, we collectively had to shelve it.

    While the net appears to be shifting towards social media, I still believe there's definitely a need for message boards. They provide logs of conversation that aren't easily accessible in places like FB. If anything, I'd say Google+ seems to be the rising star right now among gaming and tabletop discussion. I've yet to truly dive into it, simply due to time and privacy concerns (same goes for FB). Forums I believe are integral for gaming communities and will be for years to come.

    All I can think of is keep making the site look sharp. Combine more like forums that look stagnant when separated. Work with Obsidian Portal (since that partnership is already in place) and streamline the Players/Games Seeking Players/Games functionality. They are in the middle of kickstarting their site's look and feel. I believe that, the PBP forums, and general industry/community discussions are the three pillars this site shines on. Stick to those and make them strong.

    Also, I'll try to hang out more often as I can. Esepecially since I plan to run a Pathfinder campaign soon, I'll be needing to come to you all for support and tips.


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    the cat always comes back.

    (even in chat, if only very rarely....)


    personally, i like the non-spammy feel that this site gives over more media-centric sites, ads notwithstanding.

    however, the social-internet is a big deal. and i think we do need to adapt, or we will become a backwater (not necessarily a bad thing, but farcaster has to justify paying the bills somehow!) on one hand, it is the sheer volume of people who visit sites like rpgnow, enworld, and wotc that keep those sites going. on the other hand, that has some serious downsides in the quality of community.

    i've thought about this for a while now, actually. a few more months and i might have independently pitched farcaster on some of my ideas. goodness knows, he puts up with enough *pokepoke* type emails from me as it is. ^^

    so here are some of my thoughts:

    adapt, NOT adopt. social media hooks provide a quick and easy way to draw new faces, and raise awareness of our presence; however, this needs to be done in a way that integrates subtlety, not remakes the face of the site and floods us with who knows what, per se.

    shelters. portions of the site that are relatively free from social and advertisement spamming. member options for better control over the non-sheltered portions of the site with regards to social and ads. for example, the pbp game threads and the announcement threads are good candidates for auto-shelter. personal blogs and member pages for member optional sheltering. this could be accomplished by text-only adds instead of the big graphical ones. remember, farcaster has to pay the bills.

    i really liked the idea of adding to the gamer database (obsidian portal). it would be wonderful to pursue expanding the database by adding integrating with more sites... we have a few international members, wonder if they could hook us up with foreign-based gamer groups and sites. would be pretty sweet if we became the true international pen and paper game premier site. even if it is niche sites and games... after all fans of such things tend to be strong-stick-around types. i noticed that the rpgdesign alliance site is looking for a new home and supporters....

    one of my BIG WISHES for this site is to integrate play-by-text into the play-by-post. i would like to see a system where each thread in the play-by-post section gets a special tag, the site has a "number" which can be texted, the tag is used to parse incoming texts and posts them as if you had done a quick-reply. also, when a thread is subscribed to, a text option is there so that whenever any post is added, it texts the addition out. a checksum will have to be done to make sure they fit within sms size limits, or auto-split it up into multiple texts outgoing.... in any case, this would be a unique offering that i haven't seen anywhere else. it would also be an interesting approach to using social media in counteracting the bane of pby - lack of response / dropping out.

    along with the play-by-text idea, and possibly in place of if it is not feasible to pull off play-by-text, an app (android/iphone) which is specific to the site and allows posting. maybe text only for lightweight data transfer and display.

    a facebook and twitter presence would help presence awareness, especially if RSS feeds displayed updated threads.

    another WISH of mine is site-based mapping support. it would be so awesome if the flashchat could be expanded to included a shared whiteboard, even if it is fairly small scale, or if a whiteboard could be launched concurrently with the flashchat - as in one page, two interfaces. with option to save to your file storage allotment so that you can reload it later. perhaps a non-flash based purely html-css with export to a text file, much like the wotc released dnd mapper program that was on the old 3.x portion of the site (i downloaded a copy and still have it. the tiles are pretty small, but it works great.

    (i have more ideas, but let's stop here for now)


    after all, this is the pen and paper games support site - i think that should be our focus, our theme, and we should really support all aspects of it! let this site become the table that we all play our pen and paper games on!
    Last edited by nijineko; 04-18-2013 at 11:40 AM.
    nijineko the gm: AG16, CoS. nijineko the player: AtG, RttToH; . The Journal of Tala'elowar Kiyiik! .
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    Well, I've actually had better luck finding players/groups on meetup.com perhaps because it is so locally oriented. But I like the feel of P&PG better, which is why I keep coming back whenever I need to check for a new group or player. Perhaps better filters for game locations might help, and forcing people to actually provide location information before a post is made. Maybe filtering OUT profiles that haven't been active in xx time, so that it's easier to search among the players that are more active. But in terms of a whole-site overhaul? I have no idea what to do. I'd like to see this site continue and grow stronger though because it's a damn good idea.

    Maybe market or buddy up to a couple Virtual Table-Top companies? Or to some of the current big gaming sites, like Paizo or Pathfinder SRD? I personally don't like to click on ads, but I give in when it comes to A LOT of the ads on Pathfinder SRD, mainly because I get curious about yet another awesome RPG tool! (Dun dun dun....!)

    Anyway, whatever you do, good luck. I hope this site sticks around.

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    Thank you for asking!

    I love the site as-is, and wouldn't really like to have my gaming here interconnected with Facebook or anything like that. That said, I really like Soft Serve's ideas about finding ways to feature the content that the users are creating. It's being made anyway, so why not find a way to make it one of the attractions of the site?

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    To make this more of a hub of information, I think P&PG games should expand!

    1) What happened to the GM council thing? This was a fun idea. Get guest GM's and bloggers to provide advice articles with a corresponding forum discussion.
    2) Articles! Maybe integrate with a CMS of some sort, and create a team of content providers. Non everyone wants to start up their own Wordpress site. Reach out to people who want to join a force of RPG enthusiasts writing articles. With the right CMS, submitting, reviewing, editing and publishing articles can be handled via the system (I'm partial to Joomla...).
    3) Fan Site Central! I've tried to start up a "social" fan site in unisystemfans.com, but it didn't get much involvement. Instead of having special sites, P&PG could provide "skins" and "forums" and article sections and house any fan site for any game! Maybe provide unique urls like unisystem.penandpapergames.com. Also, this should facilitate user-submitted downloads.
    4) Game Day Central! Have you looked at Warhorn? It's not very elaborate. Not only have a player/GM database but have a place where you can house your Game Day site, create and schedule slots, game descriptions, and run events.

    P&PG would be your one stop shop! Read up on news, some articles on gaming, kibitz with your fellow fans on your fav RPG, start up a game day and run it all via this one interface.

    Other sites have crowd funded development, I'm sure you could convince those of us with development skills to pitch in for a share of the bounty. :-)
    Trentin C Bergeron (TreChriron)
    Bard, Dreamer & RPG Enthusiast
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    I agree with the sentiment to focus on the members' creativity, rather than serve them common things they feel like they're quite proficient at finding on the net if they want it. Fan resources and materials, creations, settings, sharable uploads and downloads, rules adaptations, etc. is something I've always wanted to find since RPGArchive/RPGLife went belly up for all practical purposes, years back.


    You could upload things you made, like adventures, character sheets, rules add-ons and supplements, into various categories, and search and find things made by other people, in various categories. Strolen's Citadel is very similar but anyone who has been there well knows, and I have been told in clear terms, that they are only interested in ideas, seeds, basically narrative bits of writing, for items and characters and such, not actual charts or rules or things like that. There is no more specific site that works similarly to Strolens, that I've found, since the sort of fizzling of RPGArchive, which functioned as a clearinghouse for fan material.


    A more unified member blog or site blog with submissions from users, would also be a possible change or improvement. I do like the specific blogs and forums each member can make, for their own particular group or game - that is a terrific feature. It seems like that could be expanded upon.


    A complaint I've seen a number of times by regular and new members in chat is that it isn't an IRC style chat. I can see their point to a large extent, though I've been to places like TheTangledWeb and while the software chat environment there is pretty solid, it is somewhat spartan and so many people seem absent or very elitist - I don't know if that's something that may just be specific to that site or those chatters or that is something to do with IRC connected chats.

    Either way, as a regular user that really ONLY uses this site for chat, currently, and run a game in here every Sun since Feb 2011, I think the chat page/room itself needs overhauled, probably to something different altogether, a different flash chat at least, though being able to make rooms to play, which I do a lot, is a terrific feature, as is the dice rolling (which could also use exploding rolls). There is also still no way to bring up a chatter's site profile with the right click in the current chatroom software.

    If there were someway to advertise current or pending chat events or games, like a signpost or list of announcements, so people could come into the chat and see a list of games or rooms with different topics or something, that could help with that part, if you were going to do anything with chat.


    As far as the forums themselves, the in-line dice rolling is awesome, but could also be improved, for people that run play by post forum games, as I've done (though it doesn't have much popularity here if it isn't an already established game, like Umiushi's game that has more posts in it than all the other threads in the forums combined).


    I think we all support any ideas to change and improve PPG, whether we're paid members or not, and we enjoy various aspects here because it doesn't have that "corporate feel" to it, like it's still aimed at and run by someone who understands and appreciates and is a gamer.


    I like most people have a Facebook and some other things, a Twitter account, which I don't really use, a couple of Blogspot blogs, a Youtube channel, etc. I try to make a little bit of money if and when possible, on some of the things I do in my spare time or as part of my interests, and sometimes it works. Have you considered having full blogs, hosting them for example, similar to blogspot? Or at least articles? You let people write and share and advertise their full PPG blog and put ads like Adsense or whatever on it, and give people who write articles or blogs a share of whatever money you make from their article? That could help some.
    Abstruse Decapod

    "Why aren't i just be able to write adventures that don't require crap like an Amish rpg?" -myself

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    yeah, i would use chat more often if there was a chatbox/shoutbox columned next to the forums. ^^
    nijineko the gm: AG16, CoS. nijineko the player: AtG, RttToH; . The Journal of Tala'elowar Kiyiik! .
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    Quote Originally Posted by MicahWedemeyer View Post
    Very tough questions, but I'd say it probably comes down to what you want... Letting the community guide decisions like this doesn't usually work (imho), because the community isn't the one spending their nights and weekends doing the work.
    What I want at this point is to do what I can to keep this community alive and vibrant. It's that or fold it up. But, it needs new and fresh ideas, and who better to turn to for feedback for those ideas than the user community themselves?
    Robert A. Howard
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    I really appreciate you all taking the time to chime in with you thoughts. I've seen some good ideas in here so far.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slipstream View Post
    All I can think of is keep making the site look sharp. Combine more like forums that look stagnant when separated. Work with Obsidian Portal (since that partnership is already in place) and streamline the Players/Games Seeking Players/Games functionality. They are in the middle of kickstarting their site's look and feel. I believe that, the PBP forums, and general industry/community discussions are the three pillars this site shines on. Stick to those and make them strong.
    Cleaning up the forums is definitely on my list -- as is freshening up the design. On that note, if there are any graphically oriented people out there who would be interested in taking a whack at it, ping me and let's talk.

    Quote Originally Posted by nijineko View Post
    the cat always comes back. (even in chat, if only very rarely....)
    I was in the chat room just last night -- for a couple hours even. You just missed me



    Quote Originally Posted by nijineko View Post
    shelters. portions of the site that are relatively free from social and advertisement spamming. member options for better control over the non-sheltered portions of the site with regards to social and ads. for example, the pbp game threads and the announcement threads are good candidates for auto-shelter. personal blogs and member pages for member optional sheltering. this could be accomplished by text-only adds instead of the big graphical ones. remember, farcaster has to pay the bills.
    Advertisement spamming? I'm not aware of anything like that going on, so you'd have to give me a bit more information about what you mean. As to the advertising banners, P&PG is part of a network of RPG sites that share advertising space. I don't think our provider actually uses text links, and there is a very good reason for that. They're not terribly effective or attractive to advertisers. That said, anyone who contributes as a community sponsor has all advertising removed everywhere.

    Quote Originally Posted by nijineko View Post
    i really liked the idea of adding to the gamer database (obsidian portal). it would be wonderful to pursue expanding the database by adding integrating with more sites...
    I've been doing a little work on this front, actually. I'll let you know how it pans out.

    Quote Originally Posted by jdbailey View Post
    Perhaps better filters for game locations might help, and forcing people to actually provide location information before a post is made. Maybe filtering OUT profiles that haven't been active in xx time, so that it's easier to search among the players that are more active.
    The rate of people providing geographical information and setting up a profile is actually quite high. That said, the sole purpose of the site is not just the player registry, so I can't see forcing people to fill out more details happening. But, the profile filtering you suggested is actually quite easy for me to setup. I'll work on that.

    Quote Originally Posted by I. J. Thompson View Post
    Thank you for asking! ... I really like Soft Serve's ideas about finding ways to feature the content that the users are creating. It's being made anyway, so why not find a way to make it one of the attractions of the site?
    You're welcome, and I'll put that on the list of possibilities.


    Quote Originally Posted by trechriron View Post
    What happened to the GM council thing? This was a fun idea. Get guest GM's and bloggers to provide advice articles with a corresponding forum discussion.
    Well, a couple of reasons, but it boils down to it is hard to ask people to put in a lot of time and effort to write up an article when they aren't paid or rewarded. That and I didn't keep pushing. So, basically a failure in the model and in leadership.

    Quote Originally Posted by trechriron View Post
    Articles! Maybe integrate with a CMS of some sort, and create a team of content providers. Non everyone wants to start up their own Wordpress site. Reach out to people who want to join a force of RPG enthusiasts writing articles. With the right CMS, submitting, reviewing, editing and publishing articles can be handled via the system (I'm partial to Joomla...).
    It's a sound idea, and I'd consider it, but see above. The model would have to be as such that it encouraged involvement and didn't require (or expect) a lot of editing support.

    Quote Originally Posted by trechriron View Post
    Fan Site Central! I've tried to start up a "social" fan site in unisystemfans.com, but it didn't get much involvement. Instead of having special sites, P&PG could provide "skins" and "forums" and article sections and house any fan site for any game! Maybe provide unique urls like unisystem.penandpapergames.com. Also, this should facilitate user-submitted downloads.
    Hmm. There are some licensing issues with vBulletin that would interfere, and I doubt that these fan sites would want to plop down $180 for a license. It could be supported with social groups, perhaps though. It wouldn't be as robust as the core forums though.

    Quote Originally Posted by trechriron View Post
    Other sites have crowd funded development, I'm sure you could convince those of us with development skills to pitch in for a share of the bounty. :-)
    So... Did I just hear you volunteer for some free labor?

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatterson View Post
    I agree with the sentiment to focus on the members' creativity, rather than serve them common things they feel like they're quite proficient at finding on the net if they want it. Fan resources and materials, creations, settings, sharable uploads and downloads, rules adaptations, etc. is something I've always wanted to find since RPGArchive/RPGLife went belly up for all practical purposes, years back.
    I like this idea.


    Quote Originally Posted by nijineko View Post
    it would be so awesome if the flashchat could be expanded to included a shared whiteboard, even if it is fairly small scale
    Quote Originally Posted by jpatterson View Post
    I think the chat page/room itself needs overhauled, probably to something different altogether, a different flash chat at least.
    I'll look into updating chat. It has been a while since I've explored chat room software. Maybe there are some better options out there now. To get something quality though will probably be expensive. I might have to take up some donations to make that happen, since I don't really want to front the $500 fee all myself.

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatterson View Post
    As far as the forums themselves, the in-line dice rolling is awesome, but could also be improved, for people that run play by post forum games, as I've done.
    Do you have a wish list for the dice plugin?

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatterson View Post
    Have you considered having full blogs, hosting them for example, similar to blogspot? Or at least articles? You let people write and share and advertise their full PPG blog and put ads like Adsense or whatever on it, and give people who write articles or blogs a share of whatever money you make from their article? That could help some.
    It's a thought. I'd consider it, but it would require a lot of management on my part to parcel out revenue. If there were some automated solution that wouldn't result in butchering the site's security, then maybe.


    Quote Originally Posted by jpatterson View Post
    I think we all support any ideas to change and improve PPG, whether we're paid members or not, and we enjoy various aspects here because it doesn't have that "corporate feel" to it, like it's still aimed at and run by someone who understands and appreciates and is a gamer.
    Thanks, J.
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  15. #15
    Soft Serve's Avatar
    Soft Serve is offline Cascade Failure FTW Community Supporter
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    I was on another vBulletin site that allowed moderators to design different skins based on user preference. They only changed colors and the banner appearance.

    But it could be done for P&PG. A theme for sci-fi, D&D, generic fantasy, horror, etc etc. I know nothing of how this process works, and have very little artistic talent in the field of visual / graphic design, but I know it can be done.

    Unless when "Skins" were mentioned we were talking about something else entirely and I missed it...

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