View Full Version : Some Questions Regarding Play by Post

12-04-2014, 10:22 PM
I am in the process of creating a campaign, but as I don't trust my personal friends not to be trolls, I wanted to use it online first. However, this is completely new to me and I wanted to get some experience with playing by post before I try to run one. If anyone is looking for another player I would be happy to join in. However I do have some questions about it. What the key differences to writing a campaign for PbP versus for real life? I have some others, but I hope they are answered in the discussion. Thanks in advance.


12-04-2014, 10:32 PM
I would be happy too to play by post.
I noticed that the biggest differences are time and "fun". It takes much longer when pbp, because ppl maybe update once a day (if you're lucky) and there is usually less other "fun". When I play in real life we sometimes make jokes or laugh about other things... pbp doesn't have this.
Oh but you also have more time to think about what you want to "say" that's good

12-05-2014, 12:48 AM
Playing by post tends to be quite different compared to playing "live". Some things are minor and depend heavily on organization - it's common (where I'm from) to use at least two threads, where one is reserved for the game itself the other - off-character discussion among players and with GM (and sometimes quite a lot joking goes here even at pretty intense moments). Often there is more than those two: threads for presentation of characters (usually a portrait and some description, sometimes stats if the GM doesn't want to keep them secret), for description of NPC for quick reference, places the party visited...
Those might seem unnecessary until you realize one thing - campaigns played this way take a lot of time. If you can keep at one GM post a week with no slip-ups - that's a decent pace (at the beginning the game could go faster and introducing google docs or something like that for things like dialogues tends to speed things up a bit but don't expect wonders). Basically... it usually takes, literally, years to finish a campaign.
That's also why preparing the campaign works a bit different. Seeing as everything moves so slowly, you have much more time to adjust when things start going off the rails. This also means that players can justifiably expect a bit more impact on the world - you have more time to change the campaign and they potentially have more time to pick up on any inconsistencies that pop up if you try to railroad them. So, this mode of play requires more flexibility - a relatively rigid adventures that could work in real life may end up leaving a bad railroadish taste in players' mouths if used in PBP.
Another thing is the degree to which players can describe minor details of the world (say, a cup that's on the table or a chair next to it and such) - it just takes a lot of time to discuss every little detail just to make sure if the player can sit on a chair and take up the cup. Also, both players and GM usually describe everything in a bit larger chunks. It can get a bit strange in dialogues as it quite often leads to two things being discussed at once, much like a discussion on a forum - if a subject discussed forks into two, the characters tend to answer one branch than go to "as for (second branch here)" and continue answering the other thing. Again and again ;) That's basically due to efficiency - a dialogue takes a lot of time (like everything else) and so making one dialogue into two consecutive is subconsciously considered somewhat wasteful, even if the dialogue comes off somewhat unnatural thanks to this.
Oh, but it also happens more often than in real life play that players describe feelings and motivations of their characters. New/young players tend to do this A LOT actually. And by "a lot" I mean "a line of text, short action and an A4-worth of character's inner world" lot.

Note that all of the above sums up my experiences in one particular PBP community and really just a couple glimpses elsewhere, so I can't assure you these are absolutely universal and not just how things evolved at our place ;)

12-05-2014, 11:41 PM
Eldaran, I am a little confused by you comment: are you saying that you are a gm or a player in an existing pbp group, and would be okay with me joining in or are you merely expressing interest in the concept.

Eliaston, you said that players are more likely to notice steering and will often take the campaign in an unexpected direction, but that the gm has much more time to plan ahead in those kinds of situations. In the past, I've used webs of encounters and locations to be able to plan for my group doing something unexpected. For example, if there was a castle, an animal trail leading into the forest, and a glowing light on a distant mountain, then each of those locations and their corresponding events are connected. However, this has led to some situations where the group has skipped over 90% of the content I created and skip to the false ending(their original motive) in a matter of weeks. Is this kind of situation more or less likely, or irrelevant because of the extra time to plan.

Thanks again for your time. For all those others out there, how many people would you say is ideal for running a pbp campaign. 2-5 as in a live one, or can there be more because of the format? Tell me your experiences with how long you pbp campaign has lasted or did last. Does it get boring; and if it does, what kinds of things did your gm do to make it less so?


12-06-2014, 01:57 AM
I would advise against taking more than 5 players, the best would probably be 2-3, but that's when you know the players and can be sure they won't just leave after a month (remember, the campaign can take years). When you have, say, 4 people, handling a leaver is easier. Of course, depending on campaign it can be relatively easy to introduce a new player along the way so it makes the problem less of an issue.
But back to the "why" so your decision is more informed. In less numerous party everyone naturally has something to do all the time even if current activity is not what he's best at. In live play you can have a short episode where half the party pretty much watches what's going on - not so much when short episode lasts a month for the players. Also, a small party makes it possible to handle situations where the party decides to split briefly and everyone does something different (like talking to different people) - three threads are possible, six... not so much. And even when they're together - with only a handful players you can easily focus in your descriptions (that you have some time to think about and write down so that you're satisfied) on each character's perspective. Then there are personal elements from character's backstory (or from what they did during the campaign) - you have time to incorporate them and players tend to like them... With 2-3 players you can focus on characters quite a bit. With more it starts to water down.
There are exceptions, but in general PbPs don't "like" big groups any more than live playing, though reasons may be a bit different.

As for your question - the thing is, in PbP you can have only a relatively general idea about each of the three places (castle, mountain, forest with animal trail) and flesh it out more after the players decide. The game going forward slowly doesn't (in my opinion) affect the possibilities of "skipping" much, but it lets you re-focus and pretty much build the adventure/campaign from scratch even if they decide to go in a really strange direction (and they do, players are monsters). Also, prepare for urges to change/add/modify something. You're likely to get new brilliant ideas for adventure you're GM-ing right at the very moment - and you actually have not only power but also time to think things through and make those ideas reality. Though it can be a trap if you get too many of those ideas and are not careful enough with them - at some point even extra time won't save you from stretching the world too much - and the consistency will suffer.

12-06-2014, 09:28 PM
Sorry, I meant that I would be willing to join in a campaign as player.. I already GM a group in real life and that's enough work.