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Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

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  • Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

    I've been toying with the idea of starting up a game (either here or elsewhere) but I've never GMed a PbP forum game before. I've GMed often in real life, mostly for D&D, but a few times for M&M and other games, and I feel like I'm at least decent at it. Is it any different? Are there any hidden glitches that pop up online that don't normally occur at the table? Any tips from the experienced GMs here?

    Thanks in advance.
    SuperFerret's Shoebox of Solitude - My RollCall thread
    Savage City: Welcome to the Jungle - My Custom M&M Setting

  • #2
    Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

    It's mostly the same but for a player's ability to post which can be limited by availability (work, life, sleep), time zone, etc. This can impact things like initiative, especially the initial roll where the game will slow down just for someone to post it. I also recommend that you have some kind of procedure for what to do when a player goes missing, and what that threshold is. I need games to keep moving, so I set a 24 hour posting requirement. If you don't post within that period, I'll skip you (I'm not out to hose anyone, so I assume they take the Defend action if it's an issue).

    If you're losing interest, it's better to let your players know than to just disappear. If you don't know what to do, it's better to be up front than to disappear. You don't have to be a rules expert, but it helps. I personally recommend that you make rolls using the dice roller, so the players can see them, too. Some GMs use the old GM Screen mind set, but without having a person in front of you...I don't know. It's probably me, but I don't like it.

    You'll need a reliable dice roller. I like http://coyotecode.net/roll/

    It's best if you have two threads, one for Out of Character comments (OOC) and one for In Character (IC) posts. Players/GMs can always include short OOC comments at the bottom of an IC post, but it's best for discussions to go into the OOC thread.

    It's a good idea for players to keep track of their injury track, HPs, and damage condition. The typical convention is to post those things in the first line of their IC post. Example:

    Superboy
    Condition: 2 Bruises, Staggered
    HP: 2

    If you can create a map, you're a prince among GMs. Even something crude is better than nothing. It will cut WAY down on confusion. I highly recommend using some kind of grid for even more precision, which could be something as simple as letters across the top and numbers down the side so a player can say I move to D5. If you can't (or won't) do this, see if there's something you can borrow from another medium. If you find a map for a cave and you were planning on running the scene in a warehouse, change it! The map is better! There are apps that can overlap a grid and so on. Really think about this.

    Handle disruptions to the game through PM and not in the any of the channels.

    Above all, have fun with it. Laugh at your mistakes, and when you make them (you will), hand out HP to those affected. Reward good roleplaying. This is not you vs. your players. Don't approach the game with any kind of adversarial mentality. Err on the side of the heroes. You're the GM, but you're there to facilitate their story. Make it about them.

    Have fun!

    Penny
    Penny's Build Party - Playable builds - M&M 2.5 featuring Damage Roll combat

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

      Another thing, which you have to learn as a player too, is that you really can't do sentence by sentence speaking and reply, so more text has to be written at once. Ideally, this is split into paragraphs, which are phrased in a way that make it possible to insert dialogue in between. Oh, and make it clear to players how you'll interpret differences between IC dialogue and what's posted in an "OOC" section. I personally prefer to go by whatever is in the OOC section, using IC only to resolve ambiguities.

      Oh, and the new boards don't quote quoted sections, so I'd recommend telling your players to just use some sort of text set-off for their "OOC" part of their IC post. I personally like something like the following:



      Superboy surveys the field and picks out the Martian General. He flies toward the general, describing a parabolic arc over the soldiers, dodging their fire as he goes, and plows into the general, wrapping his arms around him to grab him and pull him up into the sky.
      "General X'Par, this time you have gone too far!" he screams in the General's ear, "Time to give you a birds-eye view of who you're trying to conquer!"


      OOC
      I'm using a Move action to move to the location of the General. Standard action attempt a Grab Attack. I rolled 1d20+7 = 21 against him, which I think should hit him. DC 23 Grab check. If I get at least one degree of success, I'm going to use Move-By Action to carry him up into the sky as far as I can. He gets a Strength resistance check against DC 1d20+13=28. If he passes either the Grab or the Strength check, I'll give up the attempt and move to hover about 50 feet above the action.
      [url=http://roninarmy.com/threads/996]My Builds[/url]

      [b]Current games:[/b]
      [url=http://www.echoesofthemultiverse.com/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=839]The J.V. Team (GM)[/URL]

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

        The previous two posts have covered a lot of good stuff. I would add that in PbP, unless the group is good, it should be driven more than in a face to face or skype type game due to the pace of PbP. I have one game where the group of players are extraordinarily cohesive and good with all getting on board with tangents yet getting back to the main action on their own. Another one shoot that just ended went a very strange direction and never recovered. To reinforce it, the time limit or mechanism/policy for players delayed posting(sometimes because of life and sometimes because players just stop posting) is important. At least in these forums, if a game stalls too long it tends to die out.
        [url=http://roninarmy.com/threads/46-mrdents-menagerie-of-characters]My characters past and present[/url]

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

          Originally posted by badpenny View Post
          It's mostly the same but for a player's ability to post which can be limited by availability (work, life, sleep), time zone, etc. This can impact things like initiative, especially the initial roll where the game will slow down just for someone to post it. I also recommend that you have some kind of procedure for what to do when a player goes missing, and what that threshold is. I need games to keep moving, so I set a 24 hour posting requirement. If you don't post within that period, I'll skip you (I'm not out to hose anyone, so I assume they take the Defend action if it's an issue).

          If you're losing interest, it's better to let your players know than to just disappear. If you don't know what to do, it's better to be up front than to disappear. You don't have to be a rules expert, but it helps. I personally recommend that you make rolls using the dice roller, so the players can see them, too. Some GMs use the old GM Screen mind set, but without having a person in front of you...I don't know. It's probably me, but I don't like it.

          You'll need a reliable dice roller. I like http://coyotecode.net/roll/

          It's best if you have two threads, one for Out of Character comments (OOC) and one for In Character (IC) posts. Players/GMs can always include short OOC comments at the bottom of an IC post, but it's best for discussions to go into the OOC thread.

          It's a good idea for players to keep track of their injury track, HPs, and damage condition. The typical convention is to post those things in the first line of their IC post. Example:

          Superboy
          Condition: 2 Bruises, Staggered
          HP: 2

          If you can create a map, you're a prince among GMs. Even something crude is better than nothing. It will cut WAY down on confusion. I highly recommend using some kind of grid for even more precision, which could be something as simple as letters across the top and numbers down the side so a player can say I move to D5. If you can't (or won't) do this, see if there's something you can borrow from another medium. If you find a map for a cave and you were planning on running the scene in a warehouse, change it! The map is better! There are apps that can overlap a grid and so on. Really think about this.

          Handle disruptions to the game through PM and not in the any of the channels.

          Above all, have fun with it. Laugh at your mistakes, and when you make them (you will), hand out HP to those affected. Reward good roleplaying. This is not you vs. your players. Don't approach the game with any kind of adversarial mentality. Err on the side of the heroes. You're the GM, but you're there to facilitate their story. Make it about them.

          Have fun!

          Penny
          Speaking from my tabletop experience, I like maps and I usually roll my dice openly, so no problem there. Thanks for the suggestion on the dice roller, it looks pretty good.

          Originally posted by FuzzyBoots View Post
          Another thing, which you have to learn as a player too, is that you really can't do sentence by sentence speaking and reply, so more text has to be written at once. Ideally, this is split into paragraphs, which are phrased in a way that make it possible to insert dialogue in between. Oh, and make it clear to players how you'll interpret differences between IC dialogue and what's posted in an "OOC" section. I personally prefer to go by whatever is in the OOC section, using IC only to resolve ambiguities.

          Oh, and the new boards don't quote quoted sections, so I'd recommend telling your players to just use some sort of text set-off for their "OOC" part of their IC post. I personally like something like the following:



          Superboy surveys the field and picks out the Martian General. He flies toward the general, describing a parabolic arc over the soldiers, dodging their fire as he goes, and plows into the general, wrapping his arms around him to grab him and pull him up into the sky.
          "General X'Par, this time you have gone too far!" he screams in the General's ear, "Time to give you a birds-eye view of who you're trying to conquer!"


          OOC
          I'm using a Move action to move to the location of the General. Standard action attempt a Grab Attack. I rolled 1d20+7 = 21 against him, which I think should hit him. DC 23 Grab check. If I get at least one degree of success, I'm going to use Move-By Action to carry him up into the sky as far as I can. He gets a Strength resistance check against DC 1d20+13=28. If he passes either the Grab or the Strength check, I'll give up the attempt and move to hover about 50 feet above the action.
          I've been around the block when it comes to IC vs. OOC, but the italics is a good idea, as is separating it from the IC portion with a line.

          Thanks!
          SuperFerret's Shoebox of Solitude - My RollCall thread
          Savage City: Welcome to the Jungle - My Custom M&M Setting

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

            One other thing that helps is to not follow strict posting order rules - especially initiative. For instance, if you have 3 players with high init, a bad guy, 2 players with low init, then 2 more bad guys, don't force the 3 players to go in the correct order. Just allow all 3 to post as they can; similarly the two players, when their block is up, can post in any order.

            It can give a bit of power to particularly tactical groups, but the benefit of faster posting is immense.


            I'd also suggest making a lot of rolls for your players - don't ask them to roll perception checks, do it for them and tell them the results straightaway. If they feel the roll was low, give them opportunity to use a hero point to reroll it, but have that explained at the start of the game. Again, speed of posting is very helpful. (Usually, I suggest rolling initiative, perception, and knowledge checks when the party encounters something. They can still decide to make a roll on their own time in addition, but any rolls that pertain to setting the initial scene, just slows the game down if you have to wait for them to roll before you can even describe what's happening.)
            Ragtop, Autobot! And Zeanthara, Are You a God?
            Fenix, in the Merge, and Alicia DeVries, in the Cosmic Merge
            Supe of the Justice League Academy

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

              The thing about initiative is that I would love to run a game using MHR "tag" style initiative, but I think it would slow things way down. You can handle it like ICONS does and just have the heroes go (in any order), then the GM goes for the NPCs.

              Another option for initiative which preserves the RAW system, is just to lump all the NPCs together on one init count so you don't have the GM staggered multiple times through the count.

              Hero
              Hero
              GM
              GM
              GM
              GM
              Hero
              Hero

              You have one post for each player and one post for the GM.

              The final option that I would think of using would be based on a two-tiered init. The GM rolls for all characters and groups the PCs into two groups: high and low. The GM then figures out where the NPCs go and inserts that group into the mix. Within your group you can post in any order. There's still some semblance of having "won" initiative, but it's not dependent on ever waiting for one particular person.

              Heroes 1
              NPCs
              Heroes 2

              or

              Heroes 1
              Heroes 2
              NPCs

              etc
              Penny's Build Party - Playable builds - M&M 2.5 featuring Damage Roll combat

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

                Depends on the gm. If the gm can post a lot (multiple times per day), the NPCs don't need to all be in one block.
                Ragtop, Autobot! And Zeanthara, Are You a God?
                Fenix, in the Merge, and Alicia DeVries, in the Cosmic Merge
                Supe of the Justice League Academy

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

                  Originally posted by Nelphine View Post
                  Depends on the gm. If the gm can post a lot (multiple times per day), the NPCs don't need to all be in one block.
                  True, and some people are old school about it and want things the way they've always been. I'm just pointing out there's more than one way to peel a grape.
                  Penny's Build Party - Playable builds - M&M 2.5 featuring Damage Roll combat

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

                    True!
                    Ragtop, Autobot! And Zeanthara, Are You a God?
                    Fenix, in the Merge, and Alicia DeVries, in the Cosmic Merge
                    Supe of the Justice League Academy

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

                      In D&D, I usually kept like NPCs on the same initiative count, with M&M, I try to do the same. Obviously, supervillains will probably have a bigger difference in initiatives than orcs and goblins, but separating things into High and Low Init is probably a good idea.
                      SuperFerret's Shoebox of Solitude - My RollCall thread
                      Savage City: Welcome to the Jungle - My Custom M&M Setting

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

                        I run standard initiative in my games, and roll my players' initiative to save a round of waiting for posts.

                        For a long time I used to do block initiative (all the GM critters together) with mixed results. It really did speed up combat when I was running just one game, but as I started doing more complicated fights and running more games, the size of the post I had to make when the GM turn came up got really daunting. I had to work out what strategy elements should come up next, decide how the enemies would behave, make their rolls, draw the map, and write the narrative, and doing that for large groups of enemies was enough work that I would actually procrastinate, which wiped out the speed advantage. I switched back to standard initiative so that my posting comes in manageable chunks and I don't get burned out.

                        You can let the players post in any order, which is fastest of all, but you'll need to be prepared for when two people do something that conflicts each other, and since all the NPCs act at the end of the round, you could run into the same problem I did with block initiative.

                        If you want to do maps online, I recommend Pixlr. It's a free web-based tool that has most Photoshop functions and lets you save your work in lossless .pxd format that preserves layers. It doesn't run on iPad/iPhone, though.

                        I'm the only GM who uses maps on the forums, I'd love to see what someone else would do with them!

                        * * *

                        I play online only, so I don't know anything about differences vs. tabletop, but for general tips I encourage choosing your players well.

                        Spend a few minutes and look at the post history of anyone who wants in to your game. Look at what kind of characters they make, how often they post and how they interact with others, IC and OOC. Since disputes tend to be handled over PM, it's a good idea to talk to some of their current or past GMs to see what their experience was like with the player. The goal isn't to pick all the "best" or most experienced players, just to pick a group that seems like they can get along and have fun together.

                        I'd suggest posting fast and often. If you don't post often enough, your game slips from people's minds and they slowly start to lose interest. Then the game gets locked into a vicious cycle of slow posts leading to even slower responses and little interest leading to even less interest. I'd suggest at least 2 posts per week at the bare minimum for a new game.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

                          I'd add that over time you'll learn something work better in PBP, and some are worse.

                          For example, combat will likely drag things to a halt, depending on your player's availability. I'd recommend not having as much combat planned as you would in a Real time session. However, splitting the party, bane of GMs everywhere, runs great. You also have a lot more time to plan and improvise.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

                            Yeah, combat is slow. Even posting every single day, my games rarely moved much more than 1 round per week in combat. My battles averaged around 5 rounds, so a big set-piece fight would take a month. Just think how long that would take for a GM posting once per week.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Play-by-Post GMing: How different is it from "normal" GMing?

                              Originally posted by Ysariel View Post
                              Yeah, combat is slow. Even posting every single day, my games rarely moved much more than 1 round per week in combat. My battles averaged around 5 rounds, so a big set-piece fight would take a month. Just think how long that would take for a GM posting once per week.
                              My advice would be: don't run the full fight. Have enemies retreat. Run non-minions as "minions with maybe the ability to survive an extra hit". Go light on defenses, with maybe a little extra on offenses so it feels like those very few hits the enemies get in were a little scary (<- have not actually tested this idea).

                              Also don't be afraid to just narrative an unimportant fight ("Just give me a cool description of how you contribute to taking today's jobber down." "I'd like this guy to win so I can put you in an interesting death-trap and have them describe their master plan. There's a Hero Point in it for you if you go along.").

                              Comment

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