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Drazmorg the Damned

Doomed Hero's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 2,295 posts (19,507 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 149 aliases.


Full Name

Jasper Anderton

Race

Changeling

Classes/Levels

Fighter 1, Monk 1, Rogue 1, Ranger 1, Actor 5

Gender

Male

Size

Beefy

Age

33

Special Abilities

Powerful Build,

Alignment

Slightly off

Deity

Nyarlathotep

Location

Northern California

Occupation

Actor, Stage Combat Choreographer

Strength 14
Dexterity 16
Constitution 13
Intelligence 16
Wisdom 9
Charisma 16

About Doomed Hero

Draft of Guide to PbP GMing:

This is the long overdue companion to DH's Guide to PBP Gaming.

In this guide I'll try to cover all the details of running a successful Play By Post game on the Paizo forums. Much like playing a character in a PBP game, GMing a PBP game is a whole different animal than GMing a tabletop game. It's the difference between sprinting through an obstacle course and running a marathon. The fundamentals are mostly the same. The techniques are vastly different.

If you want to start GMing a PBP game, I'm going to assume you've played in them before and understand things from that perspective. I'm not going to cover text formatting, long-term dedication or how to write immersive descriptions. You either already know those things, or you aren't ready to run a PBP game.

What I'm going to cover is organization.

First, make a GM Alias by going up to your Account settings. This is handy because the forums allow you to search posts by a particular Alias. Sometimes you'll need to search back through your game to find a specific point. It's a lot easier when you don't have to deal with your other messageboard posts being mixed in with your GM posts.

Now that you have a GM Alias, go ahead and go to the Recruitment boards and click New Thread to get the ball rolling.

Spoiler:
The Basics
So you have a story to tell. That's great all you need now are players. Think of it like a director with a screenplay. You need to pitch it to your actors. If you want a your dream cast, you'll need a good pitch.

You're going to start by going to the Recruitment boards and clicking the "new thread" link. This will get the ball rolling.

Your pitch should consist of Three things:

Relevant Backstory
This is where you show off your skills as a writer. Think of it like a prelude to a novel or a trailer for a movie. You don't want to give away too much, but you want to give them enough information to interest them.

The most effective way I've seen this executed is to write a very short story about the events leading up to the adventure. Format it in Italics to visually separate it from the character creation guidelines.

Another option is to simply describe the style of story that you'd like to tell. Mixing basic genre descriptions with movies or books you are using for inspiration can provide a lot of information. For example "low-magic dungeon crawl through a labyrinth, in the style of Greek mythology" or "Indiana Jones-style jungle exploration action adventure" gives potential players a lot of information.

Setting Information
If your adventure is set in a published campaign setting, providing a link to a wiki article might be all that's necessary.

If this is a homebrew, things get more complex.

What you don't want to do here is dump a bunch of history and/or places full of fantasy-gibberish names. No one cares yet. You'll make readers go cross-eyed and skim over all that stuff you spent so long writing. Save those details for the Campaign Info tab.

Instead, just give the basic overview of the themes of the setting, and where the players will be starting. If you feel like writing up full Campaign Tab info, link it for people that are interested.

Character Creation Guidelines
This is the most critical part of your sales pitch. This is where you set the tone of the potential main characters in your story. Lay out your criteria up front. Don't spring limitations on your players later. That just starts unnecessary discussions and makes people grumpy.

--------Attributes----------

Point Buy
First, understand that the idea that Point Buy is somehow connected to starting power level is a myth. The power level differences between a party of 15 point characters and a party of 25 point characters is actually pretty small, especially by about 3rd level.

If you want a Low Power game, what you need to do is set the Maximum starting statistic. (max of 16, after race mods, is a good low power baseline)

What Point Buy actually governs is the kinds of characters you're going to see submitted.

Low point buy games are going to create more "traditional" parties. You'll see characters that rely heavily on a single attribute, and that attribute will be in the 17-19 range. If you want a "classic" feel to your game, this is how to do it.

In a High Point Buy game, you're going to see more varied character concepts. You'll start seeing stranger builds. Monks, Paladins, Magi, Dex-based fighters, multi-class concepts, and other MAD characters require more than one high stat, so they basically only exist in higher point buy games. If you don't mind complex character concepts, go with high point buy.

Rolling
The traditional way. 4d6 take away the lowest is the typical rolling scheme, however 2d6+6 creates characters that fall more in line with what most players deem playable. The average stats are actually the same. 2d6+6 just squeezes up the potential minimum to 8.

I don't recommend this method because it will fill your recruitment thread with seemingly endless posts containing nothing but rolls. You'll also get a lot of people who will stick their heads in, roll, and if they get a below average spread, they'll either ask if they can reroll (which requires you to set a precedent for everyone, potentially causing another cascade of rolling posts), or they'll just leave, removing a potentially good candidate because of random chance.

Assigning an Array
This is one you don't see very often. It's primary benefit is that it allows a GM to really tightly control the power scale of the candidates. If you want to set the maximum stat at 16, give out an array with 14 as the high number. If you want to force players to really play up their weaknesses, put an 8 in all the arrays.

Here are some example 20 point spreads. These will create 18 maximums and 6 minimums from almost all characters.
16, 14, 14, 12, 10, 8
16, 14, 14, 10, 10, 10
14, 14, 14, 14, 12, 8

-----------Classes------------
Not all classes are suited to every game. Make your limitations known.

That being said, don't be afraid to re-flavor a class. There's no reason a Gunslinger couldn't use the exact same mechanics but actually be a guy with an extra-powerful crossbow. There's no reason a Samurai has to be Asian themed. The mechanics are all setting-neutral. Everything can be re-fluffed to fit your story.

-----------Traits-------------
Does your game include them? Are there any traits that are unique to your setting? (if there are, make sure they are both balanced and useful)

If you are running a non-Golarion setting, I advise allowing Golarion specific traits to be re-fluffed to fit your game. "Havoc of the Society" could just as easily be named "Potent Sorcery" with the same effect.

Don't list a bunch of possible traits here. Unless they're the only ones the players can choose from, odds are they won't get picked. If you want traits to have some setting flavor, you could instead wait until party selection is complete, and then give a bonus trait to each player that helps them see how their character fits into the setting.

Note: Story Traits are awesome rewards. Did your players survive a story arc that had them stuck at sea for months? Why not give them each a sailor-themed trait related to the most significant experience their character had while aboard the ship. Something as simple as allowing the Fighter to Charge across unstable ground because of all those fights on a stormy deck, or giving the Wizard proficiency with the Boarding Pike from that time they used it to hook an enemy boat, can shape characters in profound ways. Players love story-related cookies. Even if it's not an amazingly useful ability, they'll still love it.

-----------Equipment-----------
Remember to set starting character wealth and purchase limits. The standard guideline is usually normal Wealth By Level, no one item worth more than half the allotted wealth.

For low power games, you'll probably want to put strong limits of available magic items.

-----------House Rules[/i]------------
Everyone has them. If they are relevant to character creation, make sure to list them. If they aren't, make a list and put it in a spoiler in the campaign tab for easy reference.

[spoiler=Your Recruitment Thread]
I'm just going to go ahead and say it. Recruitment threads suck. They are a giant clusterf#%~s that are damn near impossible to manage.

[b]Here's a few tips for making it easier:

Request characters sheets be submitted in an alias, or in a spoiler. Without that they are walls of text in the thread, making navigating the thread itself a lot harder.

Request that potential players not roleplay in the recruitment thread. If you want to see how characters interact and how players write, tell them that there will be opportunity for recruitment thread roleplay after the submission deadline, but before you make your final choices.
Trust me on this one. It'll make picking characters a lot easier if you don't have to try to chew through a dozen extra pages of "tavern talk" to find the posts you're looking for.

Some players will start talking to other players, trying to tie their characters' backstories together. Ask them to wait until after party selection is made. This will cut back on thread chatter and stop any characters from becoming "Package Deals". That being said, sometimes Package Deal characters can be very rewarding story-wise, so if a couple players take that initiative, you may consider asking them to pursue it via Instant Message, and make a contingency plan for the possibility of only one of the characters being picked.

When addressing a player to ask them questions or give feedback, put your comments in a Spoiler. Spoilers are big, bold and save space. They're a lot more likely to be noticed by a player, and most of the time, players will respond to your spoiler with one of their own, which continues the trend of keeping the thread easy to navigate.

Picking Your Party

Pick good, reliable writers.

That's it.

Check a player's posting stats for other games. Read some examples of their writing. See what they are like in message board discussions. Snoop around. Most of the time their posting history will speak for itself.

If you like how they write, consider them for the game. Don't worry about party makeup. Just go with the people who's concepts make you excited.

Closing Recruitment

By the time you announce your party, have the Discussion Thread and Gameplay thread open and ready to go. Let your players check in and "dot" the threads. That will attach the threads to the player's campaign tabs and let them get updates a lot easier.

When you announce your party, link them to your game threads. Don't make them hunt. I've seen games lose as many as half the party just from the GM not giving the players a link to follow when they announced the group.

Starting Your Game:

The Campaign Tab
Your Campaign Info tab is your game's library. Fill it up.

Make a setting almanac and put it in a spoiler. Search the internet for pictures that fit the landscape or architecture of the areas. Link them in the descriptions.

Make an NPC list and put it in a spoiler. Link the post the NPC was introduced in, and any posts that the NPC did something significant, in with their description so the players can easily remember who they are.

Make a House Rules list and put it in a spoiler.

You get the idea. All your reference material goes here. Links are super handy. Use them.

The Gameplay Tab
You set the tone. If you want it to read like a novel, be strict about keeping OOC conversations in the Discussion thread. Reserve Blue Text for clarifications of of actions. (This is my recommendation. It provides the greatest level of immersion)

If you don't care about that, then don't worry about formatting. As long as what you write is able to be understood clearly by the players, you're fine.

The Discussion Tab
Don't underestimate the power of healthy OOC banter to keep the IC thread moving. Even if a character isn't in a scene, keeping them engaged in the OOC thread can keep them interested in the story while they aren't in it. If your OOC thread's been dead for a while, liven it up. It will only help your game.

Setting The Stage
Don't take too long setting things up. If possible, jump right into the action and fill in the gaps later.

Do not tell your players "the game will be starting at this village" and then let them roleplay how they get there. You'll end up with one person describing walking on a road, then another will jump in and describe meeting them on the road. A conversation will start, and all the other players will be forced to either sit it out, or have their character inexplicably showing up on the same road also, just so they can be included. It's awful. Don't do it.

Instead, let them work out how they know each other in the Discussion thread, or tell them that they'll meet on the job. A neat way of combining the two approaches is to split the party into a few different smaller groups. Within their given group, they know each other, but dont know the others. Maybe a cleric and a paladin are from the dame church and have known each other for a long time. Maybe an Inquisitor and a Ranger are partners tracking down criminals. Starting with a few character ties will help your game along.

Once character ties (or lack of them) are established, the next thing to do is establish the setting. Describe where they are and why. Try to be concise. You can fill in any gaps later once motives are established and the starting choices are made. Before those things happen, players will skim descriptions to find what is most relevant to them. After that, everything is relevant to them.

Then, drop them into the fire.

Nothing sets the tone of a game quite like the first fight. Don't let them get their bearings. Don't let them ask questions. Just blood them.

Everything else will fall into place after that.

Keeping Things Moving:

The most important tool at a PBP GM's disposal is the "Cut Away".

Think of it like a movie. Once the plot-relevant stuff has happened, the story doesn't hang around and show us how the main characters get ready for bed, or the entirety of their shopping trip. It skips forward.

Do that. If a scene is lagging, skip ahead. If a fight is basically over and posting has slowed down, resolve the end of it "cinematicly" and get on with the story.

Games live and die by their momentum, and you are the one with the reigns.

Handle shopping trips, divvying up treasure, lengthy discussions about what to do next, and anything that slows the story down, in the Discussion thread.

If nothing happens during travel, don't roleplay it out. If you aren't playing a Survival themed game, don't make a big deal out of things like Rations or how exactly camp is laid out.

Always keep in mind momentum. If it's flagging, change things.

Running Combat:

Combat Conditions
The first thing players need to know is what the complications are. A pre combat chart can help a lot. Mine looks like this:

Enemy Description
Area Description
Lighting Conditions
Additional Complications

For example

Goblin Raid
Mountain Road
Dusk, Dim Light
Steep Incline, moving uphill is Difficult Terrain.

or

Zombie Horde
In Graveyard, Outside Mausoleum
Foggy Night, Dim Light, everything past 10' has Concealment
Tombstones are Difficult Terrain (see map)

This chart can be re-posted at the top of each round as a reminder to the players, and it can be altered if conditions change (a single casting of Daylight is often enough to remove lighting issues for an entire fight, for example. A Gust of Wind spell might clear away fog for a time.)

Initiative
Roll it for them. Seriously. You'll waste a day or more if you say "roll initiative" and wait to compile the results. Pre-combat perception checks too. Basically, do as many of the preliminary rolls as possible.

Block Initiative: This is an optional initiative system that speeds things up a lot. It relies on one simple fundamental: All the enemies go at the same time. The players either go before the bad guys, or after them.

Higher initiative players get put in group A. Lower initiative players get put in Group B.

Within a given group, players may act in whatever order they want. This means that for the most part, players don't need to wait for anyone else before posting. They can just post according to when they are able to.

The GM would then only need to make two posts a round.

The first post would be the results of Group A's actions and the actions of the Enemies.
The second post would be the results of Group B's actions, and the announcement of the new round. Any "round countdown" stuff happens here as well.

Maps
You need to decide if you're going to use them. If you aren't you need to get used to doing a lot of extra writing. Combat will be heavy on description. You'll probably want to use Blue Text to describe the schematics of the area, like the exact size of a room, or the size category of the monster you just described.

If you are going to use them, there are a number of options.

MS Paint works fine. Saving and uploading a simple picture to Google Docs or any other hosting site can be a simple solution.

Google Docs Spreadsheets also works fine. Just adjust the grid to be squares, and use initials to represent players and enemies. Setting the background color of various squares can create simple topography like rocks, doors, trees and water.

Map Tools is pretty intuitive to use and seems to be the preferred method. It just takes some time investment to get used to it. There are some good tutorials on YouTube.

For post apocalyptic games set on earth, Google Streetview makes an amazing tool. A screen shot of a street, slightly altered with Photoshop or MS Paint to show damaged buildings and things like that, then posted to a hosting site or game wiki, can make a powerful visual aid.

Google Street View also has great pictures of places in the world that fit right in to fantasy games. Go on a virtual street tour of the Yucatan or of some obscure town in Eastern Europe or Northern Scotland. You'll find some amazing pictures that are ready-to-go lanscapes and maps for your games.

Tracking Actions
If you have a large party, or a lot of NPCs to keep track of, you're going to find that remembering everything that happened in a round can be tricky. A chart can be very helpful.

I recommend making yourself a pre-written and pre-formatted template and putting it in your GM Alias for ease of reference.

Something Like-

Action Tracker wrote:

ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITION: Dim Light. Everything has 20% concealment without darkvision or a light source. There is a bullseye lantern at the front of each boat to guide them. This is negated within 60' of Price from her Daylight spell.

Round 8
Shulme (CLW on Gwyn)
Xanos (Prepares net, cast's True Strike)
Gwyndolin (Looks for crossbow)
Triton N (Total Defense, inspire on warriors)
Price (Alchemist fire to TN, hit)
Odenkirk's men (Varied Assaults)
Kalina (Claims a shortbow?)
Cain (Two arrows, T6 hit and kill, D3 miss)
Slave ()
Dolphins (Delay)
Fargo ()
Fiendish Giant Frog [6/30] (Attacks D6, miss)
Odenkirk ()
Tritons (Reload)

You can see how the empty parenthesis indicate that those characters have not yet acted.

Skill Checks:

Many times, the overall success of a skill check is going to be based on the total of the roll. Higher might mean noticing something of particular importance, or remembering more detailed knowledge.

A great way of front-loading the work for skill checks you know are coming is to to put the results in Spoilers.

You might describe a ransacked bedroom, and then ask for Perception checks. Instead of waiting a day for everyone in the game to make their checks, and then responding based on the results, you can speed things up by posting the results right away. Something like-

[spoiler=Perception DC 15]
You notice a spot of blood on the window sill

Perception DC 20:

You notice a spot of blood on the window sill.
The way the glass is scattered makes you think that the window was broken from the inside.

Perception DC 25:

You notice a spot of blood on the window sill.
The way the glass is scattered makes you think that the window was broken from the inside.
A section of the floor where the rug has been rumpled by the struggle looks like it is less worn than others, like the boards were replaced at some point.

Then, when the players roll their checks they can consult the appropriate spoilers and react immediately to the information.

Another way of handling skill checks you know are coming is to simply roll for everyone with the appropriate skill, and post the results in individual spoilers.

A handy way of handling general knowledge checks is to assume everyone with the appropriate Knowledge Takes 10 and then write a spoiler for them describing what they recall. Often this is really going to be an info dump for the bard or wizard. I find Spoilers for the information to be the bast way of handling knowledge checks because it allows the players to put things in their own words, or to withhold information if they feel the need to. Simply writing out "what the bard tells the party" removes the bard's autonomy. As a GM, that's usually a bad idea. I advise against it. Frankly, it's lazy storytelling, which is about the worst sin a GM can commit.
[/spoiler]

Saving Throws:

Roll for them yurself, or Spoiler the results.

Nothing slows down a fight quite like Saves against multi-target monster abilities.

Compare the following examples:

GM: "The Gorgon breathes all over the party. Everyone make a Fort save."
Two days later, after the results are in
GM: "Fangaran the Wizard turns to stone! What do the rest of you do?"

or

GM: "The Gorgon breathes all over the party!"
GM rolls the party's saves in a spoiler
GM: "Fangaran the Wizard turns to stone!"
The rest of you may take your actions.

or

GM"The Gorgon breathes all over the party!"
[spoiler=Fort Save DC 22 (open if you fail)]
You turn to stone!


Player: "Fangaren makes a strangled sound as his flesh hardens to stone." Dammit! Cleric, do you have Stone To Flesh prepared?
GM: The rest of you may take your actions.

Which takes the least amount of time? Which seems like the best narrative tool?

Don't be afraid to make Save rolls for your players. If you make it known up front that you'll occasionally do it, there won't be any complaints. It's all the same dice roller after all.

Spoiler:

Timesaving Tips

Keyboard Macros-

Did you know that you can program your keyboard to automatically paste in something if you press the right key sequence? Super handy.

Look up a Keyboard Macro tutorial for your operating system on youtube. They are usually super easy. Then set a keystroke combination to do something like type out [ spoiler=[ ooc][ /ooc]][ spoiler] whenever you press Control+Shift+S+P
(putting the ooc text in the spoiler code puts the spoiler wording in Blue Text. I prefer it for aesthetics.)

Pre-coding Dice Rolls-

If you put dice coding into an Alias, the dice roller doesn't get the instructions. That means you can store the dice codes in your GM Alias so you don't have to type them all out every round.

For Example-
If you have a bunch of multi-attacking Meriliths to keep track of, and you know that each one of them is going to be making 12 attacks per round with a slew of different weapons, you can pre-code all their attacks and save it in your alias, and then just copy-paste when their turn comes around.

Super handy.

Advanced Storytelling Tips-

Major NPCs:
Make separate Aliases for them. Put vital information and notes in their profile. This will help establish them as important, and give the players a "face to the name."

The Narrator:
Fantasy stories use this a lot. The Princess Bride, Conan, and The Never-Ending Story are good examples in cinema. The Assassin's Creed games use a variation on this theme, as does the Prince of Persia games. It also works very well in PBP.

Creating a separate Alias to be "the guy telling the story", and posting as that character whenever you need to cut to a new scene is a good way of establishing a narrative theme.

The Narrator could be an NPC, older in the future, telling the story of the great heroes he knew in his youth, or it could be an archivist, far in the future, written like a history text book or lecture, telling the story as a chronicle of the distant past.

It could even be a villain, or a ghost, or a god. It might not be clear who the narrator is, or what side they are on, which creates a new mystery for the players to speculate at out of game.

Chase Sequences:
Make the players write it. Spoiler the relevant rolls, and their results, for each player. Then tell them to put the results of the rolls in their own words.
They get to put the pieces together into an exciting narrative. After one set of rolls is about done being written describe the next "stretch of road", and the options for crossing it in the discussion thread. In the Gameplay thread post the results of the pursuers (or the enemies running from the PCs).
The PCs will choose their route in Discussion, and you can post the new bunch of Spoilers.

Stats according to the averages of a whole bunch of stupid online surveys. Apparently I'm built with an Heroic+ spread. I'm cool with this.

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Currently running Clarion Quietus at www.againsttheshadow.org

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DH's Guide to PBP Gaming

[spoiler=Game notes]

Vigdir roles: Tutor, Herald, Watcher, Guide

Idiots guide to necromancy


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