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Painlord's page

RPG Superstar 2013 Star Voter, 2014 Dedicated Voter. FullStarFullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 1,450 posts (19,779 including aliases). 1 review. 1 list. No wishlists. 9 Pathfinder Society characters. 18 aliases.


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ElterAgo wrote:

I don't think most would have a problem with that. Unfortunately you get a lot of "I don't know. I have no opinion. What do you want to do? What are we supposed to do now? Did I miss the GM telling us something? ... "

There often is zero RP. Just days of sentence fragments putting off the decision onto 'someone/anyone' else.

I put this on your GM. It's section 1.4, above.

Painlord wrote:
Don't be afraid to cut bad players. You can replace them easily enough...but if a player is not contributing, or is sucking the soul from you or other players, it is your duty to cut them before they do too much damage. As one Venture Captain once told me: “You got to scrape the barnacles off the boat if you want to sail quickly."

Get, or get with, players who want to play, and who want to push. If they aren't playing, they need to yield the chair to the hundreds of players who want to play.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Tordek Rumnaheim wrote:
Well if Painlord is still monitoring this game, thanks for a great character who moved the story along when we needed it. I'll miss Ravens. You were totally evil. ;+)


I am vanquished to the Demiplane of Pain.

Such is life.

Best of luck with the lich.

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Or maybe this?

Lots more posts like it linked on my profile.

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Leg o' Lamb wrote:
I think I will be enabling Painlord in this adventure as we need to celebrate THE GREATEST PITCHING PERFORMANCE IN WORLD SERIES HISTORY. That's right, I'm talking about Game 7.

I'll totally drink to that. Best ever.

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Majuba wrote:
I, or anyone else setup as staff on the event can add the game decided on.

Ayep. Add what game you want and when in a post here and I'll be happy to add it to the Warhorn if Majuba doesn't get to it first.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1

Wren sees how many dwarves he can throw under a bus at once.

* * *
@Torgan: Oh Oaken Bucket. I should have known that. It's not a glorious and mighty axe so it's not really worth fighting for. Not that any self-respecting dwarf would quarrel over a bucket...but an axe... ;)

* * *

Interesting thoughts on the rogue, btw. I still think it's a skilltester. You can acknowledge there are better options, but to outright think it's unplayable and awful is a test of skill and confidence. A local VL went straight rogue all the way through Eyes of the Ten. They can be played, they can be successful, they can work just fine.

Anyhoot, I only ask because you might be standing next to an elf rogue right now!! ::shock::

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Majuba wrote:
Not as intense as the full-on event style M&E, but it's a great experience (just ask Painlord!)

Painlord is usually drunk by this point and is happy to be merely clothed and not dancing naked upon the tables.

Surely, if you ask Painlord anything, it should not be this.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Torgan Steelkeg wrote:
Where are you going to dinner? My dad and uncle (among other relatives) are coming down and getting Nick's before the Oaken Bucket. I will not be attending the game, but I will be playing Sink the Biz and getting crazy drunk.

What is this in reference to? PaizoCon or GenCon?

/me confuzzles.

GM Tyranius wrote:
Ugh I wish I was close enough to go to either convention. Iowa being dab smack in the middle of nowhere. I might try to make Gen con next year. I was going to try to make it this year but the baby will be born about 3 weeks-ish before so shouldn't ditch the wife.

Yeah. Wife > New Baby > GenCon. Oy.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Vanderhoff Steelkeg wrote:
Also said wrote:
2) You have a blog?!
Technically it's a thread on the boards.

Yeah, it's not really a blog as so much as a badgering of those yahoos who attend Paizocon that sucker ask politely to contribute to their experiences at PaizoCon.

The 2014 Thread.

Probably not worth reading now unless you were going to attend, but I do manage to drink myself silly for 3 days straight while gaming all the while.

If any of all y'all can come this year, please do.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1

Oh yeah...the Indiana connection! And beer! Of course!

1) You guys know my friend Mark Garringer then, eh?
2) I still remember my first geuze. Delicious...I came home and began to research the heck of out them. Tried lambics, but they aren't nearly as good.
3) Sour beer is the next 'thing' here in the Bay Area. Right now we are still swimming in IPAs (hate them, personally) and sour beers are on the rise.
4) Will any of you yahoos be at PaizoCon this year?
5) Bold Strider, it seems that you lead a very interesting life.


Ayep. That's a good example. Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes you have the exact right yahoo to beat the encounter. Sometimes you don't.

Tangential Untested Painlord Theory: PF Skilltesters
This theory was derived from when I used to play a bit of Magic the Gathering. There were certain cards that were defined as skill testers...i.e. they were cards that seemed good but were actually pretty bad in competitive play (no, PF doesn't usually have competitive play, but that's not the point here).

And when a new set came out, you could evaluate MtG 'talent' by how well they evaluated cards and their utility.

For me, Pathfinder has concepts that are skill testers: those that show how well a player will play the game when they sit at the table with you.

One of those concepts is wanting/needing a 'balanced' party. They might think, on the average, that a balanced party will be more successful than an unbalanced party. Of course, there is never any proof of this. Nor will there be. But just that they might argue it shows that they are either a newer player or one that has permanently bought into the default way of thinking without any critical thought that might ever challenge it.

In truth, like EF says above, it's more about play skill and working together than balance. That's the skill test right there.

Another skill tester is how people feel about the rogue. If a player is saying that 'rogues suck' or 'I'd never play a rogue', what they are really saying is: "I lack the skill to play a rogue effectively and cooperatively to contribute and have a fun game."

Me, and probably most of you, could happily play a rogue and do just fine, have a great time, and not even break a sweat.

Anyone else have any more skill testers?

Edit: One more skill tester: when someone introduces their character by class and level rather than with a roleplaying description.

Edit #2: I wrote this 4 years ago. I'm old...but it's still on topic.

I'm still working on this may be completely untrue, but that's what OOC talk is for, right?

Edit: added some backstory and description to Wren's alias.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1


1) Torgan: +1 for knowing what a geuze is. +1 again for offering sour beer. I can only assume that you live in a region with an active microbrew scene or in Belguim. Which is it? ;)

2) Apologies as my profile will be coming on slowly. Still working on the character and fitting things together. It'll get there but won't stop the RP.

3) Last night's epiphany: you Wren is Core plus (CRB, Orcs & Elves of Golarion, ISWG), by choice, and just because. However, I realized last night a hidden and happy perk: treasures and loots are going to matter to him a bit more. The little things we might find, that never occurred to him before, like a Snapleaf or a, uh, I dunno, alchemical ghost salt blanch, might be a pretty keen find.

It's a viewpoint as an AP PbP player that I hadn't considered before...most of my APs have been pretty open access to everything.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1

On topic!:

Worked a bit on my backstory and personality last night. I think my yahoo will be a good fit for the town and I'm trying to keep it completely separate from whatever the Dwarvesmoot* decides.

GM Tyranius: can we assume that we can start with employment someplace in town? I've seen the map of Trunau in the player's guide, and wanted to write in my backstory someplace.

When I finish the backstory, I'll mix and mesh the build...and ta-da!, I might have a yahoo worthy of this group.

I figure I still have a few days to work, right, GM Tyranius? Or are you ready to go soon?

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Torgan Steelkeg wrote:
@Painlord: I dunno. Maybe. ;-) If you search Dwarf Female Paizo, it only returned non-bearded dwarves of a decidedly female proportion.

Hmmm...that is curious. Maybe the shaved beard is the chainmail-bikinification* of dwarven women? When will the artist community stop objectifying she-dwarves?

Side Topic:

Zeroly, I appreciate all the thoughts. It's all good food for thought. Thanks for indulging. :)

Firstly, you guys all rock and you know that. I appreciate that you might make changes: because I hope it will lead better players. Players who are more focused on story and character rather than focused on mechanics, build, and balance. We are the only ones who can train players to be better. The GM should know what each player is playing, but no one else 'needs' to know.

Secondly, I recognize that it's charged topic (at least if that PFS thread is any indication)...and people have been doing things one way for a long time. And admittedly, there is a sizable portion of the population that just *loves* to talk crunch and focus on mechanics and that's part of their socialization process and conversation starter.

*=trademark me: newly minted word

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
GM Tyranius wrote:
Well having the top 5 GM's playing at your table isn't intimidating at all ;).

Dude, your excellent use of the list commands intimidates me. I'm not sure I'll be able to handle, much less match, that kind of formatting.

/me notes the mad skillz

* * *
@Torgan: Yes, the GMing of Bold Strider is widely known.

@Torgan: Yes, I also think the females have beards. Hmmm...maybe that explains why your dwarf is a bachelor? ;)

* * *
GM Tyranius: I'll get you my yahoo this night (or tomorrow night) to look over, to gaze upon the beauty therein.

For the record, my yahoo will be mostly Core because it will please me to do so. I'll be selecting from the CRB, Orcs of Golarion, the Inner Sea World Guide and one other story/flavor source as it's all the stuff that I own that applies to Belkzen.

* * *
Side note: One of the reasons I'm excited about this game with this group is that because you all are so prolific GMs, I'm sure you've learned things/styles/tricks from your players and as a GM.

I'm excited to see what those things are. I want to learn to be a better player and look forward to what y'all will be teaching me. I hope my 'studentness' doesn't become too annoying...I frequently reflect on things as I try to understand both PbP, but also human behavior as we play this silly social game.

I beg your forgiveness in advance if I use this OOC thread to talk about some ideas or theories that I might have. The below is an example of such. It's spoilered as so not to distract from the primary discussion of the campaign, and so participate or ignore at your leisure.

* * *

@Jorgan & others if interested:
Jorgan wrote:
And I agree that party balance is somewhat of a false notion.

Yes, but let me ask a follow up question(s) because it is something that has been bothering me for a long time (and recently irritated moreso by the 'deceptive characters' thread on the PFS boards...gah! when am I going to learn just to avoid reading there?).

Question: If party balance is a false notion, why do so many PFS PbP GMs promote that false notion by asking for classes when doing sign ups?

PbP, at its essence, has the ability to a better RP format than F2F...yet many GMs promote and allow bad play by encouraging classes/builds rather than characters when doing sign ups and mustering.

I know that I am pretty deeply outside the mainstream on this, but I believe in a purer, RP game and detest the metagaming that goes into the average session of PFS.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1

Hey All--

GM Tyranius has graciously offered me the 5th slot. I am honored for the opportunity.

I know many, if not all of you, already because your deeds echo throughout PbP. For that reason alone, I jumped at this opportunity.

Them giants won't know what will hit them. Ayep.

Here comes an army of halflings with slings---[/me reads more of the thread] whaaa? dwarves? freakin' dwarves?

Oh, okay...I see that, uhm, this party is getting very bearded...uh...

/me scratches back of neck, looks for a polite way to not have a beard.


Really not Important stuff:

Meh. I love what you guys are doing above, but it isn't for me. I don't believe in roles or balance and prefer to approach character creation in a silo so that it feels much more 'real' (that is, whatever events that throw us together happen without thought to roles or balance).

GM Tyranius will have my build long before we start and most you guys will easily figure out what I'm playing, however, I truly believe in everyone playing what they exactly want to play, then working together to have as much fun as possible ('win' or lose).

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Rich Flynn wrote:
GM Kyshkumen wrote:
Expect some delay this weekend Kludde. Most if not all the other players are at a local con this weekend. Painlord might be an exception as he is a rather prolific poster.

Painlord nods in agreement.

"Kids, Friends, Family," Painlord ticks off fingers as he counts. "These are the three demons you must slay if you are going to be successful in PbP. Do not listen to ninnies who think having a 'life' is important...why have just one? You could have several..."

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When you think about it, those are really my 5 stars. After all, I remember counseling Scott on how to GM at his first convention, Pacificon, way back in the good old days.

Ayep...I appreciate all the congrats, guys.

Also, Scott, you're pretty ok too.

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1 person marked this as a favorite.

KingmakerDM: This is what you want.

Best of luck.

Start small.


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I really like this post from GM Rutseg: It focuses on three things I appreciate: training players, setting expectations, and, mostly important because it's something I missed in guide, contingencies.

"GM Rutseg" (edited for formatting here) wrote:

That's also a premise when you post, if you are unsure if something works in a certain way, try it out, if not, I will just ignore the action or tell you what other thing to do. It just saves a lot of time in PbP. Even more if you add contingency actions in spoilers.

For example:

If no one says against this direction, I check the left door for traps.
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (19) + 6 = 25

If nothing found:

I open the door and go into the room if there is no immediate danger.

If the door is locked:

I call the party rogue to open the door. If we don't have rogue, I try to force it open with my axe Strength: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (11) + 4 = 15

GM answer:

Great contingencies post! Thanks for helping the action to keep moving!

The door seems to have no traps at all. When you try to open it, you discover it is locked. You call the rogue and he take 20 for total 26 unlocks it.

Your torch light goes inside the room, and you see a big birthday cake. All of a sudden your Pathfinder friends come out around and greets you all. "Happy birthday!"

That saves us from expending 3 days checking questions and answers back and forth to decide where to go and what happens with it.

Well done, GM Rutseg.

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TriOmegaZero wrote:
I fail to see why such a thing needs to be said when the number of PFS tables is unchanged from last year. Or why something specific to PFS needs to be brought up at the initial PaizoCon announcement, possibly before it is even finalized.

I dunno, TOZ. I see wac's point.

I mean it does say:

Under the Pathfinder Society:

PaizoCon 2015 wrote:
PaizoCon features a full slate of Pathfinder RPG and Pathfinder Adventure Card Game organized play events. Join gamers from all over as they work together to survive the challenges of our ongoing organized play campagins!

I guess you could argue that a "full slate" only relates to what scenarios are available. But's hard to see a "full slate" when the afternoon slots are cut. Thus, I don't think wac is out of line by wondering why this wasn't made clear up front.

In addition, I don't think it's wrong that the community might that that another day would equal more slots of PFS. It's not unreasonable to think that. It's a messaging fail. Again, you could argue otherwise, but 'full slate'.

That said, it isn't a big deal. We, as a PFS community, will self-schedule some games after the full schedule is released. We'll work it out.

After the full schedule is out, we'll see if we can set aside some tables for warhorn scheduling and play.

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I will quote some yahoo--

Painlord wrote:
For those of you who are new to PbP, the format is *THE* best pure Pathfinder experience there is. It allows for a depth in roleplaying and character development that is not possible in a F2F (face to face, aka tabletop) game. In fact, I prefer PbP to my regular games: for the quality of character development and totality of roleplaying combined with the pure strategic/combat geekery that a good, updated map can provide.

Ayep. That still sums it up. It's just *good*. Better than face to face, better than RollD20.

Yeah. It's just a good way to go. In time, it will dominate f2f play...people think it's anti-social or <insert thing>, but a good game is infinitely more social, deep, and complete than any f2f is.

The future of RPGs is PbP (or the next iteration of such) and that's why it's too bad that Paizo Gamespace died. It could have been a huge boon to Paizo's long term growth.

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rknop wrote:

Painlord, were you the one who ran "Shadows Fall" on Thursday last year?

(If so, your Drandle Dreng was awesome.)

Nope, that wasn't me (though I do do a mean Drundle Dringle). uh uh huh eh heh...I said 'doo doo'...huh huh eh huh heh heh.

And, lookee there....I do have access to edit and add crap to the warhorn. After the middle schedule gets put out, I'll work with Majuba to see if we want to use this warhorn for self-scheduling games.

I can't imagine what they have planned that is going to suck up the tables and players from PFS during the middle slots, but I hope to be proven wrong. If it doesn't work, we can organize on our own.

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Majuba wrote:
Hey all - I've reactivated the Warhorn site I setup last year for pre-con games - LINK HERE

Majuba, might you want to expand that Warhorn to allow others to set up slots for midday games? As you know, PFS isn't scheduling any PFS for most (all?) mid-slots during the convention.

The current slot schedule is:

Slot 1: Friday, May 22, 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Slot 2: Friday, May 22, 7:00 PM to Midnight
Slot 3: Saturday, May 23, 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Slot 4: Sunday, May 24, 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Slot 5: Sunday, May 24, 7:00 PM to Midnight
Slot 6: Monday, May 25, 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Meaning that Friday, Saturday, & Sunday from 2pm to 6pm, PFSers are needing to self-organize to get games in (if they wish).

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
christopher lockwood wrote:
Painlord wrote:
Mr. Painlord, I have to say again that you are the man. The shortcut suggestions are 100% AMAZING! Thank you, sir.


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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Damien Wilmann wrote:
John, shame it was such a great SuperBowl! Not at all like the one last year where you no doubt could have got a lot of posting in! Amazing stuff. Lost my bet for Seattle, but totally didn't mind. Incredible game.

Great game.

Much better than the Kobolds vs. the StormGiants from last year.

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1 person marked this as a favorite.
Calybos1 wrote:
Surely the spammers are in the running...?

Yeah, Heathansson is on the list.


/me runs away, giggling madly.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
-Karma- wrote:
Typing on ipad is ok except for the forum tags. Getting those [-brackers is annoying..


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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
wakedown wrote:
Now, where's the much ballyhooed Painlord's Guide to Dancing With The PbP Stars?

They wouldn't let me in the club. :(


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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
GMTrex wrote:
On a semi-related note, for those jumping into GMing for the first time, here is an awesome Guide put together by Painlord (and added to by some of our very own Flaxseeders!): Painlord's Guide to PbP GMing

Some might argue that those guides were written by a Flaxseeder as well. ;)

Also, I love the Core option as well and expect to spent more of my time there.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Silbeg wrote:

/me waves his hand excitedly.

Oohh!! ME!! ME!! PICK ME!!!!

This is an utterly fascinating (and risky) experiment...I love it. No, not that it's going to get me back to playing F2F PFS, but that it eliminates much of my current annoyance with game. (Now, if they could just get a overarching good story & find a purpose to the Pathfinder Society, I'd be really happy.)

Here's what I think:
1) Within 1 month, most PFS PbP will be Core Only.
2) Within 6 months, most PFS 'real life' will be Core Only.
3) These will both be good things.
4) I'm very glad that I'm no longer a convention coordinator. If I was, I'm pretty sure I'd be scheduling Core Only Conventions, K?, but they would crash and burn because the anagram sucks.
5) I am still not funny.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Silbeg wrote:

I certainly do! Also, Andy Christian, Ray Albrecht, etc...

Been active in the local PFS for about 2 years now (wow... only 2 years? that'll mean 100 table credits in 2 years...)

Ah yes! I think I've met AC more than once. Even bought him a beer once. I can't believe I forgot to mention him.

If you can, you *should* come to PaizoCon. It's dang fun as long as you don't get roped into running the entire time you're there (unless you *really* like running). Gotta find time to play and chat and socialize too.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Damien Wilmann wrote:

Thanks guys. Almost had a flame war going on. I'll get some head space and respond today.

As for liking my own work, Painlord, I agree it is on the nose and I was reluctant - but I was just taking advantage of the favorites system because they act like bookmarks. Is there a better way?

Flame war? Oh no, we just had some interesting discussion. ;) I like that GMs will have some discussion and ideas and can make up their own minds and try things that work for them.

I was just snarking about the liking of your own post. I don't have a better way, save to link them in my profile, but I mostly do that so others can find them.

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Mark Sweetman wrote:

It's a fairly straightforward one for CotCC, with the applicants asked to RP out within a tavern. However the problem comes in several points:

1) It's mixed in with the OOC posts - which makes it hell to actually follow and read what's going on.
2) You'll find it gets dominated by a few more prolific posters.
3) If done wrong it can promote wierdness - such as broody loner ish types feeling like they have to engage off type to get seen amongst the rest.
4) If done this way - do you then reset the clock for the main campaign? - or do all the characters now know each other, etc.
5) It's a lot more work for the players to do... which is fine in some respects, but also means that as a DM you're imposing more upon those that you will eventually regret - which leads to a I just spent two weeks RP'ing and still didn't get picked, bugger this I'm giving up. feeling at times.

But the best information is going to be obtained via Player Stalking (ie. researching their other PbPs or posts) for the most part.

Ah...let's be honest, Sweetman, you were also pretty awesome in this RP thread too. There are times when paths cross and there are opportunities unmet.

Olondir was there too. Oh man, what a cast we had there.

However, I tend to prefer RP recruitments because I value PbP skills so much. In counterpoint, I might argue:

  • #1: In my experience, you can figure out what's going on. I mean, a GM who is interested in RP will figure things out.
  • #2: Yes, just like your game could be overrun by the same 'dominators'! For me, pushers (those that make things happen in PbP) are gold and worth it. However, a GM can manage the thread and learn a lot from how others react and play off them.
  • #3: Yes, totally! Broodish loners are not the kinds you want in PbP. You want social interactives. So...great! Break them out of their shells, if you can.
  • #4: Uh...a GM can erase and reset at will...or they can build off the RP. This is not an issue.
  • #5: This is the part that sucks. Totally...I've felt it. However, you have to use that experience going into your next recruitment. Find a way to polish that character and make it better.

And yes, stalking is best...however, new players can't be stalked. Which is why we need to have RP recruitments. We *NEED* to have new players in this format all the time. It makes it all worth it.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Silbeg wrote:
Well! Painlord, perhaps we will find a chance for you to p,ay at one of our scenarios, or maybe you'll want to GM the crazy bunch that we are. If you are going to be at GenCon, we could use a player or two to cover those of us that cannot make it (we are planning a face-to-face game there)!

That's funny because I had already asked Wilmann if any of you yahoos was going to go to PaizoCon. ;)

I don't know that I'll make GenCon (mostly because I need to find the right accommodations), but it's possible. (This old, cranky yahoo needs an extremely local hotel room and his own bed.)

And Silbeg, you run in Minn, eh? With the my Ryan boys? Boulduan and Blomquist, and maybe even Koelmann? Oh yeah, I know Dehning too.

* * *

And verdigris just posted our response to Sweetman.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
christopher lockwood wrote:
Awesome! It looks Super Duper!

Ayep. But I'm grumbling @ Sweetman's response.

I'm trying to find the words to politely disagree with all the things I disagree with. I only wonder if I will find them.

+1 for the good post, Wilmann.
-1 for liking your own work. ;)

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Ohh! Love the new-ish forum (Online Campaigns General Discussion). Please also consider stickying the following? I think they've had enough community review and feedback to be worthwhile.

Building a Better Doomed Hero

Guide to GMing PbP

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
christopher lockwood wrote:

The one and only mr. painlord?

To what do we owe this honor, sir?
Are you joining these adventures and shenanigans?


Just joining in the snark and gaming, two of my favorite things. You guys have it good here, no doubt. Organization, passion, fun...all the good things.

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Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
Damien Wilmann wrote:
Painlord also PM'd me (what is it about us that attracts stalkers?)


It's probably could you possibly be superstars and not have me?! ;)

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These are the only two complete Paizo APs that I know that has been completed via PbP that I know of:

#1:This bad ass run as Pirates.

#2:GM Evilan's Curse of the Crimson Throne. There is a reason why GM Evilan is so mentioned in the original post.

And this mofo is in the final fights of Book 6:

Council of Thieves. 3 GMs, some early turnover,'s almost in the books.

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DM Jelani wrote:
Stuff like running initiative in blocks, and putting up the monsters stats so that the PCs can completely resolve their own actions without DM feedback. Has any thought gone into adding stuff like that to the guide?

Oh, that would be good and welcome addition here. Please add!

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GM-JZ wrote:

Hey guys, great thread...

How many APs run to conclusion, Would you say even 5%?

I've been on the PbP boards for years and I know of 2 APs that have been completed. I am in another that is a month away from completion. Out of 1000s of games started. It is too rare.

Oh yeah, I guess I should link to this Guide to GMing PbP here.

The Exchange

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Can we get some love for this PFS combat post by Vasari? A lot of stuff going on, but it's clear and readable.

+1 to this kind of play.

The Exchange

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+1 to all the GMs adding to this thread with their experience and ideas.

This post becomes better as people contribute (not unlike any PbP)...and by joining voices, we can make the PbP format better and stronger.

The Exchange

Jiggy wrote:
That... was a lot to absorb. But my first PbP as GM (which happens to also be my first homebrew campaign) has about 800 posts now, so I guess I must be doing at least a passable job. :D

You must be. And you're probably doing other things that I didn't mention. What is working for you? Or what are you going to adopt from my post?

Jiggy, what else to PbP GMs need to know? Where was your steepest learning curve? Biggest hurdle?

p.s. I guess you're liking PbP, eh?

The Exchange

motteditor wrote:

My first thought to add, even if it's sort of on a bad note: You talk about the Prime PBP GM Commandment, which I agree with fully. I think what bothers me more than GMs not finishing games, though, is that they just disappear.

...I wish I hadn't had to, but for various reasons they weren't working and I wasn't enjoying myself (and I don't think the players were either). So I explained that I was calling an end to them and said why.

I think that's a huge difference than when the GM just (slowly) stops posting and eventually leaves the players to figure out that the game has ended.

Oh're one of the good ones, you know that. And I have no problem with communication that draws down a game. I have a *huge* problem with new GMs failing because they were not prepared and withdraw from PbP completely.

We all lose when the fade away happens. We lose players and a potential future GM. We need to stop that from happening both to protect our players, but also to protect our future GMs.

* * *

Cevah wrote:

Check out the competition :-)

Why not add this to the Guide to the Guides?


Lol. :)

We are not competitors, but on the same side. His post was crucial in setting the norms by which we post and communicate.

I had considered the Guide of Guides for builds and whatnot, but if you think this should be there, please recommend. I would appreciate it.

The Exchange

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Ravingdork wrote:

Hours and hours and hours I put into the mere hope of getting into a PbP game! What a waste of my time! How can anyone stand for such a crummy format of recruitment? Begging for a spot while facing the cruel and public criticisms of other potential players trying to convince the GM of your concept's unworthiness? How awful! Being strung along for weeks, all for naught!


Roleplaying should be easy and fun. Not this. Never this.

Ayep. The system sucks. It's broken...but not beyond measure.

Too many players are getting burned by GMs who are unprepared for the burden/joy of running PbP. It can be hard...unless you are prepared.

I've written this to help get at the root of the problem:

Painlord's Guide to PbP GMing

We need to train better players and that starts with training better least ones that are prepared.

No, this won't solve the problems of the past, but maybe...just maybe...the PbP community could be better.

The Exchange

Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1

I have looked deep within my dark soul and spewed my thoughts on GMing PbP.

Painlord's Guide to PbP GMing

Thoughtful commentary and discussion appreciated.

The Exchange

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Author's Notes:

PbP is *the* best Pathfinder format there is. No game you will ever run will have the depth of story and character that you will have in PbP.

I can't apologize for the length of this post as I recognize that in tackling this I could never have written all that could be said about Play-by-Post (PbP) GMing. There is just too much...and I could never say enough and do a complete job. However, there should be some things below to help you find the mindset to run a great game. I hope other posters will fill in the blanks with their own suggestions and ideas.

I did not work alone on this. Other active contributors include:

GM Angry Ankheg
DM Evilan
GM Rat Sass

Others have contributed to this post by running me in their games. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from them.

I freely welcome open discussion, your contributions, and disagreement in this thread...only through the sharing of ideas and collaboration can we push this format to be better.

It's Tough, So Tough:

It's tough to be a GM, twice as hard to be a good PbP GM. I have had several some many oh-god-no-more games crash and burn because of GMs not understanding how difficult it can be to GM PbP. Why is it so different than Face-to-Face(F2F)?

  • No immediate feedback from players. When there is a problem or a mistake, it can take hours/days to find and fix.
  • You cannot read facial expression of players. It's easier to spot areas of confusion in real life.
  • Difficult to know when to push; finding your timing is harder. This is the single hardest thing for a new GM to figure out. It's hard to know when to let RP flow and when to push sagging action. A GM will occasionally 'herd cats' to get the party back on happens in every group.
  • Getting maps to work for a diverse online group is harder than drawing on a map pack. Figuring out how *you* are going to present fun and fair mapped combats. Sure, Rolld20, Googledocs, pic hosting all work, but what best fits your skillset? Which one are you trained in and feel comfortable with?
  • Having to read and respond to everything. A real life GM (usually) gets questions one at a time and can focus and prioritize how and what to answer. In PbP, it requires reading every post and seeing each post for what needs a response. It's very frustrating as a player to have to ask the same question, post after post. It's easy for a GM to miss things in PbP that normally wouldn't be missed in F2F.
  • Sometimes your players have infrequent check-ins...creating a difficulty in assessing what they meant when they posted. You want to avoid going back and forth, over days, to clarify so you’ll likely need to guess their desires and do what’s best.
  • Difficulty in describing your story/action/environment. Hand gestures, intonation, inflection all matter in communication...but are much more difficult in PbP. A map with two or three dimensions is a lot of PbP work...a clarification on a map might be two quick pen strokes to fix and explain in real life, but take a lot of map time to fix in PbP. You need to be able to explain story and setting via the written word. That can be much harder in PbP for some people (some people are not strong writers, or English is not their first language). Some people are better storytellers via the spoken word.
  • Focus. The good GM must be more focused than the players, more on top of the game, more energetic - every day for years. If the GM falters, the whole game falters - much more severely than when a single player drifts.

However, these are not insurmountable problems. A PbP game has many, clear advantages to 'Real' Life, Face-to-Face and can be an infinitely more rewarding experience for you and your players.

0. Prime PbP GM Commandment:

Coffee is for closers. I repeat: Coffee is for closers.

Don't set out to start a PbP. *SET OUT TO CLOSE A PBP* Finish what you're going to start...whether it's one book of an AP, a PFS scenario, or your own home brew.

These boards are full of dead games...started by GMs with the best intentions. But they have failed before the first 1000 posts. Failed before they even got to the good stuff. Mostly, it's because the GM lost heart, didn't realize what it would take to create a good game. They were unprepared for the daily effort that is necessary to *complete* a PbP.

In their wake, they have left player after player wondering why the game died. It’s because their beginnings were ill-conceived, poorly formed, and/or lacked the momentum to properly start in the first place.

So...*Don't start a PbP unless you can finish it.*

Being a PbP GM is hard (and also infinitely rewarding) and this guide is going to help you out. However, please, for the love of whatever gods you might pray to: try a PFS mod before starting a full AP. Finish something small first, get it done, get your feet wet and understand what it takes.

The good GMs aren't the ones who start PbPs...they are the ones that close them.

In short, this is the one and only Commandment for GMs: Finish what you start. There is no greater crime on these boards than a GM getting a party of players together, getting their hopes up, having them work on characters and backstory and their dreams...only to have them dashed when the GM disappears.

With that said, we can get to the good stuff. We can talk about how you can run an awesome game by setting good expectations of your players, keeping the pacing, running good combats, and setting the social tone for your game. The overarching tone of these suggestions is the following: train your players to make things easier on you. If you can do that, you can avoid or minimize some of the tough parts of being a PbP GM.


1. Setting the Tone and Training:
This is your game. The best way to make it the way you want it to be is to lead the way...and train your players to make it easier on you. Take it away, Motte:

GM Motteditor wrote:
Running a PBP game is a LOT of work. You have to keep track of everyone more than you would in a tabletop game, and for me at least, I'm switching windows all the time to see what modifiers are in play, etc. etc. Even with some dice strings saved, every dice roll involved some typing that takes longer than simply tossing a d20. It's simply time-consuming to do each round of combat in a way that it isn't at the tabletop.

So do things to make things easier on yourself.

1.1 Set Clear Player Expectations:

The biggest thing I have learned is to set clear expectations for players before they get involved so that they know what is expected before they join. When you are clear about what you expect, your players will respond. Look at this beautiful(link) campaign info tab by GM Damo. You can see how much time and effort he went into planning his game. I would want to play in that game because I know what is expected. This GM's post was a great example of how to answer a player's questions about what is expected.

Set your expectations. Posting. Roleplaying. Formatting. Interactions. House rules. Community. Everything that you can make clear up front, will make your job easier later. Be clear!

1.2 Promote Community:

Pathfinder is a social game. Pathfinder involves interactive social skills and, as GM, it's your job to promote good social interaction. Your ability to work with others, create trust, and thank others will go a long way towards making your game better...and easier for you to run.

Acknowledge & Thank Awesomeness: When one of your players does something awesome, acknowledge it. Great roleplaying? Say so. Something make you laugh? You blew coffee all over your keyboard? Put in an LOL! or LOL@<name> into your next post. Use the "favorite this post" to show your appreciation. It matters. Soon, your players will start liking your posts and those of your other players.

React: Good stuff happens when people react to things that are happening. As GM, you have more opportunities to react than your players...while you should give your players priority in reacting, you should definitely have your say in promoting roleplay by reacting. Reacting properly gives the players hooks and creates interest. Interaction is part of the social nature of this game.

Socialize: Remember that you and your fellow players are people that have come together to play. Find ways to talk to others outside the IC and OOC threads. In most of my current games, I have connection with players via GoogleChat (via Trillian) or a Facebook Private Group through which we can chat about in-game and out-of-game stuff. Getting to know the other players has only enhanced my connections to their characters and to the roleplaying. My best games are ones that I can chat with the GMs about both in-game and out-of-game stuff. We're friends...having fun together playing PbP.

Trust: Building trust is essential, both between you and your players and for the other players to have so that they can roleplay honestly without worrying about mistakes. Some of the best RP and memories comes from players acting in character to results that didn't turn out as intended. However, players need trust to take those risks, to act and make mistakes.
Create trust by:

  • Being reliable and responding in a timely manner.
  • Doing what you say...and holding your players accountable as well.
  • Take your own risks, even making mistakes, so that your players can see how you take responsibility and fix it and carry on.
  • Be open for private (PM) discussion as necessary. And care for the secrets of your players. Not everything needs to be on an with players to create secrets that you will trust them to play out as they see fit.
  • Be objective and fair: RAW or RAI, explain fairly and make fair resolutions.

Be a friend, a confidant, a human. We aren't playing PbP because we want to play with robots...we aren't playing WoW. This is a roleplaying *and* social game.

1.3 Be Collaborative, not Combative Storytelling:

Play by post is a crafting process. The GM and the players can either collaborate and create a work of art... or combat each other over the design, details, and direction. The latter is likely to leave a battered and broken heap that no one enjoys. It's a choice; make the right one, and make sure your players are ready to join you in making a work of art.

1.4 Training, Bad Players, and Trimming Deadweight:

Dirty little secret: Bad PbP players are easy to find. There are lots of them on these boards. Good GMs are rare. There are a lot more players than GMs...which gives the GM a leveraged position. It does not give you the right to abuse players, but you don't have to put up with bad players...nor those who don't seem to be contributing.

Train your players using positive reinforcement: When you call out a great roleplaying post or clear combat action, you highlight what you value and your players will strive to do more.

The game, our time, this PbP format, is too valuable to let it be ruined by bad players...and I've seen plenty of bad players in PbP. What sorts of things?

  • Long, unexplained posting absences
  • Posts that have no roleplaying, hooks, or pushes
  • Argumentative or metagaming actions
  • Not reading the others’ posts
  • Not following campaign rules and expectations.

(Note: Knowledge of Pathfinder rules is a not an issue...nor is quality of build. As GM, you can place as much priority on those aspects as you deem appropriate...and you can work with rules-light players almost easier than you can with rules lawyers. It's a matter of preference and your ability to train your players on what you prefer.)

Remember, you outline the type of campaign you want, and then help the players live up to it.

You have the *responsibility* to your players to not let bad players slow down or ruin your game. It's *your* job to take action to protect *your* game from bad players. Sorry/NotSorry, it's one of the privileges/duties/honors of leadership.

Some behaviors are correctable and simple nudges and PMs should clarify what is expected. A few polite personal messages should clear it up.

Always give your players chances to improve...if you are positive with what you expect, it should be easy to fix. And remember this trick: Praise in Public, Criticize in Personal Message/Private.

Now, here is the biggest point of all this: Don't be afraid to cut bad players. You can replace them easily enough...but if a player is not contributing, or is sucking the soul from you or other players, it is your duty to cut them before they do too much damage. As one Venture Captain once told me: “You got to scrape the barnacles off the boat if you want to sail quickly."

Bad players are a drag on you and on your players. Give them a chance to improve...and GET RID OF THEM if they don't improve.

2. Setting things Up:

2.1 Creating the World:
For some, the most daunting aspect of running a play by post is simply setting up the various threads. While it is not entirely straight forward, Paizo has made some changes that smooth out the process considerably.

Step 1: Create the Recruitment Thread:Go to the Play-by-Post Recruitment area of the Paizo Boards; use the "add new thread" link. This requires a title. The most important information to have in this title is whether or not it is an "open" or "closed" recruitment. If it is a closed recruitment, the post does not have to say much, but can be used to begin the setting the tone for the story. If it is an open recruitment, this is where the rules and expectations previously chosen will be relayed to prospective players.

Step 2: Create the Campaign Page: When creating the Recruitment page, there will be a small box at the top with a link to set up the campaign thread. The page it creates is a good place for a list of important things: rules, important NPCs, quests, links to maps and/or treasure sheets. A good campaign page makes the game easier for both the GM and the players. Paizo has set it up so that immediately upon creation, a campaign page will have links to create the other threads, including the one you will use the most, The Gameplay thread.

Step 3: Create the Gameplay Thread: When the other threads are used appropriately, the Gameplay Thread is allowed to stand as an almost entirely in-character space. Done well, they can be read near enough as a story. To this end, the first post for your Gameplay thread should be after your party has been chosen, after they have crafted their characters, and after they have had a little bit of time to get to know each other in the recruitment thread.

2.2 Choosing the Campaign -- Length, Levels, Laws:

Before you run a campaign, and before it can even be offered up to players, it is best to have some sort of sketch of what sort of campaign it will be. How long will it likely run? What levels will it cover? What ruleset and what sort of house rules will be in place? Each of these questions opens several others, but by asking yourself these questions, you will be able to be more upfront with prospective players and likely end up with a more compatible group in the long run.

How long will it likely run?
Hidden in this question are several other sub-questions. How many posts are you willing to make daily, and how many will you expect players to make? What happens *when* someone can’t post at some point? What is the preferred sandbox/rails ratio and will there be opportunity for personal stories for the players? All of these things can impact how long it takes to run the exact same scenario/module/or adventure path. There are no RIGHT answers to this, as long as the members of the group all have the same expectations.

What levels will it cover?
“Level” can apply to many things that are important to consider. The number of character levels the campaign will cover will impact the answers to the question above, but there are other “levels” to consider. What sort of experience level are you looking for? What age group? Will it be G, PG, or something more adult? How much humor and how much gore? What are your expectations regarding the Metagame and it’s in-game consequence? You may or may not voice all of these in the recruitment thread, but by asking yourself the questions, you’ll know what you are looking for and why as you search for players.

What ruleset and what sort of house rules will be in place?
While most of the Play-by-Posts on the Paizo boards tend to be Pathfinder, not all of them are, and of those, they could still be Core Only, Pathfinder Society, or a no-books-barred Pathfinder+3.x, or anywhere in between. Again, knowing the answers to these questions will help pull together people who will hopefully enjoy the same ruleset and house rules.

Just as important as the rules for the game are often “unwritten” rules that make for a good game. How deeply are you looking for the characters to be developed prior beginning? How much character friction (vs player friction) is allowable? How much, and what sort of metagaming is allowed? Being upfront about these things with your players makes sure that they have considered these things as well. It's not that any given answer is "Right" but that it is Right for the game and group in question.

Rules: made to be broken, or bent?
It can be very easy to lay things out just the way you would like them. That's fine and promotes good communication so that you end up with like-minded players and a game you can not just live with, but truly enjoy. Human beings are imperfect. Therefore, you and your players are likely to be imperfect as well. Knowing how much room you are willing to give people before making permanent changes can help stave off hurt feelings and leave future game possibilities intact. Even if you never play with a person again, leaving things well versus badly affects not just you, and not just that person, but the hobby as a whole, as every person goes out into the world and interacts with new players.

The Only Rule that Matters
Different rules will work for different groups, and though we all have our favorites, there is one that is important for every group: Communicate! Communicate problems early. Communicate often, both in the Gameplay thread, and in the Discussion thread. Build communication lines beyond the Play-by-Post threads, such as email, Facebook, or chat. Communication between player and GM is important; they need to be able to ask those questions that might pop up at the gaming table prior to posting. Communication between players is just as important. A GM should facilitate this if at all possible. This is a social game, and people need to be able to socialize directly, not just through the GM. Most little problems can be solved between players well before the GM needs to step in.

2.3 Recruitment:
I have such mixed feelings about recruitment threads. There is usually so much competition for a few threads that it seems impossible for competing players to find a spot. On the other hand, I love the challenge of the contest and how it spurs me to create a good, complete character.

What kind of game do you want? One that focuses on the technical parts of Pathfinder (builds, combat effectiveness) or one that is focused on roleplaying and character? You should create the recruitment thread to highlight what you want.

I will make no secret that I place roleplaying and character development over builds in every case. If your game is going to succeed, story and motivation are what matter...not how much damage someone can do. In my experience, combat and balance always work themselves out...roleplaying and story do not.

Get Players who read/follow directions: A Recruitment thread is a great place to quickly see who is going to annoy you and other players with their lack of attention. For instance, if you mention in your build requirements 'core races only' for a low fantasy game and some yahoo offers a Dhampir Half Dragon, maybe they aren't going to be an easy fit. I guarantee if that if they aren't paying attention in a recruitment thread, then they are going to be players who frequently miss things in-game.

Attrition: Unless you are incredibly lucky/unlucky, you will face some attrition from your starting game until the end. Players move on, get new jobs, lives change...things happen. You can either prepare to re-recruit when that happens, or recruit large (6 players for your average AP)...then not replace them as they leave.

Referrals vs. Open Auditions: There are some GMs who only open up to players they know or are referred to them. That can be know the players you are getting have the potential to be good (or, at least, have a social pressure to contribute). On the other hand, we need to make the game open and inviting for new players. A referral might have a long, strong posting history and be a great player...on the other hand, playing with new and different players is how we improve as roleplayers.

Suggestion if you are taking referrals: Find a spot or two for new players. We always need to find ways to include new (to PbP) players into our games...they are our game's lifeblood and can be trained to be good players. This post (PFS) talks about what we want from new Pathfinder players. It applies nicely to PbP and the PbP community as well.

We can learn a lot from new players: both things we've never thought of...and things we know are wrong. Sometimes learning what not to do is as good as knowing what works. New players see and react in new ways...helping us flesh out possibilities within the PbP metagame.

2.4 Timezones:

In the past, a fellow player/GM that I respect insisted that getting players from similar time zones was essential to a good game. I'm not so sure. While I prefer the quick posts from people who are local to you, I’m not sure it is more or less important than other factors. Good players will contribute regardless of where they are. However, if you prefer to chitchat via GChat/AIM or other, having more overlap on the play/sleep schedules is important. And if you're seeking a very quick game, insisting that players are GMT+/- 2 hours from you can help you and your players have more time overlap.

2.5 Mapping the Adventure:

For many GMs, mapping may be the single most intimidating part of running a Play-by-Post. It doesn’t have to be. Anyone with the skills to reach Paizo to read and write a thread has the skills to do at least minimal mapping. HOW to map, however, remains a personal need a find a way that works for you.

Maps don't need to be amazing, they just need to get the job done. Questions you might ask yourself:

  • Can I learn to make it work?
  • Is it easy to update? *very* important
  • Do I want my players to move their own tokens or should I create a labeled grid and set positions?
  • Can I (and my players) access the map from work?
  • How important is mobile mapping, i.e. access from phones and tablets?
  • How much detail is important to me?

Google Drive: has 4 different formats that can be used to map: Googledraw, Google presentation, Google spreadsheets, and Google Document. That’s right, with nothing more than basic office productivity software, you can map for a Play-by-Post.

Rolld20: After trying basic office productivity software, most people decide to look for something stronger. Roll20 has a base subscription for free. It has everything that any of the Google Drive formats have, plus more. Like any community-supported resource, it is hoped that those who see the benefit will donate or subscribe at a higher rate to help keep it alive and growing.

RPG Virtual Tabletop: Several websites have lists and/or reviews of various options, one of which can be found at RPG Virtual Tabletop.

Ditzie: Some GMs like Ditzie, which is easily updated from any computer. You can create recursive maps easily.

In the end, this is a lackluster explanation because there are lots of options depending on what you want to do and how you want to do it. The most important factor in mapping is getting one that works for you BEFORE you start a game. Working maps is a high stress factor in PbP games. Get it right before you start.

2.6 Initiative:

Running initiatives can sometimes seem complicated, even at a Face-to-Face table. I suggest you use PROOP.

Prepare your initiatives (and common things like perception checks) ahead of time. Set up a macro or copy and paste it from your Campaign Info (example link) tab.

Roll initiatives for your players. Usually in a spoiler.

Organize your monsters/bad guys into meaningful groups. You don't necessarily want all your monsters in one group, but also, each additional group/individual you have will slow down combats. If you have yahoos that should be acting alone, have them act alone. If your party is facing 15 kobolds, then maybe do 3 groups of 5.

Order the initiatives from first to last, using highest init modifier in the event of a tie.

Post the initiative in a way that you can copy/paste later in your rounds.

In this, the GM rolls for everyone and then each person responds either in order, in subgroups, or as they can. At the end of the round, the GM summarizes, taking each person’s response into consideration as he lays out how the round played out. This can be a little or a lot more complicated, depending on which variation is chosen. In general, a little more work for the GM can speed the game up considerably. As with most things, communication is the key to success.

Here is a champion GM's Initiative Post

2.7 Treasure Tracking:
Some people *like* the detail of treasure tracking and game resources. Some players do not. If you want to track all the stuff with your players, please do...but be aware of the time involved.

You can also work with your players to track loot and gold, helping them keep lists and reviewing purchases and sales.

GM Treasure Tracker: GM Evilan's CotCT (spoilers) Treasure sheet. This was keen as he used WBL to level us, managing the treasure for when he wanted us to level.

Player Treasure Tracker: This one is run by Mal from our Reign of Winter campaign.

Personal Treasure Tracking: When there is no group tracking, I would at least encourage you have your players track their monies and purchases in the OOC, keeping a running total of gold.

Spasi's First Cashing
Spasi's Second Cashing - not the link back to the first cashing
Spasi bought stuff
And #4 cashing - you get the idea

If it is important to you (or your players), you are encouraged as ask your players to post their total Wealth in the OOC so you can see where they are as opposed to where you could be. If you notice a player who is significantly under WBL, you can manage a treasure drop for them.


3. Random Things about GMing PbP that are Tough to Categorize

3.1 Consistency (aka The GM Evilan God skill):
If I had a second commandment, it would be this: Be Consistent. One of my greatest PbP GMs had a singular 18 stat: consistency. Every morning he would wake up and post...the next round of combat or the next interplay. EVERY FREAKIN'

Why? We, as humans, respond to consistency and expectations. It gets us all on a regular schedule. And nothing is better for a PbP game than consistency: when players know the game is always going to move forward, they stay engaged, they stay in-character.

On the other side of the coin, random and fragmented posting is a killer. Unexplained absences, slow posts, and gaps make for a poor game. Your story falters when the details fade from memory. We players lose our connection to the game and our characters when we do not post.

Keep your momentum. Post everyday...and at a set time if you can.

3.2 Posts per Day:
It's fashionable to insist on a post a day from your players. Many players and GMs do not hold to that well. However, that rule doesn't really work for GMs. Here's one that applies: Post at a rate that you can sustain; post as needed to keep momentum. There is only *one* person completely responsible for the game: you.

My GM PbP requirements might look like this: "I'm going to hold you to the same standard as I hold myself: I expect you to post as often as is needed, adjusting to the pace of the group, as set by me. I plan to post at least once per day. When you do post, I expect you to push the action/story/RP or leave/pick up RP hooks. If our pacing changes to the point of negatively impacting your ability to keep up, I hope and expect that you will talk to me earlier rather than later. I promise to do the same if our positions are reversed."

3.3 Corral and Redirect:
Let's be honest: players are yahoos...goofy, silly yahoos (if you are lucky). However, even the best players get lost, lose focus, forget the 'mission', go astray. It's your job to corral them and get them back on track. For me, GM Chris was a master at getting our PbP group back on track or refocused. Look at these posts....

Example #1: OOC Corral Post #1 (Shackled City spoilers) – Party was lost on leads and story. Fixed in one post...

Example #2: ...until we needed more months later. (Shacked City spoilers).

Example #3: Not to mention combat confusion, a good corral post can fix those too...

Example #4: ...until it happens again. It happens. The best person to get things back on track is *you*, the GM. Players will get lost as they deal in the campaign and through the lens of busy lives. It's easy to fix.

Another great example comes from GM Brew:
Example #5: GM Brew answers a bunch of questions in this post. Well done, GM Brew.

3.4 Player Resources:
A good GM uses all of the resources at the table. This sounds obvious, but many games die because things become overwhelming to a GM who tries to do everything himself. If a game has six players, then a GM has not one person, but seven who can help do the work to make it a thriving campaign. If one of the players is an Excel god, relying on him to help with a treasure spread sheet just makes sense. If another has excellent focus, the GM might ask them to give a nudge if it seems like things are bogging down. Every person in the game has an vested interest in making sure it goes well, so don’t be afraid to let them *invest*!

By the same token, invite players over to the OOC to research rules questions. Have a question about how XYZ works? Ask your players to figure things out with you in the OOC. Quoting rules sources or linking to rules pages makes things work. Remember, you can play RAW or RAI or 'WhateverIWant' as long as you're fair, clear, and consistent in your rulings.

Here is another example (link) from the amazing GM Chris. Was the ruling right or wrong? Answer: It doesn't matter...the GM ruled and explained. We players were happy and moved on. Another example.

Players can also help with rules by researching things for you: Check out Atol (here).

Think they are wrong? Take it to the OOC: A powergaming yahoo gets slapped by the GM (next post).

3.5 XP and Leveling:
Assigning XP for encounters is an old and outdated system. If it makes you happy to track such things, then go ahead and do it. For me, the better system is Whenever-I-Feel-Like-It. If you're a GM playing an AP or running your own content, you pretty much know where you want your players to be.

GM Evilan used GP vs. WBL to decide when it was time to level. GM Evilan's Treasure & XP sheet. See the first tab? He used loot to approximate when we would be leveling. As GM you can adjust the loot.

Secondly, when characters level, in addition to having them update any alias information, ask them to either send you their new character sheets or post their new levels in the OOC, pointing out feats, spells, skills, and things of interest.

Hektir Lvl 2
Hektir Lvl 3
Hektir Lvl 4 etc.


4. In-Game Management Stuff In short, do what works for you and your players. Here is what some fine GMs taught me in the past that worked well.

4.1 Know Monster Checks:

As we mentioned above, we want to both train our players to be good ones and support those characters who have chosen to put ranks into knowledge skills. For me, I love in-character knowledge rolls so that I can participate fully and use my character's skills.

There are two ways to handle them:

  • Put the information in scaling spoilers so that players can roll their knowledges and then read the appropriate spoiler for them. There is a great example from DM Are, here. As a player, I love this approach. However, it doesn't always give the player the chance to ask a specific question. Nonetheless, that is a fine trade off in PbP and you, as GM, can begin to include those answers in the spoilers.

  • The second method is poking your players with a reminder to roll if they want. Example:

    The big blob rushes at you with pseudopods extended! Knowledge (Dungeoneering), DC 18 for 1 question.

Or this example from GM Lithrac.

It's sometimes hard to remember what creature goes with what knowledge. There are plenty of links around to help you remember, including this one:

  • Arcana: constructs, dragons, magical beasts
  • Dungeoneering: aberrations, oozes
  • Local: humanoids (elves, dwarves, goblins, etc.)
  • Nature: animals, fey, monstrous humanoids, plants vermin
  • Planes: elementals, outsiders (demons, devils, angels, archons)
  • Religion: undead

The basic check 10 + the monster's CR. 15 + CR if you feel the monster is rarer. Players can usually get additional information for each 5 that they beat the check. But, as always, this is your game and GM for the most enjoyment for you and your group.

4.2 How to Push:

A good GM prompts, pushing when appropriate. And you will need to learn when to push and when to let things lie. It may take time for you and your group to coalesce. It may take you a while to know when to push and when to wait. Luckily, as you are GM, you can easily ret-con (go back on) actions and fix things if you go too quickly. As I believe there is a greater danger in going slow than quick, I always encourage pushing. Going too fast can be fixed, going too slow makes things harder.

4.2.1 What would you do?:

Check out this perfect push post by GM CC (link). It beautifully describes the actions and prompts the players to react. Granted, you should not need to prompt your players to react, but this sort of push is very effective. What would you do?

4.2.2 Stepping:

GM Cyrioul showed me this neat trick...'Stepping'. And another stepping post. These are great ways to give players a chance to interject or respond as you post a bit of dialogue. It allows for a bigger post AND for responses to them. It reduces the slowness brought on by the give-and-take that long dialogues can have in PbP.

4.2.3 Active Pushing:
It takes a while to learn when you should push and when you should wait. Every group is different and you'll soon learn your players' tendencies. Early on, I would push often, knowing that things can be slowed and retconned. Even after the game is going, at the end of every substantive GM post, you should include a push, usually in OOC text.

Example active pushes:

  • You guys are up.
  • Your options are: explore the kobold lair, go to town, or surprise me.
  • Waiting to hear from Jimbo Von Flumphpants and Sister Heddy Tartar. (Calling out your player's names is better than not. Don't be afraid to emphasize what you need from your players.)
  • You guys need a solution to the weregummybear. It's eaten half the town so far...and the other half is mostly orphanages and brothels.

4.2.4 Reward Your Pushers/Hookers:

You're going to have players that work to include others, move the action forward, and take responsibility for the game. Reward them somehow. Give them praise, highlight their actions, thank them for what they are doing. After all, you want to encourage it.

GM Evilan warns wrote:
”Track how often people post, and caution your heaviest poster just as much as you encourage your weakest poster. The GM should be the heaviest overall poster. If not, consider who is driving the campaign.”

4.2.5 GM PC:
If you have created trust with your players, then it should be easy to liberally use GM PC when appropriate. (GM PC=Having the GM post actions for a player...if they are missing, busy, a requested absence, or just-because-they-feel-like-it.) Knowing when to GM PC depends entirely on your game, your players, and what they are doing.

The best part about GM PCing? You, as GM, can take things back or fix things if they are wrong. The second best part is that it can help you keep momentum and story focus.

4.3 Beware of Doors:

From Oceanshieldwolf:

OSWolf wrote:
”Beware of doors: For some reason, placing a door in front of the PCs will make the game grind to a halt while they prepare to open it. Don't ask me why this happens, it just does.”

In a PbP game, you want to avoid 'doors', that is, unnecessary delays in the game where your players are spending days wondering who is going to open the door. Hopefully, you are training them to push and act, but...just be aware that doors/columns/funky blue lights/NPCs can all be 'doors', that is, barriers to pushing forward.

When you recognize that your players are afraid of a 'door', give them a push.

4.4 Fixing Errors:
Embrace the idea that you are going to make mistakes, do things wrong, miss things, misread, and screw up in a piddlespotting myriad of ways.

What's great about being GM is that you get to deal with them in any way you choose. You can either ignore them or, even better: fix them as best you can, learn from the experience, and move on.

As GM, you can go back in time pretty easily...or issue a story override pretty easily.

Example #1: ”Oops, I screwed up. The pegleg gnome you met back in town? He was actually a 'jittery eskimo firefighter' carrying two harpoons. He also told you that the secret to opening the Tomb of the Tattooed Turnips was weasel grease. You guys need weasel grease.”

Example #2: ”You're totally right, Kast. I missed the deflection bonus from your combat toupee. Take off 6 damage.”

Example #3: ”Oooh...oops! The DC for that Hold Person was supposed to be 14, not 34. Let's go back before the coup de grace, back to Round 2. My bad.”

Example #4: ”Uh...yeah, I made a mistake there. No one has died, but yeah, you all got screwed, but found your way out of the Tavern of the Tepid Teawater. Let's play on.”

4.5 Keeping the Story:

Aubrey the Malformed wrote:

The trick in a campaign for a DM is to keep reasonable fidelity with the overarching plot while allowing the PCs scope to do stuff. It's primarily about decent hooks, and also about rolling with what the PCs do while gently nudging them in the direction of the "good stuff".

PbP, of course, gives a DM plenty of time to think. That actually makes running a plotted campaign that meaningfully includes player actions easier because the DM doesn't have to make immediate decisions if they are surprised by what the players do. It also, of course, makes for good roleplaying, too, but that can be a bit dependent on the writing ability of the players and DM.

Aubrey says it better than I ever could. Have your story and get your players to collaboratively write it.


5. Running Combats:
Combats (especially the fun ones) can be a confusing mix of actions, delays and readies, spell effects, battlefield control and other good stuff. There are good ways to track them in PbP, but without protocol, they can get confusing. Some combats are easy, simple and can be even mapless (you don't need full detail in every fight). However, especially as you move up in level and skill, you'll want a posting and combat protocol to keep things clear (and even then things will get screwed up).

The key is being clean and ordered so that you and your players can easily see what round it is, what initiative it is, and who is coming up next. In short, it's about clear, communicative posts. Train your players how you want them to post actions and keep clear actions in combat so that you, as GM, can follow what they are doing and adjudicate the combat efficiently. You want to finish one round clearly so you can recap and move to the next.

Combat Things to Do:

  • 5.1 Have your players: Every post, every turn, put up a header with the round and their initiative. In PbP, there is no reason why you should not expect your players to keep track of things as well. Example: Round 1, Init 14.

  • 5.2 GM: When resolving actions or commenting or running a monster, makes a note about who is up next. Example: Amren, then the bad guys, then Garridan and Kast!

  • 5.3 Have new players? Playing with new players to Pathfinder? Or to PbP? Or just making too many mistakes? Ask your players to define their actions each round with OOC text for swift, move, and standard/full round actions. Training your players to think this way will make them better players.

    Exmple #1: Zilch drops his longspear (free), draws his morningstar (move), and swings at the donutbeast! (standard)

    Example #2: Appario draws his bastard sword (free as a part of a move action), Extortion, taking a 5' step (move), smites evil @ donutdevil (swift), and attacks! (standard)

  • 5.4 Tracking: Your players are responsible for tracking conditions gained and spell rounds. Yes, PLAYERS are responsible for accurately keeping track of spells and effects, counting rounds and ability damage and all that. Don't assume all the responsibility...have them clearly track and note both good and bad effects. This is about making your job easier. Then again, if you want track such things, go for it. Just make sure whatever you do, you do it consistently.

    Similarly, your players are responsible for communicating the effects and spells they are casting and making sure other players are using the bonus. When I GM, I don't go back too often to correct for player mistakes...I would rather teach them to play with precision. However, you might have a soul and will be nice enough to allow a late reminder bonus from a Bless spell. I don’t have the patience for being nice when I can train players to be better. It’s hard enough in PbP without going back to fix thing that your players screwed up.

  • 5.5 Stat Blocks: There are two kinds of stat blocks: those that appear under a character's name as a part of their alias, and those that characters can use to include information about their combat modifiers. You should ask your characters to build them to fit what you want to see.

    Alias Stat blocks: Here are some samples I've seen and used over time:
    {spoiler=Stats}F HalfOrc Barrister 2 (HP 15/15 | AC:15 | T:12 | FF:13 | CMB: +1 | CMD:16 | Fort:+4 | Ref:+2 | Will:+3 | Init:+2| Perc: +5 | Speed: 30 ft.{/spoiler}

    {spoiler=Taldan Magicky Guy}AC 16/12/14 (+4 w/Mage Armor) /HP: 30 / F +2 R +3 W +5 / Init. +4 / Perc. +15/ Sense Motive +1 {/spoiler}

    An End of Combat Post stat block might include very different information, including current spell effects, abilities, class features, and whatever else might be important to the active situation.

    In the past, I've used some like this:

    {spoiler=Dyrant Status}
    AC: 19 (+5 Dex, +4 MageArmor)
    HP: 120/120
    Weapon Equipped = AngelRelic
    Blessing of St. Cuthbert (+3 AC/Saves) = Cog/Atol
    Healing Touched Today =
    Favor of St. Cuthbert =
    Connection Hex = Finneas
    Fly: 1 of 14 minutes used
    Fly, current iteration: 3 of 10 rounds used
    Metamagic Rod Extend (1/3 used)
    Metamagic Rod Acid (0/3 used)
    Metamagic Rod Silent (0/3 used)
    AngelRelic (Staff of Fire) 9/10
    Wand of Displacement 4/12 charges
    Wand of Fly 20/28 charges
    Scarab of Protection: 20 SR & 5/12 charges
    Heroism, Extended
    Mage Armor
    Fly {/spoiler}

    Or, for a spellcaster: {spoiler=Spazzes} Force Missile (0/7 used), Lvl 1 (0/8 used), Lvl 2 (1/5 used){/spoiler}

    And an example of an in-combat status block:
    HP 23/35. AC 22 (total defense)
    Active Spell Effects:
    Divine Favor: 3/10 rounds used
    Longstider: 4 hours
    Barkskin: 40 minutes
    Smite: 0/1 left today.

    5.6 Combat Modifiers: Ensure that players clearly show their combat modifiers when they attack, calling out common (and uncommon) bonii that they are applying. Train them to show things like cover and firing-into-combat penalties clearly. Don't let them make your job harder. Train them to do it right.

    Example #1:
    Kast stabs at the kobold:
    1d20 + 8 + 1 - 1 + 2 ⇒ (8) + 8 + 1 - 1 + 2 = 18 to hit; (+bless, -power attack, +flank)
    1d8 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (3) + 4 + 2 = 9 piercing damage. (+power attack)

    Example #2: See here how a complicated combat post can be cleaned up.

    5.7 GM Spells: When one of your goons casts a spell (and the party can both see and hear it), the pro move is to describe the effect (in open text), and put a spoiler for your players who might want to spellcraft it.

    The donutbeast chants words of arcane power, wiggling its sprinkles deliciously. The chocolate glazing seems fuller, sweeter, more delicious.
    {spoiler=Spellcraft DC 17}The donutbeast casts Chocolatify on himself.{/spoiler}

    5.8 Player Spells: Insist that when your players cast a (less well known) spell, that they write out the name of the spell, a link to a source, and give the DC clearly.
    Example: Kast casts Cause Fear on the goblin! DC 14 Will save vs frightened.

    5.9 Adjudicating Actions Players are going to post confusing and often contradictory is a part of the PbP game. Thankfully, you have the ability to adjudicate as you see fit: you can either correct or amend actions to fit or ask for an action to be redone. If you've built good trust with your players, your changes will be quicker for the game and the overall health of your group.

    Train your players to communicate with you about your adjudications. Players have to be willing to let go control for minor things e.g. You can't move that far, I'll put you here instead. or Player 1 killed that kobold, you moved here to attack kobold #2. Be careful you don't control too much - the players are in control of their characters. Keep the changes you make in-character.

    5.10 Round Recap: The GM types up a quick note about what happened in the last round. This is incredibly valuable to your players. This creates a great amount of trust and certainty in your game as players know you've read their posts and responded to them. The combat recap is the best combat tool you have for ensuring a clear and fun game.

    DM_Euan wrote:

    Briar manages to miss all his shots, but one of his hidden allies manages a successful swing - though it does only a little damage after reduction. Charlie moves up into position and summons a water elemental to flank with Nikolay. Barael flails about with his bow a moment before settling into a rhythm and hitting once. His precision damage seems to have worked which is good as less damage is done than he feels there should be. Fondo digs down and finds Barael’s blade resting in a puddle in the rock. He then pulls out a potion. Nikolay continues to dig deeply into the creature though the pain shooting through his limbs is hindering him visibly as he connects once, but does not confirm the critical. All the fire damage seems to go through and the smell of burning flesh fills the air, mingling with the bile of the breath weapon and the sweat and fear of combat. Dandilion moves up behind some rocks and rips a new hand out of the ether for her use.

    Kleestad continues to press his advantage on the most troubling opponent in the room so far - Nikolay!

    [dice=KL Claw]1d20+21 to hit; 3d6+24 damage;
    [dice=KL Claw]1d20+21 to hit; 3d6+24 damage;
    [dice=KL Bite]1d20+18 to hit; 3d6+24 damage;

    -Round 4-
    Briar - 20 (10’ up)
    IS1 - 20 (10’ up)
    IS2 - 20 (10’ up)
    Charlie - 18
    Air Elemental - 18 (5’ up)(-36hp)(-1str)(in pain)
    Water Elemental - 18
    Barael - 16 (-13hp)(greater invisibility)
    Fondo - 14 (invisible)
    Nikolay - 12 (15’ up)

  • Bottom line: Run the combats as you see fit. My long standing games have developed these systems to reduce the strain on GMs for adjudicating the chaos of combat. You should run the system that works for you...just make it clear to the players what you expect.

    * * * * *

    In the end, the only way we’re going to have better PbP games is if you GMs train better players. And when we have better players, we’ll have better GMs and better games.

    Let’s create a great PbP Community full of good players and GMs that welcomes new players.



    Finish what you start.
    Don't start a PbP unless you can finish it.

    Set your game up right.
    Set clear expectations.
    Promote communication and community.
    Use all of your resources; share the load.
    Get your maps set *BEFORE* you start.

    Train your players.
    Praise in Public, Criticize in Personal Message/Private.
    Don't be afraid to cut bad players.
    Hold players to your standards.

    Post Everyday. Be Consistent.
    Post at a rate that you can sustain; post as needed to keep momentum.

    Learn to Push your players and your posts.
    Keep up your momentum.

    Run good combats that make things easy on you.
    Train your players to make things easy on you.

    The Exchange

    Male Humanoidish Yahoo 4/Painlord 6/Punk 2/Cleric of Happiness & Sunshine 1
    Iron Vagabond DM wrote:
    Yeah, could people help me with something? I need to figure out a method of rolling in secret, and I have no idea how to do so. Currently, I'm going with making another thread with which to make the rolls, and having a code on the top, which the player PM's me what they were rolling for. I'm hoping for a slightly more eloquent method.

    Uhm...I would handle it differently. Rather than trying to hide those secret rolls, I would spam your posts with random rolls behind spoilers. For bonus points, you could add cryptic and misleading names to them.

    If you include them often enough, your players won't know what is real and what is fake. Examples:

    GM Only:

    1d20 + 5 ⇒ (9) + 5 = 14 Stealth;
    1d6 ⇒ 1 Player being targeted.
    1d4 ⇒ 4 Rounds to Doomcannon armed.

    GM Only:

    1d20 + 11 ⇒ (15) + 11 = 26 McMuffin Bluff
    1d20 + 3 ⇒ (3) + 3 = 6 Will Save, Player 4
    1d100 ⇒ 32 Confusion

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