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DH's Guide to Play By Post gaming


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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254 people marked this as a favorite.

So you like gaming, but don't have much time. You've heard of Play By Post (PBP) gaming, but you find the whole idea a little daunting. Wouldn't it be nice if there was someone who could teach you the ropes like your friends did back when you were fist learning tabletop gaming?

Well you're in luck. This guide aims to do just that.

This guide is written from the perspective of a PBP on this board. If you just want tips on how to become a better PBP gamer, you'll probably want to skip this section.

Also, this guide will attempt to teach players the formats for PBP games that provide the highest level of organization and aesthetic appeal. There are as many different format styles as there are games, and many of them do not use the formats I will advocate here. That doesn't mean they are "doing it wrong". This is just my suggestions to getting the most out of your Play By Post game.

How It Works

Formatting:

In the reply box you type in to post to the forum, you may have noticed a grey box next to the words "How To Format Your Text". That box is called a Spoiler. Click it, and it will reveal additional text.

Those are the instructions for how to alter your text. In a PBP game, those various formats become storytelling tools.

The most important formatting trick is Blue Text. This is your Out Of Game stuff, that's why it's coded as [ ooc ]. With Blue Text you can organize your post into a novel-like description (in standard black text) and a Out Of Game mechanical summary (in blue). This is important so that is doesn't seem like your character is actually saying Take 36 damage! to the bad guys.

"Bold with quotes?" Said Minmaximus. Bold text draws attention to itself. Making character speech stand out with bold helps to differentiate what you are doing from what you are saying. In a novel, parenthesis do the trick, but in a PBP game there's so much information to convey that a simple change like bold speech can make a post much easier to read.

Breaking things up. The enter key is your friend. Walls of text are not. Think of them like paragraph breaks. Use liberally. Your fellow players will thank you.

And finally, dice. Because dice are *never* in game things, they are normally mixed liberally with blue text. Something like-
Acrobatics to avoid AoO 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (2) + 0 = 2

With those tools you can start playing. Some advanced formatting tricks and tips will come later.

Writing Style:

Avoid first person narrative. When the “person telling the story” changes every six sentences a story can get really annoying to read.

The most aesthetically appealing narrative structure seems to be Third Person Limited. When everyone writes in that style, the story flows like a novel and gives everyone reading a firm grasp of all the characters thoughts and motives.

You might think “aesthetics aren’t important”, but they are. Think of it like a novel. You’re devoting a lot of time and energy into this story. It deserves to have the best you can give it. Compare the following-
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1) @ Minmaximus: “Can I see your sword?”

2) To Minmaximus “Can I see your sword?”

3) Psioney asks Minmaximus if he can borrow his sword.

4) Psioney walks over to where Minmaximus eating and asks “Can I borrow your sword?”
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Which one of these would you rather read? Which would you rather be known for writing?

A PBP game is all about description. Be creative. Refine your writing skills. Use spell check.

Joining A Game

Your Character:

Play By Posts are slower than Tabletop games. Because of that, characters get more spotlight time. Through the ability to show internal monologue, describe expressions or mannerisms in detail, and generally convey more about a character than you can normally, a PBP is an opportunity to really delve deep into roleplay. That means you should be ready to do that.

More importantly, you should be ready to do that from the very beginning. Use internal monologue to show your fellow players what your character is about. Don’t worry about revealing things prematurely or before they ask. Think of it like a novel. It’s ok for the reader to know things that the characters don’t.

Note: Mysterious Strangers are annoying. That thing I said early about not worrying about revealing things before people ask? Yeah. Take that to heart. No one cares what your dark secret is. No one will ask (at least not any time soon). That’s not why they’re playing. If you’re secretly the long lost Prince Poppycock, that’s fine. Just don’t expect it to ever matter unless the GM decides to make it part of the plot. Most things about your character will only come up if you bring them up. If your character starts the game believing they’re a sandwich, and you expect other players to roleplay them out of their delusion, your character will probably be a sandwich for a long time.

Your Character Sheet:

Your character sheet is your ambassador to the game. The GM will look at it when deciding to pick you, other characters will look at it throughout the game. Think of it like a resume. It’s nice if it looks good. It’s better if it’s clearly and concisely organized.

Use spoilers to break up sections. Use bold to highlight important numbers. Site your source for everything. Use links to the SRD to cross-reference spells and abilities.

Look around at what other players do with their character sheets. Steal things you like.

Getting Picked:

PBP recruiting on the Paizo boards is a bit of a clusterf~@% free-for-all that leaves many people with a bitter taste in their mouth. Even after the party is picked, most do not look back on the process fondly. For those that don’t get picked, it’s easy to get frusterated.

Many forum-goers have a handful of different versions of the same character concept in their Alias list, because they didn’t get picked, or because they did and the game died, and they have this one character that they just want to play.

Don’t do that.

GMs will look at your aliases when choosing. If they see 10 different versions of Lord Sothbane the Stoic-est, they will assume you are unoriginal and pick someone else. They will also look at your posting numbers. If you have been in a dozen games, but have never gotten beyond 50 posts in any of them, they will pick someone else. It doesn’t matter if it’s not your fault that the game died. All they see is the pattern.

Instead, make a mechanical framework and basic personality idea of a character that you really want to play (or a couple if you’re so inclined), and submit them to every recruitment thread you are interested in. Tailor the character to the game as best as possible, and if you aren’t picked, take them back to basics and do it again. Don’t make a new Alias for what is essentially a slightly different version of the same concept. If a game dies and you still want to play that character, submit that same character to a new game. The previous game gets worked into the character’s back story and you get to keep playing them.

Character Builds:

Not all PBP games use maps. Because of that, builds which rely heavily on tactical movement or precision placement of AoE effects can be very frustrating to play.

On the other hand, multi-attack builds won’t bore your fellow players to death as you go into your third minute of dice rolling to figure out your attacks and damage.

Basically, characters that require a lot of bookkeeping are a perfect fit for PBP games, and characters that practically require minis and a battlemat are going to be a pain in the neck.

Special Note-

“Zookeeper” builds (Necromancers, Summoners, etc.) are even more perfect for PBP games because of the ability to make Aliases. Go ahead and post 8 times in a row as Necrofester’s Zombie Minion to make the attacks of your skeletal horde. You aren’t wasting anyone’s time and it lets you really describe the shambling horde at your beck and call.

Character Interactions:

To give is to get. Don’t expect anyone to give a damn about your character until you give a damn about theirs. Strike up conversation. Ask other characters about themselves. Discuss the party goals in character. PBP games tend to have quite a bit of “down time”. That can mean that everyone sits around waiting for the GM to update, or it can mean time to chat with other party members. Sometimes the best parts of a PBP game are the dialogues people get into. In a Tabletop game it might be normal to bypass a lot of mundane things to get to the plot, but in a PBP game, you can take the two weeks that the GM is on vacation and turn it into “party talk around the fire”. It can be really fun, but it takes being a proactive gamer rather than a reactive gamer.

Posting

The Posting Commandments:

Thou Shall Avoid Walls Of Text

Thou Shall Not Hog The Spotlight

Thou Shall Not Assume The Actions Of Others

Thou Shall Not Assume Outcomes Of Actions

Thou Shall Not Derail Gameplay

Thou Shall Use The Discussion Thread

That’s it.

Basically, the trick to a good post is to be descriptive without being verbose, and to leave the outcome of any stated actions open-ended. Wait for the GM to give you the results. Then you can post again describing the results if you want.

It’s not good to say-

Minmaximus fires his bow, driving his arrow deep into the beast’s face.

-because, Minmaximus might actually miss, or the beast might have DR you didn’t know about, or deflect arrows, or any number of other things that might change the results of the action.

Instead, break it into two posts. One for intention (which also includes any necessary roles), and one for describing the results (the GM might do this for you, but you can still describe your character’s response to those results if you like)

Doing this tends to keep your posts shorter, which is nice, and gives you the chance to post more often, which is also nice.

When in doubt, take it to Discussion.


17 people marked this as a favorite.

Advanced PBP Tricks
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Thoughts

So that’s what my internal monologue looks like thought Psioney.

It’s that simple. Show the group what your character is thinking with simple Italics.
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Telepathy

Can you hear me now? Psioney whispered directly into Minmaximus’ mind.

Sometimes characters can brain-talk. So, combine internal monologue with bold-speech. Taa Daa!
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Inhuman Speech

”Speaking in your pathetic language is so utterly demeaning” the aboleth gurgled, it’s voice echoing from the depths and filling the chamber.

Some things just talk weird. Parenthesis means out loud, but all italics means in my head. Gha! Brain cramp!
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Languages

The paizo boards can make all kinds of symbols in all kinds of languages. This can be used for fun language presentation-
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The massive orc stood with rage on his face and an axe in his hand. ” Jeg skal drepe deg hvor du star”

Orcish:
I will kill you where you stand.

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-or-
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The angel spoke and all who heard it wept. ” आप अच्छी तरह से मनुष्यों किया है. स्वर्ग आप एक ऋण बकाया है.”

Celestial:
You have done well mortals. Heaven owes you a debt.

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All that took was google translate and copy-paste.
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Dialects

”Wha’ d’ ye mean ah got an accent? Ye’re th’ one wit’ the accent!” the dwarf said drunkenly.

”Beardy, if your accent were any thicker it could give your skull lessons.” the human said sarcastically.

”That’s mean. Whyyoualwayssomean?” the gnome said quickly.

”Hows ‘bout you lot all shut your damn mouths.” the orc said with a glare.

”I invite you to enforce your request with action, greenling.” smiled the elf.

”I can never tell if these discussions are social posturing or mating rituals.” droned the warforged.

Dialects are fun. Use them.
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Shapeshifting

It happens a lot. Druids, spells, lycanthropes. Things turn into other things.

So make an alias for your alternate form. Nothing like being able to bust out a picture of a big red dragon when you cast Dragonform. Bonus points if you make a character sheet with the abilities and adjustments for your alternate form in your alternate alias.


I never thought about 3rd person limited. I might try that next time.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Many many thanks! I've really wanted to give PbP a shot, but haven't been able to get into a game yet. This makes me excited to keep trying. :)


Are there a lot of people on the boards here who would like to try a PBP game, but haven't been able to get into one, or are reluctant to try swimming with the PBP "sharks"?

I've been considering running a second and separate version of a homebrew PBP game that's been going quite well on these boards, but only for those who have never played PBP before, or at least never gotten very far in one.

Taldor

Doomed Hero- excellent post.


I like this a lot.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Nazard, I would potentially be interested in such a thing. :)

Cheliax

I saw my name and decided to check this thread out.

Don't like the thread title, but useful thread.


Quite informative!

I'm not sure if I'm ready to try a Pathfinder PBP, but I had to post just so I can find this thread again! :)


Nazard wrote:

Are there a lot of people on the boards here who would like to try a PBP game, but haven't been able to get into one, or are reluctant to try swimming with the PBP "sharks"?

I've been considering running a second and separate version of a homebrew PBP game that's been going quite well on these boards, but only for those who have never played PBP before, or at least never gotten very far in one.

Well, on further consideration I'd be interested in trying out a PBP with other newbies!


Very nice. If you have the time perhaps you'd consider writing a similar guide for running a PbP game?


Nazard wrote:

Are there a lot of people on the boards here who would like to try a PBP game, but haven't been able to get into one, or are reluctant to try swimming with the PBP "sharks"?

I've been considering running a second and separate version of a homebrew PBP game that's been going quite well on these boards, but only for those who have never played PBP before, or at least never gotten very far in one.

I'd like to give this a shot as well. I tend to avoid PbP simply because every time I see a recruitment thread there's 140 people trying to get in, and I'd have to put in the time to make a character (which takes some time for me to really craft something I'm excited about) without even knowing what the party looks like and what it needs. That and it's discouraging to keep not getting picked, haha.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

I endorse this thread. Play-by-post is a great format for roleplaying. It is essentially a shared novel.

A few thoughts about running PBP games:
- Don't bite off more than you can chew, and don't be afraid to admit it if you have. I had three great, in-depth games going at once, but then I got real short on free time thanks to a new work assignment. (It got worse after I became a father and picked up more cases at work.) I had to drop two because my quality was really suffering. One day, I hope to restart the others if I can. But I won't until I know that I can handle it.
- Make use of your character backgrounds when designing plot. This is a medium where you can really delve into a PC's feelings and reactions. Don't forget that.
- You get what you give. Short, poorly-written posts from the GM say that is what you want in return.
- Be clear as to your expectations. Whether post frequency or quality, make sure you pick people that can meet those expectations. Don't be afraid to gently remind players if you need to.
- Adapt well. Players drop out a lot and often without warning. It kills a lot of games. Adapt or let the game go.
- Have a consistent style for your mechanics. For instance, I like to roll Initiative for my players in alphabetical order to save time. I like to have rolls titled in OOC text, then an in-game description of how the roll unfolds.
- Don't be afraid to steal from games you like.
- You get what you put in. You get what you put in.

Qadira

Fantastic posts, Doomed Hero.

+eleventy billion and twelveteen

-Pain


Heaven's Agent wrote:
Very nice. If you have the time perhaps you'd consider writing a similar guide for running a PbP game?

That's a good idea. I'll start working on something and link it here when I'm done. Give me a week or so to compile my thoughts.

I'm glad everyone has found the guide useful. If anyone has any ideas or questions I'd be discuss writing/characterization tips.


Sylvanite wrote:
Nazard wrote:

Are there a lot of people on the boards here who would like to try a PBP game, but haven't been able to get into one, or are reluctant to try swimming with the PBP "sharks"?

I've been considering running a second and separate version of a homebrew PBP game that's been going quite well on these boards, but only for those who have never played PBP before, or at least never gotten very far in one.

I'd like to give this a shot as well. I tend to avoid PbP simply because every time I see a recruitment thread there's 140 people trying to get in, and I'd have to put in the time to make a character (which takes some time for me to really craft something I'm excited about) without even knowing what the party looks like and what it needs. That and it's discouraging to keep not getting picked, haha.

In that case, come out a character forward in this thread!


Nazard wrote:

Are there a lot of people on the boards here who would like to try a PBP game, but haven't been able to get into one, or are reluctant to try swimming with the PBP "sharks"?

I've been considering running a second and separate version of a homebrew PBP game that's been going quite well on these boards, but only for those who have never played PBP before, or at least never gotten very far in one.

I know I would be interested. I tried for awhile but eveytime the same thing happens. BYt the time I get a character made, others are already picked. I got discouraged and stopped trying.


Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:


I know I would be interested. I tried for awhile but eveytime the same thing happens. BYt the time I get a character made, others are already picked. I got discouraged and stopped trying.

This is where my suggestion of putting together a few aliases with mechanical frameworks comes in handy.

make a basic sheet and even a basic idea for a personality, and then when you see what game is recruiting, all you need to write up is a short backstory explaining how your character ties in to the game.

Think of it like Mad Libs. The majority of the work is already done. You just have to ask for the GM to help you fill in the blanks.

If you can do this in such a way that it hooks the GM's interest with an interesting story, and then gets them involved in filling in the background to entwine your character into the story they want to tell, you'll have a much higher chance of being picked.


I guess, I'll try that, but I don't usually decide what I want to play until I know at least a little about the campaign.

I hear the basic back story and say to myself, "that sounds like a kool setting for a staff wielding magus!"

I don't normally say I want to play a combat maneuver monk then try to find a way to fit it into the campaign.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

There's the sticky thread On PBPs: A General Discussion for all PBPers in the Play-by-post Discussion forum as well.

As for my $.02, as a player, I always try to think of what I can post that will possibly move the story along. Sometimes, that's just posting whatever you can (Keliwyn shuffles his feet and readjusts his pack) just to get others posting. The #1 killer of pbp is everyone waiting for someone else to post. So, post early, post often, post whatever.


Doomed Hero wrote:
The angel spoke and all who heard it wept. ” आप अच्छी तरह से मनुष्यों किया है. स्वर्ग आप एक ऋण बकाया है.”

I've always thought Hindi was related to Celestial. Thanks for providing the evidence. ;)

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thanks for this post. Very good as I've just gotten into PbPs. Let me add another: Use the PM function as well to ooc co-ordinate general actions and idea that you want to get player buy in on.

Another? Once the game has started and you have a feel for you fellow players, give them permission to write on behalf and for your character so that they can have some spotlight time - give them an outline of what you'd like them to cover and leave them to it... Getting another set of eyes or perspective on your character can be cool.

Finally understand as a player YOU have an obligation. If you can't post? Say so... It's rude to leave people hanging and without knowing you have a personal project and need to work around you? It can seriously screw the pace of the game. IF they know you're away for a week? They can work around you, assume you are guarding camp etc and get on with the story. If you want to be real nice? Allow them to post for you as part of their writings within a certain set of guide lines.

Don't be THAT player that brings down the damn game - communicate if you are a day or two out or if you want to leave.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thanks for your posts Doomed Hero, there are some good thoughts there.

People should keep in mind though that different GMs and players might have different preferences on how to recruit, run and present their only game. For example, I've seen quite a few games where people use bold text to represent speech. Personally I find this distracting and prefer to reserve bold text for emphasis or forceful or loud speech. I certainly won't hold someone having a lot of pho aliases against them at recruitment; I know how many pbp games die, it never get off the ground, and that some GMs encourage prospective players to create a character alias during recruitment even though they might not get picked.


Just saw that I managed to refer to quotation marks as parenthesis a couple times. I weep for the lack of an edit button.


Good posts, dotting. I've been considering running a PbP for a while but its been a somewhat daunting task, perhaps i'll try to reuse kingmaker now my group are getting through it. I suspect it could really benefit from the descriptive style.


Dotting for the hell of it. I used to do a lot of PBP on Playbyweb.com, before it seems the vast amount of games turned into smut on the adult section of the boards (which was intended for more graphically gore filled games initially)... But since every game I joined died shortly thereafter, I've got a bad taste in my mouth for PBP in general...

Still. I might decide to give it a go again, considering how game-starved I am right now. So, yeah. Dotted for future reference xD.

As an aside, how many games on these forums just die out, and how often?


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Doomed Hero's Guide is really helpful!

It gave me the courage to try out for a PBP, and now I'm part of a game! :)

BTW: I feel like I'm giving a testimonial. :P


Fantastic! A very helpful guide that has me thinking about giving PBP a try.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Got directed here from a link and I must give a virtual pat for this fine post.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Agreed. I've got a couple successful games I'm running, but this definitely made me think about a few things.


Great post... thanks... gave it a +, and bookmarked.

Taldor

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Tales Subscriber

I usually use first-person, works fine.

Good guide though.

Andoran

Im just wondering, where do you sin up for a PbP game? Can you just start one?

Taldor

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Tales Subscriber

Go here.

I would probably play in a few games before you try GMing a pbp.


There's no centralized sign-up location. GMs will post a recruitment thread, which players then compete for spots in. (It's usually kind of tough to get in, especially early on. Don't lose hope! Just keep trying.)

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

And you can absolutely just start one if you run it, Tanis. That's what I actually sort of ended up doing when the first few I got into died quick deaths (I took over after a DM started a recruitment thread and then bailed). I think the adventure paths tend to be a little more popular, but that's just my anecdotal observations and a good homebrew/other can certainly do fine.

Put up a recruitment thread and you should be inundated with hopefuls; hardest part is just picking who you want, IMO. (Be ready for a lot of turnover early on, in my experience. Also be prepared for it to be a lot of work, though very rewarding IMO.)

Andoran

So whats the difference between Dming PbP? It sounds even easier to be more descriptive, although i am wondering how you would do battle...


There's a number of styles of DMing. Play-by-post is a format that really rewards heavy roleplaying and interaction. Take a look at some of the campaigns that are floating around on the boards and take what you like from them.

Andoran

But seriously, how would you do battle?


There are many ways to manage combat in a PbP.

This link is one way.

The biggest hurdle for new DMs tends to be maps, though there are many tools that can be used to solve that... including just not using them.

Andoran

Ok, sounds good, thanks, although I would like to try playing PBP first before I GM...


Tanis Newlun wrote:
Ok, sounds good, thanks, although I would like to try playing PBP first before I GM...

That's a very good call. Like I said earlier, take a look at what other people are doing and steal anything you like, liberally.

Once you get a feel for it, try GMing a short scenario. Even a pit fight or something. Test the waters, and don't be afraid to end it if you get swamped. GMing a PBP isn't really more difficult than playing in one, it's just a lot more time intensive.

Grand Lodge

what a great post. I would love to try a PbP game.


Dot for future reference....


Bump and thanks! Just what I was look for.

Mathius


Wish I would've seen this prior to starting my first 2 PbP's! Although I did find myself following many of these guidelines already, I definitely am thinking about a few more!


Excellent post, thanks for the great tips!


Thanks for the post...Newbie question though... how do players roll dice?


Check out the "How to Format Your Text" bit just below the reply box, a little under and to the left of "Submit Post".

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