About DM Beckett
A little bit about me:
My name is Joseph. I'm a medic in the military, and I have been running online PbP games since 2010 or so. I originally start during my first deployment as a method to continue playing while I was away, and have continued to do so since, in addition to running a weekly game when I'm able to. In addition to Pathfinder, I'm a huge fan of the World of Darkness, (original), but also of the D&D settings of Dragonlance and Ravenloft.
When I first began running online PFS, I had little knowledge of what I was doing, being practically new to both PFS, but also online, play-by-post gaming. So, I dove in, began experimenting with different styles and methods, and went from there. I remember, before I discovered things like Google Drawings, or perhaps before that was even an option, I used to download the maps, and with Microsoft Paint pain I would add manually add in the alphabet running down the left side of each map, and numbers running along the top and bottom, so movement on the map consisted of things like "I want to move from B3 to G5". It worked, but it was cumbersome. ha ha
Since then, I've constantly been looking for better ways to do things all around, (so if you have any suggestions, please let me know), though I am also aware that I need to weigh options between availability and utility.
As a DM, I try to be open to player arguments, and to try to rule in favor of letting things work, or perhaps more accurately of letting things possibly work in cases that are "outside of the box" or clever. However, due to the medium involved, sometimes I simply can not do that. I also try to allow for different sort of gaming styles, though life, (I'm in the military, and married with two daughters) can make it difficult sometimes to slow down too much for heavy RP.
What I would like from players:
Generally speaking, I'd like for players to be attentive and aim to post daily. It helps a lot if players can also do a few things;
1.) If they use a spell, ability, feat, etc. . . (and I explain this a bit more later), it really helps if you can include a link to that ability if it's not something really common, but also include some of the relevant information, such as Saves involved, the DC, common circumstances that might effect it, who you are targeting, and also a brief explanation of what the effect does AND what you are intending for it to do. For instance, the Spell Command is a Language-Dependent, Mind Affecting spell, which for 1 Full Round forces a single target to do one of a few possible different things. This is important for a few different reasons. Like I mentioned above, I try to rule in favor of the players when I can and it's reasonable. Often I've encountered things where multiple people post their actions, and I go in initiative order when adjudicating those actions, and if 4 people post, but the 2nd character kills the target they where all after, I try to adjust the later actions along what I think the players would want to do instead, keeping in mind what I believe their characters know. The more information you give me, the easier it is to both do that, but also to have a better result for what you probably intend to do. It also helps to have the information there about what happens if it fails.
2.) In general just be as informative as you can be, within reason, with your posts. It also helps me to be able to post and update throughout the day, like at work when I have a quick 10 minute break. Having pertinent information readily available as I'm reading through the posts allows me to devote more time to typing up a response rather than needing to track down that information, look at the enemy's saves, or the trap's DC, or the NPC's stat blocks, or whatever the case may be. And, if I know your intent, especially if it's slightly different than what it might seem or you have a special ability that alters the basic rules, it helps out on my end. In general, I hate it when someone just posts something like "I charge" and then an Attack and Damage roll, because then I have to guess who you are attacking, (or talking to or whatever), question if you read the part about the pit trap right between yourself and the NPCs, (and since there is no Save/Check involved in your post, assume you probably didn't), and if you can not charge, then I have little idea what your character would instead do.
3.) In cases where you have a question that your action or decision depends on, by all means ask, but please also post both versions or attempts at the same time. For instance, if I ask for a Bluff check to deal with an NPC, and you are unsure if you can use Diplomacy instead, it makes things go quicker for everyone if you simply say "Here is my Bluff check ________, but I'd like to instead try to sweet-talk them, as that's more what the character is about, and my paladin isn't comfortable with dishonesty, so if I can I'd rather instead go with this Diplomacy roll ________ here." Unless it's sort of out of the question or the Scenario specifically disallows it, I'll generally allow it and I have both rolls right there. Or, alternatively you could just tell me something like "If I'm allowed to use Diplomacy instead, I have a +5 to it rather than the +1 for Bluff", and I can just use the same roll with a different modifier.
4.) Some interaction between players/characters. Especially when I can not post, or the game is on hold for whatever reason, it helps to keep things fresh and pass the time. I remember one game I ran where I wasn't able to really update for about a week for some reason and another character was also out, and the party asked to do a mock combat training/sparring session. It was fun, they all enjoyed it, and as soon as everyone could post again we moved on with not actual change. Or an in character debate on ethics/religion/etc. . . But even beyond that, when you can, take a little time to speak to the other characters, introduce yourself, comment on what sorts of things make your character different, our character's goals, etc. . .
In general, doing or attempting the above, when you are able to just makes it better for everyone, since part of the nature of PbP is having to wait on others to post before we can proceed. The more we can all cut out steps (you have a question, we wait on me to answer it, we wait on you to post an action, then we the round is resolved), the smoother and more fun things are all around. However, I also do understand that some times all people have is a few minutes to post, and either have the choice of getting something basic out or not posting for a few more hours. So I'm not demanding everyone do all of this every single time, but rather asking that you do when you can.
A few generic but common things I do in game:
Some of the big issues I tend to have come up a lot in play are:
1.) Players not responding when they can not or do not want to do something. What I mean is when I ask for check for instance, and only half the party gives me the check and the others don't say a thing. I'm unsure if they are declining, have not read the post yet, or something else. All I ask is that you say something like "I don't have that skill" or "I'll post when I can", or even "I have a +2, can someone roll for me". It just lets everyone know that you are ready to proceed and following along.
2.) "Marching Order". I typically ask it just before it kind of becomes relevant, and typically I only get 2 or 3 folks respond in any way, or even adjust their own figures on the map, (which is allowed), and then it suddenly becomes an issue when something does happen. Despite multiple attempts throughout my prior games, this keeps happening. When I don't get an answer, I generally through folks in an order based on a very quick glance at their character and roll with it, which may or may not be the order you would want, but it's probably too late by then, if I never got an answer.
3.) Group decision making. Most commonly which way do you go, what door do you choose, or something along those lines. Typically, and this is part of the downside of Play-by-Post, not anyone's fault, when it comes to decisions like this, I typically try to give a quick explanation of what the party might know or see for each option, and then ask in game what they want to do. I my side, I typically go with what the first person to respond says, and wait a few hours to see if there are any objections. IMPORTANT: If you do not care one way or the other(s), it doesn't really help anyone else, (or me) to just say "I don't care". Even if you don't care, just make a choice, (and add in a note I don't care, so if someone else has a different idea, I'll do that with no problem). Again, it just helps speed up the game for everyone, because no one is waiting around, "not carring" but waiting on someone else to just pick an option. And if there is a good reason, I'm generally ok doing retcons.
I just wanted to take a quick moment to explain how I run combats and games in general.
Below is a typical example of the Initiative Roster.
Alternatively, I might go with something more like this::
Player 1 ()
Though honestly I tend to find the other one a bit easier to understand at a glance, I'm considering changing styles.
Player 1 (), Player 2 (), & Player 3 ()
You may notice that everyone has a () near their name. I simply use this to give an indication of any pertinent conditions that might apply, as well as to show any damage that everyone has take over the entire combat. (PLEASE NOTE, THIS DOES NOT INDICATE A CHARACTERS CURRENT HEALTH, JUST THE AMOUNT OF DAMAGE THEY HAVE TAKEN THIS COMBAT). So, later on, the Init might look more like:
Player 1 (Readied Attack), Player 2 (-7), & Player 3 (-16, Dazed)
In this case, it means that Player 2 has taken 7 points of damage, NOT that Player 2 is at -7 HP and near death.
You might also notice a few conditions or notes in there, like Thug 1 is prone and Player 5 charged last round. It's just to help everyone remember some of the things going on, round by round.
Another thing I do is that everyone that is BOLD is currently up next. I do roll everything out in the open. So, everyone whose name is bolded can act. It's okay to post out of order, and I will go through and place everyone's actions in order as we go through the round, either making minor alterations or asking you if you want to do something different if something changes between the time you post and your actual turn comes up.
Now, that being said, it does help A LOT, if everyone can offer an alternative action if there is ever any questions, and also to be as descriptive and proactive as possible. It also really helps if, when anyone uses any spells, or even uncommon Feats, if you could make a quick link to it on the PRD or a similar site, and also include things like what Save is involved, what is the DC, and what happens on a success/failure. I understand that this is not always easy to do, at work or from your phone, so it's okay to not do it ever single time. But, if you can, please do. At the very least, post the Save and DC, as well as the intention.
For example: Inflict Light Wounds to the Face!!! (Will DC 14 for Half)
DM Beckett wrote:
<Party Bless, +1 Att/Save vs Fear -> R7>
I also try to add these in when I can, and the effect is not too long or complicated, as a reminder to all. Typically, I expect everyone to remember and apply all the buffs affecting them, but if you forget, that's fine. I generally do not mind rewinding a little bit to fix things. Now, that being said, two combats back is a little too late.
I also try to be pretty open as to what is allowed and options that are a little outside the box. If I ask for a roll, and you feel that you have another option that may work better, there is no harm in asking. The best way, and by that I mean the fastest way to do so and keep things moving is to first off, make the roll I asked for, (because sometimes the answer will be no, but that's generally because the Scenario specifically says so and I can't control that), and then to both ask if you can do something else instead, and then also make the appropriate rolls for that alternative option as well.
I'm beginning to experiment with a few different ways of handling Initiative, so I may go with something else instead, though most of the above should remain the same, it might be in a different, shorter format.
If at any time you have a question, please feel free to ask. :)