Why do PbP cut out so suddenly


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the title says it all


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A very good question.

The answer is lack of commitment (usually on the part of the DM) OR RL commitments that override the ability of a DM to run a game.

That's why I DM here, I got sick of games suddenly cutting out so frequently.

Liberty's Edge

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dm doesn't usu know what he's getting in to precisely and the pacing is way different.
I ran a couple back in the day.


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Sturgeon's law states that 90% of everything is crap. PbPs are a subset of everything. Transitively, then, 90% of PbPs are crap.

Most frequently, this manifests itself in them flaming out before they hit the first page.


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It's a combination of things in my experience, mitigated by having clear expectations up front.

I feel like playing through a full length AP is going to take somewhere in the region of three years or more to complete, with people posting pretty much every day. That's a Hell of a commitment, especially for the GM who has to often be the driving force or the one at least keeping people engaged throughout.

The format is inherantly much slower than tabletop, and if people want combat-heavy games and dungeon crawls, it may not be the format for them.

RL obviously comes first, and even when an interuption is temporary such as an extended vacation or moving home, it can derail things massively because I feel like you get into a 'groove' in the most successful games.

Grand Lodge

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Well, there's not always a good way to play it out, nor the time for everyone to spend time saying goodbyes over several days of posting.


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Lets see...

Start date: Nov 6, 2016, 09:11 am

Reign of Winter.

I've been flogging my players hard with whips and all, and it's now 14 July 2017. Can we finish ROW in less then a year? =)

I was aiming for 1 month per book, but at higher levels combat slows down...


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GM Mort wrote:

Lets see...

Start date: Nov 6, 2016, 09:11 am

Reign of Winter.

I've been flogging my players hard with whips and all, and it's now 14 July 2017. Can we finish ROW in less then a year? =)

I was aiming for 1 month per book, but at higher levels combat slows down...

Crazy, and props to you if you manage it.

The groups in my games are all averaging about 2k - 2.5k posts per book and each one takes about 6-8 months.


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Wha?


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GM-JZ wrote:
RL obviously comes first, and even when an interuption is temporary such as an extended vacation or moving home, it can derail things massively because I feel like you get into a 'groove' in the most successful games.

Yeah, some games just don't find that groove, and I've seen players drop out in the first 100 posts in a number of games.

And, once the flow is going well, if somebody -- esp the GM -- drops out for a while for extenuating circumstances, it takes a while to get back into it -- another chance to fail to find that flow. (Protracted loot selling / shopping between books seems to be another opportunity to lose flow, and takes some work to recover from.)

If the game pauses for a week, and people don't have other games they're checking into daily, they may get out of the habit of checking (or forget how long the hiatus was supposed to be) and miss the fact that this one has started again.

If the absence is unexpected, it's worse, because then people get frustrated, and if the GM's already feeling burnt out or is stressed from whatever IRL distraction pulled them away, coming back to players acting cranky at them can cause them to just walk away because they don't have the mental energy to deal with it. (I've never PbP GMed before, but I know in my table top group, if we miss a couple sessions, I can get surly about my players not replying to scheduling attempts, or backing out of a game once we finally do have it scheduled.


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There is also the problem of Troll recruitment that get several people making characters and then the inevitable 'post from friend' of the Dm saying the DM is held up but still wants to play.' Cue a week or two of idle posting before things die.

Dm/Player flakeouts without just a 'I just can't commit time to this' are also really annoying. A single post is all it takes.


MannyGoblin wrote:

There is also the problem of Troll recruitment that get several people making characters and then the inevitable 'post from friend' of the Dm saying the DM is held up but still wants to play.' Cue a week or two of idle posting before things die.

Dm/Player flakeouts without just a 'I just can't commit time to this' are also really annoying. A single post is all it takes.

Agreed on both points.

Had a few of the Troll recruitments strike me that past few weeks, such a huge waste of my time. I was able to salvage one of the PCs for another game though.


Murph wrote:


Protracted loot selling / shopping between books seems to be another opportunity to lose flow,

Oh. I learnt something new today. What's the best way to handle this? I could certainly push on, but I don't want players to "cheat" by adjusting their gear to suit(saying they haven't declared what they want to buy) , mid encounter.


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I've been in a lot of Play by posts on these boards over the past couple of years and the first thing to note is that a flaky GM will kill a game dead. A game can survive slow posting if that's the expectation, it can even survive unexpected long pauses as long as the GM is clear about what happens, a game really can't survive unexplained long pauses especially if they're frequent. Communication is really key.

A game also can't survive if none of the players are committed. It doesn't matter how active the GM is if the players aren't posting at least their actions in combat and chiming in on decisions that have to be made. Amazing Roleplay that pushes and leaves hooks for other players to bite on is obviously better and if there's a game with a committed GM AND committed players all communicating absences and posting according to the expectations of the game then you're lucky and hopefully it'll last for a long time!

The survival of a game with a committed GM and a few committed players and a few flaky players is really up to the GM. The GM really has to be clear up front that players with unexplained absences will be botted, and after a few such problems will be dropped from the game and a new player will be found or the game will just continue without the character. In my very first game as GM I had to do exactly that, it was annoying, but I msged the player a few times, and when they didn't respond. I just botted their character for the rest of the game and that person's flaky character didn't hold up the game for very long while I was trying to reach out to them and allowed me and the rest of the players to continue having fun as we finished off the module I was running.

Honestly the best advice I can give as a GM is that if you're starting a new game, first priority in recruitment isn't character concept, it's the posting habits and history of the player. If you have to choose between a so so backstory from a poster that posts regularly and an amazing backstory and concept from a poster that has a history of dropping out of games (trawl through their aliases to get a sense of this), go with the better poster rather than the better character!

***

But even with committed players and a committed GM there are pitfalls to PBPs that can cause a game to drag on which increases the likelihood of the game withering away slowly. There are just some facets of P&P RPGs that are very hard to pull off in PBP and they all come down to a lot of very basic RPG things that would take five minutes or less to take care of in real time (around a table or roll20 or something) that can take days if not weeks to resolve over play by posts.

The mechanical examples of this are things like rolling initiative, or saves or perception checks. Takes less than a minute in real time but can bring a PBP grinding to a halt as everyone waits for every player to check the game and drop by to do nothing much more than roll their own die.

To combat this I make clear to the players that I, as the GM, will take responsibility for rolling as many of these things as possible. That way if a bunch of people need to make Fort Saves because of poison fog or whatever then it's all taken care of in one post by me rather than waiting for five people to slowly over the course of a day or days I just do it. If I make a mistake (like forgetting some extra racial resistance they might have or something) then I am more than happy to retcon a result after the fact and I've made it clear to the players that I have no problem with being called out on any mistake I might make.

The other thing that can slow down combat terribly is having interleaved initiatives. The worst case scenario is the party fighting five kobolds and it just so happens that the initiative rolls work out to one kobold going than one player going then one kobold going all the way down the chain. What can very easily happen here is the players are waiting up to a day for the GM to post one action, then up to a day for the first player in initiative to post one action, then up to day for the GM to post the second kobold's first action and... ahhhhhh!

To counter this I use Block Initiative so players go as a group and the enemies go as a group. The GM takes care of all their rolls in one post and then the players know that it's their turn to go. Block Initiative has its own drawbacks but the streamlining it provides PBP is a necessity as far as I'm concerned. I also take it so the first player to post in their block is the first person to have acted in game but I'm pretty loose so that if the bard that posted last wanted to start an Inspire courage then I will take it as having been the first thing that happened in the turn and put the bonuses on the other players because that's more fun for all concerned.

***

Other than the mechanical quirks of PBP there are some pretty core aspects of RPG fun that are difficult to get across in PBP because of the same challenge of discussions that can be taken care of in five or ten minutes in real time taking days and days to hash out over a forum. Heavily tactical combat, and tricky puzzles are all amazingly fun... if you don't have to spend days trying to make a decision or coordinate actions. These things are just not strengths of PBP so I try to run games that downplay these things and instead focus on the strengths which are more in the out of combat role play parts of the game.

I try to do theater of the mind combat to keep combat from getting slow and out of combat I use Passive Perception and Knowledge rules to try and give players as much reasonable information as possible on my own post so that they have what they need to make decisions rather than investigative of back and forth.

Classic dungeon crawls are a challenge too I've seen games threaten to come to a complete standstill over the question of whether to go left or right. Sometimes people just don't want to make that decision. In one such game that I am playing in that had a cave branching off in eight directions I just took the initiative to have my CG character spin in a random direction, rolled a d8 and announced "We are going THAT way" and the game moved much faster. For my own games I've made clear that I'll wait a day or two and prompt for a discussion and will just go with a consensus of players who posted a preference rather than wait for everyone to chime in. It's not perfect but keeping the game moving is of paramount importance and as long as the players and the GM agree on that objective then this is really the only way to do it.


GM Stargin wrote:

Honestly the best advice I can give as a GM is that if you're starting a new game, first priority in recruitment isn't character concept, it's the posting habits and history of the player. If you have to choose between a so so backstory from a poster that posts regularly and an amazing backstory and concept from a poster that has a history of dropping out of games (trawl through their aliases to get a sense of this), go with the better poster rather than the better character!

I like your advice - the problem is when you have recruitment and many many people applying, you may not have the time to sort out through all their play histories.

I generally roll block initiative, and occasionally get books thrown at me when urm...4 advanced animated dreams popped out and said hi to the party.

I let my party (as long as they are before the monsters) commence their actions in whatever way is most beneficial to them.


GM Mort wrote:


I like your advice - the problem is when you have recruitment and many many people applying, you may not have the time to sort out through all their play histories.

I've checked posting history late in the selection process, after whittling down the list using other criteria. Remember, though, that *establishing* a posting history as a player is really tough if you can't get into any games without one.

Getting back to something closer to the point of the OP, when I was submitting characters for more games I'd check the GM's posting history, and if they were new to the boards I generally wouldn't bother. As others have already pointed out, running PbP is harder than it looks, and someone with no apparent experience at it is far more likely to give it up when things get tough. The vast majority of us have never met physically, which makes it much easier to drop everything and disappear--much less connection with the players. That's not to say that it's impossible to develop a connection, just that it tends to be easier to blow off a collection of pixels.


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When starting a PbP for the first time, start small with a single module instead of an AP. Some oneshots like Quest for the Everflame or something based in Kaer Maga to get your feet wet is a good idea.


What other criteria do you base your selection on?

I'm curious.

Mine is generally the - can post at least twice per day, on compatible hours with me. Then I don't really bother on other stuff.

I think one of my other criteria will be - can see Google slides on whatever device you're on, so you don't hold up gameplay.


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I base my criteria on several factors:

(1) Posting rates and posting history (though I have seen consistent posters vanish without a trace before unfortunately) that said I try and take at least one or two newbies for each of my Recruitments as you never know when you might find a diamond in the rough. I don't generally require minimum posting as I have a hectic schedule and don't want to be locked into a daily rate of posting as a DM. However, I give a two week limit on posting lapses then I recruit (I will bot the PC in the meantime),

(2) Party balance. Unless I am Recruiting for a specific theme (I run an all Bards and an all Gunslingers game for example) I will take 1 Fighter role, 1 Cleric role, 1 Wizard role, 1 Rogue role, and then 1 to 4 wild card submissions,

(3) A Backstory/Concept. I do not require a book but I like at least some sort of story as to who the character is. Lumped into this I include Traits, when I create a character Traits I generally use to round out my overall Concept so I put weight on them as well.

(4) General enthusiasm within Recruitment. Someone who posts once in a Recruitment likely does not have the same interest in the potential campaign as someone who posts 4 or more times. Plus that is a sign of posting rates to come I/C.

(5) Crunch I look at dead last, if at all. Generally it is a tie breaker between roles for me.


I believe that the sparseness of multiple posts in recruitment is due to some becoming very Rp filled. The Skull and Shackles recruitment threads were quite often rp-heavy and I got overwhelmed with the numbers of posts. Also got discouraged when one S&S game I got into swiftly died after I did some Rp in the recruitment


MannyGoblin wrote:
I believe that the sparseness of multiple posts in recruitment is due to some becoming very Rp filled. The Skull and Shackles recruitment threads were quite often rp-heavy and I got overwhelmed with the numbers of posts. Also got discouraged when one S&S game I got into swiftly died after I did some Rp in the recruitment

Oh I dont encourage RP in Recruitment threads, in fact I am turned off by it as a potential PC, I mean multiple posts regarding build potential or questions about the Game to be.


There's a fine line between being active and being pushy. On the one hand, things like putting together a sorted list of submissions for the GM never seems to be unwelcome. OTOH, stepping in to answer questions is pushing it.

Criteria I judge by include creativity, some sense that the player is aware that they're supposed to be part of a team, and a lack of obvious indications that they weren't paying attention to the submission criteria.


Personality conflicts have the potential to stop a game too. <-- This is a problem that may not come out in the recruitment thread or even in someone's posting history. But once the game starts, some people do not get along. A lot of times, re-recruiting will fill a spot when someone quits, but it can also kill the momentum of the game.


JTDIV wrote:
Personality conflicts have the potential to stop a game too. <-- This is a problem that may not come out in the recruitment thread or even in someone's posting history. But once the game starts, some people do not get along. A lot of times, re-recruiting will fill a spot when someone quits, but it can also kill the momentum of the game.

I made the mistake of looking to run a PvP and found this out the hard way!

One table died but the second is still going. Lesson learned on that one.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Lurking on this for awhile and have lots of thoughts, but this is a key thing...

I am learning very slowly... too slowly... the importance of vetting games. It's tempting as a player to sign up for any game that you've got a good character concept for. Though the only game I've personally run as a GM here have only players from my prior real-life tabletop groups, I've often thought the most important thing is concept, and seen a lot of GMs vet for concept first above other things.

But as I learned for tabletop games a long time ago, ability to commit is a priority feature in GMs and players; I look for that in any GM in a PBP I think of applying to and I'd do that with players when I get around to recruiting for a game from the boards.

Vetting for personality traits is also important. It doesn't matter how awesome the concept is if the person is cocky, arrogant, diva-ish, rude, steps on other people's toes, overruns the GM, etc. etc. Or if they're bossy, opinionated, and mouthy like myself. It doesn't matter how cool the campaign looks if the GM plays favorites or disregards player boundaries. You can also glance at posting history to get a feel for someone's personality and see if their playstyle matches yours.

I've been in games where I realized I was just wrong for the campaign and it for me. I learned the hard way to pull out sooner rather than later... sticking it out often does little good. And that's an important thing to note... that while it's sad when games peter out... they sometimes do because it's just not a compatible group of people, and players will disappear rather than initiate a confrontation to iron out personality or playstyle conflicts. While I think most games do end just to some jerkass not being able to take 30 seconds and post "sorry, things got out of control, can't play anymore, I think many die--often slower deaths--because of unresolved and unacknowledged conflicts. Look for games not just with an adventure idea you like, but a GM and player that suits you. Harder to seek out the right players because you don't know who else is going to be picked, but it's still worth trying to pay attention.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
DeathQuaker wrote:

Lurking on this for awhile and have lots of thoughts, but this is a key thing...

I am learning very slowly... too slowly... the importance of vetting games. It's tempting as a player to sign up for any game that you've got a good character concept for. Though the only game I've personally run as a GM here have only players from my prior real-life tabletop groups, I've often thought the most important thing is concept, and seen a lot of GMs vet for concept first above other things.

But as I learned for tabletop games a long time ago, ability to commit is a priority feature in GMs and players; I look for that in any GM in a PBP I think of applying to and I'd do that with players when I get around to recruiting for a game from the boards.

Vetting for personality traits is also important. It doesn't matter how awesome the concept is if the person is cocky, arrogant, diva-ish, rude, steps on other people's toes, overruns the GM, etc. etc. Or It's great if they're bossy, opinionated, and mouthy empathetic, thoughtful and willing to take the time to articulate things, like myself. It doesn't matter how cool the campaign looks if the GM plays favorites or disregards player boundaries. You can also glance at posting history to get a feel for someone's personality and see if their playstyle matches yours.

I've been in games where I realized I was just wrong for the campaign and it for me. I learned the hard way to pull out sooner rather than later... sticking it out often does little good. And that's an important thing to note... that while it's sad when games peter out... they sometimes do because it's just not a compatible group of people, and players will disappear rather than initiate a confrontation to iron out personality or playstyle conflicts. While I think most games do end just to some jerkass not being able to take 30 seconds and post "sorry, things got out of control, can't play anymore, I think many die--often slower deaths--because of unresolved and unacknowledged conflicts. Look for games not just with an adventure idea you like, but a GM and player that suits you. Harder to...

Almost spot on.


DeathQuaker wrote:

Lurking on this for awhile and have lots of thoughts, but this is a key thing...

I am learning very slowly... too slowly... the importance of vetting games. It's tempting as a player to sign up for any game that you've got a good character concept for. Though the only game I've personally run as a GM here have only players from my prior real-life tabletop groups, I've often thought the most important thing is concept, and seen a lot of GMs vet for concept first above other things.

But as I learned for tabletop games a long time ago, ability to commit is a priority feature in GMs and players; I look for that in any GM in a PBP I think of applying to and I'd do that with players when I get around to recruiting for a game from the boards.

Vetting for personality traits is also important. It doesn't matter how awesome the concept is if the person is cocky, arrogant, diva-ish, rude, steps on other people's toes, overruns the GM, etc. etc. Or if they're bossy, opinionated, and mouthy like myself. It doesn't matter how cool the campaign looks if the GM plays favorites or disregards player boundaries. You can also glance at posting history to get a feel for someone's personality and see if their playstyle matches yours.

I've been in games where I realized I was just wrong for the campaign and it for me. I learned the hard way to pull out sooner rather than later... sticking it out often does little good. And that's an important thing to note... that while it's sad when games peter out... they sometimes do because it's just not a compatible group of people, and players will disappear rather than initiate a confrontation to iron out personality or playstyle conflicts. While I think most games do end just to some jerkass not being able to take 30 seconds and post "sorry, things got out of control, can't play anymore, I think many die--often slower deaths--because of unresolved and unacknowledged conflicts. Look for games not just with an adventure idea you like, but a GM and player that suits you. Harder to...

Excellent point DQ!

As a PC I often pull out of such games when I get the sense you note above. I have a list of DMs here that no matter how the great the game concept appears I will not submit for due to various reasons.

Generally though, I end up learning what does not work for me the hard way, by playing and then withdrawing. Live and learn I suppose ;-)

Silver Crusade

GM'ing a PbP is really hard work given the lack of integrated tools available to the GM. We could really use more tools for character management, combat management, map management, notes, etc. Even though I knew it would be hard, I wasn't quite ready for how much work it was. Then players drop , excitement fades, etc and so things stop.

Take one current example, I used to make updates on my lunch break. It allowed for a nice pace and I just needed to do some prep at home (mostly so I could still enjoy lunch with coworkers as well). I switched jobs and my new one blocks all access to online file sharing sites. With 3 kids and a busy home life, it is hard to find the time for daily posts and so it just doesn't happen any longer. Thankfully the group doesn't expect daily posts so it isn't too much of an issue to expectations.

Forum Tools would help immensely though.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Steve Geddes wrote:
Almost spot on.

Thank you for the compliment, though you might change your opinion if you play with me. ;) Though it would be awesome to get in a game with you sometime.

GM Justaworm wrote:

GM'ing a PbP is really hard work given the lack of integrated tools available to the GM. We could really use more tools for character management, combat management, map management, notes, etc. Even though I knew it would be hard, I wasn't quite ready for how much work it was. Then players drop , excitement fades, etc and so things stop.

Take one current example, I used to make updates on my lunch break. It allowed for a nice pace and I just needed to do some prep at home (mostly so I could still enjoy lunch with coworkers as well). I switched jobs and my new one blocks all access to online file sharing sites. With 3 kids and a busy home life, it is hard to find the time for daily posts and so it just doesn't happen any longer. Thankfully the group doesn't expect daily posts so it isn't too much of an issue to expectations.

Forum Tools would help immensely though.

I believe, sadly, Paizo Game Space is on indefinite hiatus, though it would fill that niche if completed. I might have an invite code if you want to see the alpha tools, though lord knows where I could find it. I hope after they upgrade the forum (which they said they were working on) that might be revived (and indeed the forum upgrade may also have some more pbp friendly tools).

Fantasy Grounds also officially supports Pathfinder, but the trouble with that is I think you and your players have to pay, which may be an entry barrier for some players.


GM-JZ wrote:
GM Mort wrote:

Lets see...

Start date: Nov 6, 2016, 09:11 am

Reign of Winter.

I've been flogging my players hard with whips and all, and it's now 14 July 2017. Can we finish ROW in less then a year? =)

I was aiming for 1 month per book, but at higher levels combat slows down...

Crazy, and props to you if you manage it.

The groups in my games are all averaging about 2k - 2.5k posts per book and each one takes about 6-8 months.

Wow.

My Runelords campaign started on July 1, 2014. We're about to start the boss battle of Burnt Offerings this week. So, that's over three years for Book 1 alone. (Just over 2500 posts.)

This campaign has had two GMs and only one of the original players is still in it. (The original GM disappeared, and I took over. Then one player disappeared, and then a second. Then a third player had to resign. I recruited three new players and wrote out my original PC.)

So, at this rate, I'll be running the fight against the campaign Big Bad in... 2032.


DQ – I am still new to PBPs. Heck, compared to some of you down here, I am new to D&D. I personally felt that PBPs are so slow, and I wanted a faster game(in part because I do not know what the future will hold, and I don’t like starting projects I don’t finish – it’s a pet peeve of mine), so I looked for player activity above all. I naively thought that everything can be sorted out if people have the activity to communicate.

I know my people skills need work – and I don’t get along very well with strangers – in part because I have little patience for rule errors. Offenders usually get CRBs thrown at them. If after a while with your character you still can’t figure out what are your attack modifiers, or what your spells do, I’ll get pissed off – I expect people to know what their characters can do. I don’t expect people to be walking rule encylopedia’s like me, but you should know all the rules concerning your character.

I will accept corrections on any mistake in my rules knowledge – it’s part of the learning process, and retcon if need be.

However, if you try to pull a fast one on me regarding rules, chances are I’ll catch you out at it and get VERY, VERY angry.

After my first recruitment run, I took only players that my other players know – so that at least they can help me vet that the person is not a complete newbie.

But now I’ve learnt that even if players have the activity, there can be playstyle and personality conflicts that cannot be resolved.

I didn’t realize that players disappear rather than initiate confrontations to iron out personality or playstyle conflicts – I think that may be the way I will do so in the future if I get into a game that the GM doesn’t suit me.

After many attempts to play on PBP – I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that I enjoy PBPs better if I am the GM, as opposed to another player. Since almost every game I’ve signed up for has petered out and died in time…


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GM Stargin wrote:
...

GM Stargin: This is a great post and you include a lot of great advice.

There's one thing that I would add in the same vein as what you are talking about.

My biggest pet peeve as a player is GMs who fail to provide description of encounters and environment. Imagine this: you are a player in a game. The GM posts this:

Hypothetical GM wrote:

You open the door.

In the room are three orcs.

(Rolls Initiative) Party goes first.

I can think of a huge number of questions that I would want answered before I decided what I wanted to do. There's all kinds of information that could influence my tactical decision, such as:

* What weapons are the orcs carrying?
* What armor are they wearing?
* What does it look like they are doing in here?
* How big is the room?
* Is there anything in the room other than the orcs?
* Are there other exits?

If I have to ask for answers to these questions, assuming one post a day, each time I ask delays my action by a day. If a lot of additional information is needed this can really slow down a game.

This problem gets worse if the GM is not attentive and doesn't answer questions directed at him and I have to ask again (my other big pet peeve).

I respect those that do theatre of the mind, but a map can answer a lot of questions that players have about the environment, especially if it is well done. If you can see a map you don't need to know how big the room is - you can tell by looking at the map. Without a map you need to go further with your description.

My description of the room would be like this:

My version wrote:

You open the door.

Beyond is a room about 40' in length and 20' wide. Sleeping pallets line the walls and it seems like it is some kind of barracks. To the right against the wall is a weapon rack with six spears. Here and there around the room are candle sconces and some of them are lit (see map). The ceiling peaks down the middle of the room; the peak is 20' up and at the edges of the room the ceiling is 10' up. Every 10' running across the room is a heavy wooden rafter. There is a small door in the opposite wall, and there are no windows. A fire burns in a crude fireplace on the left halfway down the length of the room.

In the center of the room is a long table with benches on either side. Three orcs are sitting at the table playing cards. Piles of copper and silver coins are on the table. Two of the orcs are dressed in scale mail and have halberds. Both of them look quite bulky and strong. The third orc is smaller and is not wearing any armor, and has a dagger at his belt; around his neck are a variety of necklaces made from bones, claws, and animal feathers.

(rolls Knowledge local on behalf of character)

Bob the Rogue recognizes the tattoos and scars these orcs wear as marks of the Ironfang tribe. They are enemies of the Nosepicker goblin tribe you fought earlier.

The orcs jump up as you enter, reaching for their weapons.

(initiative rolls)

No surprise round. Bob the Rogue and Phil the Wizard go first, followed by the orcs, then Fred the Fighter and Sheila the Cleric.
The whole room is dim lighting (20% miss chance for those without low-light or darkvision).

As a player I know pretty much everything I need to know from this description and can get on with my action.

The thing is, there is no excuse for not doing this. The thing about PbP is that because you post infrequently you have the chance to compose longer messages. In one of Painlord's guides he says: "It's not a bug, it's a feature." I probably wouldn't get through all that in a F2F game because the players are right in front of me and answering a question takes a couple seconds. But the PbP format gives you the chance to go into detail about what is happening, and it irks me when GMs do not take advantage of this, since it slows the game unnecessarily.

[/rant] :)


GM Justaworm wrote:
GM'ing a PbP is really hard work given the lack of integrated tools available to the GM.

The one Tool I would really like is something effective for tracking treasure, purchases, item crafting, and so on. Something usable as a group rather than for individual players.

Anyone know anything that works for that?


I know I epic fail at describing things, so I use maps and just say how high the ceiling is :(

For creature description I just pull it out of what the bestiary said, unless the weapons have changed, then I will state what weapons they are using. Reach issues


I've found that using roll20 for these things can also help with descriptions.

Silver Crusade

This statement Peet and GM Mort made showcases another one of the main reasons PbPs die out. Emphatic opinions like, There is no excuse for xxxx and I get very angry when show that there are often vastly different expectations between participants. (no judgment about these opinions should be inferred, just making a point about expectations)

When those expectations are not met, it seems easier to give up on the game (and just find or create a new one) than work together as a group to change things.

A virtual group of people who know nothing about each other also has no personal investment in each other like a group of friends would. So when people's expectations aren't being met then it is just easy to walk away.

For example, if I joined a game and the GM jumped all over me for mistakenly adding an extra +1 (because he thinks I am cheating and in reality I just mistyped on my cell phone), I would almost certainly walk away unless we were also friends and the discussion would be fruitful.


Peet wrote:
GM Justaworm wrote:
GM'ing a PbP is really hard work given the lack of integrated tools available to the GM.

The one Tool I would really like is something effective for tracking treasure, purchases, item crafting, and so on. Something usable as a group rather than for individual players.

Anyone know anything that works for that?

I've been asked twice so far by others if they could use it, and have been meaning to post about it, but I have put together a simple Google Sheets document I use to track all XP, Treasure, as well as indiviual loot (and encumbrance).

HERE is a link to a copy of one of mine. Anyone is free to use it for their games, PbP or otherwise, if anyone finds it to their liking.

EDIT: For the treasure list, I hide columns F-I whenever I'm not using it, so it hides all the info the players don't have.


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I think another huge reason individuals vanish from pbp games is because they'd feel embarrassed if they posted anything about no longer wanting or being able to participate in the game.

Much easier and conflict-avoidant for the person who wants to bail to simply go radio-silent.

Is it fair or kind to those still in the game? Nope. But then, sadly, neither is that the chief concern for the person who's dropping the game.


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Dal Selpher wrote:

I think another huge reason individuals vanish from pbp games is because they'd feel embarrassed if they posted anything about no longer wanting or being able to participate in the game.

Much easier and conflict-avoidant for the person who wants to bail to simply go radio-silent.

Is it fair or kind to those still in the game? Nope. But then, sadly, neither is that the chief concern for the person who's dropping the game.

As interest fades (or other things get in the way), it's also easy to just delay and think "I'll get back on it tomorrow". Then you realize it's been several tomorrows and you still haven't gotten back to it and they've given up on you.

In a F2F game you actually have blow off a specific session, you can't just put it off a little while at a time.


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@Dal Selpher - I suspect this is what happens in the majority of cases where a player vanishes due to dealing with depression. Even when/if that period passes, they might be too embarrassed or feel that too much time has passed for them to drop back in and give any sort of explanation for their disappearance. And so they don't.


Lady Ladile wrote:
@Dal Selpher - I suspect this is what happens in the majority of cases where a player vanishes due to dealing with depression. Even when/if that period passes, they might be too embarrassed or feel that too much time has passed for them to drop back in and give any sort of explanation for their disappearance. And so they don't.

I've seen it happen where people do come back and apologize (I've taken some back into the games I run) but more frequently they simply vanish.


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The PFS pbp space is a great place to cut teeth and build experience,as scenarios are much more contained and have a clear start and stop. You can continue on the group or cut out every 4-6 weeks of pbp.


There's a lot of good advice here!
I started my first PbP gaming on these boards at the very end of last year - so a bit over half a year now - and I think I am wipping my players pretty hard forward.
But I was open from the start that I expect an AVERAGE of 1 post / day, ESPECIALLY during fights, less strict during fluff-time.
I bot PCs during fights after 1 to max 2 days of inactivity to keep things moving.
Also block initiative (max of two player/enemy blocks) is a must in my eyes for a 'somewhat' fast game.

The campaign is now past the 1,2k mark, but I already had to replace one player due to slow fading then disappearing and now two more players (one fading, the other sadly dropping out due to job reasons and time shortage).
So yeah, one really has to be prepared to hot-swap people or re-balance encounters if the number of (active) players suddenly drops.

A (few) word for tools:
If you are a tech-freak like myself, there is a VERY neat ... let's call it 'tool chain' you can set up to REALLY speed things up.
Warning: It is quite hard to set up, but in my eyes really worth it. Also it only works for PCs (native for linux, harder but doable for windows, no-idea about apple-thingies but hey, you can always set up a small vm for that, eh?)

What it does:

Spoiler:

You can create arbitrary macros that are accessible by user-defined keywords while typing. "What the heck does this mean?" Well, I have one macro with the keyword groupAwareness. If I type this and hit <tab> key, it will automatically insert a (spoilered) dice roll (including all common modifiers of the respective players) int the text field. Another one? I have a bunch of orkAttackScimitar that will roll an attack of an ork wielding a scimitar plus it's potential damage. Smaller things include macros for all the tags used in this board, so I only type things like say and it will insert the usual {b}""{/b} and jumps my cursor in between the "" so I can continue my out-loud talking fluidly.
Also if I start typing, it shows me all possibly matching macros for auto-completion. That way you can choose quite long macro names but only have to remember what you want to do. Remember that orkAttackScimitar from above? I have lots of macros starting with ork (e.g. for saves and different weapons, or higher-ranking orks), I just start typing 'ork' and it wil,l show me all available macros that start with 'ork' and I can choose the right one and hit <tab>.

Ok, that sounds cool, how does it work?

Spoiler:

Well now comes the bummer. It is quite challenging to set it up, but there are a couple of nice tutorials out there that can be followed.
Basically I use the vim text editor with the plugins UltiSnips and YouCompleteMe.
Both are usually intended to help you write code, but I found them working splendidly to aid in pbp-ing.
To set things up, just follow the instructions on the github sites of both plugins.

Vim in itself is also quite ... different to your normal editor. But after a bit customizing its really neat.


I have nothing so high tech in terms of tech set up as Ghost above, (although I am very interested and will look into that, thanks!) but here is a list of tools I use:

Google Sheets - Simple. Use it for columns of enemies and for tracking their hp.
Combat Manager - Quickly looking up enemies and adding a huge variety of templates on the fly
Google Sheets - Maps are easy in this. Screenshot, overlay a transparent grid, small screenshots of tokens. The beauty is also that as a shared document everyone can move their own tokens and add their own templates for spell areas etc

That's pretty much it.

I like to think that I'm a reasonably successful GM in PbP format and that's been on the basis of a thorough vetting process of players as outlined by others above, having very open lines of communication about everything from expected absences to feedback on how the game is running and finally the persistence to push through those inevitable bottle necks where life gets in the way or your players just get into a bit of a funk - that happens to us all. But it's important to prompt and keep everyone engaged when it gets slow and maintain your posting pace.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
GM Mort wrote:

But now I’ve learnt that even if players have the activity, there can be playstyle and personality conflicts that cannot be resolved.

I didn’t realize that players disappear rather than initiate confrontations to iron out personality or playstyle conflicts – I think that may be the way I will do so in the future if I get into a game that the GM doesn’t suit me.

After many attempts to play on PBP – I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that I enjoy PBPs better if I am the GM, as opposed to another player. Since almost every game I’ve signed up for has petered out and died in time…

Most PbPs peter out.

For every PbP I've joined that's gone more than a year, three have faltered within two months. I joined four Carrion Crown campaigns with the same PC before one went past the six week mark. Many PbP GMs don't realize the time commitment required. And sometimes, the players just don't click with each other.

I've found that a lot of games start up in the summer with great enthusiasm, then falter come October...and the players realize that the GM is a college student who had tons of free time in the summer, less at the start of a semester, and none when their academic load gets heavy.

As for ghosting in a game you don't like... please don't. It's just rude.

If your real life is getting in the way of gaming, let everyone know that you need to bow out. People might be disappointed, but they'll understand. Real life is always more important than playing games with strangers on the Internet.

If you're not enjoying a game, then just tell the GM that you've decided to resign. If you feel you have some constructive criticism or feedback, then give it, but it's fine to say that the game just isn't to your liking and move on.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Peet wrote:
GM Justaworm wrote:
GM'ing a PbP is really hard work given the lack of integrated tools available to the GM.

The one Tool I would really like is something effective for tracking treasure, purchases, item crafting, and so on. Something usable as a group rather than for individual players.

Anyone know anything that works for that?

Google Docs spreadsheet. Get the players' Google account info via PM, and share the sheet with them. That's what I use.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

We just grab a link with edit permissions and share it around the table. I'm less concerned with random yahoos showing up and wrecking things since I can just revert back to prior versions.


I keep everything within the thread as far as HP and what not for my NPCs and villains (or in the profile).

Loot I leave to the PCs to handle (though with a big haul I will list it in a DM Avatar until it is distributed.

NPCs and pertinent information related to each game I save in the Campaign Info tab.

The only thing I have in Googledocs are Maps.

I run enough games that I have enough to juggle without extra documents.


"ghosting in a game you don't like" - what does that mean?

When is it advisable to give constructive criticism or feedback? Because that can be more trouble then it's worth too.


GM Mort wrote:

"ghosting in a game you don't like" - what does that mean?

When is it advisable to give constructive criticism or feedback? Because that can be more trouble then it's worth too.

Simply dropping with no notification is essentially ghosting.

I think it is always advisable to give feedback/criticism. However, I think it is advisable to give it unsolicited via PM and then if the DM (or PC if you are a DM with a problem PC) wishes to bring the issue to the larger group, then post in the Discussion thread. If via PM the issue becomes heated, the Player can withdraw from the game with a Discussion thread post or the DM can remove the player from the game.

Some DM's ask for feedback, I do on occasion, and in those instances feedback is certainly warranted.

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