DH's Guide to Play By Post Gming

Online Campaigns General Discussion

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

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

Everything this guide will list are suggestions. I tend to have a very matter-of-fact writing style. Don't think that means I think other ways are wrong. I'm trying to give you ideas of how to experiment and find the way that works best for you. In the end, the ways that are wrong weed themselves out. If you are successful at running a PbP game, that means your way is one of the right ones. If you are unsuccessful, it might be a good idea to do some critical analysis and look at where things didn't work the way you wanted them to before trying it again.

If you want to start GMing a PBP game, I'm going to assume you've played in them before and understand things from that perspective. I'm not going to cover text formatting, plot structuring, or how to write immersive descriptions. If you feel like you don't already have a handle on those elements of gameplay, you might want to wait before jumping into running a PbP game.

Just like my last guide, what I'm going to cover is organization.

The Commitment:

I'm going to put this right at the beginning. If you decide to run a PbP game, make sure you're in it for the long haul. Games can easily last years. While no one owes anyone else a game, it is still very disheartening to invest in a story that abruptly ends because the GM decides they don't want to do it anymore. Don't do that to your players. PbP has the benefit of not needing to coordinate schedules or be in the same physical space. It's a slower format, but as long as you can find 20 minutes of free time a day, you have the time to run a PbP game. You just have to be willing to stick with it. There will be times when it feels like a chore. When that happens, hopefully the techniques I'll discuss here will help you quickly move through the slog and get back to the fun. It's hard to describe exactly how to build momentum, but you'll know it when you have it. You'll also know it when you don't.

Most likely, if you're reading this it's because you have a grand idea for a story you want to tell, but haven't ever run a PbP game before. You want to know how to get started. You aren't going to like my advice.

Don't. Tell. That. Story.

Not yet. Get your feet wet first. Grab a short Pathfinder Society scenario, or We Be Goblins, or another very short, straightforward adventure. Run that. Think of it like a playtest.

The shortest adventure you can find will take months to play through. You'll learn a lot about your own particular playstyle, and how to keep things moving. You'll also learn that even a short scenario can feel like a slog sometimes.

By the time you make it through your short scenario, you'll have a good idea of whether or not the big story you wanted to run first is something you can realistically pull off. Hopefully, this guide will help get you on that path.

The Basics:

Your GM Face

First, make a GM Alias by going up to your Account settings. GM Alias' are handy because the forums allow you to search posts by a particular Alias. Sometimes you'll need to search back through your game. It's a lot easier when you don't have to deal with your other messageboard posts being mixed in with your GM posts. Also, your GM Alias gives you a handy spot to put all your GM notes. More on that later

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

Getting the Party Started

So you have a story to tell. You need now are players. Think of it like a director with a screenplay. You need to pitch it to your actors. If you want a your dream cast, you'll need a good pitch.

You're going to start by going to the Recruitment boards and clicking the "new thread" link. Then you're going to make your first Recruitment post. Your Recruitment post should start with a pitch.

Your pitch should consist of Three things:

1) The Hook
This is the relevant backstory to your adventure. Please note the emphasis on relevant.

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

The most effective way I've seen this executed is to write a very short story about the events leading up to the adventure. Just a snippet. An excerpt. Consider formatting it in Italics to visually separate it from the rest of the character creation guidelines.

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

I can't stress enough that this should be concise. Think of it like a teaser trailer. Recruitment is not the place for the history textbook of your homebrew setting.

That said, posting both an except and a stylistic description will give players a great way to get on board with your creative vision for the game

2) Setting Information
If your adventure is set in a published campaign setting, providing a link to a wiki article might be all that's necessary. For large, well known settings you'll need to narrow down the area your story takes place in, but that's about it.

If this is a homebrew, things get more complex.

What you don't want to do here is dump a bunch of history and/or places full of fantasy-gibberish names. No one cares yet. Recruitment is not where people become invested in your story. You'll make readers go cross-eyed and skim over all that stuff you spent so long writing. Save your energy. Those details are for the Campaign Info tab, or to be revealed through Gameplay.

Instead, just give the basic overview of the themes of the setting, and where the players will be starting. If you just can't help but write out a ton of campaign info, put it in the Campaign Tab and link it for people that are interested. Then put a summarized version in your Recruitment thread. Often, a description of the basic geography, climate, culture, and some highlights of local politics are enough to put in this section.

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

Here's the things you'll want to include, and the choices you need to make about them.


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

(If you want a Low Power game, what you need to do is set the Maximum starting statistic. Max of 16, after race mods, is a good low power baseline. Not many games use this method)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not all classes are suited to every game. Make your limitations known. Personally, I'm not a big fan of "Pet" classes, so when I run games I make it clear that players should choose class options that do not include animal companions, or other pets. Your mileage may vary.

That being said, don't be afraid to re-flavor a class. There's no reason a Gunslinger couldn't use the exact same mechanics but actually be a guy with an extra-powerful crossbow (See: Bolt Ace), or even a special kind of wand-slinger in a magitech setting. There's no reason a Samurai has to be Asian themed. A warrior devoted to honor and duty towards a lord or kingdom could fit into just about any fantasy culture. The mechanics are all setting-neutral. Everything can be re-fluffed to fit your story.

Something to consider for your story is how high you want the scale of magic to go. It's perfectly acceptable to ban all 9th level caster classes and keep your magical scaling manageable, especially if you're new to Gming.

Does your game include them? Most do, but they are optional.

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

If you're running a Homebrew setting, or converting a non-pathfinder setting, creating your own Campaign Traits is a great way to get players invested in your story and kickstart the kinds of submissions you want to see. This requires some skill at mechanical balancing. In general, traits are worth about half a feat. Be careful granting things like "perception as a class skill" or "+1 initiative" or "+1 damage with a specific weapon." If you decide to allow those as a campaign trait, you're going to see a lot of submissions that pick those particular traits. Your other traits will be largely ignored. Instead, your traits should give bonuses to the kinds of skill challenges and situations your game is likely to present. If you know that tracking down a missing child in the woods is going to be how your game starts, creating a trait that gives a +1 bonus to Survival and makes it a class skill is a good option.

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

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

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

Personally, I'm a strong advocate of the Automatic Bonus Progression rules. That allows you to worry less about making sure every scenario has level appropriate magic items and loot baked into it. It also allows magic item slots to be used for more than just the Big 6 magic items.

-----------House Rules------------
Everyone has them. If they are relevant to character creation, make sure to list them. If they aren't, make a list and put it in a spoiler in the campaign tab for easy reference. Be careful of bogging down your players with House Rules. A few is novel and interesting. Too many will turn players away from your game.

Managing Your Recruitment Thread:

I'm just going to go ahead and say it. Recruitment threads suck. They are pretty much all barely manageable f~%&tangles.

Here's a few tips for making it easier:

Request characters sheets be submitted in an alias, or in a spoiler. Players who submit their raw character info as a post create walls of text in the thread, making navigating the thread itself a lot harder.

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

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

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

This is the first chance you have to get a party that falls in line with your creative vision. When you ask players for background, ask them to reinforce the themes you've described, and show how they have bought into the story through their character's narrative.

I recommend asking prospective players to keep their backgrounds fairly brief. They can be expanded upon after party selection happens.

On the other hand, reading a fleshed out backstory can give you a good idea of a given player's skill at writing. In the end it's up to you how much you want to read.

Picking Your Party

Pick good, reliable writers.

That's it.

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

If you like how they write, consider them for the game. Don't worry too much about party composition. Just go with the people who's concepts make you excited. This is the fun and easy part of your job.

Oh, one more thing. Stick to your deadline. If you need more time to pick a party, at least check in with your thread. Don't tell people when selection will happen and then ghost your own thread for a week. That's not a good way to inspire trust from your new players.

Closing Recruitment

By the time you announce your party, have the Discussion Thread and Gameplay thread open and ready to go. Don't announce your party and then make your new players wait for you to get your game together. Let your players jump right in and make first posts in each thread. That will attach the threads to the player's campaign tabs and let them get updates a lot easier.

This probably shouldn't need to be said, but I'm trying to make this guide as thorough as possible. When you announce your party, link them to your game thread. Don't make them hunt. I've seen games lose as many as half the party just from the GM not giving the players a link to follow when they announced the group (yes, that really happened).

Starting Your Game:

Congratulations, you made it through your first Recruitment. I know, it was painful. Get yourself a beer, you earned it.

Now you can actually start to play!

Your GM Alias
This is your Behind the Scenes stuff. Keep notes to yourself here. Create dice scripts for the whole party's perception rolls, and initiative rolls. Leave yourself links to the SRD Bestiary listing you're currently using.

Use your Race, Class, and Gender spaces for links you and your players will need frequently. I usually use it for a link to the current map. That way every time I post, the map is right there. Other GMs put their map link in the About This Campaign section of the Campaign Tab, but I find that putting the link in the Gender space is more efficient.

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

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

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

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

You get the idea.

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

The most important thing is that what you write is able to be understood clearly by the players. Make liberal use of Blue Text and the Enter key to break up text walls. Use spell-checker.

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

Setting The Stage
Don't take too long setting things up, and don't leave the introductions up to the players. The intro is not the place to let the players take the reins. Seriously, don't do it.

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

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

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

Then, drop them into the fire.

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

Everything else will fall into place after that.

Keeping Things Moving:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I really can't stress this enough. I've seen a good PbP GM cut away in the middle of a fight because posting rates were down to one or two a week after a high-level fight had become a drawn out slog. The GM just wrapped things up with a few lines of description and pushed the game forward. It was a fantastic way of gutting away the fat and keeping to the meat of the story.


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

If you are going to use maps, there are a number of options, I'll list them in order of complexity.

MS Paint works for drawing out rough maps. You can host them on Imagr, or any other image hosting site. This is probably the lowest tech/skill option possible in a PbP game.

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

Google Slides is the point where you can start using more professional quality maps. If you're running an Adventure Path, you'll need a PDF file of the maps, or a scanner to upload the image. Then, just create opaque polygons to cover your map with (simulating a kind of "fog of war"). Upload images of your player's tokens (a screen capture or image download of their avatar image works for this). Make the Slide Doc accessabe via the link, and set the edit preferences to anyone with the link. Then players can drag their tokens around on the map. As the players move on the map, delete or move the opaque polygons and reveal the map beneath.

Map Tools or Roll20 are both pretty intuitive to use and seem to be the preferred method of most GMs on these boards. It just takes some time investment to get used to it. There are some good tutorials on YouTube. Personally, I'm a fan of Roll20. The Dynamic Lighting system is incredible at creating atmosphere and reminding players how much light conditions matter.

To give you an example of the kinds of things you can do in Roll20, Here's a map for a game I'm running. I created this using a few map builder sets from the Roll20 Marketplace, some tiles I found on Deviant Art and the Map Makers reddit forum, and tokens pulled from Pintrest and stamped with the Token tool I will link a few paragraphs below. If you've never used Roll20, you'll need to make an account. Then, the link will take you right to the map. On the left you can use the magnifying glass tool to alter the map scale. I recommend 40% or so to give you a good, wide view of the terrain. Once the map loads, you should be able to scroll down a bit, pick up the Orc PC token, and enjoy wandering around the map. (Once you're done, please drop your token off int he upper left area of the map so the next person can find it easily)

For post apocalyptic games set on earth (or any other modern world), Google Maps Streetview makes an amazing tool. A screen shot of a street, slightly altered with Photoshop or MS Paint to show damaged buildings and things like that, then posted to a hosting site or game wiki, can make a powerful visual aid. There are areas of the world that don't need any alterations at all to depict a convincing urban sprawl for Shadowrun or a Ghost Town for Deadlands. Go on a virtual tour of the streets of St. Petersburg or Namie, Japan. Encounter ideas will jump out at you, I promise. Here's my favorite example of real-world places that make great RPG backdrops- Villa Epecuen. A south american resort town that was underwater for 25 years. Now it's been revealed. Take a look a these pictures. Tell me you don't want to run a game in this place.

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

Using Roll20, you can even combine a real-world image taken from Google Satellite View (the top-down street map) and various Tokens. What you do is zoom in as far as you can, and take a screenshot of a map. Then upload it to Roll20 (you can even tile a few screenshots together for a large map that encompasses a few blocks). Then pick up a "damage sticker" pack on the Roll20 Marketplace (they cost abut 5 bucks). Slap down some "stone damage" and some "fire" stickers (or whatever else you want), and then drop your player and enemy tokens onto the map. With this method you can create an impressively immersive map for any modern setting game in about 15 minutes.

That brings us to Map Tokens. Personally, I prefer using the TokenStamp2 online tool. It's free and easy. I also like that I can use the border color to easily keep track of factions in any encounter with more than two sides. It's an incredibly easy site to use. Grab a picture from google image search (or wherever), drop it into the window, resize it, and hit the Download button. Then switch over to your map hosting site and drag the downloaded token onto the map. Done.

Running Combat:

This is where the organization starts to make a huge difference in the success of your game. Document everything, but do it with style.

It's a balancing act. On one hand, you don't want to hit your players with walls of text that leave them unsure of the nuts and bolts of what happened to their characters. On the other hand, you don't want them to feel like they just got slapped with a math text book.

I find that alternating my rolls and the descriptions attached to them is a good general guideline to format combat posts. Bascially, just make a roll, use the Preview button to see the result, and then write a description of what the results of the roll actuall mean in game. Then do the next roll.

With that in mind, lets get specific.

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

Enemy Description
Area Description
Lighting Conditions
Additional Complications

For example

Goblin Raid
Mountain Road
Dusk, Dim Light
Steep Incline, moving uphill costs 2x movement.


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

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

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

Block Initiative: This is an optional initiative system that speeds things up a lot. It relies on one simple fundamental: All the enemies go at the same time. The players either go before the bad guys, or after them. I have found that the best way to implement this system is to have the enemies take 10 on Initiative, or to average the enemy initiative rolls.

Once you know when the block of enemies goes, just compare the players to it. Think of it like setting an Initiative DC for the players. Higher initiative players get put in group A, before the enemies. Lower initiative players get put in Group B, after the enemies.

Within a given group, players may act in whatever order they want. This means that for the most part, players don't need to wait for anyone else before posting. They can just post according to when they are able to. It also allows players within a given group to coordinate their actions, which is a nice way of facilitating teamwork.

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

The first post would be the results of Group A's actions and the actions of the Enemies.
The second post would be the results of Group B's actions, and the announcement of the new round. Any "round countdown" stuff (like trap timers or spell duration) happens here in the second post of the round as well.

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

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

Something Like-

Action Tracker wrote:

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

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

Party Haste: Rnd 3/5
Odenkirk Rage: Rnd 3
Inspire Courage: Round 2

You can see how the empty parenthesis indicate that those characters have not yet acted. Also, note the link to the Giant Frog bestiary entry. That's there because the party Druid rolled well enough on Knowledge Nature that the GM decided they knew pretty much all there was to know about Giant Frogs. It's a handy little time saving tip that doubles as a player reward.

Attacks and Damage
The key here is that your posts are easy to read.

Take a look at the following formats-


1) Attack 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (8) + 6 = 14 Damage 1d8 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5

2) Attack: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (3) + 6 = 9 Damage: 1d8 + 4 ⇒ (7) + 4 = 11

3) Attack: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (15) + 6 = 21
Damage: 1d8 + 4 ⇒ (8) + 4 = 12

4) Longsword Attack to Goblin 3: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (3) + 6 = 9
Slashing Damage: 1d8 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7

5) Longsword Attack to Goblin 3, flanking, power attack: 1d20 + 5 + 2 - 1 ⇒ (3) + 5 + 2 - 1 = 9
Slashing Damage, power attack: 1d8 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (6) + 2 + 2 = 10

Hopefully it's easy to tell which example is the one with the clearest format and most easily accessible information. If you've been a PbP player, you're probably used to this stuff. As a GM, it's much the same, but there's a matter of volume to consider.

Lets flip around to the goblin's turn. Showing four examples of bad formats would be messy, so I'll jump straight to a good example and let it speak for itself-


Goblin 1, dogslicer attack to Fang, goblin foolhardiness: 1d20 + 5 + 1 ⇒ (9) + 5 + 1 = 15
Slashing Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (6) + 1 = 7

The rusty goblin blade scrapes off Fang's armor. No damage

Goblin 2, dogslicer attack to Bron, flanking: 1d20 + 5 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 5 + 2 = 25
Slashing Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (6) + 1 = 7

Goblin 3, dogslicer attack to Bron, flanking: 1d20 + 5 + 2 ⇒ (6) + 5 + 2 = 13
Slashing Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (5) + 1 = 6

The two goblins facing Bron manage to distract her long enough to open up a raged cut on the back of her thigh. 7 damage

Goblin 4, Dirty Trick attempt to Wiz vs. Flat Footed: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (15) + 5 = 20 If this beats Wiz's CMD, Wiz is Blinded for one round

The Goblin Mystic chants and screams and sends a cone of fire from his hands into Fang and Bron, as well as one of his own goblins allies.

Burning Hands: 3d4 ⇒ (1, 3, 2) = 6 DC 14 Reflex save for half
Goblin 2 Reflex Save: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (19) + 5 = 24 Fail, gobbo 2 is toast.

Group B, you may take your actions for the end of round 2. Group A, you may take your actions for the beginning of Round 3.

Another option is to Spoiler all the roles and just present the relevant information. Here's that same post, reformated to hide the dice-


Combat Rolls

Goblin 1, dogslicer attack to Fang, goblin foolhardiness: 1d20 + 5 + 1 ⇒ (18) + 5 + 1 = 24
Slashing Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (5) + 1 = 6

Goblin 2, dogslicer attack to Bron, flanking: 1d20 + 5 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 5 + 2 = 24
Slashing Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 = 5

Goblin 3, dogslicer attack to Bron, flanking: 1d20 + 5 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 5 + 2 = 11
Slashing Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (6) + 1 = 7

Goblin 4, Dirty Trick attempt to Wiz vs. Flat Footed: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (15) + 5 = 20 If this beats Wiz's CMD, Wiz is Blinded for one round

Burning Hands: 3d4 ⇒ (1, 2, 1) = 4 DC 14 Reflex save for half
Goblin 2 Reflex Save: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9

The rusty goblin blade scrapes off Fang's armor. No damage

The two goblins facing Bron manage to distract her long enough to open up a raged cut on the back of her thigh. 7 damage

The Goblin Mystic chants and screams and sends a cone of fire from his hands into Fang and Bron, as well as one of his own goblins allies. The goblin screams and collapses. Fang, Bron, take 6 Fire damage. Reflex save DC 14 for half damage

Group B, you may take your actions for the end of round 2. Group A, you may take your actions for the beginning of Round 3.

Both formats work well. The second is moer aesthetically pleasing, but many players wont open the spoiler so mistakes might slip through and go unaddressed. It's up to you whether that's important to you or not.

The Postmonster

Always, always always copy your posts before you click any button. The Paizo boards are notorious for timing out, eating posts, or otherwise ruining all your hard work.

Personaly, before I click anything, I Select All, Copy, refresh the page, then Select All, and paste my completed post back into the text box. Then I post.

Yes, it's extra steps. Yes, it's a pain in the ass. It's better than losing an hour's worth of work to a random site glitch.

Skill Checks:

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

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

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

Perception DC 15


You notice a spot of blood on the window sill

Perception DC 20


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

Perception DC 25


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

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

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

Wiz's Knowledge Arcana Check: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (3) + 10 = 13

What Wiz Knows


It's a glyph of warding. Feel fee to look up the spell if you aren't familiar with it.

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

Saving Throws:

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

Compare the following examples:



GM: "The Gorgon breathes all over the party. Everyone make a Fort save."

Two days later, after the results are in
GM: "Fangaran the Wizard turns to stone! What do the rest of you do?"



GM: "The Gorgon breathes all over the party!"

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



GM"The Gorgon breathes all over the party!"

Fort Save DC 22 (open if you fail)

You turn to stone!

Player: Fort Save: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 5 = 19 "Fangaren makes a strangled sound as his flesh hardens to stone." Dammit! Cleric, do you have Stone To Flesh prepared?
GM: The rest of you may take your actions.


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

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

Loot Tracking:

This is actually pretty simple. There's a lot of ways to do it, and none of them are really wrong, but one stands out as particulalry right. Google is your friend.

Google sheets is the easiest and best way of tracking loot. Just make a spreadsheet that list the collected gear, what it's worth, and who's carrying it. Set the permissions to "anyone with the link" and then put the link in the Race section of your GM Alias, or in the About This Campaign section of the Campaign Info tab.

Ask one of your players if they'd like to be the party's quartermaster. One of them will do it. Then all you need to do is drop loot lists into the Discussion thread. Your players will do the rest.


Traps are always hard to pull off. Their flaws are extra hard in PbP games.

When your players suspect traps they move slowly and cautiously. In PbP that can translate to weeks of back and forth between a scout making Perception checks and you posting results and them moving forward a bit. Rinse repeat, ad nauseum. It's terrible.

If you want to use Traps in a PbP game, talk to your players (especially your scout). Tell them that you will be handling all the roles regarding Search and Disable Device. All they need to do is give you a destination on the map ("down the hall to the corner ahead. I want to go there and sneakily peek around to the next hall.").

Then you make all the appropriate rolls and tell them what happens. Either they bypass the trap, find the trap but fail to bypass it, or they fail to find the trap and set it off (in which case you make their save for them and tell them what happens). Jump right to the descriptions of those results. In any case, you job is to get the game past the trap as quickly as possible.

Making Traps Useful: A good trap is a storytelling tool. It pushes the momentum of the game, rather than stalling it. Traps are best used in the middle of other encounters, or to drive the party in certain directions. Think about the big rolling bolder from Indiana Jones. That's a great trap. It's an encounter all to itself. It has a movement speed. There's only one way for the hero to go. There are obstacles along the path. At the end, the hero avoids the trap, but runs right into the next encounter. That's an excellent of a trap as a storytelling device. Try to default to that methodology as a GM.

Other kinds of traps along the same vein are things like slowly filling rooms of water, auto-turrets on top of a cliffside that have to be turned off manually, hidden pits or mines in the middle of a fight, haunts with lingering effects (like mini-curses), and the often-overlooked alarm-trap.

If you find that any kind of trap is slowing the game down, move past it. Just say something like "you discover that the trap's mechanism is jammed and it poses no threat any longer" and get on with the game.

Timesaving Tips:

Wayfinder: It's an app specifically for posting to the Paizo gameplay forums. Look it up, try it out. I don't personally use it because my phone is old. If you have a fancy phone, you might like the fancy app.

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

Look up a Keyboard Macro tutorial for your operating system on youtube. They are usually super easy. Then set a keystroke combination to do something like type out [ spoiler=[ ooc][ /ooc]] [ /spoiler] whenever you press Control+Shift+S+P. Then you just need to fill in the gaps. Putting the ooc text in the spoiler code puts the spoiler wording in Blue Text. I prefer it for aesthetics. Oh, and for Nested Spoilers, you can't give a spoiler inside another spoiler a description in green ("[spoiler=whatever" doesn't work for nested spoilers). Use Blue Text for the description of what is inside the spoiler instead.

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

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

Super handy.

Advanced Storytelling Tips:

Establishing a Creative Agenda: This could really be an entire full length post to itself. I'm just going to touch on it as food for thought.
There's literally nothing more important to a game than having all the players on the same page as far as what kind of a story it being told. There's nothing more detrimental to a game than having one or more players trying to tell fundamentally different stories than the one the GM has set up.

As the GM, it's your job to clearly lay out the kind of story you want to tell. This is mostly about the establishment of themes. Talk about your inspirations as a storyteller. See if you can get your players to buy into your creative vision from the very beginning. If someone doesn't seem to be meshing well with the group, it is most likely a problem with their understanding, or their buy-in, of the Creative Agenda. Nearly all non-organizational problems games have come back to this concept.

I find that it's useful to reinforce the creative agenda scene by scene. At the beginning of a scene I'll post something in Discussion like "this next fight is a chase sequence. I'll be moving fast and winging it a bit with the rules. I'm going to try for a more action movie feel here" or "This is a tactical fight. There's a lot of moving parts. Don't be afraid to take your time and try to out think the scenario. Teamwork will be rewarded" or "you're looking for information in a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Everyone is out to get everyone here. The wrong words could get you shot."

Something as simple as that works wonders when it comes to getting players to approach the game with similar expectations.

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

The Narrator: Fantasy stories use this a lot. The Princess Bride, Conan, and The Never-Ending Story are good examples in cinema.

Creating a separate Alias to be "the guy telling the story", and posting as that character whenever you need to cut to a new scene is a good way of establishing a narrative theme, and making it very clear when one scene ends and the next begins.

The Narrator could be an NPC, older in the future, telling the story of the great heroes he knew in his youth, or it could be an archivist, far in the future, written like a history text book or lecture, telling the story as a chronicle of the distant past. It could even be a villain, or a ghost, or a god. It might not be clear who the narrator is, or what side they are on, which creates a new mystery for the players to speculate at out of game.

Languages: Google Translate is very cool. Pick a few real-world languages to represent fantasy world analogues. Post them, and spoiler the English translation. This method creates very immersive and interesting visual storytelling.

Links!: Learn to use the [url ] code. Learn to love it. Does your villain have a theme song? Link it when they show up. Is the forest on fire? Link a video. Need to remind the players of an encounter that happened a year ago? Find the relevant post, click the time stamp, and copy that address into the url link.
Seriously. Links are your most useful formatting storytelling tool. Use them.

Care and Feeding of Gamers:

Handling Cranky Players
It happens. Sometimes players get frustrated. In a face to face game, most likely you're all friends, and non-verbal communication and social cues can help everyone at the table sort out any unhappiness. In PbP that isn't an option. That can make personality conflicts or bruised feelings harder to notice and easier to ignore. The flip side is that PbP gamers tend to be pretty good at communication in general, and being forced to write out issues helps clarify them. It also takes time, so grievances tend to be cooler and less potentially explosive.

As a GM, it's important to listen to your players. You don't necessarily have to agree with their assessment, but it is your responsibility to let them know you've heard them. The most powerful tool in your arsenal for getting the game back on track is the following question: "How can I make the game fun for you again?"

A lot of times, that question is all it takes to move the conversation in the direction of getting everyone's creative agenda back on the same page.

The List of Don'ts

There's certain storytelling staples that are very hard to pull of in PbP due to the nature of the format. Most are essentially traps that new PbP GMs fall into. They are game killers. Consider this your warning.

Mysteries- Following clue to clue, and wrangling information out of NPCs is vary hard when it takes months to get fom one clue to the next. Players just don't have the memory to make it work. If you want to do a mystery storyline, make it absurdly simple. Even if you dumb it down to only three clues, expect to be doing a lot of reminding, nudging and railroading. Better yet, don't bother. Instead, just describe a narrative where the players start at one clue, follow some leads, and end up at the end ready to get on with the story. Make your mysteries into montages. Trust me, this will save you months of work and frustration.

Base Building- Every Kingmaker game I've ever been in on these boards has died when it got to the point of trying to use the Kingdom Building rules. They're too unfamiliar to most people, take too long to resolve, and have too many options to consider. If your game includes an element of base building, hand wave it, or handle the mechanics yourself. Your players will be pretty clear about what kinds of things they want to focus on. Don't make them spend Kingdom Points or bean-count how much is in the treasury, or futz about with the crafting rules. Just montage it and get on with the game. PbP games live and die by their momentum, and nothing kills momentum quite like base building.

Dungeon Crawls- This is a staple. You'll want to do one at some point. If you don't know where the pit traps are, you're going to end up in them. There are techniques to make it work. I'll try to list them all-
1) The Approach- Ask the party to pick an approach. They can go into the dungeon like Special Forces (stealth checks, carefully checking corners, listening at doors, setting ambushes, etc), or they can go into the dungeon like Marauders (move fast, blitz attack, kick in doors, stealth-be-damned). Both have strengths and are fun, but the whole party has to be on board for one or the other or it's going to turn into a mess. With the Special Forces approach, expect the Scout character(s) to be posting 3-5x as often as the rest of the party. If you don't have a prolific poster playing the scout, don't use the Special Forces approach. If your group moves like Marauders, the party Tank will be the one leading the way through the dungeon. Again, that player will be posting more frequently than the others. Make sure whoever is at the front knows they are setting the pace. Ideally, you as the GM should be having a hard time keeping up with them (and not the other way around).
2) The Map- Absolutely required for a PbP dungeon crawl. Don't even try it if you aren't a fan of using maps.
3) Time Limits- This is more of a tip than a hazard. Because of how slow PbP games move it can be easy for a party to spend months of gameplay exploring a large dungeon. Eventually the players will start to get frustrated with the "sameness" of everything. A good way of avoiding this is to give characters a time incentive to come back out (or get through at another exit). Start with three days. That might not seem like a long time for a solid dungeon delve, but trust me. Start with that. See how much real world time it takes you to get through 3 days of dungeon crawl gameplay. You'll thank me, and you can adjust your time expectations from there.

The List of Dos

There's a few things that don't work well in Tabletop games that PbP handles nicely. Here's the list-

Hordes of Enemies: In a tabletop game waiting for the GM to roll out all 30 of the attacks from the goblin horde is annoying. In a PbP game it isn't. If you want to throw a giant pile of weak enemies at your players, go for it. The ability to Copy/Paste attacks means that all you really have to do is make sure you give a good TL;DR overview at the end of the enemy horde's combat turn. (An especially fun version of this is one or two real threats, and a big rush of cannon fodder. Let the party Wizard really show off the power of Fireball. Then have the enemy leader call in reinforcements after the first wave dies.)

Environmental Complications: The ability do take your time with descriptions means that you can really set the stage when it comes to things like environmental conditions. Give the players a good description of the hot steam in the air from the waterfall that pours down into the bubbling lava (or whatever). Being able to post a reminder of environmental effects at the top of each round makes sure that the conditions of the area aren't forgotten.

Countdowns: This is a GM technique that works just as well in PbP as it does in Tabletop, and is a great way to rebuild momentum. A rising water level, a bomb fuse, a ritual nearly completed. There's lots of ways to play with the idea of "beating the clock." If your players seem disengaged or momentum is flagging, introduce a time component and watch what happens.


Loss of a Player

You will lose players. Expect it. Accept it. Don't blame yourself. You could be the best PbP GM on the planet and you'd still most likely lose one or two players in the first six months of gameplay.

For that reason, many GMs choose to go with a starting party size of 5 or 6. That way, if you lose one or two players you still have a viable party size.

There may be a time when you'll need to recruit a new player for an existing game. Here's my advice about that-

Make a new Recruitment thread. If you start making new posts in your original thread, prospective players are going to see that it has 100+ post already and figure they are either late to the party, or that there's super stiff competition. Both are reasons prospective players might scroll past your attempt to recruit.

Ask players to take over an orphaned PC[i]. By the time you need to recruit a new player, you've probably invested a lot of story time into their character. Losing that hard work sucks. There are quite a few players out there willing to take over a roll began by someone else. This approach is the easiest way to work new players into an existing game. Their character is already baked into your game. Consider allowing them to rework the mechanics of the player they are taking over to suit their vision. A change of a few feats or an archetype can make a big difference. Another similar option is to have a new player take over an NPC that is important to the game, or to upgrade another player's Cohort to a full fledged PC. All these options make it very easy to get a new player immediately invested and feeling like part of the team.

[i]Ask your players for their input. Your players are a great resource. Use them. Often, they'll have gamed with other players on the boards before, and can tell you if they'd be a good fit for your game or not. Also, by the time a re-recruitment is happening, the game is as much your players' as it is yours. They should have a say in who joins. Getting the players invested in who a new party member is can be a great way of generating new momentum (often momentum takes a big hit leading up to a player leaving a game, so the injection of new energy can really help).

Winter's Chill

Winter kills games.

Seriously. The stretch from Halloween to Christmas is absolute hell on PbP games. Everyone's busy, tired, stressed, and trying to make it through holiday madness. Expect it and plan for it. I've seen games go on a hiatus from the end of November through New Year's Day. I've seen games use the down time to execute a long Kingdom Building or Crafting phase. More frequently though, I've seen games end.

It's a sad reality and you, as the GM, need to be aware that you might lose players to the jaws of Winter. You might also decide you're too busy to keep running your game. I highly recommend putting your game on hold rather than letting it bog down, get frustrating, and become a chore you no longer enjoy.

Final Thoughts:

Nothing in this guide is sacrosanct. I'm not the guru on the mountain. I'm just telling you what's worked for me as a player and as a GM so that you hopefully won't have to learn by screwing up a lot like I did.

If you have better way of doing things, post it here. I'd love to hear it.

If you have questions, feel free to ask them here. Myself or someone else will answer. I've tried to provide you a clear path to follow, but ultimately the only way to really learn how to do it is to do it.

Go do it.

Another excellent guide! It's intended for new PbP GMs, but even experienced PbP GMs can learn a few things.

Personally, I liked the tip of having existing players recommend other players who can replace people who have left the game in lieu of re-opening recruitment. I've never considered doing that, and it's a great idea.

What do other GMs think about XP tracking? I don't bother, especially if I'm running an AP. I prefer to choose certain points in the story where the party levels up. Because usually, there's one or more players who forget to record the XP from an encounter and that leads to disparate XP totals, and things slow down while players figure out the discrepancy. Plus, it allows the GM to plan for any potential leveling-up pauses for a place in the story not dependent on skills or combat abilities. Leveling up can happen by the players out of character while in character, the PCs can debrief or roleplay returning the lost child to their village or whatever.

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Personally I don't track XP, but I left it out of the guide because I don't feel like there's a significant difference between using that system in a table top game and using it in a PbP game. If you like using the XP system, you won't notice a difference between your home game and your online game.

I thought I'd proofread this pretty thoroughly, but of course I'm finding typos the next day after the edit window has closed. So frustrating.

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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

One thing that seems dumb but is actually really important:

GMs, when you're creating your Gameplay thread, do not delete the first post. GMs generally invite players to 'dot and delete' to attach themselves to the campaign, and that's fine; however, if the first post in the the thread is deleted, the whole thread will be borked, and you will have to wait for the Paizo staff to fix it for you.

Whatever first post you make in Gameplay, leave it there.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Nicely done, DH.


Good note, Joana. Thanks for that.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Very interesting, and I'm still reading. One thought on block initiative:


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

The first post would be the results of Group A's actions and the actions of the Enemies.
The second post would be the results of Group B's actions, and the announcement of the new round. Any "round countdown" stuff (like trap timers or spell duration) happens here in the second post of the round as well.

I use block initiative, but I prefer to lump the PCs into a single group ASAP.

What I typically do is a Round 1/2, where all the PCs who have a higher initiative go, then I resolve those actions and my NPCs' actions; then we have a full Round 1 where all the PCs go and my only post each round is to resolve their actions and the NPC actions.

Note that Round 1/2 is NOT a surprise round -- the PCs can take full actions there (whether it's called Round 1/2 or Round 1 isn't really important; it's just getting all the PCs to post/act before the antagonists).


The one other thing I'd note is be ready to change the PCs actions by fiat. If you don't resolve actions until after several players have gone, it's very possible that one PCs' actions will effectively negate another's (for instance, PC1 might move and block PC2 ability to attack, or may have killed PC2's chosen target). Instead of asking that player for another post -- which slows things down as you wait -- simply change the actions. I typically try to make sure it's to the best possible choice for them, and I let them specifically know I've done it and why.

You could also certainly encourage players to post either/or actions at times. I know as a GM I really appreciate that, and I strongly recommend telling your players what makes things easier for you, because especially once you get to higher levels, combat can take a lot of work.


Re: The Postmonster:
I will copy and paste during my long combat posts into a separate file (Word document or email). Even if Paizo doesn't time out, I've lost track of the number of times I've meant to switch tabs to check a rule and accidentally instead closed my tab I was writing in or hit something in my bookmark toolbar and navigated away.

If you're copying and pasting a macro or rules text from another tab, you're not going to be able to have the most recent version of your post also in the copy/paste queue. Hence, put it in another file.

I like your round 1/2 idea, Mott. Im curious how you use in combats that do have a Surprise round?

Also a big yes from me about adjusting PC actions where it is needed. I find that Block Initiative usually keeps that from happening. The way I do it, within a given block PCs act in the order they post, so anyone posting at the end of the block can see the intentions and rolls of the PCs who acted before them and adjust their actions accordingly. Sometimes an unexpected result will negate a PCs intended action, but I've found that it doesn't happen often.

Everyone’s gonna have different styles and things that work for them and things that don’t, but this is an excellent guiding point to start off with, hewn by years of experience, i’m sure.

Typing longer posts into another offline word processor is key to saving yourself from much grief!

The Google Drive suite of web apps is probably going to be your best friend. I use it for everything:
-Docs for my own campaign notes and a shared doc for the players campaign info (setting and story info, background, history, important NPCs, locations, items, etc.)
-Slides for battle maps (dl the PCs alias icons, google search or Pinterest for appropriate NPC icons, resize them to 90x90 pixels at 72dpi, create a google drive folder to house them all in, now you have tokens galore, thanks internet!)
-Sheets for Inventory Tracking (I also use sheets for adventure planning, creating random tables, etc.)
-Draw for campaign maps (either hex or or just a general map of the broader setting)
-hosting other relevant docs such as PDFs, character sheets, etc.

I think your work shows. If players see that you are invested in a campaign, and you put the extra legwork into creating all these extra goodies, then they are more likely to stick it out with you. That’s my working theory, at least.

Recruiting is the worst, for everyone. Picking 4-6 players out of 20+ recruits is just going to leave people feeling sore. I’ve tried a couple of different approaches, but there just isn’t a way around it.

Losing players also hurts. When they communicate their departure and give you a heads up, it helps, immensely (players! If you need to drop out from a game, please communicate this!). When someone just vanishes, it leaves me with a real tight feeling in my gut. I know that there’s a real person out there behind this forum persona, and i’m left assuming the worst and hoping for the best.

When it comes to replacing lost players, I turn first to the original applicant pool and start reaching out to individuals there. If I don’t get any bites, then I start reaching out to players that I’ve gamed with elsewhere, ones that I know are reliable and I like their style. Asking your players to recruit their pals is a good idea too. Only after that would I open up a new recruiting thread, which I haven’t had to do yet.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Doomed Hero wrote:

I like your round 1/2 idea, Mott. Im curious how you use in combats that do have a Surprise round?

Also a big yes from me about adjusting PC actions where it is needed. I find that Block Initiative usually keeps that from happening. The way I do it, within a given block PCs act in the order they post, so anyone posting at the end of the block can see the intentions and rolls of the PCs who acted before them and adjust their actions accordingly. Sometimes an unexpected result will negate a PCs intended action, but I've found that it doesn't happen often.

It's rare that I have surprise rounds, but since it usually means just one side is going, it's typically not difficult. I'd have whoever gets surprise rounds post their surprise round actions before going into initiative. Sometimes they'll basically get an action and a half before the enemy goes...

As for adjusting, I personally still keep to the initiative order, though I'm also very liberal in declaring someone has delayed to allow for the best results. But I do think it can have an effect on gameplay if they get to act willy-nilly in the round, especially when it comes to movement and/or tight quarters. I could certainly be too picky there, though. :)

motteditor wrote:

But I do think it can have an effect on gameplay if they get to act willy-nilly in the round, especially when it comes to movement and/or tight quarters. I could certainly be too picky there, though. :)

I find that when PCs have a bit of wiggle room regarding the order they take their actions in their Block, that it facilitates teamwork. I like when PCs talk to each other, so it's an extra tactical advantage I'm willing to give them as a teamwork incentive.

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motteditor wrote:

Re: The Postmonster:

I will copy and paste during my long combat posts into a separate file (Word document or email). Even if Paizo doesn't time out, I've lost track of the number of times I've meant to switch tabs to check a rule and accidentally instead closed my tab I was writing in or hit something in my bookmark toolbar and navigated away.

If you're copying and pasting a macro or rules text from another tab, you're not going to be able to have the most recent version of your post also in the copy/paste queue. Hence, put it in another file.

I second all of this. Nothing is more frustrating than accidentally closing the tab that has your own un-posted work because you're trying to slim down the number of tabs you have open.

Great advice regarding how to counter that, but I also have a tip: If you use Google Chrome, you can push Ctrl+Shift+T and it will bring back the last tab you had open, and it will usually retain what you had in the text box to create a post. You can click it multiple times to keep opening previous closed tabs.


I love Google Drive for all of the reasons stated so far, but my new job has blocked all of the associated sites because of potential malware that could be downloaded. Does anybody have any alternative tools that they use for sharing maps and information with players? Game-specific sites like Roll20 are blocked as they are tagged as "gaming" sites. It's a wonder Paizo isn't blocked.

Pathfinder Card Game, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Andostre wrote:
I love Google Drive for all of the reasons stated so far, but my new job has blocked all of the associated sites because of potential malware that could be downloaded. Does anybody have any alternative tools that they use for sharing maps and information with players? Game-specific sites like Roll20 are blocked as they are tagged as "gaming" sites. It's a wonder Paizo isn't blocked.

Many corporate firewalls aren't very smart, and as long as you're accessing the site via https you can get through just fine. This means manually typing, e.g. https://roll20.net into the URL bar instead of just roll20.net.

Otherwise, there are a handful of other suites online that can be used for info sharing:
- Microsoft has OneDrive plus free web applications for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You can maybe use that as a replacement if Google Drive and related apps are blocked, they should be able to fulfill all of the same niches.
- Dropbox has both the file-sharing feature you're familiar with as well as a web application called Paper which you can use for many of the same things.

Lots of words of wisdom here. Thanks for uploading!

I plan to continue monitoring this thread, so if anyone has any questions about how I came to my conclusions, or has other ideas that might be useful, please bring them up.

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