My First PbP Experience and Some Questions

Online Campaigns General Discussion

Hey all,

I'm an experienced Pathfinder GM, having run in-person campaigns in first Santa Rosa and then Nevada City, over the last five or so years - I have mostly run my homebrew version of the "planescape" setting I've run with Pathfinder 1 rules.

Like many, I decide to start a play-by-post campaign with the shelter in play order. After sifting my options, I recruited a group of four ex-players and a personal friend for an online Pathfinder campaign. I made the decision to use the Discord server system because I liked the interface, liked notifications and liked that whatever server I used belonged to me.

That was about two months ago and it was fun for most of the time but now things have fairly suddenly slowed to the point that it seems like the campaign can't really be salvaged in it's present form. So I'm basically planning to do a restart and this time advertise the game to the world.

Questions, questions:

1) What do people think of Discord as a platform? Especially, would it be OK to advertise here for a Discord-based Pathfinder game? Anyone know forum features that make them better than Discord?

2) How "hard-assed" should one be about players missing posts? I'm thinking of a "two-strikes, you're out" and givign players another two situation they can warn about. Recruiting friends always has the problem they can start thinking they can take advantage of you - in the sense of not following the rules.

3) Is asking for one-post-per-day standard? Maybe high-intensity?

4) Is characters not doing much dialogue with each other a common problem? Getting everyone to fight a monster seemed much easier than getting character to character interactions. People being online at different times might have been the problem. Maybe there's no easy fix but I find a group not communicating with each other hard to deal with, it doesn't fit my idea of a story. Perhaps simply nominating a leader who pushes ideas would be one approach.

5) How directive should you be about what kind of character you want. I am inclined to say "your character most be engaged and somewhat social, your character must have goals for the future" and similar things. Murder hobos and characters who misinterpret everything as part of personality go extra-badly in online gaming, it seems.

1) Discord is awesome as a platform and can do anything the forum can and usually better - but you have to include bots for some of it (rolling, reminders, ...) I personally use it for all OOC stuff (Q/A, character advancement, planning, feedback gathering, "the talk", ...) as well as to distribute character secrets (to do that, just set up one private channel per player and add only said player). The only thing I really miss is the neat alias feature with cool avatar pictures of the forum.

2) My best experience is with a hard time limit, then botting happens. You want a lower tme frame (e.g. 24h) for combat and somewhat longer (e.g. 48h) for social situation, exploration, downtime etc. State clearly what you will and you won't do while botting in each of these circumstances and keep to it.

3) 1/day except weekends (maybe once per weekend) seems pretty common but again, just state your expectations upfront and set deadlines.

4) Depends on players. Some actually like to play the distant loner. Try to come up with a plot that especially includes such players from time to time. Personal ties, playing to their strengths etc

5) Recruit characters not char sheets. Google 10 min background and have your players file them. It is a pretty neat way to get halfway developped chars and bring players to think about it in depth.


Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

At first I was inclined to chalk your issues up to lack of experience on the part of you and your players, but I've been playing on the boards for over nine years, and I still see things like that with experienced GMs and players. Re your questions:

1) I can't answer that; I've only used Discord once, and that was as a voice chat channel for a PFS game that we were trying to wrap up in a hurry to free up some of the characters. I know there are people here who are more familiar with it, though, so I'll leave that to them to answer.

2) This is a perennial problem. Recently I've seen a push for including botting instructions in your character profile if you're playing, so that when RL rears its ugly head you don't hold up the game too much.

3) One post per day is standard. Something to watch for, though, is that as more people slip on that, the harder you as the GM have to work to get it back on track. What I've found works best for me is replying as quickly as I can, so that the players who are participating can get rapid feedback on their actions. This is not always easy to do--RL again. I also post with questions to the players--this is where we are, what do you want to do next?

4) Depending on the group, yes. Some groups are very good for that; it can be transient, though.

5) You touch on something here that a lot of people who haven't done PbP/PbEM don't realize: there's a qualitative difference between it and F2F gaming. This is why so many PbP games founder--I've been in a half-dozen Rise of the Runelords PbP games that ended abruptly when the GM ghosted, or realized they didn't have the time to keep it going and closed it down. The advantage of PbP is that you can take the time to craft responses in some detail; the disadvantage is that it is slow. I mean, really slow, unless you have the right players at the right times in their lives.

You also hit on another potential issue: text is a limited-bandwidth medium, and in the absence of tone and body language cues it's sometimes easy to take something the wrong way.

What I strongly recommend is to start small--try a single module or scenario, relatively low-level, and use it to practice PbP skills with your group. A sandbox campaign or adventure path is not the thing to start with. You want something bounded, so it's less investment if it fails, and so you and your players won't be expecting it to go on indefinitely.

Good luck! I'm sure others will be along with their own advice to offer--we have an accomplished and experienced community here.

1) Discord is thought and focuses its features as instant messaging. It encourages people to write soon and fast. If you are looking for a more detailed experience you will find the Forum style actually encourages people to write more thoughtfully which ultimately helps to read more closely to a book rather than a chat. I think Discord is better used to conduct the social part of the game, where players talk to each other about their lives or make jokes about what is going on with Gameplay. That said, the Discussion thread can work also pretty good for social. All the aliases functionality is also a plus, as you can easily open the character profile/sheet from the post you are reviewing. The forum makes it also pretty easy for you to link certain posts of the past that might be relevant to current action.

2) I am not sure what you mean about "missing" posts? At the forum that hardly ever happens because the way the forum listing and the campaigns tab tracks which posts you have read and which not. People tend to only read the campaign when they can answer so, it is difficult for them to miss a particular post. If you instead meant about people delaying too many days before posting combat actions, Ghost of War and John already pointed out good solutions. In my case if we are all waiting for just one player, I go on with the next round the next day and let that player post two rounds of actions (it is a way to avoid punishing people who cannot immediately attend while still keeping up the pace of the game). If they cannot post for another day, I usually bot their character as I see fit.

3) 1/day is standard. It is the minimum to keep the game lively and advancing. If your players are very good at pushing, or you are playing a shorter adventure, you can deal with less than that. But for the APs and similar long adventures, you need 1/day or better or otherwise they fall apart as interest diminishes after years of play.

4) Some people are great at inter-party communication, others are not. I think the problem is basically a mixture of awareness, player chemistry and interest for the campaign. If you absolutely need this I would recruit players who do that kind of interactions naturally (another good thing of the Forums is you can check players past games and see their playing style before bringing them into your game). Anyway, I think if you feel the characters are not interacting, you are good to talk it with the players and try to find a better way for them to do it.

5) Forget about characters. Recruit players. If you recruit good players the proper characters will eventually reach your table. Also, when it comes to designing a background and the stats, I prefer people to be direct for what they do expect. You seem to care about characters with actual motivations, then ask the players for that. Do not dazzle yourself with good thought, well written backgrounds though. Make sure the player style fits with you in the long run. Some people are very good at writing a one-time manuscript, while others are much better at growing up their character organically. Do not punish a good player just because he prefers to find up his character quirks and motivations as the adventure progresses. Make a bit of research to see how that player is in the long run. Here coming back to my initial advice. Look for players, not for characters.

Finally, I sum up myself to John's advice. Start with a shorter game to built up your skills. Also avoid sandboxes unless you have a proven proactive group. For new groups it is much easier to follow a streamlined adventure, because the GM can just push the players in the next step if she sees the game is falling back. Good player pushers see this themselves and help you direct the party in one direction or another. If you managed to charm some of those rarities, you can start thinking on more sandboxy adventures.

Welcome and good luck! :D

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