Discouraged and Looking for Encouragement

Online Campaigns General Discussion

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Hey all! I am new to PBP DMing and started a game a short while ago. Had fun with recruitment by just opening up the gameplay and literally had players "walk into a bar" and start interacting with the bar. It was fun and seemed to be a different way for people to get into their characters skin before really starting.

I had 6 people who were really engaged and having fun with the bar scene. Had one of them say that the pace was too much for them and that he might not stick with it. That would have been okay because I would have had a party of 5, cue the music.

I sent them on a short mission mainly to get my feet wet in PBP DMing and all was going well. They found the stranded ship, started exploring it, plot points have been slowly revealed and they are catching them. I sent out a general feeler of how people were enjoying the game, even asking how I could improve the gameplay for them. Everyone was having fun.

Fast forward a bit and things have slowed down significantly. I only have 2 consistent players, a fringe player, and 3 that are just gone. My first attempt at reaching out to those who aren't consistent feel flat. I would possibly try to refill on new characters but the team isn't really in a spot where I can do a secondary recruitment.

Is this how it goes on the boards? What am I doing wrong, how can I improve? Anyone willing to give a look at my campaign and interactions and give me any kind of guidance? I really like the PBP format because I started a new job and have moved 2+ hours away from my in person play group.


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I don't know if this is really "encouragement," but this is, actually, pretty much how it goes on the boards. You can improve your odds of keeping your players by checking out your applicants' posting history -- people who have been around for years are more likely to keep checking in than people whose first post was last week -- but even then, you are virtually guaranteed to lose at least one or two players.

I think PFS games may be a little more stable, since scenarios are fairly brief and the players have XP to gain on the table to keep them invested.

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Yeah I could see how society games would have more staying power. I really just like home brewing stuff and I don't think the society would be cool with home brewing their stuff. lol.

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For me, having a shared discord channel (text-only) for player discussion, Gm Announcements and even just off-topic barter has really helped knitting the players together and we managed to steer through many obstacles since starting.

Other than that, if YOU as the GM have fun and are motivated to keep going, KEEP GOING. This will attract players to your game(s) better than anything and after a couple of re-recruitments you will most likely have a very dedicated player base.
Does it take energy? It sure does.
But "this is the way".

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Being new to PBP DMing I’m excited to see this mission through. I did send out messages to everyone and I have 4 of 6 people back and can totally run with that. Thanks for the reminder that “this is the way.”

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If you are familiar with the group dynamics of a table top game it'll make more sense to you.

In a table top game you'll have 2 maybe three people that are paying attention and ready when their turn comes up in combat, actively inputting questions and ideas. 1-2 that need to be prompted for their turn in combat and every so often throw ideas out. And then the 1-2 that miss games, would rather be socializing, and or playing games on their phone.

Put that into the pbp setting and you'll see it's not that different. The key always is picking the right players. It's not always the ones who seem the most interested at first.

But the ones who pay attention to your build criteria, answer your questions, seem more serious.

Finally remember pbp is different in the way more responsibility falls on the DM to keep things engaging and moving forward.

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Just cherish the good players you have and try to keep moving with them. GMPC the other characters until you have an opportunity for a recruitment.

Regretfully this is how it works, everyone gets very involved and inspired at the beginning, then, when the novelty passes, characters are known, and only remains interpreting your character and digging through the adventure, people starts looking for a new shiny toy.

The only things you can do is to perform a good player (not character but player) selection and trying to keep up with a good pace in the game. A good pace does not only involve posting frequently, but giving the players meaningful choices to do, and meaningful situations to develop or just interpret their characters. The player choice also involves finding people that have compatible playing styles. If you like mysteries but chose people who is mostly moved by tactics and number crunching (or the other way around), it doesn't matter if they are active people, problems will arise and they will end being less committed if they do not drop altogether, because they are just not interested in the buttons you are offering them to push even if they were having fun initially.

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Just an update: We made it through that first mission and have found new recruits to join us.

GMMichael - you are correct with the comparison between PBP and in person games. Thank you for that reminder.


I'm a little late to the party but here is my candid response! :D

@Mr Clint Taking a look at your game, I like the way you format your posts. You put quotation marks AND bold around your text, you make use of occ formatting prompting players with "What do you do?", you link to images stored on a Google drive, you put skill checks in spoilers to encourage skill rolls, you minimize typos, and you seem to post daily. Those are all aspects I look for in a good GM. I remember posting on your re-recruitment thread! Honestly, the only reason why I didn't submit a character was because I didn't feel like I knew enough about gloamhold.

Also, and this is a personal preference, I prefer Google Slides for combat maps because it's easier to check on my phone so that's another plus. I personally also really like that you make posts like this (link) which remind players they can narrate whenever they feel the inclination or spark of creativity.

If I could make a suggestion (and this is personal preference) I would suggest listing combat initiatives on every single combat post. I find that it helps me as a player to anticipate who's acting next so I can start thinking about what I want to do.

Round 1
Grom 21 (hasted)
Elviana 18 (-3 damage)
Red goblin 17
Blue goblin 16
Tak 12
Lacy 4

Bold may act!

I think, and maybe someone else can weigh in on this, games that have more applicants during recruitment tend to have more long-term dedicated players. (Not always the case but) If you ran Kingmaker or Jade Regent you'd probably have a lot of applicants and therefore lots of consistent players. (Not suggesting you should since it's a lot of work but it's my personal observation.) I've personally been very fortunate and only lost one of my six players since I started by Ruins of Azlant Books 1-3 table but I've definitely had emotional ups and downs with it. I've had days where I don't feel like posting but I push myself anyway because consistency and reliability are important (even though I struggle with it sometimes.)

For example, I was in a similar situation as you. I wanted to get my feet wet with GMing and I literally only had six character submissions during recruitment. I was so worried throughout my ENTIRE recruitment that nobody would want to play my table since it was only going to be a half-campaign. I was legitimately afraid it would not fire. But I had one particularly passionate player in the recruitment and they really helped keep my hopes up. After three or four days I swore to myself I would select them no matter what because their enthusiasm kept me going. And I swore I was going to complete the task I advertised for because that one player was so excited about the game. It solidified my resolve to keep going with the recruitment and game. They still ask a lot of questions (which sometimes annoys me) but if I did it again, a hundred times over, I'd pick them every single time because they seemed like they were genuinely enjoying and wanting to play. (Man, this kinda mirrors Balacertar's advice of cherishing the players who do participate.)

My entire recruitment process felt like the GM equivalent to a player applying to a brand new Kingmaker recruitment thread. Kingmaker recruitments easily have 20-30 applicants so simply seeing all the interested applicants "dot" can feel very disheartening.

Just make sure to check your players' posting history and style in other games first. Also, people who play PFS also tend to be reliable. I'm quickly becoming a fan of PFS players even though I'm not a big fan of PFS myself.

I've already been thinking up strategies for the next campaign I run. It won't be until we're halfway through the last book. Starting with a very detailed initial recruitment post and plans to heavily investigate applicants' posts in their other games. Forget the character sheet - how people post in their other games is how they'll post in your game. I'm also going to run a full AP which should help. I don't think non-Pathfinder campaigns (other than Vampire The Masquerade and present-day campaigns) garner nearly as much attention.

Apologies I can wordy. TL;DR I've felt a lot of the same sentiment as you. Keep pressing on. This game will be your learning experience and legacy for all future games you run.

I agree with pretty much all of that and 100% choose the player not the character. Some players do little more than make dice rolls with no RP which grinds my gears.

Also as a GM you have to be prepared to continually push things forwards, especially when the game is out of its honeymoon phase. This gets tiring and I think a lot of GM burnout happens when the players stop trying.

Not sure I have any particular suggestions for keeping long term engagement up beyond trying your level best to post consistently. Although I think you can help set yourself up for success by initially recruiting six players with the knowledge 1-2 are likely to flake out in the first few months.

Sorry for the delayed response.

@GM Ventiine thank you for the tips and suggestions. One of the players suggested Google Slides and we did transfer over to it. It seemed to work really well. I have used it before, or knew it was an options. I also like your suggestions on in combat initiative order. That would help keep people primed and ready to go.

@DM Fang Dragon You're right, I am in the drivers seat and do need to continually push things forward... or at least leave enough bread crumbs for the players to follow. I never want it to feel like they are just on a train ride.

Thank you both!

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