Castamir's Flaxseed Station serves as a centralized hub for ongoing SFS recruitment from several GMs. The GMs' spreadsheets are linked above. Making a post in the Gameplay thread will add Castamir Station to your Campaigns tab along with your other ongoing games, making it easier for you to keep a watch on new upcoming games.
Gameplay: The gameplay thread is primarily for in-character chatter and should be kept in-character as much as possible. GMs who recruit through the gameplay are encouraged to do so in-character, but it is also recommended that Gms post in the recruitment thread as well, as some players do not like to wade through the in-character chatter to find recruitments (this is just a suggestion though).
Discussion: The discussion thread is for out-of-character chatter of any sort, be it rules discussions, advice, or mustering for future games.
Recruitment: The recruitment thread is for GMs to find players for their games. This can be done in-character as in the gameplay thread but the chatter should be kept to a minimum, as some people will watch this thread only for the game announcements and do not want to sift through in-character chatter to find the announcement; that is what the gameplay thread is for.
All threads: When a GM links a signup on a spreadsheet, it is not necessary to respond with a post saying "I signed up!" This only clutters the threads and makes it hard for others to find the announcement. Furthermore, all discussion (in any of the threads, in-character or out-of-character) should be kept civil, respectful, and appropriate.
I will not always be here to moderate the thread, but it is expected that everyone in the community follows the Community Guidelines. Additionally, as with all my games, at my "table", this game is escapist fantasy for all. You may have as much freedom as your imagination allows, so long as it doesn't impinge on another's enjoyment. I welcome all players at my table. I promise that if something makes you uncomfortable at a game, I will address it discretely, professionally, and completely. I pledge that my games are a safe haven of fun role-playing and baddie slaying.
Below are some basics on playing in a PbP game. Mastering the basics is just the first step though! Once you’ve got the basics down, start trying to improve your play-by-post gaming to make your characters stand out and make your posts effective and efficient. For that I point you to Painlord’s Advanced PbP guide. If you are just getting started, I suggest you read the following basics on play-by-post play. But always remember, the key to all play-by-post gaming is to be consistent!
The Basics #1: Formatting and Basic Posting:
The first thing you’ll need to learn is how to properly format your posts. Everyone has their own little quirks but in general these are the agreed-upon formats:
”Use bold text and quotes when your character is speaking,” then use normal text to describe their actions.
Italics is often used to denote what your character is thinking or when creatures/characters are speaking telepathically to each other.
Out-of-character text is for making mechanical notes or saying things not directly related to in-character gameplay. Longer out-of-character questions should put in spoilers or asked in the Discussion thread of the game rather than the Gameplay thread.
Bigger should be saved for emphasis or an organizational header in a post.
Works best for comments made "under your breath", or whispers.
[u]Underlining is not part of the normal formatting, but is made available by way of Oladon's plug in for CHROME or FIREFOX, as are MANY incredible options. It is recommended that you get this, and if you can, contribute to her Patreon account[/u].
Quotes are used less often but are mostly useful in replying to something said earlier or to highlight something important that the other players might have missed from earlier.
@Desmond: Lol! I don’t think that’ll get them on our side!
Conrad leaps in front of the gruff solider and tries to remedy the situation with some quick words. He should have let me do the talking! Now he’s gone and offended the crew! The envoy does his best, "My dear people, I think my friend misspoke. You might have heard ‘get out of my way!’ but what he actually said was ‘have a nice day!’”
Combat can be a bit more complicated than simple back-and-forth roleplaying. To make things less complicated for everyone, make sure it is clear to the GM and the other players what you are doing. Spell out each action if necessary.
And I can’t stress this enough: when using spells or abilities (especially if they require the GM to make a saving throw for one of the bad guys), please post the name of the spell or ability you are using and-most importantly-post the DC and type of save. It is also considered good etiquette to post a link to your spell or at least summarize what it does if it is a less common spell (or something complicated) so that they do not have to look it up each time.
The GM is taking a lot of time out of their day (more time than you are to play, most likely) so be respectful of them and save them time and hassle by posting all of the relevant information in your post. If the GM has to stop and look at your profile to find the spell, its DC, and maybe look up the spell’s details if he is unfamiliar with it, the GM ends up spending a lot of their valuable time analyzing your post instead of writing their own update to the game. You can make life doubly easier for yourself (and everyone else) by using your profile to include common stats and numbers in your post.
A bad combat post might look like this:
Trotter casts a spell at the creature! murderous command
Note how sparse and bare that post is. It’s boring. Sometimes necessity and lack of time don’t allow for a lot of description, and that is fine. But if you have time, take advantage of the medium and add a little flare to your post to make it stand out. A better way to write that post would be like this:
Trotter grimaces as he watches his friend fall to the blows of the evil Aspis agent. ”Have a taste of your own medicine!” he screams as he casts a spell at the baddie!
Casting murderous command: DC 18 Will save or he has the urge to kill his nearest ally, attacking that person on their next turn with a melee weapon or natural weapon. (lasts 1 round.)
Notice that in this second example the GM has all the information they need right there in the post. The GM can roll the save for the bad guy and keep moving without having to look up the spell or check your profile to find the DC buried somewhere (or even calculate it themselves, yuck!).
If the actions you are taking are particularly complicated, it might also be a good idea to break down what you are doing so the GM understands each action individually. Here’s an extreme example but note how much easier it is to understand the mechanics of each action:
Trotter calls upon his luck (activated archaeologist’s luck as swift action), draws his pistol (free action with quick draw), fires his gun (standard action), quickly reloads it (free action with Rapid Reload and alchemical cartridge) and then places it back in its holster (move action).
The Basics #3: Your Responsibilities as a Player:
The most important rule: be consistent!
Playing in a game via play-by-post can in some ways be more flexible than planning out a night-long gaming session with your friends, as it allows everyone to post at their own convenience. It is, however, quite a bit of work on a daily basis to keep up with the game. And yes, I said daily basis. In the play-by-post arena it is considered standard to post at least once a day. And posting multiple times a day is quite common with some groups who prefer faster-paced games.
Everyone has occasions where they are unable to post for a day, but when you sign up for a game you should plan to post at least once a day. If you are unable to do this for whatever reason, it would be courteous to let your GM know ahead of time. Similarly, if you are going to be gone for more than a day-say, if you will be out camping for a weekend and won’t have internet access-make sure to alert the GM. Most GMs will offer to ‘bot’ your character (also called GMPCing); if your character needs to do or roll something while you are away, they will roll it for you.
Basically, play-by-post is an inherently slow medium. Combats can take days or maybe even a week or two. It is your responsibility as a player to work with your fellow players and GM to keep things moving forward and to be consistent enough to finish the game in a timely manner.
So you’ve decided to take the next step and run your very own PbP game! Congrats! GMing a PbP game is a lot of work but can also be a rewarding experience. Just as with being a player, the best advice to a budding PbP GM is to be consistent! You will likely have 4-6 players, but you are only one GM. It is your job to lead them through the game in a timely manner and have fun along the way. But if you are consistent and stay organized, the bookkeeping will seem easier and you’ll be able to have more fun while you GM.
Below I’ve posted some basic tips on play-by-post GMing that I have learned over the years through trial-and-error as well as lessons learned from highly regarded GMs. If you want more detailed and advanced advice, I will point your to Painlord’s Guide to PbP GMing.
The Basics #1: Start Small:
These boards are riddled with dead games. The GM starts a campaign without realizing how much work it will take or perhaps without the experience to run a game efficiently and soon enough the GM gets burned out and the campaign dissolves. It’s a sad sight and happens all too often.
But you don’t want to be like those other GMs! You’re committed to running (and finishing) a game! Good! But before you bite off more than you can chew, start small.
Castamir's Station is primarily used for SFS recruitment so most of you reading this likely play SFS. Incidentally, SFS is a perfect bite-sized starter for the new PbP GM. Most SFS scenarios can be completed in 4-6 weeks via PbP, which is a perfect time window to test your skills as a GM. When the scenario is over, you might even ask your players how it went. Ask them if the pacing was fine (do you need to update more often?) and if combats were confusing or easy to understand (do you need to work on your organization?). There are many veteran PbPers who will be willing to play in your game and give tips along the way.
Most importantly: expect to make a few mistakes and have a few hiccups when you first start. It will happen. That’s why you’re starting small. Combat was confusing for the players during your first scenario? Try something different for the next scenario. The players felt it moved too slow? Think of ways to move the action along faster.
Keep trying and you’ll get into a groove that works for you. Once you’ve become efficient, comfortable, and confident, then you can think about running a longer game such as a module or even an adventure path. Just realize that whereas PFS scenarios take 4-6 weeks, modules can take several months (or maybe even up to a year for longer ones), and an adventure path will take years. (It's a Pathfinder example, but Dungeon Master S ran a complete Adventure Path with roughly 13,000 posts over about 6 years. You can see the campaign HERE.
The Basics #2: Stay Organized:
One of the hardest things to do as a GM is to run a combat in such a way that the players know what is going on. Trust me, the players will get confused if you do not spell things out for them. In my experience, the best way to keep things organized is to post some sort of initiative tracker with each combat post or, at the very least, indicate who’s turn it is with each update. You can format these in any way that you like, but make sure that the players can understand what is going on.
HERE is an example post for how I track combat.
HERE is another common style.
After the players have posted their actions, it’s a good idea to repeat what just happened. This is a way to let the players know that you processed their action and also just another way to keep things organized. Note the use of spoiler tags to keep extra (but important) information tucked away. The more cluttered a post, the harder it is to follow. Sometimes you can't avoid it, just try to avoid it.
Most GMs use Google Drawings and Google Sheets to track maps. Putting borders around multiple combatants, especially if they have the same picture (sometimes called a "pog") can make organization easier. A helpful link in the campaign description and even in your DM profile can make the game easier for everyone.
The Basics #3: Being Efficient:
You are already putting a lot of work into GMing a game, don’t make things harder on yourself by being inefficient. As you GM more, you will find little tricks that make the game go faster and smoother and which will make your job easier. I’ve been GMing for a few years now, so let me teach you a few tricks I’ve learned along the way.
Tip #1: Initiative Rolling
This tip is twofold: 1) You should roll initiative for your players. 2) Copy-paste is your friend.
First of all, don’t ever ask your players to roll initiative. Play-by-post is already an inherently slow medium so don’t make it slower by waiting for the players to roll their own initiative before starting combat. You will waste at least a day doing it that way. Just roll everyone’s initiative for them and then post the initiative tracker (see above) so combat can start right away.
Second of all, since you’re going to be rolling initiative (and maybe even Perception or Sense Motive) for your players more than once, don’t waste time retyping it before each combat. Type out an initiative block once and then copy-paste it somewhere you can access. Some people save it on the Campaign Info tab, others save it in a text doc. This will save you a lot of wasted keystrokes retyping it each time (not to mention the time it takes to look it up each time).
Tip #2: Knowledge Rolls
I’ve never been a fan of the question-answer method of knowledge rolling. First of all, that’s sort of a common convention but it’s never actually mentioned in the CRB. But more importantly, that sort of back-and-forth can slow down gameplay. Instead, post knowledge spoilers ahead of time.
HERE is a great example of a Knowledge check post at the beginning of an encounter.
HERE is an example of a formatted Knowledge post at the beginning of a mission.
Tip #3: Consistency
Each GM has a specific way of doing things. You can help yourself (and the players) out by having a consistent method of posting information AND receiving information from players. Here is a short list of ideas that is by no means exhaustive:
Saving Throws first. Anyone who needs to make a Saving Throw should do so at the beginning of the post.
PC then companion. If you opt to have a character and their animal companion go on the same initiative, one should always resolve before the other.
Prose or crunch, one is always first. I prefer prose first because it helps keep the game immersive.
Put the list somewhere. I like to have a standard issue post in the discussion tab to keep all my games consistent. You can see it HERE
You may figure out more as you go, don't be afraid to share!
Tip #4: Doors
Don’t let your party stand outside a door for too long. If they are having trouble moving from room to room, ask them (in the Discussion thread) to create SDOP (Standard Door Opening Procedure). For some groups this might involve the rogue taking 20 to check for traps before letting the paladin lead the way in. For others it might involve everyone else standing back while the barbarian and fighter smash the door down regardless of traps or locks. From then on you can move them from room to room and assume they do roughly the same thing each time without having to state it explicitly.
If the door is locked but well within the skill of the party’s disabler to open, just assume they get it open and move on. Don’t waste a day waiting for them to roll a Disable Device or say they are taking 10 to open it. In my opinion, doors are not really the most interest part of the dungeon or the story and unless they have a trap they shouldn’t be a big discussion point in your play-by-post campaign.
Tip #5: Empty Rooms
Sometimes dungeons will have rooms with nothing or little in them; maybe just a quick Knowledge or Perception check or a small pile of coins. Don’t be afraid to open those doors for the players and just post the quick description and Perception/Knowledge spoiler. You could spend a few days opening each door individually, but that will be boring and not a whole lot of fun. Or you can be an efficient GM and assume they would open those doors anyways so just go ahead and move them through the boring rooms and get to the more interesting stuff.
The Basics #4: Being Consistent:
Wait, didn’t I mention this already? Well, it’s that important. You’ve taken on the responsibility to run a game, now it is your job to keep it moving through to the end and finish it. You’ll need to keep your posting up so that your players aren’t waiting on you. For most groups of players posting once/day, this will mean that you are updating the game about twice a day. And you also have all the extra work of preparing maps, reading the adventure, and interpreting monster/NPC stats, abilities, and spells. It’s a lot of work but if you develop a routine it will be much easier. I update all of my games every morning when I wake up. I check in on them throughout the day if I have time and maybe make an update if necessary. If I have time, I check in on them again at night when I get home from work. Find a schedule that works for you and try to be consistent so that your players know what to expect and can learn to rely on you.
The Basics #5: Keep the Game Fun:
Everyone has their ups and downs, their free time and their crunch time. Starfinder (or any game for that matter) is about escapist fun. As the GM YOU ARE STILL A PLAYER. The game needs to be fun for you too. If you overdo it with either two many games, or running tables for players who aren't fun, then step back. It's better to take a break for a bit than it is to turn away from the hobby. A GM who isn't into the game isn't fun for anyone.