Author Topic: How to GameMaster Play-By-Post (Help, tips and Advice for GMs)  (Read 2554 times)

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Offline Celedor

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There's a Tips and Advice thread in "GameMaster's Corner" (A GM only board for exchanging ideas and asking for help.). I'll re-print that thread out here, without the commentary and talk:

Tip #1
Don't rush your players give them time to think and react; don't make assumpts as to what the players may do (no matter how tempting this may be)
Tip #2
Try and keep the "In-Character" and "Out of Character" threads clean and distinct from each other. Keep the OOC comments, die rolls and tangents out of the IC threads and the whole will look and feel more smooth, with better flow.
Tip #3
Create suspense in your PC's by using the PM system, especially if the group has been split. Remember to either save the sent PM or make a note for later reference
Tip #4
When naming your game threads, why not include the game name and the thread description.

This way when we view the 'recent posts' thread we don't get 5 threads all named OOC-Thread and have to guess which game the posts belong too.
Tip #5
Forget about clichés, orcs don't have to be bad, and fairies can be evil little ******** sometimes.

So try swaping the preconceptions around and seeing how your players react to it, can be fun....
Tip # 6
Elves can be evil...
Tip #7
Remember roleplaying is a game where real-life rules were intended to be broken not the players. If a player wishes to inject a little colour into the game it should be welcomed as there are many grey areas in RPG rules as in real life. There is always room for a bit of colour. If it is not game-breaking, then allow it.

In most cases your discriptions will not be complete, players should be able to exploit these areas, whilst you should not, except in cases where it is benifical to the players.

Example. The players are in a library, it is an old libary. You have already decided that this area there will be nothing of value or use within it. A player's character has an interest in history. You have not produced a list of books but the books are readable and in good condition. The player can either specifically ask for a list or assume that they have found a book which interests them. It is up to you to decide whether that item or the information discovered will be of any use.
Tip # 8
The characters ARE the story, not just in the story.

We create the setting and the story evolves as the characters move and live within that setting.

This style of GM work, we can tailor the story to each character. At times this results in multiple threads spinning off, but the richness of the story, and the player interest blooms.
Tip #9

Pacing is an issue in PbP. The more players that you have, the slower the GM response time will be. If you want a fast paced combat game, it is not wise to have 32 players!

Be up front as to how often you want the players to respond, whether it is daily, twice per week,or what not. Let people know if you are going to be absent. Whenever possible, estimate how long.
Tip #10:
An NPC is a PC that just doesn't have a player at the moment. Play them as if they had a player, and they'll liven up the game.
Tip #11
In PbP splitting the party is not such a big issue. Create a separate thread for the people going off in a tangent. Alternatively you can create 2 new threads for both splits, if neither is following the main thread, but will be coming back. This is great for cities, where the group has many things that they might want to do. IT will save time in the end if they split up and take care of things in parallel.
Tip #12
Utilize the medium. In a PbP game you can format the text. I always make thinking in italic. And give all NPCs a different color when speaking. That way if there are many NPCs it is easy to keep track of who is saying what. You should encourage your players to do the same.

Example: "You there! HALT!", the guard captain commands. Oh-no, not another group of adventurers, one of the man-at-arms thought and raised his spear with an audible sigh. "Sir, I don't think we need to bother there good peoples. They have dones nothing wrong.", he suggests ho his captain. "Be silent, Snörri! You are no longer in charge!"
Tip #13
Be honest with your players and communicate with them. If you are not prepared for something they want to do, say so. If they are about to do something really stupid (i.e., attacking the ancient dragon at 2nd lvl), warn them first and seek confirmation of the action.
Tip #14
Be fair with the players during the game. If disputes arise, be reasonable and discuss the situation. Listen to the players, come to a decision and inform them of why you made the decision you did. If possible, leave decisions for future occurences not the current situation. For example, don't change the way combat is done during a battle, make the decision and implement for the next combat.
Tip #15
Do not have separate rules for NPCs, treat PCs (players) and NPCs (everything/everyone else) the same.
Tip #16
It sounds good to have the players provide rolls and players love to do it (its fun rolling dice), but in Play-By-Post it is faster and easier to have the Gamemaster handle all rolls of the dice, calculating of combat, etc. The player should state what they want to do and you interpret that within the game system.
Tip #17
If making a single post for several different NPCs, make sure you denote each NPCs statements as follows:

Members of the Winchester and Martian Queen - Near the Mardona Tetrahedron Border - Within the ISEE Sphere of Influence - Imperial Stardate 1928.096.1902 (attending the Captains' Dinner)

Captain Hadmer: "And both our vessels received this same device..." he says in surprise.  "No wonder Skri'edom Shando mentioned he was breaking their laws.  Wonder how he pulled it off?..."

Colonel Thompson: "A cloaking device?..." he says in utter shock...  And looks at Christina...

LtCmdr Hoggard: "Possibly Colonel.  My scans are not complete, but it appears to be so."

Hadmer: "How long before you can get it installed on the Martian Queen?"

Hoggard: "Don't you mean to get it installed on the Winchester first sir?"

Hadmer: "Hell no!  I want this cloaking device, if it is a cloaking device, installed on the Martian Queen yesterday.  To hell with the Winchester.  With the Khryshyn's resupply, she should be able to handle herself.  This is a civilian vessel.  As far as I am concerned, the Martian Queen takes top priority with all other priorities recended.  Understand?  And if necessary, I am accepting full responsibility.  Including whatever Captain Donah decides."

Hoggard: He snaps to like a Marine, and salutes, "Yes, Sir!"  And LtCmdr Hoggard proceeds to gather his engineering team together, including the engineers and technicians of the Martian Queen.

Hadmer: Looks to Captain Donah, pauses, and says, "I don't care what it takes, if this is a cloaking device, I want it installed now!"  He then proceeds to leave...

It will help to do so...  Notice the bolding for each NPC...
Tip #18
As I look through these tips, I realize I have broken several of them at least once and some I don't do at all.

So the tip is, some or all of these tips are situational and others are overall posting/process orietated. There are several suggestions here so given them a try and see what works for you.
Tip # 19
Make Rules Lawyers work for you by asking for help with the game.
Tip #20
Start small and build the game starting with an engagement. If your game will be action oriented - make the engagement an early battle. If your game will be roleplaying intensive - make the engagement interactive with lots of vocal NPCs.  If your game will be horror - start with a scene of horror, shock or mystery.    You only get 1 shot for that first engagement and you need to deliver what you promised from day one. Failure will result in a game spiraling towards failure very quickly.

Tip #21
State your intentions and your expectations up front. Players will play for you, but only if they understand what system you intend to use, how you intend to use it, and what kind of game it will produce.  They will only play successfully for you if you let them know what you expect up front - most importantly 3 things:
a) How should they post their actions.... what tense (past, present, future, etc.) and what person (I do, or He does)
b) How do they handle thoughts in their posts... some games require posts to be all actions and verbal and no thoughts... others allow any kind of posting - share your rules and it eliminates issues later.
c) How frequently should everyone be posting - including the GM

Tip #22

Here is an article I wrote for our players while my wife was alive.

How to RUIN your campaign

The following is included for light heartedness or comic relief. But if you want to Ruin a Campaign, then follow some of the below suggestions.

For everything you can do to improve and sustain your campaign as a GM, there are many more things you can do to ruin it. Here, for your interest and entertainment, are the top ten sure-fire ways that you, as GM, can utterly destroy your campaign.

#1) Never Let Your Player Characters Be Best At Anything. PCs like to be considered experts in their fields, and it is your job to make sure they understand that they really are not. Always have an NPC around who is better at the PCs Skills and profession. If you have both a PC and NPC available to perform a task, make sure the NPC gets to do it. When your heroes are overwhelmed by enemies, have your NPCs save them. EVERY SINGLE TIME. And do not forget the experience factor; as your heroes get more experienced, make sure that the common grunt enemy gets tougher also. That way the PCs will never get cocky.

#2) Make Sure the Plot and NPCs Are More Important Than the PCs. Make sure that the plot and the NPCs you worked so hard to create are not seriously disturbed by the actions of the PCs. Do not hesitate to force the PCs back into the plotline as you have conceived it. The NPCs will do a better job without them anyway.

#3) Force Your PCs Into Roles Their Players Hate. If a hero wants to be shiny and respected, frame him for murder and make everyone hate him. If a hero wants to be happy, kill his lover and/or family. And do not forget about deliberately crippling and scarring the heroes for plot effect.

#4) Introduce Genre Conventions Your Players Hate. Whose Campaign Is This, Anyway? If you want to do a tragedy or a romance, even though your players hate these themes, go right ahead. If, by chance, you actually tell the players your plans ahead of time, and they say they do not like the idea, reassure them that you will not do it, but then sneak it in anyway. By the time they notice, they will be in love with the way you are doing things and won't mind anyway. Really!

#5) Over complicate!! This is fun. Create massively complex plots with clues flying about like clouds of bats. Then make the players feel like idiots when they cannot figure things out. Better still, have your NPCs explain everything to them. Another way to keep things complicated: Invite too many players! After all, if six players is the perfect group, then twelve is twice as perfect.

#6) Always Obey Die Rolls; Never Surrender the Scene. A PC has come up with a brilliant way to defeat the villain, and all the other characters have pitched in, and everyone is tired and ready to finish this spectacular story and go home. The situation is just like the climax of a superior comic book. If, after all this, our hero botches his roll, he has failed. The fight keeps going, until the heroes win or lose for real. And remember, nothing keeps a combat going longer than making sure unconscious villains get all their recoveries.

#7) Drone. When game mastering, use narration rather than acting out the interaction and dialogue between PCs and NPCs. Narrate the adventures climax. Describe things at a staggering level of detail, down to the number of buttons on the NPCs costume. Do not ever get agitated and theatrical. Keep telling yourself, "It is only a game."

#8) Get to Know Your Players, and Step On Their Psychological Limitations. Find out what your players want out of a campaign, and by denying them the things they most want, show them just who is in charge. If a player is a Romantic, give him no NPCs for relationships. Or, even better, have all his NPC associates die just as the relationship is getting interesting (this is high drama!). If the player is a Combat Monster, make sure all of his encounters are thinking encounters. Do not forget the player's lesser irritations: If for instance, the players truly dislike a recurrent villain, have him show up all the time. If they have a dislike of their Vulnerabilities and Secret IDs being known, then start the campaign with the villains already knowing them.

#9) Use Characters As Leverage On Their Players. Try making this announcement: "If you are not here on time, I shall start tearing up your character sheets." You'll like it. And so will they…

#10) Ignore Complaints. Finally, some of your players may tell you that they are not enjoying themselves and that they would if you would just change a few things. DON'T!!

Copyright © 1993 - 2008 by Richard MF Runyan. Copyright © 2007 - 2008 by Concept Visions.

Tip #23

As a GM you should check your PBP game(s) A LOT.  We get annoyed when players don't post very often, so we shouldn't be hypocrites.  Players really like when they post something, and check an hour later and find that the GM has already responded to their post.

Real life does get in the way of games, but even when that is true, try to post SOMETHING even if it is a quick post.  If you are going to be gone for awhile, let your players know.

Tip #24

Similar logic to Tip #15, it's almost always a good idea to use pre-generated characters. The cycle of question/response means character generation, that can usually take up all or most of one session (a few hours) face to face can end up taking weeks or months in PbP depending on how fast you and your players cycle the back and forth. . .

If you do allow for personal character creation, then don't be discouraged when it takes time, and be doubly careful to follow tip #23 above. . .check in often to speed the process up. . .if it takes a week or two, the players will stay on board, but if it takes 2 months, you may loose your players before you even get started.

Tip #25

This relates to tip #11, and tip #24. . .

When starting a game, and introducing the characters, I find it's best to start them off in solo threads. This allows the player to actually settle into their character "in a vacuum". This way, their persona and quirks will settle down and exist with them as a unique individual.

If you start off a party of brand new characters all together, then they will be settling into their uniqueness at the same time as they settle into their intra-party relationships, and I really think the end result is much richer and better if the player has a clear mental picture of who their character is as an individual before they start bending and accomadating to "join the party".

With games where everyone starts from the first post in a thread together, archetyping tends to be much more pronounced, and characters trend toward more mechanical, with their personalities more defined by their role in the group then as distinct, unique individuals.

26: don't force yopur PCs down a too limited set of character options and not allowing them the freedom of action.

27: Give the PCs their logical Influence on you campaign's plots RPGs are about GROUP story creatio, not the GM creating a story and narrating it to the players.Sometimes the players get to affect the outcome of events too.

I'll try and keep it up to date as more tips get added. Feel free to comment, but to add to the list, you're gonna have to start a game here and get inside. . . .
« Last Edit: March 30, 2010, 01:37:06 AM by Celedor »
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Offline Langthorne

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Offline illucypher

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Re: How to GameMaster Play-By-Post (Help, tips and Advice for GMs)
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2008, 10:01:20 AM »

Nice first post :)

I fully agree ALL Elves are evil..............but I DO have a big soft spot for Dark Elves

Enjoy your time here and I hope you find a game to join (check out the recruitment thread here to see what's available.....

Happy roleplaying :)

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Sang Sur Mes Dents (Call of Cthulhu), gothic horror in Victorian London after Vampirism has been made legal. On hold but coming back.......

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Offline Celedor

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Re: How to GameMaster Play-By-Post (Help, tips and Advice for GMs)
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2008, 05:49:58 PM »
added 22-25
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Offline Celedor

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Re: How to GameMaster Play-By-Post (Help, tips and Advice for GMs)
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2010, 01:37:31 AM »
added 26 and 27
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