Game Pacing & Structure

Game Pacing & Structure

In preparation for this game, I've given a lot of thought to what differs between a table top game and a play-by-post game, and how to go about keeping the latter alive and kicking. The main point that everyone seems to agree on is that the GM needs to actively mind the game's pace and keep the plot moving.

So, rather than simply throwing out a required number of posts per day or per week, I'm going to go into a little more detail about what you can expect from me, and what I expect from you regarding the pace and structure of this game.

While it's true that I'd prefer roughly three or four substantive, weekly posts from each player, and even more when possible, I won't be waiting around for one or two players to post before I move the scene forward. It is not always necessary for every character to have commented before a particular scene moves forward, and in some cases, I've seen games grow stale because the GM was trying to be fair and wait for one or two stragglers. Timing is key. This comes into play differently in and out of combat, so I'll comment on each seperately:

Out of Combat Roleplaying
There is a fine line between allowing characters to develop by interacting with each other and with their environment, and keeping the plot moving forward at a steady pace. I'd like to see both happen successfully, so it will fall on all of us to navigate that line. Remember, a simple conversation that could take minutes in a table top game could consume days or weeks in play by post. We'll try to avoid prolonging things as often as possible.

On my end, I'll try to be aware of when important character development is present in a particular scene, and to let you all go back and forth with lively roleplaying when that is the case. At other times, when it is more important to keep things moving, if one or two characters have input on a scene, that may be enough. The others present will be assumed to have affirmed those actions or comments and we'll move forward. I'm going to reserve the right to move any scene forward after twenty four hours have passed since my last update. Of course, this won't always be the case, as I have things that pull me away too, but I'll keep that as a general guideline.

On your end, there are a few things you can be mindful of to help in this regard:

Communication is Key: Keep the lines of communication wide open with me and with each other. Make use of the OOC threads to discuss intentions and expectations. The clearer everybody is before posting in character, the more direct those in character posts will be. Don't be afraid to do a little out of character metagaming for the benefit of the overall plot. That is necessary in the slower pace of play by post.

Do More with Less: When you are ready to add an in character post, try to include as much as you can in a single post. Instead of asking a single question, ask multiple questions and let me answer them all in my next update. Don't get caught up making rolls for things like perception, knowledge, sense motive, etc... (I'll try to roll those for you as often as possible and include all relevant details in my updates). Be clear in OOC format what your character's intentions are, so that your fellow players aren't left guessing. And after we've become more comfortable with each other's style, don't be afraid to take a little literary liscense with a scene involving less important NPCs. We're telling a story together. You can direct it at times as good as I can.

The First Rule of Improvisation: The first rule of improv is that there are no negatives, meaning that if another performer adds something to a scene, you don't deny it. Instead, you do your best to build off of it and let the scene develop naturally. Now I don't expect this to be your reaction in every single case. Surely there will be circumstances where your character will want to disagree, disapprove or dissent, and that's fine; just something to keep in mind. Choose your battles.

Combat Scenes
First of all, group initiative will always be used for your enemies. Player characters will roll initiative individually. So the first round will start with the actions of the PCs who beat the enemy initiative, then the enemies will act, then the rest of the PCs, and we will proceed in that order until the fight is over.

When it is the PCs turn to act, you can post in any order you like, and I will place those actions in order of initiative (this is to account for players with differing schedules or who live in different time zones). I will provide battle maps and detailed summaries of ongoing effects and conditions so that all you have to do when you log in is post your character's actions for that single round, adding only the most recent modifiers.

There will be a strict time limit of twenty four hours per round in combat. If you have not posted actions for your character within that time, I will post appropriate actions for them. Of course there will be exceptions. At times, especially on weekends, I may not be able to update every twenty four hours, and at other times all four players may update more quickly and we will be able to fit multiple rounds into a single day.

You should feel free to provide me with conditional instructions for your character that I can use in the case you weren't able to post, or if a character who acted before yours nullified your posted actions (by killing your chosen target, for example). these instructions can be given to me in public or in private, and can be as detailed as you like. (examples: My character always starts with spell X, then moves into melee. My character always fights at range until it is no longer possible. My character always uses the best means of battlefield control and lockdown tactics. My character always seeks out and attacks enemy spellcasters first. My character never uses his most powerful spells/abilities unless they are in grave danger or facing a powerful "boss" opponent. The list could go on and on...)

In some cases, when the battle is already decided in your favor, I may call an early end to the round-by-round action and just narrate the outcome.

Experience & Leveling
It will be much easier for me to run this campaign, which is designed to take characters through fifteen plus levels, by leveling up your characters at certain points of the main plot, rather than basing it on experience points.

Experience points will still be calculated so that you can use them for things like crafting or casting spells with an xp component. I will give you a static total of xp at each level for these purposes.

In cases where the published campaign calls for plot-based experience bonuses, I may replace those with some other sort of bonus, so that you aren't pursuing goals for no reason.

Game Structure & Plot Development
This is probably the most important part of this thread. As I've mentioned numerous times throughout this process, this is a published adventure path with an established plot arc that will be followed. That is not to say that side plots and character specific hooks will not be followed. There will be allowances for those kinds of things; in fact, I rather prefer characters who leave these sort of "loose ends' to be pursued within the story.

I'll try my best not to give you the impression of not being "railroaded" in a certain direction, but for the most part, I'm not going to have the ultimate goal of the campaign veer too far from how it is written. So if you are the kind of player who has nightmares of being chased by the ever-present plot-monster, this may not be the game for you. I just want it to be established up front that by applying to this game, you are agreeing to join a game with a semi-structured plot arc, and not a sandbox.

This thread is meant as a reference, but I am leaving it open in case any of you have something to add. I'd like to get some feedback from potential players, especially on that last point.

I've read everything, and I am indeed happy to say that everything is fine from my standpoint. However, I do have one suggestion.

When it is the PCs turn to act, you can post in any order you like, and I will place those actions in order of initiative (this is to account for players with differing schedules or who live in different time zones). I will provide battle maps and detailed summaries of ongoing effects and conditions so that all you have to do when you log in is post your character's actions for that single round, adding only the most recent modifiers.
I would suggest that you reconsider this specific point. My proposition is to have it adapted to be more player-friendly. In such a way to allow the players inside the initiative groups to write their posts in order of posting, rather then initiative.
It does become a first come first serve basis, but it should not play a large role, since initiative is already a large factor in who beats the enemy initiative anyway.

What this brings is a sort of fluidity to the combat scenes, where a person is always aware of what happened before his turn, and where someone is standing. When a DM mixes up things, this can become a slight issue with "I move here".. oh noes, there's someone already there..
It is nothing big in terms of rules or anything else, but it does bring a fair positive point to PbP gaming.

Actually, I've already made that change in the other group's thread, just forgot to update it here. You're right, it makes things a lot easier than having to re-order things based on initiative.

The way it's now being handled is this: Enemies roll initiative as a group. Players roll individually. Any players who beat the enemy initiative get to act first in what I'm calling "round zero." Round one then begins with the enemy actions all posted in one update, and then the PCs are free to act in whatever order they post.

If problems arise with this method, or some players begin to have objections, we'll address those later.

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