*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
August 10, 2022, 12:10:19 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 60 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Play-by-Post roleplaying and the order of events  (Read 5565 times)
badidea
Member

Posts: 3


« on: March 26, 2007, 03:06:06 AM »

OK, so, first post in this forum...I apologize if I misuse any of the terminology

I'm working on trying to create a game specifically for the online message board/play-by-post (PbP) format, rather than the "everyone sits in someone's living room and talks" format that most systems seem to assume (or even encourage). In a PbP game, players are participating in the game as their real-world schedule dicates; one player might make their post from work at noon, another at home after the evening news, etc. My experience has been that a lot of things that work when everyone is immediately involved in what's going on right in front of them do not work when people are writing a single post every 1-2 days to describe their actions/scene/what have you. Specifically, in any form of conflict with recurring turns, where the players need to declare what they are doing (such as combat in many RPGs).

To use the easiest examples, in D&D, everyone has an Initiative number and players must act on that number, which in a PbP situation can lead to added delays while everyone waits for "Initiative 20" player to post before "Initiative 19" player can post, even if "Initiative 19" is ready to post at 9:00 am and "Initiative 20" player never sits down at his computer before 10:00 pm. Poor "Initiative 3" player must wait until all other players have posted, possibly days, which is a harsh penalty for rolling low. A system like Champions is even worse in this situation, since "speedster" players might act 8-10 times before a slow-moving "brick" character can throw a single punch. The "brick" player will need to wait through a number of player-GM interactions over the course of possibly days before getting to do anything, even if they're the only two players in the game.

Therefore, I'm trying to establish a method of taking turns that doesn't need to occur in a specific order. Each player can write their post concerning what their character is "doing" this "turn" (whether that turn is a one second sword swing or an evening's surveilance) without there needing to be a specific order of turn-taking. Once all players (or all players whose characters are influencing the events) post, the GM can essentially "collate" their posts into his own post, in chronological order when it matters, in which he describes the results of the players' actions. In effect, it's supposed to be like simultaneously handling Intent, Initiation, and Execution for each player (by that player's post), with the GM batting cleanup with an Effect post.

My problem is this: My initial experiences are that players do one of three things.
1.) Players tend to avoid taking any action that hinges even one bit on another player's actions, because they don't want to be stuck in the situation where the other player fails (or worse, doesn't attempt) an action that they are hoping for. This leads to every player essentially working entirely on their own in a conflict, which pretty much squashes any attempt at establishing a "team" feeling or any sense of camraderie between characters. Example: Wizard wants to cast a sword-enhancing spell on the fighter, but doesn't do so because he doesn't know if the fighter is going to close with the enemy or pull out his bow and fire. Wizard thus instead casts a fireball.
2.) Players deliberately withhold posting until another character acts first, so that they might evaluate the situation based on the other player's post, which essentially brings us right back to the problem of some players waiting for other players (although at least I suppose now it's player-driven, rather than system-ordained). Example: Wizard waits two days until after fighter posts and declares his intention to charge, then posts announcing his sword-enhancing spell.
3.) Players include an enormous amount of "if-then" statements in their posts, leading to something that looks like a TRS-80 threw up on my screen. This is fairly tedious to sort through for the GM, especially if it turns into attempts to cover every possible situation that could ever pop up. Example: Wizard says if fighter draws sword, I cast Spell A, if fighter fires bow, I cast Spell B, unless fighter fires bow and cleric heals, in which case I cast Spell C, assuming rogue doesn't take actions Q, P, or X.

I've considered a "first-come, first served" basis, where each player takes their actions in whatever order they manage to get online to post them. The main drawback is that a player who posts near the same time of day as the GM will possibly have a disproportionate influence on events, since he'll often end up as the first person to decide what to do with the information the GM presented (and can thus close off certain responses from other players; it's tougher to fast talk your way out of being arrested late in the round if the person who went first stabbed the guard in the stomach). In many games, such a disproportion exists in whatever character has the highest "Initiative" or "Speed" or whatever, but those are system-created disproportions, not ones based on real-world concerns like your time zone. Besides, if you get a flat tire on the highway and are 3 hours late coming home from work, it seems somewhat cruel to then have to also be the last person to post your actions for the day in your online game.

Anyone have any thoughts on this problem, or what might be done to allow players to post their actions in whatever order is convenient without leading to one of the problems I've mentioned above?
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2007, 12:56:22 AM »

Hi,

What's the actual designs needs? For example, having a first come, first serve might be unpleasant for some players but still meets the games goals. That means the upset player has chosen the wrong game to play.

Rather than looking at what upsets players, what's some of your goals for the game - things that you want to get done with it? We can work backwards from them and work out how to handle turn order.
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
badidea
Member

Posts: 3


« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2007, 07:33:29 AM »

My goals for the game are to not upset its players.

Maybe I'm missing what you are asking here, but I would think the goal would be to have a game that was pleasant for the players to play--that is, if "first come, first served" is unpleasant, it can't possibly meet the game's goals. Saying, "If you don't like it, play another game" seems somewhat dismissive. And more to the point, *I* don't like it, and I don't really see the point in investing a lot of energy designing a game that would upset me if I were playing it.

I suppose the goal would be for every player (except probably the GM) to have an equal opportunity to affect the game's outcome, such that no player is consistently reduced in his or her ability to choose from a wide range of possible actions after being dispensed information about the effects of their last actions. Or, more specifically, that any such reduction in options is solely a result of choices they made when either constructing their character ("You have a low score in X, you have to act last) or taking previous actions ("You decided to go the tavern, you can't influence what happens at the castle.") but NOT the details of their day-to-day real world life. The entire point of developing a play-by-post focused roleplaying game is to facilitate roleplaying experiences among people who have difficult schedules and cannot get together in real-world groups because of work, family, or other commitments. Telling those people that they now also have less influence over the game because they have work, family, or other commitments and they should either suck it up or go play another game undercuts the entire purpose of the design's existence.

My audience for the game will be the people who are most likely to be upset by the "first come, first served," plan. There aren't any other "needs" for the design other than to serve the specific goals of the potential players--people who can't get together for face-to-face roleplaying. Everything else is flexible.
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2007, 09:02:31 AM »

My goals for the game are to not upset its players.

Maybe I'm missing what you are asking here, but I would think the goal would be to have a game that was pleasant for the players to play--that is, if "first come, first served" is unpleasant, it can't possibly meet the game's goals. Saying, "If you don't like it, play another game" seems somewhat dismissive. And more to the point, *I* don't like it, and I don't really see the point in investing a lot of energy designing a game that would upset me if I were playing it.
Some people don't play chess because it's upsetting to lose pieces. However, it's essential to the design goals of chess that pieces are likely to be lost.

Clearing things up, I haven't recommended "designing a game that would upset", so I'm not trying to defend that idea. Basically from what I've seen, for every designer who pursues what they really enjoy, there is a demographic who really doesn't enjoy that. People like different things - if this were cooking and you were adding hot spices, then you'd be putting off the people who don't like hot spices.

Do you want to design something you'll really enjoy playing? Well, if my theory is some what right then there are people out there who'll get upset at your game.

We could work on the perfect PBP turn interface that upsets no one. But if you manage to make one, but then go on to make a game you enjoy, that'll (as I observed above) go and upset someone, defeating the purpose of making a perfect interface.

Unless your going for "I'm not interested in enjoying the game, I'm just interested in enjoying there being happy players". Which is another kettle of fish and I'll save commenting until I know, as I've probably gone on some obtuse line of thought with this post anyway. Sad
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
badidea
Member

Posts: 3


« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2007, 09:37:43 AM »

Then, if I'm understanding what you're getting at, the design goal would be to adapt the roleplaying game experience to the PbP format with no loss of fairness or equality of influence (except any that you choose to take on through your chargen choices). In other words, the perfect interface would BE the point, such that if people get upset, it should be for other reasons. You're right, no one is happy with everything all of the time. I'm saying that for this game at this time, though, catering to the specific needs of the PbP player are the priority. The rest of the game will flow from what I can or cannot manage to do with the PbP format.

Think of it as "bottom up" RPG design. Instead of starting with the big picture and working out the Techniques and Ephemera later, I'm trying to nail the exact Techniques/Ephemera first to facilitate a specific way of playing that is dictated by the time and space constraints of playing on a message board (instead of face-to-face). What sort of game that then lends itself to, I have no idea yet. But a chief recurring complaint of people attempting to play existing (especially "traditional") RPGs on a message board is that they spend too much time waiting for a specific person to post, with a close second being that people who can post more often get more "screen time" than those that can't. And those are somewhat contradictory complaints, so I am trying to find a middle ground between the two.

To use your cooking analogy about hot spices, I'm not worried that by cooking with hot spices, I will put off people who don't like hot spices. I'm concerned that if I declare that I have cooked with hot spices, I better damn well USE hot spices or the people who actually like hot spices will show up and say, "That isn't hot at all, why did he bother?" The "first come, first served" model for posting fails to address the point of the design, which was to adapt the tabletop experience to the message board experience with a minimum loss of efficiency and equality. The very people most likely to be interested in a PbP roleplaying design are also the people most likely to be upset by "first come, first served" precisely because if they wanted it to be unfair, they could have thought of that on their own and not wasted their time reading my game.
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2007, 07:47:55 PM »

Hi again,

Well I do see it as bottom up design, and I'm against that method. To me it's rather like setting up the bathwater first, then latter designing the baby to fit that bathwater. Here I think it's designing the interface and latter onthe baby/point of the game will somehow get kludged in to fit that interface, in my mind.

That's just my estimate though - I thought you might be designing the interface first out of habit (many designers seem to), but I was wrong. If you've got a definite focus on bottom up design, then that'll end up being useful in seeing how it goes.

I'll give it some thought, given that your taking on bottom up design, and see if I can think of anything in the next few days. Keep in mind the forge doesn't move ultra fast - other posters may take a few days to reply as well Smiley
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2007, 09:22:04 PM »

Okay, keeping in mind that this will probably still upset someone (who was expecting an entirely different 'baby' in terms of play).

Players have dramatic twist points, which they get every X days of real life (not game time). Players normally give their actions and there is a cut off day by which they have to get it in (say it's two days from the date the GM asks for actions). However, if after making their move but seeing another players action, they can spend a twist point and change their action to whatever they want - this extends the cut off day by one day, so other players can use twists if they wish (but this doesn't extend the cut off any further).

On the 'working as a team' problem - if players don't need to work as a team, then they don't. If the adventure is a soft, cozy one then that's it for team building (by that means). If it's not cozy, it'll probably wreck the player who really isn't interested in anything but soaking up the game world (and sometimes creating, though they usually don't see it that way), cause they don't care to surmount challenges.

Probably easier to just 'generic' the team spells - it just gives a bonus to hit with whatever weapon, on the whole group. That way the player might atleast do it for themself, but the others feel the effect of him being on the team. And I'd design some bonus every member can give to the team - including fighters.
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
josephcarrington
Member

Posts: 3


« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2007, 10:44:31 AM »

Perhaps you could have one "turn" per day, and each player can state their actions for that day. If they do not post something in particular they are doing for that turn, then they have a generic action that they do, similar to those d&d computer games where everyone in the party that your not directly controlling just does what they are expected to do; ie if your character is in a battle, but you dont "take" a tun that day, than the GM just has you attack whatever seems like the most likely target. If you manage to have one turn per day than it seems a character wouldnt get TOO upset about losing direct control of their character, as they could just post what they intend to do on the next turn. Also, these generic actions could be specified by the character, so at least they made the decision about what they wanted their character to do on a general level. As for the teamwork problem, maybe just have your GM arbitration occur at or around the same time each day, and allow people to edit their posts up until that time.

Just some thoughts...
Joe
Logged
Mike Sugarbaker
Member

Posts: 108

|>


« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2007, 04:04:18 PM »

Here are a couple of possible ways to address the team-actions problem, that might be useful either separately or in tandem (or might not be useful at all):

1) You cold have all actions in a combat take two posts - one to warm up and one to actually take effect. This would give players time to see what others are doing and adapt to it. It would also lend a more drawn-out, anime-ish feel to combat (by anime-ish I just mean the long shots where the background is going by in a blur and the heroes are screaming things and leaping 40 feet for no reason - dramatic as all hell but not the most realistic thing on the planet). Players could then easily adapt their warmed-up actions to aid one another (this is assuming that the characters start out awesome enough to do two things at once).

2) there's a tabletop system called Agon that implements a rule called Oaths. Every character starts the game either owing or being owed an Oath to one of the other characters; the player who is owed an Oath can call for the other character's help at any time, simply narrating in the other's action along with his own. Agon's system is a bit more complex than what I'm setting out here but you could adopt a simple version wherein everyone starts the game being owed an oath from one other player, and calling in the oath means you owe them an oath in return. Obviously this gives players some limited control over each other's characters, but this doesn't usually cause problems when it's restricted to combat situations, and when characters are given a fairly free hand to reposition themselves tactically (so it's harder to screw another character by making him come over and help you out instead).

Again, these are offered in the hopes that they will be useful, but without warranty. I don't really have a great understanding of PbP play, and reading all this has been really helpful for me, so thank you!
Logged

Publisher/Co-Editor, OgreCave
Caretaker, Planet Story Games
Content Admin, Story Games Codex
MatrixGamer
Member

Posts: 582


WWW
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2007, 05:02:57 AM »

I really like play by post/play by email games. This is partly though because I long ago abandond standard RPG methods.

In the late 80's I ran a PBM game sent in Prussian in 1241 (the year before the Mongols arrived.) Players sent in orders and I wrote responses to them. Some sent in a line and expected a line back. Some sent in a paragraph and expected a paragraph back. One player sent in a novel EVERY TURN and wanted a novel back. He killed me. Since the game was totally GM dependent it killed the game as well.

Not long after that I started work on Matrix Games. A lot of the initial play testing of them was done in PBMs so as rules they are perfectly adapted to play by post.

The players start off with an initial scenario write up - just like a lot of games. There is a cast of characters and the players have some clue about what they are suppose to do in the game (solve a mystery, defend a treasure or person, etc.) The players each pick a character to champion in the game. Sounds, familiar, right? It is that way to make it easy for players to get into the mind set of the game.

The actual play is what is different. Each turn a player makes up an argument for what they want to have happen next in the game. It would be like the players in my Prussian game writing a paragraph of orders but including the outcomes they wanted along with what they do. A referee decides how likely it is to happen which sets a "to happen" roll. In a PBM the referee rolls and reports the results back to all the players. There are few more rules (like counter arguments, secondary arguments for trouble and conflict, and speeding up the game) but essentially that is it.

This approach gives players a heck of a lot of control in the world and saves the referee from burnout.

This approach has nearly twenty years of play behind it - so I can solidly say it works and it doesn't piss of players. Some people don't want to play it righti up front but those who do play all seem to have a good time.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
Logged

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
Rich F
Member

Posts: 20


« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2007, 01:41:05 PM »

A pbm AD&D game I played viewed each combat as an individual turn, where you submitted your battle plan in whatever form you liked.  Once the scene had been set, e-mail conversations and plans where exchanged then turns sent.  It seemed to work well and treated the game as a series of scenes, rather than turns, using the soap opera design, ideally ending on some form of cliffhanger or crisis / decision point.
Logged
Lee-Anne O'Reilly
Member

Posts: 10

Going the long way round


« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2007, 10:22:43 AM »

Have you seen the suggestions in this thread? It deals with some related design challenges.

What are some other characteristics of a message board environment?
- parallel, linear threads
- text and hypertext
- easily referenced record of play
- webtools, either integrated or a click away
- potential audience
What else have we missed?

Are there ways to leverage these characteristics to get your outcomes?

Many PbP games already distinguish between IC (in character) and OOC (out of character) portions of posts, or even run a separate OOC thread. What if you explicitly split play this way, running one thread in which the group determines what will happen, and another slightly lagging thread in which they tell how it happens?

What if text is a currency in the game? If everyone can post 3000 words per week, they can have roughly the same impact on the game, though the impact of the clockwork poster is distributed differently than that of the weekend warrior. What if players choose how to distribute their word-currency amongst the regions of play? One player might write more to propose and determine what happens, while another who prefers narration can do more telling how it happens. (As a side effect, this might keep out of game chatter out of the play threads.)
Logged

Lee
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!