GSA: Play by Post part 2

Continuing our series of reposts from my articles on the fallen GSA website…

 Originally posted in 2012

Play-by-Post Part 2


Last time, I told you all about the often overlooked play-by-post RPG method. Today, I’ll outline a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up to help players and GM’s keep their games running smoothly and ensure everyone enjoys the experience.


Colorful Imagery

One of the biggest drawbacks of a play-by-post system is it involves a lot of words. As a writer, I’m personally a fan of words. I tell stories using nothing but words. But like everyone else, I also get bored with walls of text. Especially, when what I’m reading is supposed to be a fast based action adventure campaign.

One way to combat the dreaded wall of text is to color code your posts. The games I run in use a simple color system where spoken words are colored orange, GM notes about the mechanical results of an action are yellow, and OOC comments and rulings are red. This allows a player or GM to scan a post and find the important bits when they are formatting their reply.

Most forums also allow for the insertion of images into posts. This is a great tool for a GM to provide players with an image to go along with the scene. Have a scary monster your players need to kill? In addition to describing it, insert an image so they all know how horribly they are going to die.


Combating Combat

A major drawback of play-by-post is the slowness of combat. When everyone needs to post an action for each round of combat, and you’re fighting a Big Bad Evil Guy who has enough HP that will require five or six good hits to bring down, and everyone keeps missing because he’s just that good, the encounter could takes months to finish.

In my groups first game we ran into this problem before getting anywhere close to the BBEG. Just an encounter with competent minions, took almost three weeks. We all got kind of bored with it.

There are a few ways to deal with this. One simple suggestion is to have the players let the GM know what reactions you might take and then let him roll these for you. Playing Star Wars Saga as a Jedi with Deflect. Instead of making the GM post you got shot and asking if you want to use it, save time and have the GM post you got shot, deflected and survived.

Another option is to work in several rounds of combat into one. This can be less cinematic, as you don’t have a lot of freedom to vary your actions, but also speeds up those scenes where people are just shooting at each other several times rounds in a row. By posting I shoot at the gangster for the next three rounds, or until he’s dead, and then rolling 3 times, you can bypass these extensive scenes.

Then there is the option to avoid combat entirely. By turning each encounter into more of a Skill Challenge, you can avoid the mess of initiative and needing to kill everything. This can be a tricky thing to pull off, especially since most games build player feats/talents/skills around fighting round to round, but it can also create some memorial events. And it allows those non-combat heavy characters to contribute better to a resolution.


Out of Character

Play-by-post games can greatly enhance the depth and details of a story, but they do this at the expense of player interaction. It’s hard to joke around with your buddies when you’re posting your actions on a forum. Throwing in a bunch of non relevant comments in with your posts can also make it hard for people to follow along and more easily derail a campaign than they would when done around a table.

The best way to avoid this is to have a separate thread for OOC chatter. This can be a great thread for people to post up their thoughts about the campaign, congratulate each other on the nat 20 roll, laugh when the dreaded 1 comes up. Unconscious characters can post in the OOC thread without messing with the games flow.

I hope you find some of theses suggestions useful to your play-by-post games. Keep the adventure going.

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