This is the setting for WoldianGames.com, an online D&D world founded for a tabletop game in 1985 and played continuously online since January 1998. And the feature that makes it a good fit for the rhythms of a PBM audience? The Wold is a play-by-post game, with players checking in once a day, reading the posts from the game master and the other players, and then making their own daily post. Disclaimer and disclosure -- I refer to the Wold a lot below because I love it and I help run it. But you can use the tips in this article to run a great PbP game anywhere.
Of course, people love D&D and other PRGs. And they love playing games online. There are forums upon forums filled with players seeking DMs and DMs starting games. Here at Erfworld.com, we have our own forum for PbP gaming. But there are a few things that most of these games lack … things that make the Wold stand out. Based on my own 15 years of experience in these games, here are five tips to make your play-by-post game a long-lived success:
1) Set Regular, Frequent Deadlines
Some PbP games have an irregular schedule, with turns advancing when all the players have posted, or just whenever the game master has a chance to get online. At first, turns are processed daily, then a couple times a week, then a couple times a month. Player interest lags, and the game dwindles and dies.
In the Wold, players must post every weekday. Sixty-odd players make about eight games, each with eight player characters and a GM – that makes a required nine posters, five posts a week, in eight games, for an ideal 360 posts a week total. The Wold has a Sherriff who tracks posting, and he reports that the Wold falls short of that ideal by about 20 to 30 posts a week. His weekly reports are widely distributed, highlighting games with good records, and noting those that need improvement. Players who miss too many posts are encouraged to step up, or get a substitute to take over their character, or maybe take a short break. This expectation for consistent posting, fostered by a community standard and active empathic engagement, keeps players invested in a game they know will not falter.
2) Develop A Reserve Bench
The real world always throws a spanner into your plans for a smooth-running game. People move or change jobs or get married. Computers and cars and enthusiasm dies. People get burned out. There WILL be turnover in every online game. For the vast majority of PbP campaigns, that means the players fall below a critical mass, or the game master falls off the map. The game ends with a whimper. But there are ways around that. Run the game with a co-GM, which not only helps prevent burnout but keeps the game running if one game master quits. Decide on an ideal number of players, and aggressively recruit new ones as soon as there is a vacancy. Keep a reserve waiting list of people who might be interested in the game.
In the Wold, playing eight to ten campaigns in the same game world means that there is always an extra GM to step in. That’s especially true since co-GMs are the rule. Each game also has an “Assistant DM” a player in the game who steps in when a game master is on vacation or falls sick, and who is often a game master in training. With a deep bench of active members, a player in the Wold can usually find a substitute to take over in emergencies.
3) Foster A Sense Of Community
The lesson we learn from Facebook and social media is that people like to connect with each other. For a long-lived game, provide ways for your players to become friends rather than just gaming acquaintences. Encourage out of character chat, jokes, and stories. And in game, look for ways to foster in-character friendship as well.
In the Wold, there are out-of-character boards for real life chit-chat, as well as a weekly lottery to encourage posting. There is a board to discuss rules, and another to debate politics and other controversial topics. There is an in-character board where characters from different games can meet, get to know each other, and even play games and mini-adventures. Whenever a new person joins, every member is encouraged to send the newbie a welcome letter with some personal details about themselves. Also, GMs are rotated every so often from game to game, so that players get to experience different GM styles and so that our GMs get to know more people on the site. The fact that the Wold is entirely free (zero cost) also makes the members “friends” and “volunteers” rather than “customers” and “staff.”
4) Offer Rich Content To Keep Players Interested
For a short game, a prepackaged module set in a bland generic world is fine. But if you do not offer your players a rich gaming environment, with a detailed setting and interesting rules options to explore, they will get bored.
The Wold has a decades-long history of creative development, with a unique cosmology, 20 gods and demigods, two new base classes, four unique races, 28 Woldian prestige classes, 14 campaign feats, new spells, magic items, monsters, and more. The vast majority of that content is found in the "Woldipedia," a 930-page wiki. The Wold has also evolved with the game, from D&D 2.0 to D&D 3.5 to the Core Pathfinder flavor of D&D. This richness gives players a feeling that the Wold is a special place, not just a bland clone of a packaged setting – and that keeps them coming back.
5) Embrace Churn
It is inevitable that players (and game masters) will come and go. Some game organizers try to ensure stability by setting a high barrier to entry. If a player has to submit an application, or pass a test, or submit references, then the players who jump through the hoops will prove that they are devoted. However, my experience is that even devoted players may come and go.
There is another philosophy. People will rotate in and out of your games – that's a feature, not a bug, because with time you select for players who do well in your setting. Let players enter your game freely, and leave freely, and eventually the ones who like the game and do well in it will stick around. The Wold, for example, features a "no application or tryout policy." It is easy to join, and easy to leave. Those who end up staying prove themselves just by staying. In time, your stable of stable players grows.
Endnotes & Resources
In addition to the links embedded above, there are tons of resources out there online. Here are a few nore notable ones.
Here's a nine-year-old (gasp) article I wrote on PbP gaming that included interviews with two people running PbP sites.
A comprehensive series of 20 articles on PbP gaming from Alisha Brock at the Knoxville RPG Examiner. She covers IC and OOC terminology, characters, scenery, writing posts, and more.
A blog post by Eric Martindale on the best play-by-post roleplaying sites.
A Gaming Security Agency blog post on Tips and Tricks for PbP Gaming.
Here are a number of places to try PbP gaming:
Tim Harper's PbP vlog: Play By Post RPGs Via Forums.
Written by Cayzle of Cayzle's Wemic Site
NOTE: User was awarded 50 Shmuckers for this submission -Rob
by J.M. Perkins – author of The Adequate Commoner – the everyman’s guide to surviving and thriving.
1. When in Doubt: Run Away!
Normal adventurers don’t retreat often, assuming (usually) that any challenge they are likely to face is ‘balanced’ to their level. Commoners never have this luxury, and so you should run away whenever things appear like too much to handle. As a matter of fact, whenever possible they attempt to prep the environment so they can more easily retreat which allows them to more readily use the next tactic of…
2. Hit and Run
Also known as the most basic (and most effective) tactic to help technically ‘inferior’ forces overcome their betters. You don’t have to kill that fell monster tonight: assuming it can’t heal itself you can pepper it with a few crossbow bolts, run away, pepper it with a few crossbow bolts, rinse and repeat until the monster is dead. As a commoner, you’re going to be using tactics that are much closer to ones found in the real world.
3. Use Reach Weapons
A longspear, or other weapon with reach, gets you a free attack as the monster is charging up and can even be used to completely deny your opponents their hard won iterative attacks depending on your rules you’re using to play*. Don’t go to them, let them come to you and eat the tip of your longspear in the process… wait that, that came out wrong.
(see the Adequate Commoner for more information)
4. Don’t Ever Enter how your Enemies Expect
See that door? The door you’re supposed to walk through, the one that your enemy has trapped and planned an ambush around? Yeah, screw that. Use a magic scroll or even a magic item (or when worse comes to worse, explosives or hard work) to make a door where you want it (or better yet, walk up to the higher level of dungeon and come in through the roof).
5. Use the Environment to Your Advantage Instead of Letting them Use it to Theirs.
Caltrops and marbles sound like home alone style tactics, but they’re surprisingly effective at denying your opponents freedom of movement so you can deny your enemy their movement. You can also move furniture, make dirt walls to provide yourself with cover.
6. Stealth is your Friend
Sneak everywhere: if you can avoid it, don’t be seen. Go around fights, murder the archmage final boss guy in their sleep, and in general don’t let your enemies (or even your friends) know where you are. You’ll never be as good at sneaking as a rogue, but given your armor limitations you can become quite skilled in it. There is no greater advantage than getting to unload your attacks before your opponents – especially if you can down them before they even had a chance to act.
7. Make PETA Condemn You, and Convince Your Vegan Party Members that You’re Evil Incarnate
There is no reason that you shouldn’t be raising and commanding a veritable army of trained war dogs to callously send off to fight and die in your place. Remember! Animals are replaceable, you are not.
8. Creative Use of Your Downtime Will Keep You Alive
Ordinary adventurers may get to kick back when not adventuring with a frosty mug of ale and a busty wench or well endowed boy-toy: after all, they’ve spent the last fortnight smashing stinking horrors in the city sewers. Well, you don’t have luxury – your downtime will be spent crafting alchemical lifesavers and/or getting to the library to research as much as you possibly can to gain whatever slight advantage possible over whatever beast you’re likely to shortly encounter.
9. The Name of the Game: Stacking Advantages and Disadvantages
A commoner vs a warrior? Commoner doesn’t have a chance. But that same warrior, hit with a tanglefoot bag or some other alchemical debuff, trying to cross a floor full of caltrops while sling bullets rain down, taking two attacks of opportunity from a longspear before he can reach his target? That’s a fight the commoner can win.
10. Did We Mention Running Away?
Seriously, you’re playing the weakest class in the game, the one that isn’t supposed to be used for gameplay – you can approach a problem multiple times waiting for the situation to be most advantageous to you before committing to violence. Remember, without magical healing any wounds you take are going to last a while if you’re not killed outright. A paranoid commoner is a commoner that lives to fight another day.
Want to learn more about advanced tactics, improvised traps, and how to survive and thrive as a clever everyman? Check out The Adequate Commoner live on Kickstarter today!
(This article originally appeared on Geek Native)
With the threat of the gods hanging over their heads, the Great Mages decide the best way to end all the fighting for control over the land would be to fight each other for control over the land. This is where you come in; you play as one of the great mages in this 4x genre strategy game. Using your magic, and your armies, your goal is to win total dominance over the land by either killing your rivals, defeating one of the god's avatars, casting the unity spell, or by capturing more than half of the holy grounds in the world.
You can watch the full video review here:
NOTE: Galdon was awarded 50 Shmuckers for this review!
Master of Magic is a 4x game (like Civilization) that offers so much I really can't boil it down into just a few sentences.
But I can direct you to a review I made (years ago) in which I did a decent job showcasing the game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ470zHEhDI
and also to more recent videos (I was challenged to create the worst wizard possible and play it): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GJ_Zx-muJs&list=PLSQLREUw9vwkSvEp4tPvu9XTKLM3vK2Z5&index=2
The game can be found on GoG, and I can highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy wargames to check it out.
Note: Sum Gai was awarded 50 Shmuckers for this submission
This case is a good example of how the most complicated issues can arise from the simplest rules in the simplest games. It came from a game called Hex Hex. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it’s essentially a card game version of hot potato. At the beginning of each round, a “Hex” token enters play. When the Hex is passed to a player, he or she must use one of his or her cards to pass it off to someone else. Inability to do so results in the player being “Hexed,” causing them to lose a point (called “voice”) and causing the person who passed them the hex to gain a point of voice. There are various ways the Hex can be modified and bounced around, most of which are irrelevant to this case and won’t be discussed here. The three most basic cards for passing off the Hex are Turn Aside Left, which passes the Hex to the player to immediately to your left; Turn Aside Right, which passes the Hex to the player immediately to your right; and Pass Across, which passes the hex to a person across the table. The first two cards are pretty self-explanatory and have never really caused any problems. Pass Across, while it might seem self-explanatory at first, is actually where the dispute arose.
The problem is that its effects can be dependent on the seating arrangement of the players. Consider a four player game in which there is one player sitting on each side of a square table, like so:
In this case, the interpretation is quite simple and easy to put into practice. Pass Across sends the Hex to the player directly across from the one who played the card. The problems enter when there are different numbers of players in different configurations. Consider, for example, a three player game in which the players are sitting at regular intervals around a circular table, like this:
No player has someone directly across from them. In addition, no matter who Pass Across sends the hex to, they could have been reached with a Turn Aside Left or Turn Aside Right card. Is Pass Across even a valid card in this scenario? This was actually the easiest scenario to resolve. As the game rules provide no real direction, in this case I would recommend allowing Pass Across to send the Hex to either of the other players. In this way, you avoid having a large section of the deck become entirely useless, as rendering Pass Across invalid would do. It is also in keeping with the somewhat vindictive, screw-the-other-guy-over spirit of the game (all in good fun, of course) by allowing players to choose who they wish to target with the Hex.
However, a three player game was, as I mentioned, the easiest difficulty to resolve. Consider instead a five player game taking place at a rectangular table, with two players on each length of the table and one at its head, as shown below:
Certain scenarios in this configuration seem quite simple. Player A plays a Pass Across card and sends the Hex to player E. Player D plays one and sends it to player B. The issues come in with that troublesome Player C. If each person can only use Pass Across to target the player directly across from them, then Player C cannot use the Pass Across card at all and no one can target him with it either. One could make the argument that Player C’s diminished capacity to receive the Hex is balanced by his diminished capacity to pass it on, but this line of thinking is not without its issues. The inherent randomness of dealing out a hand of cards could result in a scenario in which Player C has no Pass Across cards in his hand and thus is immune to a card that the other players likely possess while suffering no disadvantage for his immunity. Conversely, he could also be dealt a hand of nothing but Pass Across cards, and thus be entirely unable to act if the Hex is passed to him through other means.
Ultimately, though, this seems like a poor solution for the simple reason that it forces the rules to treat one player differently than the others in a game that is ostensibly supposed to be equally balanced. Now that we've ruled out the solution that we don’t want to use, it’s time to discuss what we actually do want to do in practice.
The solution my group came up with was to allow Pass Across to send the hex to anyone not adjacent to the one who played it. I will admit that this is not a perfect solution. It results in some counterintuitive restrictions. For example, Player A and Player E can no longer Pass Across to each other even though they are sitting directly across the table from each other. While it is not a perfect solution, it is a fair one. Each player can Pass Across to exactly two other players, and each player can receive a hex via Pass Across from those same two players. If you’re still bothered by the counterintuitive inability to Pass Across to someone directly across the table, try removing the table from your thinking and instead imagine the group just sitting in a circle all facing directly towards the center.
Perhaps more importantly though, this solution is good enough. By the time we reached this conclusion, my gaming group and I had discussed the issue for probably at least a half hour. Everyone was getting sick of the discussion and somewhat irritated with each other. At that point, it didn't really matter what solution we went with, as long as we got back to actually playing the game. This may sound ironic in a post dedicated to debating and discussing game rules, especially when I've already gone on so long on such an apparently simple issue, but rules debates in a game, while sometimes necessary, are frequently counter-productive. The most basic point of playing a game is to have fun, and a lengthy discussion on the finer points of the rules can bring that objective to a screeching halt. Those who don’t have a stake in the debate and aren't involved in it can get bored and irritated with the players who are holding things up. Those involved in the debate can get frustrated and even genuinely angry at each other if things go too far, always something to be avoided between friends if possible. The next time you’re playing a game and a rules question comes up and no obvious solution presents itself quickly, consider just conceding the point, even if it would put you at a disadvantage. Think about it this way: which would you rather do, reach a quick, amicable solution that allows you to keep playing, even if you are inconvenienced, or hold up play for an extended period of time by engaging in a debate with no clear answer just to gain an advantage?
That kind of debate is better held after the game, when there isn't so much riding on it and you’re not holding anything up by having it. Or better yet, write up the question and the arguments and send it in to email@example.com You and your friends can keep gaming, and that way, if the answer isn't what someone wanted, they can get mad at an anonymous person on the internet instead of at you.
Whew! Thanks for sticking with me through all of that folks, this was my first case and it kind of spiraled out of control in terms of length. If this gets a good response, I have more I can post soon, and the more you send in, the more I can post. My own gaming history can only provide so much, you guys have to provide the fuel if you want to keep this thing going. If you've got a case you'd like to submit, you can do so by e-mailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org, or posting or messaging it to www.facebook.com/SupremeCourtOfGaming.
NOTE: User was awarded 25 Shmuckers for this submission]]>
Hope you enjoy them!]]>