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Tips for Play-By-Post Game Masters

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Play-by-post is (for me) a very comfortable method of running a game. I am the type of guy who always second-guesses myself - my memory has never been very good. So I like to look things up for the warm fuzzy feeling of being accurate. It gives you the time to do that without delaying the game noticeably, where-as if you tried that at the table, your players would get kind of pissed at you after a while I'm sure.

Here are some things that I have picked up along the way. Take it or leave it.

1) Trust that you will lose probably 1/4th of your player base within the first month. Don't be afraid to start with extra players. It's a little extra work in the beginning, but when one of your five characters suddenly bails on you, and you really only needed four for the adventure, then the choice is yours what to do with that extra character.

2) As the game goes on, keep notes for the players to refer back to. A list of important NPCs, or the list of quests, rumors heard, etc. Players are often plagued with short-attention spans. Don't expect them to remember something that happened three months ago, when in game time it might have only been a couple days. You can also provide links in the lists to the actual in-game threads so they can hit the list, find the name, click on the link, and go right to the in-game thread to remind themselves.

3) Maps and Pictures add a lot to a game, especially in play-by-post. Maps are incredibly useful during combat. It's a bit of work sometimes updating a map image... but luckily there are a ton of different tools you can use to make that work easier.

4) On the user profiles, it actually says when you have last been on and when you have last posted. If a player has not posted for a while, check his profile to see about his online activity before you decide what to do about it. If he's been active, just not in your game, send him a PM to jab him into activity. Maybe he just forgot.

5) When a player goes missing / awol / or on vacation, you might have to NPC the character to keep the story going and the other characters interested. If you wait indefinitely for a player to return, your game will suffer for it. Keep the action moving, let the missing player catch up when he returns. His character takes a more passive role, but still has a pulse for the time being... until you get tired of waiting and off the slag.

6) Have fun! The number 1 rule. If it seems too much like work, you're not going to like it and you won't keep up with it. So enjoy it - or don't do it.

7) There may be times when you are bogged down with real life, things that are occupying 95% of your time. You may feel the need to just let the game sit for a while and you'll come back to it when things calm down. Most of the time when that happens, the people don't come back to their game, or if they do they find all but one or two of their players have abandoned the game. So if you feel that happening to you, my suggestion is to keep the game going. Make your posts shorter if you have to. Use less detail. Don't worry about time-extensive duties like maps or whatever... just keep the game going in baby steps. Keep the players interested so that you have something to come back to.

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