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Thread: Drew's Soapbox: Seeing Games Through

  1. #1
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    Default Drew's Soapbox: Seeing Games Through

    Now that my current game is over I can post this and no one will think it's directed at them, because this isn't directed at anyone, I promise. I'd like to rant a bit, if I may, about the current state of PbP posting speed/dedication and how I believe it could be better.

    Look, online tabletop gaming in general can be slow because it's not happening live, and PbP is that much slower, but slow post rates are not what ultimately kills games. I believe, it's the player apathy behind the slow post rates that does that. In my years here, I've watched PbP game after PbP game wind down and eventually suffer a slow, nasty death. Most of the time, the GM would take the blame, thinking that maybe he could have done something different. He would end his game and graciously thank his players, never pointing a finger at any of them, never voicing a single accusation.

    But in almost every one of those situations it wasn't really the GM's fault. He was posting regularly, and you could tell he cared about his game and he was trying his best to keep his players posting regularly, too, but what can he really do in a PbP game when his players are scattered all over the world? Oh, sure, the games would start off at a crazy pace in the beginning, every player posting two, maybe three times a day in their excitement at beginning a new game. But it wouldn't take long before it would begin to taper off and slow down, that new game high leaving all of the players' systems, and before you know it even the most active game is suddenly getting no posts and is next in line to be ended prematurely by the GM.

    As a site where PbP is easily the dominant type of game being played right now, this really has no business happening so much and needs to end. We all need to pause, take a moment to look at this honestly and realistically, admit how ridiculous it is, and work together as an entire community to actually do something about it. Players need to regain their respect for the game, and also for the GMs who put their hearts and souls into these games to run them for free. GMs need to start being more strict and upfront about what they expect and stick to those expectations. GMs need to be making it crystal clear during recruitment that, if they expect a game where every player is required to submit one post per day, for example, then they'd better darn well get one post per day from every player for the life of the game. Yes, the entire life of the game. If that's what the GM asks for, applicants should take it seriously. And if any applicant thinks that there might even be a slight chance that they can't keep to that expected post rate for the entire game, then they should seriously not even bother to apply. Because apathy is contagious and they could be responsible for setting off the chain of events that leads to the death of that game.

    "But what if I end up not enjoying this game and I want to leave? What if it turns out to be not what I expected?" Too bad. You don't just bail. There's a story being told and it relies on the same characters being there from start to finish. You have to see it through. You have a responsibility to the others in your group and to the GM, and a lot of us seem to have forgotten what that means.

    Players, don't apply to games if you don't think you can stick it out even if it turns out to not be everything you expected. Show the community that you will stay anyway for the sake of the game, for the sake of the rest of the group, even when it's not 100% beneficial to just you. Inspire others. Prove to them that, even if you become disenchanted with a game, you're still capable of cultivating it instead of just killing it. Show people that. Be the change this site needs. Use the recruitment period to ask questions. Learn as much as you can before the game starts to find out if it's really where you want to be. It's an incredible opportunity and it's mostly wasted, as applicants usually just submit dice rolls and character sheets links.

    GMs, think long and hard before you begin recruiting, about whether or not you will actually be able to take your game to its finish. If you have doubt, maybe it's not time to run it just yet.

    I find it quite ridiculous how this pattern of early game death repeats itself over and over, how everyone can somehow find all the time in the world to post (sometimes multiple times daily) when a game is fresh and new and exciting, but then "RL events" suddenly become more powerful after some time passes and prevent the player from making timely posts, yet those same "RL events" seem to disappear when they start a different new game. I've even seen, dozens of times, people posting nice and regularly in the recruitment thread for a different game while ignoring their responsibility to the game they're in that's already running. You'd think they'd be too ashamed to openly behave that way, but because we all just kind of allow it, the shame behind that behavior kind of just disappeared a long time ago and now people engage in it all the time with no problem.

    This happens repeatedly to the majority of PbP games on the site and we all sit back and let it go down. It seems like we're cool with it. Like it doesn't bother us. We don't see it as a problem. We should. Whether we're the GM or just a player in the group, if we just quietly watch this kind of thing come to pass, that makes us complicit in this inappropriate way of handling (read: killing) PbP games. It's only become standard fare because we let it, not because it should be. It's been going on for so long that I bet a lot of you can't even imagine it being any different. I've seen lots of comments that amount to, "Yeah, that's just the way PbP is." No. It isn't. That's the way we've made it. And I believe that we can un-make it, too.

    There's a lot to be had by bringing back the player dedication to reaching the end of games. Did you ever play a game that not only reached its end (that's fun enough right there), but continued its story into a new game set a little bit later in the future? Maybe you got to play as the child of your previous game's character? Maybe you got some sweet hand-me-down gear from dad? Man, that kind of thing is so cool because the world already has lore that you helped write. You're already 100% invested from the first minute of the game. That's rare and awesome, but it isn't attainable unless the first game's protagonist was able to actually reach the end of the adventure and retire to start a business or a family or something. Too often our heroes instead end up forgotten in some sort of limbo in a game world that will never see its story's end, or they're mongrels whose sheets just keep getting reset and reworked over and over and over to start again and again in game after unfinished game, trying desperately to reach the end of at least one of them. Let's bring back the Endings. Let's get to that Last Line of Text. Let's recover the Epilogues. They're gone but not for good. We can bring them back if we raise the bar.

    This is going to be something I'll be heavily focusing on in all of my future recruitments. With this rant I hope, very much, that maybe a couple of you will be inspired enough to think about making this a recruitment requirement in your future games as well. Thanks a bunch for reading.

  2. #2

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    Hi Drew. Just read your post and can tell you that I can relate quite well. I'm only DM and not a player myself.

    I do think we need to differentiate between two things:
    - People not really being dedicated to the game after a while
    - People not seeing the game to the end

    I think the first one is really to blame on the players who join games without being sure they can even bring in the dedication and time.

    The latter however, I don't really want to force on the players. A single official adventure path like for example Princes of the Apocalypse, which I'm running right now, takes at least 5 years to complete with 1 post / day in PbP. And a lot of things can change in those five years, so as a DM we can't really expect all the players we started with to still be with us at the end of the campaign. And honestly that isn't much of an issue for me. As long as one player remains, I can always recruit new ones to join in. If no player remains, I try out a new adventure path for a change and start a new group. This is all perfectly fine for me and I don't really see it as an issue. That's just life. It's like getting a girlfriend, don't expect to be together forever, just enjoy your time with her.

    However, there are many other things that bother me, namely:

    - Players that are super interesting in recruitment, I put in a lot of effort making a background story for them, updating my data sheets and lists and write the introductions into the story, then the player is interested for a few weeks or even just days, and then the player starts missing out on his posts and I directly warn him for it (I'm pretty strict here), but it usually doesn't help or just results in the player posting nothing other than "I follow the others" and "I attack X" every day; this really ruins my enjoyment as the DM

    - I know how much work PbP DMing is, but I still see many people being DMs and players in multiple games, and I really wonder how they manage that, because I often spend the whole day about my next post and keep improving it so when I'm done with it it's perfect; but I'm pretty sure people who are in multiple games can't put in that much dedicated, I know I couldn't, so I'm always surprised that so many are doing it; why not invest 3 hours into one game per day instead of 1 hour on 3 games? I guess fluctuation in free time are to blame. You always have those phases where you are bored, then you join new games. But when those phases are over and you have less free time, it suddenly becomes too much for you and then your posting quality suffers

    - Players who don't really pay much attention to what's happening, I've had several of my players completely ignore things I or other players said to them (ingame), like they aren't even reading all the posts done

    I could say more but I need to leave now.
    Last edited by Rya.Reisender; 08-30-2018 at 12:03 PM.

  3. #3

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    Back, I wanted to still share my PbP experiences about my players so far:

    I DMed Lost Mine of Phandelver with 5 players:
    - Player A: My best friend who frequently posted and was invested and only occassionally missed a day (though he is more rules lawyer than role player, but I don't mind that type)
    - Player B: A really great role player who was very involved throughout the game
    - Player C: Another great role player but that over the course of time was less and less invested and started missing out turns frequently
    - Player D: Someone who was invested, but didn't really put too much effort in, though he did seem to try after I talked with him a few times
    - Player E: Someone who wasn't invested at all, only got active during combat, missed half his turns, probably only posted every 3 days rather than daily, which I warned several times and was about to just kick out when he himself admitted he just doesn't have time for Pen&Paper and left (we worked out a proper "outro" for his character)

    Conclusion: After 2 years PbP they reached the final villain, but lost the battle. TPK, but still a proper ending, just with the villain winning.

    Then I moved to Princes of the Apocalypse. I offered my players to come up with a reason why their PCs are revived (there were a few reasonable explanations for it available), but they decided they all want to create new characters. Player D already knew PotA and also said he doesn't have much time currently and left. Player A-C wanted to keep me as DM. I actually talked with C because he hardly had time anymore and missed half his turns towards the end of our last adventure but he insisted he really wants to keep playing with me and promised he'll be more dedicated again, so I took him.
    I also recruit 2 more players:

    - Player F: A wonderful role-player, who always posts on time and gives me lots of trouble with his clever ideas I didn't plan for!
    - Player G: Also a good role-player, but who eventually started to miss out half of his posts, then improved again, then started to miss out on posts again, so it's very fluctuating (probably also related to him starting to DM himself)

    So what happened:

    - Player A: As active as ever
    - Player B: Probably the most painful loss I had to far because he was a great and dediciated role-player until the end, then one day he just disappeared from the internet completely, no sign of life, he traveled a lot through all kinds of countries and I fear he actually died in real life, because I'm almost certain he wouldn't be a person to just disappear without even saying a word
    - Player C: Even though he basically begged to keep him as player, once the game started he did like 3 posts the first three days and then again only one post every 3 days, talked with him and he admitted that something private came up and he is afraid he can't play anymore; as I said earlier I think that's life and we can't prevent that, like if someone in your family dies and suddenly you have to get a job and don't have the free time to play Pen&Paper anymore, we really shouldn't blame that on the person
    - Player F+G still went strong

    But suddenly we were only three players left. So Player F brought in a friend, unfortunately, I guess "bringing in friends" is a bad idea, because I got:

    - Player H: He always insisted on how he was interested to play, but I never got anything interesting from him. He didn't pay attention to what was happening at all. If some of my players talked with him, he didn't react. I felt he always only said "I follow the others" and "I attack X", really that type of player I really fear. I talked with him multiple times and every time he promised me to improve. And he did, for 3 days. Then he was back to his old self again every time. Didn't want to kick him because he was friends with Player F and I felt he actually tried, so I talked with Player F about it and he talked with him again. Eventually, Player H just poof and disappeared too. Player F says he literally disappeared from the internet, maybe died too? My games have too many real life deaths...

    So we were back at 3 players. And went strong with just us four, as everybody is invested and actively role-playing.

    Recently I recruited another player, he already played in other games, but he was very experienced and had a character sheet ready very fast, so I was confident enough and my players agreed as well. So now I'm with:

    - Player I: Very good and experienced role player, who definitely can post daily, multiple times, but he seems to have problems with paying attention, as he often misses things that have been said as if he didn't really read everything before posting. I blame it again on being in too many games at once.

    I hope my players don't read this. xD

  4. #4
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    Thank for both replies, Rya. At one point or another I've encountered every one of those types of players, lol. I pretty much agree with all of your points, save for your having a problem with a player posting nothing other than "I follow the others" and "I attack X" every day. I get that it ruins your enjoyment as the DM, it just doesn't ruin mine. I'd rather get a one-line post every day than nothing at all, you know?

    I'm also confused by your girlfriend analogy, but in a good way. "Don't expect to be together forever, just enjoy your time with her," you say. Of course I totally get what you actually mean, it's just not quite the comparison I'd have used, lol. I've been married for thirteen years to my high school sweetheart. It's probably not typical, but when I was looking for a girlfriend in high school, my foremost thought was, "Can I see myself being able to hang out with this person forever?" If the answer was no, I moved on. Why waste my time having temporary flings with chicks when I could have been spending it with my soulmate? Time is the one thing you can't get back once it's gone, so I don't like to waste it.

    But, otherwise, yeah, I hear your points and I agree. Thanks for weighing in.

  5. #5
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    Well I think we all have meet does players when dming, As a player, I think what kills most games are when it just as drew said. But I think the nr 1 is the waiting..You join a game with 1/day post and you sit there waiting for 1 or 2 people who is either sick, lost his internet, RL problems ect. It happens once.. Twice.. and by now you probably just dropped your interest even if the DM is wonderful.. Then comes the break for recruitment.. If the players been kicked. So the questions is ..Should we DM get mush harder on our players? ... yellow card, yellow card ..red card, Your out!.. But you put down a lot of work get things working with the players you recruited. .And did the recruitment go well the first time? .. Will you find new players? .. Will they turn up to be the same as the last? Its intimidating as you put a lot of work into the thoughts and planing of your game. I had X games dying because of these reasons. Well i'm no perfect myself when my Real Life came crashing down with blow after blow and i left TTW for a year and ended up killing everything i built. So shit like that happens.. Even worse when your a DM as it effects not only you but every player you DMed for... Probably why it took a whole year for me to comeback.. You know you let so many down.

    Maybe the problem is the amount of players you add into PBP .. Maybe the games should be done with 3 players .. But we all know we need something from every class, Tank , support , dps , the skill person and so on .. So we add 5 as its usually works when your doing it live.
    i'll probably do 3 in my next game when it comes. Just to try it out, together with a firm and hard rule, 1, 2's warning then your out and 1 post / day Monday-Friday and a break on Saturday and Sundays as we all knows (unless the group says they want those days as well).. Thats when nothing gets posted.

    Thanks both Drew and Rya for your posting.

  6. #6
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    I wish I had all the answers. I would love to know how to motivate the players and keep them performing at top capacity without having to resort to punishments or an overlord-y style of GM'ing. One thing I'll be doing from now on as a sort of reward (and it's a pretty paltry reward in my opinion but it's all I can think of) is making signature banner images for the players who make it to the end of the game and did a good job being active and involved during the game's run. Again, the reward doesn't fit the amount of work put in by the players in my opinion, lol, but it's better than nothing I guess. Credit for the idea goes to Theprettiestorc, who suggested it as a joke after my Predator game reached its end recently. As a thank you, I actually made the image and he was the only one from that group to receive it, but I would make enough for the whole group in any future games I run.

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    I think by dividing the campaign into chapters where people can step in / out could be a key factor. Instead of trying to play for 5 years as Rya said one of his games would take to finish. . . Maybe chop that game up into 5 chapters (1 year each) with each a mini boss so the players gets the feeling of a finish.
    Those who stays get to decide if they want to make a makeover with there characters.. make it so the new chapters are the children of the heroes who slayed fake last boss and now have to step up and continue.

    Oh oh oh I want a reward! Give me give me!
    Last edited by Krivak; 09-01-2018 at 12:37 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Krivak View Post
    I think by dividing the campaign into chapters where people can step in / out could be a key factor. Instead of trying to play for 5 years as Rya said one of his games would take to finish. . . Maybe chop that game up into 5 chapters (1 year each) with each a mini boss so the players gets the feeling of a finish.
    Those who stays get to decide if they want to make a makeover with there characters.. make it so the new chapters are the children of the heroes who slayed fake last boss and now have to step up and continue.
    Hey, that's a darn good idea. I bet there's at least one GM on the site that already does stuff like that but I personally haven't bumped into it yet, so good thinking. I'm going to take that kind of approach to any game I run in the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by Krivak View Post
    Oh oh oh I want a reward! Give me give me!
    lol, then make sure you snag a spot in whatever my next game is and see it to the finish

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    I'm doing it now.. But I think I need to start being a harder dm.. I think I'm being to kind with the time most of the times.

    If you make it I play it

  10. #10

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    As I only DM official adventure paths I don't really have the option to make smaller adventures unless WotC decides to release smaller ones (well they did now I guess).

    But even big adventure paths don't necessarily require the same party from start to finish. Can always think of some reason why someone joins in. Can even use the new PCs adventure hook as a lead to get the party back on track.

    I think it's not so bad to change your group a little once a year. I think it brings in fresh wind and can also motivate your existing players to be more involved again.

    On the other hand it's also a risk. You could end up with a player that completely ruins the fun for everyone. But guess you just need to be strict and kick him in that case (after you tried to talk with him of course).

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