Starchaser
 member, 441 posts
 GMT+0
 Posts Monday-Friday
Mon 23 Oct 2017
at 16:53
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
I often find a posting rules thread is useful, where you put desired posting frequency and state timescales explicitly so that if people stop posting there is a clear policy on what happens. This should be in conjunction with an absences thread for players to state when they will be legitimately away. Here is an example snippet from my posting rules :-

quote:
I expect each player to make a minimum of 3 posts a week. If a player hasn't posted for 7 days I reserve the right to post for them until their return.

I have set up an absences thread for players to post when they will be away from the game for a while. If you are going to be away please state from when you will be away and when you expect to return.

Anyone who hasn't posted their absence and is away from the game for more than three weeks will be removed as a player.


Your desired frequencies may change but the point here is you have set explicit expectations and exactly what happens when players don't post.
Gaffer
 member, 1497 posts
 Ocoee FL
 40 yrs of RPGs
Mon 23 Oct 2017
at 19:15
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
I'll post for them after a couple of days or so, when it's slowing down the game, then I send the PM asking if they're still in. At the two week point or later, I send an rail warning that they're out if I don't hear from them in a week.

I usually puppet them until there's an opportunity to kill them or have the character quit or disappear. If the character is necessary to the plot, I'll keep them as an npc.

At the start of the game I tell my players that this is the way things work.
engine
 member, 472 posts
Mon 23 Oct 2017
at 19:30
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
I don't puppet characters, basically because I'm lazy. I'll have them move to the background and follow along but not actually affect anything. If it's a combat situation, they're off in a corner dealing with the exact number of enemies that I would need to remove to keep things as challenging as I intended.
LonePaladin
 member, 659 posts
 Creator of HeroForge
Mon 23 Oct 2017
at 20:42
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
This is one of those questions that doesn't have an exact answer. How long is a piece of string?

The length of time someone can go before they're considered abandoned really depends on the game and its rate of posting. Some games might only post something significant once a week or so, and don't really bother checking on players. Other games might be so fast-paced that anything more than a day or two would be pushing it.

In one of the games I've been running, there was a point where I was updating things almost every day, and I would prod any players whose "Last Post" indicator said anything other than "Today" or "Yesterday". Things have slowed down a bit, though, so my time allowance has necessarily expanded to nearly a week before I start checking.
Gaffer
 member, 1499 posts
 Ocoee FL
 40 yrs of RPGs
Mon 23 Oct 2017
at 23:26
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
It's also one of those things very personal to the GM.
swordchucks
 member, 1449 posts
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 00:38
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
It's one of those things that varies enough that it's worthwhile for you, as the GM, to have a clear policy on it in a notice in your game.  It's also good to have a thread where people can note vacations and other extended absences.
gladiusdei
 member, 584 posts
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 00:48
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
I try to set a time limit and a posting rate requirement for my games, but even then it can be frustrating.  If my game says that if a player is dormant for over a week with no warning then they may be subject for removal, and has a roughly daily posting rate, it is still hard to deal with a player that disappears for 3 or 4 days at a time, repeatedly.  They technically aren't violating the rules I set, but its next to impossible to keep a character up to speed with others if they disappear like that, frequently.  So its always subjective.

Stuff like that has made me pretty paranoid as a gm, which in turn makes me a bit overbearing on players sometimes.

The real challenge is how to make your expectations clear to prospective players.  Still trying to figure out how best to phrase it.

This message was last edited by the user at 15:16, Tue 24 Oct.

Nerwen
 member, 1879 posts
 seek to understand before
 you seek to be understood
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 02:46
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
I have it pretty clear in my game what MY posting schedule is (Tues, Thurs, and at least once on the weekend). The players are expected to post by the time I update. If they don't, it can go one of two ways: if they're the only one in their thread, then I'll leave it open and wait for them (I have one such thread still open from over a year ago...). If there's other players in the thread and at least one of them has posted, I update as if the non-posters have decided to do nothing. If someone just stops posting completely, then at the end of the scene (during which time they're technically there but doing nothing), they get written into some sort of fade-out and are never seen again. In general I avoid actually playing people's characters for them - that just feels wrong to me, thus they do nothing.

I'm not a fan of chasing people down. I'll send one PM, but if they don't respond to it, then I assume they've left. I generally leave them in control of their character but mark them as NPCs so they're in the bottom of the cast list but I can still see if they check the game. Occasionally someone wanders back in after a lengthy absence and wants back in.

In some cases, absent players leave setting elements in my game that still have bearing on the story for a while. I continue to use those as I see fit.

(In one case, I had a player who'd stopped posting late last year but kept looking at the game every couple months without saying anything or responding to my one PM, and then one day I got a terse PM that just said "Remove me." So I did. I suspect she wasn't happy about what happened to the setting elements she'd abandoned...)
icosahedron152
 member, 789 posts
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 10:01
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
This is a perennial problem for GMs, and as others have said, it's a matter of personal choice, how patient you are, how important the character is to your plot, and how easy or difficult it is to find replacement players.

In games like D&D or Pathfinder, where players are so plentiful that GMs turn them away at the RTJ stage, GMs can afford to be impatient, but if you're running a game in which you struggle to find anyone interested in the genre, then you need to be much more forgiving if you want to run the game at all.

But vanishing players, once-a-monthers, 'I didn't have anything to say' players and 'I'll post when somebody else posts' players, can try the patience of a saint!

Your decision when you call time on the players or the game. You drop them when the chore of rattling cages outweighs the fun you're getting from the game.
Justisaur
 member, 53 posts
 Dungeon Master since 1979
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 17:10
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
I don't think it's all that much of a personal thing.  It seems to be something every game both run by me and I've been in struggles with.  I think that having guidance from GMs of games that have been running a long time and deal with this issue well is invaluable, it's perhaps the single most important thing one can know about running a game PbP.

I don't find answers of 'do it your own way' helpful, when your own way isn't working.
gladiusdei
 member, 585 posts
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 17:24
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
Because there really is no set way to do it.  We've given you suggestions on how we do it, but whatever you end up doing will be how you decide to handle it.  Your way.
bigbadron
 moderator, 15453 posts
 He's big, he's bad,
 but mostly he's Ron.
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 17:34
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
Oh, it's definitely a personal thing.  While every game might suffer from absent players, how long a GM will leave things before dealing with them is entirely a matter of personal preference.

It also depends on the game situation.  A game that requires one post per week is going to be much more  relaxed about absences than one that expects multiple posts per day, for example.  And posting rates are down to the GM's personal preference.

So whether you find it useful or not... you have to decide on something that suits your game, and your own taste.  Nobody else can decide these things for you.

Probably the best answer you'll get is something like, "Give them as long as you can, while not harming the game, then kick them or NPC them, as you prefer."

Personally, I very rarely kick a player for absence.  It's a hobby, not a job, and people don't always have time for their hobby.

So my answer to the question, "How long until a character is considered abandoned?" would be "Never.  Though circumstances might adjust that period."
Brianna
 member, 2138 posts
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 17:36
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
IMO a week isn't very long, it doesn't take much of a RL crisis to keep someone offline for a week - sick child, hospital stay, broken computer...  But I agree that you need to make your expectations clear.  Just a suggestion - in one game I was in years ago, the GM asked the players to write a short explanation of what their character was likely to do in several likely scenarios, so that the GM might be able to post for them in short absences.
gladiusdei
 member, 586 posts
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 17:42
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
It all depends on the game I suppose.  I think, even in a crisis, its possible to log on and give a few words of warning or explanation to let the gm know you will be gone for a time.  It is kind of rude not to do so, in games where 8 other people have to wait a week or longer, for you to return to play.  In to heavy games, a player vanishing mid conversation can really mess things up.
SunRuanEr
 member, 59 posts
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 20:23
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
"I think, even in a crisis, its possible to log on and give a few words of warning or explanation to let the gm know you will be gone for a time."

That really depends on the crisis. If I (or one of my kids) is super-sick, hospitalized even, can I probably find a few minutes to fire off (or ask someone else to fire off) a quick line to the GM saying 'Yo, going to be out for a bit'? Probably so. But if a tornado blows through my hometown and takes out the electricity/power/internet, then you're not going to hear from me (or anyone else on my behalf, because I won't be able to contact THEM either) until it's back.

So it really depends.

Personally, I start to wonder if people have abandoned characters at around the two week mark, but don't really decide that a character IS definitely abandoned until a month or so has passed. I'm also far more likely to cut the guy that hasn't managed to log in at ALL for two+ weeks more slack than the guy that's logged in every day but hasn't DONE anything in two+ weeks. Why? Because the first one might be dealing with one of those emergencies that prevent having access to the site, but the latter is clearly ABLE to do something, but just doesn't WANT to.
gladiusdei
 member, 587 posts
Tue 24 Oct 2017
at 20:52
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
yes, you're right that a true crisis may keep people from any computer access for weeks or even months.  But, in those instances, the player in said crisis should probably understand that the games he was playing aren't going to sit idle until he returns.

Depending on the player, if they disappeared for over a week, two weeks, whatever, I would likely make their character an NPC and remove them from the game.  That way, if they returns weeks later and explain their house exploded, or something, but they want to play, I still have their character sheet for them.

and yes, it is really frustrating to watch players log in several times a night, over several nights, and not post.  that makes me question if either they simply don't like the game anymore, or they are lost.  Either way, I'd really prefer it if they messaged me to say something, instead of sitting silently.
Gaffer
 member, 1501 posts
 Ocoee FL
 40 yrs of RPGs
Wed 25 Oct 2017
at 03:36
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
In reply to bigbadron (msg # 14):

Or maybe "When the player says 'I'm abandoning this game.'"
Hunter
 member, 1389 posts
 Captain Oblivious!
 Lurker
Wed 25 Oct 2017
at 03:47
Re: How long until a character is considered abandoned?
Gaffer:
In reply to bigbadron (msg # 14):

Or maybe "When the player says 'I'm abandoning this game.'"


Even when a player asks to quit a game, I've always offered them the option of staying inactive in case they return instead of just deleting the character.   Though I never thought to move the character to NPC status....
bigbadron
 moderator, 15454 posts
 He's big, he's bad,
 but mostly he's Ron.
Wed 25 Oct 2017
at 13:45
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
In reply to Gaffer (msg # 19):

Even then, I probably wouldn't give the character to anybody else, just in case they changed their mind later (had that happen once, and was glad I hadn't given their character away).

Also had a player once who got shot in the chest (the player, not the character) and let me know about it as soon as he had the leisure to worry about online gaming (rather than, you know, not dying).  He was out of the game for a month before anybody knew why, and another couple of months before he was up to posting.
Brianna
 member, 2139 posts
Wed 25 Oct 2017
at 20:40
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
Even the log-in-don't-do-anything can be deceiving.  I can remember a (luckily short) period of time when I could get far enough that it probably showed I had logged in, but I couldn't actually do anything, everything froze up at that stage.
NowhereMan
 member, 167 posts
Wed 25 Oct 2017
at 22:11
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
In reply to Brianna (msg # 22):

I've been there, too. Connection issues are the bane of my existence, living in the sticks. Another thing that might make me look bad on that particular front is logging in from my phone. There are a lot of times when I have left rpol logged in on my phone's browser, and the little booger quietly refreshes itself in the background, keeping me freshly logged-into a game that I haven't looked at in days.
icosahedron152
 member, 791 posts
Thu 26 Oct 2017
at 12:48
Re: How long until a character is considered abandoned?
Justisaur:
I don't think it's all that much of a personal thing.  It seems to be something every game both run by me and I've been in struggles with.  I think that having guidance from GMs of games that have been running a long time and deal with this issue well is invaluable, it's perhaps the single most important thing one can know about running a game PbP.

I don't find answers of 'do it your own way' helpful, when your own way isn't working.


Sorry you didn't find my reply, and that of others, to be helpful. I'll try again, cos I want to help. :)

Firstly, this is something that every game struggles with, and there is no formula answer. If there were, we wouldn't still struggle with it. That's what we mean by 'do it your way'.

I'm running one game that is over 6000 posts, one that is over 9000 posts, and co-gming one that is over 10,000 posts, but I can't claim to be 'getting it right', because my games still suffer with slow posts, long absences and drop outs. My way isn't working, either. Nobody has got this licked.

Quite often, there are only a couple of the founding players left in games like these. I doubt if any game reaches five figures with its original cast intact. Players come and go, but the show goes on.

All you can do is steer a course that you think is most likely to keep the game going, regardless of the individual characters.

To answer your specific questions:

Do you have any rules about moving things along when people don't post?
Yes. But then I break them all within a few weeks of the game starting, because no plan survives contact with the players. Generally I just play it by ear. What works for one game doesn't work for an other, even with the same GM and some of the same players. If some players drop out and other, different people join, the whole game dynamic might change, and you have to adapt to the new situation.

Do the PCs get turned into NPCs temporarily, or disappear, when their owners don't post?
Depends on what's good for the game. You may have a game in which characters can simply walk away, or get killed without their absence destroying the party, but if not, you'll need to NPC the characters until it's convenient to dump them.


How long do you or your GM let people go without posting before replacing them?
Another piece of string. Again, whatever is best for the game. If you have six players and five of them stop posting for five different reasons, you might decide to put the game on hold for a while and see who comes back.
If five of your players are posting regularly and the sixth keeps disappearing without notice for days or weeks on end, you might decide to replace him sooner rather than later.

Things happen to people. Yes, you could log in and post a message to your five different GMs to tell them all that your kid's sick. But maybe you've got other things on your mind.

Usually, I'll post an absence query after a week, or two, depending what's going on in the game and in my life, and how distracted I am, and I'll hope to get a reply within a day or two. Depending on what I hear back, I may wait a while longer, or I may drop the character, or NPC it or whatever I feel is appropriate.

I'm especially interested in hearing from anyone in or running long running games, as I haven't been in any games that have lasted terribly long, my own have been longer than others I've played at, but eventually it gets frustrating trying to deal with this and I give up on the games.

My games are reasonably long running, but the only way to make that happen is to keep banging your head against that brick wall until the wall cracks. Yes it's frustrating, and it will continue to be frustrating right through to the end.

The long games last not because players behave themselves and post promptly in response to a magic formula from the GM, they  last because the GM doggedly perseveres in the face of adversity and keeps their game going, replacement players and all, by sheer force of will.

Sorry if that's not what you want to hear, but there is no formula. You do whatever your individual game needs to keep it going.
facemaker329
 member, 6969 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Thu 26 Oct 2017
at 17:35
Re: How long until a character is considered abandoned?
I'm in a couple of games that have been running for 5+ years...wildly different activity levels.  One just passed 63k posts, the other has yet to break into five figures.  The fast game?  The only 'original' participants left are me and the GM, while the slow game has over half the original cast left.  This just highlights the point that there is no secret formula to a successful game.

I don't know how long the GM of the slower game waits before he considers a character abandoned...I don't know if he's ever had to worry about it.  I know a couple of players have had extended absences, but I don't know if they were reported to the GM in advance or not.  He has, however, minimally NPC'd characters whose players weren't available for a while (typically just enough to keep them with the group, occasionally as an additional source of exposition.)

The other GM is more vocal about clearing out abandoned characters...but it seems like his formula is rather fluid (I would get moreleeway than someone who just joined the game, for instance).  It seems, however, that he'll generally wait at least a week...if a player isn't posting, he sends a PM encouraging tyem to get in the game.  At two weeks, if a player hasn't logged into the game,  he contacts them (presumably via rMail) to encourage them.  At three weeks, he starts warning them.  After a month of no contact (or logging into the game but not participating), the character is written out of the game (it's a militaey setting, in an active war, so it's easy to remove fharacters...either transferred to another part of the war, or they meet with misfortune while in action).  He will also similarly NPC them if they're in the middle of action...keep them up with advancing troops, maintain over-watch on a position, etc...if the player goes missing in the middle of the action.

But every game is different.  The combination of GM, players, and setting is singular, and ehat works brilliantly for one may be less effective for another.
horus
 member, 308 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Thu 26 Oct 2017
at 22:27
Re: How long until a character is considered abandoned?
I'm a relative tyro compared with so many of the luminaries that have posted here, but I have some insights you may find useful, nonetheless.

Both of my games have slow minimum post rates (once per week) because most of the folk who play in those games are mature adults who have lives.  (I pass for a mature adult if one doesn't look too closely...  Sixty-one years old and I still watch toons and anime', but I digress.)

The points I'd like to make are:

  • The game is only fun if the players are enjoying it, too.
  • The game only works if the players feel they can trust the GM to to be fair and impartial.  (I don't think of myself as the players' adversary, worthy or no.)
  • On that last note, players like a GM who sets reasonable expectations, and then acts in accord with them.  "Reasonable" is what everyone playing can agree to.
  • Communication solves more problems than strict hidebound regulation.  As icosahedron152 brilliantly put it, no plan survives contact with players for very long.  As GMs, we are charged to think on our feet, adapt, improvise, and overcome those obstacles to our players' enjoyment.  If players are courteous and will communicate honestly with the GM, and vice versa, the game can go far.  When those lines of communication break down, for whatever reason, there's gonna be trouble in River City.

V_V
 member, 637 posts
 You can call me V, just V
 Life; a journey made once
Mon 30 Oct 2017
at 11:05
How long until a character is considered abandoned?
I'm as slower poster. My oldest game currently is...*checking* 2012. It's had ups and downs but a really loyal and fun group. Currently I'M the one that hasn't posted there, mostly because we were doing reboot anyway, and I don't have the desire to GM a low-level game.

My advice is don't NPC the PCs. Just have them lose their action and otherwise sort of zone out and follow the rest. If the player says "Hey NPC me I'm-" excuse, then sure. Otherwise assume they have no opinion in character. Otherwise the PC may never come back, or just coast watching you play them until it's convenient.

If you have a backlog of RTJs, go ahead and warn the current PC to post or their character will be moved to another (game) group and soon to be phased out. Then replace them with an eager new player. Just weigh the time you'll spend orienting a new player, and how demanding your game is. You may just be best to slow the game donw.

Maybe you have great story, but it's at a tedious of boring scene. If you suspect that, ask the players. If they don't direct say yes or no, but beat round the bushm assume the worst, that the scene is bothersome and move on. I had to do something similar in a game recently.

Maybe you have a criteria of playstyle (be it high level, socially provoking, fair to PC strengths, etc...) that is highly desirable, but to only to players that can't meet the post rate. You may have the audience/actors you want, but be expecting a different level of commitment.

Maybe the players have another high priority game, maybe your game IS the filler game. If it is, see where else they play. Maybe another game really lit up, and they barely have time to read single post before another window pops up with new post indicator. It's sad, but the newest posts sometimes distract from older ones.

My games have been successful because I do things my way and frequently keep my ear open and ask "Is everything okay". If I'm enjoying it, it attract people to enjoy what I enjoy. Often times if I want to post, I'll give warning "Post in two days or I'm moving on" then I do...or don't if I misjudge my own commitment.

My players, and even other users who WON'T play in my games, know I'm an erratic poster. The fact they even stop by to read or occasionally post means they're seeing it worthwhile. It is lesson I constantly relearn. Move on, let the players catch up. If they say "Hey! you skipped me" then you can open a dialogue. If not, jst let them coast. If you can't accept that, then yeah, it's time to let them go.