Ekorren
 member, 124 posts
Mon 14 Jan 2019
at 14:55
Question: How to up the fun?
As the topic says, what are the tips for how to make a pbp game more fun? I'm sure everyone have their own ideas for what makes it fun to roleplay in pbp. Some of my ideas are:

1. Regular activity and progression: Most games die from idle players/GM with months going by without any apparent in game progression. I've GMed a few games on this site, and the only one that I feel has retained fun and progression for years is the one where I have contact with most players outside of the game so that we regularly motivate each other to check in and post.

Follow-up question: Are there any tips or tricks on how to increase activity and progression in games where you don't have outside contact with your players? I think that some of the stuff that have worked best for me have been more GM involvement in the scenes (including using NPCs as active participants when a scene is getting stale to ensure that it keeps going), and to delay the actions of idle players during combat scenes to make sure that system-intense action scenes progress quickly. It's important to communicate this with the players, though, to avoid having a scene feel railroaded.

2. A dedicated GM: You can usually tell if a GM is dedicated or not by measuring the state of their posts. If the GM doesn't bother to spell check their posts or communicate regularly with the players, I find it that a game gets boring more quickly. I also think it's a bad idea for a GM to force themselves to keep a game going if they are bored of it, because you can usually tell when a GM has lost their passion. It's better to be direct with the players then and try to help each other regain passion and interest for the game.

Follow-up question: What are your tricks for maintaining interest/passion as a GM? I've been a GM, and seen plenty of other GMs, who seem to enjoy the idea of a game more than actually running a game. I think it can be nearly addictive to some to create new games that seem fun at the moment, but where the GM doesn't have any true interest or passion. I try to stop myself from creating spur-of-the-moment games that I know won't last in the long-run, but that's sometimes easier said than done.

Anything else that could be valuable?
engine
 member, 682 posts
Mon 14 Jan 2019
at 15:17
Re: Question: How to up the fun?
Ekorren:
Follow-up question: Are there any tips or tricks on how to increase activity and progression in games where you don't have outside contact with your players?

Keep moving forward. Don't back up to correct things, even when an obvious mistake has been made. Note the mistake, if necessary, and try to do better next time.

As a player, don't block the ideas of other players as long as those players are acting in good faith. Instead, accept an idea as soon as possible and add on to it to improve it.

If you must block an idea, replace it with another one.

When you present a course of action, do so firmly, avoiding words like "suggest," "perhaps," "maybe." Those words invite blocking and negation, because they suggest doubt in the idea.

<quote Ekorren>I think that some of the stuff that have worked best for me have been more GM involvement in the scenes (including using NPCs as active participants when a scene is getting stale to ensure that it keeps going), and to delay the actions of idle players during combat scenes to make sure that system-intense action scenes progress quickly. It's important to communicate this with the players, though, to avoid having a scene feel railroaded.
I don't agree with NPCs as active participants, but I do agree with having slow characters delay, if the game allows for that.

I agree with communication with the players as well as solicitation of and strong consideration of their ideas about the game, even to the level of specific details. Submitting such ideas should be optional, but the GM should be open to them and accept and add on to them, encouraging others to do the same. This will ensure that what is happening and what is going to happen in the game will be things the players enjoy, which makes them more invested.

That idea bothers people who feel that it's the GM's job, and no one else's, to create details of the game, so it's important to communicate with the players about this approach.

<quote Ekorren>Follow-up question: What are your tricks for maintaining interest/passion as a GM?
The aforementioned communication. If I know that what I'm presenting to the players are things they want to see in the game, then I'm more interested than if what I'm presenting might only interest me, or if it's designed merely to be broadly palatable to a random audience.
tibiotarsus
 member, 27 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Sat 19 Jan 2019
at 19:05
Question: How to up the fun?
1) Think of the game like a story and be aware of tension in your plot: if necessary, fit time constraints/pressing reasons to get on with things that need done, e.g. The prince must be rescued before the evil witch can sacrifice him on the night of the Blungenungening Festival - players now have to find out more about when and where the festival happens, and get over there in good time, or the prince dies and the setting plunges into chaos as a neighbouring nation who would have been placated by a marriage invades the now-heirless kingdom and the witch's dark god starts making incursions into the mortal plane. Player failure in this instance still leads to an epic world-changing effect and pushes them to further action.

Post by post-wise, make sure every post you make has something for others to go on.

2) First tip for those whose attention wanders easily - play shorter games! I finished a 4-player Dread game in under 800 posts, and everyone went off pleased. Things designed as one-shots work well for short RPoL games, and attention to tension as mentioned above can keep the pace fast and engaging.

Second tip, for those who have a bit more natural stamina, is to feed new interests into your existing game, and keep finding new interests to feed it. Work out how to convert that shiny new thing you saw in another system/realm's book into the next part of your ongoing campaign without anyone spotting what's going on. Read related books or skim IMDB summaries of films you've never seen and imagine up more plot from there. For very long games, setting a point where you'll close an arc and take a break can also prevent fatigue.

In general:

Novelty helps up engagement, so long as you're building on something you're passionate about rather than unusual for the sake of unusual. e.g. if you like steam trains, work out how to put a city on a train, and why people would do that, and set it somewhere that railbuilding/travel has always been complicated; yes, you'll end up with something a lot more niche, but the players who want to join will really want to join, and enthusiasm feeds off enthusiasm.

Consequences for player actions are also key to having players feel like they're really doing stuff and staying engaged. They killed their standard Abusive Drunken Father in their backstory? Have ADF's best buddy from when they were in the army together start tracking that character down, and a pressing reason the party can't just shoot the guy, like he's a general now. They're rude to an innkeeper? Innkeeper secretly gives them slightly rotten food that's not dangerous, but makes them sick enough (rolls depending) to take penalties in their next fight/interaction. They save an NPC? NPC tells their cousin in the next town, party gets a free place to sleep/eat or a good discount on goods there.

Entertaining narrative voice is pretty important for PBP specifically - there are few things worse than poor description in text format, particularly if what there is is riddled with typos or ambiguously phrased. Read fiction similar in tone to the game you're running and try to get that rhythm and descriptiveness in your head. Think up inventive similies, cut down on referring to both player and character as 'you' (this encourages a bit more acting as [PC] and so immersion and engagement) and monsters by name (something that has to be tracked down and perhaps fought to put a name to it generates far more engagement than "oh, they have a vampire problem here; let's grab the pointy sticks"), and don't be afraid to vary tone as appropriate - puns are for downtime, romance novel prose is for when a visual media would be doing soft focus and/or sparkles, Epic Metal Gore Decriptions in short, brutal sentences are for battle.

Personal preferences: - Ask the RPoL dice roller's  Magic 8-Ball for important plot decisions/tell players to consult it any time you're on the fence for a GM ruling.
- Let your players know from the outset that their characters may die horribly, but have incisive backstory questions in your RTJ. People who are a good sport about terrible deathage when they've put effort into making the character a rounded person are the best. They'll try as hard as their character to have them stay alive, but they won't get precious about it/the rules if the thing you warned them could happen happens.
- stat up/incorporate weird folklore. My players may never have forgiven me for the vampire watermelons that one time, but they remember them.
- encourage people with active playstyles (plotmakers rather than plot-followers, effectively) to join, and just roll with anything that's not harmful to the game/theme/less stylistically dominant players' experience.
LonePaladin
 member, 790 posts
 Creator of HeroForge
Sat 19 Jan 2019
at 22:39
Re: Question: How to up the fun?
tibiotarsus:
Ask the RPoL dice roller's  Magic 8-Ball for important plot decisions/tell players to consult it any time you're on the fence for a GM ruling.

Over ten years running games on this site, and not once did I ever think about doing this. Heck, I tend to forget that we even have a "Magic 8-Ball" in the Die Roller.

So I'm definitely looking for ways to use this, now.
tibiotarsus
 member, 28 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Sun 20 Jan 2019
at 00:52
Re: Question: How to up the fun?
:D

I tend to use it when a player asks something I don't immediately know the answer to - even for mid-combat/high-pressure rules questions, since it's a fun, obviously one-time way to resolve issues rather than slow everything down to look up proper rules, errata, realise the devs never patched that anyway and have to formulate your own darn house rules right then etc. Also when I need to know if an NPC that's been out of the spotlight is alive (my main/long-running current game is survival horror), sober, or what they're doing, or whether a random unstatted background person the PCs have started talking to actually speaks their language.

For maximum chaos in a one-shot, use it to determine the presence of mimics, mimes or bears in any new area. :D :D :D
Talon
 member, 385 posts
Sun 20 Jan 2019
at 03:36
Re: Question: How to up the fun?
1. Regular activity and progression: You nailed it here, regular activity and progression. The progression part is often drowned in play-by-post games because things take so long. Recently I'm started to artificially cap my adventures to try and start and resolve them in a week (Assuming players post every day) It's just long enough to introduce the adventure, make a couple interesting decisions, then get a reward. Getting a steady drip of rewards has helped immensely with my player retention in the last couple games I've run over the last two years.

You could also try baking some progression in strictly based on time. "I'm going to give you 10% of your leveling XP every week regardless of the adventure so you know that in 10 weeks you're going to level even if the game moves like molasses."

2. A dedicated GM: Keeping an GM passionate largely falls on them. Sometimes they need to take breaks or hiatus or wrap up a story arch and move onto something new to get a second wind. All players can really do is compliment them frequently, let them know what they're enjoying, if you don't like something like something find a way to still compliment then while letting them know "Hey, this new story arch is really creative, but I'm not a fan of losing both my eyes to kick it off, can we discuss that angle?" GMs typically run game to entertain others, letting them know they're achieving that is huge.

Tangent Point: You didn't ask about it, but I thought it was worth pointing out that I've found certain game systems just don't work well in play-by-post. Systems like D&D that assuming you're going to have 3-7 fights before resting, those either grind to a halt or just do one meaningful encounter which tends to unbalance the rest based economy. Overall, I've found the more dice I involve in a play-by-post game the slower it goes. I was never a fan of freeform, but I've really embraced it over the last couple years. (Thought I prefer freeform where the GM still keeps a tight rein on things, not a may-the-most-creative-player-win format)
Yaztromo
 member, 222 posts
Sun 20 Jan 2019
at 03:47
Re: Question: How to up the fun?
Ekorren:
Are there any tips or tricks on how to increase activity and progression in games


Of course this is not an easy question with an all-purpose anwer, so I can tell you what seems to be working reasonably well for me during last year or so. I don't run a long, super-interconnected campaign that may well last year, but I'd rather run a series of short, one-off adventures (typically taking one or two months in real time) that a specific character may join, or may take a round off, havng this way groups that constantly change from an adventure (episode) to the following one.
I took this format from "living campaigns" and organized play ways of organizing things and it seems to work well for me right now.