RPGuru92
 member, 142 posts
Thu 27 Jul 2017
at 14:44
Optimizing Rules for PbP

I am starting two LL games.  How does one optimize an OSR game for maximum efficiency on a pbp? Specifically can the interchange of hero and antagonist be decided in one post, or, dare I say, one roll? One to decide victor and defeated, living and dead?

The back and forth crunch of tabletop is not the best for pbp.
horus
 member, 197 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Thu 27 Jul 2017
at 15:37
Optimizing Rules for PbP
In reply to RPGuru92 (msg # 1):

There's lots of ways to skin this particular Old School Rennaisance cat.  Two opposing throws, one each by combatant and defendant will resolve a one-on-one, but what happens when there are several combatants on each side?  Are they always paired up against each other, or what?  What happens if one side outnumbers the other?

The thing from where I sit is:  players will have some expectation that combat will run as closely to the rules of the game being played as possible.  (The game in question is Labyrinth Lord, if I'm not too badly mistaken)

Just looking at it to make sure, I see that LL has these basic steps:

Declaration:
Initiative:
Action (both sides act in order of Initiative):
   GM checks morale for monsters.
   Movement:
   Missile attack rolls:
   Spells:
   Melee:
Decision:  Does Combat Continue?

What might work is a turn format such as:

Declaration: (Against whom does the Attacker intend to take action?)
Initiative:  (value of the Initiative Throw)
ACTION:      (Movement, missile attack, spell, or melee action)
DAMAGE:      (roll the dice appropriate to the type of weapon or spell)

Each player submits this info for each turn, and you, as GM, sift through all the combat posts, put them in Initiative order, resolve the success or failure, and apply the damage as needed, then post the results.

But that doesn't really streamline it to one set of posts, just one set per combat turn.  (Or is that what you meant?)

Good Hunting,
D
RPGuru92
 member, 143 posts
Thu 27 Jul 2017
at 15:47
Optimizing Rules for PbP
That's good, timely and exact. But you know how bogged a PbP gets in the draining of hp until the end?

My grail is one throw, one push of the dice button and all combat is done. ONE ROLL TO RULE THEM ALL!

Perhaps the d20 roll itself decides the degree of victory or defeat.  We all know that a Natural 20 can be just DEATH! But what else?

At this point not even sure if possible in an OSR.
horus
 member, 198 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Thu 27 Jul 2017
at 17:26
Optimizing Rules for PbP
In reply to RPGuru92 (msg # 3):

Okay.  If it's going to be one an only one roll, develop a table.  This table should have a "spectrum of Success and Failure".  With a d20, each value can represent a given outcome on this spectrum.  If a uniform distribution is too harsh, use 2d6 or 3d6, as those will give you a normal distribution.

That ought to get you there, but make sure your players can roll with it.
GreyGriffin
 member, 121 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Thu 27 Jul 2017
at 20:35
Optimizing Rules for PbP
I just want to chime in and suggest that one roll is probably not the best way to handle conflict in a game.  The play and counterplay is not just key to the gameplay, but it also helps the narrative. Acting, reacting, and then triumphing or failing creates a fun narrative arc, and also gives your character's decisions a chance to matter outside of a single highly random roll.  (If you have an amazing idea and a sharp and engaging post, but you roll a 1, you just instantly lose?  Seems a bit sour.)

While I agree that the gritty turn-by-turn mechanics of most D&D/Wargame descended games are much more suited to a live environment than an asymmetrical one (especially one so glacial as a pbp forum), I think you might want to expand that exchange a bit, especially for climactic battles.

If you want to really pare it down, I'd recommend a system of Advantage.  You try, you post, you roll, and you either deadlock, gain advantage, or your opponent gains advantage.  If you or your opponent has advantage, that person can try to strike the coup de grace and close out the conflict in their next action, while the character with disadvantage can try to scrape his way back to deadlock and eventually to advantage.

To keep this from locking up the board state, you might give limited "hit points" that deplete when you are disadvantaged, and knock you out/lose you the conflict if they go down to 0.

You could also give "shields" to particularly tough characters, allowing them to deadlock instead of falling into disadvantage.  For things like dragons, wizards who turn into giant snakes, and buff paladins.

This is totally off the cuff stuff, so feel free to poke it down.  But I think trying to cram things down into one roll robs you of the drama and tension of a scene that can swing back and forth, by minimizing the struggle to succeed down to a single impulse of action.
Utsukushi
 member, 1426 posts
 I should really stay out
 of this, I know...but...
Thu 27 Jul 2017
at 20:45
Optimizing Rules for PbP
quote:
At this point not even sure if possible in an OSR.

It's hard to say anything is `impossible' when we're dealing with abstract numbers to start with -- but I think you're on to something there, I'm afraid.  The whole idea of skimming over combat like that is very much a new-school thing.  Old School games were mostly all about the combat rounds, so when you take that out and say, "We're just going to roll one die and that'll decide everything," you're probably not playing an OSR game anymore.

So just to be clear, not saying it's a bad idea - but it's not an `old school' idea, to a degree that the two concepts really might just be incompatible.
engine
 member, 371 posts
Thu 27 Jul 2017
at 21:00
Re: Optimizing Rules for PbP
I think this idea can work. Every game has complex things, even opposed actions, that are boiled down to a single roll.

What I think you'll find when you try this is that there are reasons why games have a certain level of complexity and pacing for certain activities. But you might find that your group wants to make certain activities less complex and others more.

If you want a game to move quickly without a lot of back and forth, all you need is trust. If the GM can trust the players with mechanical information and with NPC intention, and other game elements traditionally entrusted to the GM, then a player could roll for and write up as complex an interaction as desired.

GreyGriffin:
(If you have an amazing idea and a sharp and engaging post, but you roll a 1, you just instantly lose?  Seems a bit sour.)
Roll first, then describe.
Nagatobimaru
 member, 19 posts
Thu 27 Jul 2017
at 21:23
Re: Optimizing Rules for PbP
You can always have only one side rolling dices, applying some fail forward approach.

If the player wanna do something complex he/she rolls, the die/dice outcome split in success areas:
  1. Full success: the PC achieves his goal
  2. Partial success: the Pc achieves his goal, but with a drawback
  3. Failure: the PC loses his goal, something bad happens (i.e. the monster hits him/her back)

GreyGriffin
 member, 122 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Thu 27 Jul 2017
at 21:28
Re: Optimizing Rules for PbP
engine:
Roll first, then describe.

I'm not a huge fan of this for a very specific reason - it makes your decision on how to handle the scene or conflict unable to affect the roll.  Combat and action are roleplaying, and most roll-in-advance systems offer mechanics to affect the roll after the fact. Not so with OSR or most D&D derivatives, with only a handful of exceptions.

It makes the outcome of the conflict make the jump from merely abstract to totally arbitrary.  The player needs to have some agency, and that usually means deciding on a course of action before a roll is made.

This message was last edited by the user at 21:29, Thu 27 July.

RPGuru92
 member, 144 posts
Fri 28 Jul 2017
at 01:02
Re: Optimizing Rules for PbP
Here is a response I got from a game master that really turns this thing we do into art:

"Of course you could. The real questions are: Why would you want to? What is your real goal?

Speeding the tests results in faster progress towards a destination. Roleplaying, typically, is about the journey and not the destination.

Pbp is certainly slower - a few rounds of combat easily can take weeks. An adventure takes months. That speed is inherent in the game design, and in some cases is desirable. It allows people to play a little each day instead of all at once, which makes gameplay possible for many busy adult lifestyles. It allows time for thoughtful response, which often times (and with encouragement) results in better written prose as players RP their characters.

The most important factor in my experience is ensuring your group all have the same pace. Will everyone post every day? Every two days? Twice a week? Once a week? Mixing fast and slow players is the biggest detractor.

I was part of a game here where the DM simplified things by taking over all rolling. Each player posted an intent and some RP, then the DM did all the rolls and dramatically resolved the encounter. A majority of the players involved (i.e. those I talked to about it) found this extremely unsatisfying - rolling your own dice is integral to player investment.

Working it out here, I do a round-by-round to ensure that action unfolds in the player's hands and I ensure that the players get to do their own rolls. I then collect all their rolls and actions, organize them, and then fill in all other rolls around it for a single adjudication post per round. This is pretty expeditious and lets me condense as far as I can without disenfranchising players.

...

So, beyond answering your question, I'll pose one back to you.

PBP needs you to be economical in what you're taking the time to do. It isn't about resolving tests faster for me, but instead is about honing in on what are the important decisions? What are the real challenges for a player to decide for their character? What choices spur key growth in a character's development? What are the real actions where life/death hang in the balance? Where are they at a literal crossroads that will change the choices they get in the future? THOSE are the ones where you make rolls. Otherwise, you go with a "Say Yes" rule - if a player wants to do something and it isn't consequential, then you just say yes, include it in the narrative, and move on to the next point of true conflict.

Question: Can you identify what are the real challenges that the characters need, and the real points of decision that drive the outcome of events, and move the players efficiently from one to the next? When you need to spend a week to resolve around of action, be picky about what those actions are."
engine
 member, 372 posts
Fri 28 Jul 2017
at 05:31
Re: Optimizing Rules for PbP
GreyGriffin:
engine:
Roll first, then describe.

I'm not a huge fan of this for a very specific reason - it makes your decision on how to handle the scene or conflict unable to affect the roll.
No, it doesn't. You can make choices about the action before making the roll, no reason you can't. But players who describe what they're doing, and then roll, and then don't think the roll makes sense have made a mistake. The roll is correct with what the outcome is; they were incorrect in describing an outcome that the dice might not support. One can describe some before and some after, but as long as the roll could describe disaster, they should leave room in their description for that.

GreyGriffin:
Combat and action are roleplaying,
Nice to see someone say that. I agree.

GreyGriffin:
and most roll-in-advance systems offer mechanics to affect the roll after the fact. Not so with OSR or most D&D derivatives, with only a handful of exceptions.

It makes the outcome of the conflict make the jump from merely abstract to totally arbitrary.  The player needs to have some agency, and that usually means deciding on a course of action before a roll is made.
A course of action, yes, but not a conclusion. A post can be "sharp and engaging," and involve a clever plan or something for a bonus, but if the dice can result in "automatic loss" or other disaster, then that's how it is. I don't see why one should or would view that as "sour." If that's how one is going to feel about it, then it seems as though the dice shouldn't be rolled at all in that situation, or that the character's successful execution isn't in question, but that the roll represents only the vagaries of fate.
horus
 member, 199 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Sat 29 Jul 2017
at 08:55
Re: Optimizing Rules for PbP
Nagatobimaru:
You can always have only one side rolling dices, applying some fail forward approach.

If the player wanna do something complex he/she rolls, the die/dice outcome split in success areas:
  1. Full success: the PC achieves his goal
  2. Partial success: the Pc achieves his goal, but with a drawback
  3. Failure: the PC loses his goal, something bad happens (i.e. the monster hits him/her back)


Yup.  This is what I meant by a "spectrum of success or failure".  Something like:

  • Critical Success/Critical Hit - That was over the top!  (For hits - bad stuff happens to target)
  • Resounding Success - Wow, that went well!
  • Success - it works!
  • Failure - failure with only "natural" consequences
  • Epic Fail/Botch/Fumble - bad stuff happens

swordchucks
 member, 1413 posts
Sun 30 Jul 2017
at 21:27
Re: Optimizing Rules for PbP
I've been gradually honing a philosophy for running Pathfinder that seems to be applicable here.

First off, decide what your purpose in reducing combat die rolls is.  Are you looking to de-emphasize combat?  Are you looking to speed up play?  Are you looking to avoid getting bogged down in the uninteresting combats?  While an OSR game is an... interesting choice for this, the same principles I work on can probably apply.

Filler combats are filler.  In general, Pathfinder modules/APs include a bunch of little combats that are just meant to sap the party's resources and provide justification for giving them some extra XP.  I'm sure the same applies to an OSR game.  So... why not remove the pretext and make it just that.  If the combat is filler, make a roll to determine resources lost.  You could define what a resource unit is (level hp, 1 spell of max level, 3 spells of any level, etc.) and then give a bell curve for the number of resources lost and roll 2d6 or 3d6 per player (depending on how granular you want to make it) and let the players narrate out how the fight actually went based on their results.

Important combats are important.  Just as the previous item reduces the emphasis on short/boring combats, it leaves you more room for digging in to the important fights.  Don't just skim these guys.  Go ahead and play them out until the conclusion is obvious (but don't play them out to the very last rat).  There are all sorts of tricks for speeding this up (having all the monsters go on the same initiative, allowing players to act in post-order, etc.), but it's largely still all played out.