member, 108 posts
Mon 10 Sep 2018
at 20:51
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
I'm considering GMing something but I wanted to hear from GMs who have had good success with keeping their games' pace of posting consistent.

I am currently in about six games, and most of them seem to either be in a lull or stalled entirely. All have (or had) posts-per-week policies but still, here we are.

Is there a style of campaign that helps? I can see that if any PC is so special that the game won't happen without them, that's just asking for it, but any further input would be great.

Also, as it often ends up hanging on someone's die roll or something, is there any little streamlining tricks you've learned?

This message was last edited by the user at 20:52, Mon 10 Sept 2018.

 member, 1518 posts
Mon 10 Sep 2018
at 21:06
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
First of all, set a pace you expect the players (and yourself) to keep and be realistic about it.  Go a little less than you can realistically manage on a good week, because not all weeks will be good weeks.

Second of all, communicate frequently, even if you aren't posting.  Make players aware of what is going on ("we're waiting on xyz to post" or "I'm not feeling well today, so no post").  NEVER sit and wait on a player to post for a long period without flatly stating that.  Sometimes, players don't have anything to say and don't realize they should be posting anyway.

For flow, I generally don't like to stick to strict initiative in combat.  It'll vary between game systems, but I generally try to finagle it so that all of the monsters go at the same time and the players go in the order in which they post during a round.  It greatly speeds things up and keeps people from waiting on each other as much.
 member, 577 posts
Mon 10 Sep 2018
at 21:54
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
As for pacing, I'd echo what swordchucks is saying. But I'd also suggest that you run smaller groups. Say 2-3 groups of 2-3 players instead of one bigger group of 6+. The more moving parts there are to a game, the more likely you'll get a stall. Ask players to tell you their honest likely posting frequency and then break players up by their posting frequency. One speedy group will zoom through content while the slower group will crawl through stuff. But, as said, set a schedule and keep to it. And communicate.

As for streamlining, there seems to be two easy ways to make things go faster, 1. The GM makes all the rolls; or, 2. Have players make presumptive rolls just in case. Both have their problems. Players generally like rolling their own dice, even if it's a roller. And a lot of players think that if the dice are rolled then that roll must be respected...even if it's unnecessary or was for an action that was impossible in the first place.
Big Brother
 member, 460 posts
 Who controls the past...
 ... Controls the future.
Tue 11 Sep 2018
at 00:54
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
I generally agree with my comrades above. In addition, I have a GM - and I've stolen her idea - that announced at the beginning that she would post once every five days and, with the exception of one week during which she was on vacation, has followed through. Her game recently passed its one year mark. At the same time every one of her posts is high quality and well worth reading and responding to. All of her players (to my knowledge) enjoy her game, and everyone knows what to expect.
 member, 146 posts
Tue 11 Sep 2018
at 01:39
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
Hey there Smoot,

Thatís a great question. And I think the others above me have already addressed the necessities.

But I just wanted to point out a few other points:

1)  it takes a lot of stamina on both the GM and Players to keep a game going. Iíve been a player in a game that recently ended for 10 years on RPOL and the trick to it - consistent post rate of once a day (and these are not one liners, each post is highly descriptive and heavy in text) and great story telling and RP from GM and players.

By consistent posting, itís a commitment that the GM established (be it once a day or once a week) and the players are willing to commit to the GMs specs. And the key to that is to push through a good post even if you are feeling totally tired that day. Thatís the commitment from the GM and sometimes the players too. It takes both hands to clap. And if you canít, you post telling everyone when youíre going to post next

2) since your question is primarily about post rates. I find that whenever a player is lagging behind and everyone else is waiting for that players, thatís when the danger of disinterest starts. Waiting for a post for a day, then becomes two days, then a week. As a GM donít be afraid to NPC that player or just continue moving the story without that player (and assume he/she is tagging along).  This is all for the sake of moving the story and keeping those who are still interested, interested. .

3) Donít be afraid to kill storylines. Sometimes, a story is just not working. You are bored. Your players are bored. As the GM ask them what you can do to create that spark of interest again. Kill the entire thread. Delete it. Start on a brand new story together.

4) Building a player pool. This only comes after youíve GMed a few games. You start seeing the usernames of players that you enjoy their writing, their RP and you guys suit each otherís schedules and RP needs. When you create a game, invite these players. Soon they become your friends. And you never have to really worry about players disappearing without notice because they will tell you if they have no time or are not interested or maybe they will rejoin the game when they are less busy.

I hope this helps and wishing you all the success in the games you GM!
Isida KepTukari
 member, 229 posts
 Elegant! Arrogant! Smart!
Tue 11 Sep 2018
at 01:49
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
As most have said, frequent posting helps a lot, as does high-quality posting.  The more you make things interesting, the more invested the players.  Having a required posting per week helps, but there is a lot of real-life interference that can come up.  Being prepared by having SOPs for each character (for default actions) in case of absence lets you carry on the game during someone's short hiatus.

Group size I have found to be a variable factor.  I've had large games that folded, I've had small games that have folded.  I've had the reasons for that being mostly player attrition from real-life things, a couple of times from inter-player conflict that they refused to resolve, a few times were my fault for lack of posting, and sometimes people just straight-up vanished.

My longest-running game has a cast of 9 and has been running for nearly four and a half years.  That game has lasted due to a multitude of factors.  I'm running D&D 3.5, so I have a large player pool to pull from.  After the first round of inevitable dropouts, I stopped adding or replacing characters and just had new players take over abandoned characters.  Then I no longer had to bring the story to a screeching halt to bring in new people.  Though I designed the game in an episodic nature (the characters are part of an Adventurer's Guild which take various jobs), the three jobs they've taken so far have ranged from a year to two years in real-time.  It would have been very difficult for a new character to show up in the middle of a tomb or a swamp, which was when I decided to stop changing characters and just start replacing players instead.  I let players retool the character if they want to (within broad limits), which gives them some customization and agency, but I don't have something jarring like our barbarian suddenly disappearing and being replaced with a rogue.

So, in my view, game longevity can be a combination of good player pool, good story, and both a GM and players' abilities to adapt and compromise (with both posting rates and absences).
 member, 227 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Tue 11 Sep 2018
at 03:39
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
Speaking as an occasional GM and a player who often stumbles, there are a few things I find help me keep up the pace.

  1. Discrete Scenes
    Knowing where everyone is and who's doing what is important.  I find a lot of games can stick on the "I follow him" posts, but taking that character that goes ahead straight to a new scene can prompt more responses than just letting it sit and let people waffle and trickle along with a rapidly fraying narrative.
  2. Something to work with
    A scene centered on a single "thing" can often result in a few alpha players engaging the "thing" while other players who don't want to interrupt the flow of the narrative, be it conversation or investigation.  Sometimes, people are just waiting for a dialogue to finish before jumping in, and in PbP, that can be awhile.
    Putting enough material in the scene to engage all the players - other NPCs to chat with, other investigative threads or clues, or even more or different enemies in a combat that they can make themselves useful against will keep everyone engaged.  It's a player's job to grab at hooks, sure, but there has to be enough hooks to keep everyone, uh... hooked.
  3. Modest God-Moding
    Probably the most controversial thing I'll suggest, but sometimes you gotta do it.  Those "I follow him" posts from above can delay moving room-to-room in a dungeon crawl by a week or more.  Going right from the declaration of an object right to the description of an object, assuming that players will examine things, will skip those "I look at this more closely" posts.  Sometimes, it's best to skip over things like the closing rounds of a combat, or the searching of a room for treasure, or the hunting for secret doors or traps.  Anything that would eat time at the table and create a boring roll, you can usually assume someone does it.
    On the more extreme end of things, you can start a scene in medias res, creating the setup you want to continue your game, while trusting the players to backfill in important details about how they got there, what exactly they're doing, or how much they regret the bad decisions that brought them here.  A similar technique can be used to breeze from place-descriptions into social scenes.  You don't have to skip describing the exterior of a lavish castle to get everyone to the court inside in one post.  If the rogue wants to climb the exterior walls instead of showing his invitation and handing over his weapons like everyone else, he can backfill.
    Combat rounds are another place you have to just kick the game in the pants.  In a D&D game, if you're waiting on someone to take their turn for more than a day or two, just roll it out for them.  Use your best judgement, don't spend too many of their resources, and make sure everyone knows you're going to do it in advance, but don't let a game hang up because a player can't take their turn.
  4. DM Rolling
    Similar to the above, waiting on a player who posted an action and then forgot to roll is agonizing.  Insist the players have easily-readable sheets with common stats like Initiative, perception, and saving throws right at the top so you can resolve all your shenanigans in one post. ("The evil wizard fireballs you!  You all fail your reflex saves!  Take X damage!" rather than "The evil wizard fireballs you." and proceed to wait for 7 players to all roll reflex saves.)
    How easy this is to do varies by system (there's a reason that Exalted is a nightmare in PbP), but it keeps things moving and puts the ball back in the players' court as soon as possible.

As you might be able to tell from the above, I'm all for anything that keeps the game's pacing from stumbling.  Everyone should have agency as much as possible - players who are free to act are free to post, and the less they have to wait to do, and the less work they have to do as a reaction rather than as an action, the more motivated they are to keep posting.

At least, IMHO.

This message was last edited by the user at 03:41, Tue 11 Sept 2018.

 member, 578 posts
Tue 11 Sep 2018
at 04:02
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
One trick I forgot to include but sort of mentioned by others is not bothering with initiative. Just have everyone declare their actions for a round and include their rolls. Resolve it as per the system (initiative order, action-type order, etc) with one GM response. Cuts way...way down on the waiting for half-a-dozen players to each roll init (5-7 days), then waiting who knows how long for each person to post in the proper order.
Isida KepTukari
 member, 230 posts
 Elegant! Arrogant! Smart!
Tue 11 Sep 2018
at 08:49
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
Indeed!  Pre-rolling (and pre-description) helps speed things up tremendously.

I will have my players make their own presumptive rolls, and I'll handle their saving throws myself as a GM, just to keep things moving.  If I'm in a system where the players need to roll (and might choose to use certain game mechanics to adjust their odds of success, like in Cypher System), I'll include the need for the roll and what number succeeds or fails so they can describe things and post their next action simultaneously.

When doing separate scenes for players, you can certainly do it within a single thread to keep things contained; I just use location titles for each player or group of players to differentiate who's where within a post.  I did a game where I did a lot of separate threads for players doing solo missions or side scenes, and it got extremely messy and difficult to track plot points and clues.  If you and your players are very organized, separate threads might work, but unless you place a high premium on secrecy, I find it easier to have the information contained so you only have to hunt in one place instead of six.
 member, 26 posts
Tue 11 Sep 2018
at 22:59
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
As others have said, posting reliably is definitely helpful.  As is communication and adaptability.

I've found games where there are plenty of options to resolve each challenge is helpful, so that if one player goes MIA, someone else can pick up the slack.  Prodding from the GM is also good.  Something like "It's been some time since the last post.  It looks like we're waiting on Slirk the Half-goblin to pick the lock on the door.  Broog of the Thews, could you step in tomorrow to keep the game moving?"

I definitely feel that forward motion is more important than continuity in this format.
 moderator, 15647 posts
 He's big, he's bad,
 but mostly he's Ron.
Sun 16 Sep 2018
at 20:10
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
When things slow down... throw a thermal detonator into the room.  Never fails to get people moving.  :D
 member, 132 posts
Sun 16 Sep 2018
at 20:45
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
Every little thing helps, be it faster or more accurate replies to player questions, or detailed enough posts that no questions need be asked, or simply offering an engaging story.

The most important thing is to never wait for the last player.  If everyone posts, that is awesome, but if most everyone has posted and it is that time of day during which you have the time to prepare a post and make it worth doing, just do it.

If one or two players don't get to post in any given cycle they can include some past tense in their next cycle including their characters in the events that have already happened, just not being able to make much of a change to the overall direction of play.

In combat this is even more important, and always have everyone post at their best possible speed, use initiative if you want but don't make it some kind of lockstep posting requirement.  Almost all PC actions will be targeting NPCs anyways and not each other, in the unusual case where someone 'goes first' in a way that matters, simply treat their later post as if it had happened earlier and move on.
 member, 559 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Tue 18 Sep 2018
at 07:05
Gms: how do you keep a pace up?
There's lots of great advice here that I'm going to have to read at greater length in my copious free time because I can sure use some of it myself.

Reading what swordchucks has said, yeah.  Good skills in time management and communications will stand anyone running a game in good stead.