Sir Swindle
 member, 294 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 06:11
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
If you are 100% new then start a game with some understanding players (or even a solo game) over some sort of voice chat. You will learn more in 1 night than you will in weeks of PbP.

If you continue on the PbP route keep your parties small. Like 4 at most. Ask other RTJ's if they would like to go on a wait list so you can quickly replace people. They will accept and you will need them.
liblarva
 member, 670 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 06:16
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
You don’t need a plan to learn how, you just GM games and learn as you go. You never stop learning. PBP games take a long...long time. Start where you are as a player and focus on the things you like. Just be honest with your players that you’re learning.

Lazy DM and Index Card RPG are good. Read the book/blog The Monsters Know What They’re Doing. Check out these YouTubers: Web DM, Matt Colville, and Taking20 for D&D, and especially Seth Skorkowsky for Call of Cthulhu. He is fantastic. His Call of Cthulhu Overview is a great way to learn the basics. Lots of great advice.

PBP is great for learning because there’s no immediate time pressure to know the rules up front and you can look things up as you need, but put in a good effort to get the basics down before you start. Running modules is also a great way to learn. Especially if you run classic modules that are widely popular. Just don’t railroad and you’re fine.
Dirigible
 member, 235 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 06:26
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
A hundred? At once, or sequentially?
MysteriousSquirrel
 member, 2 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 06:40
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
Sir Swindle --- would text-only rolld20 work for that, so long as it's real time?

liblarva --- currently reading 'The Monsters Know What They’re Doing', will look into the other sources (thank you!)

Dirigible --- some combination of sequentially and non-sequentially... Like a few games going at once.It will be strange because the games will progress at different rates. I noticed on this sites the games tend to run slower, so probably one or two games on here running over the course of a month or two. On Rolegate or https://www.reddit.com/r/YouEnterADungeon/, games seem to run much faster, so for those, maybe a week. rollD20, as it's real-time, those games would last 1-3 hours-ish.

Thanks everyone for the replies!
Sir Swindle
 member, 295 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 07:16
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to MysteriousSquirrel (msg # 5):

Ya, anything real time is a better learning environment. If you need weeks to read the book do that before you start, it's not actually a benefit of PbP. If you feel time pressure make a call that seems fair, note it down, and look it up between session.

It's really the simple fact that if you wait on a PB you will never really learn. Especially as a new DM to PbP's managing your PC's is a whole different ball game. Around a table you just throw some Cheeto's at the guy who isn't paying attention and tell him to take his turn in a PbP you probably boot him or let him straight kill your game. Even play over VOIP suffers a little from that. If it's real time you can say "Hey, you haven't said anything in a whole what is your character thinking right now" in PbP you can do that in a PM and then wait days because that guy only logs in on Mondays and Thursdays.
MysteriousSquirrel
 member, 3 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 07:27
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to Sir Swindle (msg # 6):

Noted! Will incorporate real time games.

Would setting a time limit for replies work in play-by-post? I realize the turn time is in days and weeks, so it would be a longer time limit and not a substitute for real time, but still.
liblarva
 member, 671 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 07:34
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to Sir Swindle (msg # 6):

That’s really only a problem if you have few players who don’t post frequently. Anything less than six and one PCs randomly taking a week off can throw the whole game. And it’s only a problem if you halt the game while waiting for that one player. You can solve that by either running larger groups and/or simply skipping players after a set amount of time. In my games I do both. More players (6-12+) and tell them ahead of time that they have 48 hours to post or they’re skipped. It’s seems to me that it’s easier to run bigger groups in PBP games than in real time games. You can also run smaller groups (3-5 PCs) within a big game. Think West Marches. If one player disappears, you’re fine. The other players keep going as they don’t want to be skipped and you’re running several small groups so things are always moving. Games can still fall apart, it happens, but running more players and skipping PCs tends to resolve the issues you mention.
liblarva
 member, 672 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 07:36
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to MysteriousSquirrel (msg # 7):

Yes. Setting time limits works great. Just skip the player if they cross the line and keep the game moving.
Sir Swindle
 member, 296 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 07:48
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
Lots of opinions on that I imagine but my best result was when I set specific days that I was doing IC posts that would progress things. So everyone knew that they needed to have a post in Before Tuesday then another in before Friday. It worked ok while I was able to sustain it but it turned out to be a little aggressive for me to keep up with.

That is more for combat but conversations get bogged down more than combat it seems. Everyone knows that the combat is still going and that they will have to take an action. Out of combat it is a little less clear. I had a game sit for like 3 months because apparently everyone agreed with the plan I laid out IC and no one thought it was worth while to give an assenting opinion until the DM said "Hey we're doing this unless someone speaks up".

@liblarva - Easier to run a 6-12 man party but still not easy. 12 players being actually acive would just be a mess, everyone clamoring over each other, everyone trying to get they cool RP in dropping soliloquies every few pages it's way too much to keep up with and honestly just breaks the immersion. Even with 3 players you get this weird thing where apparently they are all having a simultaneous conversation with the same guy all at the same time and he is responding to all of them in long winded speeches apparently every few second. But no one feels like they can just sit it out and let the face take the lead because then they aren't posting (the mortal sin of PbP)

You pick up 12 expecting 8 to drop. 4 of them will probably drop because they log on after a day at the office and see 2 pages of text they need to read before they post and decide to get a beer instead. 2 of them don't read what everyone else said and just do their own thing throwing everyone else off.
tibiotarsus
 member, 219 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 09:53
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
So I'm not into the standard popular games with a big player pool, but for Call of Cthulhu? Overstock by 2 and have an absence policy (mine is 1 week vanished without word = character is Over There Somewhere, 1 month, they're an NPC now) Your desired post rate goes in the ad.

Read a bit of fiction before playing to help you get a memorable and engaging narration: it's a lot more important in PBP, and you have far more time to do it. "You see an Orc in the distance" is less memorable than "a heavy figure hoves into view against the grey skyline..." with some thought as to what characters can actually see at that distance and in the lighting conditions, like they're there. It affects tone a lot, too, and as such expectations. For instance, you could also metaphorically put the clown music on the same description with "in the distance, an Orc oblivious to the presence of the group of dragon-slaying adventurers they're about to run into wanders into view, doing a bit of a dance to whatever tune is in their head right now."

I have a great deal of horror plotting tips, but I think you're just using CoC for ideas there, since the focus seems to be dungeon mastery? Let me know if you want any - the prewritten stuff is OK but I find it easy to get tangled.
Ski-Bird
 subscriber, 152 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 11:10
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
Sir Swindle:
... keep your parties small. Like 4 at most.    ... quickly replace people. [your players] will accept and you will need them.


When making the jump to PbP, get ready for something I call the 'flake rate.'  Games tend to get a lot of interest/movement during the first few phases of recruiting and character generation, but when the game actually gets underway ... you will invariably lose some of your players.  Some just disappear.  Others will let you know they are bowing out.  I guess some folks misjudge the amount of free time in their life.  Applying to a game is easy when you have a few hours free on a weekend.  Checking in a couple of times weekly for the next six months is a different story.

One of the traps that I have fallen into in the past is to weave my story in-around-and-through my players' backgrounds.  Relatives of the PC's end up being major NPC's ... the villain is someone from their past, etc.  I avoid this now until I have a better idea of who is at my [virtual] table.

^^ If you weave something intricate around a player and then that player flakes ... the story can get knocked off-kilter.  I'd avoid tying the plot heavily to your players' backgrounds until you have a really good idea of your players' commitment level.

Another thing I do to help offset the flake rate is I recruit one or two more than I need.  Looking for 3-4 ... you should probably accept 5-6 into the tale.  That way, when the first 1-2 players flake out ... you aren't stuck trying to do a re-recruit before the first scene is even completed.  In other words, if you only had three ... and two drop, you might enter a hiatus while waiting for replacements.  But if you had five and dropped to three ... the game could probably continue while you re-recruited.

Another tricky thing with PbP is in managing the tempo of the game.  Others on here have hit the nail right on the head with their suggestions for that ...
MysteriousSquirrel
 member, 4 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 18:15
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to tibiotarsus (msg # 11):

Good to know that more effort should go into narration in play-by-post. As far as horror goes, I have CoC version 5.1.1 (though I like the idea of letting the players use the more recent versions of Luck), so I'm all ears about any tips/suggestions.

I've heard old pulp works well for good narration (eg: Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, John Huston, etc.) Are there any other works I should look into?

Also tibiotarsus/Ski-Bird: 'overstock by 2 players', good to know!

To everyone: Thanks for all the advice!

To speed up the game, would it be a good idea in play-by-post to say something like:
'In this room, the following rolls will be successful: easy tasks: 12+, regular tasks 15+, hard tasks 18+. If you want to do something, roll it and give the results'?
Or to give some monster stats at the start of combat, and allow the players to calculate the attacks themselves?
liblarva
 member, 673 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 18:46
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to MysteriousSquirrel (msg # 13):

Conversion to and from Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition is a snap. In 7E, skills are condensed slightly, hit points are calculated slightly differently, by default stats are rolled then multiplied by five. There are some extra rules in 7E that I really like, like Luck spends and chases, but the editions are mostly interchangeable.

Speeding up the game. Those could all work. I’ve found that eliminating initiative (for the players posting at least) really speeds things up. If you use strict initiative order for players posting and someone early in that order vanishes, you quickly get a knock-on effect of delays and it’s more likely later posters will get frustrated and drop. You can still resolve things in initiative order, but forcing the players to follow strict initiative order for posting slows things to a crawl.

Giving a room a difficulty will speed things up, sort of. But getting players in the habit of just declaring their actions and rolling works better. The players don’t really need to know the difficulty before rolling. They declare and roll then you narrate the result. Also getting players in the habit of rolling everything they might need to up front (like damage) instead of waiting to find out if they hit first then rolling damage.

“I attack.” “Okay, roll.” “I got a 19.” “Okay, that’s a hit. Roll damage.” “That’s 12 damage.” “He staggers back...”

Every time the player waits to confirm things with the GM can add hours or days to resolving an action. The above is six posts to resolve one attack. You can easily condense that down to two posts.

“I attack and rolled a 19 to-hit. If that hits, I deal 12 damage.” “He staggers back...”

That’s pure mechanics and you’ll want more description of course.

This message was last edited by the user at 18:48, Fri 29 Jan.

MysteriousSquirrel
 member, 5 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 19:26
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to liblarva (msg # 14):

"Giving a room a difficulty will speed things up, sort of. But getting players in the habit of just declaring their actions and rolling works better."
Why haven't I heard of doing this before... it's simple and I can definitely see how it would speed things up and give the players freedom over the results of their actions.

Also: having players roll attack/to hit at the same time like that sounds promising.

Thanks!
jkeogh
 member, 97 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 19:30
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
I've seen and liked it when DM's do "Spoiler text" and provide the DC.

DC 20 Nature Check

Spoiler text: (Highlight or hover over the text to view)
Look at me, I'm a bird


That could help you move things a long a bit, but you have to trust your players or set rules up to ensure they aren't "cheating"
MysteriousSquirrel
 member, 6 posts
Fri 29 Jan 2021
at 19:52
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to jkeogh (msg # 16):


Spoiler text: (Highlight or hover over the text to view)
So...like this?


Not a bad idea.

In terms of the players cheating, is that much of an issue?
tibiotarsus
 member, 220 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Sat 30 Jan 2021
at 00:02
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
^ Everything liblarva said up there.

As for reading, it depends entirely on the feel you're going for in any particular game. I'd personally stay away from pulps unless I was after the quick, shallow feel of stories being churned out on a deadline to pay the author's rent (they're often over-stuffed, word-wise, to get an extra tin of beans' worth out of a description), but those might certainly work for a brief one-shot with a high post rate, or a story intended to feel pulpy. The idea is that you're training your brain to automatically fall into a word-rhythm that makes people feel "story now" and pay attention/look forward to narrative posts rather than "words to read before dice happen"; the intent of the suggestion wasn't to try and pastiche an author in particular, just get some free subconscious atmosphere alongside refreshed inspiration in your genre of choice.

OK...CoC and D&D are extremely different animals and I don't want to be a distraction here/contradicting all the good DM tips with Keepering tips, so I'll just drag this link over: https://thealexandrian.net/wor...e-sandy-petersen-way  ...and add commentary that CoC actually works best - unlike D&D - if the unseelie (dangerous to humans) nature of cosmic entities isn't something you could point at and go "evil!": rather just an existence so alien it interacts with the rules of the known world like vitriol interacts with flesh.

Relatedly, whilst there're some entities for whom the "madness rays" model of SAN loss is appropriate, I prefer estimating SAN loss in terms of the isolating effects of trauma, like...you can tell someone "I was in a car crash" or "A living thing like a massive jellyfish stuck in a barrel attacked me" and they might intellectually understand you've had kind of a bad time, but the experience is so far from human daily normal they can't actually relate to that sudden terror/processing failure of being there at the time (and if physical injuries aren't visible, they might deny it ever happened and treat you badly as a "liar" or "exaggerating"...or send you off to the asylum).


Lastly, this'll go for any game, but you can ask your players if they'd like you to roll passive checks for them if it's not vitally important, e.g. a Spot/Listen to see if they pick up extra clues, forewarning of an ambush being set up at a distance, that kind of thing. Also, remember it's your game! So long as you're upfront and consistent with rulings and pick your players sensibly - say your comfort zone is 6, it's better to accept 7 (or even 5 and go fishing for another at the next jumping-on point) than to grab an 8th that's a horribly bad fit for your party/setting/playstyle; tailor your RTJ questions to get the kind of players you want and be as specific as possible in ads.
MysteriousSquirrel
 member, 7 posts
Sat 30 Jan 2021
at 02:44
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to tibiotarsus (msg # 18):

A quick refresher on the the type of writing I'm going for seems like a good idea, and yeah, it is true a lot of the pulp authors were churning stuff out to make a buck.

https://thealexandrian.net/wor...e-sandy-petersen-way   : will look into.

For play by post: passive wisdom checks do seem like a good idea to give players the option of( to avoid the back and forth).

Thanks for the advice!
jkeogh
 member, 98 posts
Sat 30 Jan 2021
at 04:56
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
I think if you put it there, you have to assume most of the players will read it. But if you see them blatantly acting on the info without earning it somehow, then you know you may have a problem.
Sir Swindle
 member, 297 posts
Sat 30 Jan 2021
at 06:58
Please critique my plan to learn to dm
Honestly the idea of hidden DC's is sort of archaic and borderline non-sensical. I'm a seasoned adventurer I can reasonably rate on a scale of 1 to 20 how hard this guy I'm fighting is to hit.
MysteriousSquirrel
 member, 8 posts
Tue 2 Mar 2021
at 03:55
Re: Please critique my plan to learn to dm
Sir Swindle:
If you are 100% new then start a game with some understanding players (or even a solo game) over some sort of voice chat. You will learn more in 1 night than you will in weeks of PbP.

If you continue on the PbP route keep your parties small. Like 4 at most. Ask other RTJ's if they would like to go on a wait list so you can quickly replace people. They will accept and you will need them.


(UPDATE, 1 months later)
Thanks for this advice!

I setup a game on roll20, was planning on just doing one shots, but now am 5 games in a campaign. (cautiously optimistic, first game felt like I was having a heart attack.)

I can totally see how the instant feedback helps! Also, since the games take like 6 or 7 hours, I get plenty of practice per game! ( still working on making combat faster and run smoother )

Probably gonna get a game up and running on rpol within the week ( Call of Cthulhu ).
Jewwk of Shuu
 member, 10 posts
 "I cast: Pro: Sandwich"
 GM: "But WHY?!"
Tue 2 Mar 2021
at 13:50
Re: Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to MysteriousSquirrel (msg # 22):

A couple of tricks I quickly learned for streamlining combat in pbp:

1. Tell your players the expectations for combat. Prompt your players early on in the game so they know what's expected and when and how to provide it.

2. Avoid random encounters and/or red herrings.  In- person campaigns I ran used to always contain random encounters to harass the party and red herrings to confuse the players. Those don't necessarily work to the same effect in pbp. Red herrings were a good way to help me disguise my poor poker face when real traps sprung up. In pbp they distract and serve no purpose. All they do is take up time and posts and advance nothing. Same with random encounters. Not saying you shouldn't ever use them, just be judicious.

A random encounter unexpectedly became a red herring in the very first combat sequence  I ran on pbp: lesson learned, lol! :)

3. Wrap things up or skip over certain battle sequences if things are a foregone conclusion. Your 8th lvl fighter steamrolls a kobold? No need to roll anything. Quickly describe the action and move on. Conversely, make the rolls you do have the characters make really matter, so they feel very important and special.
MysteriousSquirrel
 member, 9 posts
Tue 2 Mar 2021
at 22:24
Re: Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to Jewwk of Shuu (msg # 23):

I didn't think that red herrings would not work the same way in pbp: good to know.

For the battles, I was referring to smoothing out combat in a roll20 type game (more or less real time.) Still, I was wondering how to focus combat encounters in pbp, having small battles as 'instant-win' seems like a good idea... I'm gonna have to try that in real time games as well.

This message was last edited by the user at 22:25, Tue 02 Mar.

Ezri
 member, 348 posts
Tue 2 Mar 2021
at 22:51
Re: Please critique my plan to learn to dm
rpol combats have the benefit of having time to read up on things

Advice for rl/roll20 combat speeds, they get quicker the more you are familiar you get with the rules and the more confident you get it not looking something up and trusting you're instinct (doesn't meant don't look anything up, but over time you will check things less - though always try to check things after the game to make sure your instincts were right).

Spellcasting is usually tricky for a GM because while the players just have their spell list to worry about, the GM can have any spell show up at any time on a monster - as either a caster or as a spell-like ability - so try to read up ahead of time on their spell lists. A good trick, especially if they have spells/abilities that are really long and complicated is to figure out when the enemy might use it (such as when there are 3 PCs in a row, or if there are 2 PCs off away from the party) and then you only need to recheck the spell when the condition of its use comes up - so if no one ever gets into the key position you don't waste too much time rereading the spell in the middle of combat.

Use instant win sparingly, but is useful for those side battles that might occur during an adventure, or more flavorful fights that make sense logically but aren't dangerous  - "after killing the dragon some of its kobold minions desperately try to kill you, but are quickly dispatched"

A common 'speed enhancer' for pbp combats is side initiative, basically the players all go and then you do (or vice versa) as depending on your players waiting for everyone to post in order can drag things out considerably.
MysteriousSquirrel
 member, 10 posts
Wed 3 Mar 2021
at 03:14
Re: Please critique my plan to learn to dm
In reply to Ezri (msg # 25):


There is so much good advice here...

I'm doing most of this stuff already (I gotta remember to set parameters on when an enemy will cast a spell. Will take out guesswork )

For fast battles in small groups, the smoothest battles I've ran involved side-base initiative with every player moving at their own rate ( same as non-combat encounters). I'm not sure it worked better for the players, but the reason I stopped doing that was the group got bigger for a bit and I kept missing player turns/actions. I tried to have a separate set of makers that players could use to mark 'when they were done,' at any time but that was when the group size shifted and I had to use initiative.

The next few things I'm going to try are:
- letting the player move their token the turn before theirs ( reduces turns by dividing the time taken to decide moves between 2 turns)
- Throw in elaborate descriptions/hints when battle starts to drag. I think there is a good possibility that slow turns is a sign of the players falling asleep. Throwing in elaborate descriptions when combat is going fast seems counterproductive. But when it slows down, giving 'hints' and descriptions ( enemies taunting, describing the after effects of previous attacks, etc. ) could potentially make combat interesting enough even if it's slow.
- End all statements after player moves with 'next action?' or something similar. ('eot' I mentally translate as 'Are you done yet?', which I feel bad to keeping repeating)

Speaking of which, is there a better way to ask 'end of turn', or a way to set it up so it's not needed? With multiple attack/actions per character, players have quite a few 'turns' per turn.

(sorry about the length of this reply, I've been thinking about how to streamline combat a lot)

This message was last edited by the user at 03:16, Wed 03 Mar.