Boogs
 member, 36 posts
 I do boogie consistently.
 Consistently boogie I do.
Mon 26 Jul 2021
at 22:05
DMing Investments and Time Traps
A while ago, my wife and I were going to try some dueting: link to a message in this forum)

You fine individuals gave me some great advice. I appreciate it, and we've had a blast :)

I've been debating between plans on starting a campaign on this site. This format has been the one I've been familiar with since I was a wee pubescent shrimp, and writing is my main method of communication and creativity. However, between me going back to doing my coursework and our plans for the next year, I didn't want to invest in creating a game that would disappoint players (or myself) by having to be drawn to a close due to my own RL adjustments. I'm also aware that there's no such thing as the stars aligning between PbP and RL.

So as I begin really trying to come to grips with whether or not I have the time or energy, here's what I know now, and the questions I have going forward.


Communication

I've the kind of player that asks questions to make sure I'm doing everything right. If a DM gives me  My CS process is both about maximizing the traits of the character as well as making sure I have plenty of opportunities for their personality to shine. I do try my best to limit my questions to the DM but have found that:
  • More (house)rules = less questions from me
  • Less (house)rules = more leeway for me


I also reach out regularly to DMs to see where they are at, and if they are just needing some time away. I never mind when a DM even just needs a break: I just like to know so I can be prepared otherwise.

Question to DMs: What sort of communication do you find takes the majority of your time (whether for good or for bad)?

Creation and Commitment

In the last year, I've spent approximately 80-something hours creating characters (yes, I tracked it), only to have them die in games about seven games. I'm not considering the games that never got started beyond an intro post. There's no resentment as we all know life comes first, but who doesn't feel the disappointment that comes with the early end of a fabricated life?

I've learned to limit what games I apply to (better no game than the wrong one), and learned when to simply bow out of a game rather than hold on too long. Sometimes it's a matter of the game changing into something I didn't anticipate, and sometimes it's been a matter of not wanting to bog down a DM with managing a player who is not at their same posting rate.

Questions to DMs:
  • What do you find yourself spending the most time on when it comes to running a game?
  • What do you find is the longest part of getting a game going?
  • And, what motivates you to continue on with a game?


Crunch
This one's simple: I love crunchy, rule-reliant systems like SR, PF, and the classic DnD. They inherently take more time, especially on PbP.

Question to DMs: What system(s) do you think combines the best combination of crunch and ease?

Thanks for your time.
deadtotheworld22
 member, 141 posts
Mon 26 Jul 2021
at 22:36
Re: DMing Investments and Time Traps
Boogs:
Question to DMs: What sort of communication do you find takes the majority of your time (whether for good or for bad)?


I can't specifically talk about DnD as I tend to run rather than play, but I tend to din I don't spend a lot of my time having to do comms to players IG. When I've had to get involved in deeper comms, it's usually down to dramatically different posting rates and player absences.

I'd say the reason I've managed to avoid too much rules arguments is that I try and be very upfront about setting up the theme, mood and style of my game from the outset, being very specific about it and making sure players know it before, as and after they submit an RTJ.

When everyone's on board with the general theme, you tend to find it easier to trust them not to either exploit the rules too much, or that they'll come to you with specific queries.

Boogs:
Questions to DMs:
  • What do you find yourself spending the most time on when it comes to running a game?
  • What do you find is the longest part of getting a game going?
  • And, what motivates you to continue on with a game?


A) Depending on the crunchiness of a ruleset and the style of the game, it's either making sure I'm up to speed on combat and thinking for everyone in the party, or just giving enough depth and thought to my narrative posts that they feel there's something to bite into and set themselves against.

B) Again, depending on the crunchiness, it's either setting up enemies etc so I've got the sheets, or just taking the time to world-build enough to be satisfied that my PCs will have enough to get their teeth into, both in terms of places and NPCs, but also in terms of distinctive defining of the world which means they can generate some of their own plot hooks within the bounds I've suggested.

C) Good players who care. It's a story I want to tell, but they're the ones who make you go 'wow, I hadn't thought of that, it's way better than I had imagined.'

Boogs:
Question to DMs: What system(s) do you think combines the best combination of crunch and ease?


My knowledge of systems is too patchy to give you a good answer, and it's very much a bit of perspective. I don't massively like heavy crunch, so my preferred is something like NWoD, but I've found 5e to be relatively accessable while giving enough depth for people who are more into their crunches and their encumbrance tables.



In answer to the more general question of whether you have time, GMing is a big burden unless you set yourself limits. If you're willing to dedicate 2-3 hours a day to the site, then you can get a lot done as a GM and be hyper responsive and have a big crunchy game which rattles on quickly and keeps momentum, but if you can't, then I would recommend rethinking your approach.

Some of that you can simply do by managing expectations - let your player group know that you'll probably not be always available, but you'll get responses to posts in 3-4 days rather than 1-2 - you might be surprised that you get more oomph put into the posts they have. Let them know how you want to GM (low power, high power, cinematic, gritty, more rolling vs more roleplaying etc.), trust them to be responsible, and you'll be less likely to get into arguments later on about what does or doesn't fit the tone.

Alternatively, pick a less crunchy system which means you do less of the rulebook work, so any given combat turn can be resolved by the GM within 30 seconds with a single glance at a character sheet, or limit the player numbers to a maximum of 2-3 rather than 4-5, and screen accordingly so you can pick a player base which is going to give you what you need.

I would say, none of this should be taken as gospel, but it's what's come from my experience of the site. I'm sure there's some points that you'll get other advice from, and they could well be right. Still, best of luck, and I hope it goes well!
Talon
 member, 399 posts
Mon 26 Jul 2021
at 23:08
Re: DMing Investments and Time Traps
Communication Style: Proactive. Inform the players of things before an issue or situation comes up. If you're thinking of changing a rule or a dynamic about the game, get their feedback in OOC or explain your reasoning behind it. Most people take change pretty well so long as they have a little bit of time to digest what's coming, they do less well when they find out about something the moment the change or rule is pertinent.

What do you find yourself spending the most time on when it comes to running a game?

Actually updating the game. Keep that in mind especially if a party wants to split. Every different thread there is to update might as well count as its own game, so if you have one group of 3 players and three smaller groups of 2, you're essentially running 4 games since now you have to do 4 posts to get everyone updated.

What do you find is the longest part of getting a game going?

For me it's rules prep. I like to make custom games and I like to experiment, so every new game I look at what I've run previously and tweak it, either to improve the way a previous rule flowed or just to see what happens. I like experimenting!

what I wouldn't recommend though is spending a lot of time making a homebrew world. The more work you spend creating a lavishly detailed homebrew setting the more precious it will be to you and also the more annoying you'll find it when players don't know the setting like you do. I personally recommend starting with a bare bones world and building it as you play.

And, what motivates you to continue on with a game?

This one is easy! Player enthusiasm! If players are having fun, chatting in OOC about game developments and posting promptly then that energy is infectious. Players are just as important to a games success as you are as the GM, make sure to find folks who bring the right energy to the game.

What system(s) do you think combines the best combination of crunch and ease?

For play-by-post, I've actually flipped an entire 180. I started by playing D&D on RPOL, but now a decade later I'll only run freeform. I've found crunchy rule systems just bog the game down too much while you wait for everyone to roll, while fights punch back and forth, etc. Instead I much more prefer going with the approach "Does this narratively make sense?" Then I mainly focus on the writing and updates and not on making sure I remembered all the modifiers.

I treat freeform much closer to how someone might run D&D, players only control their own characters, I control the rest of the world. Then I also throw a lot of big choices out to the players so they maintain their agency and still feel in control. I could go on about this at quite a bit of length, if you'd like to discuss some successful ways of running freeform you can Rmail me!

Unsolicited Advice

RPOL games live and die based on momentum. More important than system, communication style and anything else, is consistency. If you say you'll post every Tuesday and Thursday, be certain that you do, if you can post every day even better. If players get out of the habit of checking a game then the game is dead.
evileeyore
 member, 515 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
 Joined 20150819
Mon 26 Jul 2021
at 23:17
DMing Investments and Time Traps
I'll tackle these one at time despite the fact that a couple are the same answers.  Also, these responses are in regards to PbP games, face to face games are a different beast and I've never done Chat or VoIP games.

Boogs:
What sort of communication do you find takes the majority of your time (whether for good or for bad)?

Overall, area descriptions.  I try to be very thorough with area descriptions, so sometimes I will reread them three or four times and recheck my notes to sure I'm not leaving something out.

After that, rules calls.  I have to go look up the rule (often very short time, though sometimes it can be tricksy, so I'd say this is the second longest part of this process, overall), then weigh if it's a straight forward determination (usually it is, this is the generally the shortest portion of the process), then apply the call (writing up a response, if necessary amending the house rules, this is the longest part of the communication process - I don't always type or formulate thoughts quickly).

Though sometimes, I have a moment where I struggle with a response in an NPCs voice.  If I hit that wall, this will quickly outpace anything else for "longest time between Player post and my response".  These singular moments are the longest moments, but they are thankfully few and far between.  It happens more when I'm either feeling burned out on a game, or if I'm hitting a rough patch of "haven't really thought about this part of the NPC's life" moments.

quote:
What do you find yourself spending the most time on when it comes to running a game?

Character responses and detailed area descriptions.

quote:
What do you find is the longest part of getting a game going?

World building when I don't have a group already clamoring for a game.  I've spent almost 7 years fiddling around and not really working on a game because I have no "group" (IRL) to run it for.  Sure, sure, there's RPoL... but that's not the same thing mentally.

quote:
And, what motivates you to continue on with a game?

Enjoyment and dedication.  If I'm enjoying it, it's easy and I want to keep doing it.  If the Players are having fun, but I've started to not enjoy it, I'll push through for their sake, and because I know once through the 'doldrums' I tend to pick the enjoyment back up.

quote:
What system(s) do you think combines the best combination of crunch and ease?

Whichever one you're most fluent in.  No, really.  I don't care how simple a game is, if I'm just getting started in it, I'll think of multiple ways I could be "doing this more easily in GURPS" because I know that system completely.  It's rare I encounter a system where it's mechanics are such I "couldn't just do it this this other way in this other system", but there are a few systems I think do specific things more elegantly/simply than I could do them in GURPS, but because of my familiarity (and my Player's preferences*), I generally just prefer to run GURPS.

And GURPS has some "depth to it's crunch".  The workload is mostly frontloaded, whether that's on the GM who is setting up the game and making templates, or the Players if they're making 'free-form' characters (not following Template/Professions), or the setting Author if they wrote templates/professions that the GM is using.  But once you get past Character Generation, GURPS can smooth out and be very easy for the Players.  For the GM it's going to come down to system mastery, book familiarity, and notes organization for making rules calls.  During play combat can be pretty fast, I tend to prefer one round of combat per day posting rate, and GURPS combats can be brutal and swift (over in a handful of rounds, which are one second long in game time) if you're not turning on all the "cinematic options".  So I can get the Players through an average combat in a week, two if it goes long.  And I do use a bunch of cinematic options so the game 'feels' more like a "big action movie" rather than gritty realism (GURPS does both pretty well, you just have to decide what your preference is).


* I've tried to run other systems in the past for my IRL group (when it was around) but because they were GURPS fans, and in some cases very resistant to change, I ended up not getting those games going (sorry FATE, you just weren't fated to be).
tibiotarsus
 member, 243 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Mon 26 Jul 2021
at 23:32
Re: DMing Investments and Time Traps
Not a DM but a GM of various horror games, from which I think the useful takeaway for you that you might not get from your fellow DMs/fightin' fantasy folks is a certain pre-investment in linearity, which saves a great deal of catherding energy.

That is, with horror there's usually a clear cut "uncover this mystery" or "run away from the thing": the game is decidedly not on rails but people are aware there is a goal, and if you're upfront about the likely length of a game (best to start small - players that stick out something oneshot-sized may want to become your core group or longer campaigns once they trust you) then everyone can measure their stamina and commit in best faith. I think if you aim to get that clarity of goal and pacing in at the start you'll find things running smoother, and won't lose players who misinterpreted what they were signing up for.

quote:
  •      What do you find yourself spending the most time on when it comes to running a game?
  •      What do you find is the longest part of getting a game going?
  •      And, what motivates you to continue on with a game?


A) & B) are personally 'being slow at typing and low on time' and 'checking numbers/herding players into filling out sheets as asked', but then my mathematical abilities are best summed up by the time a classmate tried to help me with homework and ended up also unable to complete the equations, having the knowledge erased by sheer confusion.

I'm big on story, so once I've got my plot skeleton (setup, who, what, where, why, best case scenario ending, worst case scenario ending) and some players I let the latter's concepts generate plot threads and secondary NPCs and tie them in as I go along. Minimal effort if you're not a planner type of writer in general, probably a nightmare scenario if you are.

C) For motivation, usually a mix of mostly enjoyment (write a setting for yourself, the story for the players) and partly duty...another potentially useful bit from horror gaming is setpieces: in horror a terrible image of What Should Not Be is part of the joy in the thing. Fantasy's harder, but consider how cheesy Tolkien's descriptions would be without his mythological weight and gravitas of writing - the Prof sprinkled glitter over everything noble and talked about frolicing with flowers a bunch, but he also added huge depth and attachment by talking about how fragile such beauty is, talking about how much is ruined by and laid waste by war and blind cruelty.

Keep a few such images/mini-scenarios to steer towards, to keep you going. So, OK, maybe the party went this way and not that in the mountains to avoid a stone giant encounter, and you couldn't show them the pearlescent ancient ice dragon forcing aside cascades of shattering, glittering ice to arise from her cave at the bottom of a frozen alpine lake, but what's in the old mines they decided to shortcut through? Is there a door that will be pushed open up ahead to reveal a golden city? Some seemingly endless wide dark space, seen only in tiny circles of torchlight until an ominous glow of huge fire suggests the party are not alone, and how (cue Balrog) - and how. Maybe your players won't hit many of them, but making them up and thinking on how to word them is a nice creative activity.


I think that's all I've got that's maybe useful. Glad to hear your wife's gaming has been going well, too. Such a good and thoughtful thing to give someone!
Boogs
 member, 37 posts
 I do boogie consistently.
 Consistently boogie I do.
Tue 27 Jul 2021
at 14:48
Re: DMing Investments and Time Traps
Thanks for the great inputs. I really didn't anticipate most of this, it's helpful stuff, and really appreciated.

I definitely understand those motivations; I feel mine are more towards the players discovering the story I specifically want to tell. The way these stories  are lined up are really just indicators that I need to finish my book(s) in progress (deleted over half of my 100k work and put me in a deep slump). Thinking a book is the best medium for what I want to share. I'm a pantser/plotter, so while it's to no big deal when things go off the rails, I'm not sure I'm in a place yet to devote time to creating that freeing atmosphere for my players and maintain my freedom, even through the confines of an AP. For any of those ADHD folks out there, medicated or not, you feel me.

This is convincing me not to GM...atleast for now. And that's not a bad thing; I want to give back to those forever DMs that put too much effort into making a story fun, but I'm not selfless enough yet to exchange any of that time with what I'm able to spend with my smarter half and school work.

I am saving all this though. It's gonna happen one day.

@tibio You're sweet. As a kind and thoughtful person, she deserves kind and thoughtful things. :) and that Horror mention is very insightful!
Talon
 member, 401 posts
Tue 27 Jul 2021
at 16:29
Re: DMing Investments and Time Traps
Definitely a good thing to realize! Especially in a written medium like this it's easy to slip into the author mindset rather than the GM mindset. Have fun writing the book and later have fun GMing, they both scratch a different itch and it's definitely hard to do them at the same time since they're both time intensive hobbies.
DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1576 posts
Sat 28 Aug 2021
at 07:48
DMing Investments and Time Traps
In reply to Boogs (msg # 1):

quote:
Question to DMs: What sort of communication do you find takes the majority of your time (whether for good or for bad)?


Details. The principal of giving only details that are needed for a story is not a great one for rpgs. In a book, if there is a shotgun above the bar, the reader wonders when and how it will be used. But in an rpg, the players consider how the shotgun might be used can affect the player's plans, thus the players make decisions based on having seen the shotgun. Therefore, if a gm gives mainly details that are important and/or foreshadowing, then players can predict and prepare for what they expect to happen, and when you do include a rare unimportant detail, then they might latch onto it expecting it to be important and derail everything.

However, if you include plenty of details all the time, then when done right it can improve immersion in the world, but it also means that players have no idea what's important and what's not.

It's arguable, and probably a matter of opinion, which is better.

quote:
Questions to DMs:

    What do you find yourself spending the most time on when it comes to running a game?


The wrong things usually. Having studied this as a scientist studies topics, I can see plenty of aspects of running a great game, but keeping all of them in mind all the time is difficult.

Other than that, I basically run a simulation of the gameworld in my head, making it easy to have the gameworld respond naturally to the player's actions.

quote:
    What do you find is the longest part of getting a game going?


Finding the right players and getting characters made. Players have a variety of expectations, and finding players that will fit together and your gamestyle can be difficult.



quote:
    And, what motivates you to continue on with a game?


I don't have words for itm but it's the same thing that keeps me reading a book I like.

quote:
Question to DMs: What system(s) do you think combines the best combination of crunch and ease?


I don't think it matters. Perhaps it's just because of my gamestyle, but I find that a good set of rules makes it easy to make good rulings, but this depends entirely on perspective. The best game systems for this, also tend to attract players that dislike rulings.

Bit in any case, it's perspective that is far more important than system. With the above system conceot of making rulings, complicated systems can be used with ease, even if they'd be difficult when rules-lawyering everything.

That said, good traits are systems that do not need players to interrupt other character's turns, tgat relate stat and check nunbers to the gameworld milieu.