Ground Rules for Play by Post
I was weeding out my saved e-mails when I found this one. I’ve run a couple RPGs by e-mail before and this is the last time I sent out my “how to” for players. I thought that someone else may find it interesting someday.
I’ve received two complete characters so far.
Before we get to playing the game, I wanted to discuss some of the dry, boring stuff so that we’re all on the same page.
Playing an RPG by e-mail, particularly one which may feature combat, presents some unique opportunities and some equally unique challenges. To that end, I’ve a few guidelines which I send out to anyone who participates in my online games.
“How it works.”
I begin by making a GM post, which describes the scene and gives the players something to respond to. Players then talk through the scene. I’ll respond to posts as quickly as I can, as GM and and as characters not controlled by the players (NPCs).
Once I feel the time is appropriate, I’ll gather all the players posts together into a single (edited) narrative and then I will advance the story, giving the players a chance to interact with the new or extended scene.
The story usually advances every 2 days.
“Be descriptive but please be brief.”
E-mail games have the potential to be very detailed and immersive. Players are often inspired to participate on a level they rarely reach when they play in person but it’s also easy to overdo it. In general, one sentence is equal to one action. Dialogue may run longer, but beware of slewing into a monologue! If you feel you need more space,
then take it, but be warned… constant violators may be gifted with a free copy of The Elements of Style.
“Respect other characters right to self-determination.”
Specifically, if your character interacts with another, please give them a chance to respond. Do not describe the actions of another character. If you are attempting to elicit a specific response, say so. This gives other players a chance to respond. It also gives me the chance to properly judge your intent and resolve the action accordingly if it is directed against an NPC.
“The GM rolls the dice.”
In order to speed up the game and to help make the effect of the rules on the role play as transparent as possible, I will handle all the dice rolls. I will make whatever checks on behalf of the players that I feel are appropriate. Players can request that a check be made, though they would do better to imply them through their in-game postings (or both!).
“Combat takes more time.”
Sometimes you can’t avoid a fight. I try to advance combat scenes as quickly as possible. When describing your actions in combat feel free to describe your strategy (if you have one).
Set contingency actions or multi-round actions. “Dak provides cover fire until everyone is across the bridge.” is perfectly acceptable and doesn’t require the player to post every round unless he wants to change his course of action.
“Ask questions. Make suggestions.”
I’ll happily answer any questions and will provide any information that I have access to.