Type it are tips on playing electronic PbeM or PbP games.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Post! Yes, this is simplistic. So what. Make sure you respond to every move, even if it's a quick note saying "I don't really have something to do so I'll just do research". There is nothing a PBEM/ PbP GM hates more than setting up the game, sending out an exciting and gripping move, and then receiving no replies. Your character isn't going to be center stage all the time, but when he's not you still need to let the GM know that you are still interested in the game.
Type it! Life Happens. There will be times when life prevents you from posting. Maybe you and your family are going away on a trip. Maybe you're in the hospital having a baby. Maybe you're flat on your back with pneumonia. If possible, always warn your GM about times you're going to miss posting. If you can't warn him, send an note fully explaining why you missed responding to the game as soon as you are able. This is polite, and might save your spot in the game.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Write In Third Person, Past Tense. It is a good idea to say "he did", "she did", and "it did". Try and avoid first person like the plague. Never write your narration with "I did this" and "I did that". And hatever you do, don't write "I do this" and "I do that". Remember, you're trying to tell a story, not write a diary.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Write In Third Person, Past Tense. It is a good idea to say "he did", "she did", and "it did". The primary reason this is so important is because GMs tend to write their moves in third Person, past tense. When the GM tries to integrate your responses into their moves, and you've been writing in first person present tense, the tense and perspective clash. Making life easy on your GM is a good thing.
Type it! Communicate with other players. By communicating with other players in the game, you can decide on subplots and mutual actions that your characters can experience, without involving the entire troupe (in the planning stages). This is the best way to set up love scenes, rivalries, and other interpersonal subplots.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Use Proper Spelling And Grammar. Regardless of what language you are writing in, choppy paragraphs and badly constructed sentences make for difficult reading. People won't read your posts, or respond, if they cannot decipher what you write.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Avoid Non-Game Related Messages. If you feel you've got to say something to the people , as opposed to your character saying something to another character, say it quick, get to the point, and make sure it is in the OOC (out of character) area. Responses back can be private or in the OOC area.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Avoid Messages From The Willingly Oblivious These messages come about when one player totally ignores something posted by someone else, be it another player or the GM. If you don't like something that's been posted, you are NOT allowed to just ignore it and move on... especially if it came from the GM. Feel free to voice your objection to the GM, in a private message.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Avoid messages with the Super-Hero Syndrome. A post with this syndrome is a post of this sort involves the character doing things he simply isn't capable of doing and not responding correctly to his weaknesses. The best example would be a character who should be hobbling around in pain after being wounded, but instead is prancing around like he was Errol Flynn in Captain Blood. This is a serious issue, even in games set in the superhero-genre. Keep your character's action within your abilites.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Avoid getting involved in Flames in character and out. We all know about occ flames, two players hurling insults at each other. That's generally enough to get you booted from most games out there. Avoid the In-Character Flame War. In such a flamefest, two or more players will use their characters to fight each other over problems they are having in real life. You can tell this is going on when two characters who have no reason to be hostile to each other suddenly start fighting. Not good. It screws up the GM's storylines and annoys the hell out of everyone else.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Avoid Assassin Posts To put it simply, do not kill, maim, or otherwise destroy another character without the express permission of both the GM and (if it's a player character you're aiming to hurt) the other player. (This is not as much of an issue in games with actual rules.. then you fall into tactical time). It really upsets people when you try to do this, so much so that you are inviting retribution by merely considering it. If you want to seriously hurt a character, remember that the only PC you don't need permission for is your own. Talk with the GM first when considering such points of action.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Avoid Plot Changer Posts. Do not post a message which drastically changes the plotline the game follows. The GM is there for a reason, after all, and it's his game, not yours. If you have a good idea for a plotline, contact the GM. Maybe he'll like your idea and run with it. But if he doesn't, let it go. Don't try to force him to accept your idea by jamming it into the GM's game on your own.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Follow Syntax Conventions When presenting dialog, use the correct encapsulating characters to help identify how the dialog is being heard by others. It varies from game to game, and GM to GM, but it's almost certain that there is going to be some accepted rules about dialog conventions. Follow the rules as found in most of the posts of the game.
Type it! - Advice to play by: In His Own Game, The GM's Word Is Law! Most Game Masters are willing to listen to opposing opinions, but never, ever present your opposing opinion to them on the game's mailing list. If a GM ever says something along the lines as "my decision stands", let the issue go. We mean it, let it drop. Continuing to argue after he's reached a final decision is not a smart thing to do if you intend to continue playing in the GM's game game.
Type it! In a play by post, the GM might edit your posts. Do not edit them back without the GM's permission.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Treat The Game As If It Is A Game. No one is going to come up with a cure for cancer while typing away at a PBEM/ PbP/ electronic game. They are just games. If real life is interfering with your game play, see to your real life first, even if it means dropping out of the game.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Be Heard, But Don't Shout Others Down If you're naturally quiet and generally only post the minimum amount to stay in the game, try to post more often...at least enough to be recognized as being around. If you're a big talker who responds to everything vaguely connected to your character, shut up once in a while and let someone else get a word in edgewise.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Plan on time for making replies. Reply to a new move in a timely fashion. It's sometimes impossible, but at least make the effort. It also means avoid spiraling time scales. It is rare that an action CAN and MUST take place at such and such a time and no later. If you can do something later and thereby avoid wedging in an unnecessary action now, you'll be the GM's friend for life.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Avoid time crunch posts. These are those short partial posts that innevitably have the phrase "I will finish this post later" attached to them. Post a complete post, or do not post at all.
Type it! - Advice to play by: The game cannot move forward if everyone is always trying to get the last word in. Enter what posts you need to enter to finish the scene for your character. But remember, scenes end. Don't just post because you can, post when you need to. So don't enter the last world just because.
Type it! - Advice to play by: Always Remember The Most Important Rule This rule reads: "If You Become A Problem, You Will Almost Certainly Be Removed This has nothing to do with what the character do, as it does with the other real people and whether or not they're enjoying the game with you in it. Be considerate and polite whenever possible.
Herd the Cats: Always Remember The Most Important Rule. This rule reads: "If You Become A Problem, You Will Almost Certainly Be Removed From The Game". This means be polite to the players at all time. This has nothing to do with what your character does with the other characters. It involves other real people and whether or not they're enjoying the game with you in it. Be considerate and polite whenever possible.
It is just a story: Shows the characters how deadly something really is, before they directly encounter it. This foreshadowing will install the appropriate dread and respect for the danger. It will also save the troupe the time and effort of making a new character of three. .
It is just a story: Read for the ideas, plots, and scenes. It makes for easy adventure creation. Steal and mix shamelessly.
10 cents worth: Know the genre. While watching movies maybe a good enough way to introduce the pulp genre to players, it is STRONGLY recommended that the prospective GM READ pulp stories. There are some good reasons for this:
10 cents worth: Since the GM uses verbal means to describe scenes and action to the players, it is best to read the ways in which successful authors do the same thing. The GM will find it best to copy the style of a particular author, that they enjoy, while GMing. For a pulp game, you will find Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan), Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan's creator), and Lester Dent (Doc Savage's creator) to be the most accessible and useful as a guide.
10 cents worth: Read Pulps for the ideas, plots, and scenes. It makes for easy adventure creation. Steal and mix shamelessly.
10 cents worth: Do not be afraid to fudge things along to keep the game moving at a fast clip. Just learn to fudge in a consistent manner. Use some simple mechanics and add some nifty and fancy maneuver/action descriptions to elicite "Ooooo" and "Ahhhhh" from your players.
10 Cents Worth: Gives the players a chance to shine and show their heroic nature.
10 cents worth: Provides action and clues for the players.
10 cents worth: Shows the characters how deadly something really is, before they directly encounter it. This foreshadowing will install the appropriate dread and respect for the danger. It will also save the troupe the time and effort of making a new character or three.
10 cents worth: Only in the climatic battle with the major bad guy would the combat be slow and heavily detail orientated.
10 cents worth: If the combat is simply a chance to make the characters look good, simply roll the dice just for the sound they make (the players do not know this). Roll the dice and try your best to make the descriptions sound good and make the PC look great. This process helps speed up unimportant combats to a near neck break pace. Lots of fun!
10 cents worth: In every episode/adventure of the campaign, there will usually be 3 to 6 NPCs of note. The purpose of these NPCs are multi-fold; like guest stars in an old TV series, a NPC would be killed off to show the deadliness of a situation and/or attack, to hide the villain(s) amongst the players, to provide comic relief, or maybe a romantic interest. NPCs are the GM's chance to play a character and have fun acting the role. Enjoy them all.
10 Cents worth: The climatic battle with the main villain is always done using the full combat rules and dice rolls. Though funding the occasional roll for the players is acceptable, the attention to detail makes the players nervous, hence makes the combat more tense.
10 cents worth: Old National Geographics are your friends. They can be inspirational for exotic times and places. They can give you a feel for the local or the era during the time of the magazine. And the best part, is that they can be found everywhere for cheap, or you can get the whole set on CD.
10 cents worth: For every exotic location you have an adventure in, lookup some of the language on the web. You are simply skimming the langauge for "flavor text" the names of some important features/creatures that you plan on using at some time in the adventure- along with a greeting, curse word, and goodbye. This would add a lot of flavor and "realism" to your campaign.
Tomes of all Knowledge: National Geographics.
It is just a story: For every exotic location you have an adventure in, lookup some of the language on the web. Just skim the language to pick up the important bits you will need, greetings, curse words, goodbye, and any word that might be important in the course of the adventure. This would add a lot of flavor and "realism" to your campaign.
Creatures: I have found the best way to use creatures is as explained in a direct quote from Aaron Allston's Lands of Mystery:
It is just a story: Monsters affect the hero in many ways: They endanger his life by trying to bite his head off, they delay him by try to bite his head off while the bad guy is getting away with the Princess, they give him heart failure by trying to bite the Princess' head off, they make him a friend by giving him the opportunity to rescue a native from having his head bitten off. Monsters add color, excitement, and an element of variety to these tales. Monster encounters should always Serve A Purpose. Each encounter should advance the plot or give a character a chance to demonstrate his thinking or fighting ability".
10 Cents Worth: If the PCs do not have access to magic and creature abilities, and you are using them against them, the players will try to get their hands on them. Make the powers or creature unobtainable to the PCs. Destroy that mummy in a fire that consumes the creature like a dried-up wicker basket. Make sure spells require ingredients that no upstanding PC would ever be able to attend.
10 Cents worth Keep magic low key because it could monopolize the game, making it very non-pulpish. Make it hard and expensive to learn (tomes, books, finding a trainer, etc), have the ingredients compromise the PC morals (the heart of a freshly killed VIRGIN?!?!), make the spells impossible to cast quickly (stars have to be in the right alignment, or need hours, even days, of prep and casting time), and dangerous to know (think Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos).
Fang and Claw: For easy of play, non player undead creatures don't take wounds. They are either still fighting/moving, or dead. When an undead is hit in combat, if a damage total of eight or more is done, the creature dies. Anything less and it keeps fighting. Don't forget to describe the hits the undead takes, even if it has no effect. A PC might blow off a leg/arm or shoot out an eye before the creature finally keels over. The more grisly the wounds, the more relentless and unstoppable the creature will seem."
10 cents worth: Think of your Pulp Adventure Campaign as a series on TV. Do you think the director yells, "CUT!" and rolls some dice to determine the outcome of a particular action on the show? Of course not. Try the same techniques with your campaign- Think to yourself, "What would be the best result to increase the tension and suspense of my audience (the players)?" Then find a way to apply that result. Soon you will notice that your brain will be multi-tasking; processing the player's actions, the NPCs reactions and thoughts, the best way to describe those actions, the best possible results and how to apply them.
It is just a story: Think of your Adventure Campaign as a series on TV. Do you think the director yells, "CUT!" and rolls some dice to determine the outcome of a particular action on the show? Of course not. Try the same techniques with your campaign- Think to yourself, "What would be the best result to increase the tension and suspense of my audience (the players)?" Then find a way to apply that result. Soon you will notice that your brain will be multi-tasking; processing the player's actions, the NPCs reactions and thoughts, the best way to describe those actions, the best possible results and how to apply them.
Try to make adventures that are tailor made for your PCs skills, talents, and backgrounds. If you have a Tarzan-clone character in your troop, then run an adventure in a jungle setting. The archeologist character will be the first to decipher the glyphic markings on the walls of the ruins. The collage professor would understand the language of the descendants of the lost Roman Legion. The back-alley brawler will have the opportunity to beat the bad guys(or creatures) in hand-to-hand. Everyone should have the chance to shine in the course of the adventure.
It is just a story: While it is best to give every character a chance to be in the limelight in every adventure, this could be hard to do in each gaming session. Another good way to move the campaign along is to focus on one individual character's background for that particular session. Have the group encounter a mystery/adventure visiting one of the character's family during Christmas.
10 cents worth: Allow, even encourage, vacations for the characters, then slam them into an adventure. Have the action seek them out at every turn in their lives. This gives the players a feeling of a more complete campaign world.
The Continuing Saga: Try to develop a long range campaign plot for each character. Then explore these plots VERY slowly. The plots are all there, you just have to look to see them.
It is just a story: Use highly descriptive terms in actions and combat. Make the players SEE, HEAR, SMELL, FEEL the action! The players will catch on (hopefully) and start adding their own descriptive terms, making the campaign an ongoing adventure in mutual story telling.
10 cents worth: NEVER RUIN your game by having an established Pulp hero (i.e. Doc Savage, The Shadow, etc) steal the thunder of your player's characters. After all, this IS the player's characters adventure series. Have the character always be the best at whatever skill in which they specialize. It is okay to have the character assist the Pulp hero or be better than them in one particular field.
10 cents worth: Keeping even unimportant recurring NPCs constant helps the game more than you can ever imagine. Bob, the doorman (who NEVER forgets any dames shapely pair of legs), John, the hackdriver (can get you anywhere in the city in record time, but your hair might turn white from the experience), Billy, the corner newsboy (who knows some the most amazing information and going-ons in the city)- they all add up stable and believable world.
Organize it: Keep an account of the adventures the PCs have. Make a form, using any word processor, to keep track of the; Name of the adventure or episode, when played (real time), date of adventure (game time), names of PCs and NPCs involved, location, type of adventure (mystery, horror, action, etc), highlights of the adventure, and whatever else you can think of. This log can be useful to prod your memory, see what kind of episodes you have been running, and remind you of loose ends you need for plot inspiration.
If the GM finds keeping certain bits of paper work up and running a campaign too much for their limited time, they can ask a player to do it for them. Award the player with experience, karma, or appropriate advantages in play for their troubles. To keep this advantage from getting uneven, rotate the responsibility from player to player with each game session
Tools of the Trade - Book of I: If there are articles or websites that are useful for your gaming, copy them/ print them out, and put them in a three ring binder. This group of articles, web sites, and gaming aids can help you along when the creative gray brain matter seems to be at low tide. Putting them in sheet protectors can be a useful but costly investment.
A little help from my friends: "Named" characters, those of historical or setting importance, are there to help you fill out your world. Never let the named take away from the PC's. S/he should be there to enhance the gameplay experience of the players, s/he shouldn't be there.
A little help from my friends: "Named" characters, those of historical or setting importance. Be careful to introduce them, if you have a player who would get off on killing the named character. One idiot can disrupt your whole world. (Of course if they do, the time commando's come sweeping down in their paramagical moble infantry armor, blow the PC away, revive the historical figure, and then "red flashy thing" various memories away.)
A little help from my friends: Players expect important "named" people to live upto any stories legends told of them. You can play it seriously, and show the character's abilities, or for laughs and have the "named" fail at something s/he "should" have done easily, then tell the players "Hey, you actually believe those stories?"
The Pulp Avengers, by Brian Christopher Misiaszek http://www.columbia.edu/~mfs10/Brians_Pulp_File.html
Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot, by Lester Dent http://dept.english.upenn.edu/~rbarrett/mc/dent.txt
John Ross' Big List of RPG Plots http://www.io.com/~sjohn/plots.htm
The Jazz Age Slang article http://home.earthlink.net/~dlarkins/slang-pg.htm
Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot. If it worked for him in writing 181 Doc Savage adventures, it would work for you (especially the "Make the reader SEE the action!" quote). (http://dept.english.upenn.edu/~rbarrett/mc/dent.txt
You are what your pretend to be. An interesting idea for a roleplaying gamer.
In the words of Benjamn Franklin, occasionally doubt your own infallibility.
Never forget, life doesn't change just because your character gets reamed.
Your actions can contribute to the group enjoyment or take away from it. It's up to you whether or not you have fun.
If real life is interfering with your game play, see to real life. You can always come back to a game later, but if your life is in ruins you will never be back.
When considering a character for a campaign, consider the character AND the player playing it. A character which might be appropriate for one player to play, would become a campaign destroying thing in the hands and playstyle of another player in your group.
Many of my adventures are just a string of scenes in my head that I somehow tie together. I know what scene I want to have occur so I arrange to have it happen at an appropriate part of the adventure. This does not necessarily mean I "railroad" the players in any way, quite the opposite. By knowing what I want to have happen I allow the players to go where they will and do what they want- I just modify the event I want to have it happen to work wherever the players go. They have freewill while I get to run my adventure with minimal fuss. I also will shape the adventure to fit my player's characters skills and backgrounds (diversity is a welcome blessing here).
Baron Karza syndrome: It is a comic phrase, that has long outlived the comic it came from (Micronauts early 80s). Baron Karza was the big bad. They defeated him. The next metastory arc, he came back and was the big bad. They defeated him. Over the next meta arcs, one of the supporting heroes becomes Baron Karza (brain washing was involved). They defeated him. You see where this is going. A GM should either end the campaign before it gets stale or vary the "big bad" of the campaign. Retiring a "big bad" is one of the great joys of being a gamer.
Batman Syndrome: Certain characters are not that powerful in terms of raw dice, ability to hit, and other mechanical considerations, but manage to save the day, stopping foes that should not of been able to defeat given their numbers. Players often want to play these characters and look for game mechanics to augment them. There aren't any. Such characters are not powerful because of what they are, they are powerful because of how they are played, carefully and cunningly.
Every scene in a game has three purposes; The GM's purpose (forwarding their plots), the Player's purpose (forwarding their fun), and the Character's purpose (following their motivations). By keeping this three pointed fact in mind, planning scenes will become easier.
With a ruler and some tape: Locations of Mystery: Always make sure to leave some "blank spots" in your world where you can fill in odd and unusual events. These odd and unusual events can serve as adventure spring points for your characters.
Tools of the Trade: FLAVOR LIST Create a list of cool ideas, people, places, and *flavor* that you want to add to your game world. Then, set that list off to the side. These items are your reserve. When your troupe starts showing interest in a merchant they pass on the road, pull out your flavor list, pick an item off it, and make that encounter suddenly rich and vibrant. Then, after the encounter, mark down that you had a spice merchant marching north into dwarven lands, and worry later about the *why* of it. Also, then every time you have a good idea, but can't use it, you are officially saving it and don't have to worry about losing the chance to use it. See Book of I and Campaign Binders
QUICK DIRECTIONS - Often, to confuse my players, I give them directions about as fast as their characters would perceive them. Just "right", "left", and "straight". I use terms like "a little way" or "quite a ways". This is for times when they are chasing after someone, and aren't really paying attention to where they are going. I don't give them maps until they stop and take an action to look around. (Another table-top trick I used to use was to not draw anything on a battlemat, but instead place foam blocks for walls, and when you went around a corner, pick them up. A fog-of-war technique, if you will.)
Boo! - Isolation: The protagonists need to realize that they cannot get help from any outside source. Whether it's by physical isolation (lost in the wilds, on a deserted moon-base, or stuck on a boat in the middle of the sea) or social isolation (the "no one believes us" tactic where even if the protagonists ask for help, their pleas are at best ignored or at worst taken as evidence the protagonists are cracking up).
Boo! - Helplessness: The protagonists need to understand that the direct, easy approach isn't working. Even logical deduction seldom yeilds progressive courses of action. This is the classic "you can't nuke Cthulhu" element. The protagonists should swing between "defeat the menace" and "survive the menace" throughout the scenario. Not knowing what to do is one of the essential elements of horror.
Boo! - Mystery: The protagonists shouldn't have a clear idea of what they're up against. They should chase evidence, catch brief glimpses, or stumble on the aftermath of the menace, but never get the whole picture, except perhaps at the climax of the scenario, or the epilogue. Knowing what you're facing gives an element of comfort, a sense of stability which is something the protagonists should never have.
Boo! - Take it from the begining: Describe scenes from a "first sence perceived" standpoint. Rotting dead bodies are scented before they are seen. Shambling horrors are heard shuffling through the streets. Cold winds chill the flesh. Give the players just enough to let their imaginations run wild. You'll realize that players are excellent at scaring themselves.
Boo! - Move it! Keep the pace moving. It doesn't have to be car-chaces and gunfights, but events must keep occurring. Don't let the protagonists rest too long. For horror to work there has to be pressure to keep going, the sense that if you stop you're dead.
A simple trick to enhance a world is for the people in the story to mention, non-relevant story events. A concert they plan on attending, spilling coffee on a book borrowed from a brother- in-law, d**n that neighbor's dog, etc. A casual mention of secondary events can put flesh on an imaginary world and bring it to life.
Beware of GOP, goal oriented people, characters whose every thought is solely directed to bringing the story to an end.