Over 3 weeks and close to 200 posts later and The Ballad of Hal Whitewyrm is still cruising right along. I’m enjoying the play-by-post’s slow pace, allow me to learn the differences between Revised and Gold and allowing Daniel to become more acquainted with Burning Wheel.
I’m fascinated with this new way to play. Here are some things that I’m thinking about and noticing as our game chugs along (also worth noting that there are other BWG play-by-post games springing up).
Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays: Daniel’s observance of the Jewish holidays is really helpful, as it enforces breaks and pauses in play. I know that I don’t want to start anything too intense in the hours just before sun-down on Friday and as the sun went down tonight on Rosh Hashanah, I knew I didn’t want to begin the coming conflict with the pack of great wolves and the bad-ass orc who road in on said wolves with an elf boy in their saddle-bags. But in pausing right there on the edge of conflict, we’ll be set to go and excited to be back once we get back to it after a few days off.
Funny side-note, having this game’s pauses be dictated by Daniel’s religious observance is as connected to Judaism as I’ve felt in years. Score one mitzvah point for Daniel.
Conversations: To me, this is one of the places where play-by-post falls down a bit and I’m developing ways to cope with it. When we have a back and forth, I post questions and don’t wait for Daniel to answer them and keep the conversation going, with plenty of seeds for Daniel to grab onto. I don’t want to actually have a conversation because over a forum that is annoying but I want the text to be a kind of outline of the conversation we’re having. Its odd, check the link for an example.
I like GMing gatherings via forum and text more than I do in person. Its easier to split things up and have NPC’s talking to one another and show their relationships by how they interact.
Rolling Procedures: Playing via forum, one really notices how often BW asks its players to make choices and those choices can lead to waiting for posts so the shit can really start. We’re getting used to this and I’m sure I’ll have more to say as the game progresses.
Smiles and Nods: I’m thinking of the two guys I’ve gamed the most with in these past few years, Aaron and Pete and the way they show appreciation for cool shit. Pete might jump up and say, “DAG!” and Aaron is more of a quiet nodder who will say, “That is fucking awesome,” quietly while he digests and starts to reply. Over forum, there’s no real way to do that. We have out of game talk via italics but for the most part, we’ve kept that to mechanics and system stuff.
For the most part, Daniel and I give each other smiles and nods via twitter. I know I’m cooking with fire when he tweets at me.
We also have a forum threads for Idle Banter, one for each chapter of the game.
The other thing we’ve done is made a space for our favorite moments in our Adventure Log. So far we’ve been using that as a place to say a favorite moment that the other person has written and its not only a nice attaboy but a nice way to check in and see what’s working for the other.
The Obsidian Portal and the Dream Forum: I can’t help but think of a forum made to support our play. I see a forum where we can script and the scripts will be revealed as soon as we’ve both entered our choices and maybe even lines up our scripts and gives system help for outcomes. As it is, OP is fine. I like the wiki, the way I can insert a link to an NPC easily and the way the whole thing is set up.
Double-back: As a GM, it is nice to be able to go back and take a hard look at my decisions, re-read not an AP thread about the game but a thread where the game is being played. That is damned interesting
Text Performance Art?: It is neat to have people following the game, watching and reacting. I wish the forum software allowed for more interaction with little side comments like on ENworld’s forum.
There is a whole community of folks playing play-by-post games or just using the Obsidian Post site as a place to store information, maps, NPC’s and such for their games. I see a bit of a disconnect. When people talk about good sites, they talk about funky fonts, youtube videos and lots of time-consuming production time spent on making their OP site look good. Different games, different priorities and its all good. Everyone on the OP forum has been very friendly and welcoming and I get the feeling that folks understand that people use the site for very different reasons.
Daniel did make a sexy title page headed for our game, to be fair.
One-on-One: This is the last element of the game that I wrote down to write on in this blog post and it might just be the most important. Playing via forum is glacially slow and I’d think that the more people, the more slowly it would move. I bet there are games that would lend themselves well to this kind of group play (Polaris, Universalis both come to mind immediately).
As it is, I’m really happy we went with one-on-one play, allowing us to learn the system and the medium.
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Adding my thoughts on each of the headings.
Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays: I find that it gives us really nice natural pacing during the week. And Shabbat offers a nice enforced break for us to asses the game/story for when we pick it up again on Sunday.
Also, the mitzvah point is for both of us. 🙂
Conversations: This is something I have grappled with in PbP and PbEmail. There are times when a back-n-forth is needed and we slog it through, but in general I have done precisely what we do: present general pieces of info and in essence, conduct different parts of the conversation(s) at the same time. Overall it works, though if we ever have a conversation that needs to happen in real time, we might want to jump on a chatting platform and then copy-paste for the record.
Rolling Procedures: The biggest issue for me is trying to guess when a roll will come. If I can do that, I can try to cut down the posts needed to get to it, though with BW there are so many things that can affect a roll before it happens that it’s not always the case. That said, those things that affect all are roleplayed, so they add to the story, which is neat. In my Dragon Age game, I have given latitude to the players to pre-roll some tests they feel may be appropriate; if they are, I use them and we saved ourselves that exchange, but if they aren’t, I call for the right one. In general it saves time, but I realize it’s not a method that will work with all games, BW included.
Smiles and Nods: I like to keep the story thread as focused as possible indeed. I will make more use of the Idle Banter threads going on. I like to give feedback at the table (you can hear that in our Star Wars PTA recordings, though you were there, obviously) and for that I use Twitter, though I have to remember that there’s a lot more people “hearing” as well. I almost wish we had marginalia we could append to a post.
The Obsidian Portal and the Dream Forum: The thing with OP is that it’s primarily a wiki site and the forum was added later. So it works, but it has some limitations. Compare for example EN World, which has a forum with tons of add-ons for special text effects and you could see how it can be done, but it requires a separate and concerted programming effort. Which would be awesome. But I agree, OP works nicely because it also allows the archiving of all the peripheral info in the same place, which is hella-handy.
Double-back: What you said. Also, very handy to be able to edit, especially at times before the other has replied to a post.
Text Performance Art: I am humbled and excited that we have, in effect, a living novel that’s being read. It’s weird-cool. In a way it helps me to keep my game up.
On OP’s use, the site makers have always been incredibly honest and encouraging about people using their site for what *they* need and nothing more. Which means the campaigns will range from simple storage to elaborate living sourcebooks. In our case we use it to actually play, so I like to keep it at the functional level, making sure we have all the info we need available and nothing extra that could add ballast to our swift ship. I do like to have a title banner, though. 🙂
One-on-One: I run a 2-player Dragon Age and in general it moves slightly slower than our game, but it depends on schedules. Right now one player is off for two weeks due to business travels, not to mention my sporadic breaks during the High Holy Days, so we’ve in essence stopped. I can handle 2 players. One player is ideal as we have discovered. I ran a 4-player play-by-email a couple years ago and I would never do that again.
Its funny, when you left the internet for Rosh Hashanah, I was online trying to figure out what the hell to do. There was a big Hal/Daniel shaped hole in the internet.
“What the hell do folks use these internets for?”
I wasn’t online, obviously, but I did keep thinking about the story during the yom tov. What have we done! 😉
Roughly speaking, how much time do you each dedicate to the game in a week?
It varies. The first week we were hardcore and did over 100 posts in 5 days. After that we’ve toned down. If I say 5-ish hours a week I don’t think I’d be too far off.
Waaay too much time but the nice thing is its pretty easy to scale back and I don’t think it will damage our interest in the game when things slow down a big.
It’s also not all at once. We play on-and-off during the day, 15 mins here, 30 mins there.
I just put the first three chapters of our game onto a google doc and it was over 37,000 words!
I’d imagine we did most of that in the first week. That pace was nuts.