Lurkings in the Dark
In playing in a few PbP games, there seems to be a recurring set of issues. A prime goal of this PbP game is to test out some techiniques to see if they help with this problems.
- “Its been 3 months and only one game day has gone by!” I know that is a pacing issue, but what are the best techniques not to get bogged down into “minute by minute” posting?
- This one can be addressesd with some thought, but too many times a post by the GM will set a nice scene with no “hooks” to move forward. Perhaps it is due to the fact that GMs need to describe more to set the scene that players have difficulty figuring out what they were supposed to investigate. At the table, a GM might just draw out a 20’x20’ room and say there is a pie on the table in the middle of the room (good DMs will say more, but you get the point). A pbp post would have 4 or 5 paragraphs about dirty walls, smells, lighting, sounds, etc – likely resulting in the players missing that the pie in the middle of the room is what is important due to all the emersive richness. I know part of this is players should be giving some exposition in the form of what the PC is thinking or feeling, but that kills momentum in my opinion.
- “What we doing again?” This goes back to pace, but I find it hard to keep track of what is the goal. A small detail given 3 months ago that is import is easily lost in all the posts.
So, here are some initial thoughts on attacking these problems. Lets take the first one – snail’s pace. Something I want to try is to look to another format for some clues – the old-time radio shows. I look to this as they format is descriptive versus visual. Another reason is as a form of parallel advertising, they would boil down big movie releases to be a 1/2 hour radio show. In a way, that is what we are doing here—trying to condense one format into another.So, what do these condensed radio shows of movies teach us?
- Scenes get to the point quickly. They are set up for a specific reason, and they work to resolution quickly.
- Scenes do not linger. There is enough rich interaction to move the plot, then the plot moves. For example, if the PI finds out the Tom-Two-Fingers hangs out in the Lows, the story immediately shifts to the Lows and the PI intrinscially knows who to talk to get get the plot moving. There is no angst over how do you get to the Lows, do you know someone there, what time of day is it, yada yada yada. Logical mundane things are assumpte and the character’s skill immediately comes into play (ie, you do not wait for the player to say “I roll streetwise”, you can at least get the ball moving by assuming the skill is used if it is on the sheet).
- Combat is fast. This is going to be a hard break for me since I love the scrum. That is a reason I did pick Cthulu. Fights can be broken into 3 catagories:
- Extras – these tend to be cultists and such. Generally not hard on the sanity and their presence indicates something foul is nearby. Fights probably are not meant to be long or too difficult. A good spot for “try something cool and lets see what happens”
- Something Foul – an assault on sanity as much as anything. More difficult. Probably have a couple of touchpoints in the combat resolution
- Something Mindbreaking – probably best to run and hope your mind holds together
So in reality, it is only the Something Foul where more detail in a fight is warranted and the first can be quickly simulated and the third is not really a combat encounter.