Rules Dictating Play Style?

In this week’s Legends and Lore column┬áby Mike Mearls he writes about Player versus Character. Haven’t read the article yet? Go on. I will wait while you go read it…..

Back? Onwards then!

He starts with describing a familiar scene to D&D players, a statue of a lizard man at the end of a corridor. He then goes into how one might have approached this scenario from a pre D&D 3.x day with more focus on the player investigating things with questions about the object, requests for more detail and such that the DM responds to. Then he provides an example of a post 3.x group doing the same and simply having them roll their search or perception checks to learn more about what secrets the statue might contain.

The theory he puts forth is that in early editions of D&D it was the player being challenged and in post 3.x editions it was the character being challenged. He theorized this is a result of a more rules based game for each situation and breaks some of the immersion of the game that the early days had.

While he makes several good points the picture he paints is one of mutual exclusivity. I do not believe the picture is as clear cut as that. I think it is more of a play style choice and post 3.x rulesets can fully support an immersive environment.

In groups I play with most often we would have approached the statue and started asking questions about it. We would not have fallen to rolling dice right away. We would have asked if there appeared to be any parts that moved, was there anything unusual about the base of the statue and so on. Once these questions were asked the DM might have called for a search or perception check, but now he had much more information to go on as to exactly what we doing. In some cases if we were creative with our searching or detailed enough we would simply be told what we found without need for a dice roll.

In other cases our group has tackled riddles and puzzles that we encounter during an adventure. The post 3.x rules would have provided an option for us to simply make Intelligence checks and move on. But our group wanted the challenge and the experience of working through the puzzle ourselves as players. There is nothing in the post 3.x rules that prevented us from doing that.

On the other side there are times being able to simply make a roll is a good thing. This is what lets us play super intelligent wizards, charming bards and extraordinary dexterous rogues. We aren’t these things in real life and in some situations it makes sense that our character might know more or be better able to accomplish something than the player. The player can still say what they want to do and describe it, but then rely on the roll to determine success. Success their character has a better chance of than the player.

I have not found the rules in post 3.x systems hampering immersion. The DM has the tools at hand to adjudicate situations as needed. The rules provide a framework, but they do not take away player thought unless the gaming group *wants* them to.

What do you think?


Play-by-Post Gaming: Pacing

Play-by-post (PbP) gaming is oftentimes a popular alternative for people to play their favorite roleplaying game if their real life schedule is too packed to reliably schedule a game. PbP games can be quite rewarding but they aren’t without their challenges to GM or play in. Let’s face it, PbP games can move slow, like molasses in January slow. Today we take a closer look at pacing in a PbP game from the gamemaster’s perspective.

Pacing is one of several keys to a successful PbP game. Pacing can go far to help keep players engaged in your game. While complete control of pacing is not always possible as gamemaster, you can help set the standard for your game.

Before the game even begins set the expectations for posting frequency up front. If you want players to post daily then make sure those expectations are stated up front. Keep in mind that people playing PbP games tend to do so because their schedule is busy, so a more realistic four to five times per week posting rate might be a better start. By setting these expectations up front you can help get a mix of players that plan to post at a pace fitting for your game.

Once a frequency is established it will be up to you as gamemaster to help keep this pace and keep things moving. Do this by quick replies to in and out of character questions that come up. This helps shows you are watching the game and engaged and tends to carry over to your players. In addition make sure your GM posts for the game come at a regular pace as well that falls in line with the frequency the group agreed to.

Handling combat in a PbP can be a tricky beast. I find having all of the players roll initiative and post their actions for the round. Using this method the GM will occasionally have to make slight modifications on a player’s actions if someone’s actions higher in the initiative count did something to change the scene slightly. This does take some player trust of the GM but it pays off by helping combat move in a timely manner. This has shown to be a worthwhile trade-off in my opinion.

Another hazard of combat in a PbP is if a player is slow to post during combat. This can take a lot of steam out of a game. In these situations it is imperative for the GM to keep the combat rounds rolling forward. There are a couple of different ways to do this and still be fair to the player that is away.

If it is early in the game and you don’t quite know the play style of the player, keeping them out of danger the best you can is a good option. Have them take a full defensive position or keep them towards the back away from harm.

If the player is already engaged in combat then go ahead and roll their attacks for them. When the time is appropriate you can have them withdraw for fall back to a safer position.

In longer running PbPs where you have a good idea of how the player runs their character then you can often NPC the character but have them do their normal actions. A GM often knows if a character tends to engage in melee, ranged attacks or use spells and such.

The key is to not let a player going afk slow the game down too much. Don’t punish the player for not posting during combat, but don’t hold up the game for them either.

Pacing in a PbP game is one of the keys to keeping your players engaged. Engaged players will go far in making for a more successful PbP experience.

What tricks have you found to help keep the pace up for a PbP game?

Welcome to The Iron Tavern!



Red Mountain Pass

Welcome to The Iron Tavern! This is my new blog to cover topics related to roleplaying games with a heavy lean towards the fantasy genre.

The site is starting simple as I found myself getting distracted with versions of blogging software, graphic design and various other features and options when what I want is a place to hone my writing skills. So that led me to choose a more minimalist look and feel in the beginning to easier allow the site to evolve over time.

My topics will vary widely in the beginning stages as I find my style and niche. Expect to read things from commentary on gaming, fantasy RPG systems, product reviews for various systems and such. Also expect to come here to learn more about the history of The Iron Tavern and its proprietor, Baerun Ironforge. Along the way you will surely meet some of the “regulars” that come through the Red Mountain Pass and stop by at The Iron Tavern for an evening’s respite from the mountain travel.

I hope you enjoy the blog and follow along as we move forward!