Tabletop Roleplaying in a Different Era

The “Joy” of Play-by-Post

My gaming session that was scheduled for Saturday did not happen. Sadly, this isn’t that surprising. I’m in a group where we all have lives, and it makes it difficult to always play at a set hour every week, no matter how much I want to most of the time. Though absenteeism and scheduling problems were not as prevalent when we were in college, we dealt with an even more daunting prospect: summer break, and three months of no gaming at all.

It strikes me as no surprise looking back that that summer drove me to run my very first play-by-post game. It seemed like a good idea at the time: run in an existent setting with a storyline more intended for what I knew was a slower and more methodical game. However, it crashed and burned. Why? The invitation of an old high school friend, whose gaming behavior was even worse than I had remembered from high school.

There were several other play-by-posts run in our college group. Some of them were very good. One, run by my friend Luther, ran for quite a long time, and was a lot of fun (I was a player for that game), but it still randomly ground to a halt when a new chapter began and people weren’t taking any initiative.

Though it may not be the fault of the game itself, my play by posts always seem to grind to a halt. At some point, the momentum slows down below critical mass, people stop checking the forum, and the last post just sits. After about a week, it’s 95% that no one will start something back up. After two weeks, your pulse is guaranteed to be zero.

I’m still trying to figure out what the secret is to keep a Play-By-Post game going. There may not be one; compared to some games I’ve joined online, our group has actually had surprising longevity. Out of three, one lasted through the opening scene, one made it to the opening scene, and a third, though it ran for a while, had a rotating cast of players and still fizzled in the end. It may simply be that the effort required to keep a game going is quite significant; it’s hard to schedule an in-person game, but social pressure and clear expectations of “play time” keep the game from either being dropped or experiencing pauses.

Regardless, I want to run another play-by-post. I’m still trying to figure out what will keep it going better than any of my previous attempts, and I think a lot of it may be player contact, and GM effort. You need to post a lot in these games, and post consistently. Of course, there’s also player enthusiasm. That one is harder to track, but I’m hoping since it’s not just random dudes on the internet, I should at least be able to figure out what the hell I need to do.

In any event, if and when I do run this game, I’m sure I’ll be talking about it here. Even if I haven’t figured anything out, wish me luck.

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