In PBP is a Sandbox filled with Quicksand?

Celebrim

Legend
Proper sandboxes are really hard to pull off, and contrary to internet rumor most tables don't even enjoy them. I'd say 75% of groups prefer the structure of an adventure path and often need that structure for the group to stay on task. This isn't even particular to PbP though I can see how PbP would make the problems with a Sandbox more acute.

Additionally, character driven RP where the player's goals and the characters background are driving the plot generally doesn't work with more than AT MOST three players. The problem of course is that the more players you add who are adding their own campaign goals and wanting to do deep exploration of their character and motivations, the more conflicting goals you have and the more scenes you have which are dominated by one player and the less reason you have for everyone to stay together. Really, this is a gaming style that privileges one GM and one player. (It's a valid joke that most of the early Indy games are written by GMs whose only player was a long-suffering family member, because so many of them seem to be play tested by only a single player if at all.)

In short, it's not just play by post - most tables should be running plot driven linear story lines with broad-narrow structures where how to get through the gate is up to the player, but they are all collectively motivated to get through the next gate.

I would add to the post that PbP is probably a dying format because the community it served - people that can't find a group locally - can now find games on platforms like Discord and play with other remote players with fewer of the challenges of PbP.
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Yes, exactly. My players are in all sorts of time zones. I have had players from both coasts of Canada and the US, France, Croatia, Brazil, Australia, and the UK. And that's just the ones that I know about. I don't think it would even be possible for us all to meet at the same time. Someone would either be working or sleeping (or both!)

Work is the scourge of the drinking classes.

It's not just that, it's scheduling. For example, I'm pretty good about posting regularly, but I know that I have commitments coming up for the week of Thanksgiving and I'm going to be traveling and will be unable to post for most of December (after the 18th) - early January, so there's that.

With PbP, you have to enjoy the journey, because you are unlikely to make the destination.
 

Neurotic

I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
I started PbP with 4e - there were living worlds for all major game versions. Then judges and DMs started disappearing...
 

Neurotic

I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
And yes, scheduling can be difficult, if you started as a high-schooler, went through college and started working, each step has its own advantages and disadvantages...but what mostly happens is that your free time dwindles and you have to prioritize.

I started PbP when I couldn't make time for face-to-face games - that was when my old group disbanded due relocation...work related.
 

As a non-player in PbP, but a visitor here, I appreciate the PbP threads.
They can be a fun read and I have great admiration for the DMs who run them.
For what it is worth I would not like to see them disappear. :)
 

thirdkingdom

Hero
Publisher
I think that pbp is an ideal medium for sandbox-style games, as long as you have player buy-in for the kind of game you'd like to run. The slower pace allows Referees to adjust to changing goals, and the ability to create multiple threads allows you to run large stables of adventurers that split off and tackle different objectives. I've run multiple year+ long sandbox games successfully.
 

It's not just that, it's scheduling. For example, I'm pretty good about posting regularly, but I know that I have commitments coming up for the week of Thanksgiving and I'm going to be traveling and will be unable to post for most of December (after the 18th) - early January, so there's that.
rpg.net has an absences thread pinned in it PbP meta forum. GMs are expected to check the thread occasionally, especially when they are missing a player. Players and GMs are encouraged to post there whenever their availability takes a hit. There are frequently posts there that just say "exhausted from work, won't be posting tonight."
 


Thomas Shey

Legend
Yes, exactly. My players are in all sorts of time zones. I have had players from both coasts of Canada and the US, France, Croatia, Brazil, Australia, and the UK. And that's just the ones that I know about. I don't think it would even be possible for us all to meet at the same time. Someone would either be working or sleeping (or both!)

I used to be a MUSHer many years ago, and we had players in Australia, England and a couple other places, so I'm familiar with the issue.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I would like to address the splitting the party part though. On the one hand, it would seem PbF could handle that really well. Just keep posting and have separate plot threads running or create new threads for the split and truly split the party. The only true downside would be having more active posters in one split than the other. This could make later synchronization difficult.

Oh I don't have a problem with splitting the party. A LOT of players do, though! (It's widely publicised as a no-no, but it can be a very useful trick at times. I have no problem juggling groups that go one way or another at the same time. Keeps me on my toes.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I think that pbp is an ideal medium for sandbox-style games, as long as you have player buy-in for the kind of game you'd like to run. The slower pace allows Referees to adjust to changing goals, and the ability to create multiple threads allows you to run large stables of adventurers that split off and tackle different objectives. I've run multiple year+ long sandbox games successfully.

That's interesting, and it reveals that there's a trick to it. Good to know that it can be done, and done well.

Perhaps it's that I am only running 5e D&D, and published material at that. While I like to think that I improve on the material somewhat, it obviously has its flaws. Maybe that's part of it.

I find that whenever I give more than two very clear choices, the whole game grinds to a halt. Open ended "what do you want to do now?" almost never works out (as far as flow goes).

Don't any of my players worry, though! Me discussing my thoughts on the limitations of the form does not mean that I'm unsatisfied with PBP or have any thoughts of quitting. It's too good a chance for me to immerse myself in storytelling, which I have a great passion for.

Plus, I get to tell people that I'm currently running SEVEN D&D games. (6 PBP and 1 IRL game). Makes me sound like an overachieving (read: crazy) DM, which I probably am.
 

payn

Legend
That's interesting, and it reveals that there's a trick to it. Good to know that it can be done, and done well.

Perhaps it's that I am only running 5e D&D, and published material at that. While I like to think that I improve on the material somewhat, it obviously has its flaws. Maybe that's part of it.

I find that whenever I give more than two very clear choices, the whole game grinds to a halt. Open ended "what do you want to do now?" almost never works out (as far as flow goes).

Don't any of my players worry, though! Me discussing my thoughts on the limitations of the form does not mean that I'm unsatisfied with PBP or have any thoughts of quitting. It's too good a chance for me to immerse myself in storytelling, which I have a great passion for.

Plus, I get to tell people that I'm currently running SEVEN D&D games. (6 PBP and 1 IRL game). Makes me sound like an overachieving (read: crazy) DM, which I probably am.
The gamer in me is saying, "awesome!". The regular person in me is saying, "I'd never admit that..."
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
As a non-player in PbP, but a visitor here, I appreciate the PbP threads.
They can be a fun read and I have great admiration for the DMs who run them.
For what it is worth I would not like to see them disappear. :)

I've always wondered if there were any lurkers reading my games that don't play them. Neat to hear.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I used to be a MUSHer many years ago, and we had players in Australia, England and a couple other places, so I'm familiar with the issue.

The time zone thing is really hard to deal with.

I was talking with one of my former players who is now in California, and she very much wanted to return to gaming with me, and I was excited for it...

But then we started talking logistics and it was clear that with both of us having families and her being 3 hours time zone apart there was just no way to make it happen.
 

thirdkingdom

Hero
Publisher
That's interesting, and it reveals that there's a trick to it. Good to know that it can be done, and done well.

Perhaps it's that I am only running 5e D&D, and published material at that. While I like to think that I improve on the material somewhat, it obviously has its flaws. Maybe that's part of it.

I find that whenever I give more than two very clear choices, the whole game grinds to a halt. Open ended "what do you want to do now?" almost never works out (as far as flow goes).

Don't any of my players worry, though! Me discussing my thoughts on the limitations of the form does not mean that I'm unsatisfied with PBP or have any thoughts of quitting. It's too good a chance for me to immerse myself in storytelling, which I have a great passion for.

Plus, I get to tell people that I'm currently running SEVEN D&D games. (6 PBP and 1 IRL game). Makes me sound like an overachieving (read: crazy) DM, which I probably am.

Yeah, there are tricks. The big one I've found to splitting the party is making sure that each player has something to do in both "narratives". One of the problems with splitting a party in pbp is elapsed time. Let's say you split the party in half, with one group doing thing A and one group doing thing B. In game time, thing A takes one week to accomplish, but only three weeks in real life. In game time thing B takes one day, but because it is, for instance, combat heavy, takes a full two months irl to wrap up. You don't want the players in group A to get bored.

When I run games I'm running OSR-style games, and encourage PCs to have retainers, so it is pretty easy to ensure that each group has at least character controlled by each player. Group A might have PCs 1, 2, and 3 and retainers controlled by PCs 4 and 5, while Group B has PCs 4 and 5 and retainers controlled by PCs 1, 2, and 3.
 

Player driven games work just fine in PbF. I'm in several that are not published pre-set games where the players design the campaign and create a character for it. (PbtA and M&M games mostly.) So, given agency in the world creation, creates more motivated for the game to succeed and to create a character that will use the agency. Now, this also requires fewer players and that can be a problem for game success and make it harder to replace a lost player.

D&D can work like this. It requires that the game world not be set in stone and DM willing to say, "You want to add catfolk to my desert? Can we put them in the adjoining forest or this jungle over here?" and not just say, "No."
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
I game a lot of PBP. I like the huge amount of detail possible, and the slow pace.

I would say PBP is the BEST for a Sandbox game: you can do "anything". This is because a typical PBP gamer is Slow and Steady: they are fine with 100 posts just to get past a locked guarded door. You don't get a lot of action combat junkies in a PBP.

Some game types work great for PBP, like classic dungeon crawls..

Also a PBP is EASY to do side quests, or even really a couple interconnected PBP games. You can have a group leading a rebellion, a solo game with the behind the lines spy, the solo game of the renegade noble and the other group on the side of the empire.....all interconnected. I've done this a lot.

The ghost thing is a common problem. People are people. You just need to weed out the ghost.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
Speaking of Ghosting... I'm always worried when a long-time, reliable player ghosts. I wonder if they died or something equally horrible. I've had (I think three now?) really reliable (like every day) posters suddenly disappear. What with COVID, dangers of driving, wars, and whatever else can do you in in the media, it makes me concerned for them.

As many of you know, I own a comic and game store, and ghosting is a thing that always happens with people with pull-files. I never used to worry about the above sort of thing until I discovered that one of my reliable customers, who suddenly ghosted, had a six-month battle with a brain tumor, that he eventually lost. His wife eventually told me about it, so I could put all his stuff back on the shelf, and I wondered if that had ever been a similar case with any of the other ghosters over the years. I mean, it's not like most family members, in their grief, are going to remember to let a person's comic store know.

Same goes here. I can't imagine my wife coming on here to let you all know about it if I were to suddenly pop off. If I ever disappear, that will be the only reason. Otherwise if I were to quit, I'd let you know.

Sorry to bring down the mood! But it's food for thought.
 



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