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I am contemplating starting up a web-based text game for my D&D group to be played alongside our weekly sessions. The idea would be to play through events related to the main storyline, but not so involved that the outcomes would directly affect our current adventure.

I don't want to require everyone to be online at once (or else this is just another session), so IRC and chatrooms are out. I am looking for a method that allows us to play at a slow pace but gives everyone a chance to respond to what the GM says before moving onward with the story or the combat.

The only idea that comes to mind is a forum-based game with heavy restrictions (e.g. each player must post a response or opt out of responding before the GM posts again). For combats I would post maps with the position of all the monsters and characters between each turn.

Does anyone have any experience running a game like this?

What's the best way to run a web-based text RPG in such a way that not all players need to be online at the same time?

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I hear Google+ works pretty well for some people. Haven't tried it myself, though... –  chaosys Aug 23 '11 at 20:08
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I've head of people using Google Docs and wikis for this. As for heavy rules, they'll be necessary anyway—those are very specific requirements unlikely to be implemented in any system that isn't purpose-built for this. –  SevenSidedDie Aug 23 '11 at 20:14
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This is generally called play-by-post, see some of the existing PbP questions here for ideas. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Google+ is for live group video chat, not what you're looking for. –  mxyzplk Aug 23 '11 at 20:14
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Actually, Google+ discussion threads work reasonably well for play-by-post. The DM starts a post shared with the players and they reply. However, there is (or was) a bug that sometimes disappears long (over 400 words) comments. I won't make this a full answer, as I suspect Wave is better: if nothing else, Google+ has no dice appplets. –  Jonathan Drain Aug 24 '11 at 13:56
    
@mxyzplk the group video chat thing would be google Hangouts, which is only a part of g+ –  Zachiel Aug 26 '13 at 11:55
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3 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Use Google Wave Rizzoma. Embrace multi-threaded actions. Assume competence on the players' parts. Avoid boring combats wherever possible. Have the players give commands as a group instead of individuals. Have a timeout on actions of whatever the group decides with assumed actions being whatever's "reasonable" for that time in question, absent instructions. Allow everyone to write boring dialogue. Only block for specific player input when there is an entirely unanticipated and important decision with multiple and non-obvious choices.

I've done quite a lot of Play by "Post" games. Here are some links to successful ones on wave:

There are a number of matters of import. First, doing turn-by-turn battles is simply annoying. While it's quite possible using the RPG-Bones applet, there is a great deal of group control.

  1. Avoid avoid avoid interrupts
  2. Have players describe their strategies and assume that they're competent. (Describing a square-by-square movement path gets old fast and isn't very fun. Save it for when it matters.) Players should have a turn, then monsters. Players should be allowed to control each other's characters and act in any order, subject to other player veto before the 24h time limit is up.
  3. Use the advantages of Wave: multithreaded adventures. Have multiple points in time happening simultaneously. Players can be in multiple places at once and, barrowing from Microscope there are some fascinating levels of fractal reality possible, given that the details of the resolution of one thing are not necessarily needed for the fact of the resolution to impact the next event. For non-combat adventures, multithread as much as you can.
  4. Conversations are good, especially multi-threaded ones. This is a great time for long political discussions (allow editing of discussions to reflect details discovered after writing.) and planning. Combats should be abstracted if possible. (mass-conflict would probably be better than heroic-tactical conflict)
  5. Don't get bogged down in the rules and in tactical minutia. The cost of resolution is way too high. Feel free to use a narrative resource before preparing it, and then start a sub-thread where appropriate to play through its preparation.
  6. Use Google Docs for character sheets. Be as open as possible with what players are thinking, feeling, saying, and planning. Embrace other people using your character and use it as an opportunity to see what others see your character as. Negation and other player-based rejections of action will cause the game to fail.
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I run (and play in) games like this based on play by e-mail, and log the results in a wiki. The largest concern is your rules- not your game rules, but the meta-rules to govern player interaction.

There are several games that I have run and played in hosted on my wiki. Most of them have game logs so you can see examples of play.

Also, my general rules, courtesy of Tony Lower-Basch.

  1. Thou shalt not BLOCK.
  2. Thou shalt always retain FOCUS.
  3. Thou shalt not SHINE above thy fellow players.
  4. Thou shalt not be a GAG.
  5. Thou shalt be CHANGED by the world.
  6. Thou shalt not WAFFLE.
  7. When in doubt, BREAK THE ROUTINE.
  8. To WIMP is to show thy true self.
  9. He that tries to be CLEVER is not, while he that is clever, doesn’t try.
  10. When thy faith is low, thy spirit weak, thy good fortune strained, and thy team losing, be comforted and smile, because IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!

A little more meaning to these - to block is to try to remove obstacles and conflict without resolving them, to focus is to keep your primary concern on the characterization as it is much harder to establish when not face-to-face, to shine is to make your character impressive at the expense of others, and to gag is similar, except on a level of not letting others talk. To be changed is to work within the world, instead of using it as a backdrop, to waffle is not to decide. To break the routine is to change up what you normally would do in a situation, and to wimp is to take the easy way out to avoid conflict.

The reason that these aspects are important is that there is a different dynamic in this paradigm than face-to-face gaming, which brings it more into the realm of creative writing, even with rules. And this should be encouraged; in situations like this, bad writing can bring a game down pretty quickly.

All of this is based on experiences I've had in my PbEM experiences, both good and bad.

Hope that helps!

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Welcome to RPG.SE! Awesome first answer. Thank you! –  SevenSidedDie Aug 24 '11 at 5:50
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Years ago, when the public internet was young (around 1998 to the early 2000's) my wife would play a lot on Yahoo Groups. Then, they would have live sessions on Yahoo chat. I think ychat is long since dead though. But anything like yahoo groups (google groups, a wiki as suggested by @wraith808 or a forum) would work. I like Wraith's rules. If you get in a group of talented writers, you can have a lot of fun. If you have POWER PLAYERS it can suck.

If you know and trust each other you can do away with the GM and just free flow a good game. With enough OOC relationship, you can even write in a little action for other characters, knowing that they'll be okay with it and they might return the favor.

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