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I am setting up a Play by Post forum to manage a large mystery/exploration based campaign. But I want to set up a way to give the players a direct response when they perform a suggested action that warrants such a direct response.

For example

  • Pull lever B
  • Grab treasure
  • walk around said corner
  • put head in hole to investigate noise

My main goal is to reduce the amount of single line posts by players. I dislike the one line responses of players that sometimes happen because they need to wait for an answer from the GM, and such I want to avoid them in the case players trigger said scripted events.


Explanation to my setup:

In my Play by Post each thread represents a place rather than a separate instance of this world. All players play in the same world at the same time. Thus each player begins and ends their post with the time they are in approx. and if they transition to a new floor/new site they write Last seen in … or a to be continued in …

Each site/thread has a map and as the players progress the map gets revealed (I upload a map with more stuff unveiled) and describe as a normal DM would do.

The one thing I want to add is to add a spoiler named after an action the character can perform, which a player can claim and open.

Each player can then read the note (which tells what happens in keywords e.g. rumbling noises – ceiling starts to collapse) but the player who claimed said note performs said action (e.g. pulling the lever) and can directly act with the consequences.

Of course this will mean I will have to write out these events, but I am planning to release my campaign as a module later on and play it several times – as such each spoiler and description is something saved for the next iteration of this module. Thus I don't mind the work.

Naturally players will not be limited to those spoilers. It still will be a back and forth between players and GM. Those prompts/spoilers are meant as a reminder what obvious things actions can be performed in a location. And those prompts/spoilers are good reminder what has been left untouched in a previous visited location. Yes - player still could cheat. With my example of the lever which result in the cave in of the ceiling - a player is committed to use perform the action "pull the lever" and he can just write that his character was careful and thus decided to use a rope and pull the lever from a distance and so on.. - but this tools is not meant to prevent all cheating. I still want to operate mostly on a basis of good faith.

(And I will add some spoilers in that say that nothing happens – so players will not be certain that something good/bad will always happen with they chose to follow a suggestion action. The standard buildup of anticipation as the character grabs the lever - expecting the worst - just for nothing to happen at all.)

I have not chosen a forum-software for my PBP yet.

How can I manage to give out such spoilers which will commit the player to do? I don't really want to code myself such a tool-- though I am open to purchasing or otherwise acquiring one-- and I am sure that there is a way to give out the player such information without manual interaction from the GM. Maybe there is a option which does not require a special tool at all which I have not thought of before.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast This PBP will be mostly freeform. I plan on using a trait/advantage-disadvantage system which players can use. (strong/bulky character will fare better in a fight than a frail one etc.) \$\endgroup\$ – Tridon343 Jul 12 '19 at 5:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tridon343 If you delete your technical requirements, the question can work here. It may seem counterintuitive, but your tech requirements are in violation of our no-recommendation rules (and also the actual no-reccommendation rules for the network-- ours aren't quite the same ^^;), but your question is quite narrowly scoped even without those. I've gone ahead and done that for you, but if you'd like to do it yourself or disagree with my edit you can roll it back by clicking the editing timestamp. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 12 '19 at 6:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ In this particular case my application will be in a freeform PBP - but this question is regardless of the system used. Other GM could use the tool/method I am asking about to provide players with direct prompts for roleplay with systems. (For example drink from fountain -> constitution check DC 15, maybe even with the direct link from the dice roller of the GM's choice.) As such I am unsure if the freeform tag is helpful, since this method is pretty system agnostic. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridon343 Jul 12 '19 at 9:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems like you have a problem (dislike one-line interactions), and you’ve decided on the solution (interactive, code-enforced action branches), but are asking about finishing your solution rather than directly solving the problem in the best way. This question may be more effective for you by simply asking how to solve your original problem; it’s not a new problem, and PBP veterans have likely come up with more easily doable solutions already, if other solutions aren’t preemptively ruled out by the question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 12 '19 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes I dislike one line interactions in PBP but I am not asking on how to limit those in general. (I do have things in mind for that) I am asking about a specific situation: Which is that the player has to wait for a reply of the GM for an action that is likely to be performed (see examples I have given). I am not trying to catch all eventualities or build a MUD here. I am simple trying to reduce waiting periods of the player for said actions. I don't want to limit the players choices. The players are welcome to think outside the box and do whatever they feel like their character will do. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridon343 Jul 12 '19 at 18:33
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You could use a bot with preprogrammed automated responses.

I've used bots humorously at work to auto reply with custom magic 8 ball responses. Seeing your question, I can see how it would be perfect for creating inline DM responses to player choices.

When anyone at work typed "8 ball" in a post, it would reply with one of several custom responses. The words can be part of a longer sentence such as "Magic 8 ball, should I go for a run today?" and the bot might reply "Don't count on it!" or "It is certain!".

Advancement in communications technologies have caused forums to be largely replaced by real time text (RTT, or instant messaging) services.

Slack, discord are two such examples that are very popular. Discord natively handles spoiler text, blacking out text between || marks. Recipients reveal the text by clicking on it.

These platforms through an application protocol interface allow bots to post as users. Installing commercially available bots is a simple way to extend the utility of the messaging platform to suit your RPG requirements.

Slackbot (a free bot for slack) can provide preprogrammed customized automatic responses to unique words or phrases. These responses are only triggered when a user inputs the triggering phrase.

Using your example; the trigger could be: “Pull Lever”

And the response will follow. The preprogrammed text of your choosing, for instance: “A trapdoor opens beneath you, you fall ten feet into a spiked pit trap! (take 2d6+4 damage)”

The benefit of preprogrammed bot responses over spoiler text is that the response will only be revealed after the player chooses to input their choice of text.

As DM in your description of the scene, you could include the available actions/choices as text phrases that the players can copy/paste.

If the unique phrase is provided by the player, they will receive your preprogrammed response.

Bots are becoming more capable and ubiquitous, slackbot is one example that has this functionality for certain. Other platforms have bots with similar features. Discord has a couple bots (MEE6, Dyno) that enable custom commands, but the trigger has to have a specific prefix, an exclamation point preceding the trigger like this: !8ball.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you done this? What was your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Mar 4 '20 at 4:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, ill update in a second with more details. \$\endgroup\$ – Amethyst Wizard Mar 4 '20 at 4:08
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Use separate channels of communication for narrative and ooc posts.

I participate in very successful PBP quests with multiple participants. Typically five players and a GM all remote.

We set up on a discord server, but the principles would be the same with most any telecommunications infrastructure.

Set up two channels for each location, one is for in character communications. The other is for out of character communications.

Narrative channel (dialogue, narration, descriptions etc)

OOC channel (dice rolls, rules interpretation, spell target discussion etc)

Example; tavern location. At the tavern the players order drinks. What they say to the bartender and each-other is in one channel and accounting for expended gold, constitution saves for drunkenness happens in the other.

  1. Ravens Claw Tavern
  2. Ravens Claw Tavern OOC

Additionally discord and other platforms natively handle “spoilers”, blanked out text or images.

In discord, any text that is placed between || these marks || is blacked out and can be revealed by the recipient when they click on it.

“Spoiler” text is typically used for expressing speech or writing that a character is delivering in another language. Players are meant to reveal the spoiler if their character knows the given language. An example would be an opponent speaking Dwarvish, any Dwarven player is welcome to reveal the spoiler, but others should not.

If the “spoiler” is more sensitive and should only be known by the intended person, only direct communications are recommended, such as a private or direct message/post.

This style of setup is typical on discord PBP D&D servers. Each server tends to be one campaign setting with hundreds of players and multiple DM’s. Players participate in quests by monitoring a “job board” channel then splinter off to a location in small groups to complete a quest. At any given time there can be several concurrent quests with different DM’s happening simultaneously on the same server. It is not a chaotic mess because players explicitly follow the directive to only post content appropriate to a given channel.

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One option might be to create an online multi-page poll. On the first page, require that the player input their email address (or some other identifying feature), and select what they want to do. Then on the second page, describe the results. Some form software allows you to modify what subsequent pages show you based on previous replies--that would obviously be ideal in some situations, but isn't necessarily required here.

Specific online questionnaire applications may or may not be available when anyone reads this, but as of this writing (Feb 2020), Google Forms seems like it would work for this purpose fairly straightforwardly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you done this? What was your experience? What software can one use? \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Feb 29 '20 at 2:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have made multi-page questionnaires, but not for gaming. All of my PBP gaming has had online RT chat backup, and the PBP bit was only for between-session updates anyway. But what the poster describes wanting sounded like what I've seen done this way. I did mention Google Forms; forms.google.com \$\endgroup\$ – Lucian Mar 1 '20 at 6:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 4 '20 at 6:01

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