Over the past week I have talked about the importance of keeping the players engaged with a Play-by-Post (PbP) game. We have covered the importance of pacing and offered a variety of ways to keep the pace of a PbP moving along at a reasonable rate. We have talked about making use of vivid descriptions and taking advantage of the PbP format to bring scenes alive that are sometimes more difficult to do in face to face game. This installment we will be talking about props!
PbP games are obviously quite text heavy as they are played out over message boards and email. For those using message boards there are a few things you can do however to help add some additional flavor to your post. Using even just a few of these suggestions will help you run a successful PbP.
First there is the ability to change the text color within your post on most message boards. This one can be hit or miss in my opinion and sometimes running it by your group to see which style they prefer is wise. But, if your group likes it, you can easily mark your words written in character with a different color than the bulk of your description text. Have each player do the same for when their character talks and the conversation readily stands out as one reads through it.
While words are great as we noted in covering descriptions a few days ago, sometimes a picture can go far to help get the picture across to your players. There are easy ways to show your players a picture of an particular NPC, a marking they have seen or even the entrance to a building. Message boards generally have a feature to allow you to embed an image within your post.
My preferred way for posting images in my posts is to use a Dropbox.com account which has a “Public” folder. Anything you place into that folder (images, word docs, text files, etc.) can be shared with someone by using the public link provided for it. So to share an image of a recurring NPC I can drop the image into the public portion of my Dropbox folder, right click and choose copy public link and then using [img] tags in most message boards that support BB Code embed that image in the post. Once you have done it a time or two it is quite easy.
Building from this, one can also apply the same method to posting combat maps. Having actual combat maps help players know where they are standing and can reduce confusion. I usually use Paint.Net to take a map image and then one can either use tokens or do as I do – use colored dots to represent the characters and the enemies they are facing. Once you have the map looking the way you want, copy it to the public Dropbox folder and embed the link in your message board post. Now your players can see the map and have a clearer idea of where they are on the map.
Just using a few of these suggestions you can easily give your players that little bit extra to keep them engaged with the game you are running. It only takes a little more time to include these things in your posts, but they can help keep your players interest which leads to the successful PbP in the long run.
My focus so far in these Play-by-Post articles has been from the GM’s side of the screen. My next Play-by-Post article will be from the perspective of a player and offer some suggestions on what you can do as a player to contribute to a long running PbP game!