Friday, 4 November 2011
Noisms at Monsters and Manuals raised a whole set of interesting points. Interesting in general as a gamer, of course, but also because most of my DMing is done online and there are some differences depending on whether or not you can see the players.
Some answers below.
Book binding - not such a huge issue for me. I'm careful with my books. What is a complete pain is a book with no index. Really, really, I do NOT want to have to spend half an hour looking for a table I know is there someplace and has no index entry. Having to do so sends me into a blind rage and leads me to ignore the rules and make up any old rubbish. This one applies to table and PbP.
Voices - I do them in table games. I also tend to do them in PbP. Obviously a typed message doesn't convey accent, but I try to distinguish characters with speech patterns and turns of phrase. Partly because it amuses me, and partly because it makes it so much easier for players to remember who they're attacking. The villain who quoted 16th century Jacobean playwrights was great fun to do, for example.
Breaks - our table games normally only run about 3 hours, so the kettle checks and bathroom breaks tend to happen when people have just taken their turn. PbP gets enough enforced hiatuses without adding in real time breaks.
Description - depends. A little can help. Too much and the eyes glaze over. I try to keep written description to a short, evocative paragraph to set the scene and add more if it's needed. Any description needs to be sure to mention anything important about the terrain. That's fair. If the players ignore it, then they only have themselves to blame when killer vines attack them because they ignored that bit in favour of rolling initiative.
Balance - the home team is civilised and we're not generally attention hogs. We've genuinely never had a problem. There are some encounters and situations where one or two characters will really shine, but it is very much about teamwork. PbP is harder. Players in PbP tend not to want to thread hog, but I've known one or two that have and they've been hard to deal with. In general what happens is that the PbP starts to fail due to one character making the others feel redundant, incompetant or generally side-lined by the awesomeness of their PC. Confrontation is not usually the sensible option over the internet, so my solution is generally to try and move things along so that the offending character is neutralised by action.
PC conflict - Violence between PCs and evil PCs are a big "no" for me. PCs who don't agree with each other is fine. I'm not asking everyone to behave like an episode of Care Bears. As long as they can work together to get the job done, they can snark and bitch about and at each other as much as they like, as long as none of the players gets upset. I find the "it's what my character would do" line extremely tedious, but I've been very, very fortunate in my players. They tend to police themselves and do it very well.
Explaining - I don't. People who know me well enough know I have this weird hobby where I roll dice and tell stories. Either they're intrigued or they just file it away as something that doesn't interest them or they think is a little sad.
Alcohol - sometimes. No particular preference or style. Most of us don't drink much anyway and a lot of the home group either drive or have to get up early on game nights. But bottles have appeared at our table and will continue to do so. We always keep a bottle of vodka handy to clean the maps. It works. Not much else does. Clearly not that relevant in a PbP.
Absent players - PbP players get run if needs be - usually by me, although I'm starting to ask other players to take turns for the missing. In home games, we keep the character sheets and run the player as if they were there as far as possible.