I am planning on running a play-by-post (pbp) Paranoia Troubleshooters game. Due to the nature of a pbp, its possible that the dramatic tension of a properly run Paranoia game will be lost.
What are ways to increase tension, inter-party distrust, and character information leakage (i.e. players trying to sneak a peak at the "secret" side of the character sheet, or trying to look at other player’s notes to the gm) while retaining the asynchronous aspects of a pbp?
I’m currently helping out as one of the DMs of a larger gaming group that will periodically see two or three players plus a DM go on a mission, usually handled in play-by-post format.
Right now, I have a group of three that’s been having pacing problems from the start despite multiple strategies to address them:
- When we first started, all three players had differing activity levels, and the most active player was complaining about not being able to play because they were spending all their time waiting.
- I adopted a faster activity level myself in response, and the least active player started complaining about not being able to play because everything was happening while they were busy with real life.
- We called a post-mortem to discuss how to handle the pacing issues. One of the players suggested moving from play-by-post to a more traditional scheduled meeting, and another player actually shot this down complaining about not being able to play because making it an obligation took too much of the fun out of it.
Unless there’s an organizational strategy I’ve missed besides play-by-post or scheduled meeting, I don’t think I’m going to be able to run a game for these players, and while I expect the answer is going to be "find better player(s)", that’s a last resort.
How do I run for this group?
So, I’m going to be running a classic Mutants and Masterminds adventure next week, “Toys will be Toys”. The crux of the game is the players racing their way through a series of rooms connected by passageways. Since this is a superhero game, there will be people moving at super-speed and teleporting. For the most part, I don’t see an issue because most rooms include some situation that needs to be overcome, and there are some built-in brakes in some rooms that specifically target super-speed or teleporting. However, one room is specifically a maze and I find myself wondering how exactly one handles navigation of the branches without slowing things down to a crawl by asking them over and over again.
What’s a good way to handle this? Have players provide navigation rules and present them with what they learn? Just give them a skill check to determine how long it takes them to bypass the maze? Slightly complicating things, the scenario has the walls shift if someone uses super-speed or teleportation within the maze (although it’s not immediately apparent unless they’re tracking a map and realize the maze doesn’t make sense for a 2-dimensional unchanging layout).
This post has some interesting ideas for skipping a map entirely, but I’m specifically trying to figure out how to go about doing this in play-by-post where people typically say something like “I walk down the corridor” and it becomes very significant if they run into something 100 feet down a 200 foot corridor, but the other players have their own narratives potentially going on.
Archipelago III has ritual phrases other players can say while you are narrating. With a live (or even virtual) tabletop, where the interaction is real-time, this works fine. But some of the phrases (like That Might Not Be So Easy or Harder or Try a Different Way) seem like they work better if you are able to interrupt the narrating player. They could cause a lot of retconning and backtracking in a play-by-post game. For example, if someone wrote a long post and you wanted to apply Try A Different Way to something early in the post, or if you wanted to veto something about the element you own. Is there a way to make this game flow better in the play-by-post format?
I’ve looked but haven’t found any examples of Archipelago III play-by-post games to see how it’s been done in the past. (The link in this answer is
broken to an after-play report, not a play-by-post game.)